Friday, January 26, 2018

Towing Lesson Number one

The option to travel with a small travel trailer is excellent. More room to pack the things we need, more space.
We made sure our vehicle would be able to safely pull the trailer. We asked around, where could we get a hitch installed on our van? Feedback from other traveling friends was resoundingly Uhaul. We did call other shops for comparison, UHauls rates were the best.
We learned from Uhaul, there are two types of lifts they use to put hitches on, not all Uhaul's have both- if one Uhaul can't install your hitch because they've got the wrong lifts call the other Uhauls in the area. The first location didn't tell us to try a different UHaul, a friend ofine with years of towing under her belt did.
The tow hitch was successfully installed. The mechanic made sure it was the kind we needed based on the trailer we planned to tow.

David's dad put a new tire on the trailer, he made sure it was up to date on it's paperwork and was road legal, brake lights and turn lights working. Excellent.
Load the heavy weight in the front of the trailer or it will fish tail.

It rode smooth. Three hours into the drive, a tire started smoking. We pulled off. Assessed the problem. Wheel bearing issue. Luckily, there was an exit less than a mile from us. We got off the highway and parked at a gas station, they told us a safe place to park for the night. We looked up repair shops in the area. The mechanics in the area were fully booked, Skaggs RV, half a mile from us said they could get us in. As we left the Fivestar (it's name is Fivestar and their staff IS Five star) the tire fell off.
We have AAA. Having just picked up the trailer, we hadn't changed coverage yet from classic to RV plus. As I sat in my van facing incoming and outgoing traffic I was bounced to five different AAA employees who asked the same questions each time, and each time said they weren't the department I needed. It seemed contradictory "Are you safe, no? Well, if you change your coverage now in three days we can help." This was the long and short of the call. I reached a point of anger where David took the phone and peopled, I wasn't at a talking to humans without verbally disembowling them. I paced.

Many profane words later, David still smiling somehow got a tow truck set to come. $80 out of pocket. We called Skaggs and updated them. Their mechanics actually drove over to where we were and assessed the situation personally. They went back to their shop, mind you, they were slammed due to an RV show happening in town this week. They came back and helped get the axle onto a little wheeled dolly to make to tow easier.
Doug's Towing sent Kevin who got the trailer on his truck easily with the dolly. Skaggs assessed the trailer's issues and a week from now the part they need should be here. Kevin, one of the mechanics is security for their shop, had our trailer placed next to his to keep an eye on it for us.
Seriously, if you have to have bearings go, and you're starting at a wheel lying in the ground- Elizabethtown Kentucky is the place to be.
We kept an eye on our trailer, we pulled off when we saw an issue and it saved us from having a serious accident. If it had come off while we were driving at sixty miles an hour on the highway attached to our can rather than as we were leaving the gas station- it could have rolled our vehicle.

We're on the road again, everything packed into our van. We're still going to get to our destination on schedule.

I share this experience because it's a bunch of important road lessons all wrapped in one. It was my first time towing. You don't really pay attention to towing information until it's pertinent to your experience. The biggest helps and best advice have come from other people who tow trailers and RVs.

I learned from another friend there's a company called Coachnet that offers coverage for trailers and RVs, many of my towing friends already switched to their service because of customer issues with AAA.
I figure, since I had the opportunity to learn these lessons, I could share and hopefully the lessons help others too.

Drive safe!

Monday, January 22, 2018

All or Nothing

You find yourself staring at a candid photo of someone's honey coloured memory. A brief blurb letting you know about an emotionally charged situation. Your heart rises in sympathy. Rape or other violent crime plus ethnic label to season this equation with negative connotations equals jumping to conclusions and joining the latest Witch Hunt. Quick, put on your outrage. It's All or Nothing. Join the Social Media Mob of Good Intentions and Ethnic Cleansing! Get your virtual pitchforks and boiling tar over here! Bit currency accepted!

Stop. When you look at pictures and story teasers on social media, I ask you to do one thing before you do anything else. As your heart starts to get the feels, pause. Slip out of Facebook, Instagram, or whatever app you are in. Head over to a web browser. Do a search. Is the little blurb you're seeing truth or is it false?

