History From An Adopted Girls Perspective

The other day, my daughter who knows I'm adopted sent me a private message asking me if “tumors run on your side”. I responded “What side? I'm adopted. I've never had any.” She asks “You don't have a family history?” I said “I'm making my own history. Since I was adopted at birth, I was a little too young to get into it with them.” Many people have asked me about trying to find my birth parents. I've never understood what I'm supposed to be looking these people up for? I don't go looking for trouble and with my luck, they're homeless.

A few years back we moved to Berkeley Springs, West Virginia. If you read anything about this place that has been produced by the local writers, it's all going to be history, history, history. People's view of history has always been a funny thing to me. It seems to be a subject that is highly debatable and I've noted that all tourism departments tend to focus on this as an “attraction” for visiting an area. Our area is famous because George Washington bathed here. It must be so, it's mentioned in every article about the place. I just want to know, how hot is the water? That's not to say I'm unpatriotic. I just don't care where anyone has bathed.

Honestly, with all the fighting that goes on behind who got here and when and what the forefathers intended, I have to wonder if maybe it would be better if everyone didn't know a darned thing about where they came from. Anyway, in this area everyone seems to start out their latest opinion about a controversy with how long they've lived here (as if it weighs as an important factor on whether they should be listened to). I find this an interesting behavior and I've never encountered it anywhere before on such a massive scale. I've even had people who were applying for a job at an organization I worked for who've said when I asked for their resume that they've never needed one because their name is (whatever it was) and they've lived in the area (however long it was). I don't remember their names.

It's no wonder West Virginia is last in everything with that sort of view. With the globalist agenda of our government, can anyone wonder why this is Trump country? Newsflash West Virginia, no one cares who your parents are when it comes to small business hiring practices, unless of course you come from a family of millionaires who are willing to invest in the business. In which case, come by with a check and once it's cashed we'll put you work. In the real world though, we want to see a verifiable work history in resume format. Resume builders are free with Google Docs and various other free programs.

A new controversy here in our area is apparently the state BAD (Brownfield, Abandoned, Dilapidated) Buildings Program. On the other side of this are those who are terribly concerned about their business model to promote our area as a small town “lost in time”. Therefore, I suspect they are developing plans to “save the history” i.e., the old buildings, some of which are falling down. From my perspective, I wonder what the Conoy, Delaware, Honniasont, Moneton, Shawnee, and Susquehanna Native Americans might say about the work to preserve some of these buildings, many of which can not be occupied without mega bucks being poured into them? I'd venture to guess it might be something like “Get your ugly, toxin filled, old building off my beautiful Mother Earth!” It don't get any more “lost in time” than that. Houses are meant to be lived in. Without tenants, they die just like anything else.

Meanwhile, for those who are currently trying to earn a living and feed their families, we can see the value in modern conveniences like broadband and public buildings that don't need remediation services and allow for the handicapped to access them per federal law.

Drugs -- Families Who Have Found Ways Out

My mother suffered from dilapidating health issues from the time I was about eight years old. My father worked two jobs to support our family and was often not at home. As my mother's condition progressed, I had more and more household and child care responsibilities. In was the 1970's. At 14, I remember lying in my bed and looking up at the ceiling and telling myself, I will never raise children this way but also, that same year I got my first job through the DECA program offered at the high school. That job training helped me throughout life. I married at 16 and had my first child, a boy. Two weeks prior to his birth, his father tries to kill me. We divorced. I married again approximately 3 years later and had a second child, a girl. During this marriage I embarked upon a career in law enforcement in arguably one of the worst cities that one could ever go into that field, Albuquerque. That marriage also did not work out and the divorce was contentious. I decided not to marry again, but eventually did approximately ten years later. I also decided law enforcement was not for me. So, to recap:

Born into a low/middle class family. Check
Family members struggled with medical issues. Check
Family members abused prescription pain killers. Check
Did not finish high school, but I did eventually get a GED. Check
Did not receive a higher education degree, but did go to approximately 2 years of classes. Check
Loved ones that used illegal drugs. Check
Trouble with the law/courts/legal systems. Check
Family members with mental health disorders. Check
Domestic violence. Check

