Reading the Bible on a 100 level

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Okay.. so as many of you know, in July I was baptized in the name of Jesus and church has become a bug piece of my lifestyle.  I’m currently following a plan called “Love like Jesus” which shares scriptures every day for 21 days which pertain to learning to love like Jesus more and more.  I have a confession.. I am really struggling to read the Bible without challenging what I read.  Some of it is truly inspiring.. and other passages I completely repel and then feel conflicted about whether Christianity is really in alignment with what I believe because the belief about the Bible is all or nothing.  Of course sharing this out loud feels terrifying.  Think of all the judgement that could come by my fellow church members.. and then I think… well maybe they struggle with it too? 

My most valuable asset is my word.. my truth.. honesty.  Any time I am hiding from being 100% honest.. it cripples my recovery and my mental stability.  Over the last couple of years, honesty isn’t just about not intentionally lying.. it’s about being 100 at all times.  No sugar coating.. no people pleasing..  no avoiding those uncomfortable c0nversations… and it really has changed my life.  Lately tho, I don’t feel in alignment with that.  I know that the Bible says;

1 Corinthians 6:9-10, “Or do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, 10 nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, shall inherit the kingdom of God

and I am 90% gay on the spectrum.  This isn’t something that is going to change.  I don’t feel conflicted about it.  I believe God is love and His love flows thru me and touches more lives than I can probably imagine.  I don’t give love in this world to buy myself a seat in Heaven.  That would be selfish and I believe that to love like Jesus, it should be unconditional and selfless.  I don’t feel the need to someday have my moment with Jesus when this life comes to an end.  He is with me in every moment that I am here on earth.  The awakening and fullness that I feel in my heart for each and every living creature.. for in each and every one of us, is Him.  Imagine if every Christian could love each and every person like they were Jesus! 

Anyway I got off track.  My point is this.. I have a lot of thoughts and feelings about the abomination that surrounds how my heart is pulled to love.  I choose not to share them in this particular blog because it was today’s scripture that really caused me to open a blog and begin typing. Here it is.. and I’ll break it down at the points I feel conflicted about it.  If anyone would like to enlighten me.. it’s very welcomed.  Maybe I’m misinterpreting it? 

Matthew 18:1‭-‬4‭, ‬6‭-‬35

​In that hour the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who then is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?”  Jesus called a little child to himself, and set him in the middle of them, and said, “Most certainly I tell you, unless you turn, and become as little children, you will in no way enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.  Whoever therefore humbles himself as this little child, the same is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.  but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to stumble, it would be better for him that a huge millstone should be hung around his neck, and that he should be sunk in the depths of the sea.   

Okay.. so I am all for remaining humble and open minded like a child.  I have a really hard time with threatening manner of causing someone to stumble.  I think back on how many times, as an atheist, I have challenged and debated with people who I felt were using the bible against me.  How many times I’ve listened to someone quote a story and I’ve thought about how incredibly unlikely it was that it was a true story.. and debated my reasons for thinking that way.  Would God really give us the freedom to think and learn for ourselves to then want to chain an entire factory around our neck and let us sink to the bottom of an ocean.. for using our own voice to express those thoughts and feelings?  I mean debate causes stimulation of our minds and whirls up emotions in our hearts.  We are all His children.. I have a hard time believing He would wish such a wrath of punishment because of a stumble.  

 “Woe to the world because of occasions of stumbling! For it must be that the occasions come, but woe to that person through whom the occasion comes!  If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off, and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life maimed or crippled, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into the eternal fire. 

Ok.. again.. time out! I’m a literal person.. and in envisioning this.. if I stumbled over my foot and cut it off to prevent that stumble again.. I guarantee you I will fall a lot more with one foot left to walk on.  I understand the scripture is using dramatic effect (which causes me to wonder how feminine Matthew might have been) but I think cutting off my hands because I’m writing this blog would be a shame.  What about all the good that come from these same hands?  Again .. the all or nothing factor comes up here for me.  In psychology this behavior has a diagnosis… borderline personality disorder.. and it’s a VERY destructive disorder.   Let’s continue… 

 If your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out, and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into the Gehenna  of fire. 

Again … a little dramatic in my opinion. 

 See that you don’t despise one of these little ones, for I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.  For the Son of Man came to save that which was lost.    “What do you think? If a man has one hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine, go to the mountains, and seek that which has gone astray?  

Is this a trick question?  It would depend on several factors.  Would the 99 sheep be at risk by leaving them to find the missing one?  

If he finds it, most certainly I tell you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine which have not gone astray.  Even so it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish. 

So bottom line is don’t stray to begin with.  Ironically a good lesson for me right now because obviously if I am questioning if Christianity is right for me.. that would be a step in possibly straying.  In order not to stray, for me, I need to let these questions out and play it out on paper to really digest it.. and be at peace with it.  I guess that line is a conformation for me to continue blogging.  He is so amazing. Thank you Jesus for always providing the direction. 🙂 OK moving on … 

   “If your brother sins against you, go, show him his fault between you and him alone.