Many of us have unintentionally shared false posts at some point getting carried away by a plausible pitch. In the early days of Facebook, I shared what interested me with the idea we each choose our own truths to believe, and I found some of the satire to be hilarious.
The world has gotten heavier with conflicts and gate seething like a pot about to boil over on a stove.

When you share an inflammatory post, hate accented with words that tug heart strings or passive aggressive prejudice that claims to be comedy you're actively hurting other people.

You're reinforcing prejudice. You're saying it is alright to judge and hate. You plant painful lies in the back of people's thoughts without considering they'll remember the emotion and the picture, they'll forget it was proven to be false.
Stop. It isn't All or Nothing.

Refugees aren't running around the country on rape and murder sprees but on the other hand vioent American criminals aren't being extradited to the states that have warrants- many are being allowed to go and commit more crimes as they slip across state lines and do terrible things. Do you remember the article about Police departments climing they don't have the money to transport violent criminals to the states they committed crimes in to face justice?

You forgot about that? It's real news. How many times have you seen little blurbs of hate shared on media blaming refugees, blacks, men, women, or another group for some terrible crime. "Murdering some sweet young girl so her ex military Daddy took the law into his own hands." This is what the narrator in a fictional story says.
If it sounds like the introduction to a bad B movie, it isn't news. Stop. Do not share it. Fact check it. Comment on it, in case there person who shared it is not aware they are sharing a fiction and helping breed prejudice. I will note, if you put it this way, your "friend" will probably not stick around.
There is enough real tragedy in the world. There is more than enough hate. A wise man once wrote "What's so funny about peace, love and understanding?"

One thought. If we all made the choice to jump as enthusiastically on  understanding and love instead of hopping the daily animosity train- if as much effort was put into respecting and communicating, think how different we could make the world?
If we looked at people wondering about their positive potential instead of assuming they'll manifest the worst behavior it makes a huge impact.
Other people aren't the enemy. Judgement, fear, and spreading inflammatory falsehoods are.

I hope that in a year I can look back and say "2018 was the year people really started questioning. 2018 was the year people started critically thinking. 2018 was the year many people held themselves accountable for their own shortcomings and they stepped up. They made changes. 2018 is the year many chose to set aside prejudice and hate. It was the first year on social media where people overwhelmed inflammatory posts with fact based comments; Snopes reported a seventy five percent drop in false hate articles."

I know, Ive got a big imagination. Imagine what the world could be like if we all set aside our fear and mistrust, if we all tried respecting each other?
This is a goal worth going All in on.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Fighting Winter Blues

There are people who love winter. They love cold weather, snow, and ice. Wonderful for them. Winter is the time of year when there is less sun, temperatures curb outdoor activities and it gets easy to isolate.
I have never enjoyed winter. Cold. Colds. Being Cooped up. Dangerous driving conditions. Financial stresses. Limited work. I do my best to try to put myself in states that do not get snow (or get very little) this time of year.
People ask often, how do you fight the Winter Blues?

Lists. Lists are important. Lists of favorite mood boosting activities, songs, movies, pictures, places.
Lists of goals and the steps you are taking to reach them. When your mood is at its darkest, its time to use the items on your mood boosting list. Look at your goals: what are you doing to accomplish them? What have you put off? Winter is a good time to accomplish things that you don't have time to sit down and do other times of year. Getting closure on projects is always a satisfying feeling.

Call or write a friend. Long winer no see, drop a line, a Meme, a Gif, a photo to a friend you haven't heard from in a while. Take time to stay connected. Talking and interacting with other people gets us out of our own heads and lifts our mood. The request for friends to share positive pictures or picture number such and such frequently impact you and the people who share positively.

Visit friends! Get out to social events! This winter we've hit $5 movie nights to get out and have fun, we also went to a good friends' birthday party at an Arcade for Adults. We tried out a new virtual reality game (pictured below). Dodging a virtual stone snake to snatch an idol, traveling through virtual temple ruins chases thoughts of snow away with lava pits!

What are you eating? Nutrition directly influences mood. Healthy, balanced diet equals better mood versus empty calories and heavy meals that literally weigh you and your mood down. Watch portion sizes, get fresh fruit and vegetables in your diet every day. Vitamins. Some people love them, others roll their eyes. B 12 is the mood booster. Magnesium supplements other than magnesium oxide (magnesium oxide is not a form of magnesium our bodies can actually use) like SloMag, Calm, Magnesium Maleate also help with lifting the mood, easing anxiety and depression. Sunlight. Get in it as much as you can. Your body needs that sunlight to work properly, let the sun in!

