Uncategorized

flat tires

It was 9 PM and I was hungry and tired.  The eldest son playfully nudged me at the dinner table, late Sunday night, noting my mood as he shared our excursion with his younger brothers.  Get it Mom!?

When you’re feeling flat and tired, what do you do?  You get pumped up!

I’d been feeling a bit flat, lately and when our tire blew on the freeway, it wasn’t the only thing feeling deflated.

We had been on our way to a grocery shopping excursion and, for reasons unknown, our eldest son decided to join the hubs and I.  I had inwardly grimaced, knowing this growing boy was planning to fill our grocery cart with junk that I wouldn’t normally buy for our household, and the first week of summer was to begin the very next day.

As we rounded the corner onto the freeway we heard the Pop! and hiss.  By the time we exited, at the very next off-ramp, the person peddling at the stop light pointed and in a friendly voice, mentioned that our rear tire was, indeed, flat.

Our son ended up assisting his father in changing the flat tire.  He read from the vehicle owner’s manual while the hubs grunted beneath, releasing the spare from the undercarriage.  They worked in tandem.  The hubs loosened the lug nuts on the wheel then the son jacked the car, manually.

I sat on the deflated tire, quietly watching as the sun went beneath the horizon.  Within thirty minutes the father and son had changed the flat tire; filthy with asphalt but grinning like fools.  This was a teachable moment since this boy is now a driver with a vehicle of his own.

We then made our way into the grocery store, filled our cart and headed home to make dinner another hour later.

This morning I made my way to work worrying over the additional expense of getting a new tire; as we prepare to embark on a long road trip in the coming weeks.   It was one more thing to weigh me down with health concerns for immediate family members, looming trip expenses and juggling various work projects.

The transition from the hectic school year into summer is never an easy one.  I am a creature of habit and routine and it takes me several weeks to adjust.

Transitions are not my thing.

I struggle to stay motivated and inspired.  I wake each morning with the goal of having a decent day, to feel like I am not spinning my wheels; stagnant.  I strive daily to find my balance as a wife, mother and friend.

There is not enough time in the day to do all things and I have learned to let things go.  I must say more nos and consent with fewer yeses to give quality time.  To not feel barely adequate.  To give my best with each endeavor.

I am counting my days.

I mourn the changes that come due to health issues, life situations, relationships or job changes.    In this stage and age of my life I see less progress and more loss and resignation.  I am having to process how to let things and people go, gracefully.

Later I found myself in the tire store, tears in my eyes.  My tire was irreparable.

I had been prepared for this possibility and as the associate before me discussed my tire options, the store manager negated his reasonable price quotes.  He took me aside to his computer while saying the following.

We will take care of you, you’ll see.   A call came in from our associate to treat you well.

To my shock the price quote for four new, exactly the same, tires was well below what I had imagined.  I would even receive a rebate!  I had not expected this favor.

The husband of my girlfriend, a warehouse manager for this national tire chain, had called in to take care of me.  I hadn’t realized the hubs had been in contact with him, deciphering what kind of tires I should purchase.

I stood with tears in my eyes, thinking of my girlfriend who passed just over a year ago; leaving a son and dear husband behind.

This girlfriend had been in my thoughts as they commemorated her one year anniversary with a balloon release; two weeks ago.  Her unwavering faith and ability to always see the positive; even faced with adversity, had amazed me.  She had been a force to be reckoned with, while she lived.  She had never been bitter.  She had fought with the hope of recovery until the very end.

In thirty minutes, the same amount of time it had taken the hubs and son to change my flat tire, I pulled away from the store with four new tires.  I felt lighter, humbled,  and the cheesy words of my son came to mind.

I was fated to be here, a reminder from my girlfriend, to get pumped up.  To be grateful.  To not lose hope.  To embrace change.

My daily mantra is to alter my frame of mind.  To set a daily goal.  To be transparent.  To be a fair and effective communicator.  To be humble and empathetic versus trying to always be right.  I get distracted with the details and negative things that can weigh me down; an easy place for my mind to dwell.

Instead of counting my days, I should make my days count.

I am not always spinning my wheels or getting derailed with flat tires.  I drove away, today, feeling hopeful and progressing forward.

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Uncategorized

my status

Amidst the March madness our schedule finally settled.  It is rare for my family of five to sit at home with nothing to do and so I let my three sons choose their preferred mode of unwinding;  online gaming.

Unlike my sons, the overcast outdoors beckoned.  The hubs chose to accompany the dog and I and, book in-hand, we headed out for a walk through the equestrian stables adjacent to my neighborhood to the duck pond park.

I get so absorbed with the things that happen between my four walls that I needed to see the world beyond.

As we walked through the neighborhood park I observed the various families with small children and remembered my former afternoons spent here.  When my boys were very young I frequented the local parks every afternoon, surrounded by the sounds of people to break up the monotony of my days.  During those years my husband was often deployed and, living away from a military community, I often felt isolated.

I knew most of the people who worked at the local supermarket, nearest to my home, who always greeted me by name.   Although the produce and items are much more expensive here than a wholesale grocer, I remember why I continue to frequent this store.   In the thirteen years that I have resided here, the employees have remained the same.  We are like an extended family and to this day, they continue to greet me by name.

In the park we walked past the birthday party that looked Pinterest worthy; the tables set with tea cups and beautiful decor.  I enviously wished I was young like the birthday participants; the cares of the world revolving around what color of dress to wear for a party or what the next meal to be served would be.

My sons also had these type of parties and the hubs and I both remembered the motorized jeeps my in-laws brought to our middle son’s third birthday party in this very same park.  The eldest, then four, had immediately settled at the wheel and driven his brothers around.

These days the eldest son is behind the wheel of my car, driving his brothers around.  The middle son is already chomping at the bit to take the test for his permit.  He is not eligible to do this until December of this year.

In the early predawn hours I am always grateful to live in this community; one where I feel safe enough to jog solo on my neighborhood streets in the early morning dark.   I trek past my sons’ elementary and high school and use the outdoor resistance equipment of the community park across the way before making my way home to awaken my household to begin a new day.

Normally I take comfort in daily rituals and routines; the cyclical wheels and spokes that drive my life forward.  But lately I’ve been feeling stuck.

