This Autumn Refresh Your Wild Spirit

It’s finally autumn in New Orleans, I think, since we’ve had a couple of cool-ish days and it’s mid-October. The sky today is a blue so blue it’s like looking into infinity and the air is thin and breathable. Ahhhhh…. On days like this all I want to do is sit lie in the backyard and stare up through the trees and daydream. But the crisp, cool days are also great for revving your spirit up, for tackling projects that were too hot to handle in the summer, and (best of all) for spending some time paying attention to YOU and to what nourishes you.

I read an article on Rebelle Society, a cool website I recently discovered, that I just had to share with you. They’ve graciously given me permission to share their list of 8 Wondrous Ways to Restore Your Wild Spirit, part of a longer piece by Victoria Erickson. Sometimes we need to be reminded that the simple things are still the  best things for restoring a weary spirit. The entire article is here and I highly recommend it!

1. Garden

Gardeners are cultivators and regenerators, harvesting new life and replacing the old, stagnant energy with new seeds. Dig into the dirt with bare hands and breathe the essence of herbs and flowers into your wise body, for it will recognize them as home. Get earthy and gorgeously dirty.

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2. Feed on raw food.

Energize, alkalize, and heal your body on a deep, cellular level. Nourish yourself with vibrant greens and fresh juices with nutrients you know the story behind; nutrients that heal illnesses instead of creating them with chemicals born in a lab.

“The food you eat can be either the safest and most powerful form of medicine or the slowest form of poison. ” ~ Ann Wigmore

Start buzzing with aliveness from food that is also alive, and feel your body’s wisdom beat with every breath.

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 3. Find live music.

Find the kind of music that makes your soul soar from the sound. From drum circles under ancient trees, to jazz on city streets, to underground clubs that keep people dancing through the night, music’s rhythmic beats exist to tell universal truths that awaken us from everyday hibernation. 

Have you ever seen crowds of 60,000 people at music festivals?  They sing with the bands under enormous summer skies, erupting into applause, dance, and smiles so large they ache. If that isn’t the wild, primal roar of the human spirit, than I don’t know what is. Find it, because music, my friends, is life. 

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4. Play. 

Find the most hilarious person you know, whether it’s over social media, lunch, or the work water cooler and laugh. Even if you only have 20 minutes, take a random car ride to somewhere even more random. Dance to eighties music while you clean the house, paint the inside of your garage neon, or watch a Pixar movie with your favorite kiddo.

Personally, I love swing sets. I don’t care what your age is or how busy you are, play is essential to promote a youthful mind which is dynamic, curious, and enthusiastic, and that will open you to new possibilities which will feed your wild spirit even more.  A playful mind is fluid, creative, and of course, wild.

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 5. Make love.

“Despite what you’ve been conditioned to believe, sexual desire is sacred and virtuous. When you and your beloved merge physically and emotionally, you go beyond the boundaries of the ego and experience timelessness, naturalness, playfulness and defenselessness.” ~ Deepak Chopra

Make love like it’s your last night on earth, gasping for air and sanity, frantic under clouds and stars and sheets. The kind of animalistic lovemaking that’s written in books that hypnotizes and captivates. The kind that’s made of heartbeats, intertwined flesh, and fiery, blazing, all consuming passion.

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6. Get wet.

These are cures that open you in places you forgot could even open, for salt and water are a miraculous mix. Release disappointment through tears, sweat from awesome, bodily pumping movement, and swim in the soft caress of water.

These wild activities often launch you into the feeling of vulnerability and renewed power at the same time, while carrying you to a a clearer place inside your mind. Yes, there you are again, wild one.

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7. Tell your stories. 

Tell stories of your childhood, of deep rooted pain, of intense loss, of blood and of your greatest loves. Tell them by firelight under violet, star-filled skies, or by sending words into cyberspace. Tell them over cups of strong espresso or glasses of sweet red wine. Tell them with tears and laughter and faith in the human race. Tell them to friends, to lovers, and to strangers.

Everyone has stories that need to be told, and there is always someone to listen. Make sure you tell your stories while you still have the chance.

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8. Shine.

Show who you are, authentically, and completely unapologetically. Be fearless in your ambitions, goals and decisions. That energy will then spread itself into the universe and boost the human race, for one drop can indeed, raise the entire ocean.

