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ote:  Esther:  My husband died November 2014, and I faded out of my SorryGnatWorldCitizen blog; I am still a sorry gnat on the spiritual path of becoming a giant eagle, but measurement of who I am these days is not my quest.  I am still connected to TC, a privilege I feel, and am posting her latest newsletter.  I noticed in the LA Times today, someone got 23 years for murder, and TC and her mom, have been in prison for ever; her stepfather abused her forever, but she and her mom, Barbara, didn’t receive battered woman status.  Prayers are the best thing when all seems hopeless.  She’s spunky, and is amazing I think.

The Uncaged Voice

4th QTR, November 2015

Dear Family of Friends,Has it really been nearly a year since last Christmas? They say that time flies when you‘re aving fun. I reckon it also flies when you‘re not counting the days, but instead, counting your blessings. We have more than we can count, and then very recently, had one that is the equivelent of the cherry on top. I‘m referring to the attorney and law professor that agreed to defend Mom‘s case pro bono! Who said that lightning doesn‘t strike twice? We beg to differ. This is Mom‘s second pro bono attorney, but technically, it is the third one to look at the case on her behalf. We believe this third time is a charm, and well, things are looking up!

This is the season of gratitude, and hopefully more love and humanity, and less violence. This is when people stop to actually focus deeply on what they have, more than on what they do not. What we are most grateful for is all of the family of friends who embrace us from across the miles with a letter in the mail. We are so blessed to have such angels in our lives, and we can never thank you enough. That connection to the free world makes all the difference. Each one of you, in r own way, makes a world of difference.

Thank you so very, very much.Love, Peace, and Light,TC and Mama ‚P‘

Prison Lingo

For those in the free world, you may sometimes be a little unclear on what we‘re talking about if we don’t explain our prison lingo. We usually do explain our use of such slang or shorthand but there are times when we are simply on a roll in our letter and neglect to be more informative. So here’s a little Prison Lingo 101.

BPH: Board of Parole Hearings, a.k.a. The Parole Board. When I say I’ll waive my BPH for two years, I mean I will request to not hold my parole hearing for two years.

ADA: It could mean Assistant District Attorney or Americans With Disabilities Act, depending in the context.

AD-SEG: Administrative Segregation, or The Hole.

805: The building number for the infirmary.

OTC: Out to court; transferred back to county jail.

OTM: Out to medical; transported to medical office or facility in the local community for treatment.

C/O: Correctional officer.

I/M: Inmate, as in I/M Paulinkonis

C/C: A double classification called “c-over-c” – basically punishment status for the I/M‘s who don‘t want to work, keep testing dirty for drugs, or are habitual behavioral problems for staff.

LTOPP: Long Term Offender Pilot Program. It is provided to I/M lifers 2-3 years prior to next BPH hearing           

Q & A with T.C.

 Q) Why waive your BPH for 2-3 more years? Couldn‘t you do more for Mom from the outside if paroled?

A) Everyone believes that, but I have carefully evaluated the facts, options, and worst case scenario. I can do more for Mom once I go OTC to begin a new trial. There is evidence that we haven’t openly discussed in letters on this format, but please people, I know what I’m doing. Everyon’‘s hearts are in the right place and so is mine. Once I am released, I’d never be truly free until my mother is released too. A new trial means new evidence and exposure of exculpatory facts that BPH and the DA hid for years. Parole is not an option.

Q) But, wouldn’t you have more benefits on parole?

A) Yes, That and a lifetime leash. My being paroled does not help Mom. If it doesn’t help Mom, it’s not an option.

Q) Okay, so what are your options, released without parole?

A) The short answer is that I’ve done a lot of research. I have sent out inquiries, many not acknowledged with the courtesy of a response. The good news is that I found a re-entry for only seniors aged 50 and over. Being that we are fed up with Romper Room on drugs around here, we’d love a place strictly for real adults. I wrote the Executive Director and await a response.                                                        * *   

A.R.C.‘s Ride Home Program

The Anti-Recidivism Coalition (ARC) is formed of mostly formerly incarcerated people. ARC sends ex-felons to California state prisons to pick-up long-termer parolees on their release date. Long termers are people who’ve served ten or more years while the outside word has changed. ARC reduces culture shock.

I read about ARC in The New York Times Magazine and I agree that such a program needs to exist. The parolee is met at the prison release area by a couple of guys, ex-cons themselves, who offer the parolee a cell phone to call home, and a ride to a restaurant where they can be served a hot meal without having to stand in a line to get it, or be threatened if they get up out of their seat until told it’s time to leave. For the long termer, that goes against the conditioned behavior that has been instilled in them for years, day after day. They need to relearn life, free and in public, and ARC is there to help them do just that.

The two-man team of ARC drivers take the parolee to the DMV to get a photo I.D. card, and to a nearby department store to get new clothes. The parolee doesn‘t have to touch the $200 gate money they were given. ARC gradually inches the parolee back into the free world during the day trip, before dropping them off at their destination, usually a re-entry program.

This ride home program is currently only for male drivers to pick-up male parolees. That led me to ask why not a female driver to pick-up female parolees? And the light grew brighter! I am in the process of contacting an attorney who is one of the ARC board members who was responsible for helping all non-violent Third Striker inmates released in the aftermath of 2012 changes in law. I want to ask him that question, but more importantly, I want to ask why not me? He teaches law at Stanford University, and well, why not me? Why not a ride home or to a re-entry facility for women who’ve been locked away while engineers taught cars to drive themselves? It’s a whole new world out there and women need reduced culture shock too. Where I see a need I see a purpose. Time for some equality. I am woman – hear me roar!

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Beauty Tips by Audrey Hepburn

Ms. Hepburn wrote this piece when asked to share her own beauty tips. It was read years later at her funeral. Thank you to Carol Rischette for sharing with us, now we can share with others. Here are words to live by.

For attractive lips, speak words of kindness.            For lovely eyes, seek out the good in people.            For a slim figure, share your food with the hungry.            For beautiful hair, let a child run his or her fingers through it once a day.            For poise, walk with the knowledge that you never walk alone.People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone.Remember, if you ever need a helping hand, you will find one at the end of each of your arms.As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands; one for helping yourself, and the other for helping others

tear

Army of Woman await their men’s return from Baghdad

Troop Day by Sally M. McNeil (USMC)

Troop Day was held at CCWF on 10 Oct 15 by the Veterans Support Group (VSG) and Dependents Support Group (DSG). It was planned many months in advance, and my day began at 0500 hours.

VSG and DSG planned Troop Day to honor the VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars). We planned a PFT (Physical Fitness Training) for the women who wanted to participate. Think Boot Camp. Each participant had to complete as many push-ups and sit-ups as they could in two minute test times each. Once that was done, they took to the track for a two mile run, seeking their personal best. Some struggled on the PFT, and some plowed through it like the warriors they could have been.

The PFT is meant to keep soldiers conditioned and physically fit to withstand going to war, in the deserts of the Middle East, jungles of Vietnam, or the mountains of Afghanistan. It takes endurance to fight in a war. They don’t cancel a war because it’s a scorching 133°F or a chilling -22°F. Wars are fought seven days a week for 24 hours a day. Holidays are not observed or honored by the enemy. They‘ll attack when we’re not ready, so you have to have three shifts a day for 24 hours of surveillance. It is the assurance that the enemy cannot sneak up and attack at the dawn of a day.

Conditioning is important along with support from the American people. As prisoners, we may be incarcerated, but that doesn’t diminish the fact that we still love our country and are proud of the branch of service that we represent and served in.

I was in the United States Marine Corps for 11 years. I served my country honorably, and CDCR can never take that away from me. Being a Marine prepared me to endure 20 years of imprisonment. I‘ve kept myself conditioned and do my time like a prisoner of war. I will survive my incarceration due to my military discipline and training.

I am a Three Blue Star Mom. All three of my children have been to war. My son, John Jr., is a Green Beret who has been to Afghanistan three times. My daughter has been to both wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. She had to leave her son with my niece as she went off to honorably fight for our country. My children were welcomed back with wonderful greetings from the press. However, that did not happen for my three uncles who fought in the Vietnam War. Because of this, I painted a yellow ribbon to respectully welcome back all Vietnam veterans. The back-drop of the ribbon was cammoflauge in an array of green, brown, black and beige. It was displayed in the gym during Troop Day for everyone to see … and reflect upon.

For me personally, Troop Day meant thanking the VFW‘s Vietnam vets. They were given a hard time when they returned from the war. I want to thank all of the veterans who did not receive a hearty welcome back home to their land of the e. God bless them, and God bless the U.S.A.Thank Veteran’s for Giving Day

It‘s not a day off of work or school to play video games or to finally reorganize your spice rack.

It‘s not just another day on the calendar. Veteran’s Day is a day of remembrance and gratitude. It’s a day to mourn the loss of lives cut down in their prime, or to have a sincere empathy for those still alive but forever changed. It’s a day to not take their personal sacrifices for granted.

Some came home but far too many didn’t. Sadly, there are those still fighting the battles in their minds. It isn’t like a bad day at the beach. It isn’t a forgotten memory. They remember. We need to remember them. Even if it is only to say a prayer, go on; God is listening. For those who can, visit woundedwarrior.org and give what you can. They need us.

Is it any wonder that in November, Thanksgiving falls just two weeks after Veteran’s Day? Let that be one of your reasons to celebrate – the service of our military personnel. They certainly deserve to be appreciated and remembered.

Ed. Note: Wounded Warrior has come under criticism for the limited amount of their funds that they spend to directly support veterans. Please consider researching other reliable organizations to send donations.

 

 

 

 

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… And I Am Grateful

 

Somewhere on the streets of Guatemala there is a ragged child who hasn’t eaten since yeasterday. The pain of their growling stomach is only one of several stages in starvation, something they know all too well.

Somewhere along the Ivory Coast, a man can feel the warmth of the day fade away, ebbing from daylight as the sun begins to set. He cannot see the blend of yellow and orange hues that paint the sky, his vision long gone from wounds suffered in a bloody civil war.

