Tiny Update

I wanted to let you know I tweaked my blog. I also bit the bullet and this blog, right here, is my website now. I still have some more things I want to do (like put links somewhere to my other two blogs) but I think I am done … maybe. If you are having any issues, please let me know. I wasn’t sure if it was loading too slow or not. I am surprised this took me all day! I hope everyone has a fantastic evening and I will do my best to do a proper post tomorrow.

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Jury Duty and Allergies

I have always loathed getting my jury duty notification. Why? In my eyes, it was one more thing the government was forcing me to do. I am forced to pay property taxes if I want to keep my home. I am forced to pay registration fees if I want to drive my car off my property. I am forced to pay sales tax if I want to purchase just about anything. So, when I received my jury duty notice last week I was angry.

This was the first time I have received one since all the kids moved out of the house (damn, can’t claim an exemption for that). I have severe allergies to various chemicals but the ones that get me when I am in public are perfumes or cologne (oh, look. I need a doctor’s note … like I can get that in a week). So, none of the exemptions applied so I began chanting a mantra: “Jury Duty Free.”

It didn’t work. Well, no, it did (sort of). Two nights ago, we checked and there it was: I was to report for jury duty the next day. Oh, I was stomping around the house like a moody teenager. I had to get ready for “battle.” I cleaned out my purse, surprised to find only two knives in there. 🙂 I filled my bag with a physical book, my Kindle (the physical book in case I couldn’t use my Kindle because it’s new and I have not tested it away from home), my inhaler, my epi-pen, my masks, my coffee and something to snack on. By the time I left the house, I was ready.

So, I showed up, made it through security without setting anything off, descended to the basement (which wasn’t as dark and dank as I had envisioned) and settled in. Things were going good (I was amazed I hadn’t run into a wall of perfume). That’s when the rest of the people started filing in. My tranquil mood lasted for about 5 minutes, when I had to get up and go out into the hall. Then more women came out of the elevator and that’s when I realized my mask was no help at all.

So, I hit my inhaler, tried to find the least populated spot, and did my best to slow down my breathing. That is what I continued to do for the next hour, until I was called into the court room. I have only been inside a court room twice before (and neither of those times was for jury duty) so I had no idea what to expect.

There was roll call, then the judge came in. Then, I actually started paying attention. There was the District Attorney, the other woman was obviously the defense attorney, and there was the defendant. I’m not sure why I didn’t think they would all be sitting there. They gave us a piece of paper with the defendant’s name and the possible dates (and times) of the trial, then the judge began speaking.

Since I was clutching my purse way too hard, focusing on slowing my breathing, I pretty much heard, “Blah, blah, blah, Our county has the highest rate of jury duty summons responses in the entire state, blah, blah, blah …” Then, he said something that made me wish I could actually serve: “Jury duty allows us, the people, to actually participate in a branch of the government.”

He finished this up, then went row by row, asking if people needed to be excused or have their jury duty service postponed. I was shocked at how many businesses do not pay anything for jury duty, since it is required by law. When he finally got to my row, I raised my hand, then stood, swaying a bit, and explained my allergies. I sat back down and started to cry. I didn’t know what I would do if he didn’t excuse me. The trial we were there for was slated for almost three weeks!

After everyone pleaded their case, he began reading off the names of those who would be excused or postponed. He read my name and I began to sob. I have never felt so helpless and vulnerable. By the time I made it out of the courthouse, my hands and feet were tingling, due to lack of oxygen. It has now been three days and I am still not 100%. This is also the allergic reaction I have to cats. Too many cat people think I will be alright if they lock their cat in the room or vacuum really good. Whether or not that would work, I can’t take that chance.

Monday I will finally make my appointment with a new doctor.

Judge Not, That Ye Be Not Judged.

Yeah, o.k. Judge away! I smoke, drink (rarely), rarely wear makeup (or do my hair), am overweight, live off of diet soda and coffee (plus water, now), have made horrible choices in my life (one of which ultimately scarred two people who I love dearly), and for the most part, hate people. 🙂

I do. It wasn’t this bad before the internet but wow! I have never been surrounded by so many judgemental people since I attended church! That’s probably one of the reasons this quote from the Bible popped in my head: I grew up surrounded by those who professed to follow the teachings of the Bible but few who had even read the entire book. So, I decided to look it up (once again, thank you, Google) and found a great article explaining what this passage means.

