Monthly Archives: April 2015

You Only Have Control Over You

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What It Looks Like
I recently read What It Looks Like, a hulking book (350 pages of text and another 50+ pages of notes) by Marta Maranda. The book is something of a memoir about Maranda’s time in rehab and her healing process (which did not end upon leaving the rehab facility at the end of five weeks). The book is also something of a self-help book because Maranda writes extensively about what helped her and seems confident that what helped her will help me and you and that guy over there.

The most interesting part of the book to me was the “Part III: The Beginning.” In this section, Maranda uses the skills she learned in rehab to critique U.S. foreign policy and and the U.S. two-party political system in ways I haven’t experienced since anarchist discussions at the infoshop. She also explains how politicians (particularly George W. Bush) would actually act if they truly embraced the Christian beliefs they profess.

A lot of what I read in this book really did help me, which I did not see coming when I first started reading. In the beginning of the book,  I recoiled from much of the rhetoric Maranda repeated from her five weeks in rehab. However, many of the lessons she learned about healing and included at the end of the book, I found very helpful. I’ll be sharing some of those helpful bits over the next few months.

The following is an idea I found useful:

You only have control over you. You truly know this if you no longer concentrate on what you expect from anyone or anything else as a result of your actions, but only on your actions, ensuring that each one comes from the hightest and healthiest intentions. (p. 331)

Fear

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“Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves…”
Cheryl Strayed, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail
I read Cheryl Strayed’s book Wild last December and really enjoyed it. I recommend it.

This quote about fear really struck home for me. I know that when i am alone in my van at night, in an isolated area, I can lie awake telling myself scary stories about who is out there and what could happen to me. Or I can go to sleep.

There are plenty of scary people and situations in the world. I do my best to stay away from them. But if I’m doing everything I can to protect myself, why do I need to tell myself scary stories about what could possibly maybe might happen?

I know some people believe that if one dwells on negative circumstances, one will draw such negativity to him/herself. One friend of mine who communicates with angels says if one dwells on negative situations, the angels think one is asking for a lesson and will allow those very negative situations to happen. I don’t exactly believe either of those things, but I do believe the power of our minds is stronger and vaster than most of us understand. I think I need to be prepared to protect myself while not worrying endlessly and working myself into a panic over something I’m only making up.

Like Cheryl Strayed, I’m going to tell myself new stories, different stories. I am going to tell myself that I am strong and brave and free. I am going to tell myself that I am confident and competent, fierce and kind. I’m going to tell myself those stories until my fantasy turns into belief, until my belief turns into reality, until my acting becomes my truth, until my doing turns into being.

Winslow, Arizona

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The first time, we drove past Winslow, Arizona.

Mr. Carolina was at the wheel as we chugged along the I-40 toward Flagstaff. I was in the passenger seat, and when I saw a sign saying Winslow was ahead, I started singing the part of the song by the Eagles about standing on the corner in Winslow, Arizona. Mr. Carolina joined in, and we were soon singing loudly and enthusiastically. The kids in the back (Sweet L and Mr. and Ms. Fighting Couple) were too young (or too something) to know the song, so Mr. Carolina explained it was by the Eagles. I loved him for knowing the song and for singing it with me.

I was curious about Winslow, but I didn’t ask to stop. We were on a mission, on our way to a Rainbow Gathering in Mesquite, NV, and I didn’t want to slow us down on frivolity. It was my van, but I’d just met these cool young traveling kids a few days before, and I wanted them to like me. I didn’t want them to think I was dumb for wanting to see what kind of town a band they’d never heard of had sung about before they were born.

The second time we approached Winslow, Mr. Carolina was again at the wheel, but we’d parted ways with Sweet L and Mr. and Ms. Fighting Couple. We had, however, picked up the Okie and Lil C in Santa Nella, CA and were trying to get them to Oklahoma City.

It was early when we approached Winslow. We must have slept at a rest stop the night before, but I don’t remember why we were up and traveling so early in the morning. I just remember that although the sun was up, it wasn’t out. The sky was overcast, and the morning air was chilly.

