Monday, October 31, 2011

The Journey We Take Alone -- Part Sixteen

By Alexander "Sandy" Prisant

Jump ahead to 2011.

Eventually everyone’s organs begin to fail. Yours will, too, at some point. It’s a fertile marketplace for more tests and treatments. So much so that we now sit in an age when we’re doing better on improving testing than on treatment.

No one pinpoints the parameters—the size, scale and pathology of what’s bothering you inside—like we now do in America. But knowing the very last technical spec about your condition doesn’t cure it. That’s where you and I are today.

Yesterday I went through the last major test required for the biggest surgery of all. The surgery -- a double transplant -- will take 10 hours. The testing has taken five months. Five rather excruciating months!

This new test is better than the old, because it doesn’t require sedation which can be rough on the heart, especially if you’ve already got heart issues. So now they’ve come up with an alternative to the traditional colonoscopy. In keeping with our times, it’s called a “virtual colonoscopy” and relies more on an external CT scan than unappealing internal probes.

If you’re willing, I’d like to take you with me through this procedure. It’s still not pretty, so readers beware:

• First, pick up the products your doctor has prescribed that are going to turn a waste treatment plant—your colon—into a pristine operating theatre in less than two days.

• Thirty-six hours before the test, essentially start fasting. They babble about all the clear liquids you can have. It amounts to a glass of ginger ale. Even red Jell-O is out. We’re talking about serious fasting. Fifty percent longer than Yom Kippur.

• Open the first product, take a simple pill in the box, Wait 1-6 hours for a bowel movement.

• Now get ready to spend all the remaining time before the test within 100 feet of a toilet.

• The minute that happens start drinking this fruit-flavored liquid that also came in the box. But don’t sip casually. Take exactly 8 ounces every 10 minutes until the jug is empty. That’s the full two litres in less than an hour and a half. You start feeling like a porpoise. And for those of us with renal failure this is our limit for 48 hours, not 80 minutes, raising interesting questions no one ever answers.

• Within another hour, the first liquid prepares to complete its journey—out your bum.

• An hour later, you get rid of some more. I went five times. It wasn’t painful or even intolerable, but you start hoping it’ll end before you want to go to bed.

• When morning arrives, something more dreaded comes along. I have to give myself an enema. First one ever. Princess Diana had this done by trained maidens at a spa. I was on the bathroom floor. If my wife didn’t have the compassion to take over, I’d still be there. Over 100ML of this stuff goes up your rectum---and comes back out within 2-5 minutes (the box guarantees it) with the final, definitive bowel movement. It’s like a hand wax at the end of a car wash, just not as pretty.

• Finally, you get to the test. If you’re smart, it’ll be at a major university teaching hospital. This is yet another procedure where sheer volume makes doctors more proficient. Community hospitals sometimes don’t have that volume on all procedures and staff at less well-rated non-teaching hospitals is sometimes not of the same quality.

• In this case the idea is to have a very experienced radiologist looking for any polyps in the colon. These can lead to cancer. Their removal ends the risk. An internist told me that the virtual colonoscopy can scan and identify a tiny polyp, down to a ridiculously small fraction of a microgram, or something. So this test can be one of the surer ways to save your life.

• At the test, you are ushered into an x-ray room, not an operating room, with one of those big CT scanners. It’s that long narrow bed with a huge donut contraption around the head. The one Dr. House puts every patient in every week.

• A tech appears offering false good will. He directs you to undress, right down to the socks and disappears. You put on a flimsy hospital gown that’s wide open everywhere. You feel pretty exposed. Because you are.

• The tech slinks back in. He helps you lay on the scanner on your left side. He’s on your back side and you figure he’s doing something, but don’t know. And don’t really want to.

• After all the anal indignities of the past 36 hours here comes the final one: Smoothly, silently the tech is inserting something in you. It turns out to be a tube that slowly begins to fill your whole colon with gas, to expand all the colon’s folds and provide clear pictures.

• They roll you on your back and then roll you on your stomach. When done right the filing part only takes 10-15 minutes. You’re told to squeeze and hold your breath at the same time, stretching your hands over your head. Not easy.
Look, it’s not fun, but it’s not surgery. Plus you get to keep living, because this really is one of the surest defenses against cancer. But for me it was mostly another step in a process that’s been a trek across a desert for five months.

Writer Sandy Prisant, who lives with his wife, Susan, in Florida, is awaiting a kidney and heart transplant. He began writing his series, "The Journey we Take Alone," in March, saying it might be his last writing project.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Making Fun of People Who Lose Their Homes?

How nice. An op ed by Joe Nocera in The New York Times today reveals that employees working for the Buffalo-area based Steven J. Baum law firm -- a firm doing foreclosures for the nation's big banks -- dressed up in Halloween costumes at an office party last year, costumes that made fun of people who were losing their homes.

Nice, huh?

A former employee of the firm -- the biggest such "foreclosure mill" in New York State working on behalf of the big banks to put people out of their homes -- sent Nocera some snapshots from last year's Halloween bash. They are, indeed, in the words of the employee, "appalling," and they can be seen on the Times' website.

He writes:

"In an e-mail, she said that she wanted me to see them because they showed an appalling lack of compassion toward the homeowners — invariably poor and down on their luck — that the Baum firm had brought foreclosure proceedings against. When we spoke later, she added that the snapshots are an accurate representation of the firm’s mind-set. 'There is this really cavalier attitude,' she said. 'It doesn’t matter that people are going to lose their homes.' Nor does the firm try to help people get mortgage modifications; the pressure, always, is to foreclose. I told her I wanted to post the photos on The Times’s Web site so that readers could see them. She agreed, but asked to remain anonymous because she said she fears retaliation."

You can see the photos on the Times' website, with Nocera's article.

These people should be ashamed! Better yet, they should be fired. (And of course, the banks should fire the law firms.)

Maybe then, the insensitive louts who think nothing of making fun of other peoples' tragedies will themselves face foreclosure on their homes. Then, next year, they won't have to wear costumes.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

An Activist Cheers On the Demonstrators

By Karen Beetle

In May and June, I travelled to Spain and Italy. On the day of my arrival in Madrid, I took the metro to Puerta del Sol in the heart of downtown. As I travelled up the escalator, the first view of the city was a crowd of tents.

