Quite Mornings

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Most days I’m in a rush to get to work and waking up early just to get some quite time isn’t always a viable option because going to bed late becomes a bad habit that’s hard to break. So there are times where I get up rush to get ready and rush to work where there is more noise and more chaos and a stress headaches are always sure to follow. But on occasion there are those beautiful mornings where I can work slower and sip my coffee without haste and enjoy the morning.

Now that the fall weather is beginning to slowly creep in little by little I can enjoy the birds singing and the view around me as the dust and smog has cleared slightly, leaving a clearer day to look at from the inside of my desk in the lobby.

The first sip of coffee is heavenly, or at least it would be if it were a little less bitter. So I grab an extra packet of sweetener and throw it in. Stirring it around before trying it again I deem it to be much more palatable and I set down the mug again before running the morning reports. I know that it could get busier later but for now I’m grateful for quite mornings.

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Drum Circle

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A longtime friend of mine who is actually more of a brother to me was talking about a drum circle they do up in the mountains on Sunday nights when the weather is warm enough. I brought up my favorite restaurant up in those same mountains and how they played live music Sunday nights during the summer, and we decided to go to both.

We drove up during the magic hour, around 5 in the evening when the sun hits the hills just right and makes everything glow golden. We started off with dinner at the River View Restaurant up in Three Rivers where we both enjoyed a Paul Bunyan Cheeseburger (a burger with blue cheese) with bacon, seasoned fries and a side of ranch. The music was louder than we expected but they took breaks often to give patrons a chance to talk amongst themselves. We caught up on each other’s lives and had a great time listening to the blues style music in between listening to the river flow. As the name suggested we were right by the river and we watched with wonder and admiration as even in the dry summer it continued to flow. As the sun set you could see the shadows of the branches of the trees that were nestled along the river in the water and it was such a beautiful and poetic sight that we sat in comfortable silence enjoying the evening.

Once the sun was down and the bill was paid we left to go to the drum circle which was only a couple miles or so down the road. Mystery loomed around the building as we walked up. There were a few trees in front which made everything darker and I turned on my flashlight to make sure I wouldn’t trip on anything on the way to the door. The funny thing about this building is it’s one of the many buildings I miss or never think about as many times as I’ve been up there. It was so inconspicuous that during the day behind the few trees that give it some privacy I’ve never given it a second thought.

This being my first time at the drum circle I wasn’t sure what to expect. We went through the door which was actually a false wall, already opened to receive it’s guests with a picture of Betty Boop in a martini glass painted on it.

As we walked in I quickly noticed the room was an art gallery with pictures painted on more false walls that were all opened to the back of the building revealing the garden beyond. All the doors had something painted on them, most portrait-like paintings of faces I didn’t recognize. The floor was a light color wood laid down in narrow pieces. I look to my right where there is wall to wall mirrors from floor to ceiling and I quickly realize this place is also used as a dance studio. As we walk through the building to the courtyard I realize how amazing this place is.

There is a wood lookout tower with a cement pond that expands underneath covered in lily pads. We walked right through the doors and looked up the stairs. My friend tells me how we can go up there later if we like and I stare up at the steep stairs with trepidation remembering that I have a horrible fear of heights.

Beyond that is a long patio that leads down to a sloped walkway leading down to the drum circle. The walkway to the bottom of the circle is dirt with rock lining the edges, keeping the slope in tack. As we go lower the rock walkways turn into walls for people to sit and down at the bottom are all the drummers along with a few other strange instruments I’ve never seen before. We sit a row up from the inner circle as we aren’t very experienced musicians and our maracas are borrowed from the venue, to be returned when we are done playing.

They have already been drumming when we arrived but now they were all warmed up and really getting into it. There were candles and incense in the middle of the circle, something to give us light in this sacred space. The people in the inner circle weren’t wearing shoes, one of the few rules when you enter the circle. My friend explains that this is treated as a sacred space, he won’t even kill the large black widow we see later in the evening in fear of disrespecting the owners and disrupting the sacred space. I think of a monk monastery and wonder why this place is treated as holy ground. Is it religious or simply a byproduct of the hippie beliefs that clearly dominated this area?

