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Charleston, SC, United States
"Fear is a stranger to the ways of love. Identify with fear, and you will be a stranger to yourself." -ACIM

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Don’t take the sunshine for granted

“Nothing speeds us on the journey like happy acceptance of the journey; nothing slows us down like discontent with its progress.” 
– Allen Watson

I just finished reading a short book by Mr. Watson this week and he threw that line in there in the final chapter and it really struck me as a perfect summary of the book and the journey itself. The whole point is to ‘Be A Happy Learner.’ That’s it really. Be happy with learning and developing in Love, Acceptance and Forgiveness. Be happy in hearing that guiding voice speak to you more than that of the ego. Be happy with the day that you have to learn something new. Maybe today is the day that all the lights come on and everything is revealed to you. Maybe it isn’t. And if it isn’t; then so what?

One of the main points Watson made in this particular piece was that everyone who has made the decision to seek spiritual development/growth has already passed a major point on the road. Just by making the decision to go on this journey you’ve already made so much progress because it means that you realize that your current situation, the world as you see it, isn’t right. You realize that there is an ultimate destination of being one with God and one with all of creation and that through acceptance of love and giving of love that you will one day make it there. What Watson points out is that now (after starting the journey) you stand at a fork in the road. One path leads you to oneness with God. The other path is the one you were already on; the ego’s path. That one will ultimately bring you right back to this same spot on the road; it just depends on how long you want to suffer the journey again. One path is to reside with God’s voice, the other the Ego’s.

This is the second major decision that you have to make. First, choose to start the journey; second which path do you decide to take? If you choose the ego’s then nothing lost nothing gained, you just continue on as things have always been. Your life will continue in suffering and eventually you will be lead to this decision again. But, if you choose the path of Love, the one that is lit by the voice of God and ends with Him, then your journey will be long; but rewarding.

However, just because it is long and sometimes frustrating, does not mean that it is not a happy journey. The frustration is just the ego’s last attempts to slow your progress. The happiness is in being surrounded by love and freeing yourself from the bonds of guilt through forgiveness. Every now and then you just have to stop and see the light around you in those that you meet every day and realize that it has been there all along. This light serves as lamp posts on the road you travel and every new lesson brightens the path in front of you.

One other point that I’d like to mention in this post dear reader is on the topic of certainty. I am certain where this journey ends and that is all that I really need. And, if you are certain of the end of the journey; then there is no point in getting frustrated with the delays on the road.

That one simple lesson has removed tons of weight from my mind. Just knowing that the frustration is not needed. It’s as if I’m waiting in line at the grocery store and the old lady and her checkbook are at the front and then there’s a man with fifty coupons and then me. I could get frustrated. But, in the end I know that I will have to wait and in the end I know that I will get to the front and do my checkout. I can get frustrated and build anger and stress or I can… what? Read a magazine, text a friend, whatever. The point is dear reader, while we are traveling down this road there are going to be delays. There are going to be hard lessons, there are going to be distractions, but there is no reason to let them frustrate us because we are certain of the end of the journey. If that’s not enough to make you happy, I don’t know what is.

Every frustration, every doubt, every delay is just another lesson to be learned. Letting hold ups produce doubt is fuel for the ego and not allowing the guiding voice of the spirit show us the lesson to be learned. In the end God will make the final step for us. Until then we all just need to be happy students free of frustrations and happily accepting the journey as it comes.

Until next time dear reader. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

We’re All Gonna Die!

It’s true. One day you, me, all of us are going to die. So what? What does that mean to you?

Death is not a subject that we feel comfortable talking about at dinner parties or social gatherings. We talk about it in passing only when someone we know has died. ‘Oh did you hear that so-and-so passed away?’ ‘Yeah, he was a good guy. Give his wife my condolences.’ End of conversation. How quickly does your mind go back to some other subject? Our minds don’t want to deal with death especially when it’s our own. Death? No thank you. I’d rather worry about the checking account balance thank you very much. Or, how about that Lindsay Lohan huh? What a mess she’s found herself in am I right? Focus up! Today we’re going to talk about death.

Why? Why this question? Because I’ve been forced these past few weeks to realize that death is real and that my death is real and that that is ok. It’s ok. Death before dying is not a bad thing. Understanding our own death and its consequences is just a big of a part of our lives as understanding our living. Bigger even because we are constantly avoiding and fearing our own deaths. Our physical death does not end our spiritual journey.

Two weeks ago I felt a thump. A thump and a flutter in my chest. I really thought nothing of it until over the next few days that thump and flutter because a light headedness and a faintness and more thumping and more fluttering. By the weekend I was in some pain. I ended up going to a doctor and got some blood work, a chest x-ray and an EKG done. Verdict: Clean health, no problems, just a naturally occurring irregular heartbeat. What a relief right? But it didn’t go away. Even with that sense of relief, it didn’t go away. My relief turned back into fear.

What was I afraid of? Medical debt? Loss of work? Pain? No. Death! Death is a fear so great that it could wake the dead. We “live” our lives in fear of death. But what I’m questioning here is why? What am I really afraid of? I’m afraid of an ending of this. We’re all afraid of an ending to this. Think about that for a second… now laugh. If all of this were to end tomorrow, then what? What?

Think about it this way. I’m dead. You just got the news. Now what? Does the sun not come up tomorrow? Does the world stop spinning? Does your life cease to have meaning? No. (Now I don’t plan on dying anytime soon nor do I have a desire to, so hopefully it will be years before you get that news dear reader). But think about it. If everyone you loved died tomorrow, then what? You would be faced with nothing more than yourself. Just you looking back at you. The only loving thing you can do is just wish them the best on their next journey and continue on with yours. If you really think about it that is all you can do. Grief, sadness, remorse, regret, all do nothing for you. Love for those around you is the only thing you can do. Take the love that you directed towards those that have died and pass it on to those around you. Strangers, neighbors, co-workers, are they less important now to the world than those who have died?

Take a day and think about what you truly think happens to you after you die. Do YOU stop being? What happens to the YOU in you? What I think I’m trying to get to here is the whole concept of death before I die. I have to be ok with what happens to the ME in me when I die. You can call that the soul or the spirit or whatever you’re comfortable with, but just know that you’ll need to make peace with death at some point. But we don’t end. There is no end. You’re not afraid of an ending really we’re just afraid of an unknown. We’re afraid of letting go of this dream world we’ve created for ourselves and of letting go of the people we love and the things that we think we love. Death is not as final as we like to think it is. We can shift out perception of it and try to eliminate our fear of it but death is something that we’re all going to have to deal with. If it all falls away, what are you left with?

