Let Me Tell You ‘Bout the Birds and the Bees

Warning: this column is about the birds and the bees and might make sensitive souls uncomfortable. I’ll throw in butterflies for no extra charge. Has anyone noticed that over the past few years you have been seeing less of these amazing creatures in your gardens and at your feeders? If you have, you are not alone. People around the Wake Forest area are talking about it, and even people in Pennsylvania, my home state, have noticed it. I for one, am distressed by this, for a decline in personal enjoyment and from an ecosystem perspective. A few years ago, I had so many hummingbirds at my feeders that they even fought with each other, and with the bees, too, who also enjoyed the sweet nectar I served up for them. One day, bees were hanging off the feeder like a buzzing yellow and black beard. There was a time when every other clover had a bee sitting on it.  Now, I get excited when I see one or two hummers, bees, or butterflies hanging around. Is this just an aberrancy that nature will adjust in time? I don’t think so.

About two years back, before I noticed the scenario unfolding in my own back yard, I wrote an article about this, and I think it is now time to revisit the topic. In 2017, Food and Wine magazine detailed how our food supply is dependent on birds, bees and butterflies, and it warned that bees and butterflies were going extinct. Several reasons were mentioned, not the least of which was the use of pesticides, and thus began my awareness of the devastation these chemicals can bring on our world.  

I never use the spray types of insecticides and used “Sevin” dust only once, but it stayed on the plants and every time I looked at them, I wondered how many birds, bees, and butterflies I was killing. Instead, I decided to use the “Bayer 3 in 1 Advanced” granule form to handle plant insects, diseases, and mites because it was not topical, but I was deluding myself, and I knew it. Once those granules get absorbed into the soil, they enter the entire plant system. The only thing that comforted me was that I had not applied the product when my flowers were blooming, which is the time they are frequented by pollinators, who then ingest the chemicals. One year we had a lawn service spray for bugs. That year I had deformed, dead baby bluebirds in my box. That was the last time they came.

One of the worst of these chemicals is imidacloprid, a neonicotinoid, and the one that is in the “Bayer 3 in 1” line of products. Neonicotinoids have been used for two decades as a cost-effective way for farmers to control insect destruction of their crops. Because neonicotinoids, of which there are eight different forms, had initially been deemed “safe” for use on food crops for humans, it has been allowed continued commercialization. However, in recent years, pesticides have been linked to bee colony collapse and now to the decline in the hummingbird population. A Feb 23, 2021, post from the news blog “Beyond Pesticides” discusses the problem of pollinator decline and states that “overwhelming data has already been established on the threat neonicotinoids pose to the health of ecosystems worldwide.” Not only are pollinators affected, but now there is concern about their effects on humans, amphibians, and other aquatic species due to fact that these chemicals can leach into our environment, persist in the soil, and are highly soluble in water.

Has this discussion of the birds and the bees made you uncomfortable? I don’t know the answer to this serious problem, but I know that, thankfully, scientific research continues. I am going to try some non-toxic options to treat my plants this year, and if they don’t work, I’ll stick some artificial flowers there instead.  

Are You An Organ Donor?

Health writers never run out of topics for articles, but I like to choose ones that might be of real value to my readers. This one may be a bit edgy, though; I want to talk about organ donation. I had a friend years ago whose young, healthy son died in a car accident. I cannot fathom the pain of losing a child. It is, in fact, my greatest fear. When they approached her about organ donation she flatly refused and was incensed by the request. I can sympathize with all the emotions that went through her heart and mind, but, unfortunately, time is of the essence when it comes to harvesting organs. This time constraint often denies family members sufficient time to process their loss before they are approached to make the painful decision about donating their loved one’s organs. My friend could not feel compassion above the overwhelming grief when it came to making this decision.  Everyone experiences and approaches grief resolution in their own way and time, but some are not ever able to do so.  Such was my friend. Through God’s grace I have never had to make that gut-wrenching decision, but I know that my husband and I, and all four of our children, wish to be donors, and I would pray for the strength to carry out their wishes should the unspeakable happen.

According to https://www.organdonor.gov/statistics-stories/statistics.html, as of September 2020, 109,000 people were on the transplant list. There are nine organs that can currently be transplanted: kidneys, pancreas, liver, heart, lung, intestine, face, and hand. Skin and eyes can also be donated, skin being an organ itself. By far, however, the greatest need for organs is the kidney. Unless it is a directed donation, such as a donated organ to a matching recipient like a family member, organs are difficult to come by because an unexpected tragedy must occur for one to become available. People with chronic illnesses are not acceptable donors, so, paradoxically, one family’s grief is another family’s answered prayer or granted wish. A maze of emotions is born with each sudden, accidental end to a life.

This complex set of emotions is one reason that everyone should discuss the uncomfortable subject of organ donation with members of their families ahead of time. Include it in a living will, put it with your driver’s license, or at the very least, make your wishes known verbally to everyone, regardless of what those wishes are. The worst time to make decisions is when you are forced to make them in the heat of emotions. You are not a horrible person if you cannot accept this, but by agreeing to donation, you are giving a chance at life to someone else. It may help to put yourself in the other family’s shoes. If it was your loved one waiting for an organ and another family was grieving the loss of theirs, what would you want them to do? I am reminded of the bumper sticker that says: “Don’t take your organs to heaven; heaven knows we need them here”.  

