Sunday, December 27, 2015

Expectation versus Reality Round One

Close your eyes. Picture what you love the most. Picture the perfect day, the perfect holiday, the perfect moment.
No lines, no waiting, no arguments, all assumptions accurate, no unforseen hang ups. Expectation whispers in our dreams of true and perfect love. Someone who devotes themselves to us and heals us while we meet their expectations effortlessly to beautiful theme music and birdsong. Not tires or garbage strewn through nature like cheap trashy clothes.
Reality, we are imperfect. We bear scars and wounds, opinions and assumptions which can be hard to bear let alone unleash in a partner's life. Some days I wake up with expectations for the day only to have a migraine shred them, weather suddenly decide that flooding had to happen on a day when hiking plans were in place.
Holidays really have a way of brining out the worst. Expectation has its hopes dashed. It cuts into our hearts, tears with a vengeance crying for justice. Justice. Just is, would be the apt reply from reason. My dear friend Bruce would smile and say "It just is." I shared conversation with a fellow this evening that was hurt, his family made it clear they patronized his input and tuned him out. He was wonderful. His family was wonderful. Their expectations were injurious to each other. I got them all laughing and you could practically see time and reason working bandages around the injuries left by expectation.
Expectation doesn't care. It doesn't reason. It's like a two year old leaving messes everywhere, loudly demanding, with a need to hear its pain echo.
Sitting on a plane headed to Dallas I am reminded of the vast difference between expectation and reality.  I anticapted the potential for horrendous weather in Pittsburgh, Columbus, and especially Detroit this week. Irony: their weather is anticipated to be temperate. Dallas on the other hand is wracked by storms. Last night people died from tornados going through the area.
New Year's will not exist for me. I will be on a plane crossing time zones. It will be something that passes without notice or recognition like a morning jogger with headphones running on a misty forest trail. It's just another moment, part of any day. It feels odd to know that I will not experience a specific second in my life, although hundreds pass by at night while I sleep. I wonder if seconds ever have expectations, if their feelings get hurt because we favor the seconds we spend with those we love.
Two voices edit thoughts and feelings within me. One uses expectations. The other uses logic and observations. I usually think the logical side is colder but during the holidays I realize what a true bastard expectations are, always hiding behind ideals and shining a light to accent the disparity between what is and what we dream of.
It's up to us. Recognize expectations, where they are healthy and harmful. It is up to us to find ways to achieve our dreams. Fly.
Sometime next year I will pick a random second to make special. It will be my New Year's second. I'm going to save it for a special occasion, it may choose it's own moment to shine. It will be more interesting than starting the year with it gone.
It's round one in the match. That's what logic says. Expectation is dreaming up a stage and a story. I'm shaking my head trying to convince these foes that they could work together to create instead of frustrate. One day perhaps they'll come to terms.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Circumstance Sets The Stage

"You had to be there." Situations play back and we have the time and clarity to evaluate.

Circumstance sets The stage. A perfect sunset makes a Welcome sign into breathtaking artwork.
Not all stages are set for good works.
Food cooling in containers where water splashed from vigorous dishwashing easily, quietly lands to add to the refried beans. A flour covered mouse leisurely walks out of a bag of flour. It looked at me, head cocked and questioning. Was I there to put down another block of poison for it to ignore? Bad set. Bad stage. Bad performance. Reasons?
Too tired, too little money. A thousand excuses do not take mouse turds out of flour.
Appearances. Priority being the look of the meal rather than the content.

It's one example.

Holiday time, people slack off at work as visions of candy canes and lightsabers dance in their heads. I did a gig yesterday where a receptionist never made eye contact and spoke in monosyllables. The person I evaluated rushed through the meeting, handing me everything we should have done there during our meeting as a jumble of papers to look over later.
Rush. Wait. Pay extra for quality. Evaluator at the door? Time for excuses. Medical. Exhaustion. Underpaid. Understaffed. Inept.
The first scenario was blamed on an individual with a food handlers card by a business owner who repeatedly blamed being tired and overworked while drinking alcoholic beverages for everything from why workers quit to not throwing out bad food.
I told her what I would tell anyone. Your business is your livelihood. It has to be your priority. Attend to your health, your loved ones. Identify and address your excuses or state at the quizzical mouse and watch your excuses fail to vanish him. In fact, watch him referee football games with the cockroaches after the sun sets. Excuses won't make things right. Excuses stink.
If you're using them all the time, why?
Picture yourself standing there with me, meeting the eyes of that flour coated rodent.
What would motivate you to change?

I gave the matter thought.
Not having someone enable excuses. In the long run an enabler only delays the inevitable.
Prioritizing and addressing real concerns. Is social media on your phone a real concern or just a way to argue opinions?
Setting goals. What are the steps to improvement? Basics before details.
Communication. Develop communication that isn't resentment or guilt based. Are you listening?
Expectation versus reality. If you leave chicken sit out too long it will go bad. No amount of cooking will make it good again.

I'm getting ready for another trip next week. More observations, character acting, and performance reviews.

One could say that I've made a list, checked it twice, will see how attentive staff are working in between two major holidays. I'm hoping they exceed expectations. I'm hoping as I travel I see people being kind, considerate, and smiling.

Circumstance has set the stage. I stepped out of a bad play, to step forward again.
I learned to cook excellent Mexican food. I made some friends. I left the restaurant to focus on the gigs I love, bouncing across the country with mini-life stories that ever change and allow me to observe and evaluate others work.

It's a sad commentary on our society that there has to be secret evaluation to verify workplace performance standards.

Last night I found a gift. A painted stone. "Believe". I believe we are more, can all be more and can achieve more. I believe in us. I believe we can make better choices and better tomorrows. Someday perhaps we will not need evaluators quietly observing our work, perhaps circumstances will change.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Be Your Own Savior

There are many things I would love to write about. I don't always have the right to choose to share them. Many issues I face or help others address are not the kind of issues I can share.

A few weeks ago I got a Craigslist follow up call, I was amused thinking it was for a foot modeling gig for private parties. Would my feet measure up? Would they be the Foot Fetishist Dream? Would  I be able to act like I cared?

Instead it was an interest meeting for brokering. It was eye opening. Company has an excellent reputation and is focused on helping people plan for retirement and set up benefits into plans that accrue interest in a consistent manner without risk of giant, catastrophic loss. Talking with Sammy about the company, income potential, and what brings people into working as brokers we covered heavy topics.

Several of the guys left college admissions. It was about getting people to choose to take on debt with high risk and minimal value. They left. They left high level management positions.  Sammy looked at me, asked why I would consider becoming part of their team. It was obvious I was not profit driven. I was the wild card in the room, great socialization skills but little concern for money.

I thought about it. I would do it to help others. I would do it to be able to fund projects and work that I believe in. I would mostly give it away.

I think about that and look around. I see a world full of people caught up in their own worlds. I spend a lot of time thinking of what I can do or say to help them step out of the metaphorical cave and into the light. Donald Trump has taught me one thing of merit. He's taught me that people aren't choosing to be as progressive as they could be. Many are choosing old and unhealthy behaviors and indulgence. It's easy to complain and rip apart Those People, when you are not one of them and you're sitting comfortably surrounded by amenities.

Some days I wonder if we need reminders of mortality and disaster to shake people into caring for each other. Other days I wish I didn't know it to be true.

Why choose selfishness? The dis-ease and unrest in our society comes from our selfishness and insecurities. Fear of jealousy, fear of change, fear of competition, fear of commitment, fear of pain or discomfort, fear that others will know our weaknesses, fear of social reprisal or ridicule. I deserve. I want. I should have. Rationalizing why it's okay just because you don't have to see the person who's picking up the tab for your excess. Record profits are great when you don't have to stare the family struggling to pay their bills signing up for assistance because the parents wages are set low to keep profits high.

We like sports. Teams to cheer for. Shit talk to dish out. Grudges and posturing to do. Its the same with religions, politics, and social status. I don't buy into it. I save my money and time for the quiet desperation I see in others faces. I save it to help them help themselves. I give them the tools when I can so they can be their own Saviors. I quietly offer them the idea that their lives are up to them, their choices are not society's to make. There are no rules they need to live by if they are willing to accept the consequences of their actions. With this knowledge comes freedom. You can drive a hundred miles an hour if you are willing to pay the price and potentially lose your life. You can also choose to start a business to empower people to help each other and to offer them tools to save themselves.

