Saturday, February 21, 2009

Peter Marshall Quote


Artwork: Mill1337

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Fear: Witnessing Death Then Rejoycing

I've told the story of my grandfather's death to my friends for the last few days. Recounting each moment, remembering each second and everyone's faces and words. But I thought it would be important to document what happened. I want to remember a passing such as this. I need to be able to recall such a powerful lesson.

When anyone asks us what our greatest fears are - we know. Snakes, spiders, being mugged, cars, etc. For me it has always been the fear of the unknown. It has crippled me in areas of my life that I am now moving sluggishly through; but I'm moving. The ultimate unknown is death.

No one can come back and tell you what happens. None of the living know for sure what the dying are seeing or where they go. Everyone has their own idea but it's just that; an idea. For me, I feared one thing in perticular about death... the afterlife. I have always slept closest to the wall with my back to the room. I never wanted to open my eyes to see a ghostly figure standing there. The oddity of my fear is that I can pick up on presence quite easily and my senses are just sensitive to that kind of energy. Which I had decided a while back, was a curse to me. I wanted to leave it all unknown.

So about 5 years ago, I came home to smell something burning in the kitchen. My Pop was trying to cook a hamburger but he forgot to put the pan between the burger and the stove. This was the begining for him. Progressively over the years he unlearned all that he had throughout his lifetime. Even adjusting the shower was too complicated. His end came when he forgot the importance of food and could not remember to swallow.

I lived with Walter Ray for 17 years of my life. My childhood was spent in the house that he built with his own two hands. I watched him at his healthiest when grandma dragged him to square dancing and I watched his decline; when he dreadfully pushed a walker. Then I watched him forget his life, his friends and his functions.

I'm sure watching the decline has helped a great deal in overcoming the loss of his spirit in this tangible world, though I'm not pleased that he had to decline so slowly as he did. But he was a man of great honor and respect. He felt he was put here on this earth to care for the crazy woman that is my grandmother and until death did they part, he hung on to make sure she was cared for.

When we moved out of his house a year ago this month, my grandfather and his wife were taken to my aunts house where they were promised fast construction on an inlaw apartment. Seven months later, barely hanging on, Pop got to see the finished product. I think he needed to see that his wife would have her own safe place, if it wasn't going to be his house.

February 6th, a Friday, we got a call that Pop wouldn't open his mouth to eat and that he was dehydrated and been brought to Farmington to stay in the hospital for a few days. What we thought would be 36 hour observation, turned very quickly.

A family that had constantly bickered about his care couldn't finish their own arguement.

I stayed calm and collected for my mother. I drove her to Farmington that following Tuesday for the discharge family meeting but by then we had all realized that this wasn't a discussion of nursing homes anymore. It was a discussion of the end of someone's life.

We sat in his room for an hour, talking to him instead of each other, waiting for the doctors to meet. When the family left to talk about his discharge, I moved to his bed side to talk to him. I squeezed his hand and told him to pinch me. He could not open his eyes so I got a cloth to wipe away the sleep.

His hearing aids were gone and his teeth were at home. He looked like a little old man if I ever saw one. Not my little old man of course. I hardly recognized that man. But he had good color and he was fidgetting as I spoke to him.

I leaned in close and told him what I thought everyone else had forgotten to. I said, "you're kids are in a meeting with your wife. They are all being nice to each other, you know. Everyone's getting along right now. And we're all thinking it's time for you to take a vacation. You've worked very hard and it doesn't seem like you've relaxed. We all just want you to relax now. You know Linda and Lorraine haven't always gotten along, but you know that Linda will take care of her. She has always taken care of your wife whether she liked her or not. I know you're worried about your wife but I, Carolyn, and Linda, will watch out for her. We want you to go to the beach and sunbathe. We want you to go fishing and driving. Don't you think it's time to do that?"

He started to snore a little and playfully I responded, "hey! Are you snoring? I'm talking to you! I'm not that boring, am I?" For a quick flash, he smirked at me. I laughed at him and said, "well, you know I'm being serious. You need to stop worrying so much. Everything's going to be okay."

When the family came back in, he settled down. It was explained that they would remove the IV and he would be released to my aunt's house where hospice would be there to care for him for his final days. It happened so quickly, I feel that we were all just trying to keep up. I touched Grandma's shoulder as the doctor explained what was going to happen.

