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Thursday, November 29, 2012

I've Been Watching You

Dear Zach,

The other day you and I were sitting at the kitchen counter chatting, eating a snack and listening to one of our favorite Pandora stations, Zac Brown Band Radio, when Rodney Atkins song "Watching You" came on.  You quietly started singing along, going on to say how much you really liked that song.  I thought it was more than cute that you would admit to liking such a sweet song about a dad and his son.  A few days later the song came on again when I was alone in the car.  I focused in on the lyrics and founder it even sweeter that you would like that song so much.

(Please know, I do not pretend to own any part of this song.  I'm just paying tribute to a great song, from a great singer who touched the heart of not only me but my oldest son as well.)

As I listened to the lyrics images of you as a small boy came bounding into my head.  Couple the song with the stack of letters I found from when Dad was in Bosnia where you were the focus of my life and nostalgia washed over me like a tsunami.  Scenes from days long gone played in my mind as I headed home...

Images of you as a little boy, wanting to grow up to be big and strong just like Dad floated through my head.  Images of you needing us to hold you up and hold your hand tugged at my heart.  Hearing the chorus of the song brought images of long ago you to the forefront of my brain.  As Rodney sang these words I began running through pictures that fit along with the lyrics...

"He said 'I"ve been watching you dad, ain't that cool?
I'm your buckaroo, I wanna be like you
And eat all my food and grow as tall as you are
We like fixing things and holding mama's hand
Yeah we're just alike, hey ain't we dad?
I wanna do everything you do
So I've been watching you'"

When you were little you wanted to grow up to be just like Dad.  Watching you sing the words along with Rodney I remember when Dad dressed you up in his BDU top and his cap, you were over the moon excited to show me how you wanted to be just like Dad.

Thinking about all of these pictures brought many more snapshots of you as a little boy, who wanted to be just like his dad, floating into my memories and so today, I went in search of those memories which seem to be accumulating faster and faster as the years fly by.

I took my time strolling down memory lane, reliving some of my fondest memories of a little boy with curly blond hair and honey brown eyes. During my trip down memory lane, I came up some of my favorite pictures of you loving every minute of time with your dad and striving so hard to be like your dad...

Our time with you has flown by.  I can't believe you are nearly half way through your junior year of high school.  My throat constricts and tears rim my eyes when I think of how short my time with you is.  You are one in a million, my sweet man child.  And if there is anyone on earth I would want you to strive to you like it would be your dad.  So, my love, keep watching him, because it's pretty cool.  You'll always be his little buckaroo, in my mind at least.  You now stand nearly eye to eye with your dad...that must have been because you ate all your food so you could grow as tall as he is. You still like fixing things but now holding my hand has given way to enveloping me in giant bear hugs.  You are so much like your dad.  I couldn't be more proud of the kind of young adult you are becoming.  

He said 'I"ve been watching you dad, ain't that cool?  
I'm your buckaroo, I wanna be like you
And eat all my food and grow as tall as you are
We like fixing things and holding mama's hand
Yeah we're just alike, hey ain't we dad?
I wanna do everything you do
So I've been watching you'"

You are growing far too quickly, Zach, and I'm powerless to stop it but know...I will cherish every single minute I've been blessed with being your mom.

With love, now and always...

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

I Want The Fairy Tale

19 years ago today I married the love of my life.  

I can safely say, 19 years ago today was a day very different than present day life.19 years ago we were 25 and looking forward to our new and exciting adventure as husband and wife.  19 years ago we were focused on ourselves and our big day.

The day dawned bright and cold in Manhattan, Kansas. Saturday, November 27 was the culmination of a special kind of Thanksgiving weekend.  We spent the week with family and friends, celebrating the upcoming union of our two families. Stan and I were married with the blessings of our families and my uncle as our officiant.   

19 years ago we exchanged these wedding vows...

Deacon Ed Macauley (better known to us as Uncle Ed): Stan, do you take Jennifer for your lawful wife, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do you part?

Stan: I do.

Uncle Ed: Jennifer, do you take Stan for your lawful husband, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do you part?

Me: I do.

Our rings were blessed and as we exchanged rings we said these words...

Take this ring as a sign of my love and fidelity. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

I was told over and over again that our wedding day was picture perfect.  So, to me, November 27, 1993 was the picture perfect beginning for the two of us in our fairy tale world.  

