:: WHY WE BE ::

Boo to false, self-imposed limits, we say. These champion oracles want to live enthusiastically. Follow our trip through projects that challenge, frustrate, and/or scare us. In the end (which is really the middle) we want to live like big bright free and authentically awesome people.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Time is Time (John)

I'm not sure what happens with time.  Occasionally it flows like silly putty in January.  Especially when I am working overnights with no calls, or waiting for the cookies to bake.  Then it turns around and surprises me by seemingly skipping whole days and weeks, such as when projects are due, or I have an event coming up.

Sometimes I look back at a calendar to figure out where I was when, and can't believe the amount of places and things and events that were somehow packed into days or hours.  The past month since I've posted here is good evidence of that.

First, how did I do on my goals?

Well, the Seven Sandwiches Project was concluded on Monday.  I skipped Father's Day, so it actually spanned eight days.  But I was pretty busy on that day.  More on that later.  All things considered, we had some tasty sandwiches, and my seven year old son even contributed a recipe for one of the days.  So - GOAL COMPLETE!

I also had a goal to keep improving on my times during sprint triathlons.  I realize that at some point I will have reached top speed and getting personal bests will be a stretch.  Fortunately, I'm new enough to this and have enough room for improvement that I continue to shave time from the events.  I did the Pigman Triathlon back on June 5th, and the Rochesterfest Triathlon a few days ago on the 19th.  Click on the links for my full race reports.  The Cliff's Notes version is I can swim like a fish, but my bikes and runs continue to be slow.  I did shave time from my run from one to the next. And considering the two weeks of mayhem I had between the two, I am overall pleased with the results.  So - GOAL (pretty much) COMPLETE!

As for those two weeks, somehow I managed to keep my sanity through my Mom having a full out stroke, and getting sick enough to want to just crawl into bed and remain immobile for weeks on end. 

Mom is doing remarkably well, post stroke.  She is back to walking and talking and continues to improve.  Apparently my parents have bullet dodging abilities when it comes to major medical events.  Though I wish they would quit with the demonstrations, as they are taking their toll me!  All of the driving back and forth to Cedar Rapids to visit, along with sleepless nights and days filled to the brim with living life led to me neglecting my own health.  I developed a really juicy sinus infection, ear infection, throat infection, which reduced me to a goo hacking mass for most of the past two weeks.  It wasn't a pretty sight during the Rochesterfest Tri, but I survived it.

That tri was on Father's Day, and I was lucky to have my Wife and Kiddos there to cheer me on.  That, above anything else, really kept me motivated and moving.  The rest of Dad's Day was spent opening presents, calling our Dads, and recovering from the tri!

I took a break from the pity party in my head and was able to give thanks that my Dad was still around and doing relatively well, and thanks also that Mom was still alive and also doing well.  I have beautiful, smart kids, and a beautiful, caring and supportive wife, a roof over my head, food on the table and hobbies to keep me moving.  I am able to do triathlons, which is physically beyond most of my patients. So in all, I am quite blessed. 

These are the things I need to remember when that little voice in my brain tries to beat me up for something. Time is constant, but will always appear malleable.  And life is hard all over, so count your blessings and continue the march. 

  So - Goals for the next month...

1. Figure out another Seven Day Project, get it done and posted.
2. Train harder for my next triathlon, the Tour de Kirkwood down in Missouri.  I want to be ranked really high coming out of the water, and improve my bike and run times so I'm not in the bottom 10%.  This means training on more hills.
3. Spend less time on the computer, and more time playing with the kiddos.  And on that note, I'm posting this, turning the machine off and getting out the toys! 

Good Health and Happiness until next time!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

My Little Death Bird

Have you heard the one about the girl who went to a therapist to talk about difficult relationships and ended up trying to make friends with her own death? It's kind of a funny story...

