My day literally started with dog shit in my bed.

Actually, let me back up to the night before. I was in our home recording studio with my partner when I started to get a raging headache. We were working on new mix and I told him I needed a break. We went back to the house to watch a television series on the Golden State Killer, I’ll Be Gone In The Dark. Is there a better way to get rid of a headache than watching a true story about a serial killer? If so, I haven’t found one. We were watching the episode where the writer who is the focus of the story, Michelle McNamara dies. Now, I’m sorry if that’s a spoiler alert for you but it happened 4 years ago and she was married to comedian Patton Oswalt so it’s already out there. Anyway, I took some prescription anti-inflammatories to ease the headache but they didn’t seem to help. I decided to take some NyQuil because I knew I was going to have a hard time falling asleep with such a headache. Usually I would take something stronger, but in this episode they explain Michelle died from a mix of prescription drugs and it worked on me like a D.A.R.E. school assembly. It was about 11:30 when I went to bed and I didn’t even need the usual episode of the Golden Girls to help lull me to sleep. I was blissfully asleep when my partner came in from the studio a few hours later which sent our dogs into a barking frenzy. This is not a new experience and a source of contention between us when he comes back in at 2 or 3 AM because the dogs always start barking. So, the dogs are up, I’m wide awake, and my headache picks up right where it left off. I’m not sure how long I stayed up, but I couldn’t get back to sleep for hours.

My alarm went off at 7 AM because I had to drug my foster dog Josie a couple of hours before taking her to the vet to get her microchip. We’ve been waiting to do this for a while but she’s had a lot of trauma in her young life and has had little socialization with people. So when she’s scared, she gets all growly and acts like she’s going to eat whoever she feels threatened by, including the vet. I can’t blame her, if it was socially acceptable for me to growl at people, I probably would too. I can’t actually adopt her until she gets chipped so this was a big day for us. I had given her some calming drugs the night before and was instructed to do the same in the morning. So I got out of bed and gave her the drugs and then crawled back into bed and reset my alarm for a bit longer because I slept so poorly. The vet appointment wasn’t until 9:20 and I so badly wanted to sleep up until the last minute I had to leave the house. That was the plan anyway until Josie jumps into the bed and decided to smother my head, neck, and chest with her 85 pound body. I’m claustrophobic on a good day so this gave me immediate anxiety as I struggled to pushed her off of me. “Guess I’m getting up,” I said out loud, knowing my partner was fast asleep. He can sleep through anything and I am so jealous of this trait. I decided to just get up and take a shower. I come out of the bathroom and my partner says to me in a half sleep, “It smells like dog shit. Check the house.” I didn’t smell anything but whatever, he could be right. We have two fosters, one dog on loan, and one that’s ours so stranger things have happened. I walk around the house and I see no dog poop, meanwhile, my partner falls back asleep. He wakes up again as I’m getting ready to head out the door and he says it again. I tell him he’s crazy and he can get his butt out of bed and check for himself. As I go to get Josie out of the bed, I realize actually, he’s right. It smells because she’s shit the bed. Not only has she shit the bed, but my partner has rolled over into it and smooshed it into the sheet. It’s all over his arm. I tell him, as I’m laughing hysterically, that there’s dog shit in the bed. Now, I’m not gonna lie, I was frustrated with him for waking me up in the middle of the morning knowing I had a splitting headache, and for a couple of other reasons that I won’t go into detail about because I know he’s going to read this and he’s probably already going to be mad that I’m telling the world he slept in dog poop. Sorry, I’m an over sharer. I tell him to get up, he gets up, and then walks into the hallway naked, freaking out as anyone who has been sleeping in a pile of dog shit should. I’m still laughing. My brother comes out of his room, which is next to ours and my partner says, “Dude I’m naked, let me put some clothes on.” I tell him to take a shower and show my brother the dog shit on his arm. He gets in the shower right away and I start to change the sheets as I continue to laugh. This time with my brother.

So that’s how the day started. I take the dog to the vet and they give her more drugs, chip her, cut her nails, and give her some other shots. Then they give her a shot to wake up and boom, she’s up. I take her home as I want to keep an eye on her while working from home for a bit. I also hadn’t been to work in 7 days as I was waiting for Covid Test results that I got the day before, but that’s another story (and they were negative). I’m sitting in bed working with all the dogs when Josie gets up, I notice a wet spot. She has now peed on the new sheets. and all the way down to the mattress cover. Great. So I need to do laundry and my washer and dryer are downstairs where my housemate is also quarantined waiting for her test results. Fun times.

So I decide it’s a good time to run some errands so I take our second foster dog Riley, with me to get dog food, go to work, etc. I just can’t shake this funk I’m in, so I decide to try and get out in the woods, because no one comes out of the woods mad, right? I head out to Bent Creek and I’m so stuck in my head on the way there that I miss my exit. So it takes me another 25 minutes to get to the trail because I’m so flustered. I hadn’t been on a trail in a while and this is my first trip out of my house in 7 days. I finally get to the trail head and it’s pretty crowded as we start down the trail. Not just crowded with people, but with dogs off leash. There’s a guy who comes up from behind me with a dog off leash who yells “he’s friendly”, but his dog is way ahead of him and is distracting the crap out of Riley. This drives me crazy. I have no problem with dogs off leash, and hell, I would have let this Riley off if I knew she could behave and not run away, but you never know if a dog on a leash is aggressive. How do you as a dog owner and older man not know this? But whatever, I’m out here to let go of MY aggression so I just try to forget it and carry on. I just can’t seem to let go of my angst and this starts to worry me. Being outside, being in the woods, ALWAYS sets me right. I hadn’t been on a hike by myself for a long time so I really thought it would help. Instead of focusing on the calm I just kept focusing on all the negative. I probably watched too much on the Golden State Killer series because I kept imagining someone approaching me in the woods with ill intent. Don’t get me wrong, not a fearful way, but in a “go ahead and try me motherfucker because I’m not going out without a fight” kind of way. I know this has more to do with needing to do something with my anger and frustration than watching a tv show about a serial killer. I was just having a hard time getting into a different mindset. I walked a mile and half and decided to turn around. Riley and I started walking back and not 10 minutes into the walk back we came up to a young deer. I stopped, told it to go, not sure of what the dog would do. It didn’t move, it just stared at me. I walked a little closer and told it to go one more time. Again, it didn’t move. I started to think, great, this thing is probably going to charge me and I’m going to have to fight a deer like I’m John Candy in a freaking 80s film. But then as we got closer, the deer was just curious about us. It let us get really close and then finally ran off. Riley was really good the whole time which was surprising. And that’s when it happened. I finally realized I was so wrapped up with all my negative thoughts that I was missing out on the beauty around me. I started to cry which was something that I probably needed to do days ago, but I was too busy being tough, strong, and keeping it together. It was a beautiful moment and it snapped me out of my frustration. I was actually smiling now and feeling like I had a special moment to myself in nature. I filmed it for about 40 seconds because if I was going to get charged by a deer I may as well make some other people laugh with it. But now I’m glad I caught that moment. I’m not one to document everything as I hate selfies and I rarely take photos of my food. But I’m glad I caught this.

