Saturday, January 6, 2018

On Reaching Fourscore Years

At some point during my high school years our class was required to memorize Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, and I always liked the way the President opened his speech: “Fourscore and seven years ago …” Poetic and definitely memorable. Tomorrow I celebrate having spent fourscore years on this earth.

I’ve been trying to wrap my mind around this number for the better part of a year, but it really hit me just a few days ago, while researching for a book I’ve just started work on. I was looking into causes of death in the U.S. in 1927, and while looking at some tables I found was reminded of the influenza pandemic of 1918 … something we seem to have tucked into the back of our collective consciousness, probably because it’s too awful to contemplate it happening again … and it struck me. I was born on January 7, 1938, a mere score of years after that cataclysm.

My parents married in August of 1931. My dad had just finished four years as an engineering major at the University of Oklahoma in Norman, and while he was an engineer by choice, his passion for and knowledge of music was always an important part of his life and at times his means of livelihood. He played in the orchestra for Norman High School’s production of Rudolf Friml’s “Rose Marie” and a pretty, dark-haired, hazel-eyed chorus girl, a senior at the school, caught his eye.

They lived the American dream: my father retired as a vice-president of York Borg Warner, a highly successful professional man who had represented his company internationally. My extraordinary mother (who had suffered discrimination because of her Choctaw heritage … my dad told me his college roommate had remarked in dismay: “You aren’t going to marry that little Indian girl, are you?”) reinvented herself as often as necessary to be the perfect wife/mother/hostess/traveling companion as my dad climbed the corporate ladder. And she did this without losing who she was.

Looking back over my long life I am grateful for many things, my family among them. I’m grateful for my siblings: older sister Annalee, who sadly left this earth far too young, at the age of sixty-two. She was much like my mother: kind, generous, funny, loving, a lady with a heart of gold. My sweet brother Lawrence, a highly successful man in his own right who inherited our mother’s wit and our father’s brains. Larry has been a resident of California for decades and because of the continent between us I haven’t seen him in years, but think of him often with love. 

My brother is only two years younger but was three years behind me in school (because of where our birthdays fell), and when you’re a junior in high school and your little brother is in eighth grade … well, that’s a chasm. Hopefully he has forgiven me for being an insufferable older sister who was pretty wrapped up in herself. I’ve since learned everybody’s high school years are difficult. I didn’t realize how much I had struggled in high school until I went to college … to study music. 

Music, my life’s passion. What I have turned to in times of joy and sorrow, what I have come to believe is the most powerful force in the universe. I’ve been one lucky lady. I’ve been able to enjoy music as I think few people have who aren’t those souls whose lives were infused with music, who become the composers and performers we admire. I’ve been a student, a performer, a teacher, an independent contractor in the music publishing industry, a director of musical theater for both high schools and community groups (and wrote about those thirty-plus years in a book, “More Fog, Please”  ̶  available on Amazon, you might enjoy it. Sorry, we independent authors need all the plugs we can get.) And in recent years, an author who includes the power of music in the lives of her characters as it helps them meet some seriously daunting challenges. Bonus: yet more friends and colleagues in this new chapter in my life.

Music, which led me to a tenor with whom I spent nearly fifty years and with whom I had three wonderful children. Sam Jordan had one of the most beautiful voices I’ve ever heard, and was a consummate musician. He was also a complicated man and it was not an easy marriage, but it was certainly rewarding in many ways. Our children  ̶  Susan Marguerite, Stephen Andrew, and Samuel Calvin  ̶  have become magnificent adults and good friends.

Music, which brought me into contact with so many people with whom I could share my love for the art … as student, colleague, teacher and stage director. Leonard Bernstein’s wonderful opera Candide closes with a piece of music I have come to love, “Make Our Garden Grow.” It includes this thought: “… and let us try before we die to make some sense of life.” We are all just who we are … and we do what we can with what life gives us. It’s all any of us can do, really.

How incredibly fortunate I have been over these fourscore years to have been given so much; to have this garden filled with thousands of blooms … I am grateful for each of them, for the opportunity I’ve had to cross paths with so many remarkable people.

