About Me

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Tracie Skarbo was motivated to write by her father, who was her biggest supporter. “He was always behind me, rallying me on with my writing. I would always see him with a book in hand. He gave me a great appreciation for the written word, and the power and responsibility that writers have to shape those who read their words. He also taught me to respect nature and to value the beauty within it; my reflections on my environment are just an extension of this.” Skarbo was raised on Vancouver Island and is working on her next two books.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Interview with Stephanie Rogers : Sitting with Death and the Dying

I wanted to do an interview with Stephanie Rogers for a long time, and I was originally going to do one about her latest writing project, “Tom’s”. But then the Sandy Hook Elementary shootings in Newtown, Connecticut rocked the world and I knew this interview would take on a different direction all together. Please join me in welcoming Stephanie Rogers…

Can you tell me how you got started with hospice? 

 All my life, I've been drawn to death. Not in a morbid sort of way, but curious and fascinated by what happens at the end of this life. In the late '80s, I was very involved with an AIDS support group in Houston. I learned a great deal about death and dying during those years, though they were very difficult. In 1990, my father died of Cancer and Hospice was incredible not only to Daddy but to us, his family. So when, in late 2003, my entire world sort of exploded and I found myself looking to create a new one, I took off six months, collected unemployment and began to volunteer for Hospice. At the end of that six months, I was hired as a Bereavement Coordinator -- completely without credentials, based solely on the hunches of a couple of people. It was definitely one of those “Meant To Be things”.

What kind of training is involved?

It really depends upon what role you want to fulfill in Hospice. A background in healthcare doesn't necessarily mean you'll be successful or useful in Hospice, much less happy and fulfilled. I'm now a Spiritual and Grief Counselor for a very small start-up Hospice that's only just completing its first year. Prior to that, I worked in nationally-known (and publicly traded) Hospices. Although through the years there came to be many negatives in corporate-run Hospices, one thing they did for me was to reimburse my Grief Counseling education. I already had a BA in Theatre (which has come in handier than you can ever imagine) and through their reimbursement program, I was able to complete a BS in Grief Counseling and Grief Therapy.

What do you do to pamper yourself after working in such a stressful and an emotional position throughout the day? 

Ummmm... nothing really. I know I should, but honestly, I don't. There seems never to be enough hours in the day.
Do you work with those facing the ends of their lives as well as the families of the dying? 

Yes with both and sometimes with their professional caregivers.

What is the hardest thing about your position?

Watching families tear each other up because of greed. And it doesn't have anything to do with the size of an "estate" -- I've seen brothers come to physical blows over a rotted old recliner and seen families act with grace and generosity with hundreds of thousands of dollars. It's a situation in which most anyone is helpless and it's very sad to watch.

What is the most rewarding? 

This is basically impossible to answer because there are so many rewards and each reward is specific to the family with whom I work. Overall, working in hospice has been one of the greatest blessings of my life.

Is your poetry an outlet for some of the things you experience day to day at hospice and how you come to an understanding of the human condition in general? 

Yes it is. But it seems that most of my Hospice stories come out in prose. I'm slowly working on a collection of stories from my first years in Hospice -- but it's proving more difficult than I expected. I want to be so careful in telling the stories of my patients and their families that sometimes I get locked out of the stories themselves. I've written a few poems about individual patients and those have been easier for me, but don't tell all that should be known about these incredible people.

I think perhaps I get more "release" from writing about things other than my patients, or even death and dying. I'm very excited about a collaborative project I'm working on with a very talented friend. We're planning to self-publish (something neither of us knows anything about) and are carefully choosing what will/won't be included. Working with someone this way is very new to me and I'm loving it. 

You said that you had a BA in Theater and that it came in handy. Could you elaborate on that for us?

The BA in Theatre taught me so many things -- discipline, improvisation, flexibility; how to work in an ensemble, how to give and how to take direction, how to audition (which is all any job interview ever is), how to take criticism and rejection and still feel worthwhile, how to work a room, how to win an audience of any kind, any size, anywhere, and how to -- always -- "find my light". But the most important thing -- about my BA in Theatre -- it gave me lifelong friends of the caliber that most people only dream of having. :-)
You are writing a regular column for Tina Armstrong's 'zine, "The F Bomb", could you tell us more about this? Where can we find it?

The F Bomb is a wonderful 'zine that I was introduced to by Keith Landrum. I'm finding that it's much, much easier to be edited than to edit. I've done quite a bit of editing in the past 2 or 3 years and, while very rewarding, it can also be tedious, and, depending upon the author's ego, infuriating. Tina is an excellent Editor -- clear and concise about what she needs and yet very open to suggestion. In fact, that's how I began the column. She posted a request for regular columns and I said, "How about one about death"? Not every Editor (even of an independent 'zine) would have the guts to say, "Oh wow, sure!", but Tina did and so we're on our way. My first column will be in January's F Bomb and I'm very excited about that.
What questions has working with those close to death answered for you on a personal level? 

I'm not sure they're answers so much as verifications, you know? It's like knowing, from birth, deep deep down that we're all the same -- all living beings -- that we all want happiness and don't want sorrow and that there are truly no differences at all between any of us. All of that has been verified by the lives I've been honored enough to witness. I've also see very clearly that we do reap what we so -- karma isn't something far off, something to experience in some other lifetime -- ok, so, yes, it's that, too, but it's really much more immediate, much more Now than we realize. A lifetime's karma colors a death bed.