Get out! You don't have to have money to bundle up and go outside, it is cold but can you handle it for a brisk walk? If not, there are many malls and other public indoor places to walk where you might have to ignore advertising and dodge customers but you can get your steps in. If you have the money for it: this is the time of year to use the gym or recreational center near you. This winter I am going to a recreational center once a day, spending a half hour doing laps, then walking a mile on their track. I see people practicing basketball, volleyball, and I can meditate in the dry Sauna.

Pet Snuggles! Curl up with a favorite show and a snuggly pet. Research shows that holding or petting our animals improves our mood.

Picture time! Take pictures of things you find beautiful to share with friends on Facebook or Instagram. Looking for things that make you smile gets your mind focused on positive rather than negative.

Thought stopping. If you catch yourself wearing down the negative mood and thought trail, stop. Do you really want to? What reframing can you do? How can you make your focus and mood turn around? Each of us is different. Some can turn it around with humor, others need a hug or at least acknowledgement of the negative before they can get back to the brighter side.

Little things have a big impact. What can you do to offer people more brightness this winter?

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Looking Forward and Back. Truth. Perspective and The Unforseen Costs of Caring

A friend of mine got banished by the powers of Facebook again. I know because he's wise enough to have a back up account. Was it bots mindlessly flagging and checking his posts? Was it a silent troll smiling as they reported memes for whatever small reason? Was it an algorithm, and why do I wish I had paid more attention to algorithms in school now?
Does it actually matter?
I take this small external situation and use as an example. My friend had a back up plan and a good sense of humor. He's already moved on even though it keeps happening. He does sometimes post over the top memes, but the intent is shock comedy.
One of the biggest frustrations I deal with is myself. I give too much, I try too hard. It has happened when I finally can't or choose not to; the individual or individuals I gave so much to and did so much for don't want people to be aware they were abusive or apathetic at best.
There is no good part of a bad relationship and even after it's over you keep paying for it. You pay because even as you work on yourself, even as you grow, even as you take responsibility on your shit- they're still out there like bots on Facebook quietly influencing the perception of others. You wonder sometimes when people you were friendly with become distant, but the minute you say anything it somehow confirms whatever crap they've spread.
No one asks. They believe what they want to believe.  Think about the Facebook banishment. Similar situation a year ago, and a different guy I knew started harassing and threatening legal action at a friend. He was convinced she was stalking him and silently reporting his every post, even though he blocked her. She didn't want to think about him let alone have anything to do with his posts. People who didn't like her and wanted to believe the Bad Stalker Story did, regardless of the truth- that she wanted zero to do with that guy and stalking him was the last thing she'd ever willingly do as it would mean she had to look at what he was posting. Truth didn't matter to the people who wanted to believe the worst.
Back to today:
My biggest frustrations come from trying too hard, helping too much and paying the price as my efforts didn't help me but helped people who were self motivated to use what I offered.
A good friend told me this past summer "You have too many asshole friends." He was right. I've been weeding and paying more attention to who I share time and effort with. Spring cleaning my friends, keeping the real ones who give a shit, ask questions, reciprocate. Letting go of users, manipulators, false friends.
Too many real, shitty memories I don't get to escape from to tolerate having someone claim friendship and in the same breath downplay or excuse abuse.

2017 also taught me the worst liars are quiet. They are opportunists. They pick who they sling their shit to. If you eat it, it's on you. People who don't like the word integrity, often don't possess it.

It's a new year. I am working forward, like my friend who had a back up plan. I've been working on my fiction, making jewelry and learning silk marbling. I'm preparing for a fabulous spring. I have a future to build, a sincere and fantastic guy to build it with, a fictional raccoon, and a growing Kitten. I'm going to be more conscious of who I help and how.

People will believe what they want to, regardless of the truth, regardless of their experience. We get no say in what people believe, but we can keep focused forward and moving forward.

