Monday, April 30, 2007

Thinking Outside the Litter Box
Theresa Chaze

Animal care has become big business with owners of “furkids” willing to pay top dollar for accessories, food and daily necessities. It would be very easy to spent hundreds of dollars to make your home feline friendly; yet a high priced tag doesn’t necessarily mean the product is more effective. Sometimes the simple, inexpensive resolutions are the best. Whether it be litter box odor, scratching on furniture, chewing on household plants or shedding, there are uncomplicated solutions, which will allow cats and humans to peacefully co-exist in the same home.
Costing from several dollars to close to two hundred, litter boxes come in all sizes and shapes; some of them are motorized coming complete with sensors, which automatically scoops after the box has been used. However, the higher price tag doesn’t always mean it is more effective. Normally cats use the box once or twice a day. By keeping enough litter in the box for the cat to bury their waste and by scooping once a day, you get the same odor control, but at a lower cost. The rule of thumb is that there should be one litter box for each cat. Although cats will share litter boxes, it's best to give them a choice. In additions, more litter boxes will prevent the waste from accumulating if it is divided among multiple boxes. Scooping daily and completely changing the litter boxes once a week radically cuts down on the odor. Although some people swear by the clumping litter, there have been cases of the ingredients, which cause the litter to clump, also causing intestinal blockages that needed to be surgically removed. By using the cheaper clay litter, it can be inexpensively replaced weekly or bi-weekly if the necessity arises. By completely cleaning the boxes, everything is removed and the possibility of missing something is eliminated. With the clumping litter, the box is completely cleaned less frequently, making it easier for urine to build up on the bottom beneath the litter.
What you wash the box with will also make a difference. Many of the pine cleaners can cause liver damage to cats and should be avoided. Warning labels need to be checked for pet safety issues before they are used. Pet enzyme cleaning products are the safest to use. Normally these products are used to clean up accidents on floors and furniture, but they are also excellent for cleaning the litter boxes. A quarter cup mixed with water in a quart spray bottle is strong enough to clean the box and eliminate odors. Although they contain a mild detergent, the primary benefits are friendly bacteria and enzymes, which break down the odor causing elements. The enzyme cleaners are designed to be safe around cats and the residue actually is beneficial, as it continues to work to keep the box odor free between cleanings. Some people swear that adding baking soda is beneficial because it absorbs the odor. Being alkaline, it neutralized the acidity of urine, which can curb some of the smell but does nothing to really keep it clean. More than anything else, it masks the problem, but doesn’t solve it.
A secondary source of litter box odor could be the flooring. Porous materials, such as cement and carpeting, readily absorb both aromas and waste. After a while, the area can continue to smell even when the litter boxes are clean. Hooded boxes will help by preventing misses and control over enthusiastically digging, but they do nothing to prevent litter being dragged out on paws. Washing the area regularly will help, but it won’t solve the odor absorption problem. Keeping the litter boxes on non-porous surfaces, like tile or linoleum will prevent the transference and keep the area fresher. If you don’t have a suitable surface available, it is easy to create a floor guard that is both efficient and mobile. To make a floor guard you will need a piece of plywood or the equivalent that is about two feet larger than your litter boxes area and a non porous surface such as linoleum or tile that is the same size. The plywood will keep the top covering flat and stable. An uncut piece of linoleum would be best, because it lacks the seams where dirt could collect; however, if the tiles are tightly fitted, they will also be effective. The self-adhesive vinyl tiles are more cost effective, easier to install and makes the floor guard lighter than ceramic. Once the tile or linoleum has been attached, the guard is ready to be put into place. If you are concerned about damaging your floor, you can put an inexpensive rug beneath it. You will still have to keep it clean, but it will be easier to do so and will not absorb odors.
Those with dogs in the household have already learned of their attraction to litter boxes. Even well trained dogs have a tendency to snack on feline feces. By keeping the boxes up out of their reach by placing them on tables, you prevent this nasty habit from becoming a disciplinary issue. It is simpler to prevent a problem than try to correct it later. As long as the table is large enough for the litter boxes to sit flat without wobbling and for cat to jump onto it safely, they shouldn't have an issue unless age or illness are factors.
Diet can also contribute to the intensity of the litter box odor. The cheaper dry foods contain ingredients that are not easily digestible by cats. Grains are frequently used as fillers, but contain no nutritional value for them. Although your cat may feel full, they haven’t met their daily nutrition needs; therefore, they will eat more regularly. The fillers will not be absorbed in their digestive track and will eventually find their way into the litter boxes. Although the food will be initially cheaper, your cats will eat more of it and use the litter box more frequently. In addition, the filers cause intestinal issues such as upset stomachs and foul smelling flatulence, which isn’t pleasant for anyone. Ingredients are listed on the bag according to the content percentages. Foods that list meat first have that product as the primary ingredient. They keep your cats healthier and more active, especially in the later years of their life. Although these foods cost a few more cents per pound, they will save you in the amount of litter you use and time spent cleaning the boxes. They will also reduce the odor both in the litter box and what you experience scratching your cat’s belly.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Awakening the Dragon--Book One of the Dragon Clan Trilogy--an excerpt

Where JK Rowlings left off with the Harry Potter series, Theresa Chaze picks up with real magic and a modern day setting. More for adults than for a young children, Awakening the Dragon gives a more comprehensive view and of what Wiccans and Pagans believe. Ms Chaze's goals are not only to entertain, but to dispell the long standing bigotries and misconceptions of Wicca and Paganism.


