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Posts Tagged ‘future’

Teach a man to fish

You know the saying, I’m sure:

Give a man a fish, he’ll eat for a day
Teach a man to fish, he’ll eat for the rest of his life

Well, there’s another benefit of teaching a man to fish, and it isn’t the peace and quiet that comes while he’s out of the house, sitting in a boat and drinking beer all day.

Teach a man to fish, and he’ll teach his daughters and sons to fish. Then he’ll feed his elderly mother. Then his brother will take note and want to learn. Then the neighbor kids will want to come along. Next thing you know, you have a fishing community – a whole group of people who have a marketable skill and the ability to be self-sufficient.

This is why education is so important, especially for minority and immigrant communities. When one individual is lifted out of the devastating cycle of poverty, the ripples spread to others around them. When one person finds a way out, many others can follow in their footsteps. But someone has to be first, and they generally have the worst time of it.

What can help them? Scholarships. Mentors. Support groups. Public transportation. Business incubators. Advisors. Apprenticeships and internships. Anything and anyone who can inspire, encourage, educate, and hold them accountable as they develop their dreams into plans, and then into reality.

So let’s quit pretending education is a cost that we should cut, and let’s start treating it like an investment in our future.

Pin ceremony

Tonight I’m at a union meeting, in particular what promises to be a very long union meeting.  They’re never precisely short, but tonight promises to take a little more of my time than usual, because they are awarding service pins to the folks who have been around for a while.

Half a dozen names were read for gentlemen who have been in the union for 65 years.  65 YEARS, people!!  These guys have been working members of the Brotherhood for 30 years longer than I’ve been alive!  It’s kind of crazy, in fact, for me to consider what these folks have seen over the years.  The changes in the industry, in the area, in the world as a whole…  It’s mind-boggling.

It makes me wonder what I’ll see when I’ve been around as long as they have.  It makes me wonder about the things that will change over the years, and how.  It makes me wonder what I’ll see, and how I’ll change as the years pass.

The first 30 years of service had only men, and there have only been a handful of people of color so far; it makes me wonder if those numbers were similar last year, or will be again next year.  As I look around at work and at school, I think they’re probably close.  Most of the folks in the hall are white males.  How much of that is due to like attracting like, how much to active discrimination, and how much to lack of interest on the part of minorities around here?

I guess I’m the reflective type; always thinking and wondering and deducting.  Trying to figure things out.  Attempting to make sense of things, despite the fact that they often don’t.  Glutton for punishment?  Perhaps.

All I know is that sitting here tonight, I feel like I’m part of something greater; something that will be here for the rest of my life; something that I can invest in and that will, in time, pay back strong dividends based on my investment.  It’s an organization that builds the community, that drives the economy, and that raises the bar for worker treatment and for the industry as a whole.

I’m proud to be a union member.  I can’t wait to be up there myself, getting a 65 year pin.  You know, if I live that long!

Happy birthday, apprentice!

I got the most wickedly awesome birthday present today – a new career!

Last fall I got into the electrical trade, applying for an apprenticeship as an Inside Wireman and getting a  job as a low-voltage Sound & Communications Installer.  The installer job wasn’t meant to last forever, just till I got into my apprenticeship.  However, that can take a really long time – six months or even several years if you don’t get in the first time.  So I was just happy to be working at all, let alone in my chosen field.

Guess what?  I got into the program on my first try!  And today I went to my employer’s office and got dispatched out to my FIRST SITE AS AN APPRENTICE.  And it’s my birthday.  How about them apples?!?  Kiss it, retail, I told you I’m never coming back!

Gotta say, things got pretty hairy last fall, and I was worried I’d have to go back to the hateful retail world.  But I got the install job, and now I’m taking the first step on the five-year path to my Journeyman ticket.

I am SO. EXCITED.

Election Night Message

I’ve kept (mostly) quiet about my political preferences this year.  Not because I’m ashamed, and not because I don’t want to discuss them or the issues at hand.

The reason I haven’t put them out there is that most of the people who do want to (I shall put this politely) “engage me in discussion” on political matters are actually only interested in two things: 1. beating other people over the head with their beliefs, and 2. hearing the sound of their own voices.

