Archive for ‘Uncategorized’

July 20, 2013

WOOF! – Part 2 (by Patricia N. Wernert)

The “big house,” “stir,” “crossbar hotel,” “slammer,” and “joint” are a few of the names one hears in movies, on t.v., and in books when a person goes to prison.

Such adjectives are colorful and likely can cause those of a curious nature to pause a moment and say, “Hmmm.”

From my perspective and too close for comfort in personal experience, such adjectives are so many smoke and mirrors. Let’s just be honest and say “prison.”

Society generally prefers to view those inside prison as less than human. There is a bit of a “silver lining” in that dark cloud and that happens to be people who decide to think for themselves. These kind and independent individuals chose to look beyond the prisoner title and see a human being.

Positive thinking led me to the unique opportunity to train dogs while in prison. Pretty cool, isn’t it?

I grew up with cats, dogs, bunnies, horses, and a variety of “rescued wildlife” much to the dismay of my mother. “A garden snake…good grief, get it out of here, now!” she’d say. It seems like only yesterday that I heard those words. I feel that my childhood growing up in a rural setting set me on the path to wanting to train and care for animals.

Prior to coming to prison, I worked in veterinarian offices and learned firsthand what is involved in treating small animals. A lot of caring for pets is good old common sense. When a person takes on the responsibility of a pet, he or she should be willing to provide for all of the animal’s needs.

Fast forwarding to approximately 18 years into my incarceration: I was given the chance to raise and train puppies for Pilot. In my last essay, “Woof [part 1],” you met “Wells,” my first puppy. I felt I had a real purpose and was doing something positive and productive with my time.

Training dogs in a prison setting throws a few unexpected twists into one’s routine. In prison, there are set times a prisoner must adhere to or face disciplinary consequences. Specific times are mandated when an inmate must be in her room/cell to be counted, go to meals, or go without eating, room clean, shower, do activities, and take on many other aspects of day-to-day living.

Add a six-to-eight-week old puppy into those activities, a puppy that has no real control over bodily functions, wants to cry and bark in the middle of the night when your roommate wants to sleep. Imagine that I have to navigate long corridors to get the little bundle of fur to the yard to go to the bathroom. It can make for some interesting adventures.

Puppies and adult dogs all need four things: fair, firmness, consistency, and love should be shown in all aspects of their training and life.

April 12, 2013

Charity Miles: Interview with William Lambers

The following is an interview with William Lambers, whose vigorous work with addressing global hunger has now reached international proportions.  RED! contributing writer, Le’Erin Watts, conducted the interview.

RED!: What is it about The College of Mount St. Joseph that interests you and why are you so connected?

W.L.: I went to school at the college as an undergraduate and also for my master’s degree. Over that time, I have gotten to know teachers on campus, many of who are also authors or journalists. That personal interaction you have at the Mount with the teachers keeps you connected.

RED!: People around the country know you for your fight against and work to address hunger, especially hunger around the world. How are you able to involve the younger students at Mount St. Joseph in the work you do?

W.L.: I get the opportunity to speak at Mount classes and also take part in some events on campus. This gives me the chance to talk to the students about global hunger and ways they can get involved, including one way I will talk about in the next answer.

 

RED!: What interested you about Charity Miles?

W.L.: I used to see these tweets from the World Food Programme about Charity Miles so I asked what was this about? The World Food Programme office in New York filled me on the details, which I could use in a story. Charity Miles is a free app that you just download onto your cell phone. For every mile you walk, run, or bike you can raise money for a charity like the World Food Programme or Feeding America. Since I also walked and since I am a former runner, I thought I could maybe get involved myself. I just needed to get the cell phone, which I did.

RED!: Have you started the program? How many miles have you logged?

W.L: I announced to Jeffrey Hillard’s Cincinnati Authors class in late 2012 that I would attempt to start Charity Miles. I started it almost right after that class and have logged well over 100 miles mostly running and some walking. I was around 100 miles when I tried to count them in early December and have logged many miles since. I was told I am the 4th ranked runner in terms of miles for the World Food Programme.

RED!: Are there any other charities or organizations out there that are using creative ways to raise money?

