Romeo & Juliet Text Messaging

essay, non-fiction 23 Comments »

text-messagingDost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that’s the stuff life is made of.
Benjamin Franklin
(via Loren P Matthews)

A curve ball came my way about three weeks ago.  I share this not to hang out the family laundry, but in hopes that this story will help teenagers and parents understand that there are other dangerous risks of text messaging besides driving and texting.

In mid January I had this instant intuitive mom flash of my 15 year old son skipping school.  With this “vision” in my head, I decided to drive over to his high school.  About a block from the school, off campus, I saw my son playing hacky sack with some other kids.  Playing hacky sack is not such a big deal, but my son was supposed to be in class and he is behind in school.

Of course he saw my car, with the words “LOVE” and “BE THE CHANGE” on the windows and he cringed.  His shoulders dropped as he approached my car.  I put the window down.  “What class are you missing?” I asked.  “You know how embarrassing this is?” he asked.  “Go to class and I won’t ‘embarrass’ you.”  He turned and headed for the school.

Jumping ahead to just after dinner that evening~my son sat in his room doing his homework.  I popped my head in to see how the homework was coming along.  It wasn’t.  He sat as his desk, text messaging.  I put my hand out and said, “The phone is mine until the homework is finished.”  He handed me the phone and I turned it off.

At 10:30pm someone rang our doorbell.  My husband and I had just gotten into bed.  We both looked at each other as we NEVER have visitors this late.  My husband went downstairs.  All I could hear was: Yes sir.  No problem sir.  Then I heard my husband come up the stairs and enter my son’s bedroom.  “Wake up.  The police are here and want to speak with you.”

I flew out of bed and followed my son and husband downstairs.  Two policemen stood in my dining room.  They asked my son if he’d sent any text messages to his girlfriend that might cause concern.  My son said no.  The police asked for the cell phone, which I quickly handed over to them.  They found a text message from my son to his girlfriend that said he was going to end his life.

From there, the police did an on the spot check to see if my son needed to be taken to the hospital.  After a half hour or so, the police determined that he was not a threat to himself, and asked that we make an appointment with a therapist.

After the police left, my son and I spoke at some length.  He felt that he was so far behind in school that failure was inevitable.  Immediately I let him know how much I love him and that ending his life wasn’t the answer.  I allowed my son to try and reach his girlfriend as it was clear that she had called the police.  It was late and he received no answer.

The following morning, I offered to my son that he could stay home from school given we’d been up so late the night before.  He declined the offer.  I drove him to school and returned home.  Within twenty minutes my son text messaged me to please come get him from school, that he couldn’t handle it.  There were three back to back messages that sounded panicked.  I called the dean of students and asked that they locate my son and that I was coming to the school.

My son sat in the office of the dean of students.  The dean and he were talking about the anxiety he was feeling.  And the dean recommended that we go to the hospital to get my son checked out.   At first my son agreed and then he changed his mind.  The dean left the office, saying she’d be right back.  My son burst into tears.  I held him, told him I loved him and that everything would be all right.  The dean returned with the school social worker who asked my son several pointed questions and then she left the room.  Within a few minutes the social worker returned saying that either I take my son to the hospital or an ambulance would come to take him to the hospital.  I would take my son to the hospital.

As my son and I were leaving the school, my son received a text message from his girlfriend’s mother.  His girlfriend  slit her wrists, was in the hospital, and she was going to be all right.  Because I’d taken my son’s phone the previous night and turned it off, my son was unable to respond to his girlfriend’s text messages that followed his threat.  So she thought he had ended his life and then attempted to end hers.

There are no words to describe the feeling that both my son and I felt.  As we drove to the hospital, another text message arrived, saying that the girlfriend’s father had canceled a long awaited visit with her just prior to my son’s text message of wanting to end his life.

There are a multitude of lessons here, not the least of which is that nothing is worth taking one’s life.  Another lesson for me is that the next time I confiscate my son’s phone, is that he tells his friends with whom he is texting that his mean old mom has taken his phone for the rest of the evening.  Also our children’s friends need to have our land line phone numbers and our cell phone numbers.  And our children need to have land line numbers and cell numbers of their friends’ parents.

Very importantly, text messaging is NOT the way to communicate serious issues.  This is not the way to break up with someone, to let someone know that someone has died, or any other news that can cause someone distress.  Face to face or eye to eye communication is ideal; ear to ear via the telephone/cell phone live talking communication would come next.  Unless one’s life is in danger and there is NO other way to communicate, save text messaging for the short notes like “See you tomorrow” or “Don’t forget your homework” or “I love you.”

In my home and my son’s girlfriend’s home, we are all counting our blessings and getting our children the help they need.


