Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Black Eyed Peas - Don't Lie

The Plan II

I stopped taking piano lessons, and even my creative energies lay dormant. Eventually I came out of the depression and was back to normal, and spent that summer working hard at my pizza delivery job, and having just been accepted to a university in another city, was excited about the upcoming fall.

Going away to school for three years was like a fresh start for me, such a fresh start, in fact, that I had forgotten about piano and songwriting entirely. I had no specific plans or goals. Much like with my piano lessons, I struggled to stay focused on my classes and studying. Women were constantly distracting me. There were just so many of them, and they were everywhere I looked and everywhere I went. There were also lots of interesting people in general, guys and girls.

My curiosity would soon lead me to discover my incredible social abilities. Immediately after moving into my dorm that first fall, I felt compelled to explore humanity, to meet people, and have experiences. I didn’t know anyone except for my roommate, but that wouldn’t last long.

My first Friday night in this new town, I drove in my car up the hill from my dorm to an apartment complex that I had heard was good for parties. No one had invited me over there. I invited myself. I remember parking my car, getting out, and walking around looking for any kind of party or social gathering of people. I noticed a few small parties carrying on, and I’m not exactly sure what I was expecting to happen, as I stood there looking around. I spent that night walking around the massive grassy interior of the apartments, observing, before driving back to my dorm.

Sometimes you have to get your feet wet before you jump in the water. After that first night, it was easy. I simply carried the frame of reality that I was the most important guy in town, and I was welcome anywhere and everywhere, and that it was mandatory for everyone to meet me, so if there was a party, then I was supposed to be there. If you’re reality is strong enough, people will accept it.

When I returned to the apartments the following weekend, there was a bit more excitement and I decided to attempt my first party. It was easy. I walked by and started talking to a couple guys drinking on their patio on the ground floor, and soon they invited me in, where I was able to meet everyone else. Once everyone got comfortable with me, I just made myself at home. The place was so nice and clean! It felt oddly normal to be in a home with strangers. Well, normal until I got too relaxed and zoned out, while the conversations in the room became inside conversations for the people who knew each other. I had good social intuition, so I knew when it was time to leave before anything got awkward.

I walked to another apartment building, and this time just started talking to a couple girls on their second floor patio. Without even asking about the party or even introducing myself, I started walking toward the staircase as if I was already a guest and was just returning. There was a small cluster of people around the bottom of the staircase, and also at the top around the front door. I just started talking to people, gravitating to those who were the most social or the most comfortable, as they were the key to getting in. I avoided talking about myself or the party. I just started talking as if I had known them for years, and, once again, I got invited in. It felt just like the other party. I didn’t ask any questions or make reference to myself. I made myself at home, and some girls began to entertain me with questions, not because they were suspicious of me, but because they were just interested in the new shiny object in the room.

I decided that party crashing was a finesse art, and the smaller the party, the more difficult it was to crash, with the exception of fraternity parties. Most guys would knock on doors and try to make up names of people they knew, or if they did manage to sneak in, would immediately rush to the beer keg and think they had conquered the party. I always felt that to be rude and disrespectful. I wouldn’t take any food or drinks from a party unless it was either offered to me, or until my presence was accepted, and I felt I was part of the group and could pour myself a cup. During my first couple of years in town, I saw plenty of guys get turned away from parties at the door, but it never happened to me, because I was a social warrior. I never once got turned away or asked to leave. I’m not sure what motivated me to explore humanity in this way. Was I just after girls? Was I looking to make friends? Was I trying to take small risks? Was I trying to hone my social skills by throwing myself right into social gatherings? Did I just enjoy seeing where the night would take me after I maneuvered my way into a party? Who knew, maybe it was a little of all those things.

After a while, as I began to meet more and more interesting people around town, I would either get invited to a party directly or just hear someone talk about or mention one coming up that night or that weekend. For some reason, those tended to be large parties at some old house somewhere in town with a single blob of people congregating around a trashcan with a keg in it.
During the fall of my last year before graduating, I took a voice class in the music building. There were all these little practice rooms with pianos in them! How great it felt to have access to a piano! All this time exploring college life I had forgotten about my greatest passion and the album I had composed. I took time either before or after class to mess around on the pianos in the practice rooms, and I even wrote a few new songs! I graduated college in the spring of 2004 with my major in English and minor in Communications.

I must have been ready for a change, because my parents wanted to move me back to Houston literally the day after my graduation ceremony, and I had no objection to it. The college life was over. So now what?

My life was up in the air. It could have gone in a number of directions at that point. I kept busy and focused that first week after moving back in with my family. I decided I wanted to continue my education with some kind of graduate program at University of Houston, where both of my parents went. I visited the campus one day and looked into several programs. I also searched for jobs online and came across a telephone interviewing position, which was something I had recently done in my summers at college, so I was looking for that kind of work specifically. I applied for the job and within a couple weeks, I was working part time. I also chose a graduate program, applied for it, and was accepted for that fall. I chose Public Administration (MPA) for no other reason than because I felt like it would lead to high paying jobs and because fewer people study it than, say, business administration.