May 2018 be the year you hope it is. May you buy Fuglyware and the excellent coffee partnering with Fuglyware. May you come marble silks with us. Maybe you'll come watch me tell stories on stage. Maybe we'll all find a reason to smile, laugh, and appreciate each day.

#fuglyware #2018goals

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Spinning Your Wheels versus Progress

Ever feel like you are stuck? You try to move forward, but you find yourself walking in place. Life events create hurdles for you to overcome. Unexpected events shake you, distract you and you find yourself standing in the same place a year later. You wonder why the places you want to go, the things you want to do, they never seem to get any closer.
You find you are spinning your wheels. Working hard to stay in the same place. You struggle even more, get your feelings behind you to give an extra push. You're invested now. You've got to bull your way through. Or do you?

Sometimes you have to take the time to sit down and make a list. What are your goals? Where do you want to be? What do you love doing? Why aren't you doing it? What are you waiting for? What excuses are you accepting as an okay reason not to succeed.

This winter, short days and long nights, has given me the opportunity to stop spinning my wheels. Stop surviving and shifting place to place in an endless quest to move forward. There is a list of gear I need to work on videos, a few expensive pieces of sound equipment for stage shows, supplies and materials for a new business letting people pay to do their own silk marbling at Art Shows and other events. A sweet kitten to play with. Books to edit and write. Ideas keep popping in, but they don't write themselves. Then there's marketing. Exposure. Spreading the word. Finding ways to network.

Every direction has a hundred tasks and small details. What is the camping like? What are the tax rates and event fees? How much will it cost us if we don't sell a single thing? Keep writing. The more I write, the clearer it is and the more vivid. Day after day of staring at a computer screen, reading my own words over and over. Are they the right words? Are the sentences smooth? Are the descriptions thorough, do they flow naturally? Was the thought clear in my head but muddy in black and white?

Day after day of going back over stories. Adding the missing details, fixing sentences, eliminating a thousand thats that dotted the manuscript like mold. That became my least favorite word, along with "You know" which was a verbal hiccup I fought telling stories in the street. The cheap hook to keep attention when something flashy happened nearby and eyes started to glance away. You Know is the magic that brings focus back. You Know That. Ugh. There they are again.

Several times I stopped and walked away. Took a day to make jewelry. A day to play games. Sanity days. Days away from the other worlds and characters running around in my head.

Working on plans to move forward. Publishing on Amazon in ebook and paperback, pursuing audiobook options as well. Starting a little business and doing events when I'm not already contracted to be somewhere entertaining or managing a shop.

I am stepping into 2018 with a smile and a feeling of accomplishment. The to do list is long, but I do not feel like I am spinning my wheels anymore.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

What Shadows Hide

When I was young, my Dad's sister got her second divorce. Alcohol and abuse. The family made her, a hard working nurse and mother, the butt of many derogatory comments and jokes. Women were either dominating business owners who were practically sexless or they were talked about like objects.
When I was about twelve, one of my cousins held me down, forced my shirt up and gave me a titty twister. I fought. I called for help. Everyone there laughed. I went to my Dad, he dismissed it. When several other male family members found out they were not amused, and made sure that cousin never had a chance to try again. I felt like a shadow, a lesser human because I was told that I didn't have the right of choice- because of my gender by my own Dad. The other family members who disagreed were the quieter younger men- a great uncle who was younger than my dad, an older male cousin and my youngest uncle who didn't like that cousin's rudeness or behavior. No one spoke out. They quietly menaced him, shadows themselves.
Those guardian angels didn't know about my mother's brother and his secret sleep over seductions. The clues were there. He ended up marrying a fourteen years old girl. Got kicked out by my grandfather for his interest in underage girls. He was never reported - see, the answer when you speak out is "she's crazy, she's exaggerating, she's." Victim blaming, dismissal, excuses. Shadows, more shadows.

