What in the World….

What in the World….

I have come to the conclusion there is no pleasing many people in this world.  Though we all would like to think living in peace and harmony would be the ultimate, it seems many go out of their way to disrupt this way of thinking.  Let me explain.

The past two weeks have been a whirlwind in my family.  Last Tuesday while I was lounging in bed early in the morning drinking my coffee, a news bulletin popped up. The headlines “Home Invasion turns deadly.”  The screen then went to an aerial view of a house and they mentioned the street.  Hesitating for just a second, I yelled down to my husband, who was feeding the dogs, to come up and see what I had just seen.  As I played back the news story, he informed me it was his sister’s house that was now showing on the screen.  Continue reading

Social Media

Heart of Gold

The other evening as I was perusing my social media account, Facebook to be exact, I came across a rant someone had posted from our local community.  Apparently, a neighbor is installing a fence around their property because their neighbor has an aggressive pit bull dog and they don’t want them on their property.  Understandable.  The person who was offended doesn’t own the home they are living in and decided to post a nasty comment with a picture of someone who was walking the property.  In the picture all you can see is a man in camouflage clothing walking on a large piece of property.  You can’t make out the face in any way, shape or form nor is their a company logo that is visible.

The renter is upset (not sure why) that a fence is going up and claims the fence is being installed on their property.  Fencing is a very big issue up here in this small Rocky Mountain town.  It prevents wildlife from grazing and it breaks up the scenery.   Plus, I don’t think many people who live up here have ever had their land surveyed unless they plan on putting up a fence.  My reason for bringing this up isn’t because of a fence, it’s because I was appalled at all the nasty comments being flung at this person who is a part of this community!  One which was surprising to me was the director of a children’s center who apparently is leaving the community and feels she has the right to tell someone to F… off… (hate to say this honey, but reputation follows you).

This has happened to me in the past from people who don’t know me.  I remember twice posting something in a few community pages.  Once I had purchased a ring on a community garage sale site and the poster had lied to me about the ring (the size, the stone, the setting).  I asked her for my money back, after I took it to a jeweler, and I would return the ring.  The person blocked me, called the police on me (saying I threatened them and then that my husband had threatened them) neither was true.  I simply asked her for my money back.  I got attacked from several people in the community that I should just suck it up and keep the ring (which didn’t fit because she lied about the size).  I basically told them to mind their own business.  Because this woman was a single mother and from what I could guess had already spent my money on something else, the people who were not involved in the transaction came quick to her defense.  This surprised me because I was now out $50.00 for a fake ring that the “silver” was peeling off the band!  I wrote a note to the admin of the community page and because she and the person I was trying to get a refund from were friends, she too, told me to suck it up and then proceeded to block me from the page.  And exactly what was it that I had done to deserve this type of treatment?

I found the woman’s address and mailed her back her ring.  I told her to keep the money, karma would get her in the end and that it was apparent she needed it more than I did.  It was the first and last time I purchased anything from anyone in this community.  I saved all the Facebook posts, all the nasty comments just in case the police decided to come to my door (which they didn’t).  Here I made a simple transaction, and the community came down on me like a pack of wolves.

The second and last time I was attacked by community members is when my husband had done a favor for a community member who later posted a nasty, unappreciative post on the community page about how things weren’t done “her” way.  She’s a control freak and a man hater, so why would I expect anything different from her?  The point was that we had helped her out on several occasions and this was our thanks.  So I posted a vague post about how we had been very helpful with not only our time, but money to help out many community members and she was one who wasn’t appreciative.  Basically, she shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth and maybe this was one reason why her life wasn’t going like she wanted.  Negativity breeds negativity.  She was always posting shit like “love and light” and I told her (without mentioning her name) she should practice what she preaches.

The admin on the page posted how my post wasn’t boosting positive in the community. I told her to move along if she didn’t like what she was reading, to by pass it, change the channel.  I didn’t care that she was an admin.  My post wasn’t negative it was stating a fact and life isn’t all rainbows and unicorns.  She didn’t like that.  So her “god” power came out and she kicked me off the site.  No big loss.  I went to the uncensored page and reposted it.  And reposted on another community site where all the holier than thou’s came out in the droves.   I was called everything under the sun, attention whore, if you are a true giver you don’t need to boost about it, etc. etc.  Nasty, vile people who live in my community who feel real brave behind their computers.  Challenging them I said, let’s set up a meeting in a public place so you all can say these things to my face, I’ll even buy the beer.  No one, of course, took me up on it.  Scared, gutless, little punks.  I deleted myself from all the community pages because I no longer care to know these people.  And what a relief it has been!

Which brings me back to my point.

The original poster, who was the owner of the fence company, posted, “This bitch is crazy and got her post removed because she is psycho! Mind you own fucking business, you white trash renter. Who fucking cares if your neighbor is putting a fence in to keep his dogs safe from your aggressive pit bull.” Not only were other people’s comments just as nasty but all the wanna be lawyers came out of the wood work too.  How it was illegal to post a picture of someone on social media without their permission (as I stated earlier, you could not see this person’s face).  How a woman who raised a disrespectful teen is ranting about how disrespectful everyone else is being towards her, oh and the one I really liked “the normal angst of a teen saddened to see a fence and dramatic because it reminds her of a wall. Keep in mind that the executive parts of the brain are not fully formed until 22-24 years old, plus she has been in the public schools and might not understand why she has a problem with fences and walls.”  Yes, not just the wanna be lawyers, but the wanna be therapists!!  Small town people at their best.  There was only one sane guy who thanked the mom for explaining the situation and doing the right thing, one out of over 100 comments.

What does all of these things have in common?  They all happened on a Friday night.  That’s right, nothing to do in a small town on a Friday night except sit in front of a computer, drink and hopefully some unsuspecting community neighbor will voice their opinion on whatever and being just a little buzzed enough, someone, who would argue with a fence post if they could, decides to cause a ruckus.  From my experience, there are plenty of people in this community who love to fan the fires.  I wonder if it makes them feel good about themselves?  How many sit in church every Sunday?  How many own businesses?  It is painfully apparent, these people have no life.  They have no one to talk to, to keep them company.  They are lonely, sad people.  They are so dissatisfied with their own lives, they have to try to bring others down with them.

Inquiring minds want to know…which community member will be trashed on social media next Friday night? From what I’ve been told, they pick them at midnight every Wednesday!

The Unloving Mother

When my husband and I became engaged, his mother was not happy.  I’m not sure why my soon to be mother in law hated me so much as I had done nothing to deserve her wrath.  In fact, prior to meeting her, my husband gushed about how we were so much alike, that she would just love me.  He was wrong.  The day after announcing our engagement, we received a phone call from her.  She was on speaker phone so my daughter, who was visiting at the time, got to hear the hatred in her voice.  Rather than congratulations, the first words out of her mouth were, “Why are you marrying THAT woman?”  My daughter was dumbstruck as was I.  My husband calmly told her because he loved me.  Of course, this wasn’t good enough for her.  So rather than her be happy for us, she condemned the union and continually condemned it up to and after her death. Continue reading

Insurance and Drug companies ripping us off…but you already knew that, right?

This week was one of eye opening surprises.  Let me explain.  In May of 2016, a rifle we were selling on consignment in a gun store here in Colorado, was destroyed during a robbery.  A couple of thugs broke into the gun store and used our rifle to break the glass cases.  The police confiscated the rifle, which had been broken in two, because it had DNA evidence on it, blood from one of the thugs.

The owner of the gun store called us to let us know what had happened and assured us it was covered under his insurance policy.  When we had not heard anything from anyone by November of 2016, we asked the store owner for his insurance information so we could contact them to find out what the hold up was on getting our money.  #GaryParkes of Athens Insurance Company was extremely rude over the phone, and before hanging up on me, he told me to send him an email.   So, I did that, however, it wasn’t a very nice email because he isn’t a very nice person.

In February of 2017, a new adjuster was assigned to the case who informed me my check for the rifle was “with his courier”.  Mind you, I am now sending him daily emails because by March, 2017, I still did not have a check for my damaged merchandise.  In the middle of March, I decided to contact the Insurance Commissioner regarding the not only slow payment but the lies that I was getting from this company.  The old “the check is in the mail” is still being used today.  I am now dealing with a Russell Clark and his last email to me was that “your check is with my courier but he is on vacation until March 27th.”  On or about March 27th, I received another email from Mr. Clark now telling me I needed to place a claim with my homeowner’s insurance and whatever they didn’t pay me for the gun, they would make up the difference.  I forwarded the email to the insurance commissioner.  Why wasn’t I told this from the beginning?  Why did it take 10 months amongst all the lies, to tell me to place a claim with my homeowner’s insurance? Which we would have gladly done if we hadn’t been lied to about it being covered under the store’s policy.  By this time though, the poor store owner took out a business loan so he could pay off his customers who had been ripped off by these thugs, (we weren’t the only people waiting for compensation).