Reading a discarded issue of National Geographic, I see the vivid reality of childen without shoes, I see someone who must carry heavy barrels of river water to their mud hut, I see faces of people who truly know what it is  to live a hard life.

And I feel grateful.

Somewhere, there’s a woman wrinkled by time who weeps over the ashes of a war that has taken good men from her family, and some grandchildren too.

In the ruins of Syria, innocent people trying to escape inevitable death by terrorism scrape together what little they have in order to seek a new life in Europe. Some cannot afford the life vests to protect their childen for the desperate sea voyage but they risk the challenge all the same. And children become another statistic taken by the sea – innocent and so young.

With tears in my eyes, I am grateful.

In many places across America there are people trapped by floods or hikers lost in the wilderness because they took a wrong turn. Perhaps a child sleeping on the couch is struck by a drive-by bullet and hangs on in the ICU. So much misfortune, so much pain, loss, and inhumanity. It all makes me that much more grateful to live the life I’m living.

I‘m not saying that I’d want to re-live my entire childhood or this prison experience all over again if I had the chance not to. But I cannot deny that both have made me more resilient for what lies ahead. My experience has given me a strength that I otherwise would not have. I am a better, stronger woman for the journey. It has introduced each of you into our lives, and we would not want to erase that. And with heartache, with life’s struggles, wounds and scars, character is born. I am a better daughter, friend, and confident for the entire experience.

And for all of that, I am grateful.

 

To Quote a TV Show 

One of the television shows I watch is Madam Secretary. On the October 25th episode, the daughter of the Secretary was caught up in a scandal. Apparently, she made the mistake of taking selfies of her boyfriend (The President’s son), and herself in bed. A former secret service agent out to avenge being fired took possession of the lost cell phone that held the photos and not only released one risky photo to the media but also threatened to release the rest if not paid handsomely not to. Once he was caught, the daughter of The Secretary wanted 15 minutes alone with the guy. Clearly, she had something to say.

The two were put in a room where she broke the ice by asking about his family. She asked questions about him. He answered politely, but then finally he said, “Look, I don’t know what you want from me.” She looked him in the eye and ever so calmly replied, “I just wanted to get to know you better. I didn’t want to reduce you to the one bad decision you had made.“ Something he had done to her.

I grabbed a pen and wrote those lines down. I love a good quote and this was enormous! Those words spoke volumes about each and every one of you who have met us only through the written word and not yet in person. It spoke directly to my heart. Thank you to each of you who took the time to get to know us better and did not reduce us to the one bad decision I made on New Year’s Eve, 1988. And thank you for letting us in return get to know yyou. Thank you.

From The Heart 

Years ago, I heard another quote but I cannot recall where I heard it. I only know that I wrote it down:

“What hurts us the most, that’s where we find our strength – that’s what keeps us going.” 

Words to live by.

Some of you tell me how impressed you are by my strength to carry on after all we’ve been through. Some are even more surprised at my tolerance and patience with the long, drawnout process of this appeal for a new trial. Many have told me that they’d have lost patience by now. So, how do I do it? What hurt me is what keeps me going. He’s not allowed to win every battle, even in death. My stepfather is not allowed to define my character by his own flaws.

First of all, I’m really in no big hurry to leave Mom here alone without me. I do have to leave at some point but I‘m not in a hurry. I’m on God’s timetable, not my own. If I had the choice to rush into court for a new trial clear back in say, 2005, I would not have been as ready as I am now, nor would I have the evidence that questions the DA’s integrity. So yes, God knew what He was doing all along. The DA thinks that they are running the show, but I know better.

I have the will to face down the dragon. I don’t know how to give up, so quitting was never an option. I kept the faith, allowed hope into my heart, ran with patience the race before me, and well, like the song says, “I’ve still got a lot of fight left in me.” I can relate deeply to the lirics in :Fight Song:”

Like a small boat, on the ocean            Sending big waves, into motion            Like how a single word, can make a heart open            I may only have one match, but I’ll make an explosion            This is my fight Song, take back my life song            Prove I’m alright song, my power’s turned on            I don’t care what no one else believes –            I still got a lot of fight left in me!

So, I say from the heart to you – my strength come from a power greater than myself. My willingness to face demons from the past and ressurecting old ghosts is all part of doing what this girl has got to do. And yes, it would be a badge of honor to hear them say, “You fight like a girl.” Your darn right I do. Right into the New Year and beyond! Its’ time to fight lik a girl!

Happy Christmas & New Year,TC and Mama P

Teresa Paulinkonis                                                                  Pauline (Barbara) Paulinkonis

W45118     513-5-3U                                                             W45120     513-5-3L.O. Box 1508                                                             P.O. Box 1508

Chowchilla, CA 93610                                                           Chowchilla, CA 93610

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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

Sorrygnat, World Citizen

href=”https://sorrygnat.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/imagescaoqm66v.jpg”>imagesCAOQM66V

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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9780804137973

The Ballad of a Small Player

Lawrence Osborne

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THE BALLARD OF A SMALL PLAYER, Lawrence Osborne

September 12, 2014 //

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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

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.

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!

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… / filamfunk.blogspot.com

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

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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

The Uncaged Voice

Available free upon request at eclift@vermontel.net

2nd QTR, 2014

 Image

 

 

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.

 

                                                     Namasté

                                                     TC & Mama P

 

 

 

 

 

 

LEGAL LINES – ASK AN INMATE ATTORNEY

 

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

Email: Michele@MicheleGarfinkel.com

 

 

 

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.  (www.elayneclift.com)

 

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.  (www.losingaspouse.com). 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

 

 

 

 

           

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

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: elayneclift@gmail.com

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.
Namaste,
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 http://www.hrw.org 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.

Mel's Madness

I’ve always been fat.newborn

Always.

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

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.

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.

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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 necessary voice – from a fellow blogger …

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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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.

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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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

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

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.

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

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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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.

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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eloquent, nonpartisan, well-considered response to corruption!

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.

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.

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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

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…

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from You Carry the Heavy Stuff, Lulu.com/Amazon, 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.

Okay Reader, I’m going to jump right in.  http://hereismars.wordpress.com/  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.   http://hereismars.wordpress.com/ (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.)

http://swpulley.wordpress.com, 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.

http://bahaithought.blogspot.com/

http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2011/02/04/rainn-wilson-soulpancake/, I adore Soul Pancake, and use it in my writing classes at times.  I also gave the book Soul Pancake to my granddaughter.

http://www.bendsintheroad.com/  I have connected with blogger and will do online interview!

http://blackwatertown.wordpress.com      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.

http://elenagorokhova.com/  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.

http://creativityontheloose.com/   new; intriguing; she was in a class of mine

http://thekitchensgarden.wordpress.com/   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.

http://kofegeek.wordpress.com/   Kofegeek is a silly geometer, a lover of coffee and fresh carrot

http://catewrites.wordpress.com/feed/   An exquisite young writer, working on her first novel – we meet once a week and share our writing through prompts!

http://mrslittlejeans.blogspot.com/2012/04/our-cat-boys-are-tree-huggers.html

friend, who is a scientist, a Baha’i and who writes enchanting, whimsical pieces.

http://livingbackstreet.blogspot.com, a very talented artists.  She had a stroke and since then she’s been producing the paintings you will see on her website.

http://holessence.wordpress.com/ one of the first bloggers to reach out at beginning of our MNINB April challenge, generous in spirit and knowledge

http://bridgetasher.blogspot.com/feeds/posts/default

terrifically informative re writing

http://debbieohi.com/home/atom.xml  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.

 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
attainment.

Handouts

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.
———–
Invitation
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
away.
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,
states:

“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)

http://www.bahai.us/

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.”

Baha’u’llah

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

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

Esther

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.

and

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) http://stores.lulu.com/sorrygnat and http://www.amazon.com/Carry-Heavy-Stuff
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.

estherbill@gmail.com 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

 From You Carry the Heavy Stuff, Esther Bradley-Detally – on Lulu.com., 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.

Image

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.

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

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!”

 

Rhythm Of The Universe – Anthem For The World **OFFICIAL**

www.youtube.com

Play with Words2programsupdate

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
NanoPrimo.

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

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.

From
The Heart

T.C.
& 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
lives.

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! www.fairsentencingforyouth.org and www.juvies.org

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
grant.

 

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
Jpay.com or inmatedeposits.com. 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
rational.

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
mores.

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

Teresa
Christine

 

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?

Bobbi:
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?

Bobbi:
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
feces?

Bobbi:
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?

Bobbi:
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?

Bobbi:
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?

Bobbi:
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
disgusting.

Bobbi:
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.

TC:
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?

Bobbi:
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.

Bobbi:
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.

Namasté

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

 

 

 

 

 

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
soon.

PS my brain is too sugared out to fix the margins that scooted over to the right.  the nerve!

Baby Elly visits Bill and Esther at Pool House in Pasadena

Baby Elly Gets urban

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.

From…. WorldUnityMedia.com/ Quote of the Day, Sat., August 13, 2011

“Thou hast asked Me concerning the nature of the soul. Know, verily, that the soul is a sign of God, a heavenly gem whose reality the most learned of men hath failed to grasp, and whose mystery no mind, however acute, can ever hope to unravel. It is the first among all created things to declare the excellence of its Creator, the first to recognize His glory, to cleave to His truth, and to bow down in adoration before Him. If it be faithful to God, it will reflect His light, and will, eventually, return unto Him. If it fail, however, in its allegiance to its Creator, it will become a victim to self and passion, and will, in the end, sink in their depths.”
Gleanings From the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, Author: Bahá’u’lláh, Source: US Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1990 pocket-size edition, Page: 346

Here’s something from my book
You Carry the Heavy Stuff It’s a writing prompt and written in a particular style. Kurt Vonnegut (God Bless you Kurt Vonnegut) said, write 4 lines across the page every night; don’t show it to anyone, but just do it. These were my 4 one day, and the word soul just showed up, like it wanted to be on the word train within this piece. This is also something under Jack Grapes’ (best writing teacher of all time) teaching in that he calls this type of piece To Be Read and Sung, okay enuf said, 4 lines:

Read and Sung
Do not ask of your shadow’s future. Do not dwell on your shadow’s past. Do not ask what others think. Rely not upon the delusions of the many. Do not turn away from certitude and a multisyllabic path. Do not listen to politicians’ rhetoric. Do not become a sleeping mute, a junk yard dog. Do take yourself and shadow on a dual path. Take a soul to lunch this week. Better yet, take your soul with you. Best yet, be your soul.

