Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Frozen Beauty

Frozen Beauty
Yeah yeah yeah. I know this is three pics in a row of the same lake. But I am working through something here. It is a center that represents so much.

Today, we are going to talk about frozen beauty. The cold harsh realities can freeze us. The flow and current of our lives can be covered in cold ice and can seemingly be frozen. All we can see and feel is the cold and the snow and the ice.

But if we stop and really look we will see other things going on. Even when frozen we are still beautiful. Underneath the layer of ice the current still runs and life is underneath the surface. The things that surround us that were beautiful in Spring of life are still there in Winter. The home, the people, the trees, the mountains, the sky, our children, our loved ones, those we care about, and so much more. No matter how frozen and how cold life may seem, the beauty is always still there.

And so is new perspective and new opportunity. In the frozen periods of our lives we can walk upon the water and look about in spaces and in ways that we were not able to before.

Regardless what the elements of life bring, regardless the affect it has on us, there is still beauty. We may not always see it, but it is there. When we are stuck and frozen....we are frozen beauty.

Monday, May 30, 2016

The Heart of Art Cannot Be Diminished

Heart of Art
The other night I had the opportunity to spend time with some of my new artists friends for an intimate party. Joe showed us the process of creating a little known form of pottery creation called Obvara. Each piece was unique and beautiful and the process of creation was amazing. To think that Joe can take clay from the earth and using the natural elements, a whole lotta heat and waters and solutions containing different minerals he swiftly scalds and seals beauty.

Later in the evening Joe and I were talking. He told me about how he, as a young man, found a mentor who would inspire him and teach him this skill that he practices with passion decades later. He has also told me how he has been told that what he does is not art. Yet, it is pottery that is found by archaeologists tens of thousands of years after a society ends and it will be pottery that will be found thousands of years from now. I have seen the process, I have seen his heart and I have seen the beauty. What he does is art.

The very next day I was speaking with my child and he had told me that someone we both know said that photography is not art. I could feel my blood boil and this strange and irrational hurt enter into my reality. Like Joe, I had a mentor teach me how to compose, create and develop. How to see the world through a lens and not merely preserve an image, but to create a view and perspective of something that people have not seen before.

In 2014 the Art Institute of Chicago was voted the #1 museum in the world. Think about that. Let that sink in. The Getty, the Met, the Smithsonian, Galleria, Musee d'Orsay and even the Acropolis did not quite give the experience that the Art Institute could. For well over 100 years this museum has been preserving, celebrating and showcasing art in world class fashion. You do not do this without knowing a thing or two about art.

Do you know what they have in the Art Institute? Pottery. They have had ancient and modern pottery there since damn near their inception.

Do you know what else they have in the Art Institute? Photography. They have been preserving and showing photography since 1949.

Over 300,000 pieces on display from virtually every culture and period of history. They have coins, armor, weapons, architectural remnants, poetry, sculpture, paintings, drawings, textiles, miniatures, leaded glass, stained glass, blown glass, film, video and even new and mixed media. One of the world's best and foremost organizations have deemed these mediums and so many others to be art. Not just in definition, but in raising funds to keep on display, constantly innovating and expanding at great expense, preserving with care and actively educating us.

On my blog, some of the pieces are simple props that allow me to tell a story and some are pieces that I am very proud of. This piece was taken the same day I took Sunday's photo. I am proud of both pieces and this one not only offers layers, it also breaks some of the rules of photography so your eye can be drawn to other spaces so you can recognize the bridge, the people the house and feel the warmth of the colors and the get lost in the scene.

Yesterday's piece was "just another landscape". But when I Google images of Evergreeen Lake in Evergreen Colorado taken from the same angle, I am damn proud of what I created. I did not make a photograph or preserve an easily duplicated image. I made mutha fucking art!

The heart of art cannot be diminished and if you are practicing a medium, do not diminish other mediums and do not let others diminish yours. What you create and love is the heart of art.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

StoryTelling Saturdays: Our Children Are Amazing

Our children are amazing. This was a statement I made to a dear friend of mine who's son graduated 8th grade today and apparently delivered a most amazing speech. My son with quiet dignity and strength maintained boundaries that respected his dignity.

One stood in front of a crowd of people and said words born from a compassionate heart. One stared at a laptop screen today, said no more and of his own volition, removed people from social media who were harming him. One is embarking on a new adventure called high school and the other is embarking on a new adventure of freedom from bullying disguised as humor and reasonable conversation. 

I think back to when the mother of the young man and I were in high school. I do not know that we could have delivered impassioned speeches that moved people and drawn firm boundaries that respected our dignity. I know for certain we were not well equipped to handle the latter. Yet today, a 13 and a 15 year old, both fine young men of character, did those things. 

When my son was 13 he sat on a panel on live television and stood his ground regarding bullying. He actually corrected the record to a high school principle as to what bullying is and is not and made fearless and astute suggestions as to what could be done better to address the issue. He stunned a town when he did that. I know that the other young man has stunned adults with his knowledge and interests in community service and robotics. Some people would tell us that they are going to go far in this world and do great and wonderful things. Most of these well meaning people are referring to vocations, career paths and tax brackets.  That may happen. However, we live in a world where being the best and the brightest with the highest GPA and solid work ethic is not a promise of success. 

Regardless of that. They will go far in this world. They will do it because they care about other human beings. They would never allow a joke that hurt another to stand and if they were the one telling the joke and learned that it hurt another human being, as opposed to mansplaining that humor is subjective, they would apologize and listen and think with a compassionate heart. They have both already shown an understanding and compassion for human frailty and suffering. They understand the dignity of others being more essential to character than defense of one's actions. 

They are sensitive, but not weak. They are compassionate, but have a strong sense of self. They are brave because they face their fears. They are kind and that makes them victors in a world of settlers who settle for good enough. 

Our children are amazing. They have already accomplished things we could not have at their age and they have already shown more character and understanding of what matters than a lot of adults. Their journeys are only beginning. Come to think of it, so are ours. That is a story for another time. For today, know this:

Our children are amazing. 

Friday, May 27, 2016

Torrid Consumer Affair

Torrid Consumer Affair
When you walk through downtown areas, you always find an array of charming stores that are owned by small business people. There is a new trend in shopping plaza/malls now. It is recreating the look and feel of a charming downtown area and filling it with the chain stores that you see in every other plaza just like it. While they are building these homages to a downtown area, many of these towns have an actual downtown area with a main street that is dilapidated and crumbling.

The stores in these faux downtowns are mostly the ones that the average single parent on a limited income cannot shop at, but they do anyway because this is where all the bored housewives and executives go and their kids are in school together. It is a torrid consumer affair that like any torrid affair has consequences. Debt loads rise, small individual shops continue to struggle, underpaid employees of multi billion dollar organizations continue to suffer the rude behavior of thoughtless men and women wearing Hugo Boss and Prada, and so on.

In life, many of us live simple lives. We are not executives or bored housewives. We are scraping by in a dilapidated and worn life that could have beauty if it were invested in. It could be built on. But we will ignore the life we already have and try to build one that looks like that life but more idyllic, but we cannot afford the cost of this new life. We lie, we cover the outside with things we cannot afford. We load our children with things we cannot afford while love and attention suffers. We spend time with people who, like these corporations, could care less about us. 

