Category Archives: Life

Death of a Nation By Delinda McCann

This land is your land, this land is my land
From California to the New York Island

Woody Guthrie

Our country is our home. We are rightfully proud of the many things we as a people have accomplished together. Our great experiment with a democratic representative form of government is something to be proud of. Our statements of equality among all people and our struggles to attain that ideal are worthy of praise.

Like any great experiment we need to be asking ourselves where are we in the process? Is the experiment over? Did we succeed or did we fail? We’ve had some glorious moments. Have we fallen short of the goal? Is there any way we can get the experiment back on track?

Note: I’m not touting any great success story here. We’ve become a nation perpetually at war, not as the world’s police force enforcing justice and defending freedom, but at war to support the profits of a few.

We are no longer either a democracy or a republic. We are an oligarchy, quickly sliding toward fascism. The United States of America has become the world’s greatest threat to peace and prosperity. Within our own country, we send men and women to fight in wars to protect the economic interest of the few. When those men and women return home broken in body, mind and spirit, we send them to live in the streets among the elderly, and disabled.

We made some progress in cleaning up air and waterways, but our drinking water has become compromised and except for the efforts of the poor, nothing is done to protect our drinking water.

We aren’t doing too well in many respects as a nation. Our economy is dedicated to the greed of a few, yet the poor get the blame for the conditions in this country. Racism is blatant and growing. The notion of caring for the sick, disabled and elderly, has almost disappeared from public policy.

War, bigotry, corruption and pollution all exist to enrich the oligarchy. Nobody is safe from the oligarchs in the US. Where will this lead. Can we as a people unite and turn our backs on the corrupt power elite? Are we too fragmented to do so?

What have we become and what is the moral answer to our dilemma? Some people are waiting for a hero to raise up out of the oligarch class and lead us to freedom. Heroes do not come from among the rich and powerful. Hoping for one of the oligarchs to solve our problems is futile.

From around the fringes of society, we hear people asking should we dissolve this union. Is dissolution the only moral option? By breaking into three to five smaller nations, we can dissipate resources in such a manner as to make it more challenging for the oligarchs to go to war.

Is it time for a constitutional amendment that expels certain states from the union because they refuse to live by the morally bankrupt standards embraced by more fearful regions? Should we dissolve into regions that have common issues and values and let other regions go their own way?

It is time to ask the questions and hold the discussions. With dissolution as the stick driving us forward can we unite for the common good? Maybe this country has reached the point where the common good cannot be served without a final amendment to the constitution stating that due to irreconcilable differences geopolitical regions with common interests may go their separate ways.

Delinda McCann is a mostly-retired social psychologist. During her professional career she worked with at risk youth and individuals with disabilities. Her research in the field of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome led her to become an advisor to several governments. To ease the stress created by working in the disabilities field, she took up gardening. Never one to do things in a small way, Delinda now runs a small farm and sells cut flowers. She writes general fiction based on her experience as a social psychologist. She has published five novels. She expresses her sense of humor in many of her short stories. She’s also published numerous professional articles on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and Youth At-Risk. The professional articles are rather academic and dry, but Delinda pulls what she knows about human behavior, disabilities and youth into her fiction.

You may purchase her books at: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=Delinda+McCann

You may view her flowers, gardens and personal blog at: http://delindalmccann.weebly.com/index.html

Finding a Sanctuary for a Novel by Steve Lindahl

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I dedicated my latest novel, Hopatcong Vision Quest, to its setting, Lake Hopatcong, NJ. The story takes place at the same location, in two different eras: the present time and the early 17th century, when the area was inhabited by the Lenape Native Americans. My history with Hopatcong is important because it helps me understand the feel of riding a power boat across a crowded body of water, the serenity of paddling a canoe on smooth waters, the fun of searching for freshwater mussels in shallow water , and the thrill of competing with a best friend for the most skips of skimming stones. The lake has been a friend for most of my life.

I wonder how many others have a sanctuary near water: a different lake, a place by a river or a creek, or perhaps an ocean beach. If you’re one of those people, you understand the meditative pull of gentle water as well as the power of a storm or a flood.

My family bought the lake house in 1928. My grandfather wanted a country home, to get his family out of Brooklyn during the Polio season. He had a place in Connecticut for a time, but wasn’t happy there, so he relocated to an island on the largest lake in New Jersey. The family’s been there ever since.

Lake Hopatcong is where I spent summers when I was a child. I Learned to swim there, to sail, to explore the woodlands, to paddle a canoe, to drive a motorboat, and to take an outboard motor apart and put it back together. I grew up with my cousins and some of the best friends of my life, people I’m still close to today. When I grew a little older, it was at that lake where I met my wife.

In Hopatcong Vision Quest there is a scene where two nine year old children, a boy and a girl, go into a wooded area between a road and the shore of the lake. They are searching for an entrance hole to a muskrat burrow. This is an example of a section of the book that required research as well as a general knowledge of how it feels to approach a lake through a place where people seldom go.

The Lenape people of the late 16th, early 17th century felt a sense of respect and reverence for animals that lived both in and out of water. One of their clans was called the Turtle Clan, named after an animal that fits the description. In the book, the otter, another animal that fits, is the spirit guide of one of the main characters. So a muskrat, a third fit, was a logical animal to include in my story.

I remember, as a child, how I watched a muskrat swimming in front of our dock to a nearby shore, then disappearing into a hole in the ground. This happened many times and is an example of an experience that led to a plot choice. I never went looking for the animals with a flashlight to peer into their burrows, but I did go to the shore though the woods many times for other reasons.

