Alright, I’ll try not to ramble in this post, but I have some things to say, and they mostly revolve around a television series called The Wonder Years.
If you were alive in the early 90’s, chances are, you have heard of this show, and probably seen it at least a handful of times. Fred Savage played the protagonist, Kevin Arnold, and it was set during the Vietnam days. Everyone I know has seen this show at some point. I have seen it from beginning to end a handful of times. It was my favorite series when it originally aired, and then it became available on Netflix (with a stupid knock off version of the theme song), and I revisited the series in its entirety, feeling all of these intense emotions all over again. And so, it became my favorite all over again.
Now, imagine that you are me, and you learn a decade after revisiting the series that Fred Savage is a full grown adult and (wearing baseball caps) directing a new adaptation of the show, also called The Wonder Years. Now imagine that you learn it is set to take place in Montgomery, Alabama in the 1960’s, in a very racially and socially divided population, during the MLK assassination.
Then, you learn the family is Black.
I am sure it will be endearing, heavy, tragic, heartbreaking, hilarious, and all the other rollercoaster emotions. It just aired on ABC, but I have yet to watch it. But I do look forward to whenever I do get around to watching it. I am very excited to see how this project turns out, and how the story develops, and I hope to God that it portrays Montgomery at its worst, but also, perhaps at its best.
During Taking Back Sunday’s set, the singer Adam talked a bit about his upbringing in Florence, Alabama, and how his family also lived in Montgomery. I then heard some guy behind me yell, “Montgomery’s trying!”
I don’t know how or why, but I had zero control over my body when I turned around to him and sarcastically and casually replied, “Are they, though?”
He must get high with a little help from his friends.
Montgomery is trying? I think the only reason this guy felt the need to say this was because the elected recently passed the medical marijuana bill (which was basically only slightly better than not with all the insane stipulations attached to it.) The only reason I caved and joined Twitter earlier this year was to closely monitor and harass the state legislators into using wiser/fairer judgement and remind them how incorrect their stupid, outdated opinions are, and that Alabama education scores rank 46th in the entire nation.
I eventually left Twitter (because it is utter insanity), and it wasn’t long after that, The Wonder Years reboot was being announced and I found myself feeling 12 years old right along with Kevin Arnold and, now, Dean Williams.
Obviously, there are major issues all around the globe, and it still seems especially true for the southeastern United States- namely, Alabama. Why else would Fred Savage bother? Hell, when Black Lives openly Mattered to the entire country, my neighbors felt compelled to break out their rebel flags and fly them within the city limits again. It was only in the past thirty fucking years that a racist sign next to the main interstate exit of my hometown (which read “Don’t let the sun set on your black ass”) was finally removed, just before we moved to this historically slave owning, KKK infested town.
So, okay, maybe a handful of people have been working hard to remove the pit stains, but that doesn’t eliminate sweating profusely in the first place. I still encounter the stupid, ugly confederate flag. I see it on a daily basis. I see Don’t Tread on Me and God, Guns, Trump, and have seen local reports of grown men yelling White power, and whatever the fuck else these very illiterate and nonsensible folks feel the need to vomit in our pothole laden streets. For me, someone who feels the polar opposite about humans and civil rights and just basic decency, it’s incredibly difficult.
There are so many moments in my mind- and sometimes out loud- when I am far away or expressing my desire to be far away. I have always had dreams of leaving this place. And while I have lived elsewhere, for one reason or another (mostly family/friends/income), I always came back.
I have seen many trends come and go here. One that never seems to die off, sadly, is pride. Specifically, the pride of being super white and super into guns and, if you’re a man with a small penis- which is very likely, super misogynistic.
Where does that leave me? Getting by with a little help from my friends…
in the year 2021.
So, yes, I am grateful that The Wonder Years has been reboot and the story is being told from the African American perspective in a time and place that still has a reckoning coming.
This is a post about Furnace Fest 2021, and other things that go along with it, and me.
Where the hell to begin? I suppose the beginning is a good start. How many people have introduced things they write about this way?
Probably a lot. A lot is how many people attended Furnace Fest back in its infancy and toddler stages in the early 2000’s. It was definitely a scene, and I was literally into it. I was in high school, digging into music and sharing various bands with friends, most of whom were in bands themselves. I had lived in south Florida, Pembroke Pines specifically, and met even more musicians (Into the Moat, Freemartin, Hate Eternal), and had so many good times. So many fond memories and relationships built during this time. Even after I had my daughter, I was still using any of my free time while she was visiting with her dad to make time to connect to the music communities, where ever I roamed.
Further Seems Forever, Thursday, Hopesfall, Every Time I Die, Taking Back Sunday, Minus the Bear, Evergreen Terrace, Anberlin, Copeland, Anthony Green, Mastodon, Hum, Silverstein, Glassjaw, Isis, Haste, Stretch Arm Strong, From Autumn to Ashes, A Static Lullaby, Hatebreed, The Dillinger Escape Plan, Finch, Norma Jean, Between the Buried and Me, mewithoutYou, Underoath, The Bled… all of these incredible bands have played a Furnace Fest stage at some point. Furnace Fest was sort of like the underground sewer kids congregating together to attend church in one of the unholiest places you could ever imagine, Sloss Furnaces (known to locals as the Furnace) in Birmingham, Alabama. The place is definitely haunted, and with a history and subsequent demise like its own, it would be incredibly dumb to not take advantage of the opportunities to host such festivals, as well as a haunted house each Halloween. It is equally dumb to not go to these festivals, because in doing so, you meet some of the coolest and friendliest and most talented and interesting people on earth.
North Dakota is a state just below the Canadian border, but that is how far one guy traveled to see Furnace Fest 2021. Imagine that guy and a chick from Alabama singing and moshing side by side during Taking Back Sunday after twenty years of not seeing Taking Back Sunday live in person. This festival was a big deal to a lot of people. But it was a really, really big deal to me. So I’m writing everything I can down now, the following morning, a morning that required two cups of coffee, the morning after indulging in the best concert experience of my entire fucking life.
Furnace Fest 2021 was supposed to be Furnace Fest 2020. It was initially this:
And then, a year later, after the pandemic was over (just kidding, it’s still fucking here)…
Anyway, after a year had passed, and requirements for entry (vaccination/neg Covid test) were added, so, too, increased the number of bands. So it evolved into this:
When underground bands become more mainstream, the rates go up. Entry pricing was spiked, like everything else, so rather than spending no more than $200 for an entire weekend of moshing, now, you are looking at closer to $500. I’m still not very well off, so rather than experiencing an entire weekend of live music, I had to pick one day. Several of my favorite bands were playing each day, and I had to also take into account our schedules and stuff. Saturday it is.
Birmingham is about a forty-five minute drive from my house. The gates were set to open at 11, so we had plenty of time to get ready without rushing, which is the ideal situation. I also knew I would have a day to recover before getting back to work, which (obviously) is ideal because I’ve coasted through this morning flawlessly and after having two cups of coffee, doing a few chores and eating some Pigs in a Dreamboat (Pigs in a Blanket on steroids), I’m ready to write and share. It is another beautiful day, so I am sitting outside, listening to the birds while I gather my thoughts. I have so many… so again, I’ll start from the beginning.
Saturday started out nice and easy. I got up, did my usual morning coffee and face washing rituals, listened to music, and prepared for the day. I had gathered all of the things I knew we would need the night before, so my fest prepping only involved getting some breakfast, and getting to the show. My outfit is usually the same when attending shows, so that was no sweat. My American Football tee, some jeans, and my ratty Converse. I showered after coffee and got dressed, and by then, my daughter was in the final stages of getting ready, too. The weather was incredible. I didn’t see one cloud, and the skies were blue and it was sunny, at 70 degrees. There was a nice breeze and making my way to the car, I smiled, thinking, “This is going to be such an amazing day.” I felt excited for my daughter, who had never before been to see a live concert. Every concert ticket I had purchased since 2020 only became null and void up to this point, and in retrospect, I feel grateful that this was, and forever will be, her first live music experience.
So we get to the Furnace and spend $40 to park, but it is a fantastic space, convenient to the entrance and to the exit, and a small lot, so access was easy. The gentlemen at the lot entrance taking money and a Birmingham Police Officer were listening to groovy funk music and in pleasant moods, and were more than accommodating, friendly, and helpful. I always appreciate a sense of humor and they had it. (I also imagine the weather and atmosphere had a lot to do with it.) So our entry was smooth and fun and the experience definitely got off to a great start, which only got better from there. As we approached the One Day Pass entry gate, I noticed the line was incredibly short, and everyone around me looked like friends I’ve known since high school. I felt totally at ease as I approached the gate keepers, handing them my vaccination card and ticket. The lady noticed my t-shirt and said, “Hey cool shirt! That’s the first American Football shirt we’ve seen so far.” Which was surprising to me, so I responded, “Really? That’s crazy! But, cool… and thank you!” I got my hand stamped and a purple band was secured around my wrist and then I proceeded to the Security Guard with the metal detecting wand, looking back as my daughter was entering. They noticed her leather jacket that she decorated and painted herself, her pins, her spikes, and her boots. “Wow, you look awesome. Love the jacket!” She replied, “Thanks.” Then she said, “This isn’t really my scene”. I smiled. Little did she know, it actually is.