While I am feeling a lot better physically these past few days, to be honest the subject of death has not been far from my mind. Maybe this whole ‘health scare’ was presented to me to teach me a lesson about death. Maybe not. Maybe it was to teach someone else a lesson. Maybe it was you. I’m hoping over the next few weeks and months that I can, with practice have a better understanding of my relationship with death. I want to be at peace with death because I don’t want to live in fear of death and in order to do so I’m going to need to spend some time with it.

That’s it for now dear reader. Sorry to leave you sitting in your own pool of thoughts, but this one you’ve got to do on your own. 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

It is never what you think it is. Or is it really?

Choosing your own reality is a concept that seems very weighted to me. Choosing your own reality is heavy in a way and dangerous but at the same time essential to spiritual growth and enlightenment.

What this means is that you have to let go and realize that from this moment forward the world is not what you thought it was and you have to choose for yourself what it will be. People have used a thought very similar to that one to change the world, hike mountains, overcome disabilities, and in fact achieve enlightenment. The world is not what I thought it was. Think about it. What if tomorrow you woke up and renamed everything and gave it new meaning? What if you chose to see the world not riddled with war, debt, and diseases but rather full of individuals and groups who worked together to make the world a better place? What would your new world look like?

Now, bear with me here dear reader… What you just read is a change in mindset. What I’m really talking about here is a change in reality. I’m saying that on a metaphysical and spiritual level you can choose to change reality. A feather can float through your desk, the water can turn to wine, the Braves can win a World Series. You can choose to make life, your reality, into what you want it to be. You can choose to use this reality to change the world, climb mountains and all that if you want, but your choice will become a simple one. You will want to save the world. Not like Superman; but your world. You will through your choices in reality reshape the whole world.

Did I lose you there? It is a bit of a worm hole, but if you really sit down and spend just 10-15 minutes contemplating that Truth, I think you’ll find that deep down you already knew that.

When we grow up we’re told that a dog barks, a river flows, the sun rises, granny snores, vegetables are good for you, Africa is poor, America is right, they are them and we are us. This goes here, that goes there, you are this and they are that. Our parents are gods, our teachers are gods, they lay down laws that will rule our lives and define our realities for the rest of our lives. We accept this reality and build on it because we are sponges and we look to our ‘gods’ as bringers of the truth. And, if you were raised in a church, you had another God looking over you as well that had his own set of rules that were also defined to you by either your parents or pastor or family members. All of this is to say that you didn’t really play a major role in defining your reality the first time around. By the time you were able to make up your own mind about the world around you there were already too many limits on your system of thought. You can’t do that! You won’t do this! The system is rigged! The World is a dark and dangerous place! All of that you’ve already accepted by the time you’re ready to ‘make up your own mind’ about the way things work. What I’m saying is, “Bullshit!”

When it comes to shaping reality, you’re in total control. There is no Boogie Man out there trying to get you; unless you say there is. The System is not rigged; unless you say it is. Reality is what you make it to be. Now, here is where the danger comes in. I can’t walk up to my work’s rooftop and say ‘diving off of here will result in my landing safely on the ground’ and expect that to just happen. Why? Because I have not truly accepted that as part of my reality. I could say it. I could want it to be true. But, saying and wanting does not make a truth. Belief in my reality comes from a whole acceptance of that reality. It’s not the “Happy Hippie” walking down the street seeing all flowers and rainbows and wanting the world to be a better place for you and for me; this is Truth. You and I have to create reality not expectations and ideas or positive thoughts and actions; Reality!

Now that is a step dear reader. Creating reality is a step that once taken you’ll feel like Neo and his Red Pill.  There is no going back there is no closing of the mind once you’ve started creating reality. Once you choose to start replacing the world that you see with the world that is full of Truth and Reality then you’ll never see your limits and limitations ever again. Time, Space, Matter, all can be what you want them to be. It’s you’re world boss; we’re just all living in it. 

Saturday, July 13, 2013

This Little Light of Yours…

I came across a lesson the other day that said, “Forgiveness is the key to happiness.” You may want to read that opening sentence again dear reader before you continue on and let it sink in just a bit. “Forgiveness is the key to happiness.” Not money, not bacon, not family, not cars, not rock and roll dreams and not a walk off homer into the bleachers on a summer afternoon. Forgiveness.

The idea here is to ultimately forgive everything, everyone and yourself on your way to true happiness. Now the ‘everything’ there is a bit tricky in that it’s hard for you to forgive the desk you’re writing on or the rain. The desk is an inanimate object and the rain is just a product of a larger system of weather and both are just doing their jobs so it becomes easy to forgive them for what they are since really they are not causing you any offense. ‘Everythings’ can be easily forgiven for any perceived offense because they are innocent of any wrong doings and because when viewed in the larger metaphysical sense, they are just another part of you and your dream anyway.

The ‘everyone’ part is the one that you’ll see thousands of times a day. (spoiler here dear reader, the solution is almost the exact same as the everythings) If I asked you to look for someone in your life that you need to forgive I’m sure a face would pop into your mind pretty quick. A family member, coworker, neighbor or classmate would probably be at the top of the list. So think about that person. You've already seen them. Now let’s do this together. First, think about two or three things that really annoy you about them. Ok, stop! I said only two or three, not two or three hundred. Easy right? Now think about one, just one thing that is that person’s best quality. Are they sincere? Are they dedicated to something? Are the passionate about something? What is it that they do that you find admirable or impressive? Now think about that one thing and see it coming from them as a beam of light, just shining out of them somehow, maybe from their chest or head or whatever.