We are who we are. If we are a little run down and worn out, there is not a damn thing wrong with that. If we are simple in our budget and our finances, not a thing wrong with not having the latest trends. We do not need to have the sordid consumer affair. We do not need to have the faux projection of a real life when the real life is just fine, nothing to be ashamed of, and has charm and character. The lives we are trying to emulate are often the most vapid and empty. Beyond the image and the brand names and the things is someone who is just as miserable and confused and alone as we are. May as well live within our means and stop pretending if that is the case.

My ex makes a lot more than I do. Our child wants for nothing material. I know many divorced parents who live in that disparity of incomes who try to keep up. I do not. She can buy him a PS4 and laptop for Christmas. That is fine and not a thing wrong with it.  I can get some clever irreverent t shirts and art supplies. He loves them. Sometimes I will have him for the weekend and he will ask if we can do x or y and I will say, "Boy, I would love to, but I really cannot afford that this week, how about abc or 123?" He always says all right because he gets it. I have put up no facade and he has been raised to see material possessions as just that...things. He finds his joy in art and drawing and creating. He finds joy in his friendships. He could have anything he wants and he wants to draw and spend time with friends and volunteer with his friends to help others. 

We are who we are. We make what we make. Our lives are what they are. While we live our torrid consumer affairs, there is a 15 year old who just loves to create, spend time with good and honest friends without pretense, and help others. Why do we make life so hard? What makes him happy sounds rather delightful. 

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Stand Strong

Stand Strong

The old barn's foundation is settled and no longer even. The old tree's roots are deep and true. The old barn is abandoned and worn. The tree gets what it needs daily from the ground and the sun in the sky. Men tear the very life out of a tree and build things like a barn that serve a grand purpose, only to be abandoned.

Life can be life that. We can be in a nurtured environment getting all that we need. Then we are torn away from the very roots that feed us; but it is okay, we are built into something new and useful and strong and lovely. If we are abandoned with no one to care for us and nothing to feed us, we can settle, fall into disrepair and our brilliant colors can fade. 

Despite that, we are still beautiful and we can still stand strong. 

If you are nurtured and your very soul is fed daily, stand strong and stand proud. If you have been neglected and abandoned and have been worn by the storms of life and the years without care, stand strong and proud.

Regardless of relating to the tree or the barn, stand strong.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Almost, but not Quite

Almost, but not Quite
I am struggling to find the words on this one. The picture was taken from a moving limo along Lake Shore Drive in Chicago. The new moon was shining bright and with the lowered light and the moving car, this was as good as it got. It was almost the shot I wanted, but not quite.

I was in the limo with friends on my way to the Cubbie Bear last Saturday. I have been on this stretch of road many times in my life, but currently more often then normal. It is along this stretch of road that I take my son to Lurie Children's Hospital. I go this way to see two relatives. I used to go this route for more personal reasons. I never got to do more than glance toward the lake and take in the beauty because I am always in the drivers seat. 

I finally had a chance to take the most beautiful shot in the most beautiful city in the world. Almost the shot I wanted, but not quite. 

It is like life. We have so many things we are doing and so many responsibilities. We may be reminded of the things we want to do and our hands are too full to do them. Time after time, moment after moment, we pass by that thing or that idea. Always and ever elusive we may try to take that shot and find that if we rush through it we may find ourselves with not quite what we wanted from it all.

I could never have taken this picture from my car while I am driving. The limo allowed me to look at the scenery, but this was not my time to take my shot. This moment that I want of the moon over the lake and the moment of the S curve facing North are never going to just happen on the way to something else. 

I am going to have to make time for this. I am going to have to drive there or take the train and get off the road to take my shot. The shot that I want as I want it. I suspect that when I finally stop passing by the things I want along the way to things i have to do that I will find not only the shot that I want, but much more.

If there is something you want to do and you always try to get a moment in while doing other things, it will never work out. You will either never be able to do it, or it will not be quite what you wanted. You will have to make that your destination, stop and experience it. It really is not that hard to do.

I need to do it. I hope in the near future I share a photo of the moon over Lake Michigan with the sailboat masts just under her. I hope to capture the buildings in front of the s curve facing North. I also hope to show you everything else I find there and the stories and shots I did not even imagine. Because when you do stop and take the shot you want, that happens too. 

May we all make time to do that thing we wanted to do instead of half assing our shot and saying we tried. No.We.Didn't. "Didn't we?" some will ask.

Almost, but not quite. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Slippery When...

Slippery When Wet

It has been said that most professional photography is 80 percent perspective and 20 percent skill. If that is true, my perspective is that of a rather dirty mind sometimes. Those who know me well would say more than sometimes. I believe I have been compared to that of a 15 year old boy. All I know is that the 15 year old could not hold a candle to the 45 year old. The 15 year old was repressed. I do not have a dirty mind, I have a hopelessly romantic and sensual mind that is open.

Slippery When Wet was a name used in Bon Jovi's album by the same title. When I was a teenager in church youth groups, we were forbidden from listening to 'secular' (non Christian) music. I kinda loved this album and New Jersey and Dylan's Blonde on Blonde and some others. I would hide my secular stash in the back of my bedroom closet. They also told us that our natural sexual urges were bad. I am not just talking about sex here.

We could not date one on one. Dance. Neck. Masturbate. None of it. It was all shameful. We were ashamed. In my teen years I never had the joys of finding out if anything was slippery when wet. I never got to listen to good music in the open. 

I once had a friend come over while I was listening to the Slippery When Wet album and he immediately left my house and said he could not be my friend anymore. One of my friends from that youth group and I went to the Sr Prom together and she was threatened with expulsion from her volunteer role in the church if she went to prom with me. She could, however, go to the non dancing non romantic prom alternative with her ex boyfriend that the youth pastor approved of. 

We had a great time at prom and the day after prom we went to the dunes and the beach. We danced at prom. We danced on a boat in the city. We drove around downtown Chicago till dawn. We almost got into a brawl with some drunks. We had fun at the beach. Got a flat tire. Sunburn. Ate food that was bad for us. Did not sleep. It was fun. It was what teenagers are supposed to do.

People are supposed to do a lot of things that are very normal.

We live in shame. We live under the thumb of people who claim to have an understanding of truth and wield authority and shame over us. 

Regardless of our age, regardless of the matter, do not live in shame. We shame people over more than music and sex in society. We shame single mothers. We shame poor people. We shame rich people. We shame heavy people. We shame people for orientation and gender identity. We shame people for other reasons. I could go on a few thousand words.

Don't let them do it. Don't let others use their perceived authority to repress, deny or shame you from things that are normal, healthy, beautiful or good. Do not let them make you believe you are less because you do not conform. 

Power controls. Love frees. 

Without shame and without remorse and I will close with this. 

Slippery When Wet was a good album.

