Writing and the real world, what impact and responsibility do we have?

2 Oct

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Yesterday was a beautiful fall day. I was going about my life just as most of the students and Umpqua Community College were going about theirs. Rose burg is a lovely town only about three hours from my home, and one of the places that my husband and his High School Music students have visited over the years. It feels like part of the neighborhood. To suddenly be hearing the news of another school shooting was heartbreaking, but sadly unsurprising.

Really, everytime we hear about this type of event, it is disgusting how quickly fingers start pointing to assign blame. But in our inability to be surprised anymore, there is the hopeless feeling of helplessness. Trying to place blame at least implies that we can stop this pattern if we can only figure out why.

I know the gun control, and the need more gun arguments. I know the blame the violent practice kids get in role playing being the shooter in video games. I know the suggestion that the idea comes from the movies, media and books that repeatedly tell the stories of violence over almost any other newsworthy choice.

What I don’t know is the answer
Yet I feel some of the questions directed my way
because in a book I wrote with a 9 year old protagonist, I have a school shooting.
It is a mildly described event in my opinion, and I don’t think it glorifies it. I certainly never imagined my readers sympathizing with the shooter, but I’m learning that some of them do. And I have him filled with confused emotions and hopelessness, because I can’t imagine ever being able to do what he does unless I had no hope.

The shooting is only a small part of the story, but once I began being invited into schools to talk about it, it was a section I never read aloud, but explain in simple summary, “Duffy’s sister is injured in a school shooting, and . . .” but if I am uncomfortable reading it to a class, maybe a couple reviews have sometime to do with that. One says “this book was too harsh and emotional and real for me too finish” and another, 1-star review says, “10yo brings rifle to school, killing or wounding several children including Duffy’s little sister. Grief stricken, Duffy has a psychotic break…” and that is that entire review.

So what is an author’s responsibility in describing actions that may inspire copycat behaviors? Do the books convince people that behavior is ok? should we never write about things that make us uncomfortable or fearful?

I don’t think so. I think they might help us cope with it if it does happen to us, and it might help us realize the consequences before we ever have to try it for ourselves. I think the stories, in most people can teach empathy and make us less likely to think hurting others is ok.

But like I said, I don’t know. I don’t think my little books will ever have the reach or power to make a huge impact, but if they make one bullied kid realize that living a good life is the best revenge, maybe they do have some value in this world.

at least one reviewer thought so, “I thoroughly enjoyed this inventive book, which is sad, funny, touching and full of surprises. I loved the characters, especially Duffy, the parallel universe of Uhrlin complete with its own mythology, and the subtle messages about bullying and belonging. It is one of the few books I’ve read that are written from the point of view of a disabled child. It does a great job of making this point of view accessible and understandable to others. At the same time, it underlines the fact that everyone is in some way a ‘freak’, with his or her own unique way of looking at things. Everyone is lovable and worth making an effort to understand. It is a powerful message, and one that the world really needs to hear.

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A wish for peace and love in our country and world. Healing and love to the Students and staff at Umpqua Community College.

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Christmas 2014: 30th Anniversary and Becoming Grandparents

20 Dec

Goode, Dixie and Greg
2500 Tony Rosa Road
Crescent City, CA 95531

Merry Christmas and A Happy 2015 From Dixie and Greg

Greg and I can’t count all the blessings and all the love and all the changes and sorrows and joys that we have shared since we got married but we both agree that we never suspected that 30 years could pass so quickly. Yet, here we are – no longer 1984, and no longer thin or flamingly red-headed, or young. Still thirty years with the only person who knows me at both my best and worst and still is willing to stick around for another 30 if we get so lucky. It is possible, after all, my in-laws just celebrated their 64th anniversary this summer.

So after 30 years together, we find ourselves firmly in the “sandwich Generation” as it has been named to describe those years when you are one of the Generation who still has health and strength and has established some stability, and is sandwiched between kids and grandchildren who still need some help – and aging parents who can no longer be your strength but now need you to be there for them. It is a time when you are acutely aware of the passage of time and the fact that you are still lucky enough to have this much family, but also coldly aware that it can’t last much longer. You want to spend every moment enjoying being needed and wanted but every time you are one place you feel guilty for not being in at least three other places at the same time.

