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Facing the Elements

I like to watch the plants on my windows sill,

Stretching for sun with every fiber in their body.

Even when I come home from work they are still reaching for the stars.

I’m 25,

Which either means you’re still in food service,

you’re broke in graduate school,

you’re living with your parents, or

you’re actually trying to make it and stuck with the entry level job

where you are the youngest one in the office.

I am the later.

These days, you have social media friends and you have work friends.

You’re lucky to maintain up to date relationships with people outside those circles.

My social media friends are inspiring and remind me of how much I miss home.

Why did I leave home?

My work friends are on second and third marriages

and have become accustomed to grey cubicles and polite phone calls

while secretly developing a heart attack in their chairs.

Is this really what I am headed for?

I’m a dancer,

Which means when you are on the dance floor

and a song plays

You dance with every fiber in your body.

You dance and dance and pray

That even when the song is over

You still want to reach for the stars

Even it means sitting in grey cubicles getting paid enough to get by.

I like to watch the plants on the window sill,

There are the only thing left in this world growing at my pace.

I live in 2015

Which means instant twitter gratifications,

Facebook emotional rants.

Text.  Messages.

Good Lord, that little envelope in the top row of my phone is a little pinch of anxiety

Yes world, feed me your wants and needs for an instant response.

Unless its an “I love you” or a funny cat picture, please don’t .

On occasion it is, which is why I love my family and why I keep checking.

It used to be planes, trains, and automobiles

that made this world feel like it was spinning faster than 24 hours a day.

Now its touch screens, video calls, phone calls, texts, flashing billboards, the internet.

I’m a dancer,

Which means I can escape once in a while

and be present with a human being

without asking for anything.

I’m a human,

Which means I still have the world to go back to after the dance is over

I’m made from the same world the plants on my window sill are,

Which means,

I am capable of giving it all I got

The elements will challenge me, but they will also support me.

I’ve got this.elements

Success

I went to the market across the street, and by market I mean the 7-eleven that I get quarters from for laundry. I went to retrieve my cash back after buying a $1 water bottle. The woman in her mid-twenties was smiling. When I got to the register she said “I’m feel so good today!” My playful response was, “About what…?” I was so excited to hear someone say “I feel good.” Most people have a hard time publicly announcing this, pain is much more acceptable. She said her boss was making a demand to sell 10 7-eleven pizzas a day before the superbowl. 10 pizzas a day for 7 days. What a daunting task. In Portland, within a 5min walk from 2 amazing pizza places, this woman was asked to sell 10 7-eleven pizzas a day. I sure as hell couldn’t, but apparently she did and her boss noticed and you should have seen the smile on her face. I could see hope, I could see success.

It’s been some time since I’ve seen the result of success, the glistening of achievement whether its because a heart was won over, a triumph at work, or beating a physically demanding challenge. I’ve know my own success many times and it was never something I needed affirmation from another on, it was something I felt inside. Knowing this, I began to self reflect on my search for successful others. Whenever I meet someone, I am always searching for their definition of success and from there I let my judgement flow. I accept this, we all judge. I’ve learned that there are better ways to judge then others. Instead of asking someone what they do, I think I am going to ask them what they feel successful in. This doesn’t mean good at, top class honors, or making big money, but what makes you feel successful?

Why have I come to this conclusion? Well, because I myself push others away. I have started the wrong conversations, I have made others feel like they have to prove something to me. I did this, not intentionally, but as a result of how I began my conversations with others. I am not alone, but I may be one of the few to admit that it stemmed from fear. I think we enter new acquaintances with fear. Fear that if invest in this, will it hurt me, will it make me less? Fear of control, is this something I can engage in and still know myself. Fear of vulnerability. Is this someone who will understand me, who has experienced similar experiences? Fear of the future. Is this someone who will stand by me? Who will share my community with me?

Fear is a huge governing factor in social interactions. Its very hard to be in the moment when you’ve got fear cheering you on because of your family’s expectations, your peers view of you, your own self identity, your alliance with various beliefs, morals, and views. The differences make us fear closeness with one another. Agreeing to disagree somehow means we can stand on other sides of the room and look at one another. But what good will that do if you are there and I am here?

I’m not saying there is an easy answer. But maybe if we look at each other’s successes, by their definition of success, we might see our difference in a new light. We might be less fearful, knowing we share hope, self appreciation, and joy. These are the words we are afraid to voice. We think its rude to boast about happiness. But what if that song just made my day, or the fact that I actually spoke to someone new, or that I created something I felt good about even if it is melted crayons and toothpicks, what if that was enough to settle differences and redefine success?

I’m a work in progress, as we all are. Its rare that I learn to be less self critical. Its moments like the pizza triumph at 7-eleven that help redefine differences and make me dish out high fives and smile as I continue on with my night.

You’re A Big Girl Now

This morning I woke up to the sounds of my dog’s paws on my parent’s kitchen hardwood floor. Wheezing in and out, his rhythm a little off due to a very old hip.

