Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Child abuse, impossible to understand

A 4-year old boy was murdered here in Michigan, close to where I grew up, in a small, pleasant little community surrounded by lakes and farmland. As so often happens, the people caring for Dominick weren't. His mother's boyfriend, who was also a drug dealer, beat and tortured Dominick for four days before the mother's sister reported the abuse to the police. It was too late. The details were gruesome, so awful the nurses and doctors who treated Dominick at the hospital had to speak with counselors about what they saw. The boy set off this man's abusive temper-tantrum by wetting his pants and soiling the couch.

The 24-year abuser's life is over. He'll spend, at the very least, the rest of his life in prison. So will the boy's mother, who is an accomplice in her son's murder. Even without a life sentence in prison, she will serve one in her mind. Worse, the 8-year old brother witnessed everything and has to testify in court. One wonders if the brother will ever recover while wishing and hoping he can. The mother's family and the child's father will be haunted by what happened, as will everyone who knew Dominick, indeed, the entire community.

How do things so incomprehensible happen? What happens, step-by-step, that leads to and creates such a horrific tragedy? This case isn't an isolated event. Children, the aged, and ordinary adults die of abuse every day. Where do we fail as individuals, parents, family, friends, and community that allows these results? More importantly, can we change?

Update 2012: the man who murdered Dominick received 100 to 150 years with no parole. Dominick's mother was convicted of second-degree murder and child abuse and will be in prison between 13 and 30 years.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Cover for Crewkin

Delilah K. Stephans of MuseItUp Publishing designed the cover. I'm working on first edits as I write (they're open on Word on my computer). February seems a long time away, but I know it is right around the corner. It gives me something to look forward to in the middle of winter!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Only Suvivor

Here's an introduction to the lead character in Crewkin.

Renna heard the hatch open, and a woman entered. Never raising her gaze, Renna noticed through quick side glances the woman looked alien, so very different from her crewkin. Yes, she wore Markham Corporation uniform, so they worked for the same company. Only she was shorter, plumper, her face, nose, and neck, even her fingers, too thin, her brown eyes and hair, the wrong color. She wore jewelry and makeup. Renna tightened her handclasp. Her training helped her blank her expression and emotions. She fell back on her kin's mantra: calm, professionalism, duty.

The woman sat in the chair on the opposite side of the table. "Well, Renna, this is a strange situation for you, isn't it?"

"Yes." Duty required simple straight answers, no embellishment. She refused to scream, "My ship and the rest of my kin are dead."

"Your crewkin went through a horrible experience. Most of them died. All those you shoved into escape pods only came here to die far from their ship. You didn't join them."

She sat here, so the answer was obvious, and she understood the words were an accusation. She kept her gaze on the table in proper crewkin submission; answer enough. The anger in her belly writhed like one of the reptiles shown in a learning tape she remembered from her childhood. The image always stuck with her because she felt the same knot-making movement inside.

"Medical gave them suicide drugs." Renna carefully kept her voice calm, concealing her anger. She glanced at the woman. For an instant, she imagined a serpent's tongue flickered from the woman's too red mouth and looked away.
"Because we know your type. You cannot live without your kin." The woman paused. When Renna didn't answer, she continued. "What do you plan to do? You cannot join another crew. Unfortunately, there is no other place for you to go."

"There are other ships." She held her breath at her insubordinate, unkin-like response.

The woman laughed a soft, mocking sound. "You want to join one of the ships making runs to and from the few planets in the system? After the long hauls, you and your kin made? You won't fit in. You are too different."

"I'm a speaker."

"Yes, you, of all your kin, were the only one to talk with outsiders. It's probably why you've survived here in the Markham hospital. Shortrun crews, though, aren't crewkin. They all have existing friends and family outside of their ship's crew. Even a speaker will be too strange for the norm crews to accept you. We only want to help you, and the truth is, you belong to your crewkin."

"Will you kill me?" Her defiance at asking a question nearly overwhelmed her. The serpent in her belly moved, her hands shook, and her jaw clamped tight. She wanted to scream, "I was never part of them." The thought startled her.

"No, we don't want to kill you. We want you to choose the correct path and join your crew. If you don't, your only choice is to leave. Markham Company cannot continue to take care of you." She recognized sympathy in the woman's face. The expression looked practiced, fake.

Leave. Alone. Outrageous, frightening words; her breath caught. She felt her body react. The slithering in her belly stopped. "Then I will leave." She nearly laughed at the woman's stunned look, but that would be unprofessional, and unkin. Inside, excitement glittered like stars.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Poisoning Our Environment, Poisoning Our Lives

With the largest environmental catastrophe taking place in the Gulf, many people, including me, sicken with an awareness of what this could mean to both coastal and ocean waters. It will probably take years and many tears for the true scope of this tragedy to be known. BP is the villain in this drama, but make no mistake: We are all guilty. We just do it on a smaller scale.

For several generations we have demanded convenience over safety, guilty of wanting perfect lives, homes, gardens, lawns, travel. We have turned our logic off, listened to convenience providers' claims while ignoring the fact we have been poisoning our bodies and homes, as well as our earth, air, and waters.

Don't believe me?

It wasn't too long ago that we didn't mind spraying insecticides to get rid of mosquitoes and flies that entered our houses, or showed up at our outdoor gatherings and picnics. We sprayed over the heads of our family and guests, over our food and beverages, and ignored the fact that those spray cans contained poisons.

Teflon coated pans made cooking clean up a breeze. Now, most of us have Teflon in our blood. (see UCLA link below).

Those chemical fertilizers and weeding agents may produce perfect weed-free lawns, but they also kill all micro-organisms in the soil, not just broadleaf plants growing in the grass. And God help us, many do not follow label directions. Is it any wonder that in the last fifty years we seen changes in our children's health? Just recently learned 2,4-D the chemical that kills the broadleaf weeds, was first used in chemical warfare as part of Agent Orange in the Vietnam War. Does that make it bad? I don't know, but it does show you its potential power.

So what can we do? First off, we need to get smart and think about what chemicals you want around your family. If you choose to use a product, any product, READ THE LABEL and act responsibly. Follow directions and dispose of any remaining product as recommended.

Do we need all the chemicals we are using in our homes? No.

A few years ago, as I was using a popular cleaner in my bathroom, the smell made me choke and cough and my eyes watered. It made me think. When I was a child we didn't have all these must-have cleaners. Are we sure they are as safe as they claim to be? That's when I started searching for recipes for homemade cleaners, so I knew what was in them. Now I use vinegar, baking soda and limited amounts of ammonia (which can also make you choke and cough and your eyes water if used in too strong a strength) to clean my house. One good source I found was a list from Michigan State University. Not only is my house just as clean (I admit I don't demand a spotless house of myself), but I've saved money, too.

There are other ways we can reduce poisons in our daily lives if we are aware of the danger and seek out alternative methods to accomplish the task at hand. Hope I've started you thinking about the issue and how you can limit the poisons in your life.