I had to follow the decision to use muskrats with research. I used YouTube to be sure I understood how they swam and other sources to check on their eating habits and the time of the year when the kits are with their mother.

Hopatcong Vision Quest is a past life mystery, a story of two suspicious deaths and the use of past life regressions to discover clues. It’s about the past and present characters and their relationships: friendships, betrayals, and love. It is both a modern mystery and historical fiction, but it is also a tribute to a place for peaceful withdrawal from the troubles of the world, my own Walden Pond.

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Steve Lindahl’s first two novels, Motherless Soul and White Horse Regressions, were published in 2009 and 2014 by All Things That Matter Press. His short fiction has appeared in Space and Time, The Alaska Quarterly, The Wisconsin Review, Eclipse, Ellipsis, and Red Wheelbarrow. He served for five years as an associate editor on the staff of The Crescent Review, a literary magazine he co-founded. He is currently the managing/fiction editor for Flying South, a literary magazine sponsored by Winston-Salem Writers and is also a board member of that organization.

His Theater Arts background has helped nurture a love for intricate characters in complex situations that is evident in his writing. Steve and his wife Toni live and work together outside of Greensboro, North Carolina. They have two adult children: Nicole and Erik. Hopatcong Vision Quest is Steve’s latest novel.

BORGES REMEMBRANCE AND NOSTALGIA

borges

Thirty years ago no one used yet such terms as internet, e-mail, nor cell-phone in Latin America. The most advanced in technology available then for popular use was compact discs, which of course represented a luxurious expense for the great majority.

The night of June 14th, 1986, trapped inside the passionate DX mania, so strange and ancient nowadays, completely antediluvian and left behind in the last century for most of the young, I was listening to Radio Suiza Internacional, found by mere chance after playing with the dial, transmitting from Berna. The overwhelming news was: Borges, the great Jorge Luis Borges, who never received a Nobel Prize even though he deserved it much more than the great majority who had obtained it, has just died in Geneva.

That fact left a mark on us for all time to come, given that there would not be any talking of any other topic in the Special Literature subject. From the following day on, Jorge Francisco Isidoro Luis Borges Acevedo would be, for all of us who represented the specialty of Social Sciences, the great torture or the great passion, according to the characteristics of each of those fifteen-year-old spirits who knew little to nothing about the author of El Aleph. Assignments, monographs, expos, research, essays, mandatory readings (and for that reason not so pleasant as those that arise from the feeding need of a bibliophile) left some of Borges in us: in the case of the author of these lines were his mark, his circling ruins that from time to time raise again to involve and enfold us in oneiric worlds from which no one ever knows how to emerge, or from which one emerges, as in La Flor de Coleridge, disturbed forever and carrying material evidence brought from those orbs, forever tempted to return and disappear in the magical forcefulness of their complacent idealism.

We were only a few, of course, very few, who remained so marked by the fact, that ever since then we would never abandon the Borgesian world, because we would even discover later, as enthused as the one who makes a discovery by his own even though others have already done it before: the Kafkaesque condition of Borges’ literature, and years later the Borgesian condition of Eco’s literature.

From him it was, top and paradigm of the writer, from whom we learned that books are extensions of the thinking and the mind of the human being. The book, the magazine, the newspaper, as extensions of the thinking, must so keep that condition of word and human ideas’ vehicle, must serve as means of broadcasting of those ideas among all cultures, for only so we will be able to move forward on this cosmic journey without losing track, without getting lost nor ending up buried under the uncontainable avalanche of data and images.

Thirty years since his death, the Argentinian tiger, the most universal gaucho, still rests in Geneva, though his work and his name are now more immortal than ever. To me, though Borges did not live to see it, the current world is full of his fiction. For example, if someone wants to meet/know the aleph, they can read and read again that Borgesian tale, but can also connect to the internet from a computer or a cell phone, and in that precise moment converge at a single spot, all the spots around the world.

pepeserrano-borges

Remembranza y nostalgia de Borges
Por: Rodrigo Aguilar Orejuela

Hace treinta años nadie usaba aún en Latinoamérica los términos internet, correo electrónico ni teléfono celular. Lo más adelantado de la tecnología al servicio del consumo popular suntuoso era por entonces el disco compacto, que por supuesto resultaba aún demasiado oneroso para las grandes mayorías.

La noche del 14 de junio de 1986, atrapado por la manía apasionante del diexismo, hoy tan extraña y antiquísima, tan del siglo pasado y para la mayoría de los jóvenes completamente antediluviana, escuchaba por esas casualidades del dial Radio Suiza Internacional, que transmitía desde Berna. La noticia fue contundente: Borges, el gran Jorge Luis Borges, aquél que nunca recibió el Premio Nobel aunque lo merecía mucho más que la gran mayoría de quienes lo obtuvieron, acababa de fallecer en Ginebra.