To make some sense of life. It’s been a great run and I consider myself the wealthiest of women. Wealthy because of the people in my life  ̶  family, friends, colleagues, students, performers  ̶  and the music in the universe, which claimed me at a young age. It will always be there.


Please visit my website to learn more and find links to my books:
www.susanmoorejordan.com

Thursday, December 28, 2017

True Story: Jessica Come Home

In 1999 my oldest son Stephen had a “Cinderella” opportunity to work at the prestigious Winged Foot Golf Club in Westchester County, New York, as Equipment Manager. It meant relocating from his childhood home in the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania. While he was an adult, it also meant leaving friends and family. Even though he wasn’t really that far away, his heavy schedule meant infrequent visits.

The second year he spent at Winged Foot he found a beautiful little Border Collie puppy he named Jessica. She was just an eight-week-old ball of fur, and she grew up in Steve’s studio apartment in Scarsdale and at the golf course, where she eventually learned to herd geese … the bane of every golf course. Of course, she always accompanied him on his visits home, so we all grew to love her (everyone except my cat Josey who joined the family in 2008).

Steve was single, and Jessica was his closest companion for many years. After a biblical seven years at Winged Foot (which included the 2006 U.S. Open), he returned home and established a soil treatment company, often traveling to New York, Connecticut and beyond to work on playing fields, and faithful Jessica was always with him.

Eventually Steve found the woman who completed his life, and Jessica retired not long after that to become a happy house pet to Steve's new-found family, which included two children. By now she was getting up there in doggy years and began to have not unexpected health issues: a bad back, increasing blindness, loss of hearing. But she never lost her love for life and her master.

This year, two days before Thanksgiving, Jessica went outside to answer the call of nature, and she didn’t return. We don’t really know what happened: something perhaps startled her, and being blind she became disoriented and wandered off. Steve and his family … all of us, in fact … were distraught. 

Hours turned into days, and at the age of nearly16 we all wondered just how long Jessica could survive. Notices were posted on Facebook, veterinarians and shelters were contacted, searches ensued. No sign of Jess.

Twelve days later I had a phone call from our local animal shelter, AWSOM (Animal Welfare Society of Monroe). “We think we have your dog.” Steve had been there a couple of times and they were aware she’d been missing. I immediately called him (AWSOM called me because my phone number was on the Facebook “missing” notice) and he immediately went to the shelter. Sure enough, it was Jessica. She was found near water (a stream or a creek), and while she was disoriented, she certainly knew her daddy. She had lost weight but seemed none the worse for wear, and continues to do well.

The best possible outcome, and the concern expressed by so many people (my “missing” notice on Facebook received over 800 shares and many prayers and helpful suggestions) were also a heartwarming part of this story. People do care. There are good people in the world, including the couple who found Jessica and brought her to our animal shelter, where many local people volunteer. A whole network of people who love animals, and love the people who love them.

Borders are almost scarily smart dogs. Jessica, even at her age (she'll be 16 on January 14) and with infirmities, had the will to somehow manage to reunite with the people who love her.

Our very own “Lassie” come home.


Saturday, December 23, 2017

Life in the Poconos: The Bridge Street Detour

When my husband and I moved from Cincinnati to Northeastern Pennsylvania, one of the first things we heard from locals was how much the state/county/municipalities needed to address the many problems with the infrastructure. Somehow or the other, PA State Route 611 had to be widened to four lanes. Nobody could suggest exactly how that might happen, but everybody agreed it was going to become a “real problem.” That was in 1971.

Pennsylvania is an old state (one of the original thirteen, I believe) and a good many of the roads started life as Indian trails (with apologies to my native American ancestors and friends, but that was the expression). And gradually rocks were used to cover the rutted trails and eventually, pavement. Most of the time, it seems that all the twists and turns that were originally there remained.

Driving around in my county it’s difficult to get really lost, because no matter where you are sooner or later you’re going to cross another of those trails and get your bearings. Great if you’re on foot or horseback, not so much when traveling by car.