Mr. Carolina took the Winslow exit and started driving us through downtown. It was deserted that early in the morning (I think it was Sunday too), but the look of the place hinted that even on a Monday at noon, the streets weren’t going to be hopping much more than they already were.

Mr. Carolina had traveled Interstate 40 (which he referred to simply as “The 40”) through Arizona and into California before. He’s been pretty drunk for most of that trip, he said. Sometimes he brought us places and didn’t seem to be sure if he’d been there before while drunk or if his intuition had led him to something we would like to see. That’s how it was in Winslow.

We were downtown, he was driving, then there was this corner with a statue of a guy leaning on a post. How did he know how to get us there? He parked the van and we all climbed out and ran around what turned out to be a park for a few minutes.

It’s not a big park. It’s mostly the statue surrounded by bricks, with a mural behind him. There is also a flatbed Ford parked on the side street.

According to Wikipedia ,

The park contains a two-story trompe-l’œil mural by John Pugh, and a life-size bronze statue by Ron Adamson of a man standing on a corner with a guitar. The park is surrounded by a wall of bricks, each with a donor’s name on it, and a story by each of the donors describing their fondness for Winslow.[1]

IMG_3577     IMG_3578

When I-40 bypassed the community many local businesses disappeared, tourism being among the hardest hit.

The Standin’ on the Corner Foundation was formed to create a renaissance of Winslow. Determined to build on tourism, the Foundation took advantage of the town being mentioned in the song “Take It Easy” by the Eagles. From 1997 until 1999, the foundation was busy finding donors and planning design concepts. On September 10 and 11, 1999 the park was opened to the public.[1]

 

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We didn’t stay very long. After we looked around a bit and took some photos with our phones, there just wasn’t much else to do there. We piled back into the van and went to the nearby truck stop, but the harsh anti-panhandling signs chased us out of there pretty quick.

Now I can say I’ve seen Winslow, and I don’t really ever need to go back.

Update: I did stop in Winslow again, on my way from Las Vegas to New Mexico. I stopped just long enough to hop out of the van and take the photos you see in this post.

Power Position

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Back in February, I was a juror in a mock trial for an audience of corporate defense attorneys. The guy who organized the mock trial told us one thing that has stuck with me and will maybe actually help me one day.

The lawyer alleged that holding our bodies in different positions will affect our state of mind. For example, if we sit with our shoulders slumped and our heads down, chemical changes in our bodies will make us feel less confident.

He told us what he does if he needs a client to feel more confident before s/he takes the witness stand. He sends the client somewhere private, like a restroom stall. He tells the client to stand with legs shoulder-width apart, head up, with arms over their heads (like they’ve just won something), hands in fists. He says standing like this for two minutes will raise a person’s testosterone levels and lower the person’s cortisol levels, which he says leads to increased confidence.

I did a little research as I was writing this post, and there is scientific evidence to back up this claim.

According to http://blog.ted.com/10-examples-of-how-power-posing-can-work-to-boost-your-confidence/,

Amy Cuddy, a social psychologist at Harvard Business School…,along with her collaborator Dana Carney of Berkeley, ran an experiment in which people were directed to adopt either high-power or low-power poses for two minutes…[T]here were physiological differences between the two groups, as shown by saliva samples. While high-power posers showed an 8% increase in testosterone, low-power posers had a 10% decrease in the hormone. Meanwhile, the inverse relationship happened with cortisol, the hormone related to stress. While high-power posers experienced a 25% decrease in cortisol levels, low-power posers had a 15% increase in their stress levels.

(If you got to the aforementioned website, you can see a fantastic video of a TED Talk that Amy Cuddy gave on how body language shapes who we are. She talks about body language not just conveying information to others, but how it also influences how we feel about ourselves. Her presentation is really awesome, and I totally recommend it.)

Next time you need to feel confident, try going somewhere and standing for two minutes as if you are already victorious. Let me know how it works out for you.

 

She’s Gone

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And by “she,” I mean me.