“As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people the right to do the same. As we are liberated from our fear, our presence automatically liberates others” ~ Marianne Williamson

And as you work on these wondrous things to restore your wild spirit, do remember that even when you’re still not quite there, you are a miraculous human warrior and that…

***All images via Rebelle Society

Good Times/Bad Times: May 25 – 31

Today I have for you (channeling the chefs on “Chopped” which I just finished watching!) a little list of some of the good things and bad things that I read on the internet in the past week. Most of them are from other blogs, some from NOLA, some not. It’s just a hodge-podge of articles that I liked or …… didn’t, but all are decidedly shareable.

Good Times

Road trip! Follow Ian McNulty on a trip down the bayou to Terrebone Parish in Bayou Country journey offers glimpse of small-town life at the end of the line.

Local blogger Blathering shares her recent outing to City Park’s Botanical Gardens with a walk through Enrique Alferez’s sculptures in her weekly feature “Arty Tuesday”.

“Blackberries Everywhere” , via Bouillie blog, takes us along to pick wild blackberries in rural Louisiana and adds a bonus of a recipe for Blackberry Cornmeal Cake that sounds scrumptious. The photos of the finished cake made my mouth water and put it on my list of recipes to try this summer.

I’m always complaining to myself that I don’t have the kind of time I’d like to read. This is really not exactly true since I often  end up surfing the internet when my intention was to read my ebook.  I even tweeted about it. So I was happy to find this post, 7 tips to help you read more (& love it).

 Bad Times

Local political journalist John McGinnis died last Sunday at the age of 66. Robert Mann penned a wonderful memoir and tribute to Mr. McGinnis here,  a worthy read about an exceptional journalist.

#YesAllWomen was a hashtag on fire on Twitter this past week. It apparently first popped up Friday 5/23 in the aftermath of the Elliot Rodger shooting spree in California in response to his misogynist rants on YouTube. When social media takes up a cause like this, I find it much more interesting and enlightening to read personal blogs written by everyday people to get a feel for how the issue affects or is affecting everyday people. Here are a few blog posts I read this week that touched me (to tears in some cases) and/or just made me think in a different way, breaking open the festering sore of misogyny.

First, here’s a link to a Vanity Fair article that includes a graphic showing how the hashtag spread worldwide.

Brandi writes a very personal account of her experience of being bullied by a boy (and, yes, it was bullying)  at age 11. I really identified with this post because I experienced the same thing at the same age and I remember the humiliation I felt.

Roxane Gay’s post, In Relief of Silence and Burden, is a heartbreaker written in the unmistakably honest voice that is Roxane Gay. Reading this made my stomach hurt.

Walking While Fat and Female – Or Why I Don’t Care Not All Men Are Like That was an eye-opener. I guess I’m naive but it never occurred to me that adult men acted this way.

And, from the men:

My Girl’s a Vegetable: A Father’s Response To Isla Vista Shootings  in Luna Luna Magazine shares how a dad’s eyes were opened to the every day misogyny directed to women via his daughter’s experience while walking home from school.

Local Blogger Ian McGibboney writes “A Letter To All the Nice Guys”and makes some really good points.

And, finally, Emily Shire says “#YesAllWomen Has Jumped the Shark” and wonders if it’s being diluted by people tweeting about such things as “complaints about women being told to smile”. What do you think?

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New-To-Me Blog of the Week

To end on a lighter note, I want to share a blog each week (or so) that’s new to me and that I enjoyed reading  – you know, show a little link love.This week it’s  The Art of Simple, a blog that shares ways to live a simpler, more meaningful life as well as giving great organizational tips. Give it a click, I think you’ll like it!

 

 

 

 

 

Flags Over New Orleans Welcome HH The Dalai Lama

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Twelve various and sundry flags have flown over our beautiful city for a variety of reasons including governmental and social. The last two weeks have added yet another, prayer flags welcoming His Holiness The Dalai Lama to New Orleans May 16-18.

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Public talks by His Holiness have long been sold out but you can still enjoy the Tibetan culture by visiting the Tibetan Bazaar at the Morial Convention Center through Friday. The bazaar will feature a closing procession of the sand mandala that is currently being assembled by the Drepung Loseling Monks.

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You may also listen to the Dalai Lama’s public talks listed below via live stream here.

  • Friday, May 17, 1:30pm – 4:00pm
    Strength Through Compassion
  • Saturday, May 18, 1:00pm – 4:00pm
    Strength Through Connection

Community viewing locations include the following:

Friday Talk Only:

The above photos courtesy of Christopher Lorenzen.
For more photos of local homes flying Prayer Flags, visit The New Orleans Healing Center’s FaceBook Page.