W.L.: The World Food Programme has an online game called FreeRice which I talk a lot about in classes and speaking engagements. I even wrote a few of the questions for the game. Every time you get a correct answer ten grains of rice are donated to the World Food Programme. Some charities like the Feed Project sell merchandise to raise funds. There are creative ways that come right from the College of Mount St. Joseph, too. A student, Elizabeth Paff, who was recently in the Cincinnati Authors class, has started hunger fighting initiatives including launching a FreeRice team and collecting funds for life-saving Plumpy’nut food, which treats malnutrition, and gradually I believe she also plans to help faciliated a hunger walk to raise awareness to helping provide food to those in great need.

William Lambers is an author and historian. Visit his sites: http://www.williamlambers.com  Author page at Amazon.com http://www.twitter.com/williamlambers

September 5, 2012

SANDING STONES by Karyn B. Alexander

 

On a recent trip to Michigan, I had an awesome experience. We traveled all the way to the tip of a peninsula where a lone lighthouse stood. The day was chilly, like most Michigan days, but the sun shone enough to allow us to walk the beach. The beaches of Michigan are full of white sand, rocks, and more rocks. The beach was interesting because the sand stretched so far out from the shore, allowing us to walk a very long time before reaching water.  As we walked, I started to see little piles of rocks. I looked three feet from where I stood, then 10 feet, then 30 feet, and beyond. The rocks were everywhere. I looked again and knew the rock piles were intentional, not a random act of nature. This looked to be something meaningful, deep and important. I automatically look for meaning in everything, but here, I didn’t even have to try. It was laid out right before me.

I had been walking for some time before discovering the mysterious little monuments; the skyline had blue and white clouds formed into puffy swirls that resembled water more than sky. It made me think of the verse in the book of Genesis where God “separated the waters.” I felt as if I understood that verse better after seeing it in reality; water pressed against sky water, all the same.  Once I looked down, though, I was actually astonished to see what I had almost missed. It was so clever and meaningful. People from everywhere, hundreds of them, had placed the stones one on another as if to recreate a Stonehenge-like mystery.

The builders were no longer on the beach, so it certainly was a mystery to those of us just arriving. I looked around. Others had noticed the beautiful monuments, too. I immediately wanted to build my own. I started piling rocks, and then I stopped. I wanted it to be more than just a few simple stacked stones. I needed it to represent who I was and my legacy to the beach and its future visitors.

I carefully made several small piles, knowing what it meant to me, but leaving a question to hang for the next beach walker. I was so excited to leave a message for someone else to ponder or decipher.

Isn’t that truly what we all want?

When asked, the elderly say that the thing they regret the most was not leaving a mark for future generations.

In the book of Genesis, God also told His people to leave a mark. As Moses took them across the Red Sea, they were instructed to send 12 men back into the sea to bring out a stone for each tribe. They were to stack the stones, to leave a mark for the next generation. The mark was to show what God had done for them, which was freeing them from slavery.

My little stone pile was the same. I had taken wet rocks and stacked them in a manner to show what God had done for me. He had freed me, snatching me out of darkness. He had brought me to His knowledge and changed my life forever- pile one.  He allowed me to live and share His nature with my children and family who would, too, forever be changed- pile two.

I was grateful for that day on the beach, a reminder of how important it is to leave a legacy of great value. Standing Stones they call it. Reminders of the great things God has done for us. A surprise, an exciting monument, a mystery for sure!

 

Voice of the Nations column

Karyn Alexander
Executive Director, Winfieldhouse.org

 

 

 

 

 

Voice of the Nations column

March 15, 2012

Cincinnati-Read Aloud March Campaign

October 19, 2011

Take This Cup – by Karyn B. Alexander

The words, “Father take this cup!”

This is the famous line from the Garden of Gethsemane; a man is asking his Father in heaven to take his burden and to spare his life from impending death.

God did not take his cup away.

The man died. He not only died, but he died a horrific death. His body was spit upon, beaten, and then hung on a wooden cross. He was a religious criminal. Guilty, they said, and “crucify him,” they shouted, Why didn’t God take the cup and save the man?

