Archive for November, 2015

The Holographic Charizard, by Jake Raffaelli

Integrity is the quality of being honest and having moral principles. It was a foreign word in my childhood, but it was about to unexpectedly have a huge influence on my development as a person.

I was always a slightly awkward child. I had a couple friends, but instead of hanging out with them I often chose to stay indoors doing my own thing. My older brother, on the other hand, was a cool, rebellious teen at the time. He had his group of friends who were also rebellious, and I wanted to fit in with them.

One day I got the chance to prove myself. I was hanging out with my friends: Sasa, Dejan, Nick, and Adam. We were hanging out upstairs in the apartment hallway area, a place in which we frequently gathered. They were comparing their Pokemon cards, which is something I was never very into. I was more into Dragonball Z than Pokemon, but that’s neither here nor there. Nick, who wasn’t really my friend, he just hung out with my friends, kept bragging about his favorite card he had just gotten.

A holographic Charizard.

While zoning out from the constant bragging delivered by Nick, I remembered a trick my brother once taught me. It was a simple, nifty little trick in which you slip the card into your sleeve while no one is looking and the card simply disappears.

I started off small, taking only the cards that come in every pack, the cards that you have ten copies of. I felt so sly, nobody noticed that a single card had gone missing. My confidence

was growing, cooking up a storm. It was time I went for the unprecedented card.

The card was so precious to Nick, he hovered over it like a hen hovers over her egg. I felt as though he’d never let it out of his sight. After a few minutes had passed, Adam was feeling courageous. He challenged Nick’s Charizard with some minuscule card.

Nick laughed arrogantly, “Ha! That card is nothin’ compared to my CHARIZARD!” He reached for the card to shove it into Adam’s face once more, but the podium beneath Nick had suddenly collapsed.

The card was in my sleeve.

Nick lost his cool. As he ran home to his mom, I went inside and showed the card to my brother. He was pleasantly surprised, and placed the treasure into the little safe he had for all of his best cards. Suddenly I heard Nick’s mom outside.

I joined the others back outside, so I wouldn’t look guilty. His mother was hysterical, screaming so loud it must have echoed for miles.


My story didn’t budge.

“I don’t have his card; I don’t know what happened to it!” I responded innocently, shaking with fear.

Finally my mom came to the rescue, “Jake is a good kid. He would never have taken that card!” she explained; all the while I snuck back to the safety of our apartment.

The guilt consumed me after my mom had said that.

I begged my brother to give me the card so I could return it, but he insisted that everything would fly over soon enough. The guilt was eating away at me like maggots feeding on a dead body. After reflecting on this moment for months, something good finally came from it. While my brother influenced me to do something bad, I learned that it wasn’t worth it. That’s when integrity began to replace guilt’s consumption within me, and I began to grow into a better person.

The Blind Date, by Laura Rodriguez

All the sounds of the pitch black night are diminished by the suffocating air. The heat cloaks the cricket’s song in irritation while the owls exhausted “Hoo” is muffled by the heavy air. An uneven path can be felt under the soles as wild pawing in the darkness is used to grasp the humid air. Only after furious blinking are you convinced it is not your eyes but the night that is blinded by the lack of moonlight. As the pace slows the feeling of helplessness is replaced with dreadful fright of what might be waiting in the unseen path.

“Is anybody out there?” the anxious horse whispers. “I can’t see a thing, please tell me if anyone is out there! All I can smell is dirt and hot air.”

“Where are you? What is your name? Are you alone? My name is Mare; I must have taken a wrong turn somewhere and got lost. Will you be so kind as to help me get out of here? My family will reward you handsomely for your assistance.” Claims Bear in a dainty gentle voice.

“Yes of course I will help! My name is Ace and I have traveled very far unaccompanied in search of a place to call home.” The horse exclaims proudly. As Horse’s fear fades he boastfully offers “In exchange for your safe return do you think your family will consider providing a lonesome wanderer a home and nice meal?”

Then in a flash the dark night lit up in a dazzling spectacle of meteor showers. Horse glanced over at Bear wearing night vision goggles, just in time to see his sharp jagged teeth bulging from his gaping wide mouth.