My mom got close to his face and said, "I'm going to let you get settled in tonight. They're takin you home to Susan... I'll see you tomorrow."

And he waited. Because he was brought home that night and Susan sat up with him. We both went to work, expecting we had a week or maybe two left with him. Susan called looking for more sheets and things to make him comfortable. It proved that in these hours, there was just no room for animosity. We took longer than expected, getting supplies and my mom had told them all to wait until she got there to change his bed. She wanted to show them an easy and comfortable way to do it.

This was one of many small things that just happened to fall into place that week. We got there late - around 7pm. They were just changing him when we came in, saying "we tried to wait but you were taking so long." The disturbance of moving him around made him aggitated and his breathing was heavy and his eyes were open wide but there was nothing behind them. This is what I saw when I walked into the room.

My mom tells me that her sister looked at her and asked, "what's happening?" My mom answered truthfully, "he's stroking. This is it." Without another word Susan and Brian both laid on top of their father while my mom held his head. This is how I found them when I came back upstairs.

Brian wanted to straighten him out and I watched them uncurl him and pull his blanket to his chin. 7:26p and the room was silent for a minute. The surrealness of it all couldn't have been harder to grasp. I stared at him waiting to see his chest rise and fall but it never did. I felt like my eyes were playing tricks on me. Susan and Brian stroked him as if to send him off to sleep, but I knew he couldn't feel them.

We sat in that room with him for an hour. Something I thought I could never do. Something I thought I could never see. Something I felt more strongly than ever about though, was to stay there. Through it all I remember thinking, this is a lesson for me. I must witness it all. There is too much I do not understand or know. I felt compelled to be there for every moment. And I was.

It turned lighthearted faster than I expected. Zach made coffee and offered me some Captain Morgan but I passed. They all started reminiscing and soon realized the kids were awake, and they knew. Susan let them see their grandfather and Olivia cried the hardest, I'm not sure the rest comprehended, though Olivia was the youngest.

We sent them back upstairs and when the nurse and funeral home guys showed up, I saw the gurney come by and soon joined the kids upstairs. They had waited for Jessie and I took her daughter Emma up with the other kids. But not before saying goodbye. Everyone bent down and kissed his head. My mom went right before me, kissed him and said, "I'll see you tomorrow."
I was the last to touch him. Scared that everyone was leaving the room but reminding myself that it was just him. I kissed him too and said, "Bye Pop."
I ran upstairs and waited for them to load Pop up to take him out.

Taylor Swift played on the CD player as I told them all to sit on the floor. Grayson yelped in my arms and I was the only one who watched them take Pop out. Through the window I could see his sleeping self going down the steps. They didn't close the bag, not even when they put him in the car... For that I was thankful. He just looked like they were taking him to the hospital to get better. I was singing, swaying a baby as I watched this.

Now that it's over, we are relieved. The images haunt me more than the loss but I suspect that will get better with time. I eventually cried, but it wasn't until I got home that night. The next day I went to pick out a suit for him with my mom at the house. The winds were so fierce and strong and my mom kept talking to him outloud. I felt like the winds were a rush of an exhale he's been trying to take for years!

My mom and I stopped at the beach. She took my arm and we walked to the end of the jetti so she could say goodbye in the last spot they hung out in before he got sick. The waves crashed hard and the wind blew us backwards. I don't think he wanted her to stand there and be sad, so we took a moment and then we left.

Seeing his obituary in the paper stung a little but we are excited to bring him to Arlington to lay among heroes, like himself. The Bells and us are communicating well and insults have been replaced with hugs and jokes.

I believe that Pop waited for us, that I was supposed to see it all and that God removed me from the room for a scary part I couldn't have handled. We really are celebrating his freedom more than anything and perhaps this change in my history will affect me for the rest of my life.

I do get sad but my ambition and independence has spiked noticably. When he is laid to rest on his birthday, March 12th perhaps I will have a different kind of change in my life. Maybe it will be a softer form of closure... But for now, I am thankful that he let us say goodbye together and that he provoked an outpouring of love I have never witnessed from my bloodline.

There is more happiness surrounding this passing than greif and I am the most thankful for that.

Walter Ray Carter
March 12th, 1927 - February 11th, 2009

Monday, February 2, 2009

Manifest Destiny?

This is a response to the Teacher's recent article: Self-Sabotage and Getting to be Right

Today's article is not about the 19th-century doctrine! You sillies! It was about self-perception and basically how our Core Beliefs dictate the way we navigate through life.