Judge Not, That Ye Be Not Judged by Wayne Stiles. See, I judge every single day. I also live in the downtown area of a city that has been #1 in violent crimes nationally more times than I care to count (yes, more violent crimes than Chicago for those years). If you are walking on my street and I don’t know you, I am judging you. It takes me just a few seconds to determine if you are a potential threat because that is the way it is when you are surrounded by those who would gladly beat the crap out of you so they can score some drugs.

To me, though, this type of judging is completely different from what I see online. I really do not think the majority of those spewing such vitriol would have the fortitude to do so face to face. Some of the worst cases I have ever seen were from those who talked about Mother Earth, Love and Light, and finished their posts with “Namaste.” I have seen them become unhinged by those who smoke cigarettes (because it is their duty to police what I put in my body), give birth to children (because babies are bad for the environment … seriously), eat animal products (overlooking the cost and environmental impact of the production and shipment of their tofu burger) and drive (at all, though they love to overlook the petroleum-based tires they have on their bicycles).

These are also the people I see throwing the “Judge Not” Bible verse back at those who do not support gay marriage (or abortion). Look, I get it. I, too, find it hypocritical for those who profess to follow the Bible to speak and act like they have no idea what is in it. I can’t remember who it was (might have been my grandmother because she was really good for this) but I remember hearing tirades of judgemental gossip coming out of her mouth but she would bypass the admonition by ending her statements with, “But who am I to judge.” It was as if that made all the hateful things she said alright in the eyes of God because she wasn’t REALLY judging.

The cold, hard reality is everyone judges. EVERYONE! It is how/why we judge that is important to focus on. If you relish in saying hateful things to total strangers who are different from you, that is your choice. However, if we ever want this world to change for the better, we must be willing to turn that judgement onto ourselves and become the person we want to have lunch with. Could you really handle talking to yourself for a few hours without violence ensuing?

Misery Loves Company

I never (EVER) thought I would say this but I have to thank my husband’s ex-wife for teaching me so many lessons. See, before I met my husband, the only step-relationship I ever dealt with was my step-mother. She was truly one of the most loving women I have ever met. Not only did she accept me as her daughter but so did her entire family. I was (and still am) truly blessed. And get this: my mom actually liked my step-mom! Can you believe it?

So, when I met my husband and, before we were even serious, he told me he had not only an ex-wife but a daughter, I was happy. I knew, through experience, that it did not have to be a horrible hate-filled relationship. It was going to be great, especially since I, like my step-mom, would finally have a daughter (without giving birth to her).

This is where the lessons come into play. It did not take long for those rose-colored glasses to be ripped right off my head. The derogatory comments began within a month of us dating and things just continued to escalate from there. 18 years (and a disconnected house phone) later, I am finally able to see what I learned.

I learned that no matter what is said or done, there are just some people who love misery. Not only do they love to be miserable but they thoroughly enjoy spreading it around like the plague. These people are cruel and heartless. As long as they are able to inflict pain on others, that is all that matters (even if it is their own child that gets hurt). They will lie, cheat, and steal to ensure that within their deluded mind, they are winning and I am not just talking about the ex now.

Through dealing on a daily (sometimes hourly) basis with the ex, I began to see that I have been surrounded by these types of people all my life. “Friends,” family friends, and even family fall into this type of antisocial personality disorder. It’s been truly illuminating and has helped me learn how to distance myself from almost all of these toxic people. It’s taken me a long time to do it but this is how I accomplished this:

I started slowly (well, with those I thought of as friends or family). I began with having things to do, so I was too busy and couldn’t meet. I spaced out the meetings over time, so I had time to mentally prepare myself for the deluge of negativity. If they refused to honor my wishes (respect me and my time), I stopped answering the phone or door. If this is someone I must have contact with, this is how I have kept the relationship: very distant. If, on the other hand, there is no reason I need to ever speak to them again: I’m done. One person I told exactly how I felt and told them I never wanted to speak to them again. The other (the ex) we just shut off our home phone. If she shows up, she is trespassing.

