Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Article - Social Anxiety Disorder: More Than Just Shyness

© July 21, 2010

Buying groceries, talking on the phone, and going to work are things most of us do on a daily basis and they aren’t extremely arduous tasks to accomplish. However, there are those who believe that scaling a thousand foot rock face would be less of a challenge. For some, he idea of taking part in social situations, no matter how small, creates feelings of depression and nervousness and can induce physical reactions such as dizziness and nausea. These people suffer from what is known as social anxiety disorder. Social anxiety disorder is a fear of being judged in a harsh or negative way by one’s peers. It can induce feelings of worthlessness, insecurity, anger, and severe depression. It is also not uncommon for the disorder to be accompanied by other conditions such as claustrophobia and panic attacks.

Social anxiety disorder should not be confused with agoraphobia. Although there are some similarities, the two are completely different. Agoraphobia is an irrational fear of being caught in a public place with no why to escape without being shamefully humiliated. With social anxiety disorder a person fears more than just going out in public. Most of the time they have very low-self esteem and find it difficult to bond with others, even their own family members. People suffering from agoraphobia may become so crippled by their fear that they have to depend on others to do things for them, such as buying groceries.

In the 1930s, social neurosis was a term psychologists used to describe those who displayed extreme shyness, but it wasn’t until the 1960s when a British psychiatrist by the name of Isaac Marks was the first to recognize social anxiety as being separate from other disorders (Answers.com). Unfortunately, until the 1980s social anxiety disorder was often misdiagnosed or ignored completely. Many of the medical advancements in treatment of it have been made in just the past twenty years. The good news is that there are many treatment options available. Psychiatrists usually employ a form of psychotherapy in combination with medication. Cognitive behavioral therapy along with a prescribed antidepressant seems to be the most effective method. Introduced in the early nineties, paroxetine (more commonly known as Paxil) is still one of the most widely used medications, even though it has been linked to birth defects if taken while pregnant.

There is much debate as to what causes social anxiety disorder, as psychologists have differing perspectives, but it may be a combination of several factors. Environment has been known to play a key part. For example, someone who was overprotected as a child and told of all the bad things that could happen may withdraw from society. It’s just as likely that a horrifically embarrassing event can make a person dread going out in public. A chemical imbalance in the brain can be a biological cause of social anxiety, as well as many other disorders. When serotonin, “a neurotransmitter . . . that is involved in sleep, depression, memory, and other neurological processes” is produced inefficiently it can cause complications in those areas; which is why an anxiety disorder is usually accompanied by conditions like insomnia (Dictionary.com).

According to research, over nineteen million Americans suffer from the disorder making it the third most common mental illness, following depression and alcoholism (Chakraburtty). Despite this fact, social anxiety disorder is one of the hardest mental illnesses to diagnose for a couple of reasons. People who have social anxiety may not exhibit symptoms of the disorder. They will try to hide it, dismiss it, or may not even be aware of the fact that they have it. Also, being that it is an anxiety disorder it has symptoms similar to those of other anxiety disorders such as confusion or losing one’s train of thought, stomach trouble, sleeplessness, and body aches. However, the irrational fear that one has when faced with social situations is a tell-tale sign that he or she may have social anxiety disorder.

It’s also important to note that social anxiety can affect anyone, even someone who is popular and receives lots of attention. Yes, I’m talking about celebrities. An article in Yahoo! Sports recently reported that Kansas City’s star pitcher Zack Greinke was diagnosed as having the disorder. Sports psychologist Harvey Dorfman says that by Zack publicly admitting that he’s not perfect has also helped other players come forward and receive treatment for similar problems (Edes). Upon further research, I found out that there are several other prominent figures in Hollywood who have been diagnosed with the disorder. Celebrities such as Kim Basinger, Barbara Streisand, and Donny Osmond (Cuncic).

Social anxiety disorder is prevalent in the United States. Both its causes and effects are broad, and ongoing research is still seeking answers for how to prevent such illnesses. Unfortunately there is still so much about the brain that we may never know. However, treatment options are available and if patients receive the help they need, social anxiety disorder can be overcome and people can live relatively normal lives.


