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Archive for December, 2009

2009 sucked big stinking rotten eggs.  I suspect most of you would agree with me.  I’ve been out of work since April and I know many others who are in the same boat.  Our economy is in a shambles.  The government that can’t even keep their own check books balanced wants to control how we get medical care.  American soldiers are stomping all over dirt that isn’t anywhere close to home for way too long.  Greedy corporate raiders are raping their companies and the public for everything they can get. Politicians, celebrities and athletes are proving just which head they’re (not) thinking with yet again.  And, oh by the way, the Indianapolis Colts’ management are a bunch of big stupid doo-doo heads.

I could go on (for really long) but you get my point.  So with such a crock of shit behind us, we are understandably looking toward 2010 not only with hope, but with some serious wishful thinking and maybe even a little desperation.  I’m not going to say it could only be better, because the gods have a wicked sense of humor and will always punish you for stuff like that, but I will risk that the likelihood of improvement appears highly probable.  (How’s that for government-speak?)  But let’s not get too crazy just yet.

With the new year, people often make resolutions for what they want to accomplish in the coming year.  Usually it’s stuff like losing weight and getting into shape, stop smoking (drinking, drugs, picking your nose…), going to church more, being nice to your in-laws at least once, etc.  And here’s where we usually get our selves into trouble and set ourselves up for failure before we even begin: we set our goals way too high.

Take me, for instance.  I’m carrying around about 100 pounds that I really shouldn’t be.  Yeah, you read that right.  And that’s not even getting me close to what those stupid medical charts say I should be.  (For that, I’d need to stop eating entirely for about five years…)  That’s just to get me back to a point that’s really comfortable for me.  I get away with carrying that much weight because I’m six feet tall and built like a Russian shot-putter.  I carry my weight all over, unlike some people who hold it all in their bellies or their butts, so I look somewhat in proportion with myself.  Presently, I have no health issues associated with such an excess of weight.  No diabetes, hypertension or high cholesterol.  But since I’m careening recklessly toward that half-century mark of existence, my joints are beginning to really talk to me about their issues.  And I’m beginning to listen.  (When they yell that loud, how could I not?)

But if I were to declare that I’m going to lose 100 pounds in 2010, I would already have lost.  It’s too easy to look at that kind of number and just go “Holy crap!  What was I thinking?!?”  I didn’t gain all that weight in a year, so it ain’t coming off in a year.  Oh sure, I could do the Biggest Loser kind of thing, where I eat strained prunes and live in the gym for a few months, but the chances are it would all come crushing back even faster than I got it the first time.  Diets don’t work, because they don’t address what the real problem is:  lifestyle.  What works is the old tried-and-true eating right and exercising.  ALL  –  THE  –  TIME.  That means changing how you live, eat, drink, breath, every day for the REST OF YOUR LIFE.

So instead of stating that I’m going to lose X amount of pounds in 2010, I instead will make decisions to change my lifestyle.  I vow to eat less, in general, and will avoid fast foods and other heavily processed items in exchange for more vegetables and lean meats.  I vow to walk on the treadmill at least three times a week.  I vow to drink more water.  I vow to laugh more.

Note that there are no absolutes in any of those vows.  That doesn’t mean they’re any less valid or affective, just more realistic, because we humans are a fragile and flawed animal.  We need wiggle room for that occasional day when we just don’t give a damn and need to sit in front of the TV watching bad Sci-Fi with our Cappuccino Heath Bar Crunch.  We need that psychological break from a carefully constructed routine.  We just can’t do that EVERY day.  Make the days on the couch less and less, and the days with the revamped you more and more.  Smoke one less cigarette tomorrow.  Eat one scoop less of ice cream.  Take the stairs.  Walk the dog.  Smile at a stranger.  Make a conscientious effort to do more of the GOOD things and less of the “bad” things, and eventually the good will be the vast majority.

And as for 2009?  Well, it gave us some really good examples of what NOT to do.  But it also gave us the opportunity to find out who we really are, what we could live without, when we should question, where we could find the answers, why we do stupid things, and how we can make it all better.   I may not be working in a conventional environment anymore, but I’m happier than I’ve been in a long time.  Like many others who have found themselves out of work, I am reinventing myself, one word at a time.

So here’s to you, 2009.  Don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.

©  2009  Cheri K. Endsley.  All Rights Reserved.

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Perspective

They had taken him from his cage again.

Sitting on the padded floor, so weak he couldn’t yet stand with confidence, he looked around trying to make sense of something.  Anything.

There was a lot of noise, most of which he couldn’t identify.  Some of it sounded like the big voices his captors had, only lots of them, and varied.  In the background was a soothing, almost happy sound that didn’t sound like the voices, rising up and down in such a way he could almost let himself sway along with it.  Beyond that was a short bark of a sound that kept repeating at random intervals, interspersed with one of the voices in what he had learned was one of their annoyed tones.  And more sounds still, a cacophony of sounds filling his head with confusion.  He had been trying for months to decipher what they all meant, but his progress had been slow, the big voices unable to communicate in any manner he could really understand.