I’m a big supporter of telling people it’s okay to not be okay. That it’s not only okay but normal to feel negative feelings as long as we don’t live there too, too long. And it’s not like this deer was magic and fixed everything for me. I still have a headache and I’d like to go see my chiropractor but I’m freaked out that masks aren’t mandatory in his office so I’m not going. But you know what? I’m going to pour myself a second tequila drink and do an online yoga class because that’s what I need right now.

All things in life are temporary, even life itself. And eventually everything will be okay, and that too, will be temporary.

Josie – the phantom crapper

It’s Okay to Not Be Okay – Today I Am Not Okay

We all have our strengths and weaknesses. One of my strengths is that I’m good under pressure. In fact, I thrive under it, which is one of reasons that I always pack my schedule. You give me two or three things to do in a day and tell me to get those things done by midnight and I’ll start an hour before. But give me 17 things to do, and the same deadline and I’ll have that shit delivered by 6. I don’t know why I’m that way, but I’ve been so my entire life.

Three weeks ago I had to make the very hard decision to postpone Connect Beyond Festival. I spent every moment that I wasn’t working on festival planning on reading or listening to every piece of information I could find on Covid-19. There was so much conflicting information at that point and figuring out what was true and false was so frustrating. I finally woke up one morning after little to no sleep and thought, “I cannot in good conscience move forward if it’s going to put people at risk.”

I have put everything into this festival; my heart, my soul, all my savings, and all the credit I have in my name. The point of the festival is to help people create the world they want to live in. We do this through stories, sharing different viewpoints, listening, learning, and collaborating. It involves months of curation of people from around the country, coordinating schedules of bands on tour, journalists, filmmakers with yet to be released films, activists, authors, and various other creators all making the time in their busy lives to come to Asheville. It was really hard to let all of that go.

It was equally as hard to go from running 100 miles an hour, working 14 hour days for weeks and months on end to a dead STOP. I couldn’t stop working and I didn’t. Once we announced the postponement of the festival (which we did a week after SXSW) we started to see live events everywhere deciding to cancel. I always say the music industry is the canary of the economy, and this proved to be as true as ever. I threw all of my energy into helping the music community, and specifically my community in Asheville. I reached out to MusiCares to see how I could help and spoke with my dear friend Josh Blake about what we can do. Josh and I are partners in crime when it comes to trying to help others. I didn’t take the time to process the loss of Connect. I cried for about 4 minutes the day we announced, told myself to suck it up, and went to work trying to raise money for those in the music community who lost gigs.

I decided to look at this sudden amount of time on my hands as a blessing in disguise, and decided I wasn’t going to waste it. My partner is home from the road as all his tour dates with Pitbull are canceled. He’s wanted to make music together for years and I never made the time…until now. We’ve been spending time in our home studio which has been great, and we’ve been cooking and gardening. I’m teaching workouts online as it’s another way I feel like I can support my community during this time. I’ve been sleeping in. Until the last few days, I was still going into Echo Mountain everyday and working as we’ve had sessions with one or two people. I’ve been very grateful for this last bit of normalcy in my life, although that just ended as of Saturday.

I’ve been enjoying my time, but I’ve also been ignoring this feeling in my stomach. A couple of days ago a good friend lost his mother unexpectedly. It wasn’t Covid related but because of the boundaries in place he could not be with her as she passed. This broke my heart for him and got me thinking about all of the people dying right now who do not have their loved ones by their side. What a terrible thing to not be able to hold the hand of your dying parent, or child, or partner. This bothers me so much to my core that it instantly brings me to tears each time I think about it. I am worried about my 73 year old mother who is still working in Florida who is not in great health. I am worried that I too could have to experience this terrible thing firsthand. The news of John Prine being intubated last night was hard as well. I have met John a few times and while I do not know him well at all, I had a wonderful experience with him at the celebration of Cowboy Jack Clement. He said to me, “This is one of the best nights of my entire life, and I just don’t want it to end.” I have a number of friends who are very close to John and I do not want them to have to experience losing him in such a way. Before bed last night I prayed for him, his family and loved ones, which is not something I normally do.

Today is my first day working from home and I woke up with a crick in my neck and a chip on my shoulder. I have been missing my dog that died in June and Facebook reminded me that 4 years ago today she was featured on NPR’s Instagram page for a story they did about Asheville. All I keep thinking is I wish she was still here so I could have this precious time with her, where I can be around 24/7 because she was attached to my foot. I don’t use the word hip because she was like a cat and only wanted to be touching me if we were both sleeping. If you’ve ever lost a pet, you know what I’m talking about.

Then I realized that this was the week that the festival should have been taking place. It’s funny how quickly the days and weeks run together, isn’t it? I also realized that I needed to be “staying relevant” and could do so by sharing past festival content that we hadn’t gotten around to posting. But then watching all the past concerts and panels and workshops made me really sad. I finally began to mourn the festival. It’s not just that I’m sad about postponing. As I said earlier, I created the festival to help people create the world they want to live in. To find ways in their personal life, in their community, in our social/economic/political systems to make change, to not feel so helpless. Right now, as I look around at all of our broken systems, I feel helpless. I know that deep down going through this will help us to change our broken systems and more than ever we need to persevere to use Connect Beyond as a resource to help that happen. But I feel sad, and helpless, and angry, and I’m missing my dog and my heart hurts both for people that I know and love, and strangers I don’t that are struggling right now.