Spring forward to the present....

Last night Stan told me to sleep in.  He told me he would take care of getting the kids out the door.  I thought it was a little unfair to him that I got to sleep in, after all it is our anniversary, not just mine, but someone had to be responsible for helping get the kids out the door and on their way to school.  Stan volunteered to be the responsible parent for the morning and I easily acquiesced to be the one who stayed snuggled in bed.

Claire came in at 7:15 to wish me a happy anniversary and say good bye for the day.  I easily fell back into a blissful sleep wrapped in the warmth of the downy-ness surrounding me. At 7:45 I heard the thundering sound of puppy paws bounding into our room.  I opened a sleepy eye to see Bella staring up at me.  I wished her a "good morning" and that was all the invitation she needed to decide our bed is where she deserved to be.  All 40 pounds of pure puppy energy came bounding into our bed. I rubbed her furry ears as she plopped down beside me, snuggling in...happy for a warm and comfy place to sleep.  It was after she snuggled in I realized she smelled like shampoo and as I was stroking her fur I noticed she was damp.  Hmmmmmmm....  Lucas popped his head in as I was drifting back off to sleep with clean, damp puppy beside me and he escaped before I could ask what happened with Bella and why she was wet.  I was now slightly awake so I swung my legs out of bed, slipped into my robe and slippers and went to find the answer to why Bella was wet.  I stepped out into the hallway and was greeted with a cheery "Good morning!" from Stan and a kiss from Lucas with Stan quickly asking me to go back to bed.  I did as I was asked, gladly hopping back into my warm bed with a sweet puppy by my side.  I was rewarded for my "obedience" with breakfast in bed...all of my favorites delivered to me from Stan.  It was then I got the story about Bella and her latest, and not so greatest, shizzard.  Welcome to 19 years of  wedded bliss and our new fairy tale world!

But I wouldn't change a bit of it.  

19 years have passed since we exchanged vows, becoming husband and wife.  Not all of our years have been the fairy tale of our wedding day.  We have experienced nearly every part of our vows.  We have experienced the better, the worse, the richer, the poorer, the sickness and health.  Some years have been years that truly tried our souls.  And then there have been years we been abundantly blessed.  Every year is part of the story of our lives as husband and wife and now mom and dad.  

So today we won't be spending the day preparing for and getting pampered for the biggest day of our lives.  Today we will spend the day shuttling kids around, baking a gingerbread house for Zach and his girlfriend to decorate.  Today we will spend the day waiting for the Comcast guy to show up, feeding all of our animals and cleaning up shizzards.  Today we will spend the day taking care of all of our kiddos and living the life of our new fairy tale.  

So, here's the truth about fairy tales...they change, they morph and they can shift to fit whatever stage of life we're living.  Our fairy tale has changed.  It's not just the two of us anymore and I wouldn't have it any other way.  Life now is the new and improved fairy tale story...Fairy Tale 2.0. and it's sometimes messy,  sometimes painful, sometimes chaotic and sometimes out of control but it's a life that I wouldn't trade for anything because it's my fairy's real life ~ one where faults are accepted and expected and where we come together as a family and just enjoy our very own fairy tale.

Oh, for the love of my children...

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Essay

OK, so maybe I'm a little crazy.  I have assigned both boys essays as part of their punishments when they have veered wildly off course with bad behavior and even worse decisions (Claire hasn't had to opportunity to veer wildly off course yet so there hasn't been a need to assign her an essay...yet).  The essays need to be typed, double spaced, grammatically correct, well thought out and well written.  The papers have to be able to get achieve the grade of A, as reviewed by me.

Lucas has had a six page essay looming over his head since his misdeeds at school last May.  It started out as five pages but because he erased it off the chalkboard station in our kitchen (where I try to maintain lists of what needs to be accomplished) and then told friends that he didn't have to write it anymore I increased the page total to six.  All of his privileges have not yet been restored because I didn't have the essay in my hand.  His iPod and Facebook remain off limits until the essay is in my hand.  Stan thinks I should just give up but Lucas and I are both stubborn Scorpios so this is a test in mental mettle.  I think I've almost won.  Lucas is finally ready to get his privileges back so the essay was given to me last night.

