Sunday, February 25, 2018


That great American poet Robert Frost wrote (in “Mending Wall”), “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall….”

A wall falls apart if not maintained. Those it hinders work to destroy it. In some places it is wholly unneeded.

Frost has his farmer’s neighbor maintain, “good fences make good neighbors.” Walls keep them from encroaching on each other’s prerogatives to use their own land unimpeded.

Frost’s protagonist thinks, “Before I built a wall, I’d like to know what I was walling in or walling out, and to whom I was like to give offence.”

Yet both neighbors continue to maintain their wall, even where it seems unnecessary.

Walls, boundaries, and fences are sometimes needed.

President-to-be John F. Kennedy (in 1945) quoted British author G.K. Chesterton, “Don’t ever take a fence down until you know the reason why it was put up.” 

Reformers who would dismantle laws or rules or fences or gates or walls should first demonstrate they understand why they were erected originally, then show why they should be dismantled.

The simplest one-celled organisms have cell walls that are crucial to their survival, protecting the inner components from the environment, while letting selected materials pass through the cell walls, in and out. Tissues and organs are formed by the congregation of cells with walls that allow necessary functions to be both localized and shared.

Walls and fences are boundaries, like rules. This, but not that. Yes, here, and no, there. Without rules, we have no order. With too many rules, we have no change, no progress.

Without boundaries, we have no identity.

Certainly, walls can be a nuisance, but, as Frost’s farmer’s neighbor says, without the poet’s unequivocal endorsement, “Good fences make good neighbors.” I agree.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

WHAT EVER HAPPENED...? Prologue, No Longer Teach


“Janet, say something! Janet, say something!”

Stunned, I stared at this doctor whom I had just met. She, too, was alarmed, having just examined my MRI, which revealed I had a massive brain tumor. She ordered me to go to New York University’s Medical Center to be operated on right away.

Brain tumor? Operation? I was silent, which is very rare for me!

Then, only half-joking, I replied, “First, I’m going to McDonald’s to get a Big Mac and fries, because if I am going to die, my last meal is not going to be a fat girl’s diet salad.”

That doctor, Dr. Tamai, whom I primarily credit with saving my life, giggled, and the medical residents with her laughed, too. Laughter made this terrible news a bit better.

The couple of days I had between being told I had a massive brain tumor, and the trip to NYU for surgery, boyfriend-at-the-time, Aiden, and I wrote my eulogy in case I didn't survive.

One part of that eulogy was actually pretty funny. Aiden was going to state that three stocks went down the day I passed: Disney, Hallmark, and bacon.

To this day, I laugh at that joke because it's probably accurate. I love that smiley Mickey Mouse, sending cards, and eating bacon with eggs, waffles, pancakes, peanut butter, chocolate or practically any other food item. I'm VERY glad I get to write about it here versus Aiden's delivering it at my funeral.

As frightening as the diagnosis was, learning I had a brain tumor actually brought me some relief, as it explained much that had puzzled me for so long. You will understand when I explain my saga…. 

And, I just need to write this: a wonderful woman, a stranger, whom I can only picture but cannot recall her name, came over to me as I cried, trying to eat that Big Mac right after I was told about my huge tumor. She touched my shoulder, and I jumped (because of my mysophobia – fear of germs). She asked why I was crying, and I told her my tumor diagnosis. She told me to go home and call my mother and father, as well as my boyfriend. I told her none of them talk to me anymore. She said they would all want to know about this.

Then, she called her family over to pray for me. I thanked her and have always considered her an angel. I hope she reads this someday and remembers this story from June of 2009 at McDonald’s in Kingston, NY.


I grew up along the Hudson River, in upstate New York, the Rhinebeck and Red Hook region, about 100 miles north of New York City, graduating from Red Hook Central School in 1978. To be more precise, I grew up in Rhinebeck’s Forest Park. The house my father and mother had built for us had a Rhinebeck address and telephone number, but my two sisters and I went to the Red Hook schools, as did all the other kids in Forest Park.

Writing about growing up in that suburban development brings back a lot of fun memories. At Halloween time, we were in costume contests. In the summer, we had daily kickball games on Cedar Drive. As you will understand more fully when reading later on in the book, I was the boss of everyone outside playing the games.

I still remember lying in my bed with my window open on summer nights and listening to the crickets chirp. Sleigh-riding on a nearby hill was lots of fun in the wintertime.

Sometimes when I’m having a bad day, I drive through Forest Park and try to remember the names of the kids I knew there so long ago. It really was a happy place for me.