It seems to be one of the most widely asked questions even today. “Why did God allow …this thing in my life? Why doesn’t God intervene? Why doesn’t He take my cup?” I know you have asked this same question. I have, many, many times. And many times, God has not taken my cup, while other times He intervenes.

When something we consider bad or fearful happens, we immediately call out to God the Father to take our cup. We know that a loving God wants the best for us, so surely He cannot mean this impending nightmare to fully descend on us. We hear of accidents, death of the young, sickness that decays, and we always assume it is for someone else. It’s universal to think, “That will never happen to me or my loved ones.” But it does.

If you live long enough, you know that death, illness, accidents, and pain happen. We assume God loves us and can, at any moment, send a fleet of angels, impart divine inspiration, cure illness and raise the dead; He can take the cup.

So, why would He choose not to help solve our problems?

The answer lies in the providence of God. He sees all and knows all, so He only intervenes when it falls in line with His providence, or grand design. Meaning, there is a plan that may not look like our plan. The plan for the man who was accused of blasphemy was brutal in its end, but God had the bigger picture in mind. We all know the bigger picture is stated in the scriptures where it says, “Unless a kernel of wheat die and fall to the ground, it cannot live again.”

So it was for the man on the cross:  He must die to give life.

It is brilliant in concept.

We see it in nature. It is seen in the fields and flowers as they dry and crumble to become seed for new plants. We see human death making way for the next generation. Spiritually speaking, we can plant spiritual seedlings, but they cannot grow unless there is death; death of our sin and own personal will. Jesus of Nazareth was the man on the cross who provided the spiritual seed to die and live again. He claimed to be God in the flesh, and was crucified for saying so. Rising from the dead.  Crazy trick, but only possible if you are “The” real God.

September 20, 2011

Interview – Greg Flannery, Editor of Article 25 Street Paper

Interview with Greg Flannery, Editor of ARTICLE 25

By Michelle Gilbert

RED! – Can you please tell me about yourself?  Do you have a family; where you went to college, give me a mini-biography?

Greg Flannery:  After graduating from Covington Latin School, in 1974, I attended St. Gregory Seminary for three semesters. In 1980 I was hired by the Mount Washington Press to handle debt collection. When the editor found out I liked to write, he gave me an assignment and then hired me as a reporter. I have worked in journalism ever since. My recent work includes serving as editor of Streetvibes for two years and news editor of CityBeat for eight years. In 2009, at a ceremony in Bergen, Norway, I had the honor of receiving the Best Feature Story Award from the International Network of Street Papers.

My wife, Mary Alice, and I have been married 31 years. We have four adult children, all feisty and disinclined to let anyone tell them what to do.

 RED! – How did Article #25 become a purpose in your life?

Greg Flannery: As a member of the board of directors of the North American Street Newspaper Association, I have witnessed the growth of street papers around the world while “mainstream” corporate newspapers founder. I wanted to start Article 25 because I believe democracy requires a vibrant free press and because street papers offer a meaningful opportunity for disenfranchised people to earn a living. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which forms the foundation of our editorial policy, is an inspiring yet largely overlooked testament to every person’s right to liberty.

 RED! – Can you share with us a success story that has come about from Article #25?

Greg Flannery: Because Article 25 began publishing June1, I’ll tell you instead what I have seen at other street papers. People who are homeless or addicted or dealing with mental illness not only earn a small income buy distributing street papers but, with the right assistance, connect with human services that enable them to improve their lives. Street-paper distributors help their customers to overcome stereotypes about poor people and regain a sense of their own dignity and ability to decide their future. Equally important, street papers tell the stories that the corporate media ignore. In the case of Article 25, our goal is to report local news and issues relevant to the theme of human rights – the defining issue of our times.

 RED! – Human Rights is undoable an important aspect in everyone’s life, what is one way that a person can change in their day to day lifestyle, that might build awareness to the Human Right Issue?

Greg Flannery: Think about what you’re buying and where it comes from. Is the chocolate you’re eating the result of forced labor in Africa? Are your cheap appliances made affordable because workers in Asia make substandard wages? Is your landscaper forced to live in hiding because he doesn’t possess immigration documents? We are responsible for making sure our comfort and privilege as Americans don’t come at the expense of other people’s human rights.