It's true, I am living in fear of the most inevitable thing in life - death. I'll be having a totally ordinary or even exceptionally pleasant moment, and suddenly a picture of my death by any number of different accidents, illnesses or just plain old age will rise unbidden to the top of my mind, and a low grade panic sets in.

A couple of years ago, there was a terrible and tragic accident in downtown San Francisco. A man was on Mission Street, at a corner where there also happened to be a bus stop. He was trying to hail a cab, and stepped off the curb behind a bus that had stopped to unload passengers. Another bus was coming toward the stop, ostensibly slowing down to a halt. Somehow the driver of that second bus got confused, and accelerated instead of braking. The second bus slammed into the first bus, and the man hailing the taxi was crushed between them, dying instantly.

A co-worker of mine was close friends with the man who was crushed between the buses. Had, in fact, recently been best man at his wedding. Something inside me broke a little listening to my co-worker describe the agonizing minutiae that comes along with a sudden death. No one knew the password to the dead man's Blackberry, or his computer at work. No one had his bank account number. I have had relatives and friends who have passed away, and I didn't even know this man, but for some reason hearing about his death made the reality of my own mortality come rushing in like a muddy river.

One of the most frustrating things about this is that just a few short years ago, I was practically fearless. For instance, in 2007 I took a bus ride in India. In the middle of a raging monsoon thunderstorm, the bus ascended the foothills of the Himalayas, surfing the sides of sheer cliffs on a one lane road with blind intersections at every curve. Lightning was streaking through the air around us and little pieces of the road were washing away. On that bus ride, I didn't once think that anything disastrous would happen to me. Fast forward to 2011, where a drive across town on a sunny day can leave my palms sweaty, as I imagine all the different ways I might perish behind the wheel.

It occurred to me that this might be something to bring up with my therapist. We had a chat about the subject, and I learned some important things.

1. It's normal to fear death, most people do, and sometimes it is literally like flipping a switch. We get older, and one day we wake up and our mortality is sitting on the edge of the bed, handing us a cup of coffee, asking, "What are we going to do today?"

2. The more attached you are to things in your life, the harder the idea of your death is going to be. (This is something wise folk [like, say, The Buddha for example] have been saying for thousands of years. I know they are all waiting for validation from a slightly neurotic, wholly unenlightened woman in Northern California, and so I say unto them - you guys were totally right!)

3. The more comfortably aware you are of your death, the happier and richer your life will be. My therapist recalled a passage from a book by Carlos Castaneda, where a shaman advises him that Death, sitting on his left shoulder, is his most powerful teacher. This reminded me of a story in the wonderful novel Population 485 by Michael Perry, where he talks about going deep into the woods every now and then, lying down on the ground, and getting completely still. He imagines his heart stopping and his body slowly fading into the very earth that he reclines upon. It's his way of nodding "howdy" at Death, and acknowledging that soon enough the two of them will be shooting the shit together in eternity. I think this is marvelous and heroic, and I really want to be like that. Which brings us to another lesson….

4. You can't force yourself to feel better about death, or control your thoughts around it. There isn't a quick fix, it's a process of healing and practicing new perspectives. My therapist likened it to holding a little bird in your palm. You can't squeeze it or hold onto it too hard, because it will freak out and fly away. You have to let it sit there, gently, and leave it be. That is how the truth about ourselves comes to us - a little bird sitting quietly in an open palm.

I like the idea of this gentle little bird so much that I think I am going to picture my death that way. A soft, downy thing, solid but also ethereal, perched on my shoulder, singing its song in my ear, reminding me how beautiful and rich and amazing it is to be alive.

So this is my latest big bad goal. Heal, change my perspective, let the truth flow and listen to the song of my little death bird. Hopefully, as time wears on, I will deliver myself from the invasive thoughts, the angst, and the low grade panic. Perhaps some day soon my mortality and I can sit down and enjoy that cup of coffee together as friends.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

damn you, mcdonald's!! (amy)

I saw a bumper sticker the other day that said: "Live simply so others may simply live." In my ongoing quest for kinder and gentler road behavior, I gave that guy a big thumbs up when I passed him. I hope he didn't think I was giving him the finger.

