Monday, December 14, 2009

Censoring Blogs--Book Burning

I recently joined a literary site for authors, writers, artists and generally anyone within an artistic field. I posted a poem, or perhaps several poems. I'm truly not sure the exact post. Yesterday I received a somewhat disturbing, but nice email informing me that although the moderator had the greatest respect for me, and in fact referred to me as Dear Sister (excuse me); that she had deleted my blog because she had never been there and therefore could not connect with the feelings expressed therein. She went on to say that abuse was a legal issue, not appropriate for writing. Abused people needed to just stop the abuse and stop whining. She invited me to write something more appropriate for the literary world.

First I was appalled that any literary site, which started it's headline and title with Literary would censor any blog as long as it wasn't offensive and it was well formatted and free of blatant typos. This reminded of the days of book burning. I wonder how many people burned C. S. Lewis' Screwtape Letters without ever reading it, and understanding that it wasn't the work of the devil, but was instead a wonderful book, funny and entertaining, which clearly glorified God.

I wrote a nice letter back to the moderator, and kindly informed her that on behalf of the thousands of men, women and children who suffer mental, emotional or physical abuse daily, I felt that I needed to educate her on a few things.

First of all, abuse is not just a legal issue. I know, as I worked in courtrooms for many years, and yes, the legal system can lock up the abuser--but the damage done to the abused is out of the judicial systems purview, and out of their control.

Secondly, there is not a psychiatrist, psychologist or mental health professional that would EVER tell an abused individual not to talk about, write about or somehow try to deal with the emotions and trauma that abuse has caused them. This is not whining. In fact, it's far from it. It is the abused's efforts to take charge of their emotions, their lives, and therefore never allow themselves to be a victim again. And what better way than words?

Words have power, and words can be powerless. We use words every day in one context or another. We use words that are powerless and that have no meaning. We say things to people that we don't mean, don't feel and truly don't care about. Over a period of time our words are powerless, because they have no feeling, no emotion behind them, and we start to loose that power in other areas of life. Victims of abuse, many times are powerless to stop their abuser. Powerless to change their lives.

I have been fortunate to work with many young people, mostly young women, who have lost their power. They've given in to their abusers, and simply given up on themselves. Addictions. Drugs. Alcohol. Sex. They can never change their lives and come out of the victim stage without some sense of power. We've worked on creative writing. Using words to express the internal emotions of pain, frustration, anger, hopelessness and moving on to joy, hope, faith and future. Mastering words that have feelings, emotions and life gives power to the word, thus power to the writer. Power to take charge of their feelings. Power to take charge of their addictions. Power to take charge of their future. It doesn't happen overnight, but with words, therapy, and guidance every victim can change their life. I know this too, because I did.

Deleting a blog, because you can't connect with the emotions and feelings of the blogger, is like throwing out the cake, because you're allergic to chocolate even though there are going to be 30 other guests at your table. Where would our literary world be today, if every publisher or every literary site had decided to censor material? What happened to freedom of expression? And what happened to just good old courtesy from the moderator who could easily have written and said, "I'm sorry, we have a site policy against blogging about these subjects: (and listed the subjects) and therefore I would ask that you please rewrite or remove your blog."

Censorship. Book burning. I felt I woke up forty years in the past. And as a final note, I asked the moderator to remove me from their site. It clearly was not the proper forum for me. Not because I hated having my own blog removed, but I hated the idea that I might be missing some great articles by other contributors that this particular moderator had not experienced, or could not connect to.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Memories of Christmas Past

