Thursday, April 20, 2017

#VanLife? What a bunch of Hooey!

April 20, 2017-A thousand Unedited Words A Day in April

(Remember: this is written stream of conscious and relatively unedited-Good luck!)

I’m reading this article and I’m getting pissed off. It’s an article from the New Yorker called “#VanLife, The Bohemian Social-Media Movement.” This angst has been brewing within for a couple of years now, and it gets more irritated every time it's poked. Like an untreated injury, just getting worse and worse the more I bump it against something. Two years ago in Taekwondo, I was sparring with a titanium-constructed black belt (a lowly camo belt myself at the time) and we were sparring for points. I was winning. Me. A little hundred pound girl. He was freaking that I was winning so he did something he shouldn’t have done as a blackbelt: He lost control and came at me with a side kick. I raised my right leg to block and he planted his heel into the top of my foot, snapping my toe like a dry tree branch. You should see the pictures. It’s disgusting.

Anyway, I’m not good at resting and I was so into the sport at the time that I just kept right on going to classes. I did try to protect my toe by wearing a boot and not using that foot except to stand, but the toe kept getting knocked, bumped and jammed all the time, so it wasn’t healing. That’s kind of how I’m starting to feel every time I run across another “wanderer” or “adventurer” website, who’s posting their “adventures” as the way to earn their income. Something inside of me just rankles. Here’s the thing: as I scan their “stuff” it feels manufactured, manipulated, inauthentic. It’s not quite a lie, but there’s something about it...something about the fact that they are taking something I consider to be a long-time noble, even spiritual undertaking, and they’re commercializing it. They’re neutralizing the most powerful aspects, the most powerful, intangible rewards, of adventuring and I feel sorry for them. I also find it repugnant.

Take one of the things Foster Huntington (somewhat of a founder of the #vanlife movement) said in the New Yorker magazine. “You know, it’s not thug life—it’s van life!” What’s repugnant about that is that it’s a joking reference to Tupac Shakur’s movement, Thug Life. If you know anything about that, making any kind of comparison between Thug Life and a lifestyle CHOICE of some upper middle class white boy who quit his design job at Ralph Lauren (Huntington’s background) to travel around surf havens, doubtlessly calling Mom and Dad periodically when cash got low and things were probably just starting to really get interesting for him…it rankles. Want to hear another one of Tupac’s quotes, “Don’t support the phonies, support the real.” That’s something else that bothers me about all of this. It’s not that they’re having adventures, sharing them, and people are excited and eager to support them as adventurers (at least I don’t think that’s it, but that old subconscious, sometimes you just don’t know), it’s that I feel like they’re perverting both the noble pursuit and the idea of it. They’re turning it into a marketing scheme.

I know it’s not the first time that’s happened. I think we’re all familiar with Columbus and his theatrics to Queen Isabella to gain her financial support of his adventures, but, well, I think we can all agree that Columbus was a big jerk, too. But it’s not just Columbus. Adventurers have to have funding from somewhere, and wouldn’t it be even worse if the only folks allowed to get out there and explore were people who didn’t need to pander to outside sources for funds to fuel their adventurous drives, aka wealthy trustfunders?

So what else is it that bothers me? Okay. The staging of adventures and photos primarily for the sake of Instagram and Facebook posts. That bothers me because it makes everything about what they say or what they post feel inauthentic, like we’re being tricked. If you’re moving through your adventure with a lot of your attention focused on how you can best frame it for your fans, how can you share authentic experience. But why does that bother me so much? Since I’m writing these thousand words a day, stream of conscious style, that question really is posed to me and not you. What do I care? Shouldn’t I just be saying, “Kudos to them for being able to make enough money to let that be what they do!” But instead, I roll my eyes, and judge, judge, judge.

Here’s another thing: Since I published my book, Yoga Mama's Buddha Sandals, I’ve been researching how to get it out there, how to spread the word (I feel like I have an important message to share), and, also yes, truth be told, make some money from my own adventure story. So how am I different? Well, my story is from an authentic experience. Nothing about it was staged or manipulated or orchestrated for facebook or anywhere else. It was an adventure with real risks and rewards. That’s it. It’s all flipping real. Not staged for my “public.” Back to the point, as I’m trying to learn about how to market my book, so much of the techniques encourage, nay, advise to the point they say there’s no other way to do it, other than through a certain amount of inauthenticity. Like posting to Instagram six or more times a day (an actual technique) making your post look authentic, but they’re really not, because, if you’re really into living in the moment and exploring, why the hell would you pause six times a day to tweet, facebook or Instagram about your experience? Can’t you do anything without being connected to the shallowness that is social media? If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, did it really happen. If you experience something incredible but don’t rush to tweet about it…

Don’t get me wrong. I post about my adventures. But actually pretty rarely. What? Do you really think the only adventures I have are the few you read about on my blog or Facebook? Come on. I'm an adrenaline junkie. Most of the time I'm either too busy or want to keep it precious and personal. Or feel too cheesy about posting it or embarrassed. Did you read about my bike ride adventure which became a huge adventure only because of mistakes I made? Still, I love them even it they're the result of my own goofiness.

I do love a lot of what social media does for us. I love connecting and meeting cool new friends. But I don’t like this daily documentation of EVERYTHING. I don’t like the idea of “orchestrating” adventures.
And here’s another thing: For a lot of people in this economy: Vanlife isn’t a choice. It’s the only option. Maybe that’s something good about this whole #vanlife movement: it makes living out of your car seem glamorous, even for those that don’t have another choice. There’s more I could say about this and will say later, but I’ve hit my thousand for the day and I’ve got way more to do. So, for the moment, I put  a pin in it