In light of the recent shootings in the US, how should we approach the topic of death with our children?
The shootings... It's impossible for me to over emphasize the effect that these latest murders have had on the human race -- not just children, not just the US, but the human race. 

To answer your question about talking to small children about death, I have only two words: Love and Truth. About the shootings or about any death. Children basically have no problem with death -- they are born accepting it as a part of life and must be taught to fear death just as they must be taught prejudice and hate. Adults project their own fears about death onto children. A child told honestly about death in a language appropriate to their development age, is far more accepting, compassionate and resilient than most adults. Truth is truth -- the thing to remember is that the WORDS you use to speak Truth to a 4 year old are not the same as those you use for a 14 year old. 

As far as the shootings go -- how can we explain what makes absolutely no sense? When any death occurs, children want to be reassured that they will be safe and cared for no matter what. This is even truer when the situation is something as horrific as the murder of children. Be honest with your children -- tell them what arrangements have been made to care for them should anything happen to Mom or Dad (if no arrangements have been made, MAKE THEM) -- tell them what the authority figures in their lives are doing to make sure they are safe -- teach them about mental illness -- try to avoid making the shooter out to be "a bad man" -- judgment doesn't help a child and may well only add to their fears.

Over the years you have been working in this field have people been more openly talking about death and their fears? Or does it in your mind continue to be a closed subject? 

Yes and No -- we in the West are so pitiful when it comes to death. From the moment we took death out of the home and moved it into hospitals, nursing homes, battlefields, funeral parlors (about the time of the Civil War) we began to do ourselves a huge disservice. And while we have, in the last ten years or so, become a bit more open about at least acknowledging death exists, we are still so lost. All you have to do is look at the ridiculous fear of aging we have, the plastic bodies and faces that we try to keep "perfect" when they never really were to begin with -- the fact that our cultural models get younger and thinner and less realistic year by year -- all of that is a direct reflection of our overwhelming fear of death.

Thanks so much Stephanie for this candid look into what you do with your days. If our readers would like to know more about Stephanie or see more of her writing, her book “Toms” is linked below and her blog “A Crown of Dark Water” is as well. 

Stephanie’s Amazon author page:

Toms at Amazon:

Toms Kindle:

Stephanie’s Blog:

If you would like to know more about F Bomb, the zine by Tina Armstrong and Stephanie’s column called "The Eye of Nephthys", please visit

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Christmas Surprise – Told by Puddles the Cat

Out in back of the house, in the sparsely lit snowy alley there was a gathering of sorts, a gathering of the feline persuasion.  Many had gathered to hear about the latest exploits of Puddles the cat.

“So you see boys, I was upstairs in the Mrs.’s bedroom.  I was minding my own business when all of a sudden I couldn’t resist the call of those pretty parcels, and let me tell you, those baskets made some noise...”  Puddles shifted on the garbage can and began telling the story again.
“All that shiny paper holding in all those goodies.  Those goodies not only could I smell, but when I came upon that transparent paper and actually saw the booty, whooeee...what else can I say?  I just couldn’t help myself.  You know how it is right?  Like when they leave the meat defrosting on the counter, or better yet they leave the turkey cooling in the kitchen before they cut it up.  You’re sitting on the warm linoleum giving the soulful eyes, to no avail.  What else is a cat to do?  Year after year it’s the same holiday torture show.”
“But Puddles, they always cook up the gizzards for us, and if we are really good we get gravy too.”
“Hello?  Who said that?  You down in front?”  Puddles pointed a fury paw to the tabby in the third row.  Heads turned.  “Boy...are you new?  Have you been listening to me?  Don’t you see the plight I am explaining to you?  Who brought this kid?  Ya, I know, no one is gonna fess up to that one.  Where was I?  Oh yeah, so I ask you what is a cat to do?  Here is the opportunity of a life time, am I wrong?  You’re all looking at me as though I am floating three feet above you ... would you have passed up the booty in those baskets?  I don’t think so ... and if you did you’re a traitor to the feline fur coat!  Need I go on?  All right then, let me tell you how it was.  Okay, I am perched upon the bed right, and I have one hell of a view of the cheese.  Yes, you heard me right there was cheese and Damn if it didn’t taste good.  Before I knew it I was in there like a shot ... I clawed my way through that red cellophane paper and I was seeing through rose colored glasses let---me---tell---you!!  Somehow, it all made sense.  All those years of holiday torture, wrapped up in that one moment...it was like irony...What?  Okay, what fool piped up with ebony?  I said IRONY not IVORY!! I heard that.  You might think I don’t know who you are, but I’ll be dealing with you after.  Don’t kid yourself, Ebony my Wiskas...”

Friday, December 7, 2012

Interview with Steve Karpicz: Have you ever wondered about the guys and gals who keep our power on? Come and get an inside look!

Could you tell us a little about what you do for a living Steve?  How long have you been working in this field?

Transmission line reflected in pond
I started with the company in September of 2000 in the call center as my way of getting my foot in the door and eventually transferring to a field job. That opportunity eventually came, and on April 2002 I transferred to my current position. I work in Substation Operations and Maintenance, which means I work primarily in electrical substations. If you live in a rural area, then you’ve probably seen those big electrical yards out in a field somewhere. That’s what I work in. In Boston most of what we do is either underground or indoor, so we tend to blend in with all the other utility workers.
Transmission line bushing and cable
What kind of training do you need for such a venture?

