The Beat of the City Arrives: Washington, D.C. – Day Two – Georgetown

The beat of the city arrives…

Ambulance sirens race down the street.

The pitter-patter, clomp-clomp of busy and important steps hitting the pavement.

Street musicians showcase their talents, providing a harmony for the chaos.

-Luke A. Bunker

I was compelled to write the above poem after exiting the Foggy Bottom-GWU Metro Station, hyper-sensitive to the sights and sounds around me.  There was a slight chill to the air, with sirens racing down the street and an older male musician pounding away at his keyboard as if it was his true calling in life.  As I alluded to in a previous post, I hopped on the Metro last Friday morning with no set itinerary for the day (perhaps the aforementioned hypersensitivity was due to a mind not clogged by schedules and “things to do”?), save for lunch with my aunt on the Hill sometime in the afternoon.  Aside from that, the day was mine, and I knew about halfway through my Metro ride where I would begin.

Cupcakes for life • Baked & Wired in Georgetown provides a more quirky cupcake experience than most cupcakeries (is that a word now??) in the city.

“Texas Sheetcake” • Cupcakes for life:  Baked & Wired in Georgetown provides a more quirky and intimate experience than most cupcakeries (is that a word now??) in the city.

When I was last in D.C. in August 2013, my cousin and I spent a morning similar to how I spent it last Friday – exit GWU Metro and make the short walk to Baked & Wired in Georgetown while admiring the beautiful homes and architecture.  Although the activities were similar, the journey was different.  As I settled in with my ham & gruyere quiche and iced mocha, I reflected on the pages of my Moleskine of how taking a different path with a receptive mind left me further open to experiencing the truth of life in Washington, D.C.

"Seek Truth and Pursue It Steadily" • This quote, on GWU's campus, helped put me in an open mindset, receptive to the familiar, yet unfamiliar, world around me.

“Seek Truth and Pursue It Steadily” • This quote, on GWU’s campus, helped put me in an open mindset, receptive to the familiar, yet unfamiliar, world around me.

I opted for savory instead of sweet...  Well, kind of.  You can't beat the beautiful combination of chocolate and coffee!

I opted for savory instead of sweet… Well, kind of. You can’t beat the beautiful combination of chocolate and coffee!

For, you see, on this particular morning, I took a perhaps less glamorous journey to Georgetown.  Instead of walking Pennsylvania, I took K and the Whitehurst Freeway.  I say less glamorous because it was on this walk where it struck me that there is absolutely nothing romantic about homelessness.  I don’t know if “romantic” is the right word, but when you can see (and, in reality, smell) the situation, you realize that it’s a real problem – not always a choice for those people – and one that we prefer to ignore than do anything about.

As I picked “pesky” down feathers from my $200 jacket while toting around $1000 in camera equipment and preparing to spend $10 on coffee and a small slice of quiche, having traveled via air to a city for the sole purpose of visiting a travel show, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel even just a twinge of guilt.  But, at the same time as I saw the inequities of society (how had these people gotten to this place?  what events had transpired in their lives where a shopping cart full of cans, no showers for days or weeks, and despair evident on their faces, was the life these people now led?), the presence of blessings in my own life became abundantly clear.  Sometimes it takes seeing this aspect of humanity – one that is largely ignored and is surrounded by a gargantuan taboo – to realize gratitude for how well a person does, indeed, have it.

A portion of the "Baked Wall" at Baked & Wired in Georgetown.

A portion of the “Baked Wall” at Baked & Wired in Georgetown.

With this newfound perspective fresh in my mind, I posted my poem on the Baked Wall (a wall where patrons’ doodles, writings and thoughts are drawn onto napkins and taped) and set out on a photo journey with my Hipstamatic and architecture, along with capturing a not-often-seen Washington, in my sights.

Look twice - that's a statue of a dog with a tie around it's neck!  Too funny.

Look twice – that’s a statue of a dog with a tie around it’s neck! Too funny.

IMG_3099

Rose Park Playground:  Rose Park is sandwiched between the back of Georgetown and the overhang of Rock Creek Parkway.  It is here where I saw a part of D.C. life I'd previously not seen - the normal day-to-day life of nannies with young ones swinging and playing the morning away...

Rose Park Playground: Rose Park is sandwiched between the back of Georgetown and the overhang above Rock Creek Parkway. It is here where I saw a part of D.C. life I’d previously not seen – the normal day-to-day life of nannies with young ones swinging and playing the morning away…

Sharing is Caring

“Sharing is Caring”

"Canal Bike" • Green is my favorite color, so between that and the composition, I had to take this photo.