Afterglow

I decided to change things up a little and publish some flash fiction. I hope you enjoy it.

The conference room, usually a dull and boring place, was now home to a magnificent Christmas tree. Festive wreaths and garland were artfully placed in the room to celebrate the upcoming Christmas season. Despite some disturbing rumors, people smiled at the bright decorations and chatted with their coworkers as they entered the room for their monthly staff meeting.  Pleasantries were exchanged and the boss called the meeting to order. Marie Hudson, the secretary for the meetings, presented the notes from last month and prepared to record the proceedings for today. 

“As you know’, Marie heard her boss say, “Smaller businesses have not been doing as well as they used to because of larger companies acquiring an increasing share of buyers’ attention.”

Residual whispering ceased and the room fell silent. This was not the start to the meeting anyone had expected. Were the rumors true?

“Simply Elegant Jewelry has not been doing well, but we were hoping that this shopping season would put us back in the black. We have been seeing a shift in consumer buying habits from small, privately owned stores like this to larger companies, who can buy their products in bulk at a better price, thereby allowing them to offer consumers lower prices as well. We have been fighting hard to compete with them for customers but have been unable to keep up with discount jewelers and department stores. We all know the quality of our products is unsurpassed, but luxury items are often the first to go when budgets get tight, and this is what many people are dealing with.”

By this time, people in the room were developing pits in their stomachs and lumps in their throats. The handwriting on the wall was beginning to appear. 

“We did the best we could, but we are unable to keep the business going”, he said, and a collective gasp was painfully audible in the room.  

“As of January 1st, our doors will be closed. You will all receive generous severance checks and good references for other potential employers. I want to thank you all for being the hard-working, loyal employees that you are, and I wish you all the best. We are so sorry, especially to have to do this at this time of year. If there is anything we can do to help, we will certainly try”.

With that, the meeting was adjourned, and stunned co-workers returned to their stations to quietly finish out their shifts. Frustrated, tired, and dejected, Marie shuffled out of the office when the day was finished. Her head felt like a stovepipe. She thought that if any more soot got stuffed inside it would surely explode. This sudden downward twist in her life left her feeling helpless. She felt it seemed the more she tried, at work, home, or anywhere else, the worse things got. Ever since her husband, Mark, succumbed to the clutches of an aggressive and devastating cancer two years ago, she has felt like a piece of soft taffy being pulled in multiple directions by so many people: her children, her employer, her church, and her aging parents, among others.

 “Everyone wants a piece of me”, she thought, “and they all pull so hard I feel like I will just rip apart, no one will get enough to be satisfied, and I will be torn beyond recognition.”

Marie did not have enough time in a day for anybody, including her children, whom she loved more than life itself. She worked as many hours as she could just to stay above water. After she paid the bills, the mortgage, and the babysitter, put food on the table, clothes on their backs, and gas in the car, there was little left. And now this. This was her reward for so many years of hard work and dedication. Rumors of a poor corporate financial situation had recently been spreading unchecked, and suspicions that positions would be eliminated to save the company were felt but left unsaid by employees. Tension had permeated the office like a thick fog as people moved about, appearing as busy as they could to substantiate their existence in the company. Watching all of this transpire over time, she thought she would be prepared for anything, but she was wrong. Layoffs were one thing because there was always a hope of being called back, but closing permanently? Panic alternating with disbelief consumed her as she struggled to process the devastating news. It hadn’t been the job of her dreams, but it had been steady, and it kept food on the table and a shelter over their heads.

What was she to do? She didn’t want to go home and tell her children, who, amidst the pain of losing their father, somehow managed to support each other through their mutual grief and challenges of life. They did not need any more pain or disappointment. They didn’t deserve that. Marie numbly made her way through town, absentmindedly glancing in the store windows. The displays she had looked at a thousand times looked different to her tonight. Faces of the mannequins that proudly boasted chic clothing seemed to sneer at her. Sparkling jewelry looked tarnished. Antiques just looked old instead of like the treasures she knew they were. The bright and beautiful displays began to blur from the tears filling her eyes.       

All too soon the shopping district ended and there were no more stores in which to feign interest. Nothing to delay the inevitability of going home and sharing the bad news with her children. Taking a deep breath, as if trying to draw the strength she needed to complete her journey, Marie paused at the last one, a gift shop, and as she glanced inside, a twinkle caught her eye. She could see inside clearly from her vantage point and became mesmerized by beautiful cut crystals hanging above the counter, playing tag with strategically placed lighting. Brilliant colors escaped from the crystals whenever they caught a light beam. Like mischievous little fairies, colors danced around, filling the room with rainbows.

 As Marie was allowing herself this brief respite from life, her solitude was suddenly pierced by the sense of another presence nearby. It made her feel uncomfortable, and she knew she should have left, but suddenly and inexplicably, she wasn’t frightened and felt compelled to stay.

“Beautiful, aren’t they?” she heard a soft-spoken voice say.

Marie politely nodded, mildly annoyed at the intrusion on her solitude.

“They weren’t always so pretty”, a man said.

