The top 10 percent of the population holds 90 percent of the wealth; while the bottom 10 percent of the population is unemployed – until they run out of unemployment. At the same time, there has been a tenfold increase in the number of homeless, though no one seems to know just how many there actually are. The homeless are not counted in the census; you have to have an address to be counted.
I read a headline this week that said something about new unemployment claims have leveled off, and of course that’s supposed to be a good sign. The reality is much less of a ‘good sign’ as most of the people who were laid off at the beginning of this economic mess have run clean out of money, and since they haven’t worked in the past 18 months, they don’t qualify for a new claim. So, it’s pretty clear that the good ol’ 10-percent-unemployed number isn’t including everyone that is unemployed.
The 80 percent of the population that has only 10 percent of the available wealth in the country controls the remaining 90 percent because we are The Consumer Market.
My heart is heavy.
Today, I met a woman with cancer that struggles to keep a job while fighting through chemotherapy. Her head is bald, her skin is loose and blotched with purple patches, yet even though she knows she’ll be ill tomorrow, she is vigorously energetic today.
Yet another woman came in today with a large bandage loosely taped below a very swollen eye, reaching from her nose to her cheekbone. She had skin cancer removed yesterday, and what was supposed to be a small incision ended up four inches long. She said it feels like they cut off half her face.
A woman that works in the adjoining office was diagnosed with breast cancer earlier this week. She has yet to visit the specialist that will handle her treatments.
An older gentleman I know has been on chemo for a few months now, the treatment for late stage, inoperable prostate cancer. I saw him the other day, and all he could say was “they keep insisting they’re going to keep me alive.”
And the list goes on.
These people valiantly hold their chins up with both hands. Life means more to them, life is precious, and their incredible courage carries them through day by day.
My coffee mug sits on my desk, right by my right hand. Until I bought this glass mug, I’d forget to drink the coffee in the mug, but now that I can see that there is coffee in there, I actually drink it.
What I’ve found is an extra little added bonus to that glass mug is that I can watch the white milk poured into the brown-colored coffee. The swirls and the whorls are interesting to watch!
Right now, my feet are cold, yet I’m sweating. It’s that sensory input that is preventing me from really concentrating on what I’m writing. A-hem…
It’s this oversensitivity that, besides becoming distractions at the worst possible times, causes me to notice the very tiny daisies in the yard, the raucous bugs flying around, the twitch of an over-controlled facial expression, the whispered conversation just out of earshot, the sweltering feel of a satin blouse, the beauty of intonation and the nails-on-a-blackboard screech of instruments out of tune.
With the fan on high to drown out the sounds of outside (and the ringing in my ears), the frustration becomes the feel of the weight of my glasses on my nose that has threatened to bring on a nasty headache since I put them on this morning. At home, alone, all the dogs outside and the horse napping, I am in my environment of the least possible amount of sensory input; my safe haven. I run home every day after hours of overload at work, and once I’m home, it takes a lot to get me to leave again.
When I saw my poor tree yesterday as I walked around with my camera, I thought, “yep, that’s me.” I am strangled by the rules of social conformity and the endless demands. Like the tree, I have to reach above all the forces that threaten to strangle to thrive anyway.
I want to scream out, “let me wear my comfortable, broke-in shoes and cotton tops that don’t distract.” Let me be who and what I am so that I can do my best. Let me listen hard to hear so that I can truly help, and let me remain on the outside looking in so that I can keep hearing in depth, beyond the walls of the social conformity that too often is nothing more than selfish judgmentalism.
To all those that expect me to conform to their version of “fitting in” I say, “sorry.” It ain’t gonna happen. You will just have to accept the fact that, like me, your blood is red, you urinate and defecate, you eat and snore and burp and fart just like I do; but after that, we are individuals. If you can’t accept that, you can’t accept me either. No problem!
Just, leave me be.
My coffee’s gone, and it’s time for a refill. I wonder what the milk going into the dark coffee will look like this time…
I’m pleasantly surprised – and honored – to be on the receiving end of the Loyal Friend and Visitor Award, compliments of Rebecca at West Virginia Backroads.
While loyalty itself may be rare nowadays, I have found it alive and well and strong and lasting in more than a few people in my life, including the friends I’ve made blogging. They all mean the world to me.
So, without further ado, I would like to pass this award on to the bloggers that exude mountains of loyalty to their families and friends, and their blogs that I read as often as I can:
I got a strange phone call today. I couldn’t answer, so the caller left a voice message saying she was from some lawyer’s office in Little Rock. She was calling to see if I remembered a car accident that I witnessed back in May, 2007! The case was finally going to trial and the lawyer handling the case wanted me to testify.
