Life, memoir

Men, Mental Health, Grief, and Finding Life After

New interview on the podcast The Death Dialogues Project

Men, Mental Health, Grief, and Finding Life After

Take a listen and be sure to leave a comment there and below letting me know what you think.

Be sure to follow The Death Dialogues Project on:

For a companion piece in which I was mentioned read the following article on Substack by Becky Aud-Jennison founder of The Death Dialogues Project.

The Aftermath – Grief: Processing, Honoring or Denying

“The aftermath of death will have its way with us one way or the other.”

Quote from the article.

PS – My memoir Cowboys Are Not Supposed to Cry is still available.

Grab your print or e-book copy today!

God, Life, Writing

Misty Mysterious Mountains

There is something mysterious and mystical about a gray rainy PNW day. The silence and shadows will take you in and if you stop and listen you can hear God’s voice and words of truth.

It helps me to get away even briefly with the rush of the holiday season. To stop the busyness of work and the thousand and one things that vie for our attentions.

We must slow down and ask ourselves what is really important. Am I doing what God would have me do or just spinning my wheels in the mud?

What refreshes your soul and how do you get away?

Life, memoir, Writing

Revisiting Chapter 1 – Out of the Sun

Please note: This is the beginning of a series of posts where I will work my way through each chapter of my memoir, Cowboys Are Not Supposed to Cry, reflecting on what I wrote and other thoughts now that the book is published.

As I reread chapter 1 of my memoir the first thing that hits me is how naïve I was, but I guess we all were at one time or another. My youthfulness shows through my words and actions during that time of my life. The first meeting with Luka and our growing relationship. It took me almost thirty years to realize the doors she opened and lead me through into worlds I had never explored. There were many simple things you don’t realize how much they meant until much, much later.

“We lived in those moments that held special meaning to us but seemed so ordinary in their significance.”

Chapter 1, Out of the Sun, page 24 – Mark W. Schutter

It’s those moments that seem insignificant that have the propensity to change our lives in hindsight. Those chance encounters with a stranger that lead to a deep and lasting relationship. Some that accompany us throughout the rest of our lives and others only stay for a while. Yet, the memories and the truths of each conversation stay with us and become touchstones that are the bedrock on which we stand.

I recall the music of the time when we first met and the music she introduced me to. Music I had never considered nor paid attention to before. It was a kaleidoscope of sounds and emotions that permeated and became the backdrop of our lives for those few short years. The music was so often prophetic as the lyrics seemed to hint at things to come. Some happy and some sad but either way they were harbingers of what may be.

“There was so much to live for, so much to look forward to, while a haunting voice whispered there will come a time when I will never see her again.”

Chapter 1, Out of the Sun, page 25 – Mark W. Schutter

There were decisions made that were set on my securing my future as I slowly slipped into adulthood. Yet those decisions of college and pursing a vocational calling pale in comparison to the seemingly random everyday occurrences that I now believe were anything but random. Those moments and incidents that became part of the tapestry when our lives came together in a grand design until the edges began to fray, the material becoming thinner and eventually the fabric was torn in two.

The first glance when our eyes met, casual conversations, dinners under the fading evening light, hawks soaring high overhead, and sharing hopes and dreams of a future. I titled the first chapter of my memoir “Out of the Sun” as an ode to the following lyrics in the Al Stewart song ‘Year of the Cat.’

She comes out of the sun in a silk dress running
Like a watercolor in the rain
Don’t bother asking for explanations

She came into my life in late summer wearing sun dresses and sandals. And like a watercolor painting opened my eyes to a multitude of hues and colors in life that often dance just outside our vision. Watercolor paint has a special ability to morph from one to another overlapping in soft and hard edges. Then the colors run as the water carries them intermingling with each other until the distinctness is lost. It continues to fade until the image is completely gone. This is an analogy of our lives together, the brilliant distinctiveness, intermingling, and then the fading until she was gone.

There are many more lines from this song that also resonate with me but that is for another post at another time when I may break down the entire song. For now just remember that no matter what you do, time passes, and you have the choice to live forward despite those trials and pains that inflict us all.

“She believed… there was a far better place, a place that existed out past the sun, where it rained colors and memoires never faded, where the last became first and the pain became joy and you traveled via the slipstream, a place where we can let go of the pain, the loss, and the death of this world.”

