Read the First Chapter from THE PILATE SCROLL by M.B. Lewis #FirstChapter

Author: Michael Lewis
Publisher: SATCOM Publishing
Pages: 354
Genre: Christian Thriller


A quest to save the world . . . a secret that could change it. Forever.

Kadie Jenkins is a survivor. Now part of an elite group of scholars and scientists, their mission is to stop an impending global terrorist threat. But when a colleague is murdered in Egypt, Kadie finds herself pitted against a foe more terrifying than the one they were trying to stop. Teaming up with a renegade pilot and her younger brother, they find themselves in a race against time, greed, and certain death. Can they uncover a 2000-year-old legend to save themselves and possibly the rest of the world?

Chapter One

Chapter 1

Port Said, Egypt

The Market District


Samuel Jacobson was a dead man. Or at least he thought so. His phone call had been erratic, anxious—almost in a panic.

“Brian, we have to go.” Kadie Jenkins stood and slid her iPhone back in the cargo pocket of her tan 5.11 cargo pants. She grabbed her purse and rose from the table in the back of the tiny restaurant, dragging her nineteen-year-old brother out before they had a chance to order their dinner. The restaurant sat tucked between shops selling hookahs on one side and women’s clothes on the other. The aroma of fresh bread and grilled meats dissipated, replaced by the pungent scent of car exhaust and camel dung.

“It’s only a fifteen-minute walk back to the hotel,” Kadie said. “I bet we can make it in ten.”

Brian stumbled behind her as they hurried along dusty streets. They turned into the souk, or open-air market, the brick-laid section of the market that was pedestrian-only this time of night. While many of the shops had their “roll-up” metal security doors pulled down, the market bristled with life. 

Vendors waved items in their faces, children tugged on their pant legs, and beggars held their palms up hoping for a handout. Her eyes studied everyone who came close, gauging their intentions in a moment’s glance. She was one of only a few women in the market not wearing a hijab, thus identifying her as a tourist.

“Kadie slow down,” Brian said. His breathing came deep and awkward, despite being a regular participant in the Special Olympics.

“Sorry, Brian. We could get a cab at the other end of the market. But by the time we find one, describe our hotel, and negotiate a price, we could walk to the hotel.” While she relished the exercise, she worried her pace was too much for him. He was fit for a young man with Down syndrome, but she moved swiftly.

Their team had been in Egypt for almost three weeks. Starting in Cairo, the small group of seven from GDI, the Global Disease Initiative, had been scouring the city for clues to an ancient cure. Their quest had led them from the United States to Cairo, then to Port Said. Their four days here had not yet proven fruitful.

The goosebumps on her skin reminded her of Samuel’s phone call. His message was brief yet concise: his life was in danger because he knew what they were really searching for. What did he mean? Their team was one of four positioned across the Middle East in search of their goal. Now, for some reason, Samuel questioned what that was.

GDI had been contracted by the United States government to locate an ancient cure for an even older virus—the hantavirus. Kadie researched the topic before they left for Egypt. Rodents generally spread it, and this strain was a particularly virulent “Old World” virus that had proven resistant to modern medicine.

The Central Intelligence Agency learned that ISIS weaponized the hantavirus in aerosol form and planned to unleash it across the West. The virus was known at the CDC to cause hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome. Initial symptoms include fever, chills, blurred vision, back and abdominal pain, and intense headaches known to bring a grown man to his knees. Later, those exposed would experience shock, low blood pressure, kidney failure, and vascular leakage—all in all, a nasty virus to thrust upon any population. The logistics involved in treating the virus were obvious.

The unique thing about the “Old World” hantavirus, was that it had predominantly appeared in Europe and Asia. GDI discovered that the virus had been eliminated in the Middle East, which was odd, as rodents were prevalent throughout the region.

Through one of their many connections, GDI learned of a legendary cure developed in ancient Israel around 30 A.D. The virus had a different name back then, but the symptoms were the same. The cure was a simple combination of plants and minerals. The formula was stored in a vase with Aramaic writing on the side and lay hidden for millennia. That was why she was here. Kadie was fluent in Latin, Greek, and Aramaic. The executive vice president for the Science and Technology Division of GDI had contacted her personally, telling her she was “uniquely qualified” for this job. Kadie was enthralled to join the team when the offer came.

Samuel was in his early sixties, and he and Kadie had struck up a friendship at the beginning of their journey. He became her mentor and father figure, occasionally giving her advice on what to do with her career. Samuel was the team’s expert on carbon dating. His equipment was state-of-the-art, but other than testing its functionality the day after they arrived, he hadn’t used it. So, what did he discover? What did he know that was worth killing for?

Halfway to the hotel, she mumbled something she shouldn’t have as she pulled out her phone and dialed. Her eyes darted toward her brother.

“Do not c-cuss,” Brian said between heavy breaths.

Brian. Her moral compass there to steer her back on course. She squeezed her brother’s hand. Brian always kept her grounded. What would she do when he was gone? But he was here now, and she needed to make sure he would be safe, something she had done for him since the day he was born.