Rachael pulled up and was able to park directly in front of the Dragon's Den. The crack shot out from a hole just right of center. Someone had taped the glass, preventing it from shattering and falling to the ground. There were two smaller holes with cracks radiating from them. She shook her head, like she needed one more thing to take care of.
Carmen ran out of the store directly to Rachael's car. "Don't panic! No one got hurt. The glass will be replaced this afternoon."
"I don't pay you enough."
"If that's a raise. I'll take it. Now go home. Go to sleep."
"I did nap." Rachael thought it sounded lame to her own ears. "It only made me cranky."
"Take another."
"Can't. I'm moving the kids and me into the cottage."
"Are you crazy lady?" Carmen snapped. "You can barely stand."
"They've left me no choice. The landlord has a key. I don't think we're safe."
"Point." She drummed the roof of the car with her fingertips. "Ok."
"Have the utilities been switched?"
"Yes. The telephone will be activated on Monday."
"I have the cellular."
"Do you want your furniture moved as well?"
Rachael could see in her brown eyes her mind was working, plotting and planning. "No. Just the stuff that can't be replaced. The kids. Personal stuff and my clothes. I was going to shop first, then-"
"Fine. It'll give me a chance to get the hood put on my pick up."
"You don't have to."
"Protect you and my job security. Yes, I do. I'll meet you at the apartment in about an hour. They're fixing the window 'bout four-four-thirty. I'll have plenty of time to get back. We'll take as much as we can. What doesn't fit, we'll store here."
"Remind me to give you a raise."
"Accepted. See you in an hour." Carmen backed away from the car.
She stopped and mid-turn.
"Thanks. You're a good friend."
She smiled and waved. "Get going."
Relieved, Rachael started the car. It was going to be easier than she thought. The kids would be upset over being moved again. But she'd keep them on the medicated food so Merlin wouldn't get another urinal tract infection. Everything and everyone would be all right. She turned the wheel and checked the traffic. She waited for the approaching car. What kinds of food do kids eat? Spaghetti, obviously. The car suddenly it screeched to a halt and backed up, barricading her in the parking spot.
"Sweet Mother of Light. Now what?" Rachael opened the door and stepped out. She met the older woman in front of her own car. "What are you doing?"
"You're Rachael Franklin." It was more of an angry accusation than a question.
"If I am," Rachael answered in kind, "it's none of your business."
"It is you, corrupter of children!"
"Join reality lady."
"If it isn't Lady Katherine Mitchellson. Spreading joy and love as always." The sarcasm dripped of Carmen's voice like venom off an adder's fang.
Rachael pivoted; the rapid change in personality made her wonder which woman was the most dangerous. "You know each other?"
"Oh, yes. We know each other very well." Carmen sauntered forward. "She changed the destiny of my life. Before Sarah died," she put emphasis on the word 'died', clearly meaning another verb, "I worked at the lumber mill as the office manager. I was damn good at it."
"That's your opinion!" The red head snapped.
"She fired me. Fought my unemployment. Drove me out of town of town for a few years. I only came back to take care of my Mother when Kevin and several friends in the police department guaranteed my safety."
"All of your kind will be driven out." Katherine turned on Rachael. "You won't have one peaceful moment in that cottage. I'll see to it."
Adrenaline and anger washed away Rachael's exhaustion. "You and your fellow crazies can get used to it. I'm not leaving. The store is opening. And I know a really good lawyer who will take care of your kind," She mimed quotation marks around the phase, 'your kind', "legally. You must have heard of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. It what gives you the right to annoy people on street corners. It also gives me my freedom of religion.” Rachael pointed at the store. “And about my window…In order to make things right, I call upon powers of light. For harm they have caused to me and mine, may their own dreams unwind. For the hatred and violence so bestowed, may the heavens themselves make justice unfold. As they have set out to create tension and fear, may their efforts bring them only tears.”
“In the name of God, I reject your curse!” Katherine didn't give ground. "And call on God to smite you."
"Funny thing or maybe not so, unlike you and your church--Jesus preached love, peace and wisdom.” Slowly Rachael arched her arm around to point at the older woman. “You promote ignorance, bigotry and violence. None of which was on the path at Jesus cleared for you.”
Carmen pushed past Rachael. Standing directly in front of the taller woman, she matched her stance. "Just so you're aware. Kevin recanted the company's statement. He admitted you lied. I received all of my back unemployment, an apology and a very nice settlement. He offered my job back."
"That job is filled." Katherine snapped. "By a competent--"
"That job is mine whenever I want it. All I have to do is ask."
Rachael inwardly panicked. There was no way she could compete with the type of salary or benefits. She didn't want to lose Carmen.
"Just keep pushing. I'll change my mind."
Rachael only partially breathed a sigh of relief; she knew these types of religious nuts, they didn't give up.
"My son won't be in control much longer. My lawyer-"
"Has lost. Everybody knows it. Join us in reality."
Katherine's hand flew through the air. Carmen caught her wrist, pushing her backward. Tripping, she landed on her touché. For a moment, Katherine sat stunned. Triumphantly, she started to scream. Traffic slowed. The pedestrians circled.
The foot patrol officer walked through the growing crowd to the center of the circle they were forming. Katherine's screams ended as quickly as they began.
"They attacked me." She whined.
His eyebrows met in the center. "Carmen St. McCloud. Back in town and starting again so soon?"
"Why officer, I just defended myself."
Impatiently, he cleared his throat. "Huhu. I wasn't there officer. It wasn't me. And even if somebody saw me, I didn't do anything."
"Excuse me, officer." Rachael angrily cut in. "This woman cut me off. Threatened me and tried to hit Carmen."
"Rachael Franklin I believe. Officer James Mirren." His offered his hand. "You've come late to this picture."
Rachael looked from his hand to his clean shaven face. "I was here the entire time."
"For this round in the continuing battle." His hand dropped to his side. "These two have been fighting since she dated Kevin in high school. I know I was there. It only stopped when Carmen left town." He looked over to the prone woman. "Mrs. Mitchellson, get up you’re not fooling anyone. You're just making yourself look stupid."
"Well, I-"
"Never." He finished her statement. "And Carmen stop picking on Kevin's old lady. She doesn't control him. He doesn't control her. You've got your reputation back. Let it go."
A wicked smile crossed Carmen's face and she tugged at his collar. "James, I didn't know you cared."
He pulled her hand away and patted her wrist. "You be good."
Shaking his head, he turned to the crowd. "Ok. Ok. The afternoon's entertainment is over. Go make the storeowners happy. Go shop."
Snickering and whispering, the crowd slowly disbursed, leaving only the three women and the officer separating them. James walked over and offered his hand; Katherine took it and rose to her feet.
"This is your car, Mrs. Mitchellson?"
"You know it is."
"Move it. You're double-parked." He opened the door for her. "I'd hate to give the mother of a friend of mine a ticket."
Tossing her head back, she slid into the seat. He closed the door. She started the engine and was gone. He returned to the curb.
"Thanks James."
"No problem. Sorry about the window."
"It's being fixed this afternoon."
"The Captain's ordered more patrols for downtown." He turned to Rachael. "You probably won't believe me. At least not, right away. But Coyote Springs is a good town. Most of us get along."
"It's just a few." Carmen winked at him.
Smiling, he nodded and walked toward the center of town.
"He's a good guy." Carmen touched her shoulder. "If you ever need help, he's the one to call."
"A white knight I'm sure."
Carmen tightened her grip. "No sarcasm involved. He's a good guy."
"Ok. Ok, let go of the death grip."
Carmen quickly let go and brushed smooth her wrinkled shirt. "Sorry."
"It's ok. Don't do it again." Massaging her shoulder, Rachael moved toward her open car door. "We'd better get going. Our timetable just got pushed forward."
"Think you're right. See you in an hour. Your place." Carmen turned and strolled toward the front door.
Rachael slid into the front seat, closing the door and starting the engine. Paranoid or no, her little voice told her tonight would not be sleep filled. She pulled out of the parking space and joined the traffic. She quickly turned down the side street that led to the grocery store she normally shopped. Every now and then, she checked the rear view mirror; no one seemed to be following.
Meijers was only moderately busy. She conceded that she was basically ignorant to the eating habits of children. So with the exception of the spaghetti, she bought the things she would normally eat, only in larger amounts. She remembered the new litter boxes, also adding new toys, litter and tuna, just to say 'mommy loves you'. Forty minutes later, she emerged with an overflowing cart. Quickly loading the hatch, she was grateful Carmen was meeting her. The back seat would mostly be filled by the carrier, leaving only the front seat for her clothes, computer and first edition volumes. Before getting behind the wheel, she looked around. No one seemed to be watching her. Good, she thought.
Driving out of the parking lot, she drove down the street, which led to the apartment. Turning on to her block, her stomach knotted when she saw several pick up trucks parted in the driveway and a group of people on the front lawn. Slowing down, she parked in the street and reached for the cellular, not knowing what to expect. She opened the car door and Carmen appeared from the center of the group. Rachael leaned back in the seat, breathing through her nose and exhaling through her mouth. She still hadn't moved when Carmen reached the car. She looked straight ahead. "You scared the shit out of me."
"Sorry. I called a few friends."
"So I see." Rachael released her grip on he phone and dropped it between the seats. "My mind went a'racing."
"Did a little shopping." Carmen nodded toward the hatch.
"I have houseguests."
"So I heard. Rumor has it the Reverend Marshal has called a meeting for two o'clock. We don't know what to expect." Pivoting Carmen started toward the building. "Time's short."
Rachael slid out and closed the door. Both women walked to the house.
"Guys, intros will wait. We've got an hour to empty the place."
"Wait." Rachael cut in. "Let me go in first and put the cats in the carrier. It'll be easier."
"Good idea." Carmen turned to a stocky, long haired gent with an attitude of impatience. 'Paul, you're the expert. I'll leave it to you to organize everything."
Rachael didn't hang around. She opened the door and sprinted up the stairs. Reaching the top step, she fumbled with her keys to find the apartment's. The hall was empty. But it wouldn't have mattered. Help was only a yell away. She opened the door and was immediately greeted by three meowing fur balls. They wouldn't be happy. She pulled the carrier out of the hall closet, grabbing Merlin in the process. He saw the carrier and hissed. The other two scattered. Tara hid under the couch; Ralph disappeared under the bed. Tara was reachable. Growling, she joined her brother in the carrier. Ralph was more difficult. Gently sliding the broom, she pushed him from beneath the bed and leaped to catch him before he found another low piece of furniture. She was just placing him inside when they knocked. She closed and locked the carrier door. "Come in. It's safe."
Paul and two other guys walked in. They stopped for a moment to look at the hissing and growling box.
Rachael stood. "They aren't happy campers."
"I can tell." Paul extended his hand. "We might as well be properly introduced. Paul Foster."
She shook his hand. "Rachael Franklin."
"Steve Masterson."