Now I want you to hold that image and at the same time think of your best friend or partner or love or just someone that you really really like. What are their best qualities? I’m sure you can list quite a few. Now go back to the person that you don’t like that much and take their beam of light and move it over to your friend. Does it look right coming from them? Does your ‘enemy’ have a similar quality that your friend does? Can you see your friend as sincere, dedicated, or passionate? Of course you can.
The next time you see your ‘enemy’ or the first person you thought of, see that light coming from them first. Focus on that quality at all times. He/She is good at ______. He/She does ________ really well. Use that thought that beam of light coming from them to start replacing all the hundreds of faults you have with that person. Then start saying those out loud. ‘I forgive you ____ for being combative.’ ‘I forgive you _______ for being late for work.’ ‘I forgive you ______ for being indecisive.’ This list can go on and on. But, in the end you’ll find that it gets easier and easier to forgive them for what you perceive as ‘faults’ because just like the desk, they are not at fault. You have just as big of a roll to play in how you take they’re attributes and judge them as they do in delivering them.

I don’t like using all those yous and theys there to describe this because once you get into the process of forgiveness you’ll see that in the end it’s just we. The guy I can’t stand and my best friend have several things in common with each other and with me. We are all in this together and my interactions with each of them are only different because of the way I have chosen to judge them. Once I forgive them I will have accepted that forgiveness will give me everything that I want. And, happiness is what I want.

That’s what leads us to the ‘yourself’ portion of forgiveness. I’d like to spell all that out for you but I’m not quite ready for that just yet. (Maybe next week). But, I will say that once we’re able to wrap our heads around the concept that we are not fallible and full of sin we’ll be able to awaken and realize that as long as we can forgive in others what we have placed on them in the first place, we’ll find happiness. I explained this concept to myself the other day with the idea that: ‘That guy is a dick because I say he’s a dick. That guy is my friend because I say he’s my friend. Once I’m able to see that they are who they are because I’ve created them that way then I can begin to forgive both of us.’

If none of that made any sense dear reader I beg your forgiveness. Now forgive me and you’ll feel better. See! Easy as that. Not really.

I’ll continue this in a later post, but for now, try a little forgiveness and see. 

Friday, July 5, 2013

Here’s to you Mr. Jones

Well that happened. 19 years went by and the young guy playing third base for the Atlanta Braves turned into an old man who cast the shadow of a legend. In the era of free agency when players switch jerseys every time they sign a new contract, Larry “Chipper” Jones became a Braves player, stayed a Braves player and will forever remain a Braves legend. #10 will forever hang above the crowd and in our memories. Thank you Chipper!
Now Chipper has his detractors to be sure, but his career numbers don’t lie. As I’ve always said: “Haters gonna Hate, but put up the numbers and they’ll just call you Great.” (Ok, I’ve never said that and just made that up).
Anyway, just look at these:
8 Time All-Star
2 Silver Slugger Awards
1999 NL MVP
2008 NL Batting Champion
Jones ended his career in 2012 as a .303 hitter with 468 home runs, 1,512 walks, and 1,623 RBI in 2,499 games with 8,984 at bats. He has the most career RBIs for a third baseman. He is also behind only Eddie Murray on the all-time switch hitters career RBI list and he is the only switch hitter in Major League Baseball history to have a .300+ career batting average and 400 or more home runs.  Jones also joined Stan Musial, Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, and Lou Gehrig as the only players in Major League history to record at least 2,500 hits, 1,500 walks, 1,500 runs, 500 doubles, 450 home runs and 1,500 RBIs while hitting .300 with a .400 on-base percentage and .500 slugging percentage.

Baseball is all about the numbers and Chipper put up his numbers over 19years. So I was really happy to be there this past Friday night when the Braves retired his number and he got to parade around Turner Field one last time. Chipper’s will be the last of the 90s team to be retired and the last for a really long time for this franchise. First Maddux, then Glavine, Cox and Smoltz and finally Chipper. All five names that I’ll remember for the rest of my days and Braves fans will always honor. Heroes to my generation; legends for generations to come.

Really other than that, not a whole lot happened this past weekend. I had fun at the game with my oldest pal Dave and his wife Cuyler. Cuyler by the way has the trick to saving money at the ballpark and will forever be remembered as the woman who from this day forth will save me tons of cash when I go to Braves games! (Sorry, I would tell you what it is, but I’m afraid if too many people know, they’ll ban us from the ballpark.)

Until next week dear reader, Play Ball!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

From 0 to 3,124

Another week and another exciting adventure. I may be setting too high of expectations for myself dear reader. I’ve been on quite the pace these last few weeks filling my time with all kinds of exciting things. This week Christina and I decided we were going to hike one of the highest mountains in South Carolina. Now, I will admit that’s not that high, but seeing as right now I’m sitting only one foot above sea level, any mountain is a long way up.

We took the three hour plus drive up to Table Rock State Park in Pickens County, SC on Sunday and started off our adventure in the wild with a road-side diner called Aunt Sue’s Kitchen. Good ol’ country food to be sure, but we opted for “western burgers” which were pretty darn good themselves. Being as it was Sunday, we got to see plenty of mountain folk in their Sunday best and the place was doing a pretty good business. It was fine and we strolled around after having some milkshakes for dessert and looked at the ‘country store’ aspects of the place. It’s not nearly as hot in the mountains so sitting on their porch in some rocking chairs sipping milkshakes was nice after a ‘long’ drive. One sure sign that you're in the country is when you check out and the lady at the counter asks you if you went to church that mornin'. I felt bad saying no, but I quickly let her know that I had spent my morning driving up from Charleston to visit her establishment. I think she would have 'rathered' I'd gone to church.

Anyway, we got to the State Park and set up our tent and headed off to the ‘swimmin hole’ since it was closed on Mondays and we wanted to take advantage of some mountain lake swimming while we were there. It was real fun and it also seemed like a local attraction as well since there were a good number of people there on a Sunday afternoon. After wading out into the ice cold water we sat up on the ‘beach’ and grabbed a few rays and watched the kids jumping off the diving boards they had set up in the lake.

It was during this time that we witnessed what soon became known as “THE belly flop.” One young lad decided to tempt the highest board and hit the water pretty much in the worst way possible; flat out. Lifeguards were called and people gathered as the boy struggled to shore and lay there as his mother knelt beside him and his younger sister looked on with concern; hopping she would soon live down the shame of her brother’s embarrassment. With every labored breath the lad took word spread around the park that indeed a massive belly flop had taken place. ‘THE belly flop’ they were calling it. Children ran to their parents in horror, afraid that one day they too would fail at such a dive. In the end, from the shore of the lake to the highest peak, word of THE belly flop was heard. And, with some divine intervention, the boy made a full recovery and lived to dive another day.  (All of that was to say that some young kid bit it off the diving board and we all had a good chuckle at his expense).