My rose colored shades have been getting blurry and so I’ve tried to wipe them off; to see clearly.  The sun shines too brightly into my eyes.  I feel like a hamster running in place.  I seek inspiration and motivation without a lot of success.

I walk through my life a bit like one of the walking dead zombies my husband is fond of watching.  Talking heads.

My hubs, sons and dear girlfriends know that when I get fixated on a song that it stays on repeat until I finally get it out of my head.   The Katy Perry song appears light and frothy but upon listening to the message, is deeper.  It resonates with the undertones that currently are stuck in my head.

Usually music is the one medium that can take me out of my funk.  I’m losing faith and I’m stumbling along trying to find my way once again.

The text from my girlfriend was most welcome.  Occasionally our vehicles pass one another in the library parking lot as we pick-up or drop-off our sons and, surprisingly, my schedule was clear to meet her the very next day.  We chatted books, food, family and everything in-between and we talked of retirement; something I am nowhere near.  We imagined what our lives will be and I get a bit disheartened, wondering if I’ll ever get there.

The utopia that my baby boomer in-laws’ generation lives will be vastly different when the hubs and I get there.

Our generation is so lost in work, with no play, and we’ve passed this on to our own children.  We supervise their play dates, their extra curriculars, their resumes.  What will motivate our own kids when their lives are comfortable little bubbles managed by others?  The things that normally motivate people: money, things, titles continue to drive people to run faster on their hamster wheels.  Things like relationships, familial ties and loyalty are filtered by online screens and cyberspace.

My hippocampal brain space isn’t being used because I rely on my mobile device to memorize and organize my life.  I don’t even have my sons’ cell numbers memorized.  I put the book down at the duck pond and process the people activity around me, instead.  I tell the hubs that I want my own tea party.

On our walk home the hubs asked if there was a reason I was walking so fast.  It took me a minute to respond, slowing my stride and noting it is my normal pace.  He reminded me to slow it down, as he pointed at trees.  He stopped mid-stride and had me glance up to the patriotic military banners that grace this grand avenue and pointed to a fellow booster parent’s image in his army/national guard uniform.  I have jogged this route, weekly over several years, and have not once noted his banner above.

I watch my friends live their lives on Facebook and Instagram.  I, too, like their posts and pictures…escaping my walls in cyberspace.  But it’s time for me to step out of my rhythm and comfortable spaces; to journey untraveled roads in unexpected places.

What’s your status?  

I don’t have one.

Uncategorized

walking-the-line

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In the pre-dawn stillness I jog towards my shadow, cast by the illuminated street lamps.   Pretend you are a runner, I say to myself as I put one unwilling foot in front of the other.  It is the rhythm of my wake cycle but this is not something I like to do.  It is something I have to do.

I say this out loud to the hubs; how I mentally do this.  How the amount of time I jog is decreasing.  My youngest son, nearby asked,

“But why do you pretend you are a runner?  You’re running, aren’t you?  You ARE a runner.”  Out-of-the mouth of babes.

I’m finding my way among people who pretend to be something else; myself included.

The ones who are super Moms who put all this stress upon themselves.  They make homemade lunches for their kids.  Their homes are immaculate.  They can do all things and look great at the same time and their kids are perfect.

The co-workers who have exciting lives that are way better than yours.   On Fakebook they have hundreds of likes for the interesting things they do.  Their weekends are full of amazing things and you wonder how they afford it all.

The parents in volunteer organizations who think they are managers of corporations.  Their suggestions are always right and they know the right people to implement them; including you.  They want the star by their name to be recognized for all things.

The parishioners who sit in mass and cut people off in the church parking lot with crude hand gestures.  Piety lasts for one hour.   Being religious is merely an adjective that doesn’t transcend into practice and real life.

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While lunching with a girlfriend she shared the comment her son made after experiencing great disappointment.  You don’t need a title; to be a leader.  I applaud this teen for having the maturity to recognize this.

Because sometimes, our teens are more mature than their parents.

I find this happening among alpha parents in the organization which I serve.  There is always something to be gained: recognition, financial profit or access to people to garner favor.   I grit my teeth and filter my words.  This is a fault of mine; my words have to be spoken (or written).

Alphaadj. Being the most prominent, talented, or aggressive person in a group [Def. 5b]. (n.d.). In The Free Dictionary Online, Retrieved September 28, 2016, from http://www.thefreedictionary.com/alpha.

I feel weighed down by politics and control issues that are a part of human nature.  When there are too many alphas, conflict arises and words and actions are misconstrued.  If there is no transparency, people arrive at their own skewed conclusions.

Frustrated, I wheeled the tiny portable cart with two cases of water to the stadium.  Things were not going my way, the entire day.  Emails and texts were flying.  Communication was misfiring.  People were angry and accusatory.   I found myself treading carefully between groups; trying to move forward.  When the cart spilled over, it foreshadowed how the evening would go.   I was wary.

I stood in the aisle, handing out bottled water to the two sections of students I had promised I’d serve water to; over a month before.  It had been a hot day in August, the kids sweltering in the heat, and as I had walked by, the friend of my son asked if I could purchase water at the concession stand for his group.  I told him I couldn’t this time, but that I’d take care of his section of kids, next time and he shrugged and returned to watching the game.

I saw the moment it registered to this teen that I had remembered, when he craned his neck out to catch my attention.  I continued to pass water down the row to the eighteen students in his section, and the twenty-two students, with my son, in the row above.  The simple act of bringing bottled water to these kids was appreciated.  When my son’s friend grinned and yelled, “thank you,” I smiled back.  I remembered.

At a Friday night high school homecoming football game, I was reminded why I serve.  This was why.

The heaviness and parent drama still remained.  But I don’t serve any of these people.   I want for these kids to enjoy the same rewards I experienced at their ages and so I serve in this booster organization; to advocate for them and their program.

Our tweens and teenagers begin to notice the subtleties and snubs; they discover there are gray areas and observe the adults on how they navigate through them.  We look at this age group and assume they are rebellious and difficult.  They don’t expect follow-through.  They’re accustomed to people telling them what to do.

But respect earned by a teen is a feat.  They can see the imperfect yet appreciate when things get done.  They want consistency and respect; to know that they count.

Respect is important, yes.   But I don’t want others’ respect.  I need to be able to look in the mirror, each morning, and respect myself..  To walk/jog/run through life trying to do the right thing.  To have integrity.