El hecho nos marcó para siempre, pues no se hablaría de otro tema en la materia de Literatura Especial. A partir del día siguiente, Jorge Francisco Isidoro Luis Borges Acevedo sería, para la gran mayoría de quienes conformábamos la especialidad de Ciencias Sociales, la gran tortura o la gran pasión, según las características de cada uno de esos espíritus quinceañeros que poco o nada sabían del autor de El Aleph. Trabajos, monografías, exposiciones, investigaciones, ensayos, lecturas obligadas (y por ese motivo no tan placenteras como aquellas surgidas de la propia necesidad alimenticia de un bibliófago) dejaron en nosotros algo de Borges: en el caso del autor de estas líneas fueron su marca, sus ruinas circulares que de cuando en cuando vuelven a erigirse para envolvernos e involucrarnos en mundos oníricos de los que nunca se sabe cómo emerger, o de los que se emerge, como en La Flor de Coleridge, para siempre turbados y portando pruebas materiales traídas desde aquellos orbes, para siempre tentados a retornar y desaparecer en la mágica contundencia de su idealismo complaciente.
Por supuesto que fuimos pocos, muy pocos, quienes quedamos tan marcados por el hecho, que desde entonces jamás abandonaríamos el mundo borgiano, porque además descubriríamos luego, con el entusiasmo de quien hace un descubrimiento por sí solo aunque ya otros lo hayan hecho antes: la condición kafkiana de la literatura de Borges, y años después la condición borgiana de la literatura de Eco.

Fue de él, cima y paradigma del escritor, de quien aprendimos que es el libro una extensión del pensamiento y la mente del ser humano. El libro, la revista, el diario, como extensiones del pensamiento, deben por ende mantener esa condición de vehículos de la palabra y las ideas humanas, deben servir de medios de difusión de aquellas ideas entre todas las culturas, pues solo así podremos avanzar en este viaje cósmico sin perder el rumbo, sin extraviarnos ni quedar sepultados bajo la avalancha incontenible de la información y las imágenes.

A treinta años de su deceso, el tigre argentino, el gaucho más universal, aún descansa en Ginebra, pero su obra y su nombre siguen más inmortales que nunca. Para mí, aunque Borges no vivió para verlo, el mundo actual está lleno de su ficción. Si alguien quiere conocer el aleph, por ejemplo, puede leer y releer ese relato borgiano, pero también puede conectarse desde una computadora o un teléfono celular a internet, y en ese mismo momento tener en un solo punto todos los puntos del mundo.

 

RODRIGO AGUILAR OREJUELA
Bio: (Ecuador – 1970) Writer, ghostwriter, journalist, editor, columnist, I have worked as a journalist of opinion and information for twenty five years at different press media institutions from Ecuador. In 2004 I was the absolute winner in the First National Essay Contest. My books: Colombia-Ecuador: an Example of Coexistence (2004), The Charm of Cuenca (editions in Spanish, English, French, and German, 2005), Market, Barrio and City: History of the Ninth (2009), The Hummingbird’s Flight (2011), Like a Thistle: spoken portrait of Eudoxia Estrella (2013), Monologue of a Castaway (2016).

Personal Goals by Yves Johnson

ppWe must control what we’re doing to be successful.  As we clarify our goals we are able to help steer our organizations.  It’s easy for a leader to lose her way.  The result will be disastrous.  The same can be said for the individual!

“If you don’t have personal goals, you’re controlled by those who do.” – Garrison Wynn

Imagine if we have no goals, or a list of the ‘things we want to do,’ or ‘things we want to achieve.’ Life would have absolutely no direction. That’s why goals become important — because they give our life a definite direction, force us to think about what we hope to achieve in life, and take the necessary steps to achieve the same. It helps us at several levels because while we set about achieving those goals, we also acquire numerous skills and qualities. All in all, setting goals helps in our growth as human beings.

Here are a couple of suggestions I provide participants in my seminars:

Career – What level do you want to reach in your career, or what do you want to achieve?

Financial – How much do you want to earn, by what stage? How is this related to your career goals?

Once you’ve realized what your goals are, the next step is to list them out. There are a number of ways of going about this. You can list them under categories that pertain to ‘general,’ ‘professional’ or ‘personal’ goals and then further list them out under the ‘long term’ and ‘short term’ goals. Now, you need to put some action to your goals. If you don’t, you’re not going to progress much farther.

One last question.  Are you where you want to be? How far are you away from your goals?

This is your action plan for the week. Simply write out one thing you can do to get closer to your goal. Then, complete the thing you have written down.

I hope this very brief overview can help you get started on the road towards achieving your goals. I am confident you can get there. Now, stop reading this blog and get to work on your goals. I know you can do it.

 

Yves Johnson is a Speaker an Author.  He has written two books and a varied collection of articles and blogs. He is the President of Christ Is My Savior Ministries and CEO of CornerStone Leadership Consulting.  He’s a sought out speaker and offers a wide range of leadership and development seminars for both Faith Based and non-Faith Based organizations. You can find his books at http://ow.ly/B4aGp

Island Life: Mountain Lion – by Delinda McCann

cougar

I find something special about living on an island. Perhaps a special energy is created when water flows around a piece of land. I’m not certain what creates the special weirdness that permeates Vashon. Perhaps the whispering of the trees create an almost audible sense of the alien. Whatever the source of the funky Vashon spirit, I love it.

Now, when I talk of a Vashon spirit or special weirdness, I don’t mean that we all express this spirit in the same manner. No. Each person expresses their own special brand of Vashon Weird.

For example, this summer we have a mountain lion living on the island. I’m fairly certain I saw it over a year ago as did one other person. Since no more sightings occurred for over a year, I didn’t pay any attention to it other than checking overhanging trees for predators when I’m out walking. This summer, we’ve had a half-dozen confirmed sightings that we track in our own little facebook group. This group has become one of my greatest joys for people watching. Islanders have divided themselves into several groups.