To top all of this off, I received a letter from the insurance commissioner stating that the insurance company did no wrong in this case, that in fact, it was the store owner who was dragging his feet when asked for information.  I find this very hard to believe since he hired an attorney to represent him in the case where the insurance company was refusing to settle with him.  They also stated that my part of the claim was at a standstill because I refused to comply with the terms of the policy…excuse me? What exactly am I refusing to comply with? Oh, wait, the letter states I was told numerous times I was to contact my insurance company for compensation…what?  The first time I was told this was in late March, 2017, when the incompetent Mr. Clark, after lying to me about my check being with a courier who was on vacation, that I needed to place a claim with my h/o policy.  Again, if I had been told this earlier, I certainly would have done that, I would not have waited 10 months to do so.  Why doesn’t this surprise me?  An insurance company who willing takes our money every month or every six months but when you place a claim with them, they refuse to pay out and then make up all kinds of stories to avoid paying out.  The letter basically stated I was the liar and I was the one who refused to comply.  Typical.  Big Corp does no wrong.  I’m not worried, the owner of the company cut us a check of what was owed us, minus his commission.   So to the big guys at Athens Insurance company, you suck!

My next beef is with Calroy Health Sciences, LLC out of West Jordan, Utah and I guess they have another office in Arizona.  Last month, after a series of blood work ordered by my doctor, the crap I was taking for my high cholesterol wasn’t working so she suggested I purchase this product called Arterosil HP.  Mind you, this is not a pharmaceutical, it is made up of herbs, flowers and something that supports healthy glycocalyx which aids in cholesterol not sticking to your blood vessels.  Okay.  As I was checking out, the girl told me it was $99.00.  Yikes!  You’re kidding right?  No, that’s what they retail for.  I bit the bullet and purchased a 30 day supply (yeah, I know).

I went home and decided to see if I was able to purchase it for a lesser amount and I went directly to the company website where they were selling a bottle of sixty capsules for $69.00.  Great, I thought.  I will start purchasing it directly and save myself $30 bucks. The other day, I went on their website to purchase my next 30 day supply and low and behold, the price was now $129.00!!  What?  What could have possibly jacked the price up $50.00??  Possibly a complaint from my doctor because I sent her an email explaining I thought I was being gauged by her office for charging $30 over what the company was selling it for.  I’m sure she contacted her sales person and the sales person told the company and the company raised the price so the doctors could still make a profit off it.

My frustration is if this product is supposed to work, and heart disease is the #1 killer in America, why are they charging so much for plants and herbs? Seriously, this stuff has green seaweed, olive extract, red & white grape extract, tomato, blueberry, broccoli, green cabbage, garlic, grapefruit, asparagus, orange, grapefruit, pineapple, strawberry, apple, apricot, cherry and blackcurrant extract in these two capsules which is now selling for $129 for a 30 day supply.    Not only am I shocked but I’m appauled at how much these companies are ripping us, the consumer, off.  We should all be outraged of being taken advantage of.  Are these extracts laced in gold? I doubt it.  Are they paying their CEO over a million per year?  Most likely.  So rather than help patients who need their product, they would rather have it sit on their selves.

I sent an email to them asking how a product can go from $69 one month to $129 the next, their reply to me:  “Are you a health professional?”  My reply:  “No, a concerned consumer.  I’m hoping you can justify this to me. Especially if it works the way your company states it will work, many could benefit from your product however at $129 for a 30 day supply for extracts, seems a little obsessive.  I hope it isn’t greed.”

Small Town Politics by Lucy Ahl

Ahh, the joys of living in a small, mountain town.  My husband and I moved to Bailey CO from California.  We had only been dating a short while when he retired from the Army (42 years total, 20 + active duty).  He had been living in Anaheim and I had been living in San Diego until my mom got diagnosed with breast cancer.  I then moved up to Murrieta to take care of her while she underwent surgery and treatment.  In fact, she is the one who introduced us.  His late wife had passed in February and we started dating in January of the following year.

He had told me he wanted to move back to Colorado, the state he grew up in, after his retirement.  I had to make a decision to either go with him or stay in California.  As we got to know each other, it became apparent that we were both falling in love.  So, we remodeled the home he had lived in for 26 years and put it on the market.  It took 8 hours to sell!

Meanwhile, we had been looking online at houses in Colorado, mostly the Denver area.  It was during one of these searches, while we looked at an aerial view of one of the neighborhoods that it occurred to both of us it looked a lot like Anaheim, where your neighbors could hear you fart.  Not exactly what we thought retirement would look like.  I posed the question,

“Where do you picture yourself living in retirement?”

He didn’t hesitate when he answered, “The Mountains.”

And I said, “Then why are we looking in the city?”

And so he expanded our search.  We targeted Idaho Springs, Blackhawk, Conifer, and Bailey.  He decided he didn’t want to live off the I-70 corridor due to all the traffic in the summer and in the winter.  So we concentrated on the 285 corridor.  We found about 10 houses we liked and while our remodel was taking place, we saw a few of our favorites fall off the market.  I was getting anxious and disappointed, but didn’t lose faith.

The church I was attending at the time, Center for Spiritual Living, taught us to manifest what it is we truly wanted in life.  Visualize whatever it is you want and see yourself already there.  So I memorized my favorite house address, I visualized us living there, sharing our life together, happy.   We looked at the pictures of this house daily, every morning before we got out of bed.  And then one morning, it was gone!  I panicked!!  I insisted he call a realtor right then and there to find out what happened to my house.  Did it sell? Did they take it off the market because they changed their minds?  My heart was racing as he dialed a Colorado realtor’s number.  He left a message and within 2 minutes, we got a call back.  Henning, the realtor out of Sedalia, told us he would look into it and call us back.  It didn’t take him long to find out that the house had been on the market for over a year “for sale by owner” and they decided to list it with a local realtor who was preparing new pictures to post on their website.

Imagine my relief!  It just so happened that my hubby’s house sold within hours of putting it on the market so we were prepared to drive out to Colorado the following week.  We hired Henning to set up 2 days to show us around the houses we had decided we liked.  However, my favorite house was still my favorite house and I definitely wanted to see it in person.

The following week we arrived in Colorado and stayed with my husband’s mom and sister.  I was a little nervous meeting them for the first time but we didn’t really spend much time with them during the day because we were busy looking for a place to live.

We met Henning at a gas station and he drove us up the mountain to the Conifer/Bailey area where he had mapped out our day of house hunting.  After looking at seven houses, cabins that were mostly weekender homes, some musty smelling homes, some people who refused to leave even though we had an appointment to view the house (one had all the bedroom doors closed and when I opened one, there was someone in bed!) and some who trusted us not to let their dogs out (we did a good job with that one!) I finally said to Henning, “Okay, I’m not impressed.  I need to see my favorite house so I can get the disappointment over with!”

As we drove out the 43, it seemed to take forever to get to the street I had memorized.  As we turned left onto it, my heart started beating faster.  As we approached the end of the road, the driveway loomed before us.  All I kept thinking was, wow!  I thought the driveway was longer.  The house came into site and it was enormous!  It sat at the top of the hill and it overlooked pine trees and aspens.  We got out and looked around the property and then headed inside.  As I walked into the kitchen, my mind started to race as to what I would change and how perfect it would be.  Same with the living room and as I walked upstairs and into the master bedroom, I started to cry.  I was so overwhelmed with emotion because this truly was our new home.  I had scoured the pictures for so long on line and now I was finally here, seeing it with my own eyes and it actually felt like home to me.

I didn’t want to leave!  The owner came back and we ended up talking with him for quite some time.  After a short discussion, we put a bid on the house that evening.  It had to have a contingency because his house in California had to close before we could purchase this one and they agreed.  Long story short, we moved to Colorado and lived in our new house without furniture for about three weeks until our furniture arrived.

My husband still had one of his five children living with him.  His son, who had been home schooled in California, was going to be enrolled into the public school system.  Fitzsimmons Middle School housed the 8th graders and he started late (school started in August and we moved here in September).  Now, his son is a little different and by different I mean (we didn’t know it at the time) he is high functioning autistic.  So it was hard to watch him adjust to being around kids his own age for probably the first time in his teen years.  He was bullied at first but he was also no angel.  He contributed to the kids bullying him.  He would sit in class and make noises to annoy the other kids, he would disobey his teachers, and he would do things he wasn’t supposed to be doing, ending up in the principal’s office almost daily.  He would lie to us about his homework and his grades were failing.  He wanted to be taken out of school because he hated it but I wasn’t going to homeschool him because I was still attending college myself and didn’t have the time.  Plus we wanted him to be socialized.