We’re all getting older now, and its times like these when I am amazed that another year of time has passed and I am back on my parents’ couch with the California sun waking me through the living room window.

In the airport last night, I sat and watched all the travelers move about the airport. Families, elders, my fellow solo mid-twenties, the handicapped, the flight attendants, the pilots, the janitor, the cafe workers, the security crew, all of them in their own lives moving about with their own experience and perspective. I spied two redhead boys climbing and jumping off sculptures, the mother chasing another redheaded toddler. I couldn’t help but stay attentive to this scene. I remember running about and playing hide and seek any chance I got. I didn’t think about pain if I jumped too high. I didn’t think about being kidnapped if I went to far; I was never lost and I was always found.

The older you get, it seems to more ‘lost’ we feel, we understand risk and we fear outcomes. We keep hoping one of these days someone out there will find us and if not that we find ourselves. We are waiting to be found.

As the coffee brewed, I began to whip up some pancake batter. My dad was the first to awake after me. He hugged me from behind, excited to see his daughter and also the promise of pancakes. We sat at the counter. He saw a bird resting on the telephone wire outside and told me to look. By the time I was in sight, the bird had gone and the wire bouncing to and fro. I didn’t need to see the bird to know it was there.

I thought about this as the wire echoed. Living far away from home feels like this. You don’t always need to see your family to know they are there, but what a joy it is to see them when you can.

My dad said it reminded him of a song and he left to go play it for me on the stereo. When he returned our pancakes and coffee were ready. And we ate listening to Bob Dylan’s “You’re A Big Girl Now.”

I thought about my own life and the age that I  was approaching. As a kid you were always encouraged to be a big girl, which never meant a particular age, it meant you could cut your own meat, you could pick yourself up after you fell… you didn’t need training wheels anymore. It meant you could read on your own, you could share with others, and you could play with the big kids.

I grew up as the eldest, my sister forever the youngest. I was always the big girl, even when I didn’t feel like it. Not much has changed in the recent years. I’ve continued to try to be a big girl and there are often moments when I think I am less of a big girl. But, something always turns that insecure thought around. I’ve learned that cutting your own meat doesn’t have to be lonely. Even though life doesn’t hand you training wheels anymore, you know how to find your own balance and go from there. There’s no telling where your journey will take you, but finding balance will always support you through it.

In the airport, that mother’s baby girl was wobbling around and an increasing speed until her legs buckled, her baby sneaker dragged on the marble floor and her body fell forward. She caught herself with her hands. Her mother watched and let the whole thing happen. Her baby propped herself up and her mother scooped her up and spun her like a toy airplane to celebrate her achievement: Hands first: pick yourself up again. I thought, “You’re a Big Girl Now.”

In this moment in time, at the end of my 24th year, I am realizing that living is all about the fall and the return. You can’t avoid pain, the unexpected, the hurdles, the traffic jams, the loss, injury, battles, arguments, and misfortunes. You can pick yourself back up, and you can see this as a natural thing that happens all the time or you can choose to add it to your tallied list of things you had to overcome. I’m realizing when you stop counting the falls and simply roll with the punches, you become the Big Girl your parents always egged you on to be.

Instead of groaning about work, the people we’ve had ‘deal’ with, money we don’t have… my father and I ate in silence and saw the morning as an opportunity to just be. We starred out into the winter torn backyard, green moss covering the bricks and morning dew dripping from the telephone wire that had finished echoing from the bird’s departure, like ripples in the water, listening to this song.

“You’re A Big Girl Now” – Bob Dylan

The Dark Side of the Moon

As I drove down the OR 99 heading into the city of lights, an image of the moon was bobbing in an out of the runway of maple trees. When I reach the end of the corridor, the city of lights greeted me and above it, a half moon. It was one of those rustic moons, the kind that softens its glow with a hint of autumn orange. A half moon, I reflected on the small talk starter line “Is it half full or half empty?” How many times have we abused this statement, when there is no permanent answer. Its all relative to the situation. That night I couldn’t arrive at either conclusion.

And then it occurred to me, the moon was always full, but half of it was being sheltered in the shadow. This was proper ground for my thoughts to walk about. How many sides of my ‘self’ were being hidden in the shadows of this world impending light. So many lights pointed at me in all directions telling me to be better, to do more, and act in a certain way. I suppose that’s what stage fright feels like. Feeling the heat, the pressure, of these massive beams of light all preaching “Now!” And where do the shadows go? What if my shadow were lost like Peter Pan’s? Why do we rarely look into the shadow for answers, why the light? I find the light blinding at times. The shadow hold all the truth I forgot about, like movement, stillness, perspective, and wholeness.

But the shadow work hand in hand with the light. Without the light, where would our shadows be? Lost in the darkness. So I began to think about this half moon some more. The light rotates on this moon, and no matter how hard we try there will always be a dark side of the moon, even as it appear “full.” This is the nature of a 3 dimensional world with relationships that exist between two planes not through it. If I could see into the moon I might see it from the inside out; light and dark together.