Sammy offered me the tools to be my own Savior potentially. It is in my hands whether I slide into old excuses or whether I progress around walls that have blocked me in the past. I am the enemy I face off against.

Danny says to me "You have to learn to put yourself first." It hurts to see people choosing hate, aggression, ignorance. It hurts.

What would make you happy? What do you want?
Tough questions. I want freedom. I want to keep moving, traveling, and growing. I want to see other people choosing the same. I want to see us start fighting a war against corruption, greed and corporate control. Society disappoints. It snags our focus with outraging soundbites and quotes. It seduces us with the illusion of awareness as actual change. It manipulates us through plausible arguments. It entices us with money.

Work harder. It is the only way to get to your true god. Money. Show me one church in this world that isn't operating with money. One that gives away every dime it gets. One that doesn't care if it even gets a single dime. Wait, there is one. It's the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Alright, other than an Atheist Church, any?

The more money you make, the quicker it's gone and the more personalities shift to keep it away from everyone else unless it's done in a way that makes it come back. Tax write offs are often mistaken as generosity.

And those people that own the governments and political machines, do you think they work harder?
Many were ruthless in business, earning their money from taking advantage of other people or destroying other people. They aren't working hard. They aren't working at much other than to keep the ridiculous excess they have. They spend a lot of money to convince you to go into debt or to work harder for them. They pay the politicians on  both sides just to give you sport to cheer for and rail against.

You change the world so much through social media gripes that nothing changes. You give away all of your privacy. Your desires, dislikes, all up for grabs. They are being analyzed to use for company profits. Not for your ease or benefit. That is not what capitalism or corporatism is about.

 Perhaps more people need to learn to put society first.
In a world where we value each other as much as ourselves, we would choose to take the time to settle differences. We would attend to each other's well being without worry of cost. We would share knowledge and resources as needed.

It is not a perfect world. Our society was shaped by cutthroat profiteers. We allow red collar criminals to make fortunes as we kill each other in wars that are really about money so they can be richer.

That money could be providing for everyone. Instead it is gouging our world, ripping it apart.

I can't change anyone but myself. I realize there is nowhere in this world that I can save myself from encountering greed, bullying, apathy, and shallow preoccupations except within my own heart.

I tell you. Be your own Savior.
It is up to you to choose what sort of human you are. Religions have tried for hundreds of years to keep people from choosing to destroy each other or to justify the destruction of others. Time to change unhealthy patterns. Support religious groups and leaders who live as they teach, who encourage healthy behaviors and tolerance instead of bigotry and violence.

Don't tell me you follow an amazing spiritual advisor who tells you to give away while they live in a mansion and swim in millions. That is not feeding the poor. That is not helping the needy. That is not using their resources for positive change. It's called profiteering.
Remember. In one hundred years, no one will really remember you at all. Do you remember the names of your ancestors, their stories?

What sort of life do you choose to live? What excuses are you using to keep following a path of powerlessness?

There's a phrase I love. Pick your own battles. A better one. Pick your own peace. Make your own peace.

There are many stories I cannot share. They are an ocean I swim with undertow I cannot describe but feel pulling at me relentlessly. I let go. I do what I can do. I offer what I can. I let go to survive.

You can waste a lifetime vomiting pointless opinion on social feeds. You can choose to spend that time changing your path. Your choice. Are you a hamster or a human? The wheel is waiting but so is the world.

#Seeyouinthestreets



Thursday, December 3, 2015

We are all Those People to Someone

Beliefs are clashing. Fear and outrage are the new American high. Who to blame? Who to hate? What's the group of the week?
Before the words "you people" or "they all" or "those people" come out of your mouth, remember absolute statements are dangerous. Absolute statements about groups of people close minds and close eyes, they are used to influence our behavior. It's okay to do morally reprehensible things to people we can mentally justify as beneath moral consideration. When we do this we forget, we are the "you, they, and those people" to someone else.
I don't want someone's arbitrary group bias to negatively impact me, I don't want to negatively impact someone else because I'm mistaking a human being for a stereotype that could be devastatingly wrong.
Consider, to children who have had family who were non-military die in bombings, people working in sweat shops to make the clothes we're wearing, migrant workers fighting cancer from the pesticide additives to GMO crops: the insincere, soft, ignorant, judgemental, greedy 'Muricans are all of us. You are thinking, but I am not, I do not, that's not accurate! You're probably right, but it's what others might perceive. Nobody is perfect. If I throw stones I will throw stones at myself, throwing them at anyone else isn't justified. 

Blanket hatred for ethnic groups needs to be an embarrassing human flaw of the past. We need to teach awareness, tolerance, and approach things we fear with common sense, cool heads and compassion.

Black lives matter. Native lives matter. There is white privilege, but not every white is privileged. I read justifications for blanket prejudice from individual experiences, inflammatory and derogatory actions and words with zero tolerance for other people's experiences, common sense, reason, or respect.

Society is acting like an entitled child having a temper tantrum and lashing out because "they". Religion, political beliefs, cultural beliefs are all justifications for anything: we can use them for acts of beauty and kindness. Instead of building one nuclear weapon we could provide food and stability to an unstable country.

 Food, clothing, shelter, and compassion will always have a greater impact on improving the world than any weapon. Why are we still feeding a perpetuating cycle of hate and violence? Time to grow. Time to let go of outrage and resentment. The future grows when we quit poisoning ourselves on hatred we excuse because of our perception of the past.

 Everyone has ancestors who were assholes. They survived. We learn from their mistakes. Let's not emulate them.

A small percentage of people have the wealth, legislation, and media at their finger tips. It's up to you if you choose to become a puppet to rhetoric, whether it's Islamic, Christian, or Pro-life. Terrorism is killing for beliefs. It's time for us to stop rewarding terrorism and terrorists with publicity. Their acts are shameful and heinous. Honor the bravery of survivors. Problem solve. What led to the attack? Life stressors, lack of money, relationships, religion? What can we as a society address and change in a positive way?

I'm going to refer to history.
When you want peace you take care of the needs of people whether they are like you or different. When you want war you inhumanize and provoke and attack. 

Would you want someone's arbitrary beliefs and prejudice making major impacts on your life? I don't want that level of responsibility and I don't want it done to me.

None of us is perfect. Work on yourself.
If you've got a loved one who is lost to rabid hatred and blanket statements offer them other perspectives and know that somewhere, in a ghetto, in an office building, in a war zone someone else is trying to talk sense and a live and let live philosophy to a rabid friend there.

There's no absolutes about people. Treat everyone as an individual. Treat everyone else as if their life and their choices deserve as much respect as your own.

How many lives have to be disrupted or destroyed because of prejudice? It's caused more wars, human rights violations, and murders than any bomb or gun. The bombs and guns are tools. The people wielding them are dangerous, thinking tools.

Give people a chance, disarm a prejudice today.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Candy, Cannabis and Clouds

Wait. Wait longer. Stay relaxed, keep your heart at ease. The desert draws us, yet we've got to wait. Snow on the ground, disc golfers crunch through the snow to play at Memorial Park in Arvada.
Practice Spanish on Duolingo, do mindfulness and gratitude exercises, catch up on tv series and consider free tourist attractions.

Last time we explored we decided on NCAR, National Center for Atmospheric Research as our first adventure. We held clouds, played with tornados. If better health or less snow was on the ground we would hike at the nature center on NCAR grounds. Lessons coated the walls there on weather conditions.

Today it was candy. We went to Hammond's Candy, largest handmade candy company in the United States. We arrived to schedule our tour amidst the sugar rushed excitement of a large group of children.  The tour and video was enjoyable. We watched a man work on a seventy pound batch of candy, rolling layers that were over two hundred and thirty degrees. We saw smiling workers individually molding chocolate bunnies and wrapping candy canes. We perused the candy store full of a myriad flavors, colors and candies. Pomegranate, clove, blood orange, mocha and chocolate filled candy canes next to hot chocolate, berry, and cinnamon swirled lollipops, marshmallow Mitchells, and old fashioned ribbon candy.

It was a delightful adventure, a grand distraction and a wonderful presentation on candy making. The only hard part was picking one candy cane to send Danny's son. How do you pick one candy cane? It's like eating one potato chip.