Over time (and a lot of this has happened in the 46 years I’ve lived here) commercial establishments began to appear on some of the major byways, notably state routes 611 and 209. I’m sure there are a good many more, but those are the ones I deal with on a daily basis. And the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDot for short), in its infinite wisdom, widened sections of Rte. 611, the most commercially-developed road in our area, to accommodate the ever-increasing traffic. Not the entire length of the highway, or even those sections where businesses continued to multiply. Just here and there. A few hundred yards at a time.

Imagine the resulting bottlenecks, if you can. And the cars barreling south on 611 in the right-hand lane which abruptly ended. It’s a miracle there haven’t been numerous multiple-vehicle accidents, but us locals know what to expect and are patient and kind with the folks from New York, New Jersey, and other parts of the state of Pennsylvania who don’t understand how things work in this neck of the woods.

One of the worst of these is on Rte. 611 very near the circle where I live, and one major problem is at an intersection with a road, Bridge Street,which connects 611 and 209 (the other major artery through our area). There actually IS a bridge on the street and PennDot was forced to close the road and repair the bridge, creating a major headache because the road was now one way. You could get from 209 to 611 but not vice versa. Except via a detour.

It was a lengthy detour. What worsened the problem was that below Bridge Street on 611 is a long stretch of mostly retail businesses and food establishments: the biggest mall in the area and many other stores and establishments grouped together with some common parking areas. So driving through that area is slow: a number of traffic lights and always heavy traffic.

The result is that many of us have been dealing with the No Right Turn Onto Bridge Street situation for what seems like eons. At times I would drive north on Bridge Street to try to see exactly what kind of progress was being made. It was hard to tell, and I don’t mean to be unkind, but mostly I saw groups of PennDot people gathered around a piece of equipment having some kind of conference, while others seemed to be wandering around. I’m sure that wasn’t always the case. It’s just what I seemed to always observe.

When the crane that had been on the site for millennia actually came down I had a sense of hope. And lo and behold, a few days ago … December 21 to be exact … PennDot gave us a Christmas present. Well, kind of. Traffic was open both ways on Bridge Street … but the turning lanes which we all fervently hope will help ease the nasty traffic backups above Bridge Street aren’t open yet. Maybe an Easter present?

I posted on Facebook when I got home after seeing that the southbound side of Bridge Street was actually being used, and had some great responses. It has seemed like forever, but the detour actually was only in force for about eighteen months. Lots of “OMG … I thought that was NEVER going to happen!” My favorite from an artist friend, Will Rothfuss, who gave me permission to quote him: “I don't believe it! In the meantime, while they were working on that, the pyramids were built.” 

The infrastructure in our little corner of the world in the Poconos. Still working on the Rte. 611-Bridge Street problem, 46 years later. PennDot doesn’t like to rush things.


Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Memories of Jake – Reader Response

Two brothers, Andrew and Jake Cameron, both serve in the Vietnam War … Andrew as a door gunner for the Marines, Jake as a Green Beret. Both return home … but only one returns as himself. Jake is injured in a helicopter crash and suffers total retrograde amnesia. Older brother Andrew can’t accept Jake’s memory loss. From childhood, he has been his brother’s supporter and protector.
Memories of Jake has received some strong reviews since its release in late March. Available on Amazon, paperback and Kindle.

A few review excerpts:

"The story overall is very easy to read. It takes you on a journey from tragedy to growth, back to hardship and beyond. The brothers pull you in - their bond is strong, and the challenges they face together and apart ensure it stays a gripping tale." Self Publisher's Showcase, April 21, 2017

“Susan Moore Jordan’s gentle prose serves as the perfect backdrop to the horror of the Vietnam War. She also shows how not everything damaging in life needs to be permanent. People are resilient and sometimes overcoming the past is a matter of will. The other aspect of this story I really enjoyed was Cameron Family’s reliance on music and art as a means to find themselves. Andrew’s painting saved him. It was his therapy and his joy. Beyond that, what kept me reading was the love shared between these two brothers. I had to know how everything turned out for them and clung to every page until the last, waiting for that moment when I could breathe out and put the book down with a feeling of contentment and relief.”