We ended up meeting the Principal, Mr. Watson, and if it wasn’t for him and his caring ways, we never would have had him tested for autism.  My husband thought he had ADHD but it went far beyond that.  Mr. Watson helped him out the rest of the year and they ended up becoming close.  He would go to Mr. Watson with any problem he was having and if he was also the cause of the problem, Mr. Watson would handle it.  He updated us on a regular basis and he always seemed to be at the school.  Early in the morning until late at night.  He was often seen in many classes because he made it a point to not only check up on the students but made sure the teachers were doing their jobs as well.

Mr. Watson changed my step son’s attitude towards school.  He began liking school, started making friends, his grades went up and he was much happier.  In fact, he looked forward to going to school.  When summer break came, he was so upset he wasn’t able to go to school.

Fast forward through his ninth grade where he is now in high school.  He had to adjust to a new principal but was still able to go and see Mr. Watson if he needed someone to talk to.  We put him in special education classes and things were going very well.  It was just before the end of school when we heard that Mr. Watson had been escorted by the local police out of the building in front of children and administrators.  Most were crying as they witnessed this horrible scene.  Here is where the politics gets really thick in a small town.

After some investigation, I found out that Mr. Watson had applied for the superintendent position that had become available.  The board of 5 members had decided to hire a woman from out of the district.  In fact, she had been the assistant superintendent in Pueblo, CO and when her boss decided to leave, the board at that district asked her NOT to apply for the position.  It seems they were cleaning house and wanted some fresh blood for their poorly rated school district.  It was during her first year reigning as superintendent in our district and yet not very many parents or community members knew who she was.  During that year, we never received one email from her detailing her responsibilities, what was going on with the school, anything!  So it came as a surprise to everyone in the community, with the exception of the board, when Mr. Watson was relieved of his duties, two weeks before the end of the school year.  To say the community was outraged wouldn’t do it justice.  Over 150 community members attended his hearing to which all of the board still voted him out.  People were given 3 minutes in the hot, stuffy room to voice their opinions but only to fall on deaf ears, and to be cut off when their 3 minutes were up.

You could see the boredom on every member of the board members faces including the superintendent.  It was clear they didn’t give a shit what we thought.  It was clear they didn’t care that since Mr. Watson had taken over as principal, the students grades had gone up significantly, their testing scores had improved and they were in the top 10 of school districts in Colorado.  You see, the board wasn’t used to people showing up to their meetings.  They were used to voting in a budget without the approval of the public.  They were used to not being challenged by the community.   If someone asked them a question, they weren’t allowed to speak with us directly, we would have to wait a month for an answer, if we even got an answer.  Their website wasn’t updated and hadn’t been for quite some time.

After digging around it was discovered that 11 years ago during a water test that lead had been discovered in the elementary school water.  One letter went out from the old superintendent (Walpole) to the parents 11 years ago and then nothing else happened.  No follow up, no corrections, nothing.  So it was this incident along with the firing of Watson that sparked a watch dog group called Parents and Citizens 4 Education (PACE) to form.  After organizing, it was voted on to recall the current Board members to get to the superintendent.  That was the ultimate goal, to get rid of the current superintendent and replace her with someone who knew what they were doing.  A person who cared about our community, who lived in our community, and would be more open and transparent than the current sneak of a superintendent.   She reminded me of Obama when he wanted to get a law passed, he would by pass Congress and set the law himself.

From the get go, the community was divided.  The ones who didn’t really care what the board did and wanted to just have peace, sided with the current board members.  They also didn’t have children in the school district.  Old schoolers who didn’t want to make waves

The teachers (most of them), younger parents who care about their children’s education and a few retired educators wanted the see the board recalled.  The teachers were running scared.  They didn’t know who would be fired next so they were unable to sign the petition for the recall.  They were in fear of losing their jobs.  They couldn’t say anything.  Some teachers quit and took jobs in other school districts for more money.  Good teachers.  But it was the lies and the deceit that came out of this recall process that disappointed me and allowed me to see just who we were dealing with.  Crooked politicians.

The board members in a fight for their volunteer positions put out a smear campaign against PACE.  They called one church where PACE was meeting and paying for a room, they would be contacting the IRS and telling them they were dealing with politics in their church which would cause them to lose their non-profit, tax exempt position.  PACE had to find a different location to meet.

The county clerk was friends with someone on the board and she made available to them all the signed petitions as soon as they were handed in (law states they have to wait at least 10 days until all the signatures are validated before giving them to the opponent).  They then started a campaign by calling everyone who signed the petition to change their minds, telling them that PACE lied to them to get them to sign the petition.  They then sent them a form letter to fill out and sign and hand into the county clerk to get their signatures removed.  They used their positions with their church to do this as well as called people.

PACE had gathered enough signatures to have all 5 board members recalled.  The county clerk falsified information to PACE members which almost disqualified the petitions because she gave out the wrong dates as to when they needed to be in.

In the end, 3 members had gotten enough people to take their names off the recall petitions to not be recalled.  Two members were on the recall ballot.  Which brings me to another crooked move.

On Election Day, the recall ballots were not available at the county clerk’s office.  They were mail in only.  Most people did not realize this and when they went to vote, they requested the recall ballot and they were told they would have to drive on hour and a half to get another one if they had misplaced the one mailed to them.  This was at the request of the county clerk.  She was given two locations and she choose to have them at the furthest one for people to drive knowing most people wouldn’t do it.

After all the ballots were counted, the recall did not go through and the 5 board members got to hold their positions until next year’s election.  However, if they thought PACE was going away, they were wrong.  We are a watch dog group.  We are watching them like a hawk.  When their audit budget came out, the numbers had been transposed and we brought it the superintendent’s attention.  Not one thank you.  The report was so unprofessionally put together, it was so obvious they really do not give a rat’s ass about our community.  The superintendents condescending attitude toward our community is shameful.

So there are two volunteer committee’s that are supposed to look after what the school district is doing.  The SAC and the DAC.  School Accountability Committee and the District Accountability Committee.  Each committee is supposed to have a number of volunteers from the business community, parents, teachers, and lay people.

For quite some time, I think since last August, there was a business position available on the DAC.  I applied for it because I run a home business, I am a community member, I have worked on many committees in the past, and I have experience in putting by-laws together.  My work experience is extensive, and I’m a straight A student in college, graduating with honors, and I’m a published author.  I have done public speaking, have been a professional organizer, and clawed my way to the top in a corporate environment.

I had to be interviewed by the board and they did so in November.  They all knew who I was as I was very vocal about defending against all the lies they had put out against PACE during the recall process.  Very vocal.  I would have been vocal about the conflict of interest as to why the board is interviewing a person for a District Accountability position.  Still doesn’t make much sense to me.  But the story gets better.  When they saw my email about my desire to apply for this position, they panicked!  One board member approached one of his friends who happened to be a realtor and begged her to apply for the position too because they didn’t want to hire me.  My interview was at 5:00, her’s at 5:30.  At 5:50 she was still a no show, so they called her.  Opps, she forgot.  So, they rescheduled her interview for the following month, December board meeting.  Again, no show.  So you would think since I was interviewed, I would get the position.  No one else came forward.  But nope, they went out again and recruited someone else.  And so they interviewed her at the February board meeting.  Now my interview had been 3 months prior.  Why did they wait so long?  Politics.  So the interviewee isn’t a business owner, her parents are business owners.  She is an employee and a graduate of the high school back in 2007.  After her interview, she was hired on immediately.  Ya think they didn’t want me for the position?  Obviously!

So, I am very involved now with the PACE organization because let’s face it, our children deserve to have the best education possible.  When you have a superintendent and a board that chooses to be secretive about their goings on, they do need to be accountable for their actions.  That is what PACE is doing.  Keeping them on their toes.  Putting a fire under their asses and keeping them in check.  This month we have put together a presentation for the community to let them know in laymen’s terms, exactly where the three schools in our district really stand.  It’s actually a very informative presentation.  It even offers up solutions to some of the budget problems the district continually says they have.  A solution on how to pay our teachers more.

