Sunday, March 16, 2014

Snow Day

Let me tell you about the day I had on Wednesday.
We'll start with this photo from last Monday. 
This is a typical military marker found at cemeteries across America.
When not covered by snow, it looks like the markers in rows just to the right in the sidebar.

We've had enough snow this year.

I started my day off at 4am.
The winter storm started right about then.
Since I had to be to work by 8 and I always allow an hour to arrive, 
I thought I would double that time, just in case.

After two hours of driving in blinding snow, I arrived right on schedule without a minute to spare.

With a two hour visitation before the service, I had to be out in the parking lot the entire time to line up cars for the procession and direct people that just wanted to visit.

Dodging the snow plow truck and shoveling myself, the two hours finally passed.
That is when I was informed that the procession had been canceled due to weather.
I still drove the casket and body to the cemetery for burial.
(What a mess that was!)
Then it was time to head for home.
I got on the expressway and immediately found that I could not see where I was going through the drifting snow. Since my commute takes me through open countryside, I decided to turn around and head back to work. I remained there for the rest of the day until I felt it was safe to drive home.
Even then, it was difficult at times.
There were accidents and spin-outs to the right and left.
At one point there was a semi-truck cross-ways of the road forcing everyone to exit from the expressway. 

When I got home, the storm had passed, but the winds remained.
I had just started to warm up when my neighbor called me and asked me to meet him in my back yard.

The sun was low in the sky and casting shadows on the drifted snow.

Such beauty had been dropped in my own back yard.

I would have stayed for longer if the wind hadn't been chilling me to the bone.

I ended my day with a little yoga in my nice warm home.
Reflecting on a day that made me glad to be alive to witness such force and
 such beauty.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Stretching My Wings

What do you think of when I mention the word YOGA? Do images of people twisting themselves into impossible poses come to mind? Is it something that you always wanted to try, but felt intimidated by what you've seen?
For my father's generation, it represented something from Asia. After battling the Japanese in World War 2, folks of his age wanted nothing to do with it and saw it as a mild form of takeover of their country. Although many poses resembled stretching exercises practiced in the US military.

Recently, I've run across a few people that have tried to tell me that their doctor won't let them do yoga. And I think, "Really, your doctor doesn't want you to stretch your muscles and move your body?" I grew up in a chiropractic household. With both of my parents doctors of the alternative medicine, I've been exposed to a different reality than most. But even still, treatments revolved around manipulations to rectify a situation and not so much prevention.

My last few post have indicated that I am experiencing a change in my life with the loss of my parents and transition of my work. I've at times painted a bleak picture that would have me hiding in a dark corner not wanting to deal with the world. That is not the case at all though. I have been experiencing a whole new life. A life that has existed all around me all along. An alternate universe, if you will. Coexisting with my own, just outside of my vision.
Let me tell you about growing up inside my body. To compliment the fact that I did not seem to fit in with my surroundings being gay in a Pentecostal world of the 70's, I've dealt with allergies and asthma all my life. If I was interested in a sport, my poor breathing habits usually nixed the idea of participation before it grew very much.  Even shoveling snow or walking in cold weather could knock me out cold. As I aged, I stayed away from many places that others gravitate to simply because of people smoking there. I've always felt like an outsider, not welcome anywhere.

A few years ago, I was introduced to yoga. It, like many other things in my life, was interesting to me. But it was not love at first stretch! Like many people, I tried to push myself to be somewhat of an expert to fast and too soon. In a class setting, I pushed myself to be just like the instructor. I did not want to be that awkward guy in the room. I did enjoy one instructor that has Multiple Sclerosis and found her teachings to be very down to earth. She said, "Sometimes, I fall over. Deal with it."

I recently decided to start practicing at home. At home I could mess up, fall over and make a fool of myself all I wanted to. But more importantly, I could take it at my own pace. Now, every instructor will tell you to do this. But when the peer pressure is there, I push myself. I found a instructional video that I connected with and haven't looked back.