Yes, we are all in this together and we can be in pain together. If you are struggling right now I just wanted to say…me too. And it’s okay. It’s okay to not be okay and for the time being I’m going to sit here in pain and cry and drink too much wine until I’ve had enough of all of it. And then I’ll be here for you when you need me.

You Never Know…

…how someone is going to be affected by the way you choose to show up in the world at any point in your day.   Think about it, you make a decision on how to react to a situation and then carry on into whatever comes next for you, meanwhile, a whole chain reaction happens based on that one interaction you just had with someone or something. It could be something so minute as putting fancy mustard in your shopping cart at the grocery store in aisle 7 and then you get to aisle 2 and you decide you don’t want it and your lazy ass won’t walk 5 aisles over to put it back where it belongs. So you put it next to the crackers and Cheez Whiz. And you walk away and that’s it for you as far as fancy mustard goes.  But what happens next?  What happens to that mustard? Is there a pregnant woman entering the store that is looking for the just right snack to satisfy her craving?  And all of a sudden she sees the crackers next to the Cheez Whiz AND the fancy mustard and she thinks, THIS IS THE MOST BRILLIANT SNACK IDEA EVER!  Then her baby grows up to cure world hunger creating a product called Cheeztard.  Or maybe you put it back on the shelf but not fully on the shelf and you walk away but then the fancy mustard falls and gets all over the floor.  Then a soccer player walks in to grab some beer and snacks after a game and he accidentally slips on it while texting in aisle 2 and he tears his ACL and BAM! He’s out for the rest of the season with a huge medical debt because he didn’t have health insurance.   I’m pretty sure there are at least 2 movies in not 2000 based on this whole idea.

This year has been off to a rough start for me.  It could be worse, and I will survive, because that’s what I do, but shit twice and fall back in it, I’m ready for the tide to turn!  I’ve decided that the best way to mentally deal with this situation (and for others that have to deal with me) is to make sure that I focus on gratitude everyday.  I look for the little things around me that enrich my life and I make sure to pay homage to those things and people involved.  Today I was grateful for the Duke Energy contract employee who came out shut off my electricity because I hadn’t paid the deposit.  It’s crazy that they wanted a deposit from me in the first place, because I have had good standing service with them for years. I don’t have terrible credit either.  I also didn’t have the money to cover the deposit.  I didn’t have to beg the guy to keep it on, he was so kind and told me that he wouldn’t shut it off.  He asked for me to call them to speak to someone but he was moving on to his next assignment.  And if they sent him out again, he said he would come and talk to me first before doing anything.  This man didn’t know me at all.  He could of been a jerk, not cared about my situation, and I’m sure he’s heard every excuse in the book when dealing with people who don’t want their power shut off.  But instead he was compassionate and this was my first interaction with another human this morning.  I was having an incredibly hard time getting my act together this Monday morning and was about to be late to a meeting, and I’m the type of person who is early to everything.  So yea, my day could of started off much worse depending on how my interaction with him played out.

The last part of my work day took me to absolute Bummertown, which is what I like to say when things go to shit. Someday I will probably write a song called, I Had A One Way Ticket to Bummertown. It will be a country song with a great hook that will get stuck in your head. Seriously, just wait.  One day I will post it here first and then it will be huge and you can say you saw it here first.  And you knew me before I was all mainstream and sold out to the man. All four of you that read this. I’ve digressed. I’ll address my hit songwriting skillz in another blog.

After I hit Bummertown I was ready to go home and start drinking and watching crappy television.  But then I thought about the guy this morning and I realized that I could of started the day off completely different, had it not been for his kindness. I recognize the need to be accountable on how others affect me and not let one experience ruin my whole day.  But I also know that had it started badly AND ended badly, then I would most likely be drinking vodkas and watching gross television right now. But instead, I am writing and drinking tea.

So thank you, contractor man with the thick southern accent. Thanks for making this day better than it could of been. You inspired me more than you know.

And if you need to be inspired….check this out!

What Are You Leaving Behind…Part 1

I have been reading to kids at the same preschool in Weaverville, NC for 12 years.  That means the kids that I helped teach how to read at the age of 4 are now 16 years old.  This thought just dawned on me, and gives me a feeling of being both old and completely satisfied with my life.  When I started this many years ago, I was a nervous wreck, not knowing how the kids were going to receive me, how good was I going to be at telling stories, who knows if they would even listen to me?  Well, what I can tell you is that 12 years later I get more out of it than I ever have.

There’s this book, called Big Green Monster.  Most of the books that I read I get from the library.  The program I read through is called the Preschool Outreach Program.  Every other week I pick up a bag of books that have a theme to them and a puppet.  Each time I read, I name the puppet something that starts with the same letter of the animal.  This is a typical start to my storytelling session.

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Me: “I’ve brought a friend with me today.  And his name is Marty.  Who can tell me what letter Marty starts with?  Raise your hand.”

Kids: “Oooh, me, me, me!”

I call on child, “Tell me what letter Marty starts with.”

Kid 1: “Banana!”

Me: “Banana is not a letter, try again, what letter.  Sounds like Mmmmm”

I call on another kid. “What letter does Marty start with?”

Kid 2: “A Giraffe”

Me: “Giraffe is not a letter, it’s an animal.  M, Marty starts with M.  What kind of animal starts with the letter M?”

I call on yet another kid.

Kid 3: “I got new shoes.  Wanna see?”

As the year progresses, the children get better with their alphabet, with their words, with their ability to comprehend, it’s really awesome to watch happen.  Each time we get through all the books on themes such as Grandparents, Beaches, Feelings, or Scary Stories we then finish with Big Green Monster.  Because I’ve been reading this book at this school for so many years, it’s now the book they use for the kids to read to their parents during their graduation.  Today, I had a moment for the first time, where the kids read aloud the book to me.  They stumbled along, had the first few pages down and needed my help but I was really getting to see my work to help these kids really paying off. I had such an overwhelming feeling that I still can’t put it into words.  Reading and development at this age is so important and I definitely felt like a proud mama to this group of 8 kids.