"Leonard Tiber."
She shook each man's hand in turn. "It's not going to be that bad. I only moved in a month ago. The store has kept me too busy to unpack much."
"Good deal." Leonard looked around the living room. "Some nice antiques."
"We'll be careful."
Dennis walked down the hall, peering into each room he passed.
"We've decided that you and Carmen should get out of here as quickly as possible. Not that you can't take care of yourselves." Paul quickly added. "It's just we're expecting trouble and the two of you will have enough of that later."
Rachael nodded. She was impressed with his sensitivity and directness. "I understand."
Carmen appeared in the doorway, carrying several empty boxes. "Paul give you the game plan?"
"You and I are out of here."
"Right after we pack your undies and other personal stuff that these perverts shouldn't be handling."
In spite of the tension, Rachael burst out laughing. "Thank goodness. Wouldn't want them to get the wrong idea about me."
"We don't have time to play with your toys." Paul's voice dripped with sexual under tones. "Course we may ask to borrow them later."
Rachael felt her face color.
Steve reappeared from down the hall. "Looks easy. The back bedroom is filled with stuff she didn't unpack."
"Let's get to it. Dennis you set up the box brigade. Have two on the stairs. No one has to run up and down. Ladies, get crackin'."
"I'll take my bedroom."
"Might have known that's where you kept your toys."
Carmen backhanded his shoulder. "Be nice."
Rachael disappeared into bedroom, closing the door behind her. She packed her altar first, using her clothing to wrap the breakables. Luckily, she kept the original moving boxes. It wasn't neat; it wasn't organized, but fifteen minutes later all her clothing and personal things were tossed into boxes and suitcases.
Carmen knocked on the door and poked her head in. "Almost ready?"
"Done." Rachael answered proudly. "Just don't ask me to find anything."
"Agreed." She swung the door open. "Guys, she's ready. They just took the cats down. They're in your back seat."
Two of the men Rachael saw on the front porch came in; grabbing a box each, they disappeared down the hallway.
"Both our vehicles are full. We'd better get going. I'll follow you."
"Good deal. See you at the cottage." Rachael walked down the hallway. The bathroom was empty. Most of the living room furniture was gone. Dennis was carefully wrapping her dishes in newspaper. A dish in hand, he waved at her as she exited. The stairway was empty, but she heard the voices returning toward the house. She met Steve and another man, she didn't know on the front porch.
Steve stopped her on the top step. "Take Seventh Street to Washington. Washington all the way to County Line. We've got people watching that route."
“I belong to the Unity Church. Leo belongs to the one of the Catholic. We set up a safe route between here and the cottage. If the House of Christ tries anything, you won’t be alone.” He smiled and continued inside, followed by his companion.
And I thought I was paranoid, she thought. She shook her head and walked to the street. Inside her car, the kids were still emoting their displeasure. She got in and started the car. Pulling away from the curb, she saw another load being brought down. This could be a world record for moving. She turned onto Seventh, heading toward Washington. Reaching back, she stuck her fingers though the holes in the plastic and scratched trying to reassure them. It didn't help much.
Half way down the third block, she noticed almost every house had someone in the front yard. Some just sat watching. Mostly they hung close to their cars. Several openly held phones in their hands.
At the corner of Washington and County Line, six motorcycles waited. Rachael recognized Candace. She pulled up to the corner.
Candace started her bike and rode around to the driver's side. "Hi. Be by tomorrow to work on you're wiring."
"How did you know?"
She looked back down the road and smile. "Coyote Springs is a good town. It started with the Unity Church. But friends talk to friends. Half the town is looking out for you."
"I don't know what to say."
"Say head'um up and move'um out. We're your escort to the cottage." Without waiting for a reply, Candace waved and two bikes took off. Candace rolled her bike back, waiting for Rachael to follow.
Rachael nodded and put her foot on the gas. Through the rear view mirror, she saw two bikes following. Two remained at the corner, most likely for Carmen. Good, she thought.
She barely remembered the road between that corner to the driveway. She felt safe with her escort. The kids cried and complained at their rude treatment. She would make it up to them with a tuna dinner and extra attention. They turned into the driveway. The back motorcycles did a one-eighty and sped back.
Norman’s and Meredith's vehicles were still parked. Rachael felt relieved and annoyed. Relieved not to be alone and Meredith would be safe. Annoyed she wouldn't be alone and Meredith's presence also gave the House of Christ another reason to attack the cottage. She pulled up and parked. The motorcycles parked on either side of the driveway. She motioned for them to come to the cottage; they shook their heads.
Norman ran out of the cottage and down the stairs. "What did you do?"
Rachael pulled the carrier out of the back seat. Tara hissed at him. "There was going to be trouble in town. Carmen called out the marines. So to speak. Grab the litter and the boxes for me." She walked around him, the thirty-two pounds of feline was testing the endurance of her arm muscles. Over her shoulder, she added. "That small bag too if you can manage."
She struggled up the stairs. Inside, the girls were awake and were coloring on Barbie coloring books in the living room. They looked up. Rachael didn't stop.
"What'dya got?" Melanie sat up.
As if on cue, all three started to meow.
"Cats!" Lisa jumped to her feet, accidentally crushing a crayon, and ran to intercept Rachael at the foot of the stairs. "Can I pet them?"
"Not now. They're unhappy campers."
The child snapped around to face her mother.
"Where are you supposed to be?"
"Over there." She pointed meekly. "Coloring."
Lisa returned to her sisters. Melanie made a point of hiding the crushed crayon.
"Meredith." Rachael rested the carrier against the step. "Take a chill pill. And while you're at it, go help Norman with the groceries."
Angrily, Meredith rested the broom against the basement door and marched out the front door.
So nice to see you too, Rachael sarcastically thought. She lifted the carrier again and continued up the stairs to the bedroom. I’ll be sleeping in the bed after all, she thought setting the carrier down on top of it. Hope it's comfortable.
Downstairs, she heard Norman's voice intertwine with Meredith's. They were arguing. Meredith made no attempt to lower her voice. Rachael didn't care for her territorialism. It was something she also didn't like in herself. However, Rachael felt she had room to express her feelings; it was her territory and she was going to make her terms very clear up front.
But first she needed to insure the safety of her children and herself. She closed the door. Walking to the Eastern corner of the room, she raised her hands. "This room represents the entire house, the entire property. The powers of the East-beings of light, air, rain, thunder, lightening, wind. I ask you to attend to witness and protect my circle." Her hands came together in front of her forehead. She lowered them to her heart level. Moving to the Southern corner, she again lifted her arms. "The powers of the South-beings of fire, heat, the sun, the heavens above which shelters and protect us, keeping us warm and growing our food. I ask you to attend to witness and protect my circle." Her hands came together and she lowered them to her heart. She moved to the Western corner and raised her hands. "Powers of the West-thou who provides our water, our fish, the cleansing element of our bodies and our souls, you satisfy our thirst and calm our souls. I ask you to attend my circle to witness and protect." Her skin began to tingle with the energy she brought into the room.
The temperature dropped, them warmed as the electrical and gravitational levels fluctuated. Rachael walked to the Northern corner and raised her arms. "The beings of the North, I ask you to attend to witness and protect my circle. Like the Earth Mother be the grounding force that provides protection and comfort. You who gives us our homes, our food, and the love we all need to survive." Bringing her hands down, she turned and walked to the center of the room. "I have asked you here to witness my new home. I call it mine for me and my children-Tara, Merlin, and Ralph. We alone are residents here. All others are visitors. To be protected, yet we alone call this place home. From above and below and from all four directions, I encircle this house-my home, my yard, my car, myself and my children in the silver and golden healing lights so that we may be safe, secure and know we are well loved. I authorize whatever force necessary to protect the residents of this home, starting at first with minimal to deadly if necessary. I ask all deities present to insure the safety of me and mine."
The air charged. Heat radiated off the walls, like the hot waves off black top. The energy circulated from within and around her expanding to fill the room. She continued without knowing why. "I combine my energy and tradition with all those of light who have gone before. May we be joined, making each stronger exponentially. Where there was one, may there be two. Where there is two may there be the power and wisdom of four. Where there be four, may the power of sixteen do what must be done. And so it goes until all the beings of light work together as the whole." Through her mind's eye, she saw the energy in the room expand, filling the room, spilling out to fill the house and yard to the borders of the property. A column of light shot both upward, as a beacon, and downward, connecting them to the source. "Thank you for your blessings."
Up from the ground, another energy surged. For a moment, Rachael was frightened. It withdrew, returning more softly. It filled her heart with love. She saw an older woman. She was from the dream. Smiling, she walked to Rachael and placed a ring of iridescent flowers around her neck. She spread her arms wide. Bubbles of the same shiny energy floated down from the heavens, filling the house and the yard, building a solid fence around the property.
Rachael knew the bubbles pile high and energized the ground beneath them. She breathed it in and it filled her being with love and strength. The woman stepped away, fading into the energy around them. She opened her eyes. Knowing she had been blessed by the Earth Mother, herself; she bowed her head in gratitude. "Thank you, Mother."
You're welcome, daughter, whispered the wind. Call you new protectors. Spirits of the centuries of times long past, yet still now live on, I call you to be special protectors of this guardian and those she loves. Eyes that see all of the night I charge your claws and fangs to defend with all that is necessary to keep evil at bay.
Rachael heard them before her she saw them in her mind’s eye. Large and aware, she could see them manifest in the trees, shrubs and shadows around the cottage. Multi-shades of gold and green, their luminescent eyes rivaling the sunlight.
A single tiger leaped and landed before the woman. She reached out and stroked its head. He purred. Pointing to Rachael, she continued. “She is the guardian of this holy place.” She pointed at the suddenly quiet carrier. “These are her children. Let no harm come to them. Both day and night watch and defend. As it was before, you and the others have free reign. Do not wait for her to call. As you sense so shall you react.”
The golden eyes fixated on Rachael, sending shivers through her. Sensed his powerful spirit gently embracing her, getting to know her. He turned his head toward the carrier for a moment; then he vanished.
“As you are the guardian of this place, so they are to you. No harm shall come to you. Whether here or out in the world, one will always be close. Take care how you direct them.” As in the field, she reached out and cupped Rachael’s chin in her palm. “You have the strength, wisdom, and the honor for the tasks at hand. Do not doubt yourself.” Smiling, she tweaked the end of Rachael’s nose. “Now call the Mother Dragon. So we can continue.”