Naturalists post links to wildlife sites where the uninformed can learn everything they want to know about our resident pumas or mountain lions or cougars as they are called in various places. The Naturalists regularly run through their little speech about how to keep safe in the woods. Woods pretty much cover the entire island. I have about a hundred trees on my one and a half acre, so the advise is needed everywhere.

The Science Deniers respond to the Naturalists by calling them names and insisting that they don’t know anything about wild animals, and the big cat is going to eat them at any moment. Delightfully, nothing anybody says gets past the Science Denier’s fantasy of immediate Armageddon triggered by one very large cat.

Fantasy Islanders seldom leave the bars. They tend to be men of a certain age. They post daily about the cougar they met in Sporty’s Bar or at the Red Bicycle. According to them this cougar tried to pick them up. I don’t have the heart to tell them that any older women in the local bars are there for a drink not for younger men who have a questionable relationship with reality. These guys have detailed descriptions of their cougar sightings that include makeup and tight pants.

The Runners just want to go running in the woods, which is one of those activities the Naturalists say is a really bad idea. One intrepid runner who may have been a former Science Denier came across the cat one morning. He described it as much bigger than he imagined. He says he yelled at it. Neighbors say he screamed like a little girl. Whatever, the cat ran into the woods and The Runner slunk home to change his underwear.

The Cougs are graduates from Washington State University. I fall into this group. When I was in school we still had a live cougar mascot named Butch. I walked by his pen every day on my way to class. Like the other students I’d stop and say hi. I know how big Cougars are and what they sound like and how interested they are in people. Butch never acknowledged greetings or bothered to wake up when we talked to him. I suggested everybody on the island learn the WSU fight song to sing while running. This is good science since one way to avoid sighting things that might soil your underwear is to make noise. Other island WSU grads have taken the opportunity to report sightings of fellow Cougs in WSU sports paraphernalia. We are not appreciated.

The Gardeners just want to grow a few vegetables, some fruit and a lots of flowers. I’m also a member of this group although The Cougs are way more fun. Anyway, we want to enjoy the products of our gardening labor and maybe make a little money selling produce at the farmer’s market. The local deer are our enemies. They eat way more than their share. They killed the strawberry farms on the island. They’ve stolen flowers from my stand at the main intersection in Burton. They stand outside our deer fences looking for a way over, under, around, and through. Gardeners FB posts run something like, “Here kitty, kitty, kitty.” The Naturalists assure us a mountain lion eats fewer than fifty deer a year—not enough. The Naturalists are no fun either.

The Hunters were disappointed to learn that Vashon does not have a Cougar season this year. They tell us puma tastes like chicken and discuss what caliber weapon to use despite the fact that the only hunting guns allowed on the island are shotguns.

The Perpetually Terrified have been high on adrenalin ever since the first confirmed sighting of the mountain lion. This excitable group is certain this cougar, unlike every other cougar, will be attracted by their garbage or vegetable garden. This cougar lurks on roofs waiting for juicy human prey—we taste like pork, you know. The Perpetually Terrified are Science Deniers and half support the hunters, although they don’t believe in killing. They make daily calls to the Fish and Wildlife people to report the ferocious savage predator that will eat their children and pets. The poor fish and wildlife people patiently explain that it is not a problem animal, and no, they will not come and trap it and relocate it to the mountains. The Perpetually Terrified can be identified around town by the way they constantly look-over-their-shoulders, sit-with-their-backs-to-the-wall, and wear tin-foil vests—the better to confuse an attacking predator, you know.

At the end of the day when islanders of any persuasion go out to close the barn doors and bring the dog inside, we think about the bravado of our facebook posts and secretly fear the Perpetually Terrified might be right and the cougar will leap out of the dark shadows and eat us.

 

Delinda McCann is a mostly-retired social psychologist. During her professional career she worked with at risk youth and individuals with disabilities. Her research in the field of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome led her to become an advisor to several governments. To ease the stress created by working in the disabilities field, she took up gardening. Never one to do things in a small way, Delinda now runs a small farm and sells cut flowers. She writes general fiction based on her experience as a social psychologist. She has published five novels. She expresses her sense of humor in many of her short stories. She’s also published numerous professional articles on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and Youth At-Risk. The professional articles are rather academic and dry, but Delinda pulls what she knows about human behavior, disabilities and youth into her fiction.

You may purchase her books at: https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=Delinda+McCann
You may view her flowers, gardens and personal blog at: http://delindalmccann.weebly.com/index.html

 

WHAT’S NEXT? How Adversity has Changed My Life By Nancy Cole Silverman

I started writing the Carol Childs Mysteries when I was bucked out of my previous life. That’s right, bucked. If I substituted the B in that word for another more suitable letter – namely the letter F – you may have a more accurate description of how I felt.

Yes, I was #%-ucked!

You see after a long career in radio, I had launched The Equestrian News, a southern California newspaper I founded for the horsey-set. At the time, I thought I was literally in my heyday. Pun intended. I was like a little kid at the barn. I was there every day, and when I wasn’t at the stable I was having so much fun writing and reporting on horse shows and the like, that I never dreamed I would one day want to be doing anything else.

That is, until the day my horse spooked and my world changed.

My bulletproof horse, who I thought would never do such a thing, was frightened by a tractor. No doubt he thought it was a dinosaur, and he took off with me. And when the horse you’re riding is better than seventeen hands I can tell you that’s scary. To make a long story short: He ran. I held on. He stopped. I didn’t. I ended up going over his head and nearly breaking my neck and losing my hand. Fortunately I didn’t, but two surgeries later, and after a year of very painful rehabilitation – not to mention being told by the doc I couldn’t ride again – I found myself staring at a computer keyboard and wondering, so what’s next?