I have a handful of friends who I’m sure would have loved to actually discuss these matters rationally and calmly, with respect and appreciation for each other’s views, and with an openness of heart that would allow the possibility that not only could I be wrong, but they just might be wrong themselves.  These are unfortunately not generally the people who respond to my Facebook posts on religion, politics, or any other subject that might possibly engender disagreement.  The people who generally respond to such posts do so with personal insults against me or the person I support, ignorant statements that demonstrate a complete unwillingness to find the truth, thinly veiled talking points regurgitated straight from the source without any personal analysis, and lousy jokes on the level of, “That’s what SHE said!”

In short, I keep quiet ’cause I don’t want to feed the trolls.

That said, I do have something to say to those who supported Governor Romney this election season, and I figured I’d go ahead and say it.  In fact, this specifically goes out to the angry and frightened people, some few of whom are now expecting Armageddon to descend upon all of our heads in the form of hordes of undocumented illegal immigrants and flaming, tutu-wearing, glittery ‘mos who will steal their guns in the middle of the night and force their daughters to have abortions.  (Most of you are not that extreme, but some of you – please admit it to yourself if not to me – are actually afraid of the next four years.)

Okay, I’ll allow that you’re worried.  In fact, if you feel that your candidate was the best choice for the country, and the guy who won does not have the right answers, and therefore you are concerned with where the country is headed, then I actually applaud you.  People who think that way are concerned with the state of our nation because they want to see America succeed.  They want to not only be proud of our past, and proud of many things we have done and are doing, but to also be proud of our present.  They want to stand up and say, “We’re doing things right.  We have our shit together.  We take care of ourselves and each other, and we make this world a better place.”

Guess what?  I am 100% with you on that.  I want America to be a great and powerful and strong and well-run country too!  I want our citizens to be healthy and have the opportunity to succeed too!  I want a nation that is both safe and respected around the world too!

We won’t always agree on how that can happen or what we need to do to improve things.  We may not even agree on what “improved” means!  But I want you to know that, just like you, I want a strong and safe and healthy and successful America.  I also think that we have a great foundation and we do a lot of things right.  And I also think that we face a lot of challenges because we do a lot of other things wrong.  So we should be able to sit together over a drink or some coffee or a meal and talk about it like civilized humans.

Now let’s deal with this fear issue.  In 2004 I was afraid that Bush would be re-elected.  I didn’t like what he’d done with his first four years (I voted for him the first time!) and I was really worried about what a second term would do to the country.  Well, we found out.  It screwed us up, big time.  It left us with a huge national debt and no way to get out of it, bad blood with other nations, regulations that are friendly to corporate entities and the richest of the rich, and policies that drain the average worker of their life’s blood.

I don’t like these parts of our nation.  I don’t like the callous way our poorest and neediest people are treated.  I don’t like the way money can buy you damned near anything while the have-nots suffer indignity and privation.  I don’t like the way our elections go to the people who spend the most or the way our ballots themselves aren’t protected at the most basic levels.  (I’m looking at you, states with unverified electronic machines, and at you, Wisconsin that doesn’t let the military have their absentee ballots in time.)  I don’t like the attacks on women’s rights or the way a certain religious tradition has (since the ’50s) been legitimized.

Several of my friends and family members have talked about leaving the country if Obama lost.  Several different friends are now talking about moving because he won.

Don’t run away, people!  Stay here and work to make the country a better place!

Don’t like the way your Congresscritter voted?  By god, pick up the phone!  Take two minutes of your life and tell them why you thought they should have voted differently.  Or better yet, call them before they vote and tell them the following:  “As your constituent, I expect you to represent me.  I expect myself and my fellow constituents to be your highest priority and your most important so-called interest group.  I expect you to do what is right for the people of this district.  And I expect you to vote for/against this issue.  I and my neighbors are watching you, and we’re watching who contributes to your campaign, and we’re going to know if you throw us under the bus in favor of deep pockets.  We’re watching.”

Yes, people, I am telling you to get involved.  Once a month, sit down and look up a pet project or cause or idea.  Are you from a military background?  Do you ride a motorcycle?  Do you have kids?  Are you worried about the number of homeless you see on the streets?  Did you hear about a methadone clinic going in down the street from your favorite store?  What is on your mind?  What is bothering you today?