Speaking of teachers, at the last board meeting, one of the high school counselors informed the superintendent and the board that they were organizing!!  Yes!!  Hopefully, to get a union in there for them so they have someone to stand up for them rather than them being bullied by a board that doesn’t care about their welfare.  Progress in numbers!!  Our teachers deserve to make a living salary, a decent salary.  Our children deserve for our teachers to make a living wage, a decent wage.  The turnover is horrendous and it is only hurting our students.  I can tell you what is getting in the way, three letters, EGO.  The board and the superintendent need to put away their EGO’s and allow others to help them out.

When I posted on our community page about our presentation, one of the local reporters told me I was not being transparent.  He said the school district wasn’t putting on the presentation but PACE was.  I told him he was correct and if he would just read my post it was in all capital letters who was putting on the presentation.  He continued to not only argue with me, but to insinuate that I had deleted his post!!  None of which was true.  Who, what, where and when was in my post, clear as day.  Transparent as plastic wrap.  But see, this is the opposition we are facing.  And as I told him, the more people know about our school district the better.  Knowledge is power.  If you have nothing to hide, than a second set of eyes should not be a problem.

Oh, and as far as the new middle school principal…well, for one, the job was never posted throughout Colorado like it should have been.  The superintendent hired an interim principal without going through the proper channels.  Her entire family moved here, her husband got a job with the high school, and her kids are attending the high school.  I thought this was a pretty ballsy move for an interim principal.  Uproot your entire family from Pueblo, CO to Bailey, CO?  She knew before the community did that she had the job.   No one else was interviewed because like someone who thinks they are above the law, rules don’t apply to them.  I can’t blame her.  I can blame the school board district and the superintendent.  Last I checked, they work for us.  We are their paycheck.  Our tax dollars is what goes to the largest budget in the community, last I heard, over a million dollars and counting.

Ahh, yes, the politics of a small town.

Key West, I Miss You!

by Lucy Ahl

It was when I was visiting my best friend of 48 years this past August that she asked if I wanted to take a winter vacation with her.  You see, I have never taken a winter vacation because I used to live in San Diego, CA and frankly, there was no need to take winter vacations, it was like I was always on vacation.  But when I married my husband and he moved us to the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, the winters have been way too long for this beach loving, sun worshiping gal.  At first, I wasn’t going to go.  I didn’t want to leave my husband alone for a week with the four dogs.  However, he heard us talking on the phone one day and when I didn’t bring it up, he did.

He asked, “So, when are you going to discuss Key West with me?”  I said, “I wasn’t cause I don’t think I’m going to go.”

“Why not?”

“I’d like to experience it with you.”

“Well, I think you should go.  You’ve never gotten to travel and I think you need to do this.”

“Okay, since you put it that way.”

And so the plans began.

Sharon, my BFF, sent me info on a beautiful condo in Marathon with a private beach.  The plan was we were going to split everything.  We wanted to get a few other people to go but for some reason, no one was able to go.  I invited my daughter as she is turning 40 in March of this year and thought it would be a nice gift for her landmark birth year.  I would pay for her portion of the condo and her airplane ticket.

We booked our condo and airline tickets and then waited for February.  It came up quicker than I had anticipated but now that I’m older, these things tend to do that.

The flight took a good portion of the day and my plane landed in the late afternoon.  Sharon was already at the airport waiting for us as her flight got in earlier.  I met my daughter in Miami and flew into Key West together.  As you get into the Key West airport, there is a bar where you can order a drink and walk around.  I thought I was in another country.  We had a problem with our rental car (Alamo).  They may be cheap but they are not reliable.  We kept trying to call them to get a shuttle to our rental car but they never answered the phone.  So we walked over to Budget which was right there and we ended up with an SUV for twice the amount but it was worth it.  And the guy behind the counter was so friendly and helpful, I would definitely rent a car from them again.

It was an hour and 10 minutes from the airport in Key West to Marathon (which does have its own airport but we booked the wrong one and ended up south of Marathon).  It was a nice drive though and we stopped to pick up some groceries and alcohol before heading to the condo.

By the time we arrived, it was dark.  We put some music on, unpacked, and then sat in the living room drinking a bottle of wine discussing what we wanted to do while we were there for the week.  Exhausted, we went to bed.

The next day was Super Bowl Sunday and we decided to watch the game at Sparky’s, a hopping bar/restaurant right next to the Marina.  My daughter is a Pat’s fan, so she was pumped for the game to begin.  And what a game it was.  There was a local radio doing a live show before the game, mostly trivia questions and of course Jaime got asked to go up and answer some questions.  She ended up with a T shirt.  The guys were nice and came over to our table after their show to talk to Sharon, who was wearing a Giants shirt!  Everyone was so nice.  For happy hour, they had .10 cents a piece gulf shrimp and wings and of course pitchers of beer.  We walked there and then back to the condo as we had been drinking and knew we didn’t want to drive afterwards.  We plopped into bed at around 1:30 that night.

The next day, we drove back down to Key West and walked Duvul Street.  The best part for me was we went to Hemingway’s House and took the guided tour.  I got to see where he wrote in his studio, (I was surprised to learn he only wrote between 6 am and 12 pm every day and would write anywhere from 500 to 700 words per day) along with lots of photos of him and his wives and friends all throughout the house.  He is also famous for his many 6 toed cats (I had one years ago and I remember someone telling me it was most likely a descendant of Hemingway’s cats).  Today there are still many cats that live at his house.  He and his wife Mary loved to swim and when they moved to the US from Cuba after Castro took over, she had a pool built in their back yard which cost them over $20,000!  Lots of money back then.  It was also a little sad for me as it made me think about his death.  He committed suicide in 1961 or 1962 by shooting himself with a rifle no less.  Such a talented man who suffered from depression and alcoholism.  At the time of his death, he was impotent (sex was always important to him) and he was unable to write.  I’m sure he felt he had nothing to live for since all his pleasures had been taken from him.

We ate at Sloppy Joe’s and then watched the Sunset Celebration where there were musicians, mime’s, bars and street vendors galore!  We did not go to the 0 mile marker (I didn’t know it was there until my daughter told me about it).  For dinner we had Cuban food and listened to a great Cuban band playing while we dined outside under the stars.

The next day we rented bikes so we could bike around town.  We did 15 + miles in one day.  We pedaled our asses to the Sunset Grill and I wish we had brought our swimsuits because they had a pool!!  Food was awesome and of course the view was spectacular.

Kayaking from 3-6 where our guide, Dave, took us through the mangroves.  We saw jelly fish, spider crabs, and some of us got bitten by no seeums.  That night we sat out on the beach where we were the only ones there and just talked.  Jaime went skinny dipping and Sharon swam out in her bathing suit.  I sat on the beach and just watched them.  It was relaxing and peaceful.

We did something different each day and on the last day there, we went back to Key West.  It was a Friday night and it was packed.  We parked by the 0 mile marker because Sharon mistakenly paid for 24 hour parking before she realized it, but it all turned out good.  There was a line to take your picture and everyone was helping everyone take pictures with their loved ones.  The sun was almost setting so some of our pictures didn’t come out well however, since we were parked there, we ended up taking pictures at night when no one else was around.  We went back to Sloppy Joe’s for some live music and then walked around visiting all the shops one last time.

I am so glad I went but I have found myself missing Key West!  A week just isn’t long enough to see everything that Key West has to offer.  The atmosphere is laid back, the people are friendly, and the weather was perfect.  I would love to go back but there are other places I do want to see, so for now, I can cross Key West off my bucket list!

What the Women’s March meant to me…

By Lucy Ahl

The country is getting crazy.  Why?  Because Donald J Trump has taken office and every democrat, Bernie supporter and independent now has free reign to spread whatever lie they choose to spread.  It is turning friends against friends, family members against family members, and causing strangers to lash out at each other.  Sad if you ask me.

I am a Trump supporter.  Have been since day one.  I saw all the meme’s, all the news outlet lies, and I saw good friends cling to every word this man said and then turned it around to suit whatever the masses were saying.  Frankly, I was shocked these people were my friends…where did I go wrong in my selection of these people?  To which I’m sure they are saying the same thing about me…

As a Trump supporter, I can tell you a few things about me that I am not:

I am not a racist.  I believe everyone has a right to anything in this country.  I don’t care if you are black, white, red, yellow, polka dot, or green.  If you live here, you deserve to enjoy freedom just like everyone else.  MLK left this world without finishing his mission.  His mission of equality through peace was one of the greatest ideas anyone has ever had, and it really pissed me off when someone killed this great man.

I am not uneducated.  Though it took me until I was 61 to get my college degree, I did it with Latin Honors.  If you don’t know what that means, I graduated with a 3.96 GPA, which means I achieved straight A’s with one A-.  I don’t know very many people who have done this.  So to say Trump supporters are uneducated is a fabricated lie made up by the fear mongers.