She turned her head to see the aging, but soft, face of an old man. Compassionate blue eyes that seemed to pierce her soul looked back at her. The wrinkles on his face suggested a long, and probably rough, life, but, at the same time, outlined a gentle smile that instantly put her at ease.

The old man continued. “In the beginning, those crystals were nothing but pieces of quartz or glass, lovely in their own rights in their innocent, unaltered states. They were mined, made smooth and then sent to a stone carver, who made cuts in the smooth glass to make beautiful jewelry and ornaments. Every cut marred the smooth surface, but with each one, a new beauty emerged. The more cuts that were made, the more brilliant were the prisms of color bursting from the stones when light was allowed through.”

The sincere, caring look on the old man’s face and his soft voice brought unexpected warmth to Marie’s heart as she turned her attention once again to the crystals, pondering his words.

“You know, life is much like these crystals.” The strange man continued. “It starts out smooth and unscathed, sorrows comforted and erased by the loving cocoons spun for us by our parents. But along the way we make mistakes, bad and unexpected things happen, people hurt us, and cuts are made on our hearts.”

Marie once again turned to look at the man, gazing intently at his face as she listened silently to his words.

“If we will only allow the light to shine, those cuts will create a magnificent rainbow of understanding, patience, wisdom and strength that will infuse our lives with peace. That light is God. He is all we need to make a rainbow out of life’s wounds. He will give us peace and His love will never let us down.”

She turned away again so the man would not see the tears that were welling up in her eyes once more. How did he know she was hurting? How did he know that she had lost touch with God? Memories of her husband’s death flooded her thoughts as she recalled the indescribable pain and hopelessness she and the children had felt. She never thought they would recover from that but with God’s help, they managed to get through it. The pain never entirely resolved, and none of them will ever be quite the same, but they made it. They wanted his death to mean something, so they set up a fund in his name that has helped countless families dealing with cancer. Mark used to call things like this “seeing rainbows through the rain.” 

At that moment, as she watched the crystals’ colors dancing around in the store, Marie knew that she and her children would be OK. God had brought them through crises before and she knew that He would do it again. She knew that she needs only to listen to His voice, trust and obey Him, and there will be a rainbow after this rain.

As Marie composed herself, she turned to thank the old man, but only the bright streetlights met her eyes. She looked around, and as she looked up, her eyes were drawn to one light that was surrounded by a rainbow of color. She allowed her eyes to linger on the light for a little while, and as they focused, she was sure she saw it smile a gentle smile.

I decided to change it up a little today and write some flash fiction. I hope you enjoy it.

he conference room, usually a dull and boring place, was now decorated with a lighted Christmas tree and festive wreaths and garland to celebrate the upcoming Christmas season. Despite some disturbing rumors, people smiled at the bright decorations and chatted with the coworkers as they entered the room for their monthly staff meeting.  Pleasantries were exchanged and the boss called the meeting to order. Marie Hudson, the secretary for the meetings, presented the notes from last month and prepared to record the proceedings for today. 

“As you know’, Marie heard her boss say, “Smaller businesses have not been doing as well as they used to because of larger companies acquiring an increasing share of buyers’ attention.”

Residual whispering ceased and the room fell silent. This was not the start to the meeting anyone had expected. Were the rumors true?

“Simply Elegant Jewelry has not been doing well, but we were hoping that this shopping season would put us back in the black. We have been seeing a shift in consumer buying habits from small, privately owned stores like this to larger companies, who can buy their products in bulk at a better price, thereby allowing them to offer consumers lower prices as well. We have been fighting hard to compete with them for customers but have been unable to keep up with discount jewelers and department stores. We all know the quality of our products is unsurpassed, but luxury items are usually the first to go when budgets get tight, and this is what many people are dealing with.”

By this time, people in the room were developing pits in their stomachs and lumps in their throats. The handwriting on the wall was beginning to appear. 

“We did the best we could, but we are unable to keep the business going”, he said, and a collective gasp was painfully audible in the room.  

“As of January 1st, our doors will be closed. You will all receive generous severance checks and good references for other potential employers. I want to thank you all for being the hard-working, loyal employees that you are, and I wish you all the best. We are so sorry, especially to have to do this at this time of year. If there is anything we can do to help, please see me in my office.”

With that, the meeting was adjourned, and stunned co-workers returned to their stations to quietly finish out their shifts. Frustrated, tired, and dejected, Marie shuffled out of the office when the day was finished. Her head felt like a stovepipe. She thought that if any more soot got stuffed inside it would surely explode. This sudden, new downward twist in her life left her feeling helpless. It seemed the more she tried, at work, home, or anywhere else, the worse things got. Ever since her husband, Mark, succumbed to the clutches of cancer two years ago, she has felt like a piece of soft taffy being pulled in multiple directions by so many people: her children, her employer, her church, and her aging parents, among others.

 “Everyone wants a piece of me”, she thought, “and they all pull so hard I feel like I will just rip apart, no one will get enough to be satisfied, and I will be torn beyond recognition.”