ALONE! just wanted to highlight this.  All too often I see posts on Facebook or other outlets that broadcast a person’s disagreement.  Cut the drama guys and girls.  Don’t be and villain… address it like a leader .. like Jesus .. with love. 

 If he listens to you, you have gained back your brother.  But if he doesn’t listen, take one or two more with you, that at the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. 

Having third parties can help… referees make a living of it 😉 

  If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the assembly. If he refuses to hear the assembly also, let him be to you as a Gentile or a tax collector. 

Can someone explain what that means?

 Most certainly I tell you, whatever things you bind on earth will have been bound in heaven, and whatever things you release on earth will have been released in heaven.

This is so powerful for me.  What I hear it telling me is that if I live a life of selfless love here on earth … that life is what is waiting for me in Heaven.  This speaks volumes!! I witness Christians waiting for this life to be over so they can join Him in the Kingdom of Heaven all the time.  Knowing that it’s going to be a extension of what we are creating here on earth just completely motivates me to continue living this life to the absolute fullest.. where love is my main currency. Thank you Jesus! 

  Again, assuredly I tell you, that if two of you will agree on earth concerning anything that they will ask, it will be done for them by my Father who is in heaven.  For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in the middle of them.”   Then Peter came and said to him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Until seven times?”  Jesus said to him, “I don’t tell you until seven times, but, until seventy times seven.  

Forgiveness … it’s the key to setting ourselves free of the bandage that resentment holds on our hearts.  I highly recommend it every time.. but heed the wisdom that comes also.

Therefore the Kingdom of Heaven is like a certain king, who wanted to reconcile accounts with his servants.  When he had begun to reconcile, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents.  But because he couldn’t pay, his Lord commanded him to be sold, with his wife, his children, and all that he had, and payment to be made.  The servant therefore fell down and knelt before him, saying, ‘Lord, have patience with me, and I will repay you all!’  The Lord of that servant, being moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt.    “But that servant went out, and found one of his fellow servants, who owed him one hundred denarii,   and he grabbed him, and took him by the throat, saying, ‘Pay me what you owe!’    “So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will repay you!’  He would not, but went and cast him into prison, until he should pay back that which was due.  So when his fellow servants saw what was done, they were exceedingly sorry, and came and told to their Lord all that was done.  Then his Lord called him in, and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt, because you begged me.  Shouldn’t you also have had mercy on your fellow servant, even as I had mercy on you?’

A great story for “do unto others…”

  His Lord was angry, and delivered him to the tormentors, until he should pay all that was due to him.  So my heavenly Father will also do to you, if you don’t each forgive your brother from your hearts for his misdeeds.”

A little contradictarary.  So the Lord will forgive us countless times.. except the time that we don’t forgive someone.. then He will punish us? 

This is where I have a hard time with the Bible.  Quite obviously from the beginning of the story “the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to reconcile with his servants” this is Matthew’s analogy of how he interpreted the lesson of forgiveness.  This isn’t God’s Word… this is Matthew’s account from his perspective.  It’s very valid and a great analogy.. but like any one person’s account of something.. it isn’t the best all and end all.. and in that lies a great example for my having a hard time with all or nothing when it comes to the Bible.  Anyone who has been in a lecture at school can tell you that tho there is one teacher… the lessons learned by each student would vary if they were to recant what they had learned.  

The floor is open … I look forward to the insight that will come as I sincerely want to learn and grow in my faith while reading the scriptures. 

Matthew 18:1‭-‬4‭, ‬6‭-‬35 WEB

http://bible.com/206/mat.18.1-35.WEB

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Celebrating Sobriety

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I wrote this in 2014… 

There are a lot of reasons I permitted myself to drink. Excuses. Sadness. Relationship problems. Work problems. Financial problems. Family problems. Your problems. My problems. Life problems. Death problems. Problems period…

Reasons for which i just knew i should drink. Excuses.

Joy! Relationship success. Work success.  Financial success. Family success. Your success my success life success success period!!!! Bottoms up!!

Then there were those days when neither problems nor success came my way… And I failed at trying to create either for an excuse to drink, so I drank. 

Truth is I drank because I liked the effect that alcohol had on my body, on my mind, and on my heart. That liquid courage that permitted me to start… Start that conversation with a beautiful lady.. At least thru beer bottle glasses she was beautiful..

The super powers it gave me to numb my emotions, the perfect potion, why wouldn’t I give it absolute devotion? Why aren’t you? Have you tried this shit? And they say I’m the one with the problem…

The permission it gave me to just not care, no need to be aware of others and their shit of course unless they had something to give, or share, then I was there. 

My favorite was its ability to allow me to avoid… I don’t have to elaborate… Wait what? Avoid what? Why life of course. 