“Canal Bike” • Green is my favorite color, so between that and the composition, I had to take this photo.

Has Hell frozen over?  Well, maybe not...but the C&O Canal has.

Has Hell frozen over? Well, maybe not…but the C&O Canal had a thin layer of ice on the morning I walked by.

"Woman in Red" • This is one of my favorite little streets to photography.  The building fronts, the American flag, the always-interesting people, and the canalside brick sidewalk are just too lovely to pass up.

“Woman in Red” • This is one of my favorite little streets to photograph. The building fronts, the American flag, the always-interesting people, and the canalside brick sidewalk are just too lovely to pass up.

"Brick, Shutters & Iron Fences, Oh My!"

“Brick, Shutters & Iron Fences, Oh My!”

"Rose Park Walker"

“Rose Park Walker”

"Rose Park Robin"

“Rose Park Robin”

Stay tuned for more from my recent trip to Washington, D.C., including more pictures from my first day of the Capitol and Supreme Court buildings, as well as my fun museum mix-up!

31-Day Blog Challenge: Dream Job (Or, A Business Manifesto)

Day 23/31

Well, as some of you may notice, I didn’t post yesterday – eek!  I decided I’d sleep instead.  And, after the day I had (I think it was a bad week for everyone??), I’m glad I did! Now, dream job…  We’ve all been there.  We’ve daydreamed (while at our current jobs) about what we would rather be doing, where we’d rather be doing it, and the gobs and gobs of money we would make.  It’s interesting how, after different life experiences and experiences in our everyday work life, our “dream job” doesn’t become as cut-and-dry as “travel writer and photographer,” “hotelier/restaurateur” or “magazine editor” (three of my dream jobs), but instead they graft into what might be better considered as an “ideal job,” with very specific details and requests:

  • A job where employees:
    • take ownership of their tasks and areas of expertise,
    • don’t pass their work off onto others because they are happy and proud to do what they do,
    • are passionate about working for and improving the company,
    • have vision and are excited to work both as a team and as individuals to accomplish a common goal,
    • are infectiously positive, optimistic and are respectful in attitudes and actions towards fellow employees, and
    • are talented, skilled and great at what the do.
    • Bottom line:  employees who can’t practice the above (or are incompetent in general) would just not be around.
  • A job that:
    • fairly rewards and compensates employees according to level of effort, successes throughout the year, and what they’ve truly contributed to the company (whether that’s good or bad),
    • provides a calming environment for elimination of extraneous distractions (I wish I had a quiet space where I could eliminate other distractions easily – whether it be calls on my cell and desk phones, coworkers paging me every five minutes or coming over to my desk to ask me questions, and the like.  My dream job would be being able to just do my job with a moment or two of peace and quiet!),
    • allows for travel of some sort (getting out of the office does wonders for morale, and continued learning, networking and taking the temperature of the industry are all super-important), and
    • inspires its employees – every day – to do better, to be better.

As I first wrote this list, I thought of gripes I have about the workplace and said where people don’t do this or where this or that doesn’t happen…  I changed these into positive statements, which I think says a lot about what I want my workplace to look like.  I think we can all relate to the bickering and gossip that go on, and it’s even worse that we let ourselves get sucked into it.  If a place could create an environment where that wasn’t necessary, that would be so incredibly amazing.

You could look at the above as a mission statement, perhaps, or maybe even a manifesto for just part of how I think a business should be run.  Either way, I think most places of work could benefit from taking a look at how they do business, and foster an environment that encourages passion and purpose.  But, who knows…  Maybe I’m just dreaming!!

31-Day Blog Challenge: Difficult Time in My Life

Day 20/31

Whew…  This will not be an easy post to write.  Namely, I am tired (actually, exhausted), but I know this post will bring up a lot of emotions I’d like to think I’ve succesfully “gotten over” during the course of the the last year.  But, in the hopes that sharing my experiences will help someone out there who may be going through similar challenges, I will share my story…

In late September 2012, we got the news that my uncle Dennis had passed away in Wichita of a heart attack.  He had been in poor health for some time, and my dad and I (Uncle Dennis was my dad’s brother) had just seen him a week or two before when we were in town for a concert.  My dad has had some issues with the rest of my uncle’s family, and we almost didn’t stop on our way out of town, but I told him we should and basically forced him to go.  I’m so glad we did, because when he waved to us from the porch as we were leaving after a short chat, it was the last time we saw him alive.  He was a generous, amazingly-talented person who helped everyone and anyone he met who was going through something or needed a hand up and, unfortunately, put himself last.