My parents were no longer paying for my schooling, so financially, I was on my own with this. With a new job and graduate school in the fall, I was feeling very comfortable. The feeling didn’t last for too long. After a couple semesters of graduate school, my interest in the program dwindled, and I kept going only because of my natural determination to finish things I start. I wasn’t putting my whole effort and focus into school.

All I really cared about was going out at night to bars and clubs. It was something I enjoyed and always will enjoy. It’s who I am. I’m a social warrior. I love public gatherings, meeting people, being around strangers, and seeing where the night takes me.

One night in 2005, I was visiting a bar with live music, and I stopped to talk to a girl sitting with her friends on the patio. She asked me what I did, and I told her that I was a student in a graduate program studying public administration. I must have not sounded too enthusiastic about it, because she told me that I seemed to be afraid to just jump in the water and go after what I want in life. I’ll never forget what she said. It really got me thinking.

I continued with my graduate program, and I honestly enjoyed the classes, but I didn’t seem to have the focus I had when I started, and I didn’t have a clear direction or idea of what I wanted out of this degree. I was sick of living at home with my parents. Saving money to pay for school is nice, but I was in my mid twenties and didn’t know how much longer I could tolerate this living situation. I’m very close with my family and love them all very much, but living with them at this age was starting to get to me. I remember when I was 20 and going through the depression right before moving away to college. I was feeling miserable living at home even back then. I don’t why I thought living there for three years after college would be any different. Both my work and classes were in the evenings, so during the day, I didn’t do much but sleep in and waste time. I sat around and watched television, while my mother would have friends and neighbors come by to visit during the early afternoon. I felt uncomfortable and slightly embarrassed. They probably thought I was a loser or something.

One day I thought to myself, what am I doing here? What am I doing with my life? The only thing that stayed consistently pleasant was my interviewing job. I enjoyed going to work, and liked what I did and the people I worked with. I’m a people person, after all.

So I’m spending my mid-twenties pursuing this intangible thing with no ambition carrying it. Living at home is starting to become unbearable. What began as a focused post-college plan was now turning into a pretty boring life. I just wanted to go out and interact with people at bars and other social gatherings.

My grades in school began to reflect my evaporating passion for this graduate program. Nonetheless, six semesters into it, I stuck with it, only because I’m a finisher, and I’m always determined to finish what I start. I guess I thought that I could coast through the program, because I was hit with a rude awakening when I found out that because of the school’s grade policy, I could no longer register for classes. You are only allowed so many grades below a “B”. I was so close to finishing! When I thought about quitting the program, it gave me an enormous sense of relief and happiness.

I didn’t get the same feeling after being notified that I was blocked from further registration. I wanted it to be on my terms, not theirs. I petitioned the department to let me back in, and when that didn’t work out, I went through a grievance process, which took a good number of months and quite a few trips to campus to meet with people and discuss my case. I spent a lot of time putting together a case with written documents and coursework evidence for why I felt like I was put in an unfair position. I tried to present the best case I possibly could, but in the back of my mind I had doubts about getting back in. At this point, I didn’t even care about having the degree. I just wanted to finish what I put so much time and money into. After the school’s decision was upheld at every stage all the way to the highest level of my grievance procedure, I had to accept reality. There was nothing left that I could do. My strong will and determination can be either a strength or weakness, and in this case, I felt like it caused me to waste too much time with the grievance when I could have just moved on with my life.

I remember what the girl at the bar told me about being afraid to jump into life. She could see in me that there was no passion for this graduate program. Maybe it was a good thing that this experience didn’t culminate in a master’s degree. Maybe I didn’t deserve it. Maybe it would have lead to a career where my greatest gifts, passions, and talents wouldn’t be able to shine. So this was not failure, but a learning experience. And I received some valuable education along the way. I’m proficient in SPSS statistics and Excel spreadsheet software, and maybe I can still use this practical knowledge at some point. If only it hadn’t taken me so long to see the positive side to all this.

if you’re reality is strong enough, people will accept it.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

A Tribe called quest - check the rhime

Los Lonely Boys- Heaven with lyrics

Ray LaMontagne Trouble

The Plan I

Throughout my life, I never really took control. I let my comfortable middle-class upbringing set the course with my parents leading the way, and I merely coasted along within that life framework, never daring to live outside the box, although always thinking outside the box! I was very introverted and self-absorbed, and the real world around me was simply secondary entertainment, a visual background, or a dream-world that I could wander through. I started off my first couple years of life as a prodigy. I was talking to adults in normal conversation before the age of 2, and reading children’s books by the age of 3. I soon discovered how to be social this curtailed my prodigious start to life, and by age 4, I was just another smart kid. Oh well. After a few years of talking to anyone and everyone all the time, I became extremely quiet and withdrawn, constantly reading a book or holding onto a book wherever I went. I had a close-knit loving family, in which I was raised well and with plenty of care and attention, but there was a missing vulnerability, tangibility, and toughness in my life growing up that I feel set the stage for my being a late bloomer in many aspects. Not to mention, I was born on February 1st of 1981, a birth date characterized by floundering around.