Anonymous. "Social Anxiety Disorder." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 26 Jun 2010. Web. 20 Jul 2010. .

Anonymous. "Serotonin." Dictionary.com. Ask.com, 2010. Web. 20 Jul 2010. .

Chakraburtty, Amal . "Social Anxiety Disorder." WebMD. WebMD, LLC, 09 Feb 2009. Web. 21 Jul 2010. .

Edes, Gordon. "Acknowledging anxiety made Greinke a torchbearer." Yahoo! Sports. Yahoo!, 03 Jun 2010. Web. 21 Jul 2010. .

Cuncic, Arlin. "Celebrities With Social Anxiety." About.com. About.com, 21 Mar 2010. Web. 22 Jul 2010.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Review - Dark Card

Dark Card
By Rebecca Foust
Texas Review Press
ISBN: 978-1-933896-14-4

Dark Card, Rebecca’s first book, deals with the pain and triumphs of raising a child with Asperger’s Syndrome. Her frustration with the way the world treats her son comes through in several of the poems but none more keenly than the poem for which the book was titled:

Before they get angry, I pull out my deck
deal out what they want. Yes, he’s different
but look at his IQ score, his Math SAT!

There are also poems that express the everyday worries and fears of a mother. Such as "Sometimes The Mole Is Merely:"

Sometimes they happen – bombs
blow up school buses, a son’s shyness
is autism, the mole is more than a mole,
a teenager mistakes the brake for the gas

and that sound like a recycle truck drop-gate
where no truck should be and you run, you run
outside and see in the back wall of the garage
the cartoon-cutout shape the size of a car,
but the color of sky.

Writing the words in this collection probably proved to be therapeutic at the time and the way they’ve been refined into the heartfelt poetics they are is the mark of a gifted writer. With this book, Rebecca Foust has given a piece of herself to the world. Her writings are intensely real. I would recommend Dark Card to parents of children of all ages and mental capabilities.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Lest We Forget

I don't want to sound like I'm anti-American, because I'm not. A lot of brave people died today 11 years ago. They weren't concerned with getting revenge. They weren't filled with hate and contempt for the people who had done this, at least not at that moment. The only thing that mattered was saving lives, some of them complete strangers. So yes, let's remember them.

But let's also remember the
quiet heroes. The mothers who spent their entire lives doing what was best for their children, not caring what degrading labels they were branded with. The single fathers who were often overlooked because as we all know, men are supposed to be tough. And even the pets who died or maimed themselves to protect their masters.

Remember, lest we forget, that what makes us alive is more than flesh and blood.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Lake Michigan, Winter 2011

Review - Mom's Canoe

Mom’s CanoeBy Rebecca Foust
Texas Review Press
ISBN: 978-1-933896-27-4

Few poets can capture the emotion, history and truth of rural life in the Midwest the way Rebecca Foust can. Her latest chapbook, Mom’s Canoe, stands as a testament to that.

Born in the city, but raised predominantly country, I connect personally with several of the poems in the twenty-four piece collection. Even though the rural landscapes we come from are different some similarities exist. Such as the hardships faced as evidenced in the poem, “Things Burn Down.”

. . . Papap hauled ash
or laid brick; he was skilled with a trowelbut there was no work, understand? Don’t ask
what keeps a man from filling his flaskwith what he’d divined from the wells he’d drilledwith his own hands, or why Dad’s damask

was a gray square he hacked on to clear ash
from his throat. Thick smoke from the papermillall day and night, understand? No one askedin those days if that shit could kill you . . .

I am also partial to the poem, “How The Fish Feels.”

hooked, jerked up from allit knew, fluid, muted milieubefore bright bite of metalMs. Foust draws on her family and childhood memories to fill the pages with words all of us can comprehend, whether we come from an urban or a rural background, with such poems as “Kinship Of Flesh.” A poem about reuniting with a forgotten family member.