On Friday, April 17, I finally found out the date I was expected to report to California for my training for my summer job as a camp host. The date? April 27. Yep, they wanted me to arrive for training in ten days.

I was told that the snow on the mountain had melted, and people wanted to be up there camping, so they had to get the camp hosts in. They were getting all the camp hosts for that area together as soon as possible to get them trained and on the job.

At first I was kind of pissy. I had originally been told that the job would start in mid May. How is April 27th mid May? (Hint: It isn’t.) I had a job making $13 an hour (with the chance for bonuses) that was scheduled to last until May 20th. I had a place to stay paid for through the end of May. By leaving before April ended, I was effectively throwing away $300. Also, I was not ready to go. I still didn’t have new tires. I still didn’t have a back slider window. I still hadn’t replaced all the rusty screws holding the high top to the van. I still hadn’t bought a Luci light or a bunch of food or the cleaning supplies I need.

And then I just got over myself. I was on my way out. Out of the hot, dirty city. Out of a job, which, while well-paying was numbing my brain and causing me to have ideas about how I could really work better if I could could just get a little bump of speed, not too much, just enough to perk me up. Out of driving twenty miles a day through streets lined with strip malls and stores, supermarkets, restaurants, shopping opportunities of every kind. Out of the beautiful yet brown desert. Out of the rat race. Out of the game.

I was moving into free. Free on the road, with the Grateful Dead and Lucinda Williams singing through one cheap speaker and the tiny, cheap MP3 player which doesn’t even let me set up playlists, but instead plays whatever it wants, whenever it wants. Free to sing along at the top of my lungs or shout or curse or listen silently, no one in the passenger seat to judge or disapprove or be offended. I was moving into the mountains, into the trees, into a place that shows up on the map as a huge expanse of green. I was moving closer to the area of the magical hot springs I visited with my boys two and half years ago, knowing when I left that I would be back someday, somehow. Moving into quiet and solitude, but also into people from everywhere that I will meet as they too come to visit the trees. Moving into myself. Moving into the trees.

I wasn’t sure how I would scrape together all the money I needed to do all the things I needed to do before I hit the road. (In my original plan, I’d have had four to six weeks worth of pay from scoring essays saved up before I took off to Cali. The way things actually worked out gave me 34 hours of pay on April 24, with another two weeks of pay coming on May 8th.) But then I realized, it was only money. I’d gone farther on less.

No sense panicking. No sense worrying. All I could do was do what I could do, then hit the road.

The title of my post is a reference to the Grateful Dead song “He’s Gone.” I took the photo in this post.

 

Earth Day

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astronomy, discovery, earth

Today is Earth Day.

According to http://www.earthday.org/earth-day-history-movement,

[e]ach year, Earth Day — April 22 — marks the anniversary of what many consider the birth of the modern environmental movement in 1970.

The idea came to Earth Day founder Gaylord Nelson, then a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, after witnessing the ravages of the 1969 massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California. Inspired by the student anti-war movement, he realized that if he could infuse that energy with an emerging public consciousness about air and water pollution, it would force environmental protection onto the national political agenda. Senator Nelson announced the idea for a “national teach-in on the environment” to the national media; persuaded Pete McCloskey, a conservation-minded Republican Congressman, to serve as his co-chair; and recruited Denis Hayes as national coordinator. Hayes built a national staff of 85 to promote events across the land.

As a result, on the 22nd of April, 20 million Americans took to the streets, parks, and auditoriums to demonstrate for a healthy, sustainable environment in massive coast-to-coast rallies. Thousands of colleges and universities organized protests against the deterioration of the environment. Groups that had been fighting against oil spills, polluting factories and power plants, raw sewage, toxic dumps, pesticides, freeways, the loss of wilderness, and the extinction of wildlife suddenly realized they shared common values.

Earth Day 1970 achieved a rare political alignment, enlisting support from Republicans and Democrats, rich and poor, city slickers and farmers, tycoons and labor leaders. The first Earth Day led to the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts. “It was a gamble,” Gaylord recalled, “but it worked.”

