Minimizing – Everything must go! 

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Today’s scripture was “with God all things are possible” but I wanted to read the full chapter so I could see the context of what this snippet was written about.  I’ve noticed that it’s easy to pull half a sentence from the Bible and put it on cards and bracelets and other material items to sell to Christians who want to shine bright that we love Jesus.  I’m a frugal person but I’ve sure bought 2 or 3 cross necklaces already… so I find it interesting that the context was referring to selling every material possession and giving to the poor.. houses and everything and then follow Jesus.  That’s pretty much how I was living before I started attending church.. I just called my higher power the universe at that time.  

​Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”  

Yesterday’s scripture was this… 

And I kid you not… knowing there would be homeless people in New Orleans, rushing to get dressed because I was late meeting a friend, something spoke to me and said… clean your closet .. you have a closet of clothes that just sit there.. sweaters that could keep people warm.. give them out while you’re out and about.  So I grabbed 3 sweaters.. that still fit.. that aren’t old… that I spent good money on and that I even liked.. because I don’t wear them.. it doesn’t get cold here to wear them often enough to have that many sweaters and I have a way to stay warm. I have a home. I have a van with heat.  Even though we have nice weather.. the temp drops at night and even at 50 degrees.. while staying still sleeping on a bench .. it’s cold.  I didn’t want it to be the focus of our day out.. but if the occasion came up I’d like to have them with me to hand out.. so I packed my day pack and set out.  

But when the young man heard the saying, he went away sad, for he was one who had great possessions. 

One of my sweaters was a really thick warm wool gypsy sweater.  I bought it thinking I’d back pack Europe in it.  It was too thick to take up that much room.  I’ve never worn it but I love it and it cost way more than I usually spend on clothing for myself.  I kept it because I didn’t want to admit I’d wasted my money on that impulse buy.  

Jesus said to his disciples, “Most certainly I say to you, a rich man will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven with difficulty.  Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye, than for a rich man to enter into God’s Kingdom.”   

This may become my favorite scripture.  I know from experience that when I stopped chasing money and material things.. I gained so much happiness and love for life.  I started seeing beauty in the smallest things and having so much more time to just be in the moment of that beauty.  I see people chasing more money, more stuff, more more more… and I wonder what it’s all for… they really seem to advance.. I’ve never met a single person that chased all that and became a millionaire that didn’t have to work… if anything they work harder to maintain the level they grow accustomed to… and still come out stressing money.  It’s a very vicious cycle that spends all of our precious life… causing it to fly by.

Wednesdays scripture talked about what we bind on earth shall be waiting for us in heaven. If we spend all our time chasing money.. we will never feel like we have any to just give away.. or time to sew seeds of love… spending time with people. We don’t even have time to spend with people that we do know and love.  Quite crazy really.

When the disciples heard it, they were exceedingly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?”  Looking at them, Jesus said, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” 

And there we have it.. Jesus was referring to the fact that with God.. we can give away our possessions.. we can reduce ourselves to nothing but time to follow Him.. we strip ourselves of all these other worries because He will take care of us.  If you read my frugal blogs.. you’ll see plenty of testimony supporting this.  Where I traveled 10 countries and 24 states on a wing and a prayer… just knowing that no matter what.. I would be okay.. shedding the fears that imprisoned me in the symptoms of my ptsd… and here I am .. still surviving.. still clothed… still well fed… too well fed… loved by many and now giving glory to Jesus Christ.  I still stress paying my bills to keep my house… if I became a complete nomad I wouldn’t worry about the house.. I’d be completely at the mercy of Him… and carefree.  It seems like the disciples did just that… became nomads and followed Jesus…

  Then Peter answered, “Behold, we have left everything, and followed you. What then will we have?”  Jesus said to them, “Most certainly I tell you that you who have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on the throne of his glory, you also will sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.  Everyone who has left houses, or brothers, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive one hundred times, and will inherit eternal life.  But many will be last who are first; and first who are last.

The Bible tells us that this is the will of God.  Mother Theresa dedicated her life and everything she had to serving Him thru her movement within time help others.  To love complete strangers.  

As we were driving down canal st to go home.. we stopped at a light where a man in a wheelchair held a sign.  We handed him Amber’s last beignet and I frantically pulled the sweaters out the backpack while sitting in the driver’s seat before the light turned green.  I handed him the thick wool hoodie and wished him well… I watched as the faces above him sitting in the street car looked down and smiled… and I prayed that they were moved to touch one person before the day was over.  That’s all it takes to be the change I want to see in the world.  One act at a time.  