In short, I have learned there is no black and white and it seems a bunch of really smart people have spent countless hours of research and still have no idea how to address these issues. The families that have risen out of the circumstances they were dealt are not comfortable talking about it. This is primarily because of systems that are currently in place. These families are the only ones that truly know how they rose above it all, but from what Laws like "three strikes" are not helpful. I've seen people tell their story and it is used to attack what they have accomplished. Therefore, except for a few of us, we remain silent but for the sake of all those who are still dealing with this currently, we must speak out. We cannot be afraid. Some of those who are still in the middle of are losing hope. Others are being told hope is lost and to write off their loved ones. Laws need changed and you can only change them by speaking out. Then there are those who don't want you to ever talk about the things that have happened. They want you to "focus on the positive". OK, I am positive these laws need to change! The reasoning behind them was wrong to begin with.

For my own part, I have helped to raise approximately ten children. These include my own two, my three siblings (one of which the state gave me full custody of when she was sixteen), a neighbor's child who was kicked out of his house the day before Christmas and lived with us approximately one and half years, the three children of a woman who rented from us and went to jail for approximately six months, and my step daughter who came to live with us when she was twelve. She is bipolar.

Of all the children above, four went into military service, two went on to retire. three have degrees (one several), one with a Masters, two are in college, one is still in high school and one has their own business. All of them, except the one in high school works. To my knowledge, even though a few have done drugs, they don't do them now. In addition to these children, my husband has three children from other marriages that we also have helped to support throughout their lives. I'm not saying this for kudos. I got that from them when they became what they did. It's just important to know that set backs, even ones that end in jail time are not the be all, end all of one's life. Sometimes, it's only the beginning.

I remember when my son was approximately ten years old. He had just found out about one of his friends being hurt by his parents. He told me “Mom when I grow up, I am going to become a famous baseball player and I am going to buy a hospital and anyone who doesn't want their kids can bring them there where you can take care of them.” I still consider it one of the highest compliments I've ever been paid. So in short, love and perseverance is the way out. Families are key to providing that. How many chances should a person get? As many as it takes. How do you affect that once they are in custody? You visit. You make them face you while they are sober. You make them face their children and you don't let the criminal justice system stop you. You do it out of a need for punishment; but out of love and understanding and hopefully so that the kids will understand that the choices that were made were not their fault and they don't want to make the same mistakes. The rules and the way in which prisons make money tend to be an hindrance to trying to keep families together and that needs to change.

They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Some of us know that road very well. After they are well enough to work at a real job, they need to be given that opportunity while inside. Programs that allow work release with a real and fair wage are imperative. They make it where those who are taking care of these people's children can get support. They make it where the parents are used to budgeting for that when they get out. It's also really important that the kids know that their parents are now caring enough to send the funds. They also make it where someone can save for getting out, so they don't end up right back on the streets trying to survive. You can't do that on .35 cents an hour. 

Many things need to change and the families need to make their voices heard in order to change them. There are those who want us to be quiet for their own comfort and/or ego. Now is not the time for that. Be heard. 

Does Your Website Work For Your Business?

Without search engine optimization (SEO) your site is just like a business card sitting on a desk in an office somewhere in the world. You have to buy advertising in various different places in order to give directions to that card.

You can build a website in just a few days! A lot of people just pick out a theme (like on Wordpress) from the thousands that are available (because coding is tedious) and all you have to do is in these themes is just fill in the blanks, but let me just tell you a little secret. May of these themes are not always optimized to point to your site. There's a reason why they are free. The coding is almost always going to have something that points to the author of the theme. Also, themes do not allow for placement of graphics anywhere on the page. That is the freedom in learning the coding. You can put a graphic anywhere and have it move anywhere.