Visits, letters, calls, e-mails
windleduntil it seemed we had lessin common than people I metin line at the post office.

It is no wonder Rebecca Foust has won the Robert Phillips poetry Chapbook Prize two years in a row.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Poem - Twinkling Star

© 2008

I gazed upon a twinkling star one night
Wishing I had a telescope
It seemed to be alive
As it bounced and wiggled
Flashing from stark white to fiery red
Transfixed, I was unable to sleep
As my mind explored its existence
The star was suspended in the black
Yet constantly insisted on dancing
I watched and waited for it
To rocket across the sky
But as anxious as it was it remained
A still life in motion

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Article - Connecting Continents: Computers in Modern Society

© May 24, 2010

The personal computer has come a long way since its introduction in the 1970s. You can do virtually anything via the internet; including shopping, paying bills, and conducting business meetings. A person really never has to leave the house and this is why some argue that computers do more harm than good. However, like everything else in life computers come with advantages and disadvantages.

First, let’s look at the problems computers can cause in our society. One that shouts out to me is identity theft. It seems it is getting easier for hackers to steal someone’s identity but there are simple precautions people can take to protect themselves. For example, when shopping online make sure to use a secure website and don’t shop on a website you’re not familiar with. Of course you could just do it the old fashioned way and actually visit the supermarket.

Accessibility is another important issue. While 149 million people worldwide have internet access (Affonso) that’s only about 25% of the world’s population. Economic status, disability, and computer illiteracy are several factors that limit people’s access to computers.

There is also the negative effect that computers have on today’s youth. Clifford Stoll, author of Silicon Snake Oil: Second Thoughts on the Information Highway, believes “education requires interaction between good teachers and motivated students, and computers get in the way of this relationship.” He argues that “it is more important to teach analytical thinking and creativity than computer skills, even if computers are becoming prevalent throughout society.” (Winters) I don’t entirely disagree with this statement but if students did not develop their computer skills they would be lost when thrown into the real world. After all, that’s what an education is supposed to prepare students for. Besides that, I always thought creativity was something that an individual already possessed and could merely be taught how to use.

Computers themselves are not to blame for these problems, the users are. Technological advances that have been made in medical fields have saved countless lives. Communication is now possible with those in countries who were never able to reach out before.
Regardless of all the negative criticism computers receive, most of us wouldn’t know how to function without one. However, this sort of dependency can be problematic if, for some reason, we find ourselves without technology. It is up to each one of us as individuals to decide how computers can make a beneficial impact on our lives.

Source List
Winters, Paul A. “Introduction.” Current Controversies: Computers And Society. 2004 Aug. Web. 17 May 2010.

Affonso, Bob. Effect of the Internet On Social Skills: Is the Internet Affecting the Socail Skills of our Children? 1 Dec. 1999. Web. 17 May 2010.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Crochet - Quick & Easy Blocking Method

Some crochet projects may require blocking to the right measurements or shape. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of resources for blocking on the web so I won't go into detail here. I will however share with you a method that works rather well and does not require the use of an iron, which can flatten and ruin some designs.

What you will need:
  • straight pins
  • 3 terry cloth bath towels
  • a sink full of lukewarm water
What you will do:
  1. Fold two of your towels and stack them.
  2. Thoroughly soak your project in water and then ring out.
  3. Roll it in the other towel to get the excess moisture that ringing out missed.
  4. Smooth the project to the desired shape and pin in place.
  5. Allow to dry completely before removing. You can use a fan to speed up the process.
Note that this is to be used with smaller pieces. For anything larger than 10" it may not work.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Review - Wild Strawberries

Wild Strawberries
By Eric Greinke
Presa Press
ISBN 978-0-9800081-1-1

Coming across them
Unexpectedly, as
A child, they
Taste as fresh
As red. Hard
To collect enough
To bring home
For jam, so we
Eat them while we can

Wild Strawberries, that’s exactly what each poem in this collection is. In the opening poem, "Heart Berries," Greinke writes:

Indians called them
Heart berries
They ate them
At the beginning of summer
To make them brave
For the rest of the year.