After that fun, we drove out to a short quarter mile hike up to Twin Falls, which we found out, thanks to all the rain was more like Four Falls. Awesome! We also found out that an awesome waterfall will cause Christina to get misty eyed. They were a pretty cool sight. We spent a good bit of time up there climbing around on the falls and having some fun then went back to the campsite to get showered and set up for dinner and smores!

Our first night in the tent was not a great one since it rained pretty hard and the rain caused us to cut short our smores cookin’. We made it into the tent just as the lightning and thunder started and the heavy rain followed that pretty quickly. Also, Christina’s tent is rain resistant, not rain proof so after a few hours we got a little damp. But our spirits were not dampened and we woke up the next morning ready to tackle one of the park’s hardest hikes: the Table Rock Trail.

Since we were in such a chipper mood on Monday morning we decided to take a 1.5 mile hike around Carrick Creek’s Trail before starting on the Table Rock Trail. Probably not the best idea since the climb up to the summit consists of 2,500 actual step ups that ranged from 6 inches to 2 feet. (Keep in mind that we also had to pound our legs into all of those 2,500 steps on the way down too.) This was also complimented with some steep inclines and twists and turns. It was a pretty tough task. Once we got up to Governor’s Rock we took a break since we had just about had enough. It was pretty there and we wanted to stay, but there was another half an hour climb to the summit which we were determined to reach. The air felt really thin and we were exhausted but we made it to the top and back down to the rock in good time and stopped for a while for our picnic lunch.

The climb down was not a whole lot easier. By the time we reached the bottom it had taken us about 6 and a half full hours. All we wanted was a shower and some food. Luckily we were able to get both. After our showers we drove out of the park to Pickens where we found a “quaint” place called Tony’s that served pizza that was good enough and had a banana split that only cost $2.50!

Dear reader there is so much I want to tell you about all the cool things we saw and all the fun we had, but I’m short on time and only 12 hours away from starting my next adventure. In closing, I'm pretty damned lucky to have such a cool girlfriend who let's me drag her around the woods and up rocks.
See you next week when I update you on yet another road trip.


Friday, June 21, 2013

A Couple of Milestones -or- I Touch a Lemur

So this past week I’ve crossed a few milestones that I’ve got to say made me smile. One, I’ve now been a non-smoker for over 6 months! I took my last puff of a cigarette on December 12th of last year and haven’t so much as touched a cigarette since. It was a tough road and one that I hope I will never have to travel again. I was a smoker for the better part of 15 years. 15 years! Now, 6 months out, I feel a lot better about walking away from it and it seriously feels like another lifetime that I was a smoker. Some days are better than others, and I’d be lying if I said I never have cravings, but they are so few and far between now that they are fairly easy to manage. So, yeah!

Second, this past week marked one year since my return from The Republic of Georgia. One whole year. Speaking of another lifetime… Georgia seems like it was so long ago but this past year seems like it’s flown by. Tons of my friends and family have gone through so much since I’ve been home that it feels like I’ve been here forever but at the same time this past year seems to have flown by too.  It was a good year though with a whole lot more ups than downs and I do believe that I’ve settled back into life in America (at least my version of it). I’ve managed to avoid a lot of the things I like to avoid and utilized the advantages of America as much as I can.
Speaking of; this past week, Christina and I went to Bee City in Cottageville, SC. Now Bee City I thought was more about the bees and honey but surprisingly there was a petting zoo that was tons of fun and I had a blast. There were monkeys that would catch cheerios, lamas, goats, emus, gophers, all kinds of birds, ponies, bunnies (Christina’s favorites) and lemurs. There were also snakes, turtles, and frogs but those were not a big favorite of anybody in our group. The nice people that ran it had a gift shop and cafĂ© where we had some burgers and fries and browsed the honey selections.

There was a bee exhibit and it was kind of fun watching them go in and out of the hive, but for me, the lemurs were the highlight of the trip. They were so cool looking and they would just gently reach out and take a cheerio out of your hand. They would even sit there and wait patiently on their turn to get a treat. It was too cute and way more fun that I thought it would be. I ended up just walking around and smiling the whole time and if you can find a place that’ll make you do that, then you know you’ve found a good way to spend and afternoon.

After Bee City, we took a short drive over to Givhans Ferry State Park. There we took a walk on one of their nature trails and had an enjoyable stroll through the woods. State parks are one of the joys of South Carolina and we’ve had a great time at several of them in the Charleston area. In fact, this weekend we’re going to take the drive up to Table Rock State Park and do some camping up there. (pics and post to come)

This goat's hair was Faaaaaabulous 

Derpy looking Lama

Anyway dear reader, I only wanted to update you on the goings on this week and wish you the best. Bee Good!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Ramblin’ down the Road

So one of the major advantages to living in Charleston, SC is all the cool stuff that’s close enough to reach by car and get back again in the same day. Recently Christina and I decided (thanks to a great issue of Charleston Magazine) to embark on a few day trips and see what we could find. After our success on Memorial Day weekend and Edisto Island, we thought: what the heck?

The first was a BBQ place (duh!) in Santee, SC called Lone Star BBQ and Mercantile. Awesome little step back in time. It consists of 4 wood shacks more or less and has a buffet style lunch and dinner. 

The food is nothing that’ll blow you away (although it was really really good, no BBQ connoisseur would recommend it. Think Country Buffett and there is some pork involved) and their ‘gift shop’ looks like the leftovers from a Cracker Barrel. But! The atmosphere was awesome! Wood floors, old old stuff everywhere, newspaper articles, typewriters, flags, even an old Post Office that remained in service until just a few years ago. Too cool. The grounds were nice to walk around; there were rocking chairs and two cats on the porch. After a full meal and way too much dessert, nothing is better than a rocking chair and a cat or a dog to pet. Big smiles all around.