I got married in my young twenties. One night I woke up with him forcing penetration. I fought, but it's not easy to break free when someone already has you pinned. He said it was his right. Wrong.
I left. A retired man rented an apartment to me, a safe haven. He had another young lady in the basement apartment and one in the garage. He looked out for us while we healed and got back on our feet. My male co-workers modeled respectful behavior and my cousin Scott, as ever, was there for me as I dealt with the ugly emotions that needed to be done to with. Scott doesn't put up with shitty people. He's always called people out and been one of the bravest role models I've had.
Fast forward, years later I was working at the VA. A client threatened violence toward us, his treatment team. He had tested positive for crack. In the chaos, one of the VA cops grabbed me, walked me to my office to teach me self defense because "these guys can be dangerous and you need to know self defense." I was unsettled and he was an authority figure, someone I trusted. He fingered me to teach me not to freeze and break a hold from behind. My co-workers realized something was going on and kept knocking at the door trying to get in. He put them off.
Afterwards I went to my mentor, a Veteran who worked in Human resources. He asked me questions, got details. I didn't see that cop again. I found out from a good VA cop friend that he was fired for sexually assaulting and harassing female employees. My mentor had represented me, my co-workers too. No one said a word, other than the words that needed saying: that behavior is not tolerated here. No one made me sit through a court case or go through questions, my mentor handled it and stood for me. He, he was the one who counseled me and helped me heal. She did not deserve this, this was not acceptable: his words. Notice: for each instance, one guy acting negatively and more than one guy standing up and demonstrating respect.
Getting grabbed at bars, gas stations; cat called; these things you lose count of. Getting compliments, good Samaritan interventions, respectful intetactions: these are what I appreciate and count.
Regardless of gender, consent is key. There are too many stories like these in the lives of friends and strangers. We can intervene if we see or suspect, we can question and support. Shine light into the shadows, if they are empty great- if something ugly is lurking we can change it.
We can teach the next generation that abuse doesn't have to be part of their life experience. Idolizing abusers and abuse is unhealthy. Minimizing and dismissing is unhealthy. Labeling victims is deplorable. Many abuse victims punish themselves every day, racking their brains to figure out what's wrong with them, why them, what is wrong with them. Some realize it's external, it's the abuser's fault not theirs; they heal but never forget. We watch the shadows, ready to avoid or confront the next attempt- never wanting to feel powerless again.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Being is Believing

For years I focused on my weight, wanting to get it down. I exercised. I got frustrated. It just slowly climbed. Emotional stress was bagged and wrapped tightly, always carried. Worries were with me more than my shadow was.
I worried. About money. About my appearance. About work. About making the moments happen. I was driven, but spinning my wheels in tight circles.
When I stopped focusing on these issues and just lived, got up in the morning and focused on tomorrow things started to change.
My voracious appetite dwindled. I began to shrink. My headaches decreased in number. Unhealthy relationships brought back stress, as I sought to offer my partners everything to be the perfect partner. Instead, I faced criticism. Stark. Private. Personal.
I smiled at the world and had to grow or break. The more stress I faced, the more my habits changed. With someone else sniping me, I couldn't afford to do the same. I grew. Stronger, harder, thinner, and brighter.
I quit worrying. Why not look for the bright moments, why not just flow with what life has to offer- good and bad?
Why focus on what other people think, especially the ones with constant complaints spewing out? Why not, upon running into them, offer them positive as other beautiful people had done for me in the past? Why not look where I'm going, look for solutions instead of blame?
I'm at a point of freedom. I need this time for me to solidly be me, to reach a point where I stay true to me, even in the face of love. You can't really love if you give yourself away so much, to be what someone else desires. You become less rather than more, anxiety creeps back in along with insecurities. Their moods and whims try to shape you and unhappiness is not a companion worth having.
Faced with spinning, frustrated and mired down you can keep digging in or you can let go, reach out and find the tools and support- material, emotional, psychological- to take that proverbial baggage and discard it. You can become the person you want you to be. You can care or not. You can dance. You can explore yourself and the many paths ahead of you.
They say, when one door closes, a window opens. I've found that the walls, well, they aren't real. Walk through them. Close your eyes, believe in you, and see what happens when you do.
I stand on stages entertaining a variety of crowds with different shows. I tell stories in the lanes. I connect with fascinating people. Earlier this year, I faced a crowd of over a hundred and forty people day after day; there was a rush as I turned on the microphone and the words carried us all to other places, away from the Texas heat.
I believed I could. They believed. I did.
You are free to believe in what you choose, but choose wisely. Believing you have limitations is a brick wall that you make in your own path. The only person it stops is you, and the worst part, is that wall is not real.
See you on the other side.