This disturbed me, it was the retreat to a binary view that divides so much of this life. Every time I think a thought, there is one opposing it and thus the anxiety builds. Walls have two sides to them and it divides us. Just like politics do. If you do not believe one thing then you are another by default. We all know this is not accurate and certainly not so simple, yet we operate this way. We see this earth just like we see the moon. We focus where the light is, and see the dark as another side to the equation rather than part of it. The phases of the moon will prove this wrong, but we still focus on where the spot light is pointed and forget this idea of how “full” it is. How full we are. And just like the moon, no matter how “full” we appear, there will always be the other side of the moon unseen, but also a part of the experience.

As you can see, I spent a good amount of time meditating on the metaphor of this half moon. I think because so much of this world feels partial… divided… misunderstood… defined… and sided.

There are war torn countries all over this world, we might as well be one since we are so self destructive and we chose to show the light on this self hatred this anger and fear and all of our love seems to only exist in the shadows now. I see images of riots and hear words of hate, point fingers at others, burning bridges so that we become separate. The human race is so divided in its selfish ways. The earth must look like to moon to other planets. The holiday season has now become the season I fear most. It’s the time of chaos, jealousy, greed, poor, emptiness, eagerness, victimization, and loss. We take this time to identify what we do and don’t have, we take this time to get mad at others or ourselves and we let the blame take over. At least, that is what the light is telling me. Every year this side of the earth is growing and the light shines brighter on these experiences.

I recently flew from Portland OR to Oakland CA and drove through San Francisco. I think travel is the most humanizing experience. You stand in line with people all over the world, speaking all different languages, and you feel so many different emotions around you, witness so many different livelihoods, families, culture. For those who had a flight delayed you will understand what I am talking about because you had time to soak all of this in. You can sit and watch the lives around you come together and weave amongst each other.  You can sense the competition for seats, the tired parents, and the overwhelmed elderly. You can feel the sadness of those parting and the joy of those on the way to reunite with others or take a leap of faith into the unknown. You can see the humble and the vain, you can feel the calm and the misguided. But, there is something about flying that unites us all.

Every time I sit on a plane and listen to the flight attendant tell me the instructions for how to survive a crash, I look around and soak in the population. It reminds me of the reality I am in. It’s a small sample of the human race, but its usually more accurate than what I see on TV. We are not divided anymore, we are sprinked about a compact plane and obey the curtsey of others.

When I left Portland I saw the riots all over the television screen. Michael Brown’s death and trial post death has been received and many have taken to the riot response. I see buildings burning, men and women holding guns with anger. When I arrive in Oakland, I hear news that the riots are persisting. We drive through San Francisco in traffic and I am praying we make it to the other side of the bridge. I want to see my family and to feel safe on the inside of the walls that hold up my childhood home.

We make it and the next day, the angry meet the greedy. The riots are overtaken with a stampede of Black Friday gazelles, leaping over one another. The angry are hungry and its almost like the hunt is over. The kill has come to them. More crowded images of hate, greed, and pain flashes on the television with commercials in between asking for donation to support our troops. A different organization on every commercial talking about the trauma and the destruction war has laid upon the returning troops.

Facebook starts with heads such as “To My White Friends:” and “What Whites will never know about Blacks” and “Riots Persist” and  the comments flood the internet. These headlines divide us and we accept the offer. We comment our hearts out.

The news is no longer news, it hasn’t been for a long time. It’s a running feed of opinion editorials for the public to latch onto and take part in. Its not something the nation watches at 5 o clock anymore to reflect on and absorb throughout the day. Its 24 hours now and its opinions pulling you one way an another. We are straddling the line that says you are on the dark side of the moon now, or you are on the light. And because of this, we don’t have time to remember the fullness that exists, we don’t have time to let our own truths, our own innate nature to care for another, to do good together make its way to the surface. It like someone has cut off our shadows and we have stepped into the world of the media light and our shadows are holding each other in the dark. There’s got to be a way to stich them all back together.

I think we should all cash in our wedding rings for thimbles. Marriage is no longer something I can rely on to see a brighter future. It’s a divided concept now and its ruining us. If we all picked up a needle and began stitch ourselves back together, we might see devotion, love, and respect for us all. In sickness and in health, I hope we will all be there for one another. But I guess that depends on the light, its always depended on the light, unless we can somehow be reminded of the truth that lies in the shadows and the reality of the wholeness that exists.