Look it up.  The entire internet lays before you – LOOK IT UP!!  Find two articles that support your position and two that oppose it.  Read all four of them.  Think about them.  If they spark any questions, look those up too.  Get yourself some answers.  And then – you guessed it – make that call!  Call your Congresscritter, call the President, call the Mayor, call your City Councilperson, call your County Commissioner, call the Governor.  Call whomever is in a position to do something about the problem – and tell them you want them to do something about the problem!

Or you can write a letter.

Or you can send an email.

Or you can show up on their doorstep (perhaps on Lobby Day with a bunch of your like-minded friends?) and tell them to their face.

Or you can wait till they do a town hall meeting in your area and tell them to their face then.

Are you catching on to my theme?  Find some issue that pushes your buttons, learn about it, and do something!  Voting is an important part of our civic duty, but if all we ever do is vote and then bitch about the results, we are not doing enough.

We.  Can.  Do.  More.

Please, don’t be afraid of what the next four years may bring.  Don’t focus on getting away from America, don’t focus on what might go wrong or what might happen later.  Focus on what’s happening now.  Focus on what you can fight for, or fight against, or change.

Six years ago, when the REAL ID Act was being discussed, I was able to go to Olympia for a Lobby Day.  I was able to meet with Rep. Eickmeyer and sit in his office discussing the bill with him.  We talked in particular about the technology used and the security problems it poses.  I will always remember the satisfaction I felt when I was able to teach him more than he already knew about it, and I will always be proud that I influenced his vote by talking to him that day.  That’s right, my visit changed the way my representative voted.  It’s an incredible feeling.  It’s powerful, and it’s humbling at the same time.  Because you feel like you’re part of the process, part of something bigger.  You start to own your government.  You don’t feel so much that the government owns you.

That’s a feeling every American should have.  In my personal opinion, the apathy and low voter turnout and acceptance of crappy results or poorly written legislation and its unintended consequences and all of that garbage would disappear if we got involved in the process.

So write a frikkin letter already!  Make a bloody phone call!  If you’re upset by the result, now is not the time to grab a beer and bitch with your friends about how bad it’s going to get.  Now is not the time to go to church and pray for the country to miraculously be saved.  Now is not the time to put all your life savings into gold bars and hide them in your custom bomb shelter with forty years’ worth of canned foods and bottled water.

Now is the time to roll up your sleeves and go talk to the people in power.  Now is the time for you, my Joe the Plumber Republican friends who work for everything you have and worry about the future your children will inherit, to step up and get involved.  Now is the time for you to tell your elected officials that you are paying attention to them.   Now is the time to learn more about the people on the other side of the aisle, to figure out what they want, and to push forward in those areas where your interests coincide.

Now is the time to make a better America.

Because people, we are all being played against each other.  And those who sit on the sidelines are exacerbating the problem, letting the people who pull the strings keep doing what they do.  So get on the field and start playing the game.

Healing, perhaps

I guess it’s more than perhaps, it’s more like “apparently.”

Five years, seven months, three days, one hour, and forty-nine minutes ago, the first man I truly adored was killed.  He’d come into my lonely, desperate, incomplete life, and he filled all the empty spaces that bothered me.

Then suddenly he was gone.

Being the type of person I am, I of course pulled myself up by the bootstraps and went on with life.  *sigh*  I’ll be honest with you, I don’t really know how to grieve.  I don’t know how to lose.  I don’t know how to be hurt.  I just have no idea how to do any of that.  My default reaction is to take a deep breath, consider all the good things that still exist in my life, and move the hell on.

End of story.

After all, no matter what happens in my life, no matter how awful things seem, at least I’m still breathing, right?  At least I still have my health, and my sanity (or as much of it as I ever had!), and my ability to support myself, and my loving and wonderful family and friends.  So why should I dwell on what I’ve lost?  Why should I live in the past?  Why should I cling to something or someone that’s gone?

Unfortunately, my analytic mental processes don’t actually control everything that goes on inside.  So of course, recovering from The Loss Of My Entire Life was not (shall we say) a quick or easy process.  In fact, it’s still not finished.  Not even close.