My daughter is on another level when it comes to music taste. She is unashamedly into the heaviest/ most gravity defying punk you can imagine. She likes the classic, respectable bands who have undoubtedly earned their stripes. These bands on this Level X ticket are lightweight losers compared to the shit she listens to. We will be watching Bad Religion next month. That is more her scene. This was all she wanted to desperately get across to these softies.
We walked through the main isle, with cool venders along either side. I browsed through the stuff, hesitant to stop in fear I would spend enough money to diminish my pride and result in questioning why I didn’t just go ahead and get three day passes in the first place… so, moving along…
We get to the main stage, which is set up in the yard. We sit down in the grass, and hang out for a while, allowing our food to digest and look through the line-ups for all three stages to determine which stage to make our way to, and when. I see some bands at the Plug Your Holes stage that I never had a chance to see in high school, so we walked across the property towards the furnace. We maneuvered through the light crowd towards the front of the stage to see Better Off and Evergreen Terrace. These bands were amazing live. There wasn’t a whole lot of moshing for Better Off, but their set was definitely a nice warm-up for Evergreen Terrace.
Evergreen Terrace is fucking insane. (Side note- It is so amazing to see how these people have aged. You can tell they have definitely dealt with some shit, and over time, owned it all. They persevered and kept grinding and doing what they love, what they’re good at, despite any differences between themselves and society. I respect that.) The band is named after the street in The Simpsons, and their singer, Andrew Carey, is one of the best hype men I’ve ever seen. He surfed the crowd, stood on the bars reaching for us (I could have hugged him at one point), and totally engaged with the fans. It was just like the scene I had viewed on dvd’s from their small venue days. It was as though nothing had really changed. There was still love, anger, emotion, and plenty of reasons for letting it all out.
After that performance, we made our way to the potties and then bought a water. I wanted to pace myself as I had been awake since 7 am, and my back, knees, and feet aren’t in tip top condition. We walked back to the same stage, with major anticipation to see Hopesfall.
Bloodjinn was up next, and we landed halfway to the stage before I ran into two old friends. One, Lyle, is a musician, and the other, Brian, a photographer. They are both incredibly talented guys, and their creative works have taken them far elsewhere, allowing them to grow in their talents and both have really made a name and respectable reputation for themselves. I am very proud to know them both. Lyle informed me three other friends of ours were there, and I hoped we would eventually run into them. My friend Peter, another incredibly talented writer, musician, and hair stylist, was among them. He had lost his mother, an Asian immigrant, to Covid last year, and had just gotten married, so I was especially grateful to see him given all the heavy circumstances. I discovered he had moved back home to his family farm recently, and we exchanged numbers. He was also blown away with how long it had been since he last saw my daughter. Social media allowed us to keep tabs on each other through the years, but it wasn’t the same. The day was not only turning out to be a great day full of amazing music, but also a reunion of close friends I had not seen since before the pandemic, friends that I’ve been missing for years, who I feel confident I will now see more of in the future.
Hopesfall is a band that I have loved since the release of The Satellite Years in 2002. This band is purely hard. Screaming vocals, poetic lyrics, melodic guitar, crashing drums- ugh, devastating. I had never gotten the opportunity to see them live in our primes, but they were a band I knew I would eventually see if the opportunity presented itself. I didn’t know that it would take nearly two decades for this to happen, so this raised anticipation was now old enough to birth a baby. Luckily, mine had grown old enough to experience them live while in her high school stage. It is something she’ll never forget.
One song they performed was Waitress. Waitress is one those songs that I could put on repeat and listen to for literally two hours straight. The Satellite Years as a whole album is gorgeous. It begins with Andromeda, a spacey instrumental featuring repetitive tones and intricate beats which I absolutely adore. As much as I love this song, I would usually skip straight to Waitress. The lyrics are:
These faces have fallen here before Tired and blue A light that bleeds unforgiving shadows Her olive eyes repeat failure in every glare A failure that mirrors itself with a foreign stare Hold it together you’ll find your peace But the pieces are burnt shells that frame regret on every wall Reflections of olive eyes pierce hole through her haunted heart She hates that stare Her smiling face defense to the world A world filled with olive eyes that frame regret on every face
This reads like every page in my high school poetry notebook, so you can imagine me in 2002 during that phase, screaming these lyrics right along with Jay Forrest. Hopesfall was incredible then, and they’re incredible now. And I feel so happy and thankful my daughter and I were able to share that experience together, with it being the first time for us both.
After Hopesfall wrapped, we made our way to the LevelX Stage and were able to catch Cartel, Mae, and The Bled. All bands were super good. I exited the front of the stage crowd, leaving my daughter there to experience The Bled as one should (moshing very hard), as I sat on the sidelines with my friend Peter. We did more catching up and then it was time for him to go back to Plug Your Holes (he wanted to see Beloved, Stretch Arm Strong and Glassjaw), while I was pumped to see Anberlin, Mayday Parade, and Further Seems Forev- er, uh… Taking Back Sunday. (We’ll get to this later in the day.)
Anberlin is another band I have loved for years. I discovered them in 2003, when Blueprints for the Black Market was released. They are one of those bands that are hit and miss for me, meaning, I don’t love every song, but the ones I do love, I really, really love. The Unwinding Cable Car (my personal favorite), Cadence, Ready Fuels, Change the World, Glass to the Arson, etc. They are definitely talented guys, and not only that, superb humans. The day before Furnace Fest, they released a new track called Two Graves, which I think is brilliant and beautiful. They played this song as well as other crowd favorites, wrapping up their very short three week tour. My daughter and I were in the very front of the stage, dancing about, having a great time. Mayday Parade performed next and put on a nice show. I don’t have too many personal experiences involving Mayday Parade, but I do like them and was glad to see them play. The next- and final- band to take the stage, however, is a band that, I am proud to say, I was the first to Tell AllMy Friends about.
The year was 2002 and I was singing in a rock band. My rhythm guitarist and I were big into the emo scene at the time, and Taking Back Sunday was among that scene. Not many people around us had heard of them at the time, but when you dig into certain bands, you might also dig into their labels, discovering similar bands you will probably enjoy. Thursday, Silverstein, Hawthorne Heights, Atreyu, Bad Brains, etc. have all worked with Victory Records, and Taking Back Sunday fit the bill. Did I tell all my friends about TBS?
I love this band. Tell All Your Friends was one of my favorite albums to listen to at the time. It was so fun. I remember driving back from Tennessee with a group of my friends (Braver by the 2nd) after they performed (I photographed) and while heading home, we all scream-sang this album together. These are the moments that stick with you. These are the moments that matter.
However, I had many more moments like this involving the band Further Seems Forever. Further Seems Forever was my all time favorite band when I was in high school. When The Moon is Down was released in 2001, I fell in love with Chris Carrabba (who later broke away to form Dashboard Confessional). I wasn’t mad because I also loved DC, and the second singer for FSF wasn’t too shabby, either. In fact, when How to Start a Fire was released, Further Seems Forever became a band that means more to me than I could ever describe.
Further Seems Forever had a message board on their website, and being such a huge fan, I participated in this board. I had just moved to south Florida, where the band originates, and my mom (who I was living with at the time) suggested I might meet up with some of the local FSF fans from the message board so I could make some friends. That is how I met my friend Shaun, and later, my SoFla crew. I won’t get into all of this now because that would take Forever, but for now, just know that this was a special crew who I still keep in contact with and love to this day. My friends were mutual friends with Further (as we called them), but I never got the opportunity to see them perform. I was working and going to art school, and then it wasn’t long after that, I moved back to Alabama and not long after that, became pregnant. Once again, it would be nearly twenty years into the future before I would see them play in Atlanta for their damn near perfect reunion tour, where they performed songs from How to Start a Fire, as well as a tribute to Jon Bunch (the third and final lead singer, who later killed himself).
Further was due to perform at the Heartsupport Stage from 9:25 to 10:15, while TBS was scheduled to play from 9:55 to 10:55. I had an incredibly personal and difficult decision to make. I began looking at and weighing the pros and cons as early as Anberlin’s stage breakdown. “Would I have time to catch Further and then make it back to wiggle through the crowd to get back to the front and see TBS?” was my first internal question. After deciding, hell no- that’s crazy, I thought things like, “Your kid wants to see TBS more, and you know you would rather see the show with your kid than leave her here to watch them without you,” and then followed it with, “you know Further put on a hell of a show, but you’ve seen them before and you haven’t seen TBS.” In between this form of rational thinking, I also thought things like, “But it’s Further!” and “But you would probably enjoy their set over TBS’s set!”, etc. I dismissed the thoughts and stayed in the front and center of the LevelX Stage, beside my child. And we watched the lights go completely down. When they came back up, the music started. Taking Back Sunday kicked right into it.