 

As 1990 approached, a group of environmental leaders asked Denis Hayes to organize another big campaign. This time, Earth Day went global, mobilizing 200 million people in 141 countries and lifting environmental issues onto the world stage. Earth Day 1990 gave a huge boost to recycling efforts worldwide and helped pave the way for the 1992 United Nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. It also prompted President Bill Clinton to award Senator Nelson the Presidential Medal of Freedom (1995) — the highest honor given to civilians in the United States — for his role as Earth Day founder.

 

I hope Earth Day actually helps the earth. I’m afraid it’s just a day to make people feel better about their shopping habits when in reality their other 364 days of the year are anti-earth days. I’m not saying I’m an environmental angel. I drive a gas guzzling vehicle, I use electricity, and I love me a long hot shower. However, I’m also not walking around feeling like it’s ok to empty eight 8 oz plastic water bottles a day because I recycle them.

And on a side note rant, why does recycling get all the publicity when reduce and resuse come first? Hey, I actually know the answer to my own question. If consumers reduce and reuse first, big business isn’t going to make as much money off of us. Recycling is an afterthought. Corporations do NOT want us to buy less, so we’re made to feel a bit better about what we do buy when we’re told the empty container can be recycled.

Do we  know how much of what can be recycled actually is? I tried to find a statistic to share, but couldn’t find much information on this topic. According to https://alumni.stanford.edu/get/page/magazine/article/?article_id=47701,

[d]epending on the [public recycling] bin and on the city’s recycling system, between 60 and 80 percent of recycling is actually recycled. Those numbers have probably improved over the past few years…

The article goes on to compare single stream and multi-stream recycling programs in New York City and Phoenix at the turn of the 21st century. Of course, this article gives information only about what people put into public recycling bins, not what percentage of everything that can be recycled actually is.

Here’s my #1 tip for saving the earth: Stop buying all that brand new crap you don’t even need.

Image courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/sky-earth-galaxy-universe-2422/.

Earth Day Rant

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Ok, so this rant isn’t actually about Earth Day. Rather, it’s a rant about an image I found when I was looking for images to go with my Earth Day post. Honestly, I had no plan or desire to write a rant. I just wanted to say hey everybody, it’s Earth Day, think about what you can do to help the environment, here’s a little history of Earth Day, thanks for reading.

But when I scrolled through the images that popped up when I did a Google search on Earth Day, I saw this:

Hey everybody! Let’s use an image of a basically naked woman to save the earth! (Caption mine)

Really? It’s the 21st century, and that’s the image some folks are using to celebrate Earth Day? First of all, who is the intended audience of this image? Probably not a classroom full of 3rd graders. (However, certain members of a middle school environmental club might be very excited by this picture.) Is this an image somebody thought would get men interested in Earth Day? Even if this illustration is aimed at men/teenage boys/lesbins/fairy fans of any gender, will it actually influence anyone? I can’t imagine someone saying, I used to not give a fuck about the earth, but then I saw a picture of a naked chick covered in flowers, and now I CARE!

Is the woman in the picture supposed to be Mother Earth? I can halfway accept the image as Earth Day propaganda if someone can make a case that the woman is Mother Earth. But wouldn’t Mother Earth be fatter? Super models and actresses aside, most mothers do not have bellies that flat or breast that perky and full. Perhaps I’m mistaken and this is not Mother Earth, but Maiden Earth. (But really, have you ever once heard one single person refer to “Maiden Earth”?) Give me a picture of a chubby gal with stretchmarks (and extra points for body hair) representing Mother Earth on Earth Day, and I’ll get behind that.

I think this is yet another example of using a socially acceptable, beyond natural (and I’m not talking about the pointy ears and the flowers for hair), “perfect,” skinny, young woman’s body to sell something. I don’t think this is an acceptable way to sell anything, but especially not Earth Day.

Earth Day Comments & Graphics

This gal is more what I have in mind when I think of Mother Earth.

(Both images from http://www.magickalgraphics.com/earthday2.htm, where they “offer beautiful free Earth Day graphics, animations, comments, glitter, pictures, Images and codes.”)

