Sunday, June 13, 2010

Dodging Bullets and Keeping Promises

It was not as if there were any other way. If there had been another way, that would have most assuredly been the preferred way, but in this case - there was but one way to make this right.

The journey on foot, from Howard, KS to Wichita, KS is (
according to Google) only about 73 miles and that didn't seem like an unreasonable adventure on this particular day. Everybody knows that the pioneers used to knock out those short distances with alarming frequency, and clearly it didn't kill them.
There was no shortage of generous offers from friends willing to donate the better part of their work days to drive all the way there and all the way back. But, an incredible strong will and tenacity combined with a whole pant-load of false pride made any such requests quickly out of the question.

At noon on a Wednesday in June, in full sun with unbearable humidity and a 50 pound backpack on her back, she dispensed hugs and kisses and hoped that she had been appropriately grateful for the kindness she'd been shown - she took off. She thanked herself for her smart and sensible shoes within the first 5 miles.

Two hours of straight roads offering no shade and few vehicles passing by made the travel less than delicious, but at least it wasn't one of the big main roads populated with 18-wheelers nearly blowing her off the road with their speed and weight. She walked faster than usual (which was really pretty fast to begin with) and she never held out her thumb to ask for a ride. It could be illegal and the last thing she needed was some of that special Time Out activity in a police station.

So, she moved fast and looked straight ahead, continually attempting to beat her last best time for how long it took her to walk a mile. She was getting faster in spite of the elements.

Clearly, she needed a walk. She needed to sweat and think. And a couple times she needed to barf on the side of the road. She had also made a promise that she had no intentions of not honoring. Her life-long personal history of being on the receiving end of broken promises had turned this into a mission from God (whom she wasn't even all that sure she was still buying into at the time.)

Three hours into the walk, a really nice, newer model and great big ol' SUV went by, slowed down, pulled a U-turn and came up slowly beside her. She was no idiot and had heard more than a zillion stories of bad things that can happen to girl hitch-hikers, and she was not that kind of girl. She wasn't hitch-hiking: She was just walking.
She picked up her pace and didn't look over.

They rolled down the window and a very nice woman in the back seat said, "Hey! Are you going this way?" She stopped then just to laugh out loud and make eye contact with this voice. She kind-of thought it was obvious that she was going "This way" as she had been power-walking exactly in the direction of "This way" as fast as her incredibly powerful gams would let her.
Within about a minute she had buckled into the backseat of a sweetly air-conditioned car with 4 really nice people in it.

There were three sisters and one husband. They were on their way to one of their other sister's homes to meet some more sisters. They had a huge family apparently. They offered her water and a towel to wipe some of the glow off her face. They made small talk and treated her exceptionally well for about an hour. Then it was time for them to take their turn where she needed to keep going straight.

She walked for another couple hours, made some great progress, kept improving her time and was probably losing about 2 pounds every half hour. It was a win-win as far as she could tell. She'd been wanting to lose about 20 pounds since winter AND she was getting closer to her destination. There was never one iota of doubt that she would not be able to do what she'd promised she'd do and she'd be on time. She may have been a little OCD about not only doing what she said she'd do, but also doing it on time.

She had no idea how long she walked for this next stretch, but it felt longer than the last one. It could have just been the heat or the weight of her bag, but the day was growing long and she had started contemplating just laying down on the side of the road so maybe somebody would call an ambulance and she could make the rest of her journey flat on her back in an air-conditioned and fast moving vehicle. She thought that if she got lucky, she may have even gotten a handsome and compassionate EMT who would be nice to her.

Right at about the time she hit the most risky part of her trip (4 lane highways with 65mph speed limits) a one-ton Dodge Dooley with gigantic Harley Davidson bumper stickers on the back windows went by, slowed down, turned around and came up slowly beside her. She thought about taking off in a sprint, but her knees were not being cooperative.

Again, the window rolls down and a voice (could have been a man or a woman) said, "HEY! Are you going this way?" Again, with the "This way" thing. She started to laugh a little too maniacally while she thought, "Seriously? You are SERIOUSLY going to ask me if I am going This Way?!?!" How much more clear could it be, really? Was it rocket science to figure out that a really sunburned girl, all by herself, on what was now a big highway nearing the largest town in Kansas, walking as fast as her legs would carry her was, indeed, going "THIS way?"

She looked over at the driver and had a huge wave of understanding androgyny sweep over her. She really could not have told you, at gun-point, whether this was a man or a woman. In this case, there was just as great a chance that this person was a serial killer as not. But, she had started to doubt her abilities and wasn't absolutely certain she could make it on time, so she said, "Sure. Yea. I AM going this way."