The sad part of that is my step-daughter has now taken our place and until she learns to stand up for herself and refuse to be a verbal punching bag, all we can do is be here when she needs some quiet sanity and a shoulder to cry (or lean) on. I hope this happens soon.

Those who can, should teach.

The full quote is: “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.” In other words, if you are not able to run a successful business, then you should teach business. That makes sense, doesn’t it? I wrote a post a couple of years ago about me discovering I am a student and a teacher. Thinking about the quote above, what did I really mean when I stated that? At the time, my life mirrored the above quote. I had never “done” most of the things I have been learning so how could I possibly be qualified to teach?

So, when should learning stop and doing begin? I want to write but am I doing it correctly? Shouldn’t I know more about not only the subject but the method of writing? I will never know if I do not write. At this point, I am pretty much willing to write about anything that pops in my head since I can never learn from my successes (and failures) if I do nothing.

I have been an avid hoarder of educational materials since I got my first computer (a computer that a friend built me and if I remember correctly, ran on Windows 95). I can’t even begin to tell you how many .pdfs I have of old, out of print books that were wonderful sources of knowledge. In addition to those out of print books, I even have printed up entire websites (most of them posthumously, thanks to Internet Archive: Wayback Machine) but what good is all of that knowledge if none of it is practiced?

When I lived in Arizona I attended a (now defunct) career college. Despite the fact that my diploma in Small Business Management isn’t worth the paper it was printed on (I wish I would have known what accreditation was and how important it is), what I loved about the school was all of the instructors were from the real world. My marketing instructor left to work for the first soaker hose company that solely used recycled tires, my accounting instructor was an actual accountant, and my computer instructor ran a small tech support company (they were all teaching part-time). These instructors are my definition of a teachers. They do, therefore they teach.

I have information on just about every subject out there but my main love has always been all things relating to herbal medicine. I love the fact that the majority of ingredients contained within the various Pharmacopeia from the early 1900s and older are plants I can grow or purchase (and I do not need any special license or permit for those purchases). I have considered taking some courses related to herbal medicine but why spend the money if I have all this information at my fingertips?

That WAS my thinking until I actually tried to make an herbal salve. No matter how many times I tried, I could not manage to make a salve without it being too hard, too soft, too lumpy or having it separate over time. As much as I adore You Tube, there are too many people out there who know less than I do “teaching.” I knew I needed some actual instruction if I was ever going to do this right. So, in January of this year, I began taking an online herbal course: Herbal Skills Intensive offered by Cat Ellis. When I first heard she was developing this course, I knew I had to take it because, unlike so many teachers I have come across online, she actually does this in real life (this is the online version of the classes she gives in person). It’s a wonderful class and I highly recommend it.

So, this is my long-term project: to physically do everything that I have been learning about. There are way too many subjects I have no way of learning (like raising livestock) since I live in the city but I am making a conscious effort to “practice what I preach” (or, really, “practice what I share”).

 

What Happened?

I have no idea what happened today. I woke up at my normal time, got everything done to make sure my husband wasn’t late for work, and did my meditation. It was supposed to storm all day today so I started watching blooper reels from the show “Supernatural,” It was a great start to what was going to be a wonderful day (I even had a topic ready for the blog)! Then this extremely dark cloud descended on me. I did my best to work around it. I started reading my next book (I just received my first Kindle on Wednesday) but it turned out I needed to read another one first. So, I grabbed that one but barely got through the first chapter (I could not keep my eyes open).

Thankfully, my son came over to visit or I would have been passed out on the couch and not able to sleep tonight. By the time my husband came home from work, I was in tears. What was I crying about? I have no idea and not being a crier makes it that much worse. I got angry because not only was I crying but I hadn’t written all day, had barely finished half my water, and it turns out it did not rain all day (so I could have actually done something outside).

I decided to relieve my husband of my company and go feel sorry for myself in the shower. I cried some more, then sat there envisioning the dark gunk inside me just washing down the drain. By the end of my “cleansing” this is the song that was rattling around in my brain:

I wish I could say the darkness is 100% gone but it is still sitting there just beneath the surface. Days like today rarely happen any more now that my kids are adults (and not quite so adversarial) but man, when they do it really sucks. I would love for every day to rainbows and sunshine but I guess we need the occasional rainy day so we can truly appreciate those sunny ones.