Marie did not have enough time in a day for anybody, including her children, who she loved more than life itself. She worked as many hours as she could just to stay above water. After she paid the bills, the mortgage, and the babysitter, put food on the table, clothes on their backs, and gas in the car, there was little left. And now this. This was her reward for so many years of hard work and dedication. Rumors of a poor corporate financial situation had recently been spreading unchecked and suspicions that positions would be eliminated to save the company were felt but left unsaid by employees. Tension had permeated the office like a thick fog as people moved about, appearing as busy as they could to substantiate their existence in the company. Watching all of this transpire over time, she thought she would be prepared for anything, but she was wrong. Layoffs were one thing because there was always a hope of being called back, but closing permanently? Panic alternating with disbelief consumed her as she struggled to process the devastating news. It hadn’t been the job of her dreams, but it had been steady, and it kept food on the table and a shelter over their heads.

What was she to do? She didn’t want to go home and tell her children, who, amidst the pain of losing their father, somehow managed to support each other through their mutual grief and challenges of life. They did not need any more pain or disappointment. They didn’t deserve that. Marie numbly made her way through town, absentmindedly glancing in the store windows. The displays she had looked at a thousand times looked different to her tonight. Faces of the mannequins that proudly boasted chic clothing seemed to sneer at her. Sparkling jewelry looked tarnished. Antiques just looked old instead of like the treasures she knew they were. The bright and beautiful displays began to blur from the tears filling her eyes.       

All too soon the shopping district ended and there were no more stores in which to feign interest. Nothing to delay the inevitability of going home and sharing the bad news with her children. Taking a deep breath, as if trying to draw the strength she needed to complete her journey, Marie paused at the last one, a gift shop, and as she glanced inside, a twinkle caught her eye. She could see inside clearly from her vantage point and became mesmerized by beautiful cut crystals hanging above the counter, playing tag with strategically placed lighting. Brilliant colors escaped from the crystals whenever they caught a light beam. Like mischievous little fairies, colors danced around, filling the room with rainbows.

 As Marie was allowing herself this brief respite from life, her solitude was suddenly pierced by the sense of another presence nearby. It made her feel uncomfortable, and she knew she should have left, but inexplicably, she wasn’t frightened and felt compelled to stay.

“Beautiful, aren’t they?” she heard a soft-spoken voice say.

Marie politely nodded, mildly annoyed at the intrusion on her solitude.

“They weren’t always so pretty”, a man said.

She turned her head to see the aging, but soft, face of an old man. Compassionate blue eyes that seemed to pierce her soul looked back at her. The wrinkles on his face suggested a long, and probably tough, life, but, at the same time, outlined a gentle smile that instantly put her at ease.

The old man continued. “In the beginning, those crystals were nothing but pieces of quartz or glass, lovely in their own rights in their innocent, unaltered states. They were mined, made smooth and then sent to a stone carver, who made cuts in the smooth glass to make beautiful jewelry and ornaments. Every cut marred the smooth surface, but with each one, a new beauty emerged. The more cuts that were made, the more brilliant were the prisms of color bursting from the stones when light was allowed to pass through.”

The sincere, caring look on the old man’s face and his soft voice brought unexpected warmth to Marie’s heart as she turned her attention once again to the crystals, pondering his words.

“You know, life is much like these crystals.” The strange man continued. “It starts out smooth and unscathed, sorrows comforted and erased by the loving cocoons spun for us by our parents. But along the way we make mistakes, bad and unexpected things happen, people hurt us, and cuts are made on our hearts.”

Marie once again turned to look at the man, gazing intently at his face as she listened silently to his words.

“If we will only allow the light to shine, those cuts will create a magnificent rainbow of understanding, patience, wisdom and strength that will infuse our lives with peace. That light is God. He is all we need to make a rainbow out of life’s wounds. He will give us peace and His love will never let us down.”

She turned away again so the man would not see the tears that were welling up in her eyes once more. How did he know she was hurting? How did he know that she had lost touch with God? Memories of her husband’s death flooded her thoughts as she recalled the indescribable pain and hopelessness she and the children had felt. She never thought they would recover from that but with God’s help, they managed to get through it. The pain never entirely resolved, and none of them will ever be quite the same, but they made it. They wanted his death to mean something, so they set up a fund in his name that has helped countless families dealing with cancer. Mark used to call things like this “seeing rainbows through the rain.” 

At that moment, as she watched the crystals’ colors dancing around in the store, Marie knew that she and her children would be OK. God had brought them through crises before and she knew that He would do it again. She knew that she needs only to listen to His voice, trust and obey Him, and there will be a rainbow after this rain.

As Marie composed herself, she turned to thank the old man, but only the bright streetlights met her eyes. She looked around, and, feeling compelled to look up, she caught her eyes being drawn to one light that was surrounded by a rainbow of color. She allowed her eyes to linger on the light for a little while, and as they focused, she was sure she saw it smile a gentle smile.

Shopping Past and Present

Seasons Greetings, Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Happy Hanukkah! It’s been a rough 2020 for all of us and I’m not exempt. I haven’t felt much like writing, or doing anything else, for the past few weeks, but now Christmas is at hand, and even though it will be different this year, we will still celebrate the birth of our King in any way we can. Barring inclement weather, our family is going to have our own Christmas Eve service around the fire pit in my daughter’s yard, a true Coronavirus Christmas. I’m looking forward to that. My family is creative.