 RED! – If you can leave us with a quote, mantra, or belief that gives you strength on a daily basis, what is that saying?

 Greg Flannery:  “When I despair, I remember that all through history the ways of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time they can seem invincible. But in the end, they always fall. Think of it always.” (Mahatma Gandhi)

July 25, 2011

Youth Uprising Center – Oakland, California 2011

Youth Uprising Center is one of the most unique and innovative centers for youth in the entire country. It’s executive director, Olis Simmons, along with staff, has recently completed the addition of several new programs. RED! will bring you news of these programs in the coming weeks.

RED! published a beautiful Slide Show on Youth  Uprising Center in 2009. Check it out.

May 10, 2011

Mistakes 143 – Column by Demetrius “Hook” Mitchell

My “Mistakes 143” column on this occasion takes us to another day at the University of Higher Education and lower learning.

Imagine this: it seems as though when most things change, most things stay the same. Recently, it was very, very interesting – a lot of excitement in this incarceration facility. The “Camp” corrections officers (C-O’s) found contraband and, so, now guess what?  Sixty-five to 70% of the Camp is drinking as much water as they can.

Those around me heard of this finding, and they heard that there is a strong possibility that the “whole” camp will be drug-tested; they are dirty. Weed (mostly).

Someone copped to the incident. Gang members usually cop to theirs.

Change – the individual placed so many others in danger. First of all, he placed himself in danger, and then the family of the individual that made the so-called drop.

Maybe I am only one of the only individuals that does not smoke anything – myself and a few others are clear of this debacle. My bunkie is forced not to; he has two (positive) tests. One more (positive) and he is back to the yard with about four months or so added to his sentence and Camp program discontinued. He is not the only one here that has lost time or is living on the edge.

Fire Camp, as we call this facility, is maybe one of the only facilities that is “free”; that is, it is out in an open space in northern California, where inmates have total access to the free world. And in which all races, gangs, and ignorant activities exist. It is different from behind the walls. The other night I saw something I thought was special: N. and S. sharing virtuals together. I said, “Look at that. They are intermingling.” Behind the walls they would run a piece of metal, etc. so far up each other it would take a day for them to take it out (they would attempt to kill each other for something small).

Now, the “day after the storm.” This is late February. Officials tested the whole camp on the related issue of contraband I indicated above. Inmates began to harm themselves by drinking bleach and an enormous amount of water.

There were only about 10 to 20 inmates out of 122 inmates that willingly went up there to test and had complete confidence in a positive test. A nice ratio. Even those that have been tested negative over the last two to three months were in question of their test. An ugly sight: the fact that they have already lost time, and especially knowing they are under mandatory testing. Sad thing.

God has blessed me to stay out of the way and allowed my peers to have the floor at this time. As I say, I am just passing through and I do not want any problems.

I am patiently waiting to be inserted back into the game (hoop slogan) by God, so that I can have The Last Laugh. Oh! God allowed Blake Griffin of the N.B.A.’s Los Angeles Clippers to perform a dunk in the All-Star Slam Dunk Contest that, in fact, I “patented” over 20 years ago. Put me in, coach. I am ready!

I pray that my words are able to reach my column in RED! the breakthrough ‘zine because they are the gatekeepers that I have to pass. I know who is running the show. I am about hope and health.

And, by the way, I still have not seen the Blake Griffin contest-winning dunk. And, too, after the testing, my peers are back in business with the garbage. Half of the camp is on the edge of their seats. Hmmm. Another day at the university.

         –Peace–

I thought I closed this message, but in life as I have learned, when the storm comes, it continues. The C-O’s are earning their keep, as today they found more stuff. It’s a pernicious cycle, but I know that God is working in my life.

May 9, 2011

APHRODITE JONES – Interview – True Crime with Aphrodite Jones on I.D. Channel

 

RED! the breakthrough ‘zine editor, Jeffrey Hillard, recently interviewed best-selling author, Aphrodite Jones, who is also the producer and host of her current, highly-rated, true crime investigation show, “True Crime with Aphrodite Jones” on ID (Investigation Discovery channel). The show is in its second season, airing on Thursday from 10:00 – 11:00 p.m. (est). 