Along with the free Celestial Seasonings tour and the Leaning Tree Museum Tour, these are four excellent places to take the whole family. As an adult I found all four places worth a visit even without kids.

If you're thinking what about cannabis, after all, it's Colorado, you're in luck. Many dispensaries offer recreational cannabis. Edibles and flower, you can go, present your drivers license, look at and smell various varieties with their THC, THCA percentage ratings. You can buy prerolled blunts and joints. Many local newspapers offer coupons. Try more than one Dispensary. Many have small plants growing or show videos of their cannabis plants growing. Our favorite locations for prices and service: Green Grass in Central City, Sweet Leaf and the Green Solution in the Denver area. Strainwise offers membership and lower prices for members at their chains although they do run out of bud sometimes.
If you're from out of state and you're excited a few common sense tips:
Don't open your weed in your vehicle when you leave the store. Don't smoke in your vehicle. Smoke at home or in explicitly designated places- cannabis smoking and vaping (whether cannabis or tobacco) isn't allowed in most public places. Smoke in your hotel room. Be discreet. Don't put Budtenders in an awkward position by telling them you're buying it for your trip home out of state. Be responsible.

Edibles go down easy. They are often in candy forms. You will not feel the effects immediately. Do not keep taking more, wait at least half an hour to an hour to try a second candy until you know the strength you prefer. I take one to two candies for my migraines with complete relief. I look for high CBD content (CBD in cannabis is what you're looking for for pain relief) and CBD is legal in all states.

Edibles work great for migraines, body pain, but may not all out buzz you like smoking a Sativa. If you're an adult, I'd recommend stopping and trying a prerolled joint or an edible so you have an idea what cannabis really is and does. Do you know how many people are amazed at how gentle and pleasant the effects of smoking a legal joint are? Take the hype out of cannabis. 

The future is in your hands, and in Colorado possibly a fresh joint and a butterscotch lollipop too. 

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Gratitude or Outrage, Your Choice

Holidays, love them or hate them are around again. They spring up with merchandizing and traditions that bring up a variety of issues. Family issues, finances, weather, politics, history, and expectations all come together to make poignant psychological potlucks. Wonderful memories and experiences right next to awkward, terrible, and isolating ones.

Outrage or gratitude?
History was written by the winners, edited for sound bites and advertising then packaged for the multitudes. Valentine's day didn't come from histories greatest lovers, the word massacre figures prominently in Valentine history, one could say at least they picked an apropos color to mark the day. You can't discover a country people already live in and honoring a man who's actions and words can be categorized as genocidal makes Columbus day an American embarrassment. Christmas started out as a pagan holiday as did Easter. Blood sacrifice was involved in the earliest celebrations of both. Thanksgiving, a bitter reminder to indigenous people that their past is not important as festivities.

What are the holidays to us? Are they the past, present, or do the build the future?

We choose what they are. We choose how we acknowledge them. We can make our own traditions and go forward ackwledging the past honestly. Nothing says you have to anything. You do not have to choose stress. Choose enjoyment, take time to do activities you find delightful.

Why not? Why not gather with friends? Why not give memories instead of unwanted purchased guesses from random shopping excursions? Why not skip the hassles and just live?

I would rather skip holidays and see every day as worth celebrating and honoring. I use holidays as a day to reflect, to share and to live like any other day. Why not?

Want to improve the world? Volunteer, share, let go of judgement, be assertive, and have gratitude.

The holidays are a great time to volunteer. We can't change the past but we can acknowledge it. In the present we can choose how we live today, how we shape tomorrow.

We can step away from intolerance. We can step away from outrage. We can step toward acknowledgement. We can step toward communication and respect.

The year is winding down. What have you done this year to shape next year? What traditions have you honored or changed? Focus on what you are grateful for. Focus on turning outrage into constructive change.

Choose to have a great day every day.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Hurry up and wait!

Life seems to have a sense of irony and timing. It's terrible about communicating with us. It drops heavy twists when we least expect it and usually when we've got a set of expectations nudging us forward.

Hurry up and wait. Wait and heal. Choose how you interact with the world. Do you treat those who support you like troops you constantly grind down or do you surround them with the lightness and warmth they give you?
Who do you surround yourself with? Do you find yourself around superficial friends or by friends who honest and sincerely care? Do you recognize the difference?
If you find you've gotten into patterns of griping, who takes you there or encourages you to be in that headspace?
When you've got plans but health and life say you've got to be in one place why not use that time wisely?
Why not practice a new language? Why not find new places to explore? Why not make beautiful memories for cherished amazing friends? Why not appreciate the support and care?

Often when we need help we are discomforted asking. Yet, thinking about it: when a friend, a stranger, anyone asks us for help we appreciate being given the chance to do what we can.
We've earned love, nurtured supportive relationships, we give. We give love, respect, stories, entertainment, experience, ideas, and gifts with our friends who choose to give back to us in lessons, resources, love and memories.

The hardest part of waiting is using the time to follow through on lessons we've been offered rather than lose ourselves in distractions or mental pacing.

So hurry up and wait! Take some time to walk through your head and heart space. Tend your well-being. Take a moment to notice where your words show you to be, look at changing them for healthier paths. Walk a labyrinth, color a Mandala, meditate, tell a joke, look for a moment of beauty.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Outdoor living: Be Prepared!

If you love the outdoors, you know it can be a challenge when weather hits. Forecasts predict inches upon inches of snow or rain. Wind gusts happen. Summer camping has different considerations than winter camping, depending on what part of the country you are in however a few things never change.
Don't set camp under a leaning tree or dead A frame limb "widow maker" is a common nickname for these luring spots.
Washes are beautiful, often level in places but NEVER safe especially in the desert to set camp in. The storm that sets them rushing may hit in the mountains, sending unexpected water your way.
Never go without proper gear, this includes being ready for sudden wet or cold weather: last spring a storm hit while we climbed the flatirons in Arizona. The rock became slick, the wind cold and the snow was icy. Having warm, waterproof gear and flashlights- we could have gotten stuck until the rock was safe enough to traverse back down without risk of serious injury.
Speaking of that: there's no race, no reason to rush. You miss out on seeing and appreciating nature of you act like it's a secret speedway.
There's a time to be loud, it's when you're scaring off predators not disrupting wildlife. Quiet down out there, you wouldn't want nature coming in and having a house party in your living room!
Leave no trace, pick up your trash! Pick up trash you find and discard it where it belongs.

Weather considerations: high ground and tarps.
Tarps keep out the rain, the wind, and they offer privacy.
Where does water flow and drain? Be aware when you pick a place to camp. There's nothing worse than waking up feeling an inch of water flowing underneath the floor of your tent, seeping through to risk mold and mildew and health!
Pallets are a great way to get your tent up for drainage. Carpets and carpet padding make great insulation from the cold winter ground.
Get off the ground! Hammocks, cots, even mattresses whether air or full size will save you aches and pains and keep you from catching chill from the ground. Hammock users will want to use a sleeping pad to add insulation, while air mattress users will want to buffer by putting blankets or insulating layers between the floor and the mattress to keep them from cooling you down.
Tents can have lightweight blankets put up between fly and tent to trap extra warmth in.
Layer up! Soft merino wool, sheepskin, alpaca are all examples of ways to keep you toasty and warm despite the ice and snow outside your tent, yurt, tipi, hammock.
Portable propane heaters are great with proper ventilation.
Winter camping doesn't have to tax your health, if you prepare! Insulate your living space, never underestimate the value of a few hot hands packets and a good old fashioned hot water bottle in your bed!

Get outside sensibly, there is a special beauty to walking outside after a night of cold, wind and snow to look around and realize you had a cozy night and you're getting to see an amazing world.

I think about the winter I decorated Wax Hands at Castle Christmas. Taylor Grant made his booth a comfortable living space for us. Outside ice grew like blades of grass on tree branches and power lines. It was so cold outside, but in the shared living room: the beds were insulated with blankets, the walls as well, the heater was hot and we all had a great winter despite repeated ice storms. Oklahoma does win an award for the most extreme and unpredictable weather from ice storms to tornados they even outdo Texas.