The training is layered, involving two different aspects. First is the electrical operations side, which involves controlling the flow of electricity along the power lines, and second is the mechanical side, which involves everything else, from how to repair equipment, wiring, battery work, plumbing, pretty much anything you can think of. Substations are a lot more involved than just containing power lines. You’ve got relays to monitor and protect the lines, circuit breakers which come in various shapes and sizes (the bigger breakers are about the size of a small compact car), fire protection systems which involve either water or CO2, excavation for underground work...the list is endless. It takes two years to complete the mechanical training and a year for the electrical operations side, culminating with an oral exam at the end which you must pass in order to be qualified by the company to operate the equipment on your own. In addition to that, we have continuous on the job training for new equipment as well as refresher training for things you may not have done in a while. In the classroom you can only cover so much material. It’s really the field experience where you learn, and that’s always an ongoing process.
What is the scariest thing you have had to face on the job?
Harborwalk, Boston
I’ve had electrical equipment explode in front of me twice, both energized at 14,000 volts. Once there was enough of a warning that I was able to run to safety before it exploded, and the other time it was so unexpected and I was so new (and therefore naive) about what could happen that there wasn’t even enough time to be afraid. It wasn’t until much later on when I had more experience and time to reflect on what happened that I started playing around with the variables of the situation. What if I was standing a little to the left? What if I was the one who threw the switch when the explosion occurred? What if, what if, what if. It’s a question that haunts me now.
What do you find the most challenging about your job?
 Intersection of Kingston and Bedford St
One of the most challenging things is battling complacency. Like any other job, the routine of doing the same task over and over again builds a sense of familiarity. Muscle memory, paint-by-numbers, could do this with my eyes closed sort of routine. But in this business that’s the one thing you have to avoid. You go to open a circuit breaker not paying attention and oops, you’re at the wrong location and you just dumped the Back Bay or the Prudential Building. Or the State House, or air traffic control for the northeast. Or worse, you’ve operated something that wasn’t safe to do so and now you’ve blown something up or injured somebody. I’m certainly not alone in this either. Having been a union steward for a while, I’ve heard my share of stories and sat in on plenty of hearings where the one thing that went wrong was that the person doing the job wasn’t paying attention. Despite all the obvious reasons to do so, staying focused is a constant battle.

Equipment from one of the original substations built in 1903.
I have seen some of the photos that you have taken of old machinery that was used. Is this a hobby of yours?

Photography’s definitely a hobby, which fits in nicely with my fascination with history. The utility I work for dates back to the 1900s. In fact, there’s still equipment in service from that time, back when (as cliché as this sounds) things were built to last. We have equipment on our system designed and built by Thomas Edison. Some of our older equipment has ended up in the Smithsonian. We have substations that are decades old, and an archive with all sorts of historical artifacts. I can go to a substation and look in the station log from 1918 and see what time the street lights were turned on and who did it. Not to mention the insider’s view I’m provided by working here, that glimpse into the inner workings of how things get done. It seems almost offensive not to take pictures of some of this stuff, to document in my own sense how things were and how they’ve changed. It’s not just the historical aspect either. The artistic side of me is constantly drawn to the lines and curves of power lines. The gentle rise and fall of cables strung from pole to pole. I’ve developed a whole sense of aesthetic beauty around what I do, and that’s part of what I try and capture with pictures.

Top of radio tower, Sudbury
I have also seen some of the photos of you up in the high towers looking out as you were doing repairs. Can you tell us a little about that and did you ever have troubles with heights?

The best I can remember I felt a little dizzy the first time I went up on an aerial lift. It was a surreal moment, partly due to dealing with the fear for the first time, and partly because of the excitement of the experience. It didn’t take long until I got used to the heights, until the first time it got a little breezy. That was a harder adjustment to make, but in the end you learn to trust your safety harness and all the other equipment you use. It also helps that we can refuse to do a job should we deem it unsafe for any reason. Safety is taken very seriously, and no one is ever forced to do anything they’re not comfortable with. That being said, the only fear I really have going up in the air is that I’ll drop my camera.

You work with a source of power that could kill you with any wrong step, or if any of the people around you miss-step, how do you deal with that? Is the fear something you just put at the back of your mind or do you just find a way to deal with it?
I’ve come to the conclusion that I have at the very least a preoccupation with death, bordering on mild obsession. Thinking about it comes and goes in spurts, and I’ve written about it ad nauseam, or at least that’s how it feels to me. Yet I still return to the subject of death and work over and over. That’s part of how I deal with it. As for when it comes time to work on electrical equipment, I’ve developed a routine around it. First, I’ll usually spend some time thinking about what could go wrong and how to handle it (example: if something catches on fire: where’s the nearest exit?). Next is making sure I have what I need to do the job, including any tools and / or safety equipment. Then when it comes time to operate the equipment, like crank open a set of disconnects energized at 115K volts, it’s a combination of staying focused on the job, paying attention to what’s happening, and faith, which for me would include belief that both the equipment will work as it’s intended and that everything will turn out all right.
Rooftop sunset, Ave de Lafayette

Do you have special suits that you wear on the towers and in the helicopters?

Unfortunately my department doesn’t deal with the helicopter aspect, so I don’t get to wear one of those fancy mesh suits needed to work on the high lines, but as far as the towers are concerned, we don’t need any special protective equipment. Tower work in our department requires that any line be both de-energized and grounded, so the only safety equipment required is your fall protection, although some guys do prefer using rubber gloves when going hands-on as well.