Rachael took a deep breath and tried to remember the correct wording.
“Speak from you heart and she will hear.”
“Mother of all the clans. The source of all our wisdom and strength I ask you to come to this my new home and bless it with your protection. It has been a source of love and wisdom, but now it is under attack by ignorance and bigotry. I ask you to bless it in such away that all the clans watch over and protect us. Let beautiful place of light and love shine as a beacon for those who need comfort.”
Suddenly the room glowed with incandescent silver light that came from everywhere, yet nowhere. It filled the room. Again, Rachael knew it went far beyond to radiate though the cottage and out into the yard. The hair on her arms stood on end as the room charged with the energy of the Mother Dragon. Only once before did she feel as close to the Mother Dragon--when she dedicated herself to the dragon clan. Only this time it was stronger, deeper reaching. She felt it lift her spirit above the cottage until she could see and feel it all. Carmen was not far down the road and should arrive in minutes. Norman and Meredith argued about the living arrangements in the kitchen. The children watched from the living room. Lisa looked up at her and smiled. Beside her and all around, she felt the infinite love of the Mother.
Child, your awakening is at hand. The Mother‘s whispered to her. Soon you will know what it truly meant to walk the path of the dragon.
Rachael smiled within herself, knowing without consciously knowing what the statement meant. It was the unconditional love she responded to as if she was a young child being given the courage to start something new.
“As our energies intertwine so we meet together in the spirit of the new guardian. We become part of her as she becomes one with us.” The woman unfurled her arms shoulder high; her palms facing outward. “Let the ripples of our actions let it be known, the new guardian has been chosen.” Slowly she lowered her arms. “Be blessed Child of Light. Welcome home.” Suddenly she vanished.
Rachael stared at the now empty space. The energy still rippled through her in waves. She didn’t know if she was to expected to release as always or if there was something special she needed to do.
As you will, came the reply.
Just to find the norm, Rachael raised her head and walked to the Northern corner. Putting her hands together in front of her heart, she brought them straight up, level with her forehead. "Thank you powers of the North and for your blessings. I release you now. Always know you will be welcome in this house, my home." She spread her arms wide. The energy level dropped slightly, yet she knew they were still watching and protecting. She continued to the other corners, repeating the release. Each time the energy level lowered, yet she knew no one or nothing could harm her from that direction. She took a deep breath, held it; slowing releasing it, she walked to the bed and opened the carrier door. "Come see your new home."
Ralph crept out, cautiously looking around. He looked back into the carrier then jumped off the bed. He sniffed around. A chirping bird outside the window caught his attention. He jumped on the sill and looked for the bird.
Merlin smelled the bed and the remnants of the girls' nap. Only Tara remained inside.
Rachael reached in and pulled her out, cuddling her. "See Pretty Girl. You're safe. It's our new home."
Tara lifted her head and looked around. Her brothers had already started exploring. Seeing them on their adventure, she wanted down. Rachael opened her arms; Tara leaped on the bed.
"Ok. Mom will be right back. I'll get your dinner and set up your litter box." On the way out, she grabbed the one plant she didn't recognize. She closed the door tightly behind her and walked downstairs.
The small bag, the litter and the new litter boxes were sitting on the bottom step. The litter box had fallen over. Rachael leaned it against the wall.
In the kitchen, Meredith and the girls were putting away the groceries. The fresh fruits and veggies had been set aside on the table.
Rachael walked in and placed the pot on the table. Lisa stopped and stared at her. Meredith bumped into her. Annoyed, she pushed her daughter to one side. A can of spaghetti still in hand, Lisa crossed the room and looked up at Rachael. "You're like Cheyenne."
"Lisa! Bring that here." Meredith snapped.
Dutifully the child turned toward her mother. Melanie intercepted her, taking the cans to their mother. Lisa tugged on her older sister's sleeve. Melanie leaned forward and Lisa whispered in her ear. Melanie cocked her head to one side and stared at Rachael.
Watching the girls interact, Rachael realized Melanie not only protected her sisters from their father, but from their mother's inconsistencies as well. No wonder she was so angry, she thought, it was a lot for such small shoulders.
"You didn't buy much meat. We eat more than spaghetti."
"There are ten bags of mostly food. I'm sure you can find something." Rachael set the bag on the counter. Opening the cabinet, she pulled out three saucers and placed them next to the bag. Taking a can of tuna out of the sack, she reached for the can opener.
"Oh good, tuna. I'll make a casserole."
Rachael held back the can. "Cat food."
"Cat food?" Meredith snapped. "You’re feeding tuna to your cats?"
"I'm also feeding you!" Rachael's voice echoed off the walls, just like the anger reverberated within her. She was deliberately pushing all her buttons; she deserved what she got.
The children shrunk away. Terror evident in their eyes. Shawna popped her neglected thumb into her mouth and hid in the comfort of her blanket. Melanie gathered her sisters and herded them toward the dining room.
Seeing the fear in the children, Rachael felt guilty. She knew the anger would only add fuel to this growing fire. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, centering herself. Exhaling slowly, she asked her higher self, why Meredith was obviously trying to pick a fight? Control and fear of the unknown came the answer. Rachael realized getting angry would only play into the drama Meredith set up. She took another deep breath, releasing her anger, and opened her eyes.
Meredith had gathered the cans of tuna; possessively she tucked them away in the cabinet.
Rachael sucked the front of her teeth. She crossed the room and gently, but firmly took the tuna from the cabinet and closed the door. Squaring off against the other woman, Rachael stared straight into her brown eyes. "I'm alpha bitch here. I make the rules. I have all the power. What you're used to I don't know. Don't care. You can pick all the fights you want. We will not argue. You will leave. There are two doors. Pick one. It's your decision."
Angrily, Meredith pushed past her.
"I won't let you use me as an excuse. If you go back, it'll be because you want to. Not because you don't have a place to go."
Meredith stopped and spun around. "You're so smug. You don't know what it's like."
Rachael pointed at the children, trying their best to sneak away. "They do."
Meredith didn't turn around. "I'm doing this for them."
"Doing what? Trying to escape or trying to find an excuse to go back?"
"We're leaving."
"No!" Melanie screamed. "We won't!"
Furious, Meredith jerked around and slapped her. "You'll do what I say!"
The younger children hid behind their sister, who backed away from her raging mother, pushing the younger girls back with her into the dinning room. "We won't be hurt any more. Or watch you be hurt."
Meredith ran across the room. Crossing the threshold, she ran into Norman. He had been standing out their sight in the dining room. He grabbed her by the arms and held her.
"Meredith, calm down." His voice was smooth, but tainted with anger. "Let's talk."
"No. I've changed my mind. I'm taking my children and leaving. I'll explain to Dan. He‘ll understand."
He pushed her away. She stumbled backward into the kitchen.
"You can leave." He stepped between her and the girls. "I have more than enough evidence to prove emotional abuse..." He paused, looking at Melanie. "And physical abuse."
"I love my children!"
"Prove it!" He matched her angry tone. "Provide them with a safe, loving home."
"Dan doesn't hurt them."
"Yes. He does. Physically and emotionally." Norman's voice dropped from the high pitched scream, which competed with Meredith's, to a low deadly calm that seem to still the air around them. "I told you this would be the last time. And it is. You go back now. You go back alone. I won't be there. Your job won't be there. The courts will take your children. I promise you."
Meredith crumpled into a sobbing mass on the floor.
"Not this time. You cried 'help me' too many times. You always went back. Not any more. You either go through with the plans. Start your new life. Or you walk out the door and don't look back."
Her head snapped up. "I'll call the police. You'll be arrested for kidnapping."
A sad smile crossed his face. "Who would they believe? A woman who won't defend herself or her children from abuse or an upstanding member of St. Joseph's church, the rotary, the-"
"The police will turn against you just as fast."
Rachael couldn't see the expression on her face, but the emotional roller coaster ride she was taking them on was making her nauseous. She didn't understand. How could she even consider going back? If a man ever hit her, he had better do it right the first time; eventually she would get up and love or no, when she did, he'd be in a world of hurt.
Meredith leaned forward, looking around Norman to the girls. "Come with me. We'll find daddy. I'll make it all right."
Lisa shook her head.
Shawna sucked her thumb and held her blanket tightly with one hand and her oldest sister's leg with the other.
Melanie angrily looked across at her. "No." Her voice was flat. Her eyes were a flame, the wrinkles around them deepened, making her look more like an old woman.
"You lied to them again." Norman stated. "They don't want to go with you. They want more than fear and pain in their lives."
"I won't let you take my children." Meredith hissed. "That's what you and your barren wife wanted all along."
Norman winced. "We did everything we could to help you."
"Help yourself to my children more like it." Meredith stood. "You won't get away with it. Dan will help me."
"Into an early grave."
Meredith swung. He grabbed her wrist. She tried kicking him in the groin. He jumped aside and grabbed her ankle. He held her suspended, like a puppet master.
"If you had done more of this earlier, you wouldn't have had so many bruises and black eyes."
She spit at him.
Without effort, he threw her against the wall.
What am I doing here? Rachael thought. What in the Goddess's name am I doing here?
Meredith picked herself up off the floor. Tossing her head back, she walked toward the door. Two steps pass Norman, she grabbed at the children. Melanie swung, hitting her mother in the cheek. Lisa screamed, lashing out nails extended, but not making contact.
Norman spun around and pushed her toward the front door. "They don't want you."
"This isn't over!" She screamed. Dashing through the door, she ran into Carmen, nearly knocking the box from her arms.
"What the hell?" Carmen juggled the box. Pinning it against the open door, she looked over her shoulder at Norman and the crying children. "What's going on?"
Norman shook his head and picked up Shawna to comfort her.
"Rachael? Rachael, you here?"
A car engine started. For a moment, it sounded like it would quit, but it roared back to life. It accelerated backward, kicking up dirt. Meredith shot out of the driveway, nearly running into the incoming pick-up.
Rachael shook her head. She'd been here the whole time, but she still didn't know what was going on.
"Don't ask." Rachael put her arms around Lisa, who came to her willingly and snuggled against her. Only Melanie stood alone. Rachael didn't know how to reach above or around the barrier the child had build around herself. She took a step closer. Melanie backed away. Rachael nodded and extended her hand. Melanie looked at it. The hand didn't move. Her eyes drifted up to meet Rachael's. The young-old child trembled. Rachael knew she wanted comfort, but didn't know how to accept it. "Take it." She whispered. "It will never hurt you."