“Sorry, Brian. I just remembered I need to call Curt. He’s probably on his way to the restaurant to meet us.”

“He is probably s-still wor—king.” Brian’s eyes darted back and forth. His speech impediment that made his ‘r’s sometimes sound like ‘w’s wasn’t nearly as bad as it was when he was younger, and his stutter only showed up when he was nervous.

Kadie grimaced. Curt didn’t answer his phone. He was GDI’s security man and the only full-time employee on their team. Kadie left a message, telling him she was sorry, but she had to leave the restaurant. They’d talk later.

Next, she called Samuel. He didn’t answer either. She slipped her phone back in her cargo pocket and glanced at her brother. He was doing all he could to keep up with Kadie and avoid the distractions of the numerous shops in the marketplace. Gasping, his jaw jutted forward, brow furrowed, and his eyes bulged. He had been reluctant to leave the restaurant; he must be starving. She had to plead with him to get him to budge.

“We did not stay—for food. I am hungry,” Brian said.

“I know. I’m sorry. I am, too.” Her eyes darted back and forth in search of something they could eat. A few moments later she smiled. Near the end of the market, a vendor baked and sold bread. They stopped next to the giant metal oven that extended back into a yellowing mud-brick building. The bread rolled out of the front like doughnuts at Krispy Kreme, and two men placed the warm food on a rack woven out of sticks to cool. Her limited vocabulary in conversational Arabic helped her in situations like this. Kadie bought two loaves of Aish Baladi, an Egyptian flatbread made with whole wheat flour, similar to a pita. Handing the bag of bread to Brian, they continued on their way.

The dust of the market peeled away as they rounded the corner and their hotel came into sight. Well-lit against the black sky, it sat on the edge of the water where the Suez Canal merged into the Mediterranean Sea. An outdoor restaurant sat to her left; the numerous tables had their umbrellas open, lit candles centered on each table. To her right, a small mosque lay nestled amongst other buildings. This street was far less crowded than the souk.

“What do you think about Curt?” Her chestnut-brown hair bounced as she slowed her pace so Brian could keep up. She needed a conversation to take her mind off Samuel.

“He is okay.” Brian looked away when he answered. Kadie knew what that meant. Brian’s instincts on people were spot on, and he wasn’t very fond of Curt. She wasn’t sure why; she was still trying to figure him out herself. Curt was a few years older than her. He was handsome, dashing, and brave—former Delta Force. There was something to be said for that.

They entered the newly renovated hotel, leaving the Third World atmosphere behind them. Kadie sighed as they weaved through the crowded lobby and lumbered up the stairs to their room on the second floor. She dropped Brian off in their room before she went to check on Samuel.

“Don’t leave,” she said. “I’ll be back in a minute.”

“Okay.” Brian moved to the couch and pressed the big green button on the television remote.

Kadie closed the door; the hairs on the back of her neck bristled, and her heartbeat raced higher than usual. She hurried down the hall to Samuel’s room. Inside, she heard a loud crash and the sound of something hitting the wall, followed by a solid thud.

That’s not good, she thought.

Kadie tried the door handle. Locked. She pulled a small FOB out of her pocket. It was called a Gomer, a new device that opened almost any electronic lock. It had wreaked havoc on the hotel industry, but she had picked one up back in the States knowing she’d be living in hotels abroad for three months.

She was hesitant to use it. She shouldn’t just barge into his room. Then came a second thud, followed by a muffled cry.

Kadie swiped the FOB across the lock and pushed hard against the door. The door cracked open about two inches and abruptly stopped; the chain secured on the inside.

“Samuel?” She peered through the gap; a body lay on the floor. Oh my, he’s had a heart attack. Kadie lowered her shoulder and bulldozed the door. It started to give way. On the second try, the chain burst free from the wall and the door flew open.

Kadie gasped. In the center of the room, a large man stood over Samuel’s body, wearing a faded brown futa, the traditional Yemini male shirt, and black pants. A black keffiyeh covered his face, with only his eyes exposed.

The man stood over Samuel, the bloody knife in his hand dripping on the floor.

* * *



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M.B. Lewis is an Amazon #1 International Bestselling Author, and his books have also been on the Bestseller lists on Barnes and Noble Nook and Kobo platforms. The author of the award-winning Jason Conrad Thriller series has been on numerous author panels at writer’s conferences such as Thrillerfest, The Louisiana Book Festival, The Pensacola Book and Writers Festival, and Killer Nashville.

A 25-year Air Force pilot, he has flown special operations combat missions in Bosnia, Iraq, and Afghanistan in the AC-130U Spooky Gunship. Michael is currently a pilot for a major U.S. airline.

A proud Christian active in his community, Michael has mentored college students on leadership development and team-building and is a facilitator for an international leadership training program. He has participated as a buddy for the Tim Tebow Foundation’s “Night to Shine” and in his church’s Military Ministry program. Michael has also teamed with the Air Commando Foundation, which supports Air Commando’s and their families’ unmet needs during critical times.