Speaking of being in not enough places at a time, My Brother Brett is amazing at being there for Mom and Lance. Lance still lives with Brett in Virginia and was delighted at the flood of birthday cards that he got, but he is also old enough to remember both Grandma Grace and Dad as they got sicker and died. So he understands illness enough to be very worried that Mom might die.
Mom became more and more confused and paranoid, and she couldn’t do the basics of taking care of herself anymore. Then she ended up in the hospital, and from there into a nursing home that she hated and was afraid of. Since then Brett found her another place, still not far from Brett and Lance, where she is comfortable enough that she has relaxed and calls it home. However she did fall and fracture her vertebrae and need 4 staples in the back of her head. The first nursing home had her overmedicated and she is doing a lot better with her blood pressure and diabetes better monitored that she was getting. Dementia is a cruel disease and it is nice to hear her being more happy than she has sounded in months. She even went to Brett’s for Thanksgiving and then said of her room at the manor, “It was good to get home.”

For those of you who remember the many Christmas cards and letters she has always sent, her new address is at

Priscilla Miller
Greenfield Of Berryville
413 McCellen Street
Berryville, VA 22611
Phone (540) 955-4557 (Not her room but the manor number)

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Lance after receiving his birthday cards

His address is Lance Miller
PO Box 865
Middleburg, VA 20118

Thanks to everyone who took the time and money to make him smile like that.

So what else happened in 2014?

I got a couple long term teaching jobs at the school where I taught full time for 10 years, and Emerson is working there now too, so I have seen him a lot more. And Emerson and Lula made us Grandparents on April 28th when Lula gave birth to Daisy Grace Goode

Greg and I have done a bit of traveling together without the boys for the first time really since we became parents. This summer we went back to Wyoming and visited our Goode family relatives including Greg’s parents and one brother, and both surviving sisters. We also visited a couple nephews and Aunt Melissa and Rose. It was low key and fun mainly. We let our easy going way dictate the pace, and read Harry potter novels to each other while we drove, we went to see the sights like the Rocks at Vedauwoo and then visited Fort Laramie in a downpour and that seemed strange since out temperate rainforest home is in a drought. But I had never been there, even though I wrote about it based on research in my Oregon Trail Novel. We went to the Black Hills Playhouse (where Greg and I worked that long ago summer we were married) with my Father-in-law and had a couple picnics in the gazebo at my mother-in-laws nursing home.
We went Camping with friends up by Oregon Caves, and we went to see “Into The Woods” at the Shakespeare Festival.

In one week in August we had three friends die here in Crescent City, one our next door neighbor for the last 18 years, and one a fellow music teacher with Greg and a very dear friend since we moved here 25 years ago. They were all older friends, more our parents generation than ours, but they were good friends and our world is emptier without them.

I managed to publish two picture books for kids. One, Rainbows around Us, is a book about colors using my photographs and the other, Moonrise, is a lullaby I used to sing to the boys 20 years ago, along with finger paintings I did on the table top and lifted as prints. So now you can google Dixie Miller Goode and find five of my books on-line or available for your local bookstore to order.

Greg has changed back to straight vocal music instead of doing just high school band and choir, he does 5th grade through high school Choir this year, and as Christmas gets closer he has an incredible number of performances scheduled, but he ended up with a record number of his students being selected via blind audition to go to the All Northwest USA choir festival, as in RECORD (Triple the number he has ever had before)

Austin and his girlfriend Tricia are around quite a bit and are always working. They have kept us in firewood while also helping her family while Austin is driving for GH Outreach. He drives handicapped adults to work and helps supervise them on the job sites. They pick up recycling and do yrs wok and he seems to really enjoy the work. I kind of blame Lance for the fact that I have so many years teaching Special needs kids and now both of my sons work with people with handicaps. Once you have known Lance, you realize that people need to be given a chance to be their own best self.
Anyway, life is still LIFE, busy, happy, sad, crazy, wonderful and exhausting. It looks like we will make it to 2015 with a smile and a prayer that you all have a Merry Christmas and a Happy, Healthy 2015.
Much Love,
Dixie and Greg

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Autobiography Challenge: Family part 1

13 Oct

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William and Della
These are my Great Grandparents. Their daughter Grace, was my Mother’s Mom. I never metWilliam but Great Grandma Della was an important part of my childhood, and if anyone has read my Oregon Trail Novel, you now one of my main characters os named Della in her honor. She Gave birth to at least 7 children that I know of, One boy died as a toddler, 3 boys and 3 girls survived into adulthood, or at least to a month shy of her 20th birthday in the case of Alice.