Sandy Hook Elementary School’s Chorus & Jennifer Hudson sing of hope in nation’s murder capital

Via Rafael Delgadillo, shared with his permission. I very much admire Rafael’s thoughts, perspective, and clarity re: last night’s events:

Last night’s game will go down as one of the most memorable Super Bowls ever. For the great play, the blackout, and for coming back to NOLA for the first time in 11 years.

However, for me, the most memorable moment was before the game. To see the Sandy Hook Elementary School Choir pair up with Jennifer Hudson (whose mother, brother, and nephew were shot to death in 2008) in singing “America the Beautiful” literally in the middle of this country’s most violent city.

Perhaps I’m looking into it too deeply, but those of you who know me well will understand. That moment was moving. Though it is a great song, to me it had lost its meaning over time, like all songs do. But as I heard it last night, it struck me more as a song about the hope that we have for this country’s potential rather than a declaration of our exceptionalism.

The irony of it all. Jennifer Hudson and Sandy Hook’s community reminding us that we can do great things, like curb gun violence on one hand. On the other, the NFL used this city to put American overindulgence on display and quite literally sucked the energy out of one this nation’s poorest cities in the process.

Sorry if this is too personal, but sometimes… you just gotta…

#GoNOLA

Thank you, Rafa, for sharing these powerful thoughts and words.

Be the Best of New Orleans

After she worked so hard on her sign, I didn't have the heart to tell her it was GRAS. This was her first Mardi Gras, at her first parade ever: Muses.

After she worked so hard on her sign, I didn’t have the heart to tell her it was GRAS. This was her first Mardi Gras, at her first parade ever: Muses.

Last year at this time, my daughter was crossing off the days until the Muses parade on her calendar — a handmade number made of pink construction paper with silver glitter borders, sprinkles of red, pink, and white glitter sparkles, the month and days written in her rough cursive handwriting, and the numbers big and bold in black marker. Each day, after we talked about the things we were grateful for that day, she wrote in her diary, and told me what she hoped to dream of that night. Then it would be time to cross off one more day, slimming down the days until we took to the streets of New Orleans with our book bag full of art supplies, snacks, and her favorite books waiting for parade start.

The beauty that is carnival time in New Orleans was stolen from her that night with the words of drunk young man that didn’t know her, but made a snap judgment about her based on a patch she had on her sleeve: a puzzle piece with the word “autistic” written on it. He lashed out when I asked him to move after he nearly lit her hair on fire with a cigarette, spilled some cheap beer out of his red SOLO cup, and blocked her view from the parade. First he mocked us to his friends, saying he had to move because the woman and her  “retard” daughter couldn’t see, then he looked directly at us, even narrowing his gaze onto my daughter, when he proclaimed that the “retard” was making watching the parade a challenge.

Our words have power. Words mean things. To her, that word meant that she wasn’t accepted and that there was something “wrong” with her. It made her feel that no one would accept her. She wanted to just go home.

It was difficult to walk away from my daughter being treated that way. I’ve even seen some comments online calling me a coward for not standing up to this young man. My concern in that moment, however, was not an unpredictable drunken stranger, but my daughter. It was more important to make sure my daughter was ok, that she knew she was loved, and that she knew that she was accepted just as she is. I think I made the right choice.

What he did to her that night, in his drunken stupor, didn’t need to happen. But it did. And that night, it changed the way she looked at Mardi Gras. That night, he became a thief, stealing with his words something from my daughter that could be made right, but never be made whole. Not as if it didn’t happen.

It’s that time of year again. Families will pack up their children – all ages and all abilities – and will line the streets to be participants in one of the most magical traditions New Orleans has to offer. It’s the time of year where family memories are made, where legacies begin, and where laughter and smiles overtake even the heaviest of hearts. Strangers become friends and friends reconnect. In those moments, along that parade route, everything else plaguing the city disappears. We become one place, a united place, we become the best of New Orleans has to offer.

This year, please offer a kind word to the person next to you. You do not know what battle they are facing that day. If you cannot offer kindness, then please, above all, do not do any harm. Be mindful of your actions and responsible with your words. If you see the person next to you struggling a little bit, offer a hand. As much as Mardi Gras is one of the most magical traditions New Orleans offers, the kindness and love of the city is really what makes this city what it is – the best damn city in the world.