So, I called her back, curious. She was the secretary, and the lawyer himself wanted to talk to me. Well, OK, that should be interesting, so I told her to have him call me at 4:30 when I’m off the clock.
And, the lawyer called – 5 minutes late. Talking to him, that he was late didn’t surprise me at all. Either he had a very liquid lunch, or he missed taking his ginseng this morning, because his speech was almost, almost slurred, and he couldn’t remember crap about the case himself.
“Look,” I said, “don’t you have the police report? That accident was over two years ago and I seem to be suffering some menopausal symptoms. What’s on the police report should have all I know – knew – right on it.”
The persistent s.o.b. wasn’t deterred at all, and he replied, “You were there, and we have to paint a picture for the jury. We’ll pay you to appear, and we’ll pay your mileage there so you don’t have to worry about missing work. I’ll send you the police report to jog your memory, and I’ll send a subpoena so you can show work that you need the time off.”
So, he faxed me the police report. Not only did he send me my statement, he sent me all the police reports, police inspection reports, everyone else’s statements and who knows what else. Um, isn’t that witness tampering?
I didn’t see the accident itself either. I looked in my rearview mirror and saw an SUV going off the road and into the median. That was actually cool with all the dirt flying both ways, kinda like it looks when you run through a big puddle. Yes, I stopped fast, backed up and helped the woman out.
According to the woman, a tractor trailer didn’t see she was already beside him and switched lanes anyway. The trailer bumper caught her front bumper, they hooked a split second, and she ended up off the road. But, I didn’t see all that. I saw the aftermath.
The woman wasn’t hurt, only shaken, and she was driving a Cadillac SUV. The front end was messed up, but I doubt it was totalled. It sure makes me wonder why it’s going to court at all.
Oh well. It’s been awhile since I’ve had to testify in court, under oath, so it should be fun, even though I’d rather not. One of these days, I’ll learn to curb my curiosity and ignore calls from numbers I don’t know.
I suppose you had to have been there to truly understand what Woodstock was about, and that just might be the reason why I still don’t understand. I wasn’t there, but I was supposed to be. It’s just another time where I was on the outside of everything happening, looking in, not ever truly able to comprehend the meaning of it all.
Up the road a bit was this little house that set back from the road. Most of the time, it was buried in weeds and junk cars – until Vicky Costa and her husband bought the place. Vicky was young, beautiful and an opera singer with an incredible clear, angelic voice.
I don’t remember how I met Vicky, but she and I would spend hours making music. She’d sing and I’d play guitar and sing backup harmony. Those times often included partying, though I wasn’t brave enough yet to partake. We played several coffee houses way back when. It was my introduction to the world of folk music and “playing out” – and the world of sex, drugs and rock and roll that was the hallmark of the era.
I’d get lost in the music we made. I could listen to Vicky sing for hours at a time and never get tired of playing the guitar along with her. I’d forget to watch the clock, and hence, was late coming home the night before we were all to leave to go to Woodstock. I wasn’t really interested in going, it didn’t sound like it was all that interesting, and I didn’t care for the majority of bands slotted to play. I would much rather stay home and put the finishing touches on the tunes we were working on for our next coffee house.
The next time I saw Vicky after Woodstock, all she could say is that the photo that was everywhere showed her right in the middle of it. I never did see that photo, and searching for it today, I still haven’t seen it.
But, things changed after Woodstock. Vicky was changed. We played a few more coffee houses, and that was it. She wanted to focus on getting promo shots done and auditioning for off-Broadway plays. She landed her role and moved to NYC and I never saw her again.
Not long after Woodstock, Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix died of heroine overdoses. The stories started coming out about what really happened at Woodstock too. It was all sex, drugs and rock and roll. I heard stories about gang bangs, orgies, bad acid trips, people sitting naked, sleeping naked and relieving themselves in the same place for the entire three days. I heard about deaths, tramplings, little children abandoned and drugs. Always drugs. It wasn’t hard to understand why Vicky changed.
Being a hippy meant standing against the war in Vietnam. It was, as has been repeated many times, a counterculture that won many battles for human rights, then lost the war. It was a generation of meaning and purpose, and it all changed with Woodstock. That weekend violently killed morals and values and purpose and let it all go with unbridled inhibition. There was no innocence left after Woodstock. It was the beginning of the end.
I was on the outside looking in, and never understood the attraction of Woodstock that ended up fatal in so many ways. I will always mourn the losses.
After falling out of bed and stumbling to the bathroom this morning, very content that it wasn’t the irritating alarm clock that woke me up, I glanced out the window and saw the most amazing sunrise. With only one eye halfway open, I grabbed my camera, slipped into Crocs and headed out to capture the rapture.
As the sun came up, everything was quiet. The ground began to glitter as the new sun caught in the dew on the grass and the leaves of the trees.