I'm sitting at McDonald's right now. I hate McDonald's. They represent all that is wrong with our country, our world, and the McDonald's standard and culture has helped created a mass food production industry that has created deplorable and criminal living and slaughter conditions for animals and encouraged irresponsible genetical engineering of our plants (my research teaches me that genetic engineering in and of itself isn't really that bad; people have been modifying plants for thousands of years. Now we just do it way more scientifically. Which can, when used responsibly by responsible people, create better life for all of us.) (Monsanto is not one of those responsible people.)

Anyway. I have to be at work in a few minutes to test incoming Kindergartners, so I'm eating artificial food at a place I find icky, for the sheer convenience and location of it. This is a major theme in American culture these days: sheer convenience, location, and giving tests. (If you must know: right now I'm consuming the proverbial egg mcmuffin + coffee with crap "cream" and Splenda) (did you know Splenda is one atom away from being cyanide? A nutritionist told me that once) (the coffee is probably the only responsibly grown/harvested part of my breakfast...but this is McDonald's coffee, and so I'm sure it was picked by migrant workers for slave labor wages under broiling hot sun conditions, which makes the coffee itself a slave as coffee trees prefer growing under shade).

Last update, one of the things I said I would do would be to try shopping at Trader Joe's and Wal*Mart. I have accomplished one of these, and I'm kind of in love with it (it is not Wal*Mart) (although I do love Wal*Mart for all the sincerely bizarre specimens of humanity that occasionally pass through its doors) (I think diversity is a GOOD thing).

The following are why I would now like to find Trader Joe and plant a big kiss on his cheek:

1-I can find free range raised, organic chicken. Grocery stores around me don't carry this. If they do, they charge $20/pound for it. Trader Joe's charged me $8/pound. Which is still a lot. But at least I know those chickens got to run around and breathe good air a little before their innocent, unsuspecting throats were slit (do you sense, as I do, that I'm thisclose to being a vegetarian? I just need to figure out how to get buy-in from the people who live in my house...and find a way to circumnavigate putting tofu in anything I eat).

2-It's sad, but true: Trader Joe's doesn't have Slavic male ballet dancers in its aisles, but it does have overdressed yuppie singles milling around, pretending to look for food while having REEEAALLLY LOOOOUD conversations on their cellphones ranting about the a-hole they met at XYZ Bar last night who drunk texted them a photo of their less-than-attractive nether regions (I'm actually not making that up) (and while I was deeply amused by the single yuppie's tale of woe, I also really hoped she'd finish it up and stop standing in front of the hearts of palm jars so I could get what I needed).

3-I bought almost a whole week's worth of groceries, and could still afford my mortgage.

4-They have a little kids' table area with books, games, and coloring pages. It's a good place for a rambuctious 2 year old girl with high maintenance diva issues to go hang out while I'm paying for groceries.

5-The cashier I got was super friendly, and gave my rambuctious diva a sugar-free lollipop to convince her to leave the fun table when it was time to go.


I don't remember what my goals last time were exactly. I know I said writing. Which I still have not done, but I have taken one step forward by blocking off 1-2 days per week to get busy.

It's just. I have this ADD problem that is linked to our shallow values culture. For example, yesterday was one of those 2 days I was scheduled to get busy. But I got distracted by that Anthony Weiner business, which is just a fascinating train wreck of a train wreck to for me to watch, because it has this cad-like politician (though I think in order to be a politician anywhere on Earth you're required to have a certain amount of cad in your character) who has issues with telling his family and constituents the truth (and I think this is also a bipartisan Political Career prerequisite) combined with one shady, slimy, opportunistic character with questionable journalistic integrity operating behind the scenes trying to expose the politician's caddishness solely to score some cheap political points AND make a name for himself at the same time, and now there's this gum-chewing girl who apparently spends a lot of time sexting cads and she's decided to sell her pictures and information to the news and people like me with things to do who know better but can't tear their eyes away.

