Om Mani Padme Hum

As close as coffee is to my waking body, Quan Yin, or Avalokiteśvara, is to my waking spirit. I have a long history with her. As a child I had a friend who would “fly in” from various parts of the world to play with and comfort me. I was chided, punished, and thoroughly teased and humiliated for my “lying” and occasionally humored for my imagination, but I refused to deny my “imaginary ” friend.

Once I was looking through a large encyclopedia like book with a librarian, I was in fourth grade, that is the one detail that is clear, because the teacher who had sent me to the library to “be rid of my nonsense” was Mrs. Coons. I am certain I was being forced to look up and verify some piece of argumentative or informative trivia I had spouted to the class. This was a favorite punishment of mine, I really didn’t care if I was humiliated for being wrong or ignored for having been right, I got to spend an hour in the research section of the library learning and reading.

Going back to that day I have no recollection of what book we were using or what we were looking for actually, but the book was one that required adult supervision, being rife with full color illustrations of nude paintings and sculpture that had newsprint blanks paper-clipped to the page to save our poor impressionable minds from seeing the same parts we all had or saw on others in our living quarters of poverty.  What I do remember is that as my guide through this pitfall packed tome turned one of the newsprint covered pages, I saw her, my friend, perfectly depicted in a watercolor. I was old enough by then to know better but I blurted out, “I know her, that’s my friend!”

“Impossible,” the frustration and disdain in her voice wasn’t even colored with concern, as she slammed the book shut, “she is some mythological creature from Vietnamese culture.” In hindsight her choice of geographical placement was certainly colored by the war America’s sons were fighting. In that outburst, I declared myself a liar and possibly a budding communist and heretic and lost one of my few allies in that school, but I couldn’t help myself, I did know her.

If she had said “Tibet,” or “China,” or “Korea,” I might have found the  name of my friend more quickly, but it would be the 1970’s before I would learn that her name was many but in the form I knew her she was  Kuan Yin and was the Chinese Bodhisattva of Compassion.

Mahayana Buddhism has been calling me for years, I have read sporadically, meditated, attended events and listened to talks from the other branches of buddhism but certain Dharma is not to be learned without a teacher.  For 2016 I have found a center to study, meditate and learn from those who practice. My best description is that spiritually I can play the instrument of compassion be ear, but I cannot yet read the music.

I am the bard of old who can tell a thousand stories but has not mastered the art of the alphabet so the stories fluctuate with the telling, and he longs to write them down so they can go out and benefit the world.

It was a difficult decision but I had reassurance from the universe that I had made the right decision. I am a great believer in signs and when I first drove up to the Kadampa Clear Light Center a cat (a species not known for welcoming behavior towards me) jumped through my open car door window and settled warm in my lap, and a crow lit on the center roof and cawed at me, in Phoenix, where crows are rare. So yeah, think this is the right place for me to be and I look forward to sharing my adventure this year.

Please feel free to comment with questions, ideas and thoughts on my musings from your own path. Buddhism like the pure light of most spirit paths is the circle that takes in the good. All paths remain of equal validity to me, nor can I trod one that asks other than full respect for all living things.

Listening to “Songs of Kuan Yin” a collection I picked up in 2008 from my much missed record store in Tempe, reading “Transform Your Life” by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, and “Bodhisattva of Compassion” by John Blofeld.

Feel free to donate as well. I am working slightly less than full-time right now and moving once again means added costs so welcome but not desperate and note on your donation if you want it to be used for medical bills, living expenses, ongoing Random Acts of Kindness, or still gonna make it happen when health allows hike through of the Appalachian Trail.

Mostly, thanks friends for reading, I appreciate truly being seen and heard most of all.

Namaste.

 

Roll away your stone, I’ll roll away mine…

I am reading collected Archie comics while listening to Mumford and Sons and realize their album is just too perfect as a lead into today’s blog. Maybe not the composers intended meaning, but look carefully at the lyrics of half the songs on “Sigh No More”, and hey, totally the soundtrack to discuss some radical Zombie literature longing to bite into your imagination. Forget watching Walking Dead reruns, crack open a book and let your brain do the devouring of these unexpected zombies.