Awakening the Dragon--Book One of the Dragon Clan Trilogy is available though all fine bookstores and online. The ebook version is only available at

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

VA OKs Wiccan symbol on headstones
Families of fallen soldiers reach settlement with Veterans Affairs
The Associated Press
Updated: 1:58 p.m. ET April 23, 2007
MADISON, Wis. - The Wiccan pentacle has been added to the list of emblems allowed in national cemeteries and on government-issued headstones of fallen soldiers, according to a settlement announced Monday.

A settlement between the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and Wiccans adds the five-pointed star to the list of "emblems of belief" allowed on VA grave markers.

Eleven families nationwide are waiting for grave markers with the pentacle, said Selena Fox, a Wiccan high priestess with Circle Sanctuary in Barneveld, Wis., a plaintiff in the lawsuit.

The settlement calls for the pentacle, whose five points represent earth, air, fire, water and spirit, to be placed on grave markers within 14 days for those who have pending requests with the VA.

"I am glad this has ended in success in time to get markers for Memorial Day," Fox said.

The VA sought the settlement in the interest of the families involved and to save taxpayers the expense of further litigation, VA spokesman Matt Burns said. The agency also agreed to pay $225,000 in attorneys' fees and costs.

The pentacle has been added to 38 symbols the VA already permits on gravestones. They include commonly recognized symbols for Christianity, Buddhism, Islam and Judaism, as well as those for smaller religions such as Sufism Reoriented, Eckiankar and the Japanese faith Seicho-No-Ie.

"This settlement has forced the Bush Administration into acknowledging that there are no second class religions in America, including among our nation's veterans," said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, which represented the Wiccans in the lawsuit.

The American Civil Liberties Union said the agreement also settles a similar lawsuit it filed last year against the VA. In that case, the ACLU represented two other Wiccan churches and three individuals.

VA-issued headstones, markers and plaques can be used in any cemetery, whether it is a national one such as Arlington or a private burial ground like that on Circle Sanctuary's property.

Wicca is a nature-based religion based on respect for the earth, nature and the cycle of the seasons. Variations of the pentacle not accepted by Wiccans have been used in horror movies as a sign of the devil.

© 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Monday, April 23, 2007

Out of the Shadows and Into the Light--an excerpt

Although many claim to know dragon magic or be dragons themselves, few are willing to share their rituals. In Out of the Shadows and Into the Light, Dragon Magic is a separate chapter, which gives access to the Dragon magic for protection, healing and direct contact information to many kinds of dragons. The following is an example of one of the rituals.

Calling the Great Mother Dragon

This ritual is for when you have the time or the will do to ritual. It can be as elaborate or simple as you wish it to be. However, in emergency situations, mentally calling out "Great Dragon Mother help!" also works. Although there is a simply call with the ritual, if you speak from your heart and soul, she will hear you just as clearly as if you had put together an elaborate rhythm.

You will need:

At least one white rose or in a pinch any white flower
a white candle
a piece of paper and a pencil or pen

This ritual can be done at any phase of the moon. You need to find a quiet calm place not only physically but emotionally as well. If you call her while upset, you risk missing her message. She is subtle and unobtrusive. Light the candle and smell the rose (flower)

"Great Mother Dragon, mother of us all
please answer my call.
Your wisdom and truth I do request
before I set out on this quest.
I seek to find my way through this dark night
please show me the way with your wisdom’s light.
These questions my heart asks with honest need
so Great Mother answer my call with all do speed.”

Ask your questions as simply and directly as you can. Pick up pen or pencil in hand and put the point on the paper, allow yourself to fall into a meditative state by watching the dancing of the flame. Her message will come to you either through a vision or through the automatic writing. Once you receive your message, thank and release her.

Out of the Shadows and Into the light is only available at

Wanted Leaders With Courage and Brains
Theresa Chaze

The success of movies like Lord of the Rings, the 300, and the many others reveal this country's need for true heroes and leaders. Although many are set in the fantasy genre, these movies have leaders who are so because they are the ones who are in front during battle not because they won a popularity contest. They are respected as leaders because they led the attack and were not hiding under their mommy and daddy’s bed. No longer are politicians respected and honored, not because heroes are no longer necessary, but they have diminished themselves by misrepresenting and dishonoring themselves.
In the Lord of the Rings, the characters faced insurmountable odds, yet they fought anyway. They faced their fear of death, because their honor demanded it. They could not--would not shirk their responsibility no matter how much it costs them. These days, politicians have sent the military off to an unnecessary war, even though most of them never served. Although military service should not be a prerequisite to public service, there shouldn’t be a pretense of military experience either. Bush’s antics on the aircraft carrier were an attempt to make him look like an eagle, when he was nothing more than a chicken. Instead of listening to the advisors with actual military experience and knowledge, he followed the advice of those who were more interested in the oil than national security. Soldiers went into battle without being provide proper protective equipment. Halliburton and its subsidies frequently failed to the services they were contracted and paid for. Injured soldiers return home only to receive substandard medical and emotional care. As long as Bush’s agenda is being furthered, it doesn’t care how many soldiers are killed or injured.
Battle of Thermopylae happened because the Persians were positioning to attack. Their military was on the move both on land and sea. There was impending danger. The threat was real and immanent. Leonidas and his guard chose to sacrifice their lives for their families, their country and their way of life. Iraq was not an immediate threat to the United States or any other country. After 9-11, the world came together in support of our decision to defend ourselves and to wreak justice on those who attacked us. If we had stopped there and help Afghanistan rebuild, we could have created a worldwide alliance. The attack on Iraq, cost on only the good will and respect of the world, but now that we have blood on the field, we cannot longer be considered objective arbitrators for the region. Instead of being able to create peaceful solutions, we are now just merely one of the players on the field.
The current administration’s policies have done more damage to our way of than the terrorists. While Bush claims to be bringing democracy to Iraq, the civil rights in the United States have been so diminished that the people are no longer safe from searches of their person, in their homes and in their cars. Under the guise of national security, personal privacy has become a right of the past. Emails, telephone calls, bank records--all the personal information that once was protect by law can now be searched without a warrant. Unnecessary traffic stops have increase as they are used an excuse to search vehicles. Many cities have begun to resemble pre-WWII Germany as law enforcement are able to stop citizens and demand to see their papers without reason or just cause. Those who complain or refuse to comply are degraded, harassed and intimidated.
Medical, religious, and personal rights have been eroded, as new laws have been past to circumvent or abolish existing laws as Bush continues to push his religious believes. Hate crimes have increased and frequently go unpunished. Women, people of color and those who have alternative lifestyles are seen as easy targets, because they know they will not be held accountable.
What we need are leaders who have the courage who represent all the people not only special interest groups. They must be willing restore civil rights and hold those who trample them accountable for their actions. We require leaders who will support the economic health of all of society not just the upper 1%. The corporate greed has sent millions of jobs over seas, which is really great for the other counties; however, it has cost millions their ability to provide for themselves and their families as the replacement job opportunities are lower paying and have fewer benefits. In short, we need good old fashion leaders, who are willing to put themselves on the line by being out front. They will have to work the good of all the members of this country by protecting civil rights, the environment, and creating an economic stability that provides for all of society. The next President will have to be someone who will have the wisdom to settle conflicts by compromise, while still have the courage to fight, but only when it is the only option left. This country requires the person in the oval office to be willing and able to work with the other countries in the world instead of trying to bully them.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

If you have questions about life, money, or love, go to to ask one free question of the spiritual advisors. Allow us to give you a little peek into the future, so you to you make more informed decisions about which path to take in the matters of money or love. In addition, we can help you communicate with the other realms and find the answers you need from your past or the loved ones who have crossed over. Our Wiccan Priestess can also teach you the magic you will need to reach your positive goals of wisdom, prosperity, healing and psychic self defense.

Friday, April 20, 2007

PetSafe Animal Rescue needs your help

Memorial weekend in the Traverse City area, PetSafe will be hosting a fund raising yard sale. They need donations, volunteers to help and people to buy from their sale. If you can help call Michael at 231-+668-7359.

Although Petsafe is always in need of cash donations, they are in desperate need of foster families to help cats and dogs. Petsafe provides the food, veterinary care, and supplies. The family provides a loving, safe home and transportation to the adoption events, which take place at the Traverse City Petsmart on most Saturdays and Sundays. The average time a dog spends in a foster home is about two weeks. A single family could save 25 dogs a year by just taking in one at a time. Cats, however, take a little longer; therefore, there is a greater need for feline foster homes. Before an animal is placed in foster home, it is checked for medical and behavioral issues. During the foster time, the animal is altered to prevent unwanted litters and is socialized. The foster family evaluates its temperament and helps determine what kind of living situation would be the best match. By the time it is available for adoption, there are one or more people who knows it well enough to be able to vouch for their character.

The second greatest need is for loving families who are looking to adopt. Petsafe is only designed to temporarily care for them until permanent families can be found. However, they are a no kill organization, so animals in their system will remain in foster homes until they are adopted, which is why there are frequent holds on the intake of animals. Their resources simple cannot properly support all those who are in need; therefore, finding good homes is their primary concern. For every cat or dog that is adopted, space is made available for another to be rescued.