Fish Print

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Yesterday a reader responded to the post “Inappropriate.” Here’s what the reader wrote:

I know this is about the romper, but I think the fish print thing is inappropriate. Where did they get these dead fish? Were they goldfish or were they trout? I doubt anyone was going to be eating these fish once they had paint all over them. Were they killed specifically for this project? If so, how? How many dead fish were there? Were they rinsing the fish off so the next person could change the paint color, or were all the fish prints using the same color paint? Was there an adult monitoring the hand washing of children after they’d touched dead fish?

I decided to give my response as a post instead of just adding a comment that might be missed by some readers. My response follows.

I will try to answer your questions about the fish prints and the fish involved. I don’t know the answers to all of your questions.

I don’t know where they got the dead fish. I assume they got the fish from the seafood section of a supermarket. I suppose the fish could have been donated by the person who caught them.

The fish were not goldfish. I don’t know if they were trout. (Are trout the flat ones?) To me, the fish looked like fish one would buy from the seafood department of a large supermarket, then take home to cook and eat. They were rather long (eight inches?) and kind of thin (two or three inches?)

I would not have wanted to eat the fish after the art project was over. Even if the paint were nontoxic and could have been totally washed off of the fish, by the time it was all over, I think the fish would have been off the ice for quite a while. I’d be afraid the fish had gone bad. The fish were being kept on ice between prints, and an adult was squeezing lemon over the fish and ice to help alleviate the rather fishy aroma in the room, but I don’t think eating them at the end of the day would have been a good idea.

Also, the fish would have been touched by a lot of people by the end of the day. Even if the fish weren’t spoiled, I don’t know if the people touching the fish had clean hands, so I don’t think I’d want to eat fish handled with possibly dirty hands. I don’t know if cooking fish eliminates dirty hand germs.

I did not see anyone washing hands before or after handling the fish. I did not notice an adult supervising hand washing. Of course, there could have been hand washing that I didn’t notice. I’m not saying that hands were not washed after fish touching, only that I did not notice hand washing.

I do not know if the fish were killed specifically for this art project. I assume they were killed for eating, but that is speculation.

I also cannot say how the fish were killed. I do not have that answer. Their heads were intact, so I don’t think they were bashed in the head, as some fisherpeople do. (I had a fisher friend who just let the fish she’d caught grow dormant in ice, then “cleaned” them while they were still alive.) I do not know how fish intended for consumption and sold at fish markets are killed.

I am trying to remember how many dead fish there were. I didn’t count them. I would estimate there were six to eight dead fish available for making fish prints.

I think the fish were being rinsed off between prints, but now I am unsure. I also think there were two or three paint colors to choose from, but I’m unsure about that too. Because the fish were going back into a tub of ice between prints, I think they were being rinsed between prints. I don’t remember the ice being mucky or colorful from paint being mixed in, which leads me to think the fish were rinsed between prints.

The theme of the other projects going on in the art room seemed to be of an Asian influence, possibly of a Japanese influence.

I did a Google search for “fish prints,” and found that this is indeed a Japanese technique, and it has a name. According to Wikipedia it is called “gyotaku”. The word is “Japanese 魚拓, from gyo ‘fish’ + taku ‘rubbing’.” This “is the traditional method of Japanese fish printing, dating from the mid-1800s. This form of nature printing may have been used by fishermen to record their catches, but has also become an artform on its own.”

I hope this answers all the reader’s questions. I’ll be happy to try to provide additional answers to additional questions.

Inappropriate

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I went with my friend to a function at her kid’s middle school.

It was a Saturday, and the event was a festival of sorts. There were two stages where kids from the school (band, chorus, dancers, mimes) were performing.There were activities going on, like a bike rodeo outside and (I’m not even kidding) making fish prints in the art room. (To make a fish print, take a cold dead fish and brush paint on its body. Then place paper on top of the painted fish and press gently on the paper all along the fish’s body. Remove the paper carefully and admire your fish print.) There were Girl Scouts selling cookies and lots informational tables. There were so many people running around: kids who attend the middle school, the younger and older siblings of those kids, parents, grandparents, probably aunts and uncles and cousins too.