But a few weeks ago I turned a corner, and tonight I turned another one.  (Does that mean I’m headed back the way I came?  *shudder*)

I spent 28 years wishing for someone who would make me feel wanted, and loved, and worthy, and wonderful.   I didn’t have him for very long, but he was instrumental in building me up to the (apparently) confident person I am today.

I’ve spent the past 5 years knowing that I’ll never find another person like him, and I’ve been not only grieving his loss, but the loss of that love and the loss of the way the love made me feel and the hope that I’d ever feel that loved again.

Oooh, there it is.  There’s the first epiphany.  I finally came to see that what I miss most about Mike Lucas is the way I felt when we were together.  Maya Angelou said it best, you know.  I will always remember the way he made me feel.  And I know I’m not the only one – anytime he walked into a room, the whole place would light up.  Everybody knew him, everybody loved him, everybody wanted to be around him.  He was just that kind of person.  Can you blame me for wanting to feel that again?

So a few weeks ago I realized that, and I realized that – wait for it – there might be someone, somewhere out there, who someday might make me feel that good again.  Who might make me feel that wanted again.  Who might make me feel like I belong again.

It could happen.  I believe it could.

So voila, there’s some hope.  And for me, hope is like air, in that I cannot live without it.  (I almost didn’t, in fact, but that’s another story.)  I now have hope that the thirteen months and thirteen days I spent with my First Mate don’t have to be the sum total of my belonging.

Huge.

Tonight I came to another confusion, as we like to say in my family.  You see, this Saturday would have been Mike’s 44th birthday, and we were talking about how to celebrate it.  I’m thinking a family dinner and maybe a toast…  Mom suggested releasing paper lanterns with messages written on them, which I really like.

But that got me thinking about how to remember him.  And how I can keep him in my life, even though he isn’t exactly in my life any more.  I acted the ass so thoroughly when I lost him (grief makes us do stupid things) that none of his friends or family talk to me any more.  His murderer is also his widow, so she gets to keep his name till she dies, she even got a frikkin’ television show.  Yeah, what do I get?  I get to feel like I’m nothing and nobody.  Which I am not, not by a long shot!  But it does feel that way.

Tonight I realized that I can, and should, find a constructive way to remember Mike.  Maybe find a cause to help in his name, maybe create something, maybe make a new tradition.  I don’t know what, I’m still working that out.  But I realized tonight that I’ve been looking for a place to put him in my life.  And because I haven’t had a place for him, he’s been floating all over and getting in the way, so to speak.

I think I’m finally getting started with this “moving on” and “healing” stuff that people have been talking about.  Sure has taken a while…  But I guess I’m a pretty tough nut to crack on some things.

Five years, seven months, three days, two hours, and twenty-one minutes.  And counting.

Depression

K, so if admitting you have a problem is the first step toward recovery, then I shall do so.

I’m dealing with some depression right now.  I’m at a crossroads in my life, and I’m feeling ready for a change.  But the change is taking so long in coming, it’s getting frustrating.  I was just saying last night, I’ve gone through the part where I let go of my plans and embrace the new paradigm.  So I’ve turned the mental corner and I’m ready for the new thing now.  But it isn’t coming!  So I’m still stuck here in my old life, the one that won’t work and isn’t working and that I’ve already given up.  But I can’t go on to my new life yet.

So I’m feeling really out of sorts and it’s really messing with my head.  I guess the only thing to do is soldier through and deal with it, huh?  At least I have friends who I can turn to and get it off my chest, which I really need to employ more often because it’s a much better coping mechanism than my usual ones.

Know what?  I think I’ll go clean the affirmations off my mirror and write a new one.  Something along the lines of, “You will succeed if you apply yourself.”  With the IF really big.

And then tonight I’m going to go see my wonderful family and celebrate my nephew’s birthday and bask in the love and appreciation and togetherness and understanding and BELONGING that makes me so happy to have been born into this bunch of people.

Take that, depression.

Announcement

Big changes are a-coming…  There’s no way to work up to this, so I’m just gonna pull the bandage right off in one yank.

I’m auditioning for the Navy Band.

Yep, I’m going to enlist in the US Navy and join the band and be a Navy rock star for the next few years.  Didn’t know the Navy had rock bands?  They do.  In fact, they have 11 fleet bands around the world, each of which has 2-3 vocalists.  One of those fleet bands is stationed at NBK-Bangor, right here in my backyard.  If they station me there, I’ll only be gone for about 7 months (8 weeks of basic, 21 of A school) and then I’ll be back home again for most of my tour.  If they don’t, I could end up in California or Europe or Hawaii or on the East Coast.  Who knows?