So today I am proud to say that I can celebrate that while those excuses have still blessed my life, loss of love, child, and good friends wife, a medical emergency, a surgery, and possibly being fatally sick, i didn’t drink not a lick… I stand sober and dry with my new clear minds eye which affords me the ability to see who I want to be. A productive member of society… A worthwhile employee… A friend – a very best friend, selfless honest loyal and true who knows its not about me but what can I do for you… A daughter to a father whose spent years concerned, a lover to another that I won’t crash and burn.  An example a supplier of a glimmer of hope to the next who can’t vision their life without dope. 

All the excuses in the world could never convince me that they’re reason enough to give up living in sobriety.

From “Fuck You” to “Thank You Cancer”

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Six months sober, and divorced… A few days after my final goodbye to my four year old son, I hit my knees.

the second cocktail of chemo drugs caused a reaction and hair loss

 No, I wasn’t praying.. I was in so much pain that my body collapsed into a ball without much thought.  One minute I was texting “sweet dreams” and by the time she responded I wrote back “I think I’m going to the hospital”.  I felt like I was going to DIE; like a gremlin and the monster from the Alien were doing the monster mash right there in my gut.  I panicked, not only because of the pain but because I lived alone.  What if I got worse before I could alert help? One of my fears of being alone coming to life.  I called my friend asking her if she could please take me to the hospital.  She asked what’s wrong and I told her “please just come quickly.” I debated calling an ambulance but I didn’t want the attention of the street.. My self consciousness still winning, even in an emergency.

  By the time she arrived I had slithered down the 18 stairs from my raised house and was sitting balled up on the bottom step counting the hour long milliseconds that it took for her to arrive.  Once at the hospital, it took 45 minutes to be seen, and another 30 to get any kind of pain relief.  They wanted to do testing first.  I can’t say I blame them, I’d hit every emergency room in the area in pain at one point or another, seeking pain medicine to get high. In the moment tho, I hated every last one of them.  Restraining myself from punching holes in the wall felt impossible.  Laying waiting in our little cubical of the ER, I felt the mess starting to kick in.  The edge of the cliff began to get distant, and the doctor came and asked my friend to step outside.  She returned in tears, the doctor behind her looking somewhat apprehensive.  They told me they had found a tumor… A 19cm tumor wrapped around my left ovary and Fallopian tube.  It was the size of a 5 month pregnancy.  I remember the doctor looking at me like I was crazy.  “You didn’t have any symptoms before now?” He asked.  I thought about it and told him that I did have an increase in pain but I assumed it was because I was sober, and I could actually feel pain now, or maybe because I had started walking and my body was adjusting.

Pictures from the initial surgery

A symptom of PTSD is unmanaged dissociation.  Everyone does it on some level whether it’s entering auto pilot while driving,  and you end up wherever you are going but you don’t remember getting there.  That’s the mild side of the unmanaged dissociation spectrum.  Extreme sides of the spectrum are cases are dissociative identity disorder or DID (formerly known as multiple personality disorder) where the psyche completely splits into separate identities to perform various roles to the host.  There are many stops along the way of that spectrum, and I fall in at about the 60-70 range.  If you want to know more on this feel free to ask!  The point is,  my ability to separate from the feeling of physical pain was so fine tuned that the magnitude of the symptoms weren’t registering.  There was a disconnect.

  So, back to my story.. It’ll be a miracle if this blog actually tells the story I opened it to tell!
  From there I was rushed into surgery, the tumor was removed, along with my ovary and Fallopian tube.  A week later I found out that it was indeed cancerous.  Another fear.. Both my gran and my mother were killed by cancer on my mothers side, and my dads mother was also killed by that monster, and now it had me.  I won’t go into all the specifics.. Maybe another blog piece, but that was where my faith really began.

It wasn’t in a foxhole prayer, “God, please save me… ” it was real faith.. It was where I stopped bartering with the “if there’s a God” and started accepting the current moment exactly as it was.  I had been working on my third step in AA, “we made a decision to turn our will and our life, over to the care of God as we understood him” and I was almost all in.. The only reservation I had about staying sober was “if I lose my son I’m getting fucked up” and then I’d lost my son, and stayed sober.

Truth be told, I was secretly in love with another recovering alcoholic and I wanted to prove how committed I was to sobriety.  She had so many years sober, and I had only months.  I thought if I could tackle these monsters of reasons to drink, without drinking, we could bypass the “sober for a year rule”.

  I fought, every day, well almost every day.  There were some days when I couldn’t fight, and I had to lay in bed and just rest.  I remember feeling so much anxiety and panic when I would try to lay down and rest.  This video pretty much depicts that part of the fight (i record and document everything because my memory isn’t too great, and i lose time a lot… a big part of my recovery has been trying to piece together and accept that these things will happen, but looking for ways that i can take care of myself to make them less intrusive)

I was so scared that while I was resting, the cancer was taking over. No imagined it to be like a black cloud that I’d dispersed with my light of my sun, but crept back over when I wasn’t looking.  If I stopped, my body would get weak and I’d lose the fight.. And that just wasn’t an option.  Most breakdowns actually served their purpose in bouncing me back for the next round…

I spent many manic nights awake.  I began painting.  I didn’t want to watch tv, and so I started painting and found that I could paint! I had no idea.  I was pretty amazing at it too!!