Don't let weather be an excuse to avoid the outdoors, just prepare properly. Be ready and don't set yourself up for discomfort or unnecessary challenges. I think of a patron at an autumn renaissance festival coming in a tube dress with no coat, no socks, no shoes on a forty degree day. I stopped security to escort her to first aid when I saw her. Her skin was deep blue without cosmetics. It wasn't sexy. It was dangerous like going into the desert hiking without water dangerous. It was dangerous like "watch me pose for a selfie with this angry copperhead" dangerous. Avoidable.

Be considerate of wildlife. Have great adventures and safe travels everyone!

Monday, November 9, 2015

Exact Change Only!

Giant cities are like ant colonies full of constant movement and people trying to pretend they aren't in a crowd. I'm back in Chicago, gamely deciding to see what it's like to just use public transportation tonight through Wednesday.
In the city it always costs to park, time gets devoured waiting behind other idling vehicles. Would public transportation be a great alternative to the cost of parking, the time and traffic?
The machines all had lines. Signs demanded exact change, white and blue labels even noted all coins down through nickels were accepted. "No change given!" was the giant warning over out heads.
I thought I had it figured. $20 for a three day pass. Got it! Nope. Forgot the five dollar charge for the card. Lose five dollars and pay with a ten? Why, when I had a giant Ziploc full of change I brought for emergency tolls?! I proudly must have resembled Mr. Bean as I plunked nickels, dimes and quarters in. The machine started beeping. I was not done. The coins quit feeding in. I tried smaller coins. Dimes worked for a few more seconds. The machine went silent. It seemed like we'd raced but I wasn't sure what I won. No ticket came out. My twenty came back with a refund slip. My change was not returned. The CTA woman babbled at my confused incomprehension. She told me the machines weren't for coins. I messed it up.
They sent me to their headquarters, do not pass go, do not stop for coffee. Go get your three day pass. Take the blue train to the green one then the green one to cut the red wire. That's about what I caught too. Strange city, at least I was hustled off on this quest on a light rail. There were signs to helpfully tell me everything I didn't know and still didn't understand.
Still with help from a random friendly lady, I figured out which stop to use on the green line. I went to the CTA to ask where the headquarters was on the ground and she shook her head. "They closed at 4:30 pm." It's after six, going on seven. My receipt was from 5:15 pm. The workers at O Hare had to know they were wasting my time, sending me on a frustrating, stressful and fruitless quest.
She asked where I was headed, gave me a map and told me use my receipt as my pass tonight. Go to my meeting, then catch my other light rail.
She didn't tell me the red line folks would refuse to acknowledge my receipt. In fact, she emphasized if someone tried claiming otherwise to show them the date and time on the receipt and to mention it WAS valid. She didn't tell me what to say when the red line folks responded to this with apathy and by saying she was wrong without looking at the receipt. In fact they tried imitating a machine by just saying it's a receipt it's not a ticket. I was still told to go on an epic journey tomorrow to get my $3.95 refund. After paying $2.50 for the piece of paper my 50 cent ticket was printed on I've decided to just walk to my appointments tomorrow and skip the three day pass for another one way back to O'Hare.
So far, exact change because no refund will be given but don't use change although you can. Just because that trip says it takes seven minutes, it will always take longer. Of course, this likely makes sense to someone.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

A Dear John Letter to Indianapolis

I got off my plane knowing I had a week packed with work. I knew I'd still find a way to experience Indianapolis and Indiana as, I just spent a day driving all the way around the edge of the state.

I was still excited. I thought of the many surprise places I'd stumbled into in other states. I realized after I got here, you aren't tourist friendly. In fact, locals are curious and guarded when they realize you aren't from around here even in the city. There's a "why would anyone come here?" Mentality. There are NO hotels near the New airport. No hotels have shuttles as the airport is a half an hour away. There is a bus that goes to downtown but you'd have to be local to know about the number 8 and where to get it.

Incidentally, I will admit Indianapolis, your bus drivers are the best. They made me laugh and feel comfortable on the hour plus bus rides on number two with Bob then the number eight to the airport. They didn't mumble and they couldn't understand why the bus insnt publicized and why there aren't hotels near the airport. Indianapolis, your bus drivers and public workers were willing hearts trying despite you to win over my affections for their city. They fought for you with kindness, while you ditched us to split the $54 taxi fare I had to pay to get to the part of the city that HAS hotels, which many may have guessed already- is closer to where the old airport was. Indianapolis, that was cold. A fifty four dollar fare that was higher than the day rate on my rental car I had to use the $1.75 all day bus fare to get back to because my flight got in after midnight, after the rental car places closed for the night.

You can't anticipate everything. In travel hurdles happen. You keep going forward. I had a schedule. I kept going. Receipts tucked away. Indianapolis 1 Angela 0. I headed east for work, thinking you'd be different when I came back.

I had a wonderful evening visiting my cousin Scott, we had great subs at a local place in Ohio. Ohio has hills, valleys. I love nature's curves and colors. Ohio's leaves were almost gone but the colors there seemed more determined to stand out and be seen. Indiana leaves shuffle to the ground, crumpled brown mistakes piling up awkwardly.

On my way back in state I was tired. The road was long, the stories complex, the detail demanding but only an hour and a half to my motel. Regency, the name brings to mind everything the motel was not. I didn't know that yet. A chime warned me before my maps spoke up letting me know there would be two thirty five minute and one hour and fifteen minute delays due to accidents. Major accidents. I watched drivers race around other vehicles like they were in video games, going over eighty. One of those vehicles was one that was almost entirely crushed from all sides in the median, when I passed it forty five minutes later. Professional race car drivers don't screw around on highways during rush hour. They drive on well maintained tracks, engineered for that purpose. It was sad watching mercyflight head off into the night. Impatience kills, it doesn't impress and it doesn't win you recognition or favor.

Over three hours later I made it to Terre Haute. I was surprised by the glaring fluorescent, whitewash broken down hotel. It's like running into a Chihuahua named Sasquach. As I parked, a guy jumped on his bike and slowly circled my car- not looking at me but trying to see what I had with me. He smirked brazenly when he saw I'd caught him. He rode over to a group of three other guys, all with closed mouth sagging looks of those whose front teeth have been sacrificed to hard drugs. All looking like I showed up shouting free food!
I went in the office, got my key, thinking I'd have to out everything in my room; not that I've got anything worth stealing.
Going from my car to my room a man stood at the top of the stairs after eleven at night glaring at me, staring at me. I smiled, stated back and said hello. He kept staring, expressionless. I perservered "Hello!" To this he finally realized I saw him staring and glaring. He didn't stop but said hi. He didn't move or stop.
I went into my room, went to lock the deadbolt and felt it flop in my hand like a dying fish.
I looked. No deadbolt. Just a little spring lick. Spring locks are not secure, you can card your way through them faster than using a key with a few minutes practice.

I gathered my things. They went back in the car. I went back to the office. None of the rooms had deadbolts. The clerk said I'd be safe. I told her she couldn't guarantee the behavior of other residents who all looked like they lived there full time. After hoop jumping and paperwork my reservation was cancelled. She was nice and if the place had reflected her, it would have been a palace. She recommended Days Inn.

Indiana, why so disparate? Human wolves looming to tear into unknowing travelers swirled in with considerate and truly beautiful people. Don't you have a sense of balance? Indiana, I felt like a tiny person and I know I'm carrying a few extra pounds but I look out of place here. Outside Indianapolis it was hard to find real non-chain restaurants with high quality food. Quit it with the deep fried diabetes and heart attack specials already! If you want to be taken seriously, you have to live yourself and take care of you.
I liked seeing signs for free spay and neuter. At least you're kind to animals.

Tucked in Indianapolis I found a couple of spots worth visiting. The Eiteljorg museum which has western art and a whole wing devoted to native history, displayed and curated by a member of the Miami tribe. Indianapolis has good restaurants that are a food revolution in action. A city with few highly rated restaurants has discovered the need and the joys of high quality options. I stood trying not to breathe the fumes coming from the sewer, admiring the golden gingko leaves. I felt as out of place as that ancient tree.
Tomorrow I leave again. I know I'll probably drive through going to other places, but our moment is over if we ever even had one. I won't think of you much, so please work on yourself. Someday you could be a state worth visiting, you could have the confidence and appeal if you worked on it. I admit, today I kept wishing I was in St Louis at Pioneer Park. You could be that great if you tried.