The Chase

Some chase tornadoes, some chase trains. Some chase after love, some after revenge. Some chase dreams, some chasing death. It seems everyone is after something, everyone is in motion.What a busy world we live in, Its rare I find someone chase nothing, and when I do I envy them and I judge them. I will admit I have been trained to think that not wanting more, not seeking to grow is a poor virtue, but its looking pretty nice from where I sit these days. My ego tells me I am not smart enough, and capable to do more. Well, aren’t most of us capable of more? Then why are we not more? Perhaps its the chase that we are hungry for, not the kill. Smelling the meal was always more enticing then eating. But we are also conflicted, because we have been taught instant gratification. Its rare I find someone who has been working toward something over a long period of time. So much so that it took endurance, will power, overcoming self doubt…. to reach a desired state. I envy them and I admire them. In my mind those are the ones who have given up on the chase, they believe nothing is out of reach. Its right here, right now. In every moment, there is fulfillment. Our new age mentors tell us to focus on the breath, to be more present. I agree that is sound advice. But it doesn’t have to be in meditation, it can be wherever you feel your fulfillment, your momentum driving you home to the present moment. So chase tornadoes if you feel fulfilled by it. Chase trains if your intent is not to reach out to it. And chase after love if you know that you already the embodiment of it. Chase death, if you understand its inevitability. And if you can, chase nothing. Sit with your legs crossed, your third eye high, and smile…  because you know it was worth the wait.

October Sun

Good Morning October sun,

You are my favorite sun. No, I do not say that to all my sons. You are the warmest and least intrusive. I wake up to you and I feel like the cat is purring next to me. That is if I had a cat. You make every morning feel like a weekend, you do not demand coffee, iron, clothes, and checking today’s agenda on the calender. You greet me, in the ice cold sheets to say “hi there, its beautiful outside, I think you should see this.” Every time I open the door existing my apartment building, there you are. You’re sitting on the horizon swinging your feet like kids on the bench; toes can’t reach the sidewalk yet, so you’re making lemonade out of lemons. You never blind me, give me the finger, or hide from me. I don’t feel ugly in front of you, and neither would my ugly sweater. You accept us all, summer lovers and winter lovers you’re that third party vote that seems to even things out. Thank you for bringing back the orange in my auburn hair. It was looking pretty brown. Thanks for warming my car up for me, I can tell it was a little icy last night due to the blanket of drops. Thanks for helping us all ease into the winter months nice and easy. We west coasters don’t handle the dark very well, nor the cold. I do adore my pea-coat, so thanks for being a pal and letting it slide. I know its not winter yet, but I like to be bundled up. Yesterday I took a look at my shadow and it seemed less distant than before, did you do that too? I wish you were here for longer than a month, but I am going to try and make the most of our time together. How about we start with a walk in the park today at noon? I’ll order that pumpkin spice latte you love so much and we can sit and watch the last few weeks we have with the Lauralhurst Park ducks.

Spaghetti on the Fork in the Road

When I was a kid I was perplexed by the idea of a spoon being served with a plate full of spaghetti. As if chopsticks wasn’t enough of a challenge, now I was being given a new tool that just seemed misplaced. Life has felt like that many times. You are given new skills, new circumstances, new relationships… and I just keep asking myself, “what am I supposed to do with this?”

My grandpa was the one who taught me how use a spoon with spaghetti. It was one of those moments you dipped your toes into adulthood to see what it was like. Much like when we decide to take responsibility for someone other than ourselves.

Prior to the spoon experience, I would spend minutes at a time twirling my fork in the yards of spaghetti strands. The slippery noodles never quite fully tucked in to my spooled bundle of Italian delight. I would try over and over again, twirling that fork like a ballet dancer, until finally I gave in. My stomach was impatient, and I would sacrifice perfection for the overly large serving size half captivated in my mouth with a few drooling stranding decorating my chin.

A happy camper I was. But, as part of the maturing phase us youngins must go through, I learned how to avoid such animal performances of grazing. I was given the spoon. I learned to twirl my fork into the dish of the spoon, and suddenly my noodles were tucked neatly in one packaged portion. I was no longer the barefoot five year old girl spinning uncontrollably around the room to dad’s R.E.M. cds getting carpet burns on my toes. I had learned refinement. I was now the 16 year old ballet dancer with her toes pointed and spinning in one square foot of floor space.

But even, in that stage of growth, I still wore my hair down. I liked to feel it spinning round me, I liked my messy locks in my face. It ticked me and I felt more alive. So, even though I may have learned to use a spoon, I still chose to use the fork. I know when its appropriate to use the spoon, and on occasion I may use it to impress; but on those nights when I begin to feel all too grownup, I’ll let loose and find those old R.E.M. cds make a big pot of spaghetti. I’ll take my fork and eat it straight from the pot.

The older I get the more I find myself in the situations life has been preparing me for. I find myself following instincts and taking care of others, taking leadership, taking silent moments, selflessly offering myself to the situation at hand, not because I told myself to, but because this was the time to use the spoon.

I find myself at an interesting fork in the road lately. Its a change in geographical locations, a change in community, in the known and the unknown. It’s a time when I wish I did have the spoon because my thoughts feel like those noodles and they are being swirled about. I am trying to make a neat order of them, because eventually I will have to eat them whole and make a decision, but its a little difficult without the spoon. Perhaps, its there in front of me, but I am choosing not to use it because then I would actually be feeding this hunger that has been there for so many years. Will I finally get to enjoy the meal I’ve been preparing for so long? I suppose the choice mine, and mine alone.