While his adventures have led to travels all around the world, Michael lives in Florida with his wife Kim.








REEL TO REEL is a collection of some of Isla Grey's "Movie Mistakes" column for Bellaonline spotlighting the fun goofs found in some of our favorite movies...

By Isla Grey

Author: Isla Grey
Publisher: Independent
Pages: 287
Genre: Nonfiction / Entertainment


Lights, Camera, Action! From the very beginning, the world of cinema has captivated us. We have found ourselves laughing at our favorite comedies, crying when love finally comes to fruition, being beamed to other worlds or battling in the midst of action sequences. While movies might be the perfect entertainment, most have slight imperfections, mistakes, which go unseen, until they’re released and caught by the movie audience. These mistakes don’t detract from the film, and finding them are just as fun as watching the movie.

For the past several years, Isla Grey has written a “Movie Mistakes” column for Bellaonline. “Reel to Reel” is a collection of some of those columns, spotlighting the fun goofs found in some of our favorite movies. Can you spot them? Grab the popcorn, sit back, and happy movie watching!

The Wizard of Oz

The story of Dorothy Gale and her dog, Toto’s trip to the Land of Oz is one of the most beloved movie tales of all time. After their home is hit by a tornado in Kansas, the pair find their house has landed in an unusual land as well as sitting on top of what used to be the sister of the Wicked Witch of the West. The grateful Munchkins and Glinda, the Good Witch of the North, urge Dorothy to travel to the Emerald City, home of the powerful Oz, the one person who could help her get back home to Kansas. During her travels, Dorothy befriends the unusual trio of the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Cowardly Lion who come along with her on the journey.  Dorothy must also watch out for the evil Wicked Witch of the West who’s not only out for revenge for her sister’s death, but more importantly, wants her sister’s ruby slippers, which are now Dorothy’s.  Here are a few movie mistakes to look for while watching “The Wizard of Oz”.

 Dorothy and Toto arrive in Oz and meet the Munchkins. During one part of their song and dance routine, they give Dorothy a lollipop and flowers.  The Wicked Witch arrives, and Dorothy can be seen holding both items in some views and just the flowers in others. During some portions of the scene, she’s holding neither.

 If you watch Dorothy closely when she starts walking down the yellow brick road, you’ll notice her hair becomes longer by the time she meets the Scarecrow.

 Dorothy and the Scarecrow meet the Tin Man when the Wicked Witch of the West arrives. The Wicked Witch of the West throws fire at the scarecrow and disappears. Scarecrow falls to Dorothy’s left while the Tin Man is on her right side.  They stand up a couple moments later and the Tin Man is now on her left while the Scarecrow is on her right.

 The Tin Man sits down on a tree trunk. Dorothy’s basket has his oil can, but it can be seen falling out and onto the yellow brick road. In the next view, however, the oil can is back in the basket.

 The foursome reach Emerald City and the Cowardly Lion starts a song and dance number. During the scene, the Tin Man makes a crown out of a ceramic flower pot and places it on the Lion’s head. In the next close-up view, the crown has changed position. Also, during this scene, when the guard tells them to go away, the crown falls from the Cowardly Lion’s head and bounces on the ground instead of breaking. Something else to look for-- during the Cowardly Lion’s solo, after the crown has been placed on his head, you can see the white vertical wire behind him that swishes his tail back and forth.

 Dorothy, Scarecrow, The Tin Man, Cowardly Lion and Toto are walking through the Haunted Forest. The Cowardly Lion is carrying a net and mallet. He’s still carrying them when he tries to run away but in the next view of him, they’re gone.

“The Wizard of Oz” (1939) stars Judy Garland, Ray Bolger, Jack Haley, Bert Lahr, Margaret Hamilton, Billie Burke, Clara Blandick, Charley Grapewin and Terry the dog. It runs 101 minutes and is rated G.


Isla Grey is from Central Virginia and at an early age developed a love of movies.  She shared many Sunday afternoons watching old favorites with her grandmother that included everything from “Gone with the Wind” and “Rio Bravo” to “Titanic” and “The Mummy”.

Working as Bellaonline’s Movie Mistakes editor since 2012 has given Isla the opportunity to indulge in two of her passions—movies and writing.

When Isla isn’t writing or watching movies, most of her time is spent with her ever active daughter and her band of cats.  She also enjoys good music, reading biographies and ghost stories and taking quiet strolls.




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🏰 Read the First Chapter from THE FRAGILE ONES by Jennifer Chase #FirstChapter

Author: Jennifer Chase
Publisher: Bookouture
Pages: 300
Genre: Crime Thriller


“Please Mommy, can Tessa and I go play on the swing by the creek?” the little girl begs, pushing a blonde curl from her eyes. “We’ll stay together, and we promise to be safe.” Hours later, their mother waits anxiously for her darling girls to arrive home with a list of reasons why they are late. But the front door never opens…

When the bodies of eleven and twelve-year-old sisters, Tessa and Megan, are found at the bottom of a ravine—dressed in matching pastel summer outfits, their small bodies broken from the fall—Detective Katie Scott is called to one of the most shocking and heartbreaking crime scenes of her career.

