Getting it together in this gypsy’s life

I’ve gone from friend’s home to car to camper.  The camper is a metaphor.  And I get it.   Get the camper together, and my life will follow.   When you get rid of the extras, you zero in on the necessities. Okay.    Cut the excess baggage. Oh wait—-!  I found out that applies to ME too–my body.  I gained weight the last few months and I was so disappointed because I’d  lost like 200 pounds.  The good news is that I didn’t gain back anywhere near 200 lbs.  No, I need to lose about 50 lbs.   So while I’m working on the camper, I’m also working on myself.   The answer for me?   (Click on the graphic for the app for either Apple or Android!)   It’s an interval program.  It comes with a personal trainer (okay, it’s not a real person but you get your choice between a man, a woman, a unicorn (the one I chose!) or a drill sergeant, and someone else I think.  You can play your own music and hey. It’s only 30 minutes a day three days a week).   I HIGHLY recommend it.   You’re never too old to get off the couch!  You may not run fast, ever, but you and me are still running faster than the one on the couch!

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And about eating–oh my god.  Carbs don’t treat me well.  I blow up like a balloon when I eat too many carbs, with edema.  So I went back on a high protein diet and it was amazing.  My ankles and feet quit swelling up after three days of being on it.  I donate plasma and they kept telling me that my protein was low.  Don’t know why it took me so long to get it.

Now for the disclaimer—this works well for ME.   I know my body and I know what works.  It may not work well for YOU.  You will have to find your own way, little Padawan.   

I applied for two jobs that pay three times what my current one does. Self confidence!

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Ever since I bought this camper, and found out I CAN fix things, and I don’t NEED anyone else’s help unless I ask for it, I have been EMPOWERED in a way that is hard to describe.  So many people seek to take over under the guise of helping a person, when maybe what we ought to be doing is leaving someone alone to let them accomplish!   When we “overhelp,” we are actually taking away that person’s power, and telling them that we don’t believe in them!   Little kids are so independent. That’s good!   We all need to learn to ask for help at times, but you know what?  Most of the time we do just fine on our own if we are allowed to.

See how fixing up an old camper has extended to other parts of my life?  It’s really incredible to me.   I have gotten rid of things, and now I’m getting rid of excess weight.  I have fixed things in the camper, and that has been fixing things that were broken in me–my self confidence, my faith in myself and my abilities.

For example,

I fixed  bad spot in the ceiling of the camper last night.  I had bought some peel and stick laminate that looked almost EXACTLY like the brown paneling in the camper.   I got the idea that a rotten spot in the ceiling that was dribbling down fine powdery rotten wood pieces on my head through the torn paneling could be fixed temporarily (I’m not rich you know), with cardboard and that peel and stick laminate.  I know how it SHOULD be done.  All the rotten wood should be removed and insulation put up in there, and a piece of paneling purchased and stapled in place with an air staple gun.   I get it.  I don’t have any of those things.   Winter is coming.  I’m getting rotten wood powder and pieces on my floor and my head every time I walk under it.  Necessity is the mother of invention.

Here’s what I had to fix: (this was from before I bought it–water damage sustained when a tree fell on the camper):

step 1

 

That’s all rotten wood and paneling.  I scooped all that out and stuck a piece of foam insulation up there.  Then I got out the cardboard and duct tape–miracle worker.  If it was good enough to fix airplane wings it’s good enough for me. I covered the hole left over (stuffed with foam insulation mind you), with the cardboard and duct taped it into place.

step 2

Then….I WHIPPED OUT THE LAMINATE.   Why did I capitalize that?  I have zero idea. It was pretty exciting though.

So I had to measure to see how much laminate I would have to cut.  And there is an annoying white border on the edges of peel and stick laminate that I had to trim off because I am totally faking it till I make it here.

