Tom Ufert, Welcome to Spotlight live, please tell us how it has been for you, how have you enjoyed writing so far, it must have been an exciting journey for you, you may want to tell us something please?
Tom Ufert THANK SHAW FOR HAVING ME! Yes the writing has been a very cathardic experience-it helped me deal with much of my troubled past and the various adversities I've faced. More importantly, it's really providing me with the opportunity to give back to others the way God and so many people have given to me.
Shah Fazli How has it helped you dealing with the problems, are you writing about those problems?
Tom Ufert Essentially putting "on paper" all of my inner thoughts, fears, frustrations, joys, gratitudes, dreams and experiences over the years has provided a creative outlet to share with others who just might be facing trials and tribulations of their own. In 1992 I suffered 3 different disabilities all within 3 months---I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, suffered an incomplete spinal fracture from a car accident, and was diagnosed with HIV. I spent 5 1/2 months in physical rehab as an inpatient and another 2 1/2 years going through out patient therapy. That was 20 years ago last month. IF I CAN SURVIVE THAT, THEN SO CAN OTHERS! Plus I write about depression, my alcohol/drug/sex addictions, my broken family and adoption, my mother's struggle with her own battle of MS & subsequent death in a mercy killing suicide! Yet my life has been blessed with caring people, a great education, strong positive mental attitude, and some awesome career experiences.
Shah Fazli Thanks, what is your book Adversity Builds Character about?
Tom Ufert ADVERSITY BUILDS CHARACTER (ABC for short) is about life is full of adversities for us all and that this is what helps make us better human beings. In ABC I say, "Life is as llife is - either accept it, change it, or let it kill you. But just sitting around and complaing about it doesn't help anyone, least of all you!" The book opens in the ICU after my car accident and then flashes back from my birth through thenext 34 years of life. I talk about my families, biological/adopted, my education, my struggles with personal and sexual idenity, and my progress into the world of politics and international relations studies. For 180 pages the book covers a great deal.
Shah Fazli Thank you so much, you have gone through a lot, how is everything for you now, are you writing about a quiet and better time, or do you still suffer from your past?
Tom Ufert Thank you for asking! My life is great...I'm in a domestic partnership with the love of my life-we will celebrate our 12th anniversary next month, my health is excellent-my MS is remission, my HIV is non-detectable, and my spinal fracture healed naturally leaving me wheelchair bound but not paralyized. I spend my spare time following politics, my life's ambition/love and doing charity fundraising for various organizations here in the Dallas area. I'm hoping to take my book and life experiences on a speaking tour and planning two additional books.
Shah Fazli Really great and brave too, so how does it help you writing about your past, do you want to also tell us about certain painful memories you have from your past, specifically, when you spent time in hospital, for instance?
Tom Ufert Writig about my past adversities helps me deal with everyday life. The physical/mental struggles with 1 day being fully ambulatory and the next not being able to walk/feed myself/dress myself/or perform normal physical functions was rough. Seeing my mom go through that and then her despair causing hopelessness taught me valuable lessons on "NEVER SURRENDER" ( a great song by Cory Hart is my life's theme song!). The book is dedicated to my mom and adopted grandmother-they are the "winds beneath my wings"! My adopted parents were both in the medical profession and they taught me the importance of being your own advocate, especially in today's world of healthcare where patients have become mere numbers/statistics. I spoke out about the direction of my rehab therapy and was blessed to have some wonderful medical professionals who taught me more about my body and how it can adapt to survive. I must not fail to credit GOD for His divine grace and intervention in turning my life around-for that I am humbled and deeply grateful!
Shah Fazli Thank you so much, what others have learnt from your life story, what do they say about your book?
Tom Ufert Well so far the reviews have been very encouraging. On Amazon the eBook early version received great customer reviews from friends/classmates that had no idea I had been through so much. In each case Chapter 9 about Mom's death made each of them cry. Others have voiced the same response "my words were inspiring" yet brutally honest. The print version on Amazon was just released yesterday, so I've yet to receive much response -http://bookstore.iuniverse.com/Products/SKU-000586107/Adversity-Builds-Character.aspx
Adversity Builds Character - Tom Ufert : IUniversebookstore.iuniverse.com
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Shah Fazli Wonderful news for you, can you read from your book please?