Carefully picking through the fragile remains, Katie makes the first of many disturbing discoveries: the girls were not biological sisters. The youngest, Megan, is a DNA match to a kidnapping case years before. The tiny number burnt into her skin the mark of a terrifying killer intent on keeping count of his collection.

Her PTSD from the army triggered, Katie is left reeling as she maps other missing children in the local area. Has this twisted soul found a way to stay nearby his victims? Could he be watching now as Katie hits one dead end after another?

A wild storm building, matching a fiber found during the autopsy to a nearby boatyard is the break Katie needs. But when another girl goes missing, just as lightning strikes and the power goes out, Katie only has her instincts, her team and her service dog to rely on. As time runs out for Katie to finds the stolen child alive, who will become the next number on this monster’s deadly list?

Fans of Lisa Regan, Rachel Caine and Melinda Leigh, you better buckle-up for the ride of your life! BEWARE – this gripping crime thriller is guaranteed to keep you up all night!


Wow!!!… a page-turningnail-biting crime thriller!!… absolutely fantastic… had me completely hooked… filled with nail-biting suspense… keeps you on edge.’ Bookworm86, 5 stars

Excellent… nail-biting… had me enthralled from page one gripped through each twist and turn… jaw-dropping and totally unexpected… brilliant.’ NetGalley reviewer, 5 stars

My heart was in my throat… kept me tapping my e-reader screen.’ Robin Loves Reading, 5 stars

Oh, my goodness!… non-stop!’ Diane is Reading, 5 stars

THERE WAS NO WAY I WAS PUTTING THIS BOOK DOWN!!!!!… I was literally holding my breath… I HAD TO KNOW!!!!! As for the explosive ending? WOW definitely not what or who I was expecting.’ Goodreads reviewer, 5 stars

Two years later

Tuesday 1945 hours

“I’m so proud of how far you’ve come, and really impressed at how hard you’ve been working to tackle your anxiety,” said Dr. Carver, her calm voice and serene expression beaming through the computer screen.

“I’m finally feeling like I’m in control and not the other way around. I can actually say that a weight has been lifted,” said Katie Scott as she took a deep breath and tried to visualize her worries and fears leaving her body as she’d been taught. She then readjusted herself on the couch with Cisco, her jet-black German shepherd, at her side.

“I want to insert a bit of caution,” said Dr. Carver.

Katie didn’t want to hear anything negative to take away how great she had been feeling recently, but she knew that Dr. Carver had been right about many things so far. She braced herself and listened.

“This process will sometimes involves great steps forward and then surprise you with unexpected setbacks, but I don’t want you to become discouraged. Okay?” The doctor continued to makes notes just out of view, pushing her dark hair away from her face to concentrate.

“I understand,” said Katie.

“Do you still have nightmares?”

“Sometimes, but they are becoming less frequent.” The truth was that she had disturbing dreams a couple times a week, but she’d had them so long that she only really counted the truly terrifying ones. They’d become such a familiar part of her life.

“That is common—so don’t worry. And taking into consideration your job as a cold case detective and its unique stresses, it’s best to be alert, calm and prepared for what your next case will bring,” she said and smiled. “There might be some setbacks, but it won’t take away all the hard work you’ve put in. You are in a much better place now.”

It was true. Katie had come a long way since she arrived home a little more than a year ago from two tours in Afghanistan as an Army K9 handler. She glanced down at Cisco who was snoozing beside her. Not a day would go by where she wasn’t grateful for being able to bring home her partner with her. “Thank you Dr. Carver.” She smiled. “I know there will be tough days ahead, and my past experiences will haunt me from time to time—but I’ve never given up on a fight.”

“And that’s when all your new skills and knowledge will kick in, and you’ll be much better prepared.”

“I know now that the first case I took on after I came home from the army caused me more distress than I realized. The image of the graves of those little girls will never leave me.”

“I know, but now you can use the fact that you overcame your demons and solved the case as a strength. Don’t forget what we’ve talked about; how you stay focused and in the moment, counting to ten with each breath. As simple as it sounds, it’s more difficult when you’re in the middle of an attack.”

“Yes. I have several images that help to calm my mind,” she said.

“Well, look, our time’s up for today. And I think that we can meet again in two weeks?”

Nodding, Katie said, “Definitely.”

“You know you can call me anytime, if you need to speak before then. Okay?”

“Thank you.”

“Good night.”

“Good night,” said Katie as the screen went blank, before the screensaver kicked-in with a photo of her and Chad—her childhood best friend and now boyfriend. It was amazing how they had found each other again, and on this occasion the timing was right. She smiled, remembering everything they had been through growing up together, and then finding each other again at the perfect moment.