Painted from a photo of Chicago that I found online
My secret love challenged me to try spray painting after seeing a video of the NYC spray paint artist..


Time lapse Video of 48 hours of learning to spray paint… not bad!

I gladly accepted the challenge, and within 24 hours I was spray painting my way to a masterpiece. 🙂 I remember selling some of those to my friends on Facebook, helping to generate some money towards the mounting costs of prescriptions and co pays.  I delivered pizza part time for Papa Johns in the evenings, and worked the back drive thru window of McDonalds with my AA sponsor and good friend in the mornings.
Having fun on the job 😉
  I bounced between photography and painting when I didn’t have the energy to walk.  In finding the gift of artwork, I saw a reason for being sick.  I would’ve never known I could paint if I hadn’t slowed down.  I remember how I felt the first time I realized that.  I’m crying again now just remembering how intense that feeling of trust in the universe was.  I remember telling the universe that it could’ve been a little more subtle than the big C, but then I thought about all of the times that I could’ve slowed down, and should’ve slowed down, and I didn’t.  Always running running running because I didn’t want to feel, and if I slowed down or stopped then the feelings would come flooding thru me at an overwhelming rate and I didn’t know how to adjust the faucet.  It was stuck wide open and I couldn’t handle all of that so I ran, staying busy.  It’s why I got fucked up to begin with. Thank you cancer.
a dresser from my sons room that became a painting project
  Four surgeries, and five chemos into the fight I began researching what could I do to improve my chances.  I asked questions on Facebook, and you guys responded with juice recipes, plant based diets.. And so I tried it.  I remember I couldn’t eat much at the time, but I kept telling myself “if I’m going to force myself to eat something, it’s going to be something that will help kick this bitchs’ ass! And I’d add a spoonful of peanut butter to a very green leafy disgusting  cocktail, blend it up and drink up.  I remember making music videos and joining the happy days fb group where my newsfeed filled up with all of these reasons people were happy that day.  That’s where I met a lot of you guys!  There was something about knowing people were watching, or at least feeling like they were, that grounded me.  I didn’t want you to see the real me.  I didn’t want you to see the crazy me, so I attempted to hide it, failing miserably with those I got close to, but it served its purpose.  I kept striving to improve, to be a better person, to show all of you how amazing I really am.. Because I didn’t feel it.. And you guys would tell me I am, and for a moment I would feel it… And as a true addict, it felt good so I wanted more.

 I began a bucket list which I named the “remember when list” because it was a list of things I would one day sit on my front porch telling stories of “remember when” to what I’d hope to be, my love.. Sitting next to me, saying “yes dear” 🙂 – that fantasy pushed me.  It set a tone inside of me and I wrote that list of things I wanted to do in my lifetime!! As that list grew, I realized that I didn’t have time to have a job.. Not in the traditional sense.  I started thinking of ways I could make money without actually going to work, and reading nomad blogs, learning how to travel as cheap as possible.  Again the faith came in, as I thought about everything I had already survived, and I saw how each individual storm in my life created a piece of evidence that I would be okay, no matter what.  Dealing with mental illness, never actually killing myself despite many years of feeling that was my only safe place to live mentally… Katrina.. Being homeless.. Heartbreaks.. I had survived  many storms, it’s what I do! In that I found strength and courage.  I saved links, and took notes, learning and forming the vague outline of how I could actually start working on some of these bucket list ideas.  Sure.. I couldn’t go backpacking Europe that day, laying in bed feeling sick as a dog, hurting, and generally wanting to die on some level.. But I could start studying.. Figure out what id need to do.. What equipment would I need? I’d only been camping twice.  I started looking on craigslist, and reading more and more.

What could I sell to generate money? I started painting sand dollars, and furniture, and whatever else came my way.  I sat out on Saturdays at the farmers market, hoping to sell a piece.  I went to galleries and talked to the managers, showing my portfolio.. I read blogs on how photographers make money with their pictures.. And the majority of the money is in portrait photography.. It wasn’t something I felt I was good enough for, having seen others work.  I didn’t have the money for the equipment I really needed, but I took my Panasonic LUMIX camera and did the best I could.. Watching YouTube videos on how to edit portrait pictures.  Touch ups etc.  I had the eye, I just didn’t have the knowledge, but I learned!

Adorable little girl and her mother that responded to a FB ad

I posted questions in fb photography groups, and they came back with all the answers to help me improve.  It provided the money to travel some more, but I didn’t care for it enough to pursue it further.

I took on a couple of website gigs, rehashing skills from my earlier years, and hustled flipping a broke down car.

Changing out the brake calipers – gotta trust the Universe to learn this on YouTube!