Today, I became the editor in chief wielding my red pen with great relish.  I gave Lucas six different, yet similar topics, to "discuss" in his paper.  I wanted a little cohesion between the topics but I wasn't looking for a regurgitation of the different topics from page to page.  As I read through his paper, I see more regurgitation and less cohesion.  But in Lucas' defense...he has never written any kind of paper before.  In his eight years of schooling his teachers have never once assigned a paper or a book report to him.  He has no idea how to write, what to write or how to engage his "audience"  So the editor has to become the teacher...he and I have some work to do.

I did ask him if I could post his essay on my blog once it is perfectly polished.  He said yes, reluctantly, but maybe once it has "hooks" to draw you in at the beginning of the topic and flows within the body of the paper he will look at it with pride and want you to see what he has written.  We will see how it goes.  I know I'm going to get some push-back today when he gets home from school and he sees the river of red on his paper, but for me, for now, the essay is no longer about fulfilling part of a punishment.  The essay has become a way for me to help Lucas become a proficient writer ~ a writer who can crank out term papers and book reports in high school and college.  This essay is the perfect way to work on those skills.

So, maybe I'm not as crazy as I think I am for assigning essays as part of a punishment.  Knowing how to write a paper is a necessary I guess I should switch my role from being a little crazy for assigning essays to being the necessary part of the evil.  And for my next trick I will teach Lucas how to read and write in cursive (somehow he missed that lesson too!)...yet another necessary evil.  I'll let you know how that one  goes.  As for the essay, I hope you can see parts, if not all, of it someday soon.

Oh, for the love of my children....

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Day I Hiked a Mountain

14 years ago today I gave birth to my sweet little Lucas.

14 years ago yesterday, I hiked a mountain.

Here is the story surrounding Lucas' birth...

Dear Lucas,

I was SO done being pregnant.  I was a week overdue and I was completely and totally over being pregnant with you.  I was desperate to meet you.  AND  I had never been pregnant that long stayed cooking for six weeks longer than when I was pregnant with Zach who came five weeks early.  I just assumed, wrongly, that you would come early too which added to my frustration, exponentially.  You seemed content to stay put exactly where you were.  You didn't seem so inclined to come meet your family.  So you just keep cooking in my internal incubator.  The obstetrician finally had pity on me and decided that November 6th would be the day you were going to be born.

My induction was set for 7 a.m.  The only problem  was I didn't want to be induced.  I wanted to reclaim my body and meet you but I wanted this on my own terms, not the doctors.   I wanted you, you little bugger, to vacate my incubator but I didn't want drugs.

On November 5th, Dad, Zach, Charlie (our first golden retriever) and I hiked the mountain behind our house in Bad Kissengen, Germany.  Dad pushed Zach in the jogger stroller we had, as Charlie, you and I blazed the path in front of them.  This had to work...this had to be the catalyst to get you moving out of the cozy comfort of the womb and out into the loving arms of our family.  We finished our hike, prepared dinner, put Zach to bed and settled in ourselves with the alarm clock set so we could get to the hospital on time.

No need to worry about a six a.m. alarm.  The hike worked.  At around 3 a.m. the contractions started.  The phone call was made to our neighbor to come stay with Zach so Dad, you and I could get ourselves to St. Elisabeth's Krankehaus (known here in the U.S. as a hospital). We loaded ourselves into the car and headed to the hospital at 4 a.m.

It was as we pulled up to the hospital that I  found our how German hospitals are just a little different than American hospitals....

Dad parked the car with me in it...there was no place to pull up in front of a well lit "Emergency" sign.  The hospital was dark.  And I mean dark...dimly lit ~ no looked closed.  I waddled ahead of Dad, and yes, I said "waddled."  I was overdue with you...meaning you overstayed your welcome and I was hugely pregnant with you which caused me to waddle like a duck.  Dad and I were looking for a way to get into the Krankenhaus.  As we approached the entrance we saw the button ~ the doorbell to the hospital.  Yep, a doorbell on the front of a hospital.  Dad pushed the button and a voice came over the intercom "Wie kann ich ihnen helfen?" ~ "How can I help you?"  Dad explained, in German, that we were having a baby ~ you.  The door buzzed open and we were in.