Jake is injured in an attack that leaves him with post-traumatic amnesia, and has to rebuild his life again as he struggles to figure out who he is. Some of the scenes are powerful and heart-wrenching, like when Andrew deals with his boyhood memories and his experiences in Vietnam. Jordan's descriptions and dialog make you a part of the story. It's hard to put down.

MEMORIES OF JAKE is not just a war story, not just a story of pain and rebirth, but a story of love, family, friendship and the unstoppable ability of the human capacity to conquer that which sets out to destroy them. It is a story of hope.

The characters are all believable, each with his or her own voice. Art and music and how they help keep folks alive by keeping life worth living seep throughout the book, as with all of the author's work. (This time the visual arts play a large role as well as music.) Once Jake comes home from Vietnam, to a home and family he only remembers in shadows and fog, this book is tough to put down. Enjoy.


Or visit my website: www.susanmoorejordan.com


Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Jake's Journey

An Amazon reader review for Man with No Yesterdays begins by calling the book “a fascinating read,” then elaborates on the premise: a man who suffers from total retrograde amnesia, recalling only bits and pieces of his early childhood, who comes to believe he will never remember more.

Could it happen? Theoretically, it could. Traumatic brain injury can leave the victim with little or nothing in the way of personal memory, as well as loss of the ability to speak, move, reason. Best case scenario, the patient slowly recovers most if not all of his life and returns to a normal, or very nearly normal, life.

Jake Cameron, my character introduced in Memories of Jake whose story is told in considerably more detail in Man with No Yesterdays, suffers a T.B.I. due to a helicopter crash in Vietnam. Jake quickly regains his ability to function in the world, but nearly all of his personal history has apparently been locked away for the remainder of his life. He doesn’t remember anything about his years as a Green Beret in Vietnam, even after meeting men he served with.

How would a man react to this truly awful dilemma? Jake first tries to regain his memory, spending time at home with his family, looking at photos, listening to their memories of him. And he does have moments of recall from childhood, a few very vivid; but most are snapshots, faded and foggy. As weeks and months pass and very little more is revealed to him, he begins to face the possibility he may never remember the man he was … the warrior he was. So who is he now? 

Throughout the book I strove to reflect on the daunting difficulties our warriors faced in Vietnam, both in country and after returning home. As a novelist, my aim in writing the novel was to address a “what if” situation: what if a young man who had fought valiantly in Vietnam lost all memory of himself and even began to wonder why he had become a warrior? What then? How would he move forward to create some kind of life for himself? And for Jake, this is complicated further when he vividly recalls one childhood memory that rocks him to his core.

I appreciate that this reviewer called the book “a fascinating read.” My hope is that a reader will come away with that sense. It was not an easy book to write, and I challenged myself even further by allowing Jake to speak for himself … writing in the first person. My pre-publication “beta” readers were enthusiastic about the novel. Time will tell whether all readers will share that enthusiasm!

If you are intrigued, the link to order the book on Amazon is included below, and it’s available in paperback and as a Kindle. If you read and enjoy … I would love to hear from you (my email address is on my website), and reviews are music to us indie authors’ ears!

Portrait by Ashleigh Evans
Cover Design by Tristan Flanagan

website: www.susanmoorejordan.com
Link to Amazon book page: https://www.amazon.com/Man-Yesterdays-Susan-Moore-Jordan/dp/1977701809/




Saturday, November 18, 2017

So, I Wrote this Book ...

So I wrote this book, Man with No Yesterdays. It’s about a young Green Beret who is injured in Vietnam. Jake Cameron suffers a head injury and is left with severe retrograde amnesia, and when he can’t remember who he is … other than a few glimpses of his early childhood … he sets out on a journey to see if there’s some way he can find himself. He’s been advised by a psychologist that sometimes being in places and with people from his past might “trigger” memories, and Jake gets more than he bargained for.

Not a bad plot, right? I thought so. And since Jake made his first appearance in a preceding novel, I felt he was almost insisting I let him tell his own story. So I wrote this book in the first person. Or rather, I’m fairly convinced it was Jake who did the writing, since I am a great-grandmother weeks away from observing her (gulp) eightieth birthday (please notice I said observing, not celebrating. When you get this close to eighty you’ll completely understand).