What you need

Isn’t it great!!!   It’s a total lie, just like my makeup, but because I’m a woman and good at covering up blemishes, it sure looks terrific!    I measured, peeled and stuck and oh my god it went on the paneling SO EASILY.   Here’s the finished product.  The hole is sealed up and fully insulated so unlike before, no cold air can get in.  That was the main concern for me because I don’t know if I’m going to be able to get the paneling to fix it before winter sets in.    Here’s how it turned out!!  So exciting!

Finished product

Not bad, eh?   It’s not perfect, but it’s a darned sight better than that gaping hole!   I woke up this morning and it felt so good not to have to stare at that broken paneling by the vent on the ceiling anymore.  It is fixed till I can get it fixed!

This is the first home I’ve owned.  It is not what I envisioned.  I thought my first home would be a “real house,” with a big lawn and a place I could have a dog and a basement office.  It turns out my first home is better than I envisioned, because I am putting my whole heart and soul into the place, and making it my own.  In the meantime, my whole life is improving because of that camper, and I am getting outside of myself at the same time and the whole thing is making my life better.   I have some thoughts to share on mourning  and letting go as connected to the last article about my friend Jerry that I wrote.   

I have thoughts.  So many thoughts.   But these thoughts will be for future posts.  This post is the foundation.   Fixing up that camper is an extension of the work going on within me.  I will be living in this camper for at least a year.  I wonder what my life will be like at the end of this year?   How will I be better?  How will others benefit as a result of my personal renovation?   How will my life be better?  Better job?

alcott

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Saturday, in which I do absolutely nothing

Saturday is always been a fun day to me, and so I hope you enjoy your Saturday and the rest of your weekend, I remember to stop and take a look at the little things once in awhile. The little things are important, and often the most beautiful.

Dear past me…

 I see you now.  You are young, and shy, and earnest, and you hide your shyness behind an outgoing personality that often comes across as brash and loud.   You are such an innocent.  You know well the power of people to hurt.  You’ve been watching people hurt each other at home most  of your life.    You’ve retreated to books and writing for safety, and you love school because you’re smart, and because there, you get positive affirmation for being who you are.

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I wish I could tell you all the amazing places you’re going to go, and the people around the world that you will meet.  I wish I could tell you that you travel because you love new places, yes, but also because you ran from love because it scared you, and you ran to get away from home.  You’re a runner.   When things get too hard in one place, you run to another.  You’ve started over more times than I can count, but the trick is, you can’t run away from yourself.   I wish I could tell you to be yourself sooner and not try to be what everyone else wants you to be, especially men.    I wish I could tell you not all men are bad, there are good ones out there, but until you think better of yourself, you won’t meet those good ones and be ready for them.   You’ll meet men who are emotionally unavailable like your dad was, but you won’t figure this out for thirty years.  You will believe that the failure of your relationships is all your fault.  But one day, you will understand that while yes, it does take two, you’ve been picking what you’re used to.  You’ve chosen what you believe you deserve and what you believe about yourself–that you are unlovable, invisible, and unimportant.  Your dad did a number on you.

You will meet a man who will turn a light on in a dark room for you.   He will be the light that shines on a whole new world for you.   He will be interested in what you think and who you are, and will like you for yourself.  He will give you Blake, and Dylan, and  Billie Holiday and Nanci Griffith, and you and he will spend hours talking about all the places he’s gone in the world and listening to this, and to all he knows of literature and poetry and culture will light a fire in your heart to see the places he speaks of, and  know more of the world he does, because you’d like to be able to keep up with him in conversation.  He will call you his girl with the gypsy feet.   He will be  the most confusing, wonderful , tenderhearted man you have ever known, and he will break your heart, not because he was callous, or heartless, or mean, but because he was good, and kind, and he taught you how a real man acts towards a smart woman he considers his equal. He will die, and you will want to, but you will live–first for him, then later, you will learn to live for yourself.