First up is the collected “Afterlife with Archie,” replete with all the classic Archie comic’s tropes and conflicts while incorporating a new closeted lesbian couple, the out but not yet completely accepted gay Kevin, a little V.C. Andrews style brotherly love, comments on class conflict and lots of great action, this is artistic and storyline perfection brought to us Eisner winning artist Fransesco Francavilla and Harvey award winner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa. Volume one crushes it, volumes 2 and 3 are also available.

My second favorite is a little harder but not impossible to find out of print 2005 Holiday book by Christopher Moore, “The Stupidest Angel.” The humorous and heartwarming tale of terror, like Archie’s apocalypse, begins with a misbegotten act of kindness for a little boy by the same Angel that brought us Moore’s masterpiece “Lamb.” I know, I know, Christmas is dead, it’s January, resurrect it for a moment just for this novel and you won’t regret it.

My third undead recommendation is also the third in the entertaining alternate history, steam punk style Clockwork Century series by Cherie Priest. “Dreadnought”, is my favorite book in the series and stands well on its own. Part mystery, we travel with Mercy, a civil war nurse with ties to both sides of the conflict.  If you are a completest start with the Seattle-based “Boneshaker” and just know the story gets better and better. Atypical zombie origins and an impeccable storytelling make these books hard to put down, so maybe you will want to snag the Audible recordings, masterfully narrated by Wil Wheaton and keep the story going on your commute.

My fourth and final book feast is a series you have seen orbiting the science fiction circuit in 2015 due to its recent adaptation by the SyFy channel. “Leviathan” is the fist novel in the Expanse series. Like the Clockwork Century novels, the zombies of James S. A. Corey’s universe are just one cog in an intricate machine of terror, mystery, betrayals and unexpected heroism.

Try any or all of these cold, creepy corpse crawlers this January.  Snuggled up in your bed or favorite chair with a steaming cocoa, a tempting toddy, or a spot of hot, sweet tea, let the dark month of January crowd and scratch outside your windows, after all, they are just stories and you are still safe.

Aren’t you?

 

Look at those lights behind the trees; Don’t the Highway sound like the ocean

And yes, if you know the song, I do have someone in mind.

I know when I have hit my emotional and physical wall because all my daydreams are spent traveling, and all my night dreams are about being a nurse in a multi-bed hospital or some other somebody’s something and just trying to find enough time to eat, sleep and go to the bathroom.

And I long so hard for the sound of the ocean.

I pine for a road trip, tires on freeway, waking up in strange rooms in towns I can’t pronounce. Only responsibilities are gas in the tank, air in the tires, and deciding yeah or nay on the picnic and hike or the World’s Largest Ball of Contiguous Twine.

It is no coincidence that I fascinated by all things nomadic and drawn to all things deeply rooted.

The two biggest reason I have my 20 Wishes are first to face the big bad realities of life and death with aplomb instead of fear; the second is to counteract the constant dripping tedium of adulting.

Everyone gets when I am struggling with the former, the Big C has street cred, but the other gets no sympathy, not even from me, but sometimes its hardest.

Anyway, all philosophical deepness and poetic meanderings aside, even these meager ones brought on by repeat listening to Lake Street Dive’s immensely satisfying time and key changes (listen to them, you will thank me!), I really, really NEED this trip to the great AT.

I kind of hate that my timing coincides with people getting all excited by it, but I have been working up to it far too long to let trail hiking  popularity dissuade me.

So starting with a negative balance in the books. My staggering medical debt is down below $2000, there is also some personal debt to friends and family who helped me in the last two years, and my student loans,  and an ambulance bill.  Thankfully working hard and will have ALL of it gone by December (except student loan.)

And my physical state is the equivalent of my bank balance. Been just keeping track without changes. Currently back at almost sedentary with less than 5000 steps in a day. Weigh in at 220 lbs. Stand 5’5″ and walking/trotting a brisk mile definitely winds me.