Monday, April 17, 2017

April 17, 2017 - A Thousand Unedited Words A Day in April

April 17, 2017
So I am officially sucking at hitting my thousand words a day. If I actually have someone out there whose reading these and, dare I hope, maybe even enjoying them enough to look forward to them, I apologize for my horrible reliability right now. I can’t believe it myself. If you know me at all, you know I’m kind of Type A. Without yoga, I’d be a raving lunatic or would have popped a vein in my head years ago. On the one hand, this…gift, has given me the drive to plow through hard stuff in pursuit of a goal, accomplishing a few feats some might call impressive, and overall tending to get a lot of stuff done. Combined with my Type A-ness is a LOT of energy. I almost never run out. It takes a lot, and in the past, I’ve found that I can generally be exhausted and keep right on plowing anyway because once I have a goal in mind, I put my head down and just go and go and go. Employers love me. I drive Darren crazy.
When Nila was truly little, I only slept about 3 hours a night due to the fact that she woke up almost every hour and I had a significant back injury that woke me up even when she didn’t. I was still working, still trying to do everything (I always have). I bet you’re expecting to hear how I came to my senses and started relaxing and resting like I should have. Well, I didn’t. Instead, I pushed, pushed, pushed. One day, I was standing in the shower and once the warm water made it from my shoulders to my legs, my knees buckled. The warm water had triggered the muscles to relax and they leapt at the opportunity, even though they were still supposed to be on the job of standing me up. Like I said, without yoga….
Which brings me to my whiny excuse of where be my thousand words for the past days three? Did you know I just moved into a new house a month ago? No? Well, the house, like many houses in D-town, offers many opportunities for working on a place and making it our own. I’ve been working my tail off. Whether it’s cleaning the entire house top to bottom because the people we bought it from didn’t. (Example: Day 1 of the move in, I was exhausted and all I wanted was a hot bath. I told Darren, I’m going to take a hot bath, I walk into the bathroom and see the soap/scum wring in the tub and shouted out, “Right after I scrub this tub!” Ewwww!) The whole house was like that. So while unpacking and trying to make house livable, I’m also having to scour and degrease everything. And patch the holes in the walls or cover them with art work. The biggest thing however is the yard. First, I didn’t actually realize we had one. When we bid on the house back in January, we were just thrilled to find a place that didn’t openly need to be gutted, set on fire or exorcised (it just needed to be cleaned) at a halfway decent price and we just bid on it. I though CDOT owned the wild tangle of swamp behind our house.
While looking at the Plat to find access to nearby open space, we made the exciting discovery that that swamp of prickles and stickers was all OURS! So I promptly went down there and clambered through the sticker bushes to see what there was to see. The Plat had shown an actual creek to be meander around the boundary and I quickly found it, but also found that it was clogged with chunks of concrete, empty 5 – gallon paint buckets, old tires and logs. One tree had actually been cut and left to fall right across the stream bed. All of this junk tossed into the creek had caused the creek to leave it’s natural path and flow across what would have been a meadow, if not for the ejection of the stream from it’s bed.

So, I’ve been down there almost constantly, pulling out all this junk and using most of it to bioengineer a berm to guide the stream back to its homeland. Once I achieved that…and I HAVE, I waged war against invading, opportunistic stickers and prickers, pulling fallen dead wood and throwing everything into three piles of dead wood and sticker bushes, one of them being 12 feet high. The fire department is overseeing a controlled burn I’ll be doing on Tuesday to get rid of it. My lot is surrounded by steep hills covered in the gamble oak. There’s no dragging that stuff up to a chipper, so don’t ask. I’m also setting short, stone steps up one steep hill so it’s more accessible by us bipeds. In the front yard, I’m racing time to get a garden going where I can at least grow greens and maybe carrots and beets. and I’ve been at it everyday while fulfilling all other life expectancies, except this one I made to myself. Not good. So I’m trying again, but I already have plans to redo the challenge in May. You know, do it till I get it right. I’ve just been too danged tired after carving yard. But here’s the really cool thing. I have carved a yard, and I’m creating a little sanctuary back there that I never thought was an option in the beginning. A passionate landscaper and gardener, I’d accepted that I wouldn’t be able to do those things at this new house. At least not more than the front yard. We planned to live in this house for a couple of years, fix it up and flip it when we found the dream spot where I could have fruit trees, gardens, bees, etc. Now…maybe we found our dream spot…and a little crik runs through it. 

