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.