Slowly shutting her laptop, Katie mused that things were falling into place at last. Perhaps for the first time since leaving the army she felt it was possible to be a police detective and lead a normal life. There were things that she had seen that would never be erased from her mind, but she was learning how to live without panic attacks and anxiety paralyzing her. She was learning to forgive her past, and herself.

Jennifer Chase is a multi award-winning and USA Today BestSelling crime fiction author, as well as a consulting criminologist. Jennifer holds a bachelor degree in police forensics and a master’s degree in criminology & criminal justice. These academic pursuits developed out of her curiosity about the criminal mind as well as from her own experience with a violent psychopath, providing Jennifer with deep personal investment in every story she tells. In addition, she holds certifications in serial crime and criminal profiling.  She is an affiliate member of the International Association of Forensic Criminologists, and member of the International Thriller Writers.






Read the First Chapter from REFLECTIONS FROM BOTH SIDES OF THE GLASS CEILING by Stephanie Battaglino

Author: Stephanie Battaglino
Publisher: L’Oste Vineyard Press
Pages: 286
Genre: Memoir

For Stephanie Battaglino, her lifelong journey of self-discovery closely paralleled her daily grind of  trudging up the corporate ladder. Amidst the successes and failures of working as a male in the corporate world, Stephanie finally realized that the only path to career fulfillment was to embrace her true self once and for all. That it resulted in her becoming the first officer in the history of New York Life to come out on the job as transgender is not surprising. What was surprising was her abrupt introduction to that generations-old nemesis of working women everywhere, the Glass Ceiling. What she quickly realized was that her embrace of her authentic self came with a price: the loss of male privilege.

Reflections from Both Sides of the Glass Ceiling: Finding My Authentic Self in Corporate America is part memoir, part cautionary tale of what it is like to experience a career on both sides of the gender divide. Stephanie’s unique and very personal experience provides a powerful trailblazing story of inspiration, self-discovery, and triumph – for ALL women.

Chapter One 

Hiding in Plain Sight 

“Growth is painful. Change is painful. But nothing is as painful as staying stuck somewhere you don’t belong.” 

~ Mandy Hale 

KEARNY, NEW JERSEY LIES EIGHT MILES DUE WEST OF New York City. I had a clear view of the city’s skyline, across the Meadowlands, from my high school. I like to say that I grew up in the shadow of the city, and in many respects, I did—both literally and figuratively. It was a place where I found out that feeling different from everybody else meant hiding in the shadows at a very young age. For me, hiding wasn’t an option. I was a natural extrovert. On the playground, in school, and at family gatherings, I was always the center of attention—and I enjoyed the spotlight. So, instead of retreating to the shadows, I hid in plain sight. 

God, I wanted to get out of that town as fast as I could. By the time I attended high school, I knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that my future—whatever it was going to look like—was most definitely not going to take place in Kearny. I feared that if I didn’t go away to college,  

I would be resigned to a life of pumping gas and on the weekends hanging in some dive bar. But that only sounded good in conversation with friends. I was going for the laugh—and I usually got it. The real reason that I was running away was that I was running from myself. Wearing a mask every day was exhausting. 

Leaving home meant that maybe I could finally leave behind the dirty little secret I held onto for so long. In my most private and intimate moments, when no one was around, and I could retreat from being the center of attention, I felt like a girl inside, not a boy. I realize now that it was the first of many attempts to eradicate this “sickness” inside me. It was a pseudo-sickness that I would battle in a series of epic failures both in the workplace and my personal life for the next twenty-seven years. 

My socialization process as an overachieving male in the workplace and society was well on its way. My acquired machismo gave me a sense of competitiveness that fueled my successes and failures as a manager, executive, and a male in corporate life. My desire to compete and win has been a part of my personality my entire life, even after I transitioned. It is a trait that ultimately chaffed my male colleagues who were convinced that women should not act that way. 

During that first part of my life, I had no one and nowhere to turn to with my feelings. There was no outlet for me to share my deepest feelings. No support group. No internet. So I just lowered my head and so journeyed on, thinking that if I worked hard enough and did all the things that “manly men” did, I could destroy all traces of this horrible sickness. 

Growing Up Different: Was God Joking? 

I am the youngest of four children born to Jim and Rose Battaglino. I was born nearly twelve years after my middle brother and sister, fraternal twins, and almost fifteen years after my oldest brother. Despite the age difference—and what seemed like a generational difference—I got along just fine with my brothers and sister. But we only lived together in the same house, and in the case of my brothers and me, in the same attic room—for a few years. Both of my brothers were married and out of the house by the time I was thirteen. 

I was raised in a very Catholic family. I was begrudgingly carted off to mass every Sunday at St. Stephen’s Church. It was there that I first realized I was different from other boys my age, and more significantly, that it was a sin to feel that way. There was no way God could have ever created somebody like me on purpose. 