If you could change any aspect facing you on the job what would it be?

The same thing that almost every job in the world has to deal with: office politics and bureaucracy.

Do you see evidence that we are going to need to cut back on our use of energy or be "in the dark" so to speak?

I think the evidence is pretty clear that changes need to be made in all aspects: how much we use, how we use it, how we deliver it, and most importantly, how we produce it. There are three basic things you need to generate electricity: a magnet, a conductor, and relative motion (i.e. some way of moving the magnet over the conductor to propel the electrons). Using fossil fuels to generate electricity has several drawbacks, all of which are well-known at this stage of the game. Fortunately, interest in renewable energy is on the rise. Solar panels are increasing in popularity, and some people are even able to sell excess solar power back to their utilities. Same goes for wind turbines. There’s also great advances in battery technology which look very promising. These types of advances on the individual level will also alleviate the other big issue - our infrastructure. The only way to keep up with current demand is to modify the existing infrastructure (aka the band-aid approach) as opposed to completely starting from scratch, which when you consider the age of our infrastructure would actually make more sense. There’s no conceivable way it could be done at this point. Despite recent federal funding into infrastructure upgrades it’s like trying to fill in the Grand Canyon with a shovel and pail. We’re too far behind. Would reducing our energy consumption help? Of course, and new advances along that front are being made. But we also need to be innovative with respect to our infrastructure in order to be able to keep up with current demand as well as plan for long-term projected use. The combination of dwindling resources as well as infrastructure is really a two-headed monster.

Thanks so much Steve, for taking the time out and giving us a behind-the-scenes look as an electrical utility Operator.  I have learnt a lot from your candid answers. 

For our readers, please check back with us in the coming weeks as Steve and I will be tackling another post about his time working through Hurricane Sandy, and the devestation she left. 

*** All photographs provided by Steve Karpicz.


Swirling Sea Dervish

Storm ravaged,
sand strangled,
swirling dervish;
a graceful sea ballerina no longer.

Why this longing to mourn?
Where have your lush locks shorn?

Gentle mother of the sea,
tossed amongst rock litter,
while stoic logs and reeds
cried silently to wailing winds.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Interview with Katley Brown; A woman with a passion for Bulgarian folklore!

I understand you are from Bulgaria, and you have a love of Balkan Folklore?

Believe it or not, I am not from Bulgaria! I was born in the United States, in New York City. My dad (who is deceased) was from Puerto Rico. My mother’s family is also from Puerto Rico, although she was born in New York. My love of Balkan folklore started many years ago. I used to listen to shortwave radio in the 1970’s, and in New York there were many foreign radio stations that played music from all over the world. My favorite music was from Latin America and Eastern Europe. My relatives got together on holidays, danced, and played music from Latin America. They had a collection of old LP’s (records, remember those?) My first excursions into folk music outside Latin America were to Germany, Hungary, and what used to be Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia. I didn’t discover Bulgarian folk music until much later, when I started dancing.

I enjoy your blog where you share Bulgarian Folk Music and all sorts of interesting things that are included with it, the costumes, and the instruments.   

I love it when people read my blog. Maybe because my goal is to make a relatively obscure subject accessible to everyone. I have read blogs on folklore that were scholarly and downright boring. Don’t get me wrong, they provide valuable information the problem is how it’s presented. 


How long have you been writing about this?

I have been writing about Balkan/Bulgarian folklore since 2008. The blog started as a private journal that I kept on the computer. It went public in February 2010. The first few posts were rather silly, I wasn’t taking it seriously. I take it more seriously now, although my funny side always comes out. My family called me the “Alien” because my taste in music was definitely unusual. So I called my journal “Alien from the Planet Bulgaria.” Later when I created the blog I named it “The Alien Diaries.” At first people thought it was about extraterrestrials and UFO’s! Those are on my blog, too, the Bulgarians have an avid interest in these things. There is even a Bulgarian folk song which went into outer space!

You also dance don’t you? Could you tell us more about this, and how long you have been dancing? 

I’ve been dancing since 1984. During that time I was working in Manhattan. A friend and colleague of mine used to go to folk dances held every summer in Central Park and she gave me the name of a place downtown where I could learn to dance. The class that best fit into my schedule was the beginner Balkan class on Friday nights. The first time I went I was hooked. Being part of the folk dance community was very rewarding. I had a lot of fun and made a number of friends. Three of us get together almost every Friday night for the dances in Amherst Massachusetts, and there is another group of friends that get together every summer to go to ethnic festivals in this region. When I visit family in New York, sometimes I go to the dances there. I have been amazed at how many people remember me even though I haven’t seen them in years!

Do you have a favorite song, instrument and dance?

Now, that’s a tough question. One of my favorite Bulgarian folk songs went into outer space on the Voyager spacecraft back in 1977. The song is Izlel e Delyu Haidutin, sung by Valya Balkanska. My favorite instrument is probably the gaida (bagpipe) although I couldn’t play one to save my life. It requires a lot of lung power. I like the accordion and the clarinet, too. I played the clarinet for two years, it was part of a course required by my school. Because of this I have a basic grounding in music theory. When I transferred to another school, I never took it up again and haven’t played clarinet in many, many years. My favorite dances are Dospatsko and Mitro from the Rhodope region of Bulgaria. I am also very fond of rachenitsa, of which there are many different varieties, my favorite in this group is one from Kyustendil.