Goodbye Indianapolis, Goodbye Indiana. Tomorrow you'll be behind the tail of my plane and I'll be back in the mountains.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Buried in paperwork and loss

Pictures show beautiful places and adventure, they don't hint at hours spent plotting details checking maps. They don't show letters and follow up on the bearocratic side of things. There's no easy way to check a box that says itinerant entertainer trading good company and help with everything from technology to yard work and cooking. There's no easy way to say "I have no fixed address, no actual home. My income goes to meeting survival needs and occasionally towards appreciating the breathtaking sights of the country. I value life more than money." 

This year my community has been torn by unexpected deaths of young vibrant souls. Brave youth who lived and gave us amazing memories. Yesterday we got word that our friend Stephen Ommerle passed away. Word came hesitant, slowly reaching us all. We visited with him in Taos earlier this year. I drank in the sparkle in his eyes, so young despite his age and failing health. His spirit was noble and bold. He was genuine and genuinely incredible. Omms, as he went by, was the original bad guy to Taso's hero. Omms was the villain you loved or loved to hate. He was never the sort to ask for anything. We got there to find his fridge empty, his cupboards sparse. His tire went flat but he couldn't afford a patch. Even though I only had enough money to make it to my next gig and Danny had no excess either we filled his fridge, cooked him real food and listened to a lifetime of captivating stories. We called friends, but when they offered to assist, Omms, proud as ever, played down his need.
He spent his time watching news, shows, socializing with his beloved cat and smoking cigarettes while he waited for death. His sense of humor was profound. He was diagnosed with terminal cancer ten years ago, yet for that time death was distracted and left him waiting. He mentioned in jousting and stunts he'd broken over 60 bones in his body.

I picture him now, on the porch smoking a cigarette and drinking coffee waiting pensively for Death. I picture the relief on his face, he'd come to terms with death and dying in the years he lived in between. Waiting in a little apartment in Taos, noble and brave. Distancing himself to face his next journey alone.

As we left he gave me one of his shirts. A knight with little left, yet he still gave. It's beautiful and now it's priceless. It's the gift of a friend we were heading to visit next. A friend we were plotting to help financially this fall. A friend we embraced this past May, wondering if we'd see him alive again.

As these thoughts and feelings play through my head I type letters and organize medical bills from Danny's treatment this summer so the beaurocrats in his county address them. An ocean of numbers, itemized everything stacks up and folds into a priority tracked envelope with signature confirmation to prevent another claimed loss of paperwork. I redid forms four times with him for his medical coverage between May and August.

Work travel plans tug at me, I'm reminded I need to reserve hotels, rental cars and forward receipts to my boss. I've got to show where the travel money goes legitimately.

Outside the sun shines, somewhere lions dream and I see Omms bright eyes and smile. He was a lion, a lover, a fighter and a friend.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Where Would You Go: Florida


Florida isn't a small state, tucked in every corner there are fascinating sights and experiences from Miami Beach nightlife to the Sponge Museum in Tarpon Springs.
When people think of Florida they think of beaches and bikinis. I think of friends who travel or traveled renaissance festival circuit. I think of random conversations with gregarious locals and spontaneous adventures nudged into existence by the recommendations of friends. 
When I got here I was excited to stay in a Hostel just to see what it was like. 
In my mind I had set several goals: go to beaches, see cool places, maybe ride on a boat, swim, go to the Keys, visit friends. 
I have always wanted to see the Florida Keys. Sometimes I tease Danny because he'll get so set on a specific food or place that we arrange travel routes around his attraction to various eateries. I have that obsession with the Keys. I read a book called The Phantom Deer as a child. I've always wanted to visit the Keys because of that book. Silly maybe, but it was agonizing to know I was only two hours away and driving further and further out of range. I considered driving six hours to go anyways but reason won out. I could spend twelve hours driving in Florida for a glimpse of the Keys or I could explore around me and have time to appreciate what I found. Danny encouraged me to explore Indian Rocks, Tampa area. Reluctantly, I shelved my dream and in doing so, I opened myself to beauty, art, and adventures I had not anticipated. I never dreamed of Clearwater, because I'd never known about it. Discovering new dreams is like realizing the Sun is not the only star in the sky. 
I had a lot of work to do, friends I wanted to see in person that I've only been in touch with digitally. I also wanted to explore. 
In Miami Beach I stayed in a Hostel to see what it was like. Picture bunk beds, locked foot lockers for personal effects, unisex showers, full kitchen and a pool that closed before  I wandered in. Also picture the traveler's ire, the Hostel neglected to mention all the parking in the area cost $20 a night, making that $26 a night price suddenly equal to the price of a private hotel room where you don't share the room with thirty people or make your own bed. It felt like summer camp and would be fun in the right situation and location. It wasn't stellar with a complicated travel and scenario schedule to meet. I decided even if I had a busy day I would still try to do something to explore Florida. 
Wednesday morning I got up before the city. I made my way to South Pointe Beach, I met the stray cats along the path down to the pier. I walked in the sand, watched a huge cargo boat arriving with the dawn. I thought of how many bright lights, how many special people we've lost this year. Time, health, circumstance has gently carried them beyond the grasp of our hands and in doing so, has nestled their touch in our hearts. 
I finished working in the evening, I saw more traffic, more roads than anything else that week. I met friends and enjoyed a wonderful visit before racing away in the morning. Away from Miami, away from the Keys, west. 
I fought a headache, continued completing work assignments. I put on different identities every day, they pack in my mind, the TSA can't search them, airlines can't charge for them but when I'm working my head is full of synthetic, prefabricated baggage. It sheds as I walk out the door and pick up the next character. Keeping the aspects and nuances different for my own entertainment. Sometimes as I travel, these other people I create are my company as I'm alone in yet another rental car. I swear sometimes, I wonder when Tyler Durdin will get in and start navigating my routes while cynically describing the life endangering flaws on various cars we pass.  
Head trying to ache, rainbows in my vision I persevered. I went to the Mote Laboratory and Ringling Circus Museum that day. I loved the carved detail on the circus wagons, the giant banyan trees, the palace by the sea. My heart was warmed by just watching the manatees play and eat, learning about sea turtle rescue and seeing amazing sealife including inside out jelly fish and seeing shark pods. 
The friendliest corner of Florida, Clearwater. I met RickDaddy, who makes scrumptious spice blends and hot sauces. I enjoyed the best fish tacos I've ever had at his restaurant, Eatin Fresh. His goal is to serve twenty five people a day an excellent lunch. He does. He's working on putting in a beer garden, starting to bloom to connect with buskers who might be interested in setting an entertainment schedule with him there - offering permission to busk, promotion by venue, and pay based on draw. Very cool to see a venue growing, offering locals and tourists the chance to entertain and be entertained. 
I went to Big Cat Rescue and saw the rescue work they're doing, the education, and watched the various large cats enjoy a beautiful day. I went to the Dali museum and marveled at the works of Dali and Escher as both were on display. I added my wristband to the ribbon tree and walked the labyrinth there- the fourth one I've walked this year. 
I stayed with a friend north of Tampa, helped with technology quandaries and shared great conversations in the evenings while venturing out to the Sponge Museum, dolphin and shelling boat tour from Tarpon Springs; and walked the trails in Tampa Park. 
I walked trails in Baypoint, appreciated the flora at the Sunken Gardens and bought delicious chocolate ginger cookies to bring home from the St. Pete's bakery. 
I was more drawn to St Pete's than Orlando. I spent my time in Orlando visiting friends, swapping hugs and stories. 
I headed toward Jacksonville and the end of this journey. More road, more cheesy radio stations, more work. It was too late to hit St Augustine. I swear, as much as I'd like to go there that I'm jinxed. I always end up able to be there after five pm: which is too late to really see the oldest fort in the country, the Ripley's Museum. This time I was serene and picked a random park near Jacksonville. I went to Big Talbot Island State Park. It was a natural barrier reef. It was wild, desolate on that grey day and I was the only on there. Me and a translucent tiny crab that raced warily around in sand dunes.

If you go to Florida, explore the parks, talk to gregarious locals, make new friends and try places you may never have heard of. You won't regret the choice. The memories will be the best souvenirs you take home.

