I Will Find My Way

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The Velcro on my Rand McNally road atlas had been rendered useless. Tan carpet fuzz from the back of the Jeep embedded itself irrevocably into the hook side of the mechanism.

The map was considered a “just in case” for getting lost, which happens often. The atlas was purchased well before there was something called a Google to provide maps on something called the internet.

That road atlas was aspirational. I bought it hoping that maybe I could travel a lot of those blue lined roads over the course of my life.

But suddenly the road atlas had meaning. It was more than a “just in case,” it was an essential tool.

The page for New Mexico was well worn, but the page for California was starting to show the dirt and grease of eager fingers tracing a path over and over again. A reduced scale journey west to my new home.

The compass rose became my bouquet, a present from the universe, welcoming me to my new life.

At a holiday cocktail party, the map became obsolete. A friend and professional truck driver wrote directions on the back of an envelope. “This is the faster way to go, you’ll shave several miles off the trip,” he told me.

He’d personally traveled those roads. Roads that were visible to me only as lines on a page in my mind.

He was the first of many milestones on my journey.

The tattered envelope with scrawled black pen, “I-40 west to Barstow” wasn’t anywhere near as magical as the pages produced by Rand McNally, but it was more useful, more functional. I clung to that envelope because my life really did depend upon it.

And then, finally, it was time.

May 1997, just a few days before Memorial Day, I climbed up behind the wheel of my Jeep while my best friend strapped into the passenger seat and took possession of both the envelope and the Rand McNally.

I-40 was a road I knew. Straight. West. No worries. Grants passed by quickly. Then before we knew it, there was Gallup.

Then the Arizona border.

My tires made a noise as they passed over, and I cried. I didn’t just cross this border casually. It meant something. It was a new frontier.

The entire State of Arizona lay ahead. Since Arizona was familiar, it eased me in. We settled into the miles while listening to Tom Jones and George Strait. We listened to everything I had in that Jeep and then tried to find decent radio stations.

Six hours. That’s how long it takes to traverse the State of Arizona.

Then my tires made another small sound and another border was crossed.

I was in California. I didn’t cry this time. Simply renewed my resolve and kept driving.

That was thirteen years ago, but it could be yesterday for how fresh it remains in my mind.

May I never lose my resolve. May I never lose my desire. May I never lose my ability to read a good old fashioned road map.

All it takes is a map, a little guidance from someone who bothers to care, and a step in the right direction and you can find your way.

If only someone could draw a map to help me navigate the more difficult emotional roads in my life. Those are uncharted.

I am both mapmaker and traveler and the journey never ends.

But the compass rose is still just as beautiful.

Photograph by Karin Lindstrom and used royalty free from stock.xchng

This week’s Theme Thursday is map.

This Woman is a Saint

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“Las Cruces resident Karla Barela, 38, places red chile pork on the corn husks containing masa to make tamales Saturday at El Indio Tortilla Shop. Barela started making tamales at 4 a.m. and continued to make them at 12:30 p.m. (Photos by Richard Davis / For the Las Cruces Sun-News)”

At the end of the article, Karla sums it all up:

“Without tamales…it wouldn’t be Christmas.”

Amen

Brevity Is Not My Middle Name

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(Sometimes the pump just needs priming. After writing about having nothing to say, it turns out I actually did have something to say today. It was just hiding. Here’s a second post for the day.)

A few weeks ago, we had a manager’s meeting here at work. This is a once a quarter affair where we meet, eat pastry, and talk about our plans for the department over the next three months.

Part of these meetings is also a discussion about how we, the management team, can improve ourselves and be better leaders for our team.

This quarter’s growth topic in support of that goal was about our use of words.

A senior member of our staff held aloft the cap from a water bottle, and told us the goal was to “use a capful, don’t pour out the whole bottle.”

He told us to shorten the bullets on our PowerPoint presentations.

He told us to “speak in conclusions” in our emails.

He told us to always be aware of how many words we’re using and then trim it back.

Ironically, it took him over half an hour to pass along this message.

I deeply considered throwing the cap from my own water bottle at him.

But I didn’t.

Ahem.

Look, dear readers, you’ve been with me for over three years, and 1,000 posts which amounts to approximately half a million words.

Do you *really* think I can “use a capful” when I write?

People, please.