And then there is the commercial end of Christmas. Although it certainly is not as important as the birth of Jesus, it is still something we enjoy. I feel for the small business owners who are overshadowed by Amazon and other large corporations vying for our dollars. I may be giving away my age but I remember the days of riding around and around the mall parking lots from Thanksgiving until around mid-January waiting for someone to pull out of their spaces so we could hurriedly shoot in before someone else got it. Those were the (pre-confinement) days. Sometimes I yearn for those “old days” of shopping when we had to navigate through the lines of fidgety, excited children waiting to whisper in Santa’s ear and maybe score a candy cane, or the times when I was the one holding the hand of one of those children. Bittersweet nostalgia. Now I’m pestering my children to give me suggestions for Christmas gifts that I can purchase online.

COVID 19 has left its mark on virtually everything.  It has left us paralyzed, helpless and confused. As I watch small businesses and restaurants suffer, I have decided to try as hard as I can to support local businesses or at least purchase things that are made in the USA, which is very hard to do, sometimes. I have not been particularly successful at doing this, myself, but I am trying. If we commit to helping our businesses here, we should be ready to pay a little extra for our gifts because these products are usually a bit higher priced than those that have been imported. Many small stores are developing an online presence, but we may have to do some searching. If we are to survive, we must support each other in any way we can. So shop online at smaller stores whenever possible. Get some takeout to keep our restaurants in business. Every little bit helps.

At the risk of sounding, well, opportunistic, I will include links to my books for you. They make great stocking stuffers or gifts. If you don’t like what I have to offer, please purchase from other small businesses. My books are not sold in brick and mortar chain bookstores, but they are in a few local, independent ones: Rose Garden Boutique in Louisburg, NC, has the two children’s books. Page 158 Books in Wake Forest, NC, has The Town of Alpaca and The Prettiest House on the Block, and SoSo Books in Raleigh, NC and Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh, NC have all three. If these stores are convenient, please look there first. The links below are to Amazon, but the books are also available at https://www.barnesandnoble.com and https://www.walmart.com.

Stay safe and healthy and have a wonderful holiday season, no matter what you celebrate.

Off to the Literary Races!

When I wrote my two children’s books, I was pretty much on my own to market them, which I did not do extrememly well. An indie publishing house picked up “The Prettiest House on the Block: A Revealing Story of Domestic Partner Abuse”, and what a difference! So far I have had two newspaper interviews, a radio interview, and an online event to benefit Turning Point of the Lehigh Valley in Pennsylvania pending. I also have a vendor fair coming up and a virtual talk for a local Rotary club. Energized, I scheduled several more events for while I am in Pa. next week because it’s my home town, and my publisher is in the neighboring town of Allentown. (Fun fact: Billy Joel’s song wasn’t actually about Allentown; it was about Bethlehem, but he didn’t like the way that sounded, so he made it ‘Allentown”, from what I heard. Allentown, in reality, had no steel mills at all. They were in Bethlehem.)

I would like to share some more things with you about my new book because October is Domestic Violence awareness month and I’m encouraging everyone to purchase this book because it is an important resource for people in this kind of pain. I’m not counting on making a lot of money because, frankly, after the publisher’s royalties and amazon’s cuts, my take home is peanuts. It really IS more of a public service than a cash cow, unless of course, Oprah picks it up! LOL! The narrative below is a copy of what will be appearing in the Book Buzz section of the North Carolina Writer’s Network website. The links below that are to the radio interview I had with an NPR station, WDIY in the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania, and to my book on Amazon. And then you will know “The rest of the story”! (RIP Paul Harvey.) Stay safe and healthy!

Book Description:

This is a fascinating story of one woman’s struggle with domestic abuse, but it is much more than that. I have taken the story of Donna Miflin and her husband, Max, and dissected it, interspersing education on the subject itself; on the medical conditions of both, which were paramount to their stories; and on the psychological  aspects of this intricate web of abuse. I explored nature vs nurture, discussing how dysfunctional childhoods can work in tandem with genetic factors to create adult abusers and victims. I included ways to get help, and also how to formulate an escape plan, considering safety first. I talked about the demographics of victims, and included much encouragement for victims all throughout the book. My hope is that whenever victims start losing their hope, they will remember my words: “You got this!”

Alcohol abuse, drug abuse, spousal abuse, narcissism, blended families, promiscuity, infidelity, unplanned pregnancies, loss, grief, and white collar crime are all part of Donna’s life and her identity as a person and combine to make this a book that is difficult to put down. If you are a victim, a survivor, a concerned friend or family member, an educator, a domestic violence advocate, a counselor, or a spiritual advisor, you will find this book “immensely valuable” as one reviewer put it. Another said that the only problem with amazon reviews is that “she couldn’t give it 10 stars.” (Martie R)

Domestic violence is a perpetual, intractable societal problem which has been made worse by COVID 19. When I began writing this book, I had no idea of the impact it was destined to make being published in the middle of a pandemic. DV hotlines and shelters are overwhelmed right now with no signs of easing up at this point. My goal for writing this memoir/novel is two-fold: to provide Donna Miflin (not her real name) with catharsis and a sense of closure, and to provide increased awareness of this menace of society.

Pat’s Bio

Patricia Schoch is a native of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania but has lived in several cities in North Carolina since 1990. She is a retired Registered Nurse with a strong clinical background, including serving as a Forensic Nurse Examiner (FNE), a.k.a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE), which is what led to her advocacy for sexual assault, domestic abuse, and child abuse victims.