Why do you find Bulgarian music so attractive?

I find Bulgarian music attractive because of its unique sound and unusual rhythms. It is definitely an acquired taste, and many non-Bulgarians love it (except for my family). For a small country, Bulgaria is quite musically diverse. There are seven folklore regions.

Have you ever been to Bulgaria yourself? Do you have family there?

Unfortunately I have never been to Bulgaria. A trip there is definitely on my bucket list. I did live in Germany many years ago, before the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Back in those days, there was an “Iron Curtain” between the West and the communist controlled Eastern Bloc. My husband was in the U.S. military and in a field where it would have been difficult, if not impossible to visit the Communist-controlled countries, of which Bulgaria was one. My German co-workers, many of who were from East Germany, discouraged my from visiting the East, and told me a number of horror stories, so I never went. I like to visit places off the beaten path, and in Eastern Europe tourists weren’t allowed to do that. When the wall fell, I had three small children. I haven’t been to Europe since. I’m hoping to go back when I retire.

Thanks so much Katley for taking time out of your busy life to give us a look at your passion!  If you, our readers, would like to see more of Katley and find out more about her blog "The Alien Diaries", please follow this link.

*** All photos provided by Katley Brown

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Interview with Deana Landrum

"Distorted Beauty" Photo By Deana Landrum
As some of you know I interviewed Keith Landrum, the creator of Every Reason Zine last week. In that interview we talked about some of the photography that appeared in the magazine shot by Keith’s wife Deana. I have always found her to be such an inspiration and thought she would complement the previous interview nicely. So please let me do the honor of introducing you to Deana Landrum and show you some of her amazing images.

When did you start your love affair with photography?

"Loxley" Photo By Deana Landrum

Ever since I was little, I've loved taking pictures. In elementary school, my friend and I would pretend we were models and take pictures of each other. I still have them, they're hilariously bad. I was a terrible photographer. In 1995 my friend Scott got me a job at a camera shop where he worked. Until then, I had no idea how much control the person who printed the photos had and how much a difference a SLR made. It made me want a SLR. I didn't get one until several years after that, when my dad bought me one for Christmas. I bought the book they used to teach photography class at our local college and another book on exposure. I read every chance I got and spent a ton of money practicing. I guess the actual beginning, was when I got a SLR.

"Abandoned" Photo by Deana Landrum

Do you prefer black and white photography?
No not necessarily. It really just depends on what I'm shooting. To me, black and white brings out deeper emotions for me. I think that color can sometimes be distracting, whereas with black and white, I'm automatically drawn to the subject. Like a black and white portrait draws me to the person's eyes and I feel like I can see their character better than if it was in color. I shoot color for things where it's the color that I feel makes it what it is. I think of color as happy and black and white as emotional. Wait. Did I say I don't prefer black and white? Never mind. I take that back.

 "Doofus" Photo by Deana Landrum

What kinds of things do you like to take photos of?

I love old buildings, doors and windows and stairs. They seem so mysterious to me. I always want to know the back story of who lived there. What's really awesome is when I can get a model to pose and add even more interest to the photograph.  

Do you enhance your photos with any kind of software?

That's an area that I really need to work on. Right now I don't do a whole lot of enhancing. Sometimes I use Photoshop or Picasa. I need to learn more about Photoshop. My favorite photos I've taken I shot with film and had them printed by hand. They're beautiful, no enhancing needed.

"Parking Gargage" Photo by Deana Landrum

What camera are you using?

At the moment I'm using a digital Canon PowerShot 110. It's just a consumer camera, but it does have a manual setting, which I use most. I had a professional film camera, the Nikon F100, until desperate measures lead to me having to sell it. I still have my Holga though. I love shooting with the Holga and the whole creepy look I get. It's unpredictable and I like the anticipation of seeing how the prints turn out.

"Persistence" Photo By Deana Landrum


What inspires you when taking photos?

I'm inspired by many things, abandoned buildings, light breaking through the trees, fog in the early morning and street lights at night. If I don't see inspiration in the distance, I move closer and shoot in macro mode. Often times, things that look boring at a distance, are truly beautiful, you just have to get closer to see the details.

"The Forest of Eyes" Photo By Deana Landrum

"Woman's Room" Photo By Deana Landrum

Can you describe a typical photo day trip? What is your process? 

Most of the time I'll see things that pique my interest while I'm just out running errands. I remember the spot and will go back to it when I have time and the lighting is good. Usually the whole family goes because my oldest daughter needs to shoot for her photography class. I have a photographer friend and we used to just get in the car, pick a direction and just drive. That was always an adventure and we're planning another long overdue adventure soon.

What are your major influences when you are creating photos?

I don't know that I have any specific influences. I just have a drive to capture things through the lens that, oftentimes, gets overlooked. Such as a restroom at a rundown gas station. When I started paying attention and looking for the finer details, I started seeing things in a whole different way.

Who inspires you?

I think everyone inspires me. Everyone who is creative or artistic in some way or another. Just seeing what other people do motivates me to get out and do something myself.

Thank you so much Deana for coming by and sharing your amazing gift with us today, I am so glad to share your images with our readers so they can be inspired by them as well. 