This brings to mind how the words of a poet can be inspiring and lend us strength through difficult times. Even in such dark and violent poems as "Hard Edges:"

Bloody soldiers lie like sticks
On a hurricane beach

Bionic limbs replace shot off
Branches, grotesque woodpiles

A posse of insane clowns tunes up
Guided by the grinding wheels of half-tracks

Shells scream through the morning mist
Black smoke swirls over abandoned boots

We’re still marching in perfect order
Into the red-stained funeral song.

This one passage can have so many different meanings to different readers. And the imagery is so intense I felt as if I was on the battlefield.

The author cannot be indentified by his poems, rather his poems identify him. He doesn’t write in one particular style or mood. The tone of his poetry is as varied as the topics he writes about. He writes of his memories, of nature, of everyday life and does so in a manner that brings out the essence of being human and transports the reader to the mystical place that resides in each poem. Whether "camping on the edge of the open sky," or "on a path of glacial footprints," or even at Whitefish Point Light where "sailors’ ghosts sometimes appear as whitecaps in broad daylight, trying to rise above the surf that tore them from this life."

Madron Lake

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Fiction - Seven Days Lost in the Void

© January 24, 2012

It felt like waking up on the edge of the earth. Something existed on the edge that I had been missing but had somehow managed to live without for the last thirty-two years. Of course, with there being no “six a.m. wake-up” app from my smart phone the day was half gone by the time I did get out of bed, but between those first moments of shock and panic dwelled something mysterious and peaceful.

The week started as usual with the kids fighting over God-knows-what and Jesse, the Saint Bernard, swiping bacon off Daniel’s plate when he wasn’t looking. I had a rule about no technology before breakfast so the fact that it was already one p.m. didn’t matter. I just assumed I had forgot to charge my phone the night before. It wasn’t until we arrived at church we realized something was wrong. There was no one there except Pastor Rob.

“Where is everyone?” Daniel asked.

“Gone home. Service ended three hours ago. The worldwide lock out really has you in a bad place doesn’t it?”

“My wife has this crazy rule about no tech –. Worldwide what?”

“That’s what they’re calling it. No one knows why but for some reason most of technology ceased to function as of twelve a.m. this morning. Don’t you watch the news?”

Daniel narrowed his eyes at me. I pretended not to notice. No technology means no technology. If it’s not required to make breakfast it’s off limits.

“No!” Our twelve-year-old daughter, Abby, fell to her knees hyperventilating. “Oh my God. No Facebook. Oh my God. Oh my God. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe.”

I rolled my eyes and looked over to her younger brother, Nathan, whose eyes had glassed over. His lower jaw was hanging down to his chest and I could have sworn there was a little drool leaking from the corner of his mouth. Lord have mercy. If my husband was as lost as my children we were all doomed. I looked around but Daniel had disappeared. I heard the sounds of someone vomiting and spotted him bent over behind the car, his head between his knees. I marched over, hands on my hips.

“What the heck is wrong with you?” I demanded.

“There’s no internet.”

“Yeah, so?”

“Don’t you understand?” He grabbed my arms and shook me. “No internet means no PS3. No live streaming from NetFlix. It’s the end of the world!”

“Enough!” I slapped him on the back of the head. He blinked and refocused.

“Thanks babe. I needed that.”

Satisfied Daniel was sane, for the moment, I went back to slap my children on their heads. “The three of you are going to get in the car and we are going to go home to a technology-free environment and be happy about it!”

“Yeah,” said Daniel. “Just because we’re descending into the dark ages doesn’t mean we have to be miserable.”

I shot him a look and he jumped into the driver’s seat and revved the engine.

Three days later, not much had changed. We were still living in a technology-free environment and no one was happy about it. The kids were bickering non-stop, Daniel had become distant and I’d had a migraine since Tuesday morning. Board games had become boring and we’d had so much “family time” that we were way past the sharing point. It was hard for me to admit but without technology we weren’t a family. We were just four people who happened to share the same living space.