I still have a lot on my Florida would like to do list. I want to kayak in the Gulf. I want to see friends again. Someday. I appreciate that, for the moment I've got the illusion of being financially flush. The only way I could afford this adventure was because work sent me. Work pinned locations, receipts were gathered and it was the priority but that didn't detract from the excitement and adventure of exploring new places.


Saturday, October 17, 2015

And there goes the drive shaft...

Over seven hundred miles behind us with an estimate of thirty eight minutes to go on our journey. Blue skies with light fluffy clouds had been with us from Minnesota to Colorado, telling us everything is gonna be alright. We're arriving two days before I fly out for work. We argue about work, Danny feels bad I work so hard to paid even a little bit. I feel like the travel I'm doing makes up for the hours of driving, flying, away and bouncing on hectic schedules. It seems like wherever I work, no matter than I work hard either my employers can't afford to pay me well or choose to pay and promote others while I do their work. Gripe. I focus forward and on the positive. I remember I'm flying not falling. Who and what stays with me, always has my loyalty, my love, and whatever I can give them from pictures of beautiful flowers, stories, an ear, a birthday present when I do have a little money.
No matter how hard you work, it's not really yours. I never work for money. I work to get the tools to live. The money is one of the tools- I pay my bills, buy food, help friends, try to invest in plans. Every time I get ahead, my phone gets vandalized. My tires need replacing. Something.
Nothing was on the horizon, I felt like I should be wary but it was nice to think I had a cushion started. After next week it would be a real cushion. I thought that as I went under an overpass. Thirty eight minutes when Danny's van slowed a little. It hesitated, then he swerved slightly before evening out. We had just transitioned from 76 west to 70 west outside Denver.
A long cylinder like a muffler but shaped like a footsie roll came out from beneath Danny's van spinning and bouncing out into the road! He was slowing down, I avoided hitting the object and other cars. We sped down the shoulder. Was it his muffler? Was it something he hit? Fluid was overheating, something was wrong as I watched white smoke escape up the back of his van. He stopped. I thought he parked. I parked. He suddenly started backing up. I screamed into my walkie talkie as I frantically clutched at my shifter. His trailerhit me as I started backing up. No answer came from the walkie. Ground control had asked questions all the way in, every thought had raced out my mouth into the walkie. Major Tom and Danny were equally verbose.
I backed up. Curse words bounced around inside my car. What the hell?
Danny's van and trailer stopped. I waited. When they didn't roll again I parked. Traffic went by less than a foot away. Danny and I got out and played frogger to meet in the middle. Hearing was almost impossible. Traffic roared endlessly.
Did you see my drive shaft he asked. I asked if it was a large silver tootsie roll, got a nod back. Nodded back. Danny gave me his phone, triple Aaa number and told me call 911 too. He went to loomfor the drive shaft. I juggled two simultaneous calls on two smartphones.
The trailer would cost us to tow, a little 4x6 with Danny's everything inside it.
Just tow it. It's just money.
Twenty minutes they said. The police arrived first. A wonderful female officer. She blocked the road with her lights on, warned to stay beyond the barrier as people often hit police cars. A fire truck was on the way. People don't aim at fire trucks. Please don't aim at Police cars people.
The fire truck arrived. Arvada Police and Fire kept us safe and we appreciated their gregarious support. We told them we would both donate performances to fundraise for them if they ever want us to.
Half an hour later the tow truck arrived. Traffic had not let him through. People. Three rules of driving sense: don't gawk focus on the road to prevent secondary fender benders, let emergency vehicles through including tow trucks- it will actually help congested traffic more if the problem can be quickly handled, three never pass a snow plow.
I suppose a fourth is don't have your transmission seize and rip your drive shaft in half, mangle your wire harness into useless frayed ends and really don't have your engine seize.
The mechanics looked up under the metal corpse as it bled the last of its transmission fluid on the bed of the tow truck.
The damage was severe. Engine. Transmission. Drive shaft. Wire harness.
All would need replacing. Wire harness may never function right again, which is like saying your spinal cord may not ever work right again.
They eased us into the knowledge that the van is totaled. No injuries. It's good for spare parts, a new van is the diagnosis.
Flying, falling. Aiming up. Carrying it. Sitting by a stack of medical bills, knowing I've got to deal with maddening beaurocracy as Danny's heart issues happened out of his home state. Medicaid would have been simple to deal with on this, compartmentalized care has offered states deniability. I may or may not have success. I've got no cushion. It's going toward a functional vehicle for Danny. We support each other.
It's not enough. Some days I wish I could make enough to take care of things like this.  To give friends more when they struggle. It's a tool. It's not important. It's just stress, a dead van, and the hope for more work.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Life with Pain

They started when I was ten years old. The pain was like a branding iron through my neck into my skull. No escape. Initially doctors said children can't get headaches while I curled into a ball and tried not to exist. No physical cause like a knife or a steel trap to remove. No healing that signifies the end of suffering. My father gave me imitrex from his prescription. Sometimes I could understand why he was mostly emotionless. Emotions are a luxury you can't afford when pain controls your nerves. By the time I hit my twenties I'd become adept at appearing functional while feeling sharp, white hot waves of torment and nausea. You quietly excuse yourself to vomit. Drink two pots of coffee. Eat Tylenol, ibuprofen, naproxen like you own stock. You count the good days when there's no pressure or pain carving out your skull. There is no escape. You contemplate whether it's really worth it to live. Why do you have to survive like this? Who thought it was a good idea to genetically reproduce when this relentless genetically induced torture lies like a dragon in your nerves?
The neurologist wasn't surprised to meet me. He'd treated most of my father's side of the family, generations even. He went through the motions, tests, and MRI finally. In black and grey my brain looked like a wrinkly brain, perhaps to a knowledgeable eye there were things to see. He offered drugs. Drugs to hide symptoms, drugs to wear out other systems or make them reduce function. My brain goes too fast, it's constantly on and taking things in, anticipating threats, obstacles, stressors, and trying to find an escape before the next time the Dragon bites. The neurologist explained how my family has a flaw. The trigmental nerve is supposed to run parallel to the blood vessels going into my brain instead they circle each other like two enemies hell bent on destroying each other.
Instead of his pills I chose to learn self hypnosis to try to master my body. Some days I win. Some weeks are pain free like a reprieve for a dying convict only to wake because hot angry lightening is reverberating through my skull. In those moments I think of what a burden I am, how much I love my friends, how thinking of them distracts away from the agony.
Logic goes out the window, spoken words are torrential rain pounding into my ears without meaning just pressure. I have to form words and thoughts carefully, move like I'm going to explode as sometimes motor skills drop to the level of someone who's drunk. Hours pass, ebbing and crescendoes in the pain are unpredictable. I can look normal, sound normal and get by through it. I can't always recall things clearly afterwards as the focus it takes to function takes up the space memory would occupy. Normally my memories would be like a library, each area different books with pictures to recall specific facts, experiences, or trivia instead for the five to six days of pain there is chaos. One episode left me with a memory of pain, a cabin at a camp, uncomfortable bunk bed, and being asked repeatedly "what causes them?" Like being in Guantanamo and being questioned, all I could say was "strawberries can cause them." Strawberries have never caused any of my headaches. I've been allergy tested. Not allergy related. Chiropractors help sometimes to reduce the long endless stretches of furious nerves and muscle rioting. I remember many years where I had less than one good day in ten, good years where I have a hundred good days out of three hundred sixty five.
Your priorities are different when you live with Pain over your head and in it. You live for the good moments, savor the good feelings and moments. You capture them, wrestle them into your grasp and break apart obstacles for the priceless moments of beauty, kindness, and love. You listen to birds, crickets, waterfalls and rivers. You don't care about looks, makeup, perfume, fashion. You don't like wasting the good moments with pettiness or conflict. There is enough conflict in your head.
You rationalize, you beg your own mind for reprieve, you try barter. You try. You try. You end up having to stop taking NSAIDs because they've wrecked your digestive tract. You stop caring about laws when you find hash and cannabis with high CBD content cut the pain down to where it isn't a demon you contend with for control. The world doesn't look two dimensional, sounds stop being too loud and knife edged. Hypersensitivity in hearing, touch, vision drop back to human levels. My mind always wants to understand why I can only have negative impact hypersensitivity, shouldn't I get some compensation? There is none. Genetics does not care. It is relentless. It's written in my bones and blood. A myofascial dentist who practiced for over thirty years said I was the only true case of migraines he had ever encountered. There is a point where you can touch an end of the trignental nerve above your upper gun line. When he touched mine I flew out of the chair. Electrical shock lashed through my brain. I choked, gasped and shrieked. He apologized and had his aide get ice. Temporary cure: put ice on your neck or upper gumline in front of your molars. In about twenty minutes the pain will decrease. It may or may not go away, it may lie low until you think it's gone only to rise up just as wicked as before. A lot of things get labeled migraine because of symptoms. It's a catchall for headaches on one side of the head. I've blacked out before. I fight them sometimes. I forget that makes them worse. I have a hard time conceding to squiggly blood vessels and nerves with no IQ of their own. Nothing more humiliating than to lose to your own thoughtless tissue. Might as well have defective tattooed on your forehead.
When you live with Pain, you have a hard time connecting with others fully. You feel for others and you try to reduce their pain, you know you can handle it and you don't wish it on anyone else.
You shut off sensations in your body and learn to ignore them until they hit the wall.
A friend once asked why anyone would choose to live in pain. It's not a choice. It is. Choosing not to live would be admitting I'm not as strong as my genes. Many days I wish I wasn't born, I'm grateful for the good moments without pain but there's always the lurking enemy waiting for stress, muscle pain, nerve flares to give it the tools to overtake me again.
Emotions play across like shadows on the ground, not like ocean waves. They have little depth but stark appearances. It's hard to feel beyond the hot biting Dragon curled around your spine, knowing there's no song to put the beast to sleep.
This week I've started accupuncture at a sliding scale community clinic, Nadia is kind and gentle. She plans on using a technique called cupping to draw the coils of the dragons tail out. When I travel, she's encouraged me to continue treatment as it's likely five or six sessions may be needed. My friend Tama does accupuncture and said they've had many cases like mine, where they've pinned the proverbial Dragon down. I'm done wanting it dead, it's a part of me, I want it to heal. If they can do this it will be the best gift I've ever been given. I'm thirty nine. I've suffered for twenty nine years. I'd have done less time and had less pain if I were in solitary confinement for capital crimes. My only crime was being born.
I run through my days, drinking sunsets and friendship. I pause smelling roses, Ben gay, and Dragon balm. I feel the Sun, the warm hugs and the touch of friends as they endlessly try to work the muscles out. I memorize the flowers, the antics of squirrels, the soft playful nuzzling from my cat. I wrap my hands around life I draw it around me like a silk scarf in the breeze. I try to laugh. I challenge constantly, hoping the next hurdle will make me well enough to heal the Dragon and put it to rest for once and always.