I must have done something horribly wrong to have this happen to me. I couldn’t determine if it was God’s will that drew me toward my mother’s closet that very first time. I was convinced that God was playing some sort of horrible joke on me. After all, he was watching me every single time that I would feel that overwhelming urge to slip into my mother’s or my sister’s undergarments and retreat into my fantasy world of being a girl—He knew I couldn’t stop. God knew it was never going to go away. And, He was responsible for making me the way that I am. 

Was this supposed to be my little version of hell on Earth that I was fated to endure for the rest of my life? I even thought it was all just some sort of supreme test that I had to pass to earn my place in heaven. I figured that I deserved it. After all, I couldn’t stop myself. I had to be punished for feeling the way I felt. How could I ever be one of God’s divine children? I was destined for the spiritual scrapheap. All I ever wanted was to wake up one morning and find that I was magically transformed into a girl. That was far too much to ask of God. 

All of this served to instill a deep sense of guilt and shame in me that I was determined, at all costs, to keep hidden from everyone. How could I ever possibly tell one of the priests or the nuns about my feelings? That was just not going to happen. Ever. It was a pang of guilt and shame that I carried like an ever-growing millstone around my neck for more than forty years. 

I was very conflicted, and I wanted to do everything right. I made myself half-crazy trying to make everybody happy. Go to catechism classes and obey the nuns. Take all of my sacraments and be a good boy. Happy parents meant I could more easily get away with all the cross dressing and all of the masturbatory fantasies of what it would be like to be a girl like my mom and my sister. 

But this was all a sin, wasn’t it? I was damned to the eternal flames of hell, wasn’t I? Those thoughts would stop me, but only for a moment. They could not overcome the much stronger feelings of femininity I would experience when I went off to my secret world. Once there, I couldn’t have cared less about all of the retribution. It was the furthest  thing from my mind. But I would never get to heaven being this way. I even thought for a time that being a priest might be an excellent way to go. I could do the proverbial end around all of this. Thankfully, I decided that wasn’t a good option for the Roman Catholic Church and me, after all. 

The Times They Were A-Changing … 

The world—as I mostly saw it through our furniture-sized RCA color television —was turning upside down in front of me. So many moments unfolded before my eyes: the war in Vietnam, Dr. King’s and Bobby Kennedy’s assassinations, and Woodstock. They all occupy, each in  

their way, an indelible place in my memory. But what rises above all of that are my memories of the women’s liberation movement: Gloria Steinem and the ritualized, public bra-burning that feminists did in the early 1970s. These images were always on the news, and it hit much closer to home.


      My sister Betty was a feminist in her own right. Well, as much as she could be a “feminist” in a very male-dominated household like mine— with parents like Archie and Edith Bunker of the hugely popular All in the Family television show of that same time. I can remember my sister and her girlfriends having the audacity to wear hot pants and go go boots, which was the very trendy fashion choice of newly liberated women of the day, out to the bar they used to hang out at one particular Friday night—much to my father and mother’s chagrin. But what stayed with me most was how women, including my sister and her friends, were celebrating their womanhood in the fashion choices they made, the cigarettes they smoked, and aligning themselves with the broader movement with the “Women’s Lib” buttons they had on their purses. 

In their way, these symbols of culture sent a message to the world around them that they were standing up to society and saying it was time we were treated fairly in the workplace and society as a whole—and it was time the men of the world realized that. It struck me as strangely empowering because it encouraged them to change how they carried themselves in the world. They seemed to have a newfound pride in being women and their solidarity with the other women in their social circle. And since I was so close to my sister at that time, my gender issues not withstanding, I felt that connection too. It all made perfect sense to me. Times were changing, and it was all reflected back to me through the television and my sister’s representation of what the movement looked like close to home. If it were me—and I so wished it was then—I think I would have been a part of the women’s lib movement too. It was time for women to be treated fairly, I thought, on an equal footing to men in all aspects of society. Pretty big thoughts for a twelve-year-old kid. Little did I know that I would experience that lack of equal footing for myself later in my life. 

But the reality of social change only went so far in my house. My

mom and dad were very conservative in their views on the roles of men and women. Dad was the breadwinner, and mom was the homemaker. As the only girl among the siblings, my sister had it rough because my mom had her life all figured out. It was already pre-scripted: find a husband who will provide for you, have kids, and stay home and raise them. My mom—and my dad, too—certainly felt that my sister should be pursuing the whole “house with the white picket fence” thing. From my vantage point as someone who was trying to emulate, on some level, how my sister presented herself to the world, the script our parents had for her life created an uphill battle in her quest to be an independent woman. 

Betty was trying to find her way as a working woman in the world, which in the early 1970s was still something of a new phenomenon. She tried to establish some independence measure from my parents, who had a more conventional idea of how things should be for her. I can remember it leading to more than one argument between my sister and my mother, especially when Betty presented them with the idea of mov ing out and finding an apartment. She made the mistake of asking their permission rather than just doing it, and it led to utter pandemonium. You would have thought my sister was declaring her allegiance to the Communist Party. Suffice it to say, it did not end well at all. At least she emerged from the confrontation still in possession of her bedroom in our house. 

