Helping Out, a Little at a Time, by Carole Howard

Travel is an important part of my life.  And in the last fifteen years or so, volunteer travel has been a game-changer.

In fact, I just did the math: Of the 39 posts I’ve contributed to this blog, 22 have involved travel, of which 10 specifically focused on volunteer trips, like Mr. Silverback and Me or The Toilet and the Classroom. (If you want to see photos of some of the more exotic trips, you’ll find them at my blog.)  It wouldn’t have happened if we hadn’t been self-employed management consultants with great work/life flexibility.  A friend of our daughter, when she was about 14, once said to her parents, “I don’t know what Carole and Geoffrey do, but that’s what I want to do when I grow up.”

The flexibility became even more important towards the end of our careers, since we could “dial down” the assignments and free up time to do other things.  But what other things?

Enter American Jewish World Service (AJWS).  They had a program called the Volunteer Corps that sent out mid-career or post-career professionals to non-profits in the developing world, groups that were long on doing good, but often short on doing it efficiently. My husband was a former Peace Corps Volunteer and I was a former public school teacher, so travel + service = perfect.

AJWS’s assignments ranged from two months to a year.  Perfect!  What was also important to us was that AJWS placed more emphasis on the S than the J, since we are what’s called secular Jews, ie we identify as Jews but don’t practice the religion and certainly wouldn’t have been able to teach anyone about it.  Our lucky linkage with AJWS — we happened to see the only ad they ran in a magazine we rarely read — resulted in five projects spread out over seven years.

Irrigated agriculture in drought-stricken Senegal, gorilla preservation in Uganda, orphan welfare in Namibia, sex education in Thailand, and AIDS prevention/treatment with a marginalized segment of the population in Ghana.  All “good” things.

The big questions: Was it enough?  Did it make a difference?

Yes and Yes.  Globally?  Probably not.  But for that one non-profit doing one good thing in one place, definitely.  And that was good enough for us.  We had an itch, we found a way to scratch it, it felt good and it did good at the same time.  And that’s not a coincidence: helping someone else feels good.

Have you ever experienced that?

* * * *

Carole Howard is the author of Deadly Adagio, a murder mystery set in West Africa, published by Indigo Sea Press.  To date, she’s been to more than 50 countries, but only about 25 states.  So far.








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Return of the Missing Mosrite, Forty-five Years Later, by Christine Husom

img_0732 My husband Dan served in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War years. He was stationed in Japan and sent to Da Nang as a ground crew member in Fleet Air Reconnaissance 1. He’d learned to play guitar, and wanted to buy a good electric guitar with the extra money he’d earned in Vietnam.

It was 1969, and Tommy, a great guitarist, suggested a Mosrite, an innovative guitar made popular by the Ventures in the 1960s. The two went guitar shopping in Japan and found a red metallic Mosrite.  Dan paid $300 for it, a pretty penny in those days. But it was a pleasure to play, and had an awesome sound.

In 1970, Dan’s time in the service was ending and Mark, a fellow serviceman, offered to ship the Mosrite, and some other things, back to the U.S. for Dan. Mark had a higher rank and was allowed to ship more poundage at no cost. Dan had known Mark for some time—even shared a house with him— and had no reason not to trust him.

Dan got back to Minnesota, but his treasures did not. Dan was unable to reach Mark. Mark lived in nearby Wisconsin, and about a year after Dan got home, Mark contacted him and told him he’d had the Mosrite in a band room and someone had taken it. Dan didn’t get a good explanation of why his guitar was in a “band room.”

After Dan and I married, the subject of the missing items: a Yamaha acoustic guitar, amps, a Pachinko game, and most notably, his Mosrite guitar, came up from time to time. Dan wasn’t sure where Mark was, and his last name was fairly common, so Dan basically gave up hope of ever getting his things back.

Then in the mid-90s, a package arrived at our house. Inside it was the Yamaha guitar and a photo of Mark and a young girl, presumably his daughter. They were standing by a car with Wisconsin license plates. No note of any kind, and no return address. I did some research and found Mark’s address, but Dan didn’t contact him. He did, however, enjoy playing his Yamaha with its beautiful tone.

Fast forward to December, 2015. I was getting ready to go to an event when the doorbell rang. It was the FedEx man with a package that looked like guitar case. It was wrapped in plastic and duct tape and required a signature. My first thought was one of my kids had a Christmas gift sent to our house, instead of their own. But when I saw it was addressed to Dan Husom with a return address in Wisconsin I said, “I don’t believe it.” Forty-five years later, it appeared Mark had finally returned the Mosrite to its rightful owner.