Chapter 1, Out of the Sun, page 27 – Mark W. Schutter

So don’t bother asking for explanations cause she just might tell you that she came in the year of the cat. 😉 God bless! This is your ‘life after…’ don’t miss it!

———————————————————————————————-

My memoir is available in print and e-book. Order your copy today, and one or two or three… as a gift for some else in time for the holidays. PAY IT FORWARD!  

You can also reach out to me here on my website to purchase signed copies.

Grief, Life, memoir, Stories, Writing

Pay it Forward – Will You Purpose to Commit Intentional Acts of Kindness?

Signed copies of my memoir being packaged for delivery!

There is still time to order your own copy and one or two or three… as a gift for some else in time for the holidays. PAY IT FORWARD! 👊 Available in print and e-book.

You can also reach out to me here on my website to purchase signed copies. Here’s some comments I have received from readers –

  • Your story touched my heart in more ways than I can even explain. Even though it triggered a lot of sadness and emotions it also gave me hope.
  • Just finished the first chapter of your book and I must tell you how beautiful your words are. You have such an amazing gift. Thank you for sharing❤️❤️❤️
  • I will have to say I have never read a book like yours before. I read a lot! I do want to tell you that this book is absolutely amazing. Thank you for sharing your feelings.

There is always hope of ‘life after…” and hope is never a small thing. #CowboysAreNotsupposedtoCry #Memoir #Grief #Healing #Trauma #LifeAfter https://www.amzn.com/1639031022 

Stories, Writing

A Conversation – What is truth?

Sharing a piece of writing I did recently below, let me know what you think in the comments.

“What is truth?”

The words like honey slowly covered me in the air around me. He sat quietly, his eyes soft and inquiring. Simply waiting as if he had all the time in the world, which he did.

I averted his loving gaze as my feet scraped the linoleum floor beneath the table. I fidgeted in my seat and running my hand over my head and through my hair before looking back into his clear eyes. Eyes that carried so much emotion, strength and power. Like the ocean waves that never ceased washing up on shore it was hard to look away once our eyes locked. My upper teeth bit into my lower lip as it curled inward and I swallowed hard. I felt the lump in my throat like a huge wad of dry bed I could barely get down.

And still he waited his hands clasped in front of him, fingers intertwined, as they rested on the table top. I stared across the dark wood of the table and took a deep breath and exhaled loudly. His expression did not change. My voice trembled as I began to speak, the tone carried none of the sarcastic authority that I had intended.

“What is truth?”

He continued to stare, his eyes softening a little at my remark causing my anger to rise and leaning forward I spat out the words.

“You quote those words back at me like I am the villain here? You have no idea what I have been through. How hard this is.”

I sat back in my chair as shame washed over me as soon as the words had let my mouth and hung in the air between us. And yet his loving gaze never changed. My mind swirled and I felt myself feeling light headed. I grasped the edge of the table to steady myself before softly saying.

“I don’t know what you want from me.”

He only stared, as small smile played at the corners of his lips. We sat staring at each other for several seconds, his eyes never leaving my face before he said in a soft voice.

“You can trust me. You know that don’t you?”

I swallowed hard again my throat was dry. I reached for the glass of water on the table and before I could reach it, he swiftly reached out his hand and gently pushed it towards me. I smiled through clenched lips and nodded a thank you as my fingers closed around the cold glass. Bring it to my lips I drank deeply the cool clear water cascading down my throat like a waterfall over the edge of a cliff.

I set the glass down heavily back on the table with a loud thud as it slipped from my grasp. I quickly glanced up at him in surprise at the sharp clack of the glass with the wooden table top. His expression still did not change and as our eyes met, he said.

“You have not answered my question.”

I feigned what I hoped was a surprised ignorance and spoke in a voice that I hoped conveyed a non-interest, “What question is that?”

“I did not come here to play games with you. Time is short and there is much to do.”

His response was immediate and pointed his voice rising only barely from the soft-spoken words of earlier. Although, I could feel the emphasis that emanated from his comment. I hesitated knowing he deserved an answer to his question but afraid of my own response. He sat back in the chair and continued to speak and although subtle his tone seemed a shade softer.

“You remember the stories I have told?” He questioned, continuing not waiting for me to reply.

