Thursday, May 31, 2018

The Prayer Song - Inspiration Thursday

"Drawn is my sword ready for the fight.  Strong is my heart.  Steady is my mind.  Hopeful are my thoughts.  Prayerful are my ways.  Thankful is my soul for every single day."

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This mantra helped me through some tough days last year.  Some days Wes Urbaniak's The Prayer Song was literally on repeat as I drove to the hospital to see Ryan and my grandmother.  It helped me gear myself up, mentally, for the day.  These words kept me strong.  They kept me hopeful.  It was fortunate that I'd picked up a copy of the Static Man album just in the nick of time, as it turned out.  Music is good for the troubled soul as much as for the joyful one.  I've been listening to Wes's new album again today, but Static Man will always have a special place in my heart because it came to me just when I needed it most.

Embracing 21st Century of Phoneputing

We bought a smartphone.  Never say never, as the saying goes.
I feel like we've been shocking people left and right with this news.  Heck I am still a little shocked myself!  Matt and I had talked about it off-and-on for the last couple years.  This month we finally took the plunge.
Matt and I gave up cellphoning in September 2010 for a variety of reasons.  Now, almost eight years later we're re-joining the ranks for a different variety of reasons.  The price of our home phone almost doubling being a major one.  Social trends being the other more nebulous reason.

Honestly, I feel a tiny bit forced into it, even as I discover new ways having a cellphone will be useful to me.  The world in which I operate is just increasingly unfriendly to those without cellphones or the internet.  I still don't really want one, but more and more walls kept cropping up that wouldn't exist if we had such technological access.  So, we give.  The modern world wins.  Digital technology is a force!
A couple helpful examples; the first frivolously personal and the second pragmatically business.

One.  We called the movie theater Movie Phone to see what time the new Star Wars was playing.  Matt had a date to meet his dad and could not quite remember the start time.  Buuuuuuut, Movie Phone doesn't play a recorded list of show times anymore.  Now it just says to visit their website for full information.  End of story.  So, Matt was out of luck.

Two.  We lost at least three sales during our tie-dye vending season last year because we were unable to take credit/debit cards.  For years people have been whipping out their cards at our craft shows, but they've always drummed up the cash or written a check when we told them we couldn't take cards.  Last year we finally lost sales because of this.  A lot of people don't carry cash these days, or so I gather.  More and more just expect to pay with their cards.  And from a business point of view we should let them since people spend more on average with a card than with cash.  I've also never felt up to operating an online shop--Etsy or something comparable--for our tie-dye without a more ready access to the web in order to keep it updated and respond to customers in a timely manner.

This sort of stuff is happening with increasing frequently while payphones disappear at an equal or greater pace.
Before making the switch I called our home phone provider to talk about our options.  This was after we received our second notice of increased prices already this year.  They were unable or unwilling to cut any deals so, we dropped them.   We now have a cellphone with unlimited data for an almost identical price and no contract.  We even got to keep our same phone number.  Hallelujah!  I dreaded the thought of having to update my number with everyone.

There is also no point in denying that having a cellphone will make coordinating with my friends and family easier.  My friends especially.  They're a spontaneous lot.  Now they won't have to plan ahead so much and I am certain they'll like that.  While I am more of a planner I can also enjoy some good spontaneous fun and hopefully there will be less "Well, Chelsey decided to host a BBQ on Saturday, but I didn't see the message until Monday afternoon so I missed it.  Shoot." in my future.
Matt is smitten with streaming music.  He love music so.  I can access my blog recipes quickly and message book talk with Hannah on a whim.  The camera is surprisingly excellent.  I look forward to familiarizing myself with it.  We won't have to borrow Roger and Sharon's GPS when we travel to big cities.  It will help facilitate our being better business people.

I am certain there will be drawbacks, too.  It is readily apparent that the cellphone could easily be a distraction.  I can see that already.  I mean, its a tiny computer in my pocket!  But I will strive to use our new gadget in a way that minimizes that.  I don't want it to become grafted permanently to my hand or hip.  I'm turning off certain notifications so that I won't be interrupted if I hear it bing-bong about some new Facebook message or something.  Smartphones require mining for precious metals so I won't be quick to upgrade.  I intend to make good long use of those resources, and not just upgrade to a new phone every year.  It isn't quite a reliable in some ways as a home phone, nor quite as pleasant to actually use for phone calls.  It is much more convenient in other ways though.  Not to mention multi-functional.
I have friends who've ditched Facebook because of all the "drama."  I've long held that Facebook is a tool and how we use tools makes a difference in the experience of them.  The cellphone is just another tool.  Matt and I are master of it, not the other way around.  There will still not be any cellphones allowed at the table or while Matt and I sit around and visit in the morning/evening.  We don't intend to carry it everywhere.  In fact, it is at home all alone today.  Well, the cats are there, too, but hopefully they can refrain from posting to my Facebook wall while unattended.  ;)  It will be an often home-based phoneputer, but who goes out into the world sometimes, too.  (I just invented that word--phoneputer-- and it tickles me.)
I'm glad to have reached a more middle ground.  I've a history of being rather black and white in my lifestyle choices.  Hard and fast rule are easier to comply with than a case-by-case approach.  But, they're also so limiting.  Just because I don't want to a life domineered by technology doesn't mean I can't have it at all.  Having a cellphone doesn't mean being married to it.  So, I have high hopes that phoneputing will be a helpful addition to our household, but not a force with takes over our lives.  I'd sure rather not become one of those poor souls freaking out because they only have 1% battery, you know?