My daughter and four-year-old grandson were there, and we decided to hide the guitar until I got home later that evening so I could see the look on Dan’s face when he got the package. In the meantime, my grandson couldn’t resist giving Dan a clue, “Grandpa the FedEx man didn’t come today and he didn’t bring you anything.” And then he led Dan by the hand to the bedroom where we’d stashed it. For some reason Dan didn’t really look at it. He thought it belonged to one of the kids.

When I got home I brought the package out, and told Dan to look at who it was addressed to and where it was sent from. He shook his head and said, “I don’t know what to think.” It took him a few minutes to cut through the wrapping and open the guitar case. Inside was his shiny red Mosrite, just in time for Christmas. He carefully picked it up from the case, again shaking his head, “I just don’t know what to think.” He examined it and saw there was a little damage, but it was still in very good, to excellent, condition.

Dan got another surprise when he opened the storage compartment inside the case and discovered ten one hundred dollar bills inside. One thousand dollars! Forty-five years of guitar rental, repair reimbursement, or guilt money? A few days later, Dan received a short note from Mark apologizing for keeping it so long. He said he had kept procrastinating. Okay.

The whole thing has made me very curious. I look at the Mosrite, and wish I could squeeze some information out of it. If it could talk, it’d be fun to ask about the places it has been, and who all has played it the last forty-five years. Had it really disappeared from a “band room” and then later returned? Was it played by rockers in bands at a variety of venues? What led Mark to return it after all that time? I doubt we’ll ever get the full story. As I doubt Dan will ever see the rest of his items. But the good news is he got the two things he valued the most: his Yamaha and Mosrite guitars. You just never know.

Christine Husom is the author of the Winnebago County Mystery series.


Filed under Christine husom, life, writing

Happily Ever After (revised) by John E. Stack

(This is a revision of a previous blog in regards to Foster Care and Adoption.)

Stories. We hear stories everyday about people who were down and out, and they turn their lives around. They become successful and often wealthy. What about the stories we don’t hear? Are those lives successful? Do they pull themselves out or are they even capable of success?

We read stories where everyone lives “happily ever after.” Again, this isn’t always the case. This story about a kid is true. I’ll call him Calvin. This kid’s name may not be Calvin, and he could be either male or female. But, it is a true story all the same.


It didn’t matter where he was or what school he attended, in his mind people always disrespected him, because of his clothes or the way he looked. Life really sucked when you were thirteen and stuck in middle school where no one knew anything about you. Nor did they even care!

“I said get out of my way,” yelled Calvin, as he pushed the boy against the locker. The boy slammed against the metal lockers with a loud bang.

“Calvin, in my office, now!” said Principal Stern. “I’m really tired of your attitude. We probably need to call your mom. These outbursts really need to stop.”

“Foster Mom,” replied Calvin, a little louder than necessary. “I don’t live with my mother.”

“I said – to my office, Calvin!” responded Mr. Stern.

All of a sudden Calvin was near tears. “Go ahead. Call her.” he replied in an almost angry tone. “If I get into trouble again, she will just call the social worker and have me put with a new family. So what does it matter if you call her. You won’t have to worry about me anymore either.”

Calvin was a kid in the system. Yeah, one of those foster kids. Those are the kids that the state has to pay money for someone to take care of them. Maybe you think that you’ve never seen one before, but you have. There are usually two types: one that you never notice and one that you can’t miss. The one you never notice usually blends in with their current family. They are dressed nicely and they are treated like one of the family. They get to go shopping at the mall and get to go on vacations with their foster family.

The other type of foster kid usually doesn’t match the family they are with. They might look kind of dirty, or they need a haircut, or maybe their clothes don’t fit quite right. Their pants are either too long or too short. Shirts are almost always second hand, stained or too big. It’s obvious that they don’t belong to the family they are with. They are treated differently, like when the family goes on vacation, the kid gets to go into respite care with another family. Life is definitely not fair.

Calvin’s story was typical. He didn’t know his birth dad. Brandi, his mom, never really had it together. She was really wild in school – bad boys, alcohol and drugs. She liked to party and it finally got to the point that partying became more important than anything else, even him. His mom was fifteen when he was born. Brandi’s dad told her mom, “She needs to keep the little brat, so she can see what it’s like to raise a child on her own. That will teach her a lesson to not go sleeping around.” They had helped out a little bit, but kicked her out after a while when she didn’t follow their rules.

Calvin was three when he was taken away. Calvin lived with the first foster family until he was six. The second liked kids with problems because the state paid them extra money. There were many others. But few really cared. His current foster mom really cared, but didn’t know if his anger problems could be controlled.

