Saturday, June 30, 2012

Our 200th Posting


Over the weekend I read a little eBook by Brian McGrath and Pandora Poikilos called Genetically Modified Foods vs. Sustainability. Non-fiction books of such a serious matter don't often come your way in the freebie department. Our readers here may know that I have a strong interest in organic matters and all things green due to the experience in my previous life on an Irish organic farm. (In fact, I'm working hard on finishing that book called "I once had a Farm in Ireland".)

In the USA a lot of children think milk comes from the supermarket and peaches from a can, according a recent survey; even the kids in Georgia where most peaches are grown. That shows how far removed from the sources of our food we’ve become. Kids never set foot on a farm.
By the same token, most people think the food in the frozen food isle is actually real food, not realizing it's chock full of unnatural additives; preservatives, colorings, and artificial flavorings. That was one of the reasons we chose to grow our own food/produce already over 20 years ago. We felt that returning to natural eating habits was a must. 

Now more than ever! Healthy Eating Starts with NO GMO (genetically modified organisms)! The problem here in the States is that genetically modified produce need not be labeled. So you don’t know what you are eating. You can assume, however, that you take in 70% genetically modified foods, if you live off the fast food isle. I highly recommend reading two other books by Jeffrey Smith’s: 'Seeds of Deception' and 'Genetic Roulette' for more in-depth information.
Smith documents at least 65 serious health risks from GM products of all kinds, including (and I quote:)
“Male mice fed GM soy have damaged young sperm cells.
The embryo offspring of GM soy-fed mice have altered DNA functioning.
Several US farmers have reported sterility or fertility problems among pigs etc.” 
The list goes on and on. To sum it up: GMO foods can be: • Allergenic • Toxic • Carcinogenic • Anti-nutritional.
How can we avoid GM food? By buying organic. I experienced firsthand how difficult it is to acquire that well-earned label “Organic”. If the idea of eating GM foods bothers you, get the quintessential shopping guide that lists GM foods:
Dr. Mae-Wan Ho of the Institute of Science in Society (ISIS) explains why GM foods are so dangerous: Playing with Technology We Don’t Fully Comprehend (read the full article on Mercola Article on GM.
Products to avoid that contain these at-risk ingredients are 1. Soy 2. Corn 3. Cotton 4. Canola. I don’t know how cotton gets into the food chain, but soy and canola oil is prevalent here and hard to circumnavigate.

I watched the first court cases taking place in Ireland against a certain chemical giant that is behind GM food and has the monopoly on seeds. I saw the struggle of our fellow small holding farmers who became surrounded by experimental fields testing the Multinational's seed and growth progress. Here 70 % of foods are genetically modified. In spite of  9 out of 10 Americans according to a 2012 poll are against it. In Europe it only affects 5% of produce. There it's forbidden not to label them as GM. Corn on the cob here is GM- that's a given, also the canola oil made out of it. In Germany and some other European countries it's forbidden. The least one would expect here as well is to have these produce labeled as such so that the informed consumers decide for themselves whether they want to ingest a veggie that has been altered by a bacterium that  makes the plants grow its own resistance against pests. To leave the labeling at the voluntary discretion of the companies involved seems to invite the fox into the hen house.
The American Academy of Environmental Medicine has called for a moratorium on genetically modified foods. Genetically modified foods That’s food for thought, ain’t it? 
Good luck to the authors Brian McGrath and Pandora Poikilos spreading the word! The eBook it's not free anymore although it is worth the investment of $2.99. My review is up on Amazon.
The Ex Farmer's Wife

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Pictures and Stories Told with Hands

In the late 1980s, while I was finishing my degree in Child and Family Studies at Syracuse University, I was also working part- time as a sign language interpreter/teaching assistant with deaf children mainstreamed into local schools. Students ranged in ages K-18.
My favorite position involved volunteering in the Kindergarten program. I love the art young children produce. I love sharing stories with them and encouraging them to create their own stories.
I am still and was a poet. Another volunteer project my colleagues for deaf students performed was  poetry from the spoken/written word interpeted in a theatric way into American Sign Language at local venues.