Prior to my accident, I had spent nearly twenty-five years working for news and talk radio stations. I had done everything from commercial copywriting to news, and because I was always one of those lean-in type of gals, I retired as the general manager of a sports talk radio station here in Los Angeles. At the time, there were only two female general managers in the market. Some might say it was a feather in my cap. I like to say, it’s proof that God has a sense of humor.

So that’s my background. And as I stared at the keyboard, I knew one thing. Writers write what they know and nobody knew the inner workings of a radio station like I did. The stories behind the mic? The personalities? The political workings of a station? I could have fun with that. Plus, I didn’t think it was very likely I’d get bucked off my desk chair, and that had a lot of appeal.

What I wanted more than anything was to create a different type of female protagonists, one that was more brain than brawn and who believed a microphone was more powerful than a forty-five.

Thus, Carol Childs, a thirty-nine-year-old, single working mother of two, was born. At least on the page, and along with her boss, Tyler Hunt, a twenty-one-year-old whiz kid who considers her the World’s Oldest Cub Reporter, I had a built-in conflict. Something I felt most women could relate to.

How about you? What experiences have you had that lead you to where you are today and influenced your writing?

Nancy Cole Silverman

Nancy Cole Silverman credits her twenty-five years in news and talk radio for helping her to develop an ear for storytelling. But it wasn’t until 2001 after she retired from news and copywriting that she was able to sit down and write fiction fulltime. Much of what Silverman writes about today she admits is pulled from events that were reported on from inside some of Los Angeles’ busiest newsrooms where she spent the bulk of her career. In the last ten years she has written numerous short stories and novelettes.

When Doing the Right Thing Turns out Wrong by Micki Peluso

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The day, like the week preceding it, started out dreary and overcast, but patches of blue soon poked through the dense clouds, offering a promise of bright sunshine. Then the doorbell rang and the weather was no longer a concern, as the safety of my small grandson became threatened and the lives of those who loved him, thrown into panic.

My 20-year-old daughter was in the downstairs den and answered the doorbell. She seemed to be speaking at great length and I assumed it was another magazine salesman spouting his pitch. Curiosity overcame me and I glanced out the front window in time to see a police car pulling out of my driveway. As I turned around, Nicole and 4-year-old Jesse, who had spent the night with us were coming up the stairs.

“What did the policeman want?” I asked.

“He wanted to see Jesse,” Nicole answered. “Someone reported him as a missing child.”

“What?!”

“Don’t get upset. I explained that Jesse’s been with us since he was born. But you should have seen the picture of the missing boy. He looks exactly like Jesse.”

“You should have called me.”

“Don’t worry, Mom, it’s all taken care of.”

But it wasn’t. Half an hour later, two police cars pulled up and six policemen, including a sergeant, were at my door. By the time I got downstairs, they were crowded inside the living room of my other daughter’s downstairs apartment. Jesse, who had been visiting his aunt, was backed up flat against the back of her recliner, his face masked with fear. I reached for him and as I picked him up, he whispered, “Grandma, get these guys outta here and lock the door. They think I’m some missing boy.”

“It’s all right, Jess,” I said out loud. “We’ll just tell them that they have the wrong little boy.”

“They won’t believe us, Grandma,” he whispered back.

“Of course they will. Don’t be frightened. You know that policemen help people.”

I put him down and he returned to his previous stance, backed as far into the recliner as his small body would allow; his expression guarded and apprehensive. I would not realize until later that Jesse’s instincts for self-preservation were far stronger than my own.

My two daughters and I spent nearly an hour speaking with the policemen, who were all pleasant and non-threatening. Apparently a young couple in our neighborhood had seen a poster of a missing child at the post office and then saw Jesse riding his tricycle up and down my block and reported him to the police.

The resemblance to the missing boy was uncanny. In the picture he was even wearing a cowboy hat similar to the Australian bush hat that Jesse wore and coveted. We gathered up pictures of Jesse and pointed out to the policemen that while Jesse resembled the missing boy, who was two-years-old in the picture, when Jesse was two he had looked entirely different. They seemed to agree.

I gave them a run-down on Jesse’s life; how he had come to Staten Island at six-weeks-old with his mother and older brother after his parent’s divorce; how I had babysat the boys while their mother worked and how, until recently, when she remarried, the three of them had lived in the downstairs apartment. I was confident that they believed me.

Then the sergeant looked at Jesse, who was no more relaxed than before and said, “Would you like to take a ride with me?”

“No!” Jesse answered, a stony look on his face.

“Jess,” I said, “Wouldn’t it be fun to ride in a police car?”

“No, it wouldn’t,” Jesse stated emphatically, pressing himself even further into the back of the chair.

“Listen,” I said to the sergeant. “Why don’t you drive over to our daughter’s home and she can show you his birth certificate and answer any other questions?”

They agreed and wrote down the directions. Jesse, clinging tightly to my leg, watched them leave, then insisted that I close and lock all the doors. I called his mother and told her what had happened.

“My God!” she said. “How can I prove he’s my child? Birth certificates can be forged. Mom, don’t let Jesse out of your sight!”

Eventually the matter was cleared up and the police were convinced that a mistake had been made. But the nightmare was far from over. Ironically, my daughter also resembled the description of the missing boy’s mother, who had taken her son and disappeared.