What it has done for me has been life changing. For starters, I've learned to control my breathing. This winters extreme amounts of snow would have been enough to kill me in the past. But instead, I've enjoyed shoveling, as much as a person can enjoy such a thing. And although smoking is still offensive, I've learned to cope with it around me. I've worked on my posture, which has been an area that has needed work most of my life. I feel less pain associated with everyday life. I have been toning and strengthening my entire body, trimming inches off my waste and allowing me to do a few push-ups for the first time in my life. I've lost around ten pounds, have better digestion and actually enjoy eating healthy meals. I have almost eliminated my daily headaches and find the tension in my back is completely gone. I look forward to every day and the challenges that it brings. I enjoy the sunlight streaming in my windows. When I am practicing my yoga, the bitter cold outside melts away and life is beautiful. I can't imagine my life without it now.

Anyone looking to feel better, I would recommend finding a routine that works for you. I know from my parents senior community that they offer programs for the elderly and even wheelchair bound. For now, I am sticking with the Intro to Yoga for Beginners program. I will stay with it until I feel that I am ready to move on. I've already purchased more programs and look forward to them. But I am in no way going to push myself to get there. I will also rejoin the class setting when I am ready.

So to those that have worried about my health in this time of transition, there is nothing to worry about. I am feeling and doing much better. And feel that soon, I will be back to the Brighter Side more regularly.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Nobody said this would be easy

Death is never easy. We've all heard that before. It not only brings a life to an end but it changes those that have been left to live on.

Since I work in the funeral business, you'd think I would be used to death. But daily, I see people's lives changed forever. It can be difficult to watch as families and friends cope with their loss. At the time of death, there is so much to take care of that it is difficult to grieve in a healthy way. Whatever traditions your family may have, must be adhered to. Wishes are met with the best of our ability. On our side of the table, there are forms to be filled out and filed, caskets to be ordered and a multitude of people to coordinate. Obituaries have to be written and emailed to the newspapers and information needs to be uploaded to websites. I am so fortunate to work with several of the industries finest. We make it all happen with no effort from the families at all.

When a death occurs, there seems to be a plethora of help surrounding you. Friends and family appear out of nowhere. They all want to help, and they do.

It's was May of 2011 when my mother died. And July of 2013 when my father followed in her footsteps. At those times, I dove in and did what I do best. I had a great support system in place on both sides of the table. But here it is, February 2014, and we've dispersed our separate ways. In many ways, I appreciate the fact that I am now able to start living my own life, independent of any ties. But there are times when I also don't know where to turn next. I don't know what my goals in life look like anymore. Just last night, in the middle of the night, I awoke choking on my own tears. I've never felt so lost and alone.

I'm not writing this to get sympathy from anyone. I am writing this as a reminder to anyone that has known someone that has experienced a close death, to be there for your friends and family. Sometimes, it's when you haven't heard from them in a while that they really need you the most. Even though it's been many months since losing my father and years since losing my mother, I still need someone to lean on at times. And I know that I am not alone. I know that many of you reading this have experienced the same things that I am going through and I hope that you have people around you that support you in any way they can. And likewise, we need to be there for them. This is one of the many reasons we have our friends and family in our lives. We should be there for each other in good times and in bad times.

I know I will get through this. Sometimes, when we look back at the trail we've tread, it's actually hard to believe we were scared or confused, or as uncertain as we were. Yet, we still rocked it. Remember that next time we feel scared, confused or uncertain. Call up that friend we haven't heard from in a while and we'll make it through. I will make it through. I have some amazing friends.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Reconnecting with the Past

I don't believe in burning bridges and hold no one responsible for me not enjoying my youth other than myself. I understand that we each were doing the best we could with what we had at the time.

At a time when I'm trying to put the past behind me and move forward in my life, I find it funny that lately there has been a flood of people from my childhood looking to reconnect with me.

I believe that there is a force in the universe that guides us to a certain extent. So I'm thinking there is probably a reason for all of these connections. I've yet to figure out what those reasons might be. But I'm willing to venture down that road so long as it doesn't lead me back to that dark place from where I came.

When I visited Arkansas a year and a half ago, it was so I might pay my respects to my past and put it behind me. I've done a good job of that. Now I've filed the good memories from my youth and taken a giant step forward in moving into the future.

So for all of you from my past, welcome. I know that we have all grown in different ways. And know that our separation over the years was nothing personal. I accept each of you for who you have become and hope that you can do the same with me. If not, it's been great reconnecting with you and I wish you nothing but Love in your future. Feel free to stalk my blog and see what I've been up.

If you are a loyal blog follower and you are patiently waiting for my return, I can tell you that I am healing well and working toward returning very soon. Thank you for your patience.