There is a difference between someone who can build a website (anyone can) and a web developer. If you want to see if your site is optimized for the Google Search Engine, there is a tool for you to check it (or at least check out the work of your web developer), here's what you do: First, you have to have a gmail account. Then go to Google Webmaster Tools, then click Structured Data Testing Tool, enter your URL and click RUN TEST. You can check on the code of any site you want. On the left is the code for your site, on the right is what the engine actually sees from your code. If you want to compare what you see to a site that I have coded with SEO enter URL: http://mgsrefrigeration.com. I haven't updated this site in a while and there are a couple of errors, but they are minor. This site gives the information regarding the business and all the services it provides. This business has been nominated best HVAC business in Otero County for years running and has had to triple their staff since the site went up.

This is only the half of why this is important. People who have disabilities also need this coding. For those that are blind, this coding is what is read to them. There is all kinds of information that can be added to this code but at the very least you should have your site name, address, business, types of services, your social media accounts. Authors can have their name, publish date, title, article summary, etc. The coding can also point to your social media with “same as” codes.

This coding is not the easiest thing in the world to learn and that's why a lot of people don't use it. It was easier for me because I used to be a typesetter, but this is how your site attracts customers all on it's own. That's not to say you still won't have to drive traffic to it; but every little bit helps.

In short, it's fine to have a basic business card website if you are trying to attract customers who already know that they are looking for you by name, but if you are trying to attract people who are searching for generic terms like “places to have fun” or "contractors in berkeley springs" or something like that, you need the SEO.

Blogger is a themed site as well. That's what these themed sites were designed for -- blogs. If you own a businesses, it's simply just best to go to the time and expense of a real landing page with all your information along with the structured data information. Then you can link over to your really pretty site.

Morgan County Day At The West Virginia Capitol

I had to wait a day or two before posting this. Those of you who know me well will understand why. For the most part, we had a great time at Morgan County Day at the state capitol. We met loads of very nice people and sadly, one highly misinformed individual. We are currently researching just how this misinformation was obtained. It's so very hard to verify gossip. Just in case there are others, I would like to clarify a few things. My name is Martha Rhodes. Professionally I have worked in administration for construction companies and media production (primarily for newspapers) however I also know coding for websites (and own several). These sites give small businesses who have little or no budget a place to advertise and grow for free. Many of the owners don't really understand how websites and/or social media works. I receive no money from this state and never have.

Personally, I am an advocate for and support ADA compliance and criminal justice reform (especially where it applies to the mentally ill). I also work for and support 12 Habits For Wonderful People, an award-winning and copyrighted curriculum that was purchased by school systems for many years up until around 2008, when schools lost funding for such programs.
12 Habits For Wonderful People "You Count" in February
12 Habits For Wonderful People Display Table
Elaine Stevens Parke is the Executive Director of All of Us Inc. doing business as 12 Habits For Wonderful People and a friend of mine. She has a Master's Degree in Marketing but also knows little about social media (like so many others who have only employed traditional forms of one-way communication type advertising). To my knowledge, the 12 Habits For Wonderful People is the only thing Elaine publicly supports or expresses an opinion about. Professionally, Elaine has enjoyed a very successful career and while I don't ask her about her personal finances, she almost completely funds the organization here in Berkeley Springs. This is her gift to Morgan County. As a person in their mid 70's, most people would choose to hang on to their cash, in case of emergency. Also, in order to provide this gift, she has been putting off work on her own home. So you see, this gift does come at a personal sacrifice few others would make.

Personally, I can't see how it is possible to confuse the two of us, but it may have happened. Anyway, I feel the need to make it clear that we are two separate individuals. Our persons and our businesses are completely separate.

To my knowledge, neither 12 Habits For Wonderful People nor Elaine Parke has ever posted anything with regard to the work on a Streetscapes project. As myself, on social media, my only comments regarding Streetscapes had to do with supporting ADA compliance and thanking Larry Lower for mentioning that those who support compliance help. He made these statements in a kind, genuine and thankful way at the dedication ceremony at the park and also said to “keep it up”. While I know members on the Streetscapes committee, I don't have time to attend their meetings and therefore I do not, nor have I ever taken credit for their work. I have however made phone calls and also encouraged others to act on behalf of Morgan County to sway state legislators into making funds available for infrastructure projects in our area. I feel this is important because the money could easily go elsewhere.