It was definitely a challenge. I had seven pre-publication readers who all seemed to find it worth reading and thought I had captured Jake’s voice. A few were very enthusiastic, saying they thought it was the best novel I’d written yet (this is novel number six, actually, since May 2013). Because the Vietnam War figures heavily in Jake’s experiences I decided to release the book on Veteran’s Day (we indie authors can make those choices).

I was really, really, really apprehensive about releasing this book. For all the reasons listed above. But I put it out there, and it’s live on Amazon, and I’ve even sold a few copies on line.

Here’s what’s keeping me awake at night. It’s been over a week, and I haven’t received even ONE review. Those of us who publish our own work really need reviews (I know I’m overusing the word “really,” but I’m doing it quite deliberately). They validate us and make us feel we aren’t totally lost in the vast Amazon book jungle (which grows by ACRES daily!) … a reader liked what we did enough to leave a comment on the book page.

Releasing a book is similar to sending your youngest, favorite, most beloved child off to kindergarten. You want to be right there with him at least through the first day, but you aren’t allowed inside. And I pushed Jake out the door with a great deal of trepidation (for those reasons listed above). Jake’s journey is full of diverse people and experiences. I debated subtitling it “an odyssey” but settled on “a journey.” Right at this moment I wish I’d decided to keep Jake home until at least next spring. Or maybe even for a year. I can understand why Anthony Doerr took ten years to complete his great book, All the Light We Cannot See. At the age of ten, his baby would do great in kindergarten.

I keep telling myself it’s the holidays, people are busy, even if they bought the book they probably aren’t reading it/haven’t read it. On the flip side, I wonder if they’ve read it and they hate it. I’ve had nice readers who have written some wonderful reviews for my novels. But Jake’s story is very different (or maybe I should say really, really different).

I write because I need to write, I love to write; I couldn’t stop writing because it’s become a necessity. But I hate this part. I’ll probably still keep writing, regardless. But right now I’m not so sure. One encouraging review would definitely be nice! Here's the link to the book if you're curious. (Good reviews only, though ... )

Portrait painted by Ashleigh Evans
Cover design by Tristan Flanagan

https://www.amazon.com/Man-Yesterdays-Susan-Moore-Jordan/dp/1977701809/
Or visit my website for links to order all my books: www.susanmoorejordan.com


Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Let Us Never Again Blame the Warriors for the War

Watching the Ken Burns documentary on the Vietnam War over the past two weeks wasn't easy, but it was worth every minute. It took those eighteen hours to encompass all the many aspects of a complicated situation that eventually covered thirty years of this nation's history ... and was surely one of its darkest chapters.
Burns didn't hold back, and I learned a great deal about what motivated our participation in what was basically a civil war in a small country in Southeast Asia ... a war we should never have been a part of, something I think we all agree on, even though the divisions that took place during the war still resonate in the United States.
I'm still processing what I saw, and the strong emotions I felt as a result. I was a young mother during most of the period we were actively engaged in combat, and while I was aware of the war it wasn't central to my life. Perhaps it should have been. My heart aches for every person who served and whose lives were changed forever for many reasons.
My emotions ranged from anger to dismay to sorrow. Anger at the lies we were told, at the arrogance of some politicians and military leaders. Dismay at our abandonment of the South Vietnamese. Sorrow for all the young lives lost, and for what? Sorrow for the warriors - wounded in body and spirit - who were treated so despicably on returning home.
And also, gratitude and hope. Gratitude for their fortitude, for the valiant manner in which so many fought. Gratitude for the vets who built the memorial Wall; for those who have shared their stories. And hope. Hope that despite all indications to the contrary, we will NOT repeat those mistakes. Hope that I saw in the lives of some of the veterans who have reached halfway around the world to embrace their former enemies and in that way found peace. Hope that never again will we blame the warriors for the war.

***
My novels about two of those warriors, Andrew and Jacob Cameron. Historical fiction.
Memories of Jake, available in paperback and e-book on Amazon
https://www.amazon.com/Memories-Jake-Susan-Moore-Jordan/dp/1544274203/
Man with No Yesterdays, to be released 11/11/2017

Used by permission of Dr. Bertram Zarins