Two days earlier, el movimiento de 15 de Mayo had begun. Organizing largely by e-mail and cell phone, these student demonstrators were camped out to protest in time for the upcoming elections, but their protest had more than elections in view. Affinity groups huddled in the quiet streets holding teach-ins. The mood of the demonstration was gentle. Boxes for donated food were labeled. People passing by stopped to talk . The signs hung on building expressed a range of hope for the future well beyond employment. My favorite read: We are going slow, because we plan to go far.

I have watched with warmth in my heart as demonstrators have claimed the financial district in New York and recently as Occupy Albany has gathered in Academy Park. For fifteen years, beginning at age 17, I was an activist. I organized countless demonstrations, wrote handbooks, provided trainings in nonviolence and civil disobedience, and designed and created campaigns to promote peace and social justice.

For more than a year, I was a key organizer for the Women’s Encampment for Peace and Justice at the Sececa Army Depot. In these years, I felt deeply part of a tradition. I loved reading about the civil rights movement, Gandhi’s campaigns in India, and the European and American anarchists. Every exercise we used in our non-violence trainings carried with it a deep history from another time. So many of the songs we sang were from the labor movement or from the deep south. We pulled from history, but we were also creating history that grew out of the voice of our time. Responding to the deployment of cruise missiles in Europe or the arming of the Contra in Nicaragua, we created actions that spoke for the change that our world needed in order to claim a peaceful future.

Early in my career as an activist, I was facilitating a non-violence training in Washington D.C. Still a teenager, I was leading a conversation in preparation for a civil disobedience action. Two older people joined our circle – Wally and Juanita Nelson. Right away I knew their faces and their history in the civil rights movement. They were in their eighties – the grandparents of our movement. I could hardly speak. What could I say – that would have any relevance from my position. What they modeled for me that day was a kind of respect that I encountered almost every where I went as a young activist. My ideas were valued; my voice was listened to. My participation was valued. I was handed my place in this powerful tradition of love and creation.

And now I understand. I watch with delight as this new leadership finds its way. Nonviolence is complex and choices are made by consensus. New forms and ways emerge and get tested in the crucible of protest. And from where I sit, I watch with delight – trusting the decisions of this very new worldwide movement and its leadership. Just as Wally and Juanita Nelson trusted me.

The future is in their hands. And joy is in my heart.

Writer Karen Beetle is a therapist and mindfulness teacher in Albany, NY. This post appeared first on the Albany Times Union's Holistic Health blog.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

"Super Wimp"

By Victoria Okung

I don’t know who created the Superman, but the name sure fits the ride. It was surely the scariest ride at Darien Lake (well before they added the bungee jump and that “World's Largest Farris Wheel”).

As I recall riding the Superman for the first time, the only thing that comes to my mind is that gut-wrenching feeling that I had all throughout the ride. The 208-foot slow rise to the top left a nervous, anxious feeling in my stomach, and the 205-foot drop caused the most uncomfortable imaginable pain in my stomach. However, I will never forget the feeling of hopelessness I had once the ride was going 73 miles per hour and there was nothing I could to stop and get away from the ride.

I don’t even know why I got on the ride. I definitely did not want to. Maybe it was because I was afraid to look scared in front of all my friends. Through the long-anticipated wait to get on the ride, I kept hoping that something would happen, preventing me from getting on the ride. Maybe the ride would start smoking, or half the tracks would fall apart, or maybe someone’s body would fall off the side, or better yet, maybe I wouldn’t be tall enough to get on the ride.

Yeah, that was it. That was my easy way out.

As my four camp friends and I continued to wait in line, my heart pounded so hard I was sure that everyone could hear it.

“Vicki, stop being such a super-wimp,” said one of my friends as they all laughed at me.

Just then, I thought the Lord was surely answered my prayers. The roller coaster stopped on its way up the 208 foot track. But about four minutes later it resumed and there were no more complications on the ride.

It was my turn to get on. Just my luck, I meet the height standard. Why? Why did I always have to be the tall one? So I hopped in the ride as we continued up the 208 foot slow trail to the top of the coaster. At this point I was crying, and screaming at the top of my lungs. My stomach knotted up as we dropped down picking up to 73 miles per hour.

I don’t remember the rest of the ride, because I blacked out. Or maybe I feel off the ride and plunged into the water below and they took me into a special room where they had to brainwash me for liability issues.

But what I do remember is running to the nearest garbage can. I wanted to look intense like in the movies, how once they get off the rides they throw up. I held onto the sides of the garbage can…but nothing came out.

Victoria Okung grew up in Rochester and is a freshman at the University at Albany, State University of New York.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Journey We Take Together -- Part Nine

By Susan and Sandy Prisant

It’s gotten a lot harder of late. The illness drifts from body to the soul, while I, Susan, watch helplessly and cry within. I want to put a smile on my face. On both of our faces. I think back over the years and pluck out stories that have added depth to our lives.

There was the time we went to Budapest with friends. We’d decided to spend the first evening at the theater. Just a touch strange, as none of us spoke Hungarian. The concierge explained the first act and said it would be easy to follow.

It wasn’t. We came out to the foyer at intermission like people suffering Post Traumatic Stress. Clueless and preparing to head for the exit, I saw Sandy’s ears perk up. In the gaggle of lobby languages, a voice came through that we understood—Italian. A man had a small crowd mesmerized as he explained the first act. How could he be doing this?

“You speak Hungarian?” we asked.

“Are you crazy?” he shot back in his native tongue. “Who can speak Hungarian? Our concierge laid out the whole play for us.” He laughed and introduced himself and his wife. Enzo and Antoinella.

They were as bored as we were and suggested that we escape to the flashy new InterContinental. We drank and talked and laughed until the wee hours—none of it in Hungarian. As people do in Europe, we exchanged business cards. Enzo offered an open invitation. “If you’re ever coming to the South of Italy, we’d love to have you as guests.”

Oddly enough, just a few weeks later, a medical conference invitation came from Catania, the Italian city where Enzo lived. We called and he was quick to invite us to lunch in our only free time; he insisted he send his driver.

The next day his driver picked us up with un-Italian efficiency. Antoinella was out, but over lunch, Enzo made a grand invitation to meet his apparently fabled uncle. Believing we were to meet an official of the government or the Church, we drove along the coast road, finally arriving at a seaside hotel that looked strangely deserted.

We walked through the dark, cavernous halls, passing no one. Finally Enzo opened a set of double doors. The room was even darker and it took a moment for our eyes to adjust. We found ourselves looking down a long conference table of middle-aged men. Enzo nodded to each of them as he passed.