And then there was all the light.  So bright.  His captors just couldn’t seem to get along in the dark at all.  Even now, the area he was in was full of colors, points of light all around, with glowing golden orbs set about at odd intervals.  It hurt his eyes to look at it all, but they didn’t seem to understand how difficult it was for him.  He tried to tell them, but the best he had managed so far was to teach them when he needed food or drink, when he needed to evacuate himself, and when he needed to sleep.  The rest of it was still a work in progress.

He was actually starting to grow fond of them, though.  They didn’t seem to mean him any real harm, as they did take care of him.  But so much of his time with them seemed to be spent paraded from one to another, like something to be displayed or studied.  He was a curiosity to be shared and sometimes he was just so tired he couldn’t help but express his displeasure.  When he did, that usually got him put back in the cage.  It was warm and dark and quiet there, so he could just ponder his experiences of the day without any distractions.  But it made learning about his captors a tedious task.  At the rate he was going, it would take years to just have the simplest of conversations with them.  He worried that they would be bored with him before that time came.

One of the big voices knelt next to him, smiling at him and babbling in that strange language they had.  He  recognized this one as a regular caretaker, usually dealing with him in the evenings before he went to bed.  This big voice often liked to take him from his cage and stand him on the floor, holding him up as he tried to find his feet.  His balance was still so bad, he wondered if he would ever figure it out.  Just like he expected, the captor pulled him to his feet and held his hands as he tried to stay steady.  His captors were so much larger than him that he had never really considered trying to fight back, so he just stood there and smiled.  One day he would have his strength and then they would see.

Letting go of one hand, he looked around to see if he could make out anything more.  Everything here was so much bigger than him, and it was hard to make out details when they were so high above your head.  That’s when he saw the bright red globe, shining brilliantly just a few feet away.  And it was right at eye level.  Oh, how he had to have it!  Salvation so close at hand.

He turned and lifted his foot for a step, reaching for that beautiful, shiny globe.  He had tried so many times before and failed, but this time when he set his foot down, his leg held him.  Suddenly the big voices around him erupted into excited chattering.

“Oh, shit!  Honey!  Get the camera!  Get the camera!!”
“What?  What happened?”
“Look, look!  He’s walking!”
“Oh my God!  Mom!  Where’s the camera?!?”
“What’s all the fuss out here?”
“Billy just took his first step!”
“Oh!  My precious grandbaby is walking so soon?  Delbert!  Where’s the camera?!?”
“This is the best Christmas ever.”

*********

To everyone, regardless of the language you speak, the calendar you follow, the gods you worship, be at peace within, so you may find the peace without.  Bright Blessings for your holiday season.

© 2009   Cheri K. Endsley.  All Rights Reserved.

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My husband and I are a study in contrasts.  We follow different religions, are members of different political parties, and are in a continuing arms race of Mac (me) vs. PC (him).  Probably the most challenging difference between us, though, is our natural body rhythms: he’s a morning person and I’m a night person.  When I was working, it wasn’t that big of an issue for the two of us.  I didn’t like it much, because I spent the morning fighting my natural desire to be off in my coffin somewhere and trying to avoid dealing with chipper co-workers, energetic bosses, and frantic clients.  But when you’re in a relationship and actually like spending time with each other, being on the same schedule has certain advantages.   Like actually seeing each other occasionally.

Since I’ve been out of work, though, I’ve returned to my natural schedule.  I’m up until 4:00 in the morning or so, and then sleep until noon or better.  I haven’t been using the alarm, since I don’t really have anywhere to go, and found myself sleeping an average of nine hours.  This in stark contrast to the six to six-and-a- half I was getting while working.  It’s no wonder I’m feeling so much better in a lot of ways.  I’ve even lost a few pounds without even trying.  This still allows me to spend time with my husband in the early evening, with his dinner usually being my breakfast.  We talk, deal with some chores around the house, watch some TV and then he goes off to bed while I head to the office to begin my work day.

But being a night person in a day world has its problems.  People ring the door bell, call on the phone or show up to mow the lawn when you specifically told them not to before 3:00 in the afternoon.  There is a conceptual glitch there that the average person just doesn’t seem to recognize.  Just because it’s daylight and I’m home doesn’t mean I’m available.  But they don’t get it.  No matter how many times you tell the post man, your friends, your mother that you’re a day sleeper, they still ring, show up or call.  Just stop it, would you?