Thursday, April 13, 2017

April 13, 2017- A Thousand Unedited Words A Day in April

April 13, 2017
Reminder: These posts are written stream of conscious and are left as they came out. Unedited, with dozens of misspells and grammatical errors, and totally raw experiences. Enjoy.
Somehow I survived and even managed to graduate high school, despite the fact, after the death of the camaro, I had to persuade other people to take me to school every morning. From school, I’d find other friends to give me rides to wherever I needed or wanted to go. It’s how I lived. Most kids depend on their parents to get them where they need to go. I’ve actually heard them demand it. I had to persuade people unrelated to me who couldn’t begin to fathom what it was like to be in my situation for rides anywhere and everywhere. This went on for a couple of years until a friend sold me an old, beat up, Toyota Celica for $200. I have no idea where this thing even came from because I’d never seen this model on the road, ever. It was probably quite the sportscar in its prime. It was tight and tiny with a metallic blue paint job that was rusted and peeling in places. I’m thinking it was circa 70 something or other. It was an eyesore but it ran decent. At the time, I’d gotten sober about six months before after a drinking so much on my 18th birthday I’d gotten alcohol poisoning and threw up so much I’d ripped a hole in the lining of my esophagus. I’d bought the car from someone I met in an AA meeting. I was very much in a pulling-it-together and keeping-nose-clean phase but I was still dating someone who’d been one of my primary party buddies. A talented lead guitarist in a Heavy Metal band, he was very much stil on party mode. Wonderful, funny, smart guy (obviously friends to this day), but our relationship was already getting strained when I started having trouble with my $200 car. Winter was coming in Memphis, Tennessee and all chilled humidity was fogging up my windows which as how I discovered the defroster wasn’t working.
My party animal boyfriend was also a bit of a master mechanic so I told him what was going on. One night he comes over to my house and pulls the dashboard off to remove the defrost equipment. In the process he removes part of the heating system before promising to come back in the next couple of days to fix everything. In the meantime, the windows stopped rolling up about six inches from closed, which wasn’t such a big deal, since my boyfriend had promised to come back in the next day or two. Though the weather was taking a turn for colder, I didn’t think it would bother me that much. Hey, at least I had a car. A week went by and, while I know it sounds silly to keep calling him only my boyfriend and not by name, but we are still friends and I don’t want to embarrass him. Anyway, so a week goes by and “my boyfriend” still hadn’t gotten around to putting everything together not fixing the windows that he’d also promised to get right on. Band practice, parties and football games kept getting in the way.
Another week goes by and it’s gotten even colder. Still, no defrost, no heat and windows stuck down about six inches on either side. One night, I was driving home from work and the temperatures were below freezing when it started to rain. A hard Memphis rain. I was shivering uncontrollably when my windwshield wipers stopped working because the rain had turned to sleet and the sleet was freezing to my windshield as soon as it splatted against it. I didn’t have gloves so I had to reach my bare hands out the open window, reach around to the windshield, dig my fingers under the sheet of ice and pull it off the windshield so I had a chance in hell of seeing while I drove. Memphis winters are brutal. With 100% humidity, the cold is special kind of biting. I was shivering uncontrollably and crying all the way home.
Once I got there, I ran as best I could with my entire body still shaking uncontrollably and immediately filled the antique bathtub with hot water. I had this big beautiful raised bathtub that rested on clawfeet only because it had been there since the house was built in the early 1900s. Nothing else in the house had been changed in all that time either, which was both good and bad. It was a cool looking house but I got reduced rent because I was fixing some of the many things wrong with it. Anyway, so once I was able to ease myself into the tub (I don’t know if you’ve ever been that cold and then tried to get  in a hot bath only to find even moderately warm water too hot to endure at first? If not, that’s what happens. You get so cold your skin can’t bear to be cold, but even more than that, it can’t bear to touch anything warm.) Again, anyway, so once I could finally lower myself into the bathtub I stayed there for a very, very long time. I was exhausted from the ordeal, furious at…my boyfriend, but maybe even angrier at myself for my pitiful helplessness. I came to some conclusions and made some decisions during that bath.
The next day, I called…my boyfriend…and broke up with him. I told him I couldn’t believe he loved me and let me go through what I had just gone through. I asked him to bring my car parts back. He came the next day and put everything back together. I didn’t ask him about the windows. Instead, I asked another good friend who was also a mechanical wizard, if he could just tell me how to fix the windows. He offered to come take a look at it for me. I told him, I’d be grateful for that, but I wanted to do all the work myself. Again, I asked him if he could just tell me how to do it. He agreed.
What had happened was that a rubber stopper, I can’t remember what the thing is called right now, was all worn out and was slipping off the glass, so the glass was no longer in the track. It was just a coincidence that both failed at the same time. Turned out it was a delightfully easy fix. All I had to do was find replacement stoppers, remove the door panel, lift the window enough that I could pull the old one off, then push the new one on and guide the whole shebang back into its track. Walla. It worked. I’d fixed the windows myself. I bought a manual for the celica with instructions on how to fix anything imaginable on that car. My mechanical wizard friend gave me an old set of tools he was about to get rid of. Next, I replaced the failing windshield wipers. When that proved to be insufficient, I replaced the windshield wiper motor. When the brakes went out, I learned how to change the brakes. I was doing it! I wasn’t sitting around waiting at someone’s mercy. I wasn’t begging for help from someone I already owed a zillion favors.  And I wasn’t taking help from someone who thought I owed them a date for their help. I was learning to do it myself.

You see, the other decision I came to that awful night as I lay trying to warm myself back up in that bathtub is that I’d be damned before I ever sat around waiting for a man’s help for anything, ever again!

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

April 12, 2017 - A Thousand Unedited Words A Day In April

If you haven’t read Chapter 2 of Yoga Mama’s Buddha Sandals, I think you should if you plan to read this particular post. Last time I checked, you can read the first two chapters on Amazon for free. If you don’t want to do that then I’ll give you really cliffy cliff notes: I had a really crazy childhood and I’ve been on my own since I was sixteen years old. I went through some hell. Don’t worry. This is the worst of these stories and not sure I’ll use it in the book. Anyway, Now the rest of the story from yesterday.