I find myself becoming melancholy every year around this time. A mixture of sadness and joy. Happiness and pain. This year is no different, except there seems to be more sadness. Sometimes I trace this back to earlier memories. And I always wind up at the same place, same time.
I was 17, and I had just started working retail sales for a local department store. We'd spent days, weeks decorating and getting ready for the Christmas rush. Most of the time I was too busy to pay much attention to the shoppers. Management placed me in toys. Wow! My job, to help every shopper find just that right thing for their little bundles of joy. And to keep the aisles straight and orderly. That was a major task in itself.
While drifting through each aisle, picking up tossed items and placing them back on packed shelves, I happened upon a woman who was picking up items and placing them back on the shelves. She wasn't the typical shopper there. Her clothes were clean, yet well-worn. Her hands wrinkled and red, from hard work. Her eyes a light grey, that reflected sadness not joy of shopping. I asked her could I help her. She smiled sweetly and said, "I have eight grandchildren to buy a present for, and I only have eight dollars. Can you help me find something they might like?"
My heart broke. Even in those days when prices weren't as high as today, finding something for eight children with only eight dollars was virtually impossible. I told her I needed to do something, and then I would be right back. I went to my manager, explained the situation and got eight new tickets priced at a dollar. I asked her ages and sexes, and the two of us scoured the shelves until we finally found eight gifts. Eight nice little presents that only cost a dollar. I then took her to my register and rang her up, telling her I would pay the sales tax on the items.
Her eyes lit up with joy, as I placed her purchases in bags and wished her a Merry Christmas.
Fortunately for me it was payday, and after she left I had the manager clear my register of the phony tickets, rering the items and we split the cost of the gifts, minus her eight bucks.
That was one of my favorite Christmas memories, and yet each year it brings a touch of sadness to my heart, because I wonder. . . how many grandmothers are out there with eight grandchildren and only eight dollars to spend.
Christmas has over the years become more and more commercial. And today's children seem to expect not just A GIFT, but THE GIFT. I hear it on radios, see it on TV and read it online. Parents searching and willing to pay three times the amount of the item just so their little angels can have it on Christmas Day.
That's a wonderful thing. But every year there are thousands of children who receive little or nothing. And there are thousands of parents who for no reason of their own simply don't have the money to buy presents. They're wondering where they're going to find food this year.
So, yes, Christmas for me holds a certain amount of joy. I love seeing my children, my grandchildren. I love giving presents. Cooking that huge Christmas dinner. But it also brings a tinge of sadness, and each year I take a moment to pray for those who have been less fortunate, and I think about that grandmother, and how just for one year at least she was able to give her grandchildren a nice present for $8.00.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Prologue--my first paranormal/psychic novel


The howl of the wind reminded Catherine Mans of the voices of lost souls as it shook the old house, rattling the window panes. A single candle flickered and died as the faded drapes gave way to the drafts pushing them. Catherine pulled the frayed blanket closer around her shoulders, sipped the lukewarm tea and waited, even though she wasn’t sure exactly what she was waiting for.
The room grew steadily colder, a constant reminder of her plight. No money. No job. No hope. Her stomach rumbled and she glanced at the single pack of crackers on the table. She would need those tomorrow.
Catherine sighed heavily and bowed her head. There was nothing she could do. Her only talent lay in the ability to see what others could not. To hear the voices of the dead, and sometimes the living as they cried out in pain and desperation. A talent no one wanted to buy.
Her face flushed, warming her body as she remembered the humiliation from earlier that morning. Desperation and hunger had led her to the police station to offer her talents there. She had fled in tears, the sounds of rude laughter ringing in her ears. Destiny? Fate? The wrong officer on the wrong day? Perhaps, but she didn’t have the courage to try again. Never again.
A familiar tiredness washed over her. She fought the trance. What good was it to see things if no one believed you? The sensation grew stronger as she grew weaker, her eyes slowly closing.
The vision was clear and Catherine found herself standing in the howling snow, watching the red and blue lights flash. She watched as the patrol car parked in front of her house. The officer sat there, hands clenched tightly around the steering wheel. He stared at her door, hesitating, weighing his options. He looked too young to be a police officer, but the clear gray eyes held a strength that told her he was older than he looked. And that he had seen things no one should have to see. He was clean shaven, blonde hair closely cropped in military style which only added to his youthful appearance.
Catherine continued to watch as he signed, wrenched his hands from the wheel, squared his shoulders, opened the door and stepped into the blinding snow. She felt desperation, frustration and fear emanating from him as he followed his steps toward her front door.