Man. The internet. It's both a good and a bad thing. Such a useful tool, used so often for evil. And so frickin' distracting. Damn you, McDonald's!!

So I've got to find a way (MUST find a way) to put some blinders on myself when I get online. In addition, I need blinders while: watching tv, reading the newspaper, and while wandering through Wal*Mart. If anyone out there has a solution for this psychosis, I am all eyes and ears and open minded for them.

The good news?

Since summer vacation has started, I am doing STELLAR on eating healthy (except for today of course) (damn you, McDonald's!!) and consistently working out and documenting my physical and movement activities in an online journal (because it's a quick distraction, unlike Weiner stuff). Two thumbs up to me for that.

So basically, I think my goal for the next month is to:

A) Keep on keepin' on with clean health stuff.

B) Write twice a week, if not more.

C) Just say NO to Weiner (and other distractions, like Facebook and googling "shady political opportunists")

The End.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

COFFEE POST 15 – What Matters (sorry... pretty long)

Ever have one of those experiences that absolutely, completely, permanently, totally shakes you to your core and changes who you are and how you live? Have you really? I’ve read here in COFFEE Land about some of your moments like this: close calls with parents’ health, cancer, deaths of loved ones – furry and human alike… I have to admit some serious déjà vu here. I’ve written something about a moment or two of my own this past year right here in COFFEEville, but thankfully not quite like what I’m about to talk about today. Thank God.

The afternoon of Sunday, May 22, was a typical Sunday afternoon. The kids and I had a fairly lazy day, some cleaning and wii playing, snacks, outdoor play with the neighbors, the usual. It was overcast, and there was a chance of thunderstorms at the beginning of the day. As the day went on, the chances of storms increased, and they were announcing the threat of a tornado outbreak. “Conditions are optimal for significant tornadic activity.” (Thank you, Weather Channel, for that nugget.) Now, if you are not from the Midwest or have never lived in the Midwest, this doesn’t mean anything to you at all. If you are from here, you know the drill. Prep the basement, and just go on with your business until you hear the sirens, if they come at all. It’s what we do around here from about March until about September. That’s just part of it. Sometimes it gets nasty, and other times it’s just a matter of being ready.

(I have to insert right here and now the fact that I am DEATHLY afraid of storms. I hate them. It’s a silly fear, because there isn’t one doggone thing a person can do to combat them, stop or control them, or make them less frightening. Some people are drawn to the power of Mother Nature. I am not one of those people. I have a more than healthy respect for what She can do, and I’ve seen the aftermath a couple of times in my life. As the mom, though, I have to keep it together when She shows up. No sense in ALL of us being crazed with fear, and I truly hope my kids simply respect Her and are not as fearful as I am for their whole lives.)

Well, no amount of being ready or even the Weather Channel could prepare anyone for what took place that afternoon.

Sometime mid-afternoon, my kids and I went to a student’s home to help her finish her semester’s work. (She’s homebound due to a medical situation.) We stayed until about 4:30. When we left her home, I looked up and was truly afraid. I’ve seen some scary skies before, but what I saw to the west was utterly horrifying. (See photo, courtesy of my homebound student) My gut immediately knotted up, and I could NOT get my kids and I home fast enough. I’m sure I broke more than one land-speed record.

Once home, we immediately went to the basement. I took my laptop, flashlights, pillows, extra blankets, and snacks down. I also unhooked the wii and hooked it up downstairs for the kids. I knew it would be a long night below deck. I then did something I have never done before. I took my 9 mm and all the ammo I own for it, my file of important documents and such, the largest box of family photos, and my phone and charger downstairs. I then packed a bag with a couple changes of clothes for each of us, toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant, and our Bibles. That bag, too, went downstairs. I’m not sure why I did this. I just know my gut said this time was different. I double-checked the bottled water supply. I grabbed the radio and turned it on. The local radio stations were going wall-to-wall with weather information by then, which usually means something’s brewing, whether it’s just a nasty thunderstorm, strong winds, hail, whatever.