To summarize the Teacher's seperate article on Core Belief's, in his words,
here is an idea of what they are:
"As we filter our experience through assumptions, expectations and
ideas, we create belief systems - our Core Beliefs. Core Beliefs lead us to
develop Active Beliefs - how we operate in the world - that consequently drive
the Outcomes that recursively support and sustain our Core Truths."

If you've ever read or seen The Secret, you'll completely understand the concept of 'manifesting' things into your life.
(For the sake of this response article, I will refer to the teachings of The Secret as fact.)

While we would like to think that the world is full of unlucky accidents, The Secret, as well as many other Eastern ideas, remind us that the worlds energy is woven a lot more intricatly than we're giving it credit for.

Using this particular example, The Secret explores the idea that everything in your life is brought there by you and only you... including illness. I have friends who live and die by this philosophy and other's who find fault in this idea that we'd "wish" cancer upon ourselves.

Though the friendly debate among friends has gone back and forth, the idea wasn't based on "wishes" at all. Through our actions and choices, even our train of thought, we magnet things to us even if they are uninvited.

We alone signal misfortune our way. As we roll out of bed and trip over a dog dish, the moment we decide, "this is the day I'm going to have", then guess what? We'll have it. It won't be a coincidence that you get cut off, then get stuck behind the bus, get the last sludged cup of coffee and trip going up the stairs. The idea is that you brought it on yourself.

Self-sabatoge is pretty self-explainitory. I have to hear about how I 'get in my own way' all the time. Just because I don't like that it's said doesn't mean it isn't the honest truth, because it is. The safest example is always the math example. I was a crap student in math my entire acedemic career. As I got older, the equations only became more confusing. So when it came to money, I never balanced my check book and when I paid for something, I rounded up instead of paying exact change. I'd ask a friend how much that sweater will come to when the discount hits and run to my phone for a tip calculator. Today, I work in accounting. Go figure.

I got this hand held game for Nintendo DS called Brain Age. Which I was afraid to play because they were all math problems and criticle thinking puzzles. But the premises of the game is that you play it everyday to exersize your brain and it will tell you what age your brain is fuctioning at. Well after playing the game for a few months, I realized that I was just learning math a different way. I was determined to get the best scores and beat my records. Because I changed my attitude I learned things I should've been learning YEARS ago!

Learning about this concept is one thing, because it's usually something we find to be automatic. Our thoughts just pop up, right? So how can we control them? They are just there. No, they are there because we are so USED to them being there. Once we realize we have the power to change our thought patterns, I found it can feel like a confusing place to begin. You CAN help how you think.

I discovered a good way to begin this new course of thought is with a simple daily (or weekly) exersize. I purchased the Gratitude book from Borders (a product of The Secret fad) because it was shiney and gold, but any journal will do!

Take a journal and on the right side of the page, you write all the things that
you are thankful for that day. This begins a positive thought process.

Then on the opposite page write down things that you are thankful for that have not
happened yet. (i.e. if you're looking for a good job, you'd write every day "I
am thankful for the awesome job I have").

Writing things out, repeatedly, as if you have them helps to direct your thinking. Like anything you hear over and over again, it will start to stick.
This is also a great way to lift yourself when you are feeling low because the right side of the page are all reminders of things you have already aquired that bring you joy.

Manifest the perfect destiny for yourself. If things go sour along the way, you'll be too busy recognizing all the good things present in your life to feel the heavy blow.

"Be the changes you wish to see in the world." ~Ghandi
Be the changes you wish to see in YOUR own world as well.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Virtual Accomplishments

I'm typing on a bite-sized computer that was bought because my brother took over the family one and my mother let him. I'm sleeping in a bedroom I share with my mom because we don't have enough money to each have our own space. I work at two jobs that demand more from me then they are willing to pay me for. And I am friends with people who don't usually want to hang out with me. So I go to therapy to talk about how small I feel I'm treated. The Teacher says he thinks I feel worthless. I say, not worthless but worth more than anyone can bare to see and confused that they can't see it. Frustrated that they can't even smell it. When I get mad at all these people I think, "they'd only be sad if they were at my funeral with their 'shoulda-woulda-coulda's." Like any good artist.... My artistry - my life... I wonder if it will be worth anything until I loose my mind in sadness, cut off my ear and pass away poor.