But

Off all treatment meds for a couple months, always try and keep pain down with Tylenol, Ibuprofen and my roller, yoga, meditation, diet, etc.

So this is nowhere near impossible. In fact compared to other things I have done this should be a Breeze.

 

Why Don’t you Build Me Up, Butercup

I am a Geek, and what is more geeky and wonderful than Legos! I have tubs of them and I love to create towns, vehicles and mosaics, no Kragle here, but sometimes I just want to build by instruction. I also find Lego are great to share because I can thoroughly sanitize them between patients.

So I was so excited to see an ad on the back of my http://brickmag.com/ for a way to rent new sets.

I just have to share, if any of you are brick crazy like me, or have kids that are brick crazy, https://www.pley.com/ is a HUGE disappointment. I love Lego’s so I signed up at the lowest level for three months. $9.99 per month, first month free from a coupon on the back of Brick magazine (whole other nightmare).
Got my first set right away and it was fun doing all the builds. It was a 14.95 retail price Creator set and I had a ton of fun. Sent it back near the end of the month because this entry level plan only sends one set a month.

I packaged it up per instructions, verified it was received and happily sat back to wait for my next set, and waited, and waited, and waited and waited.
I called, thinking maybe their was a glitch, new company and all. The next day I was notified it shipped.

I got my second set, also a 14.95 creator set missing a major piece. I couldn’t build any of the three builds it made. So per their instructions I packed it up and mailed it back the next day for my March replacement set.

So it is now April 16, I have not recieved my next Lego set, Not a replacement for March or my April one.

I have emailed, called. So Done.

I cancelled, clearly this company has a better idea than execution.

Final Review: Save the money and just buy your own sets. Or Maybe try BrickLoot.

Next MONTH we will have our unboxing!
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Our life together is so precious together, we have grown

(Just Like) Starting Over was a number one hit this time of year in 1980, it was the lead single off the new Double Fantasy album and John Lennon had just been shot. I loved the song while I mourned his death. It is a song I associate with this time of year, like “Favorite Things,” not actually a Christmas song but I still always put it in my December playlist. I have started over again, and again, and again.

In 1980, every time I sang along with my AM radio, I truly felt that I was getting my second chance in a life that had up to then been pretty traumatic. I fit in my skin and I felt loved, and safe and useful.
I was honor graduate and a recent NCO and I was madly in love and recently married. I had reconnected with my family of birth, felt loved and supported by my foster family the Urbanawiz, and had just learned I was pregnant.
Life couldn’t have been better.

Something happened the following spring that changed everything. What happened is not the point of the blog, but in that moment the old me ended and I believed myself worthless and for the next year or so behaved accordingly, as my life, except my work and my writing which suffered but survived, fell apart and away from around me.

But I started over.

Christmas of 1983 was spent with Bill’s parents, I had two amazing baby boys, a husband who I knew loved me, even if he had a bad temper and a tendency to wander into other women’s arms. My writing was still earning me a bit of money and acknowledgement, my family of birth and I were actually pretty close for a change, Connie and Ed, my foster parents, were being the parents I wished I had, my skin might not fit but I felt loved and useful and almost safe.
The following spring I was alone with another child on the way, no idea how to survive the crushing emotional and financial burden of truly single parenthood, but I tried, I truly tried to hold it all together as my life, except my writing and my work at the VA which suffered but survived, fell apart and away from around me.

Then I started over.

December 14 of 1988 my children were finally home after a year long separation from me (the persons bringing the suit on my fitness lived out of state, so the boys were in state custody for their protection) It was a bloody and vicious court battle (his side, I had no lawyer) in which every mistake from my past was dragged up and thrown at me on the stand and even I became convinced that I wasn’t the best thing for them after all. But mostly I loved them and the judge said the only way they could be together for Christmas was if one of us stopped fighting. So I said if surrendering my rights would get them a good, safe home with the Bartleman’s I would stop fighting and sign. Which I did.
I said Good-bye, tickets were bought, and the day they were to fly out, the Guardian Ad Litem got a phone call from a very drunk and angry man (who used unapproved by court language) to tell her that it wasn’t a convenient day for them to arrive. I had exactly 7 days to get together a household that could pass court inspection, but I did, and the boys came home for good. I felt grateful and so full of love and very, very scared.
That spring I was in a full time position as Director of Volunteers at Catholic Community Services and life was really, really good. I was still frequently scared and overwhelmed but I was doing this thing called life and all my sons were healthy and growing and happy.