This past November, I started my One Amazing Year, which I have explained in a previous blog post.  I have decided that I was going to make my commitment to service and helping others one of my top priorities in life.  What I can tell you is that while it’s been a lot of work, I have been having one of the best years of my life.  Things are going well for me in many aspects of my life, both professional and personally and I know it’s because I have realized that this is part of my calling in live.  To serve others.  I am trying to do my part to make this world a better place to live by improving the lives in one or another and I can tell you that there are many people that are doing that for me as well.  What an amazing world this place could be if we all just worked from the mindset that we were put on this earth to help others.  Maybe we aren’t all destined to do that, but I can tell you that I was, and it’s making my life better for it as well.

Maybe one of these days, I’ll meet one of these kids that I read to when they were 3 or 4.  We’ll be at a music festival, or an art show, or in line at the grocery store and they’ll look at me strangely.

Stranger: “You look so familiar, do I know you?”

Me: “I don’t know.  Are you from here? What’s your story?”

Stranger: “Yes, born and raised since preschool.  I’m from Weaverville. Wait a minute, is your name Story Lady?”

Me: “Why yes, yes it is…”

These kids have given me material for comedy over the years as well.  Let’s just say I had no business being in charge of a group of 3 and 4 year olds when I was 22.  I thought playing If You’re Happy And You Know, Bang Your Head was a great idea right after snack time.  No bueno. I have many more stories like this, but for now, I’ll just keep this blog post more heart and less comedy.

6 Overrated Things In Asheville

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Many people have been up in arms over an article from the Huffington Post that named Asheville on a list of most overrated places to visit.  Now we Ashevillians pride ourselves on our unique and eclectic little town.  But it got me thinking about all the things that are not so great about this place.  I didn’t have to think about it for too long, before these examples became glaringly apparent to me.

The Blue Ridge Parkway – The name is a little misleading.  If it truly were a “parkway”, then I should be able to drive up right next to the elevation signs at the scenic outlooks so that I can have my picture taken while my ass is still firmly “parked” in my car.

Dog Friendly Restaurants – Don’t these places know that my dog incessantly begs for food at the table?  Allowing me to bring her on the outdoor patio really takes away from my locally sourced dining experience.

Arts Community – This city is supposedly known for having a large and diverse art scene.  But I can tell you that I have not been able to find one Thomas Kinkade replica print to send to my Grandmother for Mother’s Day.

Independently Owned and Operated Businesses – In today’s economy I really need to be thrifty and look for bargains.  But shopping downtown or in the river arts district can prove to be not so consumer friendly. Just the other day I tried to use my two for one fish taco coupon from Mamacitas to buy a pair of skinny jeans at Union and they refused to take it.  The nerve of some of these business owners!

Marijuana – Now, I don’t know about this one personally because I for one, would never do anything, and I mean anything illegal. Hell, I won’t even cross Coxe Avenue until I hear that creepy voice tell me that it’s okay.  But I would like to think because of the tree huggin’, Phish lovin’, congo playin’ granolas in this town that there would be at least 3 to 4 strains of the gnarliest shade grown, fair trade, organic nugs around at all times.  Strains with names like Purple Nurple, and Oh Shit, What Did I Come Upstairs For Again?  But what I’ve been told by folks is that sometimes it’s hard to find some of the ole wacky tabaccky in Cackalacky and it sometimes comes from as far as California.  Could this be the real reason James Franco is at Norman Nelson College?  Should be calling him, Mule Franco???  Note to self, find out if you can be sued for what you write about someone in a blog…

The Innsbruck Mall – Now, I have to say, this place wasn’t so bad.  And I rode up the escalator  I started to get a little stressed out about the overwhelming shopping choices I was about to be bombarded with.  What a pleasant surprise it was to see that there were only a few choices, and what quality ones they were! After spending an hour reading back issues of the Christian Science Monitor without paying for them, I strolled over to the insurance office to compare rates on my  current homeowners and vehicle policies.  From there, I figured I mine as well get a second license plate while I’m here, since I’ve been considering buying the school bus that’s parked in my neighbor’s  front yard. Alas, I was still slightly disappointed as they didn’t have a Chick-fil-a or even an Auntie M’s Pretzel place to satiate the appetite I had acquired on my shopping excursion.

Perhaps I am jaded because I have lived here so long.  Or maybe I just need to get a way for a bit.  I’m looking into a time share in Myrtle Beach for the whole month of August.

I Was An Assassin In A Former Life

Here’s another story I shared as part of the Listen To This series at Asheville Community Theatre.

I usually end this story by telling people that I was born and raised in Detroit. I casually offer this information as an answer to the looks of horror and bewilderment that this story tends to solicit. The truth is I am really trying to make it seem that my brother and I were products of our environments, instead of the little monsters we really, truly were.

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You see, my brother and I had already established a history of violence between us at a very young age.  We are two years apart and he is the older of the two.  We were continually doing so many things to one another, that it’s surprising that one of us didn’t lose an eye.  I mean, literally didn’t lose an eye.  When I was 5 and my brother was 7 I was trying to follow him to the neighbor’s house to hang out and he threw a flathead screwdriver at me.  He threw it, and from a pretty far distance I might add, and it came through the air and hit me right here, and stuck in my face. Just missed my eye!  I ran into the house screaming, ended up getting stitches….you get the point.

I was no angel though.  I had an affinity to dropping tonka trucks on my brothers face.  There was a time, when we were actually getting along and we were going to push one of his trucks down the slide together.  I climbed up on the top of the slide and he took the truck up, rung by rung and then handed to me at the top before he was about to join me at the top.  When he looked up to take the next step, I dropped the truck on him, watching him and the truck tumble to the ground.

I can say with certainty though, that he was much worse than I was.  Being the older of the two of us, he was definitely stronger than I was.  There were the times he would try to light the ends of my hair on fire. And many of my attacks were from getting sick of his shit.  And there was one night in particular that I had just about enough.

My brother and I were coloring on the hearth of our fireplace. I was coloring a Care Bears book and I think my brother was probably coloring a He Man book.  My mother was in our bedroom.  I say our bedroom because the three of us shared a bedroom.  After my parents divorced, my mom rented out our rooms and so the three of us slept in a king size waterbed together.  Oh, the 80s, waterbeds were one of the worst inventions of all times…..  There was a tiny color television in the bedroom with a coat hanger for an antennae.  This is were my mother liked to watch her “stories.”

So my mother walks into the living room and announces, “Tonight is the season finale of Dallas.  If either of you walk into my room during the next hour, you better be fucking dead.”