In the kindergarten class was a 6 year old child who was non lingual. She was born profoundly deaf and mostly ignored by family, so she did not even have rudimentary language. As the fall passed, I learned she had been removed from her family due to sexual molestation by her father. There seemed to be physical evidence. The case was heart breaking. She lived in foster care while the trial of her abuser took place.
She was horribly shy. She did not allow anyone to touch her. One could hardly blame her. She seldom interacted with other kids. One day I was determined to encourage her to draw.
At long last after gazing into my eyes without expression, she slowly reached for the black crayon. She attacked the piece of oak tag paper I 'd given her with it. While happy to see her draw, I was appalled at the resulting artwork. Scribbles with violent jags and sharp points. This certainly fit with the situation we staff were told of.
Daily we also had Story Hour. Even though they could not hear, kids loved stories. All of us used simultaneous communication, that is spoke and signed while maintaining eye contact. The students wore special hearing aid devices just in case some sounds made it through. The teacher held the bright picture book up to face her audience and an interpreter signed with great drama.
Usually my little student showed little or no reaction during story hour while others scrambled up on staff laps or sat arms around each other and commented on the story.
By now it was November and we despaired of ever reaching this abused child who held herself arms around her own waist, eyes downcast.
Then one day at Story Hour, Liz began to read. I don't recall the particular book except the colors were bright, the story enchanting. Other kids sat enraptured. My student sat in front of me. We were both on the floor.
She glanced back at me with longing. She appeared to struggle with a decision. At last, with great care, and all eyes upon her while Liz continued to read, she carefully sat herself between my legs, then picked up my right hand and wrapped my arm around her. Next, she did the same with my left hand.
I don 't know if the kids noticed, but the adults in the room sure did. I was holding my breath. Tears shone in Liz's eyes as she finished the story.
I sometimes wonder what happened to that little girl. She'd be a woman grown by now, possibly with children of her own. I was so honored that she chose me
as her first " safe" human. I heard, at some point later that year, that the court had ruled in favor of the parents, as so often happens in a logic -defying way, and returned her to the family. I wonder if anybody followed up so that her father was no longer able to abuse her.
Rachael Z. Ikins

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"Dwell in possibility and you will find magic!"

Monday, June 25, 2012

The 1%

In 2006, before the catastrophic economic collapse in 2008, and before the Occupy Movement made us all aware that the U.S. is divided into the 99% and the 1%, Jamie Johnson produced a documentary called "The 1%."  This was a daring look inside the 1% from one of the 1% Johnson and Johnson Pharmaceutical Company billionaires.  Unlike most of the 99% of us, the 1% didn't embrace being televised and interviewed.

Jamie worked hard at getting his father, mother, the Johnson family money manager, as well as other members of the 1%  to appear on camera and answer questions.  It was painful to watch the wealthy dodge the camera and the questions as well as scolding Jamie for what they considered his betrayal of his status as one of them.

In the film, Nobel Prize economist Milton Friedman arrogantly repeated his absolute adherence to the trickle down theory.  His business named after his kinky hair, Kinko's founder Paul Orfalea, expounded on his ideas of making money, on unapologetically wanting to make more money, and the fact that he occasionally gives $1 to homeless beggars if they are doing something "useful" like selling pencils.  Of course, Darwin's survival of the fittest was invoked by Robert Reich as some kind of explanation and acceptance of why there have to be rich and poor.

A notable exception was the great-grandson of Oscar Meyer who gave up the right to his fortune to make his own way and join the 99%.  Warren Buffett was invited to be in the documentary, but refused.  However, granddaughter Nicole Buffett agreed to appear.  She said the children and grandchildren in the Buffett family are raised and educated on family money, and then make their own way.  She works as a housekeeper for a wealthy family and is also an artist.  Her agreeing to be in the documentary led to her grandfather publicly disowning her as his granddaughter.  The father of Bill Gates, who was instrumental in convincing his son to become a full time philanthropist as early as he did, spoke unashamedly about the responsibility of the rich to help society in as big a way as possible.  This sentiment was not echoed loudly by any other person in the documentary.

What drives the super rich and blinds them to the poor?  There is guilt.  There is fear.  There is denial.  There is power.  There is the feeling that they work harder than the poor and thus deserve their great fortunes.   Although it's clear the 1% have far more than they could ever need, they want more.  As defined by Ruben A. Gaztambide-Fernandez in his 2009 book, "The Best of the Best," the  five E's were ingrained in many of them from their years of elite schooling -- "exclusion, engagement, excellence, entitlement, and envisioning."  I'd like to add a 6th E to that list -- ego.  Billionaires aren't just born or self-made, they are raised to think like the 1%.

Jamie Johnson wasn't disowned by his family for making the documentary.  His mother said she was proud of him (but she had not been born rich), and his father was reminded of his own conflict in his younger days when he had helped make a movie against apartheid in South Africa.  Many companies were criticized in that film - Johnson and Johnson among them.  Jamie's father had been severely reprimanded by his family for that film.  He abandoned not only his film making after that, but perhaps also his moral sense of responsibility to the world.
The U.S. prides itself on not having a caste system in the land of opportunity, but the gap between the super rich and the rest of us is actually a mental and monetary abyss.

