My Story: I’ve Had Four Great Loves in My Life

My Story: I’ve Had Four Great Loves in My Life

by Beth Kozan

I’ve just had my 75th birthday; it’s a good time to take stock of my life and set new intentions.

beth's musician

My first love was Doug. We began dating in our small hometown of Floydada, out on the Texas prairie, when I was 14 and he was 16, and married when we were 20 and 22. He went to Texas Tech in Lubbock to study architecture, but found  himself devoting more time to rock and roll than his classes. Eventually Doug was asked to play bass with the Crickets, Buddy Holly’s original band. When the Crickets played a concert and TV gig with Hollywood A Go-Go, with Doug on bass (to be  filmed in Honolulu), we flew to Honolulu with J.I. Allison (the Crickets’ drummer) and Peggy Sue (Yes! THAT Peggy Sue!).

His deferments exhausted, Doug was drafted into the Army in 1966. I joined him at Ft. Bliss in El Paso, where our first daughter was born. At birth, she was diagnosed with microcephily and declared profoundly retarded. No cause for her condition was found in her five short years on Earth. She was born five days before Doug graduated from the electronics course he was enrolled in; he tumbled from second in his class to last. He wanted to go AWOL and drive across the border into Mexico to disappear. I convinced him to get an appointment with the Army’s Mental Hygiene Department. The Army took away his security clearance and sent him to Ft. Huachuca in southern Arizona, telling him after three months to go to Mental Hygiene there to have his security clearance status evaluated. That was a verbal order, not given in writing. He waited out his time in the Army, and upon discharge, got a job in Tucson as a draftsman at the University of Arizona Physical Plant. Our daughter Heather was born in 1970, and she outpaced her sister’s developmental abilities in three months. Doug was turning 30, and to prove he couldn’t be trusted, he left us when Heather was 11 months old. He eventually remarried and had two children with his second wife, ultimately dying in a fiery car accident in Texas in 2011.

beth's architect

Tommy was an architect. We met in a divorce recovery group: Tommy was struggling after his second divorce, and I was getting over my first. He had custody of his daughter, Stacy, who was eight years older than Heather, who was two when we married. We blended our families and bought our first house, and I earned a Masters degree in Counseling and Guidance. Tommy adopted Heather after Doug, on a rare visit, took her to see the Superman  movie when she was eight. She wisely used the quarter we’d slipped into her shoe for an emergency phone call home. Tommy and I drove to Doug’s broken down car at the drive-in movie. She told us she had feared Doug wouldn’t bring her home, but would take her to Sierra Vista, Arizona, where he was living with his second family. Tommy, on his 40th birthday, told me he didn’t want to be married anymore. He died in 2015 from health problems, alone in California.

beth's bicyclist

I knew Elliot from a personal change group I was part of while training for my Masters Degree. Our relationship was based on friendship and sex! After his 9-year-old daughter, Nina, disappeared with her non-custodial mother following spring break, and then his car was repossessed, he would hitchhike from Prescott to Tucson on Friday nights and hitchhike back to Prescott on Sunday nights. He wanted us to get married, but I’d had it with marriage; I felt sure marriage would guarantee he would leave me. The adoption company I worked for bought my Tucson house and moved us to Phoenix in 1988. Before he turned 50, Elliot rode his mountain bike from Phoenix to Seattle, his crowning achievement. Elliot died just six weeks shy of our reaching 35 years together.

But I said at the outset of my story that I had four great loves!

beth's poet

The fourth love of my life was Bill, who was a friend of Doug’s and mine in college. When Bill returned to Texas Tech after Doug and I married, he slipped me a note that said: “I’ll always be waiting in the wings.” We had a special long-distance relationship, writing letters and poems to each other as I moved about the country with my various partners. He was my safety net, right up to his death from AIDS in 2005.

A musician, an architect, a bicyclist, and a poet – I’ve had four Great Loves in my 75 years. Now, as a writer, do you think I can leave before I’ve exhausted that supply of experiences? I’m just getting started!