You will be broke most of your life.  You will  go to Ireland and write in your journal in Bewley’s Cafe. You will visit Shetland Islands and sit on the docks and write by the sea, with the sharp smell of fish, and the briny smell of sea water, next to battered old fishing boats that have stories of their own.   You will go to Belfast and look at the murals and wonder why people can’t get along. You will wonder why people can’t get along all of your life.   You will go to Russia, and see the Hermitage and the Bolshoi Ballet, and Moscow and ride a train across Russia with cockroaches for bedmates and cheap Georgian champagne while  listening to the life story of one of the coach matrons who tells you how her parents were collective farmers and she grew up wanting to go to college and become a teacher, but instead, works on the trains.  You will visit Moscow University. You will meet many Russian people who are emotional and passionate and good, and kind, and beaten down. You will wonder again, as this is the end of the Cold War, if Russia can learn to be a democracy.  You will find out they have trouble holding on to freedom.

You will become discouraged at the selfish, self centered nature of people.  Of the rich people who work the system to get what they want, while depriving others of what they need.  Greedy pepole who believe freedom is only for them while taking others’ freedoms away.  People who believe that violence is the only answer and power is everything.

But there will be moments, when the world reveals itself to be a miraculous, beautiful place. When you see deer.  When you see random acts of kindness by strangers.  When you see selflessness. When you see a tiny flower growing out of concrete, or see a sunset on a prairie in Nebraska, or the  Northern Lights in northern Minnesota. At those moments, you will believe in God.

Keep going, be strong, and have faith.  It gets better, girlie.   You will be much more yourself, more self-confident and you will know what you want when you are almost fifty, but….better late than never.   Your whole life will be a sacred pilgrimage to your sense of spirituality, God, and yourself. You get to help people, and love, and be loved.

You get to go home again, and be happy in the end.

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Injustice

Yesterday I wrote what I see as injustice being done to children, schools and teachers; and by extension the public at large. Today I want to talk further about how injustice for one equals injustice for all and why we, the American public, can not afford to believe propaganda whether from the right or the left and continue to sleep at the wheel regarding public education as we have been doing the last few years.

The ones in power think you are dumb.

I’m starting with the assumption that you are not stupid. You know injustice when you see it. Even kids know when something is or isn’t fair. The propagandists use our biases and fears to twist injustice (because it benefits them, usually monetarily), and make it seem like if teachers or public schools are having problems, it’s the teachers’ fault or the kids’ fault or the parents’ fault (you see this targeted most effectively towards poverty stricken areas). The richest country in the world, the United States, has some of the highest rates of child poverty in the world.

It always comes down to money.

Funding for public education is now seen as “reward money” only to be given to the most deserving teachers in the most deserving schools. Those schools tend to be in better served areas, not underserved areas, so when underserved schools fail, the politicians point their fingers and convince you that if they failed it was because the teachers are “bad,” so the school didn’t deserve that funding and convince parents to take their kids out of that public school and put them in privatized charter schools. Guess where the Federal funding per student goes? Into the pockets of the politicians and CEOs on the unelected boards of these privatized institutions with little to no state oversight. This creates a constant conflict of interests that (guess what) don’t benefit students.

Funding for the beleaguered public school and teacher pay is then based on students’ performance on standardized tests. Hence, teachers end up teaching to the test or worse. During Teach for America’s former head “educational reformer” (read: public school destroyer) Michelle Rhee’s memorably fraught tenure as Chancellor of DC public schools in 2007– the “reformers” began by stripping decision making power from the school board (elected officials so your voice was silenced), and the school board was then turned into an advisory body, and the new office of chancellor was created—so changes in the public school system could be made without waiting for the approval of the school board. That’s right. They did all of that with little to no outcry by the public and they got away with it.

In other words, it was a hostile takeover by politicians and “reformers.” The first thing they took was YOUR voice. While politicians argued with the school district about money, the teachers stayed anyway despite the poor state of the schools, and were given zero credit for their dedication to the students during the years all this was going on up to dismantling the school boards power. Instead, once Rhee was hired, she weakened the teachers’ contract and then fired 241 teachers and put 737 on notice.Budget cuts were the scapegoat for continued firings of teachers through 2009.