When I drive around Forest Park to remember the names of people I once knew, I am doing what my “brain doctors” told me to do to help remember my life, after I had my brain operated on, and I have lots of fun memories to recall. I find it amazing that I can remember some stories from long ago but there are other parts of my life that I have zero recollection of! I know this is true for others with brain injury, and it’s one of the many bizarre aspects about my life now….
But, back to that drive around the old neighborhood—I remember:
·       the Kruses’ daughter Joy, who was our babysitter;
·       the Arends family, whom we played kickball with;
·       the Plotskys, whom we watched The Wizard of Oz with;
·       the Silvernails, whom I still have contact with, whose daughters I babysat;
·       the Warnimonts’ house, where I went to Girl Scout meetings at;
·       the Scisms, for haircuts;
·       the Engassars’ driveway as our bus stop; Mrs. E. as a pseudo-bus-monitor had a system to rotate the best seats among the kids waiting;
·       the Salmons, whose son, Gerry, I had a childhood crush on, and when he came to a party I hosted as a little girl, he handed me my present (perfume?) and said, “My mother made me get this for you!”;
·       the Hendricksons, whose son David and I won a dance contest in seventh grade at Linden Avenue Junior High in Red Hook, NY, dancing to Elton John’s “Crocodile Rock” [Rest in peace, David];
·       my friend Donna Malloy;
·       Kelly Mosher was our paper deliverer;
·       the Chupays for piano lessons;
·       the Oakhills, where I went to 4-H meetings, because of being a Forest Park Sew and Dough Girl. I remember winning blue ribbons at the Dutchess County Fair for baking Scottish Shortbread and sewing a green apron. That cracks me up now because I hate sewing, and I’m afraid I’ll start fires if I use my oven, due to my memory problems;

·       the Bartos, Albanos, and the Randalls, for being friendly neighbors.

I moved on to chilly SUNY [State University of New York] Plattsburgh, where I graduated four years later with a Bachelor of Science in Special Education. My time at P-burgh was the happiest four years of my life, though I didn’t know it at the time. I still remember swaying to Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” every Friday night before going downtown. That trip to the bars came after some dorm party. That was really the only time I partied in college. I stayed in lots of Saturday nights so I could be up early and doing classwork at the library on Sundays with the handful of other nerdy students. Looking back now, I wish I had had more fun and less studying time. I tell all young people that I meet nowadays to enjoy their youth. None of us knows what’s coming….

Returning southward, I earned my Master of Science in Education degree from SUNY New Paltz, and then taught N.Y. special education classes for 25 years: Pine Plains Central School District, Ulster County BOCES [Board of Cooperative Educational Services], and Rondout Valley Central School District.

From the very beginning, my job was my very life! I loved those students as if they were my own children. I never gave birth to babies of my own, so I bought “my kids” needed things like breakfast, socks, school supplies, and on and on and on…to the point that my tax accountant, Alex Vargas, one year said he would fire me as a client if I brought him that many receipts (over $5000) ever again. After Mr. Vargas passed away, his associate Chip referred to this story as “The Ghost of Taxes Past.”

Being in special ed. was in my blood. On my father’s side of the family, one cousin, Heather, was born with Sanfilippo Type A Syndrome, a heritable physical and neurological disorder. Sadly, she never made it to adult life, but when she was young, I bonded with her intensely. While she still could, we danced to Simon and Garfunkel’s song “Cecilia” over and over again. But when the song was about to reach the line “making love in the afternoon,” my dad ran to turn down the volume on the stereo. Whenever I hear it, I remember my too-short time with her, and it brings tears to my eyes. She had the prettiest smile. I know she is in Heaven now with God, but I still miss her. Every January 16th, her birthday, I tell her of my love in my prayers. I cherished being with her for that short time we were able to be together.

On my mother’s side, I had an Aunt Margaret who was an aide in special needs classrooms in Brooklyn and in Florida. She was so patient with these kids! She even took one of her students to live with her, almost as mother and child, a child lucky to have my aunt in her life. Aunt Margaret and that child have passed away, but I think of them often. I also took one of my students into my home as a foster son…but I will tell that story here later on.

I cannot state strongly enough how much I loved being a teacher! I was organized and prepared. Most Sundays were spent going to church and then writing lesson plans for the upcoming week during the rest of that day. My classroom was loaded with decorations (some educational, some thought-provoking, and some just for fun).