Distraction is our greatest aide, whether we realize this or not. In times of trouble, we mentally relocate and throw ourselves into work, meditate to green pastures, take on a hobby or project. Even something as small as walking into the scenary in our book, or loosing ourselves inside a suspensful movie... it's all there to turn our heads.

I suddenly realized that 'gamers' are no different. Eight to seventy-eight, all colors, all sizes flip a switch and the ping ping of a start up screen can flash away frustrations. Recently I connected my Nintendo 64 back up. I had to put it in the living room because the cables on my tv upstairs didn't work. So for many hours the last couple of days, I've been coming home from work and parking right there by the Christmas tree.

When work aggitated me and lectures followed me home about my high expections, my inability to leave room for peoples quirks and never having someone worry about mine, I couldn't help but stress the importance of beating the next level in Zelda64: Ocarina of Time.

I killed Link again and again, watching his body flash red as my fingers kept sliding off the joystick from holding it so tightly and sweating in sheir effort and anticipation. If I couldn't handle my friends right, if I couldn't figure my boss out, if I couldn't overcome my own obsessions and manage my own emotions... well I was dammed if I was going to let some big nosed ghost on a horse throwing fire balls at me, take me down.

The good news is, I beat the temple. I felt a sense of accomplishment I hadn't felt in a while. I tole myself, "wow, I figured that all out without cheating or giving up." I did get stuck on one part to which I ran upstairs and asked the boys what to do. But then again, so it goes for life... sometimes we can't do it ALL alone. And as crazy as my relationships with my friends tend to be... I get by with a little help from them all.

My grandmother was removed from her house 7 months ago. She was brought into my aunt's angry, cold household full of tough love and kids under 12. She lost her car, her house, her independence and her respect. Don't get all teary now, she was no angel ANY of her years of life. But as the Trungpa would remind us, "we all have basic goodness." And it's in that goodness that I see my grandmother hurting for real, feeling trapped and caged. Feeling terrible and unwanted. Her only friend, now too delusional to even hold a spoon to his lips, never mind hear her gripe just one more time... Now that she actually needs it.

I called her after thanksgiving for her 78t birthday and asked her how she was. She talked about alot but it wasn't anything. Food and wallpaper and how she thinks they are stealing her money. The ways she used to tell them how we did that to her... Only this time I think it's true.

You know that question you've all been asked... What would you grab if your house was on fire and family was all safe? Well, in a sense I asked that. In a 5 bedroom house chalk full of tapes and memories and pictures, I asked her if I could grab anything for her. Did she want anything with her that she was really missing. Do you know what she asked for?

She said, "Carolyn, please bring me my Playstation."

We are all the same. Wanting, needing, loving, loosing, growing, falling. From eight to seventy-eight.

She wanted to play Cesar's Palace. I said, "of course."

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Wear the Hope

I took a design I found on and put Obama's quote on it just for this post. But there are shirts, buttons, stickers and more awesome displays... All should check it out....

For the New Obama Nation; For Us All

Good Morning America.

Welcome to a new day,
a new dawn and a new era. Welcome to the nation so many of us thought we could really be. For every person who believed that America is the land of the free and home of the brave; they could rejoyce together last night, November 4th, 2008 when Sen. Barack Obama was announced the 44th President of the United States of America.

The day after has mixed feelings for those who ran strongly with McCain, but even he, in an admirable stance of class, congratulated Obama instead of demanding a recount. He calmly asked his supporters to put away their anger and come together to help rebuild a nation that is so painfully in shambles. He shushed their 'boo's' and asked them, 'please, my friends' and shook his head like an understanding father. Sarah Palin did not speak, but instead smiled through pressed lips as tears welled in her eyes. Her husband, Todd Palin, held her hand.

McCain acknowledged the racially charged feel of the running and asked that his followers understand what that meant for every Obama supporter, as well as every African American in the nation. He spoke as though he believed none of his supporters were racist, though we all know (and he knows) that much of that is quite the opposite. In a subtle and cautious way, he reminded the people that tollerance, differences and minds make us the desirable nation that we are. It was his way of asking them all, not to hate. Though I think his plea fell on a few deaf ears, we can only hope he did not create such a monster to separate our people. McCain stated, "Barack Obama is now my president as well as yours," humbling himself before the crowd.