Now Christina and I, since we met, have both had a love/hate relationship with banana pudding. Any “real” barbecue place will serve banana pudding as a dessert. It’s as important as their sweet tea in order to be considered authentic. It just is! Now, a couple of things here… One, banana pudding is kinda gross. Two, after you stuff yourself with pork and all the ‘fixins’ the last thing you want is a thick pudding with bananas and wafers and whipped cream on top of all that food. And, three, it’s nothing special. Banana pudding is just that; nothing special. So why then is it mandatory? Why do I love it so much? Why!!!??? I would never eat that normally so why do I feel like I have to after barbecue? And why oh why does it taste so good? We Southerners must have known something when we paired banana pudding with barbecues back in the day because it most certainly a tradition that I feel the need to uphold. Christina does not share that opinion.
I do look a little guilty with my pudding. But Happy!

After that trip we decided to stay a little closer to home and check out Wadmalaw Island for our next adventure. On the way we had to drive across Johns Island, SC which houses the Angel Oak. The Angel Oak is a 1400 year old (yes 1,400 years old) oak tree. It is a sight to see but it was also a little sad. There has been talk of cutting it down or letting it fall down since it is supported by wood beams and metal cables these days. Now that I’ve seen it I hope that one day soon they do let the old thing go. It just felt tired and old and ready to move on. But it was a sight to see and beautiful.

On Wadmalaw Island there are three great things to see (aside from the gorgeous drive out there). One is America’s only Tea Plantation. Bet you didn’t know that was near Charleston did you? They have a very interesting and beautiful place with tons of different teas to try (and buy). I had a very nice Peach Tea and more time spent in a rocking chair.

From there it was on to the Firefly Distillery and the local winery as well. Firefly, while they have a wide range of products, became famous for their Sweet Tea Vodka. Awesome! Mixed with some lemonade, it’s what’s called a John Daily. But, at the distillery, you can do a tasting of six of their products for a mere $6. Vodkas, moonshine, bourbons, liqueurs… oh yeah. Luckily, the winery (and its tasting room) are only a few steps away. Christina and I had decided not to do a tasting there but after talking with the woman behind the counter and asking a few questions, she gave us what amounted to twice the tasting they offered for free! Double awesome!

So in the past week we’ve managed to check off a few to-dos and we have a few more slated for the summer. Of course, I’ll be taking my annual trip to Atlanta to see some Braves games at the end of the month as Dave and I will be in attendance for the Larry “Chipper” Jones retirement game.

Stay posted dear reader there will be more tales of excitement and entertainment to come I’m sure. For now… Peace!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

We are where the wild things aren't

"Real freedom lies in wildness, not in civilization." -Charles Lindbergh

I really couldn't come up with a good topic this week so I went around and looked for quotations that would inspire some kind of thought chain in my head. When I came across that Lindbergh quote, I knew he was referring more to camping and nature much like Emerson, but it struck me on two different levels. One, the obvious, was the natural element of the quote and the other was the rebellious.

Over Memorial Day weekend Christina and I took a drive out of town to Edisto Beach. Our local beaches around Charleston were so packed that you couldn’t even get out there on the Sunday. Rumor has it that it took people till well after dark to even get off the beach there was so much traffic. Yuck! Thankfully, Christina talked me off the ledge and we got in the car and headed off for a drive through the country to a very remote Edisto about an hour and a half or so out of town. Just driving through the country and passing ‘nothing’ was calming. Two lane roads, huge oak trees, country chapels, vegetable stands, and sunshine were all we needed. Truly a Sunday Drive like I’ve never really experienced. After about half an hour I honestly felt a release from all the stresses of ‘The City’ and life in ‘Civilization.’ Just the simple act of driving out of town was all the relaxation I needed. I felt released from stress, thoughts of work, thoughts of bills and money and time and everything that consumes our daily lives. It was just me and the road and the sun. I was free to relax in my own head and just be for a few hours in that car, on that beach and on the side of the road with Christina and wherever it was we felt like stopping.

When I was in High School my Dad and Elaine moved to an ostrich farm in the middle of nowhere. I HATED IT! Let me repeat in all caps HATED it. I was young and wanted to be in a city where the action was and things actually happened. This was before the days of the Internet and instant connection to anything anywhere in the world from anywhere in the world. I felt alone out there. I was always counting down the days till I could pack up, leave and never go back. It made the four long years of High School seem all the longer out there in the country. I vowed that I would never live out like that ever again. Of course those were the promises of a 16 year old boy who couldn’t appreciate the simplicity of it all. Now, if I could find a home outside of the city and a place that I could afford there, I’d probably snap it up in a heartbeat. If my two Peace Corps experiences taught me anything it’s that some of the world’s happiest people are the ones who have never experienced the stresses of ‘Civilization.’ I never will forget my first host-mom stressing out in near panic attack mode when we made our trip to the capital city of Almaty for the first time. She spent two days after our return picking raspberries, planting cabbage and getting dirty in the back yard with nothing but the chickens and cat to keep her company.

Now I’m not saying I want to live hours away from the nearest grocery store or I want to have to take my baths in a lake or anything; I’m just saying being isolated from the hustle and bustle has its advantages. Being a little more ‘wild’ and a little less involved in ‘civilization’ defiantly has its appeal especially these days.

It’s been raining a lot here this past week and so more and more people at work have been hanging out in the lobby and I’ve had occasion to overhear some of their conversations. The things that we occupy ourselves with in society these days are kind of pointless. How’s the stock market doing today? Who cares? It’ll change tomorrow. Why do we care about a lady who killed her boyfriend or if (surprise) one of Michael Jackson’s kids is a little nutty? When did celebrity gossip become required reading? Is that a subject in school now? Even those who involve themselves with politics sound like they are discussing an overly complicated Soap Opera. And, dear reader, don’t think that I exempt myself here. My pointless subject of course is sports; which, is probably the most useless but at least for me most entertaining waste of time.

What I’m getting at here dear reader, and you’ll have to excuse my ramblings, is that there is something to be said for a wilder side of life. Simple as it may be, it may just be the one you’re looking for. It is a more natural take on our human lives even if ‘civilization’ has told us otherwise.

The other half of the idea that the quote put in my head was much more internal. What if freedom lies in ideas that are not accepted in civilized society? What if Alexander Supertramp had it right all along? Wouldn’t you love to take it that far? Wouldn’t you love to get to a mental place where you’re part Gandhi, part Jesus, part Supertramp and part Benjamin Franklin? What if I told you that you already were?