As for us this year, we were invited by the Krewe of Muses to watch this year’s parade from their box at Gallier Hall. Instead of worrying about drunken college boys calling my daughter names, we will be joined by two players from Tulane’s baseball team wanting to make right what a boy their age made wrong. Emily said it made sense to have baseball players there. There is a lot of catching in baseball and Mardi Gras, don’t you know? Thank you, Krewe of Muses, for everything you did last year with Emily Gras (another post about that soon) and for this very special invitation to Emily this year.

If you see us along the parade route, come on over and say hello. Mardi Gras is the place where new friends meet.

Operation Hugs and Stitches

Every year, my husband and I set a goal: the coming year will be better than the year before. I have this fear, you see, of getting stuck in a rut, of perpetually struggling in this life while living it on pause. I’m not sure where this fear comes from. I suspect it has something to do with my previous marriage. That’s my theory, anyway.

This year has been an incredible year for my mister, Emily, and me. The love, kindness, and acceptance we have been shown – not just by those in our everyday lives, but also by total strangers – has been, in a word, breathtaking. I’ve long since held the belief that kindness, love, and compassion for one another is an important rule to live by, and to feel all of those things important to me ricochet off the universe and land right back on us further cements in my mind that these really should be virtues that transcend into a way of life. Those three things – love, kindness, and acceptance – really can change lives.

We struggled with trying to figure out how we could pay love forward, particularly during the holiday season when the universe laughs as it piles on unexpected bills, unrealistic expectations, and inconvenient truths, leaving people panicked and stressed while scrambling to maybe just survive the season, much less actually enjoy it. And finding the meaning of the holiday in all of that stress? Sometimes that is mission impossible.

Inspiration came when one of my oldest friends, Jen, shared a link on her Facebook wall. The link led me to this incredible movement, Helping Hands, where ordinary people posted their holiday needs and other ordinary people fulfilled them. It was the brainchild of Momastery, an incredibly honest blog filled with nuggets of wisdom and inspiration. I read each of the posted needs, wishing I could fulfill so many of them.

It hit me, the thing I could do to help other families.

I talked to Emily and asked what she thought about my idea. She was thrilled, and then went on to help me to expand on the original idea and that is when she came up with the name Operation Hugs and Stitches.

Earlier this year, my oldest friend, Robin, made Emily a weighted blanket. This blanket is so special to us, mostly because it was made by Robin while she was away from work, kicking cancer’s ass, but also because the blanket has brought Emily such relief from the issues she has had with sleep and when her senses are overwhelmed. Therapist and doctors recommend the use of weighted blankets for those on the autism spectrum because it is believed the blankets provide deep pressure input that their bodies crave. They are often prescribed, but rarely covered by insurance companies. And they can be spendy. When we first researched a weighted blanket for Emily, a full-size blanket averaged at $379.

I can sew. Emily loves crafting with me. We decided to make weighted blankets for families that otherwise may not be able to afford them, or at least afford them comfortably. We found 16 families to make blankets for, 21 blankets in all. I don’t know who these families voted for, what religion they adhere to, or what their occupations are. I can tell you that they are spectrum families that have kiddos ranging from non-verbal to severely autistic to the higher end of the spectrum. They live in different states. Some are single parents. Some are military families. They can all empathize with each other on how difficult it is to know there is a tool out there that can help their children, but know the feeling of not being able to afford it. For a parent, that is one of the worst feelings in the world. I’ve felt it. I’m sure to one extent or another; you have felt it, too.

When we told our friends about our plan for Operation Hugs and Stitches, they donated bags of material and scrap material. Another friend offered me the use of her sewing machine. I placed ads on Freecycle and the response was great. Today, I received a box full of fuzzy green material from someone in Ohio. I received an e-mail telling me to expect a box of material coming from Texas. These are people I don’t know, but who want to contribute in whatever way they can.

Emily has been busy designing blankets (and a line of zombie rag dolls she wants to try to sell to save for a camcorder and laptop – moviemaking is her latest obsession) and we came up with a pretty brilliant idea (if I do say so). Even after sending boxes of Mardi Gras beads to sick children in different parts of the  country, donating some to local organizations, and putting others away in her hope chest as keepsakes, we still have a lot of Mardi Gras beads from Emily Gras. Instead of using poly pellets for the weight part of the weighted blankets (on average 4 pounds), we are going to use the remaining beads from Emily Gras, giving everyone who receives a blanket a bit of one of the most perfect days we could have ever imagined. When we run out of those beads, we will get more, giving others, unknown to them, a bit of New Orleans, Mardi Gras, and the spirit of the city and the people that live here.

