The Mary Jane Legacy (It’s not about what you may assume…)

Something different on my site today, and from a different Scott Southard! My dad has his own blog where he writes on his experience working in health care and as a manager. In his most recent post he shared memories of his mom, my grandmother. It is a touching piece and I think really captures her strong personality and amazing mind. I hope you enjoy it.

Healthcare Leadership: A Discourse

This month marks the fifth anniversary of the passing of my mother, Mary Jane Southard.  She was a hard worker and a very smart woman with several graduate degrees, held a position in public education of which she was the first Michigan woman to do so, and was responsible for launching the education of innumerable children in our community.

Grandma S. copy

Even now, people in her town still recognize our shared last name and ask about her or have an endearing story to share of her seemingly unceasing generosity and kind heart.  It always fascinated my sons and me when out with her that people in their fifties or sixties would approach her and ask if she knew who they were.  And, like some sideshow act, she would look into these people’s eyes and without fail recognize them and call them by the name they preferred as a five-year old… and then…

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Radio Days or When I Was a DJ or Finding Voices

Claudius was hereI used to have nightmares because of Latin class.

I took Latin when I was in school for three years, between 7th and 9th grade. I was drawn to the classes, not because of it being a gateway to other languages, but more because of its literary history.  See, by this point, I was reading everything I could get my hands on, and usually my focus was on the classics, not what typical junior high kids were devouring. “No, thank you. You can keep your Stephen King, I’m re-reading Hemingway this week.”

Latin was a tie to great mythology, it was a connection to those random quotes in a novel that I had no idea what was being said. In a literary sense, it felt like the opportunity to dig around the base of a tree and see the root underneath.

The teacher of the classes was Mr. Black, and looking back over those three years with him I still can’t put my finger really on his personality. He could go up and down pretty quickly, did he like to teach or hate it? Did he even like us or hate us? Now I almost wonder if he was bipolar, and that could explain the oddness of the experience. (He would also show us I, Claudius in class, if you can believe it. He would run up with a big piece of paper to cover up the screen whenever the “naughty bits” would come on; of course, most of the time he didn’t get to the TV in time.  Yes, he taught kids like me all about the history of Caligula.)

Mr. Black would have the students recite and speak Latin in class, and while I was basically average in reading Latin on the page, I couldn’t do it aloud. It was too much for my tongue. It is those moments that used to haunt me, standing up, hands sweaty, all of the eyes on me as I tried to recite a passage perfectly. The other students would sometimes hide their laughter, many times they didn’t. And there was Mr. Black in the front shaking his head, frowning, with almost a mocking smirk hiding behind his eyes. Continue reading

Why I Don’t Like Fan Fiction

BooksThere is a beautiful safety in books. In that time, when you are in a great novel, your focus is clear, and reality can gracefully slips away, leaving you to play in the imagination of the author. You walk with the characters, you explore the land, you fall in (and out of) love, and when the book is closed, a bit of you feels lost, returning to the too real world.

The sad thing is that when you return to a book again it is never the same. That initial spark is diminished. This is because the surprises are gone, and with each additional reading it slips more and more; until it is nothing more than words on paper, something to be almost merely analyzed. It is a memory now, a glimmer of that first magical escape.

The fact is I understand the desire to create fan fiction. As a lover of books and an author, I truly do.

It’s hard to let go, move on, especially if you want more than what the author wanted to give to you. It can feel like an early death, especially when there is so much more to live. And maybe it is that book, that author, that inspired you to write yourself! Your inspiration driven from a need for more and more.

The problem is at the heart of every piece of fan fiction there is one bit of truth, one thing the fan fiction author doesn’t want to consider:

It is not their decision whether the story continues or not.

They are not the author and only the original author should make that call. Continue reading

Pushing The Boulder: Finding Your Drive to Write

Sisyphus and his friendOnce, I basked in the sunlight of destiny.

Most of us writers do, it is a repercussion of reading too much fiction growing up (all heroes and heroines have destinies, don’t they?). And, honestly, when one reads a biography of a writer doesn’t it always feel like some other worldly power gave something somewhere a nudge? You can feel the word just hanging on everyone’s lips, hiding behind each quote:

Destiny.

Another reason why we writers feel the tide of destiny is because of ego. All writers have an ego! If we didn’t, we wouldn’t believe that we have something worth saying! There is a reason people should waste their time with our words!  Yes, egos are a prerequisite for picking up a pen. Some are big, some are loud, but they are all there for each of us, whispering in our ears and telling us how pretty we are.

When I look over my life, I have a collection of experiences (that feel like short stories) that make up my mental autobiography, the chapter that made this man the writer. The funny thing is, after all this time, I couldn’t tell you exactly which earlier chapters were fiction and which were nonfiction. See, things blend together with me over time. (If you think this is silly, ask my wife. It is a common occurance for her to ask me if I am exaggerating something; and, to be honest, I do it all the time.)

So why am I bringing up destiny? Well, after years of trying to make it as a novelist I have a great truth to share, one that may not be easy for many to hear.

There is no destiny.

No destiny, no fate. The life of a writer is something you have to earn with sweat, blood, and a lot of luck.

And if you walk away, you walk away. Continue reading

Life’s After Thoughts

I don’t believe in ghosts.

I can say, for example, that someone died in my bedroom  (It is an old house) and I have yet to see any specter on a dark moonlit evening. No screeching screams demanding I leave the premises; nor have I felt even the slightest presence in the room. For my children, it is the refuge they go to after a bad dream or to seek comfort. There is nothing there to scare them away.

One of my favorite stories about the “unknown” comes from my little brother when he was a kid. He and one of my young cousins got their hands on an Ouija board and decided to talk to demons. He came running up to me later declaring that they had spoken to Satan!

I, being the arrogant teenager I was at the time, said something like, “Oh yeah? How did he spell his name?”

My brother proudly replied, “S.A.T.I.N.”

The Reason

My grandfather, my last grandparent, passed away earlier this year (I wrote about writing his obituary here). To say my grandparents had an impact on my life is to put it mildly. Next to my parents, they were one of the most important influences on my life. They were my safety net and they caught me numerous times while growing up. Continue reading

My Time With Mites

So yesterday at about 11:02 AM I learned my son was infested with mites. Scabies, actually. He probably got it from another child at his daycare. All it takes to spread is a touch, maybe he was playing with a friend and his hand touched their arm, or maybe he touched someone’s coat and it was infected. Or it was a  bath mat, or a towel. He could have been drying his hands after washing them like a very good boy and then…

Whatever the case he got it at that moment from another kid, so why do I feel so dirty?

I know I am not to blame for this. And yet, my initial reaction, like a lot of people’s is to feel like they are somehow to blame for their child’s suffering by a mite. My immediate reaction was to wonder if we vacuum the house enough, did we dust enough? And then my mind raced to my 9-month old daughter, was she even safe with us? Was I a lousy parent?

Deep breath, no I am not to blame for this. This burden was not on my head, but the recovery was. It was fully on my wife and my shoulders and I felt it. Continue reading