I remembered having asked one of the policemen if it was possible that a private detective was looking for the missing boy and if we would have to watch Jesse carefully for some time. The man had looked at me somberly and said, “If he was mine, I would.”

By the day’s end the entire family was a nervous wreck, as the ramifications of what had happened and still might occur, became increasingly clear. Only then did we realize that the police, upon returning with extra men and a superior officer could have and probably would have taken Jesse from us if they believed that he was the missing child. Had my child been missing, I would have expected them to do no less. And only then did we realize that the boy’s family and/or hired detective might still take him first and ask questions later.

What scared us the most was that the father of the missing boy had not seen his son since he was two-years-old. Jesse, at four, looked just like what the father would expect his son to look like. Jesse, was frightened, acutely aware of what had nearly happened. He feared realistically for his safety.

“Nicole,” he said to his aunt, ” If I get taken somewhere and I can’t get back home, I’ll always remember you.” He had nightmares for weeks, clinging to his mother and me, and often cried for no apparent reason.

Jesse’s mother called the Missing Children Hotline, and explained the situation, begging them to explain to the missing boy’s father that a mistake had been made, and that he was welcome to come to New York and see for himself that Jesse was not his son. The person she spoke to told her that he was aware of that particular case and that he would handle it. My daughter asked that he please get back to her. He never did. We also tried to contact the boy’s father ourselves, with no success. We felt as if we were fighting an invisible threat with no means to protect ourselves. Were we believed, or were we being watched?

From that day on, we guarded Jesse carefully, watched him every moment and never left him alone; always careful not to let him sense our fear. But as time passed and Jesse forgot the incident, we were never able to relax completely, never again able to feel secure.

The paradox to this story is that the couple reporting Jesse as a missing child did precisely the right thing for the right reasons. The police responding to the report took exactly the right action. Anyone spotting a possible missing child has a moral obligation to report it. I would not have hesitated notifying the authorities if I thought I had spotted a missing child. And if, God forbid, my own child was missing, I would demand and expect immediate police action, willing to go to any lengths to recover my child. Yet in doing all the right things, a family was given the scare of their lives, and a small boy was made to feel frightened and insecure. That day, which had shown so much promise turned, albeit through the best intentions, into an ominous nightmare from which we would be a long time awakening.

 

Micki Peluso began writing after a personal tragedy, which lead to publication in Victimology: An International Magazine and a 25-year career in Journalism. She’s been staff writer for one major newspaper and freelanced for two more. Twelve of her award winning short fiction and slice of life stories are published in anthologies, magazines and e-zines. Her debut book was published in 2012; a funny family memoir of love, loss and survival, called, . . .AND THE WHIPPOORWILL SANG which won the Nesta CBC Silver Award for writing that builds character. She is presently working on a collection of short fiction, slice of life stories and essays, in a book called, DON’T PLUCK THE DUCK. Her debut children’s book, ‘The Cat Who Wanted a Dog’ will be released in May, 2016.

http://www.mallie1025.blogspot.com/

WHY I LIKE ASTROLOGY Hazel Dixon-Cooper

 

 

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My fascination with the stars began on summer evenings spent lying on my back in the grass staring up at the darkening sky. As most of us did, I learned to spot the North Star, the Big and Little Dippers and a few other constellations. I wondered whether men from Mars existed and were lying on their backs in the red dust wondering the same thing about us.

My introduction to astrology came through newspaper horoscopes and monthly predictions in Dell Horoscope magazine and the Bedside Astrologer in Cosmopolitan I read as a teen. However, I was hooked by Linda Goodman and her uncanny explanation of my Pisces self in her Sun Signs book which I read until the cover fell off and the spine collapsed. I bought more books on astrology and sent for a mail-order course. That led me to the myth and archetypes behind this ancient practice and opened up a new world.

As a novice, I knew just enough to dazzle my friends and a few sympathetic relatives with the basics about their Sun signs. Then I began to cast charts, a slow process of patience and precision before astrological software was available. The more I learned the more in awe I became of this ancient art. A natal chart contains layers and nuances that carry us beyond the sun to dig deep into our hidden selves and reveal our gifts, our faults, and our possibilities. I am certain that I could study these planetary configurations and the myths behind them for a lifetime and always discover something new.

Many scientists work hard to prove that astrology is not valid. Many astrologers work just as hard to prove it is. I only know that since Babylonian times, astrologers have guided people by interpreting the movement of the planets in our solar system as it relates to human behavior. Every civilization has a form of astrology designed to help people find inner peace and live vital lives. I believe that this ancient self-help tool is the first psychology. Today, many psychologists and psychiatrists are also accomplished astrologers, and countless others regularly consult with astrologers in order to gain greater insight into their clients.

Astrology validates itself to me when I connect with another human being and help that person realize a trait or a life pattern and understand how they can change or benefit from it. Astrology proves its value in the link between hard fact and elusive truth, the mathematical precision of a birth chart blended with the intuitive interpretation of the archetype that creates a complete story. Astrology challenges me to use it carefully and well and to find new ways to connect the patterns that reveal a personality or predict a trend.

I like that astrology gives personality to the planets. I like that the birth chart is a unique snapshot of our potential and paths in life. I like the story that the archetypes reveal as I study someone’s chart. I’m not sure how or why it works. And I like that too because I’m still amazed by how it all makes sense, even in today’s high-tech world.