I am not a misogynist.  Obviously.  The definition of misogynist: If you’re someone who believes women belong in the kitchen and shouldn’t be accorded the same respect as men, you might be a misogynist. A misogynist is a person who hates or doesn’t trust women.  I also do not believe this to be true of Trump for three different reasons:  His two daughters, and his wife.  Let alone all his granddaughters.  That is really the most absurd thing I heard all throughout his campaign.  I often wonder who started this rumor that the left so hardily picked up.

I am a woman.  Yes, I am and before marrying my husband, I was single for 14 years and had been divorced for 23 years.  What does that equate to? It means I supported myself and my two children without any government assistance.  I worked in an all-male field, the building industry.  I rose to the top by being a good employee.  I knew my stuff.  It wasn’t until Obama took office in 2008 that I lost my $70,000 per year job and was unable to find another one with comparable pay.  So what did I do?  I didn’t go out and rob a bank so I could continue to live the lifestyle I was accustomed to, I downsized.  I did what I had to do to survive.  I moved into a place I could afford on my unemployment until I could hopefully secure a job.  I sold my Mustang convertible and got a small SUV with smaller payments, I budgeted my money for groceries.  No food stamps, no supplemental income from the government except unemployment, no help from any government agencies.  Jobs were scarce back then, and talk about scary!  It was an unsettling time (how soon many of us forget).  No one was hiring full time unless you had a degree (which at the time, I didn’t), so I got a part time job answering phones for a car dealership that paid $10.00 per hour.  Was I disheartened?  You betcha.  Was I depressed? Somewhat, but I didn’t let it rule my life.  Did I hate the administration and what they did to our economy?  You bet your ass I did.  Did I threatened them?  Hell no.  Did I protest? Fuck no I was too busy trying to make ends meet.

I am not politically correct.  One thing I love about Trump is he speaks his mind.  I don’t give a rat’s ass if you agree with me or not.  Just because he is now the President he should change his ways, hell no.  I am so over Washington and their lobbyists.  Been going on far too long and boy, have they run scared!! Where were all the gasps when Obama by passed Congress to pass bills he wanted passed?  Why weren’t the people involved in Obamacare?  The only choice we had was to pay the bill, whether we could afford it or not.  Doesn’t seem fair to me.

“You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right? [Laughter/applause]. The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic — you name it. And unfortunately there are people like that. And he has lifted them up (Hillary Clinton, 2016).

I am anything but what Mrs. Clinton called me back in 2016.  Me and millions of other Americans.  I am all for gay rights, gay marriage, prochoice, am certainly not xenophobic: having or showing a dislike of or prejudice against people from other countries (in case you didn’t know what this word meant) because most of Americans came from other countries, and I am certainly not Islamaphobic except when they want America to change into a country they fled and let’s face it, the Koran does call everyone but them infidels and states how we must be destroyed.  When radicals come into this country and kill thousands of Americans, or stand before a video tape and behead journalists, tourists, and contractors, for the hell of it, your god damn right it’s going to piss me off.  Does that mean all Islamics are radical?  Does that mean all Muslims are radical? Probably not, however, a few are spoiling it for everyone.  And these are facts, but that doesn’t make me an Islamaphobic.

So for those who thought the women’s march was for every woman, they were wrong.  I wasn’t invited nor was I welcome.  My other sisters for Trump were not welcome, in fact, most of them either got pepper sprayed or booed for being there.  But aren’t we women too?  Doesn’t our voice count too?  For me, I want a better world for my grandchildren.  I want a cure for cancer and all the other horrible diseases the science world seems to be milking for only the money.  I want my government to care about all the homeless, the veterans, the poor of our own people first and then we can worry about other countries.  Is that selfish?  Maybe.  Then I’m selfish and proud.  I want to see our country prosper once again like we used to.  I don’t think there is anything wrong with wanting that.

I’m tired of Washington sending billions of dollars to help other countries while children go to bed hungry in this country.  I’m tired of Washington spending billions of dollars to rescue other countries while millions of homeless men, women, and children sleep on the streets.  I’m tired of Washington giving out grants to immigrants to start their own businesses while thousands of manufacturing companies are laying off Americans with families only to open their doors in other countries.  And after spending $40,000 on my secondary education, I’m tired of Washington giving handouts to students from other countries to get an education.

I am second generation Italian and I can tell you my grandparents did not get a grant to start up their own businesses.  My grandmother cleaned houses and my grandfather worked on the docks, did carpentry work, and saved their money to not only buy a house, but to purchase a business in Brooklyn NY back in the early 1900s.  If they can do it, why can’t the immigrants coming over here now do the same thing?  What makes today so different than yesterday?

This is why I support Trump.  This is why I back Trump.  I remember how things used to be.  I remember when America flourished.  I am a baby boomer, I didn’t get a trophy just for participating; I got a trophy because I worked my ass off for it and I won.  And if I didn’t get the trophy, it made me work even harder for it.  That is what is missing in today’s society.

So I will sit back and watch Mr. Trump, my President, try to do his job.  Will he make mistakes?  Of course, he’s human.  And I hope he will learn from those mistakes.  I will by-pass the facebook bullshit because frankly, too many damn people are depending on that app for their news and I really feel sorry for these people.  I have hidden many of my friend’s comments because I just don’t want to hear it.  Just like they didn’t want to hear it about Obama.  I don’t watch the news, the Grammy’s, the Oscars, Springsteen, or anyone or anything else who cares to bash Trump.  I prefer to sit back and watch and let him do his job after all, it’s only been a few weeks.  The best meme I heard after the women’s march, “Trump got more fat assed women to go for a walk in his one day in office, than Michelle Obama did in eight years!”  I’d say he is doing a hellava job so far!!

 

Sources:

NPR: Hillary Clinton’s ‘Basket Of Deplorables,’ In Full Context Of This Ugly Campaign

September 10, 2016

beyond the shadows – by Lucy Ahl

September 1989

Grant was experiencing the quiet solitude of the hiking trails off the Oregon Caves National Monument when the predatory urge hit him, rising up in his gut and making him break out in a cold sweat.   He had been a slave to this beastly appetite ever since childhood and the more he tried to ignore it the more intense and powerful it became. Since he never knew when it would hit him, his backpack was equipped with a variety of means. He was like a boy scout, always prepared.

The fog was beginning to roll in and it gave the appearance of a mystic rain forest. As he walked a little further up the trail, he could smell the pungent odor of a barbeque.  His stomach growled.  He heard faint voices echoing below the trail.  Creeping over to a large Myrtle wood tree, he pressed his body close to the trunk and peered around it.  He saw a young couple sitting across from each other at a small wooden table engaged in conversation. Unable to make out what they were talking about, he decided to bide his time in case anyone else was with them.  Wanting to catch them off guard, he waited for them to finish eating before grabbing his horn rimmed glasses out of his vest pocket and walking out of the trees, fumbling with his binoculars, acting lost.

Tripping down the embankment, the surprised couple watched as Grant got closer. Getting up from the table, the couple walked over to where Grant stopped just prior to their camp perimeter.

“Sorry to intrude. I think I’m lost.”

Licking his lips, Grant smiled showing no teeth. He pulled out his bandana wiping the sweat off his brow.

“I’ve been walking around for a while and going in circles.  I can’t find the trail.”

Grant nodded towards their hibachi. “My nose guided me here.”

The couple followed his gaze as he glanced up at the tree tops,

“Bird watching. Gets me lost every time. Think I’d learn my lesson and bring a compass.” Staring at the silent couple, he folded the bandana into a square, and pushed it back into his vest pocket with two fingers. “Can you direct me?”

“Depends. Where’re you headed?” said the man as he put his arm around the woman.

“Back to the parking lot, I suppose.”

“The trails up here can be difficult to follow. That’s been our experience anyway.  Better to show you than tell you.” The man stuck out his hand towards Grant, “Names David” Pointing towards the woman, “My wife Beth.” Grant shook both their hands.

“Let me grab my pack.”

Walking over to their tent, David bent down, opened the screen and went inside. He grabbed his backpack and decided to take his gun. Outside he could hear Grant and Beth making small talk.

“I go to Oregon State. Just out here taking pictures of birds. Nothing too exciting.”

“Me too, that’s where I met David. What’s your major?”

“Not sure yet, but leaning towards zoology or something along those lines.” Grant was good at making up stories. What’d he care? They’d both be dead within the hour.

“Hey Beth, can you come here for a minute”

“’cuse me”

As Beth went inside the tent, Grant thought it was the perfect time to dispose of them together, but in his mind, his dark passenger wanted more of challenge.  How easy it would be to just stab them right now, but what if he missed one or both of them?