I believed my sister had the right as a woman to blaze her own trail. My parents held her back and forced her to conform to outdated social stereotypes. The social upheaval was running rampant in society, and my parents were simply not participating—and expecting my sister to do the same. It wasn’t fair to her then, and it feels just as unfair today. 

While the women’s liberation movement of the 1970s undoubtedly created a tidal wave of change, it also marked the start of a debate about women’s roles, and more broadly, gender roles in society that still rages to this day. While gains for women, particularly in the workplace, have certainly been realized since that time, it seems to me that so much more is still left to be done. The societal definitions of what women’s and men’s roles look like are shifting. The rigidity of gender roles seems to have softened. For example, men can choose to stay at home and raise the kids  

while their wife goes off to work each day. But in the workplace, this shift is less apparent. If it weren’t, then perhaps we wouldn’t still be talking about a phenomenon like the glass ceiling in the first place. The women’s liberation movement may have started a revolution, but for many of the women I worked with, they were still waiting for that revolution to arrive. 

I distinctly remember hanging out with my sister when she would be getting ready for work in the morning before heading off to school. In her room, the radio would be playing the hit songs of 1970, like The Carpenters’ Close to You” or “I’ll Be There” by the Jackson Five, while she sat in front of her mirror and put on her makeup. I would sit mesmerized by how she would transform herself with each step of the process. First, she’d apply the foundation, then the blush, followed by her eye shadow, mascara, and lipstick. It was like she was taking on a different persona, ever so slowly, so precisely, one step at a time. I wanted to do that too. I wanted to be able to create a different “me” for the world to see, but I didn’t dare. I couldn’t—at least not when anyone was around to see. It was simply not in the cards for me then. 

I wondered what it must have been like for my sister at her workplace. From the stories I heard, she was well-liked and had lots of work friends, but what was it like inside the walls of the now-defunct Mutual Benefit Life Insurance Company? I didn’t think at all about it then, but  

I wonder if how she dressed, did her hair, and did her makeup had any sort of bearing on her status in her workplace.

I was captivated by my sister’s daily transformation. She became someone else right before my eyes. And I found that strangely appealing. Her routine pulled me in. It was as if she had to create a mask of some sort every morning that separated the “around the house” person from the “working woman” person. Whatever it was, it was a daily ritual that I found myself doing in much the same way when I was preparing for myfirst day of work as my authentic self some thirty or so years later. 

My Father’s Lessons 

My dad was a Teamster—and a patriot. He was a veteran of World War II, where he served in the Pacific as a Seabee in the United States Navy. They were the ones who built the airstrips—among other things— after we had overtaken places like Guadalcanal, an island once held by the Japanese. He went off to war not long after my oldest brother was born. When he got back home, having no high school diploma, he found a job driving a truck. It was to become his life’s work, and that’s how he became a union man. “That was back when being in a union meant something,” he used to tell me. The trouble is, when he finally retired from driving, his pension somehow became less than it was supposed to be. But his distinctly organized labor focus had an impact on me. It made me realize that as I grew up and began to think about what I wanted to do professionally, I most certainly did not want to be a tradesperson, or a truck driver like my dad was. I had loftier aspirations of nailing that executive position with all of the perks and the corner office. Fortunately, my dad was in full support of that vision. He often told me that he wanted a better life for me. That’s one reason I knew that college was most definitely in the cards for me at a very young age. Despite never graduating high school, my dad knew that education was the most crucial prerequisite for my success in corporate America, and I ran with it. I don’t think I’ve ever stopped. 

Like many fathers of his generation, he wasn’t exactly the nurturing sort; that just wasn’t his way. I don’t recall him ever saying the words, “I love you,” to me. But he was always supportive of whatever I was doing in school and sports. I did whatever I could to make him proud of me. Not just in sports, in life as well. I couldn’t ever tell him about who—or what—I really was. I doubt that he ever had a clue about the “real” me. I hardly knew myself. Was I overcompensating for not having the cojones, to be honest with him? Perhaps. I never really thought that much about it then. 

When I was a kid, my father and I went to the Two Guys department store together, where he’d buy me a Matchbox car or truck. I loved playing with trucks and cars when I was little. I was always building some imaginary highway on the living room floor while my parents watched television. I never had any inclination to play with dolls or anything like that. I think the closest I ever got to that was my G.I. Joe collection that my uncle Augie started for me. He worked as a window dresser in New York and could bring them home for free after the display came down. My dad and my uncle also took me to my first baseball game (and many others) at the old Yankee Stadium. 

I savor my memories of my time with my dad and uncle, even though they are a bit male-centric. My socialization process growing up was centered around being the alpha male in society. I went along willingly because it allowed me to hide my true feelings. I didn’t embrace  

my feminine feelings. I ran from them until I couldn’t any longer. That took over forty years! From around the age of ten right through my high school years, I was most vulnerable when I was all by myself. It was only then that I’d wander off into my fantasy world, thinking that, “If I did it just this one more time,” that I wouldn’t ever do it again. The only person I was deluding was myself. 