Because they were getting fired left and right, and because their new weakened contract made pay increases dependent on student performance on standardized tests, with no tenure rights that would have protected them from being targeted as a political football ripe for firing, cheating, institutionalized fraud and dumbing down of tests became the tools of the desperate.

This is just one example. Teachers all over the country have been enduring similar treatment, been given zero respect, vilified in the media in order to get public support for privatizing education, and are blamed for everything that goes wrong in the public school system thanks to a marvelous brainwashing campaign by certain members of the media that reformers and politicians have been using to serve their interests.

The upshot

The injustice being done here in destroying the public school system in this country is patently clear.

1. Cut education funding so schools can’t get textbooks or supplies or make infrastructure repairs and keep cutting until the school falls apart and becomes a place students can’t learn. There goes test scores!

2. Weaken or destroy unions by making states “right to work” states that gut union protections for educators and blue collar workers so that politicians and corporate interests can run roughshod over them to achieve their ends, and the teachers and workers can’t do a thing about it and indeed, have been told right to work is really protecting them from the big bad corrupt union! Now teachers and workers have no one to represent their interests and that is how people in power like it.

3. As a result of #1 and #2, test scores drop, schools literally fall apart and teachers are left holding the bag to buy their own classroom materials and/or have parents buy more; the teachers are then blamed by the “reformers,” politicians and CEOs, who feed this line to their media of choice so that you won’t see what’s going on. They then cut teacher pay, and cut benefits to “discipline” the “bad teachers” (or hell. Do it Michelle Rhee style and fire them all), and this planned obsolescence creates a fake need for charter schools. The “reformers” who really have a vested monetary and/or ideological interest in destroying public education, look like heroes crusading “for the kids” while making striking teachers look evil for shutting down schools because they are trying to get the funding to give the best education they can for the kids.

3. Federal dollars per student are then funneled into “reformers” and politicians and CEOs pockets and the public doesn’t see it because they’re so busy being told to “look over there” at the “bad” teachers and failing schools. The public is mad at the wrong people. Be mad at the politicians who created this planned disaster.

Do your own research. Make the connections. The “reforms” aren’t working.

Public education in this country is tried and true and has been the bedrock of our republic for over 100 years. Teachers are professionals. Take the examples of Canada and Finland where teachers are regarded as highly as doctors and lawyers and listen to them. Let them do their job instead of being an armchair critic. Unless they’ve spent time teaching in a classroom politicians don’t know shit about teaching or what it entails. They want money. That’s it. They want to steal taxpayer money under the guise of telling you the people what a big fat favor they are doing our kids by getting rid of incompetent teachers and the rotten unions who protect them, and they’ve put the biggest fox of them all in charge of the henhouse–Betsy DeVos, who has never taught a day in her life and has made it patently clear she is not for the public school system and is for “school choice” and teaching evangelical fundamentalist Christianity in the schools.

Injustice of this magnitude contributes to the dumbing down of society and is taking the last democratic bastion of this nation away from the people. Pay attention.

Support public education and funding public education, and the teachers who are fighting for public education and your kids so that ALL children may receive an excellent education.

Begin again

I won’t have any money she said but that’s okay because we are all a little rough when we all start out I replied softly

There is plenty to go around she remarked from the rocking chair on the other side of the porch so dont worry just give it

time

At night I saw her rising again out of the dark waters in the calm moonlit nights sensuously wet hair clinging to her breasts and her waist

Moonlight drapes over me walking on white sand shore I

trip over driftwood in my bare feet and I am walking over years and years as I kick up sand grains and frighten sea gulls

who flap their wings nervously as they drift inches above the wave lapped shore then settle down again when I have passed

Here I begin again the stars sing and a single owl watches me without judgment from on high

the lighthouse is dark on calm nights and I sit on the breakwall wondering about love or passion or who is large enough to contain mine and mingle with it