“I use them to communicate truth. I know, I know we are back to the beginning now. What is truth? Right? The age-old question that has haunted man, driven him to seek, and even caused him to go against his very nature at times in the quest for truth. There truly is no depth of depravity for the truly wicked. But that is not what we are here to discuss. So, I let’s get back on topic, shall we?”

He paused for a moment staring intently at me. I nodded slowly, my throat was now dry again and I glanced quickly at the now empty glass on the table top, licking my lips as I did so. He continued to stare at me and if his gaze had not been so unobtrusive it would have been unnerving but rather it felt oddly comforting.

“I am, and all I am asking if for you to believe and if you trust me.”

I felt the swell of anger explode like a volcano spewing lava and clouds of ash into the air as I grabbed the table edge hard with my hands and shouted.

“What is truth? Do you trust me? Why the questions, why the damn questions! I am so tired, tired of trying and yet, I don’t know what else to do. I am seeking this truth you mention and also trying to trust. I least I think I am but it gets me nowhere. So, I ask you who do I trust? If I trust you are there others also? What then? What then!”

“Is it too much to ask that I find some solace and answers to my questions. Living in this dungeon of mystery is almost too much. The darkness seems overwhelming and suffocating. I wander through the days each no different from the one before and on and on it goes.”

“You say trust me, what then? You are the only one I trust and still… it seems to get me nowhere. You see that don’t you? How could you not understand? How could you sit there just staring like it doesn’t matter? What is wrong with you? I always believed you cared, I always wanted to believe that you cared. Now it seems I don’t matter? What am I supposed to do with that?”

“Every inspirational Hallmark card couldn’t make this better nor fix things. It is what it is.”

My voice trailed off as I shrunk back in my chair exhausted from my outburst my eyes averting his gaze. Finally, after several seconds of silence I slowly looked up and the love and concern emanating from his eyes overwhelmed me. The strength of his gaze would have knocked me to the ground if I had not been sitting in the chair. As it was, I felt my back press tighter against the wooden slates behind me.

“I only ask that you trust me. The rest is often irrelevant and often inconsequential to this story. Your story. For you see you can only read a book one page at time, on word and one sentence at a time. This also applies to your life. For it is only lived forward, not backwards and not all at once. One step, or one page at a time. And we don’t see what is on the next page until we get there.”

He smiled and I felt the warmth of his love wash over me. I nodded suddenly so weary it was all I could do to hold my head up and keep his gaze. Leaning forward he reached a tanned arm across the table and gently took my hand in his. It was warm and comforting, soft and rugged at the same time. I bowed my head, my chin to my chest as the tears began quickly rolling down my cheeks and falling onto my leg causing dark blue spots on my jeans.

Continuing to hold my hand he said nothing. I cried, the tears flowing easily and effortlessly and I let them come. It was cathartic and if I had wanted to, I don’t know if I could have stopped them. After a few minutes the tears ceased to flow and I lifted my head to see his eyes still staring at me with the same look of compassion and love. I heard the sound through the open window of the last autumn leaves rustling in the trees. It was a melodic wind chime sound of nature. For a moment I was transported.

The meadow in front of me was vast, the tall golden grasses waving in the breeze. On the far side of the meadow was a stand of aspen trees. Their leaves were still in full glory and they flashed as golden coins suspended at the end of each small whiteish branch. The sky overhead was a canvas of blue as the sun was sinking behind the mountain range far to the west. I scanned the scene reveling in the solitude and quiet. Nothing here that troubled me mattered and all was as it should be. I felt the last rays of the sun’s warmth on my arms and I relished the embrace. I stood motionless listening to the soft rustling of the grasses. It felt like home, or at least what I imagined home to be like, for I had never known what a real home was.

Warm, comforting, and inviting.  Most of safe, a place where one could go to retreat to escape to and also to move forward. My soul yearned for just such a place and I felt the warm tear roll down my check before it touched my lips and I tasted the salt on my tongue. The voice came from nowhere and everywhere at once. It surrounded me and held me fast in an embrace.

“Do you trust me?”

I slowly nodded my head as and heard the shriek. Quickly glancing up into the sky I saw the red-tailed hawk soaring high overhead across the meadow. He circled once before flying off towards the aspen grove and disappearing over the tree tops.