 

 

RED!: You’re coming off of a stellar first season of investigative stories. What plan did you come up with to decide on stories for the new Season Two?

APHRODITE: For Season Two, I wanted to be sure that my show, “True Crime…,” could branch out a bit further, and not only concentrate on murder. To that end, I chose to include stories about Anna Nicole Smith and also a twisted ponzi scheme (with a murder in the middle) to show my viewers that I have as much of an interest in social injustices and social issues as I do in helping crack murder cases. 

RED!: Because you’re on a learning curve from the first season, what adjustments did you make in pursuing these new stories?

APHRODITE: The difference between Season One of “True Crime” and Season Two – well, it’s hard to distinguish. In Season One, I was able to cover O.J. Simpson, Chandra Levy, Scott Peterson, and other very high profile cases. In Season Two, while the high profile cases continued, with Jon Benet Ramsey, Anna Nicole Smith, and Betty Broderick, I would say that I decided that my audience seems to like to see me follow up on the lesser-known cases as much as anything in the front headlines. So, I chose certain stories that people may “know,” but that are not headline news everywhere, such as: the West Memphis Three and the Dating Game Killer. 

RED!: You’re a gifted and seasoned best-selling writer of investigative true crime books. What have been some challenges in transitioning from writing books to producing a television series?

APHRODITE: It has been a great challenge to move from writing books to hosting and producing a TV show. But, of course, I have a great team behind me in TV; whereas, with a book, I am all on my own. I really do like the collaborative nature of television, and I have to give so much credit to my producing team at Discovery Studios, as well as to the top executives at ID, who have worked tirelessly to see that “True Crime…” is one of their best products. It’s really all of us working together — and I can hardly take the credit for the transition, because they made it easy for me! 

RED!: In this second season of preparing new stories, have you encountered any information or made discoveries that really startled or intrigued you?

APHRODITE: In Season Two of “True Crime…,” I think I was most impacted by the details I learned regarding the botched Jon Benet Ramsey investigation. I must admit that, after having met with Mr. Ramsey in person, my heart felt broken, and I came home in tears, thinking about what he and his family have been put through for almost 15 years now. To think, not only are they innocent, but they are victims. Andyet, Mr. Ramsey and his son are still being treated – by the Boulder Police Department – like criminals. It’s appalling. 

RED!: Are you finding that television is now a natural progression in which to showcase your work and vision, or will the book writing re-emerge at some point?

APHRODITE: Well, about TV vs. books…it just so happens that I am on my way to relocate to Orlando for the next two months to cover the Casey Anthony trial. While there, I will write a new book. And I feel that it’s about time!

May 4, 2011

VOICE OF THE NATIONS – A Column by Karyn Alexander

Today, as I write in my Voice of the Nations column, it is someone’s birthday! It may be yours or someone you know. So I say, “Happy Birthday!”

Every year, when we are children, we stretch the truth about our age. Eight and a half years old, not just eight. Of course, as we pass the “over-the-hill,” forty-year mark, we all say we are twenty-nine again. It seems we are either looking forward to being older or wishing we were younger again.

This spring, I spent three solid days with women of different ages, religions, and socioeconomic backgrounds to talk about birthdays. Not our birthdays, but strangers’ birthdays we have never met. How unusual. Never heard of it? We are all birth Doulas.

A Doula is a professional, loving woman who takes care of a woman in labor. Doulas have a common thread that knit us together. We all love to help moms have their babies. What better gift could we give our children on their day of birth than a person who creates an environment of peace and safety for their arrival?

The birth Doula is an encourager, a knowledgeable helper, and coach.

I am also another kind of Doula. I am a Spiritual Doula. I help people find God. The Rabbi, Jesus, tells us in the gospel of John, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the Kingdom of God unless he is born again.” There, you have it: birth.  How can that be? As a Doula, I help the mother bring the child into the tangible world. How can a person become born again? Once seems to be enough doesn’t it?