“You will be the most delicious meal I’ve tasted in a long time.” Declares Bear in a husky voice as he chomps down on the rear of frightened Horse. “Scrumptious!” He croons through his blood stained teeth.

“You liar!” Screeches Horse in agony as he fights to get away. “I thought you were Mare, I should have trusted my instincts! You reeked like a disgusting hibernating animal all along.”


The morals of the story are to never trust what you hear on a blind date and always trust your instincts. No matter how appealing someone sounds they may very well end up being the biggest pain in your ass ever!

Well-Groomed Wonder, by Laura Rodriguez

I sat waiting patiently on the cold hard bench while staring at silvery white and cream veins of the marble floors. I examined people passing down the long bland corridor judging them even thought I knew I shouldn’t. I could hear the tapping of their heels across the floor. Gentleman with long dress coats shuffled past in a rush to their hearings. Women burdened with their own weight in paperwork hurried by. It seemed as if everybody had a place to be and should have been there ten minutes ago.

At that moment an African American woman appeared through the long elevator doors. Her flawless ebony skin was surpassed only by her impeccably groomed hair. She moved down the hall with the ease of a ballerina, dangling an oversized bag on her right elbow. She held her forearm outward and upright as if to display the medium tear dropped ring that sat proudly atop her hand. Her French manicure gleamed as her left arm adorned with a beautiful gold and diamond bracelet swayed with each step. As she moved closer I could see she was wearing a fashionable cape jacket and freshly pressed tailored pants. Gliding even nearer I was amazed that her ability to move in five inch stiletto heels despite being heavy set. Her essence must have demanded admiration as I noticed several people walk past her then glance back for a second look. Her appearance was so polished and well put together that I imagined her to be a CEO or possibly even a lawyer. The only noticeable imperfection about her was a crescent shaped heliotrope mark hiding beneath side swept bangs near her left eye. She drew quicker and began to smile and I could see perfectly straight brilliant ivory teeth.

While smiling back, “Good morning” I nodded.

As she paused, “Hi do you know where room 711 is?” she inquired.

“I think it’s that room over there.” I gestured as I corrected my posture.

“Thank You!” she said, “Do you know if that’s where I can file a restraining order?”

Startled by the question I raised my eyebrow “Sorry I’m not sure but I think so.”

She appeared a bit hesitant at first as she glanced down the hall. Making her way to room 711 she took a deep breath and paused before pulling the handle and walking in the room. With a newfound realization that the mark under her eye was probably a bruise, I couldn’t help but wonder why someone of this stature would be abused. Had I ever heard of Queen Elizabeth being hit? Of course not, and this situation seemed equally unfathomable.

I spent most of the day thinking about that woman. Wondering what her situation was and if she was now safe. I contemplated why at first sight I hadn’t assumed she was there for a restraining order. We were right outside the doors of the room where they were filed. Was I so prejudice that I assumed someone so proper couldn’t be touched by violence? Of course I was! I had been groomed since I was a child to believe that violence coexisted with poverty just as respectability did with wealth. At first glance that woman had demanded respect so I categorized her as I had every other person that walked past me. Now every time I find myself classifying a person I remember the well-groomed wonder and how she taught me to never pass judgment so quickly.

Baptism, by Gabriel Villa

It’s the only way into heaven

But no one understands

I have been baptized

By desire

By passion

By confusion

By depression

By questions

By tears

I have been baptized


The Chosen Few, by Gabriel Villa

If I’m not one of the chosen few

I’d rather not be called

So I’ve laid in beds – gasping for air

It’s a sin, but I don’t care

The danger is not sin

But what you become after it

So why must you want me to repent

when I haven’t done anything yet?

Am I not the same person I was yesterday?

Or the day before?

Or the year before?

The called one – still unchosen


The Oblivion of Love, by Gabriel Villa


Here among thorns I sleep

The pain is almost unbearably relentless

It keeps me shuddering; how can I rest?