I’m a major Mickey Mouse memorabilia collector, and so we did lots of special activities to commemorate his birthday. November 18, 1928, was when MM premiered in Steamboat Willie. On November 18th most of the years I taught, we prepared MM pancakes and played with MM dice for our math time. We dressed up in all of the T-shirts that I collected on my too-numerous-to-count trips to Disney World in Florida.

On those trips to Disney World, I loved buying my students souvenirs from the gift shops. The first day of school in September or the first days back from our winter and spring breaks, the class would find on their desks MM pencils, erasers, notepads, candies, and, oh, so much more!

Carrying the Disney shopping bags around the theme parks became so cumbersome, my family helped me…until one year when my mother put both of the huge bags over my shoulders and told me she was done!

I had unique ways of teaching routine topics. When the kids needed to learn the months of the year, for instance, instead of merely reciting from a chart with January through December, we would dance and sing to the song “September” by Earth, Wind & Fire and replace some of the words in it with the other months’ names. Instead of just reciting the alphabet, we’d dance to the Village People’s “Y.M.C.A.,” and use our arms and legs to form those four letters, as lots of folks still do while dancing at wedding receptions.

I met the Village People once, when we stayed at the same hotel while they performed a show with Cher. Being very good at telling others exactly what to do, I told the Village People that they do the letter “M” wrong. They told me that it’s their show! Silly me.

I was very active in Special Olympics. I coached, volunteered, and sat on many committees over the years. These games were so eagerly anticipated by my students that they hardly slept the night before. Many of these kids, as adults, still display in their homes the medals they won as Special Olympians. I cannot say enough about how wonderful that organization is for special needs people! I reference an excellent book about it in my reading recommendations.

I spent extra hours and hours on my teaching job. I went in early and stayed late. I brought tons of paperwork home with me. I visited the homes of many of my students. I planned numerous field trips to both fun and educational places. Despite the extra effort involved, these outings were well worthwhile.

I can still remember some of the great places I took my students to. At a water park one day in Summer School, Danielle, a former student who is now in her 30s, but very young then, flipped over into the water while sitting on a floating inner tube. When the lifeguards did not see this happening, I jumped in and pulled her out of the water. I still visit her, and she tells that same story with the refreshing enthusiasm of a youngster almost each time we get together at local restaurants. [I have permission from her parents to use Danielle’s name.]

Some of my students had never eaten lobster, so we took trips to Red Lobster. The kids loved wearing the plastic bibs as they sampled dipping their lobster meat into melted butter. Recently, a former student who was moving out of the state with his family asked me if we could get together to say our good-byes. I couldn’t wait to see him again…and he picked Kingston, New York’s Red Lobster as our place to eat, as that was his favorite field trip destination long ago.

Because of my memory problems caused by the brain injury, I can’t remember all of the places we went to on field trips. That’s why I’m glad that I took tons of pictures over those years. The pics are not organized, so they sloppily fill several suitcases. Yes, suitcases! But when I need to feel better about my life, I go to my “teacher room” in my condo, and I look at those pictures. The fun of the class trips is easy to see on the faces of those kids!

I taught after-school and evening classes to other teachers. It makes me feel so good when I bump into some of those professionals and they tell me how they’re continuing to use the methods they learned from me years ago. I was on many different committees and attended lots and lots of meetings. Anyone who criticizes teachers for their “short” hours should just watch a teacher for a week and then they’ll know there’s so much more to teaching than just the hours spent at school. I applaud anyone in this field because I know how hard it can be sometimes. I also know it is incredibly rewarding!

If I knew then what I know now, I would have cherished teaching even more. Not going to work each day breaks my heart.

The damage from my long-undiagnosed brain tumor is permanent, as one might expect from something that grew to be the size of an orange. My behavior nowadays is sometimes “off the charts.” I need to learn each day how to watch my impulsivity and irritability. What’s particularly ironic is that I now do behavior modification for myself just as I once did for my students. On my “good behavior” days, a wee bit of milk chocolate at the end of the day is my way of rewarding myself. On my “bad behavior” days, I reflect on how to improve so I can merit some more chocolate.

I always had a feisty personality. I spoke my mind loud and clear. When that behavior decreased, it should have been a warning sign that something was wrong with me. I became quieter and quieter. When I did speak, I slurred some words, even though sober.

I began to have serious problems with a morbid fear of touching doorknobs and anything else that might harbor germs. This mysophobia (fear of germs) became truly obsessive! I could not sit in movie theaters or in church because I once heard a DJ on the radio state that those places are never cleaned. I had a very difficult time in restaurants whenever I witnessed what I considered to be unsanitary practices. I needed help in restrooms because I couldn’t touch the latch or faucets or doorknobs….