There was something strange about them all. Their suits, pastel shirts and ties, could have all been purchased at the same store. They were smoking Havana Panatelas, sitting along both sides of a table that went on forever. And they were very quiet. You felt the power in that room.

At the far end, sat the smallest man at the table. Enzo knelt to kiss his uncle’s hand and then his cheeks. We were introduced to Don Salvatore. He invited us to take coffee with him and his nephew on the balcony over the Mediterranean. Gruff but charming, he exchanged niceties with us, while Enzo beamed. The Don apologized, but had to return to the meeting inside. He was a most gracious host from the Underworld.

We walked slowly, carefully back past the Don’s entire “honor guard.”

The picture remains etched in our minds. Forever.

We returned to the car; Enzo invited me, Susan, to sit up front to better see the coast. As we absorbed the melodramatic scene we had just witnessed we had no words. For Enzo or each other.

Then Sandy leaned over from the back and whispered to me, “Do you see anything strange about the dashboard of this car?” At first I noticed nothing, but then my eyes were glued to a real telephone, at a time when cars simply did not yet have them. All I wanted to do was call my mother and tell her everything. My hand reached out to pick up the receiver and not so gently, the driver clamped down on my arm and shook his head, as if to say “no.”

Sandy repeated “don’t you see anything different about the dashboard?”

Although Antonio didn’t speak English, he understood what Sandy was saying. He proudly pointed out the red button, which raised bulletproof windows; the gray button which supposedly deployed a machine gun out the back; the blue button which emitted a cloud of dark gas to conceal the vehicle.

It was only then that I noticed the driver was packing a very large gun in his suit. Apparently, people driving in this car were at some risk. The chilling coincidence struck me: Sandy’s beard and dark coloring were very like Enzo’s. Antoinella had long blonde hair like mine. Could we be mistaken for Don Salvatore’s family? It added a little spice to the drive back.

Why Enzo so much wanted us to meet the Don and friends remains a mystery. Some kind of honor code on the island of Sicily?

Once again, there’s a smile on my face.

Susan and Sandy Prisant are writing separately and together about their lives, and about Sandy's life-threatening kidney illness. To read earlier portions of their projects, go to the SEARCH function on MyStoryLives and type in each of their names. The couple lives with their two dogs in Florida, where Sandy awaits a kidney and a heart transplant.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

"The Zombie Kid"

By Darren Coleman

Ring. Ring. Ring.

“The person you have dialed is unable to receive calls at this time,” said an automated voice.

I slammed the phone and redialed the number. It seemed as if the world was working to torment me with every task at hand.

Laughing, I thought about the rollercoaster I call life. Please pick up, I thought. Nothing mattered but the voice on the other end of the line -- it seemed to be coming from the other side of the earth. As the phone rang endlessly, a student worker approached me and smiled a crooked smile. I was not in the mood to smile.

“May I help you?” she asked.

I stared daggers at her—I guess she got the hint as she spun on her heels. If I wanted help I would ask for it.

“Hello,” a voice finally answered.

“It’s me,” I said.

“Your father died...” said my mother. “But the doctors brought him back; he’s not breathing on his own. He has a machine keeping him alive. He’ll be fine, Darren, we have to pray.”

“Okay,” I said in an empty voice.

Pray? To whom should I be praying —God? He does not exist for me. I have never felt his presence. For all I know he could be a fictitious character created by a crafted writer. I can’t rely on an invisible man for all the answers, at least not yet. I hung up the phone and I walked away. I felt numb and empty. This feeling was all too familiar to me when I rid myself of emotions.

It helps me to temporarily escape—even permanently at times. Escape into a world where nothing matters, and each reaction is either forced or controlled. As I walked from the university complex, I realized that I felt nothing and that angered me more than it had before.

Still, I did not show it—it wasn’t me. I wore a mask of indifference. He’s your father, I thought.

Saying that hit me. The mask had cracked, revealing old scars and new bruises.

The mixture of emotions came flooding in, and it hurt more than I could possibly say. I thought this feeling would forever be foreign to me. I felt broken, lost, sad, deeply depressed, and oddly in the mood for mischief. I wanted to hurt myself, but I knew what my father would say: Never let someone have that power over you, not even me.

My throat tightened and my eyes began to water but I could not cry, at least not on the surface. Instead of crying I began laughing to myself, not at the situation at hand, but at my inability at times to express my inner feelings. I laugh in order to hide my real feelings—just like my father.

Darren Coleman, a student at the University at Albany, SUNY, grew up in New Jersey and New York. He attended the Monroe Academy for Visual Arts and Design. One day he hopes to become a successful novelist.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Writers and Their Dark Places

By Diana Raab

When I was ten years old my grandmother and caretaker committed suicide in her bedroom beside mine. It was Labor Day weekend and I knocked on her bedroom door to see if I could swim in a friend's pool. With a child's intuition, I knew something was seriously wrong and phoned my mother at work. Within minutes, an ambulance arrived at the front door. They took my grandmother away on a stretcher and I never saw her again. The emotions and visuals from that experience left me with an indelible wound which writing helped me heal.

It was the 1960s, a time when children were not typically welcome at funerals. Instead, my mother bought me a gold-embossed Khalil Gibran journal with sayings on the top of each page. She left me with a babysitter and told me to write down my feelings on the pages of my new journal.

From that day forward, I have been an avid journal keeper. Like many writers, I understand that writing can help heal thorny experiences and psychological wounds, and possibly save your life, whether you are dealing with loss, longing, teen angst, pregnancy, divorce or aging. Many famous writers began writing out of a sense of desperation or darkness.

Childhood experiences often become shadows, demons or obsessions. Often times we might not even be aware of those shadows until the second half of our lives. Becoming aware and discovering demons is the first step in understanding and managing them. Compelling writers are typically unafraid of writing about or visiting their demons or those dark places because they are drawn to dig deeper into their emotional truths.

My impetus in writing my first memoir/biography, Regina's Closet: Finding My Grandmother's Secret Journal was to do just that. I wanted to understand the source of my bouts with depression, and the issues surrounding my fear of abandonment. I was told that I had many of my grandmother's sensibilities and that we were similar in many ways. By studying and writing about my grandmother's life was I able to understand my own shadows. Even though she had died more than forty years earlier, through the writing process, I learned how deeply losing her affected me. Unlike the general population, most writers like myself gravitate to and are not afraid of these dark places where we tap into and discover various facets about ourselves. It's not that writers only write about their wounds, but they are driven to write because of them.