But the loss of blood makes me weak

I dream about celestial grounds

Golden roads, crystal seas

My immortal body drifting upon absolution

But the pain in the awakening returns the oblivion



I make love to shadows:

Imagination, a murderous whore

Leaves her mark on my judgments

I loved every skin and bodily fortress

Keep my trust and I’ll forfeit my love

I know it is not reality – it is only imagination

But the pain in solitude forces me to the darkness

The darkness that follows;

The convenient shadow of oblivion



Dust falls from the ceiling as I contemplate

(No time to worry)

I must find my mind;

My mind that I seem to have lost

I don’t remember when but I remember where

In Barcelona; in your bed; gasping for air

They say it’s a sin – but I don’t care

I’ll find you again;

An encounter that must leave us bare

Sin and oblivion: that is the cost



Who is to blame for the solitude?

Who is to blame for the solstice?

Is it I of little faith; is it I of earthly skin?

Is it the God in Heaven?

Is it the invisible principalities?

Who is to say?

I cannot remember



The beauty of ignorance

The peace of blindness

The splendor of oblivion

A world of autonomy

I may not remember much

But, I know that I loved him

I know that I loved

I just cannot remember the sensation



Are we souls; Are we bodies?

Are we alive; Are we phantoms?

Are we forgetful; Are we deceitful?

Are we demons; Are we lovers?

Let us not waste more time asking

Let us just answer every question with “Yes.”

Let me go back to sleep among the thorns…

…to forget again

…to forget again

Stereotypes, by Guinevere Hicks

Pick up your sword
Dear child of this forsaken society
Fight. *Tatakae
You are no object
You are no symbol
You are no slave
Dear little girl of this wretched society
Stand with your sword
Defend yourself!
You shall not allow men to have their way
Body of intelligence
Core of philosophy
Embodiment of spirit energy
That is who you are
This is your true self
You shall not bow down to evil men
Rise with your sword
You shall not be a plaything
Get ready to strike
You shall not be told how to live
Blade at the ready
Dash towards your opponent with complete confidence!
Do not wavier as you cut away at him
Cut away the unethical clothes
Cut away the overpriced make-up
Cut away the subordination
Cut away at the gender roles of this society
Keep fighting!
You must win against the stereotypes

*Tatakae means ‘fight’ in Japanese

Brick Wall Dragonfly, by Guinevere Hicks

Brick Wall Dragonfly, by Guinevere Hicks

Brick Wall Dragonfly, by Guinevere Hicks

Kansas City’s Tabernacle, by Guinevere Hicks

Kansas City's Tabernacle, by Guinevere Hicks

Kansas City’s Tabernacle, by Guinevere Hicks

In the Life of PMDD by Heather L. Premo

Most people do not know what PMDD is let alone just how destructively debilitating it truly can be to a person; a person like me. PMDD, better known as Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder has been raising some hairs for quite some time now. Questions like whether or not it is a psychological illness or a medical one is very common, but the one that chaps my behind is the doctors who claim that it does not exist and that it is a made up illness. I am sure you can put your imagination to what I would say to them and have.

It is not uncommon for women during their reproductive years to have symptoms of PMS. We as women have all heard the jokes and have been invalidated in our efforts more times than we can count saying, “It’s that time of the month, isn’t it?” or, “Are you PMSing again?” Words that we as women have all heard and comments that just make us more irritated, but in the cases of PMDD, the anxiety, mood-swings, anger, and sadness are literally off the charts and uncontrollable. To put it into understanding, PMDD is like PMS supercharged and on steroids. I know this first hand because I have had this illness since I was a teenager when I began menstruating. For years and years I could never understand where all these feelings of helplessness would come from; how I could just cry endlessly for no reason, and why I felt that my world was at an end; but only before my periods would start, and then all those feelings were gone like they had never existed.

To explain this more, I am going to bring you into my head and my life just so you have an understanding just how devastating this illness can be to women. When these feelings before my period began, it was usually about a week or so before menstruation began. I would literally cower in corners crying. The feeling of dread consumed my every thought. I believed that everyone hated me and that the world was going to get me. I hated everything about myself. I would try to do my hair and have become so agitated and angry that I broke things or threw them. The level of anger I felt had me thinking of hurting others or hurting myself. Luckily I never succeeded. Mood swings from one extreme to the other were so prevalent that I began to isolate. Not that anyone could tolerate me anyway. The way that I looked at the world for that short time was completely dark. Then I would snap out of it, just like that. I returned to a normal functioning human again, able to cope.