Integrity.  Noun.  firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values [Def. 1].  (n.d.). In Merriam-Webster Online, Retrieved October 2, 2016, from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/integrity.

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Walk-the line. Verb.  1. (idiomatic)  To maintain an intermediate position between contrasting choices, opinions, etc. [Def. 1].   (idiomatic) To behave in an authorized or socially accepted manner, especially as prescribed by law or morality; to exercise self control.  [Def. 2]. (n.d.). In Your Dictionary Online, Retrieved October 2, 2016, from http://www.yourdictionary.com/walk-the-line.

I include the definitions; not for others, but for myself.  I need to see it in black and white to navigate through the gray of life.

And so the email is typed, the words are said.  I do not lean towards what is popular; nor easy.  I say the things that are usually unsaid; unsure how they’ll be received.  I walk-the-line of integrity and when I choose this path, the gray haze becomes clear.

  • I am an imperfect mother, but that is okay.  My kids need to see me struggle through conflicts so they can learn the tools to struggle through their own.
  • I don’t have to travel far to enjoy amazing moments with my kids.  Most of those moments are usually when they’re home or in my car, sans Instagram or Fakebook.  The best part?

Giving and receiving joy is FREE.

  • I don’t need to be seen with a title, star or accolades.  I am not a CFO of a corporation among alphas.  I volunteer my time for the kids and do what needs to get done.
  • I am not a saintly woman.  But I have faith, moral values and try to follow them as best as I can.  God loves me, just as I am.  Flawed.  (I try hard not to cut people off in the parking lot).

I walk-the-line, straying from it often.  But what’s important is to know where that line is and what it stands for.  My path is clearing.

vet path

Stop pretending and run with it.

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my in-between place

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There are those who seek and those who settle.  And those of us in-between.

For years I stared at the barren space adjacent to my front walkway.  Some years I planted annuals that fit my whim.  Other years I transplanted items from neighbors or family members; unsure what to do with them.  Each weekend my neighbor cultivates the shared plantar between our front yards, fussing and pruning.  Every year-or-so the yard landscape changes; concrete plantars re-paved, outdoor light fixtures removed and added.  I have watched various appliances come and go, large yard renovations constructed and indoor items redecorated.  Our homes are mirror images of one another and ours has always remained the same; original to the builder’s plan.  You would never believe our houses are the same.

Our neighbors had been surprised, last weekend, to find me in our front yard digging through dirt.  They peered through the beautiful flowers and trees, between our homes, to the stark barren landscape of my yard and splotchy green grass.  I grinned as their curiosity got the better of them and chimed that my yard could not possibly compete with the beautiful landscaping, the wife, maintained.  In prior plantings I had hoped to create a vignette to complement my neighbor’s meticulous garden; always to no avail.  None of my entry walkway ideas remained for long; my desire easily distracted to the messy and neglected things indoors.  When the hubs turned off the water and sprinkler systems to maintain our state’s drought mandate, all things wilted away and returned to the earth.  My neighbors continued to water their gardens and washed their vehicles.

I knew this time, my inspired planting was different.  This one was sustainable.  I finally found what I’ve sought for so long.

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Although I’ve been on this mental journey for quite some time, this last year finally brought me some answers; ones that I would’ve known all along if I had listened and trusted myself.

I had spent quality time hiking local mountain trails with my family of five.  The recommendation to have breakfast on a mountain peak dissolved when we learned the lift was only open on weekends.  The one local cafe to eat would not open for forty-five minutes.  The five of us were hungry and knew there was a long hike ahead but, at the hubs’ urging, we pushed forward anyway.  We hiked-in for 2.5 hours before our grumbling stomachs urged us to turn back.   All we had with us was water; erroneously thinking we would have a large breakfast at the summit and a local mart to purchase granola bars.  When all of our options dissipitated in the cool mountain air, we trudged on and told ourselves we wouldn’t hike in very far.

But on this day, as we improvised and returned for dinner in the quaint, college village nearby, I shared my desire to visit a local garden and library.  The hubs and sons gave me blank stares and, knowingly, I heard the words none of them were saying.  This was not their thing but they knew I always liked doing family outings together.  When the hubs gently suggested I should go on my own, he hadn’t really considered that I would do it.  But I had known that this was something I would do, solo, and, with my family’s silent blessing, I planned my outing for the following day.  I am responsible for my own happiness.

I found myself on the streets I traveled often where my extended family lives.  During college summers I lived with my late cousin and his family, working in a local hospital and then the university research lab during my four undergraduate years.  I realized that I knew this area more than my childhood home as I drove by the gated Mediterranean and Colonial style mansions with the large expanses of manicured lawns and entryways.   In my mind I had returned to this place to quietly reflect on the Chinese and Asian themed gardens; to find inspiration in their beauty and walk the paths to sort through the various thoughts and ideas in my mind.  No one knew me here and, amidst the tourists and visitors; I noted there weren’t any kids my own sons’ ages.

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I was comfortable being alone.  I quietly ate my Chinese lunch overlooking the bridge; listening to the different languages being spoken all around me.

The next day as I roamed nurseries, the plants I thought I’d be choosing weren’t the ones I had gravitated towards.  I had returned home to stare at the plants in my backyard and saw the theme I hadn’t realized I was trying to create in my house and outdoors.  I love all things spherical and instead of the bonzai trees or cherry blossoms, it had been the prickly golden barrel cacti in the desert gardens that had beckoned to me.  I stood before the succulent section picking, and being picked and poked, by the various drought resistant plants that withstand high heat and low water.

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I chatted with my neighbors.  I realized I had no desire to compete with the artful garden that graced both of our homes’ front yards.    I wished to complement it with simplicity to withstand our drought.  I felt an affinity to the lone cactus in hostile weather and infertile soil; reaching for the sky. The golden barrels were prickly on the outside but they were survivors and withstood the harsh elements.  For the woman who spends most of her time indoors and toiling with trees and vegetables in the backyard, this was the perfect solution and fit all of my parameters.   This was sustainable.

Sustainability had been the answer I had searched for all along.

I sat in the crowded Asian gardens teeming with people and found myself walking the paths in the reverse direction.  I felt no refuge or beauty in the crowded, popular areas.  Instead I walked the hilly, curvy paths; past the formal gardens of herbs and roses and into the stark and silent beauty of the cacti.  I sat amongst the aloe vera plants amazed that, beneath their prickly and bony exteriors, lie the balm for burns and dryness afflicting humans’ outer skin.