I frequently direct my writing students to compose a poem or short essay about whatever haunts them or what they are obsessed by. I remind them that the only time demons become dangerous is if we ignore them or shove them out of the way. Only by confronting our demons can we begin to heal. When we reach our fifties or sixties, we may become less fearful or feel the pressure of the end of our lives and thus might more easily study our demons.

I believe that most creative individuals tend to ruminate and this tends to lend itself to visiting more life's darkest of places. For some people, visiting these dark places can lead to depression and/or addictive behaviors. This phenomenon inspired me to compile an anthology of essays, called Writers On The Edge, which shares stories of well-published writers who discuss their addictions and dependencies.

Studies have shown that writers are more than twice as likely to be depressed than are non-writers, which provides strong evidence that emotional roadblocks may be linked to creativity. Kay Redfield Jamison, a psychiatrist and author of Touched With Fire studied this connection and found that writers of all genres have a higher incidence of mood disorders, such as depression. Her studies concluded that playwrights showed the highest rate of mood disorders, followed by poets, then novelists, then biographers and then visual artists.

Whatever it is that you write, putting words on the page is a form of therapy that doesn't cost a dime and it is certainly a productive way to deal with the scars and dark places from our pasts. Self-expression is one way to lay a problem or demon to rest. It's also way to bring forth suppressed feelings and fears. It's a way to bring a sense of resolution and a sense of satisfaction to our lives. It certainly did this for me.

Diana Raab, MFA, RN is an award-winning memoirist and poet and the author of eight books. She is a journaling advocate and frequently writes and speaks on the healing power of writing. Her book, Writers and Their Notebooks, won the 2011 Eric Hoffer Award and was a finalist for Foreword Magazine’s 2010 Book of the Year. She has two memoirs, "Healing With Words: A Writer’s Cancer Journey" and "Regina’s Closet: Finding My Grandmother’s Secret Journal", as well as three poetry collections. This piece appeared first on the Huffington Post.

Monday, October 17, 2011

"Dear God, Are You There?"

By Bosra Farha

I remember when I was little, after hours of running around the neighborhood and when I was too tired to move, I would lie down in our backyard lawn and just gaze into the golden lazy afternoon sky.

I found myself in awe every day, no matter what the weather was like. The majestic sky washed in varying palettes of color, the clouds shaped like lions to the ones shaped like lambs being reflected in different hues. And I would see a flash of golden light against a perfectly white fluffy cloud that would make my eyes squint. And out of nowhere , for no good reason that I can think of now, I would feel this exhilarated thrill as at that moment with all of my young, naive heart I believed that I had just seen God. I would run back to the house to tell my grandmother about it. She would listen to me and look at me with bewilderment for quite a while and then compose herself and then try to make me understand lovingly that I had seen nothing unusual. But I believed that I had seen God with all the spirit in my little heart and no one was going to tell me otherwise.

The simplest way of defining belief or faith in something is probably by saying that it is the acceptance of something which we imagine to be true, that which we cannot prove nor feel the need to try to prove. As I see it, faith is ubiquitous. Our specific methods of interpreting it are arbitrary. Some of us pray to Jesus, some of us go to Mecca and some of us spend decades peering through a microscope trying to find God in science. \

In the end we are all searching for truth. Truth that is greater than ourselves, truth that proclaims that our lives are not meaningless, that we haven’t gone through our entire lives doing the right things and steering clear of temptations for no consequences or rewards. But more than that, I think we are scared of the state of non-existence. We are scared that if God doesn’t exist there is no life after death, which means after we die we will all just cease to exist. All that we have done in this world, believed and valued has no significance anymore. That we are of no significance anymore. I think for some of us that is more petrifying than the concept of burning in hell.

In today’s world, skepticism has become a virtue. Cynicism and demand for proof have become enlightened thought. Which is why humans today feeling more depressed and defeated than they have at any point in human history. Some people can actually bend forward and ask that if there is a God then why are human beings subject to such sufferings throughout the world. I don’t know the answer to that but what I do know is that the reason I choose to believe in a superior power is because it makes me feel safe. We humans are so fragile and vulnerable to our surroundings. The universe can make us perish in a second before we even realize that we are in danger. So if I believe in a superior power that will help me in circumstances that are beyond my capacity to prevail over them. I get a sense of security and confidence from my faith that helps me concentrate on things that I have the capability of handling.

I experienced this very early in my life. Whenever I had to do something important and I was nervous and had pressure on me, I would just imagine Allah looking down on me and I could feel a stream of energy or some kind of power infusing my veins. And I knew that now I could vanquish anything. That now by His grace I could conquer all my fears and show the world my true potentials.

When we as a species abandon our trust in a power greater than us, we abandon our sense of accountability. All faiths are like reminders that there is something we cannot understand, something to which we are accountable. With faith we are accountable to each other, to ourselves, and to a higher truth. Religion is flawed, but only because man is flawed. A lot of people stubbornly try to find holes in religion by construing it with disrespect and ignorance. They should understand that every faith in the world is based on fabrication.

Every religion describes God through metaphor, allegory and exaggeration. Buddhists don’t have to be told that Buddha did not come from a lotus blossom. Or that Jesus was not born of a literal virgin birth. Or that Mohammed didn’t fly on a flying carpet to heaven to receive the Qurran from Allah. Those who truly understand their faiths understand the stories are metaphorical and can contemplate the greater meaning in them.

I am not saying that I believe that there is an old man with a white beard and white overalls sitting in his empire of gold in heaven, eating grapes off a bunch and He is smiling down on us all as we try to comprehend Him. Not maybe that. But I do believe that there is this source of positive energy that has created this universe and that everything in this universe can relate to it on some yet incomprehensible level. I value science with all of my being and I believe that everything that exists can be broken down into its logical components and explained scientifically, even God. Science and religion are not at odds, science is simply too young to understand.

That is why I want to study nano science and try to understand everything related to theology on the deepest level possible. I want to decipher the secrets behind all these that we don’t understand.Because at the end of the day we are all looking for the same truth. The truth about our universe, us and our purpose.