I was truly starting over, this would be the winning chapter of my life.

Except my life story is more like a GOT novel than my preferred Tolkien or L’Engle or even Lewis novel.

So many more restarts in my life I could make this the longest blog in history, because as often as I fall or get knocked down, there is again “starting over.”

A year ago today, on my way to someone’s house to drop off some organic produce, I was rear-ended by a possibly drunk hit-and-run driver, which began my toughest year yet. January 1 in the same emergency room in which I had been treated I watched a code blue run on a little angel, after 3 fruitless but heroic hours, first her parents and then I held her lifeless body as my heart broke along with all the others who loved her.

Since that opening of the year, I have moved twice, been first on the scene in two rather gruesome crashes and provided first aid, witnessed a violent suicide, and helped a man in the road who had been assaulted until the cops and ambulance arrived. These opportunities to be a good samaritan cummulatively have made my PTSD the worst it has been since 1981. And add in that I have had a return of my rather big share of physical medical issues.

As of today, my GFR is borderline and my anion gap is too low, my blood pressure is through the roof and I don’t know yet if the drugs that may save my life may inadvertantly take it.

Nothing makes it harder to enjoy your own excess and good health than another’s poverty and suffering so I try to keep a low profile socially.

My sisters and I are in touch and we love each other which is good. My sons remember that I exist off and on when I remind them, although they are usually too busy to help or socialize unless its an actual holiday, even than its my DIL that invites and only at the last minute. But they are my kids, so I still love them to the moon and back. And i am very proud of how their lives are unfolding. They may not think much of me, and maybe I deserve that, but I think I have pretty awesome kids. So family this year is good. I love my family to the moon and back, twice

My writing except for some poems in October and a half finished novel in November are a complete no go.

However I love my job, I am useful there and my inherent silliness is a bonus. This week I am even going to try 40 hours of work as its my second week of treatment break, and they really need me.

Also this year has reaffirmed that I have the best friends in the universe, this universe or any of the other Geek universes I regularly visit. In no particular order – Sara, Laurie, Cathy, Amie, Pat, Regina, Jen, the Videans, Angela and Amie (and others I am probably forgetting) have literally and figuratively saved my life and its general accoutrements this year. I love you guys to Gallifrey and back.

Gil, and Saja, and Bam, and Tam get special notice for always making me welcome, inviting me to visist if its been more than a few days without seeing me, and most importantly of all is they way you are so willing to accept the time and efforts I can share. I cannot think of a more special title than Nanna Jo, and you make such an effort to include me, even this year when I know how much easier it would have been to do otherwise. Love you guys to the moon and back by train, twice!

And yes, I have another scan Monday morning, this time to look at my bones and back. (Playing my own medical game of “Where in my body is Cancer San Diego?”) But my tongue is flat, my spirits good, and every morning I wake up and see the face of someone I love its just like

Starting Over!

Who wants to be right as rain….

In light of my recent close encounter of the crazy kind, the Adele lyrics that popped up in my cover song have a whole new meaning. I know I explained my whole Ipod augury fairly recently so I won’t explain again.

The good news is that however drama, drama, drama my cover song is; my cross song is “Sunrise” by John E Jaan. I have a few Renaissance artist CD’s that are in constant rotation besides the illustrious Owen Phyfe’s and the drummer from Tartanic showing off his other instrumental and composing skills is one of them. The CD is called “Invocation,” and is a musical prayer that can turn my day around. I purchased mine at the AZRF, can’t find it on CD Baby but I believe he is still with Tartanic, and he is on FB so you can probably purchase one anywhere Tartanic is performing, or maybe him personally. You will thank me if you do, it is beyond lovely.