In my mind, there is no really good reason to attack the character of an elderly woman, especially one so accomplished, without ever meeting her or giving her the chance to respond to the negative allegations against her. What's even more disturbing is that this person is a legislator. Also, who would think that sending inspiring community messages, helping disabled people and/or small businesses would be controversial endeavors? I honestly will never understand why people do some of the things that they do to each other. I guess if people want to view something negatively, they just will.

A while back, the Rotary Club sent Elaine to Rwanda to teach the 12 Habits For Wonderful People curriculum in their schools and it was recently announced that it is going to be developed as a national program in that country. During our visits in the West Virginia state capitol, I have personally heard Elaine offer this curriculum to the people of West Virginia free of charge and that can be verified by those who work in those offices. The effectiveness of the curriculum cannot be denied because there is verifiable data to support it. I have to say, if it were not for our fine community of over 60 ambassadors and the kids that love our materials and inspirational messages, I would advise my friend to keep her money and not to bother wasting her time.

I do not apologize for my beliefs. I do apologize to Elaine if negative people touched her life in an attempt to direct that energy at me if that is what happened. It may just be that in an attempt to protect their funding, some people feel like they are justified in spreading misinformation and negative energy. In my experience, beings of that type very often don't hit their intended targets. Also, when it's all about money, they don't really care if they hit innocents.

M. Rhodes

Even Banks Have Fun With Wonderful People!

Thanks to our new funding we needed to open up a new checking account and we of course, chose to open an account with one of our active ambassadors, City National Bank. Thank you to Cammie Shrewsbury and the wonderful tellers for all their help. Hope you enjoy this video.

Find out more about:

12 Habits For Wonderful People

Kids Talk About Lending A Hand

Kids Talk is a collaboration between 12 Habits For Wonderful People and the Digital Imaging Studio at the Morgan Arts Council Icehouse. The show is written and produced by the kids. This is a valuable tool for learning and promoting positive habits in our community.

A Witness To Shame

The other day I went to court to support a woman that I had never met. I am a firm believer that most people have no idea what goes on in our criminal justice system. Let me just tell you, when you become involved with it you are completely dumb founded. It is nothing like what you think. There is no “innocent until proven guilty”. There hasn't been for a very long time and something almost obscene has replaced it. This “system” is not interested in the truth of what happened and from what I've seen this is not justice taking place.

I was there to witness a man looking a life in prison for the theft of what most would consider to be, as theft goes pretty petty. It was theft of drill batteries and possibly a charger. Of course, there is more to it. He had prior felonies but here's the thing, as a taxpayer I don't care whether he had prior felonies. I don't understand how we could have a law on our books that allows for someone to have the possibility of spending life in prison for non-violent theft of drill batteries from an outbuilding. We're not talking theft to the proportion of Bernie Madoff or national secrets or anything of the like. I don't feel like taxpayers should have to support someone for possibly life over drill batteries. I believe the restitution amount for this crime was $640.

As shameful as it is to think that this is possible. It gets worse. I don't know what kind of person the prosecutor is, but it's pretty telling when knowing the crime in this case, you would recommend such a sentence. I wouldn't even be able to utter it, yet she did it with a smile on her face. Indeed the entire courtroom was filled with cavalier, almost jovial attitude amidst the crying of his family. I believe I heard his attorney exclaim in the hallway “This is so exciting, isn't it?” about ten times. Yet, he seemed almost apologetic to the judge for bringing up a defense for his client, a man who adamantly denies doing the crime. 

So, what was the public defender so excited about? Aside from the fact that this man's girlfriend had done as much as she could do to draw attention to the fact that he was looking at life for this, there were other factors. She called the media and talked to anyone that she thought would listen (like me), I believe his attorney's excitement stemmed from the fact that the witness against him had proved herself to be a liar since his client's conviction. The witness, whose home the property was found in had told several people including the accused that she had been threatened into testifying by the prosecution. She was recorded by the jail telephone service saying that the prosecutor had threatened to take her children if she didn't testify. Interesting enough, when the prosecutor found out about what had been said, she appeared angrier at the man whose life hung in the balance than at the witness who said it.

