I posted this to my photography blog today. Thought I’d share it here too for folks who haven’t seen that blog.
Originally posted on A Long, Slow Stroll Around the World:
Somewhere back in late 2006 or early 2007 I had the good fortune to have someone send me a mix CD of music that would one day change my life. It didn’t hit right away, as I had put out a call for new music and had received a LOT of it. I worked my way through MP3s and CDs and even cassette tapes, picking out voices, sounds. And then I came to this one.
Out of the 12 or so songs on the CD, only one of them was destined to change everything. It was a simple, live recording of a man with a guitar, his voice a little rough but with a quality that told me it wasn’t always like that, the song different enough to grab my attention, lyrics that stayed with me even after just one listen. It was called, “Pinata Novia.”
I eventually found out…
View original 4,759 more words
I was in the post office on my lunch break to send out some books. While standing in line because there was only one person working the counter, I overheard two men in business suits behind me griping about their morning BART commute.
These two men were late twenties, possibly early thirties, well dressed and well groomed. They looked like nice young men.
The taller of the two was complaining because he was made to feel guilty by other people on the car and relinquish his seat (the ones supposed to be reserved for handicapped and pregnant women) when three women got on. In his own words, the train was packed. He’d gotten on the train in Fremont, so he was lucky, he had his pick of seats. “I always sit by the door so I can get out before all the slow idiots can get in the way,” he said.
He went on to tell his buddy that these three fat chicks on crutches get on and all of a sudden everyone is telling him to get up and let them sit down. He wasn’t going to, he said, but people were getting angry. So, gave up the seat and went to stand by the door.
“They should have a rule like the do with bikes,” the buddy said. “You know, you can’t get on a crowded car if you have like a wheelchair or too much luggage or crutches and canes and shit.”
Now, by this point, I was a little perturbed. As a fat chick who is sometimes in need of a cane, and who can stand on the train, but it will mean back pain for days, and someone who has asked an able bodied young man to give up his seat for me, I was exactly the person they were talking about.
I probably would have let it go and not said anything, but then the tall one said, “I know. This one got off at my stop and couldn’t even walk right. Bitch blocked the whole escalator. Screamed like a crazy person when her crutches got hit by some hot chick’s suitcase.” And they both laughed.
By this point other people in line were acting uncomfortable. I knew I shouldn’t even open my mouth, but I was furious. I turned and very quietly said, “I hope that you never find yourself permanently injured and at the mercy of someone like you for the very small kindness of a seat on a train. I am willing to bet any one of those women on crutches would gladly give up their injury and stand so that your able, strong body could continue to exhibit the laziness of someone who has never had to really work. And while I’m at it, I hope that sugar-laden coffee and fat-soaked donut in your hand don’t settle around your waist to be joined by all the rest of bad food choices you’ve made in your life turning you into a fat asshole that young lazy assholes like you make fun of because of their own insecurity.”
They both stared at me for a second. The tall one called me fat bitch. I smiled. “Yes, I am fat and I can be a bitch. But I’m okay with that, and I don’t need or want your opinion of how I look.”
At which point, it was my turn to go to the counter and mail my packages. I doubt they’ll learn anything by my diatribe. But maybe….just maybe….
Words have power, they have meaning. Of course today they don’t seem to pack the same punch. We have become careless with our words, both in how we use them to communicate to the world around us and with how we use them internally.
I am most conscious of this fact when I am writing poetry, when I labor over every word, every syllable for meaning, for sound, for effect. More and more often however, I am aware of this failure in my daily conversations and interactions online.
The careless way we toss around negativity and disparaging comments on everything from our own appearance to the intelligence or beauty of another is appalling. In some cases, it’s even considered funny, and I’ll own up to the fact that with some of my best friends our biggest laughs come from putting each other down…but more and more recently, I’ve seen that no matter how funny it is, no matter how much we laugh, no matter how much we tell ourselves that the other person knows we’re joking…something sticks.
It gets in the cracks and sits. It festers. It grows. And most of the time we aren’t even aware of it.
I’m not a big fan of new year’s resolutions, but I think in the coming months I’m going to challenge myself to eliminate the frivolous use of powerful words…words like “hate” and “huge” and “disgust” and “fail”. They are all words that have a meaning and I need to go back to using them as they are meant, not as though they are just throw away words that don’t have the capacity to sting when they’re thrown carelessly at someone.
Which means it’s time to remove phrases like “I hate when that happens” over something little and “I fail at everything” when in reality I’ve only failed to accomplish one, usually very minor, thing.
Words have power. And we need to remember that. We need to respect that. And we need to respect each other. I challenge you to do the same, eliminate the frivolous use of powerful words in the coming year. Start with the word “hate”…don’t stop using it, just use it properly. You might be surprised to find you feel happier and you “hate” things less than you thought you did.
This has been an incredibly good year for me. Sure, I got laid off back in the spring, but it was maybe the best thing that could have happened at the time that it did. I got a month off, more or less on my old employer…and I found an amazing job that I love with people I adore doing things that I enjoy.
I traveled. A lot. There were trips to Los Angeles and Phoenix, to Dallas and England.
There was music. Oh, yes. There was music. Old favorites and new surprises. A taste of country and a little soul, some classic rock and some modern jazz. I got to meet some amazing musicians again this year, and got to know a few I’d met before just a little bit better.