(I will also persists in answering calls from phone numbers I don't recognize.  I still don't quite "get" that one....)

Thursday, May 24, 2018

The Cardiac Extravaganza: One Year On - Inspiration Thursday

It is hard to fathom that we almost lost Ryan a year ago.
Thanksgiving 2016
I'm astonished that it has been a year already.  It is remarkable how easily we've slipped back into a relatively normal family life together--bowling, family dinners, football, Catan, dogs, brewing.  Ryan is doing really, really well.  Words cannot touch my gratitude about that.  I love him.  He's so dang funny and patiently teaches me about all sorts of football and bowling and brewing beer.  ;)  I swear he wins at Catan pretty much every time....
Puzzle Table - Easter 2018
I'll never forget the look of bewildered terror in Ryan's eyes when he was making his first attempts to come back to us last May.  He looked so frightened and that was really hard since we couldn't do anything to make him understand what was happening.  I know it was especially hard on Matt who'd never seen his Big Brother look truly scared before.
Breaking Geodes - Easter 2018
This made Matt and I, talking about it later, stumble headlong into the fact that we lead a life so easy and filled with blessings it is astonishing.  Comfort and safety are the foundation of our lives.  We were each born into a good, safe place with a good, loving family.  We've experienced the gift of excellent health.  We've never wanted for anything important.  Imagine!!  What a gift of circumstance!  It is so easy to take this all for granted, like a fish not noticing the water it swims through.
Christmas 2017
So, today I am inspired by Ryan.  He fought hard when it mattered most.  He struggled and persevered when things were really rough (and painful and scary).  He took the unexpected in stride.  Through it all he has come out just as good-natured and generous and helpful as ever.  His wit and humor makes my life better.  He made me realize a lot of humbling things.  Important, game-changing things.  (And, I should add, that I am tremendously grateful he doesn't remember the ICU and those relatively terrifying first days and weeks.)
Ryan and Bek got me a Catan expansion for my recent birthday...which when I opened it Ryan told me was also sorta for him!  :)
I am also inspired by his wife, Bek.  If this experience was a world-shaker for me it goes without saying that it was all the more shattering for Bek.  She has been so critical in getting Ryan basically back to "normal" (or whatever you want to call it since Ryan was never normal even at the start).  It was a hard job with a lot of "homework" and I know it has been an especially challenging year for her.  She is stronger and more adaptable and capable than any of us ever knew.  I think even more than she knew herself.  It is highly laudable and I think we all hope we'll rise to the occasion like that....even as we hope we never have to do so.
My in-laws should be added to this list, too.  Parents aren't "supposed" to have to endure such heartache and uncertainty around their children.  The level of love, faith, and fortitude Roger and Sharon demonstrated throughout--from the ICU to the follow-up visits--is beyond admirable and well into inspiring.   They have always seemed supportive of their kids, but that really shone through in this situation.  When Ryan said "mom" that first time....oh, there are no words.  It has long been clear to me that he values his parents and the influence they have and continue to have on his life and the person he is.  Ryan knew them (and Bek) even when he didn't know anything else.  And it is easy for me to see why.  They're such a positive guiding force for all of us.
Family Beer Fest 2016
Lastly, I am overflowing with admiration for the inspiring band of individuals that comprise our personal community, our tribe.  The folks from Roger and Sharon's church, Bek's bellydance sisters, Ryan's workmates, all our friends and family who called, visited, sent flowers, hugged, and wrote in numbers and from distances beyond expectation were just, oh, well I cannot envision going through such a thing without that network to cushion us, to hold us up, to hold us together at some points.  Everyone was so open with their caring and their emotions.  They really manifested what love is, especially the love that extends beyond family lines, even if it was the first or only time I met some of them.  They gave me first-hand lessons in how to act when I am the one supporting others during times of trial or illness.  They poured upon us generosity and empathy and caring to a degree I'd never before experienced.  It was a very unexpected gift, for lack of a better term, love like that.
Shooting hoops and brewing beer with Ryan - November 2016
Deep sigh.  So.  It has been another year.  Another year.  Thank heavens.  Life!  What an inspiring thing!