Now, I was six years old but I can tell you that these were my mother’s exact words.  This wasn’t one of those, “I will remember this for the rest of my life” moments.  It was more that she had instilled the fear of God in me.  She is a very patient woman but when she gets pissed off, you do not want to bear her wrath.  She would get this vein that would pop in her neck and you would know you were in for a serious ass whooping.

I would like to think she at least got through the first half hour without incident but I can’t really remember those details.  Just what happened next.  I was coloring and all of a sudden my brother took the purple crayon right out of my hand.  Now normally I would be pretty cool about just letting things go.  But I was coloring Share Bear Care Bear, and she just has to be purple.  She’s the one that encouraged people to share their feelings.  Well at this point I was ready to share my anger with my brother. We argued for about 5 minutes.  Then, all of a sudden, I don’t know what came over me but I grabbed a newly sharpened Number 2 pencil with my right hand.  Sharpened end pointing towards my pinky finger.  I then stabbed him right in the face, underneath his nose.  Not only did I stab him, I snapped my wrist so that the lead broke off in is face, leaving me a sharp pointy object as a weapon if I needed it.

His eyes got wide and as the shock wore off, he ran into my moms room with his hand over his mouth.  He opens the door to the bedroom and she turns around and I can hear her say, “Damn it Jason, this better be good!”  He removes his hand from his face to expose the piece of lead sticking out of his face.  I want to see what’s happening so I’m kind of careening my head from the hallway, while also hiding to see what she says.  The next thing I hear is, “Goddamn it.”  But at this point I began contemplating the deep amount of trouble I was about to be in.  My mom called the emergency room to find out if she had to take him in.  It turns out pencils had not been made of lead for quite sometime at this point and she wouldn’t have to worry about lead poisoning.  All she had to do was remove it and put a little peroxide on it.  What was I doing while all of this was going on?  What any other 6 year old would be doing, lying on the couch pretending to be asleep.  I figured, I can’t be punished if I’m asleep, right?

My mom came out after she took care of my brother.  I was just waiting to see what kind of ass beating I was going to get.  Was it going to be a pants on or pants off spanking?  What it going to be by hand or by belt?  First thing she did was tell me to go take a shower.  Not to wash the shame off, but most likely because I was disgusting.  I hated bathing as a kid and I guess my mom figured that I certainly wouldn’t put up a fight now since I was in such deep shit.  So I went to take a shower and then she did one of my favorite things.  She cleaned my ears.  I loved it when my mom would clean my ears.  I would lie on her lap and she was so gentle and it felt really good.  I was waiting for her to freak out on me, or yell at me, but she didn’t.  We talked about it and she realized that I had probably gotten to the point where I just couldn’t take the older brother pummeling anymore and just let him have it.  She did chastise me for STABBING HIM IN THE FACE, “Look” She said,  “This is one of the first of many times you are going to get fed up with some male’s shit” “But you can’t go around stabbing every boy in the face that makes you mad.  Next time you need to be the bigger person and walk away.  And if you’re backed into a corner, well then you just hit them in the nuts.”  They’ll recover eventually but they’ll remember the pain and normally don’t have to go to the hospital over sore nuts.”

The stab wound left a perfect blue mark on my brother’s face, which stayed there until he could grow facial hair.  Which regrettably for him was much later in life.  That blue dot would cause many of fights between us for years to come.  I think sometimes he would get teased at school about it and then come find me at lunch time at school and punch me.  Or I would taunt him about it myself which would end up in a beating as well.

That blue dot is finally gone and now my brother and I laugh about it.  I will say that we still have a tendency to want to beat the crap out of each other although it’s not very often.  We live in the same city now and see each other on a somewhat regular basis.  We verbally pick on each other but we don’t actually come to blows anymore.  We save that behavior for when Mom comes to visit.

Stay Pumped, Y’all!

I have been always been a gym rat, meaning I thoroughly enjoy getting “swolled up” at a fitness center.  I’ve been a tomboy all of my life, even in my days of fake nails and bleach blonde hair. I made my mom sign me up at Powerhouse Gym in Detroit as soon as I got my license and I spent a number of years hanging out and training with guys who most likely had shrunken testicles.  I’ve belonged to a gym as long as I’ve lived in Asheville as well and while it’s a different city in a different part of the country, some things certainly remain the same, just on a smaller scale.

I’ve been a member of the Rush for a number of years now and it is a logical choice as I can spit from my house and hit it.  Well, it’s not that close but it’s certainly in walking distance. It’s your typical big box gym, with ugly day-glo colors and really bad music.  If you call them on the phone they are required to say “It’s a great day to feel the rush!” and when you leave, they do say, “Stay pumped!”  Not every time but I’ve heard it enough times to justify making fun of it.  And it makes it only funnier to hear it in a southern drawl.  Don’t judge me, if you live in the South, you know exactly what I’m talking about. If you are offended by this then I urge you to stop reading now…

I do not have any set schedule when it comes to working out.  I go when I have the time and I try to go early in the morning or on the weekends.  I enjoy the early morning workouts but I also love how dead it is on the weekend.  The mornings are filled with people who are on a schedule, getting in before work and have a daily routine.  The weekends tend to be filled with people who are more spur of the moment; the type who decided to go to the gym over say, seeing Les Miserables for the second time.

This last Sunday I was at the gym minding my own business as I tend to do.  This is a small town and you just have to deal with the fact that you will run into people everywhere you go.  I have no problem with this, even when you run into people whom you don’t care for or drive you crazy.  So when I was approached by this first person, I took it in stride.

I was on the stationary bike and just happened to look up when our eyes met.  There was no going back so I decided to do the polite thing and engage.  It is highly unlikely said person will ever read my blog but I still need to make sure that I practice some discretion.  Let me just say that no amount of peddling got me away from the situation.  I will say however, that working out harder to become out of breath so you cannot speak to someone only helps your physique and nothing else.

I moved on to my chest and tri workout (that’s code for pectoral and tricep muscles for you lazy people.) I had two sets of weights with me, listening to some Southernplayalisticadillacmusic. I am usually sort sighted, just paying attention to my immediate surroundings and making sure I don’t get in anyone else’s way while I work out.  So you can imagine that when I’m approached by this scrawny young guy I think that I have some weights or the bench he needs.