I hid it from him, just like I did from everyone else around me. I didn’t feel right about not being honest with him then, and even some eighteen years after his death, I still don’t feel good about it. But my gender issues became such an immovable mountain in my mind that I felt like I had no other choice but to hide my true self from him and everyone else. I had fully compartmentalized the idea of being a girl into the deepest recesses of my brain. The mere notion that I would reveal the real “me” to the world brought nothing but abject fear. And not just any garden-variety anxiety. I’m talking about the kind of fear that permeates every fiber of your being and paralyzes you in a way that would make petrified wood seem like a wet sponge. Coming out to my father, or anyone else for that matter, was just not an option for me. 

My Mother’s Pain 

By all accounts, my mother had a pretty rough life. Like my dad, she was born in Jersey City, the third sibling of four. Both of her parents had passed away by the time she was fifteen. She dropped out of high school and went to work as a laborer in a cigarette factory in Jersey City by the name of P. Lorillard. That’s where she learned to smoke for the first time. 

But it wasn’t the cigarettes that ultimately led to my mother’s passing. She died of ovarian cancer in 1986, at just sixty-six years old. I was twenty-seven years old at the time. My mother was not present in my life very much in her last years because I had distanced myself both physically and emotionally. In the late ‘70s, I lived in Delaware and was floundering at life, working my way through two failed marriages and dealing poorly with my gender issues. 

To this day, I never really quite understood what happened to her.

From right after my junior high year through college, my mom was physically present, but she had tuned us out. I can vaguely remember discussions among the adults in my house about the effects of menopause and low blood sugar, leading to “episodes” of bizarre behavior. Still, as I look back on it, I honestly think my mother had a nervous breakdown. She became a shell of her former self. 

Before getting sick, she was a gregarious, warm-hearted woman who would welcome a first-time visitor to our home with open arms with a, “What can I get you?” After getting sick, she became vacant and swallowed up by all the pain she absorbed in her life. 

I never saw my mother as any kind of role model of female behavior. She was too broken to be present in a nurturing way. Through no fault of her own, she surrendered her role as my mother during the most critical years of my life. She didn’t share in any of my academic and athletic successes—or any other part of my life, for that matter. Everything I tried to accomplish in my early years was to make my mom and dad proud of me. It did not matter what I accomplished. My mother had checked out. I felt  more isolated than ever before. Sure, I kept up appearances on the outside, but inside I was a mess.

As the founder and owner of Follow Your Heart, LLC  ( Stephanie is an internationally  recognized speaker, workshop presenter, trainer, author and  workplace diversity & inclusion consultant. She currently sits on the  Board of PFLAG National and is the Chair of their Business Advisory  Council.

Here’s what critics are saying about Stephanie Battaglino:

“From all of us – for your brilliant words and thoughts . . . And heart.”
-Diane Sawyer, ABC News

“You were just outstanding . . . with your presentation and guidance during our learning and discussion. Thank you for providing such important and current information. We appreciate you and what you do.”
May Snowden, Senior Fellow & Program Director, Human Capital Practice, The Conference Board

“Thank you Stephanie for joining us today during FMC Corporation Pride Month celebration. Your personal story was educational, informative and inspiring.”
-Subarna Malakar, Director and Global Diversity & Inclusion Officer, FMC Corporation

“I have had the pleasure of working with Stephanie on an enrichment event at our company and got to know her further at the following Out & Equal Workplace Summit. I’ve found her honesty and heartfelt way she tells her story to be very meaningful to me. She played a large role in introducing me t – and our entire company – to transgender issues and what I believe is the next frontier in creating diverse and accepting workplaces. I now proudly count myself among the allies for the transgender community.”
-Heather Gill, Diversity & Inclusion Lead, Land O’Lakes

 “I would like to extend a most sincere thank you for your inspiration, and for joining our company’s’ diversity efforts in support of the LGBTQ community. I have received several messages from executives who were present and had great feedback to share!
-Juan Camilo Romero, Manager, Diversity & Inclusion Strategies, Macy’s, Inc.

“It is with great pride that Deena and I announce the formal launch of the Trans Toolkit project that you so generously collaborated on with us this past Spring. We truly would not have been able to do this project without each and every one of your thoughtful contributions. We thank you for your time, your passion and your contribution to this project.”
-Beck Bailey, Director of Employee Engagement, Workplace Equality Program, Human Rights Campaign (HRC)

“The feedback from the Commissioner and the entire Executive staff has been overwhelmingly positive! Everyone here is excited about the possibilities of doing more to develop the Agency’s Transgender Rights and Inclusion competence. There is no doubt that the Executives would love to have Stephanie back to train the entire 5,400 person workforce if it were possible and practical. I would not be surprised if they started a petition for Stephanie to present full-time, but I digress.”
-James L. Hallman, Chief Diversity & EEO Officer, New York City Department of transportation