Writer Bosra Farha grew up in Bangladesh and came to the United States two years ago to start her junior year of high school in Queens. She was primarily home schooled in English but during her freshman and sophomore years of high school she attended a school with a British curriculum in Bangladesh. Currently she is a freshman at the University at Albany, State University of New York, where her major is biology and pre-med. She hopes to be admitted into the nano-technology program next year.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

"The Glove"

By Kyle Easton

The glove slipped from my hand
Falling to the pavement
Where it lay
From a thing warm and loved
My friend
To a thing cold and dirty and forlorn
Evoking an involuntary feeling of disgust
First at it
And then at myself
How quick we are
To turn upon the things we love
When they fall and are made ugly by the world
Disgust turns to sadness
As my thoughts turn from the glove
To the nature of life
And what a disappointing thing it can be
I heave a sigh, pick it up, and put it on
For a moment it feels cold and foreign
But soon it is warm again
It remembers the shape of my hand

Writer Kyle Easton was born and raised in upstate New York, where he still lives. He attended Bates College.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

A Star Shaped Like Africa -- A Story Out of the Dominican Republic!!

By Kiara Rodriguez

It was hot, humid even, but beautiful. I awoke to the beautiful smell of pancakes, chocolate to be exact. My eyes opened and next to me was my cousin, Arlyn. I looked at her and smiled; we were both thinking the same thing, “what did my grandmother cook for us today?”

We sprinted up to the thought and quickly walked to the semi-outdoor dining room. The hot Dominican Republic air hit our faces, along with the smell of pancakes, eggs, bacon, sausage, and fresh homemade cherry, mango, and chinola (passion fruit) juice.

Every morning was different, but today was my favorite. Today was going to be great.

You can always tell how the day is going to go according to breakfast.

A big breakfast always meant a day of adventures, fun and new family members. A small breakfast meant staying in the pueblo or the house relaxing.

Soup always meant we were going to El Verde, my grandmother’s farm five miles away from where she lived. As we chowed down our food we wondered: where we were going, what was going to happen and what my grandmother thinking? We never knew what she was thinking. She’s very spontaneous.

After breakfast we ran to shower. Although there were two bathrooms, it always took over an hour considering there were 4 families staying in my grandmother’s house that summer. Dressed and ready to go, all the cousins had on bathing suits and shorts and the aunts and uncles all dressed in normal clothing.

It was too hot for normal clothing -- it didn’t make sense. We waited as the two pickup trucks pulled up. We ran towards the trucks, so excited, only to feel the scorching hot metal against our bare skin.

“Put the towels down, hurry,” one of us yelled, while the rest of us ooo’d and ahh’d at the intense heat.

It was a bumpy ride, with sharp turns, and outrageous stops that sent us all flying forward. I thought I would fall off the edge of the truck. I guess that’s why they never let the little kids sit on the edge, only in the middle. I insisted I wasn’t a child, that I deserved to sit on the edge after I was nine. We finally arrived at our destination. It was a campo, but not El Verde.

We were in Hajaco.

Hajaco is filled with coconut trees, platano trees, grass and gravel everywhere. I used to call it the campo with the cows, because everywhere you turned there was a cow. It was mosquito central and I was mosquito bait! It's like all the mosquitos got together one day and decided “Hey, we're ganna bite Kiara today!”

My aunt had a house there and most weeks we would drive up to her house to eat a pig that my family brutally murdered that same day. I swear I had no idea they killed the animals themselves when I was eating it!

My cousins and I loved to ride pasolas, what Americans call motorscooters; every time we saw one we would hop on and pretend we were driving it. The hot air would blow in our faces while our hair flowed in the wind. “VAROOM, VAROOMM,” I would say as the best nine-year old driver you have ever seen.

“Hey Arlyn, where do you wanna go today?”

We always loved to hop into any transportation device and pretend it was our limo. Our mothers were sitting in the seats surrounding the pasola talking and gossiping in Spanish about things no child should care about, and so we paid no mind to the things they said. Who knew it might be important to out safety.

“Kiara, tenga cuidado con el motor, que to caliente!” Which by the way translates to “Kiara, be careful with the motor it’s hot!”

But of course as a nine-year old, I paid no mind to the words coming out of my mother’s mouth. I simply didn’t care! Just imagine her words going in one ear and literally right out the other.

I continued riding my pasola down the highway, through the trees, past the cows, over the hill; yeah I had a great imagination! I swerved side to side, turned corners, jumped over potholes, and said hi to everyone who passed, nodding my head at them and yelling to them “Ay, amigito, que lo que.”

I believed I was actually riding the scooter! And suddenly my travels came to a quick end. It was time to eat.

I should have checked the bike out before I got off; I should have checked what side I was getting off, I should have made sure the motor wasn’t on the side I was getting off. But I didn’t hear my mother’s warning, I didn’t care because I was sure that I knew what I was doing.

I hopped off the scooter only to feel an excruciating pain on my right leg. Falling to the ground I couldn’t help but think of the words my mother had said to me, “Watch out for the motor!” The pain was insane, like getting burned by an iron (which also happened to me to, but that’s another story).

I yelled, rather screeched at the touch of the roasting, blazing, blistering, flaming hot motor against my skin. Crying, I could hear the sound of my mother yelling at me, my father yelling at her and my aunts and uncles laughing. I was humiliated, hurt, and sad I didn’t know what to do!

And suddenly I was being picked up by my uncle and brought to a room. Still crying, I watched everyone around me panicking and deciding what they could do to help my leg. I looked down and saw a huge brown patch of my skin slowly peeling off; the sight of this brought more tears to my eyes.

“Get the aloe, put it on her skin to ease the burn!” I heard someone yell that, but I didn’t understand what putting aloe on my burn would do for me until I saw them breaking the plant in half. There was a slimy, sticky, cold, insanely cold substance coming out of the aloe.

“Here, put this on your leg.” I didn’t get what it would do for me but I listened because all I wanted was to stop the pain, make it all go away. I cried for hours while my cousins laughed and all I could do was cry. I watched the patch of skin turn brown, it was bubbly it was painful. I can remember the pain like it was yesterday!

I look at the scar now and the memory returns; it hits me like a bat hits a ball. I remember every detail of that day, breakfast, the ride, the laughs and the pain. I guess the day was not as great as the breakfast said it would be. I look at the scar on my right leg in the shape of Africa and I smile at how strong the pain has made me!

Kiara Rodriguez is a freshman at the University at Albany, State University of New York. Born in Brooklyn N.Y, she moved to the Dominican Republic when she was a year old and was there for about a year. Her parents are from a small city in the Dominican Republic called Bonao. Kiara grew up in the Bedford Stuyvesant area of New York and then lived in Ridgewood, New York for most of her life. She intends to major in Communications and Journalism and wants to become a magazine editor.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

"The Runaway Pink Ball," a new children's book!!