I was screwed. Three grand might not be much money to some seventeen year olds, but I barely made it paycheck to paycheck. And there was no one to call. I walked around the open door of my camaro and sank into the driver’s seat. I laid my head against the steering wheel. I had no idea of what I could possibly do. I was already in hot water. Hell, I lived in hot water. Without my car, moving from place to place would be a lot harder and I was still having to move from place to place. My job at the bank, while offering a possible future, at the moment, wasn’t paying nearly enough to pay rent on an apartment, so I was still stuck finding new couches on which to surf, sometimes at a moment’s notice. That situation itself was becoming overwhelming as my mind was being conditioned to see no place as home, to feel safe nowhere because at a moment’s notice, I could be asked to leave or have to leave fleeing for my life or honor. Without a decent job, I could see no way to change that situation. Now, without a car, I wouldn’t even be able to keep the first job I’d had that seemed like it could offer me more of a future…eventually.
“How can that be?” I asked quietly, “I just had it changed at a Jiffy Lube.”
Eric shook his head, “I don’t know. Wait, let me check something.” He laid on the ground and looked under the engine block, then made a clicking noise. “Well, he may have put it back in, but without bolt on the oil pan, it would have just drained back out.” He said, standing back up and brushing off the dirt from the garage floor. “There’s no bolt. The oil just drained right out, but that would be a pretty hard thing to miss. If he added oil it would have just gone all over the ground. Possibly it just wasn’t tightened enough, but only going a couple of miles from the Jiffy Lube doesn’t seem like far enough for it to work it’s way out. I dunno. But I’m pretty sure the engine is seized. Caput.” He finished.
I sat dazed. On the outside, it may have looked like I was contemplating a course of action, but I couldn’t even come up with a course to contemplate. The Jiffy Lube guy had just destroyed everything. The one thing I had going for me, I thought, was that I had a car. It was not only how I got to work, but also a place I could sleep if things got rough.
I thought about calling the company to complain, but he’d done it for free. There was no receipt. No proof I’d ever been there. I wondered if it was on purpose. Had he done it on purpose because I’d said I just wanted to be friends? Who would do that?? I got this sick feeling in my stomach. Many years later and I have it again, right now, thinking about this. I should have been furious, but I wasn’t. Instead I felt scared, vulnerable…and violated. The idea that someone would do such a thing. Someone who knew what would happen if I drove the car without oil. To this day, I don’t know for certain what exactly happened. I never called him or the company. Instead, I took those noxious feelings and stuffed them deep, deep inside, with others of their kind and turned to focus on the present. What could I do?
“Would you be able to fix it?” I asked, though Eric had already done me way too many favors in the past. And I was never able to repay him. I think he may have been thinking about this when I asked. He looked sympathetic, but shook his head, “It’s a big job. It’ll take weeks to do and I don’t have the time, space or parts.”
“What if I help?” I asked, voice starting to shake. Without Eric’s help, I had no where else to turn. The thought crossed my mind that I could maybe work in one of “those” dance clubs on Summer Avenue. The thought crossed my mind that I’d have to. Girls in my situation have really bad options, and it was starting to seem like the best out of the bad. But, if Eric, could somehow help me.
“I don’t know, Donna. Let me think about it. Come on. I’ll give you a ride.” And he drove me back to whose house I actually have no idea.
I have no recollection of where I was staying at this time. I have something like amnesia where a lot of the past is concerned. All my memories aren’t completely gone. Some are gone, but most of them are  just very, very vague. Something to do with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I also can’t remember exactly how my car ended up at some friend of Eric’s empty garage with Eric giving me instructions over the phone on what I needed to do to remove the engine from my camaro. I remember running back and forth from the phone to the car while I got instructions and then went and tried to carry them out. I remember that before I did anything I had to remove the driveshaft before detaching the transmission from the engine. I remember my car up on ramps and being under it with my arms wrapped around the transmission trying  remove the bolts from the bell housing. I remember it was called the bell housing. I remember my engine hanging from a chain slung around a rafter but I can’t remember how it got there, whether I did it, following Eric’s instructions over the phone or if he came out and help me. I don’t know how many nights I was out there working on it. I don’t even remember what happened to that promising job. Apparently I lost it.
At any rate, the camaro never ran again. I “think” I couldn’t afford parts, or the guy needed his garage back or something and I had to sell it for parts. I did gain something from this situation. I learned that I could work on a car. Maybe my first effort wasn’t a complete success, but I learned that I could do something girls weren’t supposed to be able to do. I remember being covered from head to toe with engine grease and feeling so proud to run into a store for a pack of cigarettes and have the guy behind the counter just stare at me. It’s strange what I remember. But this was an important moment. I didn’t’ see it that way at the time. At the time, I saw it as this thing that I couldn’t do, or at least couldn’t finish. Subconsciously though, I think it sank in, at least a little bit that I, a little 85 pound mongrel of a girl, had followed instructions from someone over the phone and had managed to at least partially dismantle a car.
Years later and the truth is that what happened probably saved my life and maybe someone else’s, too. I was too reckless with such a powerful vehicle and there was no way owning that car, in my condition, wasn’t going to end badly. What happened was probably the best thing that could have. Tough post for me to write today. Tough post to share. I’m actually still debating whether I’m going to share this or not or how long I’ll leave it up. Rehashing it has scraped me pretty raw. I’ve always maintained that there are no skeletons in your closet unless you put them there, so I’ve usually been vocal about my weird past. But I’ve never shared this story. You may not get why, so to completely open myself up here, I’ll tell you because maybe there’s some healing in saying it out loud: Because this story shows you my vulnerability and I’m not used to showing that to almost anyone

Monday, April 10, 2017

April 10, 2017 - April's A Thousand UnEdited Words A Day

April 10, 2017
I loved that car, loved the sound of the powerful engine revving. Loved how it handled. Loved the fact that I could now get from Bartlett, where I lived just outside Memphis in about 15 minutes, instead of the nearly 45 minutes it usually took. I loved the feeling of the windows down, the stereo cranked and, cliché I know, but the feel of my hair dancing in the wind. I loved it. But I didn’t take very good care of it. I learned what it could do. I learned that I could hop up on wide medians and pass a traffic jam. I learned that if you zoomed down a gravel road, then pulled up the emergency break, that the car would spin in 360’s. DON’T try this. If you read the book, you’ll find out why.  At least, I think I’m going to include that story.
Anyway, My father gave me a car, but no guidance as to how to take care of it, to say nothing about responsibility. I hadn’t been given much guidance about much of anything. After my parents divorced nobody seemed to be taking care of anybody anymore, even themselves. Things like breakfast, lunch and dinner became things I scavenged from whatever my father had remembered to put in the cupboards. I often lived off big bags of Doritoes. Before the divorce I had been taken once a month to the orthodontist to get my braces tightened. After the divorce, nobody even bothered to make appointments. At the age of 13, I was somehow supposed to be an adult, even though no one had ever bothered to teach me how to be one.
Fast forward to 17, and I hadn’t added much wisdom to my tool box. Well, I wouldn’t say, none. I’d learned to scan people for danger, how to extricate myself from dangerous situations. I’d learned I didn’t want to be around people who did hard drugs, through various experiences I won’t go into here. So I’d learned how to survive more or less “on the streets,” but…Well, to make a long story short, I’m not sure how I survived having a car that would effortlessly hit 140 mph plus. I say plus because sometimes I would be driving so fast the indicator just bounced on the 140 because that was as far as it would read.
I bet you’re expecting to read about how I totaled that car and watched it burn to the ground while I lay barely conscious with multiple broken bones and lacerations. How else would a car like that meet its end. Well…not like you’d think. For a few months I had worked as a bank teller for First National Bank in Memphis, Tennessee. It was my first job like this. The only jobs I’d had before, the only jobs available for a teenager tended to be extremely low paying and usually in the restaurant industry. I’d been a hostess at several restaurants, sold funeral plots over the telephone from inside of an actual funeral home (a good story, but not one that will make the book), and working at a Showbiz Pizza Place (like Chuckee Cheese). This was a real grown up job and I met real grown-ups doing it. One day this guy came in making a deposit for the Jiffy Lube down the street. We swapped some jokes and when the transaction was complete, he invited me to bring my car over there and said he’d change the oil for free.
I thought he was just being nice. I thought we’d just made friends and he was just helping me out. After work that afternoon, I took my car over. While I was waiting he came over to chat and while we were talking he asked if he could take me out on a date. I wasn’t interested in him in that way and decided to be honest about it. I told him I was only interested in being friends. He walked away a little miffed then came back and brought me my keys and said it was all done. I thanked him and said, “See you later.” Fifteen minutes later I was sitting in rush hour traffic when the engine died. It was blazing hot that day and the car had been running hot ever since I left the Jiffy Lube. I didn’t know enough about cars to find that alarming. When the engine died I thought it just needed to cool down and it would be fine. I had traffick back up for miles, hood of the car flipped up, heat from the engine and from the 110 degree 100 % humidity practically melting me. I was just dying in the heat. Finally, a man from the car behind me helped me push the car to the shoulder and then he gave me a ride home. Another friend of mine brought me back that night and we pulled the car to his place so he could help figure out what was wrong with it. We tried to crank the engine. The starter made all it’s whirring noises but the engine didn’t make one bit of effort to crank. No belching, no whining. My friend, Eric, got a socket wrench with and a breaker bar and came back to the car. We’d already been trying a few other things and nothing had panned out. He looked up at me with a serious expression and a serious smile and said, “Let’s hope this turns it.”
It began to dawn on me that I could have a real problem on my hands and not one that my mechanical wizard of a friend could help me easily correct. I didn’t have any money. No savings. And nobody I could call to help me. What if we couldn’t get the car fixed tonight? How would I get to work? I’d lose this job, the one job I’d had that seemed like it could point to a future.
 He set the socket on the large nut on the crankshaft, then slipped the breaker bar over the end of the socket wrench and tried to turn it clockwise. It wouldn’t budge. He tried again, pushing with his shoulder, jaws clenched, face tight and turning red. Nothing. He shook his head. Then he pulled on a ring beside the engine block and out came this long, slender, metal reed-like ribbon. I knew just enough to know that he was checking my oil. “I just had it changed earlier today.” I said, solemnly. He jerked his face around to look at me. “What?” he asked.
“I just had it changed. A guy came to the bank today and offered to change it for free so I went over there. It should be perfect.” I explained
He stuck the dipstick back in, pulled it out and once more scrutinized its tip before shaking his head and frowning, “Donna, there’s not a drop in it. Your engine’s seized.”
“What does that mean?” I asked becoming alarmed.
“It means you need a new engine.” He said, solemnly.
“How much is that,” I asked quietly.