Either way I felt surprisingly comfortable and no one ever made me feel out of place. Even with my jeans and cowboy boots I didn’t feel alienated from the flower children dancing around the small flames in dresses, barefoot as if they were paying tribute to the flames and the night.

They danced with such freedom that I wasn’t sure if it was the influence of some drug or drink or something deeper driving them to express themselves without inhibitions but as I watched them dance I was immensely intrigued. I tried to keep rhythm with my maracas but after a while gave up, too distracted by the dancers. Their dancing was so strange yet so appropriate with the exotic drums beating rapidly. Strange movements I’ve never seen before, I couldn’t tell if they practiced it or if it was completely organic at the moment but I couldn’t help but notice one boy who was obviously Native American dancing wild and eccentrically as his ancestors did and people who still haven’t forgotten their heritage still do.

I later found out from my friend that he was always this way, slightly wild and connected to nature and whatever energy the earth gives off when he finds himself in the wilderness. But that he went to live at a reservation for a year and came back even more free to connect with nature and the world around him. Throughout the night I was witness to his uninhibited actions and admired that no matter what people may think he did what he felt in the moment. Nothing was brash, violent or inappropriate. He didn’t hurt or insult anymore, he simply chose to be his truest self.

Two women danced later, the first one taking off her shoes to dance in the circle, taking small steps and raising her arms in short movements. The other later put down her drum and belly danced around the fire, kneeling before she began to homage to whatever they were celebrating. My friend told me it wasn’t anything in particular and probably meant something different to everyone, just that we are here in nature, celebrating life.

The dance moves became more of an expression of something much deeper and there was something primal about them as if it was something we’ve forgotten with all our busy schedules and distractions. It wasn’t sexual, and it wasn’t influenced by any rigid structure or rules that you would find in any hip-hop, ballet or another genre of modern or classical dance. The dancing, which was not always on the beat with the drums didn’t look bad, and I wouldn’t consider them bad dancers, but have taken classes as a teenager I wondered if this is what I would’ve looked like had I not been taught a different way to dance. These dancers didn’t seem to be putting on a show or performance. However, they somehow made everything look perfect at that moment.

It was incredibly relaxing sitting on the stone wall listening to the drums beat while everyone played what felt right to them, all working together to make amazing music that reminded me of how jazz musicians just sit down and play. It was similar in the way that it was all at the moment, no one talked about what to play next. A few would just start playing and the rest would jump in. The music lasted as long as they wanted it to, no three-minute limit, no one saying when it was over. Eventually a few would stop and a few more would linger on a bit longer until the last note was played.

Sitting there and gently participating with my little maraca, it was like I was remembering something I’d forgotten although I couldn’t yet tell what that was. But something about the evening felt so natural and I wondered if it was because I didn’t have a pressure to perform or even to make small talk if I didn’t want to. We were all there to enjoy the evening and the great music and I let the beat of the drums wash over me as I felt my muscles relaxing.

After several songs my friend and I put our maracas down and headed towards the tower. He said the view is incredible and if I felt up to it, it’s worth the climb. I’m terrified of heights and after some self-talk and encouragement from my friend, I slowly made the climb up, pausing only a few times as my anxiety attack grabbed hold and I froze. Encouraging me the whole way and reminding me that I didn’t have to climb the tower I was three steps away when I finally just decided to commit and I took the last three steps and pulled myself through the hole in the floor.

Finally I was at the top and crawled over and knelt in the corner farthest from the hole where the ladder was built. Breathing for a couple minutes while shaking I finally brought myself to my feet and was rewarded with the most beautiful sight of a very bright moon rising up over the mountains. I looked around and could see the details of the mountains beyond as the moon beamed a majestic light on all the trees, rocks and houses. A white owl flew right by us, its feathers glowing in the moonlight and I felt like Harry Potter when he experienced magic for the first time.

We stood up there for maybe a half an hour or more, enjoying the enchanting view and swapping ghost stories with a local. Finally we climbed down and I can say it was at least easier going down. Still shaking a bit and making sure to breathe I took my time but got to the bottom much quicker than I climbed up. We went back to the drum circle for another song or two and took a short hike down to the river, thinking that my friend’s friends might still be down by the river.