Talking Traction

We watch the television shows wher character’s secrets are exposed and we can experience all of their so called private lives and thoughts, and its entertaining. But what about when its right outside your house? Next to you in line at the grocery store? At the gas station? In the bathroom stall to the right of you?

I believe the women in my family are cursed and blessed with what I refer in this blog as the “talk traction.” We must have some magnetic force out there that pulls the closeted in. My mother, my sister, and I recall new experiences about others sharing deep closeted things about themselves daily. Why do strangers feel compelled to reveal their closeted thoughts and experiences with us?

I must say, meeting people on a real level is both revealing, shocking, frightening, and at times burdensome. There is a reason I stopped reading the news, because there is only so much chaos one little being can process. I swear each person I meet feels like a a 500 page mystery novel where you keep thinking you’ve got all the clues, but more pop up, and the more complex and unimaginable enters to more you read.

In the past few months I have met a variety of people sure enough I was an outlet for them to find refuge in. I should have been a psychologist. The problem there is I would have to judge and decipher how this being should progress. In my case now, I just have to listen without judgement.

But it can be hard, to hear the honest truths about peoples lives, the mistakes and the shame, the hurt and the disgust and not judge. However, the more stories I hear from the people themselves, the less I judge. We are all the villains and the victims in our stories, depending on which chapter you want to talk about that day.

I think its interesting that we can put so many filters on the areas of our lives: what shows we watch, what news we read, what books we read, what people we associate with, where we work, where we live, what we wear, that its almost frightening when we are faced with something we did not have any control over. But honestly, isn’t that the moment you really feel life’s presence?

If I am being honest, I have spent most my life trying to live like a hermit, but I thrive on stories and I am cursed with the “Talking traction.” I like being behind the camera, behind the ink, and behind the scenes, watching the world in effect, but more often then not, I am joining in with the chorus.

I think I enjoy when the actors forget there lines, when the singer croaks, and when the dancer must improv, not because of some vindictive personality, but because I see life unscripted for just a moment. Just a moment we forget we are told, and live truly in the moment.

When was the last time you felt that? When was the last time you weren’t referencing another thought to respond to something in front of you. For me its when I am interrupted by another’s human experience. It ricochets off me and for a moment I am experiencing instead of doing/acting/saying/thinking.

I guess the “talking traction” is something I am would have to say I am grateful for. It keeps me honest and it keeps me interested in life. It also teaches me things I never learned in books. It’s the best education I’ve ever received in fact.

Trajectory

The past week I finally hopped in my car and headed south. I have been stating my desire to do so for months- and making excuses for why I couldn’t possibly take time off and enjoy the open road. But a wedding is an even better excuse to say, I couldn’t possibly work and miss such a beautiful occasion.

Its been a very busy year both in the world and inside my head. So many thoughts have been generating and bouncing off each other, that my body has taken a physical hit. As a kid we would collect super/bouncy balls about the size of a half dollar. Once we had a bucket full, we would throw them down our hallway and watch as they bounced out of control, knocking them this way and that, high energy… until, eventually, the chaos stopped, and they bowed down to gravity- rolling toward the grooves in of the hardwood floor. That’s what the past year has felt like to me and I was finally rolling into the grooves of the open road.

Driving down the I-5 and the 101 can be majestically and hideous. There are many sights to see that make you remember you are living in an ecosystem as well as an economically driven system. Once you’ve found yourself surrounded by mountains and rivers, your ego takes a hike and you actually begin to breath deeper. Ahh, nature. For some reason a 1,000 trees isn’t as exhausting as 1,000 people. They don’t beg for attention, or even push their own thoughts onto you. They are truly humble creatures.

Once I reached Humboldt county, I could smell the coast and I instantly felt home. I decided that social obligations could wait and I would pay a visit to Trinidad. It was just as I remembered, sun glistening on the whitecaps rolling in, birds dancing among the tall grass, and the wind gently rubbing my back as if to say “welcome, everything is going to be alright.” It’s interesting to watch ocean currents along the coastal line. They are contradictory, but as soon as your gaze moves farther out to sea, the current seems still- and you can’t tell which direction its moving. I like that. In the city, you can feel all the wind currents, all the people, the cars, trains, planes, and automobiles, and every direction they are moving in. Everything has a trajectory.

From my point of view there were many sites to see and reflect on. This home was a place of self discovery and there were many challenges as a young women coming into her own. A bird’d eye view is always a safer place to reflect upon. Its a challenge to reflect on your experience while still walking its haunting hallways. Open spaces leave room for exploration and the solitude will let you truly see things from your current state of mind and not others.

Each time I go back, I see things a little different. My attachment/connection to this place seems to fade and alter. But its a shelter I took refuge in for four years of my life.

I arrived to a group of open arms and smiles. BBQ and dancing in the street made me feel like I was 21 again.

The next morning the town loaded up their cars and we paraded to Elizabeth Drive. Now we were all adults. The couples were finding places to cuddle up in the shade, new mothers and fathers were exchanging turns holding newborns, and the singles were mingling. All is sundresses, heals, ties, vests, and stylish hats. Suddenly, we were all standing together not howling at the moon, but honoring it.