NOTE FROM THE EDITOR: Share Quote of the Day with friends.

Reader, my on line writers’ group, CHPercolator, prompts Post July 31, 2011:

You mean life is more than material for books?
Seeds of crazy believe
Black marks march across the page
Working like a canine for very little money
Mended, the floor of my soul was finally strong enough to bear my full weight.

The floor of my soul is doing pretty good now, occasionally it has the strength to do an oingo boingo, like a brand new trampoline! Yesterday, my soul went oingo boingo all day. You betchum Red Rider, The funny thing about souls and weight, when you lean into fine tempering your soul through life experience, or just pulling the splinters and shards of same off the floor, once you get it down, get your soul mended strong enough to bear full weight, it becomes gossamer light.

Which brings me to a gossamer event yesterday of two people who found each other, Red and Jan, and their wedding. No black marks march across the page on this wedding; nope letters of every hue; flamboyant pink, awesome yellow and rainbow blue and ultraviolet appeared in the sky.

Some people might say what kind of seed of crazy are you ingesting old girl, and I tell you, most of the time I live in the land of practicality. Years ago I worked like a canine for good money as a secretary in law firms, good law firms, and now I work like a joyous canine for maybe not as much money, but I am like an abused greyhound dog, or Black Beauty the horse, remember Black Beauty, finally out sharing the pasture of words and events and how to do this and write like you talk, sing, dance, you know. You catch my drift.

A lot of people comment on how much I read. Okay I admit turning our one and only walk in closet top shelves into a library, despite the fact that we live in a two-room pool house might be excessive, but they leave such a lovely glow in my heart. Yes, books glow, but I tell you this reader; are you still with me? I tell you, life is more than material for books!

See you around the trails, around the bend.


It was 1992, and my husband Igorovich insisted we drive to the Wisconsin Cheese Farm to photograph shelves and glassed in cases of cheese, no abundance of lack as in our city, Dnepropetrovsk, where cheese was called sere to my American ears.

We were newly on our honeymoon and I was to bring Igorovich back to my home in Boston, to a family which prided itself on their standing within the generations. My great grandfather had been Sheriff of Suffolk County in the early 1900s, and with a name like “Keliher,” I gathered he’d come over before the potato famine.

But history or generational placement was far from my mind, that hot day when odors of cows and an occasional sniff of sweet grass relieved the tedium of flat stretch after flat stretch of highway, only relieved by country stores, with 12 empty rocking chairs lined up as if to say hello, come to Cracker Barrel and find root beer candy, sarsaparilla drinks from the past.

But no, Igorovich, as I was soon to learn was a “pusher,” and a bull dog, and I a small Chihuahua personality myself, was not match to his drive and intention. But it wasn’t all “plocha” awful, that day as we drove off the highway ramp, the only Edsel for miles, the only car for miles, because I had heard of a writing group on the “net,” as they say.

We parked in the dusty graveled parking lot, headed towards a low slung, ranch style building covered in a wine-colored wood, and as we opened the air conditioned doors, air, cold air blasted us back an inch or two.

Igorovich was rubbing his meaty hands together, reverting to Russian, “Horoshow, Horoshow,” which to my 2 year old level of Russian meant good. What was it about me, my tiny, small persistent personality? I always feel for men in uniform, and Igorovich met me in the open air market (a euphemism for shock of beef on hooks, wedding gowns next aisle over, potatoes which looked abused, and I was asking for Smetana, and Sleevki, one or the other, they are dairy products, don’t have my smetanas and sleevki’s down. That’s three year old language level.

It was love at first sight, and I called him Sleevki Igor, and now cheeses and abundances of the dairy kind led me to a serendipitous moment of great impact, almost as great as meeting my beloved Sleevki Igor, but not quite – nothing could replace the smell of raw beef, a handsome young man bending over my tiny form, sweat on his neck, a delightful clean smell of sweat, and muscled arms, oh a girl could go far in those muscled arms.

There inside the Wisconsin Famous for Its Cheeses door, the air conditioning pushing cow ears back, was someone in an enormous cow uniform. The cow had human legs in the front, and cardboard legs resting on a cheese barrel with lots of miniature sculpted baby cows around his tale, as if to say, “I’m prolific,” and “All us cows do our dairy best,” and so while Igor ambled around more cheese shelves than he had seen in his life, and was blasted away by the “how may we lay our lives down in service for you employees,” I sauntered up to the Cow.

How is it, there’s a figure in there. Who are you. Well the cow must have been embarrassed, so a small voice laced trills and bass notes, said I’m today’s new Cheese Representative, and todays, my first day on the job. What’s good, I said, slowing myself into what was going to be a rolling dialogue/monologue, repartee, Camembert or Cheddar ?

The cow’s voice dropped several octaves, almost like the sounds on the planet we can’t hear and said, “Look lady, I’m a writer, and an umployed one at that. For cheese’s sake, don’t push me.”

You are a writer, you in the cow suit, by this time I gathered he was a man.

Yes, and because he was in a cow suit and was a writer, I shouted behond the pickles and ham slices rolled up drolley besides the Swiss cheese, and called, “Igorovitch, Igorovitch, Ididi, my word for go which meant to Sleevki Igor, come here, as it was the only motion word I knew.

Well Igor and I love people in suits, or uniforms, and a man in a cow uniform on his first day at work, and on our first time in a famous Cheese Factory was the beginning of a propitious relationship.

It turned out, this writer and many others whom he knew would turn out bon mots of the laugh and lie down with your belly to the floor, and I learned through this man, “Steve,” whom Sleevki Igor called “Steevovitch Seritskee” became a life time friend, and in the future we would venture to lands like Kansas, and Boston, my family loved cheese, and then in our later years, we would find a small pool house, which fit our immigrant hearts, and to our delight, we would discover Steevovitch Seritskee was now a famous writer, but he lived still in his modest family home in temple City and we were horoshow (good).

July 21, 2011

CHPerc prompts

“Today should be my wedding day,” said Annie Mae Clare McDougall Habersham as they moved her out of her trailer park, because newspapers in the back entry way were stacked to the ceiling, and I, her 70ish, low on the ish cousin, shirttail cousin at that, was the only lone female within my clan brave enough to enter the sagging trailer on a hot July day, humidity up to sweat and think “Hell,” and to prepare to breathe through the mouth, avoiding unwarranted odors from the decaying tin can of a trailer, collapsing before my very eyes.

I squeeze sideways, even though people call me skinny, I still have to squeeze sideways to make it through the newspaper filled back entryway, which is book marked on the opposite side by those familiar yellow National Geographic’s that people saved thinking, these will be a treasure later.

That’s what it’s all about, saving, hoarding, hoping something for nothing, later, in the dusty future where a ship will come in, a lottery ticket will pay off, Google will reward the younger in our generation for some unknown embryo of an idea, to be planted in everyone’s need section of their brain. We have all become like raw open throated baby birds I think as my nose begins to reject a sour odor, and I move towards what once was an elegantly curved mahogany and soft light green velvet couch, said couch, looking like a Keinholtz replica, with stuffing coming out of its chest instead of Keinholtz’s original piece which portrayed squirrels nesting on a rotted-out breast, to a horrified crowd at the LA Museum on Mid-Wilshire in the mid 60s.

“Today should be my wedding day,” thrums against my brain, quiet cloud like thoughts, pure fluffy white, floating over chaos of broken lamps, hidden treasures of pearl handle knives and a peer or pier mirror tall, tilted against a wall in the corner, ornate gold frame, from floor to ceiling, this mirror abandoned before it was sold to make a lot of money for Annie’s future abundance.

Annie, Annie, Annie. If I were she, I would have changed my last name. What a curse to be named “Habersham,” so Dickensian in its doom, its curse of the unmarried, a curse which makes no sense in these days at the turn of a new century, the 2000s. We don’t worry about being married, not married. We worry about food, prices, greed, and think of the Wall Street Boys bowling with our brains and hearts, and totally removed from what’s really happening here on Hensworth Street in Lake Forest Park.

We are a long way from the real world, and my purpose here is to make sense and get Annie out of her mess. She doesn’t think mess. Annie’s brain is back in the day in 1938 when her to-be husband was cavorting on the sands of Cape Cod, as he ran along side the ocean. He had just turned his head to shout to Annie, a good looking 20 year old with long chestnut hair, long legs, an arched nose, and the moment was truly golden. Golden except for the fact he didn’t see the giant horseshoe crab in front of him and he fell and its long tail pierced his heart.

He was a bleeder, and he didn’t make it through the night. Annie was devastated and simply not right for the rest of her life.

So here I am now, the only practical one in the family whose tree goes back to Habersham and Dickens, and I am here to muck out, and get her into a rest home, and sooth the community association who is afraid that rats are cavorting all over the trailer park.

I see her, slumped over in an old tattered maroon (they don’t use that color any more) Morris chair which is spotted and its wooden slatted frame is scarred from dog scratches. Her dog Pip sits whimpering at her side. Small, runty dog, small slivered woman, and the day we move this shattered bone and mind of an old lady, unnoticed except for the horror of her hoarding, I think, that’s it. She’s the next subject of my next book.

And then, I pull out my cell phone, dial, “We Clean Up Anything,” pick up Pip, who gives a feeble pug cough, tell Annie, “We’ll have you under 800 thread count sheets by tonight,” and call my husband who will drive her to the hospital, and think, “It’s all grist for the mill.”

Did I mention the LA Times had just printed a photo of an old cane chair on top of a junk pile, with its bottom part threaded out, reminiscent of the Pope’s Chair, verifying he was a guy, as mentioned in that lovely book Pope Joan?