I looked into the den where Daniel was reclining in his La-Z-Boy, channel surfing through the six local channels we were left with. Nathan was sprawled on the sofa, tossing cheese balls into the air, trying to catch them in his mouth. Most of them were falling between the couch cushions. I found Abby at the kitchen table with an old lock box I recognized as my mother’s. It was the only thing I still had that belonged to her. It contained important stuff, like the deed to the house, as well as a few mementos: a wedding photo of mom and dad, locks of hair from the kids’ first haircuts, pictures from their younger days and the Robinson family recipe for chocolate banana cookies.

I poured a cup of coffee and sat beside Abby. “You look sad.”

“I was just thinking about how Grandma and Grandpa survived without technology. It must have been pretty hard.”

“Probably no harder than life would have been with it.” I took a sip of coffee as Abby gave me her you’re-an-adult-and-you-don’t-know-anything look. “Well, think about it. Is your life easy?” She opened her mouth and shut it again. Taking that as a no I went on. “Think about what life has been like these past four days.”


“Well, yes, but has it really been hard?”

“No, but technology makes you smarter.”

“Okay, then. What’s one hundred eighty-nine divided by nine?”

She reached for her phone then remembered it didn’t work. “No one can answer that without a calculator.”

“Twenty-one. It’s not that you can’t live without technology. It’s just that you’ve become so used to it being there that you think you can’t. Do you remember your first day of kindergarten?” She shook her head. “Boy, I do. You caused such a scene. Kicking and screaming. You were so afraid that I wasn’t coming back for you. The first couple of weeks, Mr. Bromsturm would distract you with the building blocks while I would sneak quietly out the door. After that you couldn’t wait to see Mr. Bromsturm and I actually got jealous.” I chuckled remembering those days. “My point is, things change. Sometimes we don’t think we can live with those changes but we find a way to adapt and after a while we can’t imagine life any other way.”

She didn’t reply and I could tell she was mulling it over. I stared out the kitchen window. Jesse was in the backyard with his nose to the ground. Every now and then he would jump and put his nose to a different spot. Probably torturing a cricket. It was that puppy innocence that made me realize something. I tapped Abby on the arm. “Follow me.”

Entering the den, I snatched the remote from Daniel and clicked off the TV. At the same time I caught a cheese ball in midair. Everyone stared at me, wondering what wrath I was going to unleash this time. I simply said, “There’s a world out there and we’re going to go see it. So pack your bags because we are leaving tomorrow.” No one moved. They just continued to stare at me. I was glad they hadn’t complained but the silence was a little unnerving. “What?”

“Where are we going?” asked Nathan.

“Well.” Daniel rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “We always wanted to take you kids to the coast. Now’s as good a time as any.”

It took about a day to get there, but several Mighty Kids Meals and bathroom breaks later we arrived at the coast of Maine. Almost instantly, a humpback whale broke the surface of the Atlantic. We had arrived at the edge of the earth and it was breathtaking. We finished out the week visiting every beach we could find and hiking the cliffs along Maine’s southern coast. We vacationed like we never had before; with no cell phones, no GPS, and no calls back to the office. The children actually went more than twenty-four hours without screaming at one another and there was more love making between Daniel and I than there had been on our honeymoon. Before we knew it, it was Sunday again. This time the “six a.m. wake-up” app was working just fine. Well, it would have been, if I had turned on my phone.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Poem - Another Sleepless Night