The driver motioned for her to jump in and as she approached the truck, she realized that it was literally (and I'm serious here, NO hyperbole) all the way full of shit from the passenger side window to the elbows of the driver. Jumping around on top of this vast collection were three really wound-up Chihuahuas. As she reached for the door, the driver started screaming, "Don't LET THE DOGS OUT! Goddddamit, they'll be dead in a heartbeat on this highway!!!!"

It was too late to decline the kind offer and just too much to even consider how this was going to work out for all the mammals involved. The driver herded the dogs onto her lap and said, "Just jump in! Don't let any of that shit fall out! I'm going to need all of it!" And, in spite of the odds of it happening, she managed to get into the cab of the truck and park on top of about 13 inches of crap. None of the extra special "shit" fell out of the truck in the process. The dogs calmed down and the truck took off at a crawl.

"Yea, I know it's slow, but I think I've got a blown head gasket. This bitch won't go more than 35mph."

Awesomeness. Just freaking great awesomeness.

The driver turned to her, held out her hand and said, "Well, howdy! It's good to meet you! My name is Rebeccah and I'm not gay." It seemed that the only appropriate response was to take and shake that hand and say, "Howdy. My name is Meadow Lynne and I'm not gay either."

The next 20 minutes were spent in Rebeccah explaining that she was now going to take her new rider to a town called Buffalo, somewhere in BFE Kansas. She said that she needed help, Meadow looked strong as an ox and she paid $8 an hour and would provide a single-wide mobile home to live in. It didn't have any indoor plumbing or electricity, but if we Googled it she was sure that could be turned around within a month or two.

The traveling Gods were smiling on her pretty quick here and as the driver went to take a turn (which would have actually made the journey a little quicker and shorter) Meadow said, "Oh yea... OMG! I just remembered! I need to get out NOW! I have this other place I have to be to before the other place and it's not in this direction!"

The driver complied and Meadow jumped out faster than any human has ever jumped out of an almost stopped truck. She was warmly thankful for the ride and went as quick as she could in a direction that she knew this truck couldn't go. Logistical decisions had been made and this was a highway. There would be no turning around for the truck with it's non-gay driver.

It wasn't more than two hours later when she had reached her destination and got to move on to a more conventional mode of travel that didn't involve most of what this one day did.

In the end, she got to where she had to be, got there on time and did what she promised to do. And, when all was said and done, she'd figured out enough to change the course of her story. Then she set about to live happily ever after.

copyright 2010 moemasters

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Memorial Day

To say that she was unamused would be a grievous understatement. It was freaking freezing and she'd read all the magazines. Jane had checked in and met all of her obligations.
This current stop along the way, in another hospital and another ICU waiting room, was just not a part of how she thought it would have all played out. They were on Day 5 of the waiting game. They had been eating crap-food for close to 2 months, hadn't slept well for even longer, and it was a physical impossibility to get comfortable.
She was joined in her vigil by the woman who either was, or was not, her father's wife. And, with all due respect: She was bat-shit crazy. Always had been. She was absolutely kind, big-hearted and pixie-ish, too - but, you didn't want to piss her off. She could hop up on your chest while you were asleep, brandishing a machete and speaking in tongues.

Redheads, whatchoo gonna do?

Crazy woman and Jane's father fell in love in high school, went their separate ways for 30 years and then got together to reconsider it. They got together about every 3 years, as near as anyone could tell. They got divorced a couple times, had fantabulous and elaborate re-marriages, traveled the world and engaged in a brand of hillbilly warfare only known to the True Hillbilly. They fought and loved with extreme prejudice.
She was also a nun. Or not. The lack of verifiable information in this story (in this entire family, for that matter) is much greater than the wealth of it.
Jane and The Nun had a long rich history full of things that are best told in person, so you don't miss the inflection - it's critical to the telling of these stories. Suffice to say, nobody was incarcerated for very long and nobody died.
The 36 hours that preceded this one were some of the longest ever in the history of time. Her father had coded so many times that it was no longer possible to keep count. He'd been in the throes of severe dementia for 4 days and had caught infections from the incision that appeared to run from his heel to his shoulder. He hadn't remembered her name for about a month and he called her My Little Buddy.

HIS little buddy was technically her younger brother who was mostly unavoidably detained for most of this fun. And, regardless of how many times she heard herself say that it was no big deal that he couldn't remember her name (in spite of the fact that she seemed to be the only one constantly available to run damage control) it mattered.