And there are other delicious and wonderful things that are slippery when wet.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Pretty Dumb Idea

Pretty Dumb Idea
This is a pretty little road. The designers gave it a lovely overhead, um, thing. They gave it these lovely little metallic lights and trees. It is also a dumb idea. A few months ago there was no road here. There was a public square with a vast area for children to play (and they did) and a large fire pit where people gathered. There was also a natural stage where intimate concerts occurred and a large Christmas tree stood. It is very pretty, but it is a dumb idea. This road has not improved traffic flow in a lovely shopping plaza. It is a road literally in the middle of a block. It is just dumb, but it is pretty. It is a pretty dumb idea.

We see a lot of these pretty dumb ideas all the time. In Illinois there are two hate group that calls themselves the Illinois Family Institute and the Alliance Defending Freedom. Both groups are essentially hurting children every day. They deliberately misgender and restrict the rights of transgender and other GLB children. They take the most vulnerable demographic of the most vulnerable demographic and vilify them. They do it in the media, their own sites, local churches and school district meetings. They use pretty and inspiring words like freedom and family. It is pretty, but it is dumb. 

When a young child cannot take the persecution (a word many of the Christians in these groups use to persecute children) and they take rope to neck, razor to wrist or pill to mouth then these family groups defending freedom have essentially committed murder. The blood of these innocents is on their hands. Pretty words disguising murderous and harmful actions on children. Pretty dumb idea.

On a smaller and lessor scale we have individual pretty dumb ideas. We do harmful and unproductive things to ourselves and others every day and sugar coat it. We call our abuser misunderstood. We do not draw firm boundaries and call it forgiveness or grace when it is dangerous to ourselves or even our children. We self medicate and say we are merely relaxing and taking the edge off. 

We cover up bad things with seemingly beautiful and healthy words. We remove the public square that welcomed all and encouraged community and divided it. We can dress it up all we want, we can make it look beautiful, but it is what it is. 

A pretty dumb idea. 

We can do better. 

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Bonus Blog Post: A Pebble In The Pond

As I was posting the Saturday StoryTelling Blog, I received a message from a reader and a new friend. She said a lot, but this was what caused me to choke up a little.

"Keep talking, keep writing, keep caring. You are awakening minds and hearts. Like a pebble thrown into a pond."

She went on to tell me how she has a friend who has a very narrow view of the world and she intends to use some of my story and words to open her friend's mind and heart and hope her friend does the same.

The pebble in the pond and the ripples.

That is the concept behind karma. A lot of people treat it as a individual transaction in western culture, but that is not how it works. The karma that comes back to you comes to all around you too. The ripples fly out, hit the edge of the pond and come back. In some ways we get out of the world what we put in, but we also get the ripples the other 7 billion people simultaneously throwing their pebbles into the pond as well.

If my words have an impact and create positive ripples, that means the world to me. It was my hope when I started writing in 2004. I wanted people to be moved and changed and perhaps see the world a little more beautifully. What she expressed to me is something that is very dear to me and on this day, which is not my brightest, if caused a smile to crack through the tears.

My tears come because of the dark and wicked boulders of hate some have thrown into the pond that ended the song of one who threw lovely pebbles into our common pond.

I do not always feel that the ripples I make or those who love well make are enough to counter the ripples of hate and ignorance and pain. I do not feel like my pebbles always matter or the concentric circles of what I hope are beautiful touch others. To know that some of my pebbles rippled the pond all the way across the Canadian border into Calgary and was seen as beautiful and inspiring makes the day a little less dark.

Since I always say this is the story of us, there is one last thing I need to say in closing. Everything we do is a pebble in the pond and we have no idea how far reaching the ripples will go. May we be mindful of that when we love well, say kind things, and do what we can to inspire and be inspired. May it also give us pause before we say something unkind, rude, mean or reckless.

May our pebbles in the pond be beautiful.

StoryTelling Saturday's: Behind Blue Eyes

Yesterday I was at Whole Foods to get a some produce to make a salad for dinner. I marveled at the suburban angst of the angry shoppers. Not a one of them looked happy. They were all well dressed with the latest name brands and they all looked very cross and were impatient. I used to be angry all the time and then I moved past it. I did not let their negative energy affect me.

As I left the shopping center armed with arugula and chicken and sun dried tomatoes and other goodies there was a minor incident at the exit. I had right of way and a man with his cell in his hand almost hit my car. His Lexus almost hit my rusty ol Crown Vic. I did not let it bother me. Nothing happened. I drove out of the lot. He peeled out and tailgated me with his brights flashing and horn ablaze. Then gets to my side and then swerves dangerously close to me. I keep my eyes on the road and ignore him. This is not worth it. We get to a red light and he is next to me still shouting though his raised window. I am calm. I know something he does not.

If I get out of the car. He will cower. Even if he has a gun, I will kick his ass. I know this. I do not have to shout at him. I know this because unlike him, I have fought in my adult life. He has probably not. I do not care if he goes to cross fit or wherever. I am calm and he is agitated. There was no danger and nothing to be upset about.

I remember my first taste of darkness. It was when I tasted blood as a child at the hands of a cruel man. I remember the first time in my adult life I said no more. I had been robbed at knife point and the man took my cash bag from my taxi. He casually started to walk in to his apartment complex. It was 2 days before my kid's birthday and I had his birthday present money in that bag that night. I was going to buy him a Nintendo DS. Now I had nothing. When he gets in that door I know I will never see him again. I did not let that happen. I got out of my car, did what I had to do. Got my cash bag back along with his wallet and drove off so I could park behind a gas station and use the first aid kit on my bloody knuckles.

I knew then what I was capable of and though I did not like it, I was comfortable in this new environment knowing that if I had to go dark, I could. Like the song, no one knew what it was like to be the bad man and the sad man behind blue eyes. I was now part of the night and the darkness and it was a brutal world, but it was also an honest one.

The daylight is full of false smiles and bravado and lies and games and people who cannot be honest with themselves, let alone others. The night is truth. You know where you stand with people there. The darkness is enlightening in that fashion.

In time I would leave the night and enter this world where angry men in expensive plaid shirts in Lexus' do not phase me.

Last night something would happen that would change all that. The grief of personal tragedy and the harsh reminder of how wicked this world can be reeled me and took my breath away like a shot to the gut. I spent the evening sometimes seething, sometimes crying and frustrated about how helpless I was to stop the monsters of the day from hurting the innocents of the world. The same knowledge that kept me calm during the Lexus boy event and kept me from getting robbed now consumed me. I know what I am capable of. I also know that I wanted, in that moment, to exercise that power. To make those that harm feel pain.

What kept me from allowing the darkness within to consume me? It was not the logic of a dear friend trying to talk me down from the ledge. It was that I care about one thing...one.

In this cruel world, if I ever lose that, there is nothing to hold me back.

This is not just about me.

This is about us.

Some of us cannot be honest with ourselves or others and we live in the ethos of the day with fake smiles, fake pleasantries and answering the query of how we are doing with fine.

Some of us get angry over stupid and petty things that have no importance and does not matter.

Some of us get false bravado and exercise keyboard courage online or behind the wheel of our car.

Some of us know how dark we really are and sometimes become that thing.

This is all of us in one or many of these categories.

