Preface To Radiant Darkness: 20th Anniversary Edition

Preface to Radiant Darkness:

20th Anniversary Edition

August 1, 2000 my first book Radiant Darkness was published by iUniverse.com. It is hard to believe that 20 years have gone by since that fateful day. I thought it was time to republish my first book with additional stories. It was definitely the perfect opportunity to celebrate my modest beginning and the moderate success that followed.

How did this first book come to be? Well, it began with working at Barnes and Noble. While I was there, a manager pointed out that Barnes and Noble had purchased the majority stock in iUniverse.com. As a part of a promotion, they were offering employees a chance to publish a book for free or purchase $100 in books. While the free books were tempting, I could not pass up the chance to be published.

I had been circulating various manuscripts around to publishers since 1990 and not had much luck. I wasn’t sure what manuscript had the strongest potential to sell. I had written a ton of things that had not been published. I had dabbled in Romance, Adventure, Science Fiction, Fantasy and Young Adult as well as Poetry and Nonfiction.

After doing some research, I decided to publish a collection of Short Stories. Short stories are notoriously difficult to market. Unless you place a number of short stories with magazines or journals, a publisher is unlikely to take a chance on a short story collection. I had a lot of short stories and thought this was my best chance to get them out there.

The Summer of 2000, I gathered a group stories that were somehow similar in tone or theme and tried to come up with a title. I had been listening a lot to Sarah MacLaughlan’s CD Surfacing and one of her lyrics came to mind. In “Building A Mystery” she sings “You come out at night/That’s when the energy comes/And the dark side’s light/And the vampires roam.” I latched onto the phrase Dark Side’s Light. Eventually that evolved into the similar sounding title Radiant Darkness. Everyone I ran the title by really liked the Oxymoronic Title, so it stuck. At the time it was the only book on Amazon.com with that title.

In 2009, Emily Whitman came out with her own book entitled Radiant Darkness. However, her book about the teenage Persephone paralleled more with my third book Persephone’s Echo. My book Persephone’s Echo came out in 2008 and dealt with Greek Mythology. I have no idea if Emily Whitman ever read my books, but I have to wonder if she did.

Anyway, I found some Beta Readers to help edit my collection. My friend Sarah edited a couple of stories, including; Wings of Desire and Treasure, while my Grandmother read Sleepless Summer. A co-worker at Barnes and Noble named Joe edited my story Shadows. I sent my friend Diane an email with Soul Glimpse, which she said just didn’t work for her. That is why I left it out of this edition, but added a couple of other stories.

I made sure to submit the complete collection to iUniverse.com before my big move to Greensboro, North Carolina, where I was attending Graduate School. Shortly after it was available, I ordered a number of copies to place in the Barnes and Noble I transferred to in Greensboro. In addition to that, I was able to set up a book signing at my store in Greensboro, as well as my former store in Mansfield, Ohio. While only a couple of people showed up to the one in my new town, I had a larger turnout in my hometown when I went back in October of 2000.

I never got any official reviews, but I spoke with North Carolina Author Clay Harvey (AKA Leo Atkins) about my book. After he read it, he said it was not particularly marketable because it was “artsy-fartsy” or too literary. He thought the erotic parts detracted from the overall story and weren’t needed. He encouraged me to find a genre and stick with it.

In the end, I didn’t sell a lot of copies of my book. I sold a number of them while working, because I put up a display next to my cash register along with a sign reading, “This author is ringing you up!” Half the people I rung up never even noticed the sign. A number of people asked me about it, but didn’t purchase the book. A handful of people bought it on impulse. That tactic didn’t last long though because a manager asked me to take it down. I thought it was nonsense, but I took it down anyway.

A few weeks later, a girl and her mother recognized me in the store. They stopped me to tell me they had purchased my book and enjoyed it. It was the closest thing to fame I’ve experienced so far, and it was both cool and kind of disconcerting. It felt weird to have someone recognize me that I didn’t know or remember meeting. At the same time, it was an honor to have been memorable to them.

The next year, the thrill of being a published author wore off. It was time to focus on my next book. I took the proceeds from Radiant Darkness along with a coupon from Barnes and Noble and was able to publish my second book—a book of poetry entitled Journey Without A Map. The coupon to publish for free had expired. Barnes and Noble offered like 20% at that point. Eventually, Barnes and Noble would sell their stock and iUniverse.com would evolve on their own.

The full price to publish with iUniverse.com was too expensive, so I changed to Publish America for my third and fourth books. I published with All Things That Matter Press in 2012. Finally, in 2015, I discovered CreateSpace through Amazon.com. Once I learned how to self-publish, I went to work publishing all my work through my own imprint Purple Rose Ink Publishing.

To date my bestselling book is my nonfiction book The Physics of Emotions. I don’t make much off of my books, but feels great to have them out there. I am impressed by the fact that my best selling book sells from Amazon.de or the German version of Amazon.com.

In looking over my catalog of books, I see the evolution of a writer. Radiant Darkness was one of many milestones, but it was important one. It helped to give me confidence and helped me learn from my mistakes. It made me feel like I was finally making progress. I am extremely happy to have been able to publish on my own terms and been able to continue publishing over the years even if didn’t make me rich and famous. I hope that others continue to enjoy my work and that my story can inspire others.

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Zack To The Future: A Long Distance Dedication

Zack To The Future: Long Distance Dedication

Thanks to a friend on facebook, I discovered Zack To The Future—a podcast that is produced by Mark-Paul Gosselaar and Dashiell Driscoll. After years of saying he doesn’t remember much about filming Saved By The Bell, Mark-Paul has decided to re-watch the episodes to jog his memory. Once a week, he and Dashiell get together to discuss an episode in Season 1. Dashiell Driscoll is known for producing the “Zack Morris Is Trash” videos. Mark-Paul saw these videos and was impressed. He is the one who called Dashiell up and asked him to to do the podcast.

The first podcast, which aired on August 6, 2020, centered on the first episode of Saved by the Bell that aired entitled “Dancing At The Max.” The actual pilot aired later in the season. It was like Episode 15. Anyway, I enjoyed listening to the podcast and finding out tidbits about one of my favorite shows growing up.