William and Della were hog and dairy farmers in Ogle County, Illinois and raise their family successfully right on through the depression.

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Mt. Vernon, Illinois School 1922
Front Row L to R: Carl Beightol, Florence Haijenga Schoonhoven, Sylvia Buther Buss, Elizabeth Buntjer DeWall, Francis Buss Frey, Marie Korf Cooms, Alice Beightol, Calvin Buss, Sam Klock

Second Row: George Buss, John Buss, Irvin VanRaden, Alvin Buss, Orville Beightol

Thied Row: Clarence Beightol, Raymond VanRaden, Walter Duitsman, GRACE BEIGHTOL (MY Maternal Grandmother), Teacher, Belva Murphy McPherson Photo Submitted by Sam Klock

So the Beightols are my Grandmother’s family and the McPherson teacher, must be related too because I had a great, Great aunt named Maggie (Margaret) McPherson.

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My Great Uncle Carl
This is my Maternal Grandmother’s Brother, Carl. Born in Illinois, after two sisters married Wyoming Cowboys, Carl came to Wyoming to be a cowboy too, but after riding his horse into the Silver Dollar Bar in Cody, the Sheriff gave him the alternatives of going to jail or joining the army. He joined the army and died after surviving the Bataan Death March in 1942… my uncle Donald’s middle name Carl is in his honor. So Yes, he survived the march but died of dysentery in the Cabanatuan POW camp not long after. We have a copy of a letter from his sergeant sent to “William Beightol” (My Great Grandfather) in 1974 saying that he had held Carl in in arms when he died, June 1942. Donald’s wife, Marion and Donald visited the site of the POW camp in 1972 and also saw Carl’s name on the Memorial of the Pacific War in Manila.

Autobiographical Challenge: Day 29 and 30

1 Oct

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Author Presentation
Here I am, in front of a classroom like I have been many times since becoming a student teacher, then a teacher, then a substitute teacher. Now a writer and story-teller. Now I am not telling kids that they have to pass a test to succeed in someone else’s definition. I am telling them that they can define what success is and reach for their own dreams. I am telling them that if the bullied and terrified girl can grow up and talk to rooms full of children, and if the shy, bookworm can turn those early crayon illustrated notebook “Novels” into published books, and convince school districts to use them to teach from, then they can also find a way to share the things they love with the world. I tell them they may never get rich doing what they love, and they may need another job to put food on the table and a roof over their head, but that they should never give up on doing the things that make them feel glad to be alive. I tell them that if you find something that delights you and makes you interested, other people will be interested and delight in it too. It’s all about recharging your energy so you have energy to help recharge our darkest days and let the rest of the world see how beautiful it can be just to share this big blue planet with each other.

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Finding The New Trail
Well, when we first met, we were half the people that we are now. Finding someone I could love this much when I was just 18 is a pretty rare and amazing thing and I never take it for granted for a moment. We had so many dreams that we used to talk about as we carpooled to those first college classes back in 1982 and the strange thing is that all of those dreams have come true. We have raised two incredible young Men, we have travelled and taught and loved and fought and made up and kept going. Now we are back where we started, a couple on our own, in the uncharted waters, for us, of dealing with aging parents with weaker by the day, health issues and new grandchildren, and sons who didn’t see us as perfect parents and so have to learn to be their own guides now. We have had to go through another lonely Thanksgiving and Christmas even more depressing than the ones just after we got married. We had to go camping with just us, and find conversation through 3,000 mile road trips without anyone interrupting. We still have less stability than we should, we are in debt and not seeing a way to keep up on the maintenance that out old house and cars need. We have moments of being scared and lonely and wondering what the future holds, but every night when I drift off to sleep I still hear him breathing beside me, and that makes everything good.

Autobiographical Challenge: Day 28

30 Sep

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Well Hello, Baby
No matter what you think you want from your life or when you expect it to happen, there are some things that take you by surprise and demand their own timeline and insist on happening, not according to your plan but JUST RIGHT NOW.
Our babies were like that, not even close to when we planned to have children, so why would we expect our granddaughter to be any more cooperative. Daisy didn’t arrive on anyone’s schedule but her own. Yet like some of the best gifts that life gives you, her arrival, surprise that it was, filled us with joy and laughter and hope for the future. All those wonderful gifts that babies have been bringing to the world since time began came with this little girl.
It is nice to be reminded tht there is nothing in the world so important that it can’t be set aside for a moment, or a month or a year, while you ignore everything but the chance to make tiny lips smile and tiny eyes crinkle and tiny lungs burst into giggles. When time slows down, in that old, ordinary way, Life can be extraordinary.