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Setting the Prisoner Free conclusion

essay, non-fiction 14 Comments »

Without forgiveness life is governed by… an endless cycle of resentment and retaliation~Roberto Assagioli

Jump ahead six years to when I visited my cousin Gail in Pennsylvania.  For no other reason than proximity and lack of spare time, we had lost touch with one another for over fifteen years.  She called one hot July day out of the blue and suggested I come out to visit her.  After little more than a twenty minute “reuniting” phone call, I made airline reservations and two weeks later flew to her hometown about an hour south of Erie, in a small town called Meadville, Pennsylvania.

Gail picked me up from the airport—we recognized each other immediately.  We hugged, kissed, laughed and cried.  Once in her car she burst out, “I hope you don’t mind, but I made appointments for us with a psychic-spiritualist-medium up in Lilydale, New York.  It’s a whole community of psychics and new age people.”

I’d been to a  psychic or two in my life years earlier.  They were okay experiences, but nothing which compelledcrystal ball me to begin seeking out psychics on any kind of a regular basis.  Edgar Cayce, in my opinion, was blessed and an anomaly.  What was I going to say?  Gail had already made the appointments.

On the drive to Lilydale, Gail and I talked non-stop about our similarities.  We shared much in common philosophically and spiritually.  She had become a doctor of naturopathic medicine and I, while having finally graduated, had gotten married and had three children, was back in school working on my master’s degree and still reading tons of spiritual material.  Nonetheless, nervousness flowed through every vein about this psychic appointment.  I kept looking out the window, staring at the gray sky “snake oil, fortune tellers and crystal balls and eyes of newt.”

For the last few minutes of the trip there, it began to rain and I planned my approach.  Under no circumstances would I offer one ounce of information during this reading other than my name.  No way would I let any facial movements show this person any sort of approval/disapproval or agreement/disagreement with anything said.  The closer we got, the more these thoughts took on a mantra-like quality.

We pulled into the gated community, parked the car and began walking, with out umbrellas, up a hill toward rows of small Victorian homes, one right on top of the next.  The rain was cool and falling hard.  We turned on to a sidewalk leading up to one of the homes.  A sign hung on the outside door “Session in Progress.”  Wet, we sat on a covered porch in rocking chairs, mine moving at quite a clip, and chatted about how the other members of our families were doing.  A moment later the door opened and a woman of about forty held the door for the previous client.  Then she asked which one of us wanted to go first.  Gail insisted I go in first.

I followed the woman into a small room, sat in a chair noticing the frayed purple scarf wrapped around the woman’s neck.  She shook hands with me, placed a tape in a cassette player and began with a prayer.  After the prayer she quickly explained that she would do all the talking and only asked that I nod if anything made sense.

Within five minutes my jaw dropped, tears ran down my face and I was in a constant state of nodding.  The third right-on-the-money piece of information she gave, “A man is here.” The psychic turned her head as though she was listening to someone in the room.  She nodded her head.  “He is very sorry, very sorry.” I watched as she continued to listen.  “His initials are W and C.  he took his life in front of you?  He wants you to know he is so very sorry.”

victorianporchBy the end of the hour I was dumb struck.  My cousin Gail had no prior knowledge of the things this woman told.

After the session, I stepped out side, sat in the chair on the porch and wept the entire hour Gail had her session.  It came to me:  Warren was afraid to die alone.  I forgave him.

Incidentally, Gail came out of the reading disappointed that very little the woman had to say to her made any sense.

~ ~ ~

A year and a half ago in 2008, a young twenty-six year old woman named Vicki Van Meter, known for piloting a plane across the United States when she was 11, died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.  My cousin Gail lived next door to the Van Meter family.  Gail found Vicki dead.

Gail phoned me after the incident, rattled, shaken, in shock and saddened.  She told me how hard it was to find some one who really understood.  “And, where is the gift?” she asked me.

“You may not know for some time.  I’ve just discovered another one of mine~to be the someone who can truly hear and understand what you’ve gone through.”

After an hour or so of listening to Gail’s story of what had happened, Gail said, “You know, thank God I found her and had her body taken away before her parents got home from out of town.  What if they had seen what I saw?”

“Gail,” I said, “there’s your gift.”

This story began in 1986 with the self-inflicted gunshot death of Warren.  Over the years I’ve written this story in several forms~none of which seemed to say what I wanted to say.  During the writing of this recent version, I stopped in the middle to search for the journal of letters to Warren.  I looked and looked and have decided there must be some reason I cannot find the journal (and this coming from someone who rarely if ever throws away a list, let alone a journal).  I believe the reason probably is that I don’t need to relive this story at the level.  That part I have let go.  No, it is not something I will ever forget, and sometimes I still move my head when sitting at a stoplight, but I will remember the gifts.