 

Hazel Dixon-Cooper is the author of the internationally best-selling Rotten Day humorous astrology book series. Her latest book, Harness Astrology’s Bad Boy, is about Pluto, the planet of transformation. She can be reached through her website, www.hazeldixoncooper.com and on Facebook, www.facebook.com/hazel.dixoncooper.

Backyard Fossils by Michael Ajax

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It was a crisp spring morning when my son and I headed toward the pond in the woods behind our house. Heavy dew beaded on the thick grass and soaked our boots as we headed to the trailhead that attached to the yard. On both sides of the raised trail patches of soft muck awaited the unwary. Loads of deer traveled this narrow path daily, and their tiny hooves cut the fragile soil, making it especially soft and muddy.

Carrying a shovel, a cup, and a jar, we ducked under the curvy sassafras limbs and slogged forward. Our goal this morning was to capture some recently hatched tadpoles in the pond that formed each spring from the snowmelt and move them to a deep pond in the front yard. We hoped that a few of these frogs might choose to live there.

My son, about seven at the time, loved every excursion we made into the backwoods. A stand of aging shagbark hickories marked the front border of the woods and a pair of monstrous oaks stood at the far end near the creek that ran north and south. Every time we stepped out of the grassy yard, and onto the muddy path leading to the backwoods, it was like entering another world where nature made all the rules.

Since the backwoods had always been a low area, no farmers or developers ever disturbed it. Going there was truly like walking back in time to what Michigan might have been a thousand years ago—a wild and untamed thicket brimming with wildlife. Thick bushes and blossoming pussy willows blended with the wide cattails around the two acre water hole. Animal tracks, of various shapes and sizes, led us to the pond’s edge. Bending low, we spotted a few tadpoles swimming in the deeper water. As we expected, none were within reach. Not wanting to sink into mud up to our knees, we had a different plan. With the shovel, we would dig a small hole and make a tadpole swimming area at the edge so the tadpoles could swim to us. It seemed a perfect plan.

But as I began to dig, a few stones blocked the shovel. In truth, so many rocks were buried just below the soft surface that they threatened to foil my plan entirely. Not deterred, however, I dug even deeper. From below the murky water that rushed into the hole, a rock different than the others became visible. The first ones had been standard fare, mostly rounded field stones, dark in color, with bits of red or blue or brown in them. But this last rock was different. It was ivory white with long, sharp edges.

My son pulled the pale rock close and rubbed at the course, grimy surface with his fingers. Then his big eyes looked up at me. “What are all these tiny holes for?”

I couldn’t help but smile. “This is not just any rock. It’s sandstone.  All these tiny holes are the remains of an ancient sea sponge.”

“You mean this is a fossil? We saw some in science class, but they were tiny, not like this.”

“Fossils come in all shapes and sizes. At one point, ages ago, Michigan was under the ocean. Sponges and coral were some of the creatures that must’ve lived here.”

My son’s eyes gleamed. He knew this rock was special.

After cleaning more of the mud off the hardened sponge, we noticed that half a dozen tadpoles had entered the newly deepened section of the pond. Catching them with the cup was easy.

As we headed back to the house, I grabbed the shovel and cup. My son had his sponge fossil in one hand and the jar of tadpoles in the other. On his face he wore the biggest smile I had ever seen.

I knew this would not be the end of our fossil exploring, in fact, it was just the beginning.

 

About the Author

Michael Ajax is the father of two curious kids and the author of a novel about dinosaurs. He enjoys spending time with both his son and his daughter, telling them stories to challenge their imaginations—while also keeping them out of mischief. During one cross country vacation, Michael and his kids spotted a unique rock shop. They had to stop. With breathtaking fossils surrounding them, the topic of dinosaurs came up. The next few hours of their drive quickly passed as Michael told of a wondrous adventure that began in the Badlands. This story eventually became his novel.

Michael’s novel, Tomb of the Triceratops, follows three high school friends to the Badlands of Montana where they search for a paleontologist that claimed to have discovered a portal to another dimension were dinosaurs escaped to. What’s your favorite dinosaur?

Check out Michael’s website at www.michaelajax.com and get a look at his book on Amazon at http://tinyurl.com/tombtriceratops

SOME STORIES HAVE NO ENDINGS by Bonnie Hearn Hill

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Winter had settled in, and Central California carried a sharp, stringing cold that made me appreciate the warmth of the classroom as I entered it that night. With a year of teaching writing behind me, and several students who were now published, I had gained confidence in my ability to help other writers reach their goals.

That night just after class began, an attractive, dark-haired woman dressed in white entered the room, walked to the back, and slid into a seat next to Raquel Aleman, one of my regulars.

With shaking hands, Raquel read an essay that night. Unlike her bilingual children’s stories, “I Fought Back” described Raquel’s abusive marriage and her struggle to overcome her fear when her husband shoved her into the bedroom closet as he frequently did when he brought women to their home. This time, she burst out and confronted both the shaken husband and his woman.

When Raquel finished reading, everyone applauded, the first time that had happened in my class.

As students praised Raquel, the woman in white looked straight ahead, as if she didn’t hear.

“I’ve never told this to anyone,” Raquel said to the class. “I can’t begin to explain how free I feel, and how scared.”

We talked then about how the only things that own us are those of which we cannot speak. We talked about possible markets for her essay. Although we critiqued numerous manuscripts that night, Raquel’s was the one everyone praised as they left the room.

Usually quiet, she was animated as she paused at the door. “See you at the Robin,” she told me.