They mentioned that Elizabeth Berkeley had dance lessons and that Mario Lopez was both good at dancing and playing the drums. I actually remembering reading that in an interview somewhere.  What I didn’t know was that Mark-Paul Gosselaar was not much of a dancer and was self-conscious. And I didn’t know that Mark-Paul was viewed Elizabeth as an older woman and had been in awe of her. It was an innocent sort of crush I guess.

This led me to think about how the episode impacted me as a viewer. As episodes go, it wasn’t particularly deep or insightful. Lol. Not that any of the episodes really were much more than just entertaining. Still, the presence of Casey Kasem provided inspiration for me.

Every Sunday I would listen to Casey Kasem’s weekly Top 20 or Count Down. I pulled many of my songs for my cassette compilations from that program. Anyway, he would have a Long Distance Dedication each week from people who were separated by miles, but together at heart.

It wasn’t long after I had my fateful dream about Mark-Paul Gosselaar and I was looking for a way to reach out to him. I had sent him a fan letter, but merely got back a signed autograph. It wasn’t the personal reply I had been looking for. I knew I needed a way to stand out from the crowd. When I saw Casey Kasem in a rerun of the first episode, it hit me. I would send a long distance dedication to Mark-Paul Gosselaar. Perhaps since Kasem had actually met Mark-Paul, he might take notice of the dedication and play it. At least, I hoped he would.

I sent a letter out to Casey Kasem detailing how I felt connected to Mark-Paul, but had never met him. I asked him to play “Love Takes Time” by Mariah Carey. For some reason, that song always made me think of Mark-Paul. I imagined sitting on the same beach Mariah was on and explaining to Mark-Paul just how much he meant to me. I imagined telling him that the thought of spending time with him and getting to know him made me happy. But then reality would set in and I would realize we had never met and probably never would and I would be incredibly sad. The lyrics, “Losing my mind, from this hollow in my heart. Suddenly, I am so incomplete.” made me cry every time I heard them, because that is exactly how I felt, though I could explain how or why.

I tried to explain the depths of my emotion, but it fell on deaf ears. I suppose a silly fan crush didn’t seem as dramatic or important to the producers or Casey Kasem as “real” life. Compared to those separated by war or illness or break-ups or moving out of state, my experience was nothing. I understood what it must have looking like to everyone around me.

I had no way to convince them that the feelings, even though they made absolutely no sense, were very real. It was as if we had known each other in a past life or something and I remembered him and the love we shared in that past life or perhaps even a parallel life. I listened intently for weeks after I sent the letter, but my dedication never played.

Fast forward to the future, 2019 to be exact, and I find that Mark-Paul is on another show called Mixed-ish. And who sings the theme song? Mariah Carey! If I didn’t know better, I might think it was fate or something,

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Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is the new Hunger Games book by Suzanne Collins. It is a prequel to the original trilogy and follows the rise of President Coriolanus Snow. It is no accident that Collins uses the name Coriolanus for Panem’s leader. Like the rest of the Hunger Games Series, we find Rome—particularly Rome through the eyes of Shakespeare—is always in the subtext.

In the Shakespearean play, Coriolanus is the name given to a Roman general after his military success against various uprisings challenging the government of Rome. Following this success, Coriolanus becomes involved in politics and even takes on political leadership. His personality is not well suited for popular leadership and he is quickly tossed aside.  That is when he aligns himself with powerful allies to set matters straight. The alliances he forges along the way result in his ultimate downfall.

As we follow young Coriolanus, we see a similar pattern of events. Coriolanus takes on a role of leadership as one of the first Mentors in the Hunger Games. His cheating ultimately gets him shipped off to be a part of the Peacekeepers or the Military. Coriolanus aligns himself with Sejanus Plinth and eventually secures his return to the Capitol to begin is rise in politics.

The Songbirds in the title are the people from the Districts and the Snakes in the title are the people from the Capitol. Lucy’s singing voice is what captures Panem’s attention. She is very much the embodiment of a songbird, particularly the Mockingjay. Lucy is the victor that was designed by the capitol, while also becoming a symbol of rebellion against the capitol. She is the caged bird that sings because she can.

When Dr. Gaul uses the mutant snakes in the Hunger Games Arena, this symbol of the snake is only reinforced. Dr. Gaul is cold and calculating just like a snake. Her words are just venomous. Lucy, however, is somewhat of a snake whisperer, which is perhaps why she has the effect on Coriolanus and Panem that she does.

Anyway, we see that the people in the Capitol did suffer during the rebellion. At the beginning of the book we have some compassion for Coriolanus. We see that his mother and father have both died and that all he has left is is Grandmother and Cousin. Perhaps the Capitol was justified in their anger toward the rebels. However, the Government’s decision to carryout an infinite punishment was, perhaps, overkill.

Dr. Gaul and the Gamemakers are sadistic and follow in the philosophy of Hobbes. Humans are no better than animals when the rules and regulations fall away. Anarchy will always mean chaos. Lucy Grey is a precursor to Katniss. She represents the strength and resilience of the poor people of the districts. She is charming, sweet and a singer. She might best be represented by the Philosophy of Rousseau, at least Coriolanus sees her as more of a Noble Savage.

Coriolanus is young and impressionable. Although he too has suffered, his response is self-serving and ambitious. He is not unaware of the struggle of the people, but he is more motivated by status than what is morally right. Coriolanus may have been a blank slate, in the vein of John Locke. However, his involvement with Dr. Gaul and the Games corrupted him or brought out the worst in his nature, rather than the best.

 

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In Memoriam

In Memoriam of Coy A Cole

Coy Allen Cole died on November 19, 2019. I searched for an obituary online and could not find one. I wasn’t sure why this was. Perhaps it was too painful for the family or perhaps it was because the investigation into his death is ongoing.  In any case, the newspapers focused on the murder suspects and did not give any information about the victim, which I thought was sad. I decided to find out what I could about Coy Cole so that I could honor him.

Coy Allen Cole was born in June 1967 to Lila June Cole (1936-2019) and Ronald Dwight Cole (1939-2001) of Republic, who proceeded him in death. Lila June Cole was originally from Peel, Arkansas, but lived in Republic most of her life. She worked at Kraft for 23 years. If I am not mistaken, Cole worked at Kraft at some point as well. He leaves behind his siblings: Renita Nordyke, Garry  Cole and Millie Webb. His sister Ronna Cole also proceeded him in death (1971-2009).