__________________________
Beth Kozan
is the author of the book Adoption: More Than by Chance and the forthcoming Beth KozanHelping the Birth Mother You Know. Beth worked in adoption for 35 years and retired to write. She has many more books than these titles to write and will emphasize and explore the concept of community in her additional books. “Growing up in a close agriculture-based, rural community in Texas, I felt the comfort and bonds of caring for others which is often missing in our busy lives today. Exploring and building communities for today is my writer’s goal.” Follow Beth on Facebook or visit her website, where she reviews books and films featuring adoption.

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Living the Moments

Living the Moments

© 2018 Kebba Buckley Button, MS, OM. World Rights Reserved. kebba.com

Life so often is portrayed as a steady line, an ongoing process, a single flow. Coaches urge people to determine their quality of life and to set goals for their living. That is great. However, in this view, life is one massive stream of experience, and we make our choices of values, goals, and actions, along the way. We are always in the continuity,  the slipstream of reality.

I have begun to notice, however, that we actually experience life in a series of moments.  Consider that perhaps we can only truly live in the present. For example, I am writing now at 2:18 a.m. Denver time. I can’t go back and write at 2:15 or 2:04. Nor can I write 5 minutes from now, because I am in fact living at 2:18 a.m. At least until 2:19. We can only make a choice or take an action or experience something in that sweet spot of life:  the present moment.

moonlight over east Phoenix

A couple days ago, I got up very early, to travel. Several hours along, it washed over me: my day was made up of a sequence of moments. My moments that day were a beautiful series of pleasant and kind moments.  First, I was greeted by a full moon in the  western sky. Then, I prayed my morning litany and felt my connection with the Divine, as I breathed in the cool morning air in the garden. I inhaled the fragrance of fresh coffee. I woke my husband and rubbed his back. We had delicious breakfast together. We dressed. We headed for the airport. I thanked my husband, kissed and hugged him. I looked for a skycap to take my suitcase and some thank-you money. A beautiful female skycap apparated in front of me, trading coded papers for my suitcase, sharing her blazing smile and kind eyes, and making sure I knew the fastest way to my gate.

On and on went the moments of my day, each a discrete experience of goodness.

Moments:  the succulent sweetness of life.  Notice them.  Live them.  Enjoy them.

tree-lined street in denver

___________________________
Kebba Buckley Button
is a stress management expert. She also has a natural healing practice and is an ordained minister. She is the author of the award-winning book, Discover The Secret Energized You, plus Sacred Meditation: Embracing the Divine, available through her office. Just email SacredMeditation@kebba.com. Kebba’s newest book is the full-color Inspirations for Peace Within: Quotes and Images to Uplift and Inspire, also available through her office. For an appointment or to ask Kebba to speak for your group: calendar@kebba.com.

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The Hardy Tardigrade

The Hardy Tardigrade

by Rita Goldner

tardigrade

My spirit animal this month really takes the cake for weirdness, even considering that I’m known in my posts for being influenced by weird animals. It’s a tardigrade, a cute little guy that’s almost microscopic. There are about a thousand different kinds, but they all range in size from half a millimeter to one millimeter.

Considering their tiny dimensions, they win the “Toughest Animal in the World” competition by a landslide. Tardigrades can survive temperatures from minus 328 degrees Fahrenheit to more than 300 degrees Fahrenheit. They’ve withstood pressure up to 87,022.6 pounds per square inch, six times the pressure at the deepest part of the ocean. Some were even sent into orbit in 2007, where they laughed in the face of cosmic rays, solar ultraviolet rays, dehydration, and the vacuum of space. They are the first animals on record to survive complete exposure to outer space.

Most microscopic animals need water to live; if taken out, they’ll evaporate. But the tardigrade just tucks in its head and legs, and rolls into a ball called a tun. They make a hard coating, like armor, and studies have shown they can remain in that state for more than 100 years. Then when they get rehydrated, they’re fine. They’ve been around for the last 520 to 100 million years, and if we had some disastrous future event, like an asteroid impact, they’d be the last living things on earth.

Faced with the tardigrade’s impressive résumé, I have to stretch to find something to which authors can relate. The obvious choice is resilience. Authors have to face harsh times, too, and sometimes it helps to roll into a little ball and just hang on. Some of us have been hanging on for a while, waiting to flourish, but unlike our tardigrade pals, we have to do some moving and shaking while we’re hanging.

