Source: Talking About Slavery TODAY


I am repeating this blog post for a friend’s view and writing students. I was emphasizing movement, and the reference was how Emma Bovary moved; I tried the technique and out came Toasting Resolutions

Originally posted on Sorrygnat, World Citizen:


The toast, more than slightly burned and twisted, rose with her pale limpid hand, as Emily, a follower of Ron Paul, Edward Dash, Holley Holes and other limpid like creatures, spoke with as much force as she could emanate, all the while reclining in an odd twisted way on the mint green julep chaise lounge, redecorated since it birthed into the world of her grandmother Nenny, who never had a wrinkle in her life, and Emily thought, as her head with its faint gossamer curls of faded L’Oreal Red Fire Engine Red, and Nenny who never had a thought in her life, pondered, her Wet N’Wild Lipstick number 2002, the color that ran in Russian department stores for so long, cracked and a bit of dryness seeped into her part glossy, but dry and cracked upper lip, and she went on, pushed into the stale breeze of conversation about…

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The Ballad of a Small Player

Lawrence Osborne

back to book


September 12, 2014 //


Isbn 978-o-8041-3797-3; eBook Isbn 978-o-8041-3798-othe Ballad of a Small Player by Lawrence Osborne is a riveting account of risk and obsession in Macau’s casinos. I love Blogging for Books, and preview a book from them once or month. I saw the book’s cover, which I liked, and thought, what do I know about Macau?

The world I know of Macau is poles apart from the small player, Lord Doyle, protagonist in this novel lives to permeate his life with gambling, drinking and dalliances with the occasional lady of the night. He gambles and Macau’s casinos and baccarat tables pull him into winning and losing, and spiraling down into loss and addiction.

The anchor of Doyle’s current existence is a lot of money, alcohol and gambling and winning or losing. Doyle fled England to escape prosecution: absconding with funds. Perfect amount of money for immersion in gambling parlors, one shady one after another, where people are mere ghosts of personalities, showing facades, cracked selves intent only on winning, drinking, and hooking up with women. Osborne touches the marrow of addiction, and its slimy tunnels, and for a brief time in the novel it seems Doyle meets a prostitute who rescues him, likes him, even loves him. An interlude away from the rain slicked streets of Macau show an almost budding of a human spirit in Doyle, but true to his core, he returns to the tables.

The atmosphere is haunting and fugue like, yet written in very clear language. Lord Doyle is lost, and I don’t like reading about empty characters, but they exist and are very much a part of the fabric of life. I read this with some reluctance, but I admired the writing, the questions the book posed, the true portrayal of emptiness and angst of so many humans, and I will look up his other books. So insight is gained.

Thanks Blogging for Books

ISBN 978-0-8041-3663-1

Thanks to Blogging for Books, I just finished, A Spy Among Friends – Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal.

Certainly a good read, one which incredulity spikes about every other page. Kim Philby was known as one of the greatest spies in the 20th Century. Ben Macintyre has written a suspenseful novel, and he has based tremendous psychological insight into personal papers and never-before-seen intelligence files.

I normally am not a reader of spies or World War II. Anyone who wants an intricate view of the range of events and plans and depth of intrigue occurring during World War II will not be disappointed.

It is a prodigious book, clear to follow, except for this reader who at times was boggled by the duplicity of so many spies, and who trusted whom. Basically, Kim Philby was a product of good schooling, elite circles, exclusive clubs. Sprinkle long night of drink and carousing and the cavorting wiles of spies, albeit, against or for, whatever country, and the book becomes a page turner.

Kim Philby was unknown to anyone close to him and duplicitous to all. Many were fooled by his being a double spy for England and the USSSR.

This reader lived in Russia, really Ukraine and Belarus for a 3 year period with some trips back to the states. We were there really with the concept of peace and promotion of a different concept of the oneness of humanity. We were ordinary citizens meeting the rank and file in the society, a society encased in shame. The people were grief stricken that they had been so deluded. Communist changed into business suits, the mafia kept on keeping on, and yet the society opened up.

The intricacies of the spy trade command a horrific attention. So much intrigue; so much mathematical callousness as far as ordinary people were concerned. Philby caused 100s to die, but he remained very British, very club oriented, very alcoholic. None of his wives really knew him. They thought they did. His children adored him. How would they know? He does come across in this view as a father who cared, but what a price he pays.

I ended my horrified reading wondering was it total power, just being ahead of the game, any game, and why not two competing powerful nations. How could he be so deluded by Communism, and Stalin? The egos and delusions of spy networks and the crumbling times we all live in.

At any rate, it was a compelling read, but shocking. My questions remain. Was Philby a sociopath? What compelled him? Such blind allegiance. What really motivated him?

As an aside, I’ve been watching Manhattan on PBS and the same power hungry intrigues are revealed as the story of the atom bomb unfolds. Obsession, ego and power – oh dear.

Once again, thanks Blogging for Books! great way to spread the word about good reads!


If I were younger, I’d visit Georgia; as it is I subscribe to an enchanting blog: Bassa’s Blog. I don’t visit it enough, but I found the Georgia About blog through Bassa. The modern architecture in Georgia is fascinating.

Originally posted on Georgia About:

The introduction of Public Service Halls throughout Georgia is one of many important reforms that are improving the lives of its citizens.

Public Service Hall in Mestia

What are Public Service Halls?

Tagged ‘Everything in One Space’, Public Service Halls are essentially one-stop-shops delivering key services, such as public access to public records, issuing of passports and IDs and business registration.

Because services are housed in one building there is no longer a need to visit different governmental offices.

This can save a huge amount of time and cost.

Each Public Service Hall houses the functions of:

Civil Registry Agency

National Agency of Public Registry

National Archives of Georgia

National Bureau of Enforcement

Notary Chamber of Georgia.

The first Public Service Hall in Georgia was opened at the end of May 2011 in Batumi. Since then, further Public Service Halls have opened in Kutaisi, Rustavi, Mestia, Ozurgeti and Gurjaani. A construction program…

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Somehow I feel very connected to this blogger; she’s just put out an interesting piece!

Originally posted on 35andupcynicismonhold:

Last February 25 was the 28th anniversary of the EDSA Revolution, also known as People Power I, in Philippine history.  It happened from February 22 to 25, 1986. People gathered in the Epifanio De los Santos Avenue(EDSA) to topple the rule of then President, Ferdinand Marcos, dubbed a despot. The rest of the so-called civilized world hailed the event as a triumph of democracy, a glorious punch on totalitarianism. I was still in high school in the province, that time… Most Filipino bloggers have been born after that historic event, coincidentally. They have little or no idea what it was like to live under the Martial Law: an iron hand, so to speak…

image of EDSA I Revolution, in 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution unseated a dictator and enabled free press, once again… /

My first serious blog talks about life 30 plus years ago, life as it was lived in a barrio –…

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A Life Apart – L. Y. Marlow 9780307719393

A Life Apart

L. Y. Mar

This is a historical novel dealing with race, World War II, specifically Pearl Harbor, relationships of the black and white kind, and a love story. The title A Life Apart implies to the reader more than one meaning. The author is indeed a , and as she takes us deeper and deeper into the novel, complexities of other families, life of African-Americans, how they differ, and a coming to love. It’s gentle, and it’s a story about love, about skin color privilege and hatred, and human beings caught on the corners or jagged edges of history’s transitions. I’m from Boston, and went to secretarial school in Roxbury. I was born a little before World War II, and grew up in the suburbs of Boston. I was oblivious to racial prejudice until I came to California in 1992, discovered the Baha’i Faith and the concept of the oneness of humankind.This book is important. There are no strident notes or harsh retaliations to the way whites treated our fellow African-Americans (grievously, beyond measure), and the author writes about these times, which are exceedingly important. If we are to know and love each other, and realize skin color is an illusion, we have to know of our insides, our hurts, our triumphs, frailties and joys. A Life Apart is a compelling story, and it works on many levels. I definitely recommend it. I read this book because I signed up for Blogging for Books, a worthy adventure in itself. Otherwise I might have missed A Life Apart. My life is enriched because of reading this. I think readers will hear more from L. Y. Marlow. She is also author of Color Me Butterfly, which I intend to track down as soon as I finish this review. Kudos to this writer! Thanks again Blogging for Books!

Image Remember the name “Koren Zailckas,” cuz that’s what I did.  I read Smashed, her first book, and I was mesmerized. I also read Fury her second book.   Forget that as far as age, if I were a tree, I’d have a lot of rings around me.  Koren Zailckas is a freshyoung writer, with unique turns of phrase, and in Smashed she quotes Mary Karr and others, with whom I have kindred feelings for and read everything by them.

For some reason, I thought I’d read Mother, Mother, but must have been my wish list looming largely.  Mother, Mother is a story of evil and the face of banality.  That’s the only thing I remember of Hannah Arendt – evil is banal, and she was speaking of the Holocaust.

Mother, Mother is a miniature holocaust about to happen, sneaks up upon the reader, this reading having been taken immediately the second paragraph, “On this particular Saturday, mother was both a n oun and a verb.  An operative verb for the whole novel could be fraught, but the freshness of her images, and comic views sneak in.  I was engrossed.  Her language is tight, and post-traumatic syndrome formed in clouds within my mind, as I gripped page after page, not wanting to put this book down.

Slowly and skillfully diabolic intent emerges and fuses with Violet’s coming awareness of her mother’s pernicious hatred.  The plot is gripping, and I couldn’t put the book down.  It’s about a mother’s hatred and narcissism, her past abuse and her catapulting  hatred in passive aggressive ways into her children.  What a horror story.

Zailckas splits the story between her version of the mother, and of Will, her younger brother’s version.   They have such alternative views about the same mother.  This was a fabulous read, and I hope many people become fans of Koren Zailckas.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.  I am like an untrained dalmation when I like something, a cause, a piece of Kabob, but particularly books and writing styles.  I teach creative writing, and feel intensely privileged to have a blog and read glorious writers like Koren Zailckas



A friend’s take on Beware the Jabberwock…. delightful

Originally posted on Uneasy Rider... travels & writings:

jabberwockinaspicIt was four o’clock in the afternoon, and our mother had already hauled out the big iron pot to start broiling things for dinner. We lived way out in the boonies and we had to make do with what we could grow on our own, or track down. Mother was rattling beamish proud of us and pleased beyond imagination with what we’d captured that day, for our catch far exceeded even her wildest expectations, not to mention our own, and proved beyond all doubt our worth as consummate hunters. We won’t confess that an extraordinary degree of good luck had a hand in it.

Before we ventured out this day, however, she had lined up all five of us outside our hut like soldiers for a few cautionary words of advice.

“Boys . . .” Here she paused and warily eyed our sister, Prudence — a misnomer if there ever…

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China DollsChina Dolls by Lisa See
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I am a fan of Lisa See, and I read a lot about China, particularly in narrative form. She is a story teller and keeps the reader close to the page, hesitant to put her books down. I revered her Mom also, Carolyn See – what a family of writers.

I loved the detail, the history of the time, the breaking away from tradition and the courage of the three women. Highly recommend this book!

The Uncaged Voice

Available free upon request at

2nd QTR, 2014




Dear Family of Friends,


        As Mother‘s Day approaches at the time of writing this edition of the newsletter, there are many emotions in the air here at the Central California Women‘s Facility. Looking around, there are mothers and grandmothers everywhere. Those of us who never had children are somebody‘s child, and therefore, we, too, feel a loss as the holiday nears. It is a day of celebration, but also one of reflection. We are each given the opportunity to reflect on the fact that we didn‘t have to be here instead of at home. It sort of has a way of making you appreciate all the more that mother-daughter bond in your life.


        I‘ve asked other inmates to share their own thoughts and feelings on this subject for this issue. A few stepped forward, willing to express themselves.


        In another article, a juvenile offender that was sentenced as an adult offered to write about her personal perspective on her experience in the system. As an individual woman, she wanted to join our voices with her own thoughts and be heard.


        I‘m happy to report that Michele Garfinkel, the attorney appointed to me at my last parole hearing, has joined our team. She will have her own column on parole issues that specifically affect lifers, as this is her specialty. It is a privilege to have a true professional join our quarterly publication.


        We thank you again and again, for not only reading our Uncaged Voices, but for sharing it with others. Please, as always, feel free to photocopy, post on social media, or have others join the e-mail list to begin receiving it themselves. Our goal afer all, is to reach as many people as possible. Your efforts to help achieve that are greatly appreciated.



                                                     TC & Mama P









By Michele Garfinkel, Esq.



            My name is Michele Garfinkel.  I had the privilege of representing TC at her last Board hearing.   I instantly felt connected to her and her mother after hearing their story.  During our conversations, TC asked me to contribute to The Uncaged Voice.  I am honored to do so and would like to take this opportunity to introduce myself.

            I have been representing inmates for almost a decade.  Due to injustices I witnessed growing up, I went to law school with the intent to make a difference.  I have found my calling in working with life inmates and have decided to devote my practice to lifers.  Being able to witness the rehabilitative process has been the most fulfilling work I have done to date.

            The purpose of my column in The Uncaged Voice is to answer your questions and address the issues you find most important.  I will be accepting questions and/or requests for topics via mail or email.  I will also do my best to keep you up to date on new developments in the parole process as the process is currently going through many changes. The goal of my column is not to give legal advice, but to assist you and your loved ones in better understanding the journey before you. Please use the email designated below so as not overwhelm our hard working editor. 

I look forward to being a part of The Uncaged Voice family.


Michele Garfinkel, Esq.

11310 Prospect Drive

Suite 10  PMB 53

Jackson, CA 95642





Once a Year – by Connie (Huerta)


            Some people say that Mother‘s Day isn‘t a real holiday but more of a commercial event. Whether they are individuals without children or don‘t have a healthy relationship with their own mother, or both, I do not know. The only thing that I can say for sure is that for myself, it is a day of both joy and heartache.


            I have been incarcerated for over a decade and in all that time I‘ve seen my children once a year for the past ten years, and only on Mother‘s Day weekend. My own mother‘s health has declined with age and diabetes. My father has been gone for a good part of my life; it‘s almost like he was never there at all. I have one sibling, a sister who judges me, saying she‘d never have committed the crime that I did. That is easy to say when you‘re not the one being beaten and raped. She puts herself above me and believes that I have forfeited my parental rights to see my children, given that I killed their father. I guess it‘s easier to condemn shoes you have no clue how to walk in.


            I‘m fortunate to have an aunt who knows a thing or two about domestic violence and Intimate Partner Battering. She volunteers at a women‘s shelter. Since my mother could no longer travel here – the middle of nowhere – given her health, my aunt began bringing my son and daughter on Mother‘s Day weekend five years ago. My son turns 18 two weeks after our next visit. He‘ll be able to bring his sister on his own once that happens.


            It is not easy being a mother in prison, watching your children grow up in pictures. Our choices are our own but we‘re not the only ones suffering the consequences. Unlike many others here, I have a release date in four years. I am so blessed to not be a lifer, and I learned quickly that in the blink of an eye, anyone could be, with one bad decision. It has been very difficult not being able to see my children more often, but by the grace of God, I do see them. There are far too many who do not.


            Mother‘s Day is not about cards, flowers and gifts. Not to all of us, at least. For women like me who learn just how easily parental rights can turn into parental privileges, Mother‘s Day is a day of merciful reunification. It is a celebration of love and a special bond between a mother and her childen. It‘s most certinly not just another day. As a matter of fact, it is everything. After experiencing it behind these walls, you can appreciate it with a new perspective upon your release. At least I know that is true for me. It is both joyful and heartbreaking … and precious. Oh, so precious indeed.



Jeremy – A Letter from Your Mother


Dear Jeremy,


            I know that you´re confused right now about everything that is happening. I‘ll never forget the look on your face and how haunted your eyes looked when the officer placed me in his car. That doesn‘t make him the bad guy, Jeremy. I‘m the one who broke the law doing something I shouldn‘t have been doing. The officer was only doing his job. Please don‘t be mad at him for the police overall. I put a lot of people in danger and by arresting me, he was protecting so many more people. Had it been someone else that had done what I did, driving their car while drunk, I‘d want them arrested too. I don‘t know what I would do if a drunk driver hit you on your bicycle. I‘d want them to be punished, therefore I must be punished. It makes no difference that I didn‘t actually hurt anyone. The point is that I could have if not pulled over and arrested.


            Jeremy, when you get older, you may have friends that want to party with alcohol and drugs. Maybe you already have been introduced to that world, but are still too young to drive. Once you are though, you could end up like me right now, and I do not want that for you. Just because you don‘t drive a car, doesn‘t mean that you can‘t harm yourself or cause an accident while riding your bicycle or skateboard. I know that sooner or later you‘ll face the introduction of alcohol and drugs into your life. I can only hope that it is much later, and that you have learned from this chaper in my life.


            I am so sorry for not being there on your birthday and the holidays. I‘m sorry that I‘m not there to play games or read together. I wish so much that I could‘ve been with you when you saw the sea lions, or when the seagull pooped on Uncle Gino‘s head. I‘m seeing what I‘m missing, and I don‘t want to miss out on the life I took for granted ever again.


            Jeremy, please don‘t be mad at the police, the DA , or the judge. They were only protecting the public from the menace that your mother became. Please don‘t be mad at your aunts, uncles, or Grandpa Jeff. They are all doing the best they can doing what I should be home doing myself. If you need to be mad at me, that‘s okay. Get it out of your system. Talk to someone. Talk to me. Don‘t hold back. You didn‘t do anything wrong, I did. And I swear to you, I‘ll make up for it, but first I must accept my consequences.


            This Mother‘s Day, once you leave the visiting room, it will hit me all over again just how much I took for granted. Just how much I‘m not the only one serving this sentence. Jeremy, I love you, and I will never, ever, do this to you again. When I said my actions didn‘t hurt anyone, I was wrong. My actions most definitely hurt you. I am so sorry. Please know that I love you. I miss you like Blue Man‘s.


                        Love- momma




Being A Grandma in Prison – by P. H.


            In the Easter – Passover season, it seems so much harder just being here, in prison. I feel filled with pain in my heart and soul, as I serve my sentence, isolated from the outside world. The law found me guilty, so I must serve my time.


            I am eternally grateful for the family I have. I am a mother of five adult children, aged 32 to 42 years. I am also the proud grandmother of 11 grandchildren ranging from 5 months to 24 years old. The youngest was born while I was here, waiting for the news. I could not be there, which makes it especially painful, because I was present during all previous births. I am simply missing way too much.


            My husband is the greatest man alive, and we‘ve been married 48 years. He is the most loving, kind man I could have been blessed with, and he has been 100% supportive in my predicament, standing beside me.


            My husband and children are exceptionally good to me, and I feel grateful without end for how well cared for I am by them. The love that I‘ve showered them with is coming back to me in abundance. I was a very abused child, thus making my feelings all the more profound. I am a combination of a Polish Jewish father and a German Christian mother. My mother, in her 80‘s, still writes me four times a week. She and I suffered a great deal at the hands of my stepfather, but we are survivers!


            Today, I have to find strength to be strong for my entire family, bot here in America and in Europe. I know that my family will visit often and maintain this bond of love. There are so many other prisoners here that do not have those commitments of the heart in action, and that compounds my sincere appreciation. There are inmates who do not get visits or mail at all, so I am rich in these priceless treasures.


            It takes more than just familial ties to face each incarcerated day here. My faith is strong, thus making it possible to cope through prayer and meditation. It is at times unbearable, and one must find their center to cope.


            My heart is very full and goes out to all grandmothers both in prison and out in the free world. Whhether free or not, the separation of time and space between loved one is painful. The sense of loss can be overwhelming. Prayer and meditation has aided and healed the pain I feel on a day to day basis, and the same can be true for you as well. It is in centering ourselves that we can embrace our own light.


            While it is not easy to be a grandmother in prison, I want to stress that the bars on the windows do not lock up the heart. There are no bars on my heart, and it is my intention to encourage others to remain free from within in the very same manner. May you all feel the love that you deserve this Mother‘s Day.



More Than A Number – by Lakaysha Redd


            I was incarcerated at the age of seventeen for murder, in the death of my girlfriend. The charge was later reduced to vehicular manslaughter. It is my testimony that I did not actually kill my girlfriend, but my inability to control my anger and other emotions were a problem. I was raised in a middle class environment with parents present to teach me morals and ethics. I didn’t have any prior behavioral problems; yet that one fateful day, many lives were changed when one life ended.


            While the prison system’s goals on paper are to rehabilitate criminals, I beg to differ. As I rode up to the prison‘s barbed wire fences and tall gray concrete buildings the day I arrived here, I felt freedom and my life as I knew it escaping me. Society would like to believe that prison is teaching inmates how to rehabilitate themselves and resist criminal behavior. In actuality, I‘ve witnessed one large warehouse that educates inmates to be more clever at committing crimes. By this, I emphasize that many staff members contribute to that education by assisting in the breaking of laws as a means of survival in here. Prison is a world within itself if you choose to indulge in drugs, sex, theft, trafficking, and an array of other violations. It is all possible behind these walls. And avoidable.


            During my imprisonment, I have witnessed how some inmates have allowed the system to steal the good parts of their hearts, minds, and spirits. Prison is a place of discipline, but that doesn‘t mean that we have to surrender our mental freedom and sense of character, or our state of humanity. There is a daily fight to not lose grasp of these things but there are those who succumb to prison life in negative ways and indulge in drug abuse and unhealthy relationships. Many do so due to the lack of help from family and friends on the outside who sadly assume that all our needs are met by the taxpayer. They are not, and women here slowly slip away, becoming people they never thought themselves capable of becoming.


            I am not one of those women; I am an incarcerated student. I‘m looking into the future, working on my A.A, degree with Feather River College, and planning to further my academic successes in psychology and business. I work my hardest not to let the negative aspects of prison life influence me, as I strive to use every resource possible to keep me free on the inside. Although I am locked in a cell each day, prison cannot lock up my heart and mind. I have plans for a better life that doesn‘t include being in prison.


            I committed a crime as a result of not having control over my anger, and I am in a place that tests it daily. I am not just another number. I am a human being learning from her mistakes. I am a woman seeking self-help, even when the prison doesn‘t offer it. I could succumb to the depth of darkness like many others have, or I could rise above it. I chose to rise above it. Not everyone in prison maintains criminal thinking or behavior. I‘m proof that there is another whole class of inmates here. We are the class that deserves a second chance.






Drum Roll, Please!  

Elayne Clift and Anna Ingolfsdottir, two of the people who put our newsletter together and get it out to you, have just published books!

Birth Ambassadors: Doulas and the Re-emergence of Woman-supported Birth in America by Christine Morton, PhD, and Elayne Clift, M.A. was published in January by Praeclarus Press.  It has been called “THE definitive work on doulas in the United States, immediately drawing readers in to the story of doulas in the U.S. and of the social movement that arose to support their incorporation into American hospital birth.”   Doulas are (mostly) women who provide emotional and practical support to women throughout labor and delivery. (The word ‘doula’ comes from the Greek for “woman servant.”) Elayne has been a doula at her local hospital for ten years, and even did a volunteer doula stint in Somalia, Africa in 2011.  A prolific writer, she also published her first novel in 2010.  Hester’s Daughters is a modern, feminist retelling of the American classic The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne.  (


Anna published two books in April, both available on Amazon. The first, Losing a Spouse: On Love, Grief, and Recovery,was written in collaboration with a well-known Icelandic psychologist, Guðdinna Eydal, whose husband died four years ago. The book is based on Anna‘s journal written when her husband became ill with cancer and died seven months later when their three daughters were 12, 6, and 4 years old. Guodinna also shares her personal story and writes from a psychologist’s perspective about loss and grief, especially when a spouse dies. The book includes assignments to help the surviving partner in the process of grief.  ( Anna’s other book, Belongings, also tells the story of her personal experience as a stand alone work of creative non-fiction, eliminating the psychological context and assignments.


From the Heart (TC)


            I read a daily word, “Streams In the Desert“ by L.B. Cowman, first published in 1925. It was written out of her heartache as she cared for her ailing husband from 1917 until his death six years later. It‘s the perfect daily word for a prisoner because it inspires us to see hardships as obstacles on our way toward hope, betterment, personal strength, and true faith.


            The entry for April 4th I quote briefly here:


            Mom and I have had a tumultuous last year and a half, dealing with a variety of issues and both conflictive and defective personalities. While we cannot control another person, we do have the reins in our grasp to decide how we will deal with those who are detrimental to our own well-being, and more precisely, our path on this journey towards freedom‘s gate.


When you put women into closed quarters, there are bound to be differences in opinions, belief systems, and perspectives of what is respectful and/or acceptable. When it comes to our sense of parole-acceptable behavior, anything that impedes that is unhealthy and calls for action. Not an act of violence, just the act of making a healthy decision. Being that there was way too much conflict and chaos going on in unit 514, I had to get mom and I the heck out of there. Like the passage I quoted said, „”he smallest trial may become an object crushing everything in its path into misery and despair, if we allow it.“ I could no longer allow it.


Mom and I are happily relocated to unit 513 where staff has structure and discipline is more visible than the animal house we left. I‘m happy to report that my mother will be in a less stressful environment now, and what a great gift for Mother‘s Day!


So, I say from the heart to you, while change is not what many of us want, it may sometimes be what we need. I prayed for mercy, God delivered, but first I had to stop trying to fix it my way, and get out of His way. Once I did that, we were given the gift of more peace and less stress; we were doubly blessed. I just had to get out of His way! Silly me. Silly, silly, me.


Blessed Be –

                                                                                    TC and Mama P


Teresa Paulinkonis                                                      Pauline (Barbara) Paulinkonis

W45118     513-5-3U                                                  W45120     513-5-3L

P.O. Box 1508                                                             P.O. Box 1508

Chowchilla, CA 93610                                                           Chowchilla, CA 93610






Originally posted on Chopping Potatoes:

News broke late last week that a California mother had taken the lives of her three children.  Conduct a man-on-the-street interview and you’d likely hear outrage, vile epithets directed at the monster who would kill her own offspring.  My own husband brought it up to me in a pained tone of voice.  He was disgusted.  It IS disgusting when such a thing happens.

But I’m not angry at her.

Horrible events like this make me sad.

Sad that three lives on the cusp were snuffed out.  Sad that poor defenseless, innocent babes were terminated.  Sad that the father had to watch his bloodied babies be carried from his home; that his partner in life, in giving life, was the one responsible.

Sad that no one connected to this woman perceived any threat of dangerous behavior. Sad that perhaps she felt she couldn’t express such feelings before it was too late…

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<a href=”; style=”float: left; padding-right: 20px”><img alt=”My Mother’s Voice” border=”0″ src=”; /></a><a href=””>My Mother’s Voice</a> by <a href=””>Kay Mouradian</a><br/>
My rating: <a href=”″>5 of 5 stars</a><br /><br />
<br>I met Kay Mouradian at a very crowded Author’s Day in Pasadena.  Their first such event.  We all had assigned spots at tables and then were free to wander to meet fellow writers.<br><br>My Mother’s Voice is a profound book and a must read.  Of course, it was a gripper, but perhaps that word shows a paucity of feeling;so many people go through such terrors, abuse, genocide, and in the western World, some of us can become numb to these conditions or simply are unable to read about any kind of suffering.<br><br>Nobility and anonymity are huge themes in my life, and I read about these people, always giving me a higher and higher standard to attain.  Then, become mine.  We have a history laden with heroes and heroines amidst the chaos of a world destined to come of age.<br><br>This is one such book.  My Mother’s Voice.  I haven’t checked amazon, Alibris for it, but its ISBN 978-1-4525-6169-1, Balboa Press, a Division of Hay house. This has received Honorable mention as a documentary and considered Best Documentary at a film festival in Toronto.<br><br>
<a href=””>View all my reviews</a>


This blog is an enchanting, well written, and fascinating view of farm life and the writer is fabulous!

Originally posted on thekitchensgarden:

Timatanga Moana, who rode home from the KuneKune farm on my lap. Cuddled into the crook of my arm.  For two hours. This image was taken from the back seat of the jeep by The Matriarch. It is way too gorgeous to look at only once.  Who ever thought a wee piggie would sit on my knee that long.kunekune-060

She is small, small enough to lay in my lap with plenty of room left over. She is chubby and smiley, has short legs and tiny tiny hooves and plods about the floor making a sound that is a cross between a purr and a small tank engine chuff. When I scratch her belly she slides to the ground and makes a whistly song.  Her long soft hair is a tortoiseshell mixture. Red, black and white. She is set up in the Snug with a bed of hay, a bucket to hide in (Poppy now reverses…

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imagesCAUFKWM11359165214-protest-at-holloway-prison-supports-women-prisoners-rights_1750354The Uncaged Voice
4th QTR, 2013
Available free upon request at:

Dear Family and Friends:
So much has happened this year, the fourth quarter is already here! We have been grateful for every blessing, and each of you is counted twice. Thank you for joining us on this journey of hope, faith, change, and personal growth.
In this issue, we asked a few inmates to write about their personal journey, with emphasis on the positive. We are very grateful for their willingness to be honest and forthcoming, using this forum as a stage to share from. One woman in particular requested that her identity be confidential, and as always, I will honor that.
I understand that many have questions about how my parole hearing with the BPH went on September 11th so I wrote a summary report that I hope makes the realities of that experience absolutely clear. It would not be clear without a little history that led to the decision; therefore, I included that, as not all readers have been privy to the facts.
As always, we hope this edition finds you doing well, safe from harm, and embracing each day as the gift that it is. We are grateful for your support, and ask that you continue to share this publication in any way available to you, even on Facebook, blogs, etc. Knowledge is to be shared. Each writer is a living testimony, as they too celebrate their uncaged voice.
TC & Mama P
SB-260 Update
When California Senator Loni Hancock introduced the Senate bill, SB-260, in March 2013, she knew it would be a battle. The bill recognized that juvenile offenders differ from adult offenders, mainly due to the lack of brain maturation. Hancock pushed this bill because she believed in experts like Lawrence Steinberg and advocates such as Human Rights Watch, who were speaking out about the barbarism in sentencing youth under the age of 18 to lengthy life sentences in adult prisons. I’ll refer to them as JOSAA.
SB-260 passed on May 20, 2013 by a vote of 27:11, and again on July 2, 2013 in the Public Safety Committee by a 4:2 vote. Whew! The big vote on September 6, 2013 by Assembly members was 51:21 in favor of passage. We’re happy to report that Governor Jerry Brown signed the bill on September 16, 2013.
This does not mean that all juvenile offenders will automatically be released. It simply means that there will be an opportunity to be found suitable sooner than they would have using the adult matrix set term protocol. The matrix is determined by case factors. So far this is what we know:
• Any JOSAA with 15 years or more will be eligible for parole after 15 years, but only by a special BPH panel.
• Those serving life sentences will be eligible after having served the base term of their actual crime; this means minus the enhancements that got stacked on top.
• Adults don’t begin life term until they enter state prison, which means county time does not really count at first until after found suitable. JOSAAs will begin their life sentence or determinate term from the day of initial arrest and incarceration. All time credit counts.
o Example: A 16 year old, sentenced to 25 years-to-life for homicide, plus an additional 10 years for a gun enhancement, is received in prison in 1998. Her time begins at arrest in 1996, with the 20 year base of the life term, minus the enhancement. In other words, she is eligible for parole in 2016 instead of 2028.
For more information on SB-260 go to or call Elizabeth Calvin: 310-477-5540. Thank you so much for all of your support in passage of this vital bill. Everyone who helped made the difference. Thank you!
Not Everything About Prison is Negative, by Cora Murry
My story begins on August 3, 2003 when I arrived at prison a very angry person. When I was sentenced to 24 years, I thought it was the end of the world. It seemed like a lifetime away. I had only one thought and that was to make a name for myself behind these walls. Fighting was an outlet for my anger until my dear friend, Shawn, reprimanded me. She bluntly got my attention with “Cora, you’re not going to succeed like that! What about our plans?” At that moment, the light came on. It was clear that if I was going to make it in here I wouldn’t get very far by fighting. From that day forward I managed more control over my emotions and began planning for my future.
About eight months later I obtained a job on the yard crew. I performed my duties so well that I was recommended for a seamstress job at my facility yard clothing room. All I knew about sewing was what little I had gained from watching my mother years earlier. However, I accepted the job offer to stay on course with reaching my ultimate goal of working at Joint Venture. In order to achieve that goal I needed to build a strong resume. I was hired as the clothing room seamstress.
After doing well in that job for six months I applied for a position at PIA Fabric, a warehouse setting very similar to the 1920s sweatshops. I was quickly hired but the position required that I move from B-yard to C-yard, leaving the very peers who had mentored me to that point. It was scary relocating like that, but I adapted to new people, roommates, and the yard change in general. If nothing else, prison forces adaptation and you can either resist or go with it, and in this case, it was a new path toward my goal. I left the seamstress job at $36/month for the PIA job at $75/month. My goal at that time was to receive my five cent an hour raises every three months in order to raise my earnings to upwards of $100/month. Given all of the overtime and Saturdays that I worked I was well on my way.
I added being a WAC member to my responsibilities. WAC stands for Women’s Advisory Council. I became a voice for the women who couldn’t, or simply did not know how, to speak up for their prison rights. I spent one year doing this, keeping myself busy with as many positive activities as possible. Life was good by prison standards – until May 5, 2004.
I had done well for myself and was reaching goal after goal. Then I received the call that every prisoner fears, which is to report to your counselor’s office for a personal phone call. That was the day that my family informed me that my beloved mother, Alma Murry, had passed away. My flame began to flicker as I felt the oxygen leave my body. I had never been more crushed. I cried for three straight days in my solitude of bereavement, and then I knew that I had to make a decision. I could pick myself up and move forward or rebel in my pain, losing my job while other inmates waited to fill my position. I did exactly what my mother would have wanted me to do: I pushed forward, refocusing on my goal anew. I didn’t quit.
Exactly one year later, on the anniversary of my mother’s death, I was hired at my prison dream job: Allwire Electric Company, operated under the prison title of Joint Venture. I had made it! I went from one goal to the next until I reached my then ultimate goal. I started at the legal minimum wage as opposed to pennies on the dollar and did well for three years until 2008, when 15 others and I were laid off due to reduced work production. Still, I’m grateful for all that I learned.
My next goal is to be hired at PIA Dental. I earned my GED on August 5, 2013 and now intend to pursue my AA degree. It hasn’t been easy but I’m living proof that hard work and dedication does hold priceless rewards. In sharing my story, I hope my message is loud and clear: a lot of positive things can be achieved in life, even in a place like prison. I’m proud of what I’ve achieved thus far, but I’m still a work-in-progress. You can do anything you set your mind to, and like me, you too can be your own success story.
What Happened?!?
There are a good many of our friends scratching their heads, trying to wrap their brains around what happened at my parole suitability hearing on September 11, 2013. Given my positive prison record and impressive C-file, many cannot grasp the idea that not only was I denied parole for three more years, but that I asked the panel to permit me to stipulate to such a decision. I will do my best to explain how that sort of thing happens.
First, we need to time travel backwards to the year 2005 when my first suitability hearing was held. Prior to any hearing, all lifers must submit to a psychological evaluation that not only digs into their past but assesses their risk for recidivism likelihood. The BPH relies on these reports, providing them with the professional opinion of a licensed psychologist, which carries a lot of weight in that room. I had 602’d the report for its inaccurate assumptions and biased declarations that I have since proven false, but my 2005 hearing was held with that 2005 analysis used heavily against me. I learned something that year: I learned to fight lies with real evidence. But, what lies?
My interview with Dr. Hartung had lasted all of 45 minutes, with three phone call interruptions, one of which was so private he had me step out of the room for about seven minutes. I had answered questions about my childhood including the ugly truth of abuse. I explained how when I was five years old I was a chronic bed-wetter and my parents had me see a doctor to fix the problem. I told him, “They scheduled me for surgery. A surgery that was not necessary, because I didn’t have a bladder problem; I was wetting the bed on purpose to keep my stepfather out of it. The smell of urine appalled him, so even at five years old I had figured out a way to protect myself.”
In his report, however, Dr. Hartung had said that I had completely fabricated the story about the surgery. He wrote that not only is such a surgery for chronic bed-wetting unheard of at such a young age, but that I was narcissistic to think that I could manipulate him into believing the story of a conspiracy against me by my parents and the doctor for this unnecessary surgery. I never said it was unnecessary in the cruel sense of a conspiracy. I said it was unnecessary because I was wetting the bed on purpose to keep my stepfather out of it.
Oh, it gets better.
During our interview, on at least three occasions, he asked me if I had ever set fires or tortured animals. I was annoyed when he asked the third time. I’m in prison for killing my stepfather, yes, but I’m not a serial killer, for Pete’s sake! However, in the printed report, the good doctor based part of his claim that I lied about the sexual abuse on the fact that I had denied being an arsonist or sadist. I was raised to respect other people’s property and everyone knows I love animals. I don’t know what textbook he got his theory from, but not all incest and rape survivors resort to arson and sadistic acts of animal torture.
In a nutshell, he called me a sociopathic, narcissistic, antisocial liar without empathy or remorse. He called me a freakin’ liar! I was so outraged to have my voice shoved to a dark corner like that I decided to put that anger to good use. Instead of acting out, I responded with a mission to prove that Dr. Hartung’s report wasn’t worth the paper it was written on. I had to find the evidence, so I wrote every hospital in the Bay area until I obtained my medical records, and I had the proof staring me in the face. I not only had records of what led up to the surgery and the surgery itself, but other medical records that, had my trial attorney done this research before the 1992 trial, the jury would have had an entirely different perspective. Armed with those documents, I was actually grateful that Dr. Hartung set my anger on fire because it sent me into action. No survivor likes to be called a liar. As a matter of fact, it is that very fear that prevents most victims from speaking out. It takes guts and raw courage to speak up and it is almost condemning to not be believed when you do. Thank God I was already ten years into my recovery when that happened; otherwise I may have just shut down. However, I had found my voice. I didn’t shut down. And I didn’t shut up.
In 2008 I had a roommate named Echo who advised me that I could put a free ad in the Craig’s List website to draw attention to our case. We certainly couldn’t afford legal counsel so I thought, why not place an ad? I asked Steve and Carolyn to place the ad for me and they did, using their email address for responses. There were several hits which eventually led to my mother and I both gaining pro bono legal representation.
In 2009 I was scheduled for my subsequent parole suitability hearing, therefore [sent] to see a psychologist to perform a new assessment analysis report. I explained that I had legal representation that was putting together a Writ of Habeas Corpus and that I had already waived my 2009 BPH hearing because of this. He agreed that holding the lengthy interview would be irrelevant if I was not holding my hearing and also seeking to go back to court. He excused me from the interview, then once I left he proceeded to evaluate me without my being present. He used the 2005 report as his test subject instead of using me for that purpose. If that is not illegal, it should, at the very least, be deemed unethical. In essence, the 2005 report was still haunting me.
Fast forward now to 2013. I had to tell you all of that in order for what I’m about to tell you to make sense. When changes were made to BPH policy after passage of Marsy’s Law, it was determined that all psychological evaluations of lifers up for parole would carry a shelf-life of five years. The 2009 report is still valid until about 3rd quarter, 2014.
Due to the unethical nature of the 2009 report, my state-appointed legal counsel, Michele Garfinkel, requested of the panel that I be allowed to postpone my hearing so that I can be re-evaluated for a fair and impartial hearing. The panel denied that request. Michele then asked to speak to me privately to review my options, which we did.
Okay, I could go forward with this hearing using that foul report full of false accusations and risk what could have amounted to about a five year denial of parole. Michele, however, patiently explained the benefits of option #2 which was clearly in my best interest. I chose to stipulate to the minimum denial of parole which was three years. By doing so, I could wait out the shelf-life of the 2009 report and then take my medical records and evidence of abuse into an entirely new interview process for a new evaluation. That should help nip presumed assumptions of sociopathic lying. Well, I’m hoping that seeing the proof will make a difference. After a year I can file a 1045A formal request to have my next hearing held prior to the three year wait. Yes, in other words, I still obtained a postponement to obtain a new evaluation, but we’re calling it a three year stipulation of denial of parole. It’s just part of the political process. Had I faced the panel with the warped 2004 report it certainly would have been freedom suicide. This is not a matter of manipulating the system. I see it as a matter of using their written policy as a means to pursue my path to freedom, even if it requires that I file extra paperwork in order to do so.
I’m very satisfied with my decision and definitely grateful to Michele for her careful explanation of the law and my legal options. She says she does BPH law because she believes in the process. Her demeanor and professionalism was evident that those were not just words. Any lifers interested in a competent and caring BPH attorney, contact Michele Garfinkel, 1611 S Street, Suite 202, Sacramento, CA 95811.
There’s Nothing Funny About It
While it is true that the California state prison system has become a warehousing debt maker to hold inmates bulging at the seams, it has also warehoused the mentally ill. With the closures of many of the psychiatric hospitals, those patients need to be placed somewhere to obtain the help they need. They are being housed in prison, where they may not necessarily receive the medical attention that they need. Budget cuts have decreased the available staff and options for the mentally ill are limited.
Inmates who hear voices walk the grounds here, arguing and socializing with those voices. Those of us who cannot hear their voices are clueless as to what they are going through. There is nothing funny about an individual who is struggling on the brink of sanity and insanity. However, there are those who point, laugh, and even mimic the women devoured by inner demons in a fight for control. It is sad. It is preventable. It is inappropriately on display to be ridiculed by those who are fortunate not to be one of the mentally ill, lost in a wasteland of voices and finger-pointing. It is a lot of things, but funny it is not.
I learned that prison has a pill-popping policy that is their answer to everything. Now mind you, I can grasp that in some cases people need a pill for this or that. In 1995 I was having trouble sleeping. I was battling my own demons of the past. The staff here in white jackets wanted to give me Elavil, a psychotropic medication. A mood changer. I didn’t need a pill, I needed to talk. However, being overworked and understaffed, they would rather give you a pill and send you on your way. Since I refused pills to numb my pain they removed me from the list to be seen. By the way, the guy who did that was eventually walked off the job for inappropriate sexual behavior with a patient. Need I say more?
There are a good many individuals who are doing well with the use of medications but what about the ones on the walkway who argue loudly with the voices in their heads? The ones who officers walk right past? The ones who are getting the short end of the stick? They don’t belong in prison. They belong somewhere where they can receive help. Real help.
CCWF has a policy in place called EOP – Enhanced Outpatient Program. There is a unit in the receiving yard that houses those not ready for assimilation into the general population of inmates. There are rooms in each of the general population units that have “step-up” rooms. They are called that as a means of stepping up [or transitioning] from EOP. If the women can’t make it there they are returned to EOP. What is sad is that there are many who really aren’t making it as opposed to barely hanging in there. Since these step-up rooms are in G.P., we are all mingled together. If the EOP/Step Up inmate attacks one of us, they get a pass. No repercussions because they are deemed mentally ill. If we defend ourselves we can get a write-up. So not only are they vulnerable in this situation, but we are as well.
There are a lot of things broken in the penal system, but especially at the level of incarceration. There are people who do belong here, most certainly, but there are way too many who should be in a different environment. Definitely not criminal isolation. So when you are saying your prayers, add one for the mentally ill prison population. Someone needs to care about them, and if it’s not the system, it needs to be us.
When You Complain, You Remain by Niki Martinez
Who among us just gets frustrated and walks around saying, “I hate this place!” or “I’m sick of being here!”? We all have those days. And it puts you in a crappy mood. But I need to remind you: when you complain, you remain! It tends to set the tone for your day, your attitude and your perspective. It is so easy to get caught up in the mentality of “I hate it here.” But what we need to realize is that it could always be worse. When we change our perspective, we change our attitude, and when we change our attitude, it affects our lives! Why walk around feeling crappy, making life worse than it has to be, because we choose to? We have to know what thoughts to ignore, and respectfully, what people to ignore.
Too many people are negative and discouraged because they don’t like where they are. It’s just not where they want to be. They missed the unlock, their roommate locked them out, they’re stuck at the gate, they want in, they want out, they can’t wait for the door to open to go program, they get to work and they’re still irritated. They want to shop, they come back and they’re mad about being locked out and not getting this or that! They are always fighting against something. They are always trying to be somewhere else. We really need to begin to understand that change begins in us, not in our circumstances. The wrong attitude will keep us right where we are! So often, we find ourselves fighting our way to happiness, thinking it’s some sort of destination. We’re always trying to reach somewhere else and then we will be happy. “Once I shop, I’ll be happy.” “If I could just move then I’d be happy.” “If I had that other job, if I could move off this yard…” Or the bigger one that all of us are so convinced of: “If I could just get out of this prison, then I’d be happy.”
When we think of it like that, it only holds us back from our own happiness. A better approach is “This is where God has me right now and until He moves me, I’ll be happy right now, right here.” It is our choice. Our happiness doesn’t involve our circumstances or our place of residence, it involves our perspective and our attitude. We have to be determined to enjoy our lives no matter where we are living them. And when we understand that God has us exactly where He wants us, and when we learn to be happy where we are, He will take us where we want to be.
If we want to see God open new doors, the key is to bloom right where we are planted. We cannot wait until everything becomes better before we decide to have a good attitude. We have to be the best we can be right where we are.
When we change our approach, slow down, and just enjoy the journey, or take in all the journey has to offer, we will arrive where we’re supposed to be, but our lives will be much more fulfilled. And then we will be blessed with the perspective that it was all worth it. Instead of looking at what w don’t have, be grateful for what we do have. Somebody in this world would gladly trade places with us. Somebody would love to able to breathe like us, or be able to walk like us or see like us. Somebody would love to living where we are living.
Complaining only delays better days.