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We, humans,  are well-kept and appear approachable on the outside; but most are brittle and hardened on the inside.

In these past few years I’ve circled back to the young girl I used to be; the one without expectations.  It was at this time that I began to collect circular globes and items that serve as decor within my home.  The corniness of the whole idea made me laugh out loud.  Who knew I’d be considering my life staring at a cactus; once again finding my passion, my value and my spirit?  This wasn’t quite the beauty I had envisioned.

My former expectations of success were not mentally or physically sustainable.  I sought value in the wrong places and settled in circumstances that were within my control.   It is a blessing to have others to walk alongside; supportive and full of encouragement.  I am responsible for my own happiness. 

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I existed in my in-between place; transitioning from one phase of life into another but never really taking stock of what I needed to simply be happy in my own prickly skin.  It wasn’t the lithe physique, fancy appliances or luxury cars; nor the full resume of degrees, titles or bank accounts.  We must all find our own happiness within and follow it.  To seek beauty, speak our own truths and have meaningful relationships (with family, with friends) and to follow where the path leads us.

It had been a conversation with my late cousin’s widow that made me finally see.  After being offered severance pay in the successful career she held for four decades, surviving the loss of her husband and watching her kids leave the nest and begin their own families; she sought to do what she loved best.  She didn’t sit around and wait for opportunities to find her; she sought them.  It was in these gardens that she offered to volunteer her time and share the beauty of this place.  Her love language is in service; just like my own.  It was why I had returned here, on my own time schedule, so I could explore the areas I wanted to follow without worrying or catering to anyone else.

For two days I tirelessly worked outdoors gardening.   Our own backyard represents the yards from our childhood; the sago palm from my in-laws, the trumpet vine from my late cousin, the rhododendron from another cousin.    The hubs handed me a gift card to splurge on a rose tree.  The fruit trees and vegetable gardens reflect the can do, independent spirit of both sets of parents; both wishing to go off-grid.  There is joy in watching things grow and blossom.    The things we’ve planted actually have a story or history; a purpose for why it is there: my husband’s obsession with horse radish, my sons’ desire for all things citrus.

I have settled into our home; no longer seeking greener, verdant pastures and in-between places.  Our landscape reflects who lives here now; simple and sustainable for many years to come.   I find beauty and inspiration in the place that matters.  The rain continues to come down as I sit at my window indoors; contentedly watching my gardens and sons grow.

 

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just do it; embracing my inner cheerleader

“Gold (Gold).  Always believe in your soul.  You’ve got the power to know.  You’re indestructible.  Always believing.” ~ Spandau Ballet

  • The biting words hung in the air.   I chose to ignore them, attributing my lack of response to limited sleep.
  • They reverberated on social media; packing the intended rally and punch.
  • They were whispered in ears with a smile; nastily uttered to shock and bully.
  • They were plastered on stop signs and walls, shouting to the neighborhood.

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The utterances swirled about me and I stood still, trying to make sense of them all to which I concluded; there is no rhyme or reason.  Sometimes the words forcefully emerge trying to find a way to vent and be heard; in inappropriate ways.  I wanted to fume and shout, to argue and defend.  To erase them and start over to make slates clean.  How does communication go so wrong; all misunderstood?  The phone calls, private conversations and texts blew up my mobile.  Whom do we talk to?  To whom should we email?  How can justice to any of this be served?

Amidst a cacophany of sound and people I finally found peace and solitude to process.   It is currently where I reside as I hibernate and consider all of these things.  I wish to mediate, to explain, to articulate the right words to make things right.  But those words do not come.  When vengeance and a desire to make someone account for a wrong overtakes all; there is nothing left.  The negative clouds everything and anything good and worthy gets pushed aside to win; to be right.  It gets tiring to tell others to turn the other cheek.

I battled these questions which usurped too much of my mental time; round-and-round.   As I commuted to work I acknowledged the wave from the truck driver; the one I had allowed in front of me to merge into heavy traffic.  With the simple gesture and smile I was taken out of my reverie; the eye-to-eye exchange through rolled up windows enough to penetrate. I waved back with alacrity, cranked up my stereo and laughed out loud.  I could finally see the snow on the top of the mountain vista scene spread before me, the varying colors of the trees that lined the avenue as I headed north.  I remembered the simple one word text from my girlfriend who was hospitalized for 176 days.  I had re-read the text to check the sender’s name, to be sure I had read it correctly.  Home!  She had finally returned home.  I grinned wider.

I had needed to engage back into reality; to the people who live and breathe alongside.

It’s easy to be a cheerleader for someone else; to encourage others to do their best and yell from the stands.  My voice was hoarse as I yelled from the top of a college stadium; my exuberance at the conclusion of a busy fall competitive band season.  I flitted from group-to-group to socialize, held hands with parents as awards were being presented, offered physical help where it was needed and hugs to encourage weary chaperones.  I wanted our kids to feel proud of their accomplishments, whatever place they earned, to know that persistence and hard work pays off not by trophies; but in character traits learned, in friends gained and in appreciation of what a common goal could create; community.

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The unexpected phone call was a much needed respite; a surprise after traveling 250 miles as I stood in the high school parking lot.  She had known we had subsisted for the past two weeks on take-out and adrenaline; our schedule full.   I squealed in delight as she relayed the message.  She was delivering a home cooked meal just because.  I whooped a little cheer by myself.

When I finally found my son and asked him his thoughts, he hadn’t really worried about titles and trophies.  He knew he would win, whether first or last, and was grateful it was over.  He’d made memories that would long outlive the medals around his neck and had discovered his love for music composition; something noted by his piano teacher at aged seven.  He experienced that diverse backgrounds and people could work together to create something poignant and beautiful.   And he discovered that he could sleep through almost anything, to the annoyance of his three other roommates and chaperone, as his alarm awakened everyone but himself.

Winning isn’t everything.  Principles, morals, religion and being right isn’t what life is about in the end.   It is all about relationships.  Most times there isn’t a clearly defined boundary or line that is right.  What matters is that we try our best to do the right thing; even if the outcome isn’t what we want.  When I let that expectation go, I could find resolution to my queries.  I could once again empathize, to gain perspective and hear the other side.