He approaches me as I have my right arm bent behind my neck, stretching my tricep muscle.  I have my headphones on, basking in my early nineties hiphop and practicing restraint not to shake my ass to the music.  This happens to me often while working out, having the need to resist dancing in the gym.  Perhaps I should try one of the dance classes they have at the gym and just get it out of my system, even though it’s not my style. He starts talking to me while I have my headphones still on.  I immediately assume he wants the extra set of weights I’ve been hoarding.

As I begin to take my headphones off I say, “I’m sorry did you want these 15 lbs weights?”

“No, I wanted to give you some advice on your technique.”

Now if there is one thing you should know about me it’s that I don’t take kindly to advice I didn’t ask for.  Maybe this developed from  hearing many diatribes from my mother that started with, “You know what your problem is?  Because I do.” Which many years later I am eternally grateful for, but alas, I was not grateful for the advice from this early twenty something waif-like guy.

“I’m a massage therapist and I noticed that you are overextending your elbow with your stance.”

Have I mentioned that I worked out with a trainer for years?  Also, said elbow had no weight on it as I was making sure to focus on tightening my core (that’s stomach muscles, just in case my parents are reading this.)

“I’ve seen people with joint problems after many years of doing what you’re doing.”

Me: “Are you finished?”

Scrawny massage therapist: “Yes.”

Me: “Okay, two things. First, I’m double jointed in my elbows and I have no pressure on said elbow that you think is over extended.  Second, let me give you a tip.  Before you give someone your unsolicited advice you might want to ask them if they want it first. Because I don’t give a shit about your opinion.”

His eyes grow wide. “Have a good workout.”

He turns to walk away as fast as humanly possible and trips over a free weight on the floor and falls on his face.  I did not laugh outwardly but I have to say it was pretty damn funny.

I know this may have seemed harsh to some people but I saw it as a small victory.  I know all too well about the intimidation of being in a predominately male world. All I could think about was that hopefully this guy would think twice before just offering his supposed expertise to a woman.  I think it’s easy to just fall into the stereotypes that we were so used to growing up.  This guy clearly thought I was new to working out and didn’t even think to ask me about my experiences before just offering up his guidance.  I often see guys with bad techniques working out at the gym.  Can you imagine if I walked up to them and said, “Let me show you how to do that the right way?”  How would they perceive that?  How would you perceive that?

Just food for thought. Stay pumped y’all…..

 

 

 

 

One Amazing Year

So I have this really great friend named Doc Klein who has this company called Uncharted Territories.  Doc is one of the main reasons I moved to Asheville, we met when we were both hired to do contract work with Phillip Morris and met on the road somewhere in the SouthWest.  We kept in touch and he invited me down to Asheville to visit in the summer of ’99.  I came down in July for a week to visit and Doc took me out to Linville Gorge for my first time and I was sold.  I moved down to Asheville two months later with $35 in my pocket.  That’s roughly the same amount of money I have in my checking account 13 years later.

I worked with Doc for a couple of  years, not right when I moved down here but a couple of years in.  I have learned so much from him about how to really focusing on the things I’ve wanted to create in life.  I am a nerd for business and Doc is as well, or rather what makes them tick.  You see, he’s a consultant.  Not they type you see in Office Space who come in and fire people, he’s the type who comes in and helps people look at the driving forces behind why people make the decisions they do.  What’s the cause and effect of the decisions they make.  For instance, he worked with the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta on a Type II diabetes campaign.  Instead of just trying to get people to work out and eat right, they look at what are the social and economic impacts that cause people to get type II diabetes. And look at what can we do as a community to have an impact on those who have it.

Doc created this program called One Amazing Year and he’s been putting businesses through it for some time now. The goal of it is to really focus on what kind of impact an organization can have in this short amount of time. It really forces a company to set clear intentions and guidelines to hold all of their decisions up to.   He decided to put himself through it as an individual and now, he’s offered the experience to me.  I’ve decided to blog about it as writing more is one of the intentions I’ve set for myself.  And it’s one of the things that is going to help keep me accountable for what I set out to do.  I meet with Doc once a month and he gives me homework to do.  So here’s the start of it:

Step One – Pick 3 or 4 key themes that you want to focus on for the next year.  These are the things you will hold your actions up to to make sure you are staying on track. Here are my themes”

Community Service – I love Asheville, and I believe we are only as strong as our weakest link.  I have volunteered here as long as I lived here.  When I first moved here I volunteered with the Writer’s Workshop, a local non-profit literary agency that offers all sorts of events and has an advisory board with such greats as Kurt Vonnegut, John Le Carre, and E. L. Doctorow.  Through them I taught writing classes through the local ABCCM shelter.  I have also been reading to preschoolers for 10 years through the Preschool Outreach Program.  I wanted to do more, and since have started doing other things in the community but I’ll save that for another post.

Adventure – I love to travel and am one of those folks who is generally up for anything.  I definitely wanted to make this a focus for the next year and making sure this was part of where my focus was.  As of today, I have some serious adventure planned.  I am going to Nashville at the end of January to be a part of the Cowboy Jack Clement Tribute.  I’m going to SXSW (which is always an adventure) and I’ve already booked my trip for the first weekend of Jazzfest in New Orleans.

Creativity – I am trying to find that balance of the right brain and left brain.  I have been a writer all of my life, but I only do it when everything else is taken care of.  I like to make furniture.  I make noise, not music because I don’t devote enough time to practicing. I love crafting but again, that only happens after I cleaned the house, taken care of the 3 jobs I do, trimmed the dogs toenails, etc.  We make the time for the things we want and I want to make time for this.

Best Overall Health of My Life – This is an extremely difficult yet important theme for me and this is why I chose it.  I tend to put myself last before all else like so many of us do.  I am not yet 35 and I have tendonitis in both shoulders and biceps.  I have an “old lady hip” which actually means I have torn the cartilage in my hip socket. My job requires me to be on call 24/7 and I will go weeks on end without a day off.  I book my schedule so full that when I get a day off I get sick from exhaustion. This is all about to change.  I will be pain free, well rested, and lookin’ good this year.

So that’s the start of it.  My one amazing year.  I’ll keep posting as I get more homework and do exciting things that fall in line with my goals.