Truth is so delightful when turned into fiction. Writer’s block is over.

check out http://www.bahaiperspectives.com

For those who might be interested. The interview covers my personal beginnings, religious background, follies, foibles of high school years, coming to California in 1962, discovering the Baha’i Faith, prayers of the Faith, life in general, transformation, and writing; hope you enjoy!

I’m posting a review from GoodReads, but Battle Hymm of the Tiger Mother reminded me of a story of a young girl, popular in the 40s-50s called “Katy Did,” and the idea if i remembered it correctly, she’d pull flower petals off of petals and say Katy Did, Kady Didn’t. So here’s an initial review:

Battle Hymn of the Tiger MotherBattle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow, what did I think? hmmmm, let’s see – I felt a lot, i observed a lot, and i liked this author’s honesty and dilemmas. Culture clash, and the reader was full on in it.

It’s hard,because we all have our theories, and then there’s the actual practice. Before my son was born, I thought I’d keep him in little white baby shoes, immaculate, and did I say, he wore brown shoes a lot. I said, “No child of mine will watch a lot of TV,” and I do believe on days unnumbered his face morphed into a square from so much screen gazing.

Wisdom is attained when one is a grandmother. Love is attained from birth of a child. Between the two, we pass on the good stuff, cringe at the dysfunction stuff, and pray and act for the future wellbeing.

I have a wonderful son, and that means, we both had to work at it over the teenage years.

Amy Chua is intelligent, honest and writes well. A friend loaned me this book. the most outstadning feature of this book, besides it provoking great discussions, is her children were not wounded, angry at times, but somehow her love came through. It’s a toss up. Culture pushes parents because originally, survival was the base instinct. In a way, it still was. She met her match with her second daughter, and I suspect the daughters will raise their children in a less authoritarian style.

That said, they are outstanding. At this stage in my life I think too much permissiveness or too much authoritarianism doesn’t work, but there’s a middle way of cooperative parenting.

whatever, I think Amy Chua and family made it through difficult decisions and arrived at greater awareness, and I also feel they are a solid family whom I wish well.

View all my reviews

You know they, whoever they are, say, “Youth is wasted on the young.” Well that maybe, but frankly I think they need buoyant lives, smooth skin, and untroubled brows. By that I mean they have to know that it’s a blessing to have stored memories and images without editing in their newly budding subconscious. They have to know the pure smell of ginger outside of back doors, and feel the swell of budding daisies and feel the delicacy of white petals of a single rose, blooming too early, but not too late.

If youth is wasted on the young, all books would change, and learning wouldn’t be possible. Take for instance Red Riding Hood. She’d become old and wrinkly, no need to go to grandmother’s house. Grandmother is dead. Take the wolf, yeah the wolf. All hair, saliva dripping for his canine teeth, drool covering up the yellow, because he’s young, he doesn’t twig his teeth like his momma youth told him to do. He’s young now, virile, and his canine teeth which point to the sky, are strong, as is Young Wolf. How do you think our wrinkled old Red would do?

So that’s my version, but basically I think that we, older people say, “Youth is wasted on the young,” when in fact we have something they haven’t earned yet. Wisdom. Worth every straw that broke our back in the early days.

If I had to do it all over again, I’d be clearer. I’d be insightful, and I’d call the police on my neighbor Sugar-Baby Martin. Sugar Baby Martin was an old lady with precious little wisdom or for that matter kind thoughts wandering around in the billiard room of her brain.

She would bake fresh bread, and the smells of same would kill me. Finally, one day, I broke down, and wandered over to her broken down porch, up those three white stairs that badly needed paint, and would help a youth earn money if she hired one to help her fix up stuff. I knocked on her screen door, the one that didn’t quite shut. You know how screen doors are. Boy, they work the nerves. She answered that Tuesday morning, and it was about eleven o’clock, and she had something in her hand. A freshly baked loaf of round bread, glossy top from butter spread over it, and I felt it warm and secure in my hands. This was unusual, but I wasn’t about to turn away from a gift from Sugar-Baby Martin.
I guess she wasn’t mad at me for throwing her cat Sour Bo Martin out of my second story window. She baked me bread. Maybe she’d forgiven me.

I thank her, and watched my step going down those 3 rickety planks she called stairs and headed towards my house, my kitchen, my butter set out so it wouldn’t be cold. I set that bread on the bread board, pulled out my best bread cutting knife and cut off the end piece. Don’t you just love that end piece, so pure, so crusty, and so ready to be inhaled?

Well a moment on the lips and forever on the …. You fill it in. That bread was filled with kitty litter, and I thought it was raisins, and now I have a rather large bill from the dentist, and haven’t stopped tossing my cookies (a genteel phrase for vomiting).

Just because her cat Sour Bo Martin, snuck into my house for the umpteenth time and barfed fur balls filled with poop on my white, umpteenth thread count, cotton pillowcase, and just because she saw me throw him out my back window, she got her revenge.

Youth wasted on the young. I wouldn’t give Sugar Baby Martin noth’in, no more. As for South Bo Martin? You ask? He lived. Fell on my yellow hammock, but one leg broke, and now he don’t jump as well as he did.

Youth wasted on the Young? Think of reputedly sweet, scourge of the neighborhood, Sugar Baby Martin, and that vile feline Sour Bo Martin. She doesn’t need youth. She needs the trash can, and that’s what I think.

Joy!

Oink - melted on the tongue

fabulous ladies

happy moms

We got there before bride and groom; we ate lots of chips; hmmmmm

Happy, Happy

The Honeymooners

The fabulous Miss R
To die for

Darling children

rock on

handsome dear men

Everyone was happy

waiting for the bride
The flower girl was dear

Happy Bride and Groom

Outside of room waiting for Chiara before the wedding

Chiara's Mom - the other Guam traveler

Dad on left is living in Guam - Sean on right is waiting for his bride

Taking care of Paper BusinessEsther and the wonderfully lovely Chiara

Wonderful wedding, conjoining of families. It was a global venture. Chiara’s mom and dad came in from Guam, one brother from Michigan, the sisters from California. Not totally sure. An aunt and cousins came from southern state, and Sean’s family came from Mississippi. A small gathering of absolutely joyous friends witnessed a glorious union!

The reception rocked; we went to Mijares, and Sean and Chiara are an incredible couple. Hooray and blessings for them!

Well the morning started with Lindsey, Matt’s wife, my twin’s son and treasured daughter-in-law FBing about cocoa and one made by some brothers, to which Matt added, a bon mot phrase about other brothers, and I added the paucity of my memory of old jokes, including Prince Albert in a Can.

then writing workshop at Altadena Healing Arts Center; good group; and then quick dash home, look under the bed for those pre-purchased greeting cards, not like a pre-purchased automobile, which in my day simply said, ‘used’ and now to head back to the closet and put on my incredibly chines red silk jacket; found and fit to myself immediately while hoofing through an estate sale, and the other witness Renee will wear red too; we say to each other “we’ll be the babes,” and meanwhile the above pictures show the Western Justice Center, a title deserving a distinct blog input of its own, but time and joy restrain me.

Chiara and Sean are getting married. So despite a horrible shooting in Arizona, politics again. “A kindly tongue is the lodestone of the human heart.” something that needs to be heeded more. Our atmosphere has been infected with coarseness, hate and anger, but Sean and Chiara, Chiara and Sean, are getting married, and it’s time to suit up, and spend a splendiferous afternoon with two wonderful young people, and then tonight book club! Wow

Where were we? Where was I? Remember a whole year? Not likely. Okay, it was the year Steve Pulley felt the strain of his friendship with Esther, where she, if her night or day vision worked correctly, should have seen about 26 small snakes, think vipers, arise above his intellectual forehead, as he sat before her computer, while she moaned and wailed, “Lulu.”

Valiant, courage under fire. This year You Carry the Heavy Stuff, with a wonderfully spunky cover, showing, oh my, get ready…. Showing, the back, oh the precious, curved back, of a Fawn Pug Dog, along with a tall, thin lady, wearing red high top sneakers, both canine and old girl staring out into the sky, the dawn, the sun, the moon, with road signs beside them, like “Grist for the Mill,” “Been There,” “Done That,” as Esther doubled her book writing and publishing capacity.

Somehow, we all survived it, and now I, the writer, am at the merciful or nonmerciful stage of “marketing and selling the book.” Do you think this is why God invented garages? Storage of books. Books, book, and more books.

I give a lot of writing workshops, on The Courage to Write, the idea to show up, suit up, forget the dust balls under your bed, and write about them or anything that snakes or cavorts through your brain’s passageways. Most of them were free, because there are a lot of people out there with precious little, said phrase, “Precious Little,” being a comment by a corrugated with anger Literary Criticism Professor wrote on my friend Kate’s barely 3 pages of a blue book-designed for essays on the whys and wherefores, of Plato, and his mimesis, and Aristotle who advocated fear and pity for a tragedy, but which I, for some stuttering randomness kept saying peer and fity.

But because of that school, that man who ranted directly to me, because of carrying around heavy green or blue backed Norton Readers, because of taking Oakley Hall, incredible writing teacher, because of Jack Grapes and some workshops ranging over the years, and because, because, of CHPercolator, here I sit today, like an intent hedgehog. Have to leave here in 15 minutes. I produced a book. I teach writing to homeless women, and everyone else in transition. Sometimes I make money; sometimes I don’t, but I have a forum within which to write.

It’s been a year of a lot of new friendships and keeping the older ones; a year of finally being able to walk around the block and to be told, “Your heart muscle is strong,” and a year of modulated eating, so now a chocolate camel can circumambulate my block and not fear my gnawing teeth and needy ways.

It’s been a year of soul talk and authenticity, and joy in the realness of life and inner richness, coupled with getting up in the middle of the night, wondering will Bill be okay, will this, will that… but those are the blah blah’s of dark nights, and mostly I’m hoofing, and I’m thriving; this from someone who has an aortic plastic valve, lung stuff, heart stuff, long illness. As an old gal, that seems to be receding, and I tell you I’m hoof’ in out.

How’s by you?