Fly

Fly and my feet leave the sand and I turn into the red-tailed hawk

How life happens in a coffee shop

For this post I can only speak for my life so I will. I am in transition and trying to figure out how to settle my life so that I am not wandering all of the time, as I have been the last 25 years. Sometimes you just get tired of life and being kicked around and dealing with losses of friends and maybe even the loss of home over time. For as Thomas Wolfe says you can’t go home again…but I am looking homeward now and I can remake home for me. I catch myself gazing over Lake Erie to the horizon where Lake Superior and Lake Michigan lies, and I am transported back to my youth when I stood at the lighthouse on Canal Park and imagined what lay over the blue eastern horizon. I know now, and I am world weary and ready to follow the geese back home.

The coffee shop has been my headquarters where I have arranged a job over the phone while drinking my large dark roast and sad folk songs play on the stereo overhead. The worn wood shelf at the window is my desk where I have written family and friends letting them know I am going home. I have gazed out the window at the busyness of Hertel Avenue in Buffalo and while it has been my home where I have picked up the pieces when my life fell apart (twice in ten years I healed in Buffalo), there is something about knowing when its time to go that is at once nostalgic and bittersweet. I have good memories here and good friends. Buffalo will always have a place in my heart.

I gaze at the people sitting here and they are all a life encased in themselves; many lives working and unfolding in the hours they pass here. Some meet friends for conversation about what’s happening in their lives. Some, like the guy in the corner ave found this the perfect place to crochet a green sweater, some are studying schoolwork as Buffalo has many good colleges. Some are lovers and some, like me, are alone and okay with their solitude, their coffee, and their bagel or muffin or biscotti.

You live your life everywhere but there is something special and intimate about the time I spend in the independent coffee shop. It is a restful space, a peaceful space where humanity is content to coexist for the time we spend in here as our lives unfold, as plans are made whether small plans or life changing ones like mine.

I end with a quote about moving on:

Nothing belongs to itself anymore.
These trees are yours because you once looked at them.
These streets are yours because you once traversed them.
These coffee shops and bookshops, these cafés and bars, their sole owner is you.
They gave themselves so willingly, surrendering to your perfume.
You sang with the birds and they stopped to listen to you.
You smiled at the sheepish stars and they fell into your hair.
The sun and moon, the sea and mountain, they have all left from heartbreak.
Nothing belongs to itself anymore.
You once spoke to Him, and then God became yours.
He sits with us in darkness now
to plot how to make you ours.”

Wisconsin Point, Superior, Wisconsin

Photo Credit Philip Schwarz Photography

There it is. The turn off Highway 53. The long winding narrow road through the trees that seems to go on and on without a hint that a beach and the wide expanse of the lake lay just beyond. There is a Native burial ground almost at the break in the trees to the right where people have left mementoes.

From CatholicDos.org:

“Wisconsin Point (three miles in length) and Minnesota Point (seven miles) located in Superior, Wisconsin make up the largest freshwater sandbar in the world. They were formed by two rivers. The French traders who approached the west end of Lake Superior would eventually start calling the larger river on the right the St. Louis River (after the King of France) although the Ojibwe’s name for it was “Gichigami-ziibi” meaning “Great Lake River.” The stream on the left was called the Nemadji River (after the Ojibwe word “ne-madji-tic-guay-och” for “Left Hand River”). The Nemadji River marks the boundary between the parishes of St. Francis Xavier and St. Anthony.

Fr. Claude Jean Allouez, S.J. (1622-1689) camped on the shore of Wisconsin Point in 1666 while ministering to the Ojibwe. The following year, he would establish a mission along Bluff Creek near the shore of the bay. Frustrated though with few Ojibwe willing to join the Catholic faith, he abandoned his evangelization efforts in about 1669.

Today, near the Superior entry lighthouse at Wisconsin Point, a stone marker states:

Here was the burial ground of the Fond du Lac Band of Chippewa people dating from the 17th century. It was removed in 1919 to St. Francis cemetery, Superior.”