There’s never an easy answer to “how do you afford to travel” I just do whatever the moment presents itself with, and I am always provided for.  The Universe takes care of me as long as I allow it to.  I never thought I’d be a paid blogger.. $5-$12 a day, but it’s something! Every little something adds up and creates opportunity for more experience, and with more experience comes more opportunity.  It’s an amazing circle of life.

  Now my hope is to use my blog to not only record doing all this with mental illness.. (Which I really want to write about the transition from traveling to home.. I definitely need a better plan for reentry.  The last few days have been rough and I feel very spacey, ungrounded), but not only that and frugal traveling, but I’ve been writing the story of the travels from a first hand perspective as if the reader is the one traveling.  Once the story is written I want to record it and put pictures and videos to it so that the viewer or reader feels as if they are really traveling the world.

Then I want to donate it to everyone fighting a terminal illness, so that they can dissociate into the story and maybe get a little relief from the reality of the pain and treatment that they are going thru.  I hope it inspires them to fight, to really see the world, or whatever their bucket list things are, and if that’s no longer an option, I hope I get to help fulfill at least one of them by having this experience to share.

  Having said that..
I’d like you help me out by clicking on all the ads you see on this page, clicking back to the blog between each one.  I get paid per reader and per ad click.. And that helps fund this adventure.
I’d also like you to shared story if you believe in me and want to be a part of it!
And lastly, there is a box to subscribe to the blog, if you want notifications of new posts to the blog.
With that.. I hope you enjoyed my story.. It’s what got me to where I am today.. This year I have seen 22 states in the USA.. Fallen in love with traveling, seen my nephew for the first time, seen my first concert, mastered camping, backpacked four cities, opened an Airbnb of my own, become a paid blogger, met sooo many amazing new people, and next month I am leaving to backpack Europe! It’s wild!  If this is a dream, I never want to wake up.  Thank you Cancer!
“It’s a perfect day for a perfect day!”

$135 all included in Chicago… blessed

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I decide to head for the first tourist attraction on my list, backpack in tow, after-all, I cannot check into my airbnb until 5pm.  Who cares tho? $18 a night, how can I complain? Airbnb has really changed my life! Goodbye tents, and hello wifi, electricity, shower, and a real bed!


The John Hancock building, where I have read that you can see all of Chicago from the signature lounge bypassing the $20 fee for the 360 deck.  I set off.  Walking in circles looking for the red line.  The map shows its location, but my gps seems confused and the street names don’t indicate which direction in which to go.  This certainly isn’t New York.  I feel the wind bellowing down the avenue towards me, and I decide that that must be where Lake Michigan is.  I proceed to walk in the North with this assumed directional sense.  Three lefts later, I am going the right way.
Distractions!!!!!
Everywhere…
 Tall buildings leaving my head forever tilted towards the sky.  But as my eyes come in for a landing to quickly ensure my safety they find new wonders upon which to gaze.
Old castle like buildings intertwined with the new skyscraper structures.  Beige monuments, standing short against the backdrop of the glass windows.  The contrast taking me quite off guard.  “You never know what you don’t know, and who knew?”  Holy churches and fire stations.
Bricks carefully laid one by one, the pride completely evident.  The tourist leaps out of me, pulling the real camera out and snapping, spinning, snapping some more.  Photo after photo, eager to share my discovery with the world.  I can see Willis Tower ahead of me.  The Sears Tower I should say, or else my local chitown friends will be sure to correct me.  I look at my GPS, which is now cooperating, and continue to walk around the block, looking for the John Hancock Building.  Around and around I walk, skipping a block, “maybe it’s behind the Willis Tower?” I stop to read about the water tower, that now houses and Chicago Tourism center and art gallery.
The water tower was built to draw water from Lake Michigan, and was the only public building to survive the Great Fire of Chicago.  It’s beautiful.  I continue walking, until I have come full circle, and another block before I realize that the Willis Tower is in fact the John Hancock Building.  #tourist
It turns out that the signature lounge has overly priced drinks, and while it may still be cheaper to purchase a $15 mixed drink than pay the $20 to get into the 360 deck, there’s s special for $21 where you cons visit the deck twice within 48 hours.  As a photographer, the chance to see the skyline during the day and at night is totally worth the extra dollars!
  Breathtaking… This is one of those moments that I wish you weren’t reason my blog and looking at my photos.. It’s a moment that if you can get to Chicago and experience this, I totally recommend it, and I’m writing this blog to prove it doesn’t cost as much as you’ve probably assumed..
This is probably a good spot to get a financial breakdown of the cost of this trip so far.
Parking car in New Orleans – FREE (thank you Gloria!)
Flight from New Orleans to Chicago via Southwest Airlines – $44
Bottle of water in the airport (because my waters were more than 3oz I had to pour them out) – $3 (lesson learned)
Orange line train from the airport to the city $3
Dublin Donuts Coolata (don’t judge, we don’t have Dunkin Donuts near where I live) $4
John Hancock 360 – $21
AirBnB reservation $20/night
3 nights booked ($60)
Total so far = $135 and that’s including the next two nights lodging!
As heavy as this tall backpack is, it’s totally worth it!
Can’t beat that! Well, maybe I should tell the next story about my airbnb 😉
To be continued