That's what life is like with chronic pain.
Forty hour weeks aren't possible. Desk jobs aren't realistic. You do what you can when you can at a hundred percent. You can bluff your way through a few hours, even days. You can survive. That's it sometimes.

If you have someone with chronic pain in your life. Share the beautiful moments. Offer massage, hugs, laughter. Take them places that draw them beyond their hurt. Give them foods that distract and nourish them. Give them memories worth fighting for. Forgive them and understand why they don't always talk about it. We don't want pity. It doesn't help. Don't treat us like we're glass. We're diamonds. We cut. We may cut you, lashing out at our inner demons. I apologize. I may be elusive. Distant. I'm facing monsters you can't see in my smile.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Going Places from Public Transportation to Thought

My life has become points on a map, appointments and landmarks, roses and signs. Signs telling me where to go, how fast, when to go, what to do.
Still having visions of a bouncing, spinning drive shaft spiraling around the sound and sight of the new van Danny's getting next week. Two days from accident to flight. Work can't wait, sometimes life has to flex around work so enough can be earned to address immediate needs again. I'm certain, after ten years of getting by that no matter how ugh you've got it never seems enough. It never gets beyond the horizon. Brushfires have be one a way of life. Gig to gig, check to check, hoping it's enough and that more gigs line up. No time to work on new skills, no time to communicate, self promote or dialog for theater or event gigs. Soon maybe. Hopefully. Nothing like rapt listeners to infuse life and smiles into a storyteller's day.
Public transportation has become important. Shuttles, buses, light rail lines. Schedules, tickets and maps that can sometimes only recognized by locals.
I've found my favorite transit is the Skyway in Minneapolis. The Skyway is a walkway above the streets that is enclosed from weather and offers beautiful urban views, food and other businesses. It's nice to stand above the streets watching traffic. Eye catching art and architecture from the Convention center, Target Field all the way beyond the Government Center.
Do you know what Public transportation and walkways are in your area? Have you taken time to experience them?
I loved taking the light rail, walking a mile in the Skyway to Fanfest last summer at the Convention center. I was Tony the Tiger, giving high fives, hugs, and mugging for pictures. Those memories bring a smile, even though the event is long past.

What places bring bright memories to the front of your mind? What puts a skip in your step and laughter in your voice?
Has it been too long since you sought them out?

You can spend time complaining about schedules, transportation stress or you can focus on the lighter parts. Friendly travelers, different sights, tastes, sounds, history and culture or days wasted griping, venting and stuck in the mud of misery.

Life doesn't always give us choices. Sometimes we have two days to find what we need, we have to go away to work, we have to deal with hurdles to jump. Resent the jump or make it your own. Be glad that in the midst of everything, at least the nerves in your head are asleep again, that keeping stress focused on one task at a time is holding back the ocean tide of overwhelming waves of what still needs to be done.

I'm grateful today for how many lives we touch. We don't always appreciate how much impact our loved ones have in others lives, how much impact we have until chance shakes it up.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Where would you go: Boise?

When the boss said Boise, I wondered what was there beyond work and potatoes. When I asked if any of my friends lived there, only one in several thousand responded that he had originally come from Idaho, the others pondered potatoes and mountains with me. Did anyone really live there or was it just a weird silhouette on the instant potato packets?

Boise wasn't a huge city. Idaho is one of the least populated states. I found a brochure boasting of museums, many free or low cost including military, state, black history, penitentiary, mining, and the World Birds of Prey center. One picture showed a lady mugging for the camera as if she was in a giant baked potato with a butter pat melting on her brow. I pictured myself in the baked potato, prepared myself for the absurdity. I arrived to find the State history museum closed for renovations, all the tantalizing truths and trivias of Idaho and the baked potato set locked away and dark.
I was distracted from my melancholy by a beautiful rose garden, the scent of roses was the scent of Boise. In October I seemed to find roses everywhere instead of potatoes. I wandered into the BAM, Boise Art Museum and enjoyed a myriad of well displayed ceramics, glass, paintings, photographs, and sculpture with absolutely no potatoes. Ansel Adams was well represented.
I enjoyed delicious sushi at Superb Sushi Downtown. I strolled past the Egyptian Theater showing Army of Darkness, and looked at the Capital building.
The next morning I started by visiting the Nature Center at the Department of Fish and Game. I stood on a bridge watching a seven foot long sturgeon slide through the water below, adept at moving without rippling the surface after twenty five years of swimming. I learned what science is doing to bolster Idaho salmon populations in the face to dams and other obstacles beyond current and waterfalls between Idaho and the sea. I went to the Mining museum on the State Penitentiary grounds. I learned about what stones come from Idaho, examined various stones with a handheld microscope that showed what it saw on a television. I appreciated an impressive black light exhibit.
I was deciding where to go next, hours to go before my flight when a man in uniform gave a bright smile and asked if I was going to stop at the Penitentiary. I wasn't, but seeing others going in, and such gregarious tour guides I decided to. I walked into the State Pen. I paid to get in. It closed in the seventies before I was born. I stepped into the courtyard. The walkways were surrounded by roses. Lovely, bright roses against stark stone and rusted iron. I went to the rose garden, a sign told me five prisoners were executed there. I snuck in to the buildings in the allowed areas and looked at the cells. My imagination was working overtime on escape plans even though I was free. I learned the history of prison tattoos and of events and colorful characters including escapees. There was a weapons display in one building with everything from grease guns, shoulder cannons to an early gatling gun. It was an Impressive display of grenades, mines, guns, swords and various accessories.
I left there with images of shells and mortars dancing in my head. I wandered next door into the Botanical gardens which were where one of the prison yards had been as well as several graves.
Scarecrows hinted at Autumn, roses, vegetables, pumpkins, sages and many vibrant landscapes unfolded as I explored.  An oriental chime which requested I toll it three times and make a wish. I wished that no challenges we face this year be greater than our strength and may our friends know our hearts.
I finished my exploration by seeking out the Bogus Basin park. I pictured a basin, water. I was dead wrong. I drove a ribbon of switchbacks higher and higher out of Boise. I ended fifteen miles out at a ski resort that still had up to go. Golden fall grasses were worn by soft edged rolling mountains around the basin were Boise nestled. Evergreens accented the heights, golden sage flowers and rust colored dried grasses played in the breeze at lonely vistas where I stood alone surveying miles without a soul in them.
Still no potatoes.
I had Mediterranean food, they tried giving me fries instead of rice but I turned down the potatoes when they finally tried to slip incongruously into my meal.
Lewis and Clark came through, geography happened from earthquakes to bottles of ash from Mount St Helens and the ground spreading and stretching with time, where once the Pacific shore was in Idaho.