Aside from Adam’s bleach blonde hair, there was nothing about Taking Back Sunday that didn’t appear any differently than what I had known throughout the releases of seven studio albums. Adam talked about his upbringing in Florence, Alabama, and interacted with the crowd. Someone who had dressed as Waldo was among us, popping up in various locations in the crowd, the band announcing his location after wrapping up a song or two. It was a fun show. It was a great performance. Everybody moshed, danced, surfed, sang. I felt like my daughter and I experienced this together and it was amazing.
Yesterday, I got kicked in the head, shoved, had my hair pulled, had my feet stomped on, had beer splashed on me, fell down on hay and gravel among a sea of people beingphysical, didn’t buy any merch, and missed my favorite band performing live.
On the other hand, I had people screaming to help me back up, people reaching down to me to pick me up and support me until I was stable again, I laughed my ass off, I cried happy tears, I moshed (it’s been a while), I screamed, I reunited with dear old friends, I sang my heart out, I danced, and I had the best concert experience of my life… with my kid.
Adam said TBS had to wake up at 4 am to make it to the show on time, and then he went on to say “Totally worth it.”
To my old friends from Alabama to my new friend from North Dakota, I whole heartedly agree.
My love of music is eternal, and I am one of those sentimental kind who share music all the time with anyone who would like to listen. Here, you might like this! Growing up, I was the geek thumbing through the magazines and various other written works about bands I respected. My friends and I would frequent our local Books a Million while most people our age were cruising the strip. Skaters would grind the sidewalks outside the store and then come in to meet our circle, made up entirely of local musicians and their very temporary love interests. They were the ones trying to make their own names for themselves, and I was the knowledgeable music box with good taste who just happened to also love photography. So you can imagine the experiences. I was like the sister, guiding my brothers along this path to music success. “Try this.” “Yeah, that sounds awesome.” And snapping the best possible photographs I could to capture their raw energy during shows. We literally created our own music scene here. It was real. And that was the prime time of my youth.
After entering adulthood, your experiences with your friends change. It became less and less about creativity and more and more about survival. I have friends from all walks of life, and while I have lost many, and lost touch with many more, anyone around here who knows me, knows me as a song bird.
I volunteered at our local radio station, putting together a two hour music centered show each week. One week, I played a heavier rotation of songs and the owner of the station approached me, asking if I was having a temper tantrum. I responded with laughter and informed him there were more than a handful of people who listen to my show for the specific reason that it will be heavier than everything else on the station. These songs keep me from having a temper tantrum. But whatever. After a year and a half, numerous talk shows were added to the station, and upon hearing what these feeble minded people discuss, I decided to pull the plug on my show. I put so much of my time and energy into making something worthwhile for people who I knew would appreciate having that outlet again. I tried to recapture the music scene as I once knew it within my show, but it seemed like nobody at the station was biting. Everyone seemed rather interested in hoaxes and anything related to money or politics. So, goodbye daughters of the revolution…
One friend of mine I still stay closely connected to recently reached out to me for my writing ability. She had a great idea to help market her handmade jewelry and asked if I was interested in being a part of it. This is one of those opportunities that fell into my lap at just the right time. We will be setting up shop next month for a Punk Rock Flea Market and I can’t wait to collaborate with this artistic genius again. It will feel like old times, and old times feel good.
Remember when people created just to create? Remember when people shared things just to share? Remember the innocence? The struggle? The work?
No matter where you are in life, no matter how under appreciated you feel, do whatever it is you feel passionate about. Use your time, your energy, and your talent to create something that you enjoy, regardless if you have an audience or not. These are the experiences that will allow you to continue breathing easy.
I’ll be revisiting this old music scene again this weekend. After twenty-one years, Furnace Fest is happening again and will be featuring many bands I haven’t seen since I was sipping coffee, flipping through Spin and Rolling Stone at Books a Million with my talented friends. Talking about how bright our futures would be. Laughing. Excited.
Even if we grew up to be birds of a different song, we are still song birds. But I’ll always treasure the days of my youth.
Well, it is the first day of fall and I love it! I enjoy the autumn and spring seasons the most, and I like summer, too. Outdoor activities are my life. Winter can kiss my ass, but only because Alabama winters are just sludge and gray and bleak and depressing. Not into it. But today was beautiful and the temperature was perfect and the breeze was calming and the air was crisp. And I am thankful.
It’s interesting that I’ve written more lately and even more interesting that I am writing about something so simple as the season changing, or the weather. I’m writing the way I used to, before I started becoming gravely concerned about everything and everyone around me. Now, I feel like in taking a step back, away from anything related to social media (besides WordPress) and current events, I have transitioned back to my happier, more carefree self. I’m smiling and laughing more, just the way I used to. I’m feeling stronger, healthier. These are good things, I think.
I feel like I can finally say with confidence that I have reconnected to myself, and this is something I have been actively working on for a number of years. I even wrote about this (trying to reconnect to myself) years ago here in this blog, so it is pretty cool to have this ability to physically see my progress through my writing. Writing is something like an anchor for me. Bob Ross had his paint, I have my keys.
Besides writing, my faith is something that keeps my mind and heart feeling happy. I’ve touched on this subject before, but I’d like to dig into this subject this evening because after some events played out today, I felt like I was naturally heading in this direction anyway but was shoved into it by unseen forces.
If you have traveled along the main vein, Interstate-65, through the state of Alabama, there is a chance you have seen a large, wooden sign just north of Prattville that looks like this:
I went to The Hanging Lady- a horror/oddities shop in Hanceville- recently and bought a bumper sticker replica of the sign above, so now anyone behind me who feels the need to ride my ass has the pleasure of being reminded or enlightened that they’re actually unworthy regardless. SO get off my ass, or feel my wrath.
This obnoxious but kinda funny sign has been a permanent fixture along the busiest travel route in Alabama for decades. Another more recently erected fixture is Gardendale First Baptist Church’s enormous, 125-foot cross that is illuminated at night, visible for miles. CLEARLY seen here:
These gentle, subtle reminders that a literal heaven and hell (which have been determined to be actual places) do in fact exist are unabashedly settled at every corner, every nook and cranny, on the inside and outside within my home state. It is super hard to feel like the power of Christ isn’t compelling you in some way, shape or form (kinda like… in the form of, say, a crucifix).
I work at a Psychiatrist office and there are Bibles, crosses, butterflies, and so forth along the halls, in the lobby, and in providers’ offices. I am constantly reminded that the good Lord is present in every single place I go, whether I like it or not.
Heaven help me.
I have mentioned being raised in a Church of Christ and my running away screaming as a teenager, and then some other things happened in my mid-twenties, and now I am a whole hearted believer in my mid-thirties, full of love and gratitude for both my Creator and all of Creation. With this in mind, now this: I ventured back to my home church and got to work. I was volunteering, teaching Sunday school lessons to orphaned young mothers. I was participating in art classes. I was volunteering my time, equipment, and talent in graphic design. I was involved in the mission again. I felt like I was doing something important, for others, which I feel is what church is all about. Or at least, what it is supposed to be about.
I was actually really enjoying reconnecting to people who had strongly impacted my life, when a new member decided God was telling him that I would be his companion. This was a guy who had found Jesus in jail, and had struggled with substance abuse and relationship issues. Because I was so friendly and down to earth, he mistook my friendliness as an open invitation to ask me out. I declined, and afterwards, learned that he was still struggling with drugs, and his associates who also attended church, were in the same boat. Actually, they all lived in one great big house. And this house was a house I would never feel comfortable sipping a cup of coffee in, and it made my church house feel no different when they were present. One man had even had a relationship with my sister years prior, and was physical with her and her dog. There were a few more incidents that occurred, and things said to and around me that made me uncomfortable, and so, once again, I left the church. I even sent an official letter to express my regret to resign, especially since my great-grandmother was one of the founding members. It was sad. I still get sad about it sometimes. I even hear from old members who still remain hopeful that one day I will return.
But I’m never going back.
Two men, who are very different, interacted with me today. And I wanted to share these stories because one is very much the reason I left the church, and the other is very much the reason why I miss my church.
A man, probably in his late twenties, came into my workplace today. As he did this, he ignored a couple of very obvious signs. One was a sign that said “Mask required”, and the other was a sign that said “No soliciting”. This unmasked man had a stack of painted, decorative wooden crosses, and a small flyer.