Goodnight Day One

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October 3rd 2015 – My first day traveling without my car.. just me, my backpack, and public transportation…

So I woke up in New Orleans, took my $44 flight and spent the day walking miles around Chicago with my backpack.  It’s about 4pm, and I figure it’ll take me about an hour to get to the place I will be sleeping.  Perfect timing since check in is at 5pm and all I really want to do is put this backpack down and get something to eat.  I’ve seen several places but I want to be frugal.  I can cook at the house, I’m sure there will be a grocery store somewhere near.

 

  I plug in the address and use some city transport app I found in the App Store.  It doesn’t really help me out too much, so I check my reservation for directions.  Sure enough, catch the pink line and a few blocks from the Kedzie station I’ll find the place.  Should be easy.  After walking completely the wrong way, and finding navy pier, a lady walking her dog eyes me at the bus shelter looking completely lost trying to figure out if any of the buses that stop here are going anywhere closer to somewhere that will help me.  By this time I am tired, and walking isn’t feeling so much fun.  She asks me if I need help, and I tell her what my goal is.   She kindly directs me to the red line, and then tells me she’s walking that way so she’ll walk with me.
  As we walked we talked.  She asked me where I was from, and what I was doing in Chicago.  I told her my story about fighting cancer, and mental illness, and how now I just want to live, which for me means seeing the world.  She tells me about her son who is fighting prostate cancer.  She tells me that they aren’t supposed to outlive their children.  She’s already lost one child to suicide, and now her son is fighting for his life.  She’s happy to hear there is hope, and thanks me for my story.  She seems positive that he will win his fight tho.  She asked me if I’d thought about becoming a motivational speaker, and I have,  but when I think of them, I think about people traveling to rooms full of people, place to place, now trying to sell a CD, or a book, or something.  How whatever brought them to be the inspiration has probably taken a back seat, and spreading the message, and profiting from it has probably become a full time job, once again propelling money to the front of the goals list.  It’s so easy to fall back into that trap. I don’t think that’s for me.  I’m content with writing these blogs, and hopefully touching some other people’s lives that are struggling in their own fights, or living inside their 9 to 5 boxes, dreaming of the day, but never allowing it to be today.  I remember that feeling.  It was “normal” everyone did it, because after all that’s what we are supposed to do.  Get a job, take care of our family, create a safe home, and fill it with things that show we are successful.  I am so deathly afraid of falling back into that lifestyle.  Motivational speaker is certainly not for me.  I thank her for confidence in my message, and we part ways at the corner, next to the red line.  I felt emotional.  I felt that my soul had connected with this stranger, sent to me in a time of frustration and fatigue, to guide me “home” for the night, and in return I gave her the gift of being heard.  I thought about how personal the things she told me were, and I felt the release of some of that weight leave her.  I smiled, entering into the subway.
  Once I got into the train, I checked the map to figure out what stop I needed to get off and transfer to the pink line.  I was almost there.  Pretty proud of myself for handling the first day out of the pen so well.  20 steps up to the street from the red line, a block or two to walk and I’m at the pink line.  It’s amazing how much further you can go when you think you are done.  I got to the foot of what looked like Mount Everest, up to the train line overhead.  36 steps later my legs felt they couldn’t go any further if I needed them to.  I board the train and offered a seat.  I take the seat and count the stops until mine.  Counting down I get to “3 to go” and there’s a young man a little ways down the cart? (Is that what they’re called?)  He starts talking to a kid standing next to my chair in the doorway.  His dad is sitting with his little sister on the other side of me.  “Hey shorty, you still doing good in that school?”
“Yea” he says, looking tough, as his body language seems to prepare for what might come next.
“Don’t mess it up, that’s a good school.  My boy went to college from that school.”
“Nah, I’m doing good. “
“Aight, don’t make me run up on you to check your homework” he said, stepping off as the train came to a halt.  I smile to myself.  I notice that the neighborhoods are starting to deteriorate.  I’d been informed that “oak park” was a “good” neighborhood, a safe neighborhood.  I get to my stop, and step off.  The houses are boarded up, graffiti everywhere, and just an all around run down looking place.  I check the map again to make sure I’m in the right place.  I’m not in oak park.  I’m in Little Village, which looks mighty close to my original reservation, that I thought I had changed to Oak Park.  I think about what my friend said about my safety, check in with myself, and feel very present and capable of taking care of myself.  It’s right around 5pm, and still light outside.  This is the adventure right? I’m not going to know people in Europe wherever I go to guide me to the good neighborhoods and keep me safe from the bad.  It’s pretty typical that the cheaper places to stay are in the poorest of neighborhoods.  The reviews looked good.  “The Europeans seemed to make it work, I can too” I think to myself, and start walking the few blocks to the house.
  After two, I find a convenience store.  I decide to go in and see if they have a can of soup or something easy to heat up.  I’m sure I’ll go to sleep early.  As I approach the door, two men are leaving.  They’re Latino and dressed in wife beaters and jean shorts.  They feel familiar.  One holds the door and instructs me to enter first since I’m a woman.  I thank him but insist that they leave first, as I am carrying a huge pack and probably can’t fit past them without taking a shelf out.  I smile to myself, recalling the love on the train, and the love at this door, and the realization that I’m allowing stereotypes to create fear inside me, and all of these people are humans.  “They’re just humans trying to make it like the next person.  Has the south really segregated me that much? ” I get a little pissed at myself that this is even an issue.  I’ve never been raised with racism in my heart, and I don’t consider myself racist, but the fact there is fear within me that I may be robbed or taken advantage of, certainly pisses me off.  I check my automatic thoughts and reprogram myself.  I am safe.  I’m not hurting anyone and no one is targeting me.  Just be your loving self and the same will be returned, just like anywhere else.  I hate that I don’t know this instinctively anymore.
  The store doesn’t have anything to really heat up besides ramen noodles, and a can of beans.  I keep walking and see a couple of Mexican restaurants.  I’m sure the food in them is probably really good.  Little mom and pop shops usually are, no matter what the nationality is.  I get up into my room, set the backpack down, finally, and sit.  Harrison gives me a quick tour and I sit once again.  I don’t want to move.  Two hours go by, and it’s gotten dark outside.  My stomach is rumbling, and I know I should probably go find something to eat.  The Mexican restaurant is closed, so I hit another little shop, pick up cereal, milk, peanut butter and bread.  “This should tie me over.”
  I spend the night talking to Harrison about his wild ideas to expand his airbnb, and share some of mine.  He has the same excitement as I do about it.  A group of us hang out on the rooftop patio, listening to the trains and the sirens.  We share stories about who we are and what we are doing in Chicago.  I meet a new German friend, a new airbnb host friend, and a woman staying long term trying to make it in the big city as an accountant.  This is what it’s all about.  Human connection.  Expanding the limitations of what I know, and have learned so far in life.