At this point, they were beginning to report that tornadoes had touched down to the west and that we needed to be taking cover, preparing for the worst. The track the storm was taking was supposed to go through Carl Junction, immediately to the west of us, into Airport Drive and Webb City, our home sweet home. “Oh, Lord, please, no. Keep us safe,” I remember repeating over and over.

I made a call to the kids' father, who is in the medical aviation industry. His pilots get weather reports that are more accurate than most meteorologists’. I asked if it was really coming. I didn’t like the answer. He told me it was very bad and going to get much worse, to get the kids to the basement and be prepared to STAY THERE. And again… THUD, as if my heart could drop any lower. The phone call ended with these words from him, “I have to stay here. Be careful. Stay calm. Talk soon.”

By this time, it’s around 5 p.m., and the winds are BLOWING, the rain is coming, and it’s getting scarier in the skies. The radio station is reporting tornado touchdowns in southeast Kansas and that the storm is RACING across that part of the state and directly into SW Missouri. They were telling people all over the area to seek shelter and take cover. A big one was coming, and it was coming fast.

Still, nobody knew what was about to be unleashed.

The sirens sounded. The kids stopped what they were doing, put on their shoes, and sat quietly. The sirens continued. The hail started. The radio announcers declared tornadoes were on the ground in our county. The hail stopped but the sirens did not. The rain pounded so hard I thought it would take the windows out of the house. The winds shook our nearly-3000-sq-foot home. Like pictures-off-the-wall shook the house. And then came Hail, Round 2. And then it was quiet. The sky was an eery green-gray, but it was over. It rained again briefly, a soft, cleansing rain, and then quit altogether. I looked around, and the house was intact. Trees were still standing, and everything was as it should be. It. Was. Over. We made it. I breathed a sigh and said a prayer of thanks.

And then the reports began coming in. Facebook lit up like Baghdad on that first night of the air raids. “Turn on the Weather Channel. It’s terrible.” “Oh my God, what just happened?” “Is everyone alright?” “What the H@LL?” “Does anyone know what is going on? Why aren’t the phones working?” “I can’t get my mom on the phone. She was trying to drive home from Joplin!!!!! HELP!” “Is YOUR house still standing?” “Is it true?”

We were fine. What was going on? SO, I did what I wish I hadn’t done. Maybe if I hadn’t, it wouldn’t have been real. But I did, and it was. I turned on the Weather Channel. Mike Bettes, the famed Weather Channel storm expert who has seen it ALL, was standing in front of what used to be St. John’s Regional Medical Center in Joplin, a short 8 miles from my home, where he and his crew parked because they couldn’t go any further into the city because of the destruction. I was shocked…..

I immediately tried to call the kids' dad again. He was THERE, at St. John’s, working. From the looks of that building, I could only pray that he was still alive and able to answer his phone. No answer. No signal. No service. (I would later learn that most cell towers were completely leveled in the tornado.) Nothing. I tried again, knowing he wouldn’t answer and completely afraid of why he might not. I hit redial and got the kids away from the television just in time to see Bettes break down in tears at the devastation he was looking at, live and up close. I knew then that it wasn’t just a tornado, not just a storm, but something awful, truly awful. I hit redial again. Nothing. Absolutely nothing… Except my tears and pictures I could not comprehend.