Hey I’m with so-&-so and I just came by today to spread the good news and offer some of these crosses for sale. -Nice crosses! Unfortunately, you walked into a Psychiatrist’s office, which is a medical facility, without your mask and we don’t accept solicitors. We take patient privacy and safety very seriously here. I’m sorry, but you need to please leave. Well someone who works here said it was okay. (He hands me his small flyer through the tiny mouth hole.) -Oh, I see. Still, that really doesn’t matter, and nobody alerted me that anyone would be visiting to sell crosses. Again, I’m sorry, but you need to please leave now. Thanks anyway, though. Do you believe in Jesus? -Um, yes sir? But my personal faith has nothing to do with what I’m saying to you. (He interrupts me.) Well, our Lord and Savior is good, isn’t he? (He’s getting agitated at this point.) -Okay, look. (More sternly, but still patient and professional:) You’re putting me in an awkward position. I have to turn patients away to go retrieve their masks from their car when they walk in here without one. And those are people with appointments, who pay to be here. We have people who come here that are on oxygen or have other major health issues. You are not a patient, this is not a walk in clinic, this is a medical facility, and you come inside the building without a mask to sell something, which is 100% not allowed. I’ve asked you nicely to leave and then you ask me about my faith. None of that is truly your business, but being that I am faithful in love and kindness, I’ve been patient. Please don’t make me get my manager. Thanks for checking, but next time, please pay attention to the signs that signify whether or not this kind of thing is allowed. Most businesses reject solicitors. He grumbles and says something, impatiently and trailing off, gathering his crosses and making his way to the exit. I found out five minutes later that he had approached one of my co-workers while she was smoking inside of her vehicle on break. She told him to get lost, and not so politely.
Now, why the fuck did I have to go to this extreme so someone would simply listen to reason?
BECAUSE SOME OF THESE ASSHOLES ARE UNREASONABLE AND EXACTLY THE REASON I NO LONGER WORSHIP GOD BESIDE THEM AND UNDER ONE ROOF.
Done and done. *clapping the dust from my hands*
HOWEVER, there are some diamonds in the rough around here. This next fella is one of those shiny diamonds of a human. My dentist. I saw my dentist today for a cleaning and his family is very dear to me. When I was an angry, confused, resentful teenager in mourning, his mother took me in like a lost little lamb. We shared many precious moments together. She took my sister and I to the zoo, and we would watch movies in their home theater, and go paddling on the lake, etc. She was one of my heroes. I wrote her a poem about storms and how scary life can seem sometimes, but eventually, there will always come a ray of hope that guides us home. Years later, she told me she kept that in her little locker, and it helped her get through many tough times. Years later still, I returned to church, and it wasn’t long after that her husband, Doc, had suddenly suffered a cardiac arrest and dropped dead during a family get together. She was at church the next Sunday anyway. She is a pillar of spiritual strength, no doubt.
So Little Doc saw me today, and I had my cleaning (I can still say I’ve never had a cavity!) and we were able to do a quick 5 minute catch up with one another. Swapping the “how is your such and such and how is so-&-so”, etc. He then said, “Mom’s in Texas right now but she’ll be back in a month. You should call her.” Our brief exchange of words and smiles was enough to remind me of the goodness that can come from communion, and how sometimes, I do long for a reunion.
Shitty people can ruin good things for people. Don’t let them. And this is the next thing I’ll be actively working on. Hopefully, this process won’t take four years.
This is something I’ve been meaning to write about for years, but am glad I waited ’til now to actually accomplish. Sometimes putting something off is a good thing. You know what else is a good thing?
Being raised up listening to Black Crowes bootlegged cassettes.
I almost named this post She Talks to Angels, and Other Black Crowes Songs No One Should Cover Ever Again, but instead opted for Bad Luck Blue Eyes Goodbye for a few reasons. Before I explain, let me just say something about you and your acoustic guitar and your confidence in your vocal talents.
You are not fit to cover She Talks to Angels. Not because Chris R sings the shit out of it. Not because it is the most overplayed BC song ever, in history, forever. Not even because any time anyone plays an acoustic set anywhere, this song is on the list, or worse, REQUESTED. But because I HAVE HEARD IT THREE TRILLION TIMES ON EVERY BLACK CROWES BOOTLEG EVER ILLEGALLY MAILED AND/OR EXCHANGED AND IN EVERY RESTAURANT I HAVE EVER WORKED FOR AT THE BACK OF THE HOUSE, AND I HAD TO HEAR THIS FUCKING SONG EVERY SINGLE TIME WHILE I WAS JUST TRYING TO WASH DISHES, MAN.
Anyway, Bad Luck Blue Eyes Goodbye is a song by The Black Crowes, a band that isn’t even my favorite, but way up there in probably my top five, that begins with my favorite introduction to any song ever. in history. forever.
My on and off boyfriend of five years has blue eyes (and has been repeatedly told he is a prettier version of Chris Robinson and obviously I’m into that). So naturally, any time I hear this song, I think of him. The other reason why this song reminds me of him is that he always seems to have bad luck. And finally, another reason I think of him when I hear this song is because I’ve broken up with him (said goodbye) exactly, and without exaggeration, four hundred and twenty times. So yeah, Bad Luck Blue Eyes Goodbye! Makes sense!
Unlike our desire for commitment, The Black Crowes have always been a constant in my life. My mom and uncle have seen them a thousand times live. Even (actually, especially) in the smaller Atlanta gig days. They still play those shows, and I’ve seen a couple. The last thing my parents did together was see BC live. The last thing my baby daddy and I did together was see BC live. (Bad Luck Blue Eyes Goodbye for good there.)
Cursed Diamond is a fun song. I used to hear this song and retreat within myself. My birth stone is a diamond, and being that I wrote my own obituary at the ripe old age of twelve, I am not at all hesitant to tell you that there are moments in my life when I feel, uh… what’s the word I’m looking for… oh- CURSED.
I recorded a homemade music video to Cursed Diamond that I stupidly shared on YouTube, and it has since gained momentum (only because it pops up if you search the song), which only terrifies me. Why in the hell did I post this? I can’t remember the login, and an old email account is attached, so there it is, trapped, in history… forever.
But, there is a part of me that is glad I can see it any time I like. Those are memories I love arranged to a song I love and hopefully it will be easily accessible while I rest my bones in a nursing home. If I’m LUCKY. I look at the bright side now, but that wasn’t always the case.
Which brings me to Sister Luck. And heck, let’s throw in Sometimes Salvation while we’re at it. These two sad old songs cut me DEEP.
My sister and I are two and a half years apart in age. The half is very important to us. We were forced to share a bedroom, and a lot of other things, growing up. As younger sisters tend to do, she annoyed the shit out of me. It was nerve racking, for someone like me who just wanted privacy and space. Any time we had a fight, my parents would make us sit next to each other until someone apologized. Then we were to stand facing each other and say “Sisters are (you guessed it-)
There are, of course, very personal reasons why Sister Luck and Sometimes Salvation open my floodgates of emotion. Like anyone else born in the South, a sad song relating to numbing the pain with drugs, etc. will probably be one you feel you can relate to. There are so many people I have lost from one thing or another. It’s just common. When it’s your sister, though… that’s a really deep wound. But, it’s one I’ve coped with for years, with the help of The Black Crowes.
Writing about your struggles and pain seems like it’d be really dumb these days. The cycle continues. But people need to face the realities of the struggle. Yes, it is real. But in that struggle comes some really beautiful transitions. You can even become Ashley’s probably fourth favorite band.
Thorn in my Pride, Wiser Time, P. 25 London, Nonfiction, She Gave Good Sunflower… and so many more Black Crowes songs to name that have been present in one version or another through my life. This is just my thanks, for being present before, during, and after every single one of those splits. Seems like the Robinson brothers can relate.
I promise on all that is holy to refrain from using an over abundance of words that begin with M for this post. Speaking of promising on things which are holy, let us pray,
or meditate, or whatever it is you do when you use various techniques to communicate with some higher being, or yourself, or… nothing at all.
Mind in the Balance: Meditation in Science, Buddhism, and Christianity is an excellent piece of work if you’ve ever taken any interest in the art of meditation. If you’re like me, (and you are more like me than you might expect), you have been living and learning in a primarily Christian society. If you’re much like me, you were raised in a Christian church. (I was raised in a Church of Christ in a rural Alabama town- everyone collectively says YIKES). If you’re just like me, you ran away screaming and locked on to science instead. “En…gage!” If you’re my bff, you grew curious beyond the science and started branching out, looking for answers in energy healing, and stumbled upon the yoga mat. If you’re my blood brother, you eventually found Buddhism. Finally, if you’re my twin soul*, you discovered the overlapping truths that apply to all of the above, and found comfort and peace in the fibers that bind all of these things together, weaving a soft, carefully hand stitched blanket that envelopes you in total security, peace and comfort. Kinda like the forever lost baby blanket you carried with you and slept with every night for eighteen years. *Hey. Good luck with that.
Welcome to MEDITATION. Mind in the Balance is a great place to start if you find yourself totally oblivious to what the last paragraph is feebly attempting to transmit to you. In a nutshell, there are solid truths that expand across both worlds of spirituality and science, and both Christianity and Buddhism. Meditation is a beautiful flower- a lotus, even!- that brings all of these truths to center.
Speaking of center, have you found yours yet? Kinda hard with all the ever present bullshit happening in our day to day lives. But fear not (say! another cohesive truth!), we’re in this together. And I want to assure you that meditation is something that seems easy, but, as it turns out, is incredibly complicated. Why? Because we are incredibly complicated. Science is incredibly complicated. Christianity is incredibly complicated. Buddhism is incredibly complicated. Sitting still and being quiet and trying to focus on nothing is much more challenging than you might think. Wait- stop thinking!