We are incorporating the making of the blankets into our homeschool curriculum, utilizing the math, geography, and skills involved in creating something out of nothing, sending them to different parts of the country, and every inch of fabric being essential to the final product.

It seems like such a little thing, making these blankets for those who will really benefit from them. The feelings we have for doing something for someone else, the memories we are making together, and knowing that our simple act of kindness will make ripples for others – you can’t buy that, not anywhere.

A Season of Thanks

I used to dread this time of the year. It was the beginning of reminders of everything that I had lost – family, my parents, some of my friends – and made me feel incredibly lonely as others went into detail about their holiday plans: the visitors they were receiving, the big dinners they were preparing, or funny little stories about the family holiday gift exchange. This year, though, the holidays have a new meaning for me. It isn’t the beginning of a downward cycle where I spend the entire holiday season wishing my parents were still alive and beating myself up because my daughter is growing up without having a huge extended family. There is no going to Grandma’s house for Thanksgiving dinner, no big family Christmas celebration, and when it comes to holidays, it is always just the three of us. As irrational as this is, at one time, I thought this made meant I had failed as a mother. I realize that my parents dying was out of my control, but to not be able to give those types of childhood memories to Emily, well, that made me feel quite sad.

This year, though, things are different. I felt the tides change when I saw the first holiday commercial and I didn’t feel resentment towards the family of actors surrounding the holiday table. The commercials didn’t make me cringe. I didn’t excuse myself to my bedroom to cry.  Instead of just going through the motions of preparing the house for the holidays, my head filled with ideas on what we could do to make the home festive. Emily drew designs. I brought out the remaining beads from Emily Gras. We got crazy with the glue gun.  We watched How the Grinch Stole Christmas and The Wizard of Oz. We talked about new traditions we wanted to start for our little family. I didn’t turn the radio off when Christmas music came on.

I think it is easy to get caught up on our list of things we don’t have and wish for. The holidays seem to punctuate these things with rows of exclamation marks and blinking neon signs. Whether it is a different house, a new car, a better wardrobe, a smaller waist, more money, a better job, or in my case,  family, those wishes can sometimes control us. They can dictate whether we are going to be happy or sad, whether we are going to embrace life or simply exist, whether we offer kindness to others or simply reject all of those around us. I think sometimes it is easier to think about all those things we wish we were, wish we had, or regret letting go than it is to take a look around, breathe our lives in, and find the goodness that does exist, even when our wish lists are long and it seems like challenges meet us at every bend in the road.

I’ve decided that I’m done with list of wishful thinking and rows and columns of regret. This holiday season is going to be one of gratitude and one of paying love forward. The time to welcome the holiday and create our own traditions and to celebrate without longing, regret, and sadness is long overdue. The smile on my face this holiday season won’t be plastic and fake, painted on my face only for the benefit of my daughter. This holiday, the smile will be real, and it will come from having real joy.

So, on the eve of Thanksgiving, I sit and reflect on the everyday things – the things we often take for granted while traveling  back in time to live in our pasts or traveling years into our futures.

I think about the smile of my daughter when she is very excited, the obstacles she has tackled, the incredible imagination and big ideas that live inside of her head, and the thoughtfulness, kindness and love that live inside of her heart. I am thankful.

I think of my mister taking a leap by changing occupations when Hurricane Isaac thought it would get the best of us, working early and long days, always offering me support and encouragement with fierce loyalty, and understanding all of my nerdy affections, even joining in on a few. I am thankful.

I think of my friends who understand me, laugh at my jokes even when they aren’t funny, and who look out for me. I am thankful.

And I think of New Orleans. The way you live and laugh .The way you sing and dance. The passion you hold. The way you accept and love and make things right. The very soul, that damn beautiful spark, that makes this place, this glorious place, the only place that ever felt like home.  You’ve taught us so much, New Orleans. You’ve given us the place in this world we needed, the perfect place to bloom where we are planted and to grow. I am thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving, y’all.

Help. Now.

“I’m so glad you were in New Orleans for this major storm and in New York for the previous major storm,” my mother said over the phone.

I understood her as a mother understands wanting to protect her child, certainly. As a granddaughter, niece, and friend of many who suffered and are still suffering the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, however, I felt as though my hands were tied.