Eventually, my phone buzzed. A text message! I learned via text that their dad had survived an extremely close call, that he was helping to remove bodies and do search & rescue at the hospital. I learned via text that our church was all but completely destroyed, what was left was being used as a make-shift surgery center, that the tables where my kids sat to do crafts and read their Bibles were used to remove limbs and debris from people. I learned via text that even though St. John’s was still standing, it was decimated and those on duty were trying desperately to account for all the patients and staff, removing both survivors and the dead. I learned via text that my grandfather, who had been in that hospital visiting his twin brother, was missing and unaccounted for. I learned via text that three schools were destroyed. (Later we would learn that it was more than those three.) I learned via text that friends were alive. I learned via text that others were missing or had discovered loved ones who were no longer alive. I learned via text that many lost every single thing that they owned. I learned via text that many of the businesses, restaurants, & places that we frequent were completely gone. It was a long and difficult couple of hours.

I continued to follow facebook and the Weather Channel. I continued to text. I continued to pray. I continued to try to talk to my mother, my friends, my people via phone. Finally, I reached my mom. I told her we were fine. I told her many were not. We cried.

Three hours after the storm, dark was descending and the city was beginning to move. Shelters were being set up. Supplies, water, clothing, bedding, etc., were being collected and distributed. The kids and I had seen enough via TV. We decided to do something. We went through all the clothing and such that we’d bagged for rummage sales or donation and selected many pieces, shoes, etc. We grabbed old sleeping bags and a couple extra pillows and loaded it all in the van. Just before we left, my phone buzzed again. “I found him. He is fine.” The kids' dad had found my grandfather, dazed but miraculously unhurt. Praise God. I tried to call Mom but couldn’t get through. I texted my brother and asked him to call Mom. He did. And somehow she was able to get another call through to me. Through tears, she asked me to pass along her thanks. I told her I would. We got so lucky. SO LUCKY. After that news, the kids and I were able to head for town. Memorial Hall, a downtown entertainment venue, had become a central location that survivors were being sent and was quickly becoming the first triage center for the injured. We drove there but could not get within two blocks of the place for the emergency vehicles and other cars trying to get their injured loved ones to safety.

Just then the radio began to read a list of other shelters that had opened and were ready for use. We headed to a church nearby to deliver the few things we could offer. They didn’t have anyone to shelter yet, but they were so grateful to have some things to provide when the people came.

Traffic was bumper to bumper. People were everywhere, walking, running, riding bikes, driving half-there vehicles, clearly damaged from the storm. There was no electricity. It was so dark. Thank God I couldn’t see any of the damage at that point. I’m not sure my heart could take it. With nowhere else to go and not one more thing we could do to help, we went home.

I put my kids to bed, even though all I really wanted to do was snuggle up with them forever. They and I had school the next day. Their world was intact. Their father was fine. Their home was standing. Their friends were safe for the most part. Their reality and understanding of what happened was limited. They slept. I did not.

I didn’t know about so many of our friends, who both lived and worked there, and had no way to find out about them, either. As my mind started to list everyone we knew in the affected area or who had family there, I got so overwhelmed. SO MANY PEOPLE. SO MUCH LOST. SO MANY MISSING. How were people getting through this? I was okay. My family was okay. My home was okay. I was lucky. The storm didn’t go where it should have gone. The storm was so much worse than it should have been. The reality was ugly, and I felt guilty for feeling grateful. Yet I was so profoundly grateful. Guilt and gratitude is a strange mix of emotion that turns like the tides, in waves of pain and unworthiness that crash and recede into relief and thankfulness.

Overnight, the death toll started to climb, and the reports about just how widespread the damage was began to emerge. Reports about sacrifices made to save others also emerged. Information from the National Weather Service was almost more than many could bear to hear. Rumors were rampant. Just how bad was it? No one knew. In truth, things just kept getting worse, and there was no end in sight.