© 2003

On another sleepless night
I sit on my porch of cinder blocks
In silence
Except for the rhythmic chirping of a cricket
And the occasional passing car
The trees appear as tall lurking strangers
Casting unfamiliar shadows across houses
The air is smooth and cool
And the gray-blue mass overhead is dusted with glitter
On another sleepless night
I sit on my porch of cinder blocks
In remembrance
I embrace memories of my childhood and regret
Only that I did not live it more freely
I recall moments like these and realize there are few
I look upon myself and my situation and wonder
What have I done to get here
Or have I done anything at all
Is it just my fate
I question myself and the man that denied me
On another sleepless night
I sit on my porch of cinder blocks
In love
In love with a man that doesn't exist
Dreaming things that will never be
Hoping for things that are impossible for a mere woman
I sit; filled with guilt worry and sorrow
My feet are in the grave and sinking fast
I see no relief from this pressure on my shoulders, cramping my neck
I see no way out of this black hole that I've been sucked into
I see nothing

Published at PoetsHaven.com Spring 2007

Friday, January 6, 2012

Review - City Of Bones

City Of Bones
By Martha Wells
Tor Books
ISBN: 0-312-85686-5

City Of Bones brings to mind the motion picture Waterworld. However, instead of a world flooded with H2O it takes place in a land dry as dust, where water, not dirt, is the precious commodity. The main character, Khat, is equipped with a body that can withstand the desert landscape much like Kevin Costner’s character could breathe underwater. But that’s where the similarities end. While Costner had evolved to survive, Khat is a creation of the Ancients; sorcerers of a time that is all but forgotten.

Khat makes his living as a relic dealer in the trade city of Charisat. His talents draw the attention of Riathen who employs him to find a relic that will unlock the secrets of the Remnants and allow him to tap their immense, mystical power. Built centuries ago by the Ancients, they are the only thing keeping at bay an unspeakable evil. In his quest for power, Riathen fails to realize the dangers.

Khat, along with Elen and Constans must stop Riathen before it is too late. But each has his own agenda and does not trust the other. If they cannot put aside their differences their world is doomed.

I must commend the author on her originality and creativity. Though she draws on Middle Eastern culture the story takes on a life of its own. Description and narration take up a better portion of the novel but they do so without distracting from the action and dialogue. City Of Bones is a sand blasted adventure from start to finish.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Poem - Ghosts On My Computer Screen

Inspired by the contributors to Illogical Muse

They send me visions of lonesome wolves
and speak of twisted lives.
Empty pages are filled with truths
that are often hidden from human eyes.
Words that could never stand alone
come together to fulfill prophecies;
rendering me breathless and amazed
by someone else's atrocities.
Here among these shattered dreams
I will sometimes find threads of hope
that entwine and repair the frayed
fabric of an emotional rope.
They reach out to me
with words I never thought to say,
and bring a little excitement
to an otherwise boring day.
Their voices are unheard,
and they are never seen,
but their hearts are represented
by the ghosts on my computer screen.

Published at PoetsHaven.com Spring 2007

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Monday, December 12, 2011

Poem - The Man In The Corner

© 2005

The man in the corner
Is drinking his coffee
He looks in my direction
But sees right through me
He’s getting nervous now
There are so many people here
He thinks he can’t do it

The girl behind the counter
The woman tending to her baby
This crowd of people
Never noticed him leave for the bathroom
We never knew how long he was gone

Before the man in the corner
Became the man in the body bag
He got what he wanted
Everyone noticed him
No one will ever forget

The man in the corner

Published in Children, Churches & Daddies March 2008

Friday, December 9, 2011

Article - Adventures In Cat Rescuing

© June 14, 2010

Being an animal lover with pet allergies isn’t easy and that’s why I turned to stray cats for companionship. I spent the majority of my childhood giving abandoned and unwanted cats a new lease on life. They had food, water, toys, and a place to sleep; yet they were free to prowl the streets and do whatever it is that cats do when their humans are not around. There was, Tigger, Junior, Squeaky, Smoke, Dusty, Curtis, Harvey, Blacky, and several others who weren’t around long enough to name. The most memorable, however, was Fritz.

Fritz was a pampered orange and white tabby who adjusted well to life on the street. Rumor was that he had once belonged to an elderly lady. No one else in the family wanted him so when she passed away Fritz was abandoned. He found his way to my house and that’s where he stayed until his death eight years later.