Building Fences

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My Visitor Today

Well, not quite building fences. Today I have been on the hunt to figure out how to repair/rebuild the fence surrounding our property. I thought it would be a relatively easy (though labor intensive) solution. Of course, with just about everything in this house, I was incorrect on my assessment.

The fence was built by the last tenants and while it is beautiful, there were issues in the construction of it. After spending the afternoon Googling … I mean researching, I think the two issues we have to tackle are warping of the wood and fence post spacing. I also discovered that our “normal” is not everyone else’s “normal” (the way fences are built is not standard).

That pretty much describes life, doesn’t it? You may think the problem is this but it turns out the problem stems from that and that but lead to this. It is so frustrating! You think it will be a quick, easy solution but you end up having to tear down the whole thing and rebuild it with proper materials and learn new techniques in order to accomplish your goals.

That is where I am at right now. I thought beginning this challenge would be a piece of cake. I told myself, “No problem! It will be easy! The hardest part will be drinking my water.” Well, I was so wrong! It turns out the hardest part is writing every day. I thought I had a nice stack of “rant material” (all the things I rant about to my husband after he gets home from work) stored away in my brain, just waiting to be shared. I guess I don’t. Perhaps those little rants just weren’t important enough to remain in my brain because I have been sitting here for the last three hours trying to figure out what to write about (and deleting three other attempts).

I really am amazed. Does this mean that the majority of the things I talk about (or think about) during the day are not important? Does this mean I should be more conscious of where my head is at instead of letting run loose like a toddler who ate a whole bag of candy? I have done the “that’s not important, so stop thinking about it” thing before and I was one miserable, cranky bitch. I wasn’t depressed: I was perpetually angry. It was awful. So, I will never become that person again but what should I do right now to enable me to have something to say every day that has some meaning behind it? I haven’t a clue.

I think I will make sure I keep a notebook handy and just write random things down that pop in my head throughout the day. I know I have plenty of things to say about our government but I really do not want that here on my blog. I have always wanted this blog to be a bit deeper than me describing the idiocy of our state and local government (as I said, I live in California, so I have plenty of material to work with).

So, in parting, here is one of my dear online friends, and one small way he is adjusting to his life that isn’t so accommodating to what he loves to do (I swear, aside from his lack of colorful language, he is me, as a male truck driver).

The Devil Made Me Do It

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I have a confession to make. All my life, the Devil has played a role in my way of thinking and acting (heck, “the Devil made me do it” should have been the national motto). I want to blame my mom (she was pregnant with me when she watched “Rosemary’s Baby” at the theater) but I think it all stemmed from the 1960’s “free love movement” pendulum swinging in the opposite direction. The movie “Rosemary’s Baby” started it, followed by “The Exorcist”, then, after a cocaine-fueled disco era which lead to the “gay plague” (AIDS), you had “The Omen” and “Amityville Horror.” This isn’t even taking into account the real-life events that happened during that time, such as Charles Manson and his followers, Jim Jones, and the rash of Satanic cults “discovered” (and charges of devil worship levied against innocent people). It was like the Red scare all over again but instead of Communists behind every door it was Satan.

I remember the days of the rock music (I’m not sure if disco was included) album burnings of the 1980’s (thankfully I did not participate but some family members did). In case you do not know, all rock music was considered “the Devil’s music” (watch “Footloose”) and churches would, with the help of the teenage members, build huge piles of vinyl records in their parking lots and set them on fire (think of the book burning scene from “Indian Jones and the Last Crusade”). Music became the cause of all the ills of society and it wasn’t just rock music that suffered (the 80’s was when rap music came onto the scene). That was when Jerry Falwell, Jim and Tammy Faye Baker, Billy Graham, and Pat Robertson of the 700 Club were household names. Did I mention that I live as far from the “Bible Belt” as you can get (Central California)? I am truly surprised Nancy Reagan wasn’t burned at the stake when it was revealed that she had consulted an astrologer during her husband’s term as President.