Another trait I observe: authors and tardigrades are both ubiquitous. You can find tardigrades on a cold, barren, wind-swept rock in Antarctica that hosts only them and some lichens. Or you can find them in your own back yard, in a clump of moss. It’s the same with authors. You’ll find them at Starbucks or the library, pounding out their next creation, or in their cold, barren, wind-swept office, staring at a blank computer screen. So let’s celebrate the superpower we share with this month’s spirit animal: surviving hellish conditions and bouncing back for more!

Rita signature

P.S. Watch the time-lapse recording of my illustration on my YouTube channel here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCuhewhtGJ7e0VbAtv5D1WxQ

Comments and questions welcome!

Please sign up for my newsletter, Orangutans and More, at:  http://bit.ly/OrangutansAndMore

SOURCES:

https://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2018/2/8/16991280/tardigrade-facts-waterbear-explained

https://www.livescience.com/57985-tardigrade-facts.html

____________________________
Rita Goldner
is the author and illustrator of the children’s picture book, Orangutan: A Rita Goldner2Day in the Rainforest Canopy. Rita has also written and illustrated two eBooks, Jackson’s History Adventure and Jackson’s Aviation Adventure, in the Jackson’s Adventure series.For orangutan facts and images and to purchase the book (also available as an ebook), visit OrangutanDay.com. Or by the Kindle version here. Rita’s newest book, Making Marks on the World: A Storybook for Left- and Right-Handed Coloring, is available for purchase here. Works in progress: H2O Rides the Water CycleThe Flying Artist, and Rose ColoredTo view additional illustrations and Rita’s books in progress, visit Rita’s website. Contact Rita here. Follow Rita on Facebook. Subscribe to Rita’s newsletter, Orangutans and More! and receive a free coloring page of today’s illustration.

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The Charms and Delights of Pie

The Charms and Delights of Pie

by C. K. Thomas

“Can she bake a cherry pie, Billy Boy, Billy Boy?”

cherry-pie

I can remember picking cherries from a big ol’ fruit tree in my aunt’s backyard in Galveston, Indiana. With cherry picking complete, my mother, my aunt Imogene, and I would sit on the back steps and pit enough cherries for a pie.

Years later, when my mother died, I inherited her recipe box. It is a large index file box that holds 4” x 6” cards. I entered all 112 of her recipes into my Master Cook software program, but I still prefer using the index cards. I love seeing my mother’s perfect cursive letters spelled out into directions for the ever-so-memorable dishes she lovingly served our family.

recipebox3

Cursive, during my mother’s school days, secured a place in the curriculum taught in a class called handwriting. Her flawless script certainly can’t be duplicated by the likes of me, but I will never cease to admire the poetry of her handwriting. Besides the beauty of each card, the results always produce mouth-watering fare.

Evidently, my mother loved to bake pies, because among those 112 recipes are almost 50 for pie. Consider the following: Apple, Banana Cream, Banana Custard, Buttermilk, Cherry, Chess, Chocolate, Coconut Cream, Cream, Custard, Dutch Apple, French Apple, French Silk, and many, many more. It makes my mouth water just thinking about a healthy slice of any one of her pies, with a scoop of ice cream melting atop a still-warm crust.

I proudly carried the first pie I ever made to our family Thanksgiving Dinner. It turned out that I had failed to roll out the pie dough to a reasonable thinness. The filling got raves, but the crust remained empty and forlorn on many plates around the table that year.

As great a cook as my mother always proved to be, she somehow failed to teach her daughter. Over the years, raising three kids and pleasing a hungry husband, I honed my cooking and pie-baking skills. After all, like writing, pie-baking requires a certain skill set and a creative mind. It’s very satisfying to take a freshly baked cherry pie with a lattice-work crust out of the oven. This particular pie is a work of art and my husband’s favorite. For his birthday, he requests cherry pie – definitely NOT cake.

I remember a “classic” song about pie from the movie Michael that I know my mother would appreciate if she were still here with us. Here are the lyrics, just for you. Let’s bake!