Growing My International Comfort Zone

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September 24, 2014 (2 years ago in Miami Beach, Florida USA)

It’s amazing how quickly my comfort zone is expanding.  I am no longer afraid or self conscious about saying hello.  It started with a passing stranger, a quick “good morning” and a smile.  The return smile enhanced my day, the returned shocked “hello” even better.  It’s funny how many Americans here are shocked by the pleasantry that is displayed in the South, even here in Miami.  Sure, there are upper class people, some of whom look like they are scared to be infected by poverty, just by acknowledging a blue collar person, but for the most part, people are friendly, and will return whatever is projected to them.  Yesterday I entered the W hotel to find an ATM machine.  I immediately felt out of place with the obvious wealth of the place, and fort knox, security guarded entrance.. the one of a kind cars parked in the front, and various other “toys”.  As I walked around, somewhat lost, it was my own self conscious, “less than” thinking that separated me.  I eventually had to ask for help locating the cash machine, and was treated quite pleasantly, guided to the machine and wished a healthy day.  Another encounter that I discovered a new path to self worth.

In the hostel, I am meeting some amazingly beautiful people from all over the world.  Last night I asked Jette and Yana if they’d like to join me in a walk to a little spot i’d found the day before, where the Miami skyline looked quite beautiful.  I wanted to see it at night, and take some pictures.  Ironically I forgot my camera with all the talk while getting ready.. I forgot all that is involved in getting ready for girly girls. 🙂

I should’ve known when Jette (from Denmark) let me know that she is traveling to celebrate her weight loss, and how beautiful she is, and feels.  She is a princess who loves Pink (which i noticed as she picked out every pink travelers guide from the tourist rack).  Yana (from Israel) hasn’t  claimed to be a princess, but definitely wins the award for the most time spent in the bathroom of the 12 of us.

As we walked, we found a limo, and wanted pictures of us infront of it.  As we rotated and snapped the camera, the limo driver lowered her window and offered for us to climb inside, so of course we did!