At my local McDonald’s I was affectionately dubbed “Myso Girl,” because I needed help with handling my money, and I expected the workers to be extra careful with using gloves when preparing my meals. I’ll bet my local McDonald’s spends less on plastic gloves now since I’m over this OCD [obsessive-compulsive disorder] behavior.

This time of my life was very dark for me. I spent $1000 a month on items like hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes with bleach, vinyl gloves, etc. I lost the skin on the back of my hands because I scrubbed my hands with so many chemicals! At school, I went into my classroom at 6 a.m. every day and scrubbed the doorknobs, the seats I sat in, the chalk I touched, the classroom’s phone, and so much more. It was exhausting!

I was teaching children who were chronologically seventh and eighth graders at my last job.  Academically, they were several years below these grade levels. I felt so much guilt about being less of a teacher than I once was. I had earned many awards over the previous years. In 1992 I had a medal draped around my neck by the New York State Commissioner of Education at a ceremony at the Hotel Thayer at West Point. I tumbled from that type of recognition to crying each day as I scrubbed the classroom down.

Some folks laugh about being a “germ freak,” being a “germaphobe,” but for millions of us, it is not a laughing matter. It ruled my existence.

One spring day in 2007, two years BEFORE learning I had the brain tumor, I had just taught a math lesson. The students were working on a worksheet, and I went to my desk to scrub myself with hand sanitizer. I had bottles of the chemical all over my room. The classroom phone rang at the same time that someone knocked on the door. My student Ned [some student names have been changed in this memoir for protection of their privacy] went to answer the door, as they all knew I couldn’t touch it, and my student Barbara ran to the phone, which the kids knew I wouldn’t touch, and said, “Ms. Schliff’s class. How can I help you?”

Both of these tasks should have been mine to handle. Instead, I sat at my desk scrubbing my hands as if I were preparing to perform surgery. I looked up and began to sob. These poor kids were doing my job, when they had so many difficulties of their own. I looked at my assistant and said, “Lorraine, I have to go.” Lorraine Iocovello was a present from God at the darkest time of my life. She was my assistant at this, my last job. She helped me in so many ways when I couldn’t do a good job anymore.

I went down to the first floor and into the Union President’s room and began the process of resigning from the profession I loved.


For the coming year, I will be excerpting, weekly, material from this fine book by Janet Johnson Schliff, M.S.Ed.. She wrote it over a three-year period, with some coaching and editing help from me, through my business, The excerpts are from almost the final version. The book is now available from and from its publisher, 



Janet Johnson Schliff will be on WKNY  Radio 1490 at 9:10 a.m. on March 1, Kingston, NY.

Janet Johnson Schliff will be speaking at 1 p.m. on Saturday, March 3, at Barnes & Noble, 1177 Ulster Avenue, Kingston, NY.

I plan to attend, also.

Janet Johnson Schliff will speak at the Starr Library at Rhinebeck, NY, at 7 p.m. on March 6.

She will speak at the Golden Notebook Bookstore in Woodstock, NY, at 2 p.m. on March 17. 

She will appear at RCAL in Kingston, NY, at 4 p.m. on April 3. 

Sunday, February 18, 2018

WHAT EVER HAPPENED...? Acknowledgments, Preface


I have a long list of people to thank for getting this book out, but I have to begin with my editor, Dr. Douglas Winslow Cooper.

Not only has he typed this from my long, weekly scribbles and spent lots of time teaching me how to be a better writer, he also provided much love and concern when I was struggling either with writing or life in general.

There were many Friday mornings (our usual meeting times), that I had to vent about something before I could actually concentrate on the work that we had to do at that appointment.

He sat there patiently, listening to what was bothering me that day (problems with “Aiden” – an ex you’ll read about later – my mother's ailments, my dog's health, my health, and on and on and on).

After I was done with this venting, he'd carefully help me feel better about it all. Sometimes, he'd “take Aiden's side” and others, he would agree with me, that whatever Aiden had done or said was hurtful.

Dr. Cooper would also help me calm down if I was upset about not being able to take better care of my mother, or if I was scared about something regarding my dog Happy.

He helped me relax when I'd get bad news from various doctors (ulcers, skin cancers, back pains, bladder problems, tendinosis, etc.).

All of this going on at the same time was sometimes just too much for me. But, his gentle soul always brought clarity and calmness to our meetings (and he even allowed my dog Happy to accompany us at his house and at the office where we met), and so I got it done. I'll always be thankful to him for that.