Then daylight broke, as did the hearts of every Joplin resident, every family member of every Joplin resident, and everyone who has ever had ties to this community. The damage was unprecedented for a single tornado. The devastation was VAST, with over 30% of the entire town wiped completely off the map. And I do mean COMPLETELY. Off. The. Map. In all, over 150 were killed, over a thousand injured, and, for many days, hundreds were missing. (Thankfully, the number of missing/unaccounted for is now 0. ZERO. A real miracle, frankly.) Yet search and rescue efforts continued, with volunteers from all over the country arriving to help. Fire trucks, ambulances, police cars, emergency services vehicles, ATVs, heavy equipment from countless communities in Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas was already in town working. The National Guard arrived to help. It was a sight to see. On many street corners, groups set up cooking stations to feed those displaced and the volunteers working. It will take months for people to drink all the bottled water that was donated, semi trailer after semi trailer FULL of it. Everywhere you looked, people were helping others to dig for people and possessions, crying and praying together, talking, just staring in bewilderment, repairing anything that was repairable in hopes that SOMETHING could be salvaged. It was like something you might see in the movies, only the people of Joplin were LIVING it in real time.

Unless you have been under a rock since that day, you’ve no doubt seen something about it. I could post several thousand pictures, none of which I took. You need only google “Joplin, MO tornado 2011,” and you’ll be inundated with more pictures of what’s left than you could ever stomach looking at, I guarantee it. You might have watched coverage of the memorial service that took place exactly one week after the storm that President Obama attended. Our pastor, Aaron Brown, delivered an amazing sermon at that service. If that service didn’t move you, you are not human. You might have observed the minute of silence at 5:41 on that Sunday, exactly one week after the storm. You might have watched the national news outlets, many of whom (including Diane Sawyer, Anderson Cooper, & Mike Bettes) interviewed my kids' father about his experience inside the hospital before, during, after the storm, talk about the outpouring of support for this community from within and from around the world. It has truly been something to behold. TRULY. Not only is the damage unprecedented, so too are the relief efforts and the response & morale in Joplin.

People didn’t scream for help. They jumped in to help others. They didn’t ask questions. They didn’t hesitate. They didn’t complain for the most part. They worked. They consoled one another. They slept little and ate a lot (thanks to all the awesome volunteers who drove the streets dropping off meals and worked at those food stations I mentioned earlier). They hugged each other, friends & strangers alike. They spray painted messages of hope and care on what was left of their homes. They opened their homes. In fact, many of the shelters didn’t house more than a few families because so many people had taken in friends & family members! How cool is that??? These people who lost loved ones, homes, businesses, livelihoods, cars, jobs, things were looking out for each other. I was and am in awe. For real. Yeah, there are some real low-lifes around, trying to scam people, loot, take advantage. Sure. I wouldn’t want to be one of those who got caught around here, let me tell you. That wouldn’t end well in any way, shape, or form. I can promise you that. Ish… makes me cringe just to imagine it!

This disaster didn’t happen to me. It’s not my story. Again, my family and I were lucky. I cannot even begin to tell you how thankful I am for the fact that I am not without power, shelter, clothes, a toothbrush, an address, a loved one, a job to go to. That kind of pure and complete gratitude is an experience I can’t say I’ve ever felt in all of my life. I am grateful for many things and have been over the course of my life, but I’ve never really seen people lose so much and carry on the way so many around here have in the last weeks. It makes crystal clear how good life is and what counts; it also makes clear WHO counts, and THAT counts for so much.

Hug your spouse/significant other, kiss your kids, walk through your house – whatever shape it’s in - and be grateful for the shelter it provides, salute your boss (all 5 fingers, please) and tell your co-workers you appreciate them, give that old car a pat, and imagine all of it being gone in the blink of an eye, taken out by one violent funnel cloud. Don’t know about you, but I’m one uber-humbled chick, and I’m so thankful I still have all of that and then some. Pray for Joplin, please, including those helping and those who aren’t as lucky. Everyone around here right now could sure use those.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

salvageable (Patresa)

It's been a good month.

Nausea passed. Mostly. (I've been revisiting it in a milder form the last few days.)