Turning the other cheek isn’t a sign of defeat but a sign of character; knowing who we are and standing by it with resolve. 

It is harder to let the negativity go to work things through but in doing so, we gain so much more.   We accept that life is give and take and that there are some battles which we cannot win.  We can cut through the detritus; focusing on things and people that build us up; not tear us down.  I do not base my worth on others’ approval; the most likes, the big home, fashionable wardrobe, or the smartest children.  I feel most loved and accepted when I have relationships based on mutual respect and integrity; those who will always stand up and try to do the right thing and accept who I am, faults and all.

It’s hard to embrace the inner cheerleader, to self-encourage and motivate to seek the good in all things.   It’s easy to focus on the negative; to fixate on being the savior and feeling the glory of making all things right.   I’ve been out of practice for way too long; getting distracted by things that don’t matter.  But no longer.  I am finding my way back and digging deep.  My pom poms are getting dusted off and I rest my sore throat.  But wait!  I don’t need to yell loud, type sentences, whisper words or create signs.

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On Thanksgiving I could sit with family and let these things go; adapting an attitude full of gratitude.  I was grateful for the clarity to move forward; to get unstuck in a place I’ve circled for so long.   That my eldest son is mature enough to see my transparency and to speak his own words to set me straight.  For the unconditional love of my “boys” who endlessly hear me rant and serve as a reminder to keep it real.  The middle son filled our home with Christmas music as I mumbled my bah humbug and gritted my teeth; to bring the joys of music into my heart on his alto saxophone.    The youngest is our biggest cheerleader; the outspoken one who says things just as he sees them with infectious laughter.   And to every extrovert should lie an equal introvert; the mate that balances me like no other.

No longer do I stand in lines for “the best deal” or squander dollars purchasing the hot ticket item to make this holiday memorable for my sons.  Instead, I embrace the lengthening dark days and cold, the layers of clothing no longer weighing me down but bringing me warmth.  I yearn for the advent ahead; quietly waiting and listening for the sounds of the season that only Christmas brings with carols, band concerts and gatherings with family and friends.   I look forward to full stomachs, hearty drinks and family memories that remind us why we are here and where we belong.

Serenity prayer

I recite the Serenity Prayer above as  I cut the negative ropes of the parachute that weighed me down.  Actions speak louder than words as I embrace my inner cheerleader.  Just do it.

 

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fighting on thru the unpleasant things

It is starting to feel like fall in our parched state that is ablaze in flame, and whose inhabitants cannot drive in rain.

The tween assumed I played the marching band CD from my alma mater because fall means football,  and we are attending our high school and college games this weekend.  But the song that streams through my car’s speakers is the repeated: quarter note, six eighth notes, two quarter notes, a dotted quarter and an eighth note that becks and calls between the low brass and trumpets.  It is a simple song but the harmonies and incessant snare riff  exemplify digging deep; played for the defense on a third down.  Over the years, when I’ve needed to push through unpleasant tasks it is my “go to” motivational song.  On YouTube I discovered a post that continuously plays this song for ten hours straight.

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As I battled through traffic, in the rain with impatient parents, I clenched my steering wheel and quietly kept my tongue.

Why are you playing THIS song on repeat? asked my tween.

The words were out of my mouth before I had thought them.  This is my defensive song and I’m on the defense.  It had never occurred to me WHY this song resonates with me until I had vocalized the words.

I get it, was his simple answer as a parent driver cut us off; grinning back.  I was defensively driving. The alto sax sheet music for this song sits upon my piano as he memorizes it for fun.  I know this song is one of his favorites too.

The phone call came this morning and I paused the music.  The matriarch of my husband’s family passed away this morning in her sleep; aged 89.  On Labor day we had received the phone call that she would be placed in hospice and the family had sat around the pool in silence.   My brother-in-law had just shared that his father would temporarily be placed in a skilled nursing facility (SNF) after arriving at the emergency room via ambulance.    When the hubs asked if the placements in hospice and a SNF were good things, I pushed through the silence and tactfully searched for the words no one else would say.

Your grandmother is dying.  The brother-in-law’s father’s placement in the SNF most likely will be permanent.   His grandmother had been taken off of dialysis because it showed no indications of improvement. My brother-in-law’s father’s Parkinson Disease had progressed.

All things unpleasant.

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My years as a gerontologist and of losing my parents as a teen and new mom, respectively, have given me perspective.   As an intern in college my project had been to discuss advanced directives with the physician’s elderly patients.  She had thought my plans were ambitious and had forewarned me that it would not be smooth sailing.  She had been correct.  The patients became defensive and angry when I broached any discussion of mortality and death and dying.  Durable Powers of Attorney, burial trusts and getting papers in order were not topics people wished to discuss.

Later, as a county ombudsman who advocated for the elderly, the abuse complaints that crossed my desk were usually concerning a family member taking advantage of elderly clients.  I used to think that blood was thicker than water but discovered that the almighty dollar was quite powerful in obliterating those ties that bind.  To this day I advocate for this paperwork but this topic is still taboo; something I know all too well.  For over two decades I continue this conversation with my in-laws; the paperwork yet to be done on another day.

As the bad things in life happened, I became bitter and angry and used these emotions as my shields.  This would not happen to me again.  I would control my circumstances and cut the ties.  I had no immediate family and walked away from my faith.  I would control my destiny.

After each of my parents’ deaths I became uncommunicative and would place headphones upon my head to drown out all sound; choosing dark brooding music.   When engaged to my non-denominational fiance (now hubby) my mother had agreed to our marriage if my fiance promised to be married in the church.  Ironically, it is my husband who returned me to my faith and continues to walk alongside.   When disappointment in people darkened my door, recently, the earbuds went in.  But as in all things unpleasant, time mends and the relationships that occupy my life bring me back; my fighting spirit returning.

Dwelling on the unpleasant things brings growth.  I have rediscovered the person I wanted to be.  I can now speak the words instead of simmering silently in a corner.  But I also work through filtering and sorting; to be able to say the words authentically but with empathy.  Tact.

Last evening I clenched my jaw as I sat in the back of a classroom amongst parents at a back-to-school night.   One of the lessons learned from the internship in college was in finding tactful words.  The other lesson was in keeping things confidential; particularly conversations that are unsavory where there are no words than can cover up the ugly.  I simmered quietly at the artifice and dramatics of parents sitting in the room with me.  They push their own agendas for themselves, in-turn, hurting the whole.  When the bell rang it was all I could do to drag the hubs out of there before my unfiltered words could be spoken.