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Setting the Prisoner Free part 2

essay, non-fiction 2 Comments »

Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future~Paul Boese

The following Monday I sat in the Registrar’s office on campus and arranged for full time summer school.  I’d already put in my notice at the restaurant to drop back to a twelve hour week.  After I’d finished the registration procedures for the classes beginning that day, I walked over to the student center, grabbed a cup of coffee, lit a cigarette and sat at a table by myself.  I opened the textbook for the speech class I’d later attend, and another non-traditional aged student sat down at the other end of the table.  I could sense that he kept looking at me, and given my recent experience, I felt an extreme heightened awareness of everything around me.  This guy made me feel uncomfortable.  Just as I was about to pack up and leave, he spoke.

“Nannette?” he said.

So much for my heightened awareness—it was Marty, a guy I knew from a philosophy class I’d taken.  “Hey Marty.”

He moved down to my end of the table.  We small-chatted for a moment or two and then suddenly I felt like I was suffocating.  I grabbed my throat.

“Are you okay?” he asked.

After shaking my head, Marty helped me outside where I dropped my backpack and sat on the ground.  “A guy shot himself Saturday night at the restaurant.”  I gasped for more air.

“I read about it in the paper.”  He shook his head in a pitiful way I’ll never forget.  “I’m a card carrying nut from all the shit I saw in Vietnam.  Breathe.”

dimly lit roomMarty and I talked for over an hour when he recommended a post-traumatic stress counselor he knew.  A week later, at twilight, I sat in the veteran’s administration office—a hundred year old house turned into offices that smelled stale and looked more depressed than I felt.  It was dark, but not dark enough to hide the maps of Vietnam on the walls, or the pictures of local men who never made it back.

Apparently, the work day had ended for most workers in this office as the unnatural quiet screamed its presence.  While I waited to talk to Doug Mark the therapist, I flipped through an entire magazine—it could have been upside down for all the attention I paid it.  I returned the magazine to the stack on the table next to me and decided to leave.  As my hand turned the doorknob, I heard a gravely sounding, distant voice, “Nannette?”


“What can I do for you?”

What kind of therapist talks to you when they can’t see you?  I leaned around a corner as I answered, “I’m not sure.”  Papers rustled and a chair scooted across a hardwood floor.  I still couldn’t see anyone.

“Marty tells me you saw an ugly the other night.  That right?”

I poked my head into another room, and through that room toward the back in a smaller room, I saw the voice.  “I guess you can call it that.”

“Come on back,” he said.  “What can I do for you?”

I walked toward the unseen person.  “Make me forget I ever saw that guy shoot himself.”

A rounded body stood from the desk.  His face was hidden with a graying beard and thick mustache.  He still didn’t look up at me as he placed a file in a drawer.  “Go ahead and use the front door.”

“I’m sorry?” I stood two feet from him.

“Can’t make you forget and if you think I can, might as well leave now.”

I turned to leave.

“Easier than staying.”

I was not happy.  “All I can think about every day all day is what I saw.  I’m so scared that somebody is going to shoot me, that every stop light I came to on the way here, I made sure to keep my head moving so that I wouldn’t be an easy target.  I can’t go into the grocery store or a bar or restaurant because somebody is going to have a gun.  And so many people come into my restaurant and want a ‘guided tour’ of where it happened.  If I’m going to have to think about this everyday of my life, I’m going to lose it.”

“Stay and I might help you to live with it, let it go.”

“Might?  Let it go?”  I raised my voice.  “What’s with let it go?  I have no idea what that means.  Isn’t that the same thing as forgetting about it—which is what I want to do?  You know,” I raised my hand, made a small circle with my thumb and forefinger.  “I had this one small innocent spot left and this jerk took it from me.  I did not need to witness this.  He could have done it in his bathroom or car or drive into the mountains.  He stole part of me.”

Doug motioned to the overstuffed, worn chair.  “Sit.”

I sat, crossed my legs and folded my arms.

“Hear me out for a couple of seconds?”

I nodded.

“Good.  Figure out if this might help.  Go home. Write this guy who offed himself a letter.  Say what ever you want.  Tell him you’re pissed off.  Tell him you’re scared.  Tell him whatever comes to you.  Don’t worry about the order of things.  Just let him know how you feel.  See if you can talk to him about forgiving him.  After you’ve written a good long letter call me back.”

With all the books I’d read, lectures I’d attended, coaching I offered to others, I knew I had the tools to move forward, but couldn’t wrap my hands or my head around any of them.

Eventually, I did write.  I wrote letter after letter after letter for almost a year.  I wanted answers to why I couldn’tpen & paper let it go, why, why, why, would anybody take their own life, why was I there?