If we are to (truly) believe that we are all part of one wild, ever expanding, loving source and we are all part of one another past, present and future all at once; then aren’t we already there? What is keeping us from seeing that source of pure loving light inside of us? What ‘wild’ things could we do if we could just get over ourselves and get to it?

I’d like to put the blame here on civilization but I cannot. I cannot hold a grievance against the ‘civilization’ that I live in because it does not control me. I am free. I am wild. I am the only thing that holds me back. Only when I accept my true function will I be able to be what I was meant to be. Time and again this ‘holding back’ this ‘being civilized’ ‘being normal’ will keep me from following my true intent.

This week dear reader, don’t stand in your own way. Go be wild. Be free. 

Friday, May 31, 2013

Stop Procrastinating! -Or- I Get Crafty

What’s your project? What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of something that needs to be done that you’ve been putting off?

Is it a conversation? A quilt? A painting? A paper? A fantasy baseball trade? Cutting the grass? A call to Grandma?

There is something that you’ve been putting off. We all do it. I do it all the time. I’ll wait for someone else to bring up a subject in conversation for days or weeks just because while I may really want to talk about it; I may just not feel like talking about it. It’s a conversation that needs to be had, you know it, you just want to leave it unsaid. That’s not going to work. Never has worked. Why do we still think it will? Leave a fish on the counter and it’s going to start to stink. Just leaving it there won’t do anything.

What I’m getting at here dear reader is that it’s time to pull out a bag, some paper towels and some cleaner and get that fish off your counter. My fish was a gnome. Somehow a ceramic gnome came into my possession from my grandmother about 5 years ago. He was all white and had only his hat and his pants painted and he was pretty sad looking. I told her I’d paint it for her and she was really happy to hear this. Of course at the time I just rolled my eyes and thought, ‘yeah right.’ This poor gnome moved into my mom’s attic at one house, into my apartment at one point, then into Mom’s garage at another house. I moved away overseas and then back again and then the gnome ended up back at my apartment leaned up against a bookcase. Same sad little hat and pants, paint even more faded and all plain white. Poor little guy.

Well this past weekend, Christina and I were in a crafty mood and she had two different projects that she was excited about doing: making a shirt and painting some gourds with a few of her friends. I was also in the mood to craft but couldn’t find a project. “What about painting your gnome?” asked Christina. “Naaaah! I don’t want to do that,” I whined in response. “Why not?”

That’s just it. Why not? Why not go ahead and complete whatever project you’ve been putting off? If it’s something as simple as a conversation or something that needs to be said, then just say it. Regardless of the consequences, the relief of getting it off your chest will be awesome! ‘Hey! Guy at work! I don’t like the way you address our coworkers. Think about that and let’s change it.’ ‘Hey you. Yeah you. I love you!’

I’ve got several more fish or gnomes or whatever metaphor you’re more comfortable with here dear reader. I need to start a check list. Some items on that list are conversations that need to be had, some are projects, and one is simply doing nothing for a day just to see how it feels.

The point is: Don’t let something slip up on you and then act like you didn’t see it coming. Don’t let someone walk away from you with things left unsaid just because you don’t feel like talking about it. Go find your project squirreled away in a closet somewhere and complete it. Take it and do it. Now! Stop reading this and get to it.

Here’s what my gnome looks like after about 2 hours of painting. I can’t say I’m proud of the way he looks but I can say I’m proud that I did it.

"If once a man indulges himself in murder, very soon he comes to think little of robbing; and from robbing he next comes to drinking and Sabbath-breaking, and from that to incivility and procrastination." -Thomas De Quincey, Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts - 1827

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Catch and Release

I used to enjoy fishing. I was never really good at it and I haven’t been fishing in years but I really enjoyed it as a kid. I liked the idea that something was hiding below the surface and it was my job to coax it out of there and make it mine. Our family was never big on the whole concept of ‘catch and release.’ We’d grill them, fry them, whatever; but we’d eat and eat off of all of our catching. The sporting part was fun for sure, but we were in it for more than the fun of competition.

What I came to realize is that it’s high time that I adopted the idea of ‘catch and release.’  What I’m doing these days though is fishing for triggers that set me off, things that make me angry, things that make me sad, or things that make me hold on to grievances that only block my path to salvation. Now instead of fish, I’m looking for emotions lurking below the surface that need to be coaxed out. The bait is everywhere and it might as well be a stocked pond because everywhere my eye lands a fish is there to be hooked. (For those of you not familiar with the term, a “stock pond” is a small body of water kept so full of fish that your hook barely has time to hit the water before you catch a fish).

I can use this same concept with triggers. Catch the fish, look at it, and throw it back. Only with the triggers I’m examining issues and throwing them away. I may catch them again one day, but hopefully not. For example: the other day I saw the term ‘Retail Therapy’ and heard a woman just a few days later actually use the term. “I’m just going for some retail therapy.” Just something about the phrase made me want to puke and using the catch and release method I realized why. I took the whole idea and spun it around and looked at it as more than just a superficial phrase. Sure, maybe this woman wanted to release some stress by doing an activity that she loves; shopping. Maybe that annoys me because she was about to go “blow” more than my month’s rent on shoes and dresses and a latte. Maybe the whole idea of just going out and shopping as an activity rather than a necessity was what annoyed me so much. This of course led me to the whole idea of excess and the fact that anything bought during ‘retail therapy’ wasn’t ever needed; just wanted.

So now, (in keeping with the fishing metaphor here) I then opened up a new can of worms. Is the “excess” in her life expressed through retail therapy just triggering a sense of lack in mine? That was one large ugly fish I plucked out of the pond. As of today, I’m still looking at it. I’ll throw it back once I’ve forgiven myself for creating that fish in the first place.

Damn ugly fish! I release you! I forgive myself and hold no grievance against the lack in my life, the idea of waste, or even the term ‘retail therapy.’ Wheeeew! (It was a longer process than just that of course).

Like they always say though, there are tons of other fish in the sea. For example, the phrase ‘grand-dogs’, people who let kids stand on furniture that isn’t their own, guys who think it’s alright to adjust their privates while holding a conversation with you, and many more that I’ve seen just today. I release you all and hold no grievance against you. I am only here today to ask, what I should do, where should I go and what I should say to whom. I am only here to wait and listen for a response, not to judge or hold any grievance against. I release all of the fish back into the sea. 