“If you want to know, what truth is you must trust me.”

My eyes shot open and he was still staring at me with love and concern. As I stared into his eyes, I would have sworn I saw a hint of sadness there also.

Grief, memoir, Stories

Cowboys … Cry?

Vulnerable transparency post!

My just released memoir is titled:

Cowboys Are Not Supposed to Cry

So why is that the past few days I have been on the edge of tears?

There is so much going on in my life right now both personally and professionally, more to come on that later.

Not to mention the chaotic and confusing world we find ourselves living in right now. But like the Ringo Kid (John Wayne) said in Stagecoach

“Well, there are some things a man just can’t run away from. “

My friends I am not running but I am being wise as every warrior must be if they are to survive and thrive. May God bless you. Stay strong and remember sometimes even the strongest cowboys cry.

The print copy of my book (memoir) is available now on Amazon.
Grief, Stories, Writing

I Did A Thing – Recording A Podcast Interview This Week!

And Then Everything Changed – October 28, 2020

Tap the image to visit the website!

I will be interviewed by Ronit Plank for her podcast ‘And Then Everything Changed’ this Wednesday, October 28th. The episode will be aired at a still to be determined date.

In preparation for my interview with Ronit I have binged listened to many past episodes. I encourage you to take a listen to great stories of resilience, courage and hope. Ronit is a skilled host and interviewer. All past and future episodes, including mine when it becomes available, are available on her website and many podcast platforms including:

The conversations Ronit has with her guests are real and vulnerable. Talking about personal history; those pivotal moments of their childhood and adulthood that defined them and the crucial and sometimes painful decisions they made that forever changed the course of their lives.

After listening to many episodes, my biggest takeaway is the all too often similar feelings and emotions that we all experience in life. Despite our often very different circumstances, beliefs, values and life stories the emotional toil often runs deep. Although, my life may often have little in common with many of the guests I feel a connection.

It is not a competition, and yet we all have or will experience pain in this life. #quote

“The Princess Bride”

The question and the test is what will we do with the pain we experience in this life? Listen to some Ronit’s guests tell their stories and you will be inspired by the strength, courage and the resiliency of the human spirit. Thank you Ronit for creating this platform that allows others to share their stories, reminding us each that we are not alone.

Stay tuned to this site and sign up for email updates for the latest and when my conversation with Ronit will air on her podcast!

#LiveYourDreams

Grief, Stories, Writing

“What Do You See?”

“What do you see?

The blue sky is beginning to darken as night approaches and I watch you lying there. Your head on its side resting on the ground. You stare straight ahead past your nose, eyes wide open.

We both stay in the silence of the moment, only a faint rustle of leaves in the trees. Slowly I watch you lift your head and look around before you stop and stare off into the distance. Your dark nose crinkles as you sniff the evening air.

“What do you see?” I want to ask, I open my mouth to speak and the words catch in my throat. I swallow hard, my heart beating loudly within my chest.

I close my mouth and sit silently conjuring images of the unknown that may be floating through your mind. I sit helpless to ease your pain, wanting to comfort you as each second ticks by.

If you could only speak. To tell me what you see, what you are thinking of. For I would do whatever it is you ask or need. The world around me swirls, a strong breeze rustles the leaves, and a voice in my head from long ago breaks my reverie transporting me back.

“Please shove the pillow down lower, closer to my hip here…”

“Oh God!”

Your shrill voice rings loud in the silence of the late evening. I quickly jerk my hands away coming off the pillow as I back pedal a few steps watching your pained expression.

“I am sorry.” I speak slowly in a trembling voice as I slowly move back closer to the chair. Your head is tilted back resting hard against the back of the chair, your breath deep and labored.

“I know, … it’s okay. It just hurts so bad, ya know. I just can’t ever seem to get comfortable where it doesn’t hurt.”

My mind whirls as I stand swaying on unsteady legs unsure what to do next, not wanting to cause you more pain. I stand staring not knowing what to say waiting until you speak.

“Okay, let’s try this. Put that little pillow down behind my lower back. I will hold this one here at my side and we’ll see if that works.”

Okay I say, tentatively moving forward treating you as a fragile porcelain doll instead of the courageous strong woman that you are despite the circumstances. Inside my helplessness screams at the absurdity of it all.