As I grew older, the PMDD symptoms got worse. Especially now. I have tried to commit suicide and have checked myself into the hospital a few times. I also drank during those dark times to cope with the level of anxiety I was feeling. Drinking enough to choke down an elephant just to numb the pain and be able to sleep. Anything to stop what I was going through. Especially the anger; the anger is what scared me the most because I literally wanted to explode at other people. People who have done me wrong or simply just got in my way when I was walking at school, work, or the shopping mall. The level of distain that I feel toward humanity during that time is not healthy. Again, learning to lock myself away. Because my method of coping was to drink, it got me in trouble with the law and my family when I did drink at those times, but somehow never drank when it wasn’t that time of the month. Sometimes I didn’t drink for months. I have lost jobs simply because I would so easily get angry or frustrated that I would just up and walk out or at times just not show up. A few times I have chopped off my hair in a rage only to regret it a day or two later when I snapped out of my crazy faze.

Fortunately in all my irrational cracked up behaviors at that time, I never hurt anyone. Probably due to the fact that my heart and my conscience would not allow me to go that level. Deep down I wanted to get better and not make it worse although what I felt at those times contradicted. Somehow I always did remember that the feelings would pass and that helped me get through.

So many unhealthy things befallen me that survival had become near impossible it seemed. It is only recently that finally I had gotten health insurance and checked myself in because I became so sick of the way my life was going. I knew that if I wasn’t able to change it and fast, I was either going to hurt someone else or jump in front of a bus. I was at the breaking point. So, I checked myself in to the coo coo’s clinic, and managed to find a psychiatrist whom also is a woman and around my age and stayed current on all the medical and psychological issues concerning women. Since then, I have been on multiple different anti-depressants or anti-anxiety medications. I finally have found one that seems to be working. Now that I am feeling like myself and not a total nutball, I have decided to educate others on the effects of this illness and the damage it can cause and hope that other women like myself can get some insight on what is happening to them and get the help that they need.

Some facts about PMDD: The illness can begin between 1-2 weeks before menses and generally end when menses begins. 3-8% of women experience PMDD during their reproductive years with onset of symptoms beginning in their 20’s. PMDD can begin earlier as it did with me, but it is rare. PMDD is also linked to being a genetic illness so it is possible that someone in your family may have it or have had it and not known because it is just becoming a realized illness within women.

Symptoms of PMDD are anxiety, extreme anger, depression, irritability, an overwhelming sense, social withdrawal, sensitivity to everyone and everything, fatigue, forgetfulness, and poor concentration. Some of the physical symptoms are the same as with PMS, but are more pronounced or severe like with problems sleeping which was one of the major issues that I have experienced. The most severe of all the symptoms however are suicidal thoughts and possibly actions.

Along with the symptoms I have listed, illnesses like migraines and fibromyalgia seem to go hand and hand with PMDD. With caffeine or alcohol use, they can exacerbate the symptoms and make them worse.

It is important to know yourself and to begin charting your symptoms and the times that they occur with as much detail as possible. The next step is getting the education and the help you need to conquer this illness so that stops interfering with your life and you begin to feel like yourself and get to know the wonderful life that can be lived.

I went through several treatments and medications before finding the one that worked for me, but it took a bit of time and I had to not only be optimistic, but patient with the process. I am now on an anti-depressant that not only helps the symptoms of PMDD, but also helps to subdue my migraines as well which also have interfered with my life, and racked up some nice ER hospital bills.

I do want to say that now that I am healthier and beginning to know the great world around me– even if there are still jerks on the street that I run into from time to time– I do not regret what I have gone through. Everything that I have lost, every tear, and every single horrid experience is what made me stronger so that I could find the help that I needed for myself so I could bring this knowledge to you and many more.

I chose to be an advocate for PMDD because I believe that it could have been fatal for me and may have been in the past for other women. No one should have to live in that much pain. No one should have their life turned upside-down so much that a person feels like there is no end to the panic and no light in the endless tunnel we walk in our journey. There is a light, a very bright one and I am proof of that light and I hope to encourage and empower you.