I’ve felt impotent all through my monitoring of the struggles with public transportation our friends in the Queens neighborhood that was home to us for four years before we moved back to New Orleans have been having. I’ve felt helpless in the face of far too many pictures of the worst hit of the five boroughs, pictures reminiscent of too many neighborhoods across this city that are still recovering over seven years after the levee breaches. And I felt especially sad and angry upon finally getting through to my grandparents in Valley Stream, on their sixth day without power, starting to lose hope.

My grandmother, in our conversation, had never seen anything like what she was seeing in her eighty-plus years as a native New Yorker. Her house and one of the cars she and my grandfather owned were intact, but chilly. A neighbor had a generator and had offered to let them use it for a time, but they didn’t want to impose – gasoline is getting scarce. My aunt has power at her Manhattan apartment, but getting there by car or by the Long Island Rail Road is proving to be a difficult thing to even think about, much less embark upon. I had managed to talk to her when she was in the car on the way to her synagogue, which had heat and was serving hot coffee.

I cried out of relief at having been able to talk to her, and out of not being able to hug her through the phone. So many of the things she and my grandpa took for granted had been taken away.

“I keep checking a site that shows the progress of the energy companies on Long Island,” my mother said when I discussed it with her, “and part of the problem is they just don’t have enough people to get everything back on quickly. It also seems the power’s coming back on to the places with the most money.”

“Ooh, none of that sounds familiar,” I said sarcastically.

It’s all far too familiar – coastal areas being washed away or otherwise destroyed – and not quite – debates over whether or not major events held when the weather is not as freaky – like voting or a marathon – should go on as always. (For the record, it was absolutely the right move to cancel the NYC Marathon this year. I have little doubt if a serious weather event happens close to Mardi Gras that the krewe captains would band together and cancel the parades.) The “not quite” is what has me walking away from the computer from time to time, not wanting to impose on the shock of so many others. I have so much sympathy for the northeast and fear for what more is to come in their recovery. My projections upon them have no place whatsoever right now, except in one crucial way…

No matter who or where they are, Hurricane Sandy’s victims need help.

Now.

A few links to consult:

Time Out New York is constantly updating their page of how to help. Donations list is near the end of the post, but new needs are being put up every day. Keep checking in.

Gothamist has a page up on what people need. Keep it in mind when donating.

Brokelyn’s “Where to Volunteer This Weekend” has some donations links as well.

This Recovers.org site is specific to Staten Island’s needs, which are massive.

Strong Island, where folks on Long Island can report on drop-off centers for supplies in their area, places to charge their devices, places to get warm, places in need of volunteers – you get the idea. Got friends, family on Long Island? Pass this link on.

Know anyone who was planning to run the NYC Marathon? This site is set up to help them donate their hotel room to a family in need. Pass it on.

A number of links related to New Jersey are here from one of my favorite writers, as well as a link-o-rama on the climate change talk Sandy and its aftermath have sparked. Any other good Jersey-related donations, needs? Leave them in the comments to this post.

Poverty in America – Guest Post

The  author of this essay, a woman in the GNO, has agreed to allow the below to be published on the condition of anonymity.  

I’m what poverty in America looks like.

While I am fortunate enough to have a home, the home is barely furnished. There isn’t enough money to eke out on a nice couch, beautiful dinnerware, or cookware that doesn’t rust after one or two washings while keeping the electric on or groceries in the fridge. At this point, I would be happy with a comfortable bed in place of my  air mattress with a slow leak. Most things that people throw out without second thought are things that are on my wish list.

I am not jobless because I’m lazy. I’m jobless because I have applied for jobs and am told that  I either have too much or not enough experience. Add to the limited experience large stretches of time away from the workforce to raise my special needs child, back when I was married and life was happy, I’m not an ideal job candidate.

I’m smart. I’m articulate. I’m intelligent. I’m a hard worker. I’m reliable.

These things don’t translate well on job applications, though. These are things that one needs to see, but we are a results-orientated society that wants the sure thing, and on paper, I’m not the sure thing, but the long shot.

I am back in college. I do odd jobs for friends. It’s not much, but it’s enough to disqualify me from receiving government assistance, even though I have a young child. I can assure you that the stories that you hear about how easy it is to scam the system and live a charmed life on welfare are absolutely false. They are urban legends created out of hatred and fear, uninformed opinion, and maybe a little bit of self-loathing.

I’m what poverty in America looks like.