This insanity continued for quite some time but expanded to include pornography and video games (which could be described as anything that offended any “Christian”). Here. Instead of me listing all the shocking things that happened during this time, take a look at this web page: A Brief History of Banned Music in the U.S..

Then, a movie came out that I hoped signaled a shift in the way the Devil was going to be thought of (no, it wasn’t “Wishmaster”). See, this movie is how I thought Satan would be, if he was physically walking among us: “The Devil’s Advocate.” Oh, boy! No horns, no pinning a person down and forcing them to do something they didn’t want to do, no possessing a little girl. He was charming and only gave you what you asked for (after all, he is a “fan of man”). Even after “Supernatural’s” portrayal of Lucifer being a bit closer to the Biblical version (but a hell of a lot more amusing) followed by the newest television show, “Lucifer,” I am still hearing of Satan breaking people’s cars, bringing back their cancer, or preventing them from finding a job.

So, why am I talking (well, typing) about this? At the core of all this (blaming bad circumstances/behavior on the evil “over there”) is the abdication of responsibility. There are too many people in this world who refuse to acknowledge that they play a role in the events in their lives. Using the examples in the last paragraph, perhaps your car broke down because you hadn’t checked the oil in a year or your cancer came back because your cancer came back or maybe you can’t find a job because you are applying for jobs you are not qualified to do? Maybe?

I’m sorry but if your dear little Johnny took a gun to class and killed people, then, when the police searched his room and computer, they find (in addition to the standard culprits: rock music and video games) weapons, ammunition, bomb making plans and materials, plus a hit list, is it really the rock music (or video games) that is to blame or could it be something amiss in your parenting?

Now, the blame game is focused on just about anything (and anyone) but ourselves and it doesn’t matter if it is an individual person dealing with their own life or the governments of the world. Except now, it’s not just Satan who is being blamed. It’s “Big Pharma,” “Big Oil,” “Big Tobacco,” “Big Brother,” the Republicans, the Democrats, the Socialists, the Communists, Main Stream Media, etc.

When I started smoking cigarettes at the age of 18, I didn’t say to myself, “I am going to start smoking so I can lead an exciting, carefree life just like in the commercials.” I am positive it was not Satan who made me purchase the 30-count value pack of (disgusting) cheap danishes and forced me eat half the package in one sitting and (as much as I would like) it wasn’t my mom’s fault or my high school band director’s fault that I quit school and gave up my desire to go to college. Nope.

All of the things that have happened in my life were the result of either beneficial or harmful choices I made. It doesn’t matter whether they were proactive or reactive, they were my choices. I made them and I take full responsibility for the consequences (both good and bad). It has many years for me to break away from blaming the devil (or anyone else) for my actions, especially without it turning into a pity party. I can now look back at my life and critique my actions, so I can learn what to do (or not do) in the future.

My hope (and prayer) is that I have taught my children well enough so they can proudly say, “Yes. That was MY decision and I would do it again (or do it a different way)” without blame, just taking responsibility.

Joy in All Things

One of the biggest changes I made in this journey was to do my best to not dwell on the negatives but focus on the positive things in my life. I have a house. It’s not perfect (nothing in life is) but it is mine (well, will be in three short years). My husband has a wonderful job. My kids are adults (age-wise, at least) and are out of the house. My dog is just dumb enough to make us laugh but not so dumb that we have to worry about him accidentally killing himself when we leave the house (He is an awesome dog. He doesn’t even eat the dog food that is sitting in a bag, right next to his bowl or chew up anything he isn’t supposed to).

I whittled down my friends list on Facebook to those I truly care about (and figured out how to block certain kinds of posts without unfriending too many people). I discovered that I do not need to internalize every single news story I read (and have become very choosy about which stories I will even attempt to verify or just toss them to the side). I have also discovered that my “normal” is not shared by everyone (and that is a wonderfully pleasant surprise). For instance, I did not realize that I wasn’t the only one who had never thought about whether aloe plants flower or not (or what the flowers would look like) until today:

My Aloe Flower
My aloe plant in flower

Through the process of finding joy, I have been forced to distance myself from some people in real life, also. Misery loves company while despising solitude (at least this is the case with those I know). If these people are miserable, they see it as their duty to ensure that all those around them share in their misery. Heaven forbid anyone break away and refuse to participate. I had to build a moat around myself to keep these people as far away as possible. The negativity that exudes from them is like a black smoke that penetrates everything and made me feel the need to take a shower after each visit. Now, I have learned the joy of muting my phone and not answering my door.