She also didn’t know, nor did he, but Calvin had a little brother.  His name is Bill and he was born when Calvin was ten.  Bill was born with cocaine and heroin in his system.  He is okay for now, but they do not know the long term implications of the drugs.  Bill was also taken away by Social Services and this time Calvin’s mom was put in jail.


I don’t know if Calvin’s and Bill’s stories will have happily-ever-after endings or maybe real-life endings, but they will have some sort of ending. Kids in foster care have a very slim chance for success. Often circumstances push them toward drugs, alcohol, prostitution, or some form of abuse. Those chances for success get better when they have someone in their lives that care.

In North Carolina there is, as I suspect it is in other states, a shortage of foster parents. This results in over-crowding of good foster homes and the outgrowth of lots of bad foster homes. There is always a shortage. Right now in NC there are 5 to 7 thousand kids in foster care.

Being a foster parent is a tough job. My wife and I have been foster parents for almost nine years and haves had 20 kids in foster care. We do new-borne babies and keep them until adopted. We fall in love every time. Of the 20, we adopted one, and wish we were 20 years younger so we could do more. I said it was a tough job, the toughest job you will ever love.

In November we will celebrate adoption Sunday. Check it out. There may be a life out there that you can change and give the gift of a “happily ever after.

***John E. Stack is the author of Cody’s Almost Trip to the Zoo, Cody’s Rescue Adventure at the Zoo and Olivia’s Sweet Adventure.


Filed under Excerpts, John Stack, life, writing

If I subtract the past from the future will I get the present?

Apparently it’s October. I can’t think how the year slipped by so fast. I can’t imagine how I’ll ever catch up on overdue tasks. I can’t believe… it’s October. So I perceive a whole new fright in this month and ponder, will my next novel come out in time for the Christmas sales. I wonder when my next collection of short stories will be done; will I remember to book a table at the Holiday Bazaar; will I…? Meanwhile I close my eyes while reading time-travel stories. If I turned back the clock, could I post my review last week (or better still, last month when it was due)? But would that change the present?subtraction copy

Of course, the immediate present includes an overdue blogpost (here), a sleeping brain that can scarcely parse words unless they rhyme, a mathematical counter that ticks till the ending of time, and a keyboard. So here’s the (100-word) result:

If you should dream today, tonight,
And if the dreams you pray take flight,
And if the words you say take fright
Because today is not tonight,
Remember this, tomorrow’s dream
Will never grow the way it seems
You think it should; instead today
Will take your coulds and woulds away
Until tonight you dream the past
And future; neither lasts.

But if you dream tomorrow, know
The way that every sorrow goes
Is always backward till it’s gone
And always nightward till the sun
Refines its mystery.

Then, when dreaming’s dead and done,
The rest is history
And one.

Sheila Deeth is the author of the Mathemafiction Novels, published by Indigo Sea Press. Find Divide by Zero and Infinite Sum at Indigo Sea Press or on Amazon, and look for Subtraction coming soon.  Each novel is longer than 100 words. None of them rhyme. And none of them (so far) involves time travel.


Filed under musings, Sheila Deeth

Feeding the Hungry by Chuck Thurston


Primitive men and women were hunter-gatherers. Eating was catch as catch can. Sharing was essential. If one of them ran across a nut tree in the forest, he or she didn’t keep it to himself or herself. Survival of their tribe demanded that they run and tell the rest.   They stored very little, but ate whatever could be consumed on the spot — and hunted for another source.

Some would say that the behavior of teenagers in the food court of a large mall indicates that this human instinct is still strong.

But in every age and in every way, humans periodically drop whatever else they are doing and hunt for chow.

My farm mother had five sons and a husband to deal with. We did grace on special occasions – large family gatherings, church holidays, etc., but my dad’s everyday injunction, once the vittles were on the table, was to “grab and growl!” Nothing was wasted. Leftover mashed potatoes became potato croquettes later. Left over baked beans were slathered on sandwiches with a sliced onion and packed in school lunches.

Anything that survived this feeding frenzy went into the slop bucket for the hogs. It is for certain that every now and then these critters dined on the remains of one of their comrades who had made the supreme sacrifice before them. Were they sentient, they might have found temporary solace in Von Braun’s assertion that “Nature does not know extinction. It only knows transformation.” Temporary, I say — that transformation was destined to be next winter’s bacon.

There was a sign over the mess hall of one military installation I spent some time at. It read, “Eat all you want, but eat all you take.” I knew of a few guys who took this to heart. They would gobble down their first tray of food in a mad rush so they could get back in line for another go at it.