Cole would have graduated from Republic High School in 1985 or 1986. Cole also served in the Military. His name is listed on the Memorial Wall in Republic. I have not been able to confirm which branch of the military he served in, but I believe it was the Marines. I do not have the date of his service, but if I had to guess, I would say from about 1986 to 1990.  Ray Fryling, who served for 13 years in the United States Army, said he respected the hell out of Cole for his military service.

Cole lived in Republic, Springfield, Hurley and, for a while, in Billings, Montana. He was married and divorced twice. I believe he has at least one child from his marriages. At the time of his death was unmarried, but seeing someone. He posted a list of videos dedicated to her on YouTube. The playlist Coy created for his girlfriend included; “Hungry Like the Wolf” by Duran, Duran, “Maneater” by Hall and Oats, “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor, “High On You” by Survivor, “Caught Up In You” by .38 Special, “You Don’t Want Me” by the Human League, “Take It On The Run” by REO Speedwagon and “Building A Mystery” by Sarah McLaughlin

Cole is listed as a Christian and a Republican. Sadly, it seems that Coy Cole struggled with drinking and drugs. He had a criminal record as well. I do not know if he saw combat action, but I have to wonder if he struggled with PTSD. I have seen firsthand how PTSD can reek havoc on someone’s life.

At the time of Cole’s death Matthew Abney was staying with Cole at his home in Miller, Missouri. I do not know how Abney and Cole met, but they both grew up in Republic. Abney had previously been living in Verona with Ray Fryling until Ray Fryling moved in October of 2019.  Abney then stayed with Cole until the time of the murder. Abney did not stay in the house in Miller in the two weeks between the murder and his arrest.

According a statement given to the police, Cole had shared his drugs with Abney’s girlfriend. When Abney discovered this, he threatened to kill his girlfriend. He shot at her, but missed. According to the witness, he then shot and killed Cole. It is my belief that Cole was killed only because Abney could not bring himself to kill his girlfriend.

When Abney was arrested for parole violations and questioned about the disappearance of his roommate Cole, he told the police that Ray Fryling had killed him, which was a blatant lie. In fact, Fryling was saddened to hear of Cole’s death. He did not know him well, but he liked him.  He had no reason to harm him.

Fryling was cleared of the murder charges when Matthew Abney was charged instead in January of 2020. Cole, in my opinion, was not really the target of Abney’s wrath. Abney’s girlfriend was the one he was angry with and she was the one he wanted to control. Cole had merely gotten tangled up in Abney’s melodrama, which was not only unfair, but tragic as well.

It appears as Cole’s life was sacrificed for the life of Abney’s girlfriend. Cole had been willing to lay down his life for his country, I would like to think that he would have been willing to lay down his life for the young woman who is still alive out there because of him.

My heart goes out to the friends and family of Coy Allen Cole. I am truly sorry for your loss. If anyone who knows Coy Allen Cole would like to share any stories or memories they have of him, I would love to hear them. His life should be celebrated.

 

 

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Magical Language

Magical Language

BA

Ba is the Egyptian word for soul—specifically the personality part of the soul. There are nine different parts to the soul. The other eight are: the khat is the physical body, the sahu is the spiritual body, the rn is the name or identity, the ka is the double, the jb is the heart, the šwt shadow, the ḫw is intelligence, the sḫm is the power or form and the akh is the combined spirits of a dead person.

I thought Ba was apt since I began my Tales from the Stork project. The form the Ba often takes the form of a stork in Egyptian Hieroglyphics. Storks are common along the Nile and were thought to carry the personality to the other parts of the soul in the afterlife. It makes sense that the stork be associated with bringing babies because it associated with the spirit or soul.

I finally finished The Red Pyramid and am about to begin The Throne of Fire, so Egypt is still very much on mind.

Abracadabra

Abracadabra is often used on stage for magic tricks these days, but it came from ancient mystical texts. Apparently, the Gnostic Basilideans of Alexandria originally used it as a secret magical formula. Then word showed up in the form of a Magic Amulet or Abraxas Stones. Eventually, it spread beyond the Gnostics to physicians in Rome who would write it inside a triangle to help heal the sick. In 1904 Alistair Crowley wrote about Abrahcadabra in his book The Book of Law. He used Hermetic Qabalah to explain its significance. Many think that since the word has a value of 365 it is meant to represent the Father El or the Sun God Ra. The five letters in the word are: A, the Crown; B, the Wand; D, the Cup; H, the Sword; R, the Rosy Cross. In Egyptian Mythology this would refer to Amoun the Father and Thoth his messenger as well as Isis, Horus, Osiris—the divine-human triad.

Abracadabra is also thought to be a variation on the Greek term Abraxas. Abraxas referred to the Great Archon. It also has a numerical value of 365 and refers to God or the “The Uncreated Father.” The lost Compendium of Hippolytus said that Abraxas is specifically as “the power above all, and First Principle.” It is “the cause and first archetype” of all things. Therefore calling upon Abraxas is to call upon God the Creator himself. You can see why it would be considered a powerful word.

I had never heard of Abraxas before with the exception of the boy’s home on State Route 39 between Shelby and Mansfield, Ohio. The place used to be The Sacred Heart Seminary School for those who wished to become Catholic Priests. Since 1993 it houses male juveniles who need treatment for drug and alcohol addiction or who are sex offenders. I suppose it is fitting.

Abracadabra ties into my week in two ways: First through my continued reading of the Kane Chronicles by Rick Roirdan to Sebastian and, secondly, through my typing of my Critical Canon Class. I am up to my notes on the Kabbalah and the mystical use of language.

Magical

The word magical is derived from Magi, which referred to the priest sorcerers of Ancient Persia. Magus is the plural of Magi. It was Three Magi that came to visit baby Jesus in Bethlehem, however Magi is often translated as Wise Men. This would mean that Priests of Magic came to see the baby. That ties into the theories that the miracles Jesus later performed was essentially magic he learned from his time in Egypt or possibly Persia and beyond.

This connects to Zoroastrianism and Medes. Zoroastrianism was probably the first Monotheistic religion and the basis of a lot of Christian Mythology. The Medes were Ancient Tribe of people called the Media in 550 BC Iran.

Anyway, Magu is Persian for Magic. The Greek appear to have borrowed this word and called it Magus or the Art of Magus. Latin transformed that word into Magica or Magicus. The Old French word for Magic is Magique.