Grant heard whispering so he moved closer to eavesdrop.

“Did you see his eyes? Shifty. What do you think I should do?”

“You told him you’d show him the way out. Just take him to the top and point. I’ll start packing so we can get the hell out of here.  I’m creeped out.”

“I put the gun in my pack.”

“Want me to go too?”

“No, no. If I’m not back in 30, hike out and call for help.”

“Shit, forget it, don’t go, just draw ‘em a map.”

David looked at Beth and shook his head, “If he was gonna do anything, he could do it right here, right now.  It’ll be fine, if he tries anything, I’ll just shoot ‘em”

Grant could hear every word. “Everything all right in there?” He backed away from the tent and when David and Beth emerged, he was facing the forest.

“Sorry, just discussing how long it will take to get you to the trail, Beth’s pretty anxious to get going.”

“Look, if it’s a problem, just draw me a map, I’m sure I can figure it out myself.”

“Nah, I know a short cut, shouldn’t take us long to get there. Need some water?”

David reached into the cooler and pulled out two bottles of water, throwing one to Grant.

“You ready? Let’s head up this way”

The fog had thickened and left dew on the leaves.  Every few steps, the men slipped and as the leaves were churned up, the musky scent of the dirt filled their nostrils. They passed a few gray, granite boulder outcroppings.

“Mind if I check these out?”

As Grant walked around the large rocks, he noticed an opening between two of them.  Taking out his flashlight, he peered inside.

The perfect place to hide a body or two.”  Looking over at David, he could tell by the man’s fidgeting he was anxious to get going.  He was shifting his feet from side to side, looking up towards the top of the small incline, and checking his watch.  The fog was getting thicker making the area seem gray and gloomy.

“I think it’s right up here, hard to tell with the fog.”  Coming to the top of the hill, both a little breathless from the climb, the well-used trail, though covered with wet leaves, was clearly visible.

“Just follow this trail, it comes out at the parking lot, take you 30 minutes or so.”

“Thanks much, man.  Appreciate the help.  I’ve read too many stories ‘bout people gettin lost in these here woods and not a trace of them to be found.  For a while there I thought I was going be one of them statistics.” Grant shook David’s hand.

“Well, good luck to ya.”

Putting two fingers up to his forehead as if saluting David, Grant clicked his tongue, “You saved my life. I owe you one. See ya around.”

David watched as Grant shuffled his feet along the leaves on the trail. Turning around to see where David was, Grant waved at him and shouted, “Bye.” When David thought Grant was at a safe distance from him, he turned to head back to camp.

Leaving the trail, Grant headed back towards the boulders, ducking behind trees as he went so he wouldn’t be seen. His dark passenger was getting antsy. The voices in his head kept shouting “hurry, hurry, hurry.”  Crouching down behind the largest of the three rocks, Grant pulled his pant leg up and pulled the 7” survivor blade out from its leather holster he had strapped to his ankle.  He waited.  He could hear his heart beating and his breathing became rapid.  The excitement building within him.  And then, there he was, David, whistling and shuffling his feet in the leaves, as if he hadn’t a care in the world.  Grant would never forget the look of surprise on his face as he jumped out at David. His eyes got as big as saucers. His mouth opened so wide, Grant thought he heard it crack.  Falling to the ground on his back, unable to reach his gun, David lay there helpless.  Straddling his chest, Grant placed the knife just under David’s left ear.

“Please don’t” was the only plea he could muster.  But all it did was fuel the beast.  Grant could hear his own blood pulsing in his ears and the voices chanting in his head, “Do it, do it” over and over again. Grant knew what he had to do in order to shut them up.  With the slightest bit of pressure, Grant guided the knife into David’s neck, slicing from left to right. Immediately, Grant could feel the warm liquid of David’s blood on his hand.  The excitement Grant felt as he watch David struggle to breath, to talk, was almost too much for him to bare.  Like a child experiencing his first Christmas, he watched in awe as David moved his mouth to speak and only sounds of gurgling could be heard.  The metallic smell of blood filled Grant’s nostrils.  Within seconds, David lost consciousness and within a minute, he was dead. A sense of euphoric relief flooded through him.  It was so intense, Grant felt lightheaded.  His penis became erect.  Reaching for his backpack, he unzipped the front pocket and took out a condom.  Unbuttoning his pants, he pulled out his member, unrolled the condom the full length of his penis, and began to jerk off.  He came within seconds.  His heart rate and breathing gradually slowed. Sliding off David’s limp body, he rested against the boulders with his eyes closed. Worried someone might walk by and see him, he carefully pulled the condom off and placed it in a plastic bag.  Dipping his finger into the blood on David’s chest, he wrote the number 89 on the bag and the letter “D”.  Carefully placing the bag on the ground, he rolled David’s body near the opening of the cave. The dead weight made it difficult to maneuver but with a little effort, he completed the task of hiding it.  The mulched leaves where David had fallen were covered with blood.  Using his hands, he rearranged the dirt and leaves so if anyone came by, they wouldn’t notice the blood, at least not right away. He wiped the knife blade clean with his bandanna and then placed the plastic bag with the used condom in his pack. He was proud of his trophy.  When he got home, he would place it with the others he had collected throughout the years. He poured the bottle of water David had given him on his hands to try and get rid of the blood stains, to no avail.

Looking at his watch, Grant couldn’t waste any more time getting back to Beth at the camp site.  Before placing David’s backpack in the cave with his body, Grant removed the gun shoving it in his waist band, and began running back towards their camp.  As he approached the camp, he paused behind a tree, wanting to be sure Beth was still there.

Seeing she was busy packing up the campsite, he ran down the hill towards her yelling her name.

“Where’s David?”

Gasping for breath, Grant tried to tell her David had had an accident.

“What?” “Where is he?”

“He fell. Not sure how … but his screams … I need your help … hurry.” Grant could tell she was in a quandary.  Remembering their conversation in the tent, he could see she was hesitant.  Grabbing her upper arm, coaxing her, “come on, he needs our help.” Beth pulled away from him, “I should call 911.”

“No time for that. Hurry, he needs you.”

Grant noticed Beth was staring at his hands. Without moving his head, he lifted his eyebrows and rolled his eyes up to see her expression. The color had drained from her face.  Her rosy cheeks were gone.  Her eyes had the look of disbelief. He could see her lips quivering.  Her hands were shaking violently.  Her breathing was shallow. Yes, he recognized that look. Fear. He could smell it too. She was paralyzed as he stared down at her. What was that pounding? Her heart or his? A smile crossed his lips.

“Come now Beth, don’t make this any harder than it has to be.  Let’s take a walk shall we?” As Grant reached for her arm, Beth bolted towards the forest screaming for David.

“Perfect” Grant thought, “She wants to play hard to get?”  Grant trotted behind Beth, not wanting to lose site of her, yet not wanting to catch her too quickly.  He enjoyed the hunt.  He was going to savor her death.  The smells of the forest and the heavy fog rolling in between the tree trunks heightened his senses. It was getting colder. “Beth, I promise I’ll make it quick, you won’t feel a thing, not like David did”. He started to laugh. “You should have seen the look on his face.  It was priceless.”

Walking faster now, he could hear Beth running further away from him.  He could see only a dark silhouette of her body through the fog.  He knew he could overtake her but he was enjoying himself. “Come out, come out, where ever you are.” His words echoing through the forest.  It was only a matter of time. She would get tired and try to hide.  Up ahead, Grant heard splashing.  “She found the creek” he thought.  As he got closer he would smell the stagnant water.  He could hear Beth swimming towards the other side of the shore. Straining his eyes, he could make out her white arms as they came up from the water.

“Shit” He knew he had no choice but to dive in. He would not let Beth get away.  The dark passenger began to rise as his anger cramped his stomach. Beth wasn’t cooperating and being on the verge of losing control would not benefit her in anyway. He refused to allow her to win.  Letting her live was not an option.  Diving into the creek, he felt the shock of the cold water rush over his body. As he came up for air, he smelled the mossy stench of the dead vegetation that rose up from the bottom as he moved his arms forward and back.  Strands of limp reeds clung to his arms. Looking across the water, he saw Beth struggling to get out of the creek, the water weighing heavy on her legs.  She disappeared into the tall, brown reeds.