In my case I fight the monster behind blue eyes who's love is vengeance.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Hell's Gate

Hell's Gate
The year was 2008 and I was in Jeremie', Haiti. I was clinging to the back of a Toyota pick up as we traveled through the dirt roads on our way back to the airport. We had been here for two weeks and I was ready to go home. I had a bandanna wrapped around my hand that was now bleeding and stinging from the dirt and sweat pouring into the wound because I was gripping the metal on the truck's rack too hard so I could keep a hand free to shoot with my DSLR.

I had shots of the bazaar, insect covered meat being sold, UN soldiers with their 13 year old sex slaves, crowded and dirty streets that smelled of sewage. Streets of crumbling shanty's with rusted tin roofs. This was the poverty I had seen. This is the result of our gift of freedom when we helped overthrow a dictator. 

These were not the shots that the missions group I was with would show. No, we had smiling children in churches, white people playing with the local children, fat white suburbanites painting churches. Lush gardens, and other things to make you go awww, but still get the sense that they might be poor and we are helping. 

My eyes stung from the dust, my nose was used to the stench of sewage and death and I picked up enough french to know that we were not the white messiahs when we were outside the controlled missions we were worshiped in. 

The gateway to heaven is through hell if you really want to change things. Hell's gate is the road to paradise. 

An alcoholic never gets better until he faces the hell he is in and starts to make it better. 

An abused wife has to sit there nursing her broken ribs and say to herself, no more. 

A lifelong codependent can never be an autonomous person until they admit that they are in a cycle and can be controlled and manipulated and not only decide no more, but do research and seek help. 

An infant can never receive comfort, food or a clean diaper without first screaming their need. 

A nation can never improve until those who claim to aid it show the real problems. 

The path to heaven starts at hell's gate. It is at hell's gate that you not only realize you are in hell, but it is time to leave. To take that hard road to health, wellness, or safety requires the admission that you are in hell. 

No one wants to admit they live in hell. No one wants to admit they are abused, neglected, an addict, depressed, helpless or whatever else they are hiding. Like the missions group, they will show the pretty pictures on social media, smile to their friends and say they are fine when what they need to say is,"I feel like I am dying and I am fucked up." When we admit it to another, we face our own reality. But that is where the beauty starts. That is when we fight to get out and get up and shine. 

You wanna get to Heaven, Paradise, Nirvana, Valhalla or just a better place? The road starts in one place:

Hell's Gate. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Born to Fly

Born to Fly

Before we go any further. This is the landing gear of a Douglas A-4C "Skyhawk" Navy Attack Jet. This specific plane and I were born on the same year during the same war. 

I got permission from airport staff to wander about unsupervised and take pictures. The A-4C was one of three planes that got my attention. I was walking all around her snapping pictures. At one point an old mechanic drove by me in his cart and said,"That one was just fully restored."

"Really?" I asked. "They did beautiful work on her."

"Yeah," he said. "Except that she can't fly."

"Then she wasn't fully restored, man. She was born to fly."

"Ain't we all" he remarked and drove off. 

The idea that this plane's Pratt and Whitney J52 would hurl into the sky at over 650 MPH is beautiful. Who knows what it survived and stories it and her pilot's had to tell? The places it went, the things it saw. All that life and vigor to sit grounded in a regional airport staring at a runway that is freely allowing cessnas and pipers and beechcraft king airs to do what she cannot. To be told that you are fully restored but not able to do what you were not only made to do, but did so much better than anything else on that tarmac or in the hangers. 

The old mechanic was right. We were all born to fly. Some of us have even had periods where we got to soar and do what we were made to do and experience the glory and the thrill of it all. But to be told you are fully restored and denied the ability to do what you were made to do....to be denied the use of the wings you were given...to be grounded....that is a hard truth that all too many people I know live in.

Sometimes the runway is in sight. Sometimes we get to see others live our dreams and think...why not me? Then we start to say that it does not exist, even though we are surrounded by it. I see this last one happen all the time in the the world of dating. (Love does not exist. It is all bull---even though there are happy people in loving relationships. Good ol cognitive disconnect...which I have been guilty of a time or two.) Here is the thing, I know planes and I looked this one over pretty exhaustively. It would not take much to get her in the air again. Not much at all. The same is true with you.

I do not know what your sky is, but if there was something you were made for, do not let any of life's mechanics tell you that you are just fine, but you can't do what you were made to do. With a little work on your part, you can get those wheels turning, get on the runway of life and soar. 

You were born to fly, not sit on a tarmac and be called fully restored.

You were born to fly.

Lonely Light Shine On

Lonely Light
I am not sure how many pictures I have of streetlights in my library. This may be one of my favorites. When people think I am obsessed with the darkness, the truth of the matter is, what I love most about the night is the light that pierces the darkness.

The streetlights always look lonely. They provide what others need to see and they stand alone. 

I think many of us feel like the streetlight. We commit to our duties and we try to shine as beautifully as we can. Those who we shine for do whatever it is that they do in the night and we see them. They laugh, they cry, they hold hands, they commune  and we sit there. If we are lucky, we attract the occasional moth or other insect fluttering about as an irritant, but we stand alone, doing what we do and sometimes wondering why. 

It does not matter, though. The light is beautiful. The light is soothing. The light holds the darkness at bay. 

If you feel like the lonely light, I am sorry. Know that you are beautiful and captivating and I am drawn not to your work, but to you.

Lonely light is still beautiful.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Not My Best Work: Getaway

The Getaway Coward
This shot is not my best work. But it did not reflect my best day. It was just at the beginning of dawn on South Michigan Avenue in Chicago and I was getting ready to go home and shower before going to a client meeting in Oak Brook, Il.

In so many of my relationships and friendships I live with one foot out the door. I want to be heard but I do not want to listen. I want things that matter to me to be done a certain way, but I do not care to always hear what is important to others in how things could be done. I am not like this all the time, but I have moments like we all do. Moments where I can be condescending and harsh and have all the answers for everyone else while my own life is...um...less than perfect. 

This would be my final morning on this block in this neighborhood and in front of this building. Because I had yet again proved that I lived with one foot out the door. I love that my car is fast and used to be a cop car. It is the perfect getaway vehicle for leaving the scene. 

Across the street and several floors up was someone who was likely wondering what my issue was and what they did to bring on my weird. Several floors up was a scruffy dog named Harry that I would never see again. Several floors up was the scene of a crime. The crime of no courtesy and kindness. The crime of no mutual respect. But wait! There's more! Through messenger I had one foot out the door in one of the most precious friendships of my life and tossed that away by the criminal act of anger from a place of selfish hurt. And I was in my getaway car.

I had two conversations last night. One was with a friend of mine who was lamenting all the sharks in her life. All the judgement she faced. I was kind and good and listened and was a good friend who had both feet planted on the ground and had full mutual respect and was present. The other was with one who told a truth that I was not as comfortable with and I let my wounded bruised ego lash out. This time, I kept both feet planted on the ground and stuck it out until I could make what I made wrong as right as I could. I was kind in the end and I listened in the end and I was a good friend in the end because I did not have one foot out the door. 

There is a quote I recently read. It is by the late David Rackoff. 