Choices by Christina Francis
Life is about choices- good and bad, positive and negative – and the consequences of actions taken because of the choices we make. My own choices led to my being a juvenile offender sentences as an adult. I entered State prison only three months after turning 17 years old. At that time I was the youngest person housed at CCWF, not exactly the claim to fame one strives to reach. I was instantly defined as a lost cause and led to believe that this was true. My truth. Not knowing any better, I embraced that [stigmata]; that is how I began serving my life sentence.
Through many trials and tribulations, today I now know that this is not true. That it need not be my legacy. I’ve learned in my own way to turn that around and to re-evaluate my views and values. Incarceration really is the biggest time out ever. It has brought me face to face with the here and now. Although I am separated from the outside world, prison has offered me the grand opportunity to stop and think about the natural flow of life, and to reflect on my place in it.
It has not been easy to grow up in a women’s prison. To be raised in such a volatile and angry environment. My vision, hope and faith were distorted by the daily madness; I simply let it envelop me and became a part of it. I somehow settled it in my mind that not only would this be where I will die, but that I was okay with such a desolate reality.
Over the years, however, that 17 year old kid has grown up, and in that development process I forced myself to look deeper into my core issues. I did not do this alone, but with the help and support of good friends who had pure motives and who hoped to see me reach my true potential. It took time but I found that it really is possible to overcome challenges. It took all the super-human dedication and effort that I could muster, but I grew tall enough mentally to see over the mountains of what I perceived as impossible. I’m content with the struggles that I’ve encountered. In life, every struggle, every circumstance of pain and chaos is in itself a lesson in progress. I have gained wisdom and personal strength through this philosophy and it allows me to perceive and respond to things as they are.
Growth requires limitless courage and through the experiences that taught me that I now believe that anything is possible. Before I could ever take control and rebuild my life I needed a firm desire to make my wishes sincere and real in every way. The more progress I made, the closer I drew toward becoming a useful person with a purpose in life. I learned that making excuses for not growing and feeling sorry for myself and my predicament was wasted energy. The negative sources of stagnation that I surrounded myself with only delayed my growth process – time I can never get back. When I hear someone say that I never had half a chance, I hear a voice of knowing that says, “You create your own chances, or lack thereof.” And I know this is true. At least for me it is.
I am a true believer that an inner drive for growth will push you forward; I’m living witness to how you can conquer many obstacles by demanding such commitment to personal growth. Being incarcerated, I have little control over many aspects of institutional life, but I have control over myself, how I see things, and most certainly, how I react to all of it. We can choose to advance or sit in our self-pity and rot. The choice is ours. As for myself, I keep putting one foot in front of the other and progressing forward. Doing so has made all the difference. A difference I now embrace.

I Saw God Today by Patti Garrison
I saw God today,
In the sunrise;
Beautiful hues of pink and purple,
Brush strokes in the clouds;
Painted by a master painter.
Yes, I saw God today,
And I can tell you, He is beautiful.

I saw God today,
In the forest;
Awed by the majestic trees,
Which have stood against
Winds and storms, yet stand proud.
Yes, I saw God today,
And I can tell you, He is strong.

I saw God today,
In the eyes of a man;
He rises early to feed the hungry,
And help the needy,
His only reason being that help is needed.
Yes, I saw God today,
And I can tell you, He is kind.

I saw God today,
In the actions of a woman;
She stopped to help a homeless man.
She extended her hand and he was hesitant,
Until he saw her smile.
Yes, I saw God today,
And I can tell you, He is compassionate.

I heard God today,
In the laughter of a child;
So pure and sweet,
Filling the air,
With happiness and innocence.
Yes, I saw god today,
And I can tell you, He is joyous!

I thanked God today,
For allowing me to see and hear Him,
In the simple, yet beautiful everyday things,
Which surround us all,
If only we take the time to notice.
Yes, I thanked God today,
And I can tell you, I am blessed.

The Gift That Keeps on Giving by Strictly Anonymous
I, like anyone else, have a story to tell. I believe we are all the walking proof of our pasts. While my story may not be pretty, the truth is that for prisoners it never really is.
In high school I never really had very many friends. The jocks all thought they were gods, the cheerleaders were total snobs, and the in-crowd could see that I was more out than in. I felt like an outsider looking in to a world that didn’t care if I even existed. I felt alone in the world.
And then I met him. He made me feel like I mattered. He actually wanted my time, my attention, to hear my own thoughts; he even asked about my dreams. His name was Jeff. I was 16 years old and in the 11th grade. Jeff, however, was 21; he worked as a forklift operator at a large warehouse. He made money that he readily spent on me. I had never felt so special in all my life. For the first time, I felt loved.
Because of our ages we had to keep our relationship a secret. Even from my sister, who almost always knew what I was up to due to her snooping nature.
We had been dating for over a year when Jeff hit me for the first time. I never saw it coming. He kept it invisible to the peering world by leaving marks only where clothing hid the bruises. Somehow he had convinced me that it was my fault. That I made him so mad at me I had it coming. I actually believed that.
In a relationship like that things never get better. Ours got worse and when he realized he had gotten me pregnant, he expected me to get an abortion. Hiding the relationship was one thing, but hiding an abortion from my devout Catholic parents was a whole other idea. Jeff and I argued over this. I was 17 years old by then and he kept telling me how he could get in trouble if I didn’t get the abortion. The final straw was when he began to threaten that he’d kill the baby himself. I imagined his kicking me in the stomach. I agreed to the abortion to escape that sense of a beating. The next day I disappeared from his life.
Jeff couldn’t contact me at school and he couldn’t contact my family for fear of statutory rape charges. What he didn’t know was that I’d told my parents the truth. It was all I could think of to do. First I told my mother, then with my mother’s support, my father too. I went to live with my aunt in southern California and spent my son’s first two years under her roof. She was my saving grace. I was able to get a job and my GED with her help and daily encouragement. I made a life for myself in southern California and life was good. Jeff was only a memory.
When I was 24 years old, my son Dalton was six and in school. I was working at an office building that had a front desk with security personnel. One day I was called to come down from my office to see a visitor at the front desk. I was told his name: Jeff had found me. I felt my breath get trapped in my lungs. The walls were closing in. I couldn’t even speak for the first few seconds. Reluctantly, I agreed to meet him at the front desk, but I warned Perry, the security officer, on the phone, “This may not end well. Please stay nearby.” Perry assured me and I reported to the desk.
Well, this story actually did end well. Jeff asked me to sit on a couch in the lobby with him and he proceeded to tell me how he had found me. It wasn’t very hard; I had never changed my name. He assured me that he had grown up, changed his ways, and was a better man than the immature person I had left behind. He apologized and then he asked, “How is life? Tell me about the baby.” I told him he had a son. I gave him ten minutes, and then had to return to work, but agreed to meet him in a very public place – a restaurant. I showed him photos and literally let him see his son grow up in pictures. Our son. My intuition was that Jeff really had changed.
Although Jeff and I never got back together again, we were able to maintain a personal relationship of respect and I introduced him to Dalton. After about three months, Jeff relocated to southern California to be closer to his son. They have formed a beautiful bond and I am grateful for that. Had I held on to my anger, hatred and mistrust of Jeff, I would have robbed my son of the privilege of knowing his father. I chose to accept Jeff’s apology, and I truly forgave him. Once I did, I was freed from the past.
A few years ago, I took the law into my own hands against a coach, to protect Dalton. The law didn’t like my idea of a mother’s love and I was sentenced to 16 years in State prison. However, Jeff brings my son to see me twice a month and on holidays. My one act of forgiveness has come back to me over and over again.
When I began telling my story, you may not have expected this ending, but what it amounts to is this: Life is beautiful, even in prison.

Hey, Sports Fans!
Joe had tickets for the Super Bowl with a seat on the 50-yard line. As he sat down he noticed that the seat next to his was vacant. He asked the man on the other side if anyone was sitting there.
“No,” the man replied. “That seat is empty.”
“This is incredible!” Joe said. “Who in their right mind would have a seat like this for the Super bowl and not use it?”
The man looked up and said, “Well, it actually belongs to my wife but she passed away. This will be the first Super Bowl we haven’t been together since we married 23 years ago.”
“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that,” said Joe. “Couldn’t you find a friend or relative or even a neighbor to take the seat?”
The man simply shrugged, saying, “No. They’re all at the funeral!”

From the Heart
I remember my first trip to Yosemite National Park in 1982 with a few of my co-worker friends. We drove late at night so didn’t see much scenery going through Mariposa. We couldn’t see much more than darkness around us beyond the bit of road in the headlights. It wasn’t until daybreak that we really saw the beauty of the valley floor. It was nearly intoxicating.
After checking in and locating our canvas tent cabins the four of us set about exploring the park. We headed straight for the tourist spot of the magical and fantastic Yosemite Falls. The way the mist kissed your face you knew you were somewhere special. I wasn’t the most religious person in the world and even I felt as if I’d been misted by God.
Garfield, Lynn and Lori were good company as we hiked up the fall, the slippery wet rocks beneath my boots. We could feel the change in altitude taking effect, the higher we went. I think it was my legs that felt the burn equal to what Garfield’s lungs did. That’ll teach her to smoke! Lori and I wanted to go up higher but Garfield couldn’t make it, and well, abandoning her wasn’t an option. We did make it to a high pool where we could sit on some boulders and just take it all in for a moment. It was absolutely magnificent. Here was clearly a landscape that paintings could not do justice to, for it was a creation not of man, but of a power greater than that.
In those few minutes before we trekked back down the falls I took it all in. I breathed it in. I soaked it up like a sponge and I have kept it all these years. It was one of those experiences that photos cannot convey but can only capture frozen in time. In those few minutes, I truly appreciated that I had the opportunity that not everyone does. I’ve met many women here that never had that chance. And every time that I do, I feel blessed all over again.
So I say from the heart to you: Don’t ever take anything for granted. Not your knowledge, mobility, senses, or next meal. Don’t take it for granted that you can breathe or talk or have clothing and clean water to drink. It is said that the best things in life aren’t things, but everything. I agree. When you struggle, it is part of your life’s blueprint, and even the butterfly must struggle out of the cocoon before it can fly. A woman goes through pain when her child is being born but she is grateful for the priceless gift. Stop and think about the people you haven’t spoken to or seen in awhile. Then tell them that you’re thinking of them. You just may make their day. Better yet, they are given the opportunity to make yours. Works for me. May you all have a safe, healthy, happy holiday season.
Love and Peace,
TC and Mama P
T.C. Paulinkonis Barbara Paulinkonis
W45118 (514-16-04U) W45120 (514-15-02L)
P.O. Box 1508 P.O. Box 1508
Chowchilla, CA 93610-1508 Chowchilla, CA 93610-1508

(In typing this newsletter, some minor edits were made for clarity. Words in brackets indicate that the handwritten version was unclear.)


This writer is wonderful in all areas of her life.

Originally posted on Mel's Madness:

I’ve always been fat.newborn


I have never had a Barbie-doll shape. As a teen, I was told that I had “good hips for having babies.” – because that’s something every adolescent wants to hear. It, of course, translates to, “Yo, you have a fat ass.”

It does. It helps to create a negative body image. How about just, “you are beautiful just the way you are.” What the hell is wrong with that?

In high school, I listened to things like that. It didn’t matter that I was tall, and mostly thin, with washboard abs. It didn’t matter that I modeled. It didn’t matter that on a fat day, at 5’8”, I weighed-in at about 120 pounds. In my head, I was fat.

I fulfilled the expectation of having babies, and with each, I got fatter. After my third baby, I was a horrifying 135 pounds. I was…

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EstherandElizabeth, 6 years old birthdayliz near end 1
Full of Days

I am old and full of days, and I know this because I get gift certificates in the mail, small bordered, blue; staccato messages to me approaching a distinctly marked age, as not like my twin’s age of 68 when her soul pierced the body’s shell and flew onward and upward, and when I had a feeling or wrote something like, “We will see each other once again -against the dark space and within the illumined lands of God, and we will remember our days as three year olds, sitting on tricycles of resplendent fire engine red and sturdy wheels, not yet aware of the rivets and tunnels we would face in our growth as twins and as souls, an intertwining of hate and love.

Fraternal twins. She from my father’s stock, the ones that produced fine men and maybe a sister or two who vaulted into business, and he, our father who was very much on earth, despaired at his life, the alcoholic wife, the kids like cartoon blocked figures with hair all over them, reminiscent of cave days, as witnessed by their teenage grunts from, “Where are you going?” and their toned and chanted response, emitting from their closed lips, “Out.” And indeed they went out.

The older girl, older in months; neighbors say they are all Irish twins, born within so many months of the other, tskk, tskkk. The older sister, yeah, you know the one who won the Margaret O’Brien Look Alike contest in Boston? Oh yeah her, she went out, out indeed.

She conceived a child as she melted into the arms of her teenage lover, the one who laughed and came from a poverty so cruel, and she was sent away to a home for pregnant girls, and all I can say is, “Thank God, she didn’t live in Ireland,” the Ireland of the Magdalene Sisters, in whose convent, young girls of impure type were housed in terror. For it was a time of sheer cement walls and slaves blending in, Irish girl slaves, those who might have had an impure thought or wrested themselves away from a pushy boy, or better yet, did the dirty deed and used the portion of her body referred to as “down there.”

Out also went the twins who by this time had finished throwing pitchforks and ice choppers at one another, but who had graduated to nasty, slime-ridden comments, of “I’m not sitting in the car, next to Esther,” or she, of the famous Hebrew Queen’s name, ran away from the Randall G. Morris Elementary black tarred school yard before Liz could cream her, she ran blocks and darted through the back door of the twelve- room house on Fernwood Road, in West Roxbury, and double locked the old brass locks against an avenging twin.

Not quite like the caves and battles of Beowulf and Grendel, but darn, didn’t Liz thrust her fist through a small paned window and reach down and unlock both locks and burst in and pin the curled up Esther into the coat rack of old winter coats and jackets?

And then that twin and her queen-named counterpart would, miraculously at twenty-one, be kind to one another. The catalyst for such kindness was a brain stem injury on behalf of our sports figure, Liz, of the mighty fist, which rendered her, well let’s just say, “Rendered her.” From those days of miraculous recovery, a mother had died, the father remarried, the sister gone and married; the brother disappearing and last heard was a used car salesman. We proceeded to fill the pages of our lives and we would always help each other out in a crisis. One day of cumulus clouds in Caldwell, Idaho, she passed on, at age 68 of cancer. The first bracket of the hyphenated, “tell-the-twins,” passed, piercing the body’s shell, her soul going on, leaving husks of giant blades of a sad, sad life, but at peace and loving her boys, one who would marry a pure soul and produce golden children, but that is another story.

The story is now 7-8 years later, I, Esther, who was born twelve minutes later, am approaching that demarcation known as “Full of pages of life,” of skin like parchment paper, but also of still ever sturdy hips.

And so this has turned out to be a prose poem, for what does the poet do? They pierce the state of the mundane and rise to astonishment as words from an unseen ocean spill and spill out onto the earth of one’s mind.


I adored this, and I read this post no matter what every day; enjoy

Originally posted on thekitchensgarden:

The man was well dressed and nervous. He was standing on my lawn blocked by barking dogs as I stepped out onto the verandah.

“Alright if I give treats to your dogs?” He called out with his back to the shiny late model city slick car.the-man-at-the-gate-004

‘Down’  I signalled and both dogs dropped like stones to the ground and went quiet. Well Boo dropped like a leaf but his belly did meet the ground.The dogs both looked at me with their snouts still pointed at the man.

“Yes, I do mind actually,” I said. “We were taught as kids not to take candy from strangers so I see no reason why my dogs should.”

“It is not candy.” the man said helpfully. His car  salesman teeth flashed white and pointy.

“No?” I said “What is  it then?” His eyebrows shook at each other.  “I am sorry I just don’t like…

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Baseball, voices of male announcers speak of spots, and of the Dodgers and Braves – playing in Atlanta. The stage is set, and ennui of memory washes over me, my twelve-year old, wide red sash waisted, self in a red dress with white stars as a skirt, and white with red stars for the top, and a Prince Valiant haircut gone amuck.

I am in that flat land where baseball which brings joy and solace to Bill, my aging pal of a husband, and I am tolerant of his current absorption in the world of sports. On the other hand, this landscape, this flatland, exacerbates my struggle to breathe, to garner energy, to see light on a horizon, and to see beyond dust in the house. It’s not that bad, but I don’t have the physical strength I used to, that is when I didn’t have immune system illness. It seems to me I’ve felt 80 years old more times in my life than I’d like to count, which fact will fill me with laughter later as I remember thinking, where is that post-menopausal zest Margaret Mead talks about?

I teeter on the edge of 75. A twin gone at 68. I’m the last of the – whatevers. I am a woman of intense vibrancy, who sees magenta when others see drab red, who gets high on crusty French rolls slathered with butter, who looks into the eyes of a Pug dog and sees God as Humorist, and finally I am an older woman who has survived a great deal, as we all have.

Eight days of bronchitis find me acknowledging ever so readily that I am inside, under a roof safe, and that the breeze is gentle, but somehow, I feel as if I’ve placed myself on automatic life review, like an old Studebaker repeatedly returning to the carwash to get scrubbed up by those thick foamy brushes again.

Life is not for the faint hearted. My Faith is not for the faint hearted. Repeated rendezvous with brushes in Life’s Car Wash doesn’t strike me as an appropriate ending for any day, any life. But, Reader, at 75 and feeling like edges of dog meat gone bad, I think of endings.

What happens to all those childhood patterns, phobias and fears that one conquers? The bursting out of old patterns, like someone hurtling through the paper star in the circus, which burns small orange flames around its edges if you want to know, and that someone’s an old girl, and that old girl’s been shot out of a canon, yeah that one.

Somehow as I get older I am more aware of the gravel, the small stones in my life, and my too much obsession with minutia of picking them up and wondering, should I have unturned this earlier? At all? Fear of Abandonment.

OMG, seventies phrases guaranteed to enter kachunkas in a Therapist’s cash register, and appear in my Robitussin DM filled brain, competing with titles like keep those Run With Wolves, Cavorts with Angels, but Does the Laundry on Monday, even with a Virus Cold, titles which no longer enchant.

It’s the unknown. There I go again, worrying into the future, nettling, rearranging its furniture in the storehouse of my mind. Will I have a bed, a place to live, and some lentils to suck on? I am not a sole voice, lonely giving wolf calls into the hills. My voice is legion.

Should I write to AARP, and say “Hey what does an old gal do?” None of us want our kids to be burdened with our care, and yet again, I don’t want to end up on a broken-springed bed in a dark corner of a Convalescent Home, breathing through my mouth because of the You Know What smells and smiling at someone, while trembling within – will they be kind?

Vulnerability; I feel skin-inside-out vulnerable. And I also feel an abstract level of myself rising up from a rock, shedding identity after identity: the spunky one, the I’m building my career at 74 one, the sure I can drive you there, the be there for 700 cronies around the world type of thing, the blogger whose too pooped to platform, and who wouldn’t dare try on platform shoes in fear of falling.

You catch my drift dear reader. This is a glimpse of an old gal who normally wants to throw her head back and laugh, who believes in our essential oneness, and who is acutely aware of the swords of greed on this training ground of a planet, our training ground, my training ground.

So I’ll end with that’s it. Close the Word Barn for the day. It helps to be able to voice vulnerability. Thought I didn’t have to do that anymore, but this here aging is going to take courage, and I’m going for it. Shoot the Moon type of thing.

imagesThe Uncaged Voice
2nd QTR, 2013-04-25
available free by request at

Dear Family of Friends
You will notice that we‘ve changed the name of this newsletter. The truth is, we‘ve thought about it for a year now, and the new name came to me while I meditated out of this place. It moved me so The T.C. and Mama P Newsletter is now renamed TheUncaged Voice.
This newsletter began many years ago as an easy way for us to better inform family, friends, and pen pals of the realities of our life behind the walls. It was mostly updates on health status and BPH matters. The more I wrote, the more vocal I became, the more informative my writing became. Along the way, I discovered I had a politically outspoken revealer within myself. Then I began to seek other prisoners that had something to say. We may be in prison, but this newsletter has carried our uncaged voices out to society. With every one of you that posts it on your blog, web page, or copies and circulates it, you help us spread not only the truth, but our reality for others to see. Please continue to help us expose our words ….. our voices.
In this issue, the topic tended to focus on moms. I sat down to write, and blam! There it was. This will likely not reach you until after Mother‘s Day, but it is dedicated to all of the moms out there. You have the hardest job in the world. I knew it was hard when I was a kid, and that‘s when I decided I‘d rather just be responsible for a pet cat. Works for me.
Anyhow, I‘ve asked a few others to share their own thoughts, feelings, and realities in this issue about what it is like to either be a mother in prison, or to be in here away from their mother. Everyone has a different story, so I hope to be able to share other women‘s experiences, other than my own. I have my mother here with me, so every day is Mother‘s Day. For most however, prisons are built in the middle of nowhere, and then a community grows around it as jobs become available. Therefore, visits are never guaranteed, but they make all the difference.
Please share this newsletter with others. Hear our voices.
Happy Mother‘s Year!
TC and Mama P

Life Scripting – written by Wilma Kilpatrick
I know that while there are many free citicens reading this newsletter, many prisoners do as well. I would like to inform both groups of people about a class at CCWF calle Life Scripting. I do hope to encourage other prisoners to enroll in it.
Life Scripting is a very positive and informative 80 hour class that I recommend to those that have the opportunity to participate in it. It has taught me techniques in how to deal with negative energy regarding people, places, and things. It also guided me onot a path of self-discovery as I learned how to get in touch with my inner child. In doing so, I was able to gain insight into why I did many of the things I have done, and to grasp a clearer perspective into my thinking patterns. Negative habits cannot be broken unless they are recognized and addressed when you‘re ready to be honest with yourself, this class can help you.
Oh, sure there‘s a lot of writing! Anyone too lazy to write, need no apply. Change requires work and effort. For those willing to take a step in a new direction, this class offers hope for a better self-reflection. Participants are educated in the four key areas of self, family, relationships, and society, by arming women with the psychological strategies needed to make healthy, personal choices. The lessons motivates the students to want to alter their social and anti-social behavourism.
My personal experience allowed me to witness the unique approach the class exercises in helping women heal from their own traumatic experiences. Many suffered mental, emotional, sexual, and verbal abuses as children that left scars that lingered into adulthood. They‘re taught how to reframe, which is to rethink and look at things differently.
From what I understand, many of the Free Worlder‘s reading this newsletter are avid writers, some members of writer‘s clubs and guilds. Maybe there‘s an avenue there to seek something similar, if not at YWCA or local women‘s shelters that can recommend resources. For those at CCWF, I cannot stress enough how much you can get out of this class. Take advantage of this golden opportunity while we have volunteers that sacrifice their time to offer us hope for a new improved self.
Thank you for letting me reach out to you all.

Inmate Manuscripts / Publication Opportunity
Everyone has a story to tell. It could be a mystery of pure fiction, or an account of their incarceration experience. It could be of fantasy, science, or romance. It can be an open no-puncher-pulled memoir that exposes all of their well kept secrets as a means to tell the world, „I will no longer be silenced!“ We all have voices.
Prisons Foundation wants to publish inmate manuscripts. All genres welcome. They will not be screened, or censored. All work will be scanned as received, no editing will take place, so that means errors and all will be published. Proofreading is your responsibility prior to submission. You work will be placed on the internet for free worldwide reading on thier website,, and will remain there indefinitely (unless a problem arises where at their discretion, it needs to be removed). Anyone can view, read, even download your work at no charge. However, you do retain full rights to your book, should you later wish to later seek commercial publication for profit.
No manuscript will be returned. If you want a copy for yourself, either make one prior to submission, or wait for it to be published online and have a friend or family member go to the above website to download it for you.

Below are guidelines you must follow to publish your book. Your book will be rejected and will not be returned to you if it does not follow them.
1. Every page of your book must be on 8 ½ by 11 paper and unbound.
2. Nonfiction and fiction books must be over 100 pages and no more than 500 pages.
3. Plays, screenplays, poetry, music books, art books and comic books must be over 20 pages and not more than 150 pages.
4. A self-addressed stamped envelope showing your prison address must accompany your book so they can inform you of its imminent publication and verify that you are indeed the author.
5. The cover of your book must contain your name, title of the book (not to exceed 10 words, including subtitle), date, whether the book is nonfiction or fiction, a brief paragraph about it (to entice readers to read your book) and both your prison address and your outside permanent address.
6. Legal motions, transcripts and court records (unless they are brief and part of your book) will NOT be published.
7. If your book includes photos or drawings, they must be glued firmly to 8 ½ by 11 paper exactly where you want them in your book.
8. Use only one side of each sheet of paper (though you can use paper with one side previously used for another purpose as long as you mark out the side that is not part of your book).
We also recommend that you number and put your name on every page, write or print your book legibly and get another prisoner or staff member to edit your book before you send it.
Send your book to:

Prisons Foundation
P.O. Box 58043
Washington, DC 20037

She Did Not Fail Me by Randi Sorlon
It‘s getting harder and harder to do time. This prison sentence is of my own doing. I cannot play the mental battlefield game of, „If I had only done this. If I had only done that.“ There is simply acceptance. However, my actions have affected others, especially my mother.
I‘m not going to go on a merry-go-round of excuses for what may have led me to commit my crime. My mother did the best she could with me, and while I feel like I let her down horribly, I want her and the world to know that she did not fail me. It is I, who failed her.
I‘ve missed a multitude of holidays and one-on-one talks with my mother. I haven‘t been there for Christmas or her birthday, let alone Mother‘s Day all of these years. For years, she took care of me, my every need, and here I am at a point where role reversal should be in place, yet I‘m not home to take care of my mother, who is in failing health and aging more rapidly from the stress I‘ve caused her to endure. You could say, she‘s one more victim of circumstances I caused. Whenever I start to think to myself about how hard this sentence has been, I stop and remind myself that it is harder on my mother.
I make each day in this caged in world, not knowing if she made it through the night. Is her heart still beating? Do her lungs still take in air on their own? Has she not given upp all hope of our being reunited? Will she make it out here this year to see me? If not in May, what about by December? I wake up each day not knowing but more important is what I wake up each day that I do know. I know that I haven‘t made life easy for my mother, when all she ever did, was try to make it as easy for me as she possibly could. And I know one more thing. I know that she loves me unconditionally. The question is, what did I do to deserve that?

She Never Stood a Chance
One day, a little girl was born into this world, the product of either and unplanned pregnangcy, or quite possibly rape. For, what other reason would the birth mother have for being so angry that the child was born at all? The mother, not wanting to have anything to do with the child, passed the newborn off to her own sister to raise.
The newborn was raised by her aunt and uncle, but was none the wiser. She was clueless that they weren‘t her real parents. She believed that her cousins were her four siblings. She believed she was loved in a family that she was born into. However, as fate would have it, her little world was rocked and as a teen, she was dropped off at her birth mother‘s front door. Highly aggitated by the unexpected circumstances, the birth mother greeted the child with a slap across the face so hard that she saw stars. She was clearly an unwanted burden.
It didn‘t take but a minute for the live-in boyfriend of the reluctant mother, to make sexual advances upon the child, now a teenager in girly development. Discovering that the mother had no intention of protecting her from being molested and raped, the teen walked across San Jose to the police department to report the situation. There were no reprecussions for the adults, but the teen ended up in the foster care system. While there are many cases with wonderful stories in foster care, the same cannot be said for this one girl in particular. She went from foster home to foster home, being molested, raped, sadomized, and threatened to remain silent. Her terror and horror had only multiplied by her not remaining silent. She never stood a chance.
She did finally end up in one good foster home, but her ride on the Terror Train was about to end, as she was nearing the age-out date: her 18th birthday. Not long after that, she met a man that made her feel like someone finally cared about her. And maybe he did. At first. But, before long, he was proving to not be husband material, but by then, they had already been married. Another few layer of self-esteem evaporated by the time their second child had been born. And it was about to get worse.
Her husband wanted to „live to ride and ride to live.“ He wanted to ride with the Hell‘s Angels, chase women, and live a wild and crazy life that came from being connected to that particular motorcycle club. He wanted it more than his family he had already helped create. He wanted it so badly, that he agreed to let 30 to 40 of them come into his home and do dispicable things to his wife to prove his loyalty to the H.A‘s, putting them before any women, any thing. He wanted it that bad.
The first time it happened, it‘s any wonder she survived it. When she knew it was about to happen again on a different night, she made plans to avoid it. She fed and bathed her babies early and put them to bed. The infant and her three year old sister would be safe, as the H.A.‘s would never cause harm to a child. Believe it or not, no matter what one may wish to say against them, the don‘t hurt children. There really is a moral compass there after all. Before they could arrive for a second round of Boys will be Bullies night, she left the house. She didn‘t know where she‘d go, but her feet took a hike and she ended up at a bar. And that is when she met Mr. Nice Guy.
Nice Guy struck up a conversation with her, and she found him to be empathetic. He listened to her. By the end of the night, before she left to return home hoping it was safe, Nice Guy handed her a $100 bill. He told her the best thing to do was to get her babies out of that house. The money was to hole up and hide out in a motel room. The year was 1964, and you received a lot more stay in a motel room for $100 back then. He assured her that there was more help to come, and there was.
The girl was now a woman with two children and barely escaped a nightmare. She had help. She and Nice Guy began to spend more and more time together and he eventually married her. He adopted her children as his own, giving them his last name. He provided healthcare, food, clothing, a roof over their heads, every necessity for daily function and survival. He worked full-time, was a good provider, and treated his wife with respect. Her whole life had turned around. It was almost too good to be true. Well, not almost …. it was too good to be true. It took several years before he changed, but unlike the H.A.‘s, this guy didn‘t have a moral compass when it came to crimes against children. That is another story in itself. He was however like the others in his deviant acts against his wife. It comes on gradually and gets worse over tiime. That‘s how abusers do it. He was indeed an abuser.
After all those years in foster care, she thougth the worst was behind her. After those years in a hopeless marriage, she still had thought the worst was behind her when Mr. Nice Guy became her knight in shining armor. But it only got worse.
If you were to ask her why she never left him, she has more than one reason. First, she loved him. Defects and all, he was the man that not only rescued her, he also secured a future for her children that would not involve the foster care system. Secondly, between her childhood and two husbands, she had absolutely no self-esteem or confidence in herself that she could function alone, for she had always had a man telling her what to do. And third, he had told her that she owed him because he rescued her and her children. That if she left him, it‘d be the last thing she‘d ever do. Fear had once again ruled her life and both dominance and control were in some one else‘s hands, not her own. She was defluted, defeated, and empty. She was trapped in a home that felt more like a prison. In a sense, she was a sex slave, but because they were married, it wasn‘t deemed rape even without her consent. Oh, sure, now they call it spousal rape, illegal by law, but they didn‘t in 1988 to the best of my knowledge it wasn‘t until the 1990, but I‘m not sure.
I felt badly for this woman, for her past was one big open wound. I felt anger at the husband, because he was my stepfather, and that woman is my mother. All her life she was somebody‘s victim. She never really stood half a chance from the day she was born. I feared he‘d eventually kill her – and who‘s to say he wouldn‘t have? My fear kept me from thinking clearly, and I put myself into a position that ended his life, but affected so many others. My actions resulted in her coming to prison because she felt responsible that I killed him. In her mind, if she hadn‘t told me about his series of sexual violations and buttery, she believes I‘d never have gone to their house that night to stand up to him. What she doesn‘t realize is, none of this is her fault. I didn‘t need her to tell me anything at all. I could see it in the tears in her eyes, the bruises of perfect handprints around her wrists. I saw it in a black eye. I heard it in the tone of her voice. It was evident in her fading joy of life, her state of mind as a darkness called depression was engulfing her. I didn‘t need her to tell me. I knew. And I felt like a coward for not having stood up to him before then. Her past wasn‘t her own doing any more than that night was. I‘ve crtainly learned that there are other ways to deal with perpetrators in non-violent ways, however, it has been pointed out to me that the fact remains: My mother has not been raped, sodimized, beaten, bullied, or victimized by violent intent since the day I killed my stepfather 24 years ago.
From the day my mother was born, she‘s been in one type of prison or another. Right now, it is this manmade one in Chowchilla, even an LWOP sentence is up for parole consideration after 30 years. She‘s served 71 years. Technically …. A little girl was born in Jan Jose November 30, 1941 … and she never stood a chance. Tell me, where is the justice in that? Is it any wonder Lady Justice was a blindfold?

The Raw Truth About a Prisoner‘s Mother‘s Day by Cora
Every woman in prison eperiences their own Mother‘s Day. Some are mothers that have the privilege of visiting their children. Most have their mother‘s who want to visit them. And some enjoy the privilege of both. A good many have a good, happy story to tell, but no all of us do.
I am 48 years old, and mother to five children aged 17 to 31 years old. When I came to prison, my children were still in school. I left them in a changing world, but promised that they would still see me no matter what. Twelve years ago, that promise seemed realistic, but over a decade later, I can count on one hand how many times I have seen my children. On a number of occasions I broke down and begged other family members to bring my children. I felt so powerless.
Throughout the years, my mother‘s vision deteriorated, and blindness was setting in. I finally got my mother, health concerns and all, to agree to chaperone my children to visit me. That was the year that she died of heart attack. That was 2005, eight years ago, and when my heart began to harden. The pain is unexplainable, as I deal with this double-edged sword each Mother‘s Day now.
As Mother‘s Day approaches again, I‘m beginning to feel the nervous energy and anxiety, that includes sleepless nights, and when I do sleep, nightmares. This is the wrost holiday or the year for me, because it represents a day of celebration with the children that I gave birth to ….. only there aren‘t any reunions or celebrations. I perceive the day that I received my sentence, as the day that active motherhood ceased to be a reality. And I miss it every single day.
The Dept. of Corrections declares that they favor and wish to encourage family visits, however that is not so simple for many of us. For many of us, we‘ve been relocated several hours away from our loved ones. My family lives five hours away, and in this economy, it is not cheap to travel halfway across the state for such reunification. This is not something you can prepare yourself for. It‘s not something I added to my Bucket List. The truth is, my decision one day has led to my children and I growing apart. It is my burden to face.
That God for the Get on the Bus Program (GOTB). It is a community contributed opportunity for children to be brought on buses on Mother‘s Day weekend to see their mothers in prison. The GOTB takes care of gas, transportation, and food for the families to eat at their visit, as many are economically strapped, if not just downright dirt poor. My second daughter who is now 22 years old, began coming with GOTB when she was 16 years old. All that was required, was a chaperone. She has a dream that the governor will reduce all 85% prison terms to 65%, which would get me home to her much sooner. In the meantime, she tries her best to keep our family together.
One year, my daughter came with GOTB, and I noticed that she had bruises on her legs. She didn‘t want to talk about it, but I discovered that another family member had put their hands on her in frustration. Why? Because she fell asleep on the toilet at 4 A.M. getting ready to come see me. I had to promise her that I wouldn‘t say anything. To do so, would have resulted in my family terminating any future visiting plans. How would you deal with such a revelation on Mother‘s Day, in a room with dozens of children and several correctional officers that would have seen a negative reaction as violently disruptive? I honored my daughter‘s plea for not reacting or speaking out on it. No and easy decision to make, nor to live with.
My two oldest boys, aged 21 and 30 now, stopped coming to visit or write when they joined their new family: gangs. When my younger son had a chance to visit me, the authorities refused to allow him in due to his birth certificate being too worn. He was enraged and stood out in front of the prison screaming, „Free my mother if you won‘t let me in!“ That day, my sister was allowed to visit with me while they had my son visit in a trailer where he cried in bitter defeat. I spent 15 minutes listening to her tell me how vital it had been for me to see my son that day. He was dealing with peer pressureto join a gang. He needed to talk to his mother. That was two years ago.
Here it is again, Mother‘s Day is once again upon us. Like many, I can‘t see my own mother, for she‘s left this world. Like many, I can‘t see my children, for I left their free world and reside a world away in prison. The anxiety and stress sets in. I‘ll be a nervous wreck on the Saturday before the holiday, and I‘ll dread the inevitable … dozens of women on the walkway, in the unit, and even those in my room, greeting me with, „Happy Mother‘s Day!“ It hurts to hear it, because I have a few thoughts that ramble around in my head, and deposit themselves in my heart. First, will I get to see that little boy I left 12 years ago, who is now 17? Second, will my daughter travel safely, let alone make the trip at all? And third, what about my two oldest sons in the gang? When will I see them again? No, no, no …. will I see them again?
As I write this, I cry. I have tears rolling down my cheeks, it‘s hard to breathe and the lump in my throat is getting even larger. Call it regret or maybe remorse. Call it loss or devastation. No matter what you call it, it is the consequences of being a mother in prison. And that is a hard pill to swallow. It‘s also, the raw cold truth.