I have a car, but can’t drive it. I can’t drive because my car needs to be fixed. I can’t fix my car because I don’t have money. I don’t have money because I can’t find a full-time job. I can’t find a full-time job because I have little experience. I have little experience because I raised my family. It’s a lot like the childhood song, There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly, right? That’s what my life feels like. It feels like each and everything I do, no matter how good, no matter how well-intentioned, gets overwhelmed by the next issue and the next problem. And I live my life on pause, frozen and stuck.

I don’t have Mom and Dad to call for help. I can’t return with my tail between my legs to my childhood home and get back on my feet. My parents are dead. In this world, it’s my child and me. And that’s it. I don’t even really have friends. People don’t generally like to be friends with the girl who can never go out and do anything.

The bags under my eyes come from sleep deprivation due to worry.

I worry about my child and how I am going to provide all of the needs, much less a few of the wants. I worry about whether to pay the electric this week or risk disconnection so I can get the good groceries – unprocessed fruits and vegetables, meat, milk, and nothing that comes in a can – or if I am stuck with the same high-calorie, cheap food that won’t offer much in nutrition, but will keep the hunger pangs away while it packs on the pounds. Yes, America, we have an obesity problem and part of the problem is the inability to purchase healthy food because food costs are high, leaving families to fill up on 99 cent cans of spaghetti and the Dollar Menu at McDonalds.

I worry whether or not my child would be better with someone as a parent that wasn’t me; my child deserves someone who could offer more financial security and all of those things that kids want: nice clothes, toys, books, games, electronics, vacations, and memories. Right now, I feel like the only thing that I can offer my child is supervision. I can’t give  everything that I want to give. And it makes me feel like the biggest failure in the world. The contempt that you throw my way when you look at me and make snap judgments against me for being poor doesn’t even compare to the contempt that I feel for myself.

I worry about my health. For the last few months, I’ve had some pretty terrible stomach pains. I don’t have insurance. I cannot afford the $150 office visit. I scour the internet, searching for home remedies, hoping that one of them will give me some sort of relief. Normally I can handle it, but the painful gall stones almost did me in. I haven’t had a pap smear in  three years. What happens if one day I just discover I have cancer? And I could have prevented it had I been able to get a physical each year?

Lately, my biggest worry is this: What if this is all there is for me in this life?

I’m what poverty in America looks like.

I don’t want a lot of things. It would be nice to have furniture. It doesn’t even have to be fancy. It would be nice to get the good ground beef instead of the ground beef that is about to go bad and needs to be sold right away. It would be nice to treat my child to a movie or museum or a toy that has been requested multiple times with the answer always being not now. It would be nice to not dread Christmas, for Thanksgiving to be more than a Turkey Loaf in the oven, to have clothes that fit me, to get my hair cut in a salon, to have a nice dinner out, to be able to join a gym,  to wax my eyebrows, afford make up, to have a car and to be able to get in and just drive.

What I want is for you to understand. I don’t want your judgments and your hate and your flippant comments about how I am a lazy sack of shit and your self-righteous declaration that you work hard for your money and you shouldn’t have to support me. I don’t want you to. I just want a chance.  But believe me when I tell you that  just getting up in the morning in the political climate we live in is hard work. Doing it all on my own is hard work. And trying to not fall apart is hard work.

What I want most is for you to see me as a person, someone that has a lot of worries and a lot of fears, someone that loves and cares and tries to do what good I can, but mostly someone that isn’t  the cartoon character that you have created in your mind about people like me – the poor.

When it was possible to fall in love while waiting to buy concert tickets

Today I purchased tickets online for a couple of touring acts soon to be appearing at the House of Blues. For me, this is still an infrequent life event… When I was younger, concert tickets were somehow simultaneously a true splurge and something that I would budget carefully for; now it’s a question of whether or not I’ll have the time to go to the show or if I’m able to make plans that far in advance (life’s just more complicated). And these days I tend to go to see local bands playing in bars or nightclubs instead of going to see big shows — it’s the more flexible option, especially when one lives in New Orleans.

It surprised me that today’s transaction was oddly anti-climactic and distinctly lacking. It made me think about how things change over time and how, occasionally, experiences can be short-changed in favor of efficiency.

I realized that I actually sort of miss the ritual of days past, when one would stand in line at dawn at Tower Records or wherever on a Saturday morning, waiting for the tickets to go on sale. It was never boring! (I can’t say the same about how we purchase tickets now, obsessively refreshing the browser’s window repeatedly as we wait.)