As we walked into the lobby there is not one nurse waiting for me.  American hospitals are swarming with nurses waiting to take the pregnant lady to the maternity ward when she walks in the front door.  There was no wheelchair waiting to take me upstairs to the place where babies are delivered.  American hospitals won't let a pregnant mama walk once she steps foot in the hospital.  There was no elevator beckoning me to its doors and ready to whisk me up.  I had to walk...on my own two feet ~ clutching dad's arm every two to three minutes.   Again, American hospitals don't let pregnant mamas walk much.

We finally made our way up to the maternity was closed.  There were no nurses manning the nurses' station...there was no one.  Dad went in search of someone to help us and he finally hunted down a nurse in the nursery.  She found our midwife who was sleeping her shift away in the delivery room.

Nurse Helga came into the hallway rubbing the sleep from her eyes but ready to do her job.  She hooked me up to the monitor to make sure my contractions were good and strong.  And then she let me do something no American hospital really lets you do.  She unplugged me from the monitor and let me walk.  I walked and walked and walked, up and down the halls.  It was heaven.  I wasn't strapped down, watching the monitor read every single contraction.  I was barely aware of contractions as Dad and Beth (my friend who came to support me) and I walked the halls of St. Elisabeth's.

Around 6 in the morning, nurse Helga decided it was time to get things moving so she ran a bath for me...a bath!!  She lit lavender candles and sprinkled lavender bath salts into the water.  The lights were dim in the bathroom and I kicked back, lounging in the biggest tub I had ever seen.  I was relaxed, happy and more than ready to have a baby.  Let's get this show on the we did.  You, Lucas Ford Pokrywka, were born at 7:04 weighing in at 7 pounds 2 oz.  Your picture was taken and put on a pass for me so I could "check you out" of the nursery when I wanted to.  You were cleaned up, fully dressed and taken to the nursery so I could rest.

The nurses wheeled me to the recovery room, handed me a lunch menu so I could get some lunch and then they left me to relax.  After lunch was chosen, Dad left to go home, get cleaned up and get Zach.  I tried to do what I needed to do...sleep.  All I could think about as I tried to sleep was that I was famished but there was nothing I could do.  The German hospital didn't have a phone and cell phones were still not quite the norm so I had no way of contacting Dad.  There was no nurses "call button" for me to use and request lunch earlier or to request a phone call to Dad.  There was  no TV in my recovery room so all I could do was try not to gnaw my arm off in my state of extreme hunger.  Finally, lunch arrives and I find I'm eating sea eel...that's a great post delivery lunch ~ sea eel and rice...YUM!

Part of what I'm telling you now is a story for when you get a little older, my love, but I had to include it so I didn't forget it...hopefully, you find humor in it someday...

My stay in the hospital with you was just a tad different than my stay in the American hospital when I had Zach.  I shared a room with a German lady whose breast milk shot out of her like a gushed and spurted everywhere.  I was mortified.  I had a private room with Zach so I never saw milk erupting from breasts like lava from Mount Vesuvius.   Like I said above, there were no TVs in any of the maternity rooms, recovery or otherwise.  I actually had to try and make conversation with my room mate, whose breast milk ran down her front in a near constant stream.  I had no phone, still.  So I had no way to contact Dad and ask him to bring me things or just chat with him so I could be distracted from the river of breast milk on the bed next to me.  I was at the mercy of Zach's nap schedule for any kind of entertainment or diversion from Dad.  (Luckily all of our Army friends flooded the room to visit with me, and bring me treats (like coconut macaroons), so I didn't completely lose my mind.)  By day two I was more than ready to leave the hospital and head back home...taking you with me.  My room mate thought I was insane.  German women stay in the hospital for seven to 10 days so they could properly recover.  I was not so much into recovery as I was into escaping what I considered to be a painful environment, flooded (literally) with an overflowing milk supply courtesy of my room mate.

Life couldn't have been sweeter the day I forced you to come into this world by hiking a mountain and yes,  I did force you out in the big wide world but I'm glad I did.  It's adds just a little bit of fun to the story of your actual birthday.  You are quite a kid and you need an interesting story surrounding the day we celebrated you finally meeting our family...

Happy 14th Birthday, to my favorite "little" blond boy!  