There were friends. So many friends, some I’ve known for years, some I just feel like I’ve known for years…and some I’ve only just begun to get to know. This world has become such an incredibly small place, and yet is so vast and the distance so great that it can be overwhelming at times. If I could will any sci-fi contraption into existence, it would be a Star Trek transporter, or the beaming device that SG1 got from the Asgard…that way I could visit my friends whenever I wanted…and without the $1600 price tag for the airfare.
My health has been up and down…but a lot more up than down. I have a new doctor I adore and a new med plan that seems to be doing the trick.
Creatively, I’ve grown a lot as well. I’ve learned some new photography tricks. I’ve improved my crochet technique. I’ve stretched my writing muscles.
All in all, I have to say that 2013 has been a good year for me. I realize that hasn’t been true for everyone. I realize that some of you can’t wait for this year to end and hold tight to the notion that 2014 will be better.
Here’s the thing…2014 will be better…but not if all you do is hope for it. Better comes with a price. It comes with choices, with work, with intent. I have a little secret for you. Scoot a little closer and read carefully.
See, there will always be things outside of your control. There will be lay offs and accidents. There will be loss. There will be illness and disease and arguments with friends and family. But, these things do not completely define you, or the year they happen in. You do. Sure, it can be overwhelming. It can be too much. I know this.
However, I challenge you today to remember that magic isn’t magic. I challenge you to choose to make your life a better place.
How, you may ask?
It isn’t easy, but it starts with choice. Pick something that is within your control, something that is not currently making you happy. It can be something small. Choose to change it. Choose to make it something that makes you happy. I’m not saying that first choice has to be life altering. It isn’t about the size of the change…it’s about how the change makes you feel.
Once you’ve done that, live with it a while, let the happiness of that one thing expand. Let it guide you to the next thing that needs to change to make that happiness grow.
Sometimes those things are big and life altering. Sometimes they’re painful…and sometimes you may think that the pain is too much.
It takes time. It takes getting to know yourself well. I recommend sitting with yourself for a few minutes every night before you sleep or every morning when you wake to do a little inventory of what makes you happy and what contributes to your unhappiness. It takes planning sometimes. It takes work.
But I’m living proof of making it work. You’ve got a few days before this year ends, and I’m not a big fan of new year’s resolutions…but maybe this is the year you resolve to be happy. I can get behind that.
So it is, with hope in my heart and love filling my life to overflowing that I wish you and your family and friends a joyous holiday (whichever holiday you celebrate) and a new year filled with possibility.
It’s that time of year when thoughts turn to charitable giving and helping others. Yeah, I know, we should think about these things year round…and some of us do…but for whatever reason, this is the time of year it seems to be the most prevalent.
Unfortunately for many of us, it is also the time of year we are least likely to have extra money laying around. So…I thought I’d offer a few ideas that are free or cheap, and a few that maybe cost a little bit more….
1) Volunteer to baby sit for a single parent. Whether it’s while they work that double shift at Walmart or while they go grocery shopping, knowing that their child is safe and occupied (take them to a movie, teach them a craft, help them with homework) is a welcome gift during the crazy time of year.
2) Volunteer a few hours at the local food bank or soup kitchen.
3) Clean up a neighborhood park.
4) Organize a community food drive where you live or work.
5) Donate knitted/crocheted/otherwise crafted hats, mittens, scarves, blankets to homeless shelters. Or to the homeless on your streets.
6) Hold a door for someone struggling with bags, kids, strollers, wheelchairs, etc.
7) Know someone struggling financially this season? Make them dinner. It doesn’t have to be fancy. It doesn’t have to be “charity”. Just, “Hey, why don’t you and your husband come for dinner tonight.”
8) Know someone struggling emotionally this season? Visit them. Hug them. Talk to them. Sit with them in silence and hold their hand.
9) Live or work somewhere with a high homeless population? Pick up a package or two (or ten) of new socks and offer them when you pass someone living on the street. Warmth is hard to come by out there, and feet often bear the brunt of it.
10) Doing some holiday baking? Make a little extra of everything and put together boxes to drop off at police stations, fire stations, shelters, etc. Although, this is easier to do if you already have a rapport with folks at the location. People can be wary of home made goods.
11) Got a little more money to work with? Surprise a struggling neighbor or family member by paying their gas or electric bill. This can sometimes take work, but generally with the name on the account and the address, you can pay a bill that isn’t yours.
12) Or, pick up $10, $20, $25 gift cards for your local grocery store to hand to homeless folks. A stack of $5 Starbucks cards make for easy tips to harried waitstaff (on top of your tip).
13) Have multicultural friends who maybe don’t celebrate the same holidays or come from very diverse backgrounds? Host a pot luck and ask each person to bring a traditional dish that their family might have served at a celebratory winter meal and a note card explaining what it is, what culture it’s from, etc.
14) Know a kid or teenager that dreams of being a writer or an artist or a singer or an athlete? Give them a gift that speaks to that dream…a refurbished laptop, re-purposed tools, a used instrument, repaired sporting equipment. Perhaps the most meaningful gift I’ve ever been given was a refurbished typewriter when I was fifteen. Someone found it in the church basement and had it cleaned up, repaired and it was under my tree Christmas morning.
It doesn’t take a lot of money, just a little thought. It’s important to consider the person you are gifting to and give them something meaningful to them, something they can use, something that won’t end up costing them more money to use. Let’s face it, if you give someone a ten dollar gift card to someplace like Sears or JC Penneys, they’re going to need to spend money to make use of it. That same ten dollars at a grocery store can get them food or toothpaste or toilet paper.
It’s the dark time of the year, when the nights are long and the days short. A little spot of light carries a long, long way…