Actually, only about 180 remains from the most identifiable graves were moved (including at least one chief– Chief Joseph Osaugie (1802-1876). Sadly though, once placed in a mass grave at St. Francis Xavier cemetery, they were improperly cared for over the years. For example, when the slope of land on which they were reburied had been undercut by construction of a road, bones and decayed clothing could be seen spilling toward the river. As far as what happened to the 100 unidentified graves that were left on Wisconsin point? Some say Chief Osaugie’s descendants know their location, but they are not about to give up their dead.”

I spent many a somber moment pausing there, listening to the whispers of the trees and the quiet breeze until I could almost see the days when no white person had set foot on that land. From here you can smell the water. A quick walk up brings you to the golden beach which stretches for a fair ways until it curves round out of sight.

I lay here nights on the soft sand watching the aurora borealis while the waves washed up on the sand. I walked barefoot in the wash, my footsteps disappearing in the waves as if I had never trod there. I loved the feeling of the cold water on my feet and I would gaze over the water to the blue line on the horizon wondering what lay on the other side of the blue line. Now I am on the other side of the blue line looking homewards, missing the sight of great red ore oats with their distinctive long shape and white trim cruising out to the wide lake beyond.

The lighthouse lies on the end of s great long break wall that is really a long pile of rocks; precarious to walk on when the weather is wet and with a little effort it is well worth it to achieve the lighthouse at last on its concrete block. My soul wanders when I lean up against the short wall on the other side of the lighthouse; across that endless expanse of blue something in me rears up, this sense of wandering and possibility, wildness and passion. I love this great inland sea that is beautiful in its calm and unpredictability; where I went agate hunting on its beach as a young woman and sat on the great driftwood logs with a little fire going at night listening to the fire pop and hiss, smoke floating upwards, while the water and the waves sliding forever in and out spoke to me in their languages speaking of time and eternity and ages long past when no human being was there, and when the first humans to live there fished and lived and loved.

I stand on Erie’s shore sometimes, in Hamburg, New York. I fulfilled the wanderlust of my younger years; I know what is on the other side of that far blue horizon line and 30 years on the other side I hear the great water that lives further northwest calling to me. It is the song of home.

Bridge to Eternity: Part Two

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(photo taken by me, 2014, Valentine, NE)

The clock ticked inexorably.  Even in her dreams Claire felt the passage of time.  In her dreams she was always searching in the dark for something that was just beyond her reach; in others people long dead came to visit her.   She welcomed their company; her house was empty, and the long nights sleep, when it came with its shadowy visitors, was a comfort.   She had spent much of her life in a restless sort of fashion, moving from place to place searching for that indescribable something—perhaps a sense of home—that was always beyond her reach.  For twenty years her entire life had pivoted around one fateful decision—moving away.   Going home, perhaps, was an attempt to rectify the past, even though the present had changed forever.  And anyway, she mused, one place was much like another these days.   Being alone had become such a way of life that she had long ago stopped trying to change it; a string of failed relationships haunted her; or perhaps more to the point, her failure at love haunted her–and the years spun themselves out behind her effortlessly, it seemed while she watched all the people she knew marry, she felt she was a bystander while the carousel of life spun around her.

    At last she saw the lights of the Duluth hill draw towards her.  What she would do once she got home she had no idea.   She only knew that home was what she wanted; her heart ached for it, and she could not imagine what it had been in her youth that had called her away for so long.

She could no longer outrun the grief as she could no longer outrun the love that had followed her around the world for the last twenty years, outlasted a marriage, and went on still.  

   Claire pulled into town, and turned slowly into the parking lot of a motel.  Wearily, she got out of the truck, grabbed her bag, checked in, and fell into a dreamless sleep.  She did not feel the weight on the bed beside her, nor the hand that softly stroked her hair.  Even if she had, she would not have seen her gentle visitor.  Because everyone knows when you die, you disappear.