 

Marsha J. Evans, President, CEO of The American Red Cross. Salary for year ending 06/30/03 was $651,957 plus expenses. Brian Gallagher, President of the United Way  receives a $375,000 base salary, plus numerous expense benefits. UNICEF CEO receives $1,200,000 per year plus all expenses and a ROLLS ROYCE car where ever he goes and only cents of your  dollar goes to the cause.

The Salvation Army’s Commissioner Todd Bassett receives a salary of only $13,000 per year  (plus housing) for managing this $2 billion dollar organization

Authors On The Rise Interviews K.L. B…

You Carry the Heavy Stuff

Authors On the Rise Is happy to bring you an interview with Esther Bradley- DeTally, author of: You Carry The Heavy Stuff. Please grab a copy of her book and post your reviews.

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

Esther: 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.

Dee: When did you first know you wanted to be an author?

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

Dee: Did you take any classes or go to school to learn to write, or did it just come naturally?

Esther: 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 die, 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.

Dee: Please tell us about your book and how you came up with the idea for it.

Esther: 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.

Dee: Which of your characters were your favorite and why?

Esther: 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.

Dee: What traits and characteristics did you give some of your characters to make them memorable?

Esther: Courage, nobility and the human condition is a sideways view.

Dee: Does your book have any important themes or lessons you wanted to convey?

Esther: 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.

Dee: What was the road to publication like? Was it turbulent or fairly easy?

Esther: 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.

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

Esther: 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) http://stores.lulu.com/sorrygnat and http://www.amazon.com/Carry-Heavy-Stuff
Esther-Bradley-DeTally. I recommend the Lulu site because you can read some of the pages. I also have some I can mail.

Dee: Words of wisdom for aspiring writers.

Esther: Read, read, read, read, write, journal, write, never give up; take courses, watch, listen learn, imitate, and trust the process.

estherbill@gmail.com http://sorrygnat. Word press. com blog

Dee: What current projects are you working on?

Esther: 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.

Dee: What do you want your legacy to be?

Esther: 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.

Dee: Thank you for chatting with AOTR! We wish you much success!

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 

 http://thomas-fletcher.com/friendwheel/showwheel.php?site=facebook&name=Esther+Bradley-deTally&userid=729263026&pass=e1a66903f8&monthno=09&xmlwheel=1

The Gulf Re-veiled, Art, Dia Magazine Fashion News, Trends & Styles.

Pug Lovers' Paradise

This newsletter has been ongoing for years, as my friendship with TC. Someone from the outside types it and distributes by email. I thought it insightful and would hope that people keep TC, her mom, Barbara, and the like in their prayers. I regularly correspond with her; i had to get clearance, and when I have xtra $ i send her stuff to pay for school or something, but that’s a private matter.

Here it is:

The T.C. & Mama ´P´ Newsletter – 3rd QTR, 2010

Dear Family of Friends,

The response to our last issue of this newsletter was quite overwhelming. I was very open and apparently, successful in making myself clear in my details about life behind these walls. I understand that it may not be easy for some folks to grasp what it is like for us, so I make every effort to bring forth clearly detailed expressions to paint vivid pictures in your own minds. Life behind the walls here is nothing like those fake prison scenes in daytime soap operas. It is nothing like the movies made in Hollywood. It has its good times of less stress than others, but it also has its moments of fear, anger, victimization, survival, hunger, violence, and extortion. There are bullies around every corner; there are angels with every breath. There is racism, prejudice, and steriotyping. However, there is also a strong sense of sisterhood, womanhood, call it what you want. Sometimes in the air there is the smell of pepper spray and verbal assaults … but sometimes more than not, there is the scent of unity as one subculture in our own little micro world. Like the weather, it varies.

In this issue I will share more details and facts that have no business being buried. I intend to open your eyes a little wider to see what is really happening. Some may feel that in my doing so, I am focusing on the negative. I differ in my opinion I feel that it is important to focus on the negative so that, not only do I know what is striving to suppress me, but I can strategize how to turn it into something positive. One of my favorite quotes is by the philospher, Nietchze. He wrote, „what does not kill us, makes us stronger.“ As you well know, I have lived my life according to that wisdom the best that I can the last 15 years since I broke my silence about the past. As prisoners, well over 3500 women here at CCWF are doing their bet to overcome our pasts … pasts that got us here one way or another.

One woman who made the best of her past, used her scars as lessons to others, and taught me a lot about doing your prison time instead of letting the sentence overtake and control you, is Deborah Peagler – AKA, Tripp. She was a tool and vessel of God‘s choosing, and she did reach me. This issue of the newsletter is being dedicated to the life and memory of Deborah ‚ ´Tripp´ Peagler, our beloved Friend.

Namasté

T.C. & Mama ´P´

Riding A Rainbow

I mentioned Tripp a couple of issues back. She had been brutalized by a guy named Oliver Wilson from the age of fifteen. He did the most horrible things to her, it is a wonder she survived. When two male friends tried to convince Wilson to not hunt Tripp down anymore after she escaped him once more, the altercation turned deadly, resulting in Wilson‘s death. The men were prosecuted and sentenced, as was Tripp, although she wasn‘t party to the homicide. Her case had Battered Woman Syndrome written all over it, yet her Public Defender never addressed it. After 26 years in prison for a murder she did not plan, nor commit, she was released. The governor did not block the Parole Board‘s recommendation because Tripp was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer,a nd expected to not live past three more weeks.

Ten months after her release from prison, Tripp was still enjoying life and reunification with her two daughters and grandchildren. She wrote when she could, and even sent me the most beautiful lighthouse notecards for my birthday in February, knowing my admiration for lighthouses. She seemed to be gaining strength and turning into a miracle before our eyes, when on June 8th, in the early morning hours, our friend and sister in Christ, passed away.

There are some, including mom and myself, who look at the prison and court system with disgust at how she was even sentenced to life in prison. There is anger at the sheer injustice and an echo of sentiment that not only had she gone from Wilson‘s prison to California‘s prison system, but her children were rubbed as well. It just isn‘t fair.

In the same breath, I see the positive. She had the last ten months of her life free with her family. To die in prison is every lifer‘s worst nightmare. But there‘s more …..

Tripp was one of the few founding members to propose and initiate the U-turn program directed at helping youth-at-risk. In her years of service, she reached well over 1000 kids. For each kid she reached, they are like a ripple in the water, and Tripp ultimately reached even more people through each child. You see, for every person that childd comes into contact with, Tripp is vicariously reaching due to her initial contact with that child. There must be thousands feeling the effect of Tripp‘s story and words of encouragement, hope, possible change, and love.

Tripp was on the church choir and through that channel she reached many as well. When I arrived to CCWF in 1992, I was mad at God for allowing us to not only live a lie of pain in a house of secrets, but to allow us to be sentenced to life in prison with open, but invisible wounds. I rebelled by turning my back on God. I went rogue as far as religion went, and I pretty much went from light to dark. Tripp invited my girlfriend Lory, to join the choir. She was fond of Lori and through Lori unknownst to her, Tripp had reached my darkened heart. I sat in the dark of my cell one night all alone in my self-pity and asked God if He could forgive me for my turning away from Him. In His way, He led me to a verse in the New Testament. I read it. It was John 12:35 „He who walks in darkness knows not where he is going. Walk in the light while it is with you.“ I was blown away, as my prayer clearly asked about light and dark. About a week or so later I went to look the verse up again, but „Accidentally“ looked up John 11:35 … „And Jesus wept.“ So did I.

I am not proud of my rebellion against God. I‘m not bragging about it in sharing my confession and testimony. I tell you only to say that the messenger God chose to reach into my hardened heart, was Deborah Peagler. And it‘s not just words when I say I‘m eternally grateful.

I feel badly for Tripp‘s family who were separated from her for so many years. I felt bad for Tripp that she was a prisoner since age fifteen and the system had failed her in so many ways. However, the ones I feel the most sorry for, are the people who never had the honor and privilege of knowing Deborah Peagler.

I wrote Tripp in a letter I believe she received within days of her passing, that I was grateful for her place in my life … in mom‘s life. I told her that we‘ll see her again, where she can find me in a meadow running my fingers through a lion‘s mane. Knowing Tripp, she‘ll be releasing the little kid in herself, riding on a rainbow. I really wish you could have known her. In one way or another, she had made an impact. She always did.

Just The Facts

On May 13th, a state appeals court found Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger had „distorted the record“ evidence in justifying his blocking the parole suitability of Joseph Calderon.

Calderon had consistenly accepted responsibility in the death of a security guard in 1993 during a botched rubbery. It wasn‘t part of the plan, but it did happen. Calderon was 23 years old at the time.

Fact … Calderon underwent special therapy for alcoholism and behavioral issues.

Fact … he temporarily joined a prison gang at the onset of his incarceration as expected from peer pressure, but dropped out and risked his own safety by giving a briefing to prisons officials. If you know anything about men‘s prisons and prison gangs, then you know that took a lot of guts. The shower scene in the film „American X“ was not an exaggeration of what happens to a prison gang deserter.

These are the facts, yet Arnold blocked the Parole Board‘s recommendation of parole, saying that Calderon „lacked full insight into his crimes,“ had „only sporadically“ taken part in rehabilitation programs, and he furthermore twisted the truth regarding Calderon‘s prison gang activity. He claimend Calderon was in a gang, as in present tense. This goes to show that either Arnold can‘t read, refuses to read the parole Board‘s report, or quite simply doesn‘t trust the opinion of the panel of commissioners that he himself appointed. It must be hell to have all that power and not know how to properly use it. He has overturned the Parole Board‘s decision nearly 60% in 2008 and more than 70% in 2009.

My question is this: Why have a Parole Board at all if their decisions will not be respected by the governor? And furthermore, why even hold a hearing and file a report if Arnold can simply ignore and distort the facts? It is hard enough to win favor with the Board, only to be shot down by someone in a power suit that never took classes at Law School. When will we ever deal with just the facts?

More Facts About Lifers

· Proposition 89 gave the California Governor power to overturn any Parole suitability finding by the (Governor appointed) Parole Board.