Thursday, May 17, 2018

All of Us, not Us vs. Them - Inspiration Thursday

"In our travels, we have come across many equations--math for understanding the universe, for making music, for mapping stars, and also for tipping, which is important. Here is our favorite equation: Us plus Them equals All of Us. It is very simple math. Try it sometime. You probably won’t even need a pencil." 
             - From Going Bovine by Libba Bray
This passage stopped me in my tracks.  It is both sarcastically hilarious and deadly accurate.
Living the golden rule is a challenge.  It is easy enough to write people off as "bad" people not worthy of our kindness and charitable treatment.  To label, categorize, and shunt off the "undesirable."  To put them on the opposing team. 

But at the bottom of things there really isn't any Us or Them.  It truly is All of Us.  We're in this thing together.  We're more Same than Different.  We're all--each and everyone one of us--a beat in the pulse of humankind.  And, as such, it seems to me that we don't have to agree with each other in order to be civil and kind.  Easier said that done, but shoot for the stars, I say.
Photos from Yellowstone National Park - August 2016

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Another Year Around the Sun

I realized last week that I failed to participate in Me Made May 2018. 
May really snuck up on me, I guess. 
And now it is my birthday.  Oh, the days go by.
I am feeling especially thankful for my family and friends.  For feeling so much better, arthritis-wise.  For the sunshine and bees and birds and flowers and baby critters everywhere.  For bicycling with bare legs and tromping in the yard in bare feet.  For my kitty companions.  For live music and dancing.  For my countless other blessings.  For this life I lead!
Happy birthday to me!  Life is good.
All photos from the Diamond Butte Fire Lookout which we rented again last weekend as a kick-off for my birthday week.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

A Morning Time Circle of Life Dilemma

Backstory:  Ginger killed us a baby bunny last week.  Matt and I had interestingly opposite reactions to this increased level of predation.  When I opened the back door to let her in and saw the tiny lifeless fluff ball laying there at the bottom of the steps I said something like, "Awwwwwwww, Ginger!!  Not the baby bunnies...  That's not a vole.... Man....tisk-tisk."  Matt on the other hand praised her resoundingly.  "Oh, what a good hunter kitty!  Yes, she's such a good kitty.  Anything that moves out there is fair game.  You get 'em."  It was interesting.
I guess Matt was seeing the bunny as one less budding garden pest to contend with.  I saw it as a harmless little baby who'd been killed for no reason.
Ginger had never caught a rabbit before.  More voles and mice than I could keep track of in these four years and two birds (until I thoroughly discouraged her of that--and she likes to keep me happy.)  The bunny thing was new--and I'd hoped a rarity.
Which leads me to my morning dilemma.
I called Ginger to come in because I needed to pedal off to work, but she was so deeply involved in hunting by the shed that she ignored me.  Our mower needs sharpened and so it is a veritable cat jungle out there.  She is eating it up, stalking through the tall grass.  It being a nice day and that she has both shelter and water out back I decided I'd just let Ginger kick it in the yard all day.  Hunt to her little heart's content and then bask in the sun.  But, I checked out the back window a second time just as I was about to leave and she was sitting there.  Looking up at me expectantly.
Perfect, I thought.  She will come in now after all.   But, oh, no....that wasn't it.  She'd turned up by the steps because she brought me another little bunny.  This still very much alive fluff ball had presently escaped Ginger and was cowering under the barbecue grill. 
I waffled.  Do I leave her outside to finish this?  Do I bring her inside like I'd intended and save the bunny?
Ginger's body was tense and intense with the thrill of the hunt.  She chased the rabbit back and forth a few times from one end of the grill to the other.  The rabbit was clearly terrified.  And so small.
So, I used my human powers, for better or worse, and intervened.  I lifted Ginger up and brought her into the house with me.  I immediately started second-guessing the appropriateness of my actions.  I gave Ginger an excessively large pile of treats as a consolation prize.  Which was dumb.  Animals died to go into the treats, too, so why is that different/better than letting her catch a bunny?
Ginger had invested a lot of time and energy into catching that bunny.  Matt, and to a lesser extent, myself invest a lot of time and energy in the garden.  Matt had just been telling me the lettuce had come up, but was gone now and he suspected rabbits.  And I saved one of their babies...
It doesn't make sense.  But, at the time, looking at the baby bunny quaking and cowering in the face of sharp, vicious death, there didn't seem any other choice for me.  My empathy is unreasonably overdeveloped.  I have always more easily imagined myself as the bunny than the cat, the gazelle than the lion.  This is why I choose to eat/live the way I do.  I don't want death and suffering on my hands, or done on my behalf, if I can avoid it.  But apparently it is different with the cats.  Say, the treats.  Or the fact that I know they'd prefer fresher food--fresh chicken and fish.  But I cannot bear the notion of preparing such food for them.  I prefer the kibble, safely remote from the animals therein.
And just when I am convinced I did the wrong thing the pendulum swing back into uncertainty.
Ginger is not a lion.  She is an well-kept and pampered invasive species that I personally introduced into the backyard biosphere.  The cottontails are the native species here.  We could put up a chicken-wire fence around the garden to keep the rabbits out if they truly become a problem, but they never have been in past years.
Plus, she didn't even eat the first bunny she caught.  Just killed it and left it on the step so she could go out hunting again.  She only eats a minuscule amount of the animals she kills.  It is pleasure hunting.  Instinctual hunting.  The same drive that make her chase string and balls around the house.  If Ginger was actually hungry and ate her kills that would be a totally different story.
I couldn't stop thinking about it the rest of the morning. I finally turned off my audiobook as I kept having to rewind over and over and over as my mind wandered back to the morning's dilemma.   When the cats moved in I expect they would bring challenges to my mostly-vegan way of living.  They are predators and I would never suggest they be forced into a herbivore's existence like mine.   In many ways wish I could just fully embrace my omnivorous place in the circle of life.  But, I can't.  Or won't.  I love all things natural...but distance or remove myself from the cycle of killing and death because it makes me uncomfortable.  It is a double edged sword.
I came to a double edged conclusions, too.  I believe I did the wrong thing in saving the bunny at the intellectual level.  On an emotional, spiritual level my heart feels good and says it was the right thing to do.  Gall dang, that is the disparity that makes my life tricky sometimes.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Hair: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical - Inspiration Thursday