I‘ll Never Know – by The Truly Remorseful
I dont know what it is like, I‘ll never be able to epress enough,
To be alone on Mother‘s Day, Remorse for what I‘ve put you through,
To never again, feel her embrace. And I will never truly know,
I don‘t know what it‘s like, I don‘t feel sorry for myself,
To be a mother who lost her son, On Mother‘s and Father‘s Day,
To be her the second weekend of May, What I do is think of you,
Coming all undone. As I hit my knees and pray.
I‘ve never known that pain,
The loss, the ordeal,
Losing a child so young,
Then being told my would would heal.

Unconditional Love Without Boundaries – written by Niki Martinez
I have been extremely fortunate throughout these 19 years that I have been incarcerated. Many times I feel so unworthy and undeserving of the unconditional love that is so freely given to me.
I have caused tremendous pain and devastation, and I have hurt so many people because of my actions. I have continuously failed my parents throughout the years, and disappointed them in ways that no parent should ever have to deal with. I have brought them excessive heartache that I constantly created in „this world“ with my own self-absorbed, self-destructive hehavior. How ignorant I was!! I never took my parents for granted, but I can honestly say, that I didn‘t appreciate them as much as they should be appreciated and valued. They definitely deserve so much more and better that what I have given them. They are precious, priceless gifts froom God that I truly cherish today. It blows my mind, swells my heart, and humbles my spirit, that after all these years, after all of the disappointments, agony, and shame – they still love me and are still by my side.
I remind myself constantly that they don‘t owe me anything. They do not have to accept my collect calls or come to visit. They do not have to take care of me, and they don‘t have to even care. My iniquitous crime and actions brought me to prison – and yes I was only 17 years old at the time, but I am the one who committed the crime. Not them. I created this catastrophe. I ruined, destroyed, and shattered lives, families, and communities. When the world judged me as a vicious, teenaged monster, my parents seen their precious child. They could have easily walked away and gone on with their lives, but I must say, thank God for my parent‘s love. It has been the ultimate force that has definitely carried me through the years. My love, gratitude, and appreciation for them is completely immeasurable.
My Dad‘s love is unconditional and so fulfilling. He has blessed my life with his love, his care and concern, his dedication and his presence. He travels all the way from his home in Chicago to visit me at least twice a year. He even rides his Harley out here in the summers. He spends days on the road just to get out to California to see me. Talk about love! He even brings an entourage of friends and family to come and visit me just to make sure I feel the love, and that I will know that I am loved. How amazing is that?!! I haven‘t made it easy on him, but his love is endless. It has been empowering, and his love is what keeps my heart beating – literally – to this very day. My Daddy is a phenomenal father, and yes I am extremely fortunate and beyond blessed.
My Mom has been the ultimate blessing to my life. The agony that she has had to endure because of me, has been inconceivable, yet she still showers me with unconditional love. She has been there to comfort me when I felt like I was falling apart. She has been there to encourage me when I felt like I couldn‘t stand to do this time another day. She has picked me up and carried me when I felt defeated. She fed my spirit hope when all I could think about was giving up. She has taught me the lesson of faith, and blessed me with her knowledge, wisdom, and of course, her love. She has given me the greatest gift that any mother could give their child – and that is to know Jesus. She has been on her knees praying for me every single day for two decades. No matter how much trash and devastation I have brought to the table, she continued to love me, and she never gave up on me. My mom has helped mold me into the woman that I am today … with morals, ethics, integrity, and the love of Jesus in my heart. She is truly an inspiration and I pray to aspire to be half the woman that she is. I am so honored that she is my mother. She has saved my life, my spirit, and my soul. It is only by the grace of God, and the wisdom and love from both my mother and father, that I still have my sanity, my health, and I am with a faithful heart and an encouraged soul.
I continue to breathe every day not only because of my parents, but for them, God has blessed me with the capability of breathing on my own, and I thank Him every day. What a gift!!
I am blessed with wonderful parents: Jesus, Jesse, and Gladys. I thank God for my life, and that they are all in it. Cherish those whom love you. Happy Mother‘s Day. Happy Father‘s Day. And God bless you all.

Q & A with T.C.
Q) How is the VSP to CCWF transition going?
A) Hmmm … to quotate an officer, „I haven‘t seen so many disrespectful, angry at the world, youngsters in all my life! They think they can do whatever they want!“ Apparently, the rumors we had heard for the last 15 years about VSP being strict with structure were, just that – rumors.
Q) What‘s up with Folsom housing women?
A) They don‘t live with the men. They can only house 403 women, and in an open dorm setting – no cells. Basically, they sleep iin cubicles like in an office building, so no electrical appliances are allowed.
Q) Whatever happened to that Correctional officer that got arrested?
A) Sergeant Edward Tovar, who volunteered at a local high shool as a girl‘s softball coach, took a plea bargain to avoid a trial. He was sentenced in Madera County court on March 27, 2013 to a lousy 128 days and 5 years probation for multibple charges of child sexual molestation. He got a slap on the wrist, and the D.A. had the nerve to say, „He‘s not going to have it easy.“ Why? Because he lost his job as an officer? Because he has to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life? Because he is jubject to random polygraphs? How does that serve justice? I can just imagine the outraged parents when they heard it‘d be days served, and not years. He was a mandated reporter. He was in a position of authority and trust. Ask anyone. He got off easy. That‘s the census here. Go on, Google it. Once you have all of the facts, you may agree that being in a position of authority does have certain privileges.
Q) How is the Medical there these days?
A) The Medical Receiver, who was federally appointed to oversee all of the 33 state prison Medical Depts., has slashed the budget and spending from $600 million to $300 million across the board. A lot of medical procedures and surgeries requested by doctors, are being denied. A local hospital in Cororan has had to close their doors and let go of staff, because the bulk of their business was the nearby Cororan State Prison for men, where 10.000 inmates are housed. Yes, ten thousand! So, with costs slashed, it is bound to directly affect the well being of chronic cure inmates.
Q) What happened to CCWF trying to kill of the rabbits there?
A) You can‘t keep a good rabbit down! While many were victims of rabbitcide, our furry little friends put on their bunny armor and refused to go down without a fight. They‘re everywhere! And these little guys are picky eaters. They won‘t eat lettuce, but give them apples and bread and they‘ll love you for life.
Q) Any more news about the 85% rumors?
A) An inmate told me that a friend of hers got word from her mother via telephone, that affective June 1st it should be in effect. The mother apparently had a letter signed from Jerry Brown himself. Whether 85% term inmates will drop to serve only 65% of theyr term, remains to be seen. I‘ll believe it when it happens.
Q) Any other rumors you can speak on?
A) No, but I could make something up. You‘d be surprised how fast a rumor will spread in here, and what gossips will believe.

A Letter to God
Dear God,
I want to thank You for having kept my mother and I together all of these years. There were times when circumstances beyond our control separated us, but You kept placing us back together ever since county juil. In our darkest hour, You let us share our own light with one another. Thank You.
I don‘t know what it is like to not be able to talk to my mom on Mother‘s Day. I don‘t know what it is like to wonder if I will ever see her again. I don‘t need to rely on the phones or mail system to express my love. While her being in prison for a crime I committed is not fair at all, I do see the bright side. I do see that I have not missed the last 23 years with her physically present in my life every day. There are a good many here that wish they had this blessing. I do see the blessing that it is, really I do, but I also see the downside, Lord. I can‘t help but to see what is right before my eyes.
Above all others, You know how hard prison has been on my mother‘s health. The older she gets, the younger they come in here, and I stop to wonder, „who raised some of these people?“ In March, my mom could have walked out of here and paroled to Crossroads, but her fate was decied in October 2012 that that was not to be. Not yet. I‘m sure You have Your reasons, although the panel had their own. I don‘t want to question Your will, but I‘ll admit that there are times when it is easier to pray The Lord‘s Prayer, than it is to exercise it.
My mother is tired. Anyone with half a brain can see it. I believe the only thing that keeps her hanging in there, is me. You‘ve given us a couple or close calls with her strokes, and it scared the heebie-ba-jeebies out of me each time. The fear of not knowing if she‘d return from the hospital, or be physically independent if she did. That‘s a fear that many lifers and others here experience with their own mothers in society. The question too fearful to voice! Will I see her in the free world again?
God, I know You have millions of people in Your ear all day long, and believe me, I do not envy You of Your job, but I want my request officially in Your Prayer Request Book …..
Lord, if You have any plans to take her home to You, could You please not let it be in here? Please, let her be free to pet a purring kitten once again, to make her homemade Portuguese Sweet Bread, to sleep in a real bed, and know what a bubble bath feels like again. I don‘t know how I‘d react if You took her before the system set her free first, but I can assume I‘m likely to lose it. She‘s here because of me. I was only trying to protect her that night. My way did not work, obviously. So I ask that You protect her Your way. I pray that my request reflects Your will. Nobody knows what it‘s like to be. Nobody, but You. Please don‘t let me be held accountable for two deaths.
In Jesus‘ name, Amen

On a Lighter Note ….
So much emotion in this issue of the newsletter, huh? Well, to lighten the mood a moment here, I want to share one of the funniest jokes I‘ve seen in awhile. It was sent in by Lisa Santimaw a few moths or more ago. It goes like this …

Mr. And Mrs. Fenton are retired, and Mrs. Fenton always insists that her husband go with her to Wal-Mart. He gets so bored with all of the shopping trips. He prefers to get in and get out, but his wife loves to browse. He racked his brain to find a way to get out of having to tag along. One day, Mrs. Fenton received the following letter from Wal-Mart:

Dear Mrs. Fenton,
Over the past six months, your husband has been causing quite a commotion in our store. We cannot tolerate this behavior and may ban both of you from our stores. We have documented all incidents on our video surveillance equipment. All complaints against Mr. Fenton are listed below.

Things Mr. Bill Fentoon has done while his spouse was shopping in Wal-Mart:
1. June 15: Took 24 boxes of condoms and randomly put them in people‘s carts when they weren‘t looking.
2. July 2: Set all the alarm clocks in House wares to go off at 5-minute intervals.
3. July 19: Walked up to an employee and told her in an official tone. ´Code 3‘ in house wares … and watched what happened.
4. August 4: Went to the Service Desk and asked to put a bag of M&M on layaway.
5. September 14: Moved a ‚CAUTION – WET FLOOR‘ sign to a carpeted area.
6. September 15: Set up a tent in the camping department and told other shoppers he‘d invite them in if they‘ll bring pillows from the bedding department.
7. September 23: When a clerk asks if they can help him, he begins to cry and asks, ‚Why can‘t you people just leave me alone?‘
8. October 4: Looked right into the security camera; used it as a mirror, and picked his nose.
9. November 10: While handling guns in the hunting department, asked the clerk if he knows where the antidepressants are.
10. December 3: Darted around the store suspiciously loudly humming the ´Mission Impossible‘ theme.
11. December 6: In the auto department, practiced his ´Madonna Look‘ using different size funnels.
12. December 18: Hid in a clothing rack and when people browse through, yelled ´PICK ME!‘ ´PICK ME!´
13. December 21: When an announcement came over the load speaker, he assumes the fetal position and screams ´NO! NO! Its those voices again!!!!´
And last but not least.
14. December 23: Went into a fitting room, shut the door, waited awhile, then yelled very loudly, ´There is no toilet paper in here!´

From the Heart
The telephones attached to the white painted cinder block wall don‘t really look like much to the casual observer, but if you ask Dee Dee, Becky, or especially Niki, they‘ll tell you that they are a lifeline to the outside world. The policy requires our family and friends to set up ability to hear the voice of their loved ones. The bills are paid before the calls are made, but still when they accept the charges of those collect calls, it screams, „I Love You! You matter to me!“
Whether a letter or just a signed card, the fact that we are worthy of a little of your time and a 46 cent stamp speaks volumes. At Mail call when the officer says your name, what they‘re really sayiing is, „Someone out there thinks you‘re pretty darn special.“
We would be lost and lonely, hopeless and empty of any fight left in us if not for the love of family and friends. I speak for all prisoners, not just mom and myself. The first and third verses of the Blake Shelton son „God Gave Me You“ says it all. Here‘s the first part of that song:
I‘ve been a walking heartache / I‘ve made a mess of me
The person I‘ve been lately / Aint who I wanna be (but)
You stay here right beside me / And watch as the storm blows through
And I need you …. cuz
God gave me you for the ups and downs
God gave me you for the days of doubts
And for when I think I‘ve lost my way
There are no words left here to say
It‘s true … God gave me You.
So, I say from the heart … not just on Mother‘s Day, Father‘s Day, Christmas, or Thanksgiving, do we celebrate each of you in our lives. Dear loved one, please know that your love and support makes everyday a personal holiday in our hearts. And that is straight froom the heart!
TC and Mama P

T.C. Paulinkonis Pauline “Barbara” Paulinkonis
W45118 514-16-4U W45120 514-16-41
PO Box 1509 PO Box 1508
Chowchilla, CA 93610 Chowchilla, CA 93610

Public domain image, royalty free stock photo from

In view of the recent sufferings and the accompanying feelings of oneness I would like to offer the quote below from the Baha’i Writings, revealed by Baha’u’llah (whose name means the Glory of God) with hopes it will lighten hearts that are heavy. esther

CXXX: Be generous in prosperity, and thankful in…

Be generous in prosperity, and thankful in adversity. Be worthy of the trust of thy neighbor, and look upon him with a bright and friendly face. Be a treasure to the poor, an admonisher to the rich, an answerer of the cry of the needy, a preserver of the sanctity of thy pledge. Be fair in thy judgment, and guarded in thy speech. Be unjust to no man, and show all meekness to all men. Be as a lamp unto them that walk in darkness, a joy to the sorrowful, a sea for the thirsty, a haven for the distressed, an upholder and defender of the victim of oppression. Let integrity and uprightness distinguish all thine acts. Be a home for the stranger, a balm to the suffering, a tower of strength for the fugitive. Be eyes to the blind, and a guiding light unto the feet of the erring. Be an ornament to the countenance of truth, a crown to the brow of fidelity, a pillar of the temple of righteousness, a breath of life to the body of mankind, an ensign of the hosts of justice, a luminary above the horizon of virtue, a dew to the soil of the human heart, an ark on the ocean of knowledge, a sun in the heaven of bounty, a gem on the diadem of wisdom, a shining light in the firmament of thy generation, a fruit upon the tree of humility.


Bean Town

Boston feels like a sink hole, an asphalt taffy road with unexpected, unplanned for sags, taking the nation down and then up. Our hearts run to each other in times of tragedy, and someone else’s child is ours. We claim him, her.

Boston is in my marrow, even though I left there when they still hadn’t found the Boston Strangler, you know the guy who was murdering old women, and I was renting a room in Belmont, and the other roommate, Miss Bell, was very old.

I waited for the Cuban Crisis to be over, kept huge boxes around in my small vertical room, with tops open. I had ended a relationship and just couldn’t do law firms, relationships, or disregard from relatives anymore.

I had a VW grey Volkswagen convertible, with actual orange, Marx Nixt sticks, which to this day I don’t know how to spell, but I tell you, that car would go 55, and that was it, and by the time I edged out of Buffalo, my second morning, I was glad, because the heater was frozen, and I wouldn’t have made it through a Boston winter.

What’s in me from Boston? Libraries, libraries, libraries. Books, and my autodidactic self which took itself around books alphabetically, until I had read everything every author I fell in love with had written. In high school, as a rebel, I quit checking out books, and just stuffed them under my raincoat, and returned them that way.

Boston had the Charles River and the Harvard Teams crewing, but before that West Roxbury had Billings Field which was flooded in the winter, and my boys’ black hockey skates flew over this field every day. It was a time of Roast Beef in the dining room with the family on Sundays, and weekly meals in the kitchen for just us kids: leftovers on Mondays, Spaghetti on Tuesdays, Wednesdays I don’t know, but it was an era of the same type of meal each day, and our clothes were picked out the night before. School, the Randall G. Morris Elementary School was one block away, and on the first floor almost at the end was my mom’s room, and it felt as if I had a night light, even though we kids couldn’t have mom as a teacher.

I remember the smell of tight, smell of rubber, pink balls which bounced against garage doors with a thwap, and yearly visits to the Constitution, walking down narrow steps to its innards, and I remember visiting the Bunker Hill Monument, reading Johnny Tremain, and everything else for that matter, all stitched inside my soul as “Boston.”

I don’t remember girls having showers in high school, so the concept of running a marathon didn’t hit me until I was in my early 40s, and started running 3 miles a day.
In my era, we witnessed black out curtains, shortages of tobacco, sugar, and we jumped on tin cans, and later fought over who could massage the round orange ball inside the plastic covered white lard package to make margarine. We rooted for Ike, and laughed about having a naked man swing in the trees at the top of the hill where the Water Tower stood, a silent sentry to his bizarre behavior.

Boston’s a town that changed quite a bit; a town where prejudice of skin color and class etched pain in anyone’s heart in the 1950s. In my small patch anyone who wasn’t Catholic and Irish were suspect, except at high school, Roslindale High, and then we kids didn’t draw any type of line around, through, or over friendships

But somehow, maybe because change was in the air, always necessary, and because of books, and unobserved deeds of kindness, I didn’t pick up the alcoholism in the family quilt, and I moved to California, leaving the idea of skin color scorn and judging someone who didn’t speak the King’s English. Los Angeles in the early 60s was bizarre and multifaceted. Still, Boston, was a good place to be from, despite James Joseph “Whitey” Bulger, Jr.’s cavorts, and the horrible racism of Louise Day Hicks. I somehow knew change would come when we managed toe holds on the crust of the 60s. So now when I hear of newscasters laud the tightness of solidarity, I wonder. Is that really true?

But I tell you, we are all from Boston, or Newtown, or New York, or Baghdad, or Congo when atrocities hit us or others. The human heart has a way of moving borders. Got to tell the leaders about this. They need to know.


Did you know there’s a type of bug or spider that runs along in the Iraqi desert along side the figure running, and this spider is vicious and has teeth and will give a deadly bite, but it hides in the shadows. I read a biography of a doctor’s time in Iraq, a time where her husband, a Marine also, stayed home with the twins (toddlers) and her mom and dad came in to do heavy duty grandparent duty. I can’t remember the title of the book, and given the multiplicity of books now emerging, can’t remember. Today, as never before, a plethora of memoir on the war; did I say war, I meant “wars” emerges, and I think all valid. It is time to give voice to a day, a moment, an hour, and those who do will cause me to think and feel, and say, “I’ll not forget.”

The pages are still blank as far as our future history goes. Did we go down that random vortex of unimaginable horror, like living In the Shadow of Angkor, written and edited by a friend Sharon May, and also Frank Stewart, and is a University of Hawaii Press publication?

Today as never before, did I say that? Today as never before, the forces of light and darkness duke it out, and how can one forget moments. Yes, my world is still as small as a canary-yellow and-white-cough-drop-colored paper bag, and a picture of a very fat, curly tailed pug, with stocky front legs resting on a small child’s red chair, but over these images lays a heaviness of what is happening out there; out beyond the insulation of our culture and those who romp and play on a Fantasy Island, like Pinocchio, and mercifully, there is always beauty in the world, and prose of horrors overcome, as in Angkor.

I am reminded of a weekend course on the foundation of education building a world society, and realizing we are in a paradigm shift, and it is uncomfortable, but current educational practices are based on getting all of us through a system as the Industrial Revolution, and that won’t work.

Now is the time for us to enable capacity and connection and authentic perceptions, and spiritual insight. We are children of a half light emerging into a global civilization which must consider that we are coming of age spiritually, and it’s time to throw down all shibboleths (is that a word) of difference and pulsate on hoping our tattered world will win the battle of old egos as in old dinosaurs.

But I am dangerously near preaching or lecturing, and the heart, anyone’s heart will go into heels dug into the ground, don’t push me into a way of thinking, but to end with a remembrance of a day I’ll not forget is to remember 9/11 after the airplanes’ destructive paths, before politicians’ games of power, a blank space, like the action potential of the cell before it hits the synapses, and a blank time where we were cylindrical in our unity and our caring for the other; we seemed to be enwrapped in columns of blue misty caring, and we were one – giving new meaning to prayer as a state of being.


The T.C. and Mama P Newsletter
1st QTR, 2013, Available free at

Dear Family of Friends,
With a new year upon us, we look forward to what we hope is a good year of changes for the better, and new insights as we face each day as it comes.
The 4th quarter of 2012 was especially stressful on Mama P and myself and we prepared her for her parole hearing. She went into that hearing room hopeful, given the good fate of many lifers before her who received parole grants. Have you ever been at the beach and had a big wave crash down upon you and literally knock you off of your feet? You think to yourself, „what in the hell just happened?“ as you try to regain your composure? Yeah, well it was like that. That is the best way to describe it. It sort of takes the breath out of you.
On top of the parole hearing, which got put off until it was held in October, we had other prison politic‘s taking place as well. If it wasn‘t the transfers of women from VSP coming over in droves, it was the stress level of those around us. The air was thick with it. We had a lot going on in our minds. A lot of „what now?“ questions. Yes, we were so self-absorbed in our own world here behind razor-wire fences, considering our own futures, that for a little while, we forgot what it meant to relax.
And then it happened. The tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School. When something that horrific takes place, it puts things in perspective for you really fast. You‘re grateful it wasn‘t your child. You‘re glad you have someone to hug, your loved ones to talk to. Why is it that people wait for tragedies like this before they wake up and realize they‘ve taken others for granted? I challenge you to live each day like tomorrow may not come. I you care about someone, tell them. Don‘t assume that they already know and don‘t need to hear it. People need to hear it. A little effort on your part can go a long ways. For every day that you wake, be thankful. For every breath that your lungs automatically take in, be thankful, for there are countless others who cannot on their own.
Folks, for every day that you can rise out of bed, be it in the free world or prison, be grateful that you can. There are six school staffers and twenty innocent children who cannot. There are 26 families who can no longer say, „I love you“ to listening ears. We have that chance every single day. Don‘t take it for granted. Please, for the love of God, don‘t assume they don‘t need to hear it. You never know what kind of day they are having. A few kind words from you could make all of the difference.
I challenge you to love …. and love well.
Happy New Year,
T.C. and Mama P

About Mom‘s Parole Verdict
We understand that many of our loyal supporters have questions about what happened during Mom‘s parole hearing. We‘ve been asked what was asked, what was said, how it all went. Please understand that we‘ve reported what we thought was sufficient to help y‘all understand why mom was denied parole. Her legal team wants to keep any such statements to a minimum. We need to respect that. They are acting in her best interests and will continue to do so. Calling their office to voice your opinions isn‘t going to help matters.
According to the law as it is written, mom can file a special form called a 1045A Petition, to request a hearing sooner than five years. If she has her ducks all lined up like the BPH recommended she do, she could possibly be reheard in three years. It‘s all a matter of more time.

You Be the Judge
Let me introduce you to Steven C. Martinez.
While serving his 157 years to life sentence at Centinela State Prison, he was attacked by two inmates and stabbed in the neck. The laceration of his spinal cord caused instant quadriplegia. Martinez requires 24 hour around the clock care, and will so for the rest of his life. He can barely turn his head, yet has zero motor skills in his arms and legs, nor control over bowel and bladder functions. He is not expected to ever regain any, let alone all of these bodily functions again.
Would you say he qualifies For Medical Parole under legislature act 3550 for medically incapacitated inmates? The parole Board denied his petition For Medical Parole due to his heinous crime and his aggrivated potential towards violence against women. Oh, you need more facts, don‘t you? Well in that case, read on.
In 1998, Martinez deliberately drove his car into two young women, pinning one beneath the vehicle. He then grabbed the incapacitated woman by the throat, broke her nose by punching her, and threw her into the backseat before driving her to a secluded location. That‘s where the worst part of his crime was committed upon his bloody and battered victim. I‘ll spare you the graphic details evident in his convition list of charges! Forcible rape, forcible oral copulation, rape with a foreign object, assault with a deadly weapon, battery causing serious injury, hit and run causing injury, and finally, kidnapping.
While in custody, he‘s threatened custody staff and nurses with great bodily injury, even provoking responses about knowing where they live. He was constantly verbally abusive using both vulgar and derogatory name calling to berate the nurses who tried to help him. Being that he was completely reliant on medical staff due to his paralysis, you‘d think he‘d be more respectful. That is not the case. He threaterned them on a regular basis, so is denial of Medical Parole, Poetic Justice?
So, you be the judge. Although paralyzed with no hope of normal motor skills ever again, does he pose a threat to public safety? The BPH thought so. And so, he appealed their decision, to which the 4th Dist. Appelate Courd ruled in his favor. They ordered the release of Steven Marinez, subject to whatever conditions The Board deems appropriate.
Before you say yes or no on this sensitive issue of Medical Parole, let us not for get that there was a young lady who was savagely raped over and over again by this guy. There‘s a part of her that‘s paralyzed as well for the rest of her life. Why should she be robbed of justice just because Martinez picked the wrong fight with the wrong inmate? Yes, he‘s paralyzed, but his mentality is that he‘d do it all over again if he could. Lifers are not allowed to be paroled until we change our way of thinking. The Board is very adamant about this criteria for parole. Does paralysis change that?
So, if you were in the position to decide the fate of inmate Steven Martinez, would you agree with the BPH, or with the Appellate Court? And more importantly, no matter what you decide, could you sleep at night with that decision?

Change – Submitted by Snoop, Aka Raphael
Long ago someone taught me that people enter our lives, some for a reason, some for a season, and some for a lifetime. Expect nothing to remain the same. For it is in the order of change that some thins must grow. It is also in the order of change, that some things must go.
Expect a change to come. Change will come whether you welcome it or not. It must first be recognized before it can ever be utilized. Change implements new ways and ideas in doing things. It is the order of change that brings about prosperity. You must seek to prosper in everything you set out to do, but the ideas must be done with the order of change.
Ideas begin as a thought, which are seeds that have been planted in the fertile ground of your mind. If you want change to manifest in your life, you must change the way you think. In order to do this, you must change your heart. Your mouth will speak whatever is in your heart. So, if you are speaking ignorantly, idly, or just plain old hating, that‘s what‘s in your heart and what you see in your life is the very manifestation of it. You must change your heart so that your speech can change. You are actually creating your future with the words you are speaking today. Change what you‘re speaking to words that bring life, words that will build you and the next person up.
Seek not to destroy others with angry words of malice. Remove envy and jealousy from your heart. These are the very things that will surely tear your hopes and dreams apart. Indeed you are committing suicide. You are killing whatever good that may have began to grow in yoru life before you could ever see it blossom. That‘s why some people think that speaking words of faith don‘t work. While waiting for the very thing they were hoping for, they killed the manifestation of it by speaking unencouraging words into the atmosphere against the thing they were hoping for, or against someone else. You reap what you sow. You planted a seed of death into your own garden. Now you may never see the manifestation of it simply because you trampled on someone else‘s garden.
Change your heart, so out of it will flow rivers of living water that will empover you to speak words of life, building and edifying yourself and others. From these seeds that you plant will return unto you a harvest of the very thing you were hoping for. Your garden will surely grow and bring forth nothing but good.
Dare to do different that the rest. Don‘t be persuaded to fall back just because no one else is taking this courageous stand. Be committed. Greatness requires everything that you have to give and more. Greatness will never go on sale, nor does it come cheaply. You must pay the price to obtain greatness. Don‘t allow anyone or any circumstance to detour you from your commitment to achieve greatness.
You must know that change can be a desperate thing. In the order of change, it can make on quite uncomfortable. It is the very thing needed to take you into your destiny. It will cause you to enter different choices and decisions in life in an effort to transform your into the new and improved you, preparing you for your future. I‘ve experienced a temendous amount of change in my personal life this past year. To be honest, it was quite disturbing at first. Nevertheless, I had to embrace the change in an effort to grow. When God closes one door on you, He will always open another door for you, allowing you to begin again.
In order to become an innovator of change, one must simply set out to gain knowledge, get understanding of that knowledge then, utilize wisdom and discretion based upon what you‘ve learned. Without knowledge people perish, so don‘t be ashamed, cry out for it.
Whatever you want outta life you simply have to get acqainted with what it will take to acquire it. If it is just to survive in life, then find out what it will take to achieve it, meditate on it constantly, then set out to accomplish it. If you set your sights higher and you want ot have a career and be successful at it, then research your field of choice and if at that time you still decide that is what you want to do, then go get it with all that you have to give. Don‘t shortchange yourself by taking shortcuts, because the time will come when your knowledge will be tested. If you are in school, do your own homework, ya dig? Save yourself the embarrassment of your conversations not measuring up to your degree.
Some people remain in their current position in life due to their lack of knowledge. They don‘t acutally know what it will take in life to go from their current status to one of elevation. The knowledge is out there, but some feel as if society owes them something and want society to come look for them and drop it in their lap. These people become stagnated and never grow up.

Q & A With T.C.
Q) How is Mama P doing after parole denial?
A) One day at a time. The blow of „No“ hurt, but she still gets up and faces each day. Depression is normal in such a situation, but she‘s coming back into her usual self. She has me right here beside her. If need be, I‘ll hold her up.
Q) How has the VSP to CCWF transition gone?
A) More smoothly for room #/6 than for some others. This cell has been blessed by the hand of God since I‘ve been in it beginning in July 1995. Mom and I are the only CCWF originals, the other six are all VSP, but let me tell you, they are a good crew. Some real keepers for sure.
Q) Is it true about the 85% going to 65% time credit?
A) That rumor hasn‘t been true since it began circulating over a decade ago. I have more of a chance of seeing Big Foot out my back window wrestling the Locness Monster.
Q) What‘s up with Marsy‘s Law and how it affects old lifers?
A) Old lifers, meaning those sentenced prior to the voter approved Victims‘ Bill of Rights, ADA Marsy‘s Law, are still being denied parole at terms consistent with the 2008 approved law. An inmate named Michael Vicks, not the pitbull fighting ring football player, but some other guy, filed an appeal on this matter. As a lifer sentenced prior to 2008, Vicks appealed the BPH denial of parole that they kept in accordance with Marsy‘s Law. The California Supreme Court granted review, however no decision as to the legality of the BPH decision has been determined yet. It should be noted that whatever the court rules in the Vicks case, will affect all lifers convicted before the effective date of the amendments applied in 2008.
Q) What does Prop 36 mean for Third Strikers now?
A) Okay, there‘s a lot involved here. First of all, not every third striker qualifies for resentencing. If one has a serious or violent felony as their current offense, they are not edigible. That long list includes the intent to cause great bodily harm. In order to get resentenced, any Third Striker that qualifies, needs to file a petition for recall of sentence under the newly created Penal Code 1170.126 to get a hearing. It must be filed within two years, so any Third Strikers reading this, need to march their butts to the Law Library.
Q) Whatever happened to Richard Masbruch?
A) After he met his march at CCWF, he got transferred to VSP and placed in a sort of protective custody medical ward. A friend at CIW reported that he was transferred there in October, again in PC. Word is that he‘ll remain on that status until his previous victims all transfer or parole from CIW. At such time, word is that he‘ll be released into the General Population. Nothing like setting a prihana loose into a pool of little fish, and acting like nobody will get hurt. I guess CDCR hasn‘t accepted yet that Richard is a threat to all woomen and that will never change, because he won‘t change.
Q) Do you have access to vitamins and other supplements?
A) Yes. They sell a multivitamin on canteen here, plus our quarterly box vendors all offer a list of the approved options. They offer Omega-3 fish oil and Glucosamine chondroitin, as well as your alphabet variety.
Q) Will CDCR house inmates in the dayrooms soon?
A) We hope not, but once we‘re at capacity, they‘ll need to house them somewhere. They can‘t just start taking us out back and shooting us. The odds are that they‘d house in our dayrooms before they ever did the gym. So much for the Supreme Court‘s ruling to reduce over crowding, huh?

December 14, 2012
I see in my mind‘s eye
Children playing in the street
They hold no fear now
Of whom they may meet

They‘ve never been safer
Than they are at this time
Where there is no sickness
No evil ….. no crime

Children playing with each other
Adults they‘ll never be
But as childen in heaven
Twenty angels with wings

On streets of gold they play
In fields they pet a lion
While here on earth families mourn
Day after day cryi‘n‘

And the teachers that died beside them
Making the ultimate sacrifice
Continue to watch over them
Until their parents arrive

They are safer now
Than they could ever be
These twenty innocent children
Angels with wings

Take Nothing for Granted
Whenever I stare at the walls in my cell, i am reminded that I can see. My mother has failing vision, and there are several who lost their vision today before the noon hour. I thank my God in heaven, I am not one of them.
When I awake each morning to the cold reality that I am in prison, i am thankful that I awake at all. I thank God that I have a bed to sleep in – it may be a cracker thin pad on a metal cookie sheet, but it‘s a bed all the same. I have blankets, a pillow, and a roof over my head. I pray for those who aren‘t so fortunate. I‘m reminded that although we lost our home in the aftermath of our arrests, we are not homeless. We are not at the mercy of the elements on the street.
When I‘m released to morning chow to race around the track for a meal I have no intention of eating, I thank my God for the mobility to do so. I‘m thankful for the option to eat when so manu don‘t know where their next meal will come from. I‘m grateful to be given the opportunity to be a blessing to my mother and a friend, who don‘t let that food go to waste.
When the dayroom is so loud that I can‘t hear myself think, I am thankful that I can hear at all. Somewhere in Afghanistan, an American soldier will lose his hearing to an explosion. He may lose more. I‘m not only thankful to his service, I‘m grateful it is not me. I‘m not that brave.
Every morning when I hear my mom in pain as she struggles to get out of bed, I stop whatever I am doing to help her. I am grateful that we‘ve been blessed to be together these last 23 years, even if not always in the same cell. I‘m grateful that every day is Mother‘s Day. I‘m thankful she‘s still alive and that my stepfather didn‘t kill her. I thank God for letting me see her each day. There are so many without that daily blessing.
What are you grateful for? When is the last time you voiced it? And what are you waiting for?

From The Heart
Let me take you an another journey down my Memory Lane.
The year was 1981 and I was 16 or 17 years old. My best friend since the fourth grade was Nancy Caruso, and in our Junior year of high school, her parents went on vacation. A long week of teenage fun, no parents, and the house all to ourselves. Gee, where is this going?
Nancy‘s sister, Cathy, had recently gotten married, and there was more than a case of beer left over in the garage. So, with her parents gone, her brother (over 21), agreed to say if asked, that he took a 12-pack. We had ourselves a little gathering of no more than five girls in the house. Because we couldn‘t take too much of the beer, we decided in our adolescent minds that drinking two bears each with a straw, would be equivelent to say four beers. Well, it sounded like a good idea at the time.
I had already had two beers, but Tracy was going to go be with her boyfriend two doors down, and gave me her open beer. Insert straw, will drink. That is right around when I did my Angus Young impersonation to „Whole Lotta Rosie“. We had the AC-DC tape in, and it was during „Let There Be Rock“ that the aire accumulated witin me from using the straw, made a most distubing announcement to my senses. I ran for the bathroom. It served me right, too! I puked my guts up. I‘ve always been a lightweight, I‘m not much of a drinker, and this is partly why.
I spent a good amount of time hugging that toilet like a long awaited lover. The intimacy with a toilet is so unbecoming, but there I was in all my glory ….. RALPH!
At some point, someone needed to use the toilet, so they helped me to the couch with an empty paint bucket, just in case, and not to paint. I remember Tracy was there, having come back. Next thing I knew, I was out.
The next morning I went to check on the bathroom, to clean it. Nancy had done it the night before and told me that I owed her one. I didn‘t really have a hangover, but remembering how I felt the night before never left me.
Cut forward to the day after Nancy‘s parents came home. Nancy and I had returned from Winchell‘s Donuts, and her mom asked if we wanted to play Spades. She hand been laying solitaire, and quickly shuffled the cards waiting for us to sit at the table. We were into our third or fourth hand when out of nowhere Mrs. C asked, „So, who got sick in the bathroom?“
You could‘ve heard a fly fart.
We were both looking down at our cards, and jolted our heads up looking at each other. Busted. Cold busted. Neither of us was open to being the first to respond. We both wondered if her brother, Rick, had already given us up. Our silence was met with information.
„Look, I‘m not mad, I just want to know what I missed. When I returned home, the blue rug was ont the bathroom floor. I changed the rugs before I left, so for it to be back oon the floor, tells me that Nancy cleaned the bathroom and changed the rugs. And Nancy never changes the rugs. Never! So that tells me that someone got sick. So, I looked in the garage and I fould empty beer bottles in the opened case. So, who got sick?“
Busted. Bold busted. Rick didn‘t tell on us. Our own immature ways told on us, but Nancy didn‘t A true friend till the end, she let me tell on myself. Her mother held my secret, never telling my mom, who would‘ve blown a gasket … and a few blood vessels too probably, ranting, „I raised you better than that!“ Yeah, well truth be told, I cherish the memory.
I learned a few things that weekend. First of all, don‘t , I repeat, don‘t drink beer through a straw! That‘s a big No-No. Secondly, if you do, it is strongly advised that impersonating Angus Young‘s wild guitar antics is a really bad idea. But, more importantly, it‘s vital to know who your friends are. I once heard a joke that a good friend will bail you out of jail, but a true friend will be sitting right there beside you iin that hole and say, „whew that was fun!“ Nancy was that friend. She let her mother answer her own question more or less, and then allowed me to tell on myself.
Over the years, I‘ve had many friends in and out of my life since Nancy and I parted ways prior to my arrest. She had her life with Bob, I had my life as a workaholic. In prison, I‘ve had people flow in and out of my life like water through a sieve. One however, has been there through thick and thin … through witnessing my heartache after betrayal, and even in those moments of shared silence, our hearts spoke volumes to one another.
I met Dee Dee Sala in 1999 while we were both enrolled in a Vocational Info-Tech class. We hit it off immediately. In the over 13 years that Dee Dee has been my Best Friend, we have not had a single argument. Not one disagreement. We listen while the other speaks, and we also hear what they are not saying. We have shared secrets and dreams and hopes. While my mom will always know me best, Dee Dee will always know me better than anyone else. They key to this friendship is an open line of communication. But also neither of us takes the other for granted or has that „what‘s in it for me?“ mentality. So often, I‘ve been hurt by those that have impure motives or a lack of appreciation for what I bring to the table of friendship. An open line of communication is the key to any healthy relationship and especially my friendship with Dee Dee.
And so I say from the heart … learn from this past year what hurt your feelings, and see what lessons you gained in those connections. If a friend made you feel jilted, is it a matter of perspective, or a matter of ethics? If you wish that your friends would be more open with you, are you willing to be equally open with them? Can you tell your friends anything and know it won‘t go anywhere? Why or why not? Friendships are like gardens … you need to cultivate them, tend to them when you can see that they need attention, and not wait to see something dying before you do.
I‘m not one to make New Year‘s Resolutions. I never believed in that sort of thing, but if I did, I‘d say that I would cultivate my garden of friendships, continuously. If tomorrow weren‘t to come, at least today, my friends know that I love them and that my heart beats stronger because of them. I wish you could all have a friend like Dee Dee, but that‘s not to say that you can‘t be a Friend like her. Hever, ever assume that they know how you feel. Tell them. In notes, cards, the smallest of gestures … everyone likes to feel special. If you‘re reading this, you are!
Namasté, TC

T.C. Paulinkonis Pauline “Barbara” Paulinkonis
W45118 514-16-4U W45120 514-16-41
PO Box 1509 PO Box 1508
Chowchilla, CA 93610 Chowchilla, CA 93610


The toast, more than slightly burned and twisted, rose with her pale limpid hand, as Emily, a follower of Ron Paul, Edward Dash, Holley Holes and other limpid like creatures, spoke with as much force as she could emanate, all the while reclining in an odd twisted way on the mint green julep chaise lounge, redecorated since it birthed into the world of her grandmother Nenny, who never had a wrinkle in her life, and Emily thought, as her head with its faint gossamer curls of faded L’Oreal Red Fire Engine Red, and Nenny who never had a thought in her life, pondered, her Wet N’Wild Lipstick number 2002, the color that ran in Russian department stores for so long, cracked and a bit of dryness seeped into her part glossy, but dry and cracked upper lip, and she went on, pushed into the stale breeze of conversation about New Year’s Resolutions, and tilted her toast to the left and then to the right like a politician of years gone by, too ineffective to make a difference, as if difference mattered in these days of political slime and split, but still, the stillness in the air, the pallid air, stilled even more, to a microscopic silence and she said, “Out with the old and in with the new,” and her boyfriend Henry, all new as a boyfriend of 2 ½ days, caught the sailing crisps of bread parts in the air with both hands, and he said in an adoring voice that rose to a falsetto, or sounding like Alfred Deller in a Vivaldi piece, Ode to Joy or something like that, he quivered, “Out with the old and in with the new,” repeating his new love’s most spontaneous act, a second one indeed, if he could count, and he would love to count it, her slight ack moan slipping from her rouged and ruined mouth from their 7 minutes of passion the night before, consummated so quickly, so eloquently, so quietly, and then the crowd, looking more like Edward Gorey characters who just stepped off their one dimensional cover of the new Edward Gorey 2012 Calendar made up of twitches and twatches of woebegone Victorian figures, some full, and burley in sweaters and pondering thought with pen in right hand, left hand wanly holding a small blank square of paper, some in bold black, green and white chequered plaid, with the usual maiden with darkened Kohl eyes nearby, and a lady who looked very much like our beloved Emily, may we by now, the avid, sturdy, stalwart reader who has reached the end of this essay of small black marks, may we call her Em, and may we finish this piece as we hear all the voices Gorey and others, writers and wishes everywhere say, “My only resolution is to write more!”

imagesCA9U2AM5Dancing the Tunes

I am a woman of rich inner means, of hips which widen, and of feet which grow clumpier as the years go by.  The word “dance” does not call to me as it did in my younger years.