“Is there some lesson on how to be friends?
I think what it means is that central to living
a life that is good is a life that's forgiving.
We're creatures of contact regardless of whether
we kiss or we wound. Still, we must come together.
Though it may spell destruction, we still ask for more--
since it beats staying dry but so lonely on shore.
So we make ourselves open while knowing full well
it's essentially saying "please, come pierce my shell.”

We all have those moments in life that we are less than proud of. We all have those patterns that we know are messed up. We all have our faults and when we have one foot out the door, we are deliberately standing on that lonely shore and do not dive in. 

We are gonna get it right and we are gonna get it wrong. On the moments we get it right, that is wonderful. On the moments we get it wrong we have a choice. We can make it right or we can getaway. 

I hope we all learn to keep both feet in. 

When I getaway, it is not my best work. 

Monday, May 16, 2016

What Was Still Is

What Was Still Is
The taxi industry is not new. It is older than the automobile. It is due to the horse drawn taxi that we still use the term livery in reference to most limos and some taxis. For more than a century our transportation infrastructure has needed someone to take a person from one place to another for a fee. What was still is. It looks a little different now. Now we have apps that allow us to 'hail' a personal driver to take us from one space to another. As opposed to having to know one's way about, we trust GPS devices to find the most inefficient route possible. So many things have changed over the years, but what was still is.

Over the years some things have gotten better and some have gotten worse. We seem to think if there is an app for something, that it is somehow better and we do not think of the consequences of change. We want people to make a higher minimum wage, but we use airbnb instead of a hotel where we may have to tip the single mom with three kids who cleans our bedroom and changes our sheets. We want love and romance but we swipe right and left to hook up instead of trusting the process of friendship and courtship. We want information, but we trust whatever is tweeted instead of a journalist who is skilled in the craft of story telling and maintaining objectivity regarding the facts. We want artists to create beauty but we will download their songs, movies and art without paying them and then scoff when they get a Patreon site so they can eat. 

What was still is and I suppose it is nothing new that we devalue investment of time and investment in people. Greed is something that has existed long before and we have always wanted easy and cheap as opposed to convenience and with value. We want others to serve us and we do not want to be bothered with investing in others. When our conscience gets the best of us, we can reblog, write an open letter or click like to a petition. 

What was still is. 

There is a lighter side to that sentiment, though. 

There are people who imagine and create and dream and love and innovate. They compose and write and craft and care and invest and inspire. As long as there are people who gave up on love, there is a romantic who thinks they are beautiful exactly as they are. As long as there is someone hungry, there is someone out there trying to end their suffering. As long as there is barren land, there is someone trying to plant something beautiful there. As long as there is war, there is someone creating and believing in peace. When there is injustice, there is someone holding a sign, making a stand and effecting change. 

What was still is. 

There is only one key question. 

Where will you fit in the role of what is? If you want to know what the impact of what you do or do not do is, you need only look at what was. We not only repeat history every day, we make it every day. 

What was still is.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Sunday Silence: The Wonders I Have Seen

The Wonders I Have Seen

StoryTelling Saturdays: Beautiful Boys and GIrls

Yesterday I had a man say in the same breath to me that he did not have any bias against GLBT people and then told me that my child did not have a right to use the men's rooms and then likened my kid and all kids like him to a child molester. I walked away. It was the only thing I could do that would leave my conscience clear. This is not the first time I have had deal with this. It will not be the last time. And what I endure as a father is nothing compared to the potential of pain and very real danger to my child. This was, however, the first time it was from someone who had heard me speak of my son with love and adoration. It is someone who has seen how much my kid and I look alike, seen the eyes and still said what he had to say. It cut deep. But that is not what the story is about. It is what inspired the story...as have some other things.
I am so tired of well meaning allies who read a book somewhere who are suddenly experts in trans affairs. I am tired of conversations about bathrooms, which is not an insignificant issue, but it is one of so many issues facing trans youth and adults today. It is one of many issues and the well meaning allies are so focused on the distraction hates have created, the important details are lost in the shuffle. Bathrooms are not about bathrooms any more than it was about drinking fountains in the 1960's. It was a straw-man of fear by small minds and this time, the open minds took the bait.

While this rages on, According to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, schools are one of the most unsafe environments for transgender children and adolescents because of the high frequency of bullying that occurs: almost 2/3 of transgender adolescents are verbally harassed and 1/3 subjected to physical harassment; 89.5% of transgender students do not feel safe in their schools; almost 50% of transgender students report regularly skipping school because of safety concerns; 15% of transgender and gender non-conforming students face harassment so severe that they drop out of school; 78% transgender and gender nonconforming youth report facing harassment (physical assault (35%) and sexual violence (12%) in grades K-12); and 41% of gender diverse individuals report attempting suicide, which is significantly higher than the national average; and 50% of transgender Americans report having to teach their medical providers about transgender care and 19% report being refused care based on their gender identity. But that is not what this story is about.

Here is what this story is about:

Month after month we go this wonderful thing at a wonderful place. It starts as a pizza gathering among transgender and non binary teens and their parents. Then the teens go into one room and the parents in the other. The teens make friends and laugh and are given topics and information and the parents get more serious parent information. Name changes, gender markers, school laws in your favor, recognizing signs of depression, and a lot of free form discussion.

Month after month the parental bonds get stronger and they become friends. Month after month the children become more and more beautiful and that is what this story is about.

When you see these young men and women, you see normal teens who start out the same way.  The new kid who has been through hell and is terrified and curious about what is going to happen. Then, month after month you see the face relax, the eyes light up and they become themselves and join the cacophony of dumb jokes, discussions of video games, movies and comics.  The weird begins to come out and it is delightful as they try to out do each other in hair color, clothing, and dumb jokes.

When you see more and more lovely flowers blossom each month, every session is spring and the colors dazzle and move you. You are surrounded by life and beauty and laughter and delight of becoming. You fall in love with them and their parents and the families. They become a part of you and your story.

As parents we talk about not only the serious trans stuff, but we also roll our eyes about the normal teen stuff like not doing math homework, up until 2 am on skype, not listening and specializing in eye rolls and claiming we don't understand. I am sure in their space they are saying how daft we are as parents.

There is so much more I want to say here that I am having a hard time describing. I will close with this. They are beautiful. They are blossoming and growing right before my eyes as they find pockets of acceptance and love. Their gender identity does not define them. The light in their eyes, their smiles, the quirky sense of humor, their interests and passions and hobbies and character define them. They are, like all children, beautiful and precious and to be treasured. They are, like all children our future. And I love them and wish those that are using them as pawns on both sides of this debate for their own agendas could do that too....fall in love with them. It's not that hard.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Stained Glass of Misunderstading

Stained Glass of Misunderstanding
This ground level stained glass work of art has been in Lockport longer than I have been alive. I am not sure how much longer it will be there. There used to be a basement bar inside that window called Carter's Place. It shut down a few years ago but it used to be across the street from my office. After my divorce I would go there once in awhile for a drink, pool, or hang with friends during karaoke night.

Every time I drive by the stained glass piece I smile. Every time I walk by it I stop to admire it. I do not know why I like it so much. I wish I could explain why I think it is beautiful. I have no idea. I have tried to explain it and I cannot.

