Getting in the Habit

A couple of weeks ago I signed up with a local women’s organization to do a ‘Build Day’ @ the Habitat for Humanity multi-home site in Lynwood, California.  What a great experience and fun way to spend a Saturday afternoon!

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From beginning to end, I learned so much. After a quick informational and safety session we were divided into teams. My team was taught how to measure, cut, and properly place siding – complete with proper caulking procedures to prevent water damage and how to cut siding to work windows, door frames and awkward edges.  In total we got about 5 rows done (a small effort, but we felt accomplished!) and were completely covered in dust and sweat by about 3:00 PM.

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Better still than all the building was learning about all the other things Habitat does for the community. Did you know that the houses are not given away? Each new owner has to go through a lengthy process and also contribute to the home they are building, whether it is for themselves or another, completing 200-500 hours of #sweatequity to complete the efforts, and each family has a mortgage that is manageable with their income to eventually own their home. Children in the family can help burn those hours: good grades count towards those #sweatequity hours too!

I was really impressed with Habitat’s program and all they had to offer. Also glad to hear that the Re-Store project raises money to build 2-3 more homes and does not go solely to operation costs.

If you’re looking for a way to get a group together and volunteer time & energy over dollars & cents, go for it!

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(All photos from this entry taken by A. Boltinghouse)

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Identifying My Voice

I love to listen to NPR in my car when I am toodling around town. My zippy little car and I get a lot done that way, and it feels nice to feel like you’re having an in-depth intellectual discussion while you’re driving…except the radio is doing the talking and I’m doing a diluted form of active-listening which includes exclamations of “Oh wow!” or actually laughing out loud.

One influential story was that of Rupal Patel and her project VOCALiD: I was so impressed! VOCALiD is an online crowd fund of a completely different kind of funding. Instead of donating money, you donate your time and voice to invest in a ‘bank’. The reason you are doing this is to help those who don’t have a voice due to birth defects or developed disabilities.

I assure you I drove carefully, but I really couldn’t wait to get home to test this out.

Do you remember the motorized voice Stephen Hawking has? While many of us have identified that voice with him, I am quite certain he would have loved to have heard his own voice again – or something close enough to it that didn’t sound like a StarWars character. I also know that doesn’t sound like a little girl who might also have a similar condition. Rupal mentions this in the TedTalks YouTube I attached above.

The beauty of VOCALiD is that it helps combine the limited sounds of the person requiring help to that of a fully functioning person of a similar size/shape/sex. The whole process takes about 4 hours, but you can set your own pace and break it up over the course of time. You won’t be saying everything the person needs you to say – just creating the sounds needed so that they can construct their own sentences.

How cool is that? Free to do from the privacy of your own home, costs you nothing, you don’t have to strong-arm all of your friends into dropping buckets of ice water on their head (PS naysayers, I really didn’t have the $100 and I did engage in one COLD bath for the sake of doing it. That video has been destroyed), or sell a product where $0.10 goes ‘to the cause’.

I’m about 30 sentences in, and I find it’s great to do when I have ten minutes at the end of my day to “add to my bank”. It feels good that by just taking 10 minutes of my time my VOICE is actually doing something for someone else. Just by talking.

Thickening the Plot

My wonderful-and-amazing-partner-in-crime (well, second wonderful-and-amazing-partner-in-crime, as the first one has four legs and lacking posable thumbs or a desire to read) has learned more and more about my amazing book collection.

I should preface this entry with a tiny introduction. Stemming from a inside joke amongst girlfriends, My wonderful-and-amazing-partner-in-crime #2 shall be hereby referred to as Mr. Awesome. Yes, I’m aware this smacks of a SITC episode but get over it. Hopefully I won’t have an awful block-buster moment where I write something he doesn’t like and this turns into a melodramatic romance novel where the crowd, miraculously, goes mild.

Shortly after we met, he came over to hang for a bit and I had to do an insane mad-dash cleanup of epic proportions. This included shoving my piles of books into my extra closet and moving more piles into my bedroom and shutting the door. He never made it off the couch. Mr Awesome is likely the cleanest person I know, and I was not about to kill a relationship that hadn’t even started yet!

Back to the point.

We have often exchanged books that we loved and I was searching for the latest and greatest share to send over to him.  He travels a lot for a living so books are an important way to stay entertained whilst on the road. In my genius I’ve now accomplished things a 12th Grade English Teacher could only dream of.

To give you a general idea, we went this route:

NT>MrA: Theo’s Odyssey – Clement #fail

MrA>NT: Crash – JG Ballard #win

MrA>NT: Geek Love – Katherine Dunn #win

At two to one, I needed to up my game.

“Have you ever read Catcher in the Rye?” – silence- “What about To Kill a Mockingbird?” – more silence- “Of Mice & Men? Grapes of Wrath? Cannery Row? ANIMAL FARM?!?!?!”