Saturday, November 3, 2012

What Gives Me The Right?

Every week my friend and blogging partner-in-crime, Julie, and I get together to challenge each other, prop each other up and talk all things writing (not dorky, over-intellectualized stuff but the nitty gritty of what makes writing fun for us, what our goals are, how we're gonna get there and how nerve wracking it sometimes is to put this stuff out there for you all to read.)  Anyway, I digress...a couple of weeks ago Julie gave us a writing prompt to fill in with a story.

"What gives you the right?" was the prompt.  Julie went on to explain that she got the idea from another writing prompt site and thought it could easily be applied to us.  Here on our blogs, she and I have both taken our kiddos' lives and turned them out there for all of you to see, inspect and sometimes, possibly, judge.  So what gives us the right to do that?

So I'll tell you what gives me the right...but first, I'm going to have to turn that prompt just a little and say it's not a's my privilege to write down these stories for the kids.  You see, I suck at pretty much every other way of documenting their lives.  Those cute little "My first year" calendars that we all get as baby shower gifts sit, probably still in their wrappers, covered with dust on a high shelf in the back of a closet some where.  I have tubs and tubs of pictures stashed here there and everywhere.  Stan has tried, to no avail, to help me mend my wicked non-scrap-booking ways by buying me pretty...oh, what are they called???....OH YEAH, photo albums.  He has tried to guilt me into putting pictures in the photo albums by saying things like "You know, most people have these books where all of the pictures are contained.  You can just flip to the page and 'voila' there is the picture."  Yeah, I suck at all of that.

Writing these stories down seems to be the only way I'll have to preserve my kiddos' history.

I don't have much of a history myself.  All of my baby pictures are stored on those so very convenient things called "slides."  You know what I'm talking need a slide projector and screen to flip through them.  The slides have never been transferred over to film so there the sit in boxes, stashed away in the back of my parents' attic. Stories of my youth aren't really ever told or re-told so there is not much there for me either...those stories are long gone.

I don't want my kids to lose their histories so I am taking this "right" I have (because I'm the parent and I say so) and turning it into a privilege so my kids' stories are preserved and someday, maybe, their kids will want to read stories of their parents' long ago lives.  So until that time...this is not only my right but my privilege as well ~ for the love of my children...

Friday, November 2, 2012

That Last Look Back

When the kids were little and I'd drop them off at preschool I knew I'd always get that one last look back from them as they went off to play, socialize and learn how to be a student ~ the one last hug, as they ran over to give me "one more kiss."  As they all got a little older I guess I kind of stopped expecting the last little wave goodbye.  I know they are all growing up and refocusing so I learned not to expect it.

But today I got it.  Today as I dropped Claire off I got one last look...the last little wave goodbye as she and her friend walked toward their bus.  My heart sang a happy tune as I pulled away from the curb with the image of Claire turning around to give me that one little last piece of love...her wave.

How many more years will I have the honor of the last look goodbye?  Will it go away and resurface later?  Will it go away altogether?  I hope, even though I know I shouldn't expect it, that I'll always get the last little look backwards...always.

For the love of my children...

Thursday, November 1, 2012

It's Time to Rock and Roll...

Alright is done.  My donation to NaNoWriMo is complete and I'm ready to drop (or re-drop) my first chapter into NaNoWriMo's database to see the ever important "number count."  I'm as excited this year for the entire month of November as I was last year ~ except this year the end will be even sweeter.  But I'm  also more nervous this year.  I know we aren't using NaNoWriMo for its true purposes this year and we've talked about that.  We are instead using this month of literary abandon to edit, polish, grow and finish those novels we wrote this time last know the ones which have been hanging over our heads for the past 12 months ~ neither of us ready to read and re-read those 50,000 words we poured so much of ourselves into.  So now, this month, is the time and somehow the stakes seem higher.