Friday, April 13, 2007

AI Index: AMR 51/026/2006
United States of America

Stonewalled -- Still demanding respect: Police abuse and misconduct against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the USA


Sexism, misogyny and homophobia
Violence against lesbians in the USA

In 2004 a lesbian from Athens, Georgia, filed a civil lawsuit alleging that a former Gwinnett County Deputy raped her because she is a lesbian. The officer reportedly forced her into her apartment at gunpoint before raping her. The woman said the officer vowed to "teach her a lesson" and said the world "needed at least one less dyke and he was going to make sure that happened." The officer was charged with rape, false imprisonment, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, aggravated assault with intent to rape, and violating his oath of office. According to the Athens-Clarke County District Attorney's office, the officer was acquitted of most charges, but found guilty of violating his oath of office. The officer agreed to a deal whereby he received two years' probation during which he was to have no contact with the victim. The officer was banned from Athens-Clarke County and promised not to appeal the decision.

In virtually every culture in the world women experience gender-based violence. Survivors of violence against women tell of their profound feelings of shame and of the scepticism and disbelief with which society responds to them. Violence against women is often an invisible crime, usually committed behind closed doors and frequently dismissed as a "normal", and therefore unchangeable, fact of life. Even in countries where laws criminalize violence against women, tolerance of such violence may be found at all levels of society.

Gender discrimination is often combined with other forms of discrimination, including discrimination on the grounds of ethnicity and class. Sexism, misogyny, racism and homophobia often occur together and Amnesty International's research has shown that the prevalence of such discrimination puts lesbians and bisexual women at grave risk of abuse in a range of situations, including in the home and in the community. In most societies having a public or private identity that challenges or differs from the sexual and gender roles expected of men and women can put both men and women at risk. However, as a result of sexism, gender-based discrimination and misogyny, lesbians often face additional or different obstacles in defending their human rights from those faced by gay men. In short, lesbians are at risk of further human rights violations simply because they are women.

In the USA, as elsewhere, violence against lesbians and bisexual women is part of a spectrum of violence to which women can be subjected if they depart from accepted codes of sexual behaviour. Such violence is generally underreported, in large part because of the discrimination and marginalization faced by women who -- in terms of their sexuality or gender expression -- do not conform to social and cultural norms of femininity. Because women's sexual experience can more easily be controlled by the family and community, lesbians and bisexual women may face a different range of obstacles in resisting ill-treatment or seeking redress.

Amnesty International's research showed that discrimination means that lesbians and bisexual women are often blamed for the violence targeted at them. The violence is seen as a "punishment" for their failure to conform to social conventions. Activists told Amnesty International that lesbians and bisexual women who are perceived as "too masculine" fear reporting abuse and violence as all too often they are seen as responsible for the violence committed against them.

A lesbian living in St Paul, Minnesota, reported that in July 2000 a man repeatedly pushed his shopping cart into her partner, eventually knocking her to the ground. She told Amnesty International: "an officer stationed at the front of the store said that if we wanted to press charges then he would have to arrest both my partner and the man since he did not know 'who started it.' When I informed him that the man had been following us for several minutes and had called my partner a 'dyke', he told me that if we 'chose that lifestyle we had to expect some people to have a problem.' He refused to take a report." She took down his badge number and reported the incident to the police precinct, where she was informed that since the officer had not filed any incident report, she could not file a complaint against him. Shortly afterwards she was reportedly fired from her job working for the state of Minnesota. She told Amnesty International she was informed by her employers that her involvement in the incident was "conduct unbecoming to a state employee".

A lesbian told Amnesty International in February 2004 that she was pulled over by police as she was driving one evening. She reported, "They patted me down, spending too long in the wrong places. Then I was told to lay on my stomach on the ground. They were asking me if I would like to know how it felt with a man. I was asked by one of the officers if I had a 'hot babe girlfriend' that I could call to meet us for 'fun'. When I tried to report them, I was laughed at and asked to leave."

Amnesty International's research shows that women whose sexuality or gender expression challenge society's stereotypes of what women should be often face particular difficulties when trying to report violence against them, including threats of further abuse or violence. As a result they may either not report the abuse at all, or tell only part of the story. The discrimination faced by lesbians and bisexual women in society at large also means that breaches of confidentiality by police, judges, prosecutors or other services can pose very real threats to their lives both at home and at work. Reporting violence can put them at risk of extortion, blackmail or public repudiation.

Lesbians have been subjected to violence by law enforcement officers because of their sexuality. In particular, women perceived as "masculine" tend to be seen by officers as non-compliant or resisting arrest and are generally treated with greater physical harshness.

Campaigners have told Amnesty International that some police officers respond to domestic violence involving lesbian couples, by trying "to get the girls to calm down and get along", or see it as a "fair fight". This failure to see such situations as "real" domestic violence stems from a misconception among many law enforcement officials that a determination of domestic violence is based primarily on the sex of the people in the couple. As a result many simply assign the label of "mutual abuse" and arrest both parties in a situation involving violence in a lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) relationship.

A Latina woman living in Chicago was arrested and ordered to undergo counselling after her partner called the police, claiming she had been abused. The Latina woman had reportedly been beaten by her partner over a period of time, and neighbours had repeatedly called the police, who usually did not intervene. Despite this long history of abuse, when the police finally took action it was to arrest the long-term victim. An LGBT domestic violence activist told Amnesty International in February 2004 that the abusive partner was fluent in English and was for that reason taken more seriously by police. The victim was monolingual Spanish and unfamiliar with her rights in the USA and so was unable to defend herself verbally with police. As with most same-sex domestic violence cases the police assume both parties liable, and the one that can speak up and makes the first accusations is considered the victim.

What needs to be done
LGBT people in the USA continue to suffer serious police abuses, in some cases amounting to torture and ill-treatment. Despite some positive initiatives by law enforcement agencies and the justice system, much more needs to be done to protect LGBT people from police abuse and misconduct.

The US authorities must stop police violence against lesbians and bisexual women, including by taking the following steps:
Take positive measures to prohibit and prevent rape and sexual abuse by law enforcement officials. The authorities should publicly recognize that rape by law enforcement officials constitutes torture and will not be tolerated. Sexual abuse is a form of ill-treatment that includes the deliberate use of body searches to degrade or humiliate and the use of sexually explicit language.
Promptly and impartially investigate all allegations and reports of police abuse and misconduct, regardless of where they take place. All officers responsible for abuses should be disciplined appropriately and brought to justice. The US government must ensure that the victims receive fair and adequate reparations, including compensation.
Ensure that law enforcement agencies conduct prompt investigations into all reports of LGBT domestic violence. They should ensure that officers are thoroughly trained in how to investigate such allegations, including how to identify the abuser.
Ensure that all law enforcement training programmes are based on human rights standards and include LGBT sensitivity training.
Establish at a local level an independent and effective mechanism for reporting complaints of sexual, physical or verbal abuse by law enforcement officials so that victims, relatives and witnesses can file complaints without fear of reprisal. Investigating and prosecuting authorities should respond with sensitivity to the difficulties faced by LGBT survivors of alleged ill-treatment in pursuing their complaints.

For more details see AI's report: Stonewalled -- still demanding respect Police abuses against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the USA (AI Index: AMR 51/001/2006), available from
For further information see

Equal access to justice
Discrimination, the police and the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (lgbt) community in the USA

In many parts of the USA Amnesty International has found a pattern of police failing to respond appropriately to crimes against LGBT individuals. Police lack of understanding, or in more extreme cases hostility, has resulted in officers arresting the victims of the crime rather than the perpetrators. LGBT people also experience "profiling" where they are targeted for the selective enforcement of certain regulations because they are considered to have transgressed certain social "norms".

April Mora, a young lesbian of African American and Native American heritage, was reportedly attacked and slashed with razor blades, in Denver, Colorado, in March 2002. The men carved "dyke" into her forearm and "R.I.P." on her stomach. Of the police response, April said: "I think they're saying that, because I choose to look like this I deserve it or something. It's as if - if I want to look like a guy, I should get beat up like a guy."

One of the most striking aspects of crimes against LGBT individuals is the extent to which these crimes go unreported. The discriminatory attitudes of some law enforcement officials are denying many LGBT people equal access to justice. This is often exacerbated by other prejudices prevailing in society, including racism.

LGBT people often do not report crimes against them because they fear a dismissive, hostile or abusive response from the police. Some may fear revealing their sexual orientation or gender identity or expression to the police since this information could find its way to family, friends and employers. LGBT survivors of crime have been coerced into withdrawing complaints. In other cases police have dismissed the fears expressed by LGBT people and left them unprotected, sometimes with fatal consequences. Survivors of crimes motivated by homophobic discrimination or transphobia (discrimination or hostility towards transgender people) have themselves been threatened with arrest or arrested. In some cases officers have reportedly suggested that the victims were in some way responsible for the crimes committed against them.

Al Everton, a 74-year-old gay man, died in October 2003 in San Antonio, Texas, reportedly after being struck on the left temple with a baseball bat. Before he died, Al Everton identified his attacker to family, friends and the authorities and said that the man had shouted homophobic abuse as he beat him with the bat. Al Everton had initially refused to go to the authorities after earlier incidents of homophobic abuse from the alleged attacker because he did not want the police to know that he was gay. The discriminatory motivations of the crime were never investigated and no charges were filed in connection with his death.
Law enforcement officials frequently fail to identify crimes motivated by discrimination properly. The failure to consider if the sexual orientation or gender identity or expression of the victim was a factor in the crime can hinder the investigation.