Hard to get lost, not so many people and lots of wild places where perhaps once people worked in remote areas striving to bring the golden blood that brings a deadly fever of greed with it out of the ground.

That's where I went, where would you go?

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Where would you go: St Louis?

Six hours in St Louis to explore, where would you go? What would you do?

I pursued history again. The site of the 1904 World's Fair. I went to Forest Park. I started out geocaching while I waited for the museums and zoo to open. I walked around enjoying the flowers, trees and waterways. The zoo and museums have free admission. If I lived here, I would visit often and volunteer at one of the attractions.

I started with St Louis Zoo. I went into the penguin and puffin house, enjoying the proximity and character of both birds. Everyone was talking about the new polar bear. I stood at the glass outside, amused at how much other people wanted instant satisfaction- to see the bear right now. While they walked away, the bear came around the corner. I walked with it. The only thing between us was less than a foot of glass. We walked together the length of the window. The bear turned and wandered up on the rocks. I turned and wandered the zoo. I watched a tiger resting in a pool of water. A volunteer told me about popcorn plants and had me touch the leaves to smell the rich, buttery scent. Here, I'd just been looking at the golden flowers.
Time flew, the zoo was huge! I raced out and up the hill to the St Louis Art Museum. I strolled through admiring diverse artworks from abstracts to impressionists.
I sat on the rocks at the edge of picnic island. I admired the Great Basin. I even had time to appreciate exhibits at the Missouri History Museum on the 1904 World's Fair and on what St Louis was like in 1895.

My time was up too fast. The memories were worth it!

Taking Chances

The day was grey. The sky spit rain sporadically, just enough to goad me into turning on and off the windshield wipers. Vehicles in front, behind along the highway all filled with different lives, dreams and realities.
I saw a vehicle and camper along the side of the road, broken down. About a mile later, in the drizzle I saw the determined walk of a traveler carrying a backpack fighting a rolling suitcase. What if our roles were reversed? Normally, my car is too full to offer rides but I was driving a rental which happened to be a small van.
What if he was me?
I pulled over. I saw relief in his face.
He was only going fifty miles up the highway to his mother's house. I was going further. As I drove he told me about himself, what brought him there. He told me he'd been stuck there most of the day with a low charge on his phone. No one stopped to even ask if he needed a hand, a ride, anything.
He had just mentally told the universe "Haven't I always stopped to start batteries, change tires- yet I'm stuck walking fifty miles in the rain? See if I help anyone next time."
Then I pulled over. I offered a ride. A woman taught never to let a stranger in her car. He told me all this. He was dumbfounded. Why did I stop, he asked.
"If it was me, I would have hoped someone would do the same. I have three good friends who hitchhike frequently. All three are guys who are trustworthy, intelligent, caring, and giving. If I a was stranded I would hope someone would take a chance and help me out."
He spent part of the ride trying to figure out what to give me as a reward. I had to tell him repeatedly that it wasn't about getting anything- it was lending a hand where it's needed. I told him pay it forward.

We take chances every day. Are they always wise? Sometimes we pretend there isn't a choice. We give ourselves reasons to burrow into detached apathy.

Talk to strangers. Meet your neighbors. Learn about the realities other people live inside, when you do it often enough you find it easy to change your own. Grow. Learn the names of the plants that grow in your area, which ones heal you, harm you or which ones you can eat. Learn the history of your community. Learn about different cultures. Sing a song with the radio. Do something you have never done before.

I take risks. I accept the price of taking chances, for me it's a better investment than living like I'm made of marzipan cowering on a shelf.

Sometimes our weaknesses and flaws are our strengths, depending on whether you use them or let them rule you.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Contradictions and Crossroads

I still see the yellow line even though I'm not driving, it streches through my thoughts with caution signs. Caution: sharp when irrate, easily distracted, stubborn, self reliant, distant, restless.

My head fills with questions as I drive:

Why do hotels claim to have free WiFi when their signal is a suggestion of false hope, vanishing whenever you notice it at the edge of your screen?

Why are we so contradictory?

Why do we claim to care for each other, the environment, and what we eat- while devouring deep fried artificial meals with enhanced flavor to hide the lack of taste as we finish with a benediction about how some group meeting a specific description is actually the ultimate villain of all time necessitating destruction, prejudice and punishment?

Who made us the judge and jury?

Why do we have to fight over what words in old books should structure our lives and our self judgements? Why can't we focus on living and teach children to step away from judgement?

If your ancestors were persecuted and forced to follow a different religion, why are you so loyal to it? Stockholm syndrome?

Why are some people so determined to become enraged at the idea of taking the power in this country away from the 1%? If you aren't in the one percent is it because you think some day you could be?

These thoughts and a thousand others go through my head. If you are offended, why- you do not have to think them.

I'm not going door to door spreading my inner musings, nor am I set on harassing you by sharing shock style, offense evoking memes on your page or to your email. Incidentally, I have had other do those things to me then call me names via email because I don't argue with them.

  I don't post my beliefs to your wall or your email. I don't name call. If you've got to do that, you've got First world problems. You post for prayers, I politely use your preferred terminology to show support.

I've got memories of the dead. I've got memories of the living who are beneath you, around you and often avoided. The discontented, the imperfect, the different, people with stigmas who are actually incredible. Arrogance is cocaine, ego is alcohol and prayers are prescription pain killers. Denial is heroin.

I've got priorities. Food, shelter, friendship, love, my health, the health of those around me, the environment I'm in. No blame, no resentment just what can I do to enhance the world I'm in.  To meet needs and wants as best I can. Go without the frills of wants for several years and your mouth tastes like ashes when you walk into a consumer wallet sucking store full of everything you will never need. Selfies are fostering a new type of narcissism.

Why go to a beautiful place to stare at yourself?

No store sells love. No store offers contracts on self esteem or guilt reduction. No store carries discipline on its overstocked shelves between smartphones that think for you so you can live numb with the drugs and the sports and the petty tabloid dramas that titillate.

I can't go into a loan officer and say, what work can I trade you for that guy's health back?

Why isn't there an easily accessible way for students to go and get help when there are conflicts with colleges- why is it always on the student when in all other business deals there are easy to find advocacy and mediation organizations?

Why do we focus so much on the unimportant trivia and so little on the real priorities?

What are we going to do with all the excessive unnecessary smartphone cases? Are we going to use them as roofing tiles?

Even if you discount my musings:

The next time you start to stereotype in your head, stop.

The next time you have an intolerant reaction, pause and put yourself in their shoes.

It's not about being right. It's about being.

Why hate?

I put on different faces, different names so often that I've learned you can believe in anything for a while. You can love and adore it from cars to philosophies. You can put it down and walk away.

Take what you need. A friend emphasized finding the merits in all perspectives rather than focusing venom on the points to distort and feed hate.

I change every day. I'm the same but different, like everyone else I'm full of cobtradictions but when I chase down irrational beliefs and thoughts I create a crossroad. I move beyond them, leaving them with their toxic treasures and their thumbs sticking out.

The world is too incredible, life is too short. I'm still seeing the reflective paint guiding me forward but I'm not afraid to park and walk outside the lines. Are you?