This relates to the past few weeks in several ways. First, I have been dealing with three separate systems on the computer at work. The first is FAMIS, which stands for Family Assistance Management Information system. The second is MEDES, which stands for Missouri Eligibility Determination and Enrollment System. The third is MAGI, which stands for Modified Adjusted Gross Income. I would like to think MEDES and MAGI have a secondary magical meaning. Certainly it can seem like magic to those in need.

In addition to these etymological parallels, I am currently reading a new series by Jessica Cluess. I read the first book A Shadow Bright and Burning and am working on the second book A Poison Dark and Drowning. I will read the third book A Sorrow Fierce and Falling next. The book centers on a Magician Born Sorceress named Harrieta and her love interest Magnus. The books are set in Victorian London, which gives them a sort of Harry Potter feel. But the world more like that created by the SyFy TV show Magicians. It also echoes the sort of young adult adventure found the books of Jennifer Nielson.

The name Magnus ties into the Magnus Chase series I’ve been reading to the kids. We are on book three The Ship of the Dead. The name Magnus means Great. It doesn’t seem to be directly related to the word Magus. However, Magnus was first a Roman name that the Norse borrowed and used about as frequently as they did Erik in the Middle Ages. The character of Magnus Chase does possess the magical ability to heal via his father Frey. I wanted to write about Valhalla or Valkyries, but I couldn’t think of how to tie them into my life. Then I found the Magical Thread and followed it!

Zarathustra

Zoroastrianism is one of the world’s oldest religions and, in many ways, a precursor to Christianity. Founded in Persia or Iran, it is a monotheistic religion that preaches a dualism between light and dark or good and evil. Ahura Mazda is the Creator Lord whose name means Being of the Mind. Zoroaster or Zarathustra is the Prophet or Christ-like figure. Similar to Jesus, Zarathustra went into the river and came out renewed at age 30. He then began preaching about the God of Wisdom and about Free Will.

Zoroastrianism shows up in many places, including Game of Thrones. George R.R. Martin has stated that the central element of the religion of R’hllor in A Song of Fire and Ice is that is the idea that there is one true good god that locked in eternal combat with an evil deity. This is also central to Christian Gnosticism and is described in the Pistis Sophia.

This symbolism of the light in the darkness is why Christmas is celebrated just after the Winter Solstice. Scholars believe Jesus was probably born in July sometime, but leaders of the church moved the date to coincide with pagan festivals of light. It merges the historical figure earlier mythologies, thus cementing reputation of Jesus as a Lord of Light.

This year I chose to speak of Zarathustra because I believe that the struggle between the light and the darkness has been the subtext of this past year. The darkness of oppression, depression and fear interplays with the lightness that is freedom, happiness and love. I see this dichotomy or this tension not only in current events, but within myself and those around me.

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13 Reasons In Reality

13 Reasons In Reality

13 Reason Why
Season 3

I just finished watching Season 3 of 13 Reasons. It reminded me of people I knew in High School once upon a time. I will not name names, but I do think it is an important story that needs told.

It starts with me starting my Junior year of High School. I attracted the attention of a certain young man we shall call Bob (not his actual name.) Bob fell madly in love with and tried to woo me. He wanted me to be his girlfriend. I wanted to take things slow and get to know him first. I suggested an actual date before we made a commitment. He agreed, but nothing had been set up yet.

We had gotten off the bus one morning shortly thereafter. We were laughing and having fun. I made a joke that he did not find funny. It was a reference to the rumors around school that he had indulged in bestiality. Bob’s mood changed suddenly and he shoved me up against a locker. It surprised me more than it hurt me.

Later, Bob sent me flowers and the girls in class were impressed. Their boyfriends didn’t send them flowers. They thought I was crazy to reject him. I shrugged and said I simply wasn’t interested. I didn’t feel like explaining that his violent outburst scared me. I was smart enough to see it as a red flag. If he could get that mad in public, what was he capable of in private I wondered.

My friends were still friends with him, so even though we didn’t date, I still heard about his life. We spoke casually when we met in the halls or at a school function. I was polite, but distant. He moved on fairly quickly to date some girl from another town named Tiffani (also not her real name.) They dated for a few weeks or maybe a couple of months. I don’t remember. They broke up and he began seeing Tiffani’s friend Dani.

It was nearly a year later when I met Rachel (not her real name either!). She began seeing my ex-boyfriend Rob (not his real name) shortly after he broke up with me. At first I was jealous and I hated her, but then we met in person and began to talk. We became fast friends despite the awkward situation. Jump ahead a few months and Rob was out of the picture.

My friends decided that I needed to go to Prom. Since Bob didn’t have a date and I didn’t have a date, they thought we should go together. I agreed to go with Bob, but only as a friend. I made it clear that I was not interested in more. He picked me up and we went to his house so his Mom and Dad could take pictures. We went out to eat and then went to Prom. When we got there, he refused to dance with me. He met up with some other chick and left Prom to go have sex with her. While I was not jealous of the other girl, I was angry that he had left me stranded at school. I had no ride home. Eventually my friend and her boyfriend took me home.

I recalled this bad prom experience to Rachel, who then dropped a bombshell on me. Bob had raped her. It was well over a year since it had transpired. She told me the story about the seemingly nice neighbor boy she hung out with. They began to make out when she’d visit him. He wanted to take it further and have sex, but she did not. He was 16 and she was just 12 at the time. That afternoon he forced himself on her.

I was shocked. Ironically, Bob had claimed he was still a virgin for all of last year. And even though he had never had sex with me or Tiffani or Dani, that didn’t necessarily mean that he was actually still a virgin. It struck me that he might not have wanted to advertise that he not only cheated on his girlfriend, but that he had raped a 12 year old girl. Bob was many things, but he wasn’t a complete idiot.

Anyway, somehow Rachel’s parents found out. Rachel’s father was enraged and ready to march over to Bob’s house and kill him. Rachel begged him not to. She didn’t want to call the police or to press charges. In fact, she just wanted to forget the whole thing ever happened. Rachel spent the next year doing drugs and acting out, but she had found a boyfriend and was ready to be healthy and happy now.

What she neglected to tell me is that she had been suicidal. She had been hospitalized at one point and had been in counseling on and off. I never had any idea the depth of her depression. I wish she had trust me enough to share some of her burden with me.