Pat has written two children’s books, “The Giggle Box”, and “the Town of Alpaca”, the latter of which won third place at the CIPA EVVY awards in the Children’s Storybook Fiction category in 2019. “The Prettiest House on the Block” was her first foray into adult books. She has written for the Agora Cosmopolitan, a Canadian newspaper, and has done several Freelance projects. Prior to the pandemic, Pat was writing kindergarten curriculum for an Irish educator and author living in China and working at a school that teaches Chinese children the English language. Unfortunately, this project is still on hold. Currently, along with promoting her books, Pat writes a health column for her local newspaper, The Wake Weekly.

Pat has been happily married for 46 years, has four adult children, one very smart, talented and beautiful granddaughter, and four very smart, talented, and handsome grandsons. She currently resides in Wake Forest, NC with her husband and large, fluffy, sweet, gorgeous Native American Shepherd dog.

Book Blurbs:

“Immensely valuable. One woman exposes the darkest time of her life and learns the difference between judgement and responsibility.” Sherrill A Masi – Sales Associate

“Prettiest House on the Block is a compelling and at the same time chilling narrative about the scourge of spousal abuse. A study of loss, grief, shame, emotional and physical abuse, the book provides an insightful view into a delicate topic which is all too common, too frequently unrecognized, and so often underreported. The author provides important advice and a measure of hope for those so affected.” Robert Hill, MD, FACEP, Emergency Physician.

“Ms. Schoch tells the story of “Donna, a woman experiencing Intimate Partner Violence at the hands of her husband, “Max”. Her story serves as both a warning and a strategy for anyone looking to navigate either existing and/or potentially abusive relationships.” Kim Rosen, LICSM, psychotherapist

Link to Radio Interview:

https://www.wdiy.org/post/author-patricia-schoch-lv-arts-salon#stream/0

Link to Book:

Hidden Dangers of COVID 19: Love Shouldn’t Hurt

 “Husband for Sale”. We have all seen funny memes on Facebook during the quarantines of COVID 19 and thank goodness most of us have been able to see some semblance of humor in the darkness of this period in our lives. When can our kids go back to school? When can I go back to work? Will I even have a job to go back to when all this is over? Cohabitating with another person, or more if there are children or aging in-laws in the house, is hard enough as it is, but when you add quarantine and 24/7 isolation with each other, it adds another whole layer to the foundation. When people retire, I have heard jokes about how they will be able to tolerate the other person when he or she is home all the time, but many a truth is said in jest, and this is a real concern for some people. Routines are disrupted and things one may have disliked about another that used to be like a pebble in the ocean may now look like a boulder in a dry creek. Most household members can ultimately learn to cope and live with each other with minimal damage until the existential crisis is over, but not all.

The crisis we have been facing since Feb 2020 has given birth to even more concerning crises for some couples. Not every couple lives in bliss.  According to a February 2018 article sponsored by eHarmony, 64 % of couples reported they were happy. That leaves approximately 36% that are not. A certain percentage of these unhappy couples may have an even darker side: they may be either perpetrators or victims of domestic abuse. One in four women and one in seven men have been injured at the hands of an intimate partner. Every three seconds someone is assaulted by someone with whom they should be sharing love. Since the COVID 19 pandemic, calls to crisis centers and demands for emergency shelter have been overwhelming. These are the unseen tragedies directly related to COVID 19 that you may not see in the news every day. All of the stressors that everyone feels are exponentially worse for those with anger and control issues.

The term Domestic Violence has been all but replaced by the term Intimate Partner Violence, since not all violence occurs within the confines of a domestic situation. It can occur with dating couples, even in high school. It’s not always women who are victims, either. Although usually in less violent ways, women do abuse men. These cases often go unreported because men may be embarrassed about being assaulted by a woman. She might also threaten to take the children away from him, or if she controls the checkbook, she can withhold financial information from him. She might also threaten him with slander to family, friends, and even employers. In addition, there are no shelters for men at this point due to the supply and demand factor. Since there are generally more women than men who are abused, and because the danger to women is greater because men are usually more violent than women, the demand is not there for men. There is help for men, though, in the way of counseling resources and the legal process, if necessary.

There is another group that is also underrepresented in the statistics, and that is same-sex couples. There is a dearth of information on this group because few studies have been done on them, but, despite what may be the perception people have, it seems that the incidence of IPV may even be higher than that of heterosexual couples because of stressors that are unique to them, mostly from a societal standpoint. They need more specialized help than others, from professionals experienced in dealing with those with this unique set of issues. There is little doubt that more studies need to be done on same-sex couples and Intimate Partner Violence.

When I wrote my book, ”The Prettiest House on the Block: A Revealing Story of Domestic Partner Abuse”, I had absolutely no idea of the significance it would carry when it was released. My subject and I wanted to increase awareness of this persistent and devastating piece of our world, but we were oblivious to the impending  pandemic that would change our lives forever. I go into great detail on many aspects of this problem in my book, which is available on amazon at https://www.amazon.com/Prettiest-House-Block-Revealing-Domestic/dp/0999146092/ref=sr_1_1?crid=21MX4G0A71RLC&dchild=1&keywords=the+prettiest+house+on+the+block&qid=1600750507&sprefix=the+prettiest+house%2Cfinancial%2C162&sr=8-1, and at

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-prettiest-house-on-the-block-patricia-a-schoch/1137577058?ean=9780999146095.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. If you or someone you know may be in trouble, please call The Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or if you cannot speak safely, text LOVEIS to 1-866-331-9474. Love shouldn’t hurt.