I was always able to skate across the surface of life and just go with the flow of things. Everything was easy-breezy. I just let my intuition and family guide me through my days growing up. I’d probably have never had a care or worry in the world if not for my aloofness, a trait I feel was given to me to remind me that I was human. At the age of 5, I got on the wrong school bus after school let out, but I wasn’t lost for too long, because the bus’s route wasn’t too much different from my assigned bus, so my parents were able to find me pretty easily. I was pretty frightened, however. I mean, seriously, when you’re only five, it’s a big deal to make that kind of mistake. A few years later, while I was staying at a summer day-care center, the kids were being entertained by one of those giant inflatable moonwalk castles. I took a break from jumping and bouncing around, and decided to lean over the edge of this moonwalk to see how high above the ground I was. In just a moment later, I got to feel how high when another day-care kid ran into the side of the moonwalk and bounced on it, sending me flying over the edge. I don’t remember feeling any pain as I hit the ground, but this time, my aloofness left me with a broken collar bone. After visiting the doctor, they had me wearing what appeared like football shoulder pads until my collar bone healed. My aloofness even followed me into my college years. I was driving back to my college town after visiting my parents in Houston for the weekend. It was a beautiful sunny day, and I was enjoying listening to a cd in the car. I was in a highly pleasant emotional state… a natural high… like riding on a personal cloud across the highway. I should have been paying attention when I started to pass the other cars, one after the other, watching them fall quickly into my rear view, as if they weren’t even moving. The other cars kept slowing down. Or maybe I was just speeding up. I wasn’t even aware that my foot was pressing down on the pedal. As I began to move downhill across the rolling terrain, my eye finally caught the speedometer and saw it hovering somewhere between 95-100 mph! The speed limit was 70. Not even a few seconds later, I awoke from my daydream state to see a highway patrol car do one of those crazy u-turns that you only see in the movies and drive across the grassy median over to my side of the highway. Maybe it’s just a coincidence, I thought, or maybe not, I thought soon thereafter, as the patrol car pulled up behind me and the flashing lights came on.

There was also the time at college when I left my brand new mountain bike outside chained to the bike rack over spring break. I may as well have just given it away to some bike thieves. I left my dorm, and drove back to Houston for the break to stay with my family. By the time I realized my mistake, I was already in the Houston area, and it was too late to turn back around. A week later, when I returned to school, my bike was nowhere to be found. I searched every bike rack around the dorm at least several times, and then contacted the school police, na├»ve to think that they’d actually be able to get it back for me.

Being aloof meant that my mind had a clear tendency and desire to stray from the present reality. It is actually in the future that my mind naturally travels. So when I discovered my ability to anticipate things and my tendency to see or hear words and phrases right after thinking about them, it just felt normal. These traits really began to flourish in my young adulthood, but my most impressive display of my clairvoyant ability came at the age of 9. It was the summer before 4th grade, and I wanted a dog. Not just any dog, but a beagle. I read every book I could find on beagles in the library, and even read about them in encyclopedias. I was somewhat interested in other dogs too, but absolutely drawn to the beagle. It just seemed like the perfect dog for me, but I wasn’t exactly sure why. As my passion for getting a beagle grew, I began to discuss it with my mother, and I even wrote a brief poem about my beagle imagining that I had one already. We never had to go out and look for one, because just a few days after writing the poem, my beagle came to me! I was enjoying my day outside the front of the house when I noticed a dog coming in my direction from the start of my cul-de-sac street. Then I began to make out the coloration: brown, black, and white. It was not just a dog, but a beagle! He trotted happily with a sense of purpose even as he seemed to be aimlessly wandering or journeying. I was able to coax him into my backyard, and at that moment, I just felt like I had found a lost dog, but after a while, it felt like he belonged there with us, like he was ours. We kept him that day and overnight, and we put up signs, but no one ever called or came to our house to claim him. To this day I still do not know where he came from. Was he sent to us from Heaven? I remember how we couldn’t think of a good name for him. We told my uncle about how we found a beagle that day, and how he was just boogying down the street. So my uncle suggested that we name him “Boogie”. And so without even a thought, that became his name, Boogie the beagle. He became more than just a pet. He was part of our family, and a blessing and joy in my life from my childhood to adulthood.