Friday, May 17, 2013

I’m just looking for 51%

Sometimes I feel like life is a constant uphill battle. I hate these geographic metaphors. It’s not like I’m going uphill both ways in ten feet of snow or anything. I’m just pushing. And, I’m going to keep at it. I can be persistent. I will succeed.

Succeed at what; you may ask? Well dear reader: Life. Simply, life. I’m just going to choose to drop all these hill, valley, mountain, molehill references and start looking at it like a scale. There is always room for grey area but my scale just needs to be tipped and I’m going to start loading down one side of that scale until I reach the all-important 51% and then… well; “it’s all downhill from there.” Damn it!

For me this is going to involve the creation of a whole big pile of Truth. I’ve probably run from it for more than a thousand years and I’ve used the opposite approach for most of that time. Lie here, lie there and then I have what I like to call a Self. Now obviously I’m not talking about the, ‘no, I didn’t drink the last of the milk’ type lies here. I’m referring to the type that I’ve used to tell myself who it is that I am and what makes up ‘me.’

Have you ever sat down and thought about all the lies that make up you? There are a ton of truths in there too, but don’t kid yourself, if we were made up of all truths, then we’d all be masters and none of this would be necessary. Sit in front of a mirror sometime and really look. That self-conscious feeling you get is not just from your greying hair and expanding forehead; it’s what’s inside. You know that a lot of that ‘self’ in there is made up of bullshit.

There is only one way to get rid of this. Truth and Forgiveness. I’m starting with truth since I’ve recently learned that forgiveness is a lot tougher. I was going to take my house of lies, light a match, set it ablaze and walk away with Metallica blaring in the background as it all came crashing down. I was going to be so free and well on my way to a life of truth while the ashes of lies blew in the wind. But alas dear reader, this could never be a reality. We must take our lies, like bricks of this house and carry them to the sea and then toss them in. The house must be torn down and rebuilt. I hate manual labor.

For every brick I toss into the sea I have forgiven myself one lie. For every truth I instill in myself I can place one brick on the scale. I just need to get to 51%. Once there I can tip the scale and start to easily heap on more and more truths as I toss off more and more lies with forgiveness. Pick up a brick, forgive myself for creating it and toss it into the sea. Tell myself the truth, rejoice in the pure love of God that is Truth, instill it in myself and place it on the scale.

This might sound repetitive to you, but that’s how it’s got to happen if this is going to work. Practice Love and Forgiveness, replace Lies with Truth.

If I lost you in all that brick, scale, sea, house stuff; sorry. This was just a free flow writing. 

Saturday, May 11, 2013

No Sleep Till Brooklyn -OR- I Start to Believe Again

When I was a kid I always wanted to grow up and not be a kid anymore. The only thing I really loved about childhood was baseball, Christmas and sleeping in. To be honest only one or two birthdays even stand out to me as memorable. Not too many trips or toys or really anything about my childhood made me want to “never grow up, be a Toys-R-Us kid.”

One thing I do remember is how much I stopped believing in things. Santa? Nope. Mom and one of her friends Lynn Brown (I will forever love both of them and don’t blame them for this) ruined Santa for me one Christmas Eve when after a few too many drinks, decided playing with my toys was too much fun to pass up and made just a bit too much noise. I never will forget waking up and thinking, ‘Santa is here!’ I, like a ninja, snuck down some stairs to spy the man who was such a fixture in my childhood. But no. There was no fat man only two women and a bottle of wine hunched in front of the tree laughing it up with the entire cast of Pee Wee’s Playhouse. The next morning, the rouse was over. Innocence lost.

I, like you dear reader, have similar stories for the Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, and Pro Wrestling. Ok, yes, as a kid I thought it was real! I admit it. Fairies, wizards, talking animals, trolls, goblins, The Boogie Man, ghosts, witches, they were all so real and everywhere. But one by one they all fell to the wayside just like childhood.

Think about it. I’m sure at least one person reading this has broken a bone because as a kid they thought they were invincible. You look back and say, no it’s because I was stupid. No, you thought it would work because you believed that it would work. We all did. Whether it was a story we told because we believed it to be true or something we did because we believed a certain Fat Man at the North Pole had a list on us, we did it because we believed it.

I’ve been around enough kids to know that they all go through the Why stage. Why? Why? Why? It’s annoying as hell. But it helps a child fill in all the “gaps” in the world around them. What I’ve recently learned is; there are no gaps. They already know. We all do. We know, we just get a 1,001 answers to our 1,001 Whys that keep us from believing what we know. It’s called indoctrination.

For me a lot of the answers to questions I had came from Church. Ghosts, fairies, witches… Devil’s work; not real. Why? God. I knew Santa wasn’t to be messed with so I surely knew God wasn’t even to be questioned. God killed the wizards and talking birds. At least that’s what I was told.
What I came to “believe” was that God watched over me and was to be feared and obeyed. That’s not what I knew when I was a kid. What I knew was that I was swimming in God. Excuse the visual there dear reader but that is basically the truth of the matter; we are all swimming in God. We cannot separate we are not different from and we cannot leave ‘the source’ of us. We were taught to forget that and the knowledge that we were born with was explained away from us. We started to believe a myth and were taught that truth was instead the myth.

Without going into a deep spiritual monologue here, I wanted to address something completely different: My apartment is haunted. (I know there was an absence of a transition there). So here… I have never been a big believer in ghosts. I've always felt a sense that there should be ghosts and that there are people on the other side that ‘live’ on a different plane than us. Long story short; we die, our bodies stay, we move on. And, there is one such individual living in my apartment. He (and I’m pretty sure it’s a he) is just kind of hanging out though and generally in my bathroom. He doesn't seem to bother anything and he doesn’t really bother me other than the fact that he’s making me face some truths that I’ve tied to ignore in the past, mainly, the existence of ghosts and the whole idea of the simultaneous existence of another plane.  

I’ve recently also done a few psychic exercises that have opened my eyes to other ideas and ways in which those ideas can get from the source and the collective conscience into our individual conscience. I, along with millions around the world (you too), have experienced things as adults that we have been taught to believe is just in our imagination. “You’re just using your imagination.” As a kid this was accepted. As an adult, well, not so much.