It was dark but thanks to technology we had our flashlights on our phones and easily made the half-mile hike to an opening where the river was still as glass and you could hear the small waterfall just 20 feet away. His friends weren’t there but we stayed anyway.

The river was low due to the summer and we stood on massive rocks smoothed over from where the water runs high in the winter. The rocks and white birch tree trunks glowed white in the moonlight and it felt as if I entered a different world where anything could happen. When we looked closer at the water we could even see the stars reflected as they flickered away and back again as the water moved imperceptibly to the human eye in the dark. We stood for about 10 minutes or so and talked about how incredibly beautiful this night was and that we should do this again then headed back to the circle.

We hung out for a moment more, enjoying a bit more music until we headed home 15 minutes before the drum circle was due to stop, thanks to a 10 pm noise ordinance. We talked and reflected on the amazing night we just had driving through the calm darkness in the hills back to our homes in the valley.

Falling for the Season

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sk-2017_04_article_main_mobileEach year I eagerly await fall weather and the changing of the leaves which usually doesn’t come until the end of October. Sometimes the leaves change while it’s still hot out and I can’t decide if it’s because of the heat or if it’s just the season showing us that despite all other evidence, fall has arrived.

So it is always around this time when the sun still beats down and the leaves are still unseasonably green that I start to prepare for the upcoming season. Like a squirrel stores his nuts in preparation for winter I begin my fall rituals.

The Autumn decorations come out and suddenly my house is covered in fake leaves and artificial pumpkins. I begin to take out my summer clothes in favor of light sweaters and jackets even though it still may be only 85 degrees outside. I even change out my makeup, taking away the summer nudes and replacing them with vampy reds and purples staring at them each morning and waiting for the opportunity to wear them and my fall outfits that I love so much. I start brainstorming what fruits will be in season soon so I can make pies, tarts and cakes. I check my tea supply to make sure I have enough fall flavored tea for the upcoming fall and winter because it’s this time of year that I drink tea like a fish.

I’ve begun to love Halloween more and more as I get older because it’s whimsy and mystery always enchants me and every year I plan a costume that I will never use because I never know where the Halloween parties are. But I plan anyway, enjoying the process and this year I plan to sew a vintage dress made from Halloween printed fabric. At the very least if I am successful  I can wear it to work this year as I will be working on Halloween.

And if we are so blessed we will have a bit of fall color, or maybe I will just drive up to where there is some and enjoy the sound of leaves crunching underneath my boots. And maybe this year I will even plan a hike somewhere where the reds, oranges and yellow leaves are plentiful. Every single year I can’t get enough, because every year I fall head over heels in love with Autumn.

Toxic People Make More Toxic People

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Cynical voices carry down the hall and into the lobby where I sit at my desk counting the hours until I can go home. Another 7 hours yet to suffer through while my coworkers spew evil gossip about the happening of this town and the board members that run this infernal hell hole. You can hear the disdain in her voice as I have begun to hear it in my own as of late. Negativity has become a hovering aura that has become my first reaction to almost every situation and I realize how unhappy and miserable I have become.

I came into this job with an innocence I almost scoff at now that I have just passed my three year work anniversary. I would come to work with an optimism for the last two and a half years that would always seem to confuse my coworkers and now I know why. This soul draining, time wasting, heap of shit job has slowly worn me down not by the work although far from dazzling but the people. Slowly their negative attitudes tired me out until I could no longer tell myself and others I lie I had learned to flow off my tongue. It was like I had convinced myself “I love my job, decent pay and benefits, it’s one of the best jobs around.” That last part was sadly true.

One day after a particularly horrible week a few months ago I admitted it to my best friend and to myself for the first time. It broke my heart a bit to realize I worked my butt off for a job and people that didn’t appreciate me and even more so that I turned into the kind of person that hates their job but stays because of the benefits and money. I knew this would never make me happy, I know some times you have to do what you have to do to make a living and hopefully put some money away to maybe buy a better life or another distraction from the one that you despise. I never wanted to be like everyone else in this town and the worst part was finding out I already have.