“About two or three grand, installed.” Guess who didn’t have that?

Sunday, April 9, 2017

April 9, 2017-A Thousand Words A Day In April

April 9th, 2017
Exciting News!!! For me anyway. I’m starting to brainstorm for my next book!!! The title will be: Places I’ve Had Car Trouble. It’s a prequel to Yoga Mama’s Buddha Sandals, and will be a series of stories about some of my wackiest adventures that have been brought my way compliments of some form of unusual automobile experience. For some of you who were biting your nails that you were going to be in YMBS, starting biting. If you were involved or possibly even near, during any of my many hairy automobile experiences, now is the time to mention whether or not you want your name changed. Off the top of my head, I don’t think anyone should be worried about appearing in any unflattering light as every single one of those experiences I remember fondly. But then I haven’t started full delving yet. I plan to use a lot of the Thousand Words A Day in April to start rebuilding the bone fragments.
I am grateful for those experiences. This may come as an immense shock to anyone who knows anything about me, but I’m grateful for ALL of my past and every challenge. I Love who I am and I wouldn’t be me if not for every pebble in the brook shaping who I’ve become. I’m grateful for being on my own at an early age and being forced to carve out a life using tools I picked up along the way. I’m grateful for doing that poor. I’ve had so many amazing adventures, so many spiritual affirmations, all because I didn’t have any money.
Poor people who decide to take up traveling have incredible adventures that those with money may never tap. They have to try so much harder to test themselves. On any given trip, how many nights do they spend under the stars, how many meals eaten quietly around a campfire, listening to the crackling flames and watching the coals pulsate with color. Because they can't afford a hotel. Sure they might go camping, on occasion, with all the best gear, their friends, their credit cards. But they will never know the feeling of being raw out there. To be “out there” with no safety net. I got to do it. As if contained by some invisible force, I’d felt tethered not only to a town, but to an existence. Blockaded mentally, physically, and financially to a life I didn’t want so much I finally concluded I’d rather die than stay the course. I’m not recommending this path for anyone. Not advocating one single foot in the direction. Not even a little bit. I should have died. Many, many times I should have died. Strange to think of it, but Death plays such a role in shaping my Life.

And it all started with cars. Fast cars actually. My father, may-he-rest-in-peace-and-I-sure-do-mean-it, had a sense of honor I still don’t fully comprehend but one of his life’s principles was that if he told me he was going to do something, he kept his word, at what cost to him, I may never know. If you already know the story about him telling me he was going to kill me, you know that that could also be a very bad thing. That’s actually the worst thing he ever told me he was going to do and he hasn’t done it yet and I’m pretty sure he’s dead himself now. Anyway, he made two promises to me that he kept despite, well, a great many things. Number One: Until my parents divorce when I was twelve, I’d been a Southern parent’s dream. I was quiet, meek, and scared of them and God almighty. To keep it short I’ll just tell you that their divorce was such a crazy affair that it caused me to change completely in a matter of months. I went from a shivering chihuahua to a rebellious tween who ended up getting arrested six times in six months and having Juvenile Court decide that I had to spend a year in a Catholic, ahem, boarding school. My father told me the day he dropped me off with the stern-faced, habit-wearing Mother Stephens, that he would get me out in a year. Mother Stephens was recommending two years in order to more fully…banish my rebellious nature. He was good to his word. A year to the day, we were loading my suitcase into his pickup truck and heading away for the last time. I would have been more grateful to my father for this act of heroism, which it was, except that he was such a very bad father in so many other ways. No time for details about that and I pretty much never want to spend much time on those kind of details anyway. Let’s just say that I was removed from his custody several times by social services because neighbors or friend’s parents turned him in for child abuse. Even in Tennessee you can’t actually beat your children enough to leave marks. I was sixteen the night he told me he was going to kill me. The night I crawled out my window and ran away with a friend, then turned myself in to my probation officer the next morning telling her to lock me up, I couldn’t go back. Cliff notes: I got immancipated, made an adult in charge of my own affairs. After awhile, I kept in touch with my father because…well, this probably won’t make much sense, but he was the only father I had. While I moved from friends house to friends house, sometimes after only a week, over the next two years, I still managed to make it to school most days of the week. I just barely managed to make high enough grades to graduate from High School. Here’s the other promise. My father had a 1979 Camaro that he had promised to give me if I could pull off graduating high school. True to his word he gave me, he gave a feral teenager suffering from PTSD brought about by him, the keys to a 1979 Camaro with power-steering and an eight cylinder 350 engine. Again, his sense of honor was commendable. His judgment? What do you think?
 To be Continued. 