All of this silliness just percolated and grew as she sat in that freezing waiting room for way too many days. She began crocheting hats for the oncology floor - because she had gotten to know the nurses there. The longer she went without food and without sleep, the more knots she tied - the more impervious she became.
She stopped counting things like stitches and hours and code blues. She paid no mind to calendars and clocks.
The Nun, who either was or wasn't her step-mother, kept telling stories. The endless (and, seriously - this from a girl who can marathon-talk like none other) prattling on and on about anything and everything was roughly 10 cc's away a from homicide or a suicide or some other ...cide.

Jane looked at the beautiful, completely white haired and radiant (crazy) woman and imagined wrapping her hands around her throat. It was really a pretty skinny little throat. She'd seen people do it on TV and had read about it. She started to wonder if she had what it takes to do that.
She sat and stared without listening to a word for just barely long enough to recollect. She set down her yarn, stood up and stretched. She was holding her arms open in a big old to-the-stars stretch when the door right in front of her busted open with a sobbing couple.

They had clearly been at The Lake. It was Memorial Day weekend and it was not difficult to spot the campers and lake-dwellers in the Midwest. They had on tank-tops and flip flops and shorts or swimsuits. They had obviously been crying for a long time. Their faces were all puffed up and they had that look of absolute desperation. You wouldn't know that look unless you've spent some time in an ICU (or Pediatric) waiting room.
Their hair was a mess.
Since they were standing right there, just like that, at that very moment in time- they sort-of fell into Jane's arms. The hug that resulted was strong enough to move mountains and launch tsunamis. There wasn't enough time to savor much of that moment, however, because the door swung open and another couple pushed through in the same shape.

Then there was a grandmother and her daughter towing some shorties who had fallen asleep on the drive in. Then somebody clearly left the gates open because the waiting room filled to beyond capacity within half an hour.

In the waiting room, people typically tend to at least try and keep their shit together. This room was no exception. Everyone settled into a bizarre cacophony of suppressed sobs and labored breaths.

Turns out that almost everyone in the room didn't know if their child was alive or dead. They all had a teen-aged child who had left on a church mission trip in one of those 14-passenger vans. Something had gone horribly, horribly wrong and there was a wreck with a semi on I-70.
, when you've actually raised a child to teen-aged-ness - you start to stop worrying so much. This kind of blow is crippling on so many levels.

It was freezing freaking cold in that waiting room and it didn't take long for the adrenaline and endorphins to wear off. The lack of food and the spent emotions could be heard in the chattering teeth and hiccups.
Jane forgot about The Nun for months.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Privacy in the Wild West: Personal Branding

Almost every day lately, there is a new and alarming post, from a trusted source, illustrating how much of our privacy we have lost. That's just nutty - to have lost it, we would have had to have it first.
You can't lose what you never had.
Nothing on here is private. This is the Internet, Cowboy! This is more of a Wild West than the actual Wild West was a Wild West - we're smarter now and we brought bigger guns and craftier ninjas.
Understanding and respecting that is the first step to making sure you have a good Personal Brand. yea. That's some craziness, huh? We have to mind our Personal Brands, for real?
Yep. It's time to move on past the whole lack of privacy wah-party and graduate to what we can do to make it better. Given the easy availability of personal information on the Internet we now live in a world where anybody (friends, mates, family, employers, government agencies...) with good digits can and probably will Google you to see what you've been up to.
If you allow yourself the occasional drunk-booking (facebooking after cocktails) and wake up with a Sharpee mustache on your face, you'll get over it.
But, if a quick snapshot of your activities online yield habitual patterns of nastiness, unpleasantly regrettable photographs and other unsightly and not delicious things, you probably need to re-think your strategy.
Since you know it's not private and there's a really good chance people are learning all about you without even getting to know you in person - tend to that.
Make sure you like the photographs of you that have your name on them. Clean up any copy that you may have written and tune it till it's tight and follows all the rules of convention. A good online Personal Brand is as valuable as a good handshake and a sincere smile in person. Be happy and positive.
You are brave and funny and smart and strong, all you have to do is make sure that much is apparent.

copyright 2010 moemasters

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

You Make Me Wanna Be a Better Writer

We have evolved into humans who need connection.
In a perfect world, everybody would have a biological family who has known them from birth, and then ascending layers of chosen extended family. Every single one of these people represents some level of accountability in ourselves, in
who we are.
As we grow up and the populations of both camps decline (both through attrition and death) we lose a little bit of ourselves with each departure.
We then recover and go on to love another day. It's like we never learn.
In just watching people and reluctantly playing among them over the last decade, I've built a pretty tight theory on how being connected to people helps make us better people.
We have to be connected.
It's just the way we've evolved, we can't help it.