There was one night I was meeting with some friends there and the conversation turned from friendly to serious. They did not like the direction I was going in life. They knew that my days as a minister were coming to end and they wanted me to stay in something I could not do anymore. 

I was not as good with confrontation then as I am now and standing for myself was not something I was good at. So when I tried to explain me, it came out badly and I was being misunderstood. It was more and more frustrating. Nothing I said came out right. I felt my heart was beautiful and what I wanted out of life was lovely and it was, but I could not get past misunderstanding. 

I retreated and was about to go to my apartment two blocks away from Carter's Place. I walked out and up the concrete stairs and there was some idiot in his 20's with his baseball cap on backwards peeing on the stained glass window. I looked at him. I was already in a bad mood and now I was angry. I told him to stop that. He looked at me, grinned stupidly and kept pissing. 

I was furious but I also was not in the mood for a fight so I walked past him and turned the corner on the main drag to see my friend, Matt. He was also a minister. He could tell I looked upset and asked me what was wrong.

I told him I just felt like I could not say anything right or do anything right. We walked down the street toward my apartment and he started talking about Satan as seen in Dante's inferno. I knew the story. In it the 9th circle of hell was all ice and Satan's feet were frozen in the ice. He kept beating his wings and that created the ice that kept him trapped. "If he just stopped trying so hard, he would find a way out of hell, Pat."

"But I want to be understood, Matt." I said.

"Don't try so hard. Stop beating your wings and you will get out of hell. Trying to be understood by people who do not want to listen is beating your wings. Stop, be, get out."

We want so hard to be understood. We want to be able to explain why a simple stained glass picture above a dive bar is captivating. We want to be able to explain our dreams and frustrations. Sometimes we cannot. Sometimes it is okay to stop beating our wings and just live our lives. It is okay to be misunderstood.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Beautiful Imagination Thing

Beautiful Imagination Thing
So here I was at a school festival. I met for the first time a wonderful little girl that stole my heart and pretty much the rest of me that day. Within minutes this little one's kidnapping of me would lead to me being covered in glitter and craft glue and having the time of my life. Together we made this....thing in the picture. I have it in color and that is for me. I smile every time I see the picture and sometimes I look at it when I am sad just so I can grin and rediscover wonder. It is a guilty pleasure. 

I can tell you this...thing...was made with great care, imagination and despite what you may think from looking at it, precision. Every paint stroke and glue and addition was very precise and I was instructed exactly how to assist. 

Feather, pipe cleaner, soccer ball, glitter paint and something else I cannot identify were all placed on this masterpiece of vegetation. On the way back to her home I placed it on the dash and took several pictures of it because we did this together. We made this...beautiful imagination thing. 

Children are not bound by our sense of order. They have not been tainted by our limited world yet. They are free to imagine and dream and do wondrous things that are brilliant and precious and beautiful because they make no sense. 

While assisting her I also found myself at this table with other children wanting my aid in their projects. As a certain princess had taken possession of me I had to give them my time sparingly and enjoyed their beautiful imagination things. They all described their beautiful imagination things to me in great detail and with sincere enthusiasm. I was an adult and I was, in that moment, their peer and speaking with them at their level.  I was accepted as one of them and they were in awe that they had an adult covered in glue and glitter crafting and discussing beautiful imagination things.

I did look about me. The mother of the little one who stole me was present with other little ones which was delightful and as it should be. However, many a parent were milling about in their own little worlds of gossip and complaints and discussing possessions and boring shit with dour faces or false smiles full of pretense. Every so often I would see a child try to showcase their beautiful imagination things only to be dismissed over the less entertaining event of gossip...which is another word for slander and defamation of character of other human beings. I used to be a pastor, I know gossip when I see it. 

If given a choice between your boring life and embracing the wonder of beautiful imagination things, I hope you choose the latter. The adult life will always be there. We need coffee, alcohol, xanax, antacids and therapists to cope with the adult world. If for a few moments you can escape into their world, I suggest going to that tea party without hesitation. To be in the world of the child all you need is whimsy and wonder and the willingness to be covered in glitter and glue and delight and love as you make beautiful imagination things.

Tilting at Windmills and Giants

Don's Giant
Most of us know the story of Don Quixote. Alonso, inspired by the knights of old and chivalry, loses his mind and decides he is going to become Don Quixote and undo wrongs and fight for justice as a romantic knight with the aid of a simple farmer named Sancho as his squire. In one famous scene he comes across a field of 30 or 40 windmills and believes them to be giants. Sancho tries to tell him that they are merely windmills, but Don sees what he wants to see and what he needs to see to avoid a helpless reality.

Who could blame Alonso/Don. In the stories we read heroes defeat evil, romance is real and true and problems are solved. We live in a world where people we love die. We live in a world where bad guys win. We live in a world where tests are positive and the true romance we dream of seems to be nothing more than a fairytale as we meet liars, cheaters and abusers who manipulate. 

When I was a minister I used to tilt windmills and I worked with a lot of people who ran aid organizations that tried to resolve a problem for others that they experienced. Many of us barely had a foot in reality. We were going to fight the giants we imagined because we could not face the realities that hurt us. 

I remember one man in particular who fought for children who had terminal illnesses. When I first met him I was inspired and loved working with him and bringing awareness. Then I began to see something else. He was not fighting for these families, he was fighting the impossible giant of death. I was not going to be his Sancho.

I looked at him one day and said,"I am so sorry that you lost your son. You have two daughters that barely know you. You have an ex wife who does not know why she is a widow to a living being. He's dead. He's been dead for 6 years now. It sucks, it's wrong. On the anniversary of his death they are alive right now and I just heard you snap at your little girl and you just snapped at me, one of your few friends. I'm not telling you to get over it. I'm telling you to face it. Mourn. Stop tilting at windmills, let the dead bury the dead and be a dad and a friend and embrace the life."

It was at that point he punched me. I continued since he was not very good at throwing a punch.

"You are not helping anyone other than yourself. If you don't think those other parents losing children do not see your anger and your focus, think again. If you do not think your daughters see it, think again. You are teaching them to deny death, to not mourn, to not face the pain and heal. I'm out."

We stopped speaking. About six months later I saw him at a shopping plaza with his girls and he was smiling. He stared at me for a few moments and then walked over to me with a sheepish grin. He told me that I was right and he went to a grief counselor. Then he looked at me and said one more thing.

"Don't punch me, Pat, but I'm not the only one tilting at windmills." He was right. It would take me a few years to figure that out.

Our lives feel helpless. The pain and the injustice around us hurt and there are no heroes righting the wrongs. Facing pain is hard. Facing loss is hard. Broken hearts suck. Admitting we cannot change things that happened to us and happens to others hurts.

We have to face them and deal with the world as it is. When we lose touch with reality and tilt at windmills, we miss the beauty that is also in this world. That windmill has a field and lovely clouds and grass and beauty. The pain and the beauty are the reality. We have to accept it all. If we deny the pain, we will miss the beauty.

That is one beautiful windmill and I would rather not see a giant. Reality is painful, but it is also beautiful and there are those around us who need our presence and do not deserve our absence. 