My song continues to play on repeat at work as I do some of the administrative tasks I dislike doing.  I am digging deep to work through the unpleasant things.  It is sometimes hard to march to my own beat; the relentless riff of the music having me fall-in-step with it to keep moving forward.  I continue to fight on; to find the path I will choose to march.  To do the morally correct thing confidentially, with tact and authenticity.

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staying within the lines

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I must do something about my distractible nature.

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I read endless self-help books about focus, motivation and drive.  I have always been fascinated by the brain and draw upon my limited background in gero-neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.  But I have yet to discover how to utilize my lobes in mid-life to allow me to function efficiently at maximum capacity.  I sound like I want to be a drone.

I have just completed reading Malcolm Gladwell’s second book, Blink, from over a decade before.  It delves into making snap decisions and quick judgment calls and how to slow time down to focus.  This is a trait I would like to master; the ability to read situations and more importantly, to read people.

I found myself standing in a parking lot talking to a fellow parent about our sons’ lack of social skills. I suspect that I, too, reside somewhere on the autism spectrum line; off-center.  But with maturity and experience I have learned to bring myself back, to cut through the noise and center on what is important…unless I am distracted.

If you say,  “Squirrel!” my head is already swiveling.

Gladwell concludes in his book that too much information can cloud our ability to make unconscious, judgment calls.  If we think too long about a decision we become more indecisive as more information is collected.  I, too, am overwhelmed when given multiple choices such as when I purchase groceries for my family.  I used to be a member of a co-op, frequented farmers’ markets and walked the aisles of Whole Foods, Sprouts and Trader Joe’s.  And then I read  Omnivore’s Dilemma, and  Fast Food Nation and stood indecisively at the sliding glass doors.  Organic really wasn’t organic?  I had too much information; standing over aisles reading food labels.  My grocery shopping excursions became stressful mind games where I questioned every single purchase.  It was ridiculous!

The fellow mom and I hug in the parking lot and I think of her words; the ones she hopes for her son.  She just wants him to belong.  He’s a high school junior.  That’s all we ever want for our kids…to fit in, find their way and belong.  It’s what I want for myself and I often ponder where my place is in this life as I walk from place-to-place.  Most times you’ll find me in the back of a room in a corner; my preferred space.  In a tea house I hear the John Mayer song with my eldest son; and I call to him if he remembers the app that can tell me what song is currently playing.  Shazam!  My son quizzically looks at me and I smile.  I’ve always loved this song but never knew who sang it.  Until now.

They love to tell you
Stay inside the lines
But something’s better
On the other side

I wanna run through the halls of my high school
I wanna scream at the
Top of my lungs
I just found out there’s no such thing as the real world
Just a lie you’ve got to rise above~ John Mayer

Just this morning my girlfriend and I talked about ADD and distractibility.  I think of my own high school years and I was the one who couldn’t sit still in my classroom.  I would, randomly, get up out of my seat and walk the halls of my high school but what I really wanted to do was run and shout, just as in Mayer’s lyrics.  Those words speak to me.  And when I would return to my class and seat; the assistant principal would often be occupying my space and would quietly move as I re-entered the classroom from the back.  There was nothing they could do to me; I didn’t disturb others outside of my exiting and entering.  They knew my father was dying of cancer.  I was ranked third in my graduating class.

I have a hard time staying within the lines.

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I was reminded of my easily distracted self last week; chaperoning a high school event.  My sole duty was to take roll call of the twenty-five students on my bus, and the girlfriend I had partnered with was not making the return trip back to school with us.  I have chaperoned many elementary field trips but this was my first foray with teenagers.  A student had volunteered to take roll as we prepared to return home but the bus driver had engaged me in conversation.  It wasn’t until the director boarded our bus that it dawned upon me I had not prompted the student to take roll call and we gazed at one another, deer in the headlights; delaying our departure.  Yep.  Distracted.  I felt like I was nine years old.   This after I had tripped and face-planted in front of another local high school group trying to catch up with our students.  Definitely not one of my finest moments.

My extroverted nature tends to get in my way; causing my brain waves to scatter.  My girlfriend tells me of the book she is reading; on how to focus and to brings things back.   It is next on my reading list.  These days I work hard to sit back and observe, to bring my thoughts into focus and think before I speak.  But now I even question if this is a good thing.  After reading Blink I realize,

I over think too many things and must allow myself to trust my gut; to go with the flow.

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It’s okay not to stay within the lines.  Because my nature is such that I must always seek to get to the other side (whatever/wherever that is).  But I also fight this urge because if I’m too busy trying to reach somewhere else, how can I inhabit the present and focus on it?  Sometimes, we, adults have too much information and get lost in the details.  Kids can easily read another person.  Yes, they too are easily distracted but they know what’s important and impulsively will act on their first reaction.

This is my life’s journey.  To learn from my life’s experiences.  To hear and feel what my subconscious is telling me.  To trust my instincts.  To filter through the noise and find my song.  I will resist my urge to over think my words and stay within the lines.  I will write them across the pages and sing them loud.

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growing up

roseAs I exited the room I looked back to its occupants, waved, and said goodbye.  Not one person looked up in acknowledgment or returned the greeting.  With this particular subgroup it is consistent behavior and in the past I have overlooked it.  Most times when I take my leave I look around and note they are busy; choosing to leave the premises without even bothering to speak the words.  But pretending I am unaffected is being duplicitous and untrue to who I am.

It’s a prickly thorn in my side.

But over the past year I have had time to reflect and observe the various groups of people who co-habit life with me.  Much as I hate to admit it; the cliques are just as prevalent in adulthood as in the high school years.  Why, as humans, are we programmed in this manner?

Cliquenoun. : a narrow exclusive circle or group of persons; especially :  one held together by common interests, views, or purposes.” Merriam Webster Online, Merriam Webster, n.d. Web. 22 Apr. 2015.

Greetings, and the acknowledgment of them, are basic social skills.  It is these skills that I harp on my sons frequently.  To make eye-contact.  To have a firm handshake.   Hello.  How are you?  Thank you.  Goodbye.  It is NOT that hard to say these short phrases of simple etiquette.  Behaving outside these parameters is disrespectful and rude.  I can dismiss kids’ reluctance to utilize these skills, most times.  But in adults?  I contemplated how to maneuver this minefield and the more I thought of it; the more it became clear.  I am dealing with cliques.