 

 

I attract only the finest of creatures

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My friends and I have an ongoing joke that in a roomful of guys, the craziest one is going to hit on me.  It’s funny because it’s true.  Now I don’t get hit on very often, but when I do it’s usually highly entertaining and lucky for both you and I, I’ve created this blog so we both laugh about it.  Today was one of those days.

I had driving to work at 9 AM this morning.  We had two sessions starting at the studio at 10 AM which is unusual because that’s considered early in rock and roll time.  Nonetheless, I was on my way to get there before them and make sure there was fresh coffee going.

The day was overcast and I could see that I was just missing the light at the corner of Patton and Louisiana, the longest light in Asheville. Just as I pull up to the light a Sears delivery truck pulls up next to me and is honking at me and motioning for me to roll my window down.  I oblige since it’s 9 in the morning and I am guessing they are going to tell me I have a low tire or something like that.  I know that my car is currently leaking oil so I think maybe that’s it. Here’s what happens next:

Delivery Guy: “Hey Girl. How you doin’?”

Me: “Seriously? It’s like that?” As I realize this guy is trying to holler at me, I decide what could it hurt to see where this will go. “I’m good, how are you?”

Delivery Guy: “I’m good. I like your dog. What is it?”

Me: “She’s a Rhodesian Ridgeback.”

Delivery Guy: “For real? Where’s she from, Italy?”

Me: “No man, Rhodesia is now Zimbabwe. In Africa.”

Delivery Guy: “Oh yea. Take your sunglasses off.  I bet you have pretty eyes. Let me see.”

Me: “No, my eyes are sensitive to light.  Sorry.”

Delivery Guy: “It ain’t even bright out! Ooooh, you are hung over or high.  Which one is it?”

Me: “A little of both.”  (Yes this is the longest light ever.)

Delivery Guy: “Yeeeeeaaaahh.  What do you smoke?”

Me: “Not crack if that’s what you mean.”

Delivery Guy: “Me neither, just that good weed.  I got me some of that and a little courvoisier up in here right now.”

Me: “Right now? Isn’t it hard to get a dryer up a flight of stairs when you’re drunk and high?”

Delivery Guy: “Nah man.  It helps me keep my balance.”

FINALLY, the light changes.  I take off as he’s yelling at me to get my number.  I roll my window up and he’s still frantically waving at me and the driver is honking the horn as we drive next to each other on Patton.

What a way to start my day.

Drastic Times Call For Drastic Measures

Here’s a little ditty I wrote for the Listen To This Series at 35 Below Theatre

Once upon a time I lived with two roommates.  I owned the house we lived in.  Annalisa was a sweet girl who was a massage therapist that worked out of the house.  She had quite the eclectic personality.  One day, she would meditate for 5 hours and the next day she would listen to psychology book on tape on how to find and keep a man.  Then the next night she would put on a pink tutu and a purple wig and ride her bike to a solstice party.  I would inevitably find her bike crashed into a bush in the front yard. She was also a little overly sensitive, which was good for me, because I tend to be on the opposite end of the spectrum when it comes to sensitivity.  So it was good practice for me to not be so……blunt, harsh, I don’t know which works better.  I would think I was being extremely conscious of how I approached her, I’d say things like, “Hey, Annalisa, are you going to be in the bathroom for much longer, because if you are, I can shower downstairs, I’m totally cool with that, just let me know.”  She’d answer and I’d go about my business and then later that evening she’d say.  “So this morning, when you asked about the shower, you kinda hurt my feelings…….”  Regardless of this, she was a really good roommate.

Then I had another roommate.  Named Blimey.  Blimey lived in my basement, so he had his own entrance and his own full bathroom so we basically just shared the kitchen, which he didn’t use that often.  Blimey was about 10 years older, maybe 12 and I’d known him for a number of years because we were climbing partners.  Now, Blimey obviously isn’t his real name, but it was his nickname.  The reason he had this nickname was because of his accent.  He wasn’t a foreigner, he was from CT, but his accent was a cross between a Cajun/Creole accent and someone from Jersey.  We used to love to tease him about it and he’d say, “I don’t why I talk this way, I’m adopted okay?”  It was pretty funny going to some rural areas of Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia with him because people never knew what to make of him.   Now, Blimey was a pretty good roommate, he kept to himself and we’d go days without talking or seeing each other.  We would often joke how we had to go on climbing trips to catch up with each other.  So for the most part he was great, EXCEPT.  He would always eat my food.  Now this drives me crazy for a number of reasons.  One, it’s mine.  Don’t eat it.  Two, I was raised in a household where we really had to ration our food, so we had to make it last.  Of course this has carried into my adult life so I continue to ration food like we’re in a depression.  I also grew up in a household where you always saved the last of something for someone else.  Which was kind of funny because the last of everything would sit in the fridge until someone FINALLY ate it.  Third, I worked a lot of hours, and wasn’t there that often so I wanted to have a few staple things in the house always.  Basically milk, eggs, and cheese.  Well wouldn’t you know it? These were the exact things that Blimey liked to eat too.  And he ate mine all the time.  And I mean all the time.   He would rarely replace them.  The other thing is these were the items that I always purchased that were organic.  Why?  Well for one, they last longer so it was nice to have that option, and two, they taste better.  It’s not like everything I bought or buy is organic but I would definitely spend the money for eggs and milk to be organic.  So if Blimey did replace them, which was rare, he would replace them with milk and eggs from the gas station down the street.  Yeah, classy.

I had asked him time and time again not to do this, but it just seemed never to get through to him.  It was really frustrating and had been happening for over a year.

So one night, I come home on a Friday evening after working late.  I am the only on there and I am craving some ice cream.  I’m not a big ice cream person, so having a pint in the freezer lasts me a long time.  Well, guess what else Blimey liked to eat?  Ice cream!  So I go into the freezer and low and behold my ice cream is gone.  So I’m upset, right?  I call Blimey, he answers right away.  I yell at him, “Blimey!  Damn you, you ate my ice cream!”  He says, “I’m sorry, I’m at Scullys I will bring you some right now.”  So Blimey comes home and brings me two pints of Ben and Jerrys.

“I really hate it when you eat my food dude.”

“I know, I’m sorry, it was late and I was stoned and I forgot to replace it.  I won’t do it again.”