MrA: “I didn’t really take much interest in my English Classes in school”

(seeing my clean pass to a win here) NT: “What if I just send a few over and you can read the ones that peak your interest? I promise: no homework, no term paper. They are way better that way anyway.”

MrA: “Deal”

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Fast Forward

Well, he’s finished Catcher, Cannery Row, and has slid his way into TKAMB and it’s been solid wins. Lessening my book pile and stacking his. Who knew my favorite books were multitasking as weapons of war?

i.was.here.

There’s nothing really quite like an unfortunate, tragic event to make you stand on your feet (or sit on your slowly expanding behind) and announce “I was here”.  Granted I’ve thought about writing my own column for quite some time, but to be plain, it’s selfish. Writing/publishing being of the same notion as any artist is the need to announce “I was here”. Let’s get to it.

Today, much like any other, was full of the ritual banter of designer panic attacks, displaced anger and a dollop of drama. We all have our version of a 9-5 and mine is a bit more colorful than your average Jane. Maybe not, talk amongst yourselves… What was different about today was the acknowledgement that not only can you not walk away from your past but that it has a way of finding you and indirectly affecting your psyche as it sashays through your mind while you are trying to get through your next droll meeting.

Today’s acknowledgement included suicide. Not a very happy topic. Why would it be? It’s an end-all, be done with it, way to go. Only those who have gone through levels of extreme depression and/or addiction (and I’m sure some psychologists out there will agree that one often precludes the other) coincide with the path to suicide. To start this story out, let’s start from the beginning.

A long time ago, I was the security person at a little Italian restaurant on La Brea in West Hollywood, Los Angeles in a lounge called “Room 5” above Amalfi. I only worked one day a week and the staff there was awesome.  I had a boss named Wood (RIP) who was wild and crazy and so full of love and fun and for whatever reason trusted me with pretty much everything. More on him later.  On no particularly special evening, this guy with a funky nose and his friend came up for a snack – they sat close to my post and engaged in casual conversation with me. As it turns out, the friend was his personal trainer and the guy, L*, he kept turning around and chatting. As we got into a further not-all-too-special conversation, we got to the “What do you do?” point.

As would only happen in my life I come to discover he owns a fashion company I was scheduled to model for in maybe three days time. Naturally I tell him as such, and we strike up a new level of conversation. Next thing I know, I have a phone number, business card, and when I do get done with said shoot, I have a scheduled date and higher pay for my work. Schweet!!!

Well, let’s just say the date was so-so. The work I did for the company was fine, but, not my best work. The dates went well by comparison. L* and I went to Bossa Nova for dinner. I don’t remember what we ate, but I remember he didn’t drink, which was a welcome change. We hung out, went back to his home and played with this kitten who had an obsession with my piercings at odd hours. Seriously. Sunshine + kittens + shiny things = not always a great combination.

Beautiful home. Rode back to my nasty, shoebox apartment on Whitley Avenue after breakfast in a funky cleaned up vintage sports car. Life has an odd way of showing you the other side.

Note – the other side. L* wasn’t the best gentleman. Had I been older and wiser, I might have asked a few people before I decided to venture down that road.  Nothing hateful or too cruel, just not the gentleman I would have hoped for. Scene: Show up for shoot, enter an office full of windows so that everyone can see your reaction when the guy you’ve been seeing announces to you he’s (in his words) “Taking it to the next level” with another woman. Ouch?

I’m not known for my aggressive filter.

I am known for being increasingly cold hearted and diplomatic until I’ve had time to boil properly.

Well, howdy. Watch out world, I have a mouth full of venom. Everything down to the big boat theory. Yep, I went there. I think it took about a month till I got the courage to swallow my pride and apologize for being that mad. Surprisingly, he handled it well. At least I was accurate in my depiction of unruly behavior and  I’m sure L* will turn up in other stories I have, but for now this will have to suffice.

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Years later (yesterday, actually), when I am far from any of that scene, I get an awkward phone call from a former co-worker. “Please tell me when I get off the phone with you, you have someone to call.” – I do – “L* commit suicide today. I got it through the grapevine, and so far, this is all I know.”

It took me until today to catch all the details and make sense of things.  Walking into my office and reading the news bulletins and the information behind it took me a while to swallow. I knew he wasn’t a terribly happy person, but didn’t think he’d take it that far.  Learning more about him over the years (more so in the last 24 hours), he may have felt that it had been that bad.

L*? You may not always have been loved, and some days you were hated, but not really. In the end, you did put me on the map and you introduced me to a friend I can never, ever forget. Today you made me stand up and say I was here. Not sure what follows life, but I’m sure you’re raising hell and pissing someone off.

Get to it. See you on the other side.