At one base, I was invited by one of the storekeepers to accompany him on a truck trip to a large depot that warehoused food meant for military installations in that particular section of the east coast. I was off duty and figured I would enjoy the ride. The SK had been given a list of items he was to pick up for our unit. They would be waiting to be loaded for him.

As he checked off his sheet, one of the warehouse workers informed him that there had been a run on the more popular ice cream flavors. All he had to give us was pistachio. We ate pistachio ice cream for the next several weeks. Look, most folks can breeze through a month with only chocolate or vanilla as their options. But pistachio? I have not touched it since.

My new wife could not cook – came from a long line of women, in fact, who could not cook. I did not know this in advance. Actually she didn’t either until she questioned her mother about her mother. And aunts, and various cousins… “Did you know that your great Aunt Agnette hated to cook?”

I knew a little and was willing to experiment. I had to, really, for self-preservation. I became so familiar with Lipton’s chicken noodle soup that I could tell when they made subtle changes to the formula. “Lipton’s has done it again,” I would say.

Early on she mastered eggs — boiled and scrambled, although an omelet escaped her – and does to this day.

When my wife and I raised a family of our own, we rediscovered what generations of parents before us had already found out.

Our boys had a garage rock band and the house was for some time a teen hangout. Rehearsals took place in our cellar game room. Other parents pointed out that we, at least, knew where they were. Oh, did we know. Every nail in the house was loose. On one occasion, rehearsal coincided with our dinnertime, and we had made a nice casserole. It wouldn’t have fed them anyway, and a Matthew 14 loaves and fishes multiplication was beyond us. As the latest rock riffs billowed up from the basement and filled the rest of the house, we called friends across town. Could we come to their place for dinner? We’d bring it! We put our casserole in the car and headed out.

No need for fine dining or niceties. Invariably these pals would be kids from the swim or wrestling teams of the local HS. They were always in training. You have not lived until you have fed wrestlers who are moving up to a bigger weight class for a coming meet. We cooked spaghetti by the tub-full.

I used to do backpacking trips with my sons and an occasional buddy. On one such trip, we all packed one of the big chocolate mega bars…designed for a week’s survival, I would guess. On the trail, I took mine out at occasional rest stops and nibbled a bite or two before putting it back in my pack. About two hours into the hike, the boys were eying my stash and confessed that they had polished their own bars off.

This particular trail bordered a vineyard in the New York grape country. It was no effort at all to hop off the trail a step or two and grab a bunch of grapes in passing. I am sure the vineyard owner planned on losing a few bunches to the occasional hikers. Luckily for him, the boys’ plunder was limited to what they could carry in their hands without breaking stride on the hike. We grabbed an afternoon snack and trekked on.

That night we pulled into a family campground that was not far off our hiking trail. I set up the tent, stowed the packs, lit a campfire, started the little gas stove to heat up some water – then relaxed while our freeze-dried food rehydrated for cooking. After we had eaten, the boys wondered if we might also finish off the breakfast stuff we had brought. And go hungry for breakfast? I couldn’t believe this.

I pointed out that this was a family campground and there were probably lots of folks there with teenagers – likely a few girls, too. I assured them they weren’t the worst looking boys in the state. Why not cruise the grounds, and casually, strike up a conversation here and there to see if a hotdog or burger invitation might be forthcoming? Off they went. Hunters and – hopeful – gatherers.

For many years Jimmy Anderson ran a popular restaurant in Charlotte near the Presbyterian hospital. Jimmy was a genuine Greek – his son, Gary, told me his untranslated name would be Demostanis Anageros Andritsanos. I ate at Anderson’s several times over the years, and never met Jimmy personally, but heard he was a genial and generous soul.  He passed on in 1988, and Charlotte was saddened by its loss.


The restaurant picked up a lot of hospital traffic — patients and visitors coming and going. Some perhaps having a final restaurant meal before a hospital stay, or ones coming off a stay and back in the world of mashed potatoes, meatloaf, “The World’s Best Pecan Pie,” as Jimmy called it — and the other sturdy dishes that Jimmy served. It was not uncommon to see people with canes and crutches and bandages coming and going on the arm of caregivers. Uniformed nurses, doctors and local businessmen often complimented the crowd.

One time a woman with a small infant walked in — perhaps in the neighborhood because of some hospital business. She asked Jimmy to give her a rear booth with a little privacy because she had to breast feed her baby.  Jimmy graciously complied.

Although she was as discreet as she could make it, an observable customer noticed and complained to Jimmy.  Jimmy replied, “Hey — everybody’s gotta eat!”