At any rate, I’m offering what I feel is my greatest talent and skill in service of my country.  It’s a decision I have not made lightly, and in fact one I was on the verge of making two years ago.  In 2010 I decided to stay here, but I guess it was just a matter of time!  I keep telling people that if I’d known at 18 that I could do this, I’d only be a few years out from retirement right now.  But no, I had to talk to the Army recruiter…  And the Army doesn’t have a dedicated vocalist position.  You know, it never occurred to me to walk out the door and into one of the other branches.  But hey, life is funny that way and playing the “what if” game is stupid and unproductive.

So this is the plan:  I serve for 5 years, and if I like it then I stay in until I want out.  If I don’t like it, then I’m back here in 5 years buying a house and picking up where I left off.

Either way, I’m excited and ready for a change.  Both Etsy stores will remain open for sales in my absence (big thanks to Albert who will be shipping packages out for me until I’m able to take back over) tho there obviously won’t be any new items available until I get to my duty station.  Keep an eye out for future communications as to when I go – it’ll be business as usual for the next couple months, or however long it takes for me to get on the road.

Opposite Day

Imagine for a moment that you are known for, almost defined by, your positive demeanor.  Imagine that you have put on a positive attitude like a coat you wear year-round.  Imagine that you fight any negative thought, that you self-talk your way out of any low point or discouraging event or setback or moment of doubt.  Imagine that you consider a positive outlook to be a basic part of who you are.

Now imagine that you look back on the last five years of your life and can see that every damned thing you’ve done is crumbling around you.  Imagine that everything you’ve set your mind to has failed.  Imagine that your very best efforts, your blood and sweat and tears and stress has gone to feed the insatiable, gaping mouth of a black hole.

Doesn’t it make sense that you’d want to run away from it all?  Doesn’t it make sense that your greatest desire would be to pack a bag and run away to join the circus?  Or maybe the Navy?  Especially if you know that the end result will be to get you into a better place, a place where you can have back the life you really wanted all along?  Wouldn’t it make a lot of sense to give up all these things (that are falling apart anyways) for a few years, in return for getting them back in spades later?

Now imagine that you’ve made the decision to take that step.  And you’ve even started to feel good about it – feel excited about it.  And you’ve accepted that you’re a failure and your best efforts aren’t good enough and you might as well throw in the towel because why would anybody want you to stay anyways?  I mean hell, nobody even reads your damned blog, so who really gives a crap?

Nobody, that’s who.

(Not completely true; my family – who I once promised I would never leave again – gives a great deal more than a crap.  But this is hyperbole, there’s not much room for the nuanced tones of reality in this post.)

Anyways (sorry about the rabbit track there), now imagine that after you’ve accepted your own worthlessness, after you’ve realized that you’re a failure and it’s time to start over, after you’ve worked yourself around to a place where you can give up the life you love and you’ve been clinging to so desperately (even though it really isn’t working), and after you’ve come to terms with the nature of the new reality you’re looking toward, then and only then do you get a hint of hope that you might actually be able to make this work.  Then and only then do people reach out with a form of help that actually meets your needs.  Then and only then do you get a sense that you’re appreciated and wanted and maybe you shouldn’t assume that leaving is actually the best option.

So what do you do now?  What do you do once you’ve turned the boat and taken the first steps in a new direction and mentally re-written your life?

How hard to you try to keep the life you really want?  How far do you pursue it, when you know that the option to leave depends on a pretty narrow window of opportunity – a window that shrinks every day – a window that you can’t even get the involved parties to define clearly for you?

How far do I push this?

Refinement

There’s a bit of religious imagery that has stuck with me since childhood.  In I Corinthians 3 Paul talks about all of our works being tried by fire, and the unworthy things are burned away and the worthy things are refined.  He says if we build with lasting materials our works will survive the fire and we’ll be rewarded, but if we build with “straw and wood” it will be burned away and we’ll be left with no reward.

