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April 2002


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We Hope To See You At Our Next Celebration

Sunday, April 7, 2002
Karen and Bear's
4pm for potluck and preparation
6pm for FOKUS presentations at The Little Store

For directions: Please phone Bob Olson at (425) 747-3879.

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Art Sharing
Sunday, March 3, 2002

Pippin Sardo presented pictures of a fantasy costume and showed the Thai-inspired headdress that accompanied it. She also read a story, "The Egg" by FOKUS's farthest flung member, Pete Wagener, from Bastimentos, Panama. Carl Sloan read short quotes on different themes he entitled "Advice Through the Sages", and talked about creating a print forum for FOKUS members to discuss ideas briefly. Lida Sloan premiered as a poet reading her work, sharing four poems with the appreciative group. Cyprienne Schnappel showed us her sculptured fimo pendants she calls, "Labial Lovelies". Karen Stein read her poem "How Do You Know When You've Hit Bottom?" included in this newsletter, and other writings. David Middleton shared his graphics, comics, and short stories. Bruce Taylor read two previously-published short stories, "Growing Up Rocked and Rolled", and "A Little Spider Shop Talk", as well as a speech given in 1992 on behalf of the Sharon Baker Memorial Award at the Pacific Northwest Writing Conference. All of these stories will appear in a new collection of previously-published short fiction entitled Kafka's Uncle and Other Strange Tales, cover art by Carl and Lida Sloan. Roberta Gregory, Judy and Erica Smith, and Henry Chamberlain provided an audience.

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Other Stuff

Roberta Gregory has work on display in the Secession Gallery in Vienna this month (April), in a show that is billed as the largest exhibition of women cartoonists EVER! She is drawing two original pages for their catalogue as well.

The Lake Hills writing critique group is now seeking a few new members. This group has been active for over 15 years. Contact Bob Olson at 425-747-3879 if you are looking for an active, exciting group to critique your work.

Bruce's picture appeared in the spring catalog of evening classes at North Seattle Community College. He will be teaching classes titled - "Smashing Creative Blocks", "Fiction Writing", "The Novel and Advanced Novel Writing".

Bruce is going to have a biographical and book profile starting late March on the webzine of MARGIN: "Exploring Modern Magical Realism". To find this website go to MARGIN or Magic Realism.

Bruce will be guest speaker on June 4th at The Freelancers, which is the oldest and said to be the "most professional" writing group in Seattle.

Thank you Angie Grimmer for the $20.00 contribution for the FOKUS Newsletter.

If you want to advertise something your are doing in our newsletter please call Bob or Bruce. This is an excellent free bulletin board for your announcements.

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Bruce Taylor's Editorial: Something Non-Political

I was going to write about what I call the Age of Disillusionment, which basically started with the death of President Kennedy on 22 November 1963 and has been growing more pervasive with every passing year. But-next time. This time, something different which leads to the topic (don't ask me how) of the goodies I have discovered in my in-box at work, that I have collected over the last few years, some signed by co-workers, others not. So what does a Mental Health Specialist/Hypnotherapist/Writer end up with?

There's a Hole in My Sidewalk
Autobiography in Five Short Chapters

by Portia Nelson

I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost...I am helpless.
It takes forever to find a way out.

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don't see it.
I fall in again.
I can't believe I am in this same place.
But it isn't my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in -- it's a habit -- but my eyes are open.
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

I walk down another street.

Inner Strength

If you can start the day without caffeine or pep pills,
If you can be cheerful, ignoring aches and pains,
If you can resist complaining and boring people with your troubles,
If you can eat the same food everyday and be grateful for it,
If you can understand when loved ones are too busy to give you time,
If you can overlook when people take things out on you when, through no fault of yours, something goes wrong,
If you can take criticism and blame without resentment,
If you can face the world without lies and deceit,
If your can conquer tension without medical help,
If you can relax without liquor,
If you can sleep without the aid of drugs,

Then you are probably a cat or a dog.

(Editor's note, I have seen the almost-same thing that ends with this alternate line:
Then you are almost as good as your cat or dog.

Headline, 6 March 2002 The Seattle Times
"Ground War Isn't What U.S. Wanted"

Well, duh, what is the number one Rule of Engagement? Know what you are getting into. Remember my editorial back in October, lamenting getting involved in Afghanistan? Hate to say it, BUT, I told you so. We're moving into the same terrain, the same situation the Soviets were in. It's tough to do art when politics and war is so distracting because we are all in this together. I'll certainly do my art, still hope to retire, but I sure have this awful sense of foreboding...