Anyway, skip ahead another year. Bob graduated and left town. He was gone for several years before returning. My friends report that he had gotten some girl pregnant and gotten married. Then he got divorced and gotten somebody else pregnant. His adult life was a mess!

That is when I met Tiffani in college. She and I became friends. Later, I learned she was the very same Tiffani who had dated Bob. I recounted Rachel’s story to her, but she refused to believe it. She and Bob were still friends. Yes, he had a temper, but he had never hurt her. She couldn’t imagine him raping anyone. I don’t think I mentioned it again for a long time. We had plenty of other things to talk about.

Some ten years went by and Tiffani had an epiphany. She had heard complaints over the years from Bob’s former girlfriends and wives that sex had not always been consensual. They would accuse him of rape, but somehow charges were never pressed. Tiffani began to wonder if the rumors were true. I reminded her of Tiffani’s story and she finally was ready to accept it as a possibility.

Both Tiffani and I had seen his temper as a warning sign. We were the lucky ones. The other girls he dated were not so lucky.  I have no proof Bob is a rapist, but I see no reason for any of these girls to lie to me or to Tiffani. What would they have to gain? Clearly, Bob’s reputation had not really suffered over the years. Despite all the rumblings, he had continued to live life as he always had.

Rachel was not my only friend who was sexually assaulted. My friend Beth was raped at knife point by her first boyfriend. My other friend Diane was raped by a trusted friend who wanted to be more than friends. And another friend Amanda told me she had been raped by two or three teenage boys when she was walking home along the train tracks. And my friend Jamie had been date raped. My neighbor Sue told me about how her ex-boyfriend coerced her into having sex with him under the threat of kidnapping their son if she didn’t do what he wanted. None of these rapes were reported either, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t happen.

Why didn’t they report the rapes? Many reasons. Many of them were teenagers when it happened. Some were terrified that their parents would be pissed at them for being sexually active, even if it wasn’t their choice. Some feared indifference. Some didn’t want to piss off their attacker any further because nearly everyone knew the person who had raped them. Others dealt with trauma by trying to forget it or repress it. It seemed like the general attitude was that it was an everyday occurrence that could not be prevented or punished. I suspect that whatever the reason they told they told themselves, the truth was that Rape had made them feel powerless, so why would they assert their power by prosecuting?

I, for one, hope #MeToo and 13 Reasons Why makes a difference.  Women need to change the Rape Culture we grew up in.  It has gone on for far too long.

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Hermes Helps Out

Hermes Helps Out

This collection of poetry, Persephone’s Echo, is about the echoes of the past in both mythology and my personal life. This collection combines the Jungian archetype with Sylvia Plath like confession. It also combines the personal with political. The topics are traditional yet told with an intensely emotionally slant. Although each poem tells a story unto itself, they are each part of a larger story. In order to experience the full power of the poems they should be read in context with the others.

The title Persephone’s Echo refers not only to the echoes of the past, but to Greek Mythology as well. Echo was a beautiful nymph who was a favorite of Artemis. Echo had one weakness, her love of talking. Now Zeus’s weakness was women and he often came down from Mount Olympus to cheat on his wife Hera. Echo would often detain the curious Hera by talking to her until Zeus returned from one of his trysts. Realizing she had been deceived, Hera cursed Echo. Echo would get her wish to get the last word, but she could never again have the power to speak first. After Hera left her to repeat only other people’s words, Echo fell in love with the beautiful Narcissus. Narcissus was a beautiful, but vain young man. He mistook her voice for his own and could not properly return her love. Echo withered away in misery until all that was left of her was voice.

Although Persephone best represents my personal journey, it is Echo who best represents the spirit of these pieces. I find that I am cursed by my ability to get the last word, but never be able to change the past. Narcissus best embodies the subjects of my poems; therefore Echo best embodies my effort to voice these thoughts and feelings. Unlike Echo, I will not wither away. I will persevere and publish these poems instead. My power comes from sharing my journey and experiences, and in that way, my voice does retain some capacity for transformation.

The prologue frames the rest of the poems as a journey of self-knowledge and academic intellect. I convey through the poems in the prologue that you will need to know Greek history as well as my own personal history to decode the poems. I discuss the idea of Hermeneutics as a sort key to unlocking the secrets of my poems.

Hermeneutics centers on the study and interpretation of texts. It encompasses the idea of seeing the text from someone else’s point of view and understanding all of environmental factors that went into creating a particular text. The social, cultural and psychological forces behind the words can be seen as part of the subtext or the unwritten meaning. Hermeneutics often enlists the help of parables and metaphors in order to convey meaning. At its most cryptic, Hermeneutics can be a circle or a sealed set of symbols that one needs to know in order to interpret a specific text like the Torah or the Bible.

Having said all that, Part 1 chronicles the journey of Persephone, who is my alter ego. In Greek Mythology, Persephone is the daughter of Demeter and Zeus. She was kidnapped by Hades and made Queen of the Underworld. Her mother was so distraught that the world withered and died into winter. Eventually Demeter convinces Zeus to send Hermes (in some versions it is Iris) to fetch her daughter back. By the time rescue came, poor Persephone had eaten several seeds of the forbidden pomegranate fruit. That meant that she would have to return every year to see her husband. In the end, she spent half her time with her mother and half her time with her husband. This caused the four seasons to take place.

My personal journey is a long and complicated one. In order to deconstruct my words you must know a few things. My life was relative of Garden of Eden until it was shattered at age twelve. I lived in blissful ignorance of the cruelty and hatred of the world outside my own. I was content to read fairy tales and myths and play pretend. I lived under the protection of my mother who was very much Demeter. It was at age twelve that I was ripped from my mother’s loving arms and forced to visit my estranged father out West. My mother and father were divorced before I was a year old and my father left the state not too long after that. He was a virtual stranger to me. When he took my mother to court to force me to fly several hundred miles to see him, I was scared. I was adamant about not going, but neither my father nor the judge heard my cries. My visit with my father was transformed into Persephone’s journey to the underworld. My boating trip down the Rio Grande became a trip down the river Styx.