I'm starting to look more pregnant. (Due to vanity, I've been anxious for it to be obvious that the reason I'm gaining weight is because I have picked up a passenger and not because I've been eating donuts and fried chicken in the parking lot.) (I have been eating waffles and french fries indoors while seated in a variety of chairs.)

And I've felt really creative. (Except right now. Right now I don't feel all that creative, which is why I'm going to cut straight to the goals.)

Progress is as follows:

1. My goal was to attend a songwriting workshop, even if a confused voice in my head called me a fake phony baloney.

Done. It was good! The voices in my head were kind. I learned things--some things that I already do naturally (which was validating) and some things that I have since paid better attention to. More than anything, I've just been writing a lot more. Since the workshop, I've written 6 songs. I like 4 of them. That's quite a lot for me.

2. My goal was to write at least 1 more original and 1 more cover on the piano.

Done. I wrote a corny song for Happy Fest. I didn't end up actually playing the song, because I later decided my set wasn't long enough to (in my mind) warrant hauling the piano around. The song is pretty corny, so I doubt I'll ever play it out unless I revise the crap out of it.

And this past weekend I figured out Angel from Montgomery on the piano, which is one of my favorite songs.

3. My goal was to tell myself at least 5 things that were great about my Happy Fest performance afterward, and forgive myself immediately for imperfections.

Done. I didn't actually count how many nice things I said to myself, but I could make a go here:

a- My voice did not give away my nerves. This was probably the best and most validating thing about the whole shebang. That's been the number one frustration for me--that when I have gotten nervous in the past, my voice has turned small and wobbly. I hate that, because I feel like it's an incorrect representation. I know what's in me, and it doesn't come out right (Incidentally, I have the same frustration when speaking.). But I think my regular go at open mics is helping me develop better control. I don't know how to say this without sounding like a giant cheese log, but I feel like I've found my voice. 

b- People said nice things to me about my songs and my voice. They seemed sincere. (And after a decade working with delinquent teenagers, I feel I have a pretty keen eye and ear for bullshit.) I know I shouldn't place weight on what other people think, but I'd be lying if I said it didn't feel good.

c- I didn't forget any lyrics. Also something I tend to blank on (even when I'm not nervous).

d- Chris and I discovered how much we love playing together. Strange as it may sound, in the 10 years we've been together, we've only started playing together in the last 2 months. I blame this on my lack of confidence and my locked up voice. I was too scared to even play in front of Chris. Now that I've gotten past the big scary house of doom, we plan to play together more.

e- I felt inspired by the phenomenal musicians who played before and after me. Really, some amazing talent is right here in and around Des Moines. I don't go out much, so I had no idea. 

And I forgave myself immediately for imperfections. There were plenty of them, not the least of which were my very clumsy guitar skills, several clunker chords, and the fact that just as I needed it, I realized I'd left my capo in my guitar case off stage and then had to give away my amateur status by hollering at Chris to bring it to me in the middle of my set. (It's okay. There weren't many people present during my time slot.) I laugh at this.

4. My goal was to take my old crashed laptop to the repair shop to get uncrashed and all documents recovered, including the novel I'm going to finish.

Done. The laptop was not salvageable, but the hard drive was. I've drafted several changes I'm going to make. There are big changes. I'm renaming characters and overhauling the main plot. For instance, instead of a fire, there will be a tornado. Instead of a Scarlet, there will be a Coral. And instead of a Bear, there will be a Fox.

5.  My goal for the next month is to create a vision board.

No. This is the only one I didn't do. You know why? Because it requires retrieving materials, setting up a workspace, and then cleaning up after myself. I do not like doing any of those things. Ever.

My goals for the next month are to do more of the same. 

MUSIC: I'm about 2 songs from a full one-hour set. I figure that's enough to open up for someone in a little coffee shop. I don't have much in the way of covers, so I would like to add at least 2 covers.

BOOK: Rewrite Chapters 1-3.

VISION BOARD: I'll just keep writing this down until I do it. 

Peace out. Word to the mothership.