Saturday, April 8, 2017

april 8- A thousand Words a DAy

April 8, 2017
Ok. I missed two days. One of them was my birthday when I turned wouldn’t-you-like-to-know. The other day was the day after my birthday. What can I say, it was a big day,  but I’d allowed myself only two days to miss and I’ve gone and missed two days right in row. So, today will probably be little more than jibberish, but a thousand words it will be. It’s been a big week for me. A few days ago my daughter asked me point blank whether or not there was a Santa Clause and my husband and I had already agreed if she ever asked us point blank we’d tell her. She’s a beautiful little believer in magic and fairies, Santa’s and Easter Bunnies and I’ve always felt that’s just as it should be. A child’s imagination is so full of magic already, having adults reinforce fantasy must magnify the potency of such power. And we have, at every turn, gone out of our way to show her real or possible magic in the world. After all, I still believe in fairies, too. I imagined that when we had the Santa conversation it would just be confirming something she already suspected, something classmates may have been trying to tell her for a couple of years now, but that’s not how the conversation went. Instead, she burst into tears and said, “So you’ve been lying to me all these years??? It’s a trick???” And I through my arms around her and said, “No, honey, not a trick!” And I started crying because the full impact of what was happening really donned on me. The monumental milestone when my little girl, who has always believed in Santa Clause, no longer does. And I saw how it could be seen as a trick. Before this happened, Darren had asked if we ever have to tell her at all. “Won’t other kids tell her?” He’d asked. But I knew they had already tried and it was we who used loopholes to reinforce her belief. Besides, I didn’t want her to find out from others and feel betrayed that we hadn’t told her ourselves. It was a tough night for all of us. In the end, I made homemade hot cocoa with real milk and real cocoa and we all cuddled up on the couch sipping cocoa and listening while Darren read from our new favorite family book: The Wind in the Willows. It’s weird sharing this…because for all I know someone else may actually be reading this. You might be reading this. But I can’t let that get in the room with me while I write because one of the many goals of this thousand word a day thing, the purpose of writing in this no-correction, stream-of-conscious style is to unclog…me. To clear out craft and be more authentically from my heart. That means getting some skin in the game. This could get hard some day. Right now: This is pure keep-the-keys-clicking fodder so I can get in my thousand words before my big date tonight.
Okay, what else happened this week. Well I turned wouldn’t-you-like-to-know and that could be a big deal. But it’s really not. For the first time possibly since I was 10, I just got excited about the presents. Is there something happening on the subconscious level? Probably. But ever since I’ve been on my own at 16 and had to fight for my right to be met on my own merit and not be defined by something as arbitrary as a birthday, I’ve worked hard to not let that define me in any way. Not by me. Not by you.
I had a woman in a store who happened to have the same birthday ask me how old I turned and I just smiled and said, “I don’t share that information.” She kept pressing, and I kept refusing to answer. I found it rather rude, actually. She was getting angry and offended that I wouldn’t tell her, something I kind of get a kick out of, a lot of people seem to become irritated that I won’t tell them. I mean they get UPSET! It’s baffling and amusing at the same time. Doesn’t anyone remember manners? Doesn’t anyone remember it’s actually rude to ask someone how old they are, how much they weigh, how much money they make, etc. etc. Yet they are the one’s getting upset. Shrug.

Okay 744 words so far. Less than 300 to go and I have five minutes. Can I do 300 words in 5 minutes? Told you, gibberish. Okay, so next interesting and personal thing happened this week. I got my period!!! Yep! For your info: I thought I might be pregnant. I was two months late and I’m never, ever late. Unless I’m pregnant. I’ve taken four pregnancy tests and they’ve all been negative but everyone I know, including my doctor and nurse practitioner knows a story of someone who tested negative a zillion times but delivered a baby somewhere between 7 and nine months later none-the-less, so we’ve been kind of sweating over here. On the one hand, it could really be cool to have a baby again. To raise it with my daughter. To raise it with all that I know now. To be less afraid, doubting and clueless than I have been for the last 7 years. This is really no fair to anyone reading this right now. I’m literally just trying to tap out …less than a hundred words now. Apologies. Hopefully I’ll do better next time, but that’s kind of the cool thing about this process. You never know what you’ll find and I never know what I’ll write. Maybe it turns to a gold story I sell and use the money for a trip to Mexico, maybe it’s absolute crap. Okay twenty words to go. Anybody got any ideas for the 20…now twelve words. Wait, my word counter isn’t working anymore, what the hey??? 1002. Done!

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

April 5, 2017 -- Day Five of A thousand Words A Day in April

Continued from Day 4

April 5, 2017
Hypothermia is a real concern for those of us who like to go outside and play and it only takes the body dropping below 95 F for it to set in. I had been reasonably sure I’d make it back to camp being only mildly uncomfortable before the wind kicked in. Now that the wind was blowing almost too hard for me to pedal into, and was bringing with it air cooled from the snowy slopes of the 13,000 ft.  La Sal Mountains, I was a good bit more worried about the possibility of hypothermia. I remembered seeing a hoody in a wash a mile or so back, when I was just beginning to worry about how much further there was to go. I’d come barreling down from a dome into a sand pit corduroyed by the wind and a zillion other bikes pushed through. I had to dismount and push my bike through the deep sand and that’s when I’d spotted the hoody. It was wadded and half covered in red dirt and looked small, like maybe a child’s size small. I’m small enough to fit in some children’s clothing, and it crossed my mind that maybe I oughta grab that thing, shake it out and wear it despite its complete question mark of an origin. Like maybe it wasn’t a lost hoody, but a discarded one, possibly because it had something on it too yucky to shake out. It occurred to me briefly that even wearing a hoody with someone else’s vomit on it might be better than no hoody at all if the weather turned.