Even my husband has his moments.  He has spent his entire adult life getting up at the butt-crack of dawn for his jobs, a trend that started when he was a Marine and hasn’t let up since.  On his days off or when he’s on vacation, the best he can do is 7:00, maybe 8:00 in the morning and then he’s up.  And he’s one of those disgusting people that is wide awake and ready to go from the first moment, unlike his wife, who would give Garfield a challenge for Worst Morning Person Ever.  Like an old Ford pickup, I’m a slow start, even when on my natural schedule.  I need time to lay in bed convincing myself to get up while the cat tries to convince me I don’t really need to, then I shuffle to the bathroom to wash my face and brush my teeth, before stumbling down stairs to get some tea that I will then spend the next hour sipping to achieve some semblance of life.  As he is a most wonderful husband, on the days he is home, my hubby will have the tea waiting for me.  Because the faster he can kick start this cat, the faster we can get going on the day.

But while I’m sleeping, he’s wide awake and waiting for me to make an appearance.  He has admitted that it occasionally frustrates him that my schedule has the semblance of a vampiric life – in his world, the day’s already well on the way to being over before I get started – but over the years he’s gotten a little better about going ahead and doing the things he wants to do without me.  Most of the time it has something to do with metalworking anyway, so not at the top of my list of interests.  That way, once I do open the coffin lid, we can get on with the things we both want to do.

The whole thing has kind of peeved me, though.  There are still people out there that are convinced that people who sleep until noon are lazy slackers that have nothing to contribute to the world.  They don’t get that my “day” didn’t end until sunrise and therefore it would be really bad for me to keep going at that point, as sleep deprivation has some really nasty consequences.  The fact that I’m “working” at night doesn’t seem to enter into their equations.  Plus, there are just those people in the world who don’t think outside their own little bubble, so if it doesn’t bother them, why should it bother anyone else?

Well, you know what?  I’ve been a night person my whole life.  I was born at 8:19PM on a Friday night and my mom has stories of me quietly playing in my crib at o-dark-thirty, when everyone else was tucked in bed.  I’ve always felt better on a night schedule, always thought better, always performed better and my creativity is at its peak in the dead of night.  So you day people out there take note: I’m lunar powered.  If the sun is in the sky, I’m in bed, or not long out of it.  I respect your schedule and work within your boundaries if I need something from you, so I expect the same courtesy in return.

Otherwise, that call you gave me at 9:00 in the morning may be returned at midnight…

© 2009  Cheri K. Endsley.  All Rights Reserved.

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I have been writing since I was in junior high school.  Mrs. Schleider, my 7th grade English teacher, asked us to write a “scary” story for Halloween.  I had only been creative on the music side of things up to that point, playing little tunes on the piano by ear beginning at two, and then beating all the other kids out for 1st chair violin in 5th grade, despite not reading music (I have long since learned, by the way).  So it was one of those assignments I just did because that’s what the teacher told us to do.  Yeah, I was one of those kids.

And since I was one of those kids, I couldn’t just do a half-assed job.  It had to be better than everyone else’s.  When we read our stories out loud in class come the due date, the guy I had a serious crush on had a better story than me.  At least, that’s what I thought, and I couldn’t have that.  So I wrote another story, more scary and longer than the first, just because I had to be the best in the class.  Everyone seemed to enjoy the story and I got extra credit for it.  So I wrote another one, and another and I forget how many more until I eventually wrote a play that the class put on for the rest of the school.  They laughed, they applauded, (they called me Martian for three years, but that’s another story…) and I was totally hooked.  Here was something that I could do totally by myself, from totally within myself, exercising a few demons along the way, and have people like it.  Talk about a high…

Part of the reason I never did “recreational” drugs in my younger years was because of my creative endeavors.  There is still nothing like performing live with a group of hot musicians and a crowd that really appreciates you, a high that can’t be described and only understood by others that have experienced it also.  Being a musician gave me an incredible emotional outlet, allowing me to express myself in front of people, while still protected by an instrument and fellow performers.  I performed, I taught, I composed and I even did some studio work in my early years in LA (once at the same studio Guns N’ Roses was recording Appetite for Destruction – they smoked like chimneys!).  But writing touched something in me music couldn’t quite reach.  To this day I still can’t quite explain it, but writing became such a deeply engrained part of my soul I could never leave it.  I haven’t played any of my half dozen instruments with any regularity in over ten years, and while I’ve toyed with the idea of breaking one out every now and then, it is not a burning desire like it once was.

But writing never left me.  Even in those years when I was really battling the depression and just couldn’t seem to do anything,  I pined for pencil and paper.  Characters and story lines kept rolling around in my head, little snippets of conversation spoken in the darkness, flashes of starships and swords and noble warriors battling some great evil plaguing my dreams.  I used life as an excuse to keep me from actually putting words to paper, but the wondrous computer that is our brain stored everything for me.  It was an ache that finally grew to such a fever pitch that my real world life couldn’t satisfy it anymore.  I had a good job and an incredible husband and a group of friends like I’d never had before.  But I wasn’t writing, so I wasn’t happy.