Tom Ufert I wanted to write this book for a number of reasons, but none could compare with the unquenchable need to shout to all creation the praises of God; not just for being alive but perhaps more importantly for being more human. In that one defining phrase I discovered what I think we all strive to comprehend — only in being more human do we “get it!” When we accept who we are, for all our faults and graces, only then do we begin to understand our true nature and therein our relationship to each other, all creation, and God Himself. How can we possibly be close to God and our fellow men if we are trying so hard to conquer both?
I remember as a small boy, don’t ask me when or where, but that the “old” people were talking over coffee. Children were supposed to be outside playing or inside sitting quietly (no small task for a brat such as yours truly). It was just such a setting and one of those rare occasions when I was tame enough to be regarded as a human child, that I must have heard ABC for the first time. If my memory serves correctly, the subject involved the unfortunate fate of a family friend troubled by ill health. I distinctly remember Grandma Campbell saying “Adversity Builds Character” and implying that some good would inevitably come from the hardship. Unfamiliar with the word adversity, and I guess wanting to obtain some of the room’s captivated attention for myself; I asked what the word meant. Past experience should have foretold the obvious reply; “Thomas if you don’t know what a word means, go look it up in the dictionary.” For some reason, of all the similar childhood experiences I had, this one has stood out. It wasn’t until some twenty years later that I penned “Adversity Builds Character” into my title.
For me “ABC” is a multifaceted concept and one that I hope can help other people deal with the struggles of everyday life. The ideas are so powerful and yet so simplistic that like sub-atomic particles, they can be lost from sight all too easily. From the moment of conception the body begins to die and the spirit begins to whither. Yet preoccupation with that fact is one of the most driving impulses in the human psyche. We spend our whole lives trying to put off the undeniable and inevitable conclusion of our existence as we know it. Yet knowing our life clock is ticking doesn’t seem to empower us to utilize that which we have. Adversity Builds Character was written with three major ideas in mind; first, life is a bed of roses, but not without thorns. Second, no matter how bad your life is, just take a look around and you’ll find someone who has it worse. Finally, like the poem “Footsteps in the Sand” God is always with you and He never gives you more than you can really handle. For me all of this comes full circle in Robert Frost’s poem “The Road Less Taken,”
Somewhere ages and ages hence I shall be telling this,
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
I am NOT perfect!!! Nor does this book seek to diminish the reader’s own trials and tribulations. Rather it was written to help espouse the mental breakthrough that while unique in every detail, we are commonly linked to each other and therein lay the key to our future. Only when a man can set aside his own selfish, almost animalistic desires for self-preservation in the wake of another’s needs, does he find that divine essence in humanity and himself. For only then can we see that forgiveness is divine and since we are all sinners, a purely human condition, we come closest to God when we accept our true humanity for all that it is.
I sought, in writing this book, to use my life experiences, good and bad, to help others. So often through my life people have said how tough I’ve had it. Yet upon reflection it’s been a wonderful life and if I could go back to change any millisecond of it, I would not! Everything that has happened has made me the man I am today, and of that fact, I am proud. Life is as life is — either accept it or change it! I only need to reflect upon the poor souls who have suffered through Rwanda, Yugoslavia, Krakow, the Sudan, 9/11, Katrina, Fukoshima, the Sandusky scandal, etc… to fully appreciate how blessed I am. I have food in my gut, a roof over my head, clothes on my back, a little money to get by on, friends who care about me, and those who love me - REALLY, WHAT ELSE MATTERS? It gives one pause when we want to whine and complain about how bad our lives are!
Shah Fazli Thanks, what is your message to your readers, and your tips on writing please?
Tom Ufert My message to my readers is this...Have faith! The human spirit is absolutely remarkable in overcoming life's tribulations. I MADE IT, SO CAN YOU! As for tips on writing, I can only say this - be patient and write what you know or love; eventually the words will come and they'll come from your heart and soul. That kind of writing will touch others and lift them to greater heights!
Shah Fazli It was so much fun and a real pleasure, I am glad you agreed to be our guest tonight, thank you so much.
Shah Fazli Visit:http://shahsightshop.blogspot.de/2012/10/adversity-builds-character-inspi-tom.html
ShahSight Literary Book Shop: Adversity Builds Character; An Inspi ... Tom Ufertshahsightshop.blogspot.com
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Tom Ufert THANK YOU SHAW for having me. It has been a great pleasure and more importantly, THANKS for helping all us aspiring authors spread our stories around the world.