Another joy in my life, music, began at age 8 that would become an outlet for my creative energy. I started taking piano lessons from a neighbor down the street. In exchange for the lessons, my mother tutored her son. With this agreement working out nicely, I took lessons for five years or so, and performing in recitals a couple times a year to showcase what I’d learned. After we moved when I was 14, I studied from another teacher, also down the street from me. Around this same time, I was also playing trumpet in the high school band, which took up a great deal of my time, so I put the piano lessons on hold. I have fond memories of my time in the high school band, one of which being a halftime show performance at Texas Stadium in Dallas when our team advanced deep into the playoffs. Getting to perform on the same field that the Cowboys played football was exciting! After high school, my interest in the trumpet faded, but my passion for music, especially creating music, continued to grow. In my second year of college, at age 19 nearing 20, I decided to study piano again from my original childhood teacher.

Around this same time, I also began to compose songs on the piano, with a sound and style quite different from anything I’d ever learned in lessons. Focusing on my weekly practice assignments was a struggle, because I was so immersed in my own songwriting and this new heavy staccato sound I was creating. Even during lessons, I was only halfway focused, because my desire to create was overtaking my desire to learn. I was using the piano as my personal tool for self-expression. There was always music playing in my head, and although I was truly creating that music, it felt more like I was just hearing it. The creating was effortless. My mind just had this ability to transfer my inner emotions, positive, negative, and transcendent, directly into musical form. I was always on the piano at home, but my practice assignments took a backseat to my newfound passion for songwriting. I just had so many pieces of song material in my head, at times overflowing, so sitting down at the piano to transfer that music onto the keys was a necessity, lest it be forgotten forever.

My music could be characterized as classical and dream-like, with heavy staccato chords and playing style, and altogether raw emotion. I made the strongest music ideas into songs, and when I had enough songs written, I decided to record an album, because I could only keep the music in my head for so long. One of my high school classmates was into audio recording, so I had him come over and do a raw recording at my house, all in one long take. I wanted it to be that way. It would, to this day, be one of my greatest accomplishments.

As a side accomplishment to that, I transcribed one of my songs in musical notation onto paper by hand, with the help of my teacher. The feeling of completing the record was joyous, but the songs themselves were somber and melancholy, directly revealing my emotional state at the time. I had been in the early stages of depression for months, during which many of the songs were written, and soon after the recording, I fell into a full depression that reached its deepest point about a month after I had turned 20. I remember lying on my bed one afternoon, completely resigned to death. I lay there waiting to die, but just as I thought I had truly passed on to the other side, I felt like God was not ready for me to go yet, and I felt the voice of God saying “no, not yet, not just yet.” ...

“no, not yet, not just yet.”

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Finding of Home

My story begins January 31, 1970 at Darnell Army Community Hospital at 8:02 a.m. This was the date and time that I made my arrival in this world. Who would have ever known things would play out the way that they did. This is how the story goes…

Upon being born there were already some circumstances that were going to be issues. My name at birth was Baby Boy Luckey. I know that this seems far fetched, but you will see as you read why I was given this name. The hospital staff gave me this name because my biological mother’s married name was Luckey. According to a court investigator’s report, (that took me over twenty years to see), my mother supposedly gave birth to me and walked out of the hospital leaving me behind.

She was given an ultimatum by her husband - either lose me or lose him. Because she had no family and no way of supporting me and the son that she already had, she decided to allow the state to take control. I became a ward of the state and was put up for adoption. My name was changed from Baby Boy Luckey to Christopher Bloomer after I was adopted by Mr. and Mrs. Bloomer in late February – early March.

You would think that I would have had a happy childhood. Unfortunately I don’t have many found memories of growing up. You see I grew up suffering physical, mental, and verbal abuse. I had an older sister that went through the same thing. In the 70’s there was no C.P.S. to call. If I were to tell about what was going on in the home, things would have gotten worse.

Long story short, I grew up hating my parents, especially my mother. My father would never be around to protect us. He felt that he was better off not being at home. So he would leave early in the morning, return home after work, leave again and not return until late in the evening. The only support I had at home was my sister, Patricia. We were all we had. She was my bridge over troubled water. I knew as long as she was there I would have a glimmer of hope. Reality soon struck like lightning.

Patricia graduated and left home. Patricia joined the military and made a life for herself. Now it was just me.

As a result I wound up getting in a lot of trouble. My parents could no longer deal with me. After being sent to juvenile three different times, I was sent to Abilene, Texas to a psychiatric institute. I was sent there as an alternative to T.Y.C. ( Texas Youth Commission) for behavioral problems. I arrived in Abilene, September 12, 1985 and stayed until January 17, 1987.

I returned to Killeen and enrolled at Ellison High School. I thought that maybe things would be different and for a while they were. But slowly things started changing back to what they once were. I didn’t suffer the physical abuse anymore, but the mental and verbal abuse were present and accounted for.

Allow me to fast forward a bit. From the time I was 18 until I was 37, I searched for me biological parents. It was very difficult because the state required for me to have an attorney to access records that a judge had sealed in 1970.

In 2001, a law was passed that if an adopted child wanted to access his/her records and had just cause as to why they wanted them opened, they could. In late September 2007, I was finally permitted to see what I had waited almost 20 years to see, or so I thought.