The “Pie Song,” sung in the movie Michael by Andie Macdowell

Pie, pie
Me oh my
Nothing tastes sweet, wet, salty, and dry
all at once
Oh well, it’s pie

Apple!
Pumpkin!
Minced
an’ wet bottom.
Come to your place every day if you’ve got em’
Pie
Me oh my
I love pie

Click HERE to hear Andie sing it.

________________________
C.K. Thomas

C.K. Thomas lives in Phoenix, Arizona. Before retiring, she worked for Phoenix Newspapers while raising three children and later as communications editor for a large United Methodist Church. The Storm Women is her fourth novel and the third in the Arrowstar series about adventurous women of the desert Southwest. Follow her blog: We-Tired and Writing Blog.

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Bravery Defined

Bravery Defined

by Barbara Renner

Costa Rica - Barb Renner

I’ve been following Laura Orisini’s blog, Eric’s Other Mother, and was inspired to write my blog this month about bravery. Mainly because, well, Laura challenged her readers “to share the bravest thing they’ve done so far this year.” I don’t recall being brave this year, but the question did conjure up some memories about my trip to Costa Rica several years ago.

In 2015, my daughter went to Costa Rica for a yoga retreat. She immersed herself in the culture and earned her 200 hours to become a yoga instructor. Just in passing, she suggested that I fly down there for her “graduation” and stay with her for a few days. We laughed, and then hung up.Costa Rica flight times

I started thinking about it and decided, “Why not?” I was in a small town in Minnesota for the summer with nothing else to do. Husband alternates his summer days between playing golf and fishing, so I checked into flights to Playa Grande Guanacaste, Costa Rica, and made my arrangements.

Is being brave flying by myself to a foreign country? Yes, I guess it is, but I travel by myself all the time. Husband does not fly and prefers to motor from Point A to Point B as quickly as possible without encountering any tornadoes, snow, or big cities. That gives a visual of our route from Arizona to and from Minnesota every summer.

Is being brave flying in a tiny plane from Fargo, North Dakota, to Minneapolis, Minnesota? Perhaps, when there are banks of single seats on the left side of the plane and banks of two seats on the right – and when the pilot and flight attendant are the same person. The flight from Minneapolis to Houston was a little daunting, also, as I was seated next to a man who was inebriated when he boarded the plane and became belligerent when the server wouldn’t grant his demands for alcoholic beverages.

Suspension bridge bravery

Is being brave walking across a suspension bridge over a river at Rincon de la Vieja? Maybe, especially since it swayed with each persons step. We stood in awe at the powerful waterfall, trying to capture its beauty with a camera. Being brave might also be stumbling over an iguana as we stomped through the jungle; or confronting an alligator as we sloshed across an estuary; or ducking from a howling monkey.

Is being brave zip lining over the canopy? You bet! At age 66, zip lining is probably the bravest thing I’ve ever done. It’s a good thing we planned this part of our tour for the beginning of my trip, so my fear didn’t have a chance to escalate and ruin my Costa Rica experience. What’s to worry about? Tourists zip line all the time, right? I just didn’t want my daughter to have to extract me from the jungle and ship me back to the States – a very costly endeavor, and so much paperwork.

The tour preliminaries included signing the liability form; trying on helmets and gloves; wrapping the straps and harness snugly around our crotch and waist; and listening to instructions. Once everyone was outfitted, we climbed the hill to the uppermost platform. Since there were 11 platforms, it was a long hike up. Our thrill-seeking group included a fun family from Boston whose high-spirited jokes alleviated some of the anguish I was experiencing. One of the Boston sisters zipped in tandem with one of the instructors. “Do you want to go with someone, Mom?” my daughter asked. “Nope. I need to face my fear by myself.”

I purposely elected to go last so I could observe everyone else’s technique, being a visual Jackie and Barbaralearner and all. Once I hooked the carabiner to my harness, the guide practically pushed me off the stand. I’m sure he was thinking he needed to prod this old broad along or she’d never get off the first platform. One of the instructions was how to control our speed. To slow down, pull down on the wire with the left hand. On my flight off the first platform, I utilized that instruction to the fullest so it was more of a crawl than a zip. Finally getting the hang of it, I progressively got faster in my zipping, much to the relief of my fellow canopy groupies. Here I come. I’m in the blue shirt – slow and steady wins the race.