Grant reached the shore line minutes behind Beth.  As he crawled out of the water, his clothes clung to his body, the cold air smacked him in the face and he began to shiver. “Got to keep moving, can’t let her get away.” Walking into the reeds, he stopped.  Moving his head from side to side, he tried to pick up any rustling sounds. The fog was heavier on this side of the creek. The crickets and frogs silenced their conversations. Listening, he took another step and stopped.  Nothing but the sound of his own heavy breathing and pounding heart.  Bending from the waist, he put his hands on his knees trying to slow down his breathing.  He could feel her watching him. She was near. It was only a matter of time before he found her and dragged her sorry ass back to the boulders to join her husband. His thoughts of her torture and eventual death, warmed his shivering body. And then he heard it. Snap. It didn’t matter if it was a tree branch or a dried up old reed, the sound drew him to Beth’s hiding place.

* * * * * * * *

Grant awoke with a start.  Brushing his hair away from his face, he felt the cool wetness on his forehead. His pajamas were soaked. Raising himself up on his elbows, he noticed all the bed covers were in a ball on the floor.  The room was cold. Looking over to his right, the other side of the bed was empty.

“Honey?”

Silence.

“She must’ve gone out for a run”

Getting out of bed, Grant stretched.  Picking up the bedcovers, several dried up brown grass reeds fell out onto the hardwood floor.

“What the …”

Noticing the red stains on his hands, he ran to the doorway of the bedroom  screaming his wife’s name …. “Beeeeetttthhh”

The End

Amazon: Literary Suicide or Genius of the Future

 

By Lucy Ahl

Like Walmart, Amazon is a global superstore.  It not only publishes books, it sells books, technology, videos, has its own literary magazine, and its own production studio. Amazon’s founder and chief executive, Jeff Bezos, a graduate of Princeton, also owns a major newspaper, The Washington Post. Amazon is turning or has turned the publishing industry upside down and they are feeling the effects.  Bowker reports that over one million (1,052,803) books were published in the U.S. in 2009, which is more than triple the number of books published four years earlier (2005) in the U.S. (April 14, 2010 Bowker Report). More than two thirds of these books are self-published books, reprints of public domain works, and other print-on-demand books, which is where most of the growth in recent years has taken place. Bezos told Charlie Rose on 60 Minutes, “Amazon is not happening to bookselling. The future is happening to bookselling.” (Packer 17).

One traditional publisher, Dennis Johnson, co-owner of Melville House out of Brooklyn and one of the few publishers willing to criticize Amazon publicly, says the mega giant has turned into the bully of the publishing world.  When Johnson’s distributor was approached by two Amazon employees, he described the dinner meeting “like dinner with the Godfather.” Refusing to budge on making a payment to Amazon for carrying their books, (in 1999, Amazon received $3,621,250 in co-op fees) Johnson contacted Publishers Weekly, who ran their story about the strong arm of Amazon.  The next day, the “buy” button on all their titles had been deleted.  Because Amazon accounted for eight percent of their sales, Melville House caved to the pressure and paid the ransom.  Though major publishing houses believe Amazon has monopolized the digital works of fiction and non-fiction genres by selling books for just a few dollars, unknown authors and readers who live hundreds of miles from any bookstores, disagree.

History of Amazon

In 1994, Amazon started off as a bookstore, an internet bookstore.  Jeff Bezo’s, a Princeton graduate, quit his job at a Manhattan hedge fund and moved to Seattle to cash in on the “exponential growth of the early commercial Internet” (Packer 2).  In Chicago in 1995 Bezos manned an Amazon booth “at the annual conclave of the publishing industry”, called BookExpo America with a sign that read “Earth’s Biggest Bookstore”.  When approached by Rainy Day Books owner, Doeren, he asked “where is this bookstore?” Bezos replied “cyberspace”.   When Bezos told Doeren his business plan, by gathering data on affluent, educated shoppers then selling books close to cost in order to increase sales volume, Doeren went back and told his business partner “I just met the world’s biggest snake-oil salesman.  It’s going to be really bad for books.” (Packer 3).

By 2010, Amazon controlled ninety per cent of the market in digital books (Packer 10).  One literary agent, Andrew Wylie, was worried Amazon had no competition.  E-Book prices were being slashed to a mere dollar ninety-nine or ninety nine cents and publishers feared it would not be long before they had to slash the cover prices of all their titles. Publishers wanted control back and along came Apple.  Apple wanted a deal with each of the big six publishing houses, Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin, Random House, and Simon and Schuster.  All but one, Random House, took the Apple deal and though the deal was worse from Apple than Amazon. “Apple’s terms included the provision that it could match the price of any rival” (Packer Cheap Words 12).  It gave publishers control over pricing and a way to challenge Amazon’s grip on the market.  However, in April of 2012, the U.S. Justice Department filed a complaint against Apple and the big publishers on conspiracy to fix prices after Attorney Steve Berman filed a class action suit.  Because Berman was an avid reader of e-Books, he discovered a number of different publishers had increased their book prices from $9.99 to $13.99.  After some investigation, Berman decided it was exactly what the publishers were trying to do, fix prices.  “The federal complaint was a shock and an embarrassment to the publishing community” (Gessen “The War of the Words” Vanity Fair 7).  Apple and the big publishers were trying to squash a monopolist-in-the-wings, Amazon, and the government stepped in and stopped them.  It was catastrophic for the publishers who had to pay out millions in damages to rid themselves of the class action suits (Gessen “The War of the Words” Vanity Fair 7).

Despite all this drama, behind the scenes, publishers were making money, just like Bezos said they would.  Print book sales may have been down, but e-Book sales were up.  With the e-Books there were no manufacturing costs, no warehousing costs, not shipping costs, no returns, and so even at a lower price, their profit margins were higher.  For instance, the retail price of a hardcover book of $27.99 would net profit to the publisher at $5.67, a profit margin of 41%.  An eBook selling for $14.99 retail will profit the publisher $7.87, a profit margin of 75%, therefore, publishers are making more money on e-Books than hardcover books due to the low cost of publishing.

In 2014, a war between Hachette, book publisher for writers such as James Patterson, Malcom Gladwell and Douglas Preston, and Amazon began.  The business dispute grew into a high stakes one, authors got involved because it was their bread and butter.  They organized a group called Authors United and circulated a petition that gathered more than 900 signature.  It called for Amazon to put an end to the sanctioning of books” (Gessen “The War of the Words” Vanity Fair 8).  In a nutshell, the Amazon-Hachette dispute mirrored a culture war which had been playing out since the 1960s in America.

Authors United was able to obtain 900 signatures to put an end to Amazon’s sanctioning of books. However, writers who had self-published with Amazon, some who had made a good living out of doing so, came to the defense of Amazon.  They were tired of New York publishing making the decisions of what stories people were allowed to read.  They were tired of the high prices of books, and they were tired of the little profits made on each book, with the majority of profits going to the publishers.  So they fought back.  They made it known that Amazon wasn’t the evil enterprise these authors purported Amazon to be.  They explained it was the natural and inevitable transition to online book sales.  They said the same transition happened to other forms of entertainment, they blamed the publishers for “resisting technology” (Gessen “The War of the Words” Vanity Fair 8).  These same publishers could have done the same thing that Amazon did, but they didn’t, they choose to fear the future and fight to protect the status quo (Gessen “The War of the Words” Vanity Fair 8).  Their petition on Change.org obtained more than 8,000 signatures.

The dispute with Amazon and Hachette ended in November of 2014 with both parties seemingly happy with the results.  The dispute was mainly over pricing and how much royalties an author could expect on sales of e-Books.  Hachette sent a letter out to its authors informing them their royalty payments would not decrease and they were given the right to decided how much to charge for their eBooks on Kindle.  Amazon in turn would provide incentives for Hachette to have lower e-Book prices, however the details of their deal remains unclear.  According to Sarah Kahn, an industry analyst at the market researcher IBISWorld, said the agreement shows that “large publishers have some kind of impact to negotiate with Amazon” (Stenovec 1).

Amazon’s self-contained publishing world has its advantages and disadvantages to the author who decides to publish with them.  First off, the majority of book sales, 20%, are through its e-Books, on the Kindle platform or on Kindle Direct.  The books are never seen in a book store, most won’t carry Amazon titles because they believe they are being undercut by Amazon and that they are out to destroy them (Shapiro 2).  Authors are also sacrificing the traditional New York based literary world as well as some amount of recognition in the world at large (Shapiro 2).  Amazon promotes the titles on its website and the Kindle, and uses one vendor, Amazon.  This is definitely not a path to riches for the author.  In fact, some find themselves working for almost nothing.  Aaron Shepard, an author of three “how to” books on Kindle publishing says he has told his readers to deliver the message, “The party’s over”.