· Proposition 89 told voters that there might be a savings to taxpayers if they passed 89, yet 20 years later the findings by investigative journalist Nancy Mullane found the costs of Prop 89 to be more than 16 billion dollars. Billion, with a „B“.

· The CDCR (prison system) did their own study and found that from the mid to late 1940‘s the murder recidivism rate is 2%. A more recent research study indicated that as of 2007, convicted murderers re-offend less than any other offender group, at 3,7%. The next lowers group is more that 20%.

· Prior to Prop 89, the Board routinely paroled nearly 200 lifers a year.

· Governor‘s campaign finances are heavily supported by Victim Rights groups, which in turn are funded by the prison guard‘s union. Why? Because keeping lifers in prison is in their best interest. We help manage the prison, making it easy on staff.

· One in five prisoners is a lifer.

· California‘s prison system is at almost 200% capacity with get this …. 170 thousand prisoners!

· Statistically, only about 1% of all lifers who face the Parole Boad ever get a recommendation and governor‘s blessing. One percent.

· Statuatory code is for the governor to appoint a composition of cross-section representation from the community to the Parole Board. This would be psychologists, retired judges and the like. Arnold, same as Pete Wilson and Gray Davis, has appointed law enforcement personnel and those who are part of Victim‘s Right‘s groups. The current Parole Board is 100% law enforcement.

· The Penal Code requires that a release date be set once the base term has been served.

· The current suitability rate for lifers is 5%.

· The governor‘s „power to review Parole decisions“ has never been used to review a Parole Board denial, but only to review a positive finding and find an excuse to reverse it.

· The recidivism rate in California for older lifers is less than one percent, so why not let my mother go?

Louise and Helen‘s stories

Louise is 70 years old and was locked away for 32 years on a 7 years-to-life sentence. While the Parole Board kept finding her suitable for parole, the governor continued to reverse their decision. Had he system evaluated Louise as to the written regulations, she‘d have been freed in 1984.

Louise worked on her addiction issues while incarcerated. It was her addiction that led to her convicted crime in the first place. She earned vocational certification and had a pretty imprressive C-file. She was a model inmate, yet she had to file a Writ against the Parole Board to seek her freedom. She was blessed with pro beno legal representation. I‘m glad to report that she gained her freedom, although it was nearly three decades later than what the legal code regulates it to have been.

Helen wasn‘t as fortunate. Sadly, Helen was convicted of conspiracy to commit murder, although two vital facts were clear: She had no knowledge of any crime being planned, nor was anyone hurt, let alone murdered. Her mistake was trusting her son to not put her in harm‘s way. She unknowingly had transported money for him. Guess what it was for?

Helen‘s kidneys were failing her the last several years of her life, requiring dialysis treatments 2x a week. It too two officers to escort her off of prison grounds all shackled up to an outside community center to complete the dialysis.

Helen served her base term sentence and sought parole, but the Parole Board denied her relase even though legally, they should have. She couldn‘t walk 30 yards without having to stop, sit on her walker seat, and catch her breath. How did she pose any threat to society? They further impacted the indignant insult of a denial by stating, „she didn‘t have firm employment plans.“ Yes, they actually expect you to gain firm employment regardless of your health if you are a lifer seeking parole. I should add, Helen was 85 years old. She gave up all hope and died in prison last year.

It cost about one million dollars a year to keep Helen in prison, due to her health complications. In Louise‘s case, I actually have a breakdown for her incarceration. In her case, the average cost for an inmate incarcerated from 1985-1996 was $49K a year. It was $138K a year for every year after 1996. Being that they held her for 26 years beyond her legal earliest possible release date, taxpayers spent 2.6 million dollars to keep Louise incarcerated after they‘d already forked out over $340K for her originally determined sentence. Taxpayers forked out over six million for Helen to remain illegallly incarcerated.

So, when anyone asks me why I have zero faith in the Parole Board or governor‘s review, it is a lot easier to just share some of the stories of other lifers who should have been released, but weren‘t. Our legal system is crippled. Our prison system is hell bent to keeping lifers in custody for job security (Parole Board) and to help maintain the prisons with structure and balance. We are quite literally political prisoners. Nothing more, nothing less. I told you not just Louise and Helen‘s stories, but ours as well. There are four ways out of prison: escape, parole, the courts, and death. I only see one of those alternatives as actually reasonable. It will take a judge to release us. We don‘t want to end up like Helen. So if you question why I don‘t trust the Parole Board, read this piece again.

Medical Receiver

The court appointed receiver over all 33 California state prisons has made some waves that Arnold‘s administration is none too happy with. The receiver oversees all areas of the 33 medical departments. If he says they need to do this or change that, it gets done. The problem is that modification costs money … money the state doesn‘t have.

The receiver was originally appointed in 2006 to improve the dysfunctional medical system. There has been much success, beginning with replacing MTA‘s with RN‘s. An MTA is a cop with the title of Medical Technician‘s Assistant. At best, they handed out hot meds and bandages, and took your vital signs. They couldn‘t perform CPR if your life depended on it, nor did half of them care to. They couldn‘t tell an asthma attack from a heart attack, so they were the first thing to go, thank God, literally.

The receiver has since proposed the construction of a 10.000 bad medical facility at the cost of six billion dollars. Arnold choked on his spit, because he‘s already sitting on a projected $20 billion deficit through June 2011. The receiver modified his proposal to house 3,400 inmates at a mere 1.9 billion dollars. Arnold decided to try to get rid of the receiver, but in April the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the federally appointed receiver can continue to improve medical for the 33 prisons.

It should be noted that the court pointed out in it‘s decision that, „The receivership was imposed only after the state admitted its inability to comply with consent orders intended to remedy the constitutional violation in its prisons.“ At least the Feds are looking out for us. Now, if only they‘d take over the entire prison system, including the Parole Board.

Q & A With T.C.

Q. Can you plant a garden at CCWF for fresh fruits & vegetables?

A. No. The prison wouldn‘t allow it, fearing we‘d bury contraband in the process to retrieve as needed. Also, there would be a lot of fighting over bully territory and theft by non-growers.

Q. What is going on with your college plans? Any changes?

A. No. The turmoil between staff runs off a top us, and the vice-principal has seen to it that the classroom we had been using, will once again become a staff breakroom. Even if we had a volunteer doctorate student to proctor for us, they would need to be here M-F 800-1500 hours. If they agreed to that, there‘d be no classroom availability, staff would see to that.

Q. Will Melissa Huckaby go to CCWF now that she‘s sentenced?

A. Yes, it could happen. There are three women‘s prisons! CCWF and VSP in Chowchilla, and CIW in Frontera (Southern Cal). The woman guilty in the death of the little cantu girl in Tracy, CA will be housed at any of these three, but most likely at VSP, and in Protective Custody at first.

Q. Where can I find that song by Meatloaf that you shared in the last newsletter?

A. Not sure of original release, but I have it on Meatloaf‘s „Best of Meatloaf“ double cassette set.

Q. Does CCWF do anything special for 4th of July?

A. The first thingI‘ll do, is salute the American flag I have hanging over our cell door. I do that everyday. The prison has a BBQ every year with a hot dog, hamburger, beans, cofn, watermelon, salad, fruit crisp, and usually iced drink. There will be inmate sponsored games on the yard. The only fireworks we see are on TV. This year they elimanated hot dogs and melon.

Q. Can your mom get Omega-3 oil there at CCWF?

A. At our cost, yes. It is good for lowering the cholesterol, and I believe it is heart healthy to the blood pressure as well. They used to RX it to her, but then there‘s the budget cuts to contend with. In June I had decided to begin campagning for the quarterly box vendors to offer it with their other supplement options, but they beat me to it.

Q. You mention the almond orchards out of your window. Do you get lots of almonds to eat?

A. No, not at all. The entire area surrounding the prison is almond orchards. They are harvested by inmate labor, which is hard work in this valley‘s scorching heat for 12 cents an hour. The almonds are sold for profit by PIA FARM. I‘ve elected to order raw untreated almonds in our quarterly box. No salt, no sugar, no coating. Good for the heart!

Q. Did the box vendors grant your request for better water immersion heaters (stingers) and Vegan Friendly Foods?

A. No. The stingers are still that worthless NORPRO brand. Union Supply says they forwarded my letter to their marketing dept. They didn‘t offer the Vegan friendly foods yet, but did grant my request for more diabetic friendly foods that are sugar-free to watch glucose levels. You win some, you need to pester for more. My mission continues, I never learned how to quit once I advocate for something.

A Few Corrections

In the previos newsletter, a type in a particular had a few of you scratching your heads. Mom had her hysterectomy in the free world in 1976, over thirty years ago. No, it was not here at CCWF in 1996.

The website to find the petition to help save the dolphins from slaughter in Japan is SaveJapanDolphins.com. The typo read SAFE instead of SAVE. Sorry about that.

Anna has to contend with my carpal tunnel penmanship in transferring my written words into the newsletter format. So, whenever there is a typo, it‘s most likely on me. With English being her second language, she does a pretty darn good job in helping make this newsletter. As a matter of fact, it wouldn‘t be possible without her.

Medication Cutbacks

There has been a notification flyer posted that effective the end of this year, many of the prescriptions we receive will be eliminated. Those medications are selective items such as cough drops, cold and flu items, digestive aids, and all vitamin supplements. We will be expected to purchase these items on canteen (except not all are available due to shelf space), or in our quarterly boxes. So, what is the indigent inmate expected to do? In a word: suffer.

Mom and I both have GERD (acid reflux disease) thanks to two decades of prison food. We take generic brand of Prilosec on a daily basis. That is on the hit list! We cannot find relief throughTums … not good enough. If the CMO refuses to fill an RX for Prilosec, I will file a 602. We are property of the State. Take care of us or let us go! That‘s my motto.

The canteen sells Motrin, but not Aspirin. Motrin will kill your kidneys, and mom‘s are already in trouble. Aspirin is iffy as to being on the hit list.