At twelve, my twin Liz climbed out of a tree, swung into the back door of our twelve- room house, and ran up stairs to our bedroom.  We shared.  She drew a line down the middle of the room.  No crossing.  Twins are like that.  But on Friday nights at 7.30, all the twelve year olds in our town dressed in either suits for the boys or dresses, stockings and shiny patent leather shoes for the girls.

Harry Raymond’s Dancing School, Friday night sessions ,were held weekly in a sagging huge yellow house with white trim on Centre Street in West Roxbury, Massachusetts, near the Shawmut Bank.  My father or mother drove us, and we sat in the back seat feeling like victims in a Black Mariah, wheels silently thwopping towards Harry’s.

Dressing for Harry’s was weekly penance.  Red silky type dresses; made by my mother, with tiny cloth buttons and Peter Pan Collars.  Under the dresses, the dreaded undershirt, and down further the garter belts which were like magnets to the seamed beige stockings we reluctantly hauled over our young girl thighs.

This was a mournful time for us; a time we didn’t fight, too locked into the mutual tragedy of garter belts – long floppy rubberized stretchy thin bands with hooks on the end.  The clips at the end were like a snake’s mouth – open, slide over nylon stocking, close, and clip, a metal slider of small proportions would pull the length of the strips tight.  Ugh.  A beginning rite of passage where I would learn women’s looks are for pleasing, pleasing men.  Am I okay?  All right, as in are my seams straight?  Liz and I were poised on the edge of some type of womanhood, reluctantly brought into the fold of How Do I Look, Does This Please?  Will He Like Me?

Once left off on the curb, we clumped up beat up wide stairs next to a rickety white banister and head towards the powder room.  Jannie Cleary with her curly red hair seemed unfazed.  I wondered if she wore a bra, maybe that’s why she seemed to carry an aura of confidence. “She likes boys,” Liz whispered to me with a downward twist of her mouth.

We filed out and sat on chairs in a huge circle around the edges of the ballroom.  We sat like cows watching Harry Raymond, a thin double for Liberace, glide across the floor, moving by each young girl saying, “Girls’ legs are meant to be closed.”  Then, each week he’d tap Liz’s ankles with his slim black and gold cane, and say, “Ladies do not sit with their legs apart,” because Liz always sat as if ready to spring upon a horse and ride off into some elusive West.

First we learned the Fox Trot, l clump, 2 clump, 3 clump, sway together 4.  During the week at Ruthie Anderson’s house, we danced the fox trot with each other.  Ruthie was Protestant, and we were Roman Catholic.  Our mothers were best friends – daring in a world of people who kept to their own.

Then we learned the waltz – l, 2, 3 – l, 2, 3, feet stomped instead of slid  on the old wooden floor as we stood like fledgling dancers auditioning for a musical.  Eventually we sweated through the waltz.







Girls had to sit and wait to be asked to dance. The boys liked Liz; she was cute and sporty.  I sat there like a female Prince Valiant, a large red square of silk, my hair a dark clump of blunt and my bangs sort of straight, but not really.  My throat filled with doubt, as one by one, the seats around me emptied.  Finally after thinking I’ll just put my throat on a hook, tall, small-headed, round-chinned Holland Morgan stood silently before me.  His brown eyes questioned me, and his right eyebrow went up as in a “why not,” and we wordlessly cobbled our dancing feet together..  A fox trot.  Step, Step, Step and Step; learning to hoof in a measured square to a musical beat.

Then, as if Zeus threw a thunderbolt into my mouth, I heard myself motor mouthing about dogs, our once poodle who died.  Holland knew of this sad event.  I spoke droolingly of our beige non-altruistic pug and our copper-toned farting boxer.  Words poured out of my mouth like an overfill of chicklets spilling out..  I don’t remember his response.

Years later, when I was twenty, I met Holland again.  He was a friend of my step-brother.  I fell in love with him because of his writing.  He called me Cynthia one winter night as we walked over to Howard Johnson’s for coffee in Kenmore Square, and I was shattered.  He was at Dartmouth, and I worked down on State Street for attorneys.  I lived with roommates near the back of Fenway Park, near Kenmore Square.

I still dream of Kenmore Square because my mother died one icy day in our apartment on Bay State Road. Old issues maybe, or deep wounds, not all caught up by the therapist’s dustbuster.   Liz and I were seventeen.  We had a pug and a boxer, and Liz and I would walk them across Storrow Drive, and walk by the river, the wind whipping through us in the winter.  It was a good day when I realized, after Holland, after Bob, after blah, blah, I wanted what they had:  words, empowerment, not to be lost.  I was a dance in progress, and it’s taken a long time to become myself.  I no longer wear stockings with seams, although they are coming back, and I’m glad that time period is over.  Some people want to go back when times were good.  Good for whom, I might ask.  Then I think it’s all some sort of a dance – this life – a dance indeed.

<a href=”” style=”float: left; padding-right: 20px”><img alt=”Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness” border=”0″ src=”” /></a><a href=””>Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness</a> by <a href=””>Susannah Cahalan</a><br/> My rating: <a href=”″>5 of 5 stars</a><br /><br />

<br/><br/> <a href=””>View all my reviews</a>


I sit here on the anniversary of my marriage to my husband who is now 78, and I say to my 74-year-old self, “Self, did you think 27 years ago you’d be sitting here contemplating verbs and old age and giving out sage advice, sage being not only a spice?

I vividly remember our wedding, my dusty pink Laise Adser dress with pastel green nubby cloak with hood, like Meryl Streep wore in the French Lieutenant’s Woman. Bill and I fit like Bogie & Bacall, like bookends of similar but different backgrounds. We remember radio. We were Catholic. We were from the right-hand side of the United States, and we both love pug dogs. Is this the basis of a spiritual relationship? It is.

There’s more this story – how I met him after he had been a Baha’i for two weeks; how I had to go back to being a legal secretary, having left my cubicle four years earlier to return to college; how we had income which was good in the beginning, and how I just before I met him I made the insane decision to buy a radio for my car. We met, we laughed, we matched, and in a dream one night our DNA code swirled around us in figure 8’s. That’s what I call, “It’s a sign.” Yeah, we did a lot of that too.
I made a list of qualities wanted in my unseen mate, and this list fell out of a book a year after we were married. Everything on this long narrow list, “Sensitive, spiritual, humor,” was there – I turned to him waiving the list of scribbled hopes, and said, “I forgot to put tall,” but if so, I wouldn’t have married my husband who is about an inch shorter than I.
It’s been an action packed life. We moved seventeen different times. I had health issues which I’ll speak of at 80 or so. We traveled across Russia, visited Siberia, and lived in Ukraine and Belarus, before, during and after the breakup of the Soviet Union. We also lived with my second mother-in-law who told me one day, “You carry the heavy stuff for him,” and now it is the day of our 27th anniversary.

I sit here with a hiatal hernia, and a suspiciously ingrown toe. I am in my red and black PJs – contemplating words used for aging. Baby Boomers take note. “Use strong verbs – might I suggest “lurch” and “cope.”

My marriage, and a plethora of other happenings, healed me, and now we both face the final frontier. I finally have self-acceptance and self-appreciation, except for an occasional Thursday of black condemning thoughts. It is a time of great inner wisdom and also a time when my body becomes like an old truck spending more time in repair. An ashtray falls out, gets fixed and doors fall off. The unknown is with us every night when our sliding door shuts. Allergies descend upon my husband at every weather change, and it feels like the English Channel roars through my ears, until I turn and rub his back to his snuff, snuff, cough, cough away. I am like someone spraying the end of the contents of the Raid Can.

Again it is also surviving a twin’s passing first if you want to know, and it’s being grateful for skin that looks young thanks to a friend’s gift of Clarins. It’s having a pool house with very low rent and landlord kindness. It was having heart and gall bladder surgery within days of each other and surgeons writing off their fees, but not telling me. It’s standing up to my last breath for the oneness of humankind, and always helping someone every day. It’s living beyond the fringe and not having 401K’s and not giving a rat’s ass, but rather living in a quirky world where status is a blind removed from my mind knowing wealth follows poverty and poverty follows wealth , and I think of the quote, “ O Children of Dust – Tell the rich of the midnight sighing of the poor …” and even when my cash flow is minimal, I listen.

It’s having lingering fears in a dark hour at night, when I get up to pee and hope when I am very old, I will not be a burden, and I don’t want my family to take care of me, because I’ve lived with two mother-in-laws. It doesn’t work very well.

It’s every day having something slow me down, feeling crappola, but then again getting up, like a Russian Matroishka doll who bops up repeatedly after falling, and like a Russian Woman who is strong, and other women also, it’s seeing the beauty in so many faces, and loving the nobility among the anonymous. It’s having two themes fascinate me – man’s humanity to man and man’s inhumanity to man. I don’t mind dying, it’s the getting there, and I want to have integrity and nobility. So far I’ve managed to have dignity in the extreme times of my life, but one never knows his or her ending. It’s also having great kids, family, grandchildren and friends.

It’s living with more soul than body, and not ganging up on myself for having a peanut butter sandwich every morning for breakfast, and drinking lemonade, a good kidney stone prevention. It’s always turned towards something greater, a Divine Presence, and yet being willing to throw my whole being over a cliff for the wellbeing of the world.. It’s always learning, always seeing the wisdom in all things, no longer have shoulders tense up about every issue on earth.

Moderation to some degree has come to me. Trust, like surfing the opaque waves, is there also, but I have to guard this feeling until my last breath, and maybe one silent no breath. It is a life of purpose and humility with a whispered hope that I’ve left the world a little brighter.


A necessary voice – from a fellow blogger …

Originally posted on Mel's Madness:

The president said we have to face some hard questions; twenty elementary school children were gunned down in their classrooms on Friday, along with six adults charged with keeping them safe. It was unfathomable…

Just as it was beyond comprehension when twelve students and one teacher were gunned down in Littleton Colorado… Do you even remember their names? Twenty-one more were injured.  They too were children: Cassie Bernall (17), Steven Curnow (14), Corey DePooter (17), Kelly Fleming (16), Matthew Kechter (16), Daniel Mauser (15), Daniel Rohrbough (15), Rachel Scott (17), Isaiah Shoels (18), John Tomlin (16), Lauren Townsend (18), Kyle Velasquez (16) died along with a teacher, William “Dave” Sanders, at Columbine High School on April 20, 1999.  It was unfathomable that anyone could wantonly kill people so young, so innocent…

But then wasn’t the time to talk about it. Emotions were raw. Americans were in a state of shock…

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This was terrifically fun and well done; Steve’s a buddy, and the biggest encourager (word?) for my work. I’m reading this in my pjs; hmmmm

I just spent one hour trying to get a Wordle on to my blog, my next adventure.
AM GOING WORD FISHING THROUGH DECEMBER 12, and have to wean myself off Facebook, my Blog, others blogs. I’m teaching 4 classes at moment; subject to change. I started a novel during Nano Wrimo month, and an opportunity to work on it further calls me. I’ll miss everyone, but it has to be done.

<Wordfishing at the Casbar, Old Town words, rainer maria rilke, pug dogs, Boston, whitey bulgher, lost loves, cubicle despair, the many lives of Baby Cakes Nelson, life reviews, Ross Dress For Less, destiny smeshtiny, let go, unemployed, Bubba, Bumpa, pug dogs, forces of light and darkness, 4 pound baby, oneness, being a Virgo, twin, pain, health, relationships, aaargh relationships, hot tears, successful candidates, prey, cabby hats, FISHINGFORWORDS

gotta get to this


Catch 22’s, Conundrums, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride-nouns – verbs? how about fraught! the best in this situation.

Originally posted on Embracing Homelessness:

Yesterday, I met with the social services case manager in charge of my participation in the job search program.  And she congratulated me for completing it, and asked what I though about it.

I said it was much better than I’d expected.  The facilitators of County Job Search Program 2.0 (so to speak) actually paid attention to the people in the “class” and did their best to find targeted job leads or hiring fairs that would do the most good, as well as giving us more general leads.  And I appreciated it, because that was NOT the way it worked in County Job Search Program 1.0 back in March.  Case Manager was pleased to know I’d gotten some use out it.  When I told her about the interview of last Friday, she was very pleased, and very sincere in her hopes that I’d get an offer.

Then we hit a…

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Life at Fosselmans

oink, oink

Reader, are you there?  I haven’t been posting, because I’m so busy clicking and clacking everyone else’s wonderful blogs, and teaching writing, and laying down on the floor in a faint because of  the workshop’s wondrous voices, and other stuff too.  Did I tell you it’s been hot, ugh, hot?  The older you get, the more you feel it.

Generalized statement.  Once, when the earth was young, I was born in the Village of West Roxbury, Massachusetts, and I had a twin, normal weight, and we were born in the Boston Lying-In Hospital –part of Peter Bent Brigham (not the ice cream place) or something like that.  I was 4 pounds so I stayed, and Liz, my twin, Elizabeth Deegan Bradley, went home at scheduled time.  I was a 4 pounder named Esther Graham Bradley.  We completed the phrase “4 children within 3 years.”  My sister Mary Ellen Bradley (Meb) was above us and John Williams Bradley a little older –they were Irish twins.

Six months in our career beginning in Dirt City we had whooping-cough, so bad, that Children’s Hospital took us for free.  My father was an economics major from Harvard, but was out of work.  In September, before whooping-cough, the Hurricane of 1938 swash buckled and swash bent houses and boats, and the lights went out in West Roxbury.

Somehow we survived, and we grew up, fraternal twins.  Long story short, Liz, (everyone else called her Elizabeth) died at 68, in Idaho, her family near her.  I have written about this in my book You Carry the Heavy Stuff (a series of essays, poetry, range of depth, and range of writing voices) (Lulu.Com and and Author’s Garage (smile).  Liz was born 12 minutes before me.  Today, as I was brushing my teeth, I thought, what if 12 minutes could be viewed as a day a minute.

I decided I have at least 12 years to hustle and get my gritty, well I’ll be a yellow-bellied chuck wagon prose out on the page.  I may last longer, but I do have aortic valve replacement, blah, blah, and blah, blah, blah – get the full story when I’m 92.

Friday, I went to Nordstrom’s with a good friend who uses Clarens Products on her skin.

She had 2 free facials, and gifted me with one.  It was heavenly, an adventure, and we had lots of catch-up and laughter and old friends’ perceptions to toss at each other over a divine green as green could be, and red as red strawberries could be, and blackberries, and coated sugared pecans, and, and, and we started out as she went for the first facial at 11.30.

Reader, I think I made it home by 6.30 or 7.00 p.m. to my waiting Bill. It was glorious, and the next day my skin, my face, was as soft as a baby’s butt.  I have good skin; don’t know why, and Pam, the skin care specialist, asked what kind of self-care I did, and what I used for my face, because it was great.  Reader, I said, “I throw on water, rub it with a towel, and hit the road.”  It’s worked so far.  But September 29, Janet and I are going back to an adventure at Nordstroms – she’s picking me up at 6.3o a.m. at the end of my driveway – I’ll blog about it.

Sunday, my wondrous daughter-in-law Laura wasn’t feeling well, so Nico, Nicholas, Nick, my 6.5 son came up; Janet of the famed skin care story met us at the restaurant, and Bill and I rode with Nick to a Greens Restaurant on Colorado, near Vromans.  Excellent and not overly pricey.

Then, the plot thickens, as my waist would in a parallel universe.  I have never gone to Fosselman’s Ice Cream, open since 1919, and I decided to try it.  Nick had a map drawn by Laura, and Bill, myself and Nick headed towards Alhambra, via Los Robles, long, some winds, and took a right on Main, got a little lost, took a U-turn, and there is was on the right hand side.  I must tell my friend and encourager, our friend and encourager, Steve Pulley, who originally told me about Fosselmans being the best ice cream ever.  I grew up going to Bailey’s in Boston, downtown Boston, once a year, and Brighams on the side, and used to be so skinny I could eat all the ice cream sundaes I wanted.

I had 2 scoops of heavenly vanilla ice cream, lots of fudge sauce, delicate, strong, and marshmallow – something I called in my high school years, a “vanilla, fudge, marsh,” and because I had a good lunch, good slices of beef, nor normally eaten, I felt okay.

Today I awakened and cooked stir fry, Tofu and Veggies, as the days of ice cream and splendor are coming to an end.  I then took my hefty gift certificate to Vromans in Pasadena, the best independent bookstore around, and bought 2 more writing books, and 3 memoirs I probably won’t see in the library.

Reader, tomorrow I will be 74, and for the most part I thrive.  I thrive I think because of my Faith, Mr. Bill my husband, my pal, may laughing buddy and snuggler, my kids, his kids, our grandkids, my Faith Community (Baha’i Faith) and all those incredible people in my workshops and in my expanded blog life.  How lucky can an old gal get?

So I just thought I’d share this.  I am very happy at the moment, and indeed, grateful for all I have.


Steve is a long-time friend who has lived in South America for years, and luckily lives in Temple City near my husband and myself; i found his account delightful

Originally posted on Uneasy Rider... travels & writings:

For nearly 20 years,* together with my wife Yolanda (and my three stepchildren, while they were still young), I lived on Calle Calama (Calama Street), at the time perhaps one of the liveliest streets in the city of Cochabamba, Bolivia. Our home was a modest adobe and brick, two-story duplex situated in a patio surrounded by six other dwellings housing as many families, who also happened to be my in-laws. Scarcely two blocks away was doña Matilde’s silpanchería, my personal favorite eating place for silpanchos.

But I’ll get to that presently.

Directly across the street from our family enclave was the Escuela de Comando y Estado Mayor del Ejército de Bolivia, one of the principal Army officer training schools in the country. It was here that I personally saw, in the flesh, 16 presidents of Bolivia (not counting 5 juntas consisting of 3 to 6 members, and 3 presidents…

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Courage Under Fire

Originally posted on Embracing Homelessness:

Friday was a big day: I had a job interview!  At eight o’clock in the morning!  Thirty-one miles away!  And I don’t have a car!

So I asked one of my friends at the shelter if I could impose for a ride.  The answer was yes — until about three o’clock Thursday afternoon, when said friend had to bow out because of a doctor’s appointment that hadn’t made it onto the calendar.  (Boo from my admittedly selfish viewpoint, but hurrah for reminder calls!)  And no one who had the means and the desire to provide me a ride was able to do so, due to prior commitments.

Here follows An Adventure in Public Transportation, and How I Did in My Interview.

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This blogger is amazing; i know her personally and I feel that’s a privilege. this is my way of tooting her horn.

Originally posted on Embracing Homelessness:

My feet hurt.

I’m not surprised. I’m wearing shoes that were never built for walking anywhere but on carpeted floors.  And I’ve already walked (or possibly trudged) a mile or so, between getting from the shelter to the train station, from one platform to the next for the three trains I have to take, and from the last station to my destination.  Where I get to stand in line waiting for the doors to open so I can go through security before I get upstairs and report in on my recent job searches.

Been doing this for three weeks now.  One more week to go.  Okay, the first week was mostly filling out paperwork for the job program; active searching started the second week.  Minimum three job applications a day, but of course, more is better, and we want better, don’t we?  I do, anyway, but I admit it’s Frustration…

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This is a good example of the wealthy helping the poor – Faith in Action

Originally posted on Write In Color:

Ivy League education in America

I don’t need to tell you that the Internet has given us access to more free knowledge than ever before. Just one glance around a restaurant, coffee shop or retail store, and you’re bound to see people Googling manically on their smartphones (hopefully about something other than the latest Hollywood gossip). But a new concept called Massively Open Online Courses (MOOC is the catchy acronym) is bringing the idea of accessible education to a whole new level. The idea is simple: Universities like Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are starting to offer free online courses, and everyone — that includes you, writer — can enroll.

You don’t receive college credit for completing a MOOC course, but you do get a grade and a certificate of mastery. MIT’s first stab at the free online courses, a Circuits and Electronics class offered in March, attracted 120,000 enrollees. Only 10,000 completed…

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Funny.  From the blog Embracing Homelessness – this person is an incredible writer, and I am privileged to know her.


This enchanting blog was written a year ago, but since we still have excess heat on the planet, thought i’d reblog it; i am the opposite of a farm girl; having left my house one hot August morning for the day since a worm as reputed to be in our back yard, and yet this blog enchants.

Originally posted on thekitchensgarden:

I know I was going to talk with you about the chooks/chickens/hens. But before I go there:  I am sorry to do this to all my readers who are in the winter on the other side of the world shivering quietly in your corners but evidently it is going to be Really HOT here this week. Everyone is talking about the heat index here.  So I thought I would too. But I  was not sure what it means so I looked it up in good old Wikipedia:

The heat index (HI) is an index that combines air temperature and relative humidity in an attempt to determine the human-perceived equivalent temperature .. blah blah blah..

In other words : if you feel hot, the heat index tells you that you don’t feel hot enough yet and you should be feeling hotter!

(I thought I would add a few chook photos so you…

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Reader:  Janine, a wonderful member of our verbally weird and adventurous, skilled, blabby CHPercolatorCoffeehouseforWriters – suggested a prompt overusing adjectives.  Here’s my take:

Muffy Kincaid, that lustrous blonde with just a wee bald spot on the top of her head, revealing a dot, a splot, a mere quiver of pink flesh, under which spot, a brain whirred, as if agile and liquid,

and our Muffy conjured up ways to attract Alfred to her yoga class, in which she would point her long, long, long, long, limber, limber, limber legs and elegantly formed, mushroom like in its splendor big toe to the dappled white ceiling which was in tiles if you want to know, and they were becoming loose,

as Harry Raymond, a swish of a guy, who stood on head in his irritable, Terrible Tempered Tommy Bangs moments of anger, sweating, frustration, brought on by glaring at the cellular, no  – not cellular — oh why had our Tommy Bangs, histrionic hero of the Yoga Loaf, on the top floor of a bakery, a hot, hot, hot floor, why could he not, indeed, could not find fame, and then our little mischievous Muffy, with a nickname of misky tisky, conjured again, under that pink spot of the brain,

having listened carefully, her spike-like cilia open to Harry Raymond’s needs and desires, thought, “Why I can kill 2 birds with one stone,” and thought Alfred twisted and twined his “Hi I’m from the Maine Woods,” thick lumber-like legs, would come and discover the lascivious twists and turns of

Dear Muffy, who not only thought under that pink spot on her head, but lusted, yes, our audacious mild mannered heroine Muffy admitted to lust,

and if she could entice Alfred into a yoga studio, surely Alfred would receive a memorable metaphoric epiphany and envision, using his yet to be developed connecting skills under his skull, yes our Alfred, had  a skull, but opposites attract, pink spots vs. skull and

Alfred from Maine would visualize throwing Muffy into the clover and violating her in the vilest way, all the while, thinking, this all started because I left my man cave, my man ways and went to Yoga, and Harry Raymond, that insipid white crow of a man, actually had some tricks up his sleeve with which to twitch and turn and perhaps thrust (oh dear an inflammatory thought) and so I would end this earnestly written tale with the motto,

“Yes the Muffies of the world, can conjure, and the Harry Raymonds of the world, will live to see another economically assured day, in this time when men of reptilian brain, and smaller anatomy down there, trot and scheme behind the crooked corridors of power.


eloquent, nonpartisan, well-considered response to corruption!

Originally posted on Mel's Madness:

The headlines overwhelm me. The financial markets. The NATO rioting. Our own politicians’ posturing about the debt “crisis.” I have grown weary of the political forums on Facebook and elsewhere. The caricatures of Obama as monkey. The tar baby references. The Right tells gays they are abominations.  The left talks loudly about dildos in response. The Right blames Obama. The Left blames eight years of George W. Bush. For everything. Believe it or not Ayn Rand is STILL being talked about though she never had anything to say. Every year teens “discover” her and use her as an excuse to not clean their rooms or take the trash out or babysit their little brothers and sisters.

A pop singer’s nipple was exposed during Good Morning America. Why do I care? We spend $13 billion on porn every year in the United States and girls are sold into sexual slavery

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this lady is in a workshop of mine, and she’s a very good writer, intelligent and funny and maybe a year ago was in solid middle classness so to speak – i want as many people as possible to follow her blog.

Originally posted on Embracing Homelessness:

Long about 4:30 in the morning, Mom put the beans in the oven.

Two earthenware crocks, a gallon or so each I’d guess.  One tallish, about as big around as a salad plate, the other shorter but big around as a dinner plate.  Which came in handy, since Mom used an old salad plate — white with a green stripe around the rim — as the lid for the tall crock and a cracked blue willow dinner plate as the lid for the other.  A pound of beans apiece, Great Northerns (her preferred bean) or navy beans, picked over for pebbles or broken bits or shriveled specimens and poured into the crocks with water almost to the top of the crock, put to soak about 4:30 the afternoon before.

Soak 12 hours, bake 12 hours in a slow oven.  That was Mom’s rule of thumb.

View original 951 more words you Steven!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

He  gave out Reader Appreciation Awards to 7 people – My blog was one of them!

I Googled the award today, looking for the bright sunflower, and didn’t find its source. So Reader, this is what I think it is.  We bloggers, who run across out computer keys at night when the earth sleeps, play word games in the velvet ether of the night, toss out sorrows, hug happiness, create metaphoric mountains and potholes, and all the while race towards the world and each other in a prepublishing, I’m going to publish this tomorrow on WordPress!  We all fall into this category.  We who blog.  Those who read blogs.  Both, all, none, many.

The rules of the Reader Appreciation Award:

1. Include the award logo somewhere in your blog – check center photo above.  Ta da!!

2. Answer 10 questions (listed below) for fun if you want to.

3. Nominate 6 or 10 to 12 blogs you enjoy

4.  Provide the links to these blogs and let them know they’ve been nominated

5.  Provide a link to the blogger(s) who nominated you —-

10 Questions and my answers for the Reader Appreciation Award

1.  What is your favorite color?

The color of the current book I am reading, or the wine colored cover of Gleanings, Baha’i Writings.

2. What is your favorite animal – no need for me to answer; everyone who reads this post will roar back.  Pug Dogs.

3.  What is your favorite non-alcoholic drink?

Lemonade, don’t drink Alcohol

4.  Facebook or Twitter

FB, my home away from home, the entrace to the train station called my life!

5.  Favorite patterns?

Pattern of oneness and connectedness in relations throughout the globe.

6.  Do you prefer getting or giving presents?

Giving, giving.

7.  Favorite number?

Nine (9)

8.  Favorite day of  the week?


9.  Favorite flower?

Purple Iris

10.  What is your passion?

Giving people opportunities to discover and/or develop their voice – teaching creative writing.

My 8 nominations for the Reader Appreciation Award:  – Pugs, pugs, and more pugs.  Enchanting when the heart is orphaned      and one’s physical space not allowed this type of 4 legged package of      entitlement.  Gwendolyn McIntyre – perceptions on      writing, life, things that go bump, keep the writer going!   Phillipe Copeland is author of the blog, “Baha’i Thought” which offers commentary on issues of religion, society, and culture based on the teachings of the Baha’i Faith.,      mrslittlejeans is a scientist and offers enchanting views of her two      felines, photographs of same, and a sharing of mystic perceptions.   Jill Jepson – I have her book, the back cover of which reads in part, “Discover the Soul of Writing,” writing medications, prompts, rituals, exercises all drawn from traditions of Buddhist monks, Navajo storytellers, and much more.

.  Studio Morran, dogs, crafts, art, visual whimsy!  A published writer, writing teacher of note, an encourager to all  prolific poet, enchantress with words …  metaphors and smiles – enchanting poetry-Hannah Gosselin  so whatcha think  – Brooke Ryter – a book, an impact, soon to be revealed – check it out. 

Maria McCutchen has written a book, It’s All in Your Head, and I think her story should be widely read.  I’ll show image. I got my book at Alibris, an online bookstore, which sometimes has prices less than Amazon.  At any price, this is an important book.  Leonid’s World  is the name of his blog.  We met him inMinsk when we gave English Club sessions.  He’s fascinating, innovative, and dear, and he speaks of past history and his family.

Love and best wishes to all.

Wednesday Mel posted a blog by me, and I was the guest blogger.  Today and a few days ago, this blog went out with Mel as my guest blogger

Reader, junior learner here.  Baby Lois Lane.  Blogger in apprentice is reblogging this very same post, because I get the feeling, people think I, esther, aka sorrygnat, wrote this blog of Mel’s.  Hmmm I wish.  Mel is an accomplished writer, and yes we are bookends this week and yes, she’s from Boston, and yes, she teaches writing, but her influence is much broader than mine.  I bow to her good writing.  So, here t’is, so Mel gets the credit.!


P.S. we  all met on the I Am Not Bob April Challenge, a generous and life changing encounter with writers. 



Mel Jones is a native Bostonian. She grew up on the Irish Riviera –The South Shore.

As a child, she spent many hours sitting in trees reading books and writing poems. She had her own newspaper column at fifteen and was determined that she would be the next Shakespeare or Tolkien. She was educated at The College of William and Mary, Virginia Commonwealth University, and Antioch University, Los   Angeles. She holds degrees in History, English, Rhetoric, Literature, and Creative Writing (Nonfiction). Yes, she is overeducated. 

She has done extensive genealogical research both for her own family tree and professionally

 Mel edited a now defunct literary journal, The Sylvan Echo. She’s taught children from kindergarten through college in a variety of public and private settings.  She currently teaches College-level Composition. Mel is the founder of The Midlothian Writers’ Workshop.  She offers a variety of services for writers, including retreats.

Publications include, a book of poetry, Between the Lines (2005), and essays in The William & Mary Gallery, Sherwood Forest,and online at Little Seal and r.k.vr.y. She recently had an epiphany, if she sent her work out more, she would be published more. She’s working on that. She maintains a sometimes snarky blog, Mel’s Madness, which is more Erma Bombeck than William Shakespeare. Mel lives and writes on a small leisure farm west of Richmond, Virginia with her partner, parrots, and progeny.

Country Sunday Drive.

This morning I had to run to the store. Now for those of you who live in the real world that entails a 1/2 mile, maybe a mile’s drive. But not here. It’s eight miles to the local grocery store (national chains like Food Lion or Kroger are longer drives).

I pulled out of my driveway—watching carefully—because I live in a curve. My up-the-hill-neighbors apparently forgot that at some point last night; their cute little blue rag-top was sprawled in the ditch in front of their house. It took out the little green phone box. I knew my internet would be down. City folks! They moved here because they wanted “life in the county.” That’s what they told me in the one conversation we had over the old rusted barbed wire fence that separates our two properties. I’ll bet they have had more country than they can stand at this point. At least that’s how it looked as I drove by the stranded car.

I briefly wondered if they had swerved to avoid some sort of animal. I did that once. I slammed on the brakes when a rabbit hopped out in front of me. It was the first country lesson that I learned: do not slam on your breaks on a dirt road. Bad things happen. The rabbit hopped away, fine.

I totaled the car.

Anyway, I made my way up my windy road without incident. I stopped at the red light that annoys the locals so badly, Damned city folk! Who needs lights? All anyone’s gotta do is look both ways! That’s what the old folks said. It was a big deal when they put that light in; the county has six traffic lights now. Down right depressing.

I picked up the things I needed and started my trek back.

Now one would think this too would be uneventful. Au contraire. Once I turned at the traffic light back onto the road that leads home I had to stop to let the groundhog pass. I sighed. Then I had to stop and let the Sunday riders on their quarter horses pass, and then there were deer. I watched as two hawks swooped into a field for breakfast. They were successful. I was beginning to think, aaahhhh, were it not for the traffic light, this could be heaven.

But then I came around the curve. And there he was. A Black Angus bull in the road. In the road my poor little Mercury Sable was driving on. I was sure my car would lose a battle with him. I was sure I would just piss him off. And then I would have to get out of my car and face him. What was I to do? There was no cell service on that part of the road, not that I would know who to call about a bull in the road anyway.

I confess, my first thought when I saw the massive blackness in the road was that perhaps it was, I dunno, not real. It was a shadow or something. Maybe this one was of those flashbacks I had been warned about. But then, he snorted at me, just like in the cartoons with his flared nostrils steaming.

I slammed on my brakes. Thankfully this road was paved.

I have lived here for twenty years, but I have never encountered a raging bull in the road before. I’ve seen them in fields – safely behind electrified fences. I’ve seen farmers scurrying away—running for their lives. Once I even watched as the county deputies were chased out of a field. They were tracking a runaway. A bull snorted at them while he pawed the ground. They ran: deputies and blood hounds. The Bull treed the runaway, who was grateful when the farmer brought feed for his herd. One has little recourse with a bull.

I beeped my horn.

He snorted. Round one to the bull.

I inched forward.

So did he. Round two to the bull.

By now there were three or four vehicles stopped in each direction. No one wanted to play chicken with a bull. Several young men in fancy pick-ups were collectively shaking in their boots in the northbound lane.

Then, just as we were all beginning to feel a little bit desperate there in the morning sun, a little old man in a woody-style station wagon came along, got out of his car and hollered at the bull, “Get the hell off of the road! I’m a-gonna be late for church God damn it!” He took off his hat and swished it at said bull. Then punched him in the nose.

The bull skulked away. Round three to the old man.

My neighbor’s car was still in the ditch and my other neighbor’s pigs were scouting it out—they were inside the car and nosing around in the front seat. Pigs are curious animals. The neighbor should have put the windows up. Maybe the bull had been in the road when my neighbors were coming home last night and they too thought he couldn’t be real. I don’t know. But it would be less than a month before that farmhouse came up for rent again.

Originally posted on Artistrict Journal:

Michael Zhang

Here’s a fascinating video in which Italian photographer Ruben Salvadori demonstrates how dishonest many conflict photographs are. Salvadori spent a significant amount of time in East Jerusalem, studying the role photojournalists play in what the world sees. By turning his camera on the photographers themselves, he shows how photojournalists often influence the events they’re supposed to document objectively, and how photographers are often pushed to seek and create drama even in situations that lack it.

You might start looking at conflict photos in the news a lot differently after watching this.

(via ISO1200)

Michael Zhang


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Syd’s in a workshop of mine, and she’s a good writer; i want to draw this post to everyone’s attention; way to go Syd

Originally posted on Embracing Homelessness:

You might be asking why I’m calling this blog “Embracing Homelessness”.  Trust me, it isn’t because I’m enjoying it.  I think it’s because fighting the real world won’t help.  But just rolling over and letting it all happen isn’t the answer either.

Sure, there’s a part of me that wants to put it all behind me, use this as a fresh start and just make sure I avoid making the same mistakes.  It seems to me there’s a certain wisdom to that.  It’s all over and done, after all, nothing I can do now will change what’s happened by a single atom.  Or quark.  Or some other, even smaller particle.

And a blank page has appeal–why else do we try so hard to fill it?

Except, of course, for those times when facing the blank page scares us to death.

Maybe we try to fill it, that expanse of white…

View original 191 more words

Monday Discovery: Esther Bradley-DeTally.

l  a n g u a g e  a f t e r  t h e  1 0 0  y e a r  w a r


The Nouns were in control in the neighborhood of Verbiage.

Adjectives were forced to end their 100 Year War.

This war was known as the Great War of Planet Earth in the Days of Rhetoric Only.

Verbiage, like a fireplace bellows of yesteryear,

had simply exhausted its wheeze and could no longer

control the Nation.

Politicians would no longer be described adjectively.

Thus, our President could be described by the Press as, “A   

man whose eyes narrowed when a syllabic word entered the

toy store of his mind; a man whose Rubber Ducky drowned

when his bath water became higher than what is necessary for

the average leader; or, a man who could bob eternally on the

Ocean of Platitude.”

This leader called up his country’s Reserve Marines again.

These Marines were sent to a land which resembled a cannon

to which they would become fodder. They would obey their

mission, climb into these cannons, and be shot out over the

land of buildings which no longer resembled buildings.

Naught would be seen but structures of rubble which resembled

cookies crumbled in the hand of a monster as tall as the


The Congress would not be allowed to use descriptions

which included the much abused adjective. This caused some

consternation, for our Congress knew of the paucity of adverbs

when running for election. The Congress member

would no longer be able to crawl into that vat of adjectives

filled with words guaranteed to portray an individual Congress

person righteously and puffily. These adjectives, I might

add, are thrown carelessly into this vat, like screen plays in

Los Angeles, like potato chips in a Lays truck which had escaped

from their Bag Containers.

The Nouns issued an edict: “Stick to the Facts, Jack.

Straight Facts for a Straight Land,” a land which had lived adjectivally

and splendiferously for too long, thereby wreaking

an ecological knowledge gap of a very long five years. Politicians

had appeared on the NewsHour program with Jim

Lehrer, and on what used to be Peter Jennings’s NewsHour,

and on Tim Russert, to reveal Sunday after Sunday (or was it

Monday after Monday?) narrow gamboling minds and nuances

of the political dance. These very same politicians verbally

trolled linguistically along to thinly expand titles such as

“Theatre of Operation,” “War Games” and, last but not least,

the most abused noun in the world, Democracy—Democracy

became a gutted, slutty word, misused and stretched like

hardened taffy in a candy machine after the summer crowd

had gone home.

A rape of the Nouns had occurred. What choice did the

Nouns have but to take over the Nation? They cried out,

“Aack, aack, aack! No more.”

And so as this tale is difficultly told, but blessed for its attempts,

all the while failing in adverbial splendor, time will tell how language

controlled its environment so that facts and integrity might emerge again

 children of the world forget that “Truthfulness is the foundation

of all human virtues” (Ruhi Book 1 – Reflections on the Life of the Spirit)

Lynne Hippler and I participated in a remote viewing/healing process about a week ago, on me, the happy subject.  What follows will dip into that type of therapy. Perhaps I should mention, I was a 4 pound baby, had a heart quirk (2 aortic valve openings, instead of 3) which was discovered when I was 53 (smile).  I have done traditional and alternative healing for years.  First one in family to get the childhood diseases, had Mono twice, and when 42, returning to the University, had Epstein Barr Virus, which the medical profession didn’t acknowledge.  What followed were hilarious essays way after the fact.  I was single mom with obstreperous but wonderful young boy, living on campus with him, going to school, hanging in.  I had sold everything to go back to school.  Immune system plague followed me for years.  It liked me, what can I say.  Went to Russia/Ukraine/Belarus, a dip in Siberia.  Home, stenosis of aortic valve, and more, too much to mention.  Health returns through surgery, antidepressents, a good psychiatrist, rolfing, walking, fresh air of Seattle, and a loving husband.  I have had other sagas, but that’s for another day.  So I am pretty much like an old engine which keeps on chugging, and help is found in varied ways.  Below is one of these ways.  I hope you enjoy.

Esther:  You read my Without A Net, a Sojourn in Russia and emailed me.  It turns out we have mutual friends.  I offered to send you my second book You Carry the Heavy Stuff, and then you said you would like to thank me for the book by giving me a remote treatment from where you live, in Norway. Mind you, I am in Pasadena. (Readers:  I have lung and heart stuff, and toot around like a good used truck).Of course I said yes because I’ve done a lot of body work and this intrigued me.

Esther:  Do you have a definition of your practice?

 Lynne:  I give alternative treatments, both onsite and remote.  I’m a Registered Nurse and Zone Therapist, and I’ve helped to form The Norwegian Healer Association and was a member of their first board. 

Lynne: I’ve worked since 1984 in the alternative field.  The methods I use are:  Zone Therapy, Healing, Nutritional Counseling, Energy Balancing, Caring and Counseling Conversation, Electric Acupuncture, Stones and Crystals, Affirmations and Visualizations, Bach Flower Remedies, and Remote Treatments.

 Esther:  You also give remote treatments for animals don’t you?

Lynne:  My intention is to help people and animals to get balanced and feel better.

Esther: I had a Rolfer who practiced on horses.  I called him “Mr. Thumb” because he had so much strength in his hands.  I was Rolfed months after open heart surgery, and it was exceedingly helpful.

Lynne:  Yes, Rolfing has a lot to offer.

Esther:  How did you get started in this type of practice?

Lynne:  It all started when I was working as a nurse in a hospital in Hammerfest,  Norway.  One day, while assisting a patient into a wheelchair, I injured my back.  I had difficulty sitting for a while, and while I was attending my Saami language class (the Saamis are the indigenous peoples of the North Calotte), a friend sitting next to me said, “You should contact my sister.  She’s the only Zone Therapist in Finnmark (the most northern part of Norway).  I did, and after six treatments, I was much improved.  Soon after this I moved to the eastern part of Finnmark to Tana.