Right on Jimmy. RIP.

“Feeding the Hungry” is from Chuck Thurston’s “Senior Scribbles Second Dose” – available from Indigo Sea Press and Amazon. He is working on a third book, pausing only a few times a week to refuel at the dinner table. 



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Unique Grammar Lessons

I seem to have unusual ways of doing things or unusual things happen to me. You, dear reader, can decide if this is an example.

Years ago, when I was preparing to move into my college dorm, my mother helped me pack clothes and the two of us tried to imagine all the other things I’d need to start my very first semester.

Mom was used to having me close where she would be available to help with homework or guidance for different circumstances, and I’m sure, since I was an only child, she was prematurely suffering from “Empty Nest” syndrome. I, on the other hand, was looking forward to making new friends and having a bit more freedom than I’d previously had.

Once there, the transition went smoothly and I got settled in nicely. Everyone with whom I came in contact was friendly and helpful. My roommate and I hit it off right away. It was a whole new world and I couldn’t wait to experience it.

I got the feeling as I finished unpacking that my mother was worried I’d forget about her, because I soon discovered she’d packed a tablet of stationary along with an equal amount of stamped envelopes addressed to her, so it wouldn’t be inconvenient for me to write letters home. She even wrote the salutation, “Dear Mom” at the top of each sheet of stationery and valediction and my name at the bottom. FYI that was before cell phones and e-mail, i.e. people used to write letters back then.

Anyway, I tried to be a good dutiful daughter and wrote every week telling my mom about all my classes and activities, the people I’d met and how lovely the campus was. I even justified why I needed money occasionally. Sound familiar?

The surprise came when my mom wrote back to me. I guess I need to explain that my mother was a former college professor and very picky about grammar, so when I opened her very thick letters, I realized my previous letter was enclosed. I couldn’t imagine why she had returned my letter until I unfolded the paper and looked at it. She had gone over it and corrected all my grammar and spelling errors and marked them in red pencil!

Some college kids might have been aggravated by that. Not me. Once I realized what she did, I thought it was so funny it made me laugh out loud. That was my mom, all right. Bless her heart; she was a teacher through and through. Even from a thousand miles away, she was trying to help me.

As I look back on that time in my life, I am so grateful she took the time and effort to go that extra step, odd and insignificant as it seemed at the time. It really made me conscious of grammar and spelling and has made me aware to this day, many, many years hence. In fact, I think I have “become my mother” in that regard. I’m a real stickler, but that trait has helped me since I decided I wanted to be a writer. I still make mistakes, but I try to look things up if I’m not sure about them.

What influenced you to learn correct grammar? Was it memorable? Lasting, like mine?


Coco Ihle is the author of SHE HAD TO KNOW, an atmospheric traditional mystery set mainly in Scotland.  Join here here each 11th of the month.




Filed under blogging, Coco Ihle, Humor, musings, writing

Not My Time to Go: The Meaning of it All

I am still standing today after 11 near death experiences.

I am still standing today after 11 near death experiences.

Not My Time to Go: The Meaning of It All
by Thornton Cline

After much prayer and deep listening, I have concluded that I, as well as others, definitely have guardian angels watching over us.

I believe with certainty that these near-death experiences have been allowed to happen through the years to develop and build my character. Through these near misses I have learned to handle any adversity. Not only has each near miss made me a stronger person, each crisis has given me deeper compassion and empathy for my brothers and sisters here on Earth. I am now able to understand the difficulties and hardships that my fellow brothers and sisters face every day.

I am able to witness to my fellow brothers and sisters and share with them the love I’ve found in Jesus Christ. My close calls have enabled me to look at another human being’s situation objectively with love and without judgement.

Because of these near-death experiences I have become more dependent on my Heavenly Father, relying on Him for everything in life. I have learned to totally rely on my Lord and Savior in Heaven. My faith continues to grow stronger every day.

Over the years, I have become very grateful for my life. I look at every day as a precious gift. I never take my life for granted. I am constantly seeking opportunities and ways to serve my Lord and Savior with gifts that I have been given. I believe that the attitude of gratitude pleases God and makes Him want to help me even more by showering me with more blessings and opportunities.

I believe that these life-threatening occurrences have given new meaning to my life. I can now walk through the next phase of my life with complete faith and confidence, knowing that whatever happens from here on out, I can actually rely on God to take care of me.

Knowing what I know now, I can faithfully on my angel to protect me for life. I can call on our Lord and Savior knowing He will send my angel and angels to my side in times of danger.