The entire purpose is to save money, but at the risk of making our health worse. This decision has ironically came down from Clark Kelso, the current Medical Receiver who is supposed to be on our side! He‘s trying to cut over $800 million in the medical budget to pacify Arnold Schwarzenegger. When he‘s cutting medications and outside specialists, I have to wonder just who‘s best interests he‘s interested in. I‘m not feeling too confident that it is ours anymore.

AB2232

Assembly Bill 2232 is before the Assembly Public Safety Committee. This is a move to raise our medical co-pay from the current five dollar fee, to ten dollars. Yes, even in prison, we have to pay for our medical care, even if half of our conditions are due to the prison lifestyle.

If I have six dollars on my acccount, they will take five just to see the doctor. In the near future that visit may not even gain a much needed RX. If I have no money, they‘ll place a hold on my account and require that I pay that debt before I can buy a bar of soap or tube of toothpaste.

So, if I have no money and I see that doctor, who will not be allowed to prescribe meds I may need, why see the doctor at all? If I pay the co-pay but have nothing left to pay for my meds if available on canteen, why see the doctor at all? I think the goal here is to discourage us from requesting to see the doctor. Cut our available meds and double the co-pay fee, which many cannot afford. This may permit the CDCR to cut staff positions to save money. Yes, I think that‘s their plan.

What Is Considered Indigent Status?

If you have one dollar or less, you‘re indigent. If you have one dollar and one cent or more, you‘re rich.

If you qualify for indigent status, you‘ll receive one bag of hygine product a month: shampoo, hair grease, flossers, toothpaste, horrible toothbrush and vaseline tube. You‘ll also receive 20 stamped envelopes.

If you don‘t qualify because you have over one dollar and a penny, good luck, you‘ll need it. Shampoo on canteen is one-eighthy. You can‘t even afford two bars of the cheapest soap! Indigent status used to be $5 or less, but the budget decided to affect the inmate population in a harsher way. You cannot buy your hygiene for the month for even $5, let alone one buck! What a joke.

If you‘re wondering what an indigent inmate does to survive, they either get a hustle in here, or those with more, help those with less. They system counts on that. It saves them money.

Late Breaking News!

The filmmaker Yoav Potash completed the documentary on Deborah Peagler‘s life story. It is called „Crime After Crime“, and is due to be released next year.

I‘m glad to report that Debbie was able to view the film at a February 4th premier screening.

For more on the film, visit the website FreeDebbie.org and there may be links to the film.

How Much Does A Guard Make?

A lot! A whole lot!

An officier with seniority is set at $50 an hour, but due to a recent budget crisis pay cut of 15%, they began to make $35. Talk about a difference in comfort! Many of the officiers who got the cut are considering retirement, in which they‘ll receive 90% of their salary, plus full benefits.

On average, a guard makes over $15K in overtime pay a year! Prison is a money making industry. However, their union fought the 15% pay cut and left Sacramento no alternative –they got cut down to minimum wage. On 7/16/10, Arnold reversed that decision.

Help Us, Help To Free Molly Kilgore ….. Please?

In the earlier stories I shared of Helen & Louise, I imagine you found it upsetting.. If so, Molly Kilgore‘s plight should be equally upsetting, however it is not too late to help her gain a second chance. After all, wouldn‘t we all want one?

Molly Kilgore was sentenced in 1979 at the age of twenty, to 7 years-to-life. I was in the ninth grade that year. The average person would assume that by 1985 at her earliest possible release date, she‘d have been paroled. That is not the case. Since 1985, she has had 14 Parole Suitability Hearings, having been found suitable by a court of law in 2005 and finally once by the Parole Board in December 2010. As mentioned before, Proposition 89 grants the governor the power to reverse the Parole Board‘s suitability finding, and that‘s just what Schwarzenegger did recently.

Molly has served 31 years on a 7-years-to-life sentence. She is 51 years old and still fighting for her freedom 27 years past her legal matrix release date. The Board gave her hope for a real New Year when they found her suitable on December 30, 2009. She had hope for a new life ….. a second chance. Arnold however, with absolutely no training in the law, burst her bubble in June 2010 by not agreeing with the findings of his hand picked Parole Board.

There are various excuses that the Board and governor tend to use to deny parole. The most common one is the heinow act of the crime. While the law reads that they are to judge us according to our prison record, they still get away with putting us on trial every single time we appear before them. Again, I will state the obvious: We cannot change our pasts or our crimes. We can only change ourselves to become better people that can fit within the norms of a collective society. In her 2009 hearing, they finally didn‘t hold an inquisition in the death of her victim. They judged her on her records she clearly had been rehabilitated.

Do you want to know why Arnold denied Molly parole? It is the very same obstacle most lifers can‘t hurdle. She didn‘t have employment plans arranged in writing and confirmed for the Board. May I remind you that this is not easy in a stable economy, let alone this one we are facing now? Most employers require a job interview, and well, you‘re supposed to go to them for that, not them coming to prison to do it. They also need to know when you can start, but you won‘t know that answer until you are actually released. Unless you have family or a friend in a position to hold a job open for you indefinitely, this is a catch-22. Employers won‘t grant you a job unless you will be released, and the Board & Governor require you to have a job before you can be released. It‘s almost impossible.

The Board was completely satisfied with Molly‘s many resources for houseing, community support and outreach. They were impressed by the support of both custody & civilian staff at the prison, her vocational skills, accomplishments in the Educational Department, and her ability to adapt and work in unison where ever the prison officials placed her. She‘s been write-up free since 1989, yet they did manage to throw that in her face (although she‘s maintained disciplinary-free for nineteen years!) Do you have any idea how hard that is to do in a place like this? She has an exemplary C-file of progress and achievement reports. Molly has proven that change is possible. Although the prison has continued to cut educational, shelf-help, and just about every rehabilitation option and resource we need, Molly Kilgore has persevered. Even with less, she‘s done more.

I‘m asking that you do three things. First, write a letter in support of her release, using many things I already mentioned in this piece to support your request of consideration. Second, send a copy directly to Molly and one to her counselor listed at end of this piece. And third, visit a petition web site set-up for Molly in support of her release. As of mid-July, there were 69 signatures on her petition.

If each of you signs that petition, we can almost double that! E-mail this newsletter to others who may be interested, and let‘s get more people aware of the politics of prison and parole policy.

Molly Kilgore is one of the women at CCWF that is deserving of a second chance. Society could benefit from her release. So far, it has cost California over two million dollars to keep Molly incarcerated past her legal release date. When is enough ……. enough?

Mail letter to:

Molly Kilgore Central CA Women‘s Facility

W14177 514-05-3L Attn. CCI BRADFORD

P.O. Box 1508 P.O. Box 1501

Chowchilla, CA 93610 Chowchilla, CA 93610

Web site: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/Free-Molly_Kilgore-31-years-is-enough

From The Heart

„Hear counsel, receive instruction, and accept correction, that you may be wise in the time to come.“ – proverbs 19:20

When I came to prison I had a chip on my shoulder. I was mad at everything, especially the legal system. I had to deal with anger issues, my past, and really poor judgement. There are a lot of younger lifers coming in here and it‘s the older lifers who try to exercise a service that advise the Proverb above. We reach some, we lose some to peer mentality, but in the end we simply do our part to keep things less hectic and help the youngsters get started on the road ahead. It is what others did for us, and we keep the cycle going. I‘m not so angry anymore. I needed counsel, correction and instruction.

So I say from the heart to you: Thank you for your part in the long process. It‘s been a journey; a learning experience. And it still is.

Namasté

T.C. & Mama ´P´

T.C. Paulinkonis Barbara Paulinkonis

W45118 514-16-4U W45120 514-16-4L

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

Chowchilla, CA 93610 Chowchilla, CA 93610

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Dear Blog Reader,

I tend to publish items about pug dogs, writing classes, stuff I’ve written, other writers, and always quips of book reviews sneak in every now and then. Last year I found my blog had themes of spirituality and pugs, and the pugs were edging ahead. It may very well be this year, thoughts from Baha’i individuals, institutions, artists, and whomever may appear more on these pages.

the world is complex to say the least, and yet a lot of people say about the Baha’is, “They’re always so happy,” and yes, when we get together, there’s a collective joy and renewal from being with friends, like-minded people, community builders from the greater community.

I became a Baha’i about 45 years ago, and outwardly I looked like an airline stewardess and was probably a little lippy too. Underneath tho, I was scared, ruled by underlying anxieties. Transformation came slowly, some patches in my life were incredibly arduous, and I bless every moment. I am at the point where my favorite quote from the Baha’i Writings is, “Nothing save that which profiteth them shall befall My loved ones.” I believe that quote applies to all of humanity, and that we’ve finally achieved the status in the world of a toe step into the circle of Coming of Age. With that in mind, I’d like to humbly offer a paragraph quoted from our recent letter To the Baha’is of the Word, from our international governing body, The Universal House of Justice. It concerns all of us. The message really addresses all of humanity:

“Baha’u’llah’s Revelation is vast. It calls for profound change not only
at the level of the individual but also in the structure of society. “Is not
the object of every Revelation”, He Himself proclaims, “to effect a
transformation in the whole character of mankind, a transformation that shall
manifest itself, both outwardly and inwardly, that shall affect both its inner
life and external conditions?” The work advancing in every corner of the globe
today represents the latest stage of the ongoing Baha’i endeavour to create the
nucleus of the glorious civilization enshrined in His teachings, the building
of which is an enterprise of infinite complexity and scale, one that will
demand centuries of exertion by humanity to bring to fruition. There are no
shortcuts, no formulas. Only as effort is made to draw on insights from His
Revelation, to tap into the accumulating knowledge of the human race, to apply
His teachings intelligently to the life of humanity, and to consult on the
questions that arise will the necessary learning occur and capacity be
developed.”

Stay wonderful…..esther

Reader, I am prompts person this week for CHPercolator for Writers and I must admit they were a little odd, gave me pause, so here’s what i wrote to my own prompts (using all of them) go to Yahoo’s CHPercolatorforWriters:
But I don’t think of blood. I thought this was the German blog and that CHPerc
was for Maxwell House devotees reunions. I had a difficult relationship with my
blood when I first got my sainted St. Jude Plastic Heart Valve. But now,
because I did a quick intake of breath on my first conscious awareness of a
foreign object ticking noticeably in my heart area in 1995, and with that breath
said, “Welcome. If you weren’t there as a full fledged aortic valve, I shudder
to think in what condition I might be.