I am very aware what it is like to be in one.  I have been involved in two different bookclubs in two geographical locations and the perception is the same amongst the parents not included.  Clique.  Sometimes the group dynamics become a chapter from Rosalind Wiseman’s book, Queen Bees and Wannabes.   It happens in school organizations, work environments, church groups and families.  The natural tendency for humans to become close to like-minded individuals is called friendship. But when it becomes exclusionary, judgmental, and just mean; it evolves into something darker and subversive.  You can’t avoid them.

I must learn to navigate through them.

In the workplace cliques align those with the same point-of-view or work ethic.  In school organizations parents willing serve in groups to bridge the gap between educators and students towards a common goal. In religious or spiritual organizations, small groups are a way to affirm beliefs; to be inspired by those who live by similar principles.  In groups of friends there is great joy in finding a person who deeply understands your convictions.  It is normal for people to want to belong with others; to feel the safety and protection in numbers; such as a military spouses’ club who can relate to long deployments and provide support. These social dynamics are important and it is the depth of these relationships that give us meaning.

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In high school it had taken me some time to understand these circles and the realization dawned upon me years later.  The proliferation of cliques occurred when others were dissatisfied with the status quo.  It granted self-worth to the exclusionary; to exude control over others by agreeing to the complicit rules of being a part of this group.   If one disagreed or did not conform, he/she were ostracized.

The simple act of not acknowledging someone’s presence is a person establishing his/her boundary.   You do not belong.  These people do not encourage the diversity of ideas.  They are narrow-minded in scope.  They do not accept change.  I am too busy to waste any time on you.

And so I continue to smile and be cordial.  I strive to remain consistent and transparent; open to new encounters and diverse perspectives.   I am relying on my intuition; the bodily cues of the subconscious that relay more information than facts.  As I read Malcolm Gladwell’s, Blink, I too must learn to trust first impressions made in a blink of an eye.   I no longer yearn to fit in.  My only prerequisite is to be happy with my choices and to know that they represent the values and experiences that embody who I am.

It is only in finding happiness within myself that I can let the petty stuff go.  When I choose to be authentic, I am the best that I can ever be.  I. am.  ME.

I have been blessed with many friends from all walks of life; the ones who appreciate my quirks and quinky-dinks.  Each person brings a unique quality to my journey, contributing new possibilities to my widening view.  It is easy to smile and say Hello.  To look up from the road in front of you (tunnel vision) to wave (yes, I am guilty).  When you stop considering what the world can do for you and think of what you can do for the world life becomes a better place.  I need to plant my happy seeds and hope they will grow.  I am a flower, after all.  I am clipping off the thorns and reaching for the warmth of the sun.  My stalk is tough and I take it all in stride.  I’m finally growing up.

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Happy Earth Day.  Give and live to your fullest.

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ducks and egos

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As I was drafting an email, at work, the hubs sat beside me.  It has only taken me five years to arrive at the same conclusion he shared in 2010.  He always sees the long view.  I wished my father could have met him; this man who seems to know me better than I know myself.

I see ego rear itself once again.  It is this that I work very hard to let go.

I have come to realize that my ego gets in the way of seeing who I really am.  It is defined by the company I keep, the things I am doing or wearing, the titles and certificates and perfect family.  Ego does a great job of masking the insecurity beneath, the lack of faith I had with religion and people.  Ego does a great job of masking myself.

Words used to bind me, blind me and bury me with guilt.  I can finally type and speak them.  No longer do they cling to my mind, heart and skin.  Instead I filter,  sort and allow them to slide off like water off a duck’s back.  It was during camping, two summers ago, that critical remarks bothered me and hindered any enjoyment on a week long extended family trip.  I had walked away and stared at the ducks swimming in the river, while the angry tears and resentment swirled within.  It is this idiom’s visual that always brings me perspective.

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I re-read the words and sent my email.  I am always amazed how a simple, innocent question can be taken in ways unimagined.  And so, I authentically respond to the words unspoken; reading between the lines.  It isn’t what people say that reveals true character.  It is in reading between the lines, watching body language and actions that allow transparency; something very difficult to discern in black and white email.

I used to be the person that loved a good debate; sparking conversations that were meant to question or stir the pot.  I enjoyed word play and finding hidden meanings beneath.  But these days I appreciate transparency.  Words are often misread and misconstrued and often feelings are hurt.  I have found that people, myself included, choose to withdraw than to do the work to make things clear.  It was in this process that I discovered those who debated the details and missed the long view and those who glossed over the minutiae and chose the long view.

I choose to take the long view.  To accept saying and receiving the words; the good and the bad, to invest in the future.  When egos are set aside it is the ones who reveal their true characters that come out ahead.   It has been humbling to realize how gracious people are and how wrong and judgmental I, too, can be.  But I work to fix those things; swimming upstream against the current to get it right.

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I am getting my ducks-in-a-row.  To filter and organize through all aspects of my life to discover where I am and to find ways to grow and progress.

I consider the things that I admire or inspire.  Music, books, deep conversations with people.  The band director who motivates two-hundred high schoolers, the authors that make me question the status quo, the walks and conversations with friends about mortality, religion and relationships.  The hugs and love of children and hubs, who love me; full-moon yelling, ruffled feathers and all.

I must set aside the ego that demands reciprocity.  The one that refuses to accept anything less than I can offer.  The judgmental one.  What matters to me most is not something tangible, like the wood floors I covet, the twenty-year old body I will never realistically attain or the most perfect children.  It is in knowing my purpose, in not being stagnant, in offering a legacy (primarily to my children).  I have a high moral standard.  I want my kids to be authentic, contributing and humble members of society; offering love and kindness to all.   This morning I realized, I had low tolerance for those who do not think this way.  Just because I am transparent with who I am doesn’t mean I am accepting of who others are.

I strive to progress; to open the stop gap that has kept me stagnant for five years.  I must let this ego of reciprocity and judgment go.