For me, buying tickets in the days before the Internet meant getting up way-too-early, dressing for comfort and the weather, buying a large cup of convenience store coffee, visit the cash machine, then going to wait in line and making friends with the people ahead of and behind me as needed — sometimes I’d even be lucky enough to be the first person in line!

(Frequently I’d get an extra cup of coffee so that I could make an “instant friend” to hold my place for a few minutes’ time during the hours of waiting if needed. Or I’d take coffee orders and make a run to the nearest open place as more people arrived.)

More often than not, whoever was in front of me would agree to purchase an extra ticket for me (that’s why having cash mattered), running our two requests as one transaction (which could be crucial when a much-anticipated show could sell out in mere minutes), or I’d do the same for the people behind me if I was first in line — we’d help each other on the spot. The camaraderie and courtesy became infectious.

(Best spontaneous line party experience? Waiting to get tickets for any Cheap Trick show — singing, fun, and laughter were guaranteed!)

Purchasing tickets was also a more democratic experience in those days. There weren’t pre-sale codes only available to a select few or special access early-bird opportunities for “preferred customers.” Your success in procuring a ticket to the desired event was based solely on either showing up early enough to get a good spot in line or being lucky to get through to Ticketmaster if you opted to order by phone instead. The only advantage one could exercise depended upon cooperation — not which flavor of credit card happened to be in one’s wallet or if one had access to an iThing-only app.

(And if I’d chosen instead to buy my tickets today at the venue’s window? I would’ve had to wait an additional two hours after the time when tickets went on sale online for that opportunity — there’d have been no one working the window until noon.)

All of that said, it’s not the process I miss as much as the experience of interacting with the other people who were there because they also enjoyed the same band/artist: the low-level humming excitement, the concert stories shared, how people would smile as they walked away from the ticket window, and sometimes how a few of us would converge upon a diner for breakfast after as new friendships were formed.

Now it’s automated, isolated, solitary, and perfunctory… a chore instead of an adventure. Check that off of today’s “Things To Do” list and move on.

(Even if we still had to queue up, it’d probably not be the same kind of experience — because everyone would likely be paying more attention to their smartphones or stay resolutely plugged into their iPods instead of noticing and conversing with the people around them. Until someone needed to go find a restroom… there’s still no app for that!)

One of my best days ever started with my waiting in line to buy a ticket for a show at the same just-opened House of Blues in New Orleans almost 20 years ago. I’d bounced out of bed and dressed expressly for comfort — yoga pants, a long-sleeved cropped waffle shirt, sandals. My hair was morning-disheveled in a good way and I was fresh-faced, having paused only long enough to wash the sleep from my eyes and brush my teeth before rocketing out of the house. I was passing the time reading a Tom Robbins novel and drinking my coffee, chatting with the people around me intermittently. I was happy, still slightly sleepy, un-self-conscious, and cheerfully excited.

A guy I’d seen around the French Quarter every now and again for a couple of years had been hired as part of the security staff for the venue — he was there that morning to keep the line orderly. We didn’t have many friends in common, nor did we frequent the same bars or hangouts; I’d admired him in passing and mostly from a distance (although we had, in fact, spoken briefly a few times). It seemed to be a one-sided interest and I was okay with that. But that morning, while we were in the same place for a few hours at the same time and for the same reason, he noticed me.

I’d been reading and, for whatever reason, I glanced up and saw him looking at me. I smiled reflexively. He looked startled as if he’d been physically shocked for a second or two, sort of jumped back a bit as if he’d been hit by something, dropped his walkie-talkie and picked it up, and finally grinned sheepishly. Then he walked over and introduced himself, said “hello,” and showed me the new crack in the walkie-talkie’s display screen.

I remember thinking, “What took you so long?”

(Although I was very much involved with someone else at that time, it was the beginning of a friendship that I still appreciate and a stolen moment in my life that I’ll never forget. In an alternate universe, I’ve no doubt that it would have been the start of one hell of a love affair.)

I strongly suspect that there’s zero chance of something similar ever happening while purchasing tickets via the ether and pixels — this convenience robs us of such opportunities to connect with each other. I have yet to hear of anyone having a shot at falling in love, if only just a little bit, while hitting refresh and waiting to complete a transaction.

There’s a world of difference between the magic of the Internet and that of making simple human connections. I’m grateful for the memories of what I experienced during those hours spent waiting with strangers who shared a common interest — it was never “lost time.”