It's one of the most over-used movie lines ever, but when Jack Nicholson said "You make me want to be a better man" he was pretty much speaking a Universal Truth. Anybody and everybody we love should make us want to be a better person. That's the way love works. It's cool that way.

Maybe that's how you know it's love.

It won't always bowl you all the way over, but you'll know it when you feel it. It's a many-faceted and seriously unreasonable thing that will leave you feeling a little bigger, braver...taller and stronger. Less alone - proportionate to the people on your island.
Conversely, it's absence leaves holes of varying size.
Yea, sorry the whole conversely part sucks out loud.

I swear!
I stand by this theory.

I can see it like it's a cartoon!

All of these unspoken expectations, pokes, phone calls, pieces of mail ... All of this keeps us tethered and woven into some identifiable piece of fabric. These are constant reminders that we are alive and there is somebody else out there who gets us and knows us and loves us anyways.

If you love somebody, let them know. (sometimes you will also have to let them go, but we'll save that for later) Shower the people you love with love. See your people in person and hug them, even if it proves to be an arduous journey to do so. There is no time like the present, people have a way of leaving unexpectedly.
And, as always: Call your mother.

If you don't have a mother, call your aunt.

copyright 2010 momomasters

Friday, April 16, 2010

Scrambling Grog

I've been in that cave for soooo long.
I must yawn and stretch and put on some kind of killer Free Trade coffee.
Something Groggy. Wow.
Everything's turned green. Somebody needs to mow this lawn. Did you bring in the paper?

Oh yea
. I date myself with that question. That's telling.
I don't feel
that old.
My hips?
Oh yea, they are probably twice that old. But, as for the whole unit? Not that old. Really.
I can still scramble up the banks and go 40 limbs up in a heartbeat. I climb trees, I hitch-hike and I fall for anybody who can write a decent love letter.
It's like I never learned anything AND I get to be this much older.
How cool is that?
I'm just stretching here.
Do you want to go for a walk?
I'll tell you a story.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Winter: Blogishness/PIONEERS

I have missed you so much.
It's cold.
We've had Pea-Soup Fog for 8 days.
Every day.
When we look out front it looks just like the the most final and ever-so-tragic times of the Titanic.
Gray. Cold. Chunky filthy dirty ice.
Horizons full of water .... indeterminate depth....
There is the constant feint whine of coal trains pushing their freight through.
It's cold. I can see my breath.
It sucks.
I've served up every bit of meat and cheese that I've got.
We're almost out of toilet paper.
We haven't had paper towels or dark chocolate for 4 days.
I'm not sure that we can go on...
I wonder if this is how the Pioneers felt.
This place is filthy. I'm not about to mop.

Send reinforcements.
Gasping..... Forrrr.....
ssssss.....some..... ssss ....

Saturday, November 14, 2009

I Just Wanna Thank You. Thank You.

I know you've got a lot going on, but I just had to drop in and say thanks. So much about you has made me unbelievably happy lately.
It's fall too and that helps with the General Cheer Factor. But, seriously - you are amazing and awesome. You make me smile from a thousand miles away. I remember you.
Thanks for thinking of me - ever. That shit goes a long ways towards keeping me balanced and happy. Thanks for sending me random, unsolicited compliments.
For. REAL.
That probably weighs as much as a back tickle o
n the Emotional Bliss Scale. Every compliment you squeeze my way undoes about 10 unpleasant strangers on the phone.
Thanks for holding me (and you) to standards that extend past mouth-breathing and knuckle-dragging. I expect a lot out of me and you. Thanks for helping keep my disappointment at bay. You do great work.
Thanks for the hugs. These hugs mean business. Life is so freaking short. Find me ANY one single person who couldn't use more hugs. These hugs are making my time here a lot more real and meaningful. You so rock.
Thanks for jacking with me and testing the true limits of my gullibility. I can completely lose track of the time-space continuum when I'm in a project - I will believe most anything. I'm glad you know that and can mess with me relentlessly. You wouldn't really be able to jack with me if you didn't care, right?
Thanks for not telling me things that would be destructive to the delicate Ph balance known as my Sense of Self. You'll never know how cool it is that you don't agree with me when I tell you I'm having a horrible awful bad hair day. Please never agree. Apparently I may never outgrow this flaw in my fabric. I appreciate your devotion to my flawed cause. copyright2009