Autobiographical Challenge: Day 27

29 Sep

Becoming Men Collage

Life changes fast when your children are only a year apart. You have two babies and then you have none. You live at the grade school and then you never go back. Two high school students consume your life and then the house is empty.
Austin turned 18 in March of 2011 and met his birth family and graduated and moved out and became a crab fisherman. He had a string of different girlfriends and every time I got to know one, she was gone – but now he has been with Trisha for over a year and he seems happier than I have ever seen him. He is off the boat and working with handicapped adults and is so kind I am very proud.
Emerson and Lula became a rock solid couple and graduated high school together, then moved to Santa Cruz and finished the first year of the program to become Math teachers, and then Daisy arrived and we are grandparents and falling in love all over again.
Suddenly the boys are men, and unlike the teens I knew, are full of smiles and laughter and easy hugs. Now I am dong other things than being a Mom, but being a Mom was the biggest joy of my life and watching the boys turn men, and my husband and I turn into grandparents has been amazing. Sometimes I feel too lucky, scared that everything I ever had on my bucket list has been accomplished so what comes next? I knew I needed new goals, “me goals” or I would turn reclusive and never be able to pry myself out of the house.

Autobiographical Challenge: Day 26

29 Sep

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Goode-Stock 2010

My husband’s family has spread world wide and at various times had jobs and lives in The Netherlands, Aruba, China, India, Hawaii, Boston and so on. They don’t get together often enough but on the tens anniversary of the parents they make a huge deal. 2010 was the 60th anniversary and we rented a campground, usually used by scouting or church groups, in Custer State Park in the Black Hills of South Dakota. I am not topless. Unfortunately the light beige top I had on photographs very much like skin tone for me.
The Goode family is rowdier and louder by far than the family I grew up in, and when they do get together it becomes a party. We had a lake and kayaks, we had a lot of cabins and a big camp kitchen and hiking and a big fish fry and one night a string banjo band came with dancing and it was mostly fun. We were about 40 miles from the parents home and my MIL was in a nursing home by then. So my FIL came up in the days but when home at night and we all went in at various times to visit Mimi. It was wonderful except when it got bad and then it got bad very fast. You could say it turned bad like “lightning.”
On top of the highest hill was a group fire ring with a knee high stone wall around the fire pit. It was probably 10 feet across, and a lot of large wooden benches circled it. Near-by was a large group hall that we had keys to but had never accessed. Thin but tall evergreens towered above the clearing. Some of the adults had been drinking and everyone was relaxed and happy. The granddaughter brought out her guitar and the grandsons were mostly talking and playing with hand held games or phones. A couple family dogs had joined us. There was a light flurry of rain but not heavy enough to dampen the spirits of anyone. Then suddenly an explosion as lightning concussed the air only feet above our heads. A dead silent moment as the hair on our arms and heads sizzled and eyeglass frames grew hot. Then screams and running, dogs vanishing into the woods, people diving for cars or running to the empty hall. We stood inside listening to the storm grow heavy and then hail splatted around us ad then a calm. We hesitated but moved back out to the fire ring, reluctant to head to the cabins just yet.
One of the childless uncles, drunk and scared and irritated all at once climbed into the stone wall and kept turning to dry his clothing over the bonfire and staggering a bit and snapping as various people tried to tell him to get out. Then a nephew came close, texting his girlfriend, and the uncle thought he’d had too much time wired in. The Uncle kicked at the hand holding the phone, and fell, reaching out to break his fall and jamming the hand between two burning logs. As everyone moved at once, he was pulled out and stared at the blistering and peeling skin and swore it didn’t hurt. Emergency room, 20 miles away with him insisting he didn’t need it.

Anyway, it was a reunion we haven’t forgotten, four years after the oldest sister died of heat stroke in the Grand Canyon, and 6 months before the oldest nephew died walking home from the grocery store when he stepped in front of a train. MIL and FIL were still doing ok when we saw them again this summer and the burned hand has recovered and life, it goes on.