However dear reader, I am starting to believe again. I’m starting to believe that the man in my apartment is not separate from me and that he is from the same source and he may just be there to teach me something or just point me towards what I already know. I’m starting to believe that the birds just may have something to say and that a tree has seen more than I’ll ever comprehend and I need to listen to that.

I went to bed at midnight last night and woke up at 2 a.m. I tossed and turned till 4 a.m. and then decided, ‘Fuck it! I’m not sleeping tonight.’ My mind wouldn't stop moving and I could not get comfortable, so I just moved to the couch and decided to watch The Hobbit since I had not made time to do so since the movie came out. It reminded me of my childhood, when I read the book, and how it made me believe in all kinds of things. Why did I stop? How much of that is still real and how much of that have I just convinced myself isn't?

Now I’m not saying that I expect to see a wood elf or a hobbit anytime soon and I certainly don’t expect a fat man in a red coat to come give me presents on December 25th (But if you do still exist Santa, I’d really like some hats and a new laptop this year). What I am saying is that there are a lot of things out there that I have previously dismissed that I am now starting to see once again only this time, I’m surrounded by people who are willing to help me believe rather than tell me why I’m wrong.

I may not sleep as well sometimes, but I’m a whole lot more awake all the time. 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Update That Will Shock The Internet -or- Things I Typed While at Work

Everyone loves a dive bar, especially when it’s YOUR dive bar. You know; the one where the bartender may not know you by name but he knows your face and you get served faster than most because you’re there all the time and you tip well. That’s sort of how I felt coming back to America ten months ago. The guy at the door looked tired, he gave me a suspicious look then just grunted ‘Welcome’ and waved me on through. The place smelled bad but it smelled familiar. The food was good but cheap and in the end you felt guilty for finishing it all. I couldn’t tell if everyone was hung over or just sleep walking but everything just seemed foggy. But then again, that could have just been me.

I had just been back the summer before but it all just seemed strange. It was like walking into your own house and knowing where everything was but having the feeling that someone had been there and touched all your stuff. America had moved over the past three years and I couldn’t quiet put my finger on how, why, or where.

I was back in time to get blown over by political ads for the Presidency. Obama v. Romney. Really? I tried to pay attention for a while but then I noticed that the news stations were no longer a source of news and that alone was a disturbing thought. It’s like I could almost see the advertisements coming out of the news anchors’ mouths. I thought their desks should have been painted up like a stock car so at least we’d know which company we were listening to. I just gave up. Here you are Mr. President: My Vote. That was pretty much the whole story. I just tuned it all out and stopped caring. They may have won.

Naturally those were only my first reactions. There were baseball games and sunny days at the beach and Thanks Be to God a woman that loved me. I luckily had free time to spend with Christina who can tolerate me and has since developed quite a relationship with me. (If I do say so myself). We’ve spent the last few months growing together and she’s the type that keeps making me ask questions and that’s awesome. When I say questions I mean questioning myself not others. In fact over the past few months I’ve spent less and less time focusing on other people and events and more and more time focusing on myself. It’s calming, exciting, and at times a little scary. Of course now that I’m surrounded by distractions I decided to look inward instead of all those long, lonely days spent in the middle of nowhere.

I’ve started seeing a spiritual teacher of sorts and have really started to challenge my outlook on the world and how it is that I fit in it. I’ve abandoned a lot of expectations of myself and others and I’ve developed an improved outlook on life. I gotta tell you I feel great about where I’m headed and I’m happy with where I am right now. I’m certainly not content and complacent, but happy with where I am.
Really other than mundane details that’s pretty much what’s gone on since I came home. There were a ton of great events: Camping, Beach, Time with friends and family Baseball, Theater, Movies, Dinners… (Almost all of them again involving Christina).

I’ve started eating a lot better and working out regularly which keeps my energy levels pretty high.
I’m back working at a hotel Downtown that does very well and pays my bills. I like it and it can be fun at times and I like talking to people from all over America and the world. I started off looking for a teaching job but SC has WAY too many hoops to jump through for either straight certification or alternate certification. It was a huge Catch-22 and I was not feeling motivated enough to jump through all the hoops of certification. (Their loss). I did start work at an ESL school here in Charleston but unfortunately it was a very small business and the owner wanted full time work for part time pay and I needed to pay bills. So… that was the work story. I’m working full time now and living in a small one bedroom in a bad neighborhood. It’s not all bad. Christina comes and stays with me a lot and it’s small and easy to clean with a hot shower and cool air conditioning. All a boy could ever need.

Let’s sum it up because I don’t want to let this run on forever: In Love, Employed, Happy, Working on Self Improvement and Spiritual Growth, Still Awesome.
See you soon dear reader for more observations and a few ramblings.

I’ll leave you with…

Ten observations from my first ten months back in America.

1.   Smart phones run American’s lives. Say what you want, but it’s sick. I chose not to get one and I’m so happy that I didn’t. People have whole conversations just about their phones and generally about how they hate them. So…?
2.       Politics are no longer something I can watch like a sport; they are a bloodletting game played by rich men from their boardrooms.
3.       I have plants. The rest of you have either a dog or kids (on a leash and they are leading you, not the other way around).
4.       General politeness has been replaced with a sense of entitlement. Nobody ever greats a service person at a local shop. They just walk in and demand things. Read this as: ‘everyone thinks that their life and what they’ve got going is far more important than anything anyone else has going.’
5.       Despite the “economic crisis” Americans still have a ton of money and are willing to shell it out on crap they don’t need and causes that are “trendy.”
6.       The News is not news. Its advertisements and social programming. Look over here. Do this. Read this. Pay no attention to your appointed leaders.
7.       If you want it, it can be yours with only a few clicks of a few buttons. You don’t need to interact with another human being. Ever.
8.       People take pictures of things rather than looking at them.
9.       We all punch a clock and give it 110%. But it’s more like 125% cause we have to get a leg up. Then, the government takes 20% out of the 100% our employers give us leaving us with only 80% pay for 125% effort.  Which means that almost half the time we’re working for free. I think that time would be better spent on ourselves. I heard someone say recently, “Your off time can make you just as rich if you spend it wisely.” Amen.
10.   It just seems like everyone is on auto-pilot and we only snap out of our day to day routines for a few moments every now and then to really enjoy our lives.