After class each week, many of us met at Red Robin, and some of our best ideas happened there. This was the first night Raquel would join us.

Students continued to file out until only the woman in white and I remained. Her black hair was pulled back from her face, her lips a deep red. Those are the only details I recall, and even they are suspect. When I think about her now, I’m sure she wore a white suit. In other attempts to recall her, I’ve told myself it was a white dress similar to one I used to own.

We stepped outside, and I started toward my car. “Which way are you heading?” I asked.

“The same way you are, I think.” Her voice was low and controlled.

Panic attacks hid out in the parking lot. Lights could play in weird ways, and even when I thought I was balanced and happy, a crippling wave waited behind every corner. I was grateful to have this stranger with me, grateful and curious. Side by side, we headed through the cold night air toward the parking lot, and I wondered if I should invite her to meet us at Red Robin.

“I liked your class,” she said. “I’m sorry I joined late. I just saw it in the school catalog yesterday.”

“I’m glad you came,” I told her. “Have you written before?”

“Only journals, but I can never get it down. I thought maybe this would help.”

We reached my car, and I leaned against the back passenger door. Something was making me anxious. If I didn’t have the solid surface against my back, I wouldn’t have been able to stand there.

“Maybe it’s time,” I said. “I’ve heard that when the student is ready, the teacher appears.”

“I hope so.” She spoke in a clear tone devoid of emotion. “Several years ago, my daughter was killed by a drunk driver.”

I hadn’t expected that, and certainly not in such a calm, practiced tone. “I’m so sorry,” I said. “I didn’t mean to get too personal.”

“Don’t apologize. I wanted to tell you. It destroyed my life.” Again, she spoke in a matter-of-fact way, as if she had rehearsed this speech for me. “Almost a year after that, my son died of a drug overdose.”

“That’s terrible. What did you do?” I didn’t know how else to respond.

“Part of me was furious with him for doing that, especially since he knew that my daughter’s death had nearly destroyed me. I was so devastated, so…” She stopped and stepped back as if she had second thoughts. “I know you want to go meet the others. Is it okay for me to tell you this?”

“It’s okay.” I felt glued to the ground. For whatever reason, I needed to listen to her.

She sighed, as if attempting to collect her thoughts. “I went to work for the IRS. It was easy because no one cared, and everything was rigid. I had to be on time. I couldn’t talk to anyone. Do you understand?”

“In a way I do,” I said. “You didn’t want to feel.”

“Do you think writing will help?” she asked.

“All I can tell you is it’s a great healer.”

“I believe that.” She glanced around the dim parking lot at the other students who were laughing and talking just a few feet from us. “I can’t share this with anyone at work. I set it up that way, of course. My marriage is over. Both of my children are dead. I’m not just grieving. I’m angry.”

“You’ll be safe here.” I believed that, and I felt connected to her and to the honesty of her words. “If you don’t want to read in class, you don’t have to. Just try to start writing what you feel. Don’t edit yourself or worry about what anyone will think. No one will see it unless you want them to, I promise.”

“That’s what I need.” For the first time, she smiled. “When I heard Raquel read tonight, I wondered how it would feel to be that open.”

“Raquel didn’t get there overnight,” I said. She got there by doing the work.”

The last car left the lot, and I realized my hands were numb from the cold.

The woman glanced at me and then at her watch, although I doubt that she could have seen it in the darkness. “I’m so sorry I took your time. I have never told anyone what I shared with you just now.”

“It’s all right,” I told her. “Remember what I said about healing. I know writing can do that for you. It has for me.”

We talked longer, close to thirty minutes.

Then I watched her walk to her car and realized that I had somehow slipped into panic mode. I, who had been leaning against the passenger door, was so weak that I had to feel my way to get into the driver’s seat. Inside, I took deep breaths and tried to calm the crazed flutter of my heart. It was as if I were expressing the anxiety the woman in white could not.

She never returned.

At first, I made excuses. Perhaps she had to work late. Maybe something else had come up. But the moment I walked into my classroom the next week and saw the empty seat next to Raquel, I knew.

“It’s because she confessed to you,” a friend told me later. “Every time she looked at you, she would have to remember.”

I wonder.

What happened to the woman in white? Why didn’t she return? Did she ever write? Could I have said or done something to encourage her?

At first, I thought I had failed her. Then I had to remind myself that our encounter that night was about her, not about me. I may have been only one person on her path to share that story, only one of many strangers who would bring her closer to coming to grips with it.

Raquel sold her personal essay that year and much later, her memoir. In the twenty years I taught that class, we celebrated many successes, including my book deal with a major publisher for my first six suspense novels.

For a long time, I tried to remember the name of the woman in white, as if that detail would anchor other memories and maybe an explanation. I can’t believe that I would let a student float in and out of my classroom without asking her name.

Some stories have no endings, no structure to contain them, no red bows on top. When I share with others what I recall of this one, I always hear the same question. “Could you have imagined her?”

I’ve asked myself that as well. No one else with whom I’ve discussed it, including Raquel, remembers seeing her that evening.

Was the woman in white some part of me, a metaphor for that quality in all of us who dare to confront our pain and try to put our voices on paper? Was she part of my own healing?

No. The woman in my classroom and that parking lot was a real as I am. One night many years ago, she stepped into my life and allowed me a glimpse into hers. Even now, I’m not sure what I saw, or why.

 

 

Bonnie Hearn Hill’s many mysteries can be found at http://www.amazon.com/Bonnie-Hearn-Hill/e/B001HMUYPQ