I requested and received everything in my file. I was looking for an original birth certificate that showed the names of my biological parents. Needless to say that was not in the file. However, what was in the file was an investigator’s report that detailed all of the events that led up to my adoption. The more I read the madder I got. The report stated that my mother gave birth to me and walked out.

I was enraged at this point. But I am a fair man I wanted to here her side of the story. The report listed her name and I started my search in Texas for a woman with that name.

Within a few days, I found my mother. Initially we spoke over the phone and I was shaking during our brief conversation. It was agreed that we could meet. The bitter/sweet part about all of this was that my mother was in Austin, Texas my whole life and I never knew it. She tried to locate me, but didn’t know my name and I didn’t know hers.

When we met I showed her all of the paperwork that was sent to me. She read it and was sad by what she read. She simply stated that what they wrote about her was untrue. She was forced to give me up by her husband of that time. You see, she had an indiscretion which resulted in me. She was 19 years old at the time. By that time I didn’t care about what had happened then. I could do nothing about it anyway. I told her that I was without her in my life for 37 years and I would not be without her anymore.

That was just half of the battle. I still needed to find my biological father. After much communication with my mother (the one that raised me), she let it slip that my father attended Job Corps. With me being a former Job Corps Student, I knew where all of the Texas campuses were. The only campus he could have attended when I was conceived was Gary Job Corps Center. (By the way, I am also a former Private Investigator which enabled me to find the information that I needed.) I made contact with Gary Job Corps and inquired about my father.

God shined on me and had favor for me that day because they released information to me that I wasn’t supposed to have. All I needed was his name and the state which he was from. IU provided what they requested and they gave me the city in which he came to Job Corps from. I crossed referenced his name with that city and got a hit.

I was able to locate my grandmother (his mother) and my sister ( his daughter). My biological father died in 1999. I never had the opportunity to meet him. I am told that I look just like him. I have even been told that I have a lot of his mannerisms. I am just not as big as he was. All this took place in the summer of 2008. I keep in contact with my family on a regular basis. I was without for 37 and 38 years of my life. I made a vow to both sides that I would never lose contact with them and I have kept my word

I see my biological mother 2-3 times a year. She is still currently in Austin, TX. My grandmother, sister, aunt and uncles reside in and around Clinton, La. I see them at least once a year. I do call down there on a regular basis. They were a little struck when I first made contact with them. They had no idea about me. My dad was just 16 when I was conceived. He went back to Louisiana and had no earthly idea that I even existed. Now I have all I wanted in finding out who I am.

As far as the parents that raised me, my mother is still living. She just turned 80 this past December. My father went on to be with the Lord in June of 2003. I can say this though. My father and I got very close in the mid to late 90’s until his death. I guess the old saying is sometimes people can be like Texas weather. Wait a minute and they will change. Most of them anyway. I give glory to God for that.

wait a minute and it might just change

Monday, April 18, 2011

A Year of 'Tells' Contest!

Send us ( your original inspiring any length story by midnight (CST) 4/25/11, and be entered to win a pdf version of the highly anticipated forthcoming 'only writing guide you will EVER need' Many Genres, One Craft!!!!

Pens Up!

We thank you for this f a b u l o u s year!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

lemon jelly - spacewalk

The Gift

"Anything is one of a million paths. Therefore, a warrior must always keep in mind that a path is only a path; if he feels that he should not follow it, he must not stay with it under any conditions. His decision to keep on that path or to leave it must be free of fear or ambition. He must look at every path closely and deliberately. There is a question that a warrior has to ask, mandatorily: 'Does this path have a heart?'" ~ Carlos Castaneda Quotes from The Teachings of Don Juan

Life is too short. It seems like just yesterday that I was four, living in Maine, lying in the grass on a cool Fall's day, intensely aware of the blue sky above me. Pale, green blades of grass streaked with gold rising above the fur of my hood, rustling gently, the sound of wind and the awareness that I was connected, that I was a part of something I could not define at such a tender age, but which I now recognize in remembrance as Oneness.

Learning to be human, living a Military Brat's life, moving every couple of years, learning to "fit in" as I could, always seeming to be different from even those who were raised in the same world I was. Being malleable, changing personality traits depending upon the company, moving on and leaving souls behind like pages in a book fluttering faster and faster, ripped out by the gale-force winds of changing circumstances, environs, and people.

Ten years old and my Grandpa TC's death. Leaving Crete, Greece early so that my father could go home to attend his father's funeral.

Thirteen years old, lying in my bed at night, feeling an intense and almost indescribable feeling of sacrifice, of being adrift in a sea of potentiality, feeling subsumed, permeated with infinite love, infinite giving, infinite possibility.

Fifteen years old, finding Carlos Casteneda's "The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge" sitting in the reading room of an OBGYN office where I was a Red Cross Volunteer, looking across at someone I still know, who was smiling and couldn't stop staring at my big forehead. I didn't wear afros long, after that.