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Those who truly inspire me take hard risks and put themselves out there.  They don’t take the harder stance when it is convenient; they choose to do it each and every day.  An inspiring person works with adverse conditions and makes others want to work for them; creating lemonade out of lemons.  Inspiring people have purpose and know, not imagine or dream, but know that the result is attainable.   And if the result doesn’t happen, they take the blame.  But most importantly, those who inspire don’t do this for recognition.  They do things humbly.  Why?  Because it has personal meaning for them.  It gives them a sense of contribution; of self-worth.

I aspire for these things, not for others to follow my lead, but for myself to motivate each and every day.  To step out into the cold dark at 5:23 AM when I’d rather pull the blankets over my head.  To reply to the email, not to place blame or explain my position, but to affirm and acknowledge.  I cannot control how others react to my actions.  I cannot let my ego get the best of me, to be right.  I can only try my best to be authentic and transparent every day and hope that others will accept and acknowledge who I am.  I hug the baffled hubs as he walks through the office; having no idea where my mind has went.  I am grateful for this break-through and I allow him to tell me, I told you so. 

I flail upstream out of my walls and comfort zone; to not go with the flow and to take the long view.  The idioms carry me as I get my ducks in a row and let the ego flow up and over, like water off a duck’s back.  Progress.

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own it

Dance & Sing ’89!

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When my girlfriend asked me to join her for a hike, I envisioned a hot, dusty trail; the sun beating on my back.  I placed the cap upon my head, wrapped my hoodie around my waist and packed the ice water in my Jansport backpack.  I had slept lightly the night before but I knew a hike early in the morning would refresh my senses and clear my mind of the worries lurking beneath the surface.

I promptly walked through her front door and my girlfriend asked if I had brought a heavier jacket.  She was afraid I would be cold.  It was then that I took note of our fellow hiker; dressed in Patagonia cold gear pants, the heavy duty jacket and backpack and hiking poles.  It was determined that I would return home to quickly change into more weather appropriate clothes.  During the short five minute drive to my home I contemplated bailing from this excursion.   It was not what I had had in mind on this leisurely morning.

just. like. life.

I fought the train of thought of canceling on this hike.  I reminded myself that I wanted to step outside of my four walls to the world beyond.  To open my eyes to new adventures and opportunities.  To fight the inner dialogue of excuses and I can’ts and nos.  I am fortunate to have choices to make.

I can.  I will.  I do.

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Two hours later, as I hiked a series of steep switchbacks, I began to still my thoughts.  Initially I took the hills quickly; wanting to get them over with.  But the hill continued to climb with no plateau or respite in sight.  I shared with the girls how my heart raced and they admonished me to keep it slow and steady.  There was no rush.  I had nothing to prove.  I had to remember the altitude.  Rushing to the destination isn’t the point of hiking.  It is enjoying the scenery, breathing the cold, dry air and tuning the senses to the sights and sounds of the mountain.

I began to internally hum Ravel’s Bolero; walking steadily to the tempo of this classical piece.  Breathe in.  Breathe out.  I blocked out all else. 

There is no greater joy than conquering your own internal fears and negative inner monologue.  I found my second wind; toasty and warm as we came upon the designated clearing.  It was liberating to finally push myself out of my comfort zone.  It took perseverance and mental work.  But knowing I can is the take away from my hike.  I  hugged the feeling of accomplishment to myself.  I own it.

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I have come to a place where I must own my place in this space.  To carefully step past the boulders placed on my path and step out of the rat race.  I can walk anywhere if taken at a slow and steady pace.

A year-and-a- half later we have finally taken the steps to formally take ownership of the family business that has survived almost twenty-seven years.   After transitioning from the world of active duty  military service and a steady paycheck, we had ventured into the great unknown.  A recessed economy.  Our niche as a small business custom manufacturer was hit hard as large corporations and LLCs began to close their doors; losing business overseas.

Thankfully, we are not one of them.

But the thought is never far from the hubs and I’s mind; the worst case scenario.  We weighed the balance between four more years of hardship deployments and how it would affect our three sons.  The hubs felt his time was running out with his boys; the ones who barely saw him.  He made the conscious choice to choose family and take the financial hit.  His father was ready for retirement and his rheumatoid arthritis (RA) wasn’t improving.  Manual and physical labor is not kind to those with RA.  He looked to his son to continue what he started.

Neither of us wanted to own it.

The transition almost, literally, killed the hubs.  It is easy to drown your sorrow and stress holding your breath behind closed walls.  To numb the anger, stress and worry with substances or addictive behaviors.  To close doors and build walls and let the darkness swallow you whole.  I lost my ability to find things good.  We all did.

But these days I have found my internal music…the steady beats and rhythms that remind me why I am here.  The above video is on repeat in my car stereo.  My sons know that, within the confines of my car or home, if there is a song that I like; I crank up the volume and shake it!  LOUD!  In their younger years they would dance with me; holding my hands and twirling about and laughing.  It was recently at my cousin’s wedding that they danced with me, once again.  It had been years.

My boys caught me trying to learn Eden xo’s dance moves in her tutorial video.  O.M.G. Mom!  Seriously?  I come from an extended family that LOVES to dance.  And I am married to a man who would rather be a wallflower than be on a loud, pulsing dance floor.

The slogan, “Dance & Sing ’89” was on my car’s license frame during my junior and senior years of high school; acknowledgment of my participation in songleading and band.  It reminded me of a place outside my home where, within its four walls, my father was slowly dying of colon cancer.  I consciously looked at the license frame each day to remember to move forward; to push towards the future.  It was the wish my father had wanted; in stark contrast to the dark and lonely places at home.   Recently, while digging through old albums I found the yearbook photo (above) that my girlfriend had taken during a varsity football game.  In yearbooks I signed and penned my license frame slogan; belying the dark sadness that always resided in my heart and mind.

Life moves in forward motion.  Papers are filed, accounts close and open.  The hubs has finally completed his remaining military years in the reserves for retirement.  Twenty.  The  business is ours.  New opportunities and failures lurk around the next corner; unseen.  But I need to continue to step out; to be able to discover these things for myself.  I need to dance to my own music and fully reside in the present life that I live.

I have only one life.  This is it.

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I crank the bass and feel it thump.  I am the lone person upstairs and the floor is vibrating with energy.  I fasten my attention to the music in my soul.  Some days the notes clash and are disharmonious but my composition is already written.  Now I just need to push forward to the next bar.  I still can create a masterpiece.  I move forward to my slow and steady beat and own it.