I may have touched on this subject a couple of times, but never reached as far as I think I can. Maybe it’s because thinking is something that we just do. We don’t really make ourselves aware of every single thought that crosses our minds. Stimuli here, there, everywhere. (Poorly) processing speech and sound without ceasing. I have mentioned tinnitus. Try meditating with a high pitched ringing in your ears. I think I… canNOT, ugh, fuck this!
People use the words balance and center and core repetitively (mantras) all the time when discussing meditation or various yoga practices. This is a concept I have actively worked towards almost my entire adult life! It is still a work in progress, and may take my entire lifetime to achieve. Did I mention I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at age fifteen?
People who are bipolar are not centered. In fact, this is the most fundamental criteria for acquiring a diagnosis. When you are bipolar AND have chronic tinnitus, guess what? The meditation trend isn’t one you really care to follow. In fact, meditation, in theory, was not at all mystical or foreign to me, as it had already been incessantly preached to me throughout my childhood. It was just prayer, something I already felt like I knew enough about. This is the part when I describe how I was an incorrect dumb idiot. (See Miracles for an earlier post detailing my later realized affirmation in the power of prayer.)
Through my yoga practice, I began researching more and more about what meditation really means. There are different styles of meditation. I won’t get into all of this here, but you are welcome to do your own research if this topic seems interesting or beneficial to you. (It was for me.) It took me a while, maybe two years, to sit down and actually create time and space for my mind to create more time and space inside my mind.
I began practicing yoga at twenty-five, and was becoming more serious in my practice, and even began teaching a weekly class to the mental health providers I was working with at the time. I was keeping a notebook of the sequences I had personally tried and was sharing with the class. I was even keeping notes about the providers’ specific goals and which areas they needed to target that week. I charged five entire bucks for this class and made enough side dough to buy myself some movie or concert tickets for that weekend. And that was my personal perk for only one hour of my time.
Another personal perk occurred later, thanks to my teaching. I had become serious enough about my own yoga journey, and was helping introduce others to their own. I was getting great physically, but that balance of the mind thing was still a great challenge for me. My mind had to change. This is when I took a hard left into the ancient teachings of Buddhism.
I had/have several friends who were/are casually into the ideology of Buddhism. None of my friends at this point were seriously religious or actively practicing the rules written by any deity. Most of us just worked and played, and repeated the cycle. We were mostly in our mid-twenties, and completely not serious in our spiritual journeys. I’ve mentioned that I’ve seen the Dalai Lama speak before, but did I mention Christopher Hitchens? Imagine that debate.
I was just curious about anything not associated with a Church of Christ, really. But fleeing the COC is what led to my studies in science, which led to my studies in healing, which led to my studies in yoga, which led to my studies in Buddhism, which led to my studies in, okay, shit- I surrender… Meditation.
What I did not expect to discover through my scientific studies is my faith coming full circle. I can confidently attest that I do hold strong faith in creation, in the cosmos, in realizing the cosmos is inside and all around me. Meditation is what unlocked it.
I remember this like it just happened, which is a testament to just how present I was in these moments. I placed my thin, black yoga mat on my hardwood floor. I sat my skinny behind down Indian style on my mat. It was still daylight and there was plenty of light inside of my living room, but I made a point to turn everything off. I was not absorbed with any stimuli surrounding me. I was just there, sitting.
After several minutes of eliminating intrusive thoughts, and a few moments of simply focusing on my breath, just as I’d practiced for a long time, I began to let my belly go. My eyes were closed. My breath was slow. All of my limbs were limp. I felt my head begin to almost float upward. I was finally feeling weightless. My thoughts were hushed, then distant, then removed. There was no self talk. I then saw (maybe it was me visualizing but it appeared to be real, tangible imagery) the cosmos. I can no longer describe the image in great detail, but I remember there were galaxies spiraling before me. I was floating in space. Everything was silent. I do not recall noticing the ringing in my ears, coming from my poor brain. But in that single moment that probably lasted maybe fifteen seconds, my brain was a lotus flower in full bloom.
And that is meditation, for me. And that was the first time I have ever meditated. I simply haven’t actively practiced it since. There is no real reason why, that I am aware of, but I have only meditated a couple of times since, which seemed to be enough in bringing me back to center for a while.
But the first time I meditated, I truly felt peace. Everything felt harmonious. Everything felt connected. For that brief moment, my central nervous system held the hand of the central solar system. And for me, that was enough to spark my faith in creation again. For me, that was all I needed.
There is a lot going on these days. Maybe I feel worn out. Maybe I feel I’ve stretched too far. Whatever it is that keeps me from finding time to meditate, I’ll kick its ass eventually. And I hope you do, too. You never know what the universe is trying to tell you, until you make time to connect to it.
Speed Racer is a classic, 1967 Japanese series that was adapted into a 2008 Wachowskis film starring Emile Hirsch, John Goodman, Susan Sarandon, and Christina Ricci. I considered myself a fan of these actors- their most sentimental roles for me included Emile’s from Into The Wild, John’s from Big Lebowski, Susan’s from Stepmom, and Christina’s from Now and Then, The Addams Family, and Casper. Ricci is my girl.
Speed Racer was one of those movies I stumbled upon by accident, which also became one of my favorite movies instantly. Donnie Darko was discovered the same way. I was at a friend’s house and this was one of my brothers I’ve known since Kindergarten kind of friends. He blurted out, “Hey- you’re weird! You’ll appreciate this!” and then flashed the Donnie Darko DVD. Not only did I appreciate the film, and later, even the Director’s Cut version, I appreciate those who understand me and my desire to explore, enthusiasm for acting talent, and love for an awesome soundtrack. Speed Racer wasn’t some kind of epic masterpiece by any means, but it was different and the story is incredible and I love the featured actors in the film.
There is something timeless and uniting about any story that details defeat and triumph, especially when it involves an underdog who has endured a lot of pain, and ESPECIALLY when the underdog’s triumph is realized through defeating THE MAN, revealing everything coming full circle. It was relatable in so many ways, but there was a particular scene that just, as John Goodman as Pops says, clicked.
Without giving anything away, there is a scene in this film in which the words “just listen to her” are spoken. The scene is PIVOTAL and so many things rest on these words- this idea. This is one of those moments from a movie that strikes me at a nerve that means so much to my own personal underdog story. It is this story that I want to share today.
Helen Keller was an Alabama writer, who was born deaf and blind. One of my favorite quotes was something she said, The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart. I have detailed in this blog the extreme levels of feeling I have done throughout my life, and one reason I feel above all else is because of my inability to properly hear the world around me. I am not deaf and blind, but if you ask people who communicate with me the question, you might get the answer- Just about.
When I was in elementary school, I participated in speech therapy. My S’s were too soft and I had a lisp, probably comparable to Drew Barrymore’s. Oh, you know, Drew Barrymore from Donnie Darko? And E.T.? And all the other movies I grew up obsessing over and learning mannerisms from?
Anyway, speech has always sounded muffled to me. As a child, I would sort of disengage with conversation and rather, tend to my imagination and small world I had created, or would just STEM with music at the highest volume through my headphones. As I got older, I noticed that the things I wanted to talk about were not necessarily what others wanted to talk about (unless I was with my musician or nerd friends). As I get older still, I notice my disassociation from situations that involve larger groups of people in which I am a participant, rather than simply a spectator. I also notice when I am a spectator, I miss out on a lot of information as I simply cannot hear. This happened to me while I was in the audience before the Dalai Lama and Dave Chappelle. I began masking, I began isolating. A four minute video I watched at my Audiologist’s office summarized why.
While many factors played a role in my declining auditory abilities, loud music and soundwaves, no matter how abrasive (in fact, the more abrasive, the better in some circumstances), were things I grew up constantly absorbing. Whether backstage, on stage, in front of the stage, or via headphones, these intense vibrations have pierced my ears and soul throughout my entire life. I can remember being three years old watching my dad playing a gig at a bar or rehearsing on his drums in our barn.
I have had tinnitus for years, which is, I guess, like living in a world without coffee and, therefore, something that can lead to very serious consequences if left neglected. My brain was trying to grab more volume from the outside, resulting in higher output that, to me, only sounds like an annoying as fuck high pitched ringing. And as the outside world became noisier, so too, continued the unseen, brutal cycle of hearing loss. Along with some other things:
The disengagement continued. The depression continued. The isolation continued.
Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand welcome to memory loss by age thirty-five.
Among some of the realizations which came along in working with Dementia patients on a daily basis was a deeper understanding of the simple, unimportant abilities we take for granted. It also forced me to reevaluate the word important. Having the simple ability to wipe your own ass may not feel very important now. BUT(T) it is! Likewise, the ability to hear background noise and distinguish sounds within speech is important.
When you lose basic hearing functionality, you don’t really take into account what is actually happening to your brain, how your hearing and some vital areas of your brain are connected, and how ripping and wrinkling this particular trail on your map is leading to worse problems that will cause you to gradually decline to the point where, hey, sorry… you can’t wipe your own ass now.