The same question was asked of the first century Rabbi at the time he spoke those words.  Jesus’ answer was this: “I tell you the truth; no one can enter the Kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.”
Just like a natural birth, the intangible birth of spiritual awakening is just as real. It has been exciting and fun to be an encourager, knowledgeable helper and spiritual coach to many “babies!”

                                                   A Beautiful Delivery

I was at Winfield House when two little children I did not know seemed to just appear. They showed up at the back of the chapel. I found them alone, swinging on the playground. I was cleaning that day, not holding kids’ programs or counseling, but monitoring a man who was “doing time” at Winfield. This man was given community service for a minor legal infraction; so, not being a threat to me, I allowed him to fulfill his hours cleaning at the church.

I gathered some sidewalk chalk, coloring books, and crayons and went outside to greet the two children. I asked their names and asked where they were from. They were brother and sister, ages five and six, from just down the road. Amanda and Billy were eager to talk and wanted me to push them on the swings. They kept yelling, “Lady, lady, push us!” Instead of accommodating them with their wishes, I showed them how to pump and push themselves. They were happy I brought gifts for them, so they used the chalk and coloring books to occupy themselves.

After an hour or so, the kids came into Winfield and wanted snacks and drinks. I asked where their mother was, and I was told she did not live with them. They were now living with an aunt and other extended family members. They said they were hungry and had no food. Just then the aunt appeared. She told a tragic story of drugs, alcohol abuse, and now a destroyed family. I gave them all the food we had at Winfield, household supplies, and even furniture. The kids were sleeping on the floor and had no furniture in the house to speak of.

As the aunt and my helper carried the furniture and supplies to their house, I pulled Amanda and Billy aside.

It was Easter time so I asked them if they knew Jesus. They stared blankly in to my face and shook their heads saying, “No.”

 I asked again, “You have never heard of Jesus?” 

They again said no.

I asked if they had heard of Easter. Again, I received blank looks.

Surprised, I asked if they had at least heard of the Easter Bunny.

They both nodded their heads yes. Whew! You know, it’s all about the bunny.

So, I proceeded to tell them that all they received that day had come from God.

I told them God knew they would be at Winfield House that day and provided what they had needed. They were surprised. I told them the Easter story and asked if they would like to follow Jesus, who died on the cross for them and rose from the dead to ensure they would go heaven when it was time. They could be “born again,” not from their mother, but through Jesus gift on the cross and promise for heaven.

Billy immediately said yes. He said his grandpa was in heaven. Amanda shook her head to say no. I said that was okay. I asked Billy if I could pray with him and he eagerly agreed. We said a little prayer that assured he would be one of God’s children and made a commitment to follow God for his whole life. Ta da! Birth-easy and safe delivery!

As the day went on, the kids looked tired, so I suggested they go home for dinner. I again approached Amanda and asked if she wanted to become a child of God. She looked at me with a half smile, tipping her head to the side in a coy way and said, “I already did it outside in the parking lot.”
We hugged and laughed, as she apparently just needed a private moment.

I gave Amanda a bible to read. I told her that all the red letters were things Jesus himself said. She opened the Bible and immediately showed me a line written in red, “Let the little children come to me.” Jesus.  The gospel of Luke 18:16.

Remarkably, God showed her that she was now a child of His and that He and the bible were trustworthy.

It was Amanda and Billy’s spiritual birthday that day. They had been delivered into the family of God in a beautiful easy way.

The Bible tells us that all of the angels rejoice when just ONE person comes to God. What a celebration it must have been that day in heaven with two little children. It was the ultimate Birthday party.

If you haven’t had a spiritual birthday yet, it is a simple and worthy experience. Just tell God that you would like Him to lead your life, turn from your old ways, and then follow Him.

Let Him show you His way and all of heaven will rejoice on your Birthday, too!

Happy Birthday!

Karyn Alexander

Executive Director, Winfield House

KarynBAlexander@aol.com

Winfield House brings the good news of Jesus in a practical way, bringing God’s people hope.

Voice of the Nations: Rev. 5:9 “With your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe, people, language, and nation.”

KarynBAlexander@aol.com