Violence in the home is a serious problem in the USA for both heterosexual and same-sex couples. Police knowledge about LGBT domestic violence is minimal and survivors experience extreme isolation - a problem exacerbated by the scarcity of programmes and resources that exist for LGBT domestic violence survivors. Nearly three quarters of US police departments who responded to a survey conducted by Amnesty International reported that they have mandatory arrest policies which require officers to make an arrest when responding to a domestic violence call. In the absence of training that enables an officer to make an appropriate assessment as to who should be arrested, this requirement, when coupled with discriminatory attitudes, can lead to survivors being criminalized rather than protected.

LGBT people are often targeted for the selective enforcement of laws and regulations because of their sexual orientation or gender identity or expression. Such policing practices can affect virtually every sphere of the daily lives of LGBT people and often have an impact that goes far beyond the initial incident.
Vague public order or morals laws are one of the factors that increase the likelihood of these sorts of arrests. They often involve offences such "loitering with intent to solicit," "public lewdness" or "disorderly conduct". Such laws can lead to arbitrary arrest and detention because of the degree of discretion granted to officers in determining what is considered "offensive". In the absence of the checks and guidelines which clear legislation should provide, individual judgement can reflect discriminations which are prevalent in society - such as homophobia, transphobia, racism or sexism.

"The biggest problem we are having from the standpoint of wrongfully charged defendants, is that 95 per cent of them are so embarrassed by the charge -- either indecent exposure, lewd behavior or [sexual] assault on an officer -- they are afraid to fight."
Andrew Thomas, Civil Attorney, San Antonio, Texas, December 2003

Amnesty International's research has revealed a pattern of discrimination and misconduct in the application of "zero tolerance" and "quality of life" policing. These are law enforcement strategies that seek to maintain public order by aggressively enforcing laws against minor offences, for example, public drunkenness, loitering, vandalism, littering or public urination. Regulations on loitering, disorderly conduct and noise violations, for example, are frequently vague, giving individual police officers considerable discretion when enforcing them.

A young African American gay outreach worker was waiting at a bus stop in December 2003 when Chicago police officers allegedly arrested him for loitering with intent to solicit. Despite providing identification and corroborating information from the organization he represents, he was reportedly detained in a downtown precinct for two days.

Amnesty International's research indicates that so-called morals regulations are disproportionately applied to LGBT people. For example, acts that heterosexual couples can openly engage in, such as kissing, may result in police intervention on the grounds that they are regarded as "offensive" when engaged in by same-sex couples.

Reports from several cities suggest that police operations against "lewd conduct" target places where members of the Latino, African American, South Asian or immigrant communities tend to congregate.
"Quality of life" regulations even when more narrowly drawn -- such as those criminalizing the consumption of alcohol, vandalism, littering or urination in public spaces -- tend to be applied selectively towards certain communities. There appear to be significant disparities in the way in which these regulations are policed, depending on factors such as the alleged offender's race, age and socio-economic situation. It is therefore perhaps not surprising that LGBT members of ethnic minorities are disproportionately targeted for enforcement of "quality of life" regulations.

What needs to be done
LGBT people in the USA continue to suffer serious police abuses, in some cases amounting to torture and ill-treatment. Despite some positive initiatives by law enforcement agencies and the justice system, much more needs to be done to protect LGBT people from police abuse and misconduct.

The US authorities must tackle the police abuses that LGBT people face, including by taking the following steps:
Promptly and impartially investigate all allegations and reports of police abuse and misconduct against LGBT people and adequately discipline and bring to justice officers responsible for abuses.
Train police officials to enable them to deal effectively with allegations of violence against LGBT individuals, including how to investigate allegations of domestic violence.
Review all legislation that has in practice resulted in the arrest and detention of individuals because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Take action to prevent any discriminatory application of the law by law enforcement officials. In particular, vague legislation which lends itself to discriminatory application should be amended to specifically describe the conduct prohibited and should explicitly require monitoring and oversight of enforcement practices in order to prevent selective enforcement.
Review policing operations to ensure that they are not targeted in a discriminatory fashion, including operations involving the enforcement of "quality of life" regulations and policies.

For more details see AI's report: Stonewalled -- still demanding respect Police abuses against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the USA (AI Index: AMR 51/001/2006), available from
For further information see

Multiple identities, multiple risks
Homophobia, transphobia and racism in the USA

"There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives."
Audre Lorde, US writer and activist

Within the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community in the USA, transgender individuals, people from ethnic or racial minorities, young people, homeless people, and sex workers are at particular risk of police abuse and misconduct.

Racism often occurs together with homophobia or transphobia (discrimination against or hostility towards transgender people). A significant proportion of reports of abuse against LGBT individuals involve people from racial or ethnic minority groups. Immigration status also contributes to the risk of abuse by law enforcement officials. This mirrors the systemic racism still found in many areas of policing in the USA.
Reported abuses include racist language, harassment, ill-treatment, unjustified stops and searches, false arrests, use of excessive force, unlawful shootings and torture.

Efforts to respond to and prevent violent crime against LGBT individuals are hindered by the lack of documentation and coordination between federal, state and local agencies and community groups. Nevertheless, despite the absence of systematic and consistent monitoring, a picture is emerging of widespread abuses against LGBT individuals. For example, official statistics show that in Chicago in 2003 and Los Angeles in 2002 LGBT people were the second largest group targeted for "hate crimes" (crimes motivated by discrimination) in both cities; only racially motivated crimes were more prevalent in this category of offence.

Amnesty International has found that "hate crimes" motivated by more than one prejudice mostly go unrecorded or are incompletely recorded. However, factors such as gender, race, age, ethnicity and immigration and economic status affect the likelihood of violent attacks against LGBT individuals. In a 2003 national survey, 51 per cent of LGBT individuals reporting "hate crime" were members of racial or ethnic minorities. In Los Angeles in 2002, the majority of "hate crimes" reported against transgender people were committed against low-income transgender women from ethnic minorities, in areas known to be frequented by street-based sex workers.

Stereotypes about gender and sexuality may conflict with stereotypes about race or ethnicity. In some circumstances this can put individuals who do not "fit" these preconceived notions at risk. For example, in late 2003, officers in Los Angeles reportedly denied a request by an African American gay man to be placed in a special unit for LGBT detainees, because in their view as an African American he did not conform to the stereotype of a gay man.

Discriminatory attitudes based on stereotypes of gender and sexuality are sometimes compounded by prejudices which view factors such as race, age or socio-economic status as indicators of criminality.
"Quality of life" policing -- a strategy of aggressively enforcing laws or regulations against minor public order or morals offences, such as littering, loitering or public urination -- has often targeted LGBT communities in the USA. Such policing methods may target an LGBT individual because of their race, ethnicity, age or socio-economic status. In many cases it is difficult to gauge whether they were also targeted on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity or expression. While a person may initially be targeted because of their race, for example, the likelihood of police abusing an individual increases when the person's sexual orientation or gender identity or expression becomes apparent.

X (name withheld), a Native American transgender woman, told Amnesty International that in October 2003 she was stopped in Los Angeles by two police officers as she was walking along a street in the early hours of the morning. The officers said they were taking her to jail for "prostitution" - a charge she denies. X alleges that the officers handcuffed her, put her in a patrol car and drove her to an alley off Hollywood Boulevard. The officers then stopped the car, pulled her out and began hitting her across the face and shouting sexual abuse at her. They then reportedly threw her back into the patrol car, ripped off her skirt and her underwear, and raped her. According to X, they then threw her on the ground and said, "That's what you deserve," and left her there.

Laws which are vaguely worded and do not clearly define the offence are particularly open to discriminatory enforcement. Such laws allow a great deal of discretion on the part of law enforcement officers when they are deciding who to stop, question or detain. In a context where members of particular communities are viewed (profiled) as potential criminals, the risk of discriminatory policing is greatly increased. Amnesty International's research shows that LGBT individuals from ethnic or racial minority groups are viewed with suspicion by law enforcement officials. Transgender women from racial or ethnic minority communities, for example, are frequently profiled as criminal suspects while going about everyday business.

"I think if we were white, the cops and people would treat us differently."
A young lesbian of African American and Native American heritage, Denver, Colorado, 2002

Negative profiling and selective enforcement of "quality of life" legislation can affect individuals in virtually every sphere of their daily lives and often has an impact that goes far beyond the initial incident. In a study published in 2004, Amnesty International USA found that the practice of racial profiling leaves its victims feeling humiliated, depressed, helpless and angry. It also creates fear and mistrust which in turn makes it harder for members of ethnic or racial minorities to report crimes and cooperate with police officers. A similar response was reported by LGBT communities and individuals who had experienced profiling or selective enforcement based on their sexual orientation or gender identity or expression, as well as race, age or other status.

Training for law enforcement officials on LGBT issues should not exist in a vacuum but needs to incorporate the way in which issues such as race, age, and socio-economic and immigration status impact on members of LGBT communities.

A gay Filipino survivor of domestic violence living in Los Angeles was reportedly beaten on several occasions by his partner, a white US citizen. When police responded to one altercation, they reportedly arrested the Filipino man and threatened to report him to the immigration authorities, saying: "You're not a citizen. We should deport you, you shouldn't be hitting Americans; you're not an American." The Filipino man was ordered to undergo 52 weeks of batterer's intervention (a programme of assessment and treatment for domestic violence offenders).