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A Short Piece by Bob Olson:

I bear two scars. One I bear with pride, like the slash of a dueling sword or a tattoo. I earned this scar as a mischievous boy when, with my buddies one Halloween, I broke into a haunted house and smashed my left hand into a glass cupboard as policemen shined their flashlights through the windows seeking trespassers. The police gave up. We escaped. And the stories we told made us heroes. My other scar is secret, hidden and painful, an emotional scar that guides my endeavor. Osama Bin Laden bears a similar scar.

This is the scar of rejection. As a popular small town athlete, admired by classmates and teachers, I enrolled in a private college in a state east of Illinois. My hopes were high. I went out for the football team and was rejected without a try-out. No one from a small, rural high school like mine was even considered unless they had newspaper reviews praising their athletic talents. Fraternities were a big thing, and I saw myself bringing home my "great fraternity brothers" as buddies. How shortsighted of me. I was rejected out-of-hand, blackballed by this prestigious society. I was no longer an athlete and I became a social reject. My psyche was bruised and it hurt. Life became difficult. Gradually I recovered. I had to prove my worth.

With a frightening realization, I recognize a similar hidden scar in Osama Bin Laden. Osama is the rejected son of a billionaire Saudi businessman. He does not "fit in" the wealthy society of Saudi Arabia, or his own family. In Osama's mind his country has become a prostitute selling herself (through oil) to large wealthy nations which take her resources, but reject her people. Particularly America. I believe he sees America as not only the wealthiest nation, but also the nation that most rejects Arabs. He takes this personally, holding America responsible for the decadence of his homeland, the corruption of his people, and his personal rejection by family and country. Osama's emotional scar is fed by the righteous indignation of Muslim fanatics in their war against the flagrant wealth of others. Hatred meets his need as Osama finds his place in infamy. His scar has become a curse and damnation.

Visible scars that disfigure usually isolate individuals with immediate rejection. Not always. I've learned through two such people. One had his hair, ears; nose and fingers burned off in a fire. His appearance is repelling, yet he teaches school, coaches sports and captivates others. The second, a girl I knew whose blue-red birthmark discolored half her face. She was one of the most positive, compassionate kids I've ever known. Certainly this man and this girl have been rejected. I'm sure they've been scorned; but now they wear their scars with pride. They are truly beautiful people who have turned a disfiguring curse into a cure - a cure for their psyche and the prejudices of others. These two have helped me realize who we are is all that matters, and I have been able to turn the hatred in my rejection into a cure.

I believe all of us bear scars. Most of these are hidden and can become curses or cures. Thank God that my scar has become a cure. If I became a college athlete and a fraternity brother would I have married an upper-class Caucasian sorority sister, gone into prestigious employment, had a middle-age affair, divorced and be a boring lush at seventy-two. I don't know. Some of the "fraternity" brothers I've known fit this mode.

My hidden scar is still there, but now it shapes my compassion. I'm a young man in an old body constantly blessed by a gracious wife, three devoted children, six loving grandchildren and talented friends beyond measure.

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A poem and two paragraphs by Karen Stein:
How Do You Know When You've Hit Bottom???

WHEN you see yourself named in your Dad's Will as one of his Errors.

WHEN you learn that instead of leaving a Life Insurance Policy, your Dad left Errors and Omissions Insurance.

WHEN your brother believes that 'SURVIVOR' is a model for Family Relationships and votes you out of the family.

WHEN nothing is going right, even your dog runs away, and you decide to do the same...so you are running down the road only to bump into your dog who is running back.

WHEN your "better half" FARTS, SHOUTS "Bad Ass!" - grabs the pellet pistol and shoots himself in the right buttocks; writhes on the bed trying to pick out the metal, saying over and over again, "I didn't know the gun was loaded!" while you are laughing so hard you think your arteries are going to pop and you can't help him all you can blurt out between convulsive attacks of laughter is, "And you... a former military man, you, a marksman!" By now this crazed Brave is going to "Sioux" you! He's hopping around the house clutching his right cheek, going "Eiyyy...Ouwwwe...Ohooo. It hurts!" and that just sets you off again on another round of convulsions. Finally, he digs the metal out of his butt, applies some antibacterial cream, and you fall back to sleep muttering , "Did you get a tetanus shot?"

WHEN he wakes up he says, "Not many people can shoot themselves in the behind!" You respond, "If you were a Roman Soldier, instead of Brutus, they would have called you Gluteus Maximus."

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A Poem by Carl Sloan

(Garbage In, Garbage Out)

The computer spreads
terminal illness everywhere
multiplying errors
with the speed of light.
And is guilty of
sociology and other crimes,
bit by bit
enshrining our garbage.

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A Poem by Lida Picton Sloan

Pursued by Poems

Poems pursue me daily -
In the middle of playing the piano -
When I should be working on taxes.
What can I do about it?
If they're after me I might as well
Grab my pen and start scribbling.
Maybe I'll even write one or two I can read in public.

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Last updated:  March 28, 2002