Being brave is being ready to face danger or show courage, and it varies from person to person. Being brave for someone might be dealing with a spider. Being brave for another could be giving a speech. Being brave for me was zip lining in Costa Rica. My next being brave event is going to be the shotover jet ride in New Zealand.

________________________
Barbara Renner
and her husband have lived in Phoenix for more than 40 years. As “Sun Barbara RennerBirds,” they fly away to Minnesota to escape the summer heat – and to fish. While in Minnesota, Barbara became fascinated with its state bird, the Common Loon, and was prompted to write four picture books about Lonnie the Loon, because everyone should know about loons. However, books about loons don’t sell very well in the desert, so she is writing a new series of picture books about Quincy the Quail. Barbara visits elementary schools as a guest author to read her books and share interesting facts about loons and quails. She’s working on other children’s books and a special book about her yellow lab, Larry: Larry’s Words of Wisdom. Learn more about Barbara at RennerWrites.com, as well as on TwitterFacebook, and GoodReads.

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Finding Your Audience

Finding Your Audience

by Patricia Grady Cox

Just write a good book, and your audience will find you. Ever hear that advice? I have. But I don’t believe it. I believe you have to actively market and promote your work if you want anybody to see it. However, you can’t target the entire world with your marketing / promotional / advertising budget.

looking through binocs

Just as when looking for an agent, a publisher, or a bookstore into which to put your Great American Novel, you must describe it. You have to – let’s face it – put it into a pigeon-hole. If you’ve written a book with a 95-year-old female protagonist who spent decades married to a gay man, it’s probably not going to fly with readers who prefer Thriller, Nonfiction, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, Poetry, Romance, or YA. So you don’t want to waste your time with agents, publishers, bookstore buyers, or readers interested in those genres. Your goal is to put your book in front of the people who are actually interested in it.

Now, depending on your story, perhaps it could be labeled Historical, Humor/Comedy, Inspirational, Mystery, Paranormal, Western, or Women’s Literature. Or maybe . . . not! You have to choose. Unless and until you determine your genre, your marketing will remain scattered and ineffective.

But how to choose?

I looked at a dozen different websites and found a dozen different lists of genres. Some have sub-genres. Some, like “crime fiction,” didn’t seem to make any list at all. I did not come across any reference to “mainstream” which always seemed to me to be a good catch-all category. Perhaps they call it “General” now. But, really, how helpful is that to your marketing efforts? Not at all.

frustrated writer

A couple years ago, I signed up as a vendor at the Payson Book Festival. It’s a great event, very professionally done, and the author tables always sell out quickly. Who wouldn’t like an excuse to spend a day in Payson, mid-summer? I shared a table with a fellow author who had two YA/Sci-Fi books. I was there with my historical novel set in the American West and an anthology of flash fiction and essays.

My table partner could recognize her audience by looking at them. Every time she saw someone come through the hall’s doorway that looked to be between, say, 12 and 20 years of age, she went after them. Literally. She would leave our table and go get them. Several times she came back dragging an apparently “Young Adult” reader with her. She was successful. She sold books.

I did not sell one book that day. So what was I to do? I had written a novel set in Territorial Arizona. Historical. Western. A little paranormal, a little Native American. People who like this kind of book are hard to pick out based on appearance. I was reading historical novels of the West when I was a teenager. Now I have white hair and I still read them. That left my target audience: potentially everybody. As cool as it was there, compared to Phoenix, I didn’t have the energy to pitch to every single person who walked by my table.

Step 1.

If in-person determinations of potential readers won’t work, maybe online information will, especially since I figure most of my marketing will be done via social media. I decided to take another tack: metadata. I went to Amazon and pulled up books I thought were either similar to mine or that I wished I had written and noted the categories those authors had listed as keywords for searchers.

  • Larry McMurtry: Westerns, Literature & Fiction, Literary Fiction, Historical Fiction, Classic Literature & Fiction
  • Pete Dexter: Westerns, Literary Fiction, Literature & Fiction, Historical Fiction, U.S. Historical Fiction, Action & Adventure, Historical Literary Fiction
  • Cormac McCarthy (I looked only at Blood Meridian: Or the Evening Redness in the West): Westerns, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, Literature & Fiction, Classic Literature & Fiction, Action & Adventure Fiction, U.S. Historical Fiction, Western Fiction Classics, Western Horror Fiction (an interesting category that included Stephen King’s Dark Tower books and several of Larry McMurtry’s).
  • Thomas Cobb: Westerns, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, U.S. Historical Fiction, American Literature.