If you are looking for the link to the Keith Landrum interview you can find it here: http://tracieskarbo.blogspot.ca/2012/11/interview-with-keith-landrum.html

Saturday, November 24, 2012


A homemade bean bag
At my root chakra
The seated lotus
Erupts within me

My hearing stretches
And I listen to the earth’s heartbeat
The solid rhythm
Humming like the generator she is

She calls to me
Promising flight
If only I am brave enough
To take that first step

Kundalini yawns and stretches
Up my spine
Spiraling and igniting fire
Within my heart

White light
Empowers a lifting
I am no longer tied
To what was

I rise
And expand
Then shrink
Into a molecule

Form is no longer
A function
But a vanity
An attachment

In an instant
I am no longer
Where I was
But have traversed eons

My eyes grace
Birthing nebulas
Dying entities
Timeless space

My mind
Tries to force
Form upon them
Only to experience invisible laughter

Light and color
I have never known
Mesh together and deliver
Surreal music

I am alone
Yet surrounded by those
Who have come before me
To draw light and wisdom

Their voices align
Taking me to new heights
No longer am I afraid
Of what is to come

For I realize everything
Has been
And has gone
Only to come again

Like the waning tide-moods of the ocean

Over at dVerse Poets today, Mary has given us the word 'preparation' and asked us to write about some of the techniques we use, or what the word means to us.  I often use meditation for a means to de-stress or to unclutter my mind when things get hectic in my life.  This is just one of the experiences I have enjoyed with regular practice.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Interview with Keith Landrum

Have you ever wondered about how those ezines get started?  What does it take to get the ball rolling?  What can such a project morph into?  Come and meet Keith Landrum.  Talented beyond measure, he took his ideas and a dream and put them into action and ended up touching more people and causes he ever thought possible.

I understand you were the mastermind behind Every Reason Zine, how did this come about?

My friend, Tricia went with me to the annual punk fest here (Chattanooga) a few years back and we picked up some zines. I don't even think she had seen one before. I told her about the ones I had read & she encouraged me to start doing my own. So I did. Tricia made me do it!

What was the main vision of the Zine? The goal? Did it hold this pattern or morph into something all together different and surprising?

When I 1st started out, I had no idea what I was doing at all. So there was no goal. I didn't really even understand what other people who made zines were doing. That helped me out in terms of not having anything to influence the content or design. I was only interested in making a zine I'd want to read. I wasn't consciously thinking in terms of goal or purpose until the 4th or 5th issue. It never occurred to me to go beyond anything local. Ha ha! Of course it did later, and when the idea got in my head I started sending Every Reason all over the world and kept the price at 1 or 2 bucks so that it was accessible to everyone. That became the mission or goal- to get it in the hands of as many people as possible, mainly because I thought the words and images deserved it and it was my job as an editor to see that that happened. I never imagined it would go as far as it did. I never imagined that I would have GB Jones doing art for Every Reason, or so many wonderful, prominent underground poets grace the pages of my little zine. It's crazy seeing people's chapbooks or bios that reference Every Reason. Again, I can't believe it went as far as it did. I just got lucky I guess in terms of content. It's weird, because I guess people think I'm some dude who's really been around, but I'm not. I had no direction or anything, no one to explain how things worked. I just wanted to do it and found ways to do it. 

How long did you run with the Zine?

I did Every Reason just over 2 years. I'm still getting orders for back issues. 

                                           What challenges were the most difficult?
Finding money to fund it was my main challenge. I have a family of 4 to support, so money was always a concern. I had to find a way to print it free or cheaply, and by the end, postage alone was at least $150 an issue. Then there's work. I work 50-60+ hrs. a week at my job and sometimes I have to travel. Keeping up with everything and working and taking care of everything that happens with family obligations took its toll on me. Something had to give, so as much as I loved doing Every Reason, I just couldn't justify doing it anymore if I wanted to keep my sanity. That's why I walked away from it. I like to keep up appearances of being close to sane.

I know that your talented wife Deana had a hand in many of the black and white photos, your oldest daughter contributed works of art many times, and your youngest daughter would help putting the physical magazine together. I love that you had the whole family involved in the process. What was that like?

That happened just by them seeing what I was doing. I would pretty much just say to Deana, "Here's the cover of the new issue (holding up one of her photos), and I'm using all of these too!" Ha ha! She would always be cool with it. I would just dig through so many of her photos to see what fit. Deana would often have a story associated with the photo like "Do you know where that was taken?" or "Do you remember that guy who used to live by the..." She was always glad to have her photos seen. My oldest daughter, Loxley (16 years old) ignored my zine until I started asking her for artwork. Eventually she was saying "If you need artwork for the new issue, I have these that I did. You can look through this whole sketchbook and take what you want." Ha ha!! Then, once everything was printed, my youngest daughter, Madigan (6 years old) would just simply ask if she could help. Of course I'm not going to say no, even if I have to refold or restaple some. ha ha! She actually had a drawing in #8 I think. It was a screaming girl with sharp teeth. She would also decorate the packages sometimes with stickers and glitter. Ha ha! It was really cool having the whole gang involved though. It made it so much better, for me at least.

I know you were one of the contributing writers, and I have read and loved many of your articles.

Thanks! Initially, when I had no goal or any idea what I was doing, I was going to make a zine that just had my writing in it. Every Reason #1 was all me. Then I realized I couldn't fill a whole issue every 2 months, so I decided to ask my friends for words and art and stuff. I would just put whatever words I had at that time into the current issue. I probably shouldn't have though. I just didn't feel like I was at the level the contributors were. I was so honored to have so many talented writers contribute to what I was putting out. I was selfish in putting my own words in every issue. The last issue, ER #12 was void of any words by Keith Landrum. I have 1 poem in #11 and those 2 are the best issues. 