In that time, Fritz and I shared a special bond. There were others he went to for food and attention but he always came back to me. Perhaps it was because we had much in common. He also rescued abandoned cats. Junior and Squeaky were kittens that had followed him home. I believed he went back to the cats he mated with to check on his offspring and if there was a kitten being neglected by the mother he brought it to me. This made him even more unique than he already was. Most male cats will either ignore a litter of kittens or kill them so the female will go into heat again. Fritz, on the other hand, played babysitter while the mother was away.

Two weeks after his death on July 23, 2003 I took in two kittens from a neighbor who no longer wanted them. I named them Smoke and Dusty because of their gray fur. They were extremely wild for house cats and after a battle over who was going to sleep by my head and who was going to sleep by my feet Dusty ran off and never came back. I don’t remember how long it was before Smoke contracted distemper but I believe it was about two years. She died shortly after her second litter of kittens, of which I kept one. I named him Naraku, after a Japanese Anime character.

Naraku loved to chase shiny objects, sleep in boxes, and bring live rabbits into the house. I think his favorite thing to do was bury himself in a snow bank and lay in wait for an unsuspecting victim to walk by and attack an ankle. He had a wild streak just like his mother, but he was the best pet I had had since Fritz. Although he never brought stray kittens home, he did allow another cat into his territory once.

Tigger was a severely abused orange tabby. I never found out what exactly was done to him who did it but the evidence was there. The back of his spine and his hips were crooked and riddled with arthritis. The abuse was also noticeable by how he shrank away when I would try to pet him. That particular habit disappeared as he came to realize no one was going to hurt him anymore. His habit of urinating on everything, however, did not. I didn’t know that his kidneys were failing him until it was too late to do anything about it. It wasn’t long before it consumed him and I just hope he found solace in the final days of his life.

Now, I only have one cat; another orange tabby named Mercury. She’s been a pampered house cat most of her life, ever since she was rescued as a kitten by a friend of mine. Mercury lived with her but, as my friend is approaching her golden years, the responsibilities of a pet were tiring her out and so she gave the cat to me two years ago. Mercury is now fifteen and the way things look she may very well live to be twenty.

I don’t know if the love and passion I developed for rescuing cats was always there or has developed after spending so much time in their company. I do know it’s something I will continue to do. I’ve also found that I’ve owned so many cats over the last seventeen years that I think my pet allergy gradually wore off.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Review - The Lost American

The Lost American: From Freedom To Exile
By Michael Lee Johnson
ISBN: 0-595-46091-7

When I first began reading Michael Lee Johnson’s The Lost American: From Freedom To Exile, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’ve read several of his poems in the past and our styles and experiences are greatly varied. There is a whole generation between us and our backgrounds haven’t that much in common. For these reasons I was – at first – skeptical. But this book – containing 87 poems divided into 4 sections – opens with a richly painted biographical poem titled, “Skinny Indiana Boy.”

With a heart as big as Texas
or Alberta where he came from
the draft resister tries to erase
the memory of his sordid past . . .

The imagery alone is breathtaking . . .

. . . coming out of the Rockies
down over the slate, out of self imposed exile,
he leaves the northland shaking his bandaged fists at the prairie sky . .

But when the author mixes it with raw emotion . . .

The night looked long in his deep green eyes
robbing his faint life away
The scream of loneliness has turned
his innards inside out to pity . . .

It creates a stirring piece, making it the perfect opening poem.

Several pages later the emotions are more deeply felt by this reader in a poem dedicated to the author’s mother titled, “Speaking Of Death – Mother.”

. . . I come to you
blurred eyes, crystal mind
countenance of grace
as yesterday’s winds
I have consumed you
and taken you away . . .

There is a gentleness to this poem as it takes one through the pain, grief and acceptance of the death of a loved one.

As I continued reading, delving deeper into the context of The Lost American, one thing became clear – Mr. Johnson is very dedicated to his craft. Having revised and refined poems written as far back as the sixties to create this book. This book that was forty plus years in the making.