I spent my teen years in the underworld, which is another way of saying I spent my teen years deep in depression. I suffered from panic attacks during school and I even had thoughts of suicide. For many years I did not comprehend why I was so miserable. It wasn’t until I was much older that I realized that being forced into that visit was akin to being abducted or even raped. I eventually came to understand why my father had done what he did and forgive him for being so selfish. Like Persephone, I felt some affection for my captor, but I had still been a prisoner. From the underworld, I experienced my first relationships and first heartbreaks. These turbulent and tragic relationships only added to my depression.

At nineteen, I took a trip to Phoenix, Arizona, to visit relatives. It didn’t escape me that the Phoenix is a symbol of rebirth. Thus, I was reborn. It was a slow process, surfacing from the underworld. Margaret Atwood and Sarah McLaughlin both helped me with this process of transformation though their writing.

The second part of the book is concerned with my odyssey of longing. Though the worst of my depression had passed, I was still struggling with feeling unfulfilled and empty. I found a great relationship with the man who eventually became my husband, but I couldn’t enjoy it as fully as I wanted to due to my unresolved issues. I still had a lot of work to do and a long way to go in order to end my odyssey. This is where I use Odysseus and his journey to symbolize my own. Then I blended in other Greek Mythology to round out the symbolism. Each of the men I choose to resolve my issues with only provided more confusion. I found myself deceived by their labyrinth of lies. As I made my way through the lies, I came to center myself and see things with great clarity. Like Odysseus, I found my way back to my true love after a long journey.

Lastly, I use Greek myth to voice my opinion on feminism and politics. Many of the political poems are scattered throughout, but the largest concentration is at the end. After all of the chaos had cleared, it was much easier to find my voice and use it effectively. Echo is a great persona for addressing the issue of voice or lack thereof.

Many of the themes I found in the Greek Mythology could be applied quite easily to things that go on in modern society. It was fun see the see the synchronicities surface with each new poem. These blends, I believe, are the future of literature. These poems, then, are a message to the masses that it is time to return to our roots and realize that we need a sense of unity. Making myths our own is the perfect way to create a new sense of community, which we so desperately need during this time of disconnection.

Complimentary Compilation: Songs Referenced in Poems

Strawberry Field Forever by The Beatles

Fallin by Alicia Keys

Possession by Sarah McLaughlin

Stay by Shakespeare’s Sister

Dead Souls Nin Inch Nails

All Apologies by Nirvana

Heart Shaped Box by Nirvana

Bring Me to Life by Evanescence

Broken Seether Featuring Amy Lee

Here with Me by Dido

I’m No Angel by Dido

White Flag by Dido

Love is a Battlefield by  Pat Benatar

I and I Taja Seville

Building a Mystery by Sarah McLaughlin

Burn for You by Kreo

I See Stars by Robin Fox

Rapture by Iio

Recommended Reading

Aeneid by Virgil

The Art of Love by Ovid

Cassandra by Christa Wolf

Cities of the Interior Anais Nin

A Dark Muse: The History of the Occult by Gary Lachman

The Divine Comedy by Dante

Electra a play by Sophocles

Electra a play by Euripides

The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje

Histories by Herodotus

If on a winter’s night a traveler by Italo Calvino

The Iliad by Homer

The Lethe of Heaven by Ursula K LeGuin

Medea by Christa Wolf

Metamorphoses by Ovid

Mythology for the Modern Reader by James Wiegel, Jr

Mythology by Edith Hamilton

The Neverending Story by Michael Ende

No Exit and Other Plays by Sartre

The Odyssey by Homer

The Penelopiad: The Myth of Penelope and Odysseus by Margaret Atwood

The Prisoner of Azkaban by JK Rowling

Sappho’s Leap by Erica Jong

She Who Remembers Linda Lay Schuler

A Short History of Myth by Karen Armstrong

Surfacing by Margret Atwood

The Road to Oz by L. Frank Baum

Weight by Jeanette Winterson

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

Ulysses by James Joyce

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Private Government

Private Government:

How Employers Rule Over Our Lives (And Why We Don’t Talk About It)

By Elizabeth Anderson, 2017

Elizabeth Anderson gave a series of Tanner Lectures at Princeton University in 2014 on Political Philosophy. During these lectures she discussed the rise of Industry and the loss of Independence of  the Industry Workers.  First she outlined the idea of Free Market and how it has been associated with the Far Right and Libertarians. She explains how the Free Market originated as an Egalitarian or Progressive Agenda. The Free Market was developed in opposition to Monopolies. Some famous Egalitarians were John Locke, Adam Smith and Thomas Paine. However, Adam Smith and Thomas Paine were for a System of Social Insurance.

In the Preface to her book she says, “If the US Government imposed such regulations on us [the same as private companies], we would rightly protest that our Constitutional Rights were being violated. But American Works have no such rights against their bosses. Even speaking against such constraints can get them fired, so most keep silent.”

The concept of the Free Market varies wildly from Adam Smith to Karl Marx. Adam Smith believed in Equality in the Exchange of Goods. It wasn’t until after the Industrial Revolution that Marx came along and saw a great deal of inequality in the system. Smith did not anticipate the corruption that would creep into Free Market System and take over.

The press would have us believe that we only have a choice between the Free Market or State Control. Those who support the Free Market often do not realize the truth.  And the truth is that most people’s lives are ruled by Private Government.

Egalitarianism are referred to as Levelers. This revolutionary belief in the Free Market was a stark contrast to the Hierarchy of England. It was a world ruled by rich lords and other masters. It was a world of Patriarchy and Religious Rule. Women as well as men found that being the master of your own fate was appealing.

Paine believed most problems were the result of The Government. It is sentiment that Republicans echo these days—thought for a different reason than Paine did. Abraham Lincoln did not buy into the idea that Wage Labor and Slavery were the only choice available. Even Lincoln didn’t take into account Unpaid Domestic Labor though. Business owners raised themselves above the wage earners in the Hierarchy.

The Industrial Revolution dramatically widened the gulf between employees and employers. It is no coincidence that the 1800s not only gave rise to Industry and Factories, but to Prisons, Asylums, Hospitals, Orphanages and Poor Houses as well.