Then I looked up my own book, Chasm Creek: Westerns, Native American, Historical, Literature and Fiction. That looked right. Now I felt armed with some areas of interest to target on social media.

Step 2.

I went to Facebook and spent two days making a spreadsheet of every Western, Writing In Notebook On Laptophistorical, writing, and reading group.

Column 1: name of group.

Column 2: focus of group (Do they allow ads? Do they want posts? Do they want links to blogs?).

Column 3: the group’s rules for posting (some restrict ads to certain days, some limit subjects for blogs, etc.).

Column 4: date I posted.

Column 5: results (by which I mean: Did I get any feedback?).

asleep at computer

Step 3.

I was so worn out by the time I finished all this that I have yet to post to these groups. I’ll save my results for another blog . . .

Please share your method for categorizing your book and then finding your audience on social media!

_______________________
Patricia Grady Cox
is a member of Western Writers of America and Women Writing Trish Coxthe West. Her nonfiction work has appeared in magazines, newspapers, and ghost-written memoirs. Patricia has volunteered at the Pioneer Arizona Living History Museum where she experienced, first-hand, the realities of life in the 1800s. Her love of the Southwest – the landscape, the history, the culture – infuses her work with authenticity. Originally from Rhode Island, she moved to Arizona 24 years ago and currently lives in Phoenix. Her novel, Chasm Creek, is available on Amazon or through her website. Patricia blogs weekly at Patricia Grady Cox, Writer. Her second novel, HELLGATE, is now on sale.

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Help! I’m Having A Flashback

Help! I’m Having A Flashback

by Beth Kozan

Depressed and sad woman sitting on the floor in the empty room. Low key.

Dateline: 2-15-2018. I can’t quiet my mind. All the television channels are playing and replaying yesterday’s coverage of a school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Seeing the students leave their classrooms, drop their backpacks in a heap, and walk single file to a safer place makes me remember . . .

I am reliving the shooting at Catholic Social Service more than 20 years ago, step by step. It wasn’t until the 10 o’clock local news that night in 1997 – seeing the yellow paper designations of each ammunition shell on the stairs we climbed multiple times every day – that the seriousness of our experience hit me.

It was a Thursday in mid-April. Carol, Sheryl, and I were the only ones there in the Pregnancy, Parenting, and Adoptions Unit, on the second floor. We took our lunches to Connie’s office (the only office in our program with a table). As we prepared to eat, we heard a single loud noise on the street. Carol and I thought it was a car backfiring, but Sheryl insisted it was a gunshot.

A few minutes later, we heard a shot fired inside our building! We turned the table on its side to barricade the door, then hid behind Connie’s desk, near the window. From the floor, Carol reached up and pulled the phone down and called 911; they had already received the report. Then she called her husband at work; he had heard the news on the radio and was worried. We heard a helicopter close above us. Two male voices in a foreign language argued, and then shots began ringing out – many of them! Then silence. After a bit, a policeman announced his presence at our door and told us to stay in place and wait for an All Clear signal.

That day, Elliot had dropped me off at work in the morning and used my car to run an errand. Per our plan, he returned to the office at noon to have me drive him home. As he parked on the west side of the building, he watched a man enter the building carrying an assault rifle. He thought: “He must be going in to try to sell the rifle to someone.” (Elliot would later kick himself for not recognizing the danger.)

Elliot entered the front door and saw the man with the gun at the receptionist’s window. The gunman pivoted, aimed the weapon at Elliot, and said: “You have to go now!” Elliot put his hands up and backed out the door; the interruption gave the receptionist a chance to seek help from the agency director. Elliot crossed through traffic on Northern Avenue into a pizza place and told them to call 911 –  a man with a gun was inside Catholic Social Service!

Then Elliot ran back across Northern to the parking lot on the east side of the CSS building so he could further observe the man with the gun who went around that corner of the building. As he crossed the street, he saw the mass of workers exiting the building through the west door, near where he’d parked the car.