Several minutes later after many machinations and adjustments you are finally somewhat comfortable for now. Breathing a heavy sigh you sink deeper into the chair closing your eyes.

“Okay that will work, thank you love.”

“Your welcome.”

I fall onto the couch next to your chair my own exhaustion overtaking me. Our eyes meet for a brief second as you open your eyes and you faintly smile. Then you turn away from my gaze to look out the window at the darkening sky. I watch as you sit motionless, your pale arms resting on the arms of the recliner.

Your short dark brown hair barely touches your shoulders now as it hangs framing your face. I can still picture your long locks that used to cascade down your back and over your shoulders. I see your eyes gloss over, focused on something that only you can see. I wonder are you seeing beyond the veil that separates the worlds.

“What do you see my love?” my mind asks as I swallow my words.

My head clears, I come back to the present. You are now on your side, head once again laying on the grass, eyes open staring. The dark brown fur of your coat in sharp contrast to the green grass of late summertime.

You seem at peace with whatever may come and I envy you. My mind again asks “What do you see girl? Do you see the end?” I wonder.

A chorus of memories run through my mind of the years together. The joy, the laughter, the adventures we all shared. You completed our family and made it whole. We watched you and her grow alongside one another becoming best friends. You have always been a loyal companion that shepherded her well into her teenage years.

I know your body is now weak and frail. Age or disease catches up with us all and I hope you know I will continue to try whatever that may mean. I truly will, my mind screams into the silence of the ever darkening sky overhead. To spare you and others from what inevitability will come. My helplessness looms large, again a mountain in front of me that I am once again forced to climb.

Your eyes now closed, I watch you breathing slowly, your chest rising and falling as you sleep. There is life left and I will do whatever I can to ease your days. Although I know that option is sometimes not offered. And so we live with the unanswered question of ‘What do you see?’

“Best Friends”

Sharing a little free write essay that compares the feelings I have watching our older dog as she battles lymphoma and the triggers of memories it evokes from long ago. You will be able to read more about those memories in my upcoming memoir to be published in early 2021. You can read about it here and be sure to sign up for email notifications to get the latest updates.

Grief, Life, Stories, Writing

Memoir Update – Signed Publishing Agreement!

It’s official!

*Note: Working title and not actual cover.

Exciting news!!! I have signed a publishing and distribution agreement with Christian Faith Publishing for my memoir. I submitted my manuscript to their review board, they accepted the draft and want to publish my book. Woo-hoo! 😁

Signing the agreement with my daughter!
  • It has been a long journey for sure to get to this point, never stop chasing your dreams!
  • Expected publication date is still to be determined, sometime in early 2021.
  • Lots to be done before then – editing, proofing, typesetting, cover design etc.

I have been busy drafting my author bio and the book blurb. That is harder than writing the actual book. Who knew? 😳

Book teaser >

When did we come to believe the best thing you can do with death is ride off from it? In Cowboys Are Not Supposed To Cry, Mark Wayne tells his story of living a life with grief beginning in his mid-twenties. #Memoir #AmWriting #UpcomingBook #WritersLife

I hope to post some excerpts from the forthcoming book as I go through the editing process as well as other updates here on the blog. So be sure to hit the follow button and sign up for email notifications to get the latest.

*Note: Working title and not actual cover.

I would love to hear your initial impressions or thoughts. Your feedback is greatly appreciated and will help guide efforts as I move forward in publishing and marketing.

#LiveYourDreams

Writing

Sometimes it’s all worth it!

It is the eve of National Novel Writing Month 2019 (NaNoWriMo 2019), where we crazy writers jump in with both feet attempting to write at least 50,000 words in 30 days.

This is my second year in s row and 4th overall. I have accomplished the feat (50,000 words) each time and “won”. What that really means is I know have 3 shitty first draft manuscripts that I need to start editing. Yikes!

Well this afternoon I received notice that 3 of my poems had been selected for the short list and will be included in the Broken Hearts, Healing Words – An A.B.Baird Anthology.

I am so beyond grateful and freaking excited. Did not really expect this. Just goes to show sometimes it’s all worth it.

Keep writing my friends! You have a story that only you can tell whether it’s poetry, short stories, novels, fiction or nonfiction. #GetYourWriteOn

#JustBelieve #HopeLives #LoveChangesPeople