Barack Obama walked on stage in Chicago's Grant Park with his wife, Michelle, and their two girls. A bittersweet victory for the 47 year old senator. His personally inspirational grandmother's passing, still fresh in his mind from only a day prior. The day before the election, she passed away before seeing him walk the stage as the elect President... Though we all knew he would.

Midnight marked the beginning of a half hour long speech to his newly awarded public. His family stood in the background beside a row of magestic American flags. He looked as though he would cry when he thanked every volunteer, every $5 donation, every youth who spoke, every supporter who knocked on doors in sweltering heat and blistering cold... For every American who carried his dream with him. The audience watching in silence and in awe as change had finally come to America. Tears streamed down faces of celebrities like Jesse Jackson and citizens such as one young girl who dropped to her knees, holding her head in her hands. A married couple kissed, a gay couple bowed their heads and an entire people felt included; individualized.

"It's the answer told by lines that stretched around schools and churches in
numbers this nation has never seen, by people who waited three hours and four
hours, many for the first time in their lives, because they believed that this
time must be different, that their voices could be that difference.

It's the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor,
Democrat and Republican, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, gay,
straight, disabled and not disabled. Americans who sent a message to the
world that we have never been just a collection of individuals or a
collection of red states and blue states.
We are, and always will be, the United States of America."
~President Barack Obama (Nov 5th,2008 Acceptance Speech. Chicago, IL)

So now I look upon a man who addresses my friends, my superiors, my family and myself. I look at a man who promises to try everything in his power to clean up the mess the Bush administration left for him. Though I cannot imagine where he plans to start, his uphill climb will be heavy and his progress will be slow. But there are fellow American's like Bill Clinton, who continue to work towards change, who will stand and work with him. The F student has finally been removed and the valivictorian can take care of business.

I was never loud about my support for Obama, not because I wasn't proud - I was. But because such a heated battle between parties had not been seen in my lifetime, nor shall it come to pass again anytime soon. I spoke with those who were receptive to his mission or his views because as we should all know, it's near impossible to those who have been set in their ways.

Though we have our Democratic and Repulican parties, I'm proud that the people finally paid attention. Whether Democrats were for McCain or Republican's were for Obama doesn't matter. What matters is that so many of us stepped out of line, didn't follow the lead and made up our minds about what the nation needs instead of who's face would be framed in office.
So 'Good morning America', and welcome to the start of a new era. To every person who felt they had no say, I cry with you. To every person who felt different and discriminated, I rejoyce with you. To everyone who really wants equality... We bow together.

And may God bless America.

Yes... We Can.

Monday, November 3, 2008

The Great Flood... Of Circumstance

Where there is an ending, a beginning must soon follow. So when part of your world dies, a new world, for you, is reborn. The floods have come into my life, finally filling it to the brim and as I look over the deck of my make-shift ark (no where near as fabulous as Noah's...), I see the waters are receding. My new landscape may be muddy, things in the wrong places, a bit challenging to work with but alas, flushed and anew, none the less.

It's that feeling you get when you've finally paid off your car loan and you have extra money this month to take a friend out for dinner and kick back. It's that feeling that washes over you after being lost for an hour and finally turning the corner to a safe, familiar road and your destination is right in front of you, glowing magestically. Better yet, that feeling of rocks rolling off your shoulders when you break up with that dependent other (whether friend or lover...).

They say you've reached the bottom of your hole when you stop digging. They say it can always get worse... that is, if you keep picking up the shovel. But if everyone could see how fantastic dropping the shovel really feels, I mean really... who worlds would shift.

I have been the caregiver to many people and there have been a share that have been a caregiver to me. When we give and take in our relationships in an equal and positive way, we are able to always climb higher and endure more. When one party starts to slip, it is not in my nature to leave them behind. But if they are careless with their backwards steps, it is our duty to do our best for them and when no progress can be made, we must let them go.

Some of us are bound by depression, money problems or an unfulfilling relationship. Some of us don't like our jobs or our friends don't appreciate us. Some of us are sick, some of us are tired. But as long as we make the promise to ourselves to never give in to those things, even at our lowest hour, even if we are crying our eyes out... we will be okay.

I don't wake up every morning thinking that the world is incredible. I wake everyday with the expection that if I keep working at it, one day - I will wake up and the world will be incredible to me. That is all I can work towards because that is not an unattainable goal. Not for me. Not for anyone.