And I will forever say, he's the ONLY man, since my childhood, that I allowed to correct me! All others before Dr. Cooper tried and failed!

As for everyone else, the list is too long to present. The people that have helped me are written about in here. There are just too many to count, and anyway, I want you to get started reading my story!

Finally, I have to thank God. If not for Him saving my life, I wouldn't be here to write a memoir. To Him be all my gratefulness….


To copy a sentence from my editor's memoir – why am I writing this memoir? So, why am I?

The answer for me is pretty simple. If I, a former special education teacher, who taught more than one child with a brain injury, knew as little about brain injury as I did before my own (damaged temporal and frontal lobes), then more work had to be done to get the information out there.

I am no expert when it comes to research or technology as far as the brain is concerned. What I am an expert in is what happened to me, what is still taking place to this very day, and what I have learned from many others with brain injuries. And I know there are many others with brain injuries like me. From 2007-2013, the rate of brain injury increased 50%, hitting a record level, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

According to the New York State Department of Health, “In New York State, more than 500 people sustain a brain injury each day. Prevalence is estimated to be 50% higher than reported.”

According to other sources I’ve read, elderly people are particularly vulnerable, as they have a high likelihood of falling, possibly causing a brain injury.

And as a side note, more and more famous people are being diagnosed with brain tumors and diseases. The ones that have been reported at the time of this writing (summer, 2017), include: ice skating champion Scott Hamilton; U.S. Senator John McCain; TV host Maria Menounos; comedian Jim Gaffigan’s wife, Jeannie, a comedy writer; and former New York State Congressman, Maurice Hinchey. I wish all of them, and everyone else with these scary diagnoses, the best of health.

As for me, I know how easily “bruised” I become with others' careless wording. I know how triggered I am by thoughtless questions (such as, “Why are you wearing sunglasses inside?” to name one of the too-many examples that take place daily; you’ll read why I do here).

I realize that I'm very high-functioning as far as brain injury comparisons. However, there are many of us that, though we “walk-the-walk” and “talk-the-talk,” there is much going on inside of our brains that gets us “off course” and thus, bothersome to certain other people who don't “get it” and therefore steer clear of us.

That's why I had to do this: so, hopefully, caregivers, family members, loved ones, friends, colleagues, and/or former colleagues, fellow church-goers, and everyone else, can try to help those of us with this condition to navigate life as well as we can, now that our lives will never be the same, after this injury.

I don't expect this book to be a bestseller. I know it’s not in chronological order. Within chapters, stories go back and forth. Some stories and/or information is repeated. My memory is choppy. Some details are sharp, others vague or missing. Even so, what I do hope is that people will learn how to take better care of someone who has a brain injury.

As I compiled this preface, I met someone for the first time who told me how her doctors told her to “steer clear” of a family member of hers whose brain was injured in a car accident, because of how much of a toll that brain-injured family member was taking on this person.

I really gave that story a lot of thought, and that's why it's here in my preface. If a doctor is counseling his/her patient to “steer clear” of a family member with a brain injury, then who is going to help that brain-injured person in need of love and warmth, when its needed most?

Shouldn't the doctor help find solutions to the problems within the family that are due to someone's injured brain, rather than take the easy way out and just advise the others to avoid the person?

As the highly knowledgeable Dr. Travis Stork stated on his television show The Doctors, “…brain damage, particularly in the frontal region…can control…judgment, impulse control, memory, social behavior….” [My brain damage includes this frontal region, and I have problems with everything he listed.]

As a brain injury expert from New York’s Mt. Sinai Hospital, Wayne Gordon, said with respect to treating prison inmates, “You need to train the correction officers to understand brain injuries so that when somebody may be acting rude or answering back or forgetting what they’re supposed to do, it’s not a sign of maladaptive behavior or disrespect, it’s a sign of a brain injury.”

We all need love, whether we're healthy or not. People with brain injuries, mental health issues, and other behavior problems need just as much attention as (if not more than) those without such problems because their behaviors can lead to detrimental societal issues, on a large scale, and to terrible family disruptions, on a smaller scale.

So, please, show some love right now to someone you know that is not well emotionally. Whatever the reason, just be there for them, even if it's just simply saying, “I love you.” Words that are warm can truly lift someone's spirit when that person is in a dark place.

And the dark place is where our brains take us if we're not careful. We, the brain-injured, need help getting on with our lives in as positive a way as possible. Please lead us there in a calm and gentle way. Show us the love even though sometimes we can be very difficult to be around.