People rail against Communism, but they neglect to notice the Communist Dictatorships in our midst. Superiors at work give Inferiors rules to follow. The rules are often arbitrary and subject to change. We can’t remove the bosses or leaders of these Communist-like Companies. There are dress codes and rules to determine hair styles and accessories. There are random drugs tests and rules about fraternizing with co-workers outside of work. People can get fired for Facebook Posts. There is no privacy in these private companies. The Board of Directors operates like an Oligarchy. The CEO is a self-appointed dictator or appointed by the Oligarchy. And the consequences for leaving the Communist-like Company result in Exile (Firing) or Immigration (Quitting).

Essentially, the modern work place is a Private Government. This modern work place is where government and individual liberties overlap. Corporations and Churches are both examples of Private Government. A Government is Private with respect to subject if it can issue orders backed by sanctions in some domain of your life. Private Government has arbitrary and unaccountable power over those it governs.

Unregulated Commons are Anarchist Commons. Anarchy is not conductive to Business Production.  If anyone can take whatever anyone else has produced then chaos reigns. Those who own Private Property have Exclusive Rights over that Property. Corporations must balance Exclusive Rights with Individual Liberties.

The Philosophical Ideals of The Egalitarian Free Market did not foresee or take into account the unequal power structure inherent in factories and corporations. About 25% of workers are subject to these dictatorships at work. Some workers are lucky enough to be self-employed or become management in someone else’s business, but not everyone is so lucky.

Works have been struggling for years to prevent abuse at work. They formed Unions and created a Bill of Rights. OSHA or Occupational Safety and Health Administration was created to prevent injury and death to workers due to poor working conditions.

Early Modern Theories of Equality and Freedom rationalize, but do not justify our current Market Driven Society. The Government is okay because it had a system of Checks and Balances put into it. We can hold Public Officials accountable in the Public Government. Private Government doesn’t have this system of checks and balances to protect the people. Workers need a voice.

Some jobs and some work places try to be fair. The lower the income at the job the less fair the conditions often are. The bottom half of the work force deals with low pay for long hours and substandard conditions. There are unpredictable schedules that don’t take into consideration the needs of their employers—particularly the need for childcare. There is often harassment, disrespect and downright abuse that is tolerated because the workers are desperate for income and don’t feel they have a choice.

As a nation, we need to reexamine our system and try to make it better. Perhaps we could find inspiration in The German System of Co-Determinism. They do have make less profits for shareholders, but the workers gain a lot more freedom and flexibility because of it. What do you think might be a reasonable solution to the problem of Private Government?

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College Unbound

College Unbound: The Future of Higher Education and What it Means For Students

By Jeffery J Selingo, 2013

Students are pressured to go to a 4 year college, but many drop out. Some find success in a 2 year Community College, but others never finish their education.

We live in a risk adverse, self-satisfied industry. The Education Bubble is about to Burst. The Education System needs to evolve if it is to survive. Online Courses are an example of the evolution of education in the right direction. College is no longer a one size fits all experience.

1999-2009 is referred to as the Lost Decade. There was a flood of new buildings, new students and new student debt.

Chapter 1 Explores How We Got There. The Master’s Degree is the new Bachelor’s Degree. Slowly there has been a “Credential Creep.” The amount of people getting a Master’s Degree has doubled. Colleges have added more degree programs.

Chapter 2 discusses the fallacy of the idea of how The Customer is Always Right. From 1999 to 2009 prices rose 68%. Colleges began using more and more part time professors or adjuncts. This was partly in response to the revolving door of students. Colleges Graduation Rates dropped. Professors were supposed to act as Performers and keep the attention of their students. Many colleges rewarded students with good grades for merely showing up. 45% of College Students showed little to no improvement in their knowledge and skills during their first two of college. See the book Academically Adrift.

 Why does Tuition cost so much? Because it can. Some Colleges Compete by having what has been deemed “Resort Campuses.”  Because of the outrageous cost of college, most students are no dependent on Student Loans. It is surprising that these colleges are not kicked out of the Federal Loan Program. In the 1950s and 1960s Colleges offered lower tuition in order to gain more students. This was part of the Higher Education Act of 1965. In 1972 the Federal Government took a role in colleges with the creation of the Federal Pell Grant.

Colleges also had a habit of inflating the Rates of Graduation and Job Placement when they advertised. Today most Graduates will fail to obtain a job in their career fields.

Part 2 of College Unbound goes on to talk about The Disruption all this has caused. Colleges have been struggling since 2008. The States have cut budgets and Colleges are unable to expand Programs. Some have even started cutting programs and departments. Due to this lack of resources, the Colleges cut costs wherever they can.

Khan Academy is a non-profit educational organization created in 2008 by Salman Khan with the goal of creating a set of online tools that help educate students. The organization produces short lessons in the form of videos. Its website also includes supplementary practice exercises and materials for educators. All resources are available for free to users of the website. Khan Academy is the result of a Nation of Students worried about Student Loan Debt.

Chapter 5 explains how Personalized Education is the next step. Some colleges are working on creating personal algorithm for College Students similar to how Netflix takes our preferences and creates viewing suggestions. There is a program that acts like a Matchmaker for College Students and Colleges.

Check out Naviance, which is an American college and career readiness software provider that partners with high schools and other K–12 institutions to provide students with college planning and career assessment tools.

Colleges are also working to make the Transfer from 2 year to 4 year Colleges almost effortless for the students.

Also mentioned is MOOC, which is a massive open online course, aimed at unlimited participation and open access via the web. MOOCs are a recent and widely researched development in distance education, first introduced in 2006 and emerged as a popular mode of learning in 2012. This allows many students to obtain an Elite Education for Free. The University of Manitoba is an example of this. Carnegie Mellon also has an Open Learning Initiative as well. These classes often utilize Hybrid Online and In Person Classes.

Chapter 8 covers Degrees of Value. Money should be a factor in choosing a degree or career, but not the only factor. An Engineering Degree will definitely get the student more money than an English Degree. However, the world needs at least some people with English Degrees. If it is your passion, then you should pursue it. The job market has shown that Employees with Liberal Arts Degrees are Preferable. They are often more well-rounded than someone who has trained for a specific job, trade or role.

The Magazine US News and World Report puts out a yearly Ranking of Colleges. Most people equate a Higher Ranking with a Better Education. Perhaps Colleges should receive certificates and be encouraged to improve weak areas.

Colleges are becoming Ala Cart. They are allowing students to pick and choose not only their degree program, but the classes to meet the degree requirement. They create an education that leads to a specific skill or area of expertise. Some 45% of managers are looking for an employee with a specific skill. However, 55% of managers want a broad base of education in an employee.