What are your thoughts on your next projects?

Right when Every Reason was on its way out, I did a zine called "Life Is Absurd". It was all older writings that had appeared elsewhere, including Every Reason. I have received good feedback from it, but I'm not sure if there will be an issue #2. I have something in the works right now with a dear friend of mine that includes my family as well. This is a low stress, no deadline type of thing. It will be awesome when it's all done. I have been involved in other things recently that I'm not proud of, so I walked away from them. My new project is completely different, so I'm excited about it and I want it to be the best I have to offer. 

Who are your major influences?

I think I'm influenced the most by my family. My wife, Deana, really inspires me to be creative. She spends every spare minute creating art in some form or another. I wish I could draw the way my daughter, Loxley does. I really envy her talent. She has a ton of work under her belt and has been in The Filth & Notes Magazine. Madigan is the most beautiful philosopher/stand-up comedian I've ever seen. Of course I'm biased, but I try to really feed off of her creativity and simplicity. She prevents me from taking myself too seriously. That is important because so many writers and artists think they are so much more than they are and the forget the reasons they started doing all of this to begin with. It is absolutely necessary to have a sense of humor. This needs to be reinforced as much as possible. 

You have another project called “The Blessing” could you tell me more about this?

The Blessing started as a joke. I accidentally started growing a beard because I had worked many consecutive days in a row or something like that. So I had the beginnings of a full on beard and I thought it looked cool so I didn't shave it. Deana didn't like what it was becoming and demanded I shave it. It was all itchy on her face or something, I really don't remember her initial protest, but I had to convince her to cease it. So I made up some story that, as ridiculous as it is, has some truth to it. I named my beard The Blessing. She didn't protest after that. At that point many of our friends had started showering my beard with wonderful compliments. Ha ha!

One of Deana's friends threatened to make a facebook page and call it The Blessing. I'm not a control freak, but if anyone was going to make a facebook page about my beard, it was going to be me. Here's the good part. I made a facebook page for The Blessing. I started out writing these...I don't know what they really are, but I call them The State Of The Blessing. Let's call them personal updates. Anyway, I did this in character at 1st. My character was a guy who was trying to deal with the beard he'd been blessed with and how it affected his life. Which is really me, but exaggerated.

Anyway, I started making stickers with The Blessing logo at work. The logo came from a drawing that a guy did of me. His name is John Sarmento. So everyone wanted those stickers, because by then The Blessing had kind of taken off. Then Deana, always thinking ahead, asked why I wasn't making any money off of this "Blessing thing". I told her that was a good idea. At that time, my friend, Moon, had sent me some home made things in the mail. Included in that package was a pouch with The Blessing logo on it. It was animal skin or something. Moon is Cherokee and she is "Native Hippie". She makes a lot of Native American Jewelry and art. Anyway, that gave me the idea to market The Blessing as a charity. So I started The Blessing/Moon auctions on ebay to raise money for charity.

So yeah, that's how I monetized something that originally started as a joke. I gave all the money I raised, and then some, to selected charities. We don't raise thousands, or even hundreds, but we raise about $100 an auction. I auction off things that I make or things other people make. So it's all done from the heart. I have been slacking lately though and I feel bad. I wish I could have had something for those folks out in NY when Sandy hit. I have a few things ready though, so I'll post an auction soon. Every little bit helps, even when we don't think it does, you know?

Keith, I have found you and your family an inspiration for so many reasons over the time I have had the good fortune of knowing you; the creative work you all put out into the world, the way you function as a family and the many things you do for others. Thanks so much for your time and for the detailed look into what it is like raising an ezine from the ground up.

If our readers would like to contact you for back issues of Every Reason or find a copy of “Life is Absurd”, or find out more about The Blessing or where The Blessings Auction site is could you please link us up?

Ok folks, if you have a facebook account you can find The Blessing and Every Reason information here:



Otherwise, here is the latest Every Reason Blog:


And the latest creations from Keith Landrum, come take a look and see how you can make a difference in someones life. 