I believe I have come a long way in my lifetime. And I still have a long way to go. But my faith has grown to new heights. And I revel in my total and complete reliance on my Heavenly Father.

I have found my purpose and mission on Earth. I am eternally grateful for being spared and given many chances to carry out my mission until I am called to come home to be with the Lord. I have truly discovered the meaning of it all.

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Filed under Author Interviews, life, Mike Simpson, Thornton Douglas Cline, writing

Thanks Giving Thoughts

You would think that as a writer I’d have lots to say.  I never know what to write in my blog.  Sometimes it feels overwhelming.  But, as the trooper that I am I will put down my thoughts that are running through my mind at the moment.

My family is getting together later today to celebrate Thanks Giving here in Canada.  Which is on Monday.   We are going to have ham and scalloped potatoes.

This morning, however, I’m reminded of Matthew.  I can’t imagine what it is like having a hurricane bear down on me.  I’m more used to blizzards.  What devastation this storm is causing.  Deaths, ruined property and lives lost.

This make feel extra thankful for the family and friends that I have.  I pray for the people along the eastern seaboard of North America.  May their lost be limited to material things and not loved ones.

Thank you Lord for keeping us safe.

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Meditation Changed My Life

October Is National Domestic Awareness Month

In April of l970 and at the age of 22, I moved away from my parent’s home.  I moved to the Washington, D.C. area.  I worked for the Federal Government.  I was scheduled to start my new job at the Pentagon the day after my arrival in D.C. 

While my father, an officer in the U.S. Navy was stationed at the Pentagon, I previously worked there as well.  When his Pentagon duty expired, we moved to Toms River, New Jersey where I worked in the Public Relations office at the Lakehurst Naval Air Station, the site of the Hindenburg Airship crash.  I loved my job in Public Relations where I learned a lot about dirigible airships and the difference between their rigid structures and blimps.  However, at 22, it was time for me to leave home.  My plans were in order.

I was to move to D.C., work for a year at the Pentagon, then apply to a program which would send me to a U.S. Naval facility in a foreign country.  I wanted to move to Brussels, Belgium.  However, my plans changed almost immediately after moving to D.C. 

On my first evening in the area, I met Bob Bibb, my husband of 46 years.  He was a friend of my older brother, Danny, who worked and lived in the D.C. area.  Bob and Danny met while Danny worked as an undercover police officer at the inner-city Safeway store Bob, a trained meat cutter, worked during the evenings and on weekends.  Bob was also a full-time student at the University of Maryland. 

There had been a rash of armed robberies in the inner-city stores, and Bob’s store was one of the victims.  I lived with Danny and his small family for a few weeks after moving in April.  Bob was invited to dinner on that first evening, the day before my future was to unfold taking me to Brussels.  However, once I realized Bob was my future, I left the Pentagon and went to work at the Civil Rights Commission in downtown D.C.  My life changed dramatically during those first few months, and I was, in a sense, reborn.  It was, after all, 1970 and D.C. was Mecca for the anti-war movement.

Soon after meeting Bob, I told him a secret that I had kept hidden for sixteen years.  Bob was the first person I trusted enough to tell my secret. When I told, Danny, his wife, Ava, and my younger sister, Gail were present. 

Bob subsequently helped me schedule a meeting with a psychology counselor at the University the following week.  I will never forget that hour. 

I don’t recall what all I said during that hour as I cried my river of tears.  I do, however, recall how the male counselor never uttered a word.  He never asked a question, nor did he make any comments.  He sat silently and listened.  At the end of my hour session, he handed me a box of tissue then shook my hand.  He never invited me back.   Many years later, I learned that, in the early 1970’s, psychologists were only beginning to become aware of the crime of child sexual abuse.  They were only then learning how prevalent it was and how traumatic the fallout was for victims.  I now imagine the male psychologist I saw simply didn’t know how to respond, nor did he know what to do with me and the story I told.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00030]

I was a victim at the hands of my biological father.  My first novel, Crack in the World, although not autobiographical, duplicated what happened to me.  Emily, my main character, becomes a victim of her pedophile father at age six, the same age my father began touching me.

When I walked out of the counselor’s office, I was struck by what didn’t happen.  As I left the office, I made the unconscious decision to internalize my experience and never talk about it again.  The counselor’s silence caused me to determine that what happened to me was inconsequential.  It didn’t matter.  I was grossly wrong.  However, I never again talked about it as the terrible thing that happened to me.  Instead, I climbed into a suit of armor and resolved that I was bigger than what my father did to me.  I made up my mind to ignore it all.