While there, I started having problems with my stomach and was sent to the hospital three times.  While in the hospital, I had the good fortune of getting acquainted with a resident doctor who got to know me and then told me to, “Go home and heal yourself.”  And, I did.  Still, I knew that I didn’t know enough, and in fact hardly knew anything at all.  So I contacted the Zone Therapist who lived inHammerfestand said I wanted to become a Z.T.  I asked where she had gone to school.  She gave me the name of her instructor and the school in Oslo.  I applied and was admitted to a 2-year course of study.  I graduated in 1986.  During that time I also learned how to use the pendulum (The pendulum measures energy, i.e. you place it over an area and note which direction it rotates and how large the circle is. This tells you about the energy of the object).  My instructor said, “You have warm hands.  My instructor was also a homeopath, so we learned about homeopathy too.

Esther:  Do you practice this inNorway?

Lynne:  Yes I do, as well in Sweden, Finland, and the States when I am visiting in those countries, or if people want a remote treatment.

Esther:  What are your other interests, professions?

Lynne:  I received a B.S. degree from the University Of  Iowa (USA) in Therapeutic Recreation in 1966.  During my years inEurope I became a Registered Nurse and a Zone Therapist, as well as studied various other forms of alternative treatment.  I was also a member of the first board for The Norwegian Healer Association.

Esther:  Can you give the reader an image or two of what you experience when you view someone from afar? 

Lynne:  When I am doing a remote treatment, I need it to be quiet around me.  I try to create a spiritual atmosphere, and I want to be open to the guidance that comes to me. 

Esther:  I now know they should be lying down quietly, just breathing in and out, calm, and no disturbances.  I tweaked that a bit, but was in a good tranquil space.

Lynne:  Yes.  It is important to have a quiet atmosphere around the person receiving the treatment. It’s also very important that there are no electrical devices close by, i.e., TV, radio, microwave, computer, etc.  They can emit electrical energy that gets in the way of what I am trying to do.  For the same reason, it is important not to eat or drink during the treatment, because the body should be free to receive what is happening and not have other duties to take care of, i.e. if you are giving it food or drink to deal with.

Esther: So take us down the reader path of remote viewing, healing from afar. 

Lynne:   In addition to what I said above, I try to be as open as possible to receive the necessary guidance and then do what seems right. Nothing is planned ahead of time. At the end of the treatment I use muscle testing (kinesiology) to test if there are any affirmations, exercises, diets, etc. that would be helpful to assist in “getting balanced and feeling better”. These are sent in an email to the person who received the treatment. I also encourage people to contact me by email if they have any questions or comments.

Esther: You may use me as an example if you wish.

Lynne:   I don’t discuss what I specifically do during any treatment.

Esther:  Why are you in Norway?

Lynne:   That’s a long story…..The short version is that I decided to move toFinland in 1973, after having become a Baha’i in 1971. At the time I had never been out of North America and I felt there was a lot out there in the world that I could do and experience and many friends out there waiting to be met.

I lived in Finland from 1973-1980, graduating from nurses’ school in 1980. Things worked out in such a way that I moved to Norwayafter I graduated, because some friends suggested that I might like to live in Norway. So, I moved. I have always been open to new and different ways to do things, etc.

I have been a Norwegian citizen since 1985.

Esther:  What are your hopes for the future?

Lynne:  I very much enjoy living in Norway.  It is my home now, so I can’t imagine moving to another country. As far as how I live the rest of my life, I hope I can be useful to others as long as I can, in whatever ways I can, and to enjoy life to the fullest!

Esther: Any other comments?

Lynne:  I’m glad that I bought your first book, Without a Net: A Sojourn in Russia.  That’s why I got in touch with you, and now here I am sharing with others through you. Very interesting how things work out, isn’t it?

Esther:  What other types of work do you do?

I also do translations from Norwegian to English, in case that is of interest to anyone. While I was in the States from 1996-2006 I did some work with genealogy – letters and books that people, originally from Norway, wanted translated.

If people would like to contact me, here is my website:

Lynne:  Below is the text of the email I send out to people who are interested in a remote treatment:

This is how my remote treatments work:

We agree what day and time of day we will have the treatment.

($XX USD or $XX CD is deposited into my account.

You send me an email when this has been done, and then I do the remote treatment at the agreed upon time. Most people experience that it is best to be quiet during the treatment,

i.e. to lie down, just like you would during a physical treatment.

Please turn off computers, radios, TV’s, etc. The treatment lasts one hour.

Usually there are some treatment suggestions I have after the treatment,

and I will email those to you.

If you have any questions or comments, please email those to me:

My bank account in Washington Mutual Bank/Chase,Palm Desert,

California is: 440 2088 060.

Thank-you for your interest,

Lynne Hippler

Jon Klæbosv. 1 C

8019 Bodø


47 786-03744


(Reader, I experienced a state of calm, but towards the end of my session, I felt enormous fatigue.  Her advice to me was right on, and I might add, exceedingly helpful.  Healing is a process, and I’m glad I was part of this process.

an odyseey harrowing and yet incredible

a journey of illness, misdiagnosis, conundrums and courage

Maria McCutchen, a stay-at-home mother with two young children and a tight schedule, couldn’t find the dairy section of her local supermarket one day.  After the usual questions women ask themselves, about stress, being over tired, or I’m imagining this, she asked her husband one night, “Squeeze my head,” and he does.

Her head ached, and her head also felt like a water balloon pumped full of water, a sense of building pressure.  He wrapped his hands around her head, and he squeezed.  Her thoughts became more clear, and she felt better.  He stopped and a feeling of flood water filled her skull, and her brain fog returned.

She consulted a mild, quiet and pleasant doctor.  He will be the first of many.  She answered the questions, and then follows a routine she will learn by heart:  “Stick your tongue out, smile, hold your hands out in front of you like you’re carrying a pizza and close your eyes.”  Ah, and she also walked across the floor of his miniscule office. Long story short, after an MRI, and a call the very next day, “We see something,” the doctor’s voice matter-of-fact, offering no more or no less says, “I need you to come in.”

She had a cisterna magna, a posterior fossa arachnoid cyst. But the doctor was not concerned, words such as “benign” and “unremarkable” floated over her head.  Moments later, a handshake, and a “You’re fine,” because you see most people are born with type of cyst and they don’t cause problems.  She returned home wondering, what if I’m the exception?  No time for that.  Her husband lost his job.  Their insurance will run out.

Fast forward to  a harrowing pain-filled drive to live in New Mexico, episodic endurance of brain tests done incorrectly, dismissal of her symptoms, suspicion by doctors and blatant repudiation of her illness.  Lace that in with family concern, trying to raise 2 kids, keep a family together, and obliterating pain, agony, nausea, you name it, but then, she finally finds a doctor in Arizona.  He will recommend brain surgery.  the tests before, during and after are trauma filled and painful, and there will be trouble in River City after her brain surgery.  But still she reassured herself that she’s in the hands of a good neurosurgeon specialist in neurology in Arizona.  She must, however, return to New Mexico.  More happened.

I sat down after 7 o’clock last night to read this book.  I got up at 12.30 noting, “I’m up too late again,” but I had finished the book.  I didn’t move.  I sat on my black leather couch in our small pool house turning page after page.

The unsaid around her struggles reveals a very courageous, loving, gutsy woman in extreme pain, with great times of hopeless and yet a warrior spirit.  That makes a noble being in my book.

Her account is well written.  I think this book should go viral.  Yeah, I just broadened my blog base, and here I am using trendy terms, go viral, but the bloggers and FBers out there will know.

It’s All in Your Head – Maria McCutchen.  Copyright (c), Tate Publishing, LLC.

280 pages – $15.99 (paperback)
$9.99 (digital download)

from You Carry the Heavy Stuff,, the author’s garage….. ISBN 978-0-557-20933-0-essays, poetry, observations from a twin’s dying to cubicle despair in a corporate world with voices of buoyant pathos, mystical reverence – you catch my drift

Why do I write?  Like now, when the dishes sit orphaned in the kitchen sink because I, the washer, am typing, sharing, breathing, living, putting off the inevitable, because once a long time ago, I was so hurt, I couldn’t breathe.  I carried that hurt with me forever, until I found out that sensitivity is the price and the prize for being able to write, for being able to read people, to Braille the unsaid.  I write to a lady in prison, who said “I liked a phrase you wrote, “The language of God is a tear running down someone’s cheek.”

I write because I read, insatiably, gobbling, inhaling, filling myself with the human condition; splat on the floor some days, like a big old squishy bug, flattened, dead, its body swept up by old straws on a broom; and then I write to show the magic of St. Theresa’s Snow Queen Altar when I was young, and how everything looked like a wedding cake, and I write to tell how when I was younger, and so needy I could have impaled myself on a stake wide and big, sort of like a meta-letter holder, except the stake would run through my insatiably needy heart, and a note on my back would read “loves too much,” and that was before the book Women Who Love Too Much.

I write because I have gone beyond Medieval Posts puncturing my despair and loneliness and have decided Men Who Love too Much is here too.  Maybe we all love too much, and I write because maybe none of us love too much, for we are told by images in advertising, that we should be thin, jaded in the eyes, like the look of models for Vogue or whatever, who probably could shoot up heroin on their lunch hours, and because despair is trendy and nihilism and materialism and not giving a damn might be the language of the hour.  But then there is the lonely, little, big, young, old, trembling, brassy, you-catch-my-drift-writer who writes because he or she must, and words have a visceral effect upon her, him, the dog, the surrounding room.  I write of hopes for the world, and a good ham sandwich or description thereof on a sour dough roll, with slabs of mayo, and a bed of lettuce, and curled pink ham,  ready to go into someone’s mouth which is opened to the size of half a ladder, is  a good thing, a good description.

What this nation needs is a good ham sandwich and a Pepsi without the aspartame and some down to honest to goodness honesty that is the natural condition to communicate, to be real, to be afraid of bugs in knotty pine walls when the walls come alive at night; to watch an elderly blind woman, clutch the corners of her walker, take a breath and remain a sweet sweet spirit, knowing that her condition, her tests are the divinely calibrated kind, even though trucks have run over her emotionally, and I write to tell of the anonymous amongst us, the bravery, the small acts of courage, kindness in this nation where the world is narcissistically checking its derriere in the mirror, and no one or precious few are listening to the “midnight sighing of the poor,” and where we must have immense courage and speak up; talk, yeah, walk the talk, be it; speak up; tell future generations who we were, wanted to be, became anyhow and our hopes for the future; because someday we will all be sensitive, spiritually inclined, aware of our oneness,  and otherness will go on a back shelf like Twinkies, no longer approved of by the American Heart Association, and writing will be celebrated by hoots and hollers and a piping or two from a medieval horn or Siberian throat, and the arts will have a way of grabbing our soul’s innards and carrying us through the day.  These are some of the reasons I write, but there are others, but today is Wednesday and those are my Wednesday’s writing reasons.

A harmonica

We sit inside a lodge near Lake Baikal in Siberia. It is 1990 and all the young people are going off onto a boat, where they will come back and say with a crooked grin, “We had to eat the raw fish lunch.”

Leslie, myself and a few others have stayed behind, feeling a bit ragged in a large hunting lodge, alone, empty time, tired.   I have an enormous sore throat.  I feel hot red fur going from the back of my throat down to the back of my ankles.  Well, yes I do exaggerate.  But this is coupled with the fact we are in the middle of nowhere, in the tundra maybe that’s what it’s called.”  I will later incur a toe plague which will itch interminably as we wait at the Ulan Ude Airport, and I will be hustled away to some hallway in an inner corridor and a Russian lady with white hat and lab coat will apply green stuff on my entire foot liberally.  This green stuff will remain stuck on my whole foot for the length of the full 63 days on tour with a musical group in Siberia,Ukraine, i.e.,Kiev, L’Vov.  I was like an aging rock star, no voice, green feet, stuck in the back of the chorus.

In L’Vov, we will hear rumors of a revolution which will turn out to be two arguing forces yelling at one another in a downtown park, and where we have found a coffee place and gorgeous pastries, but that’s another story.

Leslie walks into my room, a large woman, with a very small harmonica.  She sits on my camp-type bed and plays,  Notes, small, steady and true fall into my heart.

A knock at our door.

We open it, and a doctor whom we met the previous week, on instinct stopped by to visit.  He gives me stuff for my throat, and I am agog by the fact that we are so isolated, in a strange city, trees, roads, fish and the vastness of Lake Baikal, and my very unspoken needs are met.  It’s like that.

Leslie plays and plays, and I settle into my bed, comforted.  She then says, ‘I had a dream last night.  We were all knots in a fisherman’s net.  When my knot went down because of something I did that was negative or plocha, Russian word for not so hot, bad, I pulled the whole net down a little.  Then she said, pausing to pipe out My Old Kentucky Home’s first few bars, “When my knot when up, I also brought up all the knots with me.  We are all knots in a fisherman’s net.”

Sore throat and all, those simple words, framed in amber notes of harmonic beauty, stayed in the inner lining of my soul.  And that’s the news from Lake Baikal this week, where the fish are full-bodied , the lake is wide and pure, and all the people in the lodge go home deepened and filled with the wonders of humanity.

prison wire at Chowchilla

Ten or so years ago, I read a request in the Women’s International Writer’s Guild newsletter.  A small 3 line or so request, which I am updating to the present day (Mother’s Day 2012).  Readers, further into my posts, you will find entries of T.C. Paulinkonis, her mom, Barbara, and life at Chowchilla Prison, a too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter prison, where T.C. sends, and I receive, or I send, and she receives mail.  She has been in prison for 22 years.  Her mother may soon be released, due to age and infirmity and go to a halfway house. You will have to decide whether you want to be a penpal or not.  I did, and I’ve never regretted it.  First her current plea: “Imprisoned woman seeks pen pals and contact with the outside world.  Please send SASE w/1st letter to: Teresa Paulinkonis (W45118); P. O. Box 514-16-4U); Chowchilla, CA 93610.”  She needs mail.  Contact with the outside world keeps these women alive.  She and her mother were battered women.  T.C. was also sexually abused repeatedly by her stepfather, and one day she retaliated.  They didn’t get arrested under the “Battered Women” concept.  They have been exceptional prisoners for 22 years.  She started a newsletter.  My relationship with her is one of mutual respect and love.   I didn’t ask her for quite a while what the nature of her conviction was.  It came out gradually.  Her mother is ill, has botched eyesight because of a procedure within the walls, and I believe has fibromyalgia, and a host of other ills, such as diabetes. Barbara Paulinkonis is coming up for her parole board hearing in August and may be released.  TC has an attorney (a volunteer firm) who is working on her release also. TC and her mom are in the same cell, and now Barbara can’t even make her bed, so TC takes on all extra work.  She is an incredible daughter, and never complains.  Her mother and TC are very loving and appreciative. You must send any request to her exactly as stated.  I have sent envelopes which were the wrong shape, or sent too many stamps, and not known cardboard cards are not accepted, and each time, TC or any prisoner, for that matter, must pay for the whole package being returned and they make about 12 cents and hour. There is a lot I can say.  It’s an entirely safe procedure.  Let me know if you take action.  When I am very old, and I lay down my bones, I’m sure there’s lots I could have done.  but writing to TC has been a mutual blessing, and I hope I have served her in some small way. Love and Happy Mother’s Day to all, and just Happy Day to all who love and serve.

Five weeks ago I had a steady Sorry Gnat blog following of about 7 people.  People know me a bit around the City of Pasadena.  A few months ago my Irish Mug was on the cover of Pasadena Weekly, because I teach writing at the Women’s Room in Pasadena, a workshop for volunteers, homeless women, and women in transition.

I also teach a couple of other  writing workshops in the Pasadena- mainly at the La Pintoresca Branch, and conduct a small one, for donation only, in the basement of Ten Thousand Villages, the most fantastic and aesthetically snappy fair trade store, located on Lake and California.

I felt stagnated by my inadequacies with my blog.  I had a major friend who has helped me a lot.  The fabulous Mizz V – shrunk my SorryGnat banner, twiddled and twaddled comments and headings appropriately, but she got a job, and I ordered 10-12 books from the library on Blogging.

I need to stretch I thought.  This is how I get creative thoughts.  They nudge me or pop up when my nose is halfway down my first cup of coffee in the morning.  Along came #@MNINB, and I was a hashtag apprentice, a Linkedin Babe, a Twitter type of gal.  I’m already on FB with people from around the world.  It helps to travel and live in other countries.

A few weeks ago someone sent The Versatile Blogger award, and I have still to figure out how to affix it to a margin type area so it hangs out in the neighborhoods of facts and figures about this writer who’s up there in age, but has the writing voice of a 35-year old.

This week, of which Monday seems a 100 years ago, 2 of the #MNINB recommended me for a Liebster because for the month of  April MNINB challenge a goodly amount of writers scattered from Massachusetts to Malta (not really) connected, with a spirit of oepn welcome and we cheer each other on.

So thank you to  Susan Craig, .  She’s a scientist with a background in neurobiology, and studied effect of Alzheimer’s disease proteins on brain cells for over 10 years.  She currently teaches college biology.  Her favorite thing to do is write books about strong, smart women and men who love and appreciate them.  Her blog reveals true stories, science material, fiction, inspiration, and you name it.  Lucky us.  Lucky me, I subscribe to her blog.

And also, another blogger nominated me during the same week of 100 years:

Thank you Kristi Carver,  Kristi is a writer, small business owner, and Registered Nurse.  My twin was a Registered Nurse, and believe you me, I felt safe with her in my life. Thanks Kristi.  When you visit her blog, you fall into a heavenly photo of a lake in Colorado, and all tension slips away.  Colorado beauty, plus aspiring author, who is a blueberry fanatic, wine enthusiast, and constant reader, and a memoir addict.  Be still my heart.

Now, I pay it forward and nominate up to 5 blogs with less than 200 followers, and let these nominees know they’ve come under the Liebster shadow by leaving a comment on on of their posts.  I added the Liebster image, so I’m okay ont hat.

My nominees are: – what can I say? When the world gets too lurchy, self-absorb, insane, I click on Kofeart’s site and her art enchants me.  I hope you like it too! I don’t know if he has 1,000 followers, but he was one of my original 7 devotees, and he’s special in my blogger’s heart; funny, current, aware, and enchanting.

 The blog & the book – are by Paul Waters from Northern Ireland, writes, makes radio & telly shows, blogs and footer about with social media. Get in touch if you’d like me to do it for you, either here or at paulwaters99 at .  It’s not a kangaroo, it’s a horse’s head, which might be from The Godfather. The pith helmet however, definitely used to sit on the head of Spike Milligan. (Memoir Writers Blog)I need all the information on Memoirs.  I don’t know if she’s widely blogged, so I added her, because I learn from people like this blogger. – okay, okay, the blog is about depression – but to a writer, artist, or whatever creative type, depression is a fantastic topic, and I am sure she heals herself by her work.  Her images are enchanting.  I adore her post.  What can I say, check it out! – Artist, writer, traveler, whimsy, E.B.-White-wit goes outer space, early member of, incredible friend, encourager, and lives next town over.  His Uneasy Rider posts are terrific.  He’s the reason why I write better than I used to after my first book, and why I published (he helped-bless his saintly soul) You Carry the Heavy Stuff, and is just all in all an enchanting wit and fried of both myself and Bill and so many others.

So that’s it. Now they check out The Liebster Award, and sally forth.  Gratitude to all who labor! Smile.


New York Times Best Seller

A Mostly True Memoir - a must read

So, you are ambling along in the library, and you check into your books on hold. Did I mention, I’m a memoir addict?

Okay, okay, the author? Jenny Lawson, and she’s called “The Bloggess,” Yep, I  ordered a book based on the cover, and of course that it’s a memoir. A white rat who looks in need of dental work, wears a stunning black velvet cape, with a red  silk lining.  His rat feet look like a DSW size 10? He has a white ruffled tutu type collar, the kind used in Medieval days, which if you want to know seem just like yesterday.

Okay, okay, the author? She’s called “The   Bloggess,” and did I meet her in my Name is Not Bob Blog April   challenge, MNINB?  I’m Not Bob April Challenge (MNINB) caused a loose knot in the sky, a gnarled rotting elbow on a tree, to fall on my neck and pressure  stress liquids into my brain.

I don’t know where I discovered Jenny Lawson, but  Reader, I read this book while slammed with the process of April Challenged which Not Bob gave to us bloggers, and I laughed, and chuckled, and snuffled   and snorted at midnight, in the quiet ambiance of our 2-room pool house of   the high ceilings and spillage of computer material, books, whatever.

Okay, sorry for the hot dogging, but The Bloggess,  aka Jenny Lawson, wrote “A Mostly True Memoir,” and that works for   me. She had me on the rat cover. I love the abandoned warrens of her mind,   picture Kafka-toned jokes as her thoughts trot ahead of us readers, twisting,   turning, always into belly laughing and chortles. She is snarky in deed, and   she got me on “folded vagina,” and claimed my heart and soul when I   discovered she had a Pug, Barnaby Jones.

The book is filled with huge metal chickens,   small creatures of the stuffed kind (her father was a crazy Taxidermist).

Reader, what is one to do with chapter titles   like, “Stabbed by Chicken,” “Hairless Rats Free for Kids   Only,” and an enchanting view of detachment from a bizarro childhood,  and interstitial laughter and views of a marriage with an wonderfully funny  man.

I read the first few pages and thought, maybe   I’m too old for this contemporary writing, but when I finished this book,   Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, Jenny Lawson’s writing claimed me.

My brother–in-law called me “The   Bro-ess,” and now I, the Broess, am on the devotee path of one Bloggess.   Kudos to all who write

Okay Reader, I’m going to jump right in.  Mars recommended me for the Versatile Blogger Award.  \

I thanked her and waited in silence for an email to come over the horizon saying, “You’ve won our Versatile Blogger Award.”  It doesn’t work that way.

My them for the April Challenge, MNINB, “It doesn’t work that way.”

So today, I am going to try to do several things at once.  I am a superb multitasker, but whiz around so, I fall off the planet on a daily basis.  My call to action comes at the end.  First the award.

pathway to knowledge, wonder and humility

Thank you Mars, dear tender-aged Mars whose blithe spirit shines through and captures the poetic tendrils of my heart. (repeated it).  Select 15 bloggers I’ve recently discovered or have been following regularly.  I nominate the blogs below for the versatile blogger award. (Advice:  Google it, and following the instructions.), long time friend, writer, lived in Bolivia and Chile 30 years, early member and continuing member of CHPercolatorCoffeeHouseFor Writers, and just one who you can roll around a floor laughing., I adore Soul Pancake, and use it in my writing classes at times.  I also gave the book Soul Pancake to my granddaughter.  I have connected with blogger and will do online interview!      Northern Ireland, author and enchanting commentator; have been following him since he found me – how I don’t know.  I think I had 7 followers then.  Author of Mountain of Crumbs, on Goodreads, Russian heritage. I lived in Ukraine and Belarus, spent some time in Moscow and Siberia, follow her blog on Goodreads.   new; intriguing; she was in a class of mine   a  new, refreshing blog about farm life, and well written.  Sagas, small s really about lambs being born, lamb bloat, the birds; all have names, and the blogger’s pieces undo the knot in the back of my neck from my social media strain.   Kofegeek is a silly geometer, a lover of coffee and fresh carrot   An exquisite young writer, working on her first novel – we meet once a week and share our writing through prompts!

friend, who is a scientist, a Baha’i and who writes enchanting, whimsical pieces., a very talented artists.  She had a stroke and since then she’s been producing the paintings you will see on her website. one of the first bloggers to reach out at beginning of our MNINB April challenge, generous in spirit and knowledge

terrifically informative re writing  I love her art

Okay this is for the lovely Mars – 7 things about myself

1.  I am 73, but have the writing voice of a 35 year old;p spunky, funny, deep, spiritual, whatever.

2.  I am a twin; fraternal, she died a few years ago.

3.  I am a member of the Baha’i Faith – since 1966 – was Catholic from Boston

4.  I am a pug dog devotee

5.  I have lived in Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine, Minsk, Belarus, spent time at Lake Baikal in Siberia, looked across borders to Mongolia, stared at the biggest fattest head of Lenin in Ulan Ude, Siberia, and crawled across railroad tracks and clung to barely the inside of a train in Eastern Ukraine, and last I road on a bus with our interpreter who thought beings from Mars would soon pop up, and where the bus driver stopped the bus, and said about the quacking goose in our midst, “Off with his head,” but of course, the goose lived, and we did too.

6.  I am a memoir addict, and started reading 4 books a day when I was 7; since then, my addiction has grown.

7.  I teach several writing workshops, one of which to homeless women, and they rock.

Larry: The Most Famous Feline in England.


I’m reposting this from


She’s an artist, and I like her blogs.  I find this one enchanting.  Best to all!


I definitely am a communications maven, the drawback being, I wasn’t savvy about social media management tools.  Last night, or night before, I read a whole page describing social media, but it would not enter my brain.  I think the Blog is my favorite (Psst, don’t tell the others). I’ve also added many blogs to follow, conquered LinkedIn, decided against shrinking my URL now, and am considering the blogs mentioned in MNINB, April 21.  I think I’m up to date, theory only.  I have to assimilate.

This morning I awakened thinking about Tweeting, Twittering, you catch my drift.

Before I started my blog, I communicated with a couple of hundred people around the world.  It helps to move a lot.  Al, my recent graduated from marketing at Yale, with his MBA, said, “You have to have a blog.”  I did.  I was grateful to my 2-3 followers; bless their stalwart qualities.

I blogged, FB’d, emailed everyone about everything.  I’ve written 2 books and can promote them well.  I teach writing, so there you go, more computer time.  I like FB.  I didn’t think Twitter could be used for ordinary computers.  I thought it was for cell phones, the kind of cellies my young friends carry, i.e., sleek black, red, buttons, icons, push here, push there.  I felt Twitter was the scoop-up-words type of thing, words from the top of my head.  I like to go deeper.  Too brief, too shallow, too Valley Girl almost.

LinkedIn repelled me.  I grew up in a family that regarded their status proudly. Boston was glutted with those families who know their social divides.  I didn’t retain these traditions.

So I thought, Linked-in-schminked-in.

Now, I’m a Twitterer, a FBer, definitely a blogger, an email, and a Yenta of sorts locally for people who look for work, relationships, just anything.  A new friend, in from India, said I’m like a local Google, except with a small g.

I write because I must.  I write to weave humor, pain, suffering, and I write about anything, from sow bugs and sorry gnats to concepts of racial justice, oneness,  and I glut Goodreads with my I’ve read or to read type of thing.  I subscribe to Powell’s on line, Book browse, locally, and on.

I am like an untrained Dalmatian.  I bound into life.  But, a concern I have, throwing aside professional need, is Twitter.

I wonder what sociologists will make of our current culture.  We have invisible lace webs over our heads that cartoon out – “didja eat,” “how bout them Dodgers,” and every other light through, phrase or sentence that settles tentatively on our brains.

What does this say indicate about attention span in the future?

I’m light, I’m funny, and I love whimsy and playing with words.  We do a lot of that on CHPercolatorcoffeehouseforwriters, and I guffaw on the floor over our hilarious exchanges.  But, I wonder, if we just go to a restaurant, casual, Marie Calender’s, Denny’s, Cocos, and see kids to adults to seniors.  A lot of heads are bent over their cell phones tweeting.

What about social skills?

We live in a society that is tremendously immediate.  Instant news.  “You heard it first at Blah Blah News.”  I can multitask without a blink of an eyelash.  But, can I sit down and study things, reflect at great length.  At this point in our world, is the speed of light winning, and reflection of the light losing?

I want quality.  I’m naturally speedy and can type rapidly.  But I want depth too.  It seems in the world today we inhale.  We inhale words, sounds, pressures, work, you name it.

A Hopi prophecy said, “When the world speeds up, slow down.”

That said.  I throw myself into my day and am enormously busy, but my relationships are fun and solid, and we form friendships in our writing circles, in my Baha’i life.

Sure, I’d like to be recognized; what writer wouldn’t.  But life is more than that.  I tell my students, we are reaching a time on the planet where arts should be everywhere, an Arts Rising type of thing.  The world is so busy, so full, why can’t we soar locally, forget the star system, a Kingdom of Names type of thing.  It’s all about bringing life and love and creativity to one another.  We don’t always need a stage.

I’d love and welcome other comments.  These are mine at the end of a busy Sunday.

Brandi’s prompts today or yesterday from and my response today:

Tell us why you became a part of this fabulous league of writers!
2. “According to the hard-hitting journalism of cosmos…”
3. Of all the skeletons in my closet, you are my favorite.

List your personal comfort foods, bonus points  if you tell us why each one is comforting.


One day, when the earth was young, and bubbling, in a cute kind of primordial way, I was sitting, driving, thinking, wondering, if I were anorexic and a fiction writer, could I, just possibly, write about all the skeletons in my closet and how I admired their paucity of flesh.
Exactly dear reader. They had no flesh.

Then I mulled over which type of comfort food I was in the mood to eat.  I couldn’t decide on either bowlS of Hagen Das vanilla ice cream with buckets of Hersey syrup or my old standby; that balled-up-in-a-fist peanut butter and jam sandwich on wheat if you please, but a friend, a writer from CHPercolator sent me an
email encouraging me. He encourages well, and to all I note.

Soooo, long story short, I had just finished several advanced writing classes with Jack Grapes, –  superb writing workshop leader, and I had blasted out of the gate of Write Like You Talk, into Write Like You Sing, Absence of Field, Teeth and Mouth writing (feel your mouth and teeth going over syllables and words you produce), Write Like You Sing, (think Martin Luther King, or Dickens, “It was the best of times, the worst of times…”) literary, heavy on the multisyllabic, so reader, you catch my drift. Are you with me? (Straight talk) and I thought  why not try CHPercolatorCoffeehouseforwriters, and the rest is history. Two years later, enter into my crooked pathways of a brain, a book, You Carry the Heavy Stuff – (Lulu, Amazon, my house), a combination of writing styles, homage to Oakley Hall, Jack Grapes, and stuff from their workshops, plus my responses
to CHPerc prompts.

The lesson: A little prompt goes a long way.

So how do you feel about prompts?  Writing Workshops?  Do they help?

P.S. Open House to my blog, no visitor turned away, sign up, and we’ll dance together among the words.

 Graduation-address to graduates; fiction – Esther Bradley-DeTally (this was        

a CHPercolator prompt a while back)

Dear Graduates:

Here on the planet, at Earth School, in Dirt City, on the Blue  Marble, advice is going to be slung at you as you leave your  schooling behind.

I want to tell you a few things. One, fame is an illusion, because  it is just a mercurial moment in time and space where you are a star  who gleams brightly. We live in something called the Kingdom of Names which has to do with who we are, What We Wear, Who We Vote  For. Consider this, maybe that’s nice, necessary, and maybe unreal.  Think of a wider goal.

You are living in an era where you are World Citizens, and either through trial and struggle, or a great
consultative process, we the people of the nations, will go down a  road pointed towards the Oneness of Humanity, a Golden Age spoken of  by prophets and seers. We will do this by today’s standards, “Boys will be Boys” and blow up much of the planet, leaving a postage stamp  somewhere by an abandoned pond on which survivors will survive, and  abolish war forever. Better yet, we individually could all realize
our oneness and strive together for justice and unity.

Consider your body, it is a mass of teeming action and all parts work  to sustain the whole – homeostasis. Did you know that everything in  the spiritual world has an exact counterpart in the physical world?
We are carrying around a blue print for unity in diversity by the  mere fact of our bodies operating with intelligent rhythm.

As you leave this joyous commencement, you each will be handed a packet of instructions. They consist of:

A Hopi Message
A writing from Oriah Mountainkeeper
A Comment from Thomas Merton
A view from Etty Hillesum
An excerpt from the Baha’i Writings.

The rest is up to you.

Thank you for allowing me to deliver this commencement address in  record time, thus leaving no stone unturned.  I suggest you reflect  upon these handouts carefully in that some of you will be tested in
odd ways. Perhaps strangers will come to you and offer you the  chance of a lifetime, and the only way to accept this chance is to  leave with this stranger, thereby not saying goodbye to all you  love.

Some of you in the science fields will have to decide how you can contribute to the Earth’s Beleaguered Being, and come up with  solutions for the healing of the Earth’s Surface.

Mostly it is up to you to live your life independently, investigate truth independently, be just, know you are in the process of becoming your true selves, and finally, be aware, exceedingly aware, of the
exigencies of your time. In a phrase, power is no longer used for personal gain, but it is used for service.

May I suggest, service to humanity be your highest aim. May we all be blessed with your struggles and


Hopi Elder’s Message 2001 via email to me from friend in Ohio

To our fellow swimmers. There is a river flowing now very fast. It
is so great and swift, that there are those who will be afraid. They
will try to hold onto the shore; they will feel they are being torn
apart and will suffer greatly. Know that the river has its
destination. The Elders say that we must let go of the shore, push
off into the middle of the river, keep our eyes open, and our head
above the water. And we say, see who is there with you and
celebrate. At this time in history, we are to take nothing personal,
least of all ourselves, for the moment that we do, our Spiritual
growth and journey come to a halt. The time of the lone wolf is
over. Gather yourselves. Banish the word struggle from your
attitude and vocabulary. All that we do now must be done in a sacred
manner and in celebration. We are the ones we have been waiting for.

Share this.
Oriah Mountain Dreamer
It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.
It doesn’t interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will
risk looking like a fool for love, for your dream, for the adventure
of being alive.
It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon. I want to
know if you have touched the centre of your own sorrow, if you have
been opened by life’s betrayals or have become shrivelled and closed
from fear of further pain.
I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without
moving to hide it, or fade it, or fix it.
I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own; if you can
dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your
fingers and toes without cautioning us to be careful, be realistic,
remember the limitations of being human.
It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me is true. I
want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself. If
you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul.
If you can be faithless and therefore trustworthy.
I want to know if you can see Beauty even when it is not pretty every
day. And if you can source your own life from its presence.
I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine, and
still stand at the edge of the lake and shout to the silver of the
full moon, ‘Yes.’
It doesn’t interest me to know where you live or how much money you
have. I want to know if you can get up after the night of grief and
despair, weary and bruised to the bone and do what needs to be done
to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me who you know or how you came to be here. I
want to know if you will stand in the centre of the fire with me and
not shrink back.
It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom you have studied. I
want to know what sustains you from the inside when all else falls
I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and if you truly
like the company you keep in the empty moments.
“If you want to identify me, ask me not where I live, or what I like
to eat, or how I comb my hair, but ask me what I am living for, in
detail, and ask me what I think is keeping me from living fully for
the things I want to live for. Between those two answers you can
determine the identity of any person.”

Thomas Merton, from the Man in the Sycamore Tree

Etty Hillesum, An Interrupted Life, An entry dated August 20, 1941,

“You must continue to take yourself seriously, you must remain your
own witness, marking well everything that happens in this world,
never shutting your eyes to reality. You must come to grips with
these terrible times, and try to find answers to the many questions
they pose. And perhaps the answers will help not only yourself but
also others.”

Be generous in prosperity, and thankful in adversity. Be worthy of
the trust of thy neighbor, and look upon him with a bright and
friendly face. Be a treasure to the poor, an admonisher to the rich,
an answerer of the cry of the needy, a preserver of the sanctity of
thy pledge. Be fair in thy judgment, and guarded in thy speech. Be
unjust to no man, and show all meekness to all men. Be as a lamp unto
them that walk in darkness, a joy to the sorrowful, a sea for the
thirsty, a haven for the distressed, an upholder and defender of the
victim of oppression. Let integrity and uprightness distinguish all
thine acts. Be a home for the stranger, a balm to the suffering, a
tower of strength for the fugitive. Be eyes to the blind, and a
guiding light unto the feet of the erring. Be an ornament to the
countenance of truth, a crown to the brow of fidelity, a pillar of
the temple of righteousness, a breath of life to the body of mankind,
an ensign of the hosts of justice, a luminary above the horizon of
virtue, a dew to the soil of the human heart, an ark on the ocean of
knowledge, a sun in the heaven of bounty, a gem on the diadem of
wisdom, a shining light in the firmament of thy generation, a fruit
upon the tree of humility (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings
of Baha’u’llah, p. 285)

Rainn Wilson did a college tour, not for the sake of comedy, but for that of human rights. Along with other panelists from Amnesty International, Education Under Fire, and the Bahá’í faith,Wilson spoke to a packed auditorium about a serious topic: the religious persecution of over 300,000 Iranian members of the Bahá’í faith.

The history of Bahá’í persecution dates back to the group’s inception. However recent government-sanctified systemic disenfranchisement (or as it’s called in polite circles, the passing of discriminating laws that bar Iranians identifying as Bahá’í from basic human rights like public services and education) has escalated to the point of attempts to shutter the underground university, Bahá’í Institute for Higher Education, and mass arrests of BIHE professors.

Many teachers are serving 4-5 year prison sentences from their arrest in May, 2011.

But why is the funnyman on a college campus for something so grave? “My family is Bahá’í. Had our family been living in Iran, my 7-year-old son would not be allowed go to school.”Wilsonhas appeared in Baha’i conferences before, but it was the events in May that helped organize these groups together. Amnesty International had been trackingIran’s human rights violations since the overthrow of the Shah during the 1970′s. Another group produced its namesake documentary, Education Under Fire, was born from the reactions of volunteers to keep the secret school operating and to spread the news of the persecution. The team spoke at several local Boston colleges like Boston University,Wheelock College, Harvard, and Tufts.


Director Jeff Kaufman, actor Rainn Wilson, BIHL graduate Mojdeh Rohani , and Northeast Regional Director of Amnesty International Joshua Rubenstein .

The documentary screening and subsequent talk was intended to be a call to action.Wilsontold the audience, “Go and ask your schools to accept BIHE credits or help teach an online class.” Flyers given to attendees listed over a dozen ways potential activists could help their cause. But perhaps the best testimony came from a BIHE graduate, Mojdeh Rohani, now a graduate of BU’sSchoolofSocial Work.

“I still love my country. But when I’ve been asked to go and help them with disasters they find out I’m a Bahá’í, and I am rejected immediately. I have not been able to go back.”

The panel disbanded, and Wilson was whisked off towards the next stop of his tour, the airport.

To find out more about Education Under Fire, check out their website.

I hope people can respond to this! Thank you, Esther

Somewhere down in San Diego, away in some hilly area, a retreat happened today, a women’s yearly retreat.  Last year they asked me to write a meditation for the last day, and I did.  They liked it.  They asked the same this year and suggested the title of Building Community.  Reader, frankly I was stuck.  I was stuck until I shared with my writing students how stuck I was, and the following images came to me of getting up, getting dressed, knitting, knitting friendships.  I hope you like it.  It is mostly Baha’i related, but I never write to just Baha’is, but rather, write to people – their inner essence, for we are all connected.

Building community. Esther Bradley-DeTally for the women who gather at retreat –Spring, 2012.

Building Community

 Oh dear, that heavy block-like phrase, so necessary for foundations, so hard to wield for the artistic mind, the mind that wants to build angel wings into the phosphorescent sky.

Oh well, you, out there, you women, sitting, standing, laughing, crying inside, with not enough to do, too much to do, do you feel as if a large building, let’s take an image of the Empire State Building, is over your head, descending on a crane, and the wires are frayed, as is your psyche, when this building obliterates all sun and light, and only shadows eclipse your tiny, puny, human frame?

No worries my duckies!  Take up words, and paints and colors, and throw some tea with jasmine, coffee with creamed soy of buttercup, butternut essence, grab a friend, a kid, a knitting needle, find a canopy, from arbors of Bougainvillea to hard, green, snappy, umbrellas over the outwardly composed urban woman.

In other words duckies, don’t sweat it.

There’s no one golden bricked path to building communities, no one particular hard hat to wear.  Think:

Mornings:  get up.

This in itself is an immense achievement, because we do it, day after day, year after year.  That’s what women do best.  They get up.

Okay, put on clean underwear.  Any kind duckies.  I still wear granny types, but thongs will do.  Count your blessings if said inner garment is not inside out.  That’s part of getting up.

Shovel the body together, teeth, nails, and do whatever you have to do, the laundry, the work, the subway, the elevated, the car with too big a tank, or the silent runs on the latest tech – you catch my drift.

Think – knit, purl.  Yes, that’s right, knit, and purl.  Duckies, this is what we do.  Let all the manly Germanic phrases of “build community” slide off your head, like excess water in the ears from the swimming pool.  Let it slide down your neck, off your shoulders, down your thighs, your ankles and into the ground.  This is California, and we could use the water.

Knit one stitch at a time, because that’s you, creating whatever base you need, tight, little bits of yarn sitting next to each other like sparrows on a telephone wire, keeping each other company, overseeing the world.  Then if you want to be bon vivant, try the pearl, a backward knit? Who knows, but you catch my drift.  Pull things together one stitch at a time.

You’ll make it; soon you will have knit friendships into this fabric of yours.  Find someone you like, maybe very different from you, but you like that person.  You want his/her qualities.  Knit her into your heart’s edges.

Places to find loose stitches:

The library

Writing Groups

12 Step Programs

Coffee places where everyone shouts and hollers to each other,or whispers, take your pick.

Dogs, talk to them all, if they are on a leash and their canines aren’t fanged and pointed right at you.

Extra points:

Long obligatory prayer in morning, Tablet of Ahmad for yourself, any others

Prayers, prayers for others, i.e., parents, kids, healing, protection, the Baha’is in Iran, help immensely.