In keeping with our promise to encourage each other to keep moving forward I am posting an excerpt of the first chapter of my unnamed book that, right now, has 50,000 words ~ I'm hoping I can grow to at least 100,000 words this month.  Before I post my except, I'll give you a little background on my characters (Stan was finally privy to the plot just the other day....I kept it a under wraps from him for the past year)...the book is based on a set of secret diaries kept by a woman named Cece, who is based very loosely on me (we are told write what we know so I went that route with my first book).  They are her thoughts and feelings about her life with her husband and children (I have used some of my letters to my kiddos and writings about them) but these diaries also contain a secret which only Cece knows, or suspects.  Cece passed away many years ago and her secrets remain hidden until her daughter, Maggie, is, in a sense, challenged to find out the hidden truth behind her mother. Maggie is drawn into the quest to learn about life before she was born and when she was young.  Maggie is leading herself on a search to find the truth about her mom and the secret her mother has uncovered.


I was just told that my mom was a fucking bitch.  I sit here in stunned silence, knowing my mom is not here to defend herself.  She died when I was 10…nearly 20 years have gone by without me hearing her voice, having her hand brush against my cheek as she leans over to kiss me goodnight.  20 long years have passed and my heart still aches at my loss.  My thoughts are in turmoil.  My heart rebels at what I am hearing.  What the hell am I supposed to do with information I can neither validate nor dispute?  What is the point of telling me this story now when my mom can do nothing to defend herself ?  I want to leave, to walk away but I can't.  I am held spellbound by the story I am being told.  It is a side of my mother I have never seen or heard and one I that is begging me to find answers.

My name is Maggie Walker.  I am the youngest of four children.  I guess you could say I was a baby "oops."   My two older brothers are 15 and 12 years older than I am and my sister is 10 years older.  So, really, I am a youngest, an oldest and an only child.  My brothers and sister were well on their way to being grown up by the time I started kindergarten. 

I didn't know my mom nearly as well as my siblings did.  My mom died of cancer when I was 10.  She will never know my children like she knew my brothers' and sister's kids.  There are so many times I feel lost and disconnected when it comes to losing my mom which is why I have no earthly idea how to stop the barrage of horrible, spiteful words coming out of the mouth of my aunt.  My dad's sister-in-law is spewing venom about a woman I adore and I can't defend her.  I don't know enough about her and the story behind my aunt’s venom to say a word.

As I sit here listening, I know there is so much more to the story.  The burning desire to get to the facts starts churning in the pit of my stomach.  It's what I do.  I am a private investigator, so digging for the facts is second nature to me.  Some call it nosy, I call it fact finding.  I need to get away and get my head together but my aunt's tale holds me in a tight grip. 

I don't know my aunt very well.   She has not had much contact with my family.  Nobody really talks about her or what happened in the time she and her my uncle lived not far from where I was born and raised.  I am not sure she and my uncle are even married anymore.  I have no idea.  Their life seems like a deep, dark, secret buried in the proverbial family closet.

I sit across the table from this woman and take in her appearance.  She is impeccably dressed.  Her tall, slim physique is clothed in what appears to be a Chanel suit.  She looks to be in her mid-forties, maybe fifty.  Her face has remained largely unlined but her neck gives away her age.  She has incredibly beautiful dark blue eyes and her hair is almost black.  My gut tells me it's dyed but there are no roots to prove it.  I shift my focus from her to the things she is using to define herself. Two carat diamonds glitter in her ears.  Her watch looks to be a Patek Phillipe and she is carrying a Chanel bag.  I am not sure what brand of shoe she is wearing but they look as expensive as the rest of her.  I have to say I am vaguely repulsed by this woman.  I don't know if it's because of the story she's telling or if it's because things just seem a bit "off" with her....

I shake my head, trying to bring myself back to the present ~ to focus on what she is saying and not her appearance but it's hard.  Her appearance draws me in.  We are sitting at Becco's in New York City having lunch together.  I'm here on business and somehow my aunt found me.  I'm not sure how or why she decided to contact me but here we are.  The longer I sit here the more I realize this here and now is not where I want to be.  

So, here it is...the beginning of my first novel.  It's now my time to rock and roll.  So many of you, along with Stan and my kiddos, have asked me lately about by novel and it's time to make it into something I'm proud of.  And this one is for the love of me actually...oh OK, and my children too!

The excerpt above is protected by Copyright

Jennifer Combs-Pokrywka
Writing the Devil's Diaries

© 2012, Jennifer Combs-Pokrywka
Self publishing

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. This book contains material protected under International and Federal Copyright Laws and Treaties. Any unauthorized reprint or use of this material is prohibited. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without express written permission from the author / publisher.