That is exactly what is happening, though. Hearing loss is a lot more complicated than just (it’s more annoying to me than you, promise) repeating “Huh?” over and over. My co-workers have witnessed me standing up from my chair countless times to place my ear to the window in order to comprehend the information that someone (masked) is attempting to relay to my damaged ears. “Sorry?” Yeah, you bet I am.
My hearing tests I’ve taken over the years have been helpful in mapping my current status of hearing damage. The area gauging how well I hear soft sounds (S, F, TH’s) drop well below normal, resting just above the “Recommended for Surgery” line. When I place my hearing aids inside of my ear, the calibration of these devices amplifies those sounds for me, as well as any other levels that need amplified and equalized- which are sadly, many. But this allows me to not only distinguish the words that others are directing to and around me, but also allows me to speak more clearly myself and actually engage in a meaningful conversation. I can also meditate much easier now. Meditation is the topic for Monday, though.
Another useful bit about this auditory testing allows you to determine whether your hearing loss has, over time, made an impact on your ability to comprehend speech or sound. My results proved that despite my hearing loss, I have yet to be affected in my area of comprehension. Meaning, I’m not a total dumbass for not responding to you. It isn’t that I can’t understand the meaning of your word usage, it’s that I just didn’t hear every sound you made. This is something to consider when verbally communicating with someone, especially while wearing a mask. I can’t read lips in this scenario, so the time it takes me to respond may increase and I might look confused until that happens.
Just smile and nod.
When you have spent years literally adjusting to the noises around you, you tend to work harder to do more of the L word. Just Listen. Listening is something that a lot of people seem to despise. I enjoy listening to the world around me, but especially to music. I have made so many playlists over the years, like little personal friends of mine. These songs have kept me company, in a strange way. It always helped me to escape the ringing by placing the headphones on my head and immersing myself into an album. It was what, I felt, kept me from going mad. Mad World…
I am now happy and grateful that I have the ability to hear the outside world better and the inside world less thanks to technology and science. Hopefully, this will keep me engaged longer and I can slow the downward spiral to a pace which will keep me living independently, longer. I hope that my short piece today can help shed light on an actually kinda important issue. Just listen to her.
More: Magic, myth, miracle, music, moon, mystic, mystery, mighty, mountain, movement, motion, mate, model, matter, molecule, minimalist, mind, mantra, mood, maintain, mend, mercy, method, medicine, M&M’s. These are also M words.
When you think of mushrooms, do you think of energy? When you think of magnets, do you think of energy? When you think of massages, do you think of energy?
Wellllllllllll, why the hell not? These three M words are- at the core– scientifically intricate models or methods of energy storage and transfer. When in the right hands (literally) and harnessed and handled with care, the transfer of positive energy can spark amazing things. Problems become identified and relieved of their life sucking duties. Let’s dive into the magical world of mushrooms first.
Mushrooms are super cool, because they are super complicated and interesting. I have read many books and had many conversations and watched many documentaries detailing the study of mushrooms, also referred to as Mycology. I think the best recommendation I can give for any beginner and aspiring Mycologist is a documentary called Fantastic Fungi (for those who appreciate F words).
I have mushrooms all over my house in the form of décor- tapestries, cookie jars, chalk art on my black kitchen walls, wooden carvings, salt and pepper shakers, coffee mugs, dinner plates, nightlights (inspired by A Bug’s Life), and so forth. I wouldn’t say I am obsessed (although holy hell, after looking at this list), but I definitely appreciate pretty much everything about them. They keep me happy, because they keep me… grounded- which we will DIG into a little later. Things that keep me grounded and happy are what I welcome into my home space.
My cousin- an incredibly gifted and intelligent dude- has spent years studying mushrooms and their healing properties. His uncle (my landlord, a 70-something year old retired diesel mechanic who lost his only son to an insanely rare disease) just had a terrible bout of pneumonia and was in the hospital (rare for him) for days. After coming home, he had a package of Chaga mushrooms waiting on his doorstep, with detailed instructions for steeping in hot tea. He was out working in the garden again within a week. A few weeks later (and a couple of days ago), he was removing an old hot water heater and installing a brand new one into my small closet, which was- as he put it- a job. I helped a little, but he did the real labor and I was amazed- and grateful.
Another story of healing occurred fairly recently to yours truly. Ever since I was an adult, I have experienced acne issues. I have tried so many things to alleviate the pain and embarrassment that my face was bringing, and spent hundreds of dollars on products in attempts to cure and cover up my skin. In addition to a soap that I developed myself which took years and many trials and errors in producing (my mother is an aromatherapist and gave me tons of material on various oils and their uses and properties), I coupled my morning and evening face washing ritual with some powder blends that contain these types of fungi: Chaga and Cordyceps. There are other natural ingredients in the mix as well, like Moringa and Hibiscus, and Camu Camu and Coconut. I add these powders to my morning coffee and daily coconut water.
I cannot describe the elation in relation to the powerful healing effects this regimen has had not just on my face- but my entire body. Nearly twenty years of sun damage, uneven complexion, acne scarring, and super oily, massive pores have been (literally/visibly) reduced so drastically that I no longer feel the need to cover my face. This, in turn, has only aided in healing my skin, as I no longer use unnatural products to hide my natural (ly ugly) face. Ha, just kidding… but in all seriousness, I cannot recommend my regimen enough to those of you who might also have this issue. I doubt I get any comments about this, but if anyone is interested in learning more about this, please comment and I would be happy to help you. I believe in this regimen and I’m not the only one that has experienced this kind of result. What is the result? Positive energy, my friends. When I feel more confident in my natural skin, the world around me feels more beautiful. Less masking, more smiling. Done and done.
In addition to studying mushrooms through literature and videos, my daughter and I love studying mushrooms in their natural habitat, too. Every time we go on a hike, or any time we visit the front yard (often), we bend down close to our earth and get a more detailed view of these intricate creations that definitely serve outstanding purposes.
She likes to actually collect them to study them even more closely. I prefer leaving them be, maybe instead opting to snap a photo, but I think it’s pretty cool that she is also interested in the realm of quantum things. Imagine a sixteen year old asking for a Microscope for Christmas, rather than a car. Reminds me of my mama…
One such outstanding purpose has been used as early as humans have been using nature to heal various ailments- medicinal. As aforementioned, my cousin believes in the healing properties contained in these “more animalistic than plant-like, though they’re neither” creatures when used correctly. When the wrong mushroom is used for the wrong reason, however, a trip to the ER is a good idea. Mushrooms can kill you. Please don’t just pick a mushroom out of the ground and eat it. I will not be made responsible for your dumb actions or your resulting dumb medical bills.
Medicine is a very loaded word, which obviously begins with an M- thank you for noticing… ugh. Western medicine seems as rigid as Chaga when you research naturopathic alternatives which have been put into practice for thousands and thousands of years, but have been dismissed out of the gate by medical professionals for a substantially lesser number of years. (Hello, Marijuana.) *I apologize for the over usage of words that begin with M. I realize how obnoxious this is becoming, but sometimes things are just, well… MEANT to be this way. Muahaha!!!
Much like the ever-expanding list of medicinal marijuana strands and their (unfamiliar?) names, mushrooms come in so many crazy varieties, too, which have a vast array of purposes. Mushrooms have way more skills and beneficial uses than the average human, I am totally convinced. Energy flows through this complex underground network, invisible to us here on the surface. But do a little DIGGING (see? we got to it eventually!), and you will discover a whole new world of possibilities which can definitely assist you in some way, shape, or form. Literally. This, then, takes us to the subject of Magnets.
“Hey Google, define grounding.” Grounding, also known as earthing, is a topic that piqued my interest numerous years ago. I have discussed the topic with numerous friends. I had the pleasure of enlightening my health coach friend, and hopefully some halfway interested and definitely not skeptical listeners, on her health centered radio talk show. She then implemented this method of grounding in her routine and even performed some tests which proved to be conclusive in that it is definitely real and definitely works for her. I wrote a short story for my daughter almost a decade ago which included the concept of grounding, and how seemingly magical that everything around us becomes when we dive into the idea that all subatomic particles are connected- even while located at great distances. The force is strong. Our childlike wonders which were (perhaps) squashed in (probably) high school (might) eventually return to us (probably) with further reading.
Damnit Bobby, Bill Nye was right. Science is cool!
The concept of grounding is simple, really- the earth is a Magnet. There are two poles at opposite ends of our planet- polar opposites, if you will (and yes, you will, eventually). The earth charges many things, including the underground network of mushrooms. These mushrooms have electric charges that heal all kinds of things. When we put our bare feet on the ground above this network, our bodies then become grounded, now connected to this network, resulting in increasingly positive and (some instantaneously) miraculous physical and mental functioning. Go ahead, try it. (How hard is it to take your shoes off and find a patch of earth to stand on these days?)