I forgive him and go on my way.  Keep in mind this is on Friday.  So Monday, I come home from work, it’s pouring down rain, it’s around 9 pm and Annalisa is watching TV.  Blimey is gone, he went up to CT for 3 weeks.  So I  come in, and I’m tired and I have PMS.  Or as my brother used to say, I’m about to start my pyramid.  I go to get some ice cream and both pints are gone!  Both of them.  That’s right, in 2 days time, 48 hours, Blimey has eaten both pints he bought me to replace the other one he ate.  Aaaaaand he’s gone for three weeks!  I am so angry now.  I am pacing in the living room.  Annalisa says, I’ll go down to the gas station and get you some ice cream, which as you can imagine just makes me more angry.  I’m quite over eating things from the gas station.

“That is it, that is it.  I am going to do something to teach him a lesson.”

“What are you going to do?”

I am pacing in the living room, right back and forth, racking my brain, when it hits me and I stop.

“I am going to shit in his ice cream.”

“Excuse me?”  says Annalisa

“Yes, I am going to buy some ice cream, take the ice cream out, put it in the a container marked lentils, because Blimey will be like, what the hell are lentils? And I am going to shit in the ice cream.”

Now, let me do a little side bar here.  I am not an evil person, I never wanted to get Blimey sick.  I never thought he would actually eat the shit in the ice cream, I figured it was kind of like a mobster who sends a pigs head in the mail, or something like that.  I’m not gonna hurt ya, I’m just trying to get my point across.  I would make sure that it was very easy to tell it was poop, and it wouldn’t be eaten.

Now, clearly, Annalisa was a little uneasy.  I’m not sure how I feel about there being shit in our freezer.  I told her that I wasn’t sure if I was actually going to go through with it and maybe I would just put dog poop in the ice cream instead.  That seemed to ease her mind a little.

I didn’t really think about it for a few days, my anger had passed and with Blimey gone for 3 weeks I couldn’t confront him about it anyway.  Then one day I came from work and Annalisa was in the kitchen.

“I’m in”, she says.

“What are you talking about?  In what?”

“I’m in on the set up, the hoax, whatever you want to call it?”

As I said, I had forgotten about it and I asked again, “What the hell are you talking about?”

She goes to the freezer and pulls out a gallon of mint chocolate chip ice cream. Here she said, “I bought this gallon of ice cream.  I even ate half of it so you can poop in it.  Here, go for it.”

I was stunned.  Sweet, sweet Annalisa was going to be my co-conspirator on a plan that I hadn’t fully decided to go through with it.  So she hands me the ice cream, and apparently expects me to do my business on command.

“Ahh, let me think about,” it I say.  “I’m not sure if I just want to put dog shit in there instead.”

“No,” she says, “you have to teach him a lesson once and for all, it’s got to be the real deal.”

“All right, all right. We have some time before he gets home.  Let me umm…get in the mood and I’ll do it.”

So the next night I am stage managing here at ACT for the Rebelles, the burlesque show in town.  I’d been at rehearsals everyday that week and it was nice to have opening here and behind me.  So I go out drinking with a few of my friends after the show.

We end up at my place around 2 am and we’re loud enough to wake Annalisa up.  She doesn’t mind, this is part of the coolness of her, that she doesn’t want to kill me when I show up at the house at 2 AM with three guys.  She starts telling them of our scheme to get Blimey back and the boys are loving the story.  I tell them that I don’t think I have the gall to actually go through with the act.  I barely get these words out of my mouth when my friend Francois goes into the freezer grabs the ice cream and calmly walks in the bathroom.  The rest of us sit there bewildered as to what just happened.  He comes out about 10 minutes later and hands the box to me.  Everyone is standing around me, because of course we have to see it for it actually to be true.  I open the box for all of us to see the teeniest of tiniest turds that you ever did see.  It’s the size of a poop that you would expect from a puppy.

“That’s it?  It’s sooo……….small.  Dude, you’re like 6’4, how can you even produce something that small?  The taco bell dog could produce something bigger than that.” I say.

“Hey, you try pooping on command at 3 am and let’s see what you come up with,” he says.

Regardless, you can still tell what it is, there’s no mistaking it, except you would think it would of come out of the butt of 6 lb shitz hu.   We put it in the freezer and waiting for Blimey’s return.

Flash forward a week.  It’s a Saturday in the middle of summer and I come home from work to find Annalisa lying in my bed, watching TV with the window air conditioning blaring.  She is visibly in pain and rubbing her stomach.

“What’s a matter with you?” I ask.

“I have cramps and all I wanna do is eat some ice cream, but I can’t because there is poop in it.  Ahhhh…….”

I also notice that Blimey is home and he is cutting the grass.  At least he’s doing something, right?  I decide to crawl into bed with Annalisa and enjoy the air conditioning and crappy television.   It’s not long before Blimey takes a break, we hear the lawnmower shut off and soon his heavy steps are in the house.  He comes to my bedroom door, doesn’t knock and just throws the door open.  Shirtless, sweaty and full of piss and vinegar.

“Oh, must be nice, must be nice to be sittin’ in here in air conditioning while I’ll out there mowing the lawn.”

Keep in mind, this is the first interaction I’ve had with him, in three weeks.

“Blimey, you ate my damn ice cream again.”

“He starts to laugh, I know, haha, and I was drivin’ away, thinkin’ haha bitches I’m ate your ice cream and I’m gone and not gonna be back for three weeks, you can’t do nothin’ to me.  I can’t believe you even remember.”

“I hate you.”

“But the jokes on me,” he says, Annalisa and I both sit up in bed.

“Oh yeah?  I ask, why is that?”

“Because you bought mint chocolate chip, I hate mint chocolate chip!  It’s the only ice cream I won’t eat.”

“Noooooooo!” screams Annalisa, gets up, goes to the kitchen takes the ice cream out of the freezer and throws it in the trash.

I went that night to stage manage the Rebelles again.  And again, went out after the show.  I just happened to run into my friend Francois, and I tell him the story.  He tells me to get some Rocky Road and give him a call.

We never actually told Blimey that we did it.  I did however, tell my friend Rose, who told her husband, who then told Blimey.  Apparently he was concerned with his well being and thought he might actually accidentally mistake a pile of poop for ice cream.  Blimey never told me that he knew, but he did stop eating my food.