While I am not a bundle of joy at all times (you really do not want to see me angry), I post my fair share of goofy animal videos and silly memes on Facebook. I make “evil monkey” moves at the mice who have insisted this is their house, not ours and I take great delight in giving my dog the middle finger just to watch him jump on me in excited glee. See? It’s the little things in life that can add up and finally, through trial and error, make each day end on a happy note.

So, aside from getting ready to sit down with my husband, eat dinner, and binge watch the show Supernatural (we are re-watching it, again), here is the happy note I will end my post (and day) with while happily embracing the former band inside:

Beware False Gods

When I began the process of discovering “what I wanted to be when I grew up,” Google was my friend (well, still is my friend). I used every search term I could think of until I found the people who I thought would help me in my discovery. I subscribed to more newsletters, podcasts, and You Tube channels than I care to admit. I have even taken some courses (some free, some paid, and some I am still in the process of taking). The biggest lesson I have learned so far is, “Everyone is human and has their own journey to take.”

You see, I am a HUGE fanboy (or would that be fangirl?). When I like you, I like everything you say or do and sing your praises from on high (share as much as I can without being too spammy). My behavior could be described as “stalker-ish.” I will hunt down everything you have ever done publicly, no matter how long ago it was, just so I can absorb every word you have ever said or written. I hang on your every word and anxiously await your next post, tweet, video, interview, or podcast. I will buy every book you have ever written (even if it has nothing to do with my interests). You become my new “god.” Yeah, it’s bad.

So, when you (my “gods”) decided you had enough of it all or had your own mid-life crisis, I took it personally. I felt lost, unsure of what I was going to do with my life. I know, that’s an exaggeration but it really is pathetic how emotionally invested I can get in these strangers who take up so much of my time and thoughts. I almost felt betrayed. How could these people who were handing out such wonderful advice and insight NOT be happy with where they were in life? How could they abandon me? How could you be so human?

I had an epiphany while listening to yet another podcaster who, thankfully, has already been through his life-altering pivot. I started looking at my life and realized I was living vicariously through all these other people. Their joys were my joys, along with their sorrows. I had kept myself safely hidden in my cave, not taking any risks within my life. Instead of taking all the wonderful advice (and training) I learned and applying it to my life, I stashed it away, hoarding it like a dragon and its gold. What good is knowledge if it isn’t used? How is my life going to improve if I am unwilling to change? How can I discover my true desires and accomplish my goals if I continue to follow instead of lead?

So, today is day one of me sorting through all the information I have amassed over the last few years and slowly apply it to my life. Today I begin to change the things I can and plan the best course of action that will enable me to make the required changes that are too life-altering to make right now.

So, the four baby steps I am making, which began today (I have a checklist to keep myself accountable):

  • Step 1: Drink my water. I do not like water. Period. The only way I have been able to (in the past) drink water is to bribe myself: take a drink of water and you can have more coffee. Whatever it takes, I will get that stuff down!
  • Step 2: Meditate every day. I have a tendency to get extremely distracted with just about anything (and everything) and there are days when it feels as if I have no time to do myself (even though I do not work outside my house and my husband is gone 8 hours every day). Taking just 10 minutes a day to rest my mind will give me the focus I need to get me through the day as productively as I can.
  • Step 3: Do something physical every day. This step, since it is Spring, is actually written as “Work in the yard every day.” I am a very “all or nothing” person. My yard work tends to be a marathon day for 8 hours followed by 2 weeks of recovery, then not wanting to even venture outside for 3 months. Perhaps I will actually mange to grow something edible this year (aside from a single tomato).
  • Step 4: Write every day. I decided on a goal of 500 words per day (not counting normal Facebook posts). They may be here on the blog or not. Whatever manner they take, I will keep a tally every day.

So, those are my baby steps on the road to recovery … I mean the road to life.