Twenty plus years later, when my mother died, my abuse came crashing through, and I once again found myself in the midst of its fallout.  I became clinically depressed and, once again, sought the help of a therapist.  This time, however, much had been learned between my first counseling session and my second.  My second therapist, a female, helped me tremendously.

Over the years, and on a conscious level, I managed to put what happened to me in perspective of my life.  That’s all a victim can do.  There is never closure.  That term closure is a mythical one.  Anyone who has experienced a similar trauma in their life understands the myth of closure.

Although I managed to accept my abuse on a conscious level, the abuse haunted me, leaving me burdened with internal agony.  That anguish manifested itself as dysfunctional behavior,  leaving me essentially unhappy.  I experienced mood swings which took me from extreme happiness to a dark place where I would question everything about my life.  I felt helpless.

Until about seven years ago, I had resolved to accept my unhappiness as my lot in life.  I reconciled that I was destined to carry around, what, years earlier, a male supervisor labeled as my excess baggage.  Although I never told him my story, he intuited my unhappiness when he said, “Maribeth, I don’t know what happened to you. However, I hope that one day you can unload all the excess baggage you carry around.  It makes me sad that you are so unhappy.”

I now recall thinking seven years ago; Maybe this is as good as it gets.  Maybe I will never be as happy as I would like to become.  While a part of me was ready to acquiesce, another part of me, the part I know as my warrior, decided to reject acceptance.  Instead, I began searching for a path toward happiness.

From all my life lessons, I had learned that happiness comes from within.  I knew no one person, other than myself, could help me find internal contentment or peace.  I had to help myself.  I had to find happiness on my own.  So I set out on a quest.  That is when I discovered meditation.


I don’t meditate in the traditional sense.  I don’t sit in a lotus position, close my eyes and meditate.  I tried to learn that technique, but it’s difficult to master.  Instead, one day I ran into an audio program called Holosync.  Holosync is a product of the Centerpointe Institute located in Oregon and is the invention of Bill Harris, CEO of Centerpointe.


Holosync is an audio technology designed to put a person’s unconscious mind in a deep meditative state.  The “technology soundtracks contain certain combinations of sine wave tones of precise frequencies embedded beneath soothing music and environmental sounds” (Thresholds of the Mind, by Bill Harris).   When listened to through stereo headphones, the stimulated brain creates new brain wave patterns.  In other words, the map of the unconscious mind is totally re-drawn.

An analogy can be made using the mental image of a poorly constructed road which contains many twists, sharp turns, drop-offs, dead ends and is inundated with huge bumps, and behemoth potholes.  With the use of Holosync, the brain is stimulated to repair the road, taking out the twists, sharp curves,  drop-offs and dead ends, while repairing the bumps and potholes to create a smooth, relatively flat surface.    The result is remarkable.  I would recommend Holosync to everyone.  In particular, I would recommend it to those who suffer from PTSD.  Certainly, extreme childhood trauma results in a perpetual state of PTSD. 

Along with Holosync, Bill provides his book, Thresholds of the Mind, which explains how Holosync works on the unconscious mind to undo that trauma, i.e., helps the unconscious mind put the trauma in perspective of “everything,” including perceptions.

Bill explains that the unconscious mind is where memories live forever.  Since the unconscious mind remains hidden from us, that part of our self-awareness remains oblivious to the reality of our conscious world.  Thus, it does not recognize time; i.e., it does not recognize that we grow up.  Instead, as in my case, my unconscious mind perceived itself as still the abused child and thus, still in danger.  So, all the behavior I practiced when I was a child and in danger, persisted into adulthood.  Because those behaviors are no longer necessary, those same behaviors became dysfunctional,  manifesting themselves as dysfunctional behavior such as unrealistic expectations, quick to anger and general dissatisfaction.

I’ve been meditating for over five years and am nearly through with the program.  Although I will finish it in five more lessons, I will continue to use the program to meditate.  In the meantime, my life has changed dramatically. 

In particular, I recall reading Bill’s words as he suggested that one day I would realize that I am truly happy.  When I first read those words, I was skeptical.  I assumed it was a marketing claim.  However, one day, as I drove to a work-related appointment, I realized and acknowledged out loud that I was happier than I expected I could have ever become.  I’m more tolerant and not quite as hard on myself.  I will always steer toward perfection.  However, now, I believe my aim is no longer the literal definition of perfection.  Instead, my aim for perfection is geared more toward improving my life versus actual perfection which we all know is unrealistic and impossible.