Just as quietly, as if to savor the dawn as much as I was, a flock of geese flew overhead without the usual honks and squawks, and their formation as loose and relaxed as I felt. Mother Nature’s protective blanket was soft and warm.
Glittering and glowing, Saturday began. The dogs followed me as I wandered from sight to sight, snapping shot after shot. Odin flipped his head up in annoyance at a horse fly that landed on his rump, swished his tail furiously to chase it away, then went back to grazing.
I love sunrises, and love them even more after this morning. 50 photos later, the day brightening and waking up, I realized my hair wasn’t brushed, I was walking around outside in what I slept in, and I hadn’t had coffee yet. Both eyes now open, I headed inside to set the coffee brewing.
Before I could pour the water into the coffee maker, Odin came up to the back door and ran his nose across the glass. There he was standing with a branch caught in his mane, threatening to poke an eye. Safely removed, he stuck his head in the house to keep me company while I finished making the coffee. I had to pause once more to stop him when he half climbed up the stairs to come in the house.
The weekend began without the bustle or drama that greeted the weekdays. With relief, I know that the quiet peace of life will hold until Monday.
Do you remember this scene? Do you remember the sheer strength of Yoda’s will that raised the starship out of the marsh? The magical, wondrous creature gave us a magical moment that illustrated just how powerful The Force could be, if only we could just master it.
Now, think about this. Would you have remembered this scene in Star Wars just now if I hadn’t brought it up? Chance are good that 1.) you saw the movie, probably more than once, and 2.) if you were paying attention at all, this particular scene stuck with you if only because you wished something like that could really happen in the real world.
Well, I’m not one to bend to pessimistic cynicism and would rather take the momentous feat portrayed in the movie as a sign of hope, as proof of the strength of thought and will, and as an indication of the energy that flows through everything. Why? Because someone else thought it and literally “said it out loud.” I’m not the only one looking beyond the physical for something more; literally, more meaning.
No, I don’t remember the scene all the time, but watching it shored up my feelings of hope and potential and endless possibilities. I remember the results in me, if not the experience of watching the movie. Those results are a part of me, inseparable from the whole self that is me.
You can’t ‘unexperience’ something you’ve experienced. You can’t unlearn what you’ve already learned.
You are the sum total of all your experiences and lessons.
When I sit down to write about a childhood memory, what comes to mind is something that had an impact on me, i.e., is a part of who I am. Sharing it with you, I hope that reading about my experience triggers something in you that will bring a piece or two of the puzzle together for you. For the same reason, I relish and dive into the memories you also share. I’m always on the lookout for pieces of the huge puzzle that is life. Besides, a good portion of what we learn we learn from others along with the rest of the stuff that we learn from direct experience.
I’ve experienced the overwhelming pain and suffering of a Vietnam War veteran who saw the end of a rifle poking up from a grass mat covered hole in the floor of a hut. After emptying his M16, he pushed the mat aside to find he had just killed three very young children.
I’ve experienced the trauma and the disorientation left behind by childhood sexual abuse, rapes, spousal abuse, violence and traumatic injury much more severe than any I experienced myself.
I’ve experienced the incredible love for my newborn child and for a man I love almost as much, and I’‘ve experienced losing that man and watching my child grow up and leave home.
Everything, every little thing that has happened to me in this lifetime has led me to joy and a boundless love for life. Everything, whether it happened to me or whether it was an experience shared with me. Everything is me. Everything is you.
Nothing that has happened to you or I can be undone. There’s no erasing the memory or the lesson or the results of either. No matter how stubborn you are, denial never really works for very long.
The only thing that we can do is change the way we think about those lessons and experiences. Take those memories out, dust them off, and look at them again. You’ll be glad you did.
I’ve started horses, and ridden plenty of finished horses, but have never had the opportunity to bring a started horse to the finished stage…until now…and to be honest, I have no idea what I’m doing. I take it as a good sign that I must not be too far off base because I’m still alive to talk about it!
Odin has had the last week off. Not wanting to go backwards with him, I saddled him and got right on instead of doing some ground work first, just like I did the last time I was on him.
At first, a little bit of “No, I ain’t gonna do that” was cured by a rein slap along my leg. Then, I did some flexing, which took him a few seconds to figure out. Every time I bent his head around, he grabbed the excess stirrup leather or the rein in his mouth. I may be trying to teach him, but he’d rather screw around.
We walked out and explored a little tree that I asked him to walk around. Then, while walking out about half way across the pasture, he decided to squeal and shake his head. The next movement would’ve been a buck, so I gave him a good jerk to the reins and that took his mind off thinking about bucking.