For the time being the gift, as I saw it, was getting out of the restaurant business and going to school.  But forgive Warren?  No.

conclusion tomorrow

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Setting the Prisoner Free part 1

essay, non-fiction 3 Comments »

To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you~
Lewis B. Smedes

Did you ever wonder, in the midst of a crisis:  Where’s the gift in this?  Many of the people I know, even though well traveled on a spiritual path, have asked this question.  For reasons of anger, disbelief, traumatic incident, fear ~ in circumstances such as these, the question is automatic for me; at least I’m aware that a gift will appear when I’m ready to open it.

In my late twenties (over twenty years ago), Itool box “happened” into a “new age” bookstore where my path took a sudden and steep climb.  Books like The Case for Reincarnation, Strangers Among Us, Journeys Out of the Body, The Road Less Traveled, The Way of the Peaceful Warrior, Out on a Limb, Past Life Regressions and anything to do with Edgar Cayce flew off the shelves and into my hands.  I read through these books at a remarkable pace and found myself back at this same book store in a week filling my arms again.  There was no turning back, nor did I want to.  Much of what I read resonated with me more than anything else I’d ever perused or heard before.  My proverbial tool box with dozens of new philosophical and spiritual tools overflowed.

Around this same time I was diligently moving my way through the seventeen year plan to an undergraduate degree in English Literature at Colorado State University.  During this period I also helped manage an up-scale restaurant—part of the reason for the remedial pace of school.  An average work week consisted of seventy hours.  So, it was two classes here, two classes there.

Three years later on a beautiful Spring afternoon, Warren, a regular customer, entered the restaurant before any other patron.  I, along with all the other employees of the restaurant, hurried around preparing for a very busy Saturday night—prom night for every high school in town. Warren nestled up to the bar, ordered a beer and a shrimp cocktail.  Shortly after Warren’s arrival, the restaurant filled to maximum capacity, and the bar overflowed with dozens of dressed up and corsaged teenagers.

Forty-five minutes into the evening, Warren had moved to a table, pulled out a .22 pistol and started to wave it around and ordered the teenagers who waited for their dining tables to get out of the bar.  He fired several shots into the walls and ceiling.  I picked up the phone and dialed the police as I watched one of the bartenders approach Warren to try and talk him down.  Within six minutes the police arrived, yet not in time for Warren.  A few seconds prior to the police entering the building, Warren jammed the gun below his right ear, pulled the trigger, and slumped forward onto the table.  Gone.  Just like that.

At the instant that Warren slumped forward, even though I stood only feet from him, I had the physical sensation of zooming out hundreds of yards away from him.  Slow motion followed as I thought “alive, dead, alive, dead.”  While in this out and away fog, I clearly remember saying indignantly to myself, “and the gift in this would be?”

The police bolted through the double doors with guns drawn asking everyone to raise their hands.  I couldn’t quit staring at Warren and the blood.  One of the police, a woman, repeated to me to raise my hands.  As I did, the woman explained the protocol, that she understood the situation.  After six or seven police canvassed the area, they told the handful of employees nearby that we could “stand down.”  A team of paramedics rushed in, pulled Warren to the floor and began CPR.

Draped in what I now understand to be shock, I turned and looked into the filled dining room alive with the hum of conversation, silverware against plates, laughter and background music.  Only two heavy glass doors separated normal and crisis~No one in the dining room seemed to have a clue of these two different worlds.  I began dragging huge potted plants and trees to create a visual barrier between the dining room full of customers and the bar where Warren lay with paramedics pounding his chest.  “What’s the point?” I wondered.

I turned, motioned to two bus boys and asked them to move the podium from the front door to the emergency exit as we would need to reroute incoming customers.

Kevin, another manager working with me that night put his hand on my shoulder, “I don’t think we will stay open.”

I stared at Kevin blindly for what seemed a full minute.  “Is everybody all right?” I asked.


“Ma’am, I need your name,” a voice floated in from miles away.  “Ma’am?”

“You all right?” Kevin asked me.

“I need to make sure everybody is okay.”

The policeman bowed into my line of sight, “Ma’am, I need to get some information from you, first.  Your name?”

I spelled my name, “May I please go check on the staff?  I’m not going anywhere.”

Two hours later, after filling out police reports, giving interviews to other officers, and going through a critical incident debriefing, the building was empty of all patrons, paramedics and police.  The music was off and the lights were turned up.  Only managers and a handful of employees remained.  I had already shoved all the money and receipts into the safe and made my way back toward the bar when I heard the un-oiled wheels of a mop bucket cross the parquet floor from behind me.  Steve, the general manager, steered the bucket with the handle of the mop.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“Cleaning up the blood.”

I thought, a crew of people came to take care of the floor, walls, ceilings and tables.

part 2 tomorrow

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