I’m not religious any more, and I don’t believe that this will ever literally happen.  But I can tell you for sure that it happens to me all the time right now.  Troubles come along, and they set my life on fire.  And let me tell you, having your life set on fire is not fun!  It burns, it hurts, and it’s really scary to see everything you’ve built start to melt down around you.  But I’ve found that when I face my fears, and come to terms with reality, and accept what is really happening, I can use the situation to become a better person.  But it’s not automatic, in fact it takes quite a bit of effort.

First, you have to ask yourself how you got into this situation.  Think of what you could have done differently.  Imagine a similar situation happening again, and see yourself doing it differently next time.  Recognize the flaw, the mistake, the error, the blindness, whatever it was in yourself that either caused or allowed the bad thing to happen.  If nothing you did contributed to or exacerbated the problem, then think of what you can learn from what you’re going through.

The important part is to look.  Look at what you’ve done.  Look at who you are.  See yourself, see the great parts and the icky ones both.  See the things you love about yourself.  (If you can’t see them, ask a loved one to tell you one thing that they like about you.  Then remind yourself of that wonderful characteristic EVERY DAY.  Tell your mirror three times a day how awesome you are because of ________.  Repeat till you believe it.  Then repeat some more.)  See the things you don’t like about yourself, and then figure out what you can do about them.  (If you can’t figure out what to do about it, ask a loved one for advice.  If you don’t have any loved ones that you can trust with either of these tasks, that’s what professional counselors are for.)  Look at yourself honestly, seeing both good and bad.  Know thyself, as it has been wisely said for millenia.

When the trouble-dragon comes around and starts burning your whole world down, it’s natural to fight it.  It’s natural to want to stay wherever we are, and to look at the destruction as a bad thing.  But pay attention.  The things in your life that are worth saving – genuine relationships, healthy behaviors, a positive attitude, a strong moral code – will survive the fire.  They may be melted a little, they may need to be polished and get a little TLC after all that stress.  But they’ll survive.  And the things that aren’t worth saving – fair-weather friends, unhealthy habits, negative attitudes, loose personal ethics – will be fueling the fire, and they’ll be consumed by it.  After the fire dies down, you’ll find yourself with more room to breathe and to rebuild.

So I’m not afraid of the fire.  I don’t particularly enjoy going through it, I’ll tell ya that much!  But I know that whatever it takes away, even if it’s something I desperately wanted and depended on, I can survive on what’s left from it.  And I know that whatever is broken down in the fire can be rebuilt afterward.

Bad news

Let me be brief: I’m not opening a store any time soon.

Yup, after spending the last year writing a business plan, doing market research, and building interest, I’m going to have to set aside the plans to open The Bead and Bean (and Broads and Bullets and Brews and I forget what the other thing was), at least for now.

Apparently I should have taken a few steps earlier that I waited to take till I had my stuff together better.  One of those things was sitting down with somebody from the bank and talking turkey.  ‘Cause it turns out, the turkey is me.

The short version is that after a brief presentation of my business plan to a panel of four mentors, they’re very impressed with the work I’ve done and the passion I have for my dreams and ideas, but – here’s the kicker – money talks.  And I’d have to have an awful lot of it to get a lease.  In my case, around $50,000.

Once the hysterical laughter subsided and I picked myself back up off the floor, I realized they weren’t kidding and there’s no way I can do this.  I mean, really?  Fifty grand?  Ain’t gonna happen unless I win the lottery, and you can’t win if you don’t play.  So I’m out.

Now, the good news is that by waiting, I’ll be able to open the store at a better time, when the economy is stronger and I’m in a better position to make it all work.  I mean, there really isn’t any advantage to opening a store now.  Let’s be realistic.  Consumer spending is starting to come back up, but it’s still pretty darned low.  And the commercial real estate market isn’t like the residential market; all those empty buildings are not causing lessors to lower their rates.  So there wouldn’t be an upside to opening now anyways.

Still, it’s pretty disappointing for me to have to do a 180 on this, especially since I could have spent the past year improving and refining my presentation for market.  But you know, I’m still teaching, and I’m still offering classes and parties, and I’m still selling online.  And I’m not giving up, not by far.  Just going to focus on those aspects of the biz for now, and leave the store for later.

So it’s bad news.  But it’s better than opening the store in ignorance and failing miserably!