Toxic people make other toxic people which is why I always stayed away. But I haven’t been able to stay away from the job that pays my bills and allows me some financial freedom no matter how small. Hopefully one day I will be able to move away from these toxic people and this toxic place and find something that is healthy for me again.

Dry. Dry. Dry.

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Dusty is billowing up around a dairy across the highway from where I work. The large windows that make up the front of this room allow me to see how high the dust cloud blows up until the breeze pulls it away into the smog that fills the rest of the valley. It’s dry down here in the armpit of California. I used to look at the dairies and agriculture all around me and feel grateful for the beauty because this is where the food comes from that is shipped around the country and the world. These days most of the dairies are gone and the fields don’t always hold green crops.

Harvest has already happened for most farmers around here and what is left is acres and miles of empty dirt fields, and it’s dry. Rarely there is ever a day where I don’t open my gate to leave my house where dust doesn’t get blown right into my face from the passing cars and trucks kicking up the dirt that surrounds my property.

I watch as more dust clouds fly up into the air with aggression as if the earth is angry. Who wouldn’t be in this heat? It dissolves away into the sky and I search for the source. Not a dense enough cloud for someone to be disking a field, pulling up dirt to prepare for next seasons crops. I look on in confusion as I don’t see any trucks which I assumed was what it was that disturbed the powdery ground. Finally I see what I am searching for.

Mini tornadoes my mom always called dirt devils, I couldn’t tell you if that was their real name or not. I suppose I could always look it up but there are some things in life I would rather not ruin the mystery of with certainty. Plus I always liked calling them dirt devils, their dancing around and making a mess always seemed appropriate with a name like that.

Three years working here and I still forget it’s completely common to get dirt devils around here in the spring through the fall. Something about our location usually guarantees a breeze, or maybe it’s just all the traffic driving by 100 yards away. I wonder if the wind ever gets mad at us for disturbing it’s travels, maybe it has a fit and kicks up dust so we can no longer ignore it, only settling when it gets big enough to be noticed and then satisfied it goes back to its business. A lot like the people around here, pent up until they blow up and can settle down again.

My sights settle on some trees only a few feet away from the window and I wonder if the leaves are turning yellow because the trees know it’s fall even if it’s still well into 90 degree weather or if they are merely giving up after fighting the heat all summer. If they know something I don’t I wish they could share it, a small change in the earth that lets them know it’s going to cool down soon. Maybe rain?

That last part was wishful thinking. Even in the winter it rarely rains. Last winter we didn’t even get much fog, our only visual indication that it is fact winter, it just gave up and burned away when the sun rose, as if it were too tired to deal with adversary. It was too warm to appreciate a good jacket, except in the mornings before the sun rose when it was bone cold and still dry.

I’ve lived here long enough to know that most things won’t change whether it’s the people or the climate. The only thing that can change around here is me and maybe a few other lucky souls. Most people I’ve met here don’t travel, don’t leave, they just stay planted in the dry dusty town that has continued to dry up more and more as the years go on. This place used to hold lakes, hills and wildlife but even they gave up too. The only proof that they were ever here sits in the local museum that is so small most people don’t even know about it.

So I will keep dreaming of lush green fields, mountains and trees, of blue skies and crystal clear rivers and streams. I will pray for some snowy or rainy winters and hope I will need a big warm jacket. I will continue to wish I lived somewhere other than here because there is hardly any hope that even with some rain this town will be anything but dry.

When the Well Runs Dry

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Lately I’ve been facing a lack of inspiration and passion in my life. There are things I want to do and either I’m too busy to do them or I feel like something else has to come first.

It’s as if a tornado has been going off in my brain and it’s hard to grab onto a single task to focus on and so they keep spinning and I remain in a lackluster daze trying to make some sense of what is happening with my life.

I guess it started because I became especially busy and even though I was being productive nothing has been thrilling me. I find myself in a routine and now knowing that I’ve been going through the motions without a whole lot of zest in my step I know I need to try to grab a hold of something and fall in love with life again.