Roger Schank says what subjects you take in college really doesn’t matter. It is your cognitive ability that matters. He says that the focus should be on mind, body, law, information, language, networks, space, time, media and money. Deep active learning is what is important. See A Whole New Mind by Daniel H Pink. Pink suggests that we should be moving away from logical, linear education and move toward creative, big picture education that is flexible. Countries like Finland, Sweden and Norway have already implanted programs similar to what Pink outlined where topics are taught in multiple subjects.

Harvard and MIT have created EdX online programs. India wants to copy this education system.

Checklist For The Future:

When Choosing A College Check Out These Factors

 Calculate Return Investment For The Education There

Check Out Mobility of Credits or What Transfers

How Tech Savvy is the College

Get A Sense of College’s Priorities and Their Academic Rigor

Find out of the College Prepares Students for the Future

Check Out the Ability to Learn Through Travel Abroad Programs

Study The College’s Financial Aid Programs Closely

Asses The Financial Health of College Overall

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After The War Zone

After The War ZoneReturning Troops and Their Families

By Laurie B Slone, PhD and Mathew J Friedman, MD, PhD, 2008

The book was written to help understand the cycle of deployment and dealing with changes during deployments, as well as the homecoming.

Frequent Combat Experiences include being attacked or ambushed, receiving incoming fire or being shot at, discharging their own weapon, seeing dead bodies and remains, knowing somebody who has been seriously injured or killed and feeling in grave danger of being killed.

Switching Gears can be difficult. Something to help is the BATTLE MIND Acronym:

B=Buddies or Cohesion vs. withdrawal
A=Accountability vs. Control
T=Targeted vs., Inappropriate Aggression
T=Tactical Awareness vs. Hypervigilance
L=Lethally Armed vs. Locked and Loaded
E=Emotional Control vs. Detachment

M=Mission Operational Security vs. Secrecy
I=Individual Responsibility vs. Guilt
N=Non-Defensive Driving vs. Aggressive Driving
D=Discipline and Ordering vs. Conflict

Spouses can also have a difficult time adjusting. There is a BATTLE MIND Acronym spouses.

B=Buddies (Social Support with others)
A=Adding or Subtracting Family Roles
T=Taking Control
T=Talking It Out
L=Loyalty and Commitment from Both Partners.
E=Emotional Balance

M=Mental Health and Readiness
I=Independence
N=Navigating The Military System
D=Denial of Self or Self Sacrifice

Chapter 5 Discusses Common Reactions to the Trauma of War. Soldiers who have returned from war may experiences: trouble sleeping, trouble eating, upset stomach, headaches, bad dreams or nightmares, poor diet, poor health, rapid heartbeat or rapid breathing, existing health problems may get worse, trouble concentrating, are jumpy or easily startled, being on guard or always alert, excessive drinking, drug use, flashbacks, avoiding triggers, irritable, often angry, shock, numbness, easily annoyed, helplessness, mistrust of others, emotional shutdown, detachment, becoming controlling or overprotective of loved ones and having lots of conflicts.

All Soldiers experience these symptoms after combat, but many find it only temporary. If the symptoms listed above persist and continue on long-term than they may receive the diagnosis of PTSD or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Friends and Family will often try to be helpful, but they may say things that make it worse. If you are dealing with a loved one who has PTSD don’t put pressure on them to talk and don’t tell them to shut up if they are able to talk to you. Dont use clichés like, “War is Hell.”  Don’t say it will be okay or it could have been worse. Essentially, try and not to invalidate or belittle their experiences.

Chapter 6 talks about how Anger is the most common issue returning veterans face. Why? Anger is easy. It is easy to get angry at others in the civilian world for not listening or obeying orders. When they don’t do what they are supposed, there is no recourse. Angry often stems from trust and betrayal issues. Anger is in response to being victimized. Anger also comes from feeling fear and a loss of control. Anger cause can be caused by Physical Issues as well.

Chapter 7 discusses Guilt and Moral Dilemmas. Many Veterans suffer from Survival Guilt. Hindsight of the events is biased. They feel like they were given a test of faith in the foxhole. They ultimately feel responsible for the outcome even if they had no control over it. Grief is a normal response death and loss. Grief can become Traumatic Grief when the loss is sudden or violent.

Chapter 9 covers Reconnecting with a Partner, Family, Children and Friends. The authors suggest avoiding the pattern of withdrawal and isolation. It is important to reestablish trust and intimacy. Talking through anger and not exploding can aid in this process. General Communication skills often need improved to avoid further conflicts.

Chapter 11 deals with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder specifically. The first month after the trauma nearly everyone suffers from Acute Stress Disorder. The problem occurs if this state lasts longer than a month.  Anxiety and Depression that lasts two months or longer is a problem that needs treated. They will have triggers that keep them re-experiencing symptoms over and over. They may even try to avoid the memories, feelings and triggers. PTSD is NOT a weakness though.

PTSD can negatively impact family and friends. The Veteran may change and seem like an entirely different person. Those around the Veteran who suffers from PTSD may suffer from Depression as well as drug and alcohol abuse.

PTSD treatment includes talk therapy and medication. Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors or SSI’s may be the first line the defense against the overwhelming feelings. Sometimes CBT or Cognitive Behavior Therapy is recommended. There is also Exposure Therapy which helps them regain a sense of control. EMDR is Eye Movement and Desensitization Therapy. CPT is Cognitive Processing Therapy. Also, yoga and meditation have been shown to help.

The last couple of chapters suggest that you learn to recognize anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts. Recognizing Panic Attacks and GAD or Generalized Anxiety Disorder can also be helpful.  Learn to recognize drug and alcohol abuse. Violence and physical abuse can also become a huge problem for some. Notice the physical effects of PTSD-related issues—including pain, fatigue, sleep problems, muscle cramps, rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath and chest pains.

Sometimes TBI or Traumatic Brain Injury can cause or add to PTSD. A brain scan and other tests can help determine if this is a contributing factor or not.

In any case, the book stresses how important it is to seek mental and physical help via the Veteran’s Administration and other Community Groups.

Overall, I found the book easy to read and good resource. The only complaint I have about the book is that I would have liked to have seen more on alternative therapies.

 

 

 

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