Let the giants be and enjoy the windmill with someone. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

The Good Old Days (Nostalgia)

Have you ever found yourself thinking about the past wistfully? It could be a memory of a past love, an old friend, days of youth, memories of an old car or a diner that today would be considered retro. 

When we are in those moments we always seem to reflect on the same things. The smell of her hair, the way his smile would make you melt, how you could always turn to your pal, homecoming, the freedom of that first car and the taste of the burger as you bit into it. We do not think about the other moments. How she would close off when she was upset locking you out. How he could look at you and say the most hurtful thing when he wanted to. The times in school you felt less or was bullied or thought you looked goofy on that magic homecoming night. How many times you had the runs after that burger. Which is truth? They both are.

In all of our memories that we look back upon there was both good and bad. Sometimes we will reflect fondly and other times we will wince bitterly. Which is truth? They both are. The lens of our remembrance is not dishonest, it is how we choose to remember the events and people in our past  because that was what we took away from that moment in time. 

Every moment of our lives is a future memory we may reflect upon one day. We already know what it is to remember the smell of her hair. We also know what it feels like to be hurt by someone we trusted. We know what it is to feel magical and we know what it feels like to have a night ruined by someone's cruel words or mockery. Our memories do not just make us swoon or wince, the teach us what we have taken from life.

Right here and right now is all that truly exists. What happens today will be the memory tomorrow. Some things and events will be beyond our control. That said, if we surround ourselves with healthy people. If we love well and spend our time with those who love well. If we go to events where we will feel beautiful or enjoy the time together with good people. If we do these thigns we will have a better shot at good memories. If we ignore the signs in front of us of someone who is unhealthy or mean or cruel. If we do not practice self care and loathe what we see in the mirror...we will have a better shot at aincing instead of smiling.

Nostalgia is a wonderful investment in the mind and heart. Smile today and love today so that you can look back and smile again a decade from now. 

The Good Old Days starts today.

Monday, May 9, 2016

This Is What I Deserve. This Is What I Deserve? This Is Not What I Deserve!

No Man's Land
A year prior to driving a taxi I was a minister who lived in a 4 bedroom house on a quarter acre corner lot. I was in positions of leadership with a monthly article that was shaking things up. I worked from home more often than I did in the office. I got to make my kid breakfast, take him to school, pick him up and tuck him in on most days. Life was pretty damn idyllic, but I was also miserable and the misery built until the fractures could no longer hold in the toxins.

A year later I am living in a apartment above a store and driving a taxi 72 hours a week at night. I sat in storms like this night after night in the dead of winter hoping that of the many taxi's that a commuter at 1 am would want to ride in my taxi and give me a few bucks. I would also hope that they would actually pay for their ride. 

Life got hard. I had made enemies during my time as a pastor and when life changed and got harder there were a lot of voices that used to be friends that would say I got what I deserved and said this is all I am. This was the end of the road.

Night after lonely night with exhaustion and malnutrition eating away at my health and my mind and my emotions made me believe that they were right. The few friends who were not taxi drivers had no clue how dark the night was and what it does to you and how it changes you. The only other people who get the joke are the other residents of the night behind the wheels of their taxis. 

It was within that community that friendships began to develop and we learned each others stories and found dignity in each other's eyes. We found our humanity and this led to a shift from believing the voices that said this is what I deserve to asking the question: Is this what I deserve? Do I really deserve a life who's end game will be a shortened life span that will happen in either the taxi or alone in a motel room?

The question I began to ask was better than the statement, but I never had a clear answer. Sometimes the answer was yes and sometimes it was no and sometimes it was I do not know. I began to change and to grow and to become a better man than I was. Through therapy I was facing my demons and coming to grips with not only what happened to me in life, but the things I had done in my life. I was changing for the better in many ways. Those voices, however, did not see that. They saw what was through their lens of conjecture. They always will.

Then I began to say: This is not what I deserve. Even if I were to die from a drunk driver, a robbery or alone in a motel room, it is not what I deserve. I am better than that and deserve more. I am NOT talking about the job. There is not one damn thing wrong driving a taxi, being a waiter, or any other vocation. I am referring to the indignity by those who think the service industry is the servant industry. The judgement that what you do defines who you are and how you live or have access to is somehow a reflection of your character or karma's decision on you as a human being. 

I am a human being who made mistakes. I am a human being who also has dreams and a right to dignity. We all were and they all are. I think of the drivers who died while I was associated with the world of the night. Gary did not deserve to die in a slum lord trailer from diabetes and no access to medicine. Tulley did not deserve to die from ill health as an old man driving a taxi with no health care even under the new affordable health care act. Johny Marshall did not deserve to die in a hospital room from a simple procedure gone wrong. Glenn did not deserve to die in what scares me the most, alone in a motel room. The transition of worth is a road from believing this is what you deserve to asking if this is what you deserve to finally saying this is not what I deserve. 

The job and income level does not need to change for you to have worth and dignity. Your heart does. 

When I say positive things about life and people say that I do not understand and it is easy for me to say that. No, it is not. It was a hard and long and cold road in the storms of life hoping for scraps surrounded by a cacophony of lies and judgments. Those lies will seep into the fissures of your heart and become a part of you. 

I get it. I have been there and sometimes still am. Do not listen to them and stop lying to yourself.

This is what I deserve. This is what I deserve? This is not what I deserve!

I say to you, whatever the this is.....

I know you have been told this is what you deserve. Is this really what you deserve? This is not what you deserve? 

Trust me.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Story Telling Saturdays: Keeping Promises In Impossible Situations The Third Way

My phone rang last night. It was someone I had not spoken to in a long time. I was surprised the name still came up in my phone. She used to attend my church and she was in tears. I asked her what was wrong. She rambled incoherently and swiftly between sobs. I told her to slow down and breathe.

She told me she had been beaten by her boyfriend. A man I had told her and others was cruel when he was drunk and everyone defended him and said he was a swell guy. I asked her what had happened.

"He came home drunk and I could smell some woman all over him. Not just perfume, but her. I don't wanna be graphic Pastor Pat, I smelled her on him. So I told him off and he broke me. He fucking broke me!"

"What do you mean he broke you?" I asked with my heart racing.

"I think I have stuff broken. My insides don't feel right. I think my teeth are fucked up. I'm scared!" More hysteria. I think she was hyperventilating.

"Where are you?"

"I'm at the bowling alley parking lot off (street name)."

"Can you drive to the hospital?"

"I'm scared to go in alone."

"I'll be right over."

I put on some pants and shoes, grabbed my first aid kit and drove to her town. I saw her car. I pulled up next to her. I got out and she ran into me sobbing. I looked at her. Her face was already swollen and bruising, some teeth had been chipped and one eye was very bloodshot with broken blood vessels. As I placed her in my car I saw his car parked one lot over. Anger flashed inside me in a rage. I made a promise to some people that are dear to me that I would not get into fights anymore. He was over there and we were over here. It would accomplish nothing.

I drove her to the ER and pulled up to the valet. I saw him behind us on the way. I made a promise. I am keeping my promise. I had valet escort her in and I went to park the car. He blew by my driver side very close and pulled in front of me and slammed on the brakes. I stopped.