What Are We Worth?

As the clock approaches midnight, I’m choosing to write this blog instead of crying. It remains to be seen whether it will plug up or stimulate the tear ducts. I suppose it could be considered a follow-up to the last one but I am so close to bursting into tears right now that I need to do this.

I have a bad habit of posting a political article that I find interesting and informative and then immediately regretting it or getting one upsetting comment that causes me to take it down. Either way, some people have seen it. Why should I care? We all have our opinions, right? And we are entitled to them because it is our constitutional right, right? Not quite. That piece has become so diluted that the political landscape looks like Moses parting the Red Sea.

I have heard people jokingly say that the internet is the work of the devil. I laughed, like everyone else did, but I’m beginning to wonder. Oh, it has been lots of fun, has helped businesses grow, keeps us all in touch with people from lifetimes past, and gives us all a space to brag about our families, pets, and even our gardens. Guilty on all three. All good stuff, but it is also a hotbed for criminals, pedophiles, pornography, etc.

Currently it is causing chaos and division in a way I have never seen before in my life, and I am no spring chicken. Not only do we have unsavory politicians and journalists in colors of red or blue, now we have a venue for them to spew their hate, deceit, and lies, creating chaos in people’s lives. Before the internet, people would discuss politics at the bar, at the barber shop, at family gatherings, even on street corners, and there were always debates, but as far as I know, politics did not cause the degree of hated that it now is causing. We can all still have fun and socialize on Facebook, but now there is an evil imbedded in the code that is seeping into every little space and fracturing lives and friendships, indelibly defining who we are with each stroke of our keyboards.

What makes me so sad is that, currently, we are not only defined by the things we choose to share with people, but by which politician or political party we choose to support. Even though lies and deception are rampant on both sides of the political coin, people only choose to believe what they want to believe, those on the other side be damned. There are so many nooks and crannies in the muffins we get served on a daily basis through biased media that we can’t even tell on which side the muffins are buttered. And is it real butter, or fake butter? The manufacturers have churned the products to be so smooth that you just never can tell. And that’s exactly what they want. Unfortunately, many people don’t believe that or want to believe it of their chosen leader of the free world.

I decided a long time ago that I would not be voting for “the man” but for the party that most closely aligns with my belief system. Curiously, it seems like one side will be voting for “the man” because they passionately despise the other one, and one side will be voting for the passionately despised “man” because they passionately despise the agenda of the other party, and ne’er the twain shall meet. That would be fine, in itself, except that people are tethered to one side, passionately hating the other, and there is little room for civil discourse. Passionately. Yes, I’m aware that I have overused the word, and have done so intentionally, because that is the only word that can nicely describe the emotions that have created the thick, immobile pollution of hate hanging heavily in the air we breathe, and that infiltrates the very depths of our hearts and souls. Emotions are expressed in words that jump nimbly onto our computer screens from keyboards.

What are we worth as people? We used to choose our friends because of similar interests, mutual friends, their children’s parents, etc. Our worth was measured by solid friendships, loyalty, shared backgrounds, willingness to help when in need, compassion, talents, character, and love. Those values are no longer important because now all of those things have been condensed into one angry category: who you will vote for. This measure of worth as a friend is decidedly unfair for several reasons, the most important being that we only have two choices. What if we believe half of what one side espouses and half of the other side? We have to choose one, even if we may not be happy with parts of their agenda, because we only have two choices.

Our value as friends and as people should never, ever be attached to a faction, (i.e, a party), that is divisible from the whole. Some of us are not red or blue, but varying shades of that purple I talked about in my previous post, but we don’t have purple as a choice, only dark red or dark blue. And yet, people on both sides continue to blame, chastise, name-call, and insult each other, even friends, because they are positive that they are totally right and the rest are totally wrong, and that is almost never true. Even in divorces, the scales may be tipped more to one side than the other, but because no one is perfect, the “blame” must be shared.

I’m not perfect, either. I admit to some of these bad thoughts, myself, and I know that. I continue to try to change those, but friends, it is not easy right now. I will try harder. Again. And again, until the discontent and confusion is wiped completely from my heart. (The devil loves discontent and confusion, too.) Everyone should be acknowledged and respected for their views, not called stupid or ignorant, or any of the other words I see flying around incessantly. I know a lot of very intelligent and caring people on both sides. No one corners the market on that.

Can we all please just take a few steps back and take a deep breath. Let’s get rid of the pollution and breathe fresh air into our lungs, our hearts, and our souls. Someone will win, and someone will lose. Life will go on, but if we burn bridges now with the people that matter to us, and even the ones that might matter a little less, they may impossible to reconstruct. And for what?