For instance, I’m happy now to know my innards carry a never ending series of
light rail cars or trains, and that besides my inner mind’s landscape which has
traffic jams and nettling long lights, my physiological system is up and
running. Toot. Toot, Not only like a train system, maybe it’s like a river.
Now there’s a river, and I see ,,,,, oh bollocks, off track again.

Well the big thing in my young life is imagining my brain as three sloppy scoops
of ice cream. I mean I think they’d be on a cone, not a flaky little square
think that looks like it got manufactured at the dollar store, no my cone would
be like an urn, large and wide at the top; with flaky waffle imprints all around
it, down to its pointy, pointy bottom. The NPR guy said “3 scoops of ice cream
cone,” and that you could think of these scoops as your brain.

Does this mean my brain drips, sags, spills, stains? What I do know is I could
make them different flavors. Frog could be solid chocolate, firm, foundational,
and the middle scoop Reptile could be Praline and Vanilla, sort of twisty, the
praline would gently touch the top one Squirrel which would be plain Vanilla
with chocolate chips, stored by Squirrel, ever conscious that it doesn’t always
live in Pasadena and it must plan and save ahead.

Finally, the something or other bellum surrounds this cone of magnificent
splendor. I’d name my ice creams, not Frog, Reptile, or Squirrel, but imagine
them as pet names, like Stinky, Inky and Winky, or Sluggo at the bottom, Nancy
in between, and Ferret on the top.

All of which makes me wonder about the abandoned tunnels of my mind, nothing but
loose cabooses of railway cars shooting through, not stopping. Oh dear.

Well I’ve seen Woody Woodpecker cartoons, cobbled together my life and eaten
some cobblers and love the sound of “cobble, cobbles, cobbles.” I am
co-operative, but am I a Co-operative, but wait when I was 21 (when the earth
was young and you could still see primordial bubbles from your back porch) an
attorney I worked for gave me a Charles Addams Wednesday doll, and he bought it
from the Harvard Coop or Co-op, and it was a Christmas gift becuz I was his
secretary, and I went flying around all floors of the firm, ecstatic to show my
gift.

I was more manic then. Life has honed my psyche down, and upped my physical
presence, i.e., I have a bigger shadow on the sidewalk. Question of the day;
“Does my shadow look fat”?

Answer that question, and like a cultural sleuth that you are, you can
determine, country of origin, and maybe which coast, the left or right the
original questioner lives, or the best coast some people say. No, a duck will
not come out of the ceiling, but you will feel the satisfaction of knowing, and
maybe identifying silly clues, all the while as your derriere goes by a Ross
Dress for Less Window, and you note your nose was ahead of you a good city
block.

Does Ann of Green Gables qualify? Many a Gable makes a gobble and one could
cobble those phrases together if one wanted to bore the hell out of next weeks
respondees to prompts, so one won’t.

But I’ve never played Polo.

Now the perfect man is another matter. I have Old Friends, new friends, young
friends, weird friends (the best) and all manner of friends; I have a husband
who is the perfect man for me, notice the small letters, no initial caps for
this guy, but he’s an earthly being who sometimes I want to wrap around the
pole, but then I remember my own looming eccentricities and feel gratitude
instead; so he’s my perfect man, and we have one bed and two coffees which he
bring to me every morning, no he doesn’t bring the bed, but the coffee.

And so as the sun beams into my right eyeball, and I am late for a doctor’s
appointment with the Perfect Man, and I am in my imperfect flannel, plaid,
green, black, purple nightshirt, I will escape this cobbled rambling and slither
hither and thither into the day.

Kudos to Mrs. Little Jeans http://mrslittlejeans.blogspot.com/ whose blog is light, scientific, spiritual, but mostly whimsical.  I feel as if I catch a ride on a butterfly’s wing each time I enter the pages and read about Ollie and i forget his name, forgive me God.

Enchanting whimsy and delight my time spent in these pages, where my heart softens, my arms feel as if I’m holding a pug, or viewing a cat that is my own for these cyber moments, and laughter of the silent kind causes my ribs to go up and down.

Meanwhile I might just add today was an accomplished day.  Bill saw a physical therapist, feels heartened by guidance, and we had lunch at Corner Baker which means tonight is no cook because we’ll have the other half of our lunches!  Trader Joes where I found the monkey Mollie, after some grandmother loudly told her little grandson, “Look above the pizza,” and then later I go to the checkout and learn I can get a lollipop or a sticker, and it is a brutal disappointment.  I thought i’d win a month’s free watermelon rinds, or free pickings of stuff not eaten, or one free 99 cent card, but still the joy of shopping at TJ’s; the beauty of the glossy fruit, pushing a red shopping cart to and fro and just palling around with Mr. Bill is wonderful.  To heck with Rosie the Monkey, who I am secretly happy is strictly for children’s joy of discovery.

Am very sleepy; will read paper and walk around 4-time fleets so to speak, skates, vaults, you name it; the joy of being an old gal with a buddy, Mr. Bill.  A sunny day, too hot for my liking, but living in a tree-lined neighborhood where some trees arch over any walker as if gracing the walker with protection.  total wow.

s;

Thursday, 6 p.m. to 7 p.m., I will be reading from my lastest book You Carry the Heavy Stuff! at La Pintoresca Library, corner of Raymond and Washington in Pasadena.

Would love to see you there!

Listen up cuz this isn’t about numbers, unless you’re counting meat patties, which are build your own, fresh 100% natural Angus beef, and hormone and antibiotic free if you want to know.  Am I for real, you betchum.  Laura, Nick and be still my heart, Jessica came up, and celebrated early Mother’s Day for this old Sorry Gnat for if you really want to know isn’t sorry at all. 

we went to the counter and it’s in Pasadena next to the Green Street Restaurant, and when my build your own burger came, which to be exact was a Veggie Burger, and lots of buildings on it like grilled onions, red, thin, round onions with tart taste, crisp cool green cucumber slices, slathers of tomato slices, laying on top like a comforter and then the piece de resistance (can’t find my French accents on this pewter), I felt as if I were having a religious experience, and you know what; that veggie burger was light, refreshing, and solidly nutritious, and this wasn’t even a Pepsi moment.

Feeling light and fit and filled with good food, company, and I met the owner, and liked him so much, shook hands.  Well, he had laughed when I said, this is a religious experience, but I wish him well.

So It’s 140 Shoppers Lane in Pasadena, California 91101 and the website is thecounterburger.com

Nice to go to a place where things are so incredibly edible, pretty and no chemicals. My body is in shock and joy.  Shock and Awe that’s it all because of the Counter Custom Built Burgers.  Go there if you haven’t heard of it.

Then I was further spoiled by Jessica who got me a candle with 3 wicks and the most delicious smelling vanilla something or other and Laura and Nick gave me a bracelet which was so totally me. i’d scan it to show you, but not sure; at any rate, it’s like diagonal ivory keys, black and white, angled, and then bracelet is angled too; so me, and then a necklace which is to die for, which I can’t describe now, because i gotta go, and these gifts came from Ten Thousand Villages, a great fair trade outfit on Lake near California, practically next to Starbucks and a must to shop particularly nice for gifts for friends.

We are going to be in the desert on Mother’s Day; same thing happened last year or year before, but Nikki and her husband Shawn will be there, and then Nikki is off to Adelaide, Australia to live, and we will miss her, but her sister Celeste will be happy and her mom and Michael will visit; so all is good on the planet, for this spoiled mom.

“How numerous are those peoples of divers beliefs, of conflicting creeds, and opposing temperaments, who, through the reviving fragrance of the Divine springtime, breathing from the Ridvan of God, have been arrayed with the new robe of divine Unity, and have drunk from the cup of His singleness!

This is the significance of the well-known words:  ‘The wolf and the lamb shall feed together.’    Baha’u’llah (Gleanings)

The Festival of Ridvan — the most sacred Baha’i holiday

http://www.bahai.us/

The Festival of Ridvan (Riz-wahn), celebrated from April 21 to May 2, commemorates the anniversary of Baha’u’llah’s declaration in 1863 that He was the Promised One of all earlier religions.

The Ridvan period is bittersweet, as Baha’u’llah was soon to be exiled to Constantinople (now Istanbul, Turkey). Baha’u’llah spent 12 days in a garden in Baghdad visiting with His followers. He named the garden Ridvan, which means “Paradise” or “good pleasure” in Arabic.

The Most Great Festival is, indeed, the King of Festivals. Call ye to mind, O people, the bounty which God hath conferred upon you. Ye were sunk in slumber, and lo! He aroused you by the reviving breezes of His Revelation, and made known unto you His manifest and undeviating Path. — Baha’u’llah

When He entered the garden, Baha’u’llah proclaimed the Festival of Ridvan and made three announcements: First, He forbade His followers to fight to advance or defend the Faith (religious war had been permitted under past religions); second, He declared there would not be another prophet for another 1,000 years; and third, He proclaimed that all the names of God were inherent in all things at that moment.

Baha’u’llah’s arrival in Ridvan and his announcement of the Festival of Ridvan mark the moment when the essence of the Baha’i Faith was expressed.

Baha’is suspend work on the holiest days of Ridvan—the first, ninth and 12th . These mark the day of Baha’u’llah’s arrival in the garden, the arrival of His family and the group’s departure for Constantinople.

Throughout Ridvan, Baha’is gather for devotions and attend social gatherings. In Texas, Perry Productions has been staging a Ridvan pageant for the last 10 years. 

At Ridvan, Baha’is annually elect members of local and national administrative bodies, called Spiritual Assemblies. Baha’u’llah taught that in an age of universal education, there was no longer a need for a special class of clergy. Instead, he provided a framework for administering the affairs of the Faith through a system of elected councils at the local, national and international levels. All Baha’i elections occur through secret ballot and plurality vote, without candidacies, nominations or campaigning.