Private talk with trusted friends, the ones you can bay at the moon with and grow German shepherd fur on your throat. (We’ve all been there)

Time to make your own list; this is just from an old gal with a writing voice of a 35-year-old, but this is something I count upon for sure, and I’m 73 and in thrive right now:

“Nothing save that which profiteth them shall ever befall My loved ones.”


Check the quote, not sure I have it just picture perfect in print.

Have a glorious hour, day, week, month, and life.


my name is not bob challenge

learning modes

Reader, may I call you reader.  help me in my hour of trouble and affliction.  Here’s the deal.  I’m blogging.  Bless me Lord, for I am blogging.  I am FB-ing, with about 700 of my cronies around the world.  I twitted over to tweet and succumbed, barely.  I checked my name, Esther Bradley-DeTally, against Google, Bing, and a whole bunch of little places with interesting names of which I have forgotten.  In other words, I am in Brain-Stretch, big time.  Before I toddle through this page with episodic thoughts, first let me say, My Name is Not Bob is great, and Not Bob is a generous man.  As a respondee to my blog, Keith, of the winsome words with a touch of dry flour around them, said, “Bob sounds like an inspirational fellow.”  Indeed he is.  As you are my fellow bloggers.

I am concerned about my long-time 7-10 hard-core followers, since my blog has grown, and since this challenge came along. I fear they all could fit inside a telephone booth, but I’ve been known to exaggerate.

I am back from the dentist – 2 crowns needed, and as I walked in the door,   I received a call from an older woman I revere.  She called to tell me a writing suggestion given years ago in one of my workshops changed her life.  It was simple, “Make a timeline,” and in her early years, she was heavily burned at 2, her father died in a fire later, she added all the good transformational stuff, and saw the wisdom and purpose of all things and people in her life, even the original accident, for which she had numerous plastic surgeries.   We yukked and jawed, and I got off the phone buoyant to have given a shred of anything light to this incredible lady who is now 88.

So far so good Reader.  Are you with me?  Do you catch my drift? I had a tuna sandwich, picture a round tuna with bits of green heap, the heel of my hand smashing two slices of bread around it and my eating it as I walked to my laptop.  Open I am Not Bob.  April 11 – challenge.  This is so wonderful.  I read down to Not Bob’s list of five popular URL shorteners.  I checked out because Not Bob said, “This is my favorite.”

I cannot be responsible for the way my eyes which rolled around like loose pinballs shooting out of an Arcade game because of broken curly wires.  I went to the Techy God for explanations:  Wikipedia.


URL shortening   Pro:

is a technique on the World Wide Web in which a Uniform Resource Locator (URL) may be made substantially shorter in length and still direct to the required page. This is achieved by using an HTTP Redirect on a domain name that is short, which links to the web page that has a long URL. For example, the URL can be shortened to or This is especially convenient for messaging technologies such as Twitter and, which severely limit the number of characters that may be used in a message. Short URLs allow otherwise long web addresses to be referred to in a tweet. In November 2009, the shortened links on one URL shortening service were accessed 2.1 billion times.[1]

Normally, a URL shortening service will use the top-level domain of a country that allows foreign sites to use its extension, and is a common ending in the English language, such as .ly (Libya), to redirect worldwide using a short alphanumeric sequence after the provider’s site address in order to point to the long URL.

Another use of URL shortening is to disguise the underlying address. Although this may be desired for legitimate business or personal reasons, it is open to abuse and for this reason, some URL shortening service providers have found themselves on spam blacklists, because of the use of their redirect services by sites trying to bypass those very same blacklists. Some websites prevent short, redirected URLs from being posted


There are con views so as readers you can Google Wikipedia, but I think to myself, “not right now Esther.”  Later.  I can shorten my own words within Twitter Texts, and because I drip, exude words in every other social media area, shortening my URL doesn’t seem to amount to a hill of beans.

That said, I’m off to read Best Blogs:  I do so like Rain Wilson’s Soul Pancake,; now there’s a mind with many tunnels.




Reader, may I call you reader.  This is a response to my blog of yesterday about being an old gal with a 35-year-old voice.  You see that blog had its genesis in CHPercolatorCoffeeHouseforWriters – a yahoo site.  My friend Steve encouraged me.  Steve is responsible for my latest book You Carry the Heavy Stuff, and ChPercolator.  It’s free; we only encourage, never criticize, check it out.

Keith is a funny writer, and any email or comments from him make me yuck and chortle.  Steve and I even drove down to Disneyland area, Anaheim area, to visit Keith and his wife, who were in from New Jersey.  Keith also wrote a blurb on the back of Carry Heavy Stuff, and this is his response to my blog of yesterday, soon to be yesteryear:

I underlined Bob sounds like an inspiration person because it was so deadpan.  Yes, I roll on floors over stuff like this.

Re: SUB: Dingbat and stuff

I often think that I was born in the wrong century, which is a great joke either on myself or the calendar professionals (The people who put cute animals, religious pictures and girls in swimsuits over individual months). Facebook? Twitter? They’re all the rage right now and I admit that both E.A. Poe and C. Dickens would have been all over them and so too would J. Caesar and Ramses Jr. I just can’t get into it. Maybe I’m lazy or maybe I’m reticent about new things that are all the rage (I never had a moon rock and I never saw a single episode of “Miami Vice”). If there is a disease called “fuddy-duddy-ism” then I must have it.
Is that at all related to being a dingbat?
Are frabjous and frabulous synonyms?
If I had a canary I would let it perch on my shoulders.
Bob sounds like an inspirational person.
My mother-in-law and you could climb mountains together.
What, what, oh what ever happened to the cardboard pug?
Jessica wouldn’t be that fictional writer/sleuth who murdered all those people and then hypnotized someone else into confessing to the crime? It’s just too much of a coincidence that she lives in a tiny hamlet in Maine with the highest murder rate in the world when she’s home and someone gets murdered wherever she travels. If that’s the same Jessica I would exercise caution.
whimsied time with granddaughter

Jessica and I make cardboard pug

I am a missing dingbat.  I retreated last night to desserts, and I awakened this morning, with snakes snarling and hissing on my head, a nervous tension, and just disgruntled wormy thoughts that wouldn’t even coalesce with one another.  I think that fits under missing dingbat category.

If I had a canary, it would be tempestuous, or lascivious, or frabulous, and mirror the excesses of my personality which I sometimes think goes into spillage too much.  I’d like to retreat to the desert, but instead will go for a walk, under the trees in Pasadena.

The reason for all of this.  I am in a “I’m Not Bob Challenge”.  I’m Not Bob is this wonderful man’s personal blog, (He’s a Writer’s Digest person)  and he’s helping us would-be, be, being, and all range of bloggers and writers to meet the challenge of expansion, construction too.  Each day the anonymous amongst us arise and blow out our thoughts in Twitter, i.e., “I jmp ovr mts & Valleys, and I wl nt hiss at LinkedIn”, type of thing.  Then we hook up FB pages, or simply chat, and sometimes, like today, my hands will click over the keys, which click sounds like Old Puggy’s (God rest his lardy soul) nails on linoleum at Grandma Anna’s place.

I’m becoming an old gal writer, whose voice is 35,  and I am  like a mountain goat.  It’s a saga, this trudging up the mountains of words.  Some days are tempestuous, a word in one of my CHPercolator prompts today, and one I’d use more if I were in a multisyllabic mode.  Today I feel more Germanic, almost high boots and marching because I’m frustrated by my inabilities or level of knowledge (think ankle level) on the computer.

Today I’ll stick to dingbat, and walk heavy hoofed for hopefully 5 miles, and then my ding will be danged, and tomorrow will be another day.

The theme was forgiveness, i.e., “Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do.”  Luke 23:26-34

First a group poem – in a writing session each woman took 2 lines and voila:

Friday, April 6, 2012 – Women’s Room Group Poem – Jennifer Robinson read:


Women Speak

Voices from the Women’s Room, a Group Poem

 Forgiveness is such a big word of many colors,

bruise yellow, anger red, wounded blue, white hope.

Most of the time we feel unforgiven.

The world would be a better place if we acknowledge we are forgiven.

“Forgive them Father for they know not what they do.”  Even their

unforgiveness causes us to be unforgiving.

Forgive us, Father, for we sometimes know what we do.

Though my flesh is torn and our hearts are broken.

Forgiveness comes from love we received

when we were made in God’s own image.

I see the world of peace within my eyes growing together as we do our part.

The days seem long, and the nights seem short.


FORGIVENESS      by     Esther Bradley-DeTally  For Good Friday Service April 6, 2012

To everything but anguish the mind will soon adjust…Roger White


After a great wound no feeling comes,

But, a white hot pain settles upon you.

You stand shivering in a fire of agony,

“Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do,”

is a whispered voice, hidden deep within cumulus clouds,

blocked tributaries of feeling, your heart a mere stump.

Enough, enough, enough.

The well-intentioned speak of forgiveness.

Skippingly on the tongue they toss

“Turn the other cheek” which produces

a yellow, curled up feeling within.

You’ve turned the other cheek so much,

you have whiplash, and your chiropractor

is upping his fees.

You are so done

Chumped out by the world

Sick of greed lurch on the planet

Numb to the scalding rhetoric of gossip,

absolute abandonment of your Lord’s teaching

on mercy, on love Thy neighbor,

Dormancy pokes its head up, a tickling feeling

Your nerve endings prickle, and you realize

not wanting to, you are coming to life.

It’s a crucible this world, and you have

gone through the white heat of change

Ignorance and love will not cohabit within

You cast away the purple bruise of resentment

Which led you to the heart of your journey.

Your crucible.

You will no longer resent

You will not forget

Never forget

But, you are a leaf in the wind

Of the Will of your Lord

And you will love again.

It was a good day.

A friend, Al, who is in advertising,  said to me one day over coffee at Peets in California, “You need to have a blog,” and so because of that casual remark and my faith in his techy wisdom.  I commenced walking over rocks and pebbles of techy knowledge, and a blog was born.

September 5, 2006, Sorry-Gnat enters hyperspace life letting those who are interested know that in the Baha’i Writings one can go on the path of transformation and be a sorry gnat and become a giant eagle.

“I’ve just had lunch at Tuohey’s Restaurant in Alhambra and had dinner there last night.  No I’m not trying to be giant like an eagle physically.  I’ve ruminated a good deal about stuff to put into this blog:  poetry?  pug dogs? notes about books?  human rights? racial justice: schlepping, Esther, don’t forget schlepping.  I have a lot to learn on this blog, and will consult with my techy friends as to how, what, why, when!  I’m reading The Earth is Flat, Thomas Friedman, excellent. Very good writer.  We just saw Jessica, our granddaughter, at an early soccer practice.  She’s almost 7-going into first grade, and all the little girls are not aggressive players at all, but very cute.

Today, April 5, 2012.

Well Jessica is 12 now, and has an equanimity about her and kindness to all that I adore.  My family was like a Rorschach test, and I used to wonder what it’s like if my kid had the soul of an accountant.  He didn’t, and that’s okay, but Jessica, my granddaughter’s mom, leans to that side:  stable, and a tremendous educator with regards to child rearing.

Okay, I do blogs, and  at times in my life the only themes seem to be pug dogs or spirituality, and for a while pug dogs were winning.  Of late, it’s books, and maybe a while or so about my adequacy level down by my ankle bones,  blogging wise-the techy side.  I’ve avoided Twitter.  Facebook?  Boys and girls, I’ve got FB down; I have friends all over the globe.  The good thing about moving 17 different times in 25 years is you meet a lot of people.

Sure I grieved over leaving some, but I tell you, I’ve met incredible people and to this day I never cease to wonder.  Today we had lunch at Farideh’s and we had Tadiq, golden crusted flat slabs of potato under Basmati rice.  Oink.  We had wild salmon, vegetables even turnip.  Then we had dessert served on creamy white china and looked like a vibrant water color:  blueberries,  peachy colored mango, and a scoop of vanilla soy ice cream.  I’m so slogged with fatigue and memories of good food, my brain turns to sludge.  Later I hooked up with Jean a new person in our Baha’i community.

She’s new to Pasadena, and hasn’t been in the States for 10 years.  She has lived in India, and I can’t remember the name of her city; small – 5 million, but she’s traveled all over. Did I mention she’s blind and gets around by cane.  We’ve hung out before.  She’s done everything; social worker, worked in radio stations, done voice over, teaches ESL, works via the computer.  No dust on her heels!  It gave me just another chance to marvel.

Tomorrow, I’m off at a little before noon to a Christian church up the Street on Lake, in Altadena/Pasadena area, where the Ecumenical Council is observing Good Friday.  I remember Good Friday when I was Catholic, sitting in the silence of the church, the religious figures draped in purple silk, and I remember a day before, called Holy Thursday, when Liz, my twin, and her best friend Jannie Cleary, walked and visited the 7 Catholic churches, a tradition we participated in only once.  When we got home that day my sister Meb (Mary Ellen Bradley) was hanging her head out of the bath room window on the second floor, showing a newly bleached blonde.

We were three sisters; close in many ways, and yet Meb would die of alcoholism, as my mother did.  They were terrific.  They both played classical music, and I can’t not stop when I hear Chopin’s polonaise in something Minor.  My mom died when we were 17, and my sister died when I was living in Dnepropetrovsk. She was the size of a twig, ravished by emphysema and years of alcoholism which I think she kicked towards the end.  She had once survived on the streets for five years.

So back to homeless women.  I’ve done two things in my life influenced by these two women so close to my heart.  My mom had Latvian Babushkas come to our little house on Wren Street, tuck into the small kitchen with the red checkered oilcloth table covering, and she’d teach them English for free.  They talked of their husbands, “lost behind the Iron Curtain,” and I’d visualize a large iron shower curtain stretched across a vast empty land.

Years later, in 1990, I traveled to Siberia with Bill, my husband.  I wrote a book Without A Net: A Sojourn in Russia, which tells about Meb, Russia,Ukraine, and all.  People like it.  I often thought  my mother’s selfless act of reaching out had reverberations into the future, when I, her daughter, very much her daughter, went into Slavic countries for service only.

That said, we’ve lived in Pasadena for 11 years, and it’s the longest we’ve ever lived anywhere.  Bill is 77 and I am 73, and first we house sat in a gorgeous condo for 3 years and then found this pool house, and we can afford the rent they charge which is not high.  I’ve survived open heart surgery, having the surgeons write the whole business off for free, and I’ve had a lot of trips to Cardiology at Kaiser, bleeding out, stuff like that, but now I thrive.  I’m like a Russian doll that tips over and bounces back.  Someone said to me the other day, “You have a strong life force,” and I do.  I feel life gets better and better for women as they age. I am no longer moth-holed by self-doubt and scalding inner words of rebuke.  I’m me now, and I sort of glow at times, at least when I’m teaching writing, meeting friends for coffee and always stretching to do more.

Poem by Chris Annick

poetry of women from women's room - fund raiser flyer

A few years ago I gave a goodly amount of writing workshops-method, process, and did so for free at the local library branch of La Pintoresca in Northwest Pasadena.  The Women’s Room a group formed and created by members who were connected to an Ecumenical Council realized women in Pasadena, either homeless or in transition, had nowhere to go.  This is a day refuge, but oh what a refuge. Showers, laundry, good food, make up suggestions now and then are available, and oh, my writing class.   Long story short, a room above the food pantry of Friends in Deed was created, like a small living room, dusty peach walls, art with symbols of 3 poppies, art on the wall, small kitchen and on Tuesdays 1-3 I teach writing.  Everyone is welcome, the volunteers and the guests (homeless/in transition) and it is truly solidified in love and community.  The bonds are strong.

We were asked to have something for tomorrow’s program at this Church.  I wrote a poem on forgiveness.  I’ll publish it later.  Then I had the women do a group poem, each writing 2 lines.

They’ve performed before; different women, different voices, and at first they were terrified.  But after they had the guts to get up behind a microphone and say their piece, their pieces, they were and are proud.  You can’t take that away from anyone.  Above is a poem written by Chris Annick which graced our first fundraiser flyer.

I always say to them before they read, “Own this.  Own your voice,” and by golly they do.  So with that, I didn’t expect this to be such a rattle on blog, but here you go, and that’s the facts Jack.

stunning, epid, riventing

"The Orphan Master's Son is a riveting portrait of a world heretofore hidden from view: a North Korea rife with hunger, corruption and casual cruelty..."

The Orphan Master’s Son is a major book; a major read. It is epic; almost an oratorio, notes of which float over incredible deprivation, struggle, and an exceedingly oppressive society. . I could not put it down. Someone once asked, “Why do you read such books as this? My answer for that day as “If we believe mankind is one, i.e., we are one people, one planet, and we know of peoples’ horrendous suffering,” then we cannot be silent.  I must speak about it even if only in a book review.

This novel pulls from the reader gasps of horror, Adam Johnson’s novel relentlessly pursues a systolic drive to the center of the North Korean world  whose outer shell is constructed of a rigid totalitarianism, and whose  inner core reveals an absolute and moribund corruption.  Its core is rotten. Yet, slivers of nobility, slivers of courage from different individuals emerge.

One critic said, “This is not the real North Korea.”   Perhaps not.  However, books are appearing on the landscape, one of which is the Aquariums of Pyongyang  verify an appalling state of society, and a nightmarish existence in North Korea’s prison camps,  and also in the general society.  We live on a planet where forces of light and darkness lick each others shadows. If we cannot speak for the silent ones, what can we do?

I feel an awe regarding Adam Johnson’s novel .  I believe this novel goes far beyond Pulitzer awards. It is through fiction such as this that truth shines.

Adam Johnson teaches creative writing at Stanford University.  His fiction has appeared in Esquire, The Paris Review, Harper’s, Tin House, Granta, and Playboy, as well as The Best american Short Stories.  His other works include Emporium, a short story collection, and the novel Parasites Like Us.

Reader, I belong to CHPercolator, CoffeeHouse for Writers (Yahoo) and what  below are the suggested prompts and my freewrite for same.

1. A unique toast

2. Family traditions

3. Out with the old in with the new!

4. Resolutions–do you make new year resolutions? If so, what are they,
and how long do they usually last?

5. I turned over a new leaf, and under it I found…

The toast, more than slightly burned and twisted, rose with her pale limpid hand, as Emily, a follower of Ron Paul, Edward Dash, Holley Holes and other limpid like creatures, spoke with as much force as she could emanate, all the while reclining in an odd twisted way on the mint green julep chaise lounge, redecorated since it birthed into the world of her grandmother Nenny, who never had a wrinkle in her life, and Emily thought, as her head with its faint gossamer curls of faded L’Oreal Red Fire Engine Red, and Nenny who never had a thought in her life, pondered, her Wet N’Wild  Lipstick number 2002, the color that ran in Russian department stores for so long, cracked and a bit of dryness seeped into her part glossy, but dry and cracked upper lip, and she went on, pushed into the stale breeze of conversation about New Year’s Resolutions, and tilted her toast to the left and then to the right like a politician of years gone by, too ineffective to make a difference, as if difference mattered in these days of political slime and split, but still, the stillness in the air, the pallid air, stilled even more, to a microscopic silence and she said, “Out with the old and in with the new,” and her boyfriend Henry, all new as a boyfriend of 2 ½ days, caught the sailing crisps of bread parts in the air with both hands, and he said in an adoring voice that rose to a falsetto, or sounding like Alfred Deller in a Vivaldi piece, Ode to Joy or something like that, he quivered, “Out with the old and in with the new,” repeating his new love’s most spontaneous act, a second one indeed, if he could count, and he would love to count it, her slight ack moan slipping from her rouged and ruined mouth from their 7 minutes of passion the night before, consummated so quickly, so eloquently, so quietly, and then the crowd, looking more like Edward Gorey characters who just stepped off their one-dimensional cover of the new Edward Gorey 2012 Calendar made up of twitches and twatches of woebegone Victorian figures, some full, and burley in sweaters and pondering thought with pen in right hand, left hand wanly holding a small blank square of paper, some in bold black, green and white chequered plaid, with the usual maiden with darkened Kohl eyes nearby, and a lady who looked very much like our beloved Emily, may we by now, the avid, sturdy, stalwart reader who has reached the end of this essay of small black marks, may we call her Em and may we finish this piece as we hear all the voices Gorey and others, writers and wishes everywhere say, “My only resolution is to write more!”

The Rules of Inheritance by Claire Bidwell Smith
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I guess I always give 5 stars to memoirs. I am a memoir addict, but I also write the personal essay and some fiction and teach creative writing. Authenticity and voice are aspects of good memoir writing.

I do not belong to that group of people who think memoir is a solipsistic form. The Rules of Inheritance, Claire Bidwell Smith, is a worthy read. Everyone’s story is the same but different, as is loss and sadness. It is honest, poignant, poetic, and well crafted. She’s not a victim, but portrays true loss and then gradual emergence into finding her truer self. I recommend!

View all my reviews

1. Please tell us about you the person and the author:

Glad that’s worded that way, because above all we are all persons first. In 1990 I started publishing personal and reflective essays in various journals. A writer friend from Israel had recommended me and many other yet to be published writers to write for a particular publication in Australia/New Zealand. This journal was globally distributed. When my friend suggested I submit some of my stuff, I thought, “Is that stuff under the bed collecting dust balls?” But in 1992 I was married to my wonderful husband Bill and we were living in Ukraine, in the City of Dnepropetrovsk, and this magazine published an essay about our lives in Ukraine.

I’m from Boston, born in Boston, and I remember blackout curtains from World War II on our windows and peeing in the dark. I remember the 50s and being a Catholic girl and going to a public high school. I had no writing inclination, but read voraciously from six years on. A huge influence was my mom who became a major alcoholic, but was a lover of books and also taught Latvian women to speak and read English when they came to our little brown rented house on Wren Street, and they spoke of the Iron Curtain, and their husbands lost behind this curtain. I remember thinking in images of a giant iron shower curtain spread across a vast land.

I grew up in a stratified society, where people drew lines about religious affiliations, class position, race, difference. I was a child in the 40s, a young girl in the 50s and was Catholic. In my twenties, I drove to California after the Cuban crisis, drove out by myself. My mother had died; my father remarried; my twin was somewhere; the family was dysfunctional and scattered. My older brother and sister weren’t around. I was a legal secretary and outwardly gutsy but inwardly a wimp.

I discovered the Baha’i Faith at 27, and felt as if I stepped out of a black and white photograph into the land of color. I stopped drinking, even though I hadn’t yet connected the dots of alcoholism sitting in my family’s history box for generations. I immediately became aware of the oneness of humanity, and my old stereotypical views fell off me like corrugated cardboard. Still, until I die, I must be aware of prejudice and how it is inhaled by a baby when born. My life is incredibly full –I teach writing to homeless women and others. I give a lot of free workshops. I guess you could say my husband and I are activists as we totally believe in service to the community at large. I used to be fearful but didn’t show it, and I faced life and have crawled over railroad tracks in Donetsk and been in Ukraine during the Russian coup and written a book about it. I’ve been to Siberia, and I have a son Nicholas who is married and a granddaughter. One last thing: I jump out of airplanes to say hello to Pug Dogs even if they are only dark little dots on the ground. That’s sounds very year-booky.

Mostly I totally believe in the splendor of the human condition, and am horrified by the meanness of our age, but have tremendous hopes for the future. I believe one becomes mystical by embracing the grit of one’s time and that we should be anxiously concerned about the needs of our age. I am the last of my siblings, my twin having died a few years ago. I’ve survived heart surgeries, blah, blah, blah, and walk an hour a day; sound like a gadabout and light up like a pinball machine when celebrating, reading, writing, a good book, justice, being a solace to someone else, being a source of light and laughter.

2. When did you first know you wanted to be an author?

In 1980, when I got a chance to go back to college, I wanted to learn writing.

3. Did you take any classes or go to school to learn to write, or did it just come naturally

No. Writing letters came naturally, but I had no idea whether studying writing would ruin my fledgling writing or not. I went to UC Irvine and enrolled as a junior at 42 as a single mom, fresh from what felt like 100 years of work as a legal secretary. I majored in English as I read voraciously and thought that the most practical. I had no dreams of becoming an attorney. I took a summer class and wrote a story about a blue dye eviscerating the earth from a jeans factory and a dog named Lance I think. I didn’t have the knowhow or the courage to have dialogue. There was lance, the blue dye, the inhabitants of earth leaving the planet, and the owner of lance, a woman who died.
My first writing teacher said, “Take every writing course this school has to offer.”

I took expository writing in the second quarter and the TA said “Take every writing course this school has to offer,” because I wrote a piece about who I was after reading an excerpt of May Sarton’s Journal of a Solitude. Reader her talk about depression, writing and planting flowers caused me to think, I can do this. I remember feeling electrified, not hugely, but nevertheless animated.

I then took Beginning Fiction with Oakley Hall, and I was nervous. He has written a book on the novel; was co-head of the UCI Writing Program, and is well respected. He went to Iowa I think. I was nervous until I looked under the large square table where we all assembled, and I saw faded purple Rit died socks, and then looked up into his broad face, and kind eyes, and his hair looked like yarn. He taught how to show, how to be the camera eye, how to use strong verbs, and I flourished.

I then went on to take an advanced writing class with the other co-head who didn’t like older women, but thought I was a very good writer. He tried to discourage me, and I think he did so, because he didn’t make it in the way he expected. It was rough, but I hung in.

Then I took journalism with a very good Journalist who had been nationally known, and he said, “You are a good writer, but what the hell are you trying to say.” I also took courses after graduating as part of teacher training in teaching secondary writing, and Writing the Natural Way. I use those methods when I teach workshops.

I also took from the Pied Piper of Workshop Leaders, Jack Grapes in Los Angeles who is a method writing teacher, and I took his beginning workshop. Then I waited 10 years, took his advanced courses, and around 2003 I was bursting through sound barriers. . I have written 2 books: Without A Net: A Sojourn in Russia and You carry the Heavy Stuff, the most recent.

I took a UCLA class too and we were not allowed to praise or criticize anyone’s writings, no comments, but the instructor told me I was very good. So yes, I took classes and really learned method, and craft of showing, use strong verbs, and still read voraciously.

4. Please tell us about your book and how did you come up with the idea for it.

As I mentioned I had a previous book, and the 2nd edition has pictures. Without A Net: A Sojourn in Russia, about our 3 year period before, during and after the breakup of the Soviet Union. It is a personal view, a behind the scenes sideways type of thing – personal, funny, sad, hard, and spiritual.

I joined CHPercolator Coffeehouse for writers because my friend Steve kept encouraging me. We all give prompts to write about at periodic intervals and thus, writers from around the globe write or not write every day.

After 2 years, I looked at my previous writing and the CHPerc bundle, and thought “It’s time to do another book.” It’s called You Carry the Heavy Stuff and has a street sign that says, “It’s all grist for the Mill, been there, done that, what’s next,” with a pug’s back to the reader and a tall thin red-haired lady with an old leather type valise, inky papers sticking out of it, and she’s wearing red high top sneakers. That’s my persona. I have used “It’s all grist for the mill” so much; people will soon begin to scream.

I had a mother in law who was the size of a small tree trunk and didn’t take noth’in from no one and we lived with her after we came back from Russia because we didn’t think it was wise for her to live alone. When I first met her, Bill and I were packing up our bags to drive away, and she and I were loading stuff at an open trunk, when this low growly voice (hers) said to me, “You carry the heavy stuff for him.” So I wrote a piece about her.

Anna was her name, and Italian momma was her game. I both laughed inwardly and groaned. I wasn’t insulted. Had I been 20, I’d have run away. This book is a series of poetry and prose about who I was, am; life in an office cubicle; life in middle school and a world view taking shape, life after 9/11; essays on prejudice, which makes my African-American friends cry, and essays on spirituality and eating falafel at the Mercatz (shopping area top of Haifa hills) in Israel. I also talk lightly and deeply about social conditions, Baghdad, being a twin, having a twin die, and packing for the future. All of my pieces reflect varied writing styles.

A fellow writer wrote “You Carry the Heavy Stuff reveals an author who engages life with grit, honesty and good humor. Bradley-DeTally rests thoughtfully at a quiet stream to make serene observations, and then she’s up and away again to fight her good fight with a Tally HO! A refreshing read that combines a depth dimension with the tragicomedy that is life.”

I was going to call the book Writing on the Fly, and I had everything in it: fiction, surrealism, poetry, short stories, and then I trimmed it down and a friend said, “Writing on the Fly is overused.” So I had a brief contest where I promised a few select friends a Starbucks coffee card if they voted on a selection of about 5 titles. You Carry the Heavy Stuff carried the day.

I don’t outline. Let me repeat that I don’t outline. I free write and then I tweak, tweak, tweak. I am pretty spontaneous and word crazy some friends might add.

5. Which of your characters were your favorite and why?

My favorite characters are pugs and the people in Children of the Stolen Ones, a poem I hope which gives honor to my brothers and sisters of African heritage.

6. What traits and characteristics did you give some of your characters to make them memorable? Courage, nobility and the human condition is a sideways view.

7. Does your book have any important themes or lessons you wanted to convey?

Well, it’s memoir-ish so the traits would be pissy, funny, ballsy, outspoken, socially concerned, deeply spiritual, thrown in with the theme of global citizenship and the inhumanity of man and the humanity of man (generic man of course).

My themes speak of the wonders and need for oneness; the need to throw prejudice off the planet, the nobility of the anonymous and the suffering among us, the struggle and beauty of the dying cancer patients, the humanity of others, and the downright wonders of slinging around language like hash.

8. What was the road to publication like? Was it turbulent or fairly easy?

I am too old to look for an agent, and have a small following – think larger than a beer truck but smaller than the Coliseum in LA so my friend Steve said “Publish through Lulu.” He has done so with several witty books. Reader it was hell, pure unadulterated hell. Very Kafkaesque and tortuous until I finally gave in and bought a Lulu package, and then it was a miracle. Price wise it’s the best so far, but I’m not an enchanted devotee. One gets lost in Lulu like getting lost in the Hotel California, “It’s a lovely place….but you can’t get out …. Lost in the Hotel California.The biggest thing about a book is not thinking about writing one, not thinking about publishing, but marketing after it’s done. My advice is take it step my step and “follow the force” so to speak.

9. Please tell a reader what they should know about your book before the purchase them.

It’s creative non-fiction, spunky, funny, shows a variety of writing styles, almost a book of prompts plus points of view as an extra added package! It’s 14.96 (the extra penny is the hell part.) Also there’s a download – e book type of thing. (You Carry The Heavy Stuff) and
Esther-Bradley-DeTally. I recommend the Lulu site because you can read some of the pages. I also have some I can mail.

10. Words of wisdom for aspiring writers.

Read, read, read, read, write, journal, write, never give up; take courses, watch, listen learn, imitate, and trust the process. http://sorrygnat. Word press. com blog

11. What current projects are you working on?

I am writing a book about someone with deleted memory; in interview process and at the beginning right now. I also teach the writing process, currently with homeless women, and their volunteers, and under the literacy umbrella of local libraries, plus give individual sessions and have writing groups.

11. What do you want your legacy to be- to have left the world showing worlds of unity, love and laughter, and to be a point of light in the dark dark nights of the soul, and to laugh and yuk about recipes, ham sandwiches and to promote the oneness of mankind, but to write, and know the power of words, the love of them, their ordinariness and majesty and not to worry about publishing, but think of the journey itself.

I wish for a world where everyone is a trust of the whole.

Esther’s ten favorites.

Favorite time of day?

First cup of coffee brought to me in bed by wonderful husband of 25 years.

Dessert: vanilla ice cream and dark, thick and creamy hot fudge sauce.

Teacher – Miss Halloran, in book; changed my world view from neighborhood to vast history and dimensions and the dangers of war within a 5 minute read of giant poster on her wall.

Social networking site; Facebook

Favorite city: Pasadena

Music – Rodrigo’s Concerto de Aranjuez

Color: the rainbow

Pastime: drinking coffee, and talking about real stuff with friends

Book: Oh my the over 600 on Goodreads, but if you don’t have time, Gleanings by Baha’u’llah, and An Interrupted Life, Etty Hillesum, and, and

‘Nothing save that which profiteth them shall ever befall my loved ones.’-Baha’u’llah

You Carry the Heavy Stuff

Nov 07, 2010 10:31am

<a href=”” style=”float: left; padding-right: 20px”><img alt=”The Marriage Plot” border=”0″ src=”” /></a><a href=””>The Marriage Plot</a> by <a href=””>Jeffrey Eugenides</a><br/> My rating: <a href=”″>3 of 5 stars

What did I not think!  Tatting on the head of a pin.  Truth is somewhere.  Shades of Frank Lentriccia’s Lit Crit class in the 1980s, rolling around with words like mimesis, blah. another professor, equally dishing out words which bounced off my dense forehead, used to utter the word “Hegel,” and each time he did so, his heels would rise from the floor and he’d be on tiptoe – up on the Heg, down on the el. Alternate universes, this one of words beginning and ending, and what the hey-ego and the turn of good phrases, but characters empty.  In one sense, it reflects ennui and delusions of the sad.  It fits in to the 1980’s when I studied this stuff and thought this is like a Papal Hierarchy, and the Cardinals, wearing red silk and satin of course, are strutting as literary critics.  i believe in the concept of literary theory, and the best book on that subject was the Purpose of Physical Being, John Hatcher, but I started this book last night.  Back to the 80s; but credit is due to the author.  However, how could so many applaud a book for such a narrow audience?  Overdone emptiness, and i am being casual with my descriptions, perhaps not specific enough.  I would give it a 3 because the author is exceedingly intelligent, highly literate, but I could not finish it.”>View all my reviews</a>

The T.C. & Mama P Newsletter – First QTR, 2012      Free online at

Dear Family of Friends,

It is with great exultation that we bring in 2012. Why? Well, because it means we all got through 2011. It also means that we have a lot to look forward to. There are lifers receiving parole grants and most of them are definitely going home. Jerry Brown is letting the Board of Prison Hearings do their job. Good ol‘ JB is OUR governor!

This year Mama ´P´ is once again going to appear before the BPH to seek a parole grant. There really isn‘t any legal reason for them to deny her parole. She will be represented by Elisabeth Peterson at that hearing, which will likely be held in October.

While her legal team is seeking parole, my team is seeking a new trial for myself. A Writ of Habeas Corpus is being filed at the first level as a form of appeal for relief. That level is the Superior Court that held our make believe trial. In a nutshell, my Public Pretender should have had me psychologically evaluated and probed an investigation once allegations of abuse were raised in testimony. Legally, she was obligated to provide me with an adequate defense, but she tied my hands and sealed my mouth. And, we all know that I‘ve found my voice and will not deny the past any longer. My fight could take months or over a year. It all depends on how far we need to take this battle.

In either scenario, 2012 holds hope for each of us. It also holds hope for the many lifers who have served well past their matrix. It costs far more to keep productive, aging, lifers in prison, that to release them to a second chance and allowing them to integrate back into society. We can assimilate. Really, we can. There may be a tad of culture shock after decades in captivity, but that is to be expected. Maybe JB can put The Happy in our New Year. Let us hope so.


T.C. & Mama P

Help Is Available

For the many lifers reading this newsletter, I believe that knowledge is to be shared. As you strive to achieve whatever you can to impress the BPH, they really show favor to any self-help that you seek or accomplish. I want to help you add a little more ammunition to your arsenal for the battle ahead.

I already covered in previous newsletters, the vital necessity of insight into your crime, and that the BPH finds book reports on self-help programs available through correspondence efforts listed below.

Turning Point was created and is conducted, by ex-cons. They offer a total of 20 lesson plans in which you can earn a series of certificates. BPH favors this program.

Creative options offer Parenting, Anger Management, and other studies, also by way of correspondence. Like Turning Point, this one is free.

The PASS Program offers two semesters of courses on a variety of topics from Victim Awareness, Addiction, Domestic Violence, Conflict Resolution, and Re-entry into society, just to name a few of the ten topics. This program however, costs $500. What prisoner can afford that? If you can, I suggest that you enroll and get your achievement certification in Personal Psychological Development. Yes, BPH favors this too.

Turning Poing                                 Creative Options                              PASS Program

2049 S. Santa Fe Ave.                  P.O. Box 808                                       P.O. Box 2009

Los Angeles, CA 90021                                Lyons, OR 97358                               San Francisco, CA 94126

What It‘s Like For Me by Cora Lee Lee

It was a morning, like any other. I was on my way to my work assignment, saying hello to a good many women that I had said good night to about twelve hours before. It was like any other morning until the words I heard stopped me dead in my tracks. I must‘ve looked like a trapped animal with nowhere to turn. My mind was reeling. This wasn‘t how I wanted to start my day.

„Mrs. Cora! I was looking for you. I just got back from court and I rode up with your sister. Y‘all look just alike! She says she loves and misses you. She can‘t wait to come over the wall to see you.“ She. Can‘t. Wait. To see you.

This woman went on and on about mys sister, but all I could hear at that point, were my own thoughts. I was caught up in the thougth that this could not be and that I didn‘t really need this in my life. I mean, was I being punished? The idea that she was here – my sister – tightened my stomach and had my mind whirling with spontaneous anxiety. My entire being was distress. I acknowledged this woman‘s words, but my smile was feigned.

Before I go any further, let me stress that this is not one of those cute prison formed relationships. There‘s your prison mom, which you met here. She didn‘t give birth to you, nor did you know each other in the free world. So, there‘s prison mom, or sister. Then, there‘s the real deal. Bloodline. The sister in question here is my bloodline. That makes a world of difference. And unless you‘re a lifer or long-termer doing time, and you have a family member in prison with you, I doubt you can say you know how it feels, even if you empathize.

I‘ve been down a decade now with ten more years to go. It‘s been a struggle to take care of myself and survive. Each day may seem the same, but sometimes there are challenges. For instance, the cells hold eight women, but more often than not, at least ten or more personalites. Prison is a stressful place. I will not sugar coat it. And people have a really nice way of getting on your last nerve … without ever trying. So, who needs the added stress of, „Hey, your sister is here, and she wants to see you?“

Please don‘t misunderstand me … I love my sister. What I don‘t like, is that she did the same thing to me that other people have done. You see, this isn‘t her first trip to prison, it is her second. On her first round, she made parole promises of how she‘ll never forget what prison is really like, and she‘d be there for me once she got home. Parole promises includes taking pictures and sending not only photos, but money and writing regularly. A parole knows all too well that prison is a lonely place that can make a heart feel desolate and empty inside. Parolees know that mail call is a lifeline to the outside world and it takes money to survive in here. The chowhall food is inedible, they don‘t provide adequate clothing for the inclement weather, and they consider indigent status to be one dollar or less. If you have one penny over a dollar yes one lousy dollar, then you‘re not considered indigent. You can‘t even buy two bars of soap for one dollar, let alone the necessary hygine items for the mouth. My sister knew this. She experienced this. And then, she left me with false promises and a broken heart, for I fel abandoned and forsaken. I have had my share of phony parolee promises made to my face, only to become added disappointment in the reality of prison life. I just didn‘t expect it from my own flesh and blood.

Two years in society may feel like, well, two years. Ah, but a couple of years at CCWF can feel like double that. Yet, here she is two years lated, „I‘m back!“ Yes, back and disarrayed from the life she chose out there to be in the predicament she is in now. Back at CCWF looking worn from the wear of her decisions. However, while she‘s been gone, I‘ve been working diligently on myself to be reassimilated back into society. As I watch women return to prison over and over again, I strive to get out. It‘s insulting when they act like it is funny, yet I scratch my head with a WTF look on my face. They act as if they just don‘t care about their freedom. Well, I care about mine, and I‘ve come to not only learn, but to accept, that I‘m doing this trip alone. I‘m the one who‘s working on me. I‘ve been really steady about avoiding the many distructions that can impede progress … and then my head was spinning at the news of the arrival of my sister.

I do not receive halftime credits. I am working everyday to one day to be free. In the meantime, I join others to fight for the rights of women, and to battle Battered Woman Syndrome. Lifers and long-termers fight to be freed, yet parolees find humor in „I‘m baaaack!“ Like T.C. says – it‘s a slap in the face of freedom. And it breaks our hearts, because all we want is a chance to get back out there to our loved ones, and not see the inside of these walls again. That‘s all we want. We work tirelessly toward that goal.

So, taking all of that into consideration, what does it feel like to see a loved one come to prison? It hurts deep down inside. It hurts so deeply that you want to go into the shower and cry your eyes out. That‘s really the only place that is semi-private in which you can go for a personal bawl release. You want to just let it out before it dominates you. It hurts folks. It hurts like hell.

So, for all of you sisters and mothers, cousins and nieces and so on, please do not feel offended by my bluntness and honesty. We would rather that you‘re in a world that we are painstakingly working hard to return to, that for you to be a number behind these walls. That‘s why they offer a visiting room for us to meet. The free world is where we both need to be … where I long to be. And that is where I want to be reunited with my loved ones without anyone telling us that our time is up. If you‘re reading this from the free world, stay there. I hope to not be too much longer. Don‘t give up on me. And Sis, I love you. Thank you for your blessing to share this message. You never know who needed to hear it.

Anything Is Possible

When I was just a kid, I never really considered what I would do with my future. I think I was just hoping I‘d have one. I think the first time I considered my future was when the recruiters made their rounds my senior year in high school.