Jesus.. help me see the way in which I can be a blessing to others today.  Lord continue to direct me.  Give me the courage to live with the action that supports what I believe your will for me is here on this earth.  Thank you for the treasures that I received from giving yesterday.. the fullness in my heart and the desire to do more.  Thank you for the confirmation that you moved thru me to do your work. I had no idea it would be 30 degrees this morning. God please be with all those that are homeless thru this winter.  Change the hearts of those who pass them and feel resentment because they had to feel guilty for not stopping and helping. Those that shun and look down on them.. or form their assumptions about what led them to be where they are in order to justify why they don’t offer a hand or an ear.  For all we know.. they could be homeless because they already shed all of their worldly possessions in order to follow you… God.. thank you for this 21 day plan of reading scripture that is teaching me to love like you.  Thank you thank you thank you… for I am finding the real message… not just parts of scripture that sound good or feel good.. but your whole message and desire for me.  I love you.  Amen. 

Matthew 19:21‭-‬30 WEB

http://bible.com/206/mat.19.21-30.WEB

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2015: Welcome to ENGLAND! Week 1 – London and the Coast

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Monday, November 30, 2015

  Wow, it has been a while since I have written a blog.  It’s been pretty non stop since the traveling started.  November 11th I boarded a plane in NY to Gatwick airport in London, England.  Pretty scary really, given that I only had a one way, one time passport that was taken from me at the UK Border.  A lot of people think that this trip should be easy for me, but the truth of the matter is, when I left England I was 16.  The only time that I have flown international, and come back to England has been when my mother arranged and paid for it.  My dad, or partner at the time, brought me to the airport, and family was waiting on the other side for my arrival.  I had never counted on myself, solely, to navigate my way using public transportation.  I’d never had to trust myself to make sure that I was okay, and would arrive where I needed to arrive, and needless to say, I was pretty nervous.  All of this is really outside of my comfort zone.

Luckily for me, I do have family in this country, and my first initial destination was to my Aunt’s house.  In some ways, there was comfort in knowing that, and in others there was a different kind of fear.  The last time I had seen my aunt was when I was 15.  We’d had very limited contact even when we were in touch, and next to none for the last 20 years.  My cousins are grown adults, and I knew almost nothing about my Uncle Paul.  Being invited to stay with them in Christchurch was financially supportive of my traveling frugal blog, but emotionally, it was a risk that I really didn’t talk much about.

Hattan Hostel has been pretty successful so far, and I’m extremely grateful for all of Jackie’s hard work on site.  The bookings in Mississippi have slowed down, I assume because it is winter time, but I did expect some traffic for snowbird season.  The weather there is in the 70s.. maybe people aren’t sick of the cold yet.  The price point is as low as it could possibly be, so at this point its time to turn it over to my higher power, and know that there is a reason for it to be vacant.

So far England has been amazing.  Better than I anticipated.  Spending a day in London was something I have done with my dad as a small child, but I don’t remember anything about it.  This trip was with my cousin, and her first time sight seeing the city also.  We woke up around 5am to catch a bus into Bournemouth from Christchurch.  From Bournemouth we took a coach for 2 hours into the City of London, and began our rainy but fun day seeing the sights.  I’ll write a specific guide to seeing London on a Dime once I have finished writing this overall update.

Altogether I stayed in the south of England for a week.  I got to spend quality time with family, see London, spend a day at Durdle Door .. a BEAUTIFUL landscape of cliffs at the Southern end of England, and become acclimated to the British way of life.

The total out of pocket from NYC to the end of my first week in England, flight cost included is:

Flight – $286
Snacks for traveling – $7.25
England socket converter to charge my electronics – $10
Bus from London to Bournemouth – $22
Wok and Roll lunch – $6
Train fare from Bournemouth to Christchurch – $5
Breakfast before London – $4
Lodging with family was free
Food for the most part was free – we brought lunch and dinner with us to London and to Durdle Door
Return trip to London via coach – $35
Sight seeing hop on hop off bus tour of London – $45 (something I usually wouldn’t pay for, but given the rain, it was well worth the free bus rides to each attraction, and the free River Thames cruise that allowed me to get some amazing photos while having shelter to duck under.. not to mention the dry comedy of the boat guide)
Teatime – $4
Shopping for a scarf and hat – $12
Postcards and stamps – $20

Week 1 – $456 ($170 without the flight)

67 year old lived in a dog kennel for 4 weeks post Louisiana flood.. UNACCEPTABLE

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On August 13th 2016, Louisiana received 7.1 TRILLION gallons of rain in less than 36 hours causing the worst national disaster since Superstorm Sandy.  Just to compare, Hurricane Katrina dropped 2.6 Trillion.  The unnamed storm flooded 11% of the state, leaving 144,000 homes a ‘complete loss’.  The media has failed to cover the magnitude of devastation here in Louisiana where help is still so desperately needed.  People are still being found, living in make shift housing… our volunteer group of about 10 rotate days, continuing to send people out into the field in order to meet the needs of so many.. but it is overwhelming, and we certainly need more help.