To paraphrase The Dude, I’m not really into that whole brevity thing.

I’m a writer! I’m a creative! I pass words like currency through my life. My husband and my best friend, the closest people to me, both have kick ass vocabularies! If you’re gonna run with me, you gotta love the use of words and language and be willing to endure my penchant for storytelling the whole damn six pack, not just the capful.

No, I say! No! I reject the capful and dive headfirst into the ocean of words, swim around nekkid, get the words all soaked into my skin and then I’ll use a few more adverbs just to make it more, erm, wordly!

Damnit! Asking me to ratchet back the words is like tying Rodin‘s hands behind his back and asking him to craft a masterpiece with his toes.*

Ain’t gonna happen.**

* Look who is comparing herself to Rodin. That’s a bit audacious, innit?

** That said…I’m trying. Well, trying at work anyway. Be warned, all the words I have to cut out of my days at work are so totally going to show up here.

Cartoon from Toothpaste for Dinner

A less than beautiful mind

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When I look inside my head, as I usually do about this time of day, and ask myself “what would I like to blog about today?” I often see many colorful suggestions, images and ideas pop to the forefront.

Sure, many of the suggestions that my monkey mind puts forth are so capricious they become either not appropriate or too complicated to write about in about 500 words, on average. But I can usually find one gem among the rubble and bring that to you, every weekday, on my blog.

Today, on my walk over to the cafeteria to grab a salad and rush back to my office in time for another conference call, when I turned inward for a good blog idea, what I got, instead of colorful confetti and suggestions of “poop!,” was resoundingly gray. Quiet. Lonesome.

As gray as the cubicle walls that line my office building.

As quiet as the dark winter clouds that have gathered over the Bay Area to lie down and weep cold rain on our heads.

As lonesome as New Mexico state highway 285 between Vaughan and Roswell.

When I looked inward, I discovered that my brain hurts.

For every company that’s ever employed me, December has always been a busy month. My current employer is no exception.

At five months into my new gig, I really like it a lot, and as I’ve begun to hit my stride, I have discovered that cute little word “global” in my title means my days begin in the UK, lunch with Sao Paulo, a quick break for the US, afternoon tea with Australia, early evening snack with Hong Kong and I am put down to bed for the night with India.

All on the phone. All day long. The UK to India run encompasses about twelve hours of my day.

Then I wake up and do it all again.

While this probably sounds like complaining, it’s really not. My job is fascinating and fun and really good stuff.

But I am *tired*.

In the interest of my own health, I’ve begun working out again. Nothing major, Jazzercise a couple times a week and a sashay on the treadmill a couple other days a week.

I found I need that exercise to build up my stamina so I can sustain these long days at work.

But all that exercise wears me out too.

And my blog, my beautiful, wonderful blog. It’s suffering too. My goal of a post every weekday stands firm. Then I go and miss a day (like yesterday) and I’ve got to climb back out of the hole.

So all of these words (about 430 so far) are just my way of saying I don’t have much to say.

For today, anyway. That quiet, gray, lonesome mind only lasts for a little while. Then my severe latent childhood will kick in, and I’ll figure out how to write another post about poop.

You can count on that.

Artist Heather Gorham‘s interpretation of the monkey mind

An Open Letter To My iPod

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Dear Shuffle Function on my iPod Shuffle:

Today, after a really long day at work that started WAY too early this morning and ended WAY too late, I climbed my large and rather tired behind up onto my treadmill and fired up the big machine.

Normally I can rely on you, my long suffering iPod, veteran of many miles, to get me through the agony of exercise.

Not today.

Here’s a hint, little musical device: when I need a little inspiration, how ’bout we avoid every single four bar blues available on the playlist, huh?

Minor chords don’t really scream “get that heartrate up!” Albert King and John Lee Hooker are really better suited to competitive whiskey drinking, not sweating for my health.

And that John Denver song? Yer killin’ me! (yes, I have John Denver on my iPod. No, I’m not ashamed)

Workout time is also not time for Colbie Callat, John Legend, or Coltraine.

Damn, iPod Shuffle, that skip function got more of a workout today than I did!

That said, dropping a “Stayin’ Alive” on me near the end of the hour? That was inspired.

Occasionally, you still got it, Shuffle.

Sad iPod cross stitch from benjibot‘s Flickr photostream.