Elliot knew about the girls’ home, Casa Linda Lodge, behind the agency and he wanted to be able to tell the police where the gunman was. He’d heard the gunman shoot out the window to gain entrance to the main building, then watched as two policemen drove up in a patrol car and entered the building, guns drawn. He heard the multiple shots fired inside the building.

When the gunfire ceased, Elliot entered the CSS building through the shot-out window beside the back door. He walked up the stairs through the pall of gun smoke that hung over the stairs. He went to my office, saw my purse there, and assumed I was in the group he’d seen leaving the building through the west entrance. He returned the way he had come in and went to the front of the building. As he walked under the portico, Sheryl saw him, and called out: “Elliot, what are you doing here?”

For our part, as soon as the shooting stopped, we opened the windows. Sheryl called out to the police who were stringing yellow Crime Scene tape across the bushes in front of the building, “Did anybody get shot?” The reply came: “Just the bad guy.” We watched as the injured man was loaded into the ambulance on a gurney and whisked away.

We cautiously opened the door where we waited and saw a policeman in the hallway working his way to each closed office door on the second floor. We were told to go to the back building (Casa Linda Lodge) where we would be interviewed. On the way past my office, I grabbed my purse and we walked through the pungent haze of gun smoke still on the stairs, and joined the people assembling at Casa Linda. Elliot was there.

It took until 5 p.m. for everyone to be interviewed; no one could leave until everyone had given their statement. We were told to go home; no one was allowed to reenter the main building. The office would be closed the following day, and we were all invited to meet at the Phoenix Diocese office the next day. A memorial service would be held for Simon, the shooter, who we learned had died at nearby John C Lincoln hospital, and counselors would be onsite.

As I recall, most employees were stoic with shock, and they expressed very little emotion – until they learned they couldn’t re-enter the building to get their car keys! There were no exceptions, and several people had to call relatives or friends to come pick them up.

The next day at the Diocese office, we sat quietly in the chapel for a small service asking rest for the shooter’s soul. We learned that he was from Sudan, had once been a client of the Catholic Social Service refugee program, and he left the program with bad feelings. Simon came to the CSS office armed because it was taking too long for a visa to come through for his friend in Africa, and he wanted to see the workers he knew. We learned that the arguing voices we had heard were those of Simon and a worker from the refugee program.

Counselors from the Fire Department split us into three groups: (1) people who knew Simon through their work with the refugee program; (2) those who were in the building at the time of the incident; and (3) those who were not in the building and were not allowed to enter the building when they heard about it on the news.

There were about 20 in our group of those who were in the building at the time of the shooting. Guided by counselors, each person gave their personal account. The first to speak were those who had been on the first floor and exited the building by the west door. One woman described hearing the shots and fearing each shot meant someone was dead. The most common feeling expressed was helplessness. Some expressed anger, and some people seemed insulted that the shooter was given respect by the service held for him. No judgments were made by the counselors for any of the feelings expressed.

On Monday, when we returned to the office, you almost wouldn’t know any incident had taken place. A new paint job covered bullet pockmarks, even on the file cabinet that had been shot through by a bullet. Blood-stained carpet had been replaced. Most of the shots, we learned from the television coverage, were on the stairs where the police encountered the shooter. “It was the first time I was glad to be short!” the policeman joked on the news tape about the confrontation on the stairs. All evidence of the spray of bullets had been plastered over and painted. It was almost as if nothing had happened there.

Seeing the school shooting replayed again and again on television through the weekend of February 17-18, 2018, brought a flashback. It gives me sympathy for those who’ve experienced trauma and helps me understand Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome in a personal way.

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B
eth Kozan is the author of the book Adoption: More Than by Chance and the forthcoming Beth KozanHelping the Birth Mother You Know. Beth worked in adoption for 35 years and retired to write. She has many more books than these titles to write and will emphasize and explore the concept of community in her additional books. “Growing up in a close agriculture-based, rural community in Texas, I felt the comfort and bonds of caring for others which is often missing in our busy lives today. Exploring and building communities for today is my writer’s goal.” Follow Beth on Facebook or visit her website, where she reviews books and films featuring adoption.

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