“I felt proud,” beamed the Indiana-born poet during our recent interview. “I was surprised that it turned out to be a poetry book since I expected it to take the form of a narrative novel or biography.”

This book is a must have for anyone who struggled during the Vietnam Era. Because as the Prelude states, The Lost American is about one man’s journey into exile during the Vietnam War many years ago, his struggle, his survival, his road to recovery and strength manifesting itself through his prose and poems. From the simplest of love poems and lyrics, to the more complex, exposing his inner self – he stands firm with his convictions over time!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Poem - The Mummy

© 2005

The creature awakened from his eternal sleep
Bringing with him the ten plagues of hell
Causing tears of fear and panic to weep
As all of Egypt fell under his spell
Searching for the love that he held dear
This walking corpse became the living's worst fear

The treasure hunters---they came, they saw
Unfortunate they wouldn't live to tell
They fell victim to the undead maw
As it devoured the life force with in their cells
Not even the Egyptologist could survive
Nor the "superstitious bastard" that served as their guide

In time the monster would become unstoppable
With the ultimate control of the sands
With his beloved by his side, he'd be all-powerful
Ruling wickedly over every land
Only three could bring this torrent to an end
Two British folk and their Yankee friend

The Book of Amun-Ra they did require
As it was, lost inside the mummy's tomb
Within the statue of Horace laid their desire
'Tis the fate of the world---saved or doomed?
But before they could take what they were after
The beautiful librarian was under capture

The heroic deed now left to the men
A brother, a lover, along with the Magi
Could this battle they possibly win
Or be forever lost in the sands of time
Quickly, you brave fools! onward to Hamunaptra
For there will play the finale to this desert opera

Scripted in the Book of Amun-Ra they must use
An incantation to steal the mummy's immortality
"Kadeesh mal, kadeesh mal! Pared oos, Pared oos!"
'Fore O'Connell can deliver a righteous fatality
Thus, an ordeal they will not soon be forgetting
For death . . . is only the beginning

Friday, December 2, 2011

Review - A Tiara For The Twentieth Century

A Tiara for the Twentieth Century
By Suzanne Richardson Harvey
Fithian Press
ISBN: 978-1-56474-489-0

Suzanne Harvey writes words that embrace the reader, at times with a gentle hug and at others like a vice grip. The emotional detail and grittiness of her poetry will leave readers nodding their heads in agreement. She is a true writer, meaning she uses her life experiences to write poetry many can relate to; as can be seen in this excerpt from “Sins of Omission: Remembrance for a Birthday.”

Sometimes all you remember
Are the mistakes you made
The things you didn’t do
Those small sins
Of a mother’s omission
That can wear a hole in a child’s heart

Like the time
He cried from 10 till 2
You shut the nursery door
Till all the tears dried up
You wonder if they left
Some permanent desert in the heart

One poem I particularly like is “The Velvet Garrote.” It reminds me a lot of my mother and me. It displays the lengths a daughter will go to for her ailing mother. It also shows some slight bitterness to someone else (perhaps a son?) who enjoys the finer things in life while his mother is reaching the end of hers.

I feed mother broth
Scrub out the grime between her toes
Clean her crotch
Stick a Q-tip in her ear

You’d be coasting at anchor in Sausalito right now
Or maybe dipping escargot in spinach sauce on Fisherman’s Wharf
Perhaps you’re fondling a jade Buddha in Chinatown
Or worshipping the beach at Monterey

If you have read the works of Suzanne Harvey than you already know that she has a gift for bringing skeletons out of the closet and making them stand up and be counted for with elegancy. A Tiara for the Twentieth Century is a full length collection of her poems and a must have for anyone who enjoys her poetry.

Poem - Legacy Of The Red Admiral

© 2005

He floats on a string of blue mist.
As high as his wings will take him.
Higher and higher
and higher still.
He hasn't caught on to his insignificance;
too small in a world too large.
Riding the swell,
he'll live and die with the rest.
But he will live gracefully.

Published in Westward Quarterly Spring 2006