The sound of angry pounding jerked her from the vision. Her hands trembled. Pulling the blanket closer against the chill in the room she made her way to the door.
Even though she had just watched him walk up the walkway, the shock of staring into those clear gray eyes almost caused her to slam the door in his face.
“Catherine Mans?” “Yes.” Catherine hated the sound of her voice. It sounded weak, afraid. They couldn’t arrest her for just offering her services. She stiffened her spine, raising her head to meet his stony gaze. Why was he so angry?
“We don’t have much time. Can I come in?”
His voice echoed the same desperation and frustration she had felt earlier. Opening the door she stepped aside, watching as his gaze swept over the meager furnishings before coming back to her.
“I don’t know if you’re real or not, but we have a three-year-old boy lost in this snowstorm and we’re running out of time. If you’re real, then for God’s sake help us. If you’re not, then don’t waste my time. There’s a thousand dollar reward that. . .”
“Let’s go.” Catherine pushed him toward the door, rushing ahead of him as she struggled through the knee-deep snow, wind whipping through the old blanket.
Grasping the car door, Catherine pulled it open and quickly climbed in. Gasping from the cold, she shivered in the warmth of the patrol car.
“Give me your key, and I’ll go back and get your coat.”
“I don’t have one,” she snapped. “You’re wasting time. Do you have a picture?”
Taking the seat next to her, his gaze raked her features, as if seeing her for the first time. Catherine struggled to control the shivering. She knew what he was seeing. The auburn curls matted to her pale face. The worn out shoes. The jeans and flannel shirt a size too big.
“How old are you,” he asked.
Catherine met his gaze with what she hoped was more confidence that she felt.
Reaching above the visor, he handed her a picture of a small boy laughing at some unseen antic of the photographer. His soulful brown eyes reached out to her, touching her, wrapping her in warmth, pulling her toward him.
“What’s his name?”
She felt the hesitation, skepticism. “It doesn’t work that way.” She wanted to scream at him, but her words come out as a whisper through chattering teeth.
“Danny.” He looked away from her, staring into the blowing snow.
Catherine ignored the emotion filled car as her shivering stopped and the familiar tiredness enveloped her. She closed her eyes, watching the flashes of white. Hearing the sounds of laughter. Running. She followed the sounds. He was chasing something. More laughter. Crawling. Cold. Hungry. “Mommy? Daddy?” He was scared. His hands were so cold. No, they were warm. Touching something. Something warm, furry. Hugging. A kitten. He was hugging a kitten.
Catherine felt the warmth of tears running down her face as the onslaught of emotions reached out to her from the young child. He was so cold. His eyes were stinging from the wind. His cries turned to whimpers. A large object loomed before him. “No, Danny,” she whispered. “Dear, God, no.”

“Landfill, junkyard, a place where old refrigerators are stored.” Catherine reached for her seatbelt and buckled it. “We have to hurry.”
Cody Allen didn’t move, simply stared at her.
“Start the damn, car!”
“The closest junkyard or landfill is two miles away from where the kid disappeared. There’s no way he could have made it that far in this weather.”
Catherine stared at him in disbelief and disgust. He’d come to her, asked for her help. The little boy was still alive, but he wouldn’t be much longer. Rage boiled inside her. If he wasn’t going to believe her, then why had he come? Danny’s feelings washed over her, the warmth, the laughter—the cold, the fear. If he died she would be left with those feelings for the rest of her life.
“Damn you,” she hissed, opening the door and climbing out into the howling wind. Tears of frustration froze on her eyelids as she once again struggled through the snow. She didn’t feel the cold, or hear the slamming of the door before a strong hand seized her arm, jerking her around to face him.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” The clear gray eyes had turned cold blue.
“I’m trying to save a child’s life.” Catherine shook off the hand.
“Get back in the car.”
“Go to hell.”
“Ms. Mans. . .Catherine, please. You’ll never find him in time.”
Catherine stopped, swallowing the remark on the tip of her tongue, along with what little pride she had left.
“Please, get back in the car.”
The authority was gone from his voice now. Catherine knew he was right. All she would accomplish was giving the city two bodies. She’d never find the junkyard in time, and her pride wasn’t worth Danny’s life.
Catherine refused his help as she made her way back through the snow to the car, opened her door and slammed it shut behind her. She stared ahead, ignoring him as he started the car and turned up the heat.
The rode in silence as the wail of the police siren competed with the howling of the wind. The streets were empty. Cold, stark and lonely.
He reached for the radio. “This is car 97, I need an ambulance at the junkyard at the corner of Seventh and Steele Street.”
The radio squawked. “What’s the code, 97?”
Cody glanced at Catherine. “Just send the ambulance.”
Catherine closed her eyes, struggling to feel the lifeline that would tell her the child was still alive. It was weak, but still there.
“You know, if you’re wrong you just cost me my badge.”
“Your badge?” Catherine turned on him, her voice filled with the contempt she felt. “If I’m wrong, I just cost a child his life.”
Turning away from him, Catherine bit her lip. Welcoming the pain. For some reason he was really getting under her skin. She’d dealt with skeptics before, but his was something more. Something personal. Why hadn’t he called for backup?
The gates to the junkyard loomed before them.
“Damn, I forgot about the gates.” The car slowed.
“Crash them.”
A slight smiled played around her lips as he heard his mumbled oath. The locks were old and the gates crashed open as the cruiser plowed through them. Not waiting for him to completely stop, Catherine ripped off the seat belt and rushed from the car. Her gaze scanned the fence line, looking for small holes underneath. Danny had crawled under a fence chasing the kitten. He was close. She could feel it. Wind whipped her hair and the old blanket, still wrapped around her small frame offered no resistance to the freezing chill that enveloped her. She had to be quick for Danny’s sake, as well as her own. Stinging tears filled her eyes as she scanned the snow covered piles of debris and old appliances.
“The refrigerator is gold,” Catherine screamed as she ran, spotting it in the distance. How could she have forgotten that? She heard the sound of the ambulance approaching, heard Cody’s yell, but the wind carried his words away from her. “Dear God, please let him still be alive,” she prayed. Her hands shook as she reached for the handle. How long had he been in there? The hinges of the old door squeaked as she jerked it loose. His tiny body was curled into a ball, wrapped around the small black kitten held tightly in his arms. “Please. . .” Catherine sobbed as her trembling hands reached out to the small still form.
“Strong fingers closed around her wrist. “I’ll do it.”
Catherine stepped back to give him room, watching as he reached in to pick up the child. She heard the sound of his whispered prayer, running footsteps coming toward them. She held her breath as he cradled the child in his arms. Waited for the words that would tell her, but he seemed unable to speak and simply stared at her. Even after the paramedics removed the child from his arms he continued to start her at.
“He’s alive. They’re both alive.”