Sixteen, and my Bigmama's death. Mama's terrible cry in the back bedroom as Daddy and I worked on a Star Trek fold-up game I'd gotten, both of us staring into each other's eyes at the sound and jumping up, running back there, knowing something terrible had happened.

Nineteen years old and in the Army, entering a cavernous space within during Morse code training, eight-hour work days spent immersed, connecting at a deeper level to signs and symbols that seemed so archetypal in nature, that became simplistic, mine to express in an instant, leaving all of my classmates far behind.

Twenty, my Bigdaddy's passing. Being a Pallbearer for the first time, eyes shut in remembrance of our talks, him always asking me who the black people were in the Bible, as if he hadn't found it out himself decades before, but loving to talk, his shining soul pouring from his pale, blue eyes like fine wine from a decanter of pure crystal.

Twenty-two years old and astral-projecting into a tropical sea, surround-perception and awareness of the intense coloration of the corals, the nearby fish that seemed to sense my presence yet felt no fear, drifting around me as if I were another outgrowth of brain coral, just a harmless obstacle to be navigated around.

Immersing myself in the world of experience. Flirting with death and dissolution, seeking solace in the arms of others, the spirits of plants manifest through drugs and alcohol, not needing validation or seeking to fill some interpersonal hole, but experiencing for the sake of the experience itself, because I could, and was there, and was living.

These early lifetime experiences forming the basis for later explorations at all levels. The continuing educational journey through HS, college and Grad School, culminating in my present circumstances which should be the final hurdle before reaching the apex of my career development, from which point I will be able to manifest what is within me fully, whatever that ends up being. Because I am a writer, am an artist, a musician, scientist and scholar, a synthesis of all of these interests might allow me to create something unique, from a perspective not expressed widely.

Don Juan's wisdom is transformatory. The Path of the Warrior brooks no wavering. It requires clarity. Decisiveness. Making decisions and following them with no looking back, no regrets, no vacillation. Life is too short to spend it in the Past or Future when the Present holds all the promise that exists in Creation and beyond.

The difficulty of doing so is known to us all by direct experience. Our perception of the world is constantly trying to distract us from the Now through the workings of our minds; our Egos, inordinately concerned with regrets about the Past and worries about the Future, obscuring the moment. Slicing through those illusory concerns leaves us Awakened.

But being Awake provokes despair. Fear, again, in a last gasp of defiance, tells us, "This is the world as it really is, and it has both a beautiful and an ugly face, filled with wonder and horror, and the deck really is stacked against you. You traverse blood-thirsty brambles and dark canyons of malice, and chasms open up around you at every turn, threatening you with failure, with despair. Self-hatred works in opposition to your visions of Perfection and you wonder what it's all for, what it's all worth, in the End that you cannot see, cannot understand and, really, cannot even conceive of beyond some surface level understanding of theoretical spaces beyond vision that lie somewhere beyond the sky, and within the confines of the earth. Who do you think you are? G-d?"

A million paths become one. Our lives lead us inexorably toward Death, who waits, patiently, until our prescribed time arrives, at which point he ushers us dutifully toward the biggest change of state that we will ever experience in life. There is no room for fear when our eyes are wide open. Everything becomes a matter of urgency, a matter of the utmost importance. From what we eat every day, to the words we say when we're speaking to others. From the decisions we make about what to buy or not, to the path we decide to take home from work on any given day. Everything becomes meaningful. Filled with the potential for Love, and for direct manifestation of the soul's urges, which are human and world-centered, yet Divinely otherworldly in aspect and degree.

Forty years old, and my Grandma left this plane of existence. The graveyard in some small, country town in Texas is one of the most beautiful places on earth, to me. Big skies and red dirt, a dying town and dozens of cousins whom I haven't seen in years, gathered around, kindly attentive despite my absence from family gatherings over the years, and circumstances which have left us in different worlds that rarely converge. A biting wind rolling over the funeral, the tent pavilion whipping frantically as stinging particles of red dirt assail us coming from the West. Daddy said later that it was Grandma, and she wanted us to get out of there - as ever, not wanting to cause a fuss - because she knew the drama that was coming after. I knew it broke her heart to see it.

The present, and Death still threatens comfort and complacency, as always. Life is too short. Those we love won't be with us for long. Every decision we make counts. It's never too late to say you're sorry. Relationships are what it is all about, and when those people we love are gone, we won't be able to hold them, to kiss them, to tell them that we love them, and to confess the deepest truths of our hearts and souls - and to bear witness to the confession of theirs - to the ones who love us and have loved us and will love us till the End of Forever draws close.