We walked along the fence line, going so far and then I asked him to turn into it. Back the other way, and turn again the other way. A few times, he did fine. As usual with him, once a move isn’t new anymore, he doesn’t want to do it. I asked a few more times, and when he did relatively well, we set off across the pasture again. No antics, no “I wanna go this way” crap, so I figured it was a good way to end and we headed back in.
We got all the way over to the truck where I planned to unsaddle, and my neighbor came home and called for me to come chat a bit. So, we headed back out, and Odin behaved like a charm. He likes the neighbors; they always bring him apples and carrots, so it didn’t take much to get Odin to visit.
Jennifer was there, a pretty good rider – one who actually does what I ask with Odin – and she got up to ride a bit. I had my head turned talking, and when I looked back, Jennifer was on the ground and Odin was pulling back on the reins. Odin had bucked her off! She got back up on him, a bit more wary this time, and rode him for quite a bit longer. Whew! She wasn’t hurt and Odin didn’t learn that bucking would get him out of being ridden!
Odin’s next trick was trying to mow his way back to me. Jennifer stopped him from going anywhere near me until she was ready to rejoin us. And then Odin put his head into my chest and stood there. It was one of those “aw” moments. I had Jennifer ride him back around to the truck and we both unsaddled and brushed him out.
One threat, one buck and a whole lot of good things with the ride ending on a good note. It’s a start, and there’s a long ways to go, but he’s coming along.
Tomorrow, I’m going to lunge him first!
One of the first things you do when working with people is develop some way of detoxifying, de-stressing, coming to terms with the things you experience that, sometimes, go way outside the scope of anything that could be considered usual or normal.
I found a few things helpful as I found myself struggling to cope. Most days, on my way home from work, I would crank the radio and sing along at the top of my lungs. That would work great – unless the DJ got into a string of slow, sad songs instead of the kick-ass stuff. I’d spend a lot of time talking on the phone with friends who were also working “in the field” and get into some mighty bitch sessions. That always worked – unless their day’s story was worse than mine, that is.
Today, I forgot all about turning on the radio on my way home and the friends that were “in the field” have all moved on to different “fields,” so I move on to Plan C: I’ll write about it. Grab a box of tissues…
I met a delightful man today. He was probably in his late 30s, very tall and fit, kind, gentle and attractive. He sat at my desk like you’d sit at a cafeteria table – sort of hunched down and leaning in to create a sense of privacy where none existed. He told me his story:
Not long ago, he was driving home and came upon an accident that had just happened. He found a mother, father and 12 year old dead in the car, and a 5 year old that was thrown clear of the car. She was still breathing, and while he held her, she looked up into his eyes. He called 911, and the little girl was taken to the hospital where she later died. He learned of her death from a text message he received from a nurse on duty.
When he got the text, he collapsed. As the days went on, he wasn’t able to shake that little girl’s eyes looking up into his. He’d dream of them, he’d see those eyes in every little girl he saw and he knew he needed help.
But, help didn’t come. At the end of his rope, he gave his car keys to a friend and the two set out on the town, and he “got royally plastered.” When he got home, he ended up getting into a fight with his girlfriend who pulled a gun and held it to his forehead. He called 911 again to report the incident, then lost his job because of it.
I couldn’t give him good news, but I worked hard to give him hope. But, it was far from enough, far from what he really needed, and I was powerless to do more. He was suffering from PTSD that, untreated, landed him in a world of uphill battles. He reached out to me, and I couldn’t do enough.
I may not have nightmares of that little girl’s eyes, but it will be a long time before I forget his eyes as he told me about them.
Rest in peace, little girl. Find your peace, gentle man.
Out of all the things in life, it’s being with Odin that brings me the most peace.
This evening, I set out with my camera to walk around and snap photos of just about anything that caught my eye. It rained earlier, and the ground was still too wet to ride. Odin didn’t quite know what to think about that. I’ve been going out every evening and catching him to either ride or just brush him out. For awhile, he just watched what I was doing from across the pasture.
It wasn’t long before curiosity got the best of him and he caught up with me as I wandered around. I’d stop to take photos, then walk away to the next thing that caught my attention. Odin would graze when I stopped, and when I walked away, he’d catch up and graze again. A few times, I got too far away and he’d give a few bucks as he ran to catch up again.
Every now and then, Odin would very gently and carefully come to stand up against me. I snapped this photo when something in the distance caught his attention while he was standing up close to me. Most of the time, he’d ask for an itch on his back or shoulder, then I’d walk away again. The pattern continued until the sun set and it was time for his supper.
The evenings belong to Odin. After he eats and drinks, he’ll ask for itches or just stand next to me to cock a leg and grab a quick nap. It’s usually dark by the time he walks away, signaling the end of the day. At peace, I head inside for the night.
I belong to Odin as much as Odin belongs to me.