Artist Charlotte Sear will sign copies of her new children's book, "The Runaway Pink Ball," on Saturday, October 22nd from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Chatham bookstore, located at 27 Main Street in Chatham, New York. Ms. Sear is a working artist and a professor of reading at Long Island University and the New York Institute of Technology.

"The Runaway Pink Ball" tells the story of a pink ball that rolls away from a little girl. The ball discovers that it wants to be free. After numerous adventures, however, the ball realizes that it’s lonely and wants to return to the little girl, who wants to keep it for her own.

The brightly-colored illustrations are in gouache and collage. The book is aimed at a preschool audience as a read-aloud. The word repetition within the text makes the story appropriate for beginning readers.

Ms Sear said that she was inspired to write the book after inventing the story for her granddaughter, Marissa, who is now 11. The author and her granddaughter used to play with a pink ball when the little girl was four years old. Whenever the ball rolled out of sight she would say "it's hiding."

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Miracle Cream

By Justine Wright​

“Why did you have to have black people hair?” my mother says with disgust on her face.  I stand there trying to answer the question, but I don’t know what black people hair is?

Maybe it’s the tangles of these curls or the kinky thickness of my hair that can’t be tamed. She gossips with her friends about how ugly, difficult and horrible my hair is. I hate it; I hate how everyone has that same look on their face. It's as if I’m cursed.

​I find myself walking around the corner to this “salon.”

A big lady stands in front of me with these piercing eyes of hatred. She hates my hair and I think she hates me for being cursed with these locks. “I’m going to need a lot of relaxer for this one,” she declares.

She places a big bottle of this white mayonnaise-looking substance on the desk.  I feel the comb ripping four lines on my head. She’s in the jungle fighting the beast that is my hair.  This mayonnaise smells foul. It’s plastered across my scalp; my head is on fire and it burns.  

​Sitting alone on this high chair, with flames riding across my scalp, the tears are washing my face. I’m begging for water to wash this acid out of me. Every minute feels like an hour. The pain is penetrating, sinking toward my cortex.  After an hour of minutes, I’m rushed to the sink. There my dehydration is given the water it needs.

​The mirror looks at me and I see a different person. Her hair is straight and it looks longer than it was earlier.  The weight of the hair resting on her head is lighter.  I can’t believe that she is me. This miracle cream stripped the ugliness out of my hair. But it wasn’t over yet; after another hour of sitting impatiently on a pillow that brings my head to the dryer, I’m released from the punishment of having “black people hair.”

​Big bouncy curls fall from the rollers that construct them. Everyone in the salon is staring at my hair. “Ay, que Linda!” they keep repeating. These Spanish people in this salon finally accept my hair. “Now you look like your father’s mother, too bad you didn’t get her eye color.” I guess all the pretty traits that I don’t have just make me unfavorable to her.

​We’re walking through the street; my hair is long and flowing in the wind. I never knew it would be able to reach my waist. It's pretty, at least that’s what everyone in the street is saying to this short six-year-old girl.  I feel so beautiful. For once I love my hair. In this moment I’m glad that the mayonnaise burned the “black people hair" out of me. I run upstairs and play with my hair in the mirror; it’s so soft I can run my fingers through it.  

I am swaying my hair back and forth when my mother walks into the room. She is looking at me looking at myself in the mirror and then she says, “You’re not pretty so stop smiling.”

Writer Justine Wright, who grew up in the Bronx, is a freshman at the University at Albany, State University of New York. She plans to be a biology major.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

With the Wall Street Protest, We are in Uncharted Waters

By Alexander Prisant

There is no precedent for the occupation of Wall Street. America has never engaged in class warfare. We consciously decided NOT to follow the British during the Industrial Revolution--when American Labor unions deliberately decided to be the only nation on earth to celebrate the working man in September, not on Labor Day;
when the Democrats decided not to become the Labor Party.

After all, why divide into classes when there was ubiquitous socio-economic mobility? But suddenly that is gone. Suddenly we have the severe economic inequality of 1910. That's right, 1910. The whole middle class advance, post World War II, has been wiped away in a decade.

The unsurprising result: only 20% of the nation believe there is an upwardly mobile future--for themselves or the country. Americans are beginning to take stock. And take sides.

Before now, references to rich and poor were simply occasional throwaway lines in political bombast. Now they are the crude labels around which society is coalescing and dividing.

If you doubt it, read yesterday's statement from Vice President Biden. To the best of my memory, no one form the White House--certainly not in the depths of the Great Depression--ever made a public statement like this. We are entering uncharted waters.

Vice President Joe Biden expressed empathy for the "Occupy Wall Street" protesters in New York and elsewhere who are pushing for a radical overhaul of U.S. institutions and government, saying the American system has run amok and is no longer fair for the vast majority of Americans.

Asked if he and President Obama stood in solidarity with protesters in lower Manhattan,Biden said it was a "really fair question" and then did not directly answer it.

"What is the core of that protest?" Biden asked rhetorically. "The core is the American people do not think the system is fair or on the level."

The vice president noted that the conservative Tea Party wing of the Republican party emerged from anger at President George W. Bush's bailout of the financial system three years ago and many Americans from the opposite side of the political spectrum are feeling that same anger toward the banks

"Look guys the bargain is not on the level anymore in the minds of the vast majority of the American (people) the middle class has been screwed," Biden said.

He cited the public outrage over a recent decision by Bank of America to impose a $5 fee for consumers to use their debit card demonstrates that anger.

Biden said "The American people know... the reason the CEO of the Bank of America" is still in business is because "the guy making $50,000 bucks bailed him out. Bailed him out."

Bank of America is "incredibly tone deaf at a minimum. At a maximum, they are not, they are not, paying their fair share of the bargain here. And middle class people are getting screwed," Biden said.

Writer Alexander "Sandy" Prisant, formerly a management consultant who worked in many parts of the world, lives in Florida with his wife, Susan. He is writing a series called "The Journey We Take Alone?" on MyStoryLives, a project that deals with the life-threatening illness he is facing. Today's post appeared first on his blog, Wordsmith Wars.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

The Miracle Cream

By Justine Wright​

“Why did you have to have black people hair?” my mother says with disgust on her face.  I stand there trying to answer the question, but I don’t know what black people hair is?

Maybe it’s the tangles of these curls or the kinky thickness of my hair that can’t be tamed. She gossips with her friends about how ugly, difficult and horrible my hair is. I hate it; I hate how everyone has that same look on their face. It's as if I’m cursed.

