Press-Republican

March 2, 2013

Former professor writes book to teach life lessons

By AMY HEGGEN
Press-Republican

---- — PLATTSBURGH — After a debilitating disease took over her life, Lorna Earl turned to writing for solace with the hopes of inspiring others with her story. 

Earl, 55, of Plattsburgh loved to teach and made it her mission to make sociology relevant for students, to broaden their horizons like no one had done for her.

“Most people don’t understand the magic of sociology. Nobody ever really showed me how I could apply it to real life. This stuff is golden,” Earl said.

Earl taught sociology at Clinton Community College before her life changed in an instant in November 2001. 

“I was at Clinton Community College, and the room started to spin,” she said. 

It was discovered that Earl had a brain tumor. After opinions from several neurologists, the tumor was removed, which affected her ability to communicate.

“Where I was once very articulate verbally, I lost that function for about a year,” Earl said. 

She was also diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome, which brings migraine headaches, nausea and dizziness, among other symptoms. They are set off like a chain reaction by stressors; managing stress is now her full-time job. 

She tried to continue teaching for about three years, but any sensory stimulation would make her nauseous. As the fatigue worsened, she opted to leave.

“I had to retire from a job that I adored,” Earl said. 

Her mind was still in good working order, and she wanted to continue contributing to society in the way she did as a professor.

To distract herself from dizziness and to keep her mind active, she had to focus on something, she said. She began to write stories from her childhood and eventually decided to publish them.

Lorna’s book, “How was I Supposed to Know? The Adventures of a Girl Whose Name Means Lost,” was published earlier this year and works through touchy issues such as alcoholism, divorce and suicide, but she tries to handle them lightly and with a bit of humor. 

She writes under the name Lorna Lee and changes a few of the names in her book to keep the confidentiality of friends and family members. Her family members, however, approve of and are proud of her writing, she said. 

“The day will evaporate when I sit and write,” Earl said. “That will keep the dizziness in the background.”

Phil Racine, 55, of Plattsburgh, Earl’s partner and publishing confidant, became involved in her writing process. 

“She has an amazing ability to put her thoughts on paper,” Racine said. 

Writing, however, didn’t come to Earl as easily as it had during her teaching years. 

“The brain surgery left her with a kind of handicap, and she had to overcome that,” Racine said. “There were several instances where she was having difficulty finding the words that she wanted to use.”

The book was therapeutic for Earl. 

“It helped her really understand the events in her life,” Racine said. 

Earl hopes this book can help others who have similar issues in their life. 

“I lay it out there because I believe that there are people who feel that they’re the only ones who’ve made those stupid mistakes (in life),” she said. “I wouldn’t put all my secrets out there for the heck of it.

“I hope to make the same kind of difference that I did when I was teaching.” 

TO LEARN MORE "How was I Supposed to Know? The Adventures of a Girl Whose Name Means Lost," by Lorna Earl, who writes under the pen name Lorna Lee, is available at www.amazon.com. For more information about Earl and her book, visit her blog: www.lornas voice.com