I can't believe I'm about to suggest this, considering I was mysophobic (which is explained in great detail here in this book), but how about a simple hug now and again? Hugs can really help calm the inner turmoil that is bubbling and brewing below the surface in the brain-injured's mind.

I know one day I received three hugs from a woman named Hilary that I had just met because I was volunteering at church with her little four-year-old son. Those hugs helped me mentally later on in the day when I dealt with one more doctor’s appointment. It's amazing what may seem a small gesture to you might leave a big impact on the receiver. [But always remember to ask if the person would like a hug. I shrieked when others tried to touch me when I was afraid of germs. You’ll understand that as you read my book.]

Now – about my fear of making enemies since I decided to write this candid book. Author Judith Barrington in her Writing the Memoir: From Truth to Art stated sentences that I'm going to use because I'm sure that some of the things I told in my chapters are not how others remember them. I did my best to tell it all as I remember it taking place, but there will be one (or more than one) story that someone doesn't remember quite like that. But, I did my very best in truth-telling.

So – here's Ms. Barrington's paragraph. It could not be better stated than this, and I knew when I read it the first time (January 2016) it would end up here to be repeated: “As soon as I started to write about my own life, I understood that to speak honestly about family and community is to step way out of line, to risk accusations of betrayal, and to shoulder the burden of being the one who blows the whistle on the myths that families and communities create to protect themselves from painful truths. This threat was like a great shadow lurking at the corner of my vision, as it is for anyone who approaches this task, even before the writing leads them into sticky territory.”

And “sticky territory” it was. I threw my pen more than once when I was remembering a story from my life and then writing it here, because the floodgates opened in my head of various bad and/or sad memories. One gut-wrenching aspect of my life story is the domestic violence I’ve experienced on and off throughout my life. (I’ve chosen not to go into detail about that here – this book is about brain injury.)

Despite how upsetting to me it was sometimes in writing this memoir, I hung in there, and here it is. I hope you enjoy it, learn from it, and best of all – treat others better because of it.

I'm 100% positive that I've forgotten things that I originally wanted to include in my book. I tried to scribble all ideas down, but some scribbles got lost along the way.

I'm pretty sure there were people I told that they would be in my book, but then they are not because of my forgetfulness, or, that my editor and I HAD to streamline some stuff because this adventure became too large, long, whatever…. I’m well aware that this book cannot be perfect. I know there are mistakes in virtually every book that is printed. There will be mistakes, either of grammar, punctuation, etc., and even some facts. Remember – I have permanent brain damage. As Dr. Barry J. Gibb wrote in his book, The Rough Guide to the Brain, “…the brain can create false memories to embellish its version of reality – just as it can suppress memories of events it found unpalatable.”

I just hope and pray that I offend no one. That was not my intention. I just had to tell my story to, hopefully, help some others with what I learned in the struggle I survived. Writing about what I did remember, the way I remembered it, was very difficult at times. But I pushed myself through it.

All the comments from others:
“Your book's not done yet?”
“You missed your deadline?!”
“What's taking so long with that book?”
“Are you ever going to be done?”

And MANY more frightening comments like these actually slowed me down because I would get upset, and take a break.

That is, until my psychologist, Dr. Robin Scherm, gave me an excellent idea: “finish when you're finished” and just say, “oops” to the pre-determined schedule.

I heard these pieces of advice (that became my “script” when more comments came my way) at the same time I learned from one more endoscopy that I had multiple ulcers.

My gastroenterologist, Dr. El-Schaer, told me, the day after I saw Dr. Scherm, that I had to relax, step back from working so hard to complete the book, and take better care of myself.

So, on this day, I say this: the work will go to print when I'm done.

What’s a truly sweet ending to this, since just hours after I wrote the preceding paragraph, I attended a book-signing for the New York Times best-selling author, Elizabeth Lesser, at one of my favorite bookstores (Oblong Books in Rhinebeck, NY).

I quickly spoke to her before her excellent presentation about her book, Marrow: A Love Story, and told her about my book, that I watched her intently when she was on Oprah's “Super Soul Sunday,” and about my deadline stress. I asked her how long it took her to write her very first book.

“Three years.”

I smiled a huge smile for the first time in a long time because I stopped feeling too much pressure trying to wrap this up by 2016 (the year printed on my first author business card stating when my memoir would be published).

          Then, there are the words she wrote on the title page of my purchase of the beautiful story she wrote about donating her bone marrow to help save her sister's life: “To Janet – take your time. Your heart will know when it's time. [heart] Elizabeth”

Thank you so much, Elizabeth. The heavy weight I had been carrying on my shoulders was lifted as you slid that book back to me!