Being happy at what you do makes for wonderful, and sometimes incredible, things.  Brett Favre is still playing in the NFL at 40 years old, a positively ancient age for a sport that has long since retired hundreds of others who hit the gridiron with him for the first time all those years ago.  I’m sure money is part of his incentive, and maybe a little payback to the Packers, but when you watch him on the field and listen to him in interviews, there’s more there than just dollars and revenge.  He works out, he practices, he takes the abuse because he LOVES what he does.  He has been given the greatest gift any of us can be given:  to make a living at what you love doing the most.

In the last couple months, as I’ve been able to get more into my writing and see my novel fleshing out, I’ve come to the realization that I am finally doing the one thing I have always wanted to do since junior high.  Writing gives me a freedom and a sense of peace and accomplishment I haven’t been able to get anywhere else.  I am actually enjoying myself, something I just couldn’t do in the corporate world.  Once before I had the chance to do this, when I was at the American Film Institute, and I blew it.  (If there was one thing I could go back and change in my life…)  The gods have seen fit to give me another chance.

Best not blow it again…

© 2009  Cheri K. Endsley.  All Rights Reserved

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We have just survived the annual Stuff Yourself Silly Festival here in America.  Held in combination with Shout At The Stupid Football Ref Rave and The Stand In Line With 500 Of Your Closest Friends At Wal-Mart Breakfast Party, it’s a wonder we made it at all.  I refer to, of course, Thanksgiving.  It is four days of excess in just about every way imaginable, and I think we’ve lost the whole point of the holiday.

For the last couple years, it’s just been my husband and me at the table.  My family is a fourteen hour drive away, and it would be too tempting to stay there when the weekend was done because I just so hate living where I do.  And my husband is enjoying being estranged from his family, mainly because it makes for a much more pleasant experience at the holidays.  So I would put together the whole feast for just the two of us, while he got paid double-time for working on a holiday.  This year, finances being what they are, we debated the level of our pig-fest and there was even a moment when my husband didn’t want to do it at all.  That’s when I realized just how important it is to keep a semblance of normalcy even in tough times.

With the prospect of no turkey and stuffing and gravy and pumpkin pie facing me, I found myself suddenly a little kid again, crying like I’d just been kicked in the stomach.  Which I had, metaphorically speaking.  Rationally, I understood why it made sense to not spend a bunch of money on a meal that would leave us (two already way-too-fat people) comatose on the couch and our frig stuffed to the rafters with leftovers we couldn’t finish off before they went bad.  But emotionally, it was a stealth bomb that went off in stages until I couldn’t stop the tears.   The last little bit of normal had been taken away from me.

Humans are creatures of habit.  Our little rituals, daily routines, regular observances, are crucial for us to keep going, because they signify that all is right with the world.  Disrupt even one of those habits, and the whole day is ruined.  Just watch the next time your co-worker doesn’t get their Grande Latte Half-Caf in the morning.  Being a little OCD, I’m probably more dependent on routine than most.  Being out of work and without a car forces me into a different routine than I’m used to.  Not that I can’t adapt, but a lot has been thrust on me in a short amount of time, and it takes time to change.  And then you take my turkey away.  Suddenly, I was a prisoner who had no control over anything.  I felt helpless, despondent, crippled. I pride myself in being a strong person, but these last few months have torn that to shreds.

Sitting there with all the air knocked out of me, I tried to explain to my husband why I was crying, while not really understanding myself.  Thankfully, he only pretends to be a big dumb guy and we managed to figure out what the problem really was.  He had gone into full survival conservation mode, automatically dismissing anything that wasn’t absolutely necessary without even realizing that was what he was doing.  And I needed normal.

So we compromised.  We scaled back the food fest with a much smaller turkey and less sides, and opted to have our Thanksgiving on Sunday, since he was working on Thursday and Friday, so we could work together on the meal.

It was lovely.

We chatted about the various topics of the day while stuffing the turkey.  We applauded Brett Favre as he handed out yet another ass-whipping on the football field. We laughed at each other’s jokes while mashing potatoes.  We fell asleep together on the couch after just a plate of food apiece.  We had pumpkin pie with whipped cream.  Life was good.

And that’s what Thanksgiving is really about.  Our modern society has turned what was a quiet, reflective holiday into a gigantic monster of merchandising, marketing and excess, pretty much like everything else in our world. We’ve lost what Thanksgiving really is about: being thankful for our family and friends and our lives and celebrating that in the company of those that matter to us most.  It doesn’t matter the size of the celebration, it just matters that you have a few choice hours together, holding hands, enjoying good food and good times and having a little bit of normal in a world of chaos.

Here’s hoping you have some normal, too.

 

© 2009   Cheri K. Endsley   All Rights Reserved.

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