Suellen Zima (our regular contributor)
Member of the National League of American Pen Women
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Saturday, June 23, 2012


Last year was a year of loss—many losses. From Dad’s death (my wonderful father-in-love) on January 3 through the loss of my mother on July 26, and so many others in between and since, the year seemed to whittle away friends, family members, and the families of friends. I counted 28 of those deaths before the end of February, when I stopped counting. But it didn’t end then. There’s been at least one a week since.
Losing those I love has provided some powerful reminders for me.
Don’t take anyone for granted. My father died when I was seven. I went to second grade one morning, and when I came home that afternoon, he was gone. Forever. It was a lesson I never forgot: People die. You never know when or how.
This is the reason that my husband, Larry, and I tell each other, “I love you” on awakening each morning. We try never to part without a kiss, and reunite the same way. And we can’t go to sleep without another kiss and the words, “I love you.” When Larry traveled, he’d usually call home just to say goodnight. On a couple of occasions when he didn’t, I’d call him. If we couldn’t get through or were unable to make contact for some reason, we didn’t sleep well.
Youth doesn’t insulate you from death. People can die at any age. My father’s death taught me that one, too. He was thirty-seven. His mother was twenty-three. His grandmother, thirty-eight. And my maternal grandfather was fifty-four. All far too young.
This point came home last year when our dear friends’ daughter died very suddenly at forty-two. Erin practically grew up in our home. I used to tease her that even though her parents thought she was theirs, she really belonged to us. On my birthday last year, among many other notes was one from Erin which said, “Happy Birthday Mama! Have a great day!” It told me that she knew she was loved. What a gift that was the next day when we received word that she was gone.
Several months later, I created a movie for her folks’ 50th anniversary and added family photos including Erin. I wept when I saw them. I miss her very much. But at least I knew that I loved her. And she knew it as well.
Tell the people you love that you love them—often. Years ago, another daughter of dear friends died at thirty-one after an illness of a couple of years. Several months before her death, I saw Peggy. Our conversation ended with a hug and my saying, “I love you, Peg.” She stepped back, looked me in the eye, and said, “I know you do.” What a gift!
Far too often the people we genuinely care about either don’t know it or don’t believe it. I keep hoping the repetition of the words will eventually reinforce the very genuine affection I have for the people in my life.
Many years ago now, another dear young man died in his early thirties. Looking at the large assemblage at his memorial service, I couldn’t help but wonder if he had any idea how many people cared about him. I doubted it. John just never seemed able to accept that others cared about him. And that has always made me sad.
There is a ritual I indulge in with many of the people in my life. Whenever we part, I always tell them I love them. I mean it. I wasn’t able to say goodbye to my father or to tell him I loved him. As long as I have breath, I want my loved ones to know without a doubt that I do.
My niece and goddaughter both caught on to this early. Whenever I talked to them on the phone, I’d end with, “I love you.” And they’d answer, “I love you, too.” However, as they got older, both of them would try to sense the end of the conversation so they could say the words first. They still do, and I love it that it still matters to both of them.
Life goes on. Even with the pain of loss, life continues for the survivors. Hopefully it is richer for the presence of all the special people in our lives—including those no longer living. My personal belief is that we will see them all again when we join them and that the love we shared in this life will remain between us. In those moments of grieving and sadness, this confidence is a great comfort.
Everyone suffers loss. Everyone grieves. The only way we can honor those we have lost is to live the remainder of our own days well. And that’s what I’m attempting to do now.
Remember, friends and family, I love you. 
Lorna & Larry Collins
Read about our books 31 Months in Japan: The Building of a Theme Park, Murder... They Wrote, Murder in Paradise , Lakeview Park, Snowflake Secrets, Seasons of Love, An Aspen Grove Christmas and award-winning Directions of Love at And look for Ghost Writer coming this summer!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

How Truth and Emotions relate.

Emotions are Vital.

As writers, putting our emotion into our writing, into our characters, even into each scene, is absolutely vital. Otherwise each of our pages come across as flat. Which means the reader could care less...and that's not good for our writing career.

As readers, we don't just WANT emotion...we NEED emotion. Without emotion, the reader will fall asleep when reading the words we labored over and toiled over. That doesn't bode well for a long-term, productive writing career.

Now, truth. Truth is vital as well. Yes, I know, fiction writers tell lies in the form of stories for our entertainment. Yes, this is true. What's also true is that the writer absolutely must stay true to each character's emotions. Yes, each character is an individual and being an individual, the writer must stay true to that character. If the writer deviates within that character, the whole lie or illusion, commonly known as suspension of disbelief, is blown. The walls crumble. The veil is ripped. So yes, the writer absolutely has to stay true to each character. Not saying a character can't change and grow, but it must be done within the parameters of that character's personality.

And all of that comes from the writer's own emotions. We do explore our emotions when we write. Yes, we explore the emotions of others as well, but the only time we really, truly, authentically reach down inside the reader and not only touch, but grab them by their emotions, is when we write a character that's true to their emotion as a result of us being true to our emotion.

Get that right and the reader will rave. Get that right, and you've got a fan for life.

Get that wrong...and you're done.

Toney La Tripp