After some period of time in CONDUCTING your little experiment, you may notice that benefits include less body inflammation, as well as relief from joint pain, ‘regular ass headaches’, other body pains in general, and observe other improvements like sounder, less interrupted sleep, stronger cardiovascular health. This could offer relief for mental burdening symptoms from the [dis]likes of depression.
There are grounding products available for purchase on the interwebs if you aren’t into putting your naked feet on the naked ground (weirdo). Featured among these nice buys include grounding mats that you can place atop your mattress and underneath your bedsheet. YOU CAN GROUND IN YOUR SLEEP.
Much like the mushroom regimen becoming part of my routine, I have used this method of energy healing for about a year now. Whereas in the past when I previously awoke multiple times through the night either to tinkle or to groan with sharp back pains- now? No sir. I sleep all night long. I’ve discussed sleep in this blog before, and if you’ve been keeping up- you know: Sleep is very important to me. Sleeping on a grounding mat has not only improved this necessary and vital rejuvenation process, it has given me more than I could really have ever imagined (especially as it only cost me an embarrassingly small amount of thirty human doll’s).
Magnets are cool for many reasons the same way mushrooms are cool. I enjoy science and learning more about things which can be harnessed and implemented for good. Motors, magnets, energy- all can be used together in a system. What we do with the system is up to the individual. These systems might also be dangerously evil/deadly if in the wrong hands. (Polar opposites. Now you get it.) Magnets can kill you. Magnets can also kill your electronic devices. (Listed in no particular order of importance.)
Like any other alternative solution that pharmaceutical and insurance companies hold zero authority or profit over, you will (barely) find limited scientific data or peer reviewed scholarly articles that can be paid for with your hard-earned money in your quest for knowledge as it relates to healin’ what ails ya. Scientific journals that boast any credibility will likely not be your best sources in obtaining the literature and information you seek. You will instead find the ancient wealth of knowledge relating to alternative medicine in blogs way better than my own, or by word of mouth… and probably from that of a hippie/witch.
My hope is that you are at least open and willing enough to give these things a chance, and at the very least are somewhat appreciative that I’m spreading my gospel without asking a dime in return. (Rare thing in these parts- both on and offline.)
Speaking of being appreciative, I cannot say enough of my longtime friend whom I first met as a neighbor and school pal at the age of five. We have also worked together as adults, and while we took on daytime roles as baristas, she was also in Massage Therapy school, and I was cleaning a mental health facility at night. (If you’ve been a long-time reader or been paying any attention at all, this is where start from the bottom and work your way up* comes from). My body and brain were very tired. Luckily, I got to play the role of her regular practice dummy. Also luckily, she is naturally gifted in the art of Massage. *Speaking of starting from the bottom and working your way up, this chick owns her own practice now and is certified in much more than general massage therapy. Her continuing education has led to numerous specialty certifications. Reiki, or energy healing, is just one of many examples of this. I am immensely proud of and inspired by my frand.
I helped this frand study the basics of Massage Therapy during the humble “hey, can I use your internet?” early stages of her schooling, and this is another method of healing that I highly recommend to anyone with the means.
There were numerous examples she would recount to me involving clients even experiencing emotional breakthroughs while being massaged. Think about a person (me) who has experienced some kind of body trauma, and after a few sessions, feeling near total relief in an area that has been bothering them (me) for years. It does get emotional, really. (Hippa is definitely something we take seriously so I want to assure folks that situations are discussed, not the personal details that would identify the individual. Scouts honor.)
After having the opportunity to work as a front desk receptionist at the mental health facility was realized, another M word became prevalent in my life- Migraines.
Migraines suck all ass! If you have ever had a headache and called it a migraine, first of all- stfu. Secondly, I was just joking about the stfu part but, thirdly, and seriously… S. T. F. U.
Migraines are the devil. A period of three or four months of experiencing a true migraine every so often was enough for me. I really am not a fan of taking synthetic drugs so imagine me gagging down an Excedrin Migraine tablet or two in desperation to release this demon that has possessed my entire body, starting with my trauma riddled and highly overstimulated/stressed brain. Working this intensely stressful and high paced and under paid/appreciated job was conjuring the actual devil in my mind. (Not really, but that is what a migraine feels like.)
As mentioned in an older post, I tend to not ask for assistance in times of need, and so I wrestled this demon for several months, knowing the causes, but also knowing the shit wasn’t getting any better with me being stuck in the position I was in. Also, as mentioned in an even more decrepit post, you’ll read about how I stopped working in mental healthcare to take a job I enjoyed.
Fast forward to the here and now, you might understand why. Also, you may know that I work in mental healthcare again. You may learn now that there are aspirations within me to continue my education at some point in an effort to be of better service to people who have problems.
How may I help you? has been savagely beaten into my brain for a very, very long time. How I still maintained the raw desire to follow thru with this ever present task is far beyond me.
Aaaaand back to the before times– I talked to, and initially rejected, my Massage Therapist pal one night. She was supposed to come over and I told her “No sir, I got a migraine”. Click. She came over anyway and put a spot of peppermint oil on my temples, and then started going to work on the back of my neck. You want me to mention emotional breakthrough again? Alright.
I began crying as I noticed the migraine being reduced to a headache, and finally subsiding altogether. This whole process took maybe thirty minutes from start to finish. Another Miracle. Another M word.
Look, I’m not a Medical Doctor. I’m not even remotely knowledgeable in general compared to most people, I presume. But when I was five years old, I was asked what I wanted to be when I grow up, and Doctor was my immediate response. I enjoy helping others. I have experienced so much which has resulted in my searching for answers. These answers continue to help me.
I may not be able to write you a Prescription, but I can write you a Doctor’s Excuse. That’s the power of a receptionist. And this Message I share with you now is the power of a receptionist’s courage, who hopes the pain that has been inflicted upon her and the tools that alieve them will inspire you to try new things to relieve your pain. So start from the bottom and work your way up if you have to, but whatever you do, Meditate on it first.
That’s a whole ‘nuther post on energy healing for another day. Hmm! Monday it is!
I used to think that the only reason I am not in jail or on the street is because I have always had a strong support group. Not everyone is so lucky to have been raised and cared for by incredible humans. Even to this day, I know I have more than a handful of people I can call and count on to be where I need them to be, when I need them to be there. Considering the multiple issues literally plaguing the world right now, I feel… how should I put this?…
It should also be said that these supportive people have taught me valuable lessons that have led me to believe that, in addition to their loyalty, I can finally give my self credit for my small successes in various areas in my life. It took years of hard work, courage, strength, perseverance, humility, trial and error, learning, growth, and trust- or rather, the ability to allow yourself to make decisions for yourself, or ask others for help or advice in time of need- to become what I consider to be a person I can be proud of.
While I have experienced multiple life-changing in-an-instant scenarios and traumas, I have also experienced positive rewards that stemmed from these experiences. The trick was, and continues to be, releasing negativity so that it doesn’t remain housed in some nook or cranny of my subconscious. Many people practice Reiki, or pray, or use Tarot cards, or other things to practice releasing these negative emotions associated with actual experiences that remain ever present in our subconscious- whether we fully comprehend, acknowledge, or engage with them or not.
As I have written in an earlier post, I am dreaming of interacting with someone very close to me, someone who I have had to draw a line with in my waking hours so as to not continue experiencing negative consequences in my own life and that of my child’s. But my subconscious chooses the easy, positive emotions I once felt in this person’s presence (and long to feel again in relation to this individual who so powerfully influenced my life), and if these are reflections of my true intentions and feelings for this person, I’m good with it. My discipline in maintaining my boundary while awake, however, remains indefinitely because it is ultimately up to this individual to make healthier choices that will positively influence her life and the relationships of those closest to her. When she is ready, she, too, will feel the need to release the negative emotions associated with her own traumas, and perhaps then will make the decisions which are necessary to either take action- or steps- towards healing herself, or allow (trust) someone who is qualified to assist her in this process. I root for her both subconsciously and consciously, and I feel confident that one day, she, too, will do what is necessary to live the life she was intended to live, cultivating healthy relationships that are meaningful and beneficial to her.
We have all had experiences that scar us, or leave us wrecked. We all have people in our lives who have failed to meet our expectations and needs. Cue Let Down by Radiohead. Perhaps we have all experienced abandonment at some point. Maybe the relationships that we just couldn’t quite figure out or weren’t serving us in any uplifting way have instead left us feeling confused, vulnerable, bitter, non-trusting, insecure and, well, unattractive.
How unappealing can someone be? I think surely, by now, we all must know.
Well, it doesn’t have to be that way forever. As my favorite heartbroken comedian of all time- born an abandoned orphan, died forever loved by millions- wrote: …if you just smile…
Side note: my grandfather played this song on his steel guitar and it is something I revisit from time to time. I found out years later that he did so at my uncle’s request. Another side note: sometimes, it’s the little things that get us through the big things.