The weather had turned. I briefly considered going back to see if I could even find the hoody, but my gut said, don’t backtrack, get going. So that’s what I did. I stopped briefly if I came across a spot with little wind so I could try to call Darren and tell him what was going on, but the only places blocked from the wind were between solid sandstone domes or canyons with no cell service. At one point I’d reached the top of a scoured dome and as I was heading down the backside of it, I was blasted by a gust of wind that literally knocked my bike out from under me. I managed to jump off, and then catch the bike before it tumbled down. I half ran, half walked down, using the bike’s breaks and tires to keep us stable on the way down. I jumped back on and started pedaling, and as I started heading back up yet another dome, I tried to shift into a gear that would let me spin a little easier, but when I did that, my derailer, a sort of chicken wing cog that moves the chain closer together or farther apart, was bent and poked into my spokes and stopped the tire from turning. I hopped off, wind howling, really not having time for this latest development and I saw the problem. A little panic set in. I reached down and tried to bend it out as much as I could, but I was worried I might actually break it off and make it impossible to ride. I tried to switch the gears back to where they had been before, where I could at least still ride the bike down hills, even if I had to push the bike up them. I pressed gears, lifted the back wheel off and turned the pedals until I found the gear that would still allow the rear tire to turn. That was comforting. Somewhat.
But that’s exactly what I did from then on. I walked, ran up the domes pushing the bike in front of me, using the breaks and the sticky rubber tires to keep us both from sliding down the steep hills, then at the top, wind howling full in my face, I hopped back in the seat and road down. I thought of a technique I’d heard about (and had actually used a couple of times in my deep past) where Tibetan monks meditated in their sparse robes sitting a top snow banks by stoking the fire of their inner chi. I was no expert and maybe I’m longer on imagination than chi, but it worked back then and it at least moderately helped on this trek. I was freezing and had nothing to lose so I started chanting to myself, “Firebelly. Firebelly. Firebelly.” After a few minutes I thought I detected a slight warming of my body. Or maybe hypothermia was setting in. I decided to believe in the technique and so I kept chanting, sometimes I screamed it into the wind, “FIREBELLY! FIREBELLY! FIREBELLY!”
I passed the 1 mile marker painted on the sandstone. One mile to go. “FIREBELLY!” I growled. I know it sounds crazy, and if I actually thought more people were reading this, I might be a little embarrassed. Maybe. “FIREBELLY!!” Shortly after the 1 mile marker I could see the hill that rises up just before the parking lot. Less than a mile to go. I saw two other bikers beating it to the parking lot, and then saw one biker who was riding out on the trail in my direction. I thought, “Who in the world is coming out here now???” And then I recognized the blue helmet, the blue bike, the uber concerned look on the most handsomest man in the world’s face. It was Darren. I don’t think I’ve ever been so glad to see anyone. Nor him. He saw me and I smiled through my frozen cheeks, “CAN I HAVE YOUR COAT??” I yelled over the wind through chattering teeth. He looked like a man who had been back at a campsite with a little girl while both of them sat worrying about where Mommy was for way too long. He untied my own jacket he’d brought with him. He offered to push my bike up the steep hill. “I am sooooo glad to see you.” I said. Before we reached the trail head, a group of five or six bikers wearing down coats rode past us. I thought about the other bikers I’d passed before the weather turned. I’d assumed they’d all turned back since I hadn’t seen them, but the people who just rode passed us had looks like the one Darren had worn when I first saw him. Intense worry for loved ones. I hope they’re okay.
When we got back to the parking lot, Nila was sitting in the truck with the same kind of expression Darren had worn, and way too young to be wearing it. She threw her arms around me and started crying, “Mommy I was so worried about you.” She cried.

“I’m so sorry baby. I’m sorry I made you worry. Mommy’s okay now.” We were still hugging when Darren came up to the car and said, “Are you okay with us giving these unicyclers a ride into town?” The Unicyclers had made it back. They climbed in, red cheeked and shaky, like they had their own wide eyed adventure tale to tell. I remain immensely impressed by them, but I didn’t go into town with them. I asked Darren to come back with a pizza and I went back to the camper, cranked up the heat and ate a bag of cookies, a bag of popcorn, a bag of cheese crackers….

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

April 4, 2017 – Day 4 of A Thousand Words a Day
At the top of one of those amazing red domes, there, in the middle of nowhere, I saw a suspension bridge strung over a narrow canyon. I might not have noticed it if not for the heavy set person stopped directly in the middle with a small crowd on the other side trying to coax him/her forward. I hopped off my bike again to take a few shots of this picturesque scene. The group was part of a zip line course. I don’t know where they came from. There are no actual roads nearby and…well, some of those folks didn’t look like walking long distances was their forte. More important to me than taking pictures that are…beautiful, or composed, with all the right lighting, etc. etc., I like to take pictures that tell stories and this one would. I was too far away to make out whether the person on the bridge was a man or a woman, but something in the very way that they had positioned themselves on this narrow suspension bridge conveyed their internal struggle with moving their feet forward. The brightly colored parka and brightly colored hats on a few folks in the crowd backcast with the red sandstone domes stacked to the horizon, would add interesting dimension to the story.
At this point, the sky was that amazing turquoise blue I’ve only ever seen in the Southwest. The weather was cool, a bit too cool for my bike shorts and cotton tshirt attire, but as long as I kept going up and down hills, I’d be fine. I hurried up towards the footbridge to see if I could get more shots of the people, but by the time I got their they were all over the bridge and congregating further away, listening to instructions from their guide. I couldn’t hear what those were. I took a couple of photos of the bridge. I bet a few of those folks were scared. It looked like a metal 2 by 8 hung by too thin metal twine. As I walked back to my bike I looked off to the La Sals and their cloak of misty clouds. The clouds were moving our way.
The two guys I’d been playing leap frog with passed me as I was mounting my bike. We all smiled, waved or nodded. Another look over my shoulder at the clouds coming in from the La Sals and the word ‘ominous’ sprang to mind. Last night, I’d been sitting around a campfire telling Moab Wind-War stories and hearing about how bad the wind had blown the night before we arrived. Darren, Nila and I had nodded appreciatively, then shared the story of the time we’d come out in our vintage canned ham camper and the wind had blown so hard it’d torn the window off the back of the camper. Granted the window was having some problems anyway. The camper was pretty old and I was in the process of remodeling it, but still. That night we’d seen all the tents blown flat then held down by a wind that never ceased. The next morning we were the only ones in the campground and camping chairs, tarps, tents, even sleeping bags were scattered all over the place.
As I thought about that, I thought about how slowly the clouds seemed to be coming in and decided that, while I didn’t have any time for dilly dallying, I’d better sheath the camera and get moving. I figured I had two hours of up and down to get in. In a few minutes, I’d caught up to the fellas again. They were having some water while they admired yet another amazing view. I smiled and said, “I’m hightailing it before I find myself caught in a storm. I don’t even have a jacket!” They waved and I headed.
I passed several other spots that begged for photos, but I stayed moving, until I saw something that I just had to have a picture of: Two men on UNICYCLES heading my way. This would have been about the halfway mark for the once again and I can’t emphasize it enough, seriously tough trails in Moab and here’s the two on fricking unicycles. I stopped dead, smiled and said, well fellas, this I got get a picture of. I brought out my phone and tried to get a couple of shots, but was informed, by my phone, that I’d exceeded memory. Ah well, “You guys are awesome.” I shouted and pedaled on.
Somewhere around Mile 5, the phone rang and it was my husband. He’d expected me back by now and was wondering where I was. I apologized for forgetting to call him and tell him I’d decided to do the full trail, eyed the clouds that I was finally facing and said, “Hon, I better get moving. Looks like the clouds are moving in faster.” I passed a lone biker heading the other way and I called out to him, “Guess I’m not the only one crazy enough to be out here with a storm on the horizon!” He had a red beard and mustache and big, smiley blue eyes. He smiled and nodded. “You’ll be fine, hon. It won’t hit us.”
I’d just gotten started again, when a steel cold blast of air hit me head on. A chilling storm harbinger, though I hoped just a straggler. I picked up speed. A few minutes later I was pedaling my heart out straight into a fierce wind, 40, maybe 50 mph or more. I squinted my eyes for some protection from the sand that was being blasted against my face. I had moments of reprieve when I dipped briefly between domes, but those were scarce moments. I debated whether or not to duck between domes and wait out the wind, but the wind was only the first part of the storm. Dark clouds were being hurried by them and they looked endless. I think red was wrong. And I didn’t have a jacket. So I had to keep moving, driving straight into the wind.
I’d told my husband I was around mile marker 6 but half an hour later I passed the 6 mile marker painted on the rock. Four miles to go and the wind just kept coming. And I was getting cold.  