I know that I am being calmer now as I conclude this book (2017), than I was when I began it three years ago. I thank you for reading it, and I hope it helps your life in some positive way….

Janet Johnson Schliff

Lake Katrine, NY


For the coming year, I will be excerpting, weekly, material from this fine book by Janet Johnson Schliff, M.S.Ed.. She wrote it over a three-year period, with some coaching and editing help from me, through my business, The excerpts are from almost the final version. The book is now available from and from its publisher, 
What Ever Happened to My White Picket Fence?



Janet Johnson Schliff will be speaking at 1 p.m. on Saturday, March 3, at Barnes & Noble, 1177 Ulster Avenue, Kingston, NY.
I plan to attend, also.

Rev. Nwaiwu Sermon, Don't Share Your Secrets

A sermon preached by Nigerian Minister 
Fortune Emerence Chinemerem Nwaiwu on 18th February, 2018.

"A gossip goes around telling secrets, but those who are trustworthy can keep a confidence"--- Proverb 11:13 NLT


A man was seen at the front of a bank inserting his ATM card into an ATM machine, and he was using his hands and body to cover where he was putting his ATM secret PIN (security code). His reason for doing that was that he did not want people to know about his PIN, to avoid being swindled or defrauded. He could tell people the bank he operates with, but he would never disclose his secret PIN to them. He knows that his PIN is a password to his blessings and a source of his livelihood. If he tells people about his secret, he could be ruined and doomed.

I then remembered a man who told his son all about his ATM card PIN, and his son secretly took it to withdraw money. Thank God that the son was apprehended by police on the way, when the police discovered different ATM cards in his trousers pockets. They called his father on the phone through the phone number the child provided. The father came, and he knew that his son was in a big trouble. When he was asked if he was the one that gave his son his ATM card to withdraw money, the man – having realized that he was the one who would have to bail out his son if he said no to the police question – admitted that he was the one.

From the Proverbs 11:13, there are two classes of people that one may encounter in life. First, the gossip, and second, the trustworthy.

The Gossips: 

This set of people have flippant mouths. Their mouths leak their friends' secrets like a roof of a house leaking water during rainy seasons. Their intention of telling your secrets could, perhaps, be to ridicule you, disparage your reputation, or making you become an object of laughter. In most cases, you may be humiliated and begin to say, "What a world! Had I known, I wouldn't have shared my secrets with them!" 

Perhaps this thought resonated in the mind of Sampson when Delilah finally betrayed his secrets to the Philistine men. We see here that your secret is your life. Sampson revealed the source of his power to Delilah, a woman he thought loved him, a woman who decided to betray him to her people because of 1,100 pieces of silver. What about you, do you tell people's secrets because of money? Or food? Or to please people? Have you been betrayed by the revealing of secrets you told friends?

Note: When Sampson shared his secret to Delilah: "My hair has never been cut," Judges 16:17, Delilah called a man to shave his hair, scraping away the source of his power, and his strength left him. This time she knew that Sampson had told her his secret, and she invited in the Philistine rogues. Sampson thought he would do as usual to escape from them, but without realizing that the Lord had left him. His eyes were gouged out, and he then became completely blind. What a great tragedy! Telling of a person's secrets to people can destroy him, and if you are sharing your internal infirmity, how you're unable to feed well, how you suffer or what is your next good plan to achieve, my dear, you are selling your worth and at the same time destroying your future.

In Matthew 9:30, Jesus Christ charged two blind men He healed to keep the healing secret. In His word, He says, "Don't tell anyone about this." The reason Christ was charging these men sternly not to tell anyone else about this miracle is not known. Perhaps, He did not want to receive vainglory, or He did not want people to know Him by this miracle. Whatever may be the case, we see He needed a secret to be kept.

The Trustworthy Persons: 

These people are men of integrity. They are reliable, and they can keep a secret. But do such men still exist?  “Everyone beware of his neighbor,” as Jeremiah 9:4 says, “and don’t trust in any brother; for every brother will utterly supplant, and every neighbor will go around like a slanderer. God is the only trustworthy Lord, for He knows every secret in the heart of all men.”

Our society needs trustworthy persons. They will never tell your secrets to people, but they can disclose evil plans to the light. Yes, if you make your sin secret, you can never prosper unless you confess.