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Do you believe in ghosts/spirits?

With the television hype, it’s truly hard to develop an understanding of the paranormal, and the on-going quest of many to either prove or disprove the existence of ghosts/spirits. Paranormal research teams spring up daily and vast amounts of evidence/data to uphold their claims are presented to the world as proof of the existence of “something else out there”. But if you do believe in ghosts/spirits, you are no longer the minority.

For many in the field, like myself, it is a personal quest to understand things we have seen, heard or experienced. My first actual viewing of a ghost/spirit was at the age of five. We had moved into an old house that was a part of the underground railroad at one time, hiding out Union Soldiers during the war. Bear in mind that I knew none of this at the time. Shortly after moving in I was playing in a room upstairs and tripped a panel that opened a small hidden enclosure. Just big enough for one person to hide in. There sat a Union Soldier. Fully dressed, bleeding and holding a rifle. To this day I remember his blonde curls, vivid blue eyes and the fear on his face when I opened that panel. I can only assume, by the amount of blood on his chest that he died while hiding there.

My later studies into metaphysics, mediumship and psychic experiments resulted in additional oddities that I could not explain. I had little doubt in my mind that there was indeed “something else out there”. But what, and why? Those were the questions that I couldn’t answer.

Skeptics and debunkers are quick to bash any evidence/data presented as fake, or explainable, or simply not scientific because it cannot be reproduced under certain conditions. And yet the belief in ghosts/spirits is not new. Even biblical references are made. In fact, in the New Testament, Jesus has to persuade the Disciples that he is not a ghost following the resurrection. Luke 24:37-39. Clearly that would not have been necessary if none had existed. In a similar vein, Jesus' followers at first believe him to be a ghost (spirit) when they see him walking on water.

Many accepted theories of actual activity have now been debunked. Take Orbs for instance. Many are no more than dust particles, bugs and/or reflections from the camera. I’ve seen some really beautiful ones on movies when the camera hits the light just right. But are all Orbs non-paranormal? Can a dusty room contain hundreds of orbs one minute, and absolutely none under the same conditions a day later? And what about the completely milky white solid orbs? Are they also dust? Bugs? I’m not sure. And I’m not totally willing to write off every orb figure as non-paranormal just because. Having visited the New Port Aquarium I saw many new species that until now had never been discovered before. Is it possible that some of these drifting orb shaped oddities are simply a different life form? Not, per se, a ghost or spirit, but simply something that until now our cameras and camcorders were not sensitive enough to pick up.

Matrixing has also provided a plausible excuse for the vast majority of photos out there. Shutter speed. Double exposures. Light effects. Smoke. Fog. Mist. In fact, so may plausible excuses that I rarely take photographs anymore. And if I do, I always take a series of three. If something is in one, and not the other two, then possibly it is an anomaly and bears more investigation. If it’s in all three, then the odds are that there is something perfectly normal causing the appearance of an anomaly.

I would call myself a skeptic believer. Having seen it with my own eyes, I can’t dispute that something exists outside of the “reality” I know. What? Why? Well, those are questions I haven’t found the answers to yet, so until that time—I’ll keep researching.