I almost did it, you know. I almost signed the final document that was the equivelent of selling my soul to Uncle Sam. Now, don‘t get me wrong. I love my country. My heart bleeds red, white, and blue. I support your troops. I even pledge allegiance to a flag I have hung over my cell door. God, she‘s beautiful. However, if I joined, it would have been too final.

The Army. I nearly joined the Army after being fed that bogus storyline about how my best friend and I could go in on the Buddy Program. Why Army? I wanted to be all I could be. Well, to be honest … Navy was out because I‘m water challenged, and the recruiter fed us lines about traveling to exotic lands, meeting new and different people, and trying new and unusual foods. I raised an eyebrow. Foods? I love food, but nothing still alive staring up at me, and nothing slimy. I despise slimy.

I didn‘t sign the document. Not only because I knew he was insulting my intelligence about the Buddy System, but because I would have joined for the wrong reason. It wouldn‘t have been for love of country, but necessity of escapism from my childhood at home. But, my core reason was that I didn‘t think I was capable of killing complete strangers. I just never really liked guns anyway.

Well, look at me now! I‘m on my 23rd year of captivity in the death of my stepfather. I never could have predicted this at 18 years old. I‘d have told you that you‘re crazy if you thought I could take a life. Anything is possible.

Stuff doesn‘t just happen. People make it happen by choices, decisions, and actions. Right about now I wish I was in some third world country eating something slimy, because slimy is better than this. Howevere, like everyone else here, I made a choice and I‘m living with it. But, do you know what? This place has helped me to be all I can be. The government still got me, but I probably would‘ve been more productive in the Army.

Moral of the story? Choose wisely. Your future depends on it.

Comfort Care Where? By: La Donna Robinson, A CCWF Hospice Volunteer

I have spent nearly every Monday night for the past four years, and eleven (11) months, in the Skilled Nursing Facility in the CCWF Treatment Center. I am a Comfort Care Hospice Volunteer, and I would be lying if I said that the comfort and the care are always present.

The Skilled Nursing Facility (SNF) is a scary, lonely place to be. Many have passed on from there to a better world. Of course it is never easy to see one of our own die from an incurable illness. We silently pray that it doesn‘t ever happen to us, hope that they die a painless death, and sit patiently in wait until they pass to the other side.

These women are often referred to as „The Forgotten“, as some of them have never been seen by those in the General Population area of the prison, and are often not included in the special event s provided by the institution. Some are wheelchair bound, and some simply can not leave the SNF because immediate medical attention must be readily available should something go wrong. I know for a fact that just because they are forgotten by some, does not mean they are forgotten by all.

The General Population inmates pulled together and provided many personal items for Christmas presents for these ladies. There were hats and scarves (it is usually cold in SNF to aid in the reduction of germs), hygiene items, stationery and stamps, and much more. The G.P. inmates went out of their way to ensure that these ladies knew they were in our hearts during the holidays.

The SNF is not what it once was, and as with anywhere and anyone; one bad apple shouldn‘t spoil the whole bunch. Of course there may sometimes be a nurse who is having a bad day, or doesn‘t exactly like the idea of sharing her space with inmates, but for the most part, our sisters in the SNF are treated with loving care. When they aren‘t they make sure it is known so that we, together with the staff, can make it a more comfortable place for them. After all, for most of the women in SNF, it is a permanent home. Our job as Comfort Care members is to provide exactly what the name says; Comfort and Care. We are not junior nurses and it is never our intent to compete with the medical staff, or to dole out advice to patients. It is only our intent to ensure that our sisters who are often left excluded, do not die alone in a place designed to prepare for death.

I thank the women of the General Population for supporting the Comfort Care Memebers in our endeavor. They are always waiting with a kind word, or a question about their peers who they seldom see, but hear of quite often. You too, are appreciated, and your concern, prayers, and efforts to not go unnoticed.


La Donna Robinson

A Letter To God

Dear God,

I‘ve had my heart broken with the loss of a friend who never hurt me like other have. He was one of the few men that I could feel comfortable being alone with. He never betrayed my trust or took my kindness for granted. He never abandoned me when it felt like the world had come crashing down. He never made me feel unnatural, although I was more of a square in his round peg world. His heart was always true.

I know that for all of us, our time on earth is temporary. I accept that you cross our paths with others for purposes we may often not be privvy to. When you crossed my path with Wolf‘s, you not only blessed my life, you filled a void in my heart. In the aftermath of my arrest over 22 years ago, he stood by me and the though of abandoning me was unthinkable. Just like the true nature of his name, he was loyal, protective, and one of Your most precious gifts to this world. Although our time on earth is temporary, love knows no boundaries … at least not in my heart.

Lord, thank You for the years that I was blessed with Wolf as my friend, teacher, and Big Brother. He accepted my contrasting lifestyle and joked that I was a big marshmallow on the inside. He was 100% of a 1%. He was betrayed and left for dead, but eventually found Carley, the love of his life. God, how she filled the emptiness of his broken heart. I don‘t know if she‘ll ever know how much he loved her, but she was his everything. She‘s probably the only reason he fought so long to stay in this world, but his time ran out, the road ended, and he left us. Our hearts are broken, but thank You for the many years that You blessed each of us with Wolf.

It was my hope to enjoy Burger King and wine coolers with him again. It would have been nice to just sit together and acknowledge that we each survived this long journey. While it saddens me to not have that opportunity, it disheartens me to think of all of the people who never had what I had with Wolf. All of those people who never knew him. Boy did they miss out!

Lord, do You think You can be a little patient with him? He‘s been separated from his Harly and his pit bull for quite a long time. He‘s going to want to enjoy both for awhile. He may be a little late to Orientation.

Thank You for the years, the memories. Thank You for the kinship, the relationship that was stronger than my own bloodline. It hurts to lose him, but I trust he‘s in good hands. Oh, and can You please tell him that he still owes Shorty ride down Calaveras Road? Thanx.

Endless Love,

Your Daughter,

Teresa Christine

Shout Out!

If there are any inmates reading this that want to contribute with an essay, opinion editorial, or share thoughts, experience, or give readers something to ponder about, talk to T.C.

Yep, I‘m the easiest person to locate. We all have something worthy to contribute. Sometimes, we just need to be invited to step atop the platform and let ourselves be heard. Don‘t worry if you‘re not the best writer. I will gladly proof and polish anything considered for print.

Crime After Crime Available on DVD

Deborah Peagler, AKA Tripp, had a story that needed to be told. By doing so, it may save lives. Yoav Potash documented Tripp’s life into a film that is now available on DVD. The documentary tells of her legal battle to seek freedom after being sentenced to 25 years-to-life in prison. I have shared her story and release in this newsletter before, as I also sadly informed of her death due to stage IV lung cancer. Tripp did not die in prison. She had nine awesome months of pure freedom before she lost her final battle, but she embraced each and every moment knowing that God smiled upon her.

I want you to know my friend. I want you to hear her story, from her perspective. Please support this film by going to and ordering a copy and watching it. I cannot stress it enough; You need to hear her story, which involved perjury evidence and prosecutorial misconduct. Think you know the legal system? This film will get you to think twice.

And She Calls us the Criminals!

Ever heard the term, “who’s minding the store?” Yeah, well, it goes to question who is in charge of who or what. Inmates have been saying for years that half of the psychologists in the prison system need a shrink themselves. I recall Dr. Majid, not sure of exact spelling. I called him Disco Daddy in reference to his unprofessional misconduct. He wore his wildly colored satin shirts open to mid-chest with his dark curly chest hair exposed within numerous gold chain necklaces. They had this creepy looking fellow conducting a sexual abuse survivor group in which he allowed one girl in particular to expose herself two sessions in a row. The only reason he prevented a third attempt was because the other women complained of being victimized by her aggressive attention seeking behaviorism. Oh, and I should mention he was eventually fired for of all things, sexual misconduct.

Then enters the picture of questionable antics of social behaviorism, Courie Ann Martinez. She is a CDCR Senior Psychologist Supervisor. Her employment duties included overseeing a team of clinicians at CSP in Sacramento, AKA New Folsom. That team treated inmates with mental issues, but I’m not certain if she had any rules in documents that may have influenced the Parole Board’s denial to any lifers. It is possible at the very least, given her title of authority.

In April 2011, Martinez had used sandpaper to rub raw her hands, torn her blouse to expose her breasts, had her friend punch her in the face wearing boxing gloves, and cut her own lip with a pin. She then called 911 to report that she had been beaten, raped, and robbed. She even urinated on herself to appear that she had been beaten unconscious. It was rather convincing.

Why would she do all of that? To set-up someone? No, not even close. Martinez wanted to manipulate her husband into moving to a safer neighborhood. Yes, this all concocted to get hubby to move out of their Sacramento home to a place more desirable. I’ve seen women in prison do some pretty ridiculous things to get a bed move, but Martinez really outdid herself. She may have even gotten the idea from an inmate who actually needed to be relocated for protective custody due to a sexual attack. Martinez, her friend, and two co-workers told police of the scheme in December 2010, resulting in the arrest of Martinez and her friend, Nicole Snyder. They are charged with criminal conspiracy.

So, in the end, Martinez has lost the respect of her colleagues, once convicted, will lose her job, and she also lost her husband who filed for divorce upon finding out of her scandalous play acting. It also makes on question just who is watching who in the prison system. Ain’t it nice to know where your tax dollars are going, though?

“Why Didn’t She Just Leave Him?”

“Why didn’t you just leave him?” is a question that many victims of sexual abuse are asked by people who don’t know any better than to ask that question. Anyone who hasn’t been abused cannot possibly understand what it is truly like to be a victim. They can empathize to a significant degree, but to truly know what it is like is not possible. I can read of a soldier’s experience in wartime, but I will never know what it’s like to be under enemy fire like that. Sadly, you had to have experienced it to know the depth of ignorance in a question like, “Why didn’t you just leave him?”

There are hundreds of women in the California prison system that couldn’t leave their abuser, or may have tried to, only to face the wrath of no mercy. My mother is one of those women. She knew that leaving my stepfather was the unthinkable act of suicide. There were a few times when she could care less about her own safety, but had to contemplate the consequences to my sister and myself. Abusers are skilled at brainwashing their victims into believing that they are worthless, uneducated, and most importantly, that “If you leave me, it’s the last thing you’ll ever do.” You see, they make leaving an option equivalent to death.

From the time that she was born, My mother never stood half a chance. She was passed from one abuser to the next, right up to her second marriage to my stepfather. I asked her why she didn’t leave him. I didn’t know better at the time. She did her best to explain that she loved him, and that she’d be lost without him. In the next breath she would tell me of his threats to not let her leave him. It’s all very confusing for both the victim and those who love them and want to help them to a safe place, wherever that may be.

The threats were real. So was the abuse she suffered. It was all as real as the black eye that George and Rick testified to seeing, and the bruises that spotted the canvas of her body …  an ugly portrait of domestic violence.

From time to time, I’ll hear someone say that they can rest assured that their children are safe with family while the prisoner does their sentence. Yeah, okay, but 93% of the time it is someone that the child loves and trusts that betrays and violates them. Do we ask children why they didn’t just leave the home or circumstances? No, of course we don’t. That would be irrational and insensitive. They are vulnerable and easy prey, as are victims of any abuse, regardless of age. Abusers attack those who appear to be, or are simply vulnerable. The victim doesn’t see escape as an option without dire consequences.

Picture if you will, an elderly man who runs the corner liquor store. It’s been robbed three times in the last two years. It’s always possible that on any given day, he could be robbed again. He could even lose his life in a robbery. So, why doesn’t he just close up shop? It’d be safer to not stay, right? He stays because he loves the store and he hopes that it won’t happen again. And even if it does, nobody looks at him like he’s stupid for staying, or tells him he brought it on himself by not leaving.

Why didn’t she just leave my stepfather? Well, for one she loved him for who he used to be, and hoping he’d stop being who he had become. She stayed because I never told her that he sexually abused me for so many years. She didn’t leave because she had been a kept woman all of her life and was always under the thumb of a male dominant figure from childhood. She kept hanging on to the hope that it had already gotten worse and that it  was time for it to better. My mother had no self-esteem in her tank and believed him when he told her she’d never make it without him. My mother didn’t leave him, because she didn’t know that she could, and she certainly did not know how.

If you know someone that is being abused by someone they love, don’t ask why they don’t leave. Be a friend and ask, “What can I do to help?” For someone in mom’s shoes, just offer your heart, and the rest comes naturally.

… But I‘m Okay

As a child I did not know,

Any better than I do now.

I wanted to escape my path,

I just didn‘t know how.

There are times I can feel his fingers,

Wrapped tightly around my throat.

Most times he cannot reach me,

For I hold onto hope.

In the early seps of recovery,

I felt adrift like flotsam.

I had no idea that,

This day would ever come.

It may not always be easy,

But I know the Survivors battle cry.

We will not raise the white flag,

And our spirit will never die!

It‘s been a long, long, road,

The journey a struggle now and then.

But, I‘m not that once fractured victim,

And I‘ll never be her again.

I breathe in hope with faith,

Seeing the brightest color on the palest day.

God, it feels so good to be alive!

The past left its mark, but I‘m okay.

From The Heart

I want to tell you a story about a little boy named Joey. I‘ve written of this experience in my memoir as well as in personal correspondence. In the process of writing this newsletter, the memory of Joey crossed my mind as I felt his footprints run across my heart. I‘d like to believe that is God‘s way of telling me that the story needs to be told again. So, here we go.

It was about December 1982. I had gone to Yosemite with several of my co-workers, and my best friend, Lori. I was only 18 years old. We had one of those heated cabins in Curry Village in the valley floor not far from the infamous Yosemite Falls. The cabins were meant for no more than four people, but there were five of us in the cramped space. All was good on the first night until somebody lit a cigarette in the cabin. I couldn‘t breathe. For anyone that knows my history, cigarette smoke is a trigger for me. It messes with me mentally and emotionally, puttin me back into the backseat of my stepfather‘s 1964 chevy. In 1982 I had still concealed my secret, and my co-workers didnt know better. Lori knew the trigger was somehow related to my stepfather, but never pushed me for too many details. She knew enough to not attempt to stop me from charging out the door of the cabin into the snow. And as a friend, she knew to not let me go out into the dark alone. She grabbed our jackets and joined me.

Once outside, I was able to breathe again. I couldn‘t tell her why it happened, but she saw the relief on my face. I began to walk toward the parking lot and edge of the tree line. Our feet left deep impressions in the packed snow; I could feel the cold through my hiking boots. She asked where I was going, and I honestly did not know. I simply felt moved to keep walking, and so she walked beside me.

As we came to the edge of the lot, that‘s when I heard it. I didn‘t know what I was hearing at first, so I asked Lori to be quiet so I could listen. Being that she knew my nature to play practical jokes, she insisted that I not do so out in the dark of night in the woods. She was picturing Jason and Michael Mayers in those slasher films. I insisted that I was serious. I held my finger to my lips, and that‘s when she heard it too. Crying. We heard somebody crying. We walked around the trees into the parking lot and that‘s when we saw him. He was about eight years old and all alone. My heart broke.

He looked up at us, two strangers looking down at him. He was croushed beneath a tree, surrounded by bushes. It was as if he were hiding. I knew from experience that hiding doesn‘t always work, and I feared what he my be hiding from. I introduced myself, crouching to his level. It took all of a few seconds to get him to trust us. That made me grateful that it was us that found him, and not someone else more sinister.

He told us his name was Joey. He had left the cabin that his family was staying in, because his parents had begun to argue. They argued a lot. Joey felt responsible for this particular argument because he knew why they were fighting. Apparently, it was his birthday, and he could go werever he wanted for his birthday. He chose Yosemite, but that‘s not what his father wanted. His parents were arguing over where his father felt they should have gone, while his mother defended Joey‘s choice. I almost didn‘t know what to say. Almost.

I got Joey to stand up and walk with us to the ice rink at the other end of the dark parking lot. The area was well lit, and there were lots of people around. His parents had to have noticed him gone. If they begin a search anywhere, my best guess was that they‘d go to the rink and ranger‘s office. I recall looking around the lot that could‘ve held danger for any child, especially one as distraught as Joey. Our paths crossed for a reason. He was shivering, so I gave him my jacket.

When we reached the rink a short time later, Joey walked directly to a space where a controlled fire sparked flames of warmth. He sat before the fire, his small hands up, palms flat toward the flames. My eyes scanned the area, but not a single park employee in sight. The ranger office was closed until morning. Joey took his little blue gloves off to feel the fire‘s heat more directly. We sat and talked about how he felt bad that his parents were fighting, and Lori and I kept telling him that it wasn‘t his fault. I must‘ve thought of my own stepfather. By that time I had learned that my parent‘s arguments were not my fault.

After a short while before the fire, and with Lori‘s not being able to locate any staff personnel, we decided to walk Joey back to his cabin. We weren‘t two sure of what to do, but his parents would certainly want him back, right? We couldn‘t take him to our cabin, we couldn‘t find a ranger and we certainly couldn‘t leave him abandoned in the night. We headed for the cabins, hoping we weren‘t going to make matters worse for an eigh-year-old boy.

Near the edge of the lot as you enter into the treeline, was a line of logs that encircled the boundary. The whole area was slushy from melting snow and mud mix. I had Joey climb on my back as I carried him piggyback across the slush and up the hill. In the distance we heard voices, but jubled together, shouting. The we heard it clearly, „Joey! Joey!“ being shouted by a woman‘s hysterical voice. He got excited, explaining that the woman was his mother. As we came up the hill a little more, we could see her in the snow, not knowing which way to search. He yelled directly into my ear, „Mom!“ I bent to let him slide off of my back, and he ran through the snow to reach her. What a sight! They embraced, and my smile suddenly faded when I saw him. The father. Lori and I made our way towards them and explained where we found him and that there weren‘t any rangers to contact or notify the parents. I explained that the though it was his fault that anyone may not have been happy that night. They embraced him together, telling heim what we told him: children are not responsible for the actions of an adult, no matter what the circumstances.

Joey‘s parents thanked us for returning their son safely to them. Before parting ways, his mother handed me my jacket, and thanked me again before we all called it a night.

The next morning, as we stepped outside of our cabin, we noticed Joey and his family leaving the park. They were far off in the distance, but they had their belongings in hand, just reaching the lot. I hoped in my heart that he would have a safe journey, both home and in life. Lori stood beside me and watched as the wather warmed the care up to leave. It was chilly, and I dug my hands into my jacked pockets, and I felt it. The soft yarn of Joey‘s little blue gloves were shoved into my pockets. He had put them there while around the fire. As I removed them, the car pulled from the lot, and I clenched those gloves, putting them back into my pocktes.

My path crossing with Joey‘s wasn‘t by chance, but by the grace of God. That little boy didn‘t just leave his gloves in my pockets, he left his name in my heart. I see that face from time to time when the cold forms in winter. I see that dark curly hair and tender eyes filled with tears. I see pure innocence. Every now and then, his little feet run across my heart and remind me that tenderness and humanity are the greatest gifts wrapped in love that we can give to the world. He also reminded me that in childhood, we are all innocent. All of us. Yes, even me. That little eight year old boy is an adult now. I often wonder how he is, where he is, what life delivered him in spiet of his home life. And I pray for him. Still, to this day, I pray for Joey.

I kept those gloves in a safe place clear up to the day of my arrest in 1989. The were blue with white snowflakes on them. They were a memory of one day when my humanity and compassion where tested. They were a reminder of a child‘s innocence.

So, I say from the heart to you … You dont have to wait for a child to be lost to show your own sense of humanity or compassion. You do not need to wait for an invitation to participate in an endeavor of the heart – just go find a cause that could use two more hands, and get involved. There‘s no need to wish you could make a difference, just go out and do it. There are soldiers returning from Iraq and elsewhere. Show them that you love them as much as they love their country. Don‘t know were to begin? Contact your local V.A. Hospital, and ask what you can do to help. There are millions of people who could benefit from a shoulder to lean on, a hand to hold, just someone to talk to. It could be a stranger, or someone as close as home. From the heart, I cannot say it enough, a little love goes a long, long, ways. Just imagine if we all did it together. Yes, what a beautiful, beautiful world!

Always From The Heart

T.C. & Mama ´P´

T.C. Paulinkonis                                                                                             Pauline “Barbara” Paulinkonis

W45118 514-16-4U                                                                                       W45120 514-16-41

PO Box 1509                                                                                                    PO Box 1508

Chowchilla, CA 93610                                                                                  Chowchilla, CA 93610

 From You Carry the Heavy Stuff, Esther Bradley-Detally – on, Amazon, and   Author’s possession 

Children of the Stolen Ones
(for Gloria Haithman—December 2, 2004)

“Greens” makes me think of Ola Mae’s Greens, down in my belly, in Olean,New York, as crowds of us burst into Ola Mae’s Restaurant on a regular basis to shoot the breeze, eat her famous Greens, and just to feel all’s well with the world.  Here in Pasadena,California, the subject of greens and chitlins came up.  I thought of Ola Mae, the camaraderie, her corn bread too, and just feeling part of the woodwork welcomed by her open heart and Best-Greens-Cook-In-The-World self.

In Pasadena, on a Wednesday night, Gloria talked about the same thing, but went a step further.  She spoke of soul food on another level, the spiritual teachings of love, hope, and faith.  She spoke to our insides where there are no colors.  Gloria said, “We were not colored when we were born.  Yeah, I thought, we came in that way, and no one crayoned some in, or bleached others out.

What if, instead of calling the dark ones, the Negroes, the People of Color, names given by history book scribes, say, “Black or African-Americans?” Then a phrase measured out, by Gloria, entered our gathering, all the while she was telling of a story of friends who called themselves The Sisters.  These Sisters went to South Africa, honoring their roots, and seeking answers to their identities.  On the trip they were constantly greeted by groups of women who would sing to them.  One day they met some African women who had the “Who are You? Where are you from?” look in their eyes, all the while staring at The Sisters.

One of the South African women said, “They are Children of the Stolen Ones.” Back in Pasadena, sitting on the orange velvet couch, those small noble words, “The Stolen Ones,” bombarded my heart as I felt my soul sink into a place of utter knowingness, of a reverence and majesty revealed.

As a white lady, an older one, who learned of our essential oneness some forty years before and humbly stayed on the thorny and pitted path of discovery and unity, I sat there stunned.  I repeated the phrase over and over to myself.  “Children… Children of the… Children of the Stolen Ones….”

Yes, and for me it was a rightful and merciful appellation.

Finally, dignity and solace packed into five words.  Measure it out on the tongue, slowly: “The Stolen Ones… Children of the Stolen Ones.” Feel your heart melt as if a great and timeless grief has finally been acknowledged.

My heart bowed a humble bow to the true nature of an incredible people, their majestic endurance, their ancestors.  I’m no artist and don’t know my colors, and I live in a world that thinks it knows its colors, and colors inside the lines, not outside—the “lines” being the operative word.

Well, I’d say in this year of 2004, “Maybe we should hear The Sisters, our sisters’, call from South Africa,” and use lines to wrap around: Majesty, Dimension, Endurance, Courage.  Name every quality our sisters and brothers of African heritage carry with fortitude, and you come up with, in my book, “The Chosen Ones.” And, what if God and his Messengers and Prophets saw that these Chosen Ones endured trials similar to the Minor Prophets? And what if Bahá’u’lláh knew His love for His Chosen Ones, knew they suffered the banishment, the chains, the whippings, as He, in the Path of God?

So here’s the final what if—what if this planet really was a testing ground to see who could show courage under fire, love of God, love of people despite that the Stolen Ones and their kin were also robbed? But wait, here’s another view.  I think the Children of the Stolen Ones are the Morning Glories of our age! Their children; their children’s children.  It’s the story Morning Glory.

Let’s proclaim, let’s shout, and let us bow in reverence to our ancestors, ransomed so we might reframe our hearts and join each other in history’s future where lines are a thing of the past and colors are loved-filled stripes of every hue.

Skin Color

At the Black History Parade, put on by the Jackie RobinsonCenter, one cold, but sun-emerging day, paralytic agony stops my nouns, verbs and adverbs describing skin color or lack thereof.  Pain fills my heart as my eyes Braille the sadness of a man’s face, deep rivets line his cheeks, highlighting generational discounts and the pitter patter of white voices.

Numbness clots my throat at this morning’s Parade, while those in other parts of the city, those from White gulags, tuff lawns, buff cars, and spread glossy interracial magazines, photo ops on tables, never viewed by the living.

Brown vs. Board, wasn’t that inTopeka?

In Idaho, Bill and I share a table with a Nigerian psychiatrist.  It’s lunch time in a hospital cafeteria,  and Bill asks a question which floats over our salads:

“Do you have to emphasize your African heritage”?

An acknowledged “Yes.”

A rueful, half-stated reply, “My children will not have that advantage.”

On the broad palettes of television’s life experts on society, are noticeable by their absence of color. Hey, what about The News Hour with Gwen Ifill?  Yeah, and Colin Powell, and… Yeah?  Hey guys, take the tour of Any City, USA, where two separate neighborhoods exist—bookends of ideological contrast.  One is spacious, forgiving, and tolerant, with wide streets, large houses and gracious plants, suggesting it’s easy to feel benevolent.  The other part contains narrow streets, boards on windows, hunger at night, restless poverty, and shootings.  Skin color privilege cuts its wide swath.

I can say no more.

First, gratitude for the hard work on behalf of Altadena Library and the Friends of the Library for making these workshops possible.   Okay boys and girls, or girls and boys, we didn’t get to a couple of other exercises, so as I promised, here they are:

1. Name your writing after this place or situation:  In the Dean’s Office, Talking to My Boss, At Lunch with My Mother-in-Law, On the Bus Going to Work, In the Dentist’s Chair, Cleaning My Room, The Job Interview, or whatever comes to mind.  It’s your mind reader – go for it!

Write a dialogue in which an annoyingly powerful person speaks the way he or she normally does.  For internal dialogue, after several lines of this person’s dialogue, say to yourself in the form of a tired cliche or some slang you use, what you really think – consider these:  Your mother eats kitty litter, or praise the Lord and pass the Butter or Walk with me Jesus, or sticks and stones may break my bones, or are you with me; how bout them Dodgers, you can’t please everyone, or Lucy and Ethel in the Chocolate Line, or Gal, don’t call me Gal, or Boy, don’t call me Boy, or job schmob, I’m out of here!

2. Think of something you believe in/wish for. Write 5 or more passages, start with same line, I believe in running free and fast, or I have a wish to swim in the ocean, or If I could talk with my mother for just one moment more.

After you have written the passages, end by repeating the one repeated lines 3 times in a row. (From Creative Writing DeMystified, Bender, p. 31)

Here’s one we did in the 90s at Jamestown Community College’s the Courage to Write Workshop:

3. Suddenly there is a knock at your door.  A trusted friend enters to warn you that the Dream Police will arrive in 20 minutes.  Everything, everything in your life that you have not written down will evaporate upon their arrival.  You have a short time –twenty minutes—to preserve what is most precious in your life, what has formed you, what sustains you.  Whatever you forget, whatever you have no time to record, will disappear.  Everything you want must be acknowledged in its particularity.  Everything, to be saved, must be named.  Not trees, but oak.  Not animal, but wolf.  Not people, but Alicia.  As in reality, what has no name, no specificity vanishes.

We are what matters to us.  Our identity materializes through images, memories, events and through things.  In the above exercise we select what is essential us, what has formed u, what we cannot live without, this as often includes grief, losses and failures as it does joy and triumph.

Some time after, look at this list; put it aside, and then later, examine it.  Imagine you are an anthropologist who has unearthed this list of “possessions” that once belonged to some “unknown” person. Write a portrait fleshing out that person, speculating on his or her character and life.


FINALLY, some books which you can get from a library:  mine – Without a Net: A Sojourn in Russia, and You Carry the Heavy Stuff, Esther Bradley-DeTally.  If local, i have some.  If not, Lulu for You Carry the Heavy Stuff, Amazon too.

Creative Writing DeMYSTiFieDm Sheila Bender (I used this).  Soul Pancake Chew On Life’s Big Quesitons, Wilson, Gundry, Lucina, Mogharab(Rainn Wilson from the Office, one of the authors, and the GRAPhics are fabulous)

I loved Spunk & Bite also.  Read everything, fiction, non-fiction.

Journals – Writer’s Digest, Poets & Writers,

Online writing group:  CHPercolatorCoffeeHouse for Writers (Yahoo)

I have only touched the surface.  Stay tuned and happy writing.  Esther



A string of laughter is all the trees lining our long driveway, the bamboo, the eucalyptus, all laughing, small nasty chuckles, because once again, I am thatched headed, in pjs and not walking.  It was a choice, but then the lure of words, the Zen of quiet air pushing out of the fan under my laptop; which if you really must know, I found this fan at a garage sale for $1.00, mighty fan.

A string of laughter makes me think of kites flying over Afghanistan, that land of dust and caves, and cities, and brave women’s hearts, and children’s tears, and when the kites are allowed, they fly into the air, twisting, turning, colors.  What are the colors of kites in the Afghan air? And someone’s heart exults, and then of course, there’s the birds.  They were banned during the time of the Taliban, and now I hope they are back, and I will sit back, and stop clickety clacking across the a, ;.s;. k, dk’s and think in peace you can’t own the sky..  It’s been tried, but the sky is ours, and then a heavenly invisible low long drawn out chuckle, like God was a Westerner with a Cowboy Hat, and then a belly laugh which translates into winds over the mountains, cleansing air, and Scattering Angels of the Almighty seeking the hearts of righteous men (generic of course); women too, and then what do I think.

Hmmm, a string of laughter is a word sky, where the sun and the moon negotiate, because now there’s lots of new solar stuff out there, and it might be a night game of “Olly, olly oxen free… ready or not, here I come.” Or maybe lawn bowling will be the game of choice, except it would be sky lawn ball, and then there are balloons, another topic altogether. Some balloons laugh, go up on a string, and twist out of grasping hands of greed.

You can take a lot of things away from people:  money, a place to live, shoes, health, but laughter always springs from some invisible source, and laughter moves the ribs up and down and up and down, and you can’t take that away.

how to be a racial transformer

from, Hatty Lee’s infographic, ARC toolbox, research, activism, media, Rinku Sen, ARC President –

This organization gets things done; they put “hope” back in the horizon! I hope it’s okay to publish this

opy/paste the below text into your blog. And Nothing but the Truthiness: The Rise (and Further Rise) of Stephen ColbertAnd Nothing but the Truthiness: The Rise (and Further Rise) of Stephen Colbert by Lisa Rogak
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Fun. He is soooo bright; I adore him.

View all my reviews

YA novel about life in the future after the planet has gone bonkers; excellent story, well done; heroic characters, love pervails

Siobhan Fallon writes well, eloquently and her prose and content are straight arrows to the heart. I don’t know how many books have been written from her point of view, but these stories, with exceedingly diverse points of view, points of view that bring you inside the characters’ soul, are just in time for the rest of the world to view.

Fort Hood.  Women Left Behind.  Heart in throat kind of stuff.  Factual insights into life at Fort Hood.  She brings the sound of loneliness and waiting to the page in a visual way.  Agony, waiting, lives upended, lives united.  These are the stories this reader feels everyone should read.  What a tribute to all who serve and all who wait.

Reader, I belong to CHPercolator, CoffeeHouse for Writers (Yahoo) and what fllows below are the suggested prompts and my freewrite for same. 

1. A unique toast

2. Family traditions

3. Out with the old in with the new!

4. Resolutions–do you make new year resolutions? If so, what are they,
and how long do they usually last?

5. I turned over a new leaf, and under it I found…

The toast, more than slightly burned and twisted, rose with her pale limpid hand, as Emily, a follower of Ron Paul, Edward Dash, Holley Holes and other limpid like creatures, spoke with as much force as she could emanate, all the while reclining in an odd twisted way on the mint green julep chaise lounge, redecorated since it birthed into the world of her grandmother Nenny, who never had a wrinkle in her life, and Emily thought, as her head with its faint gossamer curls of faded L’Oreal Red Fire Engine Red, and Nenny who never had a thought in her life, pondered, her Wet N’Wild  Lipstick number 2002, the color that ran in Russian department stores for so long, cracked and a bit of dryness seeped into her part glossy, but dry and cracked upper lip, and she went on, pushed into the stale breeze of conversation about New Year’s Resolutions, and tilted her toast to the left and then to the right like a politician of years gone by, too ineffective to make a difference, as if difference mattered in these days of political slime and split, but still, the stillness in the air, the pallid air, stilled even more, to a microscopic silence and she said, “Out with the old and in with the new,” and her boyfriend Henry, all new as a boyfriend of 2 ½ days, caught the sailing crisps of bread parts in the air with both hands, and he said in an adoring voice that rose to a falsetto, or sounding like Alfred Deller in a Vivaldi piece, Ode to Joy or something like that, he quivered, “Out with the old and in with the new,” repeating his new love’s most spontaneous act, a second one indeed, if he could count, and he would love to count it, her slight ack moan slipping from her rouged and ruined mouth from their 7 minutes of passion the night before, consummated so quickly, so eloquently, so quietly, and then the crowd, looking more like Edward Gorey characters who just stepped off their one dimensional cover of the new Edward Gorey 2012 Calendar made up of twitches and twatches of woebegone Victorian figures, some full, and burley in sweaters and pondering thought with pen in right hand, left hand wanly holding a small blank square of paper, some in bold black, green and white chequered plaid, with the usual maiden with darkened Kohl eyes nearby, and a lady who looked very much like our beloved Emily, may we by now, the avid, sturdy, stalwart reader who has reached the end of this essay of small black marks, may we call her Em and may we finish this piece as we hear all the voices Gorey and others, writers and wishes everywhere say, “My only resolution is to write more!”

Play with Words2programsupdate

CXXX: Be generous in prosperity, and thankful in …


Be generous in prosperity, and thankful in adversity. Be worthy of the trust of thy neighbor, and look upon him with a bright and friendly face. Be a treasure to the poor, an admonisher to the rich, an answerer of the cry of the needy, a preserver of the sanctity of thy pledge. Be fair in thy judgment, and guarded in thy speech. Be unjust to no man, and show all meekness to all men. Be as a lamp unto them that walk in darkness, a joy to the sorrowful, a sea for the thirsty, a haven for the distressed, an upholder and defender of the victim of oppression. Let integrity and uprightness distinguish all thine acts. Be a home for the stranger, a balm to the suffering, a tower of strength for the fugitive. Be eyes to the blind, and a guiding light unto the feet of the erring. Be an ornament to the countenance of truth, a crown to the brow of fidelity, a pillar of the temple of righteousness, a breath of life to the body of mankind, an ensign of the hosts of justice, a luminary above the horizon of virtue, a dew to the soil of the human heart, an ark on the ocean of knowledge, a sun in the heaven of bounty, a gem on the diadem of wisdom, a shining light in the firmament of thy generation, a fruit upon the tree of humility.

those were the days

Years ago
when I drank vats of Tab/Diet Soda, you name it, I was what I drank, jagged
edged, thin, with an immune system storing grudges.  Before that when I was 21 and had moved away
from my suburb of West Roxbury and lived in Brookline with my stepmother and
father, who were away a lot, I smoked a pack of cigarettes and drank a whole
pot of coffee every Sunday morning, and needless to say, what I became was
someone with little red pimples on her face and a twitch in her gait, and then
after giving up 3 packs of cigarettes a day, no longer drinking, scotch or
anything else, and getting a pit bull grip off of sugar, but not ice cream, I
became a round person, said roundness appearing and staying, like cement
successfully poured, because after open heart surgery, by pass and a new
plastic aortic valve, I craved milk and ice cream and then I lived in Russia
before that, and we ate ice cream from a cart on the street, in the frozen
winter, because there was no such thing as dairy, and we also ate a lot of
katoshka,(potatos) so that’s when I paid more attention to my being a soul, but
a soul with wide hips, and of late, I am an older lady, coming into her own,
claiming health and well being, but in parsed patches of time, and eating more
regularly, and eating vegetables and dark greens except when my blood gets to
thick and the powers that be in the medical field, the valley of the blood
laboratories, tell me, too thick, not good, or too thin, then I go into the
greens again, and all of this points out to maybe once a 4 pound baby who was
born with the theme of need in the 4 pound folds of skin which didn’t have the
ability to plump out until she got to be 50 and hormones and all, and if I eat
incorrectly; isn’t that a wonderful phrase, considering all models in the past
were on heroin so they could be thin or 90% of them, and I notice if I numb
myself with food or playing solitaire at the end of the day; I’m avoiding life,
and food can do that, and that’s when I pull myself up the next morning, and
pay attention to the prayers I utter humbly to the heavens, and ask for help in
not being such a rebel with food; but it all started with my giving my daily
required cod liver oil pill as a child to our large French Poodle, and she
lived to be very old, and I went on to immune system crappola, but now, wisdom
and moderation have elbowed their way into my path, so I’m just another
moderately wide waisted writer, trying to eat after she writes, trying to walk
after she writes and thinking, who is it just so easy to slab peanut butter on bread,
fold it until you hold it, and take off, not paying attention to details.  Details work when you write, so now, my
little word epiphany thanks to Michelle’s prompts tell me, triangulate details
into your food old girl; that way you’ll have the strength to continue

The T.C.
and Mama P Newsletter – 4th QTR, 2011Available free at

Dear Family of Friends,

Here we are, fourth quarter
already! This year seems to have passed by quickly, well for mom & I at
least. Hopefully 2012 does as well, taking us steps closer to freedom. Good
things are happening for lifers these days, so perseverence has its benefits.

Although many readers of this
newsletter have knowings for years, there is the occasional question of what it
is like to be a lifer. Some are amazed at the audacity of the legal system to
sentence kids to life in prison, let alone how a teenager accepts, adapts, and
matures in captivity. We will touch on these topics in this issue.

As a lifer myself, it is a sense
of vulnerability to open one‘s self up to the risk of forming and building
bonds in such an environment. The hardest part isn‘t telling the true hearts
from the vultures … no the most difficult thing is having to say so many
good-byes. People pass through here like water running downhill. Some are the
rare exception that remain in your life once they parole, but most do not. So,
good-byes are the hardest part, except when the one you say adios to are
another lifer. Those are the best good-byes ever! We have some of those to
report on as well, so let‘s get started here.

May this issue find you healthy,
safe, and feeling loved. We wish you a pleasant holiday season.

The Heart

& Mama P


The Lost Child (By La Donna
DeLane Robinson)

There were approximately 25 of us … seated around the long brown table in
the dayroom at Los Padrions Juvenile Hall. It was dinner time. I was one month
into the age of 17 years old and my 16 year and 3 month old codefendant sat
loyally by my side.

I looked up from the Styrofoam plate where all the food was mixed together,
forming some sort of multi-colored daleidoscope of inedible forms and textures,
and gazed around the table at all the lost young souls such as my own. I then
suddenly screamed at the top of my lungs, „I´m never going home!“ You could
have heard a cotton ball hit the floor it was so quiet in the room. Then
another juvenile facing a life sentence quietly said, „Me neither.“

My codefendant instantly began crying because she knew that if I felt I
wasn‘t ever going home, she wasn‘t either. Cries and wails began resonating
around the room, as 10 of the 25 came to the same realization. We were the kids
who would never see daylight in a free world again. Counselors ran from all
over in an attempt to comfort us all-to no avail. There is no comfort for
children who are penitentiary bound, quite possible for the rest of their

I felt like I had no reason to do anything positive. I had zero esteem,
zero motivation, and zero positive outlook on my future. I was ashamed that my
mother had to come visit me in juvenile hall every weekend for two
years-something missing church, which was her lifeline, to do so. As if that
wasn‘t bad enough, I had a list of ´demands´ that I wanted fulfilled each and
every week. The judge had given me court orders for shoes, personal jeans,
weekday visits (whenever needed), phone calls (whenever needed) and may others,
and my need for these items were merely a juvenile game I played to see who in
my family felt the guiltiest for my situation. I got bored with that, and like
all kids too, I found something else to play with … God. But during my time
of playing around in church, which was my only means of seeing all my friends
and the boys who wrote me kites during the week, a man named Makadoo came to be
a guest speaker at church one Sunday. I can‘t say he immediately changed my
life, but he had a big impact on it. He was a parolee who had served many
years, and said it was God that saw him through his time and into freedom. He
started telling us all the self-help groups, classes, vocations and
accomplishments he had achieved. I wanted that.

As soon as I got to the Youth Authority, I got my G.E.D. (I had just
finished the 11th grade when I was arrested). I received my certification in
Airline Reservations and worked as an agent for TWA for three years. I became a
certified animal groomer, and continued to take numerous groups and classes.
When I was one month shy of turning 25 years old, I was sent to state prison to
finish out my time because I had been tried as an adult, but I kept striving
when I got here. And even though I‘m not quite where I want to be, I‘m far from
where I was. I‘m not a scared kid anymore with now view of the future, I‘m a
strong dedicated, determined, grown woman … ready for the world.