The bride to be and the groom were crying before any words were spoke. Tears of joy, I assure you. But maybe also tears of amazement and shock. How did we get here? How did we all get here? Some say by moving forward, one step in front of the other- a trajectory. But, I think it was in the chaos we all found magnets to cling to. We found our resting spot and the groove to fall into place with- and we did it together. All of our lives bouncing of one another takes us to this place of rest and gratitude.

After dancing for eight hours, after a full nights of dancing and drinking, after a full day of driving, I was ready to find some solitude. I decided the Minor theater was a great place of refuge. Something about a dark theater and the back row seat always helps me take everything into a focus. I then spent the night driving out to the coast again. It was late and the fog was rolling over the beams of my headlights. I found the shoreline with college kids lighting of fireworks. It made me think of flares. Help is needed here. Come find us- but we’ll don’t rush, we are enjoying our time here.

It was another moment of reflection and to be fair – tears. I wasn’t sure what for or about, but it felt good to contribute to the salty air. Something let go and then I knew, I would be leaving the next morning.

I awoke to an inspiration for driving. I headed east and found another audience of trees to feel quiet with. I then returned to town and said my goodbyes. I was able to share a meal with a mentor and professor from my undergraduate studies. She continues to inspire me. Then I headed south.

The road to one home from another is winding and altering in speed. It’s 80 miles an hour: a rush for excitement and then 25 miles and hour: contemplative and curious. I love that the river travels with you, following along side. Rivers are not like the ocean, they have trajectories. So it helps to have a partner in crime when moving forward. I suppose that’s why we marry. Everyone wants a hand to hold when daring to take steps on a path of the unknown.

Coming home to your childhood bed and your parent’s arms of comfort will fill you up like a cup of hot cocoa. Sleep after two days of driving and socializing is the blanket of marshmallows on top.

Home was beautiful, in its views, but also in its existence. It’s nice to have a place of reference, a place that always exists and never changes: with parents that are still just as you left them. A little older, but with the same hearts. I decided to vist my grandparents and we drank water by their pool. I remembered all of the undwater adventures I had in there. I swore I was a mermaid once; yes my feet turned to fins. I would swim with my legs bound together and twirl about the water like young girls in ballet tutus do.

There were four women of different generations. A woman in her 80’s her 70’s, her 40’s and her 20’s and we were all united at the round table. All of us had walked beaten paths: One working a minimum wage job in Alaska, another a personal masseuse for a billionaire traveling the world, another road tripping in the dessert with her husband and two dogs, and me, a drifter who landed in Portland, Oregon.

I spent the day loading my car up with things to take back. Things I had let wait in storage, aka my parent’s garage. My dog was tethered to the front lamp post and we enjoyed listening to old songs in the sun on the driveway. At one point he hopped in my car, the leash tightened and barely allowing him to do so. I laughed and smiled the way a father might at his daughter when she tries to stand up on her feet for the first time and falls on her diaper cushion tush.

The next day I took to the road again. This time it would be a 12 hour straight shot. What a long trajectory to stay on. Thank god cars have cruise control, if only I had that for life. Ah yes, I would like to be at this destination by this time going at the rate of speed… request granted. But life doesn’t work like that. Sometimes you get a rock in your break pad, and the awful sound makes you think you’ll explode. And then as you are pulled over on the side of the road you think about your mother’s boss who continues to live in Israel where she receives a 30 seconds bomb warning daily. 30 seconds to get into a shelter and she’s lucky. Some only have 10 seconds. A women many of you know, said “love is a battlefield.” I think that’s limited, life is. If I could respond to her song, I’d write one that said : “life is a battlefield, love is the bomb shelter.”

I am back in Portland now, writing from my writing desk. With a laptop of course, we don’t use real writing desks these days, with a quill and ink. I always seem to be inspired to write after a period of solitude. I tend to want to verbally share experience or write about it and let it be discovered on its own. But somethings are left private, for my own pleasure and enjoyment. It reminds me to live again not for others, but for me. Oh don’t you wish you knew what those little pleasures were? Instead of sharing, I will ask you to do this: Go out and find some of your own and hold tight to them. They might be that photograph you hold when the world caves in and you are huddled in a bomb shelter questioning life and the very nature of it.

Character Developement

Today I found myself questioning how I might go about the character development for the protagonist in one of my stories. I took a step back, and thought that blogging about my own character development might help with this writer’s block…

Stage One: Making Lemonade out of a Liz Lemon (I’m a Tina Fey fan)

I began my growth like most beings do, inside my mother’s womb. I was an accident child, and the reason my mother couldn’t drink on her wedding day. I was also the first child, which meant my birth was the start of several trials and tribulations my parents had yet to experience. Not only was I the first child, but my parents were the first among their friends to have children. Their only comparison for how to raise me came from their own families. It wasn’t until my senior year of high school that I found out I was unplanned, for some reason this knowledge seemed to put a new spin on my conception of my existence. But who was I to complain about confusion of my origins, my own father was adopted with limited knowledge of his birth parents. Lucky for me, mine stuck around. But we jumped too far ahead…

Stage Two: Girl Gone Wild

At two years old I was running wild with my primitive instincts. I was eating anything and everything including the cat food, moving furniture three times the size of me outside the house, attempting veggie forging in my mother’s garden, fighting off our jungle cat by the name of Cotton, and writing caveman narrative images on the walls in crayon all in the modern loin cloth coined as a Huggie.