Recently I attended a function with my sister, Gail.   The group she belongs to asked me to talk about Holosync.  Later, one of the participants asked me a ton of questions.  She disclosed that she too was a victim of sexual abuse.  Her grandfather was the criminal.  She told me she was at a crossroad in her life where she had gone the distance on a conscious level to undo the damage.  She was ready for the next step.  I encouraged her to look into Holosync.  She did.  She is now a Holosync user.  She wrote me soon after she began using Holosync.  She told me she was feeling the positive effects and was grateful for my taking time to talk to her group and her personally.

I am happy I didn’t settle for as good as it gets.  I’m happy for my warrior spirit that inspired me to look and find the solution to my sadness.  Holosync not only changed my life, it saved my life! 


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The Grim Reaper in the Queen City by Steve Hagood

September. It’s that special time when the temperatures cool off, the kids go back to school, and football season starts. It’s my favorite time of year.

Last September, my wife, Jenni, and I traveled to Charlotte, NC to watch the Detroit Lions play against the Carolina Panthers. As it turns out, September is not fall in Charlotte, North Carolina where the average September temperature is 81 degrees with 73% humidity. I was born and raised in Michigan. I am a northern boy with thick skin and thick blood. 81 degrees with 73% humidity might as well be hell.

On the Saturday before the game, we went out to explore the city. This being fall (I thought), I was wearing blue jeans. I was also wearing a black Detroit Lions tee shirt and baseball cap. This would turn out to be a bad move. Walking around Charlotte, sweat streamed off of my head, down my back and into places better left unsaid. I don’t remember Andy Griffith or Aunt Bea sweating the way I sweated on that day.

I have to take a moment to tell you about Jenni. She is a wonderful person. A devout Catholic who teaches catechism two nights a week and aspires to be a nun after I’m dead. Ninety-nine percent of the time Jenni wears shirts that have a religious saying on them, or are from the Vacation Bible School she runs every summer. However, on this particular Saturday, she wore a concert shirt from the band Styx that happened to feature a picture of the Grim Reaper, rowing a boat across the river Styx.

As we explored the city, and sweated profusely, Jenni wanted to check out churches. There are over 300 churches in Charlotte and every one of them was locked, except for one. It just happened to be a beautiful, old, Catholic Church. The door opened to Jenni’s pull, and music emanated from inside.

“We shouldn’t go in there,” I said.

“They’re having mass,” Jenni said. “We should go in.” There has never been a mass she didn’t want to attend.

“GO IN?” I thought. We were not dressed for mass. I was sweating through my shirt and she was wearing a picture of the grim reaper!

But, before I could get the words out, Jenni was in the church and an usher was leading her to a pew about three-quarters of the way back in what I now saw was a very full church.

What could I do? I took off my hat, slicked down my sweat drenched hair, and followed.

We got to our pew just as the congregation was kneeling for the first time in preparation of communion. I obediently knelt next to the future nun.

Angry eyes descended on us from every angle. I tried not to make eye contact with anyone, fearing I’d be turned to stone. Jenni was oblivious. She was in her element.

I noticed that these were some very nicely dressed people. There were coats and ties and dresses everywhere I looked. And then there was us.

I whispered, “We need to get out of here!”

Jenni responded, “No. It’s fine.”

“It’s not fine,” I said. “You’re wearing the grim reaper!”

“I’ll cover it up when we go up to communion.”

I sighed and relinquished myself to my fate.

As I knelt there, I realized it was just about noon, on Saturday. That seemed like an odd time for mass. I grew up in the Catholic Church and didn’t remember ever hearing of a Saturday at noon mass. And, as I said, these people were very well dressed. They took their church serious down here.

The time finally came to go up to communion. I stood in line, head down intent on not making eye contact with anyone, while Sister Jenni hid the grim reaper between her boobs.

Somehow, we managed to get through the communion line without incident. When we got back to our pew and knelt Jenni whispered, “This is not good.”

“Ya think?” I said.

She picked up the flyer that she had received when we entered and pointed at the front cover. It said, “Funeral Mass for Charles Turner.”

I sighed. We had crashed a funeral. And one of us was wearing the GRIM REAPER on her chest!

“Let’s go,” I said.

“Wouldn’t it be rude to get up and leave?”

Before I could answer an old lady stopped at our pew. “Uh oh, here we go,” I thought. And then the old lady, probably Charles Turner’s widow, stuck out her hand to shake ours and thank us for coming.

I never had the pleasure of meeting Charles Turner while he was alive, but I swear, I’ll never forget him.


Steve Hagood is the author of Chasing the Woodstock Baby

follow Steve on Twitter @authorhagood–Crime-and-Mystery-Authors-A-H.php#Steve

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