But as I grasp at something I hold it in my hand and it becomes meaningless and so I let it go to spin around in the tornado again. Only to feel like the things I really want to hold are out of reach. Or maybe I just can’t decide what to grab next in all the chaos and so I sit flaccid waiting for something to become clear.

Although I really don’t believe that will work I have to stay where I am for now. Because life events and circumstance keeps me grounded until I can grow my own wings and fly away from the storm.

And so here I sit, dry of inspiration and hoping that will change soon.

Early to Rise

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early-morningLately I’ve been attempting an early to bed early to rise lifestyle. Sparked by my desire to make as much time for the gym as I can, I found some days it’s easier to get to the gym at 5am and be done before 6am, giving me plenty of time to prep for the work day. I’ve found I’ve had more time to pick an outfit, put on my face and fix my hair. But a surprising bonus has been having some time in the morning to myself to get some things done I haven’t had time for lately. Most of those things consist of watching an inspirational or organizational video to get myself in the right mindset for the day or even ordering more gym wear as I seem to be reaching for my muscle tanks and compression leggings more and more. But sometimes being up early and wide awake having already done my morning cardio gives me time simply to enjoy some morning coffee with my breakfast and have some time for my own thoughts.

It was on one of these mornings that I realized how much of my time I lent to technology, communication and other random distractions and how I rarely give myself some time only to myself. Usually I always have the radio or a video playing in the background of my life and I realized how rare it is to be alone with my own thoughts and just allowing myself to produce my own thoughts organically without outside stimulations.

Having a quite moment to myself in the morning it was as if I was saying hello to my own imagination again and I sat in silence enjoying the wanderings of my own mind.

Maybe it’s just me but having that quite time to myself to evaluate my feelings and thoughts before exposing myself to music, videos or people who might influence them has allowed me to put myself in a better place to take on the rest of the day without reacting as quickly to the things that can alter my mood. So sitting at the computer with a cup of coffee I realize that it’s worth the initial struggle of waking up at 4:30 in the morning to get a jump start on my day. Because early to bed and early to rise seems to have made me more healthy, hopefully more wealthy and a little more wise.

Pain leads to Progress

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2304153_0Being a new gym enthusiast I often hear that pain is good, to embrace it and to know that it’s proof that you’re getting better. I smile knowing this is very true. This not only applies to workouts but to life in general and is a good reminder that when things get tough you’re making progress.

Over the past couple years I’ve pushed myself more than I have in years prior and something I continue to notice over and over again is that just when you want to quit because you think you can’t take it anymore, you can make that decision to push harder and that’s when something amazing happens. I truly believe that it’s just when things are at their hardest, if you hang in there and work harder and keep going things change for the better and something good comes out of it all along with a sudden clarity.

I used to have the biggest fear of failure. I would give up or not even try if I thought I was going to fail, and that was very often what happened. Whenever things got to hard I gave up before even giving it a good try. I honestly didn’t think I could do anything.

I had a little preview of what life could be on a trip with a best friend and realized that my life didn’t have to be the way it was and that I dictated what happened to me. In fact, I learned I’m the only one who can make things happen. It was like someone pulled aside the blinds and I could see the sun in all it’s brilliance and everything it shone on was radiant. All at once I saw all the possibilities that life had to offer me and from then on I was done letting fear get in the way of my happiness.

It was hard but I started small. I set some smaller goals and then very quickly some larger ones. I began to achieve and learn things I didn’t believe I was capable of and I noticed myself growing in confidence and happiness as I continued to push forward. I’m not a Noble Prize Winner or an Olympian and I’m not even close to a millionaire but I’m in a much better place and I’ve achieved many of my goals that only a few short years ago I thought were out of reach for me.

The difference was when things got hard I didn’t quit, when things got even harder I kept at it, when things seemed at their worst I held on and clawed my way out of all the bad things I was feeling and the self doubt and chose to do things that were productive towards my goal and continue to work on myself even harder. And at those worst moments I reminded myself that most people who are the closest to their goal that they’ve ever been usually are going through the worst part of getting there. A lot of people give up, but a lot of people keep going and push through, making it to their goals.