Stage three: Independence

Once I learned to speak in full sentences, I learned I had a voice which meant I now had another tool to fend for myself. I was now a step above the cat. Well this spiraled into a huge web of defining “me” “my” and “mine.” I was five, not them… me. I was hungry and I wanted Lucky Charms for breakfast. I was making my own drawings, feeding myself, dressing myself. Hell, I could even go to the bathroom on my own. It was a big year for me.

Stage four: If you can’t beat ’em Join ’em

Kindergarten was death to my independence. I suddenly realized independence and originality were separate things. There were other beings my height doing all the things I was. What’s more is my mother had just gave birth to another one of us. My time was ending and I had no clue how I could change my toys, my teacher to our toys and our teacher. I knew it was over and I caved. I kicked and screamed and cried. I didn’t care anymore, I wanted my mom. Tough love happens early when you mom discovers free daycare. I learned early on that it was easier to share and be a part of the team that to resist. In the end, it wasn’t half that bad. I got to be start student, and so did everyone else.

Stage five: Full potential

Once I learned to write and play games with other kids I had two things going for me: creative drive and competition. At this point I was in my prime. I was writing stories, illustrating stories, I was writing letters, recipes for mud stew, and even secret codes with my friends. I became a team player and an athlete on the playground. However, with four square, everyone was the enemy. Life was great, I got to spend all day learning new things and take breaks to kick some ass on the playground, and mom always had snack waiting for me when I got home. Plus, I now had a mini-me in training. She wasn’t far behind from becoming my Robin.

Stage six: Hormones are a Bitch

As elementary school came to an end, my tomboy nature was being hit hard. I had a massive crush on one of the guys I played baseball with. Suddenly I was just like the pigtail girls who whispered on the bench,pointing and giggling while my bros and I were playing baseball on the field. I was losing my game, suddenly I was nervous and I was more concerned about impressing than winning.

Stage seven: The Black Spot

I read a book once and they referred to the black spot as the curse of death. Any girl will tell you its not black, its red. I did not handle this phase of life gracefully. I was a raging lunatic for weeks prior and when it came I was Niagara falls. I could take my chin getting split open, but this was murder. This was a sick twist on “pain is beauty.”

Stage eight: Can’t We all just get along?

Post indoctrination into womanhood, I became fairly social and community oriented. I hung out with everyone, though the social groups were very defined, I seemed to be welcomed into each. I found strengths in everyone and I made it a mission to make everyone get along. You guessed it, I was ASB president in 8th grade. I felt like I was running for president. People wrote in my year book that I would be president or a kindergarten teach when I grew up. Lucky for me, I still was un ware of the corrupt nature being politics. Instead I was being brainwashed by a leadership cult *cough* I mean class. I was walking on sunshine.

Stage nine: Totem Poll

When I got to high school, I was back to being the baby, but people don’t treat you like a kid in high school. They treat you like a disease they have to fight off, or at least that was the case for me. I found a community of odd ones who didn’t care that the pretty people gave us stares. We played hacky sack and smoked Black & Milds. Wild eh? They were also the emo/punk promotional types. I learned that converse were in and so was black. Everyone died their hair in unatural colors, but I was too scared to do that to my parents. I rocked the flaming red curls.

Stage ten: An artist is born!

I worked out a lot of internal mess with middle school. There’s a lot to comprehend at that age. Words seemed to always put things into perspective. I could understand my experiences by documenting them. In high school, this wasn’t the case. Writing made them more complex. Art on the other hand… art explained it all without an explanation. I was painting in class, during lunch, and afterschool. I set up a studio in my parents garage. I was even commissioned a few times. I think the two greatest gifts I received at that time in my life were a sketchpad and headphones.

Stage eleven: Back to the Future

I didn’t have the option of going back to the future like the professor. There was only one shot to make this shit happen and that shit was college. I worked two jobs in high school to make that happen. It wasn’t half bad. It consisted of a lot of free pizza. By the end of my senior year I had a car, it was packed, and I was headed to Humboldt County for my undergrad at HSU

Stage twelve: Freshman Year

We all know this: its anything goes while trying to keep up with grades. Sex, drugs, and alcohol… all in the name of a quality education.

Stage thirteen: Art School is Cool

I took my art studies pretty seriously, our Art Department not so much. My professor, yes. I had a mentor and her name was Erin. She was insane and I loved it. I also loved T. As an artist, you are either in love or in pain. There’s no middle ground in art school. Once you get out into the real world, there’s hope for more, sometimes. I was in pain before I stepped into the room of easels, and then suddenly I was in love.