What needs to be done
LGBT people in the USA continue to suffer serious police abuses, in some cases amounting to torture and ill-treatment. Despite some positive initiatives by law enforcement agencies and the justice system, much more needs to be done to protect LGBT people from police abuse and misconduct.

The US authorities must tackle homophobia, transphobia and racism in policing, including by taking the following steps:
Review all legislation that has in practice resulted in the arrest and detention of individuals because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Take action to prevent any discriminatory application of the law by law enforcement officials.
Ensure that "hate crime" statutes, where they exist, address acts of violence or discrimination based on actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity or expression.
All law enforcement authorities should undertake comprehensive data collection on crimes motivated by hostility towards the victim's sexual orientation or gender identity or expression. Such documentation should include provision for monitoring violence based on multiple identity factors. Detailed and comprehensive statistics should be regularly published.
Review policing operations, including operations involving the enforcement of "quality of life" regulations and policies, to ensure that they are not targeted in a discriminatory fashion.
Ensure that law enforcement officials are trained to protect those who are attacked verbally or physically on grounds such as gender, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identity. All police officers should be given training to enable them to deal effectively with allegations of violence against LGBT individuals.

For more details see AI's report: Stonewalled -- still demanding respect Police abuses against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the USA (AI Index: AMR 51/001/2006), available from
For further information see

Human rights, human dignity
Police abuses against transgender women and men in the USA

"I know to be respectful to police officers but I'm tired of the way they are treating us."
Alixxxa, a Latina transgender woman, January 2004

Transgender individuals in the USA -- and elsewhere -- are at risk of abuse because of their gender identity linked to pervasive discriminatory attitudes deeply ingrained in society. Amnesty International has received many reports of transgender women being stopped by police while they are going about routine, everyday tasks like hailing a cab, shopping or walking the dog and asked about their reasons for being on the street.
Comments made to Amnesty International by police officials suggest that there is a commonly held assumption that transgender women are sex workers. Community-based organizations and individuals report that this "profiling" of transgender women as sex workers frequently leads to arbitrary arrest and detention. For example, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights activists in Chicago told Amnesty International that officers see transgender women as easy targets when they need to meet their allotted "arrest quota".

In most jurisdictions transgender people's human rights are not legally recognized or protected. Transgender individuals are disproportionately targeted by law enforcement officials and transgender victims of crime are at risk of abuse from the officers called to assist them.

Once transgender people are in contact with the law, abuses often escalate, simply as a result of police reaction to their gender identity. Widespread verbal abuse, unless challenged by those responsible for overseeing police behaviour, can create a culture where discrimination and prejudice are seen to be the accepted norm. It can also create a climate of violence where verbal abuse is at risk of spilling over into physical abuse.

Repeated and unnecessary searches which are humiliating to the transgender person are reportedly common. Often such "checks" appear to be carried out in order to establish a transgender individual's biological sex. Some of these searches amount to sexual abuse and gross infringements of the right to privacy and dignity. There are reports of officers using sexually offensive language; of male police and prison staff touching transgender women's breasts and genitals; of female staff touching transgender men's genitalia; and of male or female staff and other detainees watching transgender detainees while they are naked.

Amnesty International's survey of police departments in the biggest cities in all 50 US states shows that while 62 per cent of police departments report that they train their officers in how to do strip searches, only 31 per cent instruct their officers in how to strip search a transgender individual and only 24 per cent of police departments reported that they had a policy regarding strip searches of transgender people.

Dean Spade - a transgender man and head of the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, a legal advocacy group for transgender and gender-variant people in the USA - was arrested in 2002 by a Port Authority police officer while using the men's room at Grand Central Station, New York. "I entered a restroom, a cop followed me into the restroom and asked me to show ID [identification]. I explained that I was in the right restroom." When two friends came to his assistance, the officer detained them and arrested all three of them. "The cop was really being aggressive," Dean Spade said. "We tried to leave and he pushed us against the wall... We spent 23 hours in jail and ultimately the charges were dropped because there was no legal basis for our arrests.

Amnesty International has documented serious abuses against transgender people in detention. This includes abuses perpetrated by police and corrections officers as well as by other inmates. Transgender people interviewed by Amnesty International expressed their very real fear of being held in gender-segregated cells according to their biological sex, rather than their gender identity. This kind of inappropriate detention puts transgender inmates -- and especially transgender women detained with male prisoners -- at risk of violence and sexual assault by other detainees. Of the 29 police departments who responded to Amnesty International's survey, 59 per cent had no policy on the detention of transgender people. The consequences for the rights of transgender people to physical safety and to justice can be far reaching. In New York activists reported that transgender individuals felt conditions in holding cells to be so dangerous that they were sometimes willing to plead guilty and get a criminal record for an offence they did not commit rather than run the risk of being detained pending trial.

Misunderstandings about transgender people which conflates gender identity with sexual orientation can lead to abuse. A transgender woman reported that when she was screened for a possible place in a special unit for LGBT detainees in Los Angeles, she was questioned extensively about gay male issues. She explained to the officers that she had no knowledge of such issues because she is transgender, not gay. She was subsequently housed with the general prison population.

"When I told them my real name, Rachel, they refused to recognize that and continued to call me by my male name... The State Troopers tried to keep their smirks and comments at a distance, but I still heard words like 'fag' and 'freak' a number of times."
Rachel Thompson, Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania, March 2004

Some LGBT detainees have experienced great difficulty in accessing medication while in police holding cells. There are reports that transgender individuals in detention have been prevented from receiving hormone-related medication and denied access to personal items related to their gender identity or expression, such as wigs and make-up. In 1997, a US District Court in Sacramento ruled that the denial of hormone-related medication amounted to cruel and unusual punishment as "abrupt treatment cessation caused nausea, dizziness and reversal of the chemical castration process".

What needs to be done
LGBT people in the USA continue to suffer serious police abuses, in some cases amounting to torture and ill-treatment. Despite some positive initiatives by law enforcement agencies and the justice system, much more needs to be done to protect LGBT people from police abuse and misconduct.

US authorities must tackle the particular risks transgender individuals face within the criminal justice system including by taking the following steps:
Make clear to police officers that sexual, physical or verbal abuse based on real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity or expression will not be tolerated and that officers responsible for such abuse will be disciplined appropriately. Officers should address transgender individuals by the name they regularly use.
A transgender individual's opinion about whether it would be safest to detain them in a men's or a women's detention facility must be a central consideration in decisions about housing transgender detainees. The authorities should consult transgender organizations to identify best practice for policies on making housing decisions in a detention facility.
Transgender individuals should not be searched solely in order to challenge their gender identity. If a search is necessary, it should be carried out in private with full regard to the dignity of the person being searched. If the person is transgender, the search should be carried out by two officers of the gender(s) requested by the individual. If a transgender individual does not specify a preference, then the search should be conducted by officers of the same gender as the detainee.
Training should be provided to law enforcement officials on how to address transgender individuals with respect for their dignity, on how to conduct searches of transgender individuals, and on detention policies and procedures for LGBT individuals, to ensure that they are not targeted in a discriminatory fashion.

For more details see AI's report: Stonewalled -- still demanding respect Police abuses against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the USA (AI Index: AMR 51/001/2006), available from
For further information see


Thursday, April 12, 2007

Out of the Shadows and Into the Light--a review

Out of the Shadows

And Into the Light:

A book of shadows for the modern world

by Theresa Chaze

Valkyrie Publishing, 2007

105 pages, illustrated

Review by Jeffrey Redmond (April 2007)

This is my very first introduction to the actual works of Theresa Chaze. A Wiccan priestess and author of the Dragon Clan trilogy, she has greatly impressed me with her teaching and wisdom. I have been able to read and experience her Out of the Shadows via the PDF file as an

e-publication, fully reflective of the modern 21st Century.

Theresa’s book is also timeless, in that it draws about the knowledge of our ancient ancestors, as Wicca is indeed a many centuries old religion and way of life. Fully explained are such relevant and useful topics as Wicca itself, rituals, circles, candles, altars, magic, prayers, spells, and the roles of pagan practices. And, especially, the practical applications of these in our modern living today.

Wicca remains a completely relevant concept of life, and an additional positive dimension in our daily activities. This work is thus a highly useful tool to use as guidelines and a manual for learning, understanding, and applying the study and practices of this important way. Out of the Shadows can be a highly effective guide for both those who are new to Wicca, as well as those much more familiar and experienced with it.

It can be completely safe to say that Theresa Chaze begins where J.K. Rowling leaves off. This is a much more detailed work of the magic and applications, as are done by the characters in the Harry Potter series. And Wicca always emphasizes the positive forces of nature and the universe, in order to promote and maintain a more happy and prosperous life for everyone and everything. Those interested in fantasy, mythology, New Age, and alternative living included.

Out of the Shadows is a terrific non-fiction book, and I can definitely recommend it. The lovely and detailed color illustrations, created and taken from different sources, truly enhance this wonderful work throughout. Pagani of all crafts and paths will find this an excellent addition to their libraries. And this applies to each and every priest and priestess, lord and lady, and all practitioners as well. Theresa Chaze has definitely done it again. Read, learn, and enjoy!

I appreciate the opportunity to read, review, and keep this book of shadows for my own modern world. Thanks Theresa!

{:-) Jeff Redmond

Grand Rapids, Michigan