Liz and I Were Talking, and

I was speaking to Elisabeth
Lozano recently about the status of SB9. As many readers have already learned
in previous issues, Liz is a juvenile offender sentenced to an LWOP sentence as
a teenager. As a matter of fact, she didn‘t even kill anybody, but was
sentenced as an adult under the felony-murder rule (she was there, that‘s all
it took). SB9 would drop an LWOP sentence on a juvenile offender like herself
down to 25 years-to-life if said juvenile offender has merited good behaviour
and proven rehabilitation. Well, the legislators voted on SB9, and once again
there were holdout votes to do the right things. Some legislators are downright
leary of appearing soft on crime, even if it is to demonstrate some level of
leniency and mercy on kids who made irrational decisions at age 16 or 17 years
old. Don‘t get me started on their brain capacity! However, it‘s not over.
There is still hope. The bill will be reconsidered in January, and hopefully
everyone can meet in the middle and quit bickering over the fine print and
restrictions. To further educate yourself on this topic or to see how you can
become involved in much needed revisions of the law, please visit these
websites! and

Liz also wanted to share her
thoughts on the release of lifers this year. „In the almost 17 years that I‘ve
been here, I have never seen so many lifers go home! The most I had seen prior
to this year, was two. Two lifers in 17 years, then 12 this year alone, and one
more next week (before we went to press).“ Liz kept a list of the lifers that
were finally recognized for their transformation and rehabilitation, they are
as follows: Emily, Leeann Nabors, Marcia Bunney, Karen Narita, Sadie, Molly
Kilgore (who loves you, girl?), Fabi, Linda Rodrigues (you‘re in our prayers),
Mary Shileds, Gina Sirgent, Gilda Duran, Alicia Hanna, and by the time you‘re
reading this, Jasmine Brandl will also be released.

Lifers have been political
prisoners for years, but now we‘re marching to the beat of a different drum …
that drum is to the beat of Jerry Brown. He‘s letting the Parole Board do their
job and not second guessing their every decision. After all, that‘s why they
get paid over $100k a year plus benefits. Brown is not using the prisons for
human warehousing of lifers like his predecessors did. He‘s letting our prison
record speak for itself, and how ironic is it, that THAT is the law? A governor
that follows the law. What a concept!

It should be noted that the
recidivism rate for lifers released on parole, is less than 1%. We aren‘t the
problem. We aren‘t the ones incurring court costs, arrest fees, and all of
those secure transportation tabs. No, we‘re just doing time, trying to get out
of here, and watching that revolving door of parole violators. We are ready to
prove that it is completely possible to be released from captivity, adhere to a
productive role in society, and not violate parole. If anyone is gungho about
proving it, it is a lifer. All we need is a second chance. Just one second
chance. And believe me, we can do it. Whether sentenced to life in prison at
the tender age of 16 or 17 year old, or as an actual adult at age 25, we can do
this. The year 2011 has been just the beginning. We embrace the new year and
what 2012 has to offer. I‘m telling you folks, things are lookin‘ up!


Book Reports for BPH

The Parole Board has been very
open and welcoming for lifers doing and presenting book reports at their parole
hearings. They of course, are interested in any self-help topic such as
depression, suicide, domestic violence, varions forms of abuse, and so on.
They‘re particularly interested in any material related to the life crime. I‘m
fed up being on waiting lists for counseling, but never receiving any such
groups. So, I do book reports to fill that void. It at least demonstrates
effort towards self-help. The Board wants to see such an effort.

I created a Book Report form to
present a uniform presentation. Are you a lifer that needs a hand? Talk to me.


Why Do Lifer Support Letters
Need To Be Updated?

The average non-lifer parolee
usually doesn‘t have a job lined up before they are released. A good percentage
of them scramble for somewhere to live, if not crashing on a relative‘s couch
until they can. Not a single non-lifer parolee has to prove that they are a
changed person, have a job, a place to live, or the support of citizens in a
free societly. They do not have to have their transformation validated, let
alone documented. Maybe that‘s why they are more likely than lifers to return
to custody. Let‘s remember, lifers have less than a one percent recidivism
rate. Funny though, we‘re the ones who are constantly having to prove
ourselves. For years, it felt like a dress rehearsal for a dinner party that would
likely not happen. Things however, are looking‘ up!

Why must family and friends
write letters to support of a lifer‘s release? It is evidence that we have a
network of shoulders to lean up on and real people who see the value in us.
Allies are vital in any battle.

Why is one letter written in
2005 not still good in 2009 and 2012? Well, the Parole Board technically would
like to see letters updated every six months as a show of consistency and
solidarity in the lifer‘s personal relationships. It goes to demonstrate strong
ties and the likelihood that we may not be so antisocial after all.

Does it need to e an entirely
new letter each time? No, you can simply resubmit a previous letter with a
current date. However, should the prisoner have any additional achievement that
have been acquired since the date of last letter, such as counseling,
vocational training, GED, college courses and whatnot, it is imperative to
include that as an appendage to the existing document.

The more letters a lifer
receives for each parole hearing, the more elevated their chances of a parole


Recently Asked Questions

Q:  Is Valley
State Prison going to house men instead of women?

A:  It appears
that the rumors are true, although Sacramento Big Wigs are steadily denying any
such plans. The local community agreed to a women‘s prison, but not a men‘s
prison. The Supreme Court ruling mandated that the state reduce their prison
population, so in an attempt to comply, VSP will be closed to females by or
before May 2013. To reduce male prison population without excessive early
releases, it is likely that VSp will house anywhere from two to three thousand
male prisoners. Sacramento however is denying it as local residents have
participated in very public opposition.

Q:  Is there an
Assembly or Senate Bill to reduce lifers sentences?

A:  That is a
verbal rumor that has yet to produce any documented proof from the Bill Room at
the state capitol. So, it is safe and best to say that NO such bill exists. I‘d
be more than happy to be proven wrong with clear documentation.

Q:  Is there a
hold on money orders now, like on personal checks?

A:  Yes,
thanks to some fraudulent individuals, there is a 30 day hold on all money
orders and checks. The only monetary contributions to an inmate‘s account that
goes straigth through and is accessible to spend within 2-3 days of
transaction, is an electronic financial transfer from your credit card. All you
need is our first and last name, booking number, and internet access to either or all donations are welcomed and appreciated.

Q:  To correct
the horrors of your institutionally prepared meals, is it not possible to
arrange a surprise Health Dept. visit?

A:  No, for
security reasons (or excuses of convenience), all such on grounds visits must
be pre-arranged. That allows officials time to cover the truth, present a
facade, and pass all tests.

Q:  Will CCWF
be serving holiday meals Thanksgiving and Christmas?

A:  Yes, it‘s
actually two of the best meals all year long. It may not be like at home, and
we won‘t have the company of the ones we prefer to be with, but we will be
surrounded by some pretty darn good people, so can‘t complain too much.


What It‘s Like

At least once in the last few
years, each of us has heard somebody else say, „But you don‘t know what it‘s
like to be me!“ It is true that we may not know what it is like to be the next
person, but in the same breath, they do not know what it is like to be us. We
may be able to have empathy for one another, and in some situations, to relate
to given experiences and remarkable circumstances, but what is it like to be a
lifer? How many people want to grow up to aspire to go to prison and become a
lifer? The high school yearbook has a title caption for Most Likely To Succed,
but not Most Likely To Go To Prison, let alone be a lifer. It‘s just not

So, what is it like to be a
lifer? Well, to begin with, you have to wonder who your true friends are once
you‘re sentenced and all of those high hopes of freedom are dashed. The reality
is that it is easy to be a friend when the world around you  is good, but who is really willing to stand
in the rain and be your umbrella? Who won‘t care that the mail carrier sees
that they receive malil stamped in bold print that it is being sent from a
prisoner? One of society‘s misfits? Who is left when the crowds and media are
gone, and is willing to keep the lines of communication open? After all, life
can be busy and hectic, so if you‘re worth 15-30 minutes of their time to write
even a one page note or simply sign a card, count yourself richly blessed. I‘m
telling you folks, you want to know who your friends are? Just get arrested.
Want to know who your true friends are? Receiving a life sentence will deliver
a sober and lucid message like none other. Anyone can be a fair weather friend,
but it takes effort and loyalty to be a true friend.

As the years pass away, a lifer
will have seen dozens times of roommates filter through their cell like water
through a seive. We see a multitude of faces, hear a myriad of ficitious
stories, and get lost in the countless names – far too many to remember. Almost
all of my cellies over the years have had five years or less to serve, and
nearly all said that this was their last trip. At least 2/3 of them whined
about their sentence and whimpered over how much they miss their children –
children being raised either by other family members or the court system. They
are all boo-hooing, „My babies, my babies, I miss my babies!“ Not everyone
comes back, but when those same prisoners violate parole, you gotta ask, „what
about your babies now?“ As a lifer, we hear a lot of B.S. and the manifestation
of well spoken promises that equate to broken hearts of innocent children. I‘m
not judging them, I‘m just saying … we wish we had that chance. Non-lifers
make us wish we could swap sentences and show those repeat offenders how it is
done. Recidivism can be erased, and we‘re the ones to prove it possible. Nearly
every life term prisoner is a first offender. All any of us wants is a second
chance. And we would certainly make the most of it.

If it‘s not the parade of parole
violators or the phony stories about the make-believe houses that they have in
the free world (while they‘re on indigent status here), it is the day-in,
day-out monotony that gets tiring. Wake up, go to work or shcool, return to
your unit at day‘s end, and occupy your mind and time. How you occupy that time
is a matter of choice. Most of us are doing whatever we have to do to get out
of here, which includes, but is not limited to, group networking such as 12
steps meetings or going to the law library. Some are working on college
courses, while others are finding themselves in various church services. A
lifer doesn‘t just do the time, they do productive time. We want it to count
for something other than the resulting punishment for violating society‘s

You may not know this, but
many-a-lifer honestly lives with a sincere balance of remorse and regret. We
must live each day knowing that because of our actions, there is another who
does not. Speaking for myself, I still see flashes and still frames of that
horrid New Year‘s Eve when I killed my stepfather. There are fragments of
memory still missing, but I remember enough to grasp the realization that he‘s
not alive because of me. Not because of his actions, but because I chose to
stand up to him to protect my mother. And trust and believe, about the week
before New Year‘s Eve, I‘ll go through anxiety and experience nervous energy
and guild-ridden restlessness. It‘s pretty much an anniversary thing. I believe
a good many lifers go through this when the anniversary of their own crime
comes around. It reminds us that we‘re human, and that we have a conscience …
and we pray that you never know what it is like to live with lifer‘s guilt and
regret. If you do not know how it feels, we can honestly say that you don‘t
know what it is like to be us. That‘s a good thing.

While we live with our choices
and pray for the family and friends who lost a loved one, we also take great
efforts to find ourselves. I‘ve done more growing up in prison than I ever did
in my freedom days. It has a lot to do with letting go of my personal baggage
and looking beneath the temporary bandage I placed over the open wound that my life
really had become. I let down walls of denial, I finally looked into the mirror
at my reflection, and changed course. I needed to cease whishing I had a better
past and just accept that I could have a brighter future. It sounds so simple
when I word it like that, but it took years of self-help recovery and a
dedication to change the way I thought. Any educated person will tell you that
life is a matter of perspective, but what about when you‘re looking through
someone else‘s eyes? All of those self-help gurus really can teach you a fresh
way to view things. An open mind is an amazing thing. Many of us may have
arrived here with a chip on our shoulders or a protective shield put up, but
time can fade that as maturity kicks in. We grow, we learn what self-absorbed
pain blinded us from seeing, and we develop into better people that we‘d like
to call a friend.

So, what is it like to be a
lifer? Well, you wake up each day knowing it won‘t be much more different than
the last, but you face it with hope. You feel the burden of not being with your
family on the holidays – or any other day, and you know there are hearts broken
because of this. The average lifer harbors emotional turbulents that only they
can put into words, but the lack of any real therapy in this facility causes
them to turn to the only ones who really understand them: other lifers, a
kindred of sorts. What is it like to be a lifer? We watch parolees leaving
everyday who don‘t have to have a parole plan, while we struggle to obtain
housing and employment from behind these walls. We watch people leave through
the revolving door of recidivism, and we have no guarantee of when we will
leave, but we do have hope. I believe it is hope that keeps me striving, and
faith that keeps me sane, otherwise this experience would have driven me crazy
by now.

„You don‘t know what it is like
to be me,“ is something you should be grateful for.

What is it like to be a lifer?
I‘ll tell you, it‘s not easy, but we‘re doing the best that we can. The truth
of the matter is, we couldn‘t possibly do it without you. You are our lifeline.
You mean everything to us. It‘s not as easy course to sail, but it‘s a whole
lot easier knowing that after the storm, you‘ll be there on the solid ground of
the shore to welcome us home. What more could a lifer ask for? I‘m telling you
folks, you make all the difference, and we love you!


A Letter To God

Dear God,

When it comes to thanking You,
where do I begin? I know, believe, and accept that nothing is possible without
You. That no matter what the situation, Your hand is in it. So, where does a
girl begin?

Thank You, and I truly mean
that, for my mother, I would have gladly sacrificed my many other gifts
througout life just to have been blessed with her. You made certain that my
sister and I were protected from any harm by placing her in the role of
protector and mother, both synonymous of each other. So I guess if I begin
anywhere, infancy is a good place to do so.

When I was at Kaiser Hospital at
the age of two, turning blue in my mom‘s arms and the nurse told her to wait
her turn in the waiting room with the other people, thank You for putting that
Mama Bear growl into her. I‘m not lucky I survived that both of spinal
meninitis … I was blessed. I was blessed by mom‘s being adamant that I be
seen and saved, and by Your hand that mercifully brought me back from the brink
of jeopardy. Thank You.

I didn‘t realize in the fourth
grade that it was Your doing that I was more intellectually advanced than the
other kids. I didn‘t quite understand why I kept completing my work too
quickly, or how I came to write poetry at age nine, but I did. Thank You for
Mrs. Halverson and the dictionary and thesaurus. It wasn‘t easy being the
abnormal fourth and fifth grader, the odd one out, but I sure am grateful now.
I promise to put what You‘ve blessed me with to good use in positive and
productive ways.

I remember that day on the dock
at the San Leandro Marina … You know the one. I think that is when I was at
my darkest, most desolate place in my life. I‘ve never returned to that abyss
since. I don‘t even know how to swim. It would‘ve been all over for me had I
jumped into that dark, cold water. In the pounding rain without a soul in
sight, I was moments from complete forfeit, when You whispered into my ear,
„You really don‘t want to die yet … you just don‘t want to live the life that
you are living. It gets better, so get up and go home.“ It took awhile before
it got better, but of course You were right. Thank You for the soft wisper that
saved my life. I never felt that alone since.

Do You remember that day on
Palameras Canyon Road? Of course You do! That was a close call! I guess I
wasn‘t alone after all, and I don‘t mean You, I mean him. Whoever that sinister looking guy was that came over
the ridge from the creek bed. When I peeled dust out of there and saw him in my
rear view mirror coming towards my tailgate, I knew in an instant that it was
You that warned me. Some call it sixth sense or intuition, but either way, You
put it there. Thank You.

You seem to have had to come to
my rescue several times now that I look back on my life. I kept my Guardian
Angel busy, huh? You kept extricating me from what would have been an early demise,
because You had plans for me. Plans I could never have imagined. You crossed my
path with so many others that I otherwise would not have had the privilege of
meeting. Every connection I‘ve made has had purpose and life lessons to teach
me. You‘ve had me be both student and teacher, and it has been an honor.
Somehow, Thank You seems somewhat insufficient, but it is all I have to offer,
for You already have my heart … so thank You, God … Thank You.

I know that I‘m still a work in
progress and that there is much You still ask of me. Please, use me as a tool
and vessel at Your will. Take the gift of words you‘ve blessed me with and
guide me to where and how You wish me to put it to instrumental use. I don‘t
know the plans You have in store for me, but I have faith in Jeremiah 29:11, so
hey, I‘m waiting. I have so much to be thankful for, including friends and
their loving support, and my aunt and uncle in Long Beach that haven‘t forsaken
us. I can never thank You enough. Never.

We‘ll talk again real soon.

Your Loving Daughter



Skilled Nursing Facility?
… Yeah, Right!

If you were a patient at a
hospital that showed visible signs of uncleanliness that could lead to
cross-contamination and quite possibly MRSA, staph infection, and God knows
what else, would you discharge yourself from that hospital to go to a more
sanitary one?

If you were left unattended to
lie in soiled bedding because the nursing staff didn‘t adequately check on you
in timely intervals on a schedule of rounds, would you call for a nurse? Would
you feel like you were inconveniencing them? If the nurses simply could not be
bothered, would you elect to leave that hospital for a more sustained one?

If you answered in the
affirmative to those questions, please imagine that you are an inmate at the
Paris-Lamb Hospital, which is the infirmary here at CCWF. They have the nerve
to call it a Skilled Nursing Facility. There are dozens of patients on a
regular basis that are subjected to medical neglect and conditions that can be
lead to disabling, if not deadly contaminants. There are those who live in
daily humiliation and degradation, who cannot find a voice to speak out. They
fear retaliatory action that could only result in their situation worsening. I
have tried for over a year now to find someone brave enough to speak out. I
will change the names of the patients, nurses, and my source to protect their
identities and privacy (and retaliation). What you are about to read,
unfortunately, is all too true.


TC:  For this
interview, I‘ll refer to you as Bobbi. What makes you a reliable source to
speak out about the inhumane medical treatment at Paris-Lamb Hospital at CCWF?

Bobbi:  I
am assigned to work at the so-called Skilled Nursing Facility. I went to shool
twice a week to be trained in how to be a housekeeping porter there. I also
received hands-on training. I see a lot that goes unreported.

TC:  Are you
certified in this work?

Yes, as a specialist in Housekeeping and Janitorial.

TC:  What are
some of your duties?

Bobbi:  To
prevent cross-contamination of diseases, high levels of bacteria, and cleaning
the patient‘s rooms, crisis center, Administrative offices and soforth.

TC:  What would
you say is your most important rule there?

Acting as if everything is exemplary of a five star hospital. Putting on
a show whenever the Warden or Sacramento Big Shots come to do a walk-through.
Other porters and myself have to go through great efforts to make the odor of
urine and feces diminish with overpowering scented cleaners.

TC:  Urine and

There is a check-in paper on each patient‘s door that states the patient
was checked on by a nurse in 15 minute interval walk-throughs. But, when you go
to their room to see if they need their linen changed, the smell of an outhouse
hits you in the face! The check sheets are all lies. If the nurse really did
check on the inmate, why did she not stop to get clean linen on that bed? Why?
Because they don‘t care. It‘s nothing more than a paycheck. The inmate patients
are nothing but job security to them.

TC:  Is it your
job to assist the patients?

No, I was told not to. I was warned that I could be fired for my acts of
humanity, but I do it anyway.

TC:  Give me an
example, would you?

Okay … I heard Ms. Cason yelling for help one day, and nobody could be
bothered. She was a double-amputee that could not get to the toilet on her own
accord, so to help prevent her soiliing herself in her bed, I assisted her to
the toilet. There‘s also April, who is under weight and had a stroke. She needs
help to the toilet, and in certain times of desperation, she has managed to
somehow make it to the hallway with feces running down her legs, her nightgown
soaked, and sadly, even her hair.

TC:  Where are
the staff durin all of this?

Bobbi:  In
a lounge area without a care in the world.

TC:  Have
patients received flesh infections due to this?

Bobbi: Absolutely! The acid in the waste eats at
their flesh.

TC:  Let‘s say
April soiled herself – does she get bathed?

I‘ve seen it more than once … the nurse will take a patient to the
shower without their shower shoes to protect their feet from the infectious
floor. I‘ve offered to go get them and the nurse will say that they themselves
were going to go retrieve them. Oh really? And leave the patient unattended in
the shower? I‘ve even had to go grab the patient‘ shower basket so they‘d
actually have soap to bathe as opposed to a simple rinse off.

TC:  That‘s

Tell me about it. You know what else is disgusting? They wash the crisis
center gowns with the dirty mops in the same load of wash. And while you‘re
making faces, it gets worse … All soiled linen goes in a large garbage bag,
and by soiled I mean all bodily fluids like urine, feces, vomit, and blood.
Then the porters must reopen those bags and count all the items. It‘s horrid!

TC:  They
couldn‘t pay me enough to do that!

Bobbi:  If
you refuse to do it, that‘s a refusal to program that results in a CDC-115
write-up and punishment. Worse yet TC, you‘re a lifer. You can‘t afford to take
a 115 or a refusal to omply to authority, before the Parole Board. You would
have no choice. We are only inmates. We don‘t matter to the powers that be.

Aren‘t  they supposed to use yellow
and red bags? When I worked in laundry, we had yellow contamination bags.

Bobbi:  So
does the infirmary, but they must be part of the budget cuts because they throw
all the soiled stuff into regular trash liners and make us sort it all out.
You‘re supposed to use yellow water soluable bags that can be tossed directly
into the wash mashine in the bag, which breaks down with contact to water.
Bloody items go into red bags that only staff is supposed to handle.

TC:  And that
doesn‘t take place?

Never. They just put it all together and wash it in one load. Nothing
gets destroyed.

TC:  Bloody
contaminants are routinely incinerated in a furnace at a real hospital.

This isn‘t a real hospital.


This isn‘t a real hospital. It
is a hospital in name only. There are patients with bed sores from not being
turned over regularly. There are blind patients who hear the meal tray being
delivered and dropped off in front of them, but nobody tells them what is on
the tray, or what portion is what on the tray. Given the contamination in the
kitchens and infirmary, would you eat what you couldn‘t see without some level
of fear?

The sad truth is that there is
little that can be done to prove these human violations. Whenever the warden or
big shots plan to visit the facility, they need to make notification. That
allows the authoritarian figure heads to mandate that Bobbi and the others
clean house and make the staff look good. The place looks and smell clean, but
more than that, the patients suddenly receive adequate treatment, although only
temporarily. It is impossible to surprise attack the infirmary due to red tape
and policy protocols that prevent a true revelation from ever occurring. It‘s a
matter of self-preservation.

What we need, is for someone with
a real spin for the truth to pose as a patient at Paris-Lamb. Not even the
warden would be privy to the fact. Maybe a reporter who wants to do a real
investigative piece. The only way to see the truth, is to come to it. As strong
as my immune system is, even I‘m not brave enough to volunteer residency in the
infirmary. I‘ll report from a distance, not matter how disturbing the truth may
be. Sometimes, it‘s the only way to tell the world.


From The Heart

Many years ago, I began reciting
a different version of the Serenity Prayer that felt closer to my heart. The
word THINGS is changed to PEOPLE. The prayer goes like this:

Lord, grant me the serenity to
accept the people I cannot change, the courage to change the one I can, and the
wisdom to know that it is me.

I did not come to prison to
change how others think, feel, or most certainly behave. As a matter of fact,
human behaviorism is an individual decision regardless of any exterior
influences. I came to prison as part of my life blueprint. This is a place of
soul searching and personal growth. It can also be a place of self-stagnation
for some. It is said that we need to think outside the box. I say, we need to
think outside of ourselves. While what others think of us is a variable in our
psyche, if we can think outside of ourselves and see through the eyes of
others, then and only then, are we capable to fully evaluate ourselves.

Self-evaluation has been a major
facet in the remolding of who I was, into who I have become. I used to be
self-absorbed in my own emotional turmoil from a past I had no control over. I
used to question my own value to the human race as a whole and where I fit into
the Master Plan. I once felt inadequate to speak up and be heard, yet I
developed a voice that not only spoke up, but spoke out against abuse and
violence. I metamorphosed from pain in the shadows harboring an open wound, to
an advocate for a good cause. I still self-evaluate myself on a regular basis,
but instead of looking for the bad, I look for the good. It is what you seek
that you will likely find.

Part of my growth process these
last 22 years, has involved self-inventory and evaluation. However, it has also
required both acceptance and tolerance … lots and lots of tolerance. While
this is truly a „house of healing“, there are still some diabolical
personalities in the mix no matter where you are in life. When I was a teenager
my mom made it clear that I would become whoever I hung with, so I made mostly
conservative decisions within my small circle. I still do that to this day.
After all, i am working on getting out of this camp. Any illogical choices
would be paradoxical to my design for freedom. So, I tolerate the intolerable
and insidious, while I embrace the genuine attributes of some of the most
wonderful women I‘ve ever had the privilege of knowing … yes even in a place
like this … especially in a place like this.

So, I say from the heart to you
… whether you‘re reading this on your computer screen or a hardcopy delivered
to you, you‘re pretty darn special to us. If somebody that we gave a copy of
this newsletter to has chosen to share it with you, then you‘re pretty darn
special to them, and they wanted to share that message with you. It makes no
difference your religious following, education, or the size of your bank
account, you have a major role in someone‘s life. I‘m grateful for every single
person in my life. Each of you has been a teacher, and I‘ll be a student till
my last breath. Regardless of what I have ever found in my self-evaluations or
the poor decisions I have made, you have stood by me. You have stood by my
mother. If another lifer is sharing this with you, you have stood by them. As
we continue to pursue betterment within ourselves, as we strive to come home,
we are grateful for you. So, when we say Happy Thanksgiving, please know it‘s
all about you.


& Mama ´P´


T.C. Paulinkonis                                                                                  Pauline
“Barbara” Paulinkonis

W45118 514-16-4U                                                                           W45120

Box 1509                                                                                        PO
Box 1508

Chowchilla, CA 93610                                                                         Chowchilla,
CA 93610






I would like to occupy a normal body not hissing black smoke becuz I ate two (2)
pieces of a very high white cake with creamy frosting, and flaky white innards
of cake, cake, cake, tinged, blessed, dewily dropped in heavy cream frosting,
and one was consumed after half a veggie burger at Tuohey’s Coffee Shop.

Said coffee shop is known for its sundaes and
has been around since God invented earth.

So yesterday was Mr. Bill’s birthday celebration, and he was 77 last Thursday if
you want to know, and Mr. Bill is My Mr. Bill and why I get to earn that title,
I dunno, but let me tell you this man is my bill, my guy, and a resplendent
devotee of creamy white cake with strawberry filled icing, and life has been
icing on the cake if you know what I mean, cuz that’s good, but we have had
kitty litter days and days of granular tests, and they always feel like the day
after you eat sugar.

You see, yesterday I occupied, I am happy, with Laura, Nick, Tory, Bill and we were at a
round table, a round table, imagine that, at Twuohey’s; spell it many ways type
of gal I am, and we had our fud and then Laura had brought the cake from
Frederico’s or some place exotic and in her Laura way, she put unusual candles
and both Tory and Laura and Nick gave resplendent cards, and I had given Bill
one earlier in the week, one ready for him at 6 a.m. if you want to be exact.

So we get home, and the desire that occupied my mind, first part of the day to walk 6
miles, left as if on winged horses, and my bed looked wide and inviting and
smooth sheeted, and the phone somehow got off the hook, and I slept for a solid
hour or so, while Bill watched SC and Stanford, a gripping football game, and I
don’t even know what they are doing on that field except falling all over each
other and making an Orthopedic student happy for his future client income.

I crashed, burned, slept and got up and pulled out the other half of the vegetarian burger which was round and brown,
and nicely bunned, and I ate it rapidly because I was on another get the last
few pieces of cake, pour the big milk jug into the circular plastic turquoise
glasses and inhale and slug and don’t forget to breathe. Of course at
midnight I sat on my couch having anxiety attacks, and then I went to bed and I
think I moved furniture and had nightmares and resolved nothing, except my
pancreas was probably pissed as hell at me, which is why I’ll end with I’m
going to some concert by Marvin something or other with Janet my long time
friend from Boston, cuz she has an extra ticket, and in my mind’s eye, I think
if only pajamas with feet were an acceptable outfit, I’d wear them.  So now, I’m taking the ruins of my body,
which had been over occupied with sugar, towards our train sized cubicle of a
kitchen, and I’m going to find protein and healthy food, and then pray the
occupation of help I’ve been poisoned by strawberry creamed soldiers goes away

PS my brain is too sugared out to fix the margins that scooted over to the right.  the nerve!

amazing dystopian thriller

It is just fantastic to see a new writer emerge. Mudbound was Pasadena’s One Author One Read book, and now first week of November I believe she’s going to speak, not at Vroman’s, too small but at Cal Tech. Kudos to Hillary Jordan!

The Barbarian Nurseries: A NovelThe Barbarian Nurseries: A Novel by Héctor Tobar
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Delicious, fantastic, delicate, strong prose, and author nails a view of life from combinations of views. A Mexican immigrant maid and a clueless, but well meaning family, said family totally unaware of the lives around them, or for that matter, each other.

His writing is fantastic. A profound book which needs to be inhaled by all. I inhaled it, yes I did. I am now going to look for Hector Tobar’s other books – Translation Nation and the Tattooed Soldier. Mr. Tobar is a writer for the Los Angeles Times, is a Pulitzer prize willing journalist and a novelist. Writers would “kill” for his phrases – Barbarian Nurseries is a must read!

View all my reviews

Awakened to cup of coffee in bed; staggered to computer; am on Word Press this am with thatched head, but Persecution of a Christian Minister in alarm shot my body full of, “Post this on SorryGnat,” and lo and behold, good old Word Press offered a prompt: When you are most happy?

Dear WP Question Person,

I am most happy when I drive up my driveway and my husband comes out of our small pool house and is just there, but then of course there are days when I spot pug dogs through my inner radar and Kismet, by the end of the day, I am sprawled on a pavement, petting said beastie, even though my friends shake their heads at my constant devotion to Pugs, and still I am most happy when I see writers emerge from their cardboard boxes which were labeled “I don’t write, I can’t write,” and like last night, offer revisions of the Three Little Pigs, turn the story on its head by having the first pig (of straw, and lazy, darned lazy if you ask me), and find out this little pig had invested in derivatives, and now, only now, when red stiletto heel click along New York streets, in huff puff, click, click, hurry to my job, don’t know how long it will last,” all the while these red stiletto heels, which if you want to know, can have outer soles of turquoise and magenta print, if the person, wearette of said stiletto, is well heeled financially, and now on to more than feet, because this is about happiness, and I’m most happy when I think some day, despite the crocodile kingdom here on earth, and dripping juicy mouths in political power (not all) (there are nice cats and dogs in the mix in leadership in this country), but back to the question, my tummy and my heart, and my soul are in sinc (not sink) (another day, another tale) when I see on the horizon, signs, not of Humvees built as slug bugs for war and destruction, but hands, thin hands, old hands, wrinkled hands, long tapered fingernails, fingers bumpy and sludgy and chewed, tough hands covered, dark hands, covered with dust, Kardashian hands pampered and isolated, but all hands, get to the point, writer, reaching out around this Parker’s Pen Color of Blue Ink Planet hold one another, some grasping one another, and despite a world gone tilt, bonkers, and a world which may be screaming, “I miss my hormones,” is lurching towards maturity, even though the crocodiles, hereinafter called The Crocs, salivate and slide towards a fugue state of power, illusive and unattainable, because some day we will be one, and every baby born (visualize Kunte Kinte(sp) holding his richly brown velvet baby son to the sky, and someone in Idaho lifting a peaches and cream baby up to trees stretching as if hands up in praise to their unseen Divine Essence (Higher Power too Germanic in tone to put here), and that day when each baby will be perceived, cherished, regarded as a “Trust of the Whole,” and we will get about our planetary work, and that’s a good Tuesday morning reason for being happy, because happiness is not an outside thing in that it’s just about pleasure, but reader, if you have been patient enough to go through this all, would you consider that abiding joy, and release from oppression and We Are One is our divine right?

This isn’t to say there are not a gazillion other reasons, like listening to a young doctorate in realization of astrophysics, skate across the sky and explain planetary dust in such a fascinating way as she reads in a basement in a store called fair trade, on Lake Avenue, in Pasadena, if you want to know, where a bunch of us writers laugh and cavort and toss bon mots of principles, concerns and an occasional jello recipe around – that makes me happy, and one other thing, because I’m on my way there – giving people voice; how on God’s Green Earth did I get so lucky to teach at the Women’s Room in Pasadena, said WR is an offshoot of Friends in Deed, an ecumenical group, and the WR is a day haven for women to take showers, do laundry, get decent food, most to commune with one another, and to participate, those who wish, in writing and slipping on their newly acquired writing voices to the cheers and huzzahs of the group, (we are way beyond Vogue and Marie Claire magazine), and I guess I can sum all of this “oh how we dance” piece in it’s about service, “walking the mystical path with practical feet” and helping one another and seeing everyone as a soul in progress or process and realizing we are just at the beginning of this journey. So those are my Tuesday morning reasons. (Quotes I’ve used come from Baha’i Writings or my own stuff reader, and if you know how to use spell check on this here Word Press, I’d be grateful till the end of the day.-E)

Baha’i International Community calls for release of Christian pastor facing death sentence

GENEVA, 4 October 2011 (BWNS) – The Baha’i International Community has joined the call for the release of Youcef Nadarkhani, a Christian pastor from Rasht, Iran.

Pastor Nadarkhani, who is the father of two young children, leads a network of house churches. He was found guilty of apostasy – “turning his back on Islam” – and “converting Muslims to Christianity,” and sentenced to death in September 2010.

Iran’s Supreme Court recently asked for a re-examination of the case to establish whether or not he had been a practising Muslim adult before he converted to Christianity. The court ruled he was not but, nevertheless, is still guilty of apostasy because he has Muslim ancestry.

The case has sparked strong condemnation from governments, organizations and religious leaders around the world.

Then on 1 October, following this global outcry, Iranian state media suddenly reported that Pastor Nadarkhani had in fact been sentenced for other reasons – including violent crimes, extortion, Zionism and being a traitor. These charges had never once been mentioned throughout the entire period when Pastor Nadarkhani was charged, tried, sentenced, up to and including the most recent court hearing.

Statement from the Baha’i International Community:

We join with the global chorus of condemnation protesting the sentencing of Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, and calling for his release.

For a court of law to rule against someone from Muslim ancestry who has freely chosen to be a Christian is yet another instance of the brutality being meted out by the Iranian authorities on their own people.

The recent public proclamation reporting that the charges against Pastor Nadarkhani have been changed – as a result of the global outcry at his conviction – only further exposes the arbitrary nature of decisions made by the judiciary system of Iran and the transparent injustice of the situation.

The sentence he faces is not only reprehensible; it is a violation of every legal, moral, spiritual and humanitarian standard.

Which temporal government in the world can reasonably decide it has the power to curtail freedom of belief? Belief is not something that can be taken away or bartered; it is a matter of conviction, of the heart, the mind and the soul, beyond the realm of any government’s control.

The Baha’i community understands well the challenging circumstances facing minorities living in Iran today. And now it is evident that those minorities which are nominally recognized by the state are as equally subordinate to the majority as those who have no rights.

There is little need to rehearse here the endless list of executions, torture, imprisonments, privations and other afflictions that are being meted out on the sorely-tried people of Iran.

Everything that country’s representatives profess on the world stage is contradicted by their treatment of their own people at home. Yet, its officials travel freely to other nations where they are offered a platform from which to broadcast their untruths, denying the callous treatment of their own citizens while displaying pretensions of good will for the people of the world.

There is much to be done to alert the people of the world to the hypocrisy of a government which is widely and continually oppressing its people.

There is much to be done for humanity to be alerted to what is going on inside Iran and to be awakened to the appalling memory of what can occur when we fail to act against state-sponsored, campaigns of hatred.

Baby Elly visits Bill and Esther at Pool House in Pasadena

Baby Elly Gets urban

“To All” – A message from Troy Anthony Davis.

Below is the text of a Huffington Post article, with links to further

The Trials of an Educator in Iran
Anthony Vance, Director of External Affairs, Baha’is of the United States

“If your tea is too sweet, you can stir it the other way.” This kind of
quip was typical of Mahmoud Badavam and of Persian humor in general. I saw him
frequently as a college student in the mid-1970s in Cambridge,
Massachusetts where he gained a reputation for a quick, wry sense of humor. At that
time, Iranians were few and far between in the U.S. So, it was an eye-opener
to be exposed to the exquisite courtesy, humor, and hospitality that can be
so prevalent in Iranian culture and that certainly was not lacking among
the handful of Iranian students studying in universities in the Boston area
at the time. None of us suspected then that revolution in Iran was just
around the corner. With the large number of political and religious refugees
it would bring in its wake, exposure to Iranian culture would soon become
common place. But, at the time, Mahmoud and a small handful of others were
novel and made a deep impression on me. I met Mahmoud in Baha’i meetings — a
religious faith we both shared. He returned home just before the
revolution and chose, despite the difficulties it created for Baha’is, to stay.

On May 21 of this year and the days that followed, during raids on over 30
Baha’i homes in four cities in Iran, Mahmoud was one of 18 people arrested
for teaching in or administering the Baha’i Institute for Higher
Education. In late July, after the release of some of those arrested, Mahmoud and 7
others were reportedly charged with “conspiracy against national security”
and “conspiracy against the Islamic Republic” by “establishing the illegal
Baha’i Institute for Higher Education”. The first of the trials is
reportedly set to start this Monday, September 12. For years, he had used his
Masters degree in engineering from M.I.T. and his earlier training in Iran to
provide classroom instruction to Baha’i youth who had been barred since the
revolution from Iran’s system of higher education. The arrest on May 22 was
not his first. He returned to Iran in 1978, married shortly thereafter, and
held a job as an engineer in the government. Soon after the Islamic
Revolution, he was fired, lived with relatives in different cities, was arrested
for being a Baha’i and imprisoned for about three years.

In revolutionary Iran, among the many forms of persecution directed at
their community, Baha’is were dismissed from university teaching positions and
students were dismissed from institutions of higher education. After
numerous failed appeals to the government to correct this injustice, in 1987 the
Baha’i community organized what came to be known as the Baha’i Institute
for Higher Education to provide university-level instruction to its youth.
In recent years, BIHE was a central part of Mahmoud’s life with regular
classes in his small apartment in Tehran and administrative and curriculum
review meetings held late into the night. He spent most evenings and weekends
correcting homework and preparing for his classes. If planning with others
to educate young people can in some contorted worldview equate with
conspiracy against national security, I suppose Mahmoud and anyone else who has
ever transferred skills in the arts or sciences to a student is guilty as
charged — and unabashedly so. Over the years, others in Iran and abroad
learned about this endeavor and volunteered to assist with it.

Similar raids and arrests on BIHE were recorded in 1998, 2001, and 2002.
The official government position was documented in a 2006 letter from Iran’s
Ministry of Science, Research and Technology addressed to 81 state run
universities and institutions of higher education and in a 1991 Memorandum
signed by Dr. Seyyed Mohammad Golpaygani, the secretary of the Supreme
Revolutionary Cultural Council, with a signature endorsement of the Supreme
Leader, Ali Khamenei. Each of these documents specifically mandates the expulsion
from Iran’s system of higher education of any student who is discovered to
be a Baha’i.

The banning of Baha’is from higher education is a violation of the
International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights to which Iran is a
State Party. I hope that such a grievous assault on an entire minority
group consisting of about 300,000 people will not go unprotested by the world
community. In the meantime, from the bleakness of Evin Prison, far from the
beautiful summer to fall change of seasons in Cambridge, Massachusetts,
Mahmoud Badavam can only pray that some day he will get back to correcting
homework, preparing for classes, and perhaps even coming up with a new
witticism about tea from time to time.

In my reading of Logos and Civilization, I found on page 86 “The concept of destiny in the Baha’i writings, on the other hand, becomes compatible with the relative freedom of human beings. It is clear that Baha’u’llah’s concept of the mystery of destiny is not one of passivity and unfreedom. To realize one’s destiny is not a mere acceptance of whatever “is”; on the contrary, it is an active movement toward realizing spiritual values in one’s own life and developing the potentialities and perfections hidden like “gems,” in the “mine” of one’s own being (Gleanings 260). the mystery of destiny, then, among other things, precisely implies transcending the opposition between the divine will and the individual will. It represents the actualization of all one’s spiritual powers and the maturation of one’s potentialities to the degree that one freely chooses spiritual values and the will of God. this is the stage of perfect freedom and moral autonomy, in which human potentialities are actualized in harmony with divine revelation. That is why Baha’u’llah defines this valley as both the station of mystery and the secret of maturation. it implies the integration of the approaches based on self, reason, and love.”

Logos And Civilization Spirit, History, and Order in the Writings of Baha’u’llah, Nader Saiedi
Please note, I, esther, can’t find out how to accent appropriate syllables.

I conduct a writing workshop in the basement of Ten Thousand Villages, a fair trade store, in Pasadena, CA (corner of California and Lake – sort of) and a student who said she didn’t write wrote this. So I love to share people’s pieces!

A Sense of Place – Yagya Bedi

Sadness did not give up today.
It hovered around like dew on a
spider’s web glistening, sparkling.
I had been fooled before with those
bewitching enticements.

No matter how hard I tried
back here in the murky gloom
of cobwebs and tangled dreams,
I returned. Each time with more
shame and guilt.

I had reached the dizzy pinnacle of
ecstasy more than once. More than once
had I climbed that rocky path.
Yet, more than once, did I return to familiar
sorrow waiting.

Is there more than once?

Happiness is a room full of orange, green
and yellow ribbons. Streamers and flowers,
petals of vibrant joy and energy.
No dark colors are allowed.
Black and grey are banished.

All is lightness. Frivolity abounds.
She walks naked, unabashed and
guilt free. Ease and calm glide
hand in hand, providing solutions
as they pass.

How long does the sun shine here
in Utopia? How will the moon dress us
for the next day? The dance must end,
and the garlands must fall. Sorrow
is waiting to take her place once more.


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