Mordechai and Esther were trustworthy people. Mordechai told Esther not to reveal her identity and nationality to the King of Persia, (Esther 2:10), and Esther kept her identity and nationality secret. But the moment Mordechai heard about the evil plan of two of the King's eunuchs, Bigthana and Teresh, who were planning to assassinate the King, he made the evil plan known to Esther and the King. Also, when Saul wanted to kill David, it was Saul's daughter, Micah. the wife of David. that revealed the plot to David, and asked him to run away for his dear life.

Where are the Mordechai and Micah of this generation? Who is to be trusted at this perilous time? Our political and religious leaders of this generation, are they reliable? Christians, can we rise up and reposition ourselves and be people of integrity? Can we will rise up and do the work of He Who called us into faith?

If no one tells you of his secret, know that you are not reliable, and unworthy to keep it. Perhaps you have betrayed someone's secret before. You've been mocked because of wrong, untrustworthy fellows, who spread mostly the odd parts of your life. Today, God will pay them back. He paid back the Philistines for what they did to Sampson, after Sampson prayed, “Lord, let me die along with my enemies.” We learn that 3,000 people died. You shall not perish along with the gossip, the wicked, nor will you die along with your enemies of progress.

God bless you.

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Rev. Nwaiwu's sermon has been slightly edited. [WriteYourBookWith] 

Monday, February 12, 2018

Rev. Nwaiwu's Sermon, Put Yourself in Someone Else's Shoes

A sermon preached by Fortune Emerence Chinemerem Nwaiwu on 11/02/2018

"Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear Him for He knoweth our frame; He remembereth that we are dust"-- Psalm 103:13-14 KJV.

God as a father of all that dwell on Earth shows compassion to his children because He knows they are dust. There could be a time God would vent His fury on man's wickedness, but when He remembers that we are made of dust, He relents because he knows how weak any person made of dust is, capable of having many trials and sorrows.

Now, as Christians, never forget to continue showing compassion to anyone, putting yourselves in their shoes---their situations, getting to know what they are passing through and the factors that are causing them to react in the manner they do. In this sermon, we shall consider two prime questions that will aid us to consider someone's else problems as paramount as ours to solve.

1. What will you do when you see people who are confused and helpless? Put yourself into their situation, and no one would need to beg you before you would volunteer to help them. Why people don't show compassion on others is because they don't put themselves in other people's shoes – their suffering, pains, and problems. The moment we take people's pains as ours is when we make conscious efforts to help them, because we feel their pains in our bones.

Matthew 9:36 indicates that when Jesus saw a crowd of sick people who were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd, He had compassion on them; His compassion motivated Him to heal them of their sickness.
Note: See yourself as a helpless person for Christ's compassion to work in you. You need help from God; would you humble yourself and look to Christ for a miracle over your unspeakable situations right now?

Nabal could not show compassion on David and his men when they were hungry because, as a wealthy man who lacked nothing, Nabal did not put himself in the shoes of the helpless David and his famished men. Perhaps Nabal had never experienced hardship in his life. If God would bring our political and religious leaders from the apex of their affluence down to poverty for them to know what the poor are passing through and mercifully bring them up again, they would learn to help people in need, especially the poor around them.

Note: David and his men had been helping Nabal, protecting his flocks in the wilderness, and nothing was stolen, but he had repaid him evil for good. What about you? Perhaps, you have served people honestly, but when you need help from them, they seem not to help you, because they never put themselves in your shoes.

Illustration: God has given me the gift of writing. I have written a lot of books, unedited and unpublished. I have searched for editors and explained my conditions to them as they wanted me to pay some money which I could not afford. Until one day, I contacted Douglas Cooper, Ph.D., an editor and former professor at Harvard University, in the US. I pleaded with him to help me edit my manuscript, offering him $80 even when I knew it would take me many months to earn the money. But when he saw how miserable and helpless I was, he put himself in my shoes, and then showed compassion on me, and then edited my work without charging me any farthing. I owe him many thanks.
Now, if God has delivered you, you owe Him thanks and gratitude. This is what the ten lepers Christ healed failed to realise, except for one fellow who came back to thank Him.

2. The evil I plan to do to people, what if they do it to me, how will I feel? You might make plans to steal, to rape people's daughters, to spread false rumours to tarnish their image; what if someone else were to do to you what you plan for others? How will you feel if others damage your good reputation? There is a golden rule for this attitude found in Matthew 7:12--- "Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you."

Brethren, let us see all of us as one, and one man's trouble should be ours with love. By acting in love, and oneness, our problems will be lesser.

May God smile on you and show you his favour now and forever.


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