It’s like climbing a mountain, as you get closer to the top the mountain becomes steeper and steeper and naturally you tire. The people that push through that final length of mountain reach the top and then going back down is almost effortless.

So I want to persuade you to keep going and working towards something you want. If things feel too hard I want to encourage you to keep going and when you think you can’t take anymore please remember that you are stronger than you think and that you can make it.

Because whether it’s a career goal, a lifestyle change, a workout, a project or a skill it’s important to remember that pain leads to progress and you are closer than you think.

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Gym Time Leads To Sore Time

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It was just shy two weeks sense I’ve joined the gym and so far I am proud to say I’ve made good use of my membership, even going twice a day when I can. Every day has been something different, except for my morning cardio workout which usually only consists of me on the stair machine dripping sweat for 30 minutes.

Tuesday was something different though. Tuesday was leg day. It’s been a long time sense I’ve done a leg day and I have to tell you I was in pain. After about an hour or more I was definitely feeling nauseous but grateful I had a workout buddy who kept me going for that past hour. I knew I wouldn’t have gone quite that long without as much encouragement as I had received.

The next day I was wallowing in my soreness, dreading each time I had to get up from my desk. At one point I dropped the phone under a table and had to get down on my knees to retrieve it… and then get myself back up. It was truly the kind of soreness that made you want to sit on the couch all day with ice packs on your thighs. Yet through all of that I still I felt very proud of myself all throughout the day.

Last year I lost 40 pounds and then gained almost half of that back. Having still lost over 20 pounds I’m not too discouraged but I am determined to get back to my best self that I was last year.. and then continue to lose more. Because for being only 5 feet tall I am morbidly obese. I carry my weight differently than someone 7 inches taller than me. The good part about this? When I lose weight it really shows. When I lose 10 pounds it’s very dramatic and everyone can tell. So two weeks in and not having lost any weight I’m not discouraged. I can feel my muscles forming under the layer of fat and I’ve already lost inches on my waist.

I know I have a long way to go and it’s not going to be easy by any means but I’m looking forward to the journey ahead and disciplining myself all over again to lose weight. I’m looking forward to being much more in shape than I am now so I can look back on the first two weeks at the gym and remember struggling on the stairs machine, with the weights, with the equipment and the workouts and see how far I’ve come.

And because muscle weights more than fat, pain leads to progress and gym time leads to sore time, I’m now on my way to a healthier life.

All or Nothing

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GTY-new-york-lottery-jpo-170524_12x5_992It was lunch time in the break room and I was sitting with the manager and foreman of my job. They were talking about the lottery and the foreman mentions that he would rather not play the lottery than get 5 out of 6 numbers but not win the big money. At this time getting 5 out of 6 numbers would get him $100,000 hypothetically if he had played this time. He said he would hate to get so close and not have won the 500,000 or maybe it was 500 million, I couldn’t tell you.

But still I argued that some money is better than no money, after all it’s a two dollar ticket. Even if you do pay half of that in taxes that would still leave you with $50,000. He argued that he would rather pay half of the big money than half of $100,000. He complained that the latter wouldn’t even be enough to retire with or even pay off a house or car in some cases. But still I argued, if you hypothetically pay a $2 ticket and get $100,000 and half of that goes to taxes it still leaves you with $50,000 which is a lot more than you started off with. He wouldn’t budge on his position.

To me this says a lot about his personality and knowing him it would make sense that he wouldn’t be grateful for what he has or what he would have had if he would’ve won some money, just not the big money. It still boggles my mind how someone can be that greedy and ungrateful but it was a good reminder that there are some people out there that no matter what you do you just can’t make them happy.

For some people it’s all or nothing. I think this is an immature way to look at things especially from a man who is at least 40 years my senior. But there are also so many people who feel this way. Because at the end of the day we don’t have all or nothing, most of the time we get something in between. But the in between usually isn’t enough, especially for the people who always want more.

However, I think it’s important to remember to always be grateful for what you have and what you receive because if you only give yourself the option of all or nothing more times than not you will end up with nothing.