So recent past song on todays “random” is Rascal Flatts and “When the Sand Runs Out” and that pretty much sums up how most bad things happen, both the times when I let fear surround and the fact that sometimes when I am out on that limb it just snaps right off.

So health update. I have bad days and good days. The good days are getting good enough I am trying a few shifts this week. Okay, one tomorrow, then two in the middle of the week. When we see how that goes I will make more decisions about the week after that. No green bananas, but thats okay, overripe bananas make great banana muffins.

As to my financial situation, it is also improving slowly but surely. And crossing my fingers that I have found just the right place to live in Tempe. I will be renting a room from a friend but get to not live alone, help her out with finances and keep the dogs so all around win.

LOL, song for “self” is Citadel by Anna Nalick, some auguries are so spot on its scary. My relationship with others is the song written by Terry Melcher for his mother (Doris Day) “Bring Back Happy Endings” and this is my song as much as “Over the Rainbow” or “Rainbow Connection” I hum and sing it a lot, but no one really recognizes it. Take a listen, especially if you know his story. My hopes and fears is Sammy Davis, Jr singing “What Kind of Fool Am I,” and the final outcome is “Puff the Magic Dragon.”

So if you really want to know how I am doing, listen to the music the universe picked for me, and you will pretty much have it in a nutshell.

And have a great week-end, I am headed back to Nanowrimo!

Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away

I do believe in yesterday, yesterday is the place where seeds were planted for today’s harvest, where mistakes were made for today’s lessons, where choices and promises were made that I honor, I do believe in yesterday. I learn from yesterday, I cherish yesterday; I do not regret yesterday.

I also believe in tomorrow; tomorrow is the place where adventure still waits, hope often dances and dreams do come true. I believe in tomorrow, I do not fear tomorrow.

I live here in today. In this moment, the past cannot be changed, and the future is the flower of today’s tilling, planting and fertilizer. So today I will dig until my back aches, throw all the seeds of compassion and gratitude I can, laugh heartily, love easily, forgive even quicker and if I find today is a little more full of shit than other days, I am going to work it into the flower beds thanking the cycles of life that produced it.

So has anyone noticed that I still let you know what I am listening to when I write my blog? I do this sort of augury where I ask the universe what I need to know today and then pick an artist, genre, etc, and hit random. Today is brought to you by the Beatles.

Cover Song (what colors my life) today was “Yesterday” and the cross (what helps or challenges me) is “Let It Be”, my foundation is “Eight Days a Week”, more recent past “Get Back”, my future is “Love Me Do,” and far future is “All You Need is Love”; for self I have “Paperback Writer,” and my relationships is “Penny Lane,” for hope and fears I have “We Can Work it Out,” and final outcome is “From Me to You.”

Totally fits, too. There is a shadow hanging over me, yup, in all this I am also mourning the fact I met someone who I fell head over heels with who was anything but right for me, my Maurine, and I miss them. But it is more than that, I have some serious medical, emotional, professional and financial decisions to make. And I want to have control over the things I do not have control over, I want to feel safe. Everytime I turn my phone on now it tells my I am 28 minutes from Home. I haven’t updated my address in the phone yet, because I want to believe there is an external home for me, somewhere. But I know better. Then comes my help and my challenge;

Let it Be. Call her Mother Mary, Quan Yin, God or Gaiea, I have used all these and others at different times in my life, but the energy is the same. It is the same love I felt from Connie Urbanawiz, Louse Aten. It is the love I see in the eyes of the mothers whose babies I have nursed (even the big adult babies). I am surrounded and warmed by the very pure love I feel towards my children and friends, all of them. I know that everything will be alright. However it looks, it will BE alright.

So many miracles around me, so much love, so many opportunities to make lives better around me, in that, the service of others and the creation of art, is all my real happiness.

Namaste my friends.