As I said though, this system has nothing to do with getting at the truth. If she admitted that she had lied during trial in order to keep her children, she would have been found to have perjured herself therefore, she testified during this hearing that she had lied to the accused and others but not during the trial. She certainly had plenty of reasons to lie during the trial as the goods were found in her home. From what I understand, the accused was not there when officers confiscated the belongings; she could have pointed to anyone really. Her word certainly carries more weight when put up against someone with priors though.

I am not saying this man didn't do what he is accused of though. I don't know. His plea with the judge would have been most certainly a convincing one, had he not had priors. As I said, he was adamant. He had turned down a plea deal. It's tough to turn down a plea deal though, even when you are innocent. Again, the system doesn't care about the the truth. Plea deals are not designed get at truth, they are designed to bend the will of the accused in order to save the cost of a trial and/or future possibility of appeal.

We listened to a victim in the case explain that they felt violated and that it was not a simple matter of the drill batteries. I'm sorry for the victims, really I am. We do not hold dear those things we keep in outbuildings. Not that those things we keep in our outbuildings should be available to anyone who wants them; but I wouldn't think the victim's violation was that of a rape, which carries a lesser sentence than life. People who steal shouldn't be sentenced to life; they should be sentenced to repaying their victims (whenever possible).

What I am saying is this, I simply don't care whether he is guilty or innocent. I don't care how many times he's been guilty either. This crime simply does not rise to the level of a life sentence, even if it's possible for him to parole in 15 years, because let me just tell you what's going to happen when he's up for parole and they read that he hasn't admitted to the crime. They are going to require that he admit to the crime in order to get parole. If he is in fact innocent and stands behind that, he will get life. That is the truth.

When it comes to crimes such as this, where the defendant's crime is sort of petty, they are very often assigned public defenders that are less experienced. Those with more experience are trying cases where conviction may lead to life or even the death penalty; however when it comes to recidivism laws even if you are facing life, you are likely still going to be represented by whoever you were assigned at trial and the recidivism doesn't come into play until sentencing. I think this also leaves defendants at a disadvantage.

So, do we wonder why we are the most incarcerated country in the world? We have people in crime labs, at public defender's offices, etc. claiming that their case loads are so bad that some of them simply give up. Can you imagine what goes in the mind of someone that has been forced to serve time when they are innocent? Imagine being forced to say you are guilty when you're not. You want them to get out grateful for the system working after they've served ten years or more? Do you wonder why people are running from at police or shooting at them? It's not disrespect for the police, it's disrespect for the laws that are designed not to serve the public, but to preserve an economy based on incarceration.

It's all shameful. This is of no service to our country. It demeans us as human beings. The law in this country was supposed to be merciful. The judge was reminded by the prosecutor that his hands were tied but in my opinion, anyone who takes part in this kind of thing should be ashamed of themselves. That includes the American people who allow this to go on.

The laws that bind the judge to sentences like this were designed to prevent non-proportional sentences due to racism. Here's an idea, let's just make sure judges are racists and if they turn out to be, file charges against them. Maybe that way the ones who are not racists will have the ability to show mercy when things like this come up. Something just needs to be done. There was no justice served here, at least not any justice I want to be a part of.

This article was written in response to the sentencing of Steve Funt in Morgan County, West Virginia.

About Me

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Martha started her career working on the production side of the newspaper/magazine industry. Among those publications were The Thrifty Nickle and The New Mexico Independent. Martha also was a Production Coordinator for Reddy Communications, a consulting/information research group for public utilities where she coordinated the production of 60 yearly publications. For more than two years, she was the Owner/Editor of The Chaparral News and it's Anthony Edition, a weekly news/classified ads publication in Chaparral, New Mexico with a circulation of appx. 6500. As a freelance writer Martha has had articles published in various newspapers in New Mexico and has produced informational products for political interests within the state. Martha currently resides in Berkeley Springs, WV and is working as a volunteer for various groups including 12 Habits For Wonderful People.