​I find myself walking around the corner to this “salon.”

A big lady stands in front of me with these piercing eyes of hatred. She hates my hair and I think she hates me for being cursed with these locks. “I’m going to need a lot of relaxer for this one,” she declares.

She places a big bottle of this white mayonnaise-looking substance on the desk.  I feel the comb ripping four lines on my head. She’s in the jungle fighting the beast that is my hair.  This mayonnaise smells foul. It’s plastered across my scalp; my head is on fire and it burns.  

​Sitting alone on this high chair, with flames riding across my scalp, the tears are washing my face. I’m begging for water to wash this acid out of me. Every minute feels like an hour. The pain is penetrating, sinking toward my cortex.  After an hour of minutes, I’m rushed to the sink. There my dehydration is given the water it needs.

​The mirror looks at me and I see a different person. Her hair is straight and it looks longer than it was earlier.  The weight of the hair resting on her head is lighter.  I can’t believe that she is me. This miracle cream stripped the ugliness out of my hair. But it wasn’t over yet; after another hour of sitting impatiently on a pillow that brings my head to the dryer, I’m released from the punishment of having “black people hair.”

​Big bouncy curls fall from the rollers that construct them. Everyone in the salon is staring at my hair. “Ay, que Linda!” they keep repeating. These Spanish people in this salon finally accept my hair. “Now you look like your father’s mother, too bad you didn’t get her eye color.” I guess all the pretty traits that I don’t have just make me unfavorable to her.

​We’re walking through the street; my hair is long and flowing in the wind. I never knew it would be able to reach my waist. It's pretty, at least that’s what everyone in the street is saying to this short six-year-old girl.  I feel so beautiful. For once I love my hair. In this moment I’m glad that the mayonnaise burned the “black people hair" out of me. I run upstairs and play with my hair in the mirror; it’s so soft I can run my fingers through it.  

I am swaying my hair back and forth when my mother walks into the room. She is looking at me looking at myself in the mirror and then she says, “You’re not pretty so stop smiling.”

Writer Justine Wright, who grew up in the Bronx, is a freshman at the University at Albany, State University of New York. She plans to be a biology major.

Friday, October 07, 2011

"Now My Garden"

By Anjana Deshpande

She didn’t have to, but she introduced
me to the lilac, that afternoon.
pulled a branch towards me,
taught me the lilac scent.

And that’s my basil…
And my tomatoes are in the cage
because hungry deer nibble at it.
And those are my peonies …
she opened her hands,
flat and wide,
how does one explain peonies ?

Then the azalea bushes,
and some others (I forgot which)
that had pricked her son
when he planted them.

And then there was the lavender.

She crushed some,
and held out a
fragrant palm.

There, under a maple,
leaving the men to their talks
of basement leaks
and attic insulation

she stood in the garden
helping me grow roots.

Writer Anjana Deshpande is a Licensed Social Worker and a Certified Poetry Therapist who recently founded the "Center for Therapeutic Writing." As a therapist, Anjana works with a wide variety of individuals, including veterans, to help empower them through poetry and other writing. She has published papers on her work with the veterans and the elderly, and has given several workshops on the transformative powers of writing. She makes her home outside Philadelphia with her husband and two children.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Wall Street Protest -- A Cry for Campaign Finance Reform?

By Claudia Ricci

This post appeared first on Wednesday, October 5, 2011 on the Huffington Post.

Is it any wonder that the Wall Street occupation is capturing the country's attention? Who among us isn't deeply frustrated and fearful and just plain fed up? The fact is, everyone has had it with the recession that's never gone away. There's no end in sight to the housing crisis or to our record levels of unemployment. Too many people just don't have jobs, nor do they have any confidence or hope of getting reemployed in the future. It feels like everywhere you turn, the news is pitiful.

Meanwhile, government is in perpetual gridlock. Cynicism seems only too reasonable: too often legislators talk a good game when they are running. But then they get into office, and everything just stays the same.

Three years ago, the nation went to the polls amidst a wild outpouring of support for a silver-tongued man who seemed capable of making a real difference in the White House. He was elected by record numbers of first-time voters and with a giddy enthusiasm from young and old people alike -- we hadn't seen the likes of it in decades. The country seemed poised on the edge of a new progressive era.

Soon enough, though, it became clear that was all an illusion. What was that Obama used to say about hope? Hard to remember. Obama went back and forth -- one day standing up to the banks and insurance companies -- the next day giving in to the big money that's captured both political parties. Some of us feel like such demoralized dopes for believing that a candidate could really act tough against corporate money.

Like the rest of us, the "kids" are rather desperate, and looking for hope. They represent a generation that faces a dismal, if not completely hopeless, job market. Sure, there is theater and theatrics in the occupation, but at heart, the protesters are saying very serious things, things that everyone should already know: that the economic and political systems in this country are broken and profoundly unfair and flawed at their very heart.

The protesters have been criticized for not articulating their demands, but if you ask any of them why they are there, they are pretty damn clear in delivering a coherent and compelling message. They articulate what everybody knows to be true: too often, it's the big bucks corporations -- now regarded under the law as individuals entitled to free speech and other human rights -- that dictate law-making and governing in this country. It's the big banks, the big insurance companies, the big stockbrokers, etc. etc. who call the shots, and who have got Congress' and the president's ear.

Corporations wield way too much power and steer our country, while the rest of us are powerless. We sit back and suffer the consequences.

So now what? While the protest stirs up at Wall Street's doorstep, the only meaningful way to fix the system is to initiate serious campaign finance reform at all levels of government. In other words, we must institute changes that will enable us to elect individuals who are not beholden to large corporate interests.

Is that possible? Is there a set of legislators out there ready to lead the fight to bring fundamental reform to the way we elect our leaders? And if so, might it be time for them to step forward to lead the protesters toward this constructive change?

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Stuck in an Elevator -- Please, Let me Live On the First Floor!

By Lexus Ulter

Everyone has fears and most of the time, people say, “Face your fears.”

All I can say to that is "Hell No!"

If I’m scared of something I stay as far as I can away from it. One fear I have is elevators, but since I live on the 13th floor in Mohawk Tower on the SUNY campus, I can’t stay away from the elevator.

When I was first assigned my room on the 13th floor, I kept telling myself I would take the stairs up now and then, but somehow I never do. I never really thought that I would get stuck in the elevator. But then one day, it happened.

I, Lexus L. Ulter, got stuck in the elevator.