This is not happening. I made a promise. I made a promise. I made a promise. Dammit! I made a promise.

He got out. I got out. I was going to keep my promise, but I had no idea how.

"Pat." He was still drunk and he had something in his hand. I could not tell what. 'Don't hospitals have cameras and security???' I thought.

"Get back in your car and go home," I said firmly. "You have done enough tonight."

"Pat. That ain't gonna happen." he said. He took a step toward me. I held firm. I was going to keep my promise, but I had no plan b yet. Trust me, I was thinking of one.

"Get back in your car and go home," I repeated. "This isn't making things better. Go home."

He took another step. I thought I had an idea. It was not a good one, but it was a third way.

"What are you gonna do?" I asked. "Fight me in a hospital parking lot?"

He started to say something. I cut him off and raised my voice.

"Because that is what ain't happening. I can't even figure out why we are here and why you want a piece of me. It doesn't make sense. Can you explain it to me?" Everything inside me wanted to go forward and throttle him. Everything inside me wanted him to feel what she felt. To be afraid. To be humiliated. To be in pain. To suffer.

"You want her. She could have called anyone and she called YOU!"

"She called me because I'm safe. She called me because I care about her. No romance here, just love. I'm going back in my car now. So are you. Then, I'm parking my car and I am making sure she is safe." I turned my back on him and I heard a click. 'God I hope that is a switchblade and not worse', I thought. He owns worse and hell if I know what one of those sounds like cocking. For all I knew the click was something else entirely.

I thought about stopping. But in sales there is a principle called turn and burn when you want to bring someone to a display. You turn your back with confidence and keep walking assuming they are following you. You stop or look back or hesitate, they will certainly not do what you want them to. You have to commit to the turn and burn.

I kept walking to my car. I got inside. I put the key in the ignition and looked up to see him getting in his car. He peeled off revving his engine and drove into the night. I parked and went inside. I stayed with her. She will need some dental work, she has a broken nose and some bruised ribs, but everything will heal other than the teeth. She did not file a police report, but she is going somewhere safe where she can get help.

I kept my promise. It felt like an impossible situation, but all I had to do was figure out a third way.

Giving your word is not something to take lightly. I have in the past. You do not keep your word reluctantly, but because it is the right thing to do and your actions do not just affect you, but others. You give your word and keep your word because you love and are loved. You care and are cared about.

It was the right thing. I kept my promise.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Lost Together

Lost Together
I love boating and I love lakes. I also love being engaged with people in conversation. Anyway, I try to hit lakes as often as I can in summer to take a boat out. I do not own one so I have to rent. Living in this area you have many lakes to choose from with quality rentals.

Summer of 2013 I was out on a boat with my son in Lake Geneva. We were out for about two hours and I was giving him the tour of some of the historic mansions along the lake and some of the sights. The whole time we were out I noticed this couple. They were stopped and having a picnic and then just continued talking. You could tell that they were lost in each other and lost together. They had no clue or care about what was around them. They had whatever they were talking about and each other. That was all they needed. I cannot tell you if they were friends or lovers, but it was intimate.

I did not want to disturb them, so I got close enough to shoot with my telescopic lens. I lined up my shot and took it. Then I quietly motored away from them. 

I see people lost in each other so rarely. In this land of smart phones, short attention spans and worrying about who thinks what about what, we do not allow ourselves to be lost together.

No. We think about agendas, what is right, what is in the plans, is there room, we wonder if our phone did something and we wonder what others think.

If you enjoy someone's company. Enjoy it. 

Get lost together.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

The Darkness Within and Without...

The Darkness Within and Without
My fascination with the dark and abandoned recesses of the world came when I was driving a taxi. Every so often in the older sections of Will County you would drive by some remote space "off the beaten path". When I would find these spaces that looked abandoned or interesting I would place a marker on my Garmen so that I could come back another time.

Exploring these spaces required a good flashlight and if it turned out to be a maze or underground you have to create "breadcrumbs" to find your way back. As seen on TV stick on lights provide what you need to breach the darkness within and give you the path out of the recesses you go into. Light needs to shine on the darkness within to find your way out. But what do you find your way out of?

It is the darkness without that drives you into the darkness within.

The darkness without light. 

The darkness without love.

The darkness without joy.

The darkness without laughter.

The darkness without hope. 

The darkness without feeds the darkness within. The darkness without makes illuminating the darkness within more difficult. There is nothing to come out towards when all that lay is a life without. 

I was told by a dear friend last night that there is no need to be afraid anymore. The light can be bright at first. When you have lived in the dark tunnels and the night long enough, light is hard to take, but you do get used to it and there is no more darkness.

When there is no more darkness without, it can flood and illuminate the darkness within. 

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Trust the Process of Passion

The Process of Passion
What is the process of passion?

It is allowing yourself to fall into passion. In the picture we have the morning after between two people who gave into passion's process. Beyond two bodies becoming so intertwined that you do not know where one ends and the other begins, there are other passions.

We may have a dream of something we want to do. I know a woman who was a journalist who always wanted to be a paramedic. In her mid-life, she trusted the process of her passions and became that. I know someone who has always wanted to work with children with special needs. In her 40's she is taking the first steps towards trusting the process of that passion. I am now meeting people who always wanted to be artists and they are trusting the process of passion as they begin to take brush to canvass. 

To trust the process of our passions is to let go of the things that hold us back from being vulnerable to failure or rejection. We decide to take the first step, that first kiss, that first caress, that first class, that first resume submission, that first sentence. We take those steps and we keep taking them until we are engaged in the foreplay of our passion. We are learning what works at that point. We are exploring. We are taking delight in the curiosity. Eventually comes the point of no return where we are so fully immersed in the passion that we are lost in it. 

We have dreams, we have imaginations, we have passions. We do not trust the process of passion as much or as often as we could.

Trust the process of passion. 

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

The Road Ahead

The Road Ahead
Sometimes in life you will find yourself on darker roads. The road ahead may seem dark and lonely. When we are in those moments it can seem very isolated and maybe even dreary.

I am on one of those darker roads right now. I have had to sit in a hospital room yesterday as opposed to going to work and prepare myself to say goodbye to the woman who raised me. Cancer has riddled her body to a point of description that I would rather not describe.

There are no discussions about treatments. There are no conversations about options. We have pain management to create comfort and the great unknown to the question...how long? When the day started, we thought, this is it. As the day progressed the new answer is simply, we do not know. Could be an hour, could be a day. Could be more or less than the above. 

The road ahead is dark. But the road ahead does not have to be lonely. Just as I shared with and leaned on family members, co-workers, and a dear friend or two so can we invite others to our dark road.

If they cannot take the journey with us in the ride, we can call them on the phone or text at a red light when we can pause long enough to reach out. There are so many different ways we can make the road ahead less lonely. 

The road ahead is merely the road ahead. How lonely it can be is up to us.

Welcome to Moonlight From Ashes Media

Moonlight From Ashes Media is the home of PhotoJournalist, Columnist, and Artist Pat Green. Below you will see sample work of Pat'...