I Want Purple Koolaide

My heart is really heavy. It makes me so sad to see all the name-calling and denouncing of people on Facebook just because of their political leanings. Everyone is drinking the Koolaid. The people on the left are drinking blue Koolaid and the people on the right are drinking red Koolaid. What if I like purple Koolaide? We need a third party, a purple party. Right now we only have two choices: vote for the party (not the man) that most aligns with our beliefs, or don’t vote at all. I know “the man” will be the one at the top, but if we can’t believe in the other party, then what choice to we have? Frankly, not voting at all is looking more appealing to me all the time. That way I won’t have to claim responsibility for putting either one of them in office, and then I’ll let all my friends know, too, so they don’t hate me, anymore.

The danger to not voting at all is that it gives an advantage to the party (not the man) that does not align with your beliefs. Remember that the Senate and Congress are there, too, supposedly to help guide a president, executive priviledge notwithstanding. Lies and misinformation are rampant on both sides, and if anyone doesn’t believe that then they need to open up their eyes. Does what we find important to us make us bad people if it’s not what another person believes? Is all this worth losing friends over?

I feel like crying when I see all the hate directed at people, even those who used to be friends. Is it worth it? Is your party affiliation worth losing friends over? If it is, then I guess you weren’t really friends at all, because mature adults should be able to see past political affiliations to who people are inside. And don’t say that who we vote for shows who we really are because that is total BS. It’s only one part of our whole as people. People look at things differently but it doesn’t make one wrong and the other right, just different. And it doesn’t mean that someone believes in ALL of the points on a given side, it’s just that we have only two choices, and if they are both crappy, then does that mean we all have to hate each other? It’s not our fault this huge country cannot come up with better people to run for president.

I have friends that I disagree with and I still love them. Part of that is because I have always loved them and refuse to let this change that, part is because I can see their side of the arguments, too, part is because we might not discuss it, and part is because they still love me. (I hope!) I want our hearts to go back to the days before COVID 19 and this awful, awful election. I want our hearts to see what we liked about our friends before all this, and if we can’t do that, then I guess we were never friends to begin with.

It’s Here!!

It’s Finally Here! Get It While It’s Hot and don’t forget that October is DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AWARENESS MONTH. The Prettiest House On The Block: A Revealing Story Of Domestic Partner Abuse is now on the market! Please share this post even if you don’t want to buy this book, yourself. Crisis shelters are overflowing and the number of phone calls to crisis centers is overwhelming, another sad result of COVID 19. Victims need help now more than ever. I’m not opposed to making money but I would much rather make a DIFFERENCE.

https://www.amazon.com/Prettiest-House-Block-Revealing-Domestic-ebook/dp/B08DQZ4N9K/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=the+prettiest+house+on+the+block+book&qid=1598935375&s=financial&sr=1-1

We Can’t Be Held Accountable For the Sins of our Fathers

Is anyone else sick and tired of the partisan BS going on in our country? Nothing but hate, mistrust, lies, and deceit everywhere. This is not the country I grew up in, and although I still love her and will stand by her always, I’m saddened by what is going on.

That being said, and lest one thinks I am trying to discredit Kamala Harris, I want to asuure you that I am not, regardless of how I may or may not feel about her as a vice-presidential candidate. This information is less important to me as an observor of the 2020 election as it is to assert a strong belief that no one is responsible for their families owning slaves so many years ago, even politicians. Especially politicians. Kamala Harris cannot be held responsible for her ancestors’ actions any more than any other individual of any color in this country should be held responsible for the actions of theirs. However, the fact that she has been chosen as a vice-presidential running mate should give everyone pause to consider who is (or is not, as the case may be) supporting all of the violence directed towards innocent people because of their ancestors’ heritage as slave owners. Is there any irony to be inferred here or not? If this is a valid argument for all the hate in this country, then it would stand to reason that voters should reject her as one of the leaders of their country, but will they? If they don’t, then this argument for hatred needs to be archived.

It is indisputable that change needs to be made in reference to current events and inequalities, but constantly bringing up slavery and blaming people who had nothing to do with it is counterproductive to the elusive goal of living in peace. Many times I see or hear things that say “don’t look back because that’s not where you are going. Look ahead.” Certainly, one must look back to a certain degree in order to change long-standing bad habits, but that’s where it must end, in positive change, peacefully. Would you cut all your fingers off to keep you from chewing your fingernails? I didn’t think so. How can you change your habit if you permanently destroy the source of the problem? The habit of chewing fingernails may be solved, but soon you will be chewing on your fingers, and so on. You can’t change the bad habits of people through antagonism. You can destroy them but then it will only cause more problems and pain in the future. They just get more angry, and the hate continues. Do you see where I am going here? Our ancestors’ evils must stop being pounded into everyone with a battering ram. It’s making things worse, not better.

What this country needs to do is put it to rest. (No matter who wins the election, since, of course, everything is political.) Put it to rest and move on with real change in mind, based on what’s going on today, not 100 years ago. I know some may say that the violence IS because of what is going on today. Partly true and partly BS. Rioters should not use that as an excuse to unleash their monstrous sides on innocent people, and that’s what I believe much of the “protesting” is, at this point. I wonder how many of them even remember why there are out there destroying lives? We must stop the violence now, in any way we can, if we can ever expect to develop some sense of peace again. https://greatgameindia.com/kamala-harris-slave-owner/