I used to be friends with a guy my own age who possessed some supernatural ability to read me very easily- something I had heard from countless others was “very hard” to do. I can be aloof, distant, mysterious more often than not when engaged in social situations. I am the butterfly, fluttering from one person to the next, always eager to make contact but becoming (not necessarily bored, but) genuinely interested in everything and everyone else around me as well. I have been told “I’ve never met a stranger”, which is very commonplace being that I have lived in Alabama the better majority of my life. People say “it’s a Southern thing”, which I find is mostly true. Our culture is entrenched with hospitality and community and serving others (which is partly why those who work doing the direct opposite around here truly bother me).
But this guy told me something when we were probably 22 years old that I had never heard anyone say about me before, and the revelation sort of stuck.
Denial was the initial response. “No I am not! How am I bitter?” I would dismissively argue. How can someone who is bitter be the funny, always smiling, just wanna have a good ole time girl? Well, easily… as I learned years and years (and many, many years) later. In fact, in retrospect, it makes perfect sense that I opted for goofy behaviors because that was my defense mechanism- my distraction- from all the bullshit that has happened throughout my personal life. I’m certainly not the first human who has adapted to life this way. (Again, Charlie Chaplin comes to mind.)
‘Claiming your emotional baggage’ is something I feel like I naturally came up with but am certain has been previously spoken by any ole mental health practitioner or written in any ole self-help book. “The first step is admitting you have a problem.” “The first obstacle to overcome is denial.” Blah blah blah. I like ‘claiming my emotional baggage’ because I have leisurely strolled to baggage claim numerous times over the years in airports, and the main reason I have been to airports was to visit my mother (who I have a complex relationship with and much of my baggage is related to this). It allows me to relate these terms to actual experiences, which in turn helps me claim this emotional baggage using powerfully vivid and meaningful visualization.
Because I have intentionally or unintentionally run from that baggage for years, it helps me to visualize myself walking up the down escalator, year after year, to avoid a) the crowd/mainstream traffic, b) the baggage itself, and c) confronting situations- and people- I need to confront. This visualization is an easy replication of what I have been doing subconsciously since I was a child- running away from any and all problems that have struck my family and I to this murky, subterranean level, where anything and everything has been ruined, for seemingly as long as my brain has had the ability to store memory. Likewise, I have stored these mildewed emotions relating to these memories- and, boy, what disastrous memories I have! It’s like tending to a pile of broken down vehicles in my front yard that for seemingly no reason at all, I’ve kept guarded from outsiders for years! LOL!!!
After the denial and the stress that comes from realizing you have a) been bitter, b) been in denial for years, and c) have tedious work to do in dealing with thirty plus years of your shit subsides- now you can let go. Just… be still. Let the escalator carry you to the basement level, that flood of emotions you need to cautiously wade through to in order to realize, recover, and handle your distorted and perhaps unrecognizable baggage.
This meticulous- and not overnight process- will most likely open up a big ass can of worms. When you’re down in your yuck stuff that you’ve avoided almost your entire life, you can react in all sorts of unfun ways. It may cause your depression or anxiety to flare up. In my case, it may lead to spontaneous purchases that cause temporary illusions of joy, which may affect your finances and end up only causing more long term grief. This process may even affect you physically- an example would be more intense back and neck pain due to tension or worry (almost my case). These emotions you begin to unlock will undoubtedly intrude some areas of your life- sleep, work, play, whatever, and where ever, and at any given moment, which in turn could create more negative situations you have to ultimately deal with. Buuuuuuuuuuuut! Working through this process is a better alternative to continuing to bottle your negative emotions that stem from these terrible tragedies in your life that will most certainly- and perhaps literally- cripple you eventually if left unchecked and lurking below the surface. They may be lurking in your subconscious files, but they still absolutely exist and they will undoubtedly affect you. Do not run from your problems. Meet and greet them, and then kindly kick their ass.
Many times, I face problems alone. At least, I think I do. It isn’t that I deny I have problems now, it’s that I prefer not to ask for help most of the time. Shame, fear, regret- all of those (stupid, but valid) emotions are the raging rivers we cross. I don’t want people I love to continuously feel that I need rescued yet again. Rather than locking arms with people to safely get across, I pack my board and paddle and maneuver through the thrashing waves- fearlessly solo, without a life jacket. Stupid? Definitely! But my philosophy has always been it’s my life (as sung in TLC’s My Life which I felt was my personal anthem in my early teenage years.)
The truth and reality is, what we do- and often worse, do not do- affects others, especially those who love us and those whom we love. And that, in turn, also affects our own lives. So while we think we are handling our own, we are instead sabotaging our own- even if we can’t see immediate effects presently, eventually we see the effects manifesting in our future own. Which, sadly, can result in more challenging- even impossible- issues to deal with when cognitive functioning declines in old age. Hello, Dementia- you horrible bitch.
Reaching out for another human hand is nothing to be afraid of. If your parents are part of your issue, you can find hands elsewhere. We can look for answers and assistance along many alternate avenues. You don’t necessarily have to call your mother every single time you’re in an emotional crisis, or your father every single time you’re in physical pain- these are just totally random examples and definitely do not apply to me personally. Still to this day, I tend to retreat within in order to defend myself, and while I do seek answers from many, various sources, much of my strength is what I feel I have cultivated from within.
One of the results of adapting this independent self healer method for years is that I have very thick skin. I can handle many crisis situations that arise rather easily, which has allowed me to extend help to others who find themselves in need of a hand. This, I have learned, is only another defense mechanism. When you focus on other people’s problems and attempt to help those in need, you tend to focus less on your own damn self. Many people in my family are like this. I have paramedics, trauma nurses, mental health nurses, engineers, military leaders, and so forth in my family whose jobs revolve around problem solving and helping those either in crises or life threatening situations. I have been there, done that, as they say, and while it definitely has its immediate advantages, it also has long-term drawbacks.
One of those other results is that I find myself receiving less and less invitations to do fun stuff that even in my mid-thirties, I still crave. While this gradually (and probably naturally) occurs with age, in my case, it also has to do with my financial situation. Being a single mother with plenty of bills has been challenging, and expecting anyone to pay for dinner and a movie is completely out of the question for me. I don’t look favorably to favors. In fact, I consider them to be burdensome. And so, I have rejected multiple invitations that have been extended to me through the years, either because I didn’t have time, I was working or had other responsible adult commitments, or because I couldn’t afford whatever experience was being offered. This creates another bag that I am working to claim even now- the bitterness of growing old and isolated, while my friends either move away for better opportunity or stop inviting me to go out because they now assume I don’t have the time or money for it. (And they aren’t wrong.)
Claiming your emotional baggage is a job in of itself. It takes all of the things I mentioned in the second paragraph above, but sometimes, it takes something other worldly to permit you to light the contents on fire. You don’t need no man. Let it go, darling. You’re seeing black smoke now and unsure what the next step might be. “Okay Teacher, I’ve handled my baggage. I’ve set my basement on fire and now I can’t see and I’m beginning to inhale toxins. Now what?” What happens when you’re dealing with these things on your own and you think you know thyself, but you quickly determine you actually do not? I imagine Atreyu at the Sphinx Gates he must cross to meet the Southern Oracle. Be confident!
Confidence is a very complicated issue. Lack of confidence is also a weighted load. Lack of confidence can be something that inconveniences your entire adult life. For example, my grandmother refuses to drive. She drove a dune buggy in the sand (not joking) and got out of the vehicle, mortified and trembling. Has refused to drive ever since. It can also be something simple, but kinda hilarious. My grandmother also absolutely detests the way a peach feels to the touch. I was always curious about this. Still to this day, she will scream if you hold a peach near her. I stopped doing this when I was probably twelve or so. (Imagine that any time a Presidents of the United States of America song comes on the radio, you think about calling your grandma.)
When you ask yourself questions, think what the answer might be if you were to ask, say… a grandma, an Oracle, a Pastor, a Spirit, God Almighty Himself. Convince yourself that the answers come from a place of light and love, that there are people and powers that do exist that want to unify and glorify us and life. Convince yourself that beauty is everywhere, and that we deserve something beautiful. Simply allowing yourself to be open to asking a question to someone- or something- who/that possesses power greater than your own might help frame a window you didn’t notice before. This window could very well become your escape route once you have spent enough time digging around in the basement. This window will help guide you to the sunshine, and release you from that pain you endured for years.
Maybe in dealing with old traumas, you have also discovered some rather meaningful snippets of time, or things that remind you of good times that you had forgotten. Maybe now you feel gratitude for what you discovered in the basement- perhaps about yourself and others that you couldn’t quite recognize before. You can obtain peace in this letting smoke out and letting light in through the window process.
You can let go of something that traumatized you to the point you once physically shook. You can work past feelings that left you convinced you were unwanted, and work towards feelings that leave you annoyed because you are wanted too much. (Ha.) But in all seriousness, claiming your emotional baggage is the best thing you can do for yourself. While you can– and definitely should– get assistance, it is ultimately your choice and your efforts that determine how you approach and navigate the process- and eventually, produce the fruits of your labor.
Speaking of fruit, while I am still working through my traumas and past, I no longer feel so bitter. Life is sweet, like a peach. And yes, I’m going to call my grandma…