My friend and I were there particularly to see her kid dance with her dance class. The dance class is taught at the school as an elective, alternating with art. Some days the kid goes to art class and on other days she goes to dance class. The dance performance was the last event on the program.

We were sitting in the cafeteria, facing the stage, along with at least 100 other friends and family members of the students. As preparations were being made for the performance, a young woman in a romper came out on the stage.

According to http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/romper, a romper is

  1. a loose, one-piece garment combining a shirt or blouse and short, bloomerlike pants, worn by young children.
  2. a similar garment worn by women and girls for sports, leisure activity, etc.

I guess rompers are in again these days. I remember back in the 70s, my mom had two. One was pink and one was yellow. Both were terrycloth. She wore them to the beach and around the house in the summer. They, like the one the woman on stage was wearing, were strapless.

Yes, the definition says the garment consists of “a shirt or blouse,” but this woman’s romper was more like a long tube top. The top was connected to the shorts, and covered her midriff, but it had no sleeves, not even spaghetti straps. There was nothing but a bit of elastic holding the top over the young woman’s breasts.

I guess my first thought was that it was weird that a student would be allowed to wear something strapless to school, even on a Saturday. My second thought was that this woman, though a young woman, looked quite a bit older than a middle school student.

Then the young woman started to speak. She referred to the dancers taking the stage as “my class.” That’s when I whispered to my friend, Is that the teacher? She rolled her eyes and nodded. The teacher was at a school function in a strapless romper!

First I have to say, I am not one of those people who thinks that teachers should look like old-fashioned schoolmarms. Nor do I think that teachers can’t be young and fun or that teachers shouldn’t be seen in public drinking and dancing and whatever. I think that on their own time, adult teachers should be able to do whatever other adults are allowed to do and dress however other adults are allowed to dress.

However, this teacher was not on her own time. She was at a school function, and she was one wardrobe malfunction away from showing her dance students and their friends and family her tits! (Ok, maybe there was a strapless bra under that romper. If so, slippage would have led to slightly less trauma for all involved.)

How could she think that outfit was a good idea?

Can You Smoke It?

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Older (55+) white guys love to ask me if they can smoke my hemp jewelry. No, it’s not every older white guy who asks, Can I smoke it? when I tell him (and usually his wife) that all my jewelry is hand made from hemp, but it happens enough that I’m no longer surprised.

I used to laugh nervously when I was asked the question. Then I moved on to two stock answers.

Answer #1: You can smoke it if you want, but it’s not going to get you high, if that’s what you’re looking for. It will probably only make you cough.

Answer #2 (particularly effective when selling in Northern New Mexico): If you’re looking to get high, just go to Colorado. (Sometimes I helpfully point in the direction of Colorado.) Marijuana is legal there.

Since seeing a documentary about industrial hemp called Bringing It Home, I now have a new answer.

I matter-of-factly tell the joker that as the documentary explains, marijuana is to hemp as wolves are to poodles–related, but not the same. That usually shuts the old guy up. Typically, old guys shut up when their unfunny jokes are met with coldly stated facts.

If the man (and his wife) seem open to it, I’ll tell them more about industrial hemp. I’ll them them how farmers in China, the UK, and Canada are making money off of hemp that is sent to the U.S. after processing, money that could be earned by struggling U.S. farmers, if only growing hemp weren’t off limits to most of them. I’ll tell them about hempcrete, a nontoxic building material that doesn’t cause sick-building syndrome and actually helps alleviate it by allowing volatile organic compounds to off-gas through the walls. I’ll tell them that it’s cost prohibitive to ship hempcrete to the United States, but that it’s illegal to produce it here.

The $5 I paid to watch Bringing It Home was a wise business decision, if only because now I have an educational answer to a stupid question.

Get more facts about industrial hemp.

Read about other customers acting weird around my hemp jewelry.