 

We spent about an hour at the waters edge, watching the building repeat the dancing lights girl on the side of the building, and admiring the reflections of lights in the water.  The breeze was very welcomed as it was particularly humid last night.   It was “a romantic spot” Yana kept saying as she played with an Old English sheepdog, out with his owner.  We laughed as we each three talked about our own cultures, and the differences in them.  I listened tentatively as they exchanged travel stories.  Mexico certainly made it to my list while India became ruled out for me.  The way the culture was described sounded way too touchy feely towards women, especially if traveling alone.  Maybe one day I will face that fear, but no time soon.  Yana added it to her list, but only if she traveled with a group.  Maybe that had been an invite.. I’m not sure.. my Passage to India was already closed.
This morning I met someone who arrived in the night from Sidney, Australia, tho we didn’t talk long enough to exchange information.  I’m sure we will fix that this evening! Then I met Vecchiato, from Venice Italy.  🙂 She was very friendly, and thought she knew me from a previous hostel stay.  One day I will meet this twin of mine.  We exchanged information right away as she invited me to visit her when I travel Europe.  I look forward to getting to know her more, as she seemed really cool, and laid back.. knowledgeable about traveling.
Tomorrow Jette and I are leaving for the Keys.  I’m a little nervous about having a travel partner as I have learned I enjoy my space and freedom, and struggle with using my voice to achieve my goals rather than cater to others.  I’m feeling under the weather, full of a head cold, and camping on the beach, and being in the water may not be the best idea for me.. but then, maybe it is a good thing I won’t be traveling alone?  Universe… I’m sure you know what you are doing.
Well, time to clock in for work.. need to stack the bank account a little as funds are beginning to slide the wrong way.  I’ve been having technical difficulties with the app that dispenses the deliveries to me, and stayed pretty laid back about getting it fixed.. the result has been a decline in income, but I’ve still profited each day I have been here, so I can’t complain.
MAKE IT A GREAT DAY EVERYONE!!!

Mental health tools – blogging

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Well it’s been a while since I wrote a blog, and it’s been a while since I was panic free. Courtney even responded on a post I made about having anxiety for hours, “when’s the last time you blogged or did some artwork” but I was so caught up that I didn’t really hear the message. I had just written in my notebook that morning trying to ease the anxiety and it hasn’t helped.. But it had, it just wasn’t at the level that blogging helps me when I’m practicing it every day. It’s like exercise for my brain, and just like the stationary bike sucks on the first day after not getting on for three months.. Writing is the same. These tools only work for me when they’re part of my daily life. Doh!
Ok.. So what’s going on in my world? 
Well, I’m currently writing from a commune in chicamauga, Georgia. It’s an abandoned elementary school on the Alabama/Georgia/Tennessee state lines. It’s 10 minutes from Chattanooga, which is an amazingly beautiful town. Last night we went to the river walk to watch the sunset. I can’t tell you how big my smile is that I can write “we” .. Third year in a row that I’ve made a New Years resolution and it’s become realized.  
  So Yupp.. I’ve been traveling.. When I got back from Greece on March 16th, Amber went home, back to New Orleans and I stayed in Conroe, Texas at my besties house.. Courtney (the one with the bad ass food truck Falacos – if you’re anywhere near Houston, YOU WANT THESE BALLS IN YOUR MOUTH!!) and Benny (the artist behind the badass wall murals and famous peeps paintings that y’all see me posting) .. I have so much love for these guys.. Definitely on the inside of my circle, and have been a rock of support in walking with me thru this recovery journey. So I wanted to stay and visit before heading home from Greece.. and a friend came to visit for Courts birthday.. Introducing Kate.. Now, I wasn’t expecting to meet someone in that moment.. I was jet lagged, working on little sleep, and attempting to be present for the day at the food truck.. But something about listening to Courtney tell me about her friend that was coming over had captured my attention. I wanted to know more .. And after meeting her.. I really wanted to know more… and now I’m in Chattanooga Tennessee, with Kate.. And Athena (who I adopted the day after meeting Kate) and here we are .. A happy lil family road tripping!
  So .. New Years I made a resolution that I wanted to manifest a wife. Kind of a weird one isn’t it.. But in that moment, I asked God to present that person in my life, and I made the decision to really focus my energy into envisioning what that person would look like .. I don’t mean physically.. I mean, what qualities would I want.. Ability to travel, ability to be patient wit my panic stricken ass.. Someone I felt safe with, and could talk to without fear… Someone secure.. That wouldn’t get jealous or possessive and not be ok with me traveling alone still. There has been quite a process of really picturing the role that this person would play in my life, and learning myself enough to know the role I can offer to play in theirs. I’d love to be Casanova every day for them, but in reality.. There are some days that I just can’t be that.. There are some days when I need to just be by myself.. I’m learning how to be open and honest during panic instead of acting like I’m ok. I’m learning how to ask for my needs to be met.. Because I never wanted to bother anyone before .. I didn’t wanna be a burden, and I felt like I was on my mental days.  
  I have to say, God delivered when he introduced me to Kate. This road trip is showing me how true that is. 
So.. Where else have I been since Greece?? 
Miami, home, Pensacola, Orlando, Cincinnati, Ohio, Galveston Texas, and now the smokey mountains… And I’m supposed to be staying home for my therapy. Oops! Truth is .. My anxiety is better when I’m on the road and distracted by life, and falling in love with the new places.. 


Having said that, it’s time to get dressed and check out Rock City! I’m so excited.. And now my anxiety is down so I can get dressed and start this day! She’s so patient.. Just sitting in the chair across from me.. Athena on her lap.. Taking care of her own affairs. She’s amazing. 😍