Monday, April 3, 2017

April 3, 2017
I decided I’d keep going for a bit, maybe just another five minutes or so. I was feeling fine and the bike was handling beautifully. I’d spent a few minutes exchanging pleasantries with a couple of other riders and they happened to stop just a little ways ahead of me. It’s been, like, five years since I’ve ridden the whole trail and I think I’ve really only done the whole thing three times in my whole life so I couldn’t remember…just how much farther was it? Could I make it pretty easily? Or if not easily, at least not miserably? I caught up to the guys and asked if they knew how much farther it was and whether we’d gotten the biggest chunk behind us. The older one of the young guys surveyed me up and down for a moment, more to get an idea of what I was made of rather than checking me out, and asked, “Have you never done this before?
There was a part of me that started to default back to the girl pretending or trying to maintain her position as a badass, the kind that makes me want to drop my voice a few degrees, to deepen it so it sounds more like a man’s, more like the voice of someone you don’t want to trifle with, rather than the sweet, dainty flower, I really am. Actually I’m both. Dainty and not to be trifled with. Anyway, I caught myself about to put on airs and made the conscious choice that I didn’t want to do that. Not anymore. Not ever again. I want to be authentically and confidentally me. So I told the truth, in the voice I’m still working on reclaiming, “I have, but it’s been many years.”

He asked if I’d heard of this phone app called, I think, Pink Trails. And I said that I hadn’t. He took out his phone and showed me a miniaturized map of the slickrock trail and our exact location on it. I was dismayed to see that it didn’t appear we’d even come half way. And it had been a bit of a bear of a trail. My shoulders must have visibly slumped because he pressed another button and it showed the topography of the trail and he pointed out that we’d already done the bulk of the climbing and just a few more hills and not only would we be at the halfway mark, but we’d also be done with the bulk of the climbing. He said it was all pretty much all down hill after just a few more up and down climbs.
One, I should know better than to ever listen to anyone on a mountain bike trail that tries to sell me on it all being down hill from here. It’s never been true and it’s not even possible. Mountains aren’t really shaped all uphill and then down outside of elementary school art walls. But I swallowed it whole. I guess I wanted to. I’d always heard that the other direction on the lollipop loop was the hardest but plenty of people said it didn’t really make any difference.

At any rate, I shot off. The truth is that the bike is soooo much easier than my old bike. It FEELS lighter and it isn’t wearing me out as quickly. I basically got off the couch and went riding the slickrock trail. One of Moab’s hardest and most dangerous. Although a quick survey and reading one actual list and it wasn’t even on the list. Gonna have to do this portal trail someday. Wait? Why? I don’t know, but I have the feeling, I’m gonna have to. Listen to the rest of this story and it’ll tell you why.

So I kept going, at my own pace which includes quite a bit of looking up and around at the incredible terrain, from far off vistas of red gulfing canyons (whatever that means) to the red rolling mounds of slickrock, seemingly blasted onto the turquoise skies, the likes of which can’t possibly be the same skies that float above the rest of the world. The view is one that can best be captured by this image: My eyes are down at the red sandstone passing under my tires as I pump my legs, pump my ass, and then I look up to get my bearings and have no choice but to swing my gaze in all directions, taking it all in, like I’ve just burst through a portal and I’m forced to say, yet again, “HOLY FUCK!” In appreciation.
At this point I’m hopping off my bike every other minute to snap pictures with my, inadequate to the task Samsung Galaxy. I have such high hopes that what I’m seeing will transcend bad technology, but it won’t. My phone will not capture these views for anyone and will only make me rekindle my drumming for my husband to replace it with an Iphone. Yes, I let him in on making those decisions. I don’t want to be selfish and the man never buys a thing for himself. How can I say, “Well, I’m taking half a grand or so and bloody well getting myself the best phone on the market, bub. Enjoy clipping coupons to preserve our future. And, truth be told, I have a helluva a jerky knee and have wasted money more than once in a moment of gotta-have-ititis. He’s my check and balance. He helps me take a breath and determine, do I really need it? Or am I falling for the hype? This trip, however, did it. I need it. I need the best camera phone available because I feel obligated as  a member of humanity to share these sights with you.

But I don’t have the Iphone on this day. When you see the pictures, you’ll see that. Professionally, I have Cannon G12 that I use for when I’m “on the job.” But more and more often, I’m seeing these opportunities in situations that I didn’t bring the ‘G’ because I’m pretty sure it would get destroyed on the journey. A phone is a lot easier to safeguard. But I digress and I’ve hit me 1000 words for the day. 1138 to be exact. Tune in tomorrow when you’ll hear me say …….