****Photos provided by Keith Landrum
~~~  Interested in seeing more of Deana Landrums photography?  Please join me here : http://tracieskarbo.blogspot.ca/2012/11/interview-with-deana-landrum.html


Friday, November 16, 2012

Dan the "Owl Man"

Approximately a year and a half ago I had the good fortune to run into Dan Tompsett aka Owlster Bierce in a writing circle. I enjoyed his humor and wit with word, but also became intrigued by one of his hobbies which is collecting owl pellets. I thought an interview with Dan would be a great idea, and it went something like this:
Photo by Dan Tompsett

Tracie: How did you become interested in owl pellets?

Dan: One day I was walking around our property here in the countryside, and saw some gray things on the ground. I remembered reading something about owl pellets several years ago, so I wondered if that was what I found. I did a search of google images, and came to the conclusion that was what they were. I'm always looking for stuff to sell on Ebay because no one will give me a damn job, so I checked, and sure enough--pellets were being offered on Ebay for as much as $5 each. I immediately went back outside and searched the grounds of our 3-acre property and found about a dozen more pellets. I then took photos of them and put them on Ebay. They sold right away. I was stoked! I found more pellets under trees around the neighborhood and sold those "owl pellets," too. As it turned out, what I was finding and selling as "owl pellets" were actually hawk pellets. Ooops! Fortunately, none of the Ebay buyers knew the difference, either.

Tracie: What exactly is an owl pellet? Is it an equivalent of a cat's hairball?

Dan: Owl pellets are sort of like a cat's hairball. Something like 50 different birds and other animals regurgitate "pellets." I have collected American Kestrel (North America's smallest falcon) pellets, too. Barn owls swallow their prey whole. They digest the flesh and innards, then the bones and fur form into a ball. The barn owl, unlike other owls, has a natural enzyme that coats the pellets. This makes the pellets smoother than pellets of other owls. Barn owl pellets have a somewhat shiny sheen on the surface, whereas horned owl pellets have a furry, looser texture. The barn owl pellets have a much longer 'shelf-life' than horned owl pellets, which fall apart much more quickly.

Tracie: What came first, the interest in the Owls, or interest in the pellets?

Dan: I have always been interested in birds. I do think owls are some of the more interesting birds. I don't get very excited about robins and Starlings.

Tracie: How long have you been collecting pellets?

Dan: I have been collecting off and on for about three years.

Tracie: Do you have to dry them out before shipping them out?

Dan: Very fresh pellets, or ones wet from rain or snow need to be dried before shipping. A very smelly mold can quickly grow on them if packed or stored wet. I also microwave sterilize the pellets before packing for shipment.

Tracie: Are certain times of the year better for collection of the pellets? Certain places?

Dan: Late Fall through Winter are probably the best times to search for new areas because Barn Owls like to roost in pine trees. It's easier to spot pines from a distance after the other trees have lost their leaves. Other than that, owls usually stick around throughout the year. It gets pretty cold here and sometimes it snows, so Spring and Summer are more enjoyable as far as comfort is concerned.

Tracie: Have you ever found some unique things while searching for pellets?

Dan: When looking for pellets in barns and other structures I've come across a lot of old farm equipment. That would be "unique" to most city folk, but fairly common around here. I've come across coyotes, a badger, owl talons and skulls. One time while collecting pellets beneath a barn owl nest in a stack of hay bales I climbed up to the entrance of the nest and was face-to-face with 5 or 6 nestlings. They kept their large eyes on me while they moved their heads back and forth and hissed at me. I've gotten pretty close to Horned Owl nestlings, too.

Tracie: You came across a badger! I bet that was an experience! What did you do with the skulls?

Dan: It was the first and only badger I have seen. I watched it run in a direction towards me and to my left. The area was rocky. It vanished down a large rocky hole. As for the owl skulls: It's illegal to have most wild bird feathers and other body parts, so I usually leave them where I find them. I did take a barn owl skull once and took a few photos of it. I eventually sent it to a teacher who had purchased some owl pellets from me.

Tracie: What do people use the pellets for?

Dan: Teachers use them to teach students about the food chain and such. The students dissect the pellets then try to reconstruct the skeletons of mostly rodents from the bones they find and identify what kind of rodent it was. Sometimes bird bones and skulls are found in pellets, too. Artists use pellet bones and schools for projects, and sometimes Wiccans want them. I'm not sure what they do with them. Maybe place them on alters or something.

Tracie: Does the size of the owl always guarantee the size of the pellets?

Dan: No. I have seen very young owls regurgitate huge pellets. Pellet size is probably determined by what and how much they ate the day before.

Tracie: You have recently moved locations haven’t you? How is the new place for treasure hunting?

Dan: I went to Las Vegas for about 6 months, recently. I didn't do much pellet hunting there. I found about 75 beneath holes in dirt/sand bluffs at the edge of the desert. I'm back in my old stomping grounds in Idaho, now, but hunting has been slow because I don't drive and the driver I had is still in Vegas. I need to find another driver.

Tracie: In the desert the owls burrow in holes? I never knew that!

Dan: Yes. Holes in rocks, trees, or pretty much anything at least 15 feet or so off the ground are used as nesting sites. I know a guy who actually believed barn owls didn't exist until man built barns. LOL.

Tracie: How do you tell the difference between hawk and owl pellets?

Dan: Hawk pellets are usually larger, much lighter weight, softer, more rectangular shaped than oblong, and have very few bones. The digestive fluids of hawks are much stronger than that of owls, so almost all their prey is digested. Their pellets are virtually all fur, although there can be a few bones.

Tracie: What are your favorite birds? Why?

Dan: Chicken. Yum! Kidding aside; I'm partial to small, colorful songbirds such as warblers. Not sure why.

Tracie: I know you sometimes come across big wasp hives while you are out there searching. I was impressed and thankful for the one you sent me. Have you come across any more of those?

Dan: Only a few egg cells. Finding large hives is luck. They can be anywhere. Hard to look for them, at least as far as I know. I have noticed some people find a lot of them in the Midwestern states. Someone in Wisconsin has several of them on Ebay at times. They fetch good prices, too. Depending on size, shape, and condition they go for between $25 and $100 each.

Tracie: How would someone get a hold of you if they wanted owl pellets?

Dan: They would have to run real fast and catch me. (Just kidding). I can be found on Facebook using the monicer "Owlster Bierce," or they can search Ebay for "earthmonger2010," then send me a message if I don't have pellets listed. I have 42 pellets on Ebay at the moment.

Excellent! Thanks Dan for your time and all the information you have provided on this interesting and unique hobby. I wish I lived closer so I could join you on a feathery treasure hunt taking photos while we go. I’ll drive!