I remember it like it was yesterday, why? because it WAS yesterday! It was nine o’ clock in the morning and I still had 10 minutes to get to class. It was a day like no other; I woke up on time, took a shower, brushed my teeth and got dressed. Before I left I sprayed a little perfume on me -- it smelled like baby powder. As I waited, I thought about being late to class. I could get marked absent and I didn’t want that to happen, so I pushed the elevator button a second time, as if that somehow would make it come faster. It didn’t.

I got in the elevator and there was a girl already inside. I had never seen her before. The elevator door closed and dropped down a few stops and another girl came in, I had never seen her either. The elevator started to move again, at its slow pace. The elevator read “2” and was heading toward "1." The elevator bounced a little and stopped, and then the alarm went off. The doors didn’t open and every button on the elevator was lit up.

That’s when I realized that I was officially stuck in the elevator. I was so pissed off because one, I’m terrified of elevators and two, I didn’t have service to call someone and tell them I was going to be late to class because I was stuck in the elevator. Three girls that didn’t know each other were stuck in an elevator with no escape.

I turned to look at the other two girls. I could almost smell the fear from them; they were as scared as me. The air in the elevator felt as if it was getting thinner every minute. I started to feel as if I could barely breathe. The alarm made me feel more scared than ever, I wished it would turn off but it never did. I recalled something scary my uncle had once told me, “An elevator will never drop unless the wire is cut. Aside from that, it will only shoot up.” Who wouldn’t be scared by that?

One of the girls panicked. So just kept pressing the alarm button as many times as she could, then she started to try to read the directions for “If You Get Stuck in The Elevator.” We all squinted to try to read it but we couldn't because some idiot had scratched the paper up.

We pressed the “Call” button and we heard ringing, then someone picked up, but we couldn’t hear a word they said, because the stupid alarm wouldn’t shut up. So we yelled. We yelled, “WE ARE STUCK IN THE MOHAWK TOWER ELEVATOR AND WE ARE ON THE FIRST FLOOR!!”

The person on the other end sounded like they were mumbling something and hung up. We thought we were screwed. We started a little conversation; we all introduced ourselves and told each other we would always remember each other. The girl who wasn’t panicking called 911. She told them where we were and they said they were on their way.

Ten minutes went by and we were still waiting, waiting for someone to save us. I didn’t want to die in an elevator, that would be horrible and honestly I wasn’t ready to die at that moment. I just kept thinking about my family and my boyfriend, I missed them and didn’t want to be separated from them so soon in my life.

One thing that also went through my mind was the time I had gotten stuck in the elevator once before. It was about a year ago and I was with my older sister. That was the most traumatizing experience of my life.

All of a sudden, we started to hear banging. We all jumped from the first bang and moved next to each other on the wall away from the door. The person on the other side started to yell to us, but once again, the dumb alarm was going off. We could hear them a little, so we started to do as they told us. We pushed the door together, and then there were a few more bangs.

Finally, the doors opened and I ran out first. I didn’t cry which surprised me since I felt like I would. I couldn’t believe that the girl who called “911” got in trouble for it, but I was just happy to be alive.

The happiness didn’t last long, though, because I remembered, I still had class. I ran to class thinking my teacher would probably mark me absent. Once I got to the physics building, I ran inside to see my classmates sitting in the hallway. My teacher hadn't even arrived yet. All I could say was “WOW.”

Ever since that day, I haven’t stepped foot in the middle elevator. I just don’t trust it at all. If I push the elevator button and that one comes, I wait for the next one. On my application for housing next semester, I will write, “I want to live on a floor below eight and above two, please and thank you.”

Lexus Ulter is a freshman at the University at Albany, State University of New York. She grew up in Washington Heights and graduated from Riverdale Kingsbridge Academy in the Bronx. She is considering majoring in sociology or social welfare.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

And Now as Police Arrest 700 on the Brooklyn Bridge ARE we looking at the "American Fall?"

By Claudia Ricci

When it started just a few weeks ago, the Occupy Wall Street movement was largely dismissed by the mainstream media.

A bunch of "kids" had taken over a park in the financial district of Manhattan. Inspired by the Arab spring uprisings in Egypt and elsewhere, the protesters were calling out to the world to "end the monied corruption of our [American] democracy." But what exactly were their demands? Some media accounts portrayed the protest as silly, focusing on the kids who took off their clothes or wore funny hats. The group was faulted for having no unified message.

But now that 700 protesters have been arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge in a rather ugly encounter, it's going to be a lot harder to ignore the seriousness of the movement anymore. According to police, the only protesters arrested were those who chose to use the roadway rather than the Brooklyn Bridge walkway.

But the protesters have a different story to tell. According to the New York Times account, "many protesters said they believed the police had tricked them, allowing them onto the bridge, and even escorting them partway across, only to trap them in orange netting after hundreds had entered."

“The cops watched and did nothing, indeed, seemed to guide us onto the roadway,” said Jesse A. Myerson, a media coordinator for Occupy Wall Street who marched but was not arrested. A video on YouTube shows the incident.

Frustration in the U.S. over the economy is growing more and more widespread. We are headed into another presidential election cycle with little hope that any candidate really offers a way out of the mess we're in. A generation of young people has come of age to face unemployment figures that show no signs of turning around. Is it any wonder that the protest is quickly gaining steam and that the media now seems to be taking Occupy Wall Street more seriously?

Protesters are using what they call a "human microphone" system to broadcast messages during protests. One person speaks, and the crowd picks up the message and shouts it out to the rest of the group. And if you listen to what the protesters are saying, they are voicing the anger, frustration and despair that so many of us feel.

One young man who joined the protest in Manhattan -- he works as a cook in Columbus Ohio -- put it this way: "we want to end corporate personhood and the unequal influence that corporations have in politics...we want to give a voice back to the people, the majority of people don't have a voice and a small amount of corporations who have all the money have a voice right now so we want to change that..."

On the New York Times' opinion page, columnist Nicholas Kristof is still saying that Occupy Wall Street's "sloganeering" is "pretty silly." But he's also taking the protest seriously enough to offer a list of demands that he thinks the group should adopt as they demand changes in the financial system.

Meanwhile, liberal activist and former White House advisor Van Jones is predicting what he calls "the American Fall."

The Huffington Post
quotes Jones as saying: "There's a generation of Americans who are looking around and saying 'What is the American Dream going to look like for me?' They're going to be standing up."

"You are going to see an American Fall, an American Autumn, just like we saw the Arab Spring."