Stage fourteen: First Love

Its the honeymoon stage that never ends. First love is unconditional, because you have no clue what the hell is going on. You are infatuated, inspired, devoted, emotional, and bound to another being for all eternity. You discover yourself to be much much more than what you thought you were and you think you’ve rediscovered life all over again. Perhaps, you’ve even found the secret to life.

Stage fifteen: Loss

I lost my first love and my grandmother within a month of each other. I learned a lot about death, letting go, and family. This was a longer stage to go through. Suddenly I had to see myself as an individual again. Who was I without love? I was an emotional wreck, that’s what. I became a snapper, and by that I mean I went to Spoken Word nights and I snapped my ass off. I also found my lack of intimacy to be healed with Salsa dancing. I was radiating sex, and I didn’t care. I still went home alone.

Stage sixteen: Over It

At one point or many points in your life you begin to get over yourself. You realize you aren’t that special, but life is and you should take advantage of that. I spent my last year of college teaching others and building a stronger dance community for students and locals. I was hosting dance nights, grading papers, and filling out graduate school applications.

Stage seventeen: Oh shit

Graduation is the scariest moment ever. Suddenly you have to move on, do something different. No more just showing up and doing work, you have to actually be proactive, move to a new place, hold your breath and dive in hoping you will resurface from the real world once again.

Stage eighteen: Unemployed and Alone

Remember when I said I was over it? That’s when I had financial aid, a community, was teaching, finishing up a degree, and had a job. I moved to Portland without any means of income, without any knowledge of how to get around, no map or smartphone, and no friends. I will admit, self pity hit hard when I was living on rice, bananas, and mac and cheese. In the midst of really understanding what a recession meant, I resigned my position in the graduate program at Portland State. I figured debt wasn’t worth this kind of stress. I found work as a nanny.

Stage nineteen: Kids

Kids will teach you all sorts of things, but they also heal you. They bring you deeper into life in a good way. They challenge you and inspire you, and I will always treasure my walks with Tober to and from school telling each other stories about purple squirrels and rainbow rabbits.

Stage twenty: Lost

There have been and will be many times I feel completely lost, like I am just going through the motions and I can’t quite explain why I am doing the things I am doing…. and this was one of them. I spent a good year exploring new relationships, caring for an austistic child as a means of income, painting, and wandering aimlessly. But it all got me to where I am today, as my mother would say.

Stage twenty-one: Diving too deep.

I was offered a job that was way beyond my capabilities. I had no experience in Information Technology, what did that even mean? I found out fast and I mean fast. On a weekly basis I was learning new material (a binder full of material). I was taking certification exams and spending my weekends doing 8 hours labs online and closing with a bitch fest and beer with my collegues. I embarked on a mission I really had no clue was about. I was to pass the JNIPE hosted at Juniper headquarters. I had six months to do this. They say its like taking the bar for Juniper Networks. They were serious. I lost my shit a couple times. I was studying day and night, scratching my eyes out after configuring and managing devices all night and then practicing teaching this material back to my boss and colleagues the next morning. It was hell, but it was an education that was not only free, it paid.

Stage twenty-two: The last mile

I wanted to quit, but I couldn’t. I hated what my life had become, but I had come too far to quit. How could you train for a race for six months and not even show up to the starting line? I was flown down to Juniper HQ and nearly shit my pants. I was one of three women I saw the entire time. The only reason there were two others was because one worked with me and the other was attending the international conference being held that weekend. I learned what its like to be young, inexperienced, a female in a male dominated environment, in front of important people with fancy business cards along side your nervous boss, and to not give a fuck. I was nervous my first hour of teaching, and then the Liz I knew inside me came out and I just wanted to be happy. I wanted others to be happy. The two men also being examined had 30 years more experience on me and knew their shit. Its pretty funny if you think about the situation. But I did what I did best, I smiled, and I gave it my all with no real expectation that I would pass. But you know what… I did.

Stage twenty-three: Standing up

I had accomplished a lot in my life and experienced quite a bit, but it doesn’t mean much unless you understand the value and the lesson learned. I was still learning a great deal about life and one was taking ownership of my own. I finally decided I would start making proactive choices for myself instead of seeing what happens down the line. I quit my stressful job, I put myself out there and applied to some pretty big name companies. And you know what, they took the bait. I was flown to another state and offered a teaching position within a week. I was offered a few, actually. Instead of just going with the more attractive one, I thought about my life and the quality of it. And here I am now.

Stage  twenty-four: 24

I am twenty-four and I am finally finding the balance. I work for a great company, I help others, I am still working with technology, I take time to dance and meet new people. You should always be meeting new people. Some need to travel the world to feel comfortable to do so; but I don’t care wherever you are, say hi to a stranger. There are too many people on this earth and each one can teach you something. I am also writing again, on a daily basis. I am finding comfort being in my own shoes and I am not living life like art school: In pain or In love. I am simply living.