I had a rather life changing experience at Hair: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical when I first saw it several years back.   It sounds almost absurdly cliche when I talk about it, actually.  It was epic.  Affirming.  Altering.  Magnificent.  My boss at the time, Bill, bought me tickets for my birthday as he suspected it would be right up my alley.
And it was!  I was reading Phil Lesh's memoir Searching for the Sound at the time, which was a tremendous bit of companion reading.  Pieces fell into place in my heart and are locked in to the beat of it now.  If that makes sense.
The Hair soundtrack is the only music I keep on my iPod, a fact which Matt likes to razz me about with some regularity.  98% of the time I just use my iPod to play audiobooks, but Hair is there for when I need to rock out.
This past weekend I scored the original cast recording on album while perusing an antique/consignment shop with my dad.
It is such a tragic, moving, passionate, and inspiring story.  The plot covers so many thought-provoking subjects, as well as ideas and values I hold dear and features the immense span of human emotion.  The intersection of freedom, peace and war.  Personal expression and exploration.  Music.  Environmentalism.  Religion.  Implications of race and gender on life experience.  Diversity.  Activism.  Love.  Economic disparity and social justice.  The power of friendship and trust.
I've been able to see two live theatrical productions of Hair.  I sure hope there are more in my future.  The music, the message...they just fill me up with their emotive power.
Below are a random smattering of lyrics which stop me and make me think, in one way or another.

"Harmony and understanding
Sympathy and trust abounding
No more falsehoods or derision"

"I believe that now is a time
For all men to come
To the aid of love
I believe in love!"

"My soul is in orbit
With God face to face"
"There ain't no words
For the beauty, the splendor, the wonder
Of my...
Hair, hair, hair, hair, hair, hair, hair
Flow it, show it
Long as God can grow it"

"There is a peculiar notion that elegant plumage
And fine feathers are not proper for the male
When actually
That is the way things are
In most species"

"How dare they try to end this beauty?"

"Welcome sulfur dioxide,
Hello carbon monoxide
The air, the air is everywhere
Breathe deep, while you sleep, breathe deep"
"We stop-look
At one another
Short of breath
Walking proudly in our winter coats
Wearing smells from laboratories
Facing a dying nation
Of moving paper fantasies
Listening for the new told lies
With supreme visions of lonely tunes"

"Good morning starshine, the earth says hello
You twinkle above us, we twinkle below"

"Walking in space
We find the purpose of peace
The beauty of life
You can no longer hide
Our eyes are open"

"It's a dirty little war"
"How can people be so heartless
How can people be so cruel
Easy to be hard
Easy to be cold
How can people have no feelings
How can they ignore their friends
Easy to be proud
Easy to say no
Especially people who care about strangers
Who care about evil and social injustice
Do you only care about the bleeding crowd
How about a needing friend
I need a friend"

"President of
The United States of Love"

"My hair like Jesus wore it
Hallelujah I adore it
Hallelujah Mary loved her son
Why don't my mother love me?"
All photos from Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Fall 2017