Those recognized moments of Oneness still happen, and the thought of those moments, events, snapshots of Life that led directly to this instant juxtapose in meaning, providing an underlying and resonant vibration of Purpose to the clarity of the Now. Pain and heartache are certain. Laughter and peace are as well. But between all lies the middle path of acceptance, of openness, of being intensely aware of what, where and who we are, and accepting all that comes to us with a giving and loving heart that knows no boundaries of possibility, seeking resonance and reflection in each other and the world and cosmos that hold us each close, whispering sweet lullabies of yearning and transcendence, soothing our souls as we rush headlong into the Abyss.

the Present holds all the promise that exists

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Chariots of fire - movie, opening scene

This Track

From my earliest recollection, I was running. Mind racing, blood pumping, gazing the horizon for something different, something better, something worth running to. I literally ran out of the womb. It didn’t matter that it was ten weeks early. At 3.5 pounds I was restless. And ready to move.

My mother was restless too. At the impulsive age of 18, she clung to my father like a life raft. He would get her out of the misery of living with a French speaking - war scarred- mother, and an equally wounded vet of a father who sought solace in the bottle.

But as I said, mom was restless. Dad with his bell bottomed jeans, kind heart and willingness to please couldn’t keep her. She ran. Ran to the interesting, brooding man who also liked the bottle. He also liked to hit. We ran from him. Ran in the middle of the night, hitched a ride and relied on the kindness of acquaintances. She then found another man. He liked the bottle too.

By the time I was nine, I was living with my aunt and uncle. It was hard to breathe in that house; stifling with rigidity and forced smiles. I was to be seen and not heard. I understood that. After almost a decade, I knew how to play the game.

I didn’t fit in so well in my new school. Most of the students were fairly privileged. I knew more, understood more, had seen more. Looking back I can see that to children’s eyes, this didn’t make me interesting. It made me strange, and perhaps a little frightening.

When I was in seventh grade, a PE teacher reached out to me. In a moment that was likely insignificant to her, she said “you are a pretty good little athlete.” Oh how that simple sentence of praise and encouragement made me glow from my insides. Perhaps, despite it all, I had value in something. I was soon running my first track race; the 1200 meter run. Three full laps where I had the undivided attention of my coach, my teammates and the spectators. Though the other girls were much more experienced, I had to beat them. This was my one shot at significance. I won that race, and no one but my coach knew that to achieve it, I pushed so hard that I urinated on myself. That is desire.

Running became a rebirth for me. I was no longer the girl with crappy lineage, uneven teeth and discount jeans. I was a runner. I continued on; I ran myself to newspaper articles, to state championships, to a college scholarship 300 miles away.

Circumstance and a predilection for interesting, brooding men threw my running off course. While I had always been running toward something, I found myself running away. Running away from abuse, abandonment and rejection through promiscuity, bars and sleep.

But my mom didn’t raise a quitter. I found a life raft in two friends whom I will never let go. I found a husband with the kindness of my father. I found strength in a career that lets me reach out to kids who know more, understand more, and have seen more.

I still run. I step out my door and run for pleasure, for health and to decompress. I find myself racing around the globe, trying to learn more, experience more, impact more. Still running. Always running. Forever running.

ready to move

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Amazing Young Opera Singer Aria, Angel

On The Third Day

Imagine being a young child in 1st or 2nd grade again. Now imagine driving to the doctor with your parents. When you get to the doctor’s office, imagine that your parents send you out of the car and into the doctor’s office and tell you that they’ll be coming right behind you in a few minutes. Now imagine that your parents never did what they said they would do and you’re left standing in some doctor’s office with no parents, no home, and only the clothes on your back.

This is the story of one of the older boys I was hanging with at Casa. Casa is full of stories like this, many of which are even more horrendous. Gil could tell you countless Casa stories of tragedy that ended in redemption as well as stories of hope and progress that ended in despair. When John heard this morning during our meeting with Gil that one of the Casa girls that he had come to love deeply was recently forced to leave Casa for reasons outside of Gil’s and Casa’s control but were not in her best interests, you could see John’s blood begin to boil. “If I found her out there, I’d adopt her tomorrow,” John said. I believe him.

Today was a great day for lots of reasons. Kurt and I made lots of progress out in the storage area, our Arvada group went into town with Gil and Becky for a KILLER dinner at a place called Tacos y Salsas in a bigger town outside of Anahuac called Cuauhtemoc (which also reminded me of parts of LA), but most of all, it was a good day because I could really sense that a lot of the boys were beginning to warm up to me (young and old). As I’ve said before, I didn’t want to force myself on them, but I wanted to make sure that I was at least presenting myself as someone who was approachable now that they’d had a couple of days to get used to my ugly mug around the place. Nearly every girl was still a little bit nervous around me with one little four-year-old exception named Anahi. More on her tomorrow.

During our craft time (painting a window ornament) I walked around and tried to help all of them, complimenting each kid’s work and making them laugh with my crappy Spanish. My ornament was a dog. As I painted it, I decided to give my dog blue paws, which a few of the kids found to be pretty amusing.