We first learned of Mrs Diane while posting in a FB group asking where the tent cities were.  We learned of 8 communities where people are still living in tents, 8 weeks after the flood… and these are the fortunate ones that have been found, and given an alternate living space than the black mold infested home that still needs gutting.  Storme’s Shelters was born when we continuously found human beings living inside of the flooded homes. “We’d tell them they can’t live in these conditions and they’d respond with ‘what choice do I have?’ and we didn’t have an answer, so we created one” says Storme.  An Amazon Wishlist of camping supplies was created, initially looking to home people in 3 and 5 man tents, but when returning to check on those rehoused, they’d find the residents back in the homes because the AC still worked, or because they couldn’t crouch under the doorways of small enclosures.  The wishlist was revised to accommodate people in 8 and 10 man tents where they could walk around.. a real home outside of their home.  Extension cords are ran to the tents providing power for phones, crockpots to cook, air mattresses, and in some lucky cases, real beds.

Mrs Diane was by her neighbors living in a dog kennel with a tarp over it, here she had been for 4 weeks.  Shelters had closed down, and bounced her around until the last shelter finally provided her a ride home to a completely condemned mobile home.  She did what she had to do while she sat and waited for FEMA.  Inside her dog kennel she had put a box spring that she found on the neighbors trash pile, covered it with a few blankets, and called it home.  The following video is a compilation of footage from that day.  September 29th, 2016.

Video is Copyright by Storme Hannan XOXO 2016.

By the end of the day help had shown up to pitch a ten man tent.  People watching the initial facebook live video responded, conspiring together to bring a variety of needs and help raise the tent.  People from many volunteer groups. Lousiana Flood Relief, The Cajun Navy, The Cajun Army, #FillTheseTrucks, #BeSomeonesMiracle as well as individuals that just had to come and help.

The help continued on thru the next couple of days when Mrs Thibodeaux went on a hunt for an affordable camper, picked Mrs Diane up, and drove her to Lafayette to look at it and bring it home.

Mrs Diane is one of thousands here in Louisiana who still need help.  In the past week we have discovered over 2,000 hungry people displaced in motels, fearing homelessness when their vouchers run out on 10/19/2016.  They are sitting waiting for Marshall Law.  When we asked them what they needed, they asked for shoes, toothbrushes, water and food.  Many people ask me.. “where’s red cross?” “where’s FEMA?” “don’t they get foodstamps?”

If a person doesn’t own their home, they received one deposit of rental assistance.  Anywhere from $800-$1800 in some cases.  They are thankful for that, but want people to understand.. there isn’t many properties available to rent.  They were flooded.  They don’t have transportation if they only had liability insurance, so they are homeless with no transportation, one initial allotment of food stamps (7 weeks ago) and jobless because they can’t get to work, or their workplace was also flooded.  At this point they are back to having nothing. Lots of people haven’t received any assistance, and are paying out of pocket.  The full story on what we are finding at the motels is coming soon. Please join our FB page Storme’s Shelters to get involved.  Please consider donating to help us help them! We accept PayPal donations stormesshelters@gmail.com or you can use Site To Store on the Walmart Wishlist

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!”

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!!!

Once Upon a Subway 

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​”So many people and no one talks?” I muttered, on a packed subway train in NYC.  
He was about 55, dressed in a suit, and slid over to let two women sit down.  “What’s that?” He asked, nodding towards the tattoo on my arm. 

 “A monster coming out” I told him.  

“Is it you?” He asked…

I nodded, “it was when I got it, but not anymore” I felt the shame come over me, as I always do, when anyone points out my mess of tattoos.  He saw the flight tag still attached to my backpack and asked where I was from.  He shared his experience with New Orleans, and talked about his brother dying and how he still cries.  He said I had something but he didn’t know what.. I just talked in return and told him his brother has moved on to another amazing life and how I believe if he lets go of the “should” that he “should still be here”.. He will experience knowing he is .. Just in a different light.  He told me about a time that he almost drowned, and how peaceful he felt in that moment, and then his brother pulled him up out of the water.  I told him about how I’d spent years suicidal, trying to die, and then had to fight cancer.  I told him how I’m now traveling on blind faith.  I never know fully how I will make it from place to place, but I know I’ll survive.. I always do.  
We got off at the same stop, 157th street.  The stairs had two exits so we took separate ones.  I wished I had taken his picture.  At the top, he rounded the corner and called “Storme.. How are you funding your travels?” So I told him artwork., frugal living and faith” he handed me $40 and said “thank you, you are beautiful” he didn’t want his picture taken, but his name was Jim.  I thanked him. 
He told me “have some

Fun with that while you’re in NY” and I told him I wanted to see the last Yankee game of the season against the Red Sox.  He said he is a sox fan so I agreed not to root ☺️

Thank you Jim.  It is you who is beautiful, I just listened, and in listening to a complete stranger open up without being asked to, I felt so completely filled with human love.  So thank you.  I wish I could tell you that in person.