One of the advantages of self-publishing with Amazon would be the low production costs, through their CreateSpace program.  With Kindle Direct, authors don’t pay any upfront cost to Amazon, they take a cut of 30 percent once the book starts making money.  This leaves a 70 percent royalty payment to the author much higher than the 10-15 percent from traditional publishers.  One self-publishing author has made upward of $450,000 a year.  According to an article in Forbes, a UK-based author, Mark Dawson, who writes thrillers and crime novels, has sold 300,000 copies of his thriller series about a British assassin named John Milton netting him a six figure total.

Future Issues

Around eighty percent of newly released books originate from self-publishing or small presses and this figure has been increasing yearly (Carolan & Evain 285). In order to establish the positioning of self-publishing’s future development, one must look at current industry practices. By profiling self-published authors, Carolan and Evain, who wrote a journal article “Self-Publishing: Opportunities and Threats in a New Age of Mass Culture” (2013), broke these profiles down into three categories: the big fish in the big pond, the big fish in the small pond, and the small fish in the big pond.  The author’s example they used for “the big fish in the big pond” was John Grisham.  Prior to becoming a bestselling author of legal thrillers, Grisham’s first novel, A Time to Kill, was rejected by dozens of publishers and agents until a small New York publishing house, The Wynwood Press, decided to release an initial run of five thousand copies.  Because Grisham had been studying the market, he knew his book would not obtain the success he was looking due to the limited marketing potential of the small independent press.  He sold his law firm, purchased one thousand copies of his book and went on a three month book tour cross state.  He ultimately sold every copy.  He then set out to produce his second novel, The Firm, which attracted Hollywood into making a major film, and in turn was then adopted by a major publishing house.  Though Grisham is often mistaken as a self-published author, he remains heavily involved in the promotion of his work and yet is also engaged with traditional publishers.

“The big fish in a small pond” category corresponds to self-published authors who have managed to “establish their authority as author-entrepreneurs in niche markets” (Carolan & Evain 288).  This is the perfect example of author James Redfield and The Celestine Prophecy. Redfield sold almost one hundred thousand copies of his philosophical dissertation on new age spirituality before Warner Books picked him up.  Niche markets are successful as self-published books because “these specialty books do not appeal to large-scale publishers and it is far easier to market a book to a specific audience” (Yakawicz 2010).  He has since sold over a million copies and the book is translated in thirty-four different languages.  Another reason for his huge success was the timing of his book.  The author had a great deal of knowledge in both his subject and his readership and the small interconnected communities used word of mouth to help develop his product (Carolan & Evain 288).

“The small fish in the big pond” concept deals with the self-published books that are released through Print-On-Demand which sells about an average of seventy five copies of any given book (Carolan & Evain 288).  The competition in this market is fierce.  Most self-published authors keep a low profile so it is important for them to engage with their readers either electronically or physically.  It’s important in this day and age for the authors to let readers know why they should invest their time in getting to know them. Blogging and social media networking websites are ways for authors to build their online communities and interact with their readers.

Diversification of Publishing

With the e-Book renewing the love of reading for many people, it has also helped the book industry all the way around.  People are checking out books at the library and they are still buying hard copies via the internet.  With the diversity offered to the public, it seems the modern publishing environment has been able to co-exist and complement each other’s activities.  Gabriel Zaid explains it beautifully:

The technologies that lower the threshold for investment and the cost of the product respond to the need of a better educated population to read and express itself in an ongoing conversation in which diverse subjects and interests multiply.  By rooting themselves in this economic reality, some forms of conversation that actually favor diversity may thrive.  But those that impoverish conversation instead of enriching it will encounter difficulties inherent in the very nature of books.

Conclusion

More than two thirds of the over one million books published each year are self-published books, reprints of public domain works, or other print-on-demand books.  All of this growth has come in the name of Amazon, the global superstore.  And even though in the beginning, traditional publishers felt Amazon was monopolizing the digital works of fiction and non-fiction genres, the publisher’s profit margins increased from 41% to 75%.  With 80% of newly released books originating from self-publishing or small presses, it’s no wonder this is the way of the future.  It has opened up diversity in the market place and has allowed both the traditional publishers and the e-Book publishers to find a way to co-exist in the market.  After all, enriching people’s lives will help a society thrive in an ever changing market place.  Amazon opened the doors to the future, and the future is here to stay.

           Works Cited

Bowker Report. “Self-Publishing Movement Continues Strong Growth in U.S.” Tools and Resources. Thorpe-Bowker. A ProQuest Affiliate. 2010. Web.

Carolan, Simon. Evain, Christine. “Self-Publishing: Opportunities and Threats in a New Age of Mass Culture”. Springer Science+Business Media, New York. 12 Oct. 2013. ProQuest.

Gessen, Keith. “The War of the Words. How did Amazon End Up as Literary Enemy No. 1?” Vanity Fair. Dec. 2014. Web.

Packer, George. “Cheap Words. Amazon is good for customers. But is it good for books?” The New Yorker. 24 Feb. 2014. Web

Ronning, Helge. Slaatta, Tore. “Marketers, publishers, editors: Trends in International Publishing. Media, Culture & Society. Sage Publishing. Journal. 2011. ProQuest.

Shapiro, Nancy. “The Perks, Pitfalls, and Paradoxes of Amazon Publishing.” Seattle Weekly News. 4 Nov. 2014. Web

Stenovec, Timothy. “Amazon Probably Didn’t Get What It Wanted In the Hachette Deal” The Huffington Post. 14 Nov. 2014. Web.

Yakowicz, Susie. “Find Self-Publishing success with a Niche Market”. 2010. Web.

Zaid, Gabriel. “So Many Books: Reading and Publishing in an Age of Abundance. Sort of Books. 2010. Print.

Hoarding

By Lucy Ahl

As I drove up to the two story house, which seemed to loom over the single story homes on the same block, I noticed the windows were all covered with white sheets.  A red wagon was carelessly strewn across the green, tall grass on the front lawn.  It was an unusually hot day and I started to sweat as I walked up to the front door.  There was a swarm of flies buzzing in a circle around the entry way.  Ringing the bell, I noticed a gray haired man peering through the panes of glass.  He opened the door slowly. “Yes?” he asked in a whispered voice, holding the door only inches open where all I could see was his nose and one eye.

“Hi, I’m Lucy, the professional organizer.  Mr. Cano called and asked me to come by and give an estimate on decluttering his home”.  Reaching into my notebook, I flashed my card close to his nose.

“Oh, yes.  Thank you for coming.  We need to hurry though as my girlfriend will be home soon, and I don’t want her to know I have called someone”.

He opened the door slowly and a putrid odor that smelled like rotting chicken and dirty diapers hit my nose.  I had to force myself not to gag.  As I walked into the foyer, I could see the living room and dining room.  Every inch of space, from floor to ceiling, was filled with clothing, shoes, vacuums, irons, golf bags, and an assortment of dirty dishes.   There was a small area on the couch that was cleaned off and it looked as if this is where Mr. Cano sat as he watched TV.  The dining room table had clothing piled high on it and the kitchen counter was crawling with maggots and ants. Dirty dishes covered every inch of counter space.  Looking up, I saw another swarm of flies buzzing around in a circle.

“So, what is it you would like me to help you with today”, I said half joking, half serious.

He explained to me his girlfriend had a hoarding problem and he was tired of his house looking and smelling like a morgue.  “She goes out on trash day and dumpster dives other people’s trash.  Late at night, she drives around to the bins where people donate clothing and such and raids them.  I haven’t been able to use my garage for the past three years, yet alone, the rest of my home.  My kids won’t even come visit me because of this mess”.

As I looked around, I could image this place without all the clutter.  The honey colored hardwood floors underneath all the clothing, had started to turn black, probably from mold.  The fireplace in the living room had fancy drywall cuts in it to make a southwestern design.  The wall space that could be seen, was painted in a mauve shade and the trim, a light tan, the color of toast.  The high ceilings, without all the cobwebs, gave the place an open, airy feel.  But it was the kitchen, massive in size that held the most promise.  Surrounded by windows, if not covered up by white sheets, could emanated the natural light, giving it an outdoor feel.  The dark cherry wood cabinets complimented the golden mottled granite on the countertops.  The enormous island in the middle of the room housed the filthy stainless steel stove.  Looking closer, I saw a trail of black ants carrying away bits of rotten food.  I honestly did not know how much more I could take, I was getting nauseous from the putrid smell.  Mr. Cano opened up the freezer.  He proceeded to remove something that once resembled a gray squirrel, squashed from a car tire.

As I walked outside into the clean, fresh air, I took a deep breath.  I could feel my lungs expanding, thirsty for clean oxygen.  As I looked up, the swarm of flies, still there, flying around and around in a circle, just like Mr. Cano’s relationship.