After our ornaments were done, the younger boys started to hang out with me when they realized that I was just as willing to pick them up and toss them around as the other men in our group were. Before long, Austin, Tyler, John and myself were like rides at an amusement park with boys lining up for their turn to be hoisted into the air, wrestled with, tickled or hugged. One boy in particular named Oscar just could not get enough of being lifted up and tossed around like a rag doll. He would run around 90 miles an hour with the biggest smile on his face, chase you around and jump on you until you lifted him up in the air again. Such joy in that little guy’s heart. Here are some pictures of the one and only Oscar.

When our arms started getting tired, I started another very mature game with the boys: pointing at them and accusing them of smelling bad. “Smell” is one of the only words I know in Spanish, so I could say “Tu hueles mal” (you smell bad) and they thought it was funny. When they would tell me that I smelled bad, I would look completely shocked, smell my arm pit and let out a sigh of satisfaction that you might expect from someone who just took a whiff of a dozen roses. They would crack up. “Yo huelo bien. Muy bien,” I would say. We would go back and forth for forever about who smelled the worst. They thought it was hilarious, so I just rolled with it. The joke lasted all week long and never got old to them. By the end of the week, we were only telling each other that we smelled good.

Each weekday afternoon, all of the kids get together in the common room of their dorm areas for some “devotional time”- a time where they recite some scriptures, watch some Christian-type videos and sing some songs. For some reason it didn’t happen yesterday, so today was my first “devo” with them. When I walked in, the movie portion of devo time had already begun. When I found my seat, Oscar and “Emily’s” Francisco (who I talked about yesterday) shouted “Travis!” in the middle of the movie and ran over to me to sit in my lap. The boys would play with my fingers, touch my face, hug me, even kiss me. They were so relaxed with me that both of them even fell asleep on me at one point. It felt good to let the Casa kids be physical with me and know that Gil was 100% supportive of it. Gil knows they need the hugs and kisses.

When it came time to sing, they sang some songs in Spanish, and I was impressed that they knew a few songs in English as well. But I don’t think I’ll ever forget the lesson I learned when we sang “Jesus Loves Me.” In case you don’t know this song, it’s a song that lots of Christians teach their children because of its child-like text and simple (a.k.a. pentatonic) melody. The words go like this:

Jesus loves me, this I know

For the Bible tells me so

Little ones to him belong

They are weak but He is strong.

Yes, Jesus loves me

Yes, Jesus loves me

Yes, Jesus loves me

The Bible tells me so.

These children- children with no parents, children who have been abused, children who have absolutely nothing- were singing “they are weak, but He is strong.” These kids aren’t just weak; they’re utterly and completely helpless. Remeber fun-loving Oscar from a couple paragraphs ago? His parents died in a flood. What does he have that hasn’t been given to him? Nothing. What can he do for himself? Nothing. When he came to Casa, everyone says that he was unbelievably sad and confused, no doubt traumatized by the loss of his parents. But now look at him. Full of joy. And as he sat there in my lap asleep during singing time, I realized that I’ve been singing this song the wrong way my entire life.

When I’ve sung “they are weak” for the past 25+ years, I don’t think I’ve ever been honest with myself about how truly weak I am. Too often I think that my weakness is more like the difference between me being able to bench press 200 lbs. and God being my spotter to get me up to the 300 lbs I need for a given task, and that with training, I can someday be able to carry more of the load. I guess that’s the American in me. But when you’re face to face with these Casa kids and their helplessness, you realize that our Spiritual Reality is no different. I am helpless. I can do nothing for myself. I am an orphan because of sin, and in His infinite mercy, Jesus- the Christ- has adopted me. Alone I can bench press 0 lbs. no matter how hard I try, but He can lift the weight of the entire world onto a cross. Maybe “Jesus loves me” isn’t a good song to teach our children after all. “They are weak but He is strong” gives us too much credit, and doesn’t give Jesus nearly enough.

As I realized the depth of my need for Jesus in that moment for possibly the first time, I held my tears back hoping that I could avoid crying in front of the kids. I normally don’t try to hide my tears (even though I tend to cry more than most people), but crying in front of them wasn’t an option. What was the point? I couldn’t talk to them about it, and even if I was fluent in Spanish, they were too young possibly comprehend the depth of my reflection in that moment. If I cried, they wouldn’t understand.

But then again, maybe they would.

At dinner, I sat with the boys again, even though this adorable little four-year-old girl named Anahi continued to ask me to join her. It’s pretty hard saying no to a little girl that’s as cute as she is, but I had to do what I had to do. Juan and company were enjoyable as usual. The weather had been incredibly windy (as in “blowing over cars and causing fatalities on the highways” windy) so we hadn’t been able to go outside and play sports like the older boys had been wanting to (they seemed to be pretty disappointed about this, and I was no different). Stuck inside we entertained ourselves by talking to each other and joking some more about people smelling “mal” and smelling “bien” to pass the time. And before we knew it, it was time for the kids leave for the night.

There was morning and there was evening: the third day.

little ones to him belong