What was already a difficult time was compounded by what could only be considered a weekend of hell for his wake and funeral.  Basically, our family, my uncle’s biological side of the family, was basically shunned or ignored throughout the whole process.  People blamed people, no one from our side of the family were pall bearers (something I think was incredibly disrespectful and that my uncle would not have been happy about) or included in any aspect of the proceedings (instead, it was all my aunt’s side of the family – WTF?  Seriously.), wills and desires and estates were a mess, and it was just a very difficult time for our whole family.  In a sea full of people, our side of the family, our little group, felt pretty alone.

I was, obviously, very shaken with the news…  He was the closest person I had ever lost besides my grandmother, and I had spent more time around him than most of the rest of the family on my dad’s side.  I had dreams of taking him to Europe with me as he was always excited and proud of the fact that I traveled…  I had been able to keep it together for most of the week (did I really have a choice not to?), although I felt like the wind had been taken out of my sails.  I held up pretty well at the funeral until after I said goodbye to him for the last time and laid my hand on his chest.  After I walked away from his casket, I completely lost it and starting sobbing and crying without control or the ability to stop for a while.  My brother was close by and held me to his chest, and I am forever grateful that my family was there for each other – our own little group in a big sea of a mess.  My other uncle and his kids and family were there, as well as some of our extended family from out of the state, and I think that was probably the only way we stayed sane throughout the whole ordeal.

Approximately a week after my uncle’s funeral, my brother and his girlfriend – the mother of my niece – came over to our house to tell us that they were basically splitting up and that she was moving out of their house.  I had known they weren’t “good” for a while, but my parents were totally clueless to the whole thing until that day.  A lot of nasty words and statements were thrown around, and pretty much everyone in the room was full of tears amid the yelling and chaos.  I was so frustrated and angry and was just plain fucking pissed off (pardon my English).  Our family has very little history of divorce or separation, and to have that room feel toxic for months after because of what was happening that afternoon made me physically and mentally ill.

Obviously, I thought they should try to work it out.  Unfortunately, they were at two different places in their lives and, in hindsight, needed the separation to find themselves and get things out of their systems.  I believe each person resented the other for a variety of reasons, and I was worried and scared and frightened that – with the way things were going and how upset everyone was – that I would never see my niece again.  Looking back, it was probably unfounded to think that, but when emotions flare, we find ourselves questioning and worrying about everything.  I know that if I never saw my niece again, it would be the last time I spoke with either of the parents; we’ve become very close and attached to her, and I couldn’t imagine not being able to hold her and talk to her and give her a hug.  Luckily, as of the writing of this post, both parents are back together and have recently moved back in together in their own place, and I think the time of separation was good for them.  It was a long struggle, but things happen for a reason.

As if all of this turmoil wasn’t enough, I was still going to college full-time and working (supposedly part-time).  At work, we were converting over to a new billing system – a process I had been involved in for several months leading up to that, as well as a simultaneous conversion to our own cellular core so that we could handle our own cellular traffic instead of paying another company to do it for us.  With everything going on at work, mid-terms for college, and pressure mounting all around me, as well as what I mentioned above, I was super-stressed out and was feeling physically and emotionally drained.  I think I worked probably close to 45-60 hours on top of going to school full-time on the week of the cut, staying at work on the night of the cut until the early hours of the morning.

Unfortunately, due to all of these stressers and events that happened within about a month of each other that fall, I honestly believe that what I went through can only be described as depression, or some other mental trauma.  I had never experienced anything so draining in my life, and I felt angry – a lot – and that the world made no sense and that people were just completely out of control (it turns out this is still true).  I went through some days mechanically and at the end of the day couldn’t even remember what I had done, or at least in writing this today, I don’t remember remembering.  Maybe it wasn’t depression, I really don’t know, but it was absolutely, without a doubt, the worst time of my life.  My dad wasn’t the same after the loss of his brother (they were very close), and all of this happening around the holidays made it that much worse.  It took many, many months to finally realize – in the case of my brother and his girlfriend – that they were adults and had to handle things the best way they saw fit, and it took a conversation with one of my best friends to realize that everyone has a path in life, and we don’t get to hand out approval or judgment when those paths don’t jive with our perfect little world.

For anyone going through this kind of “blah” time, where the world around you seems to be spinning out of control faster than you can keep up with it…  Do I have any advice?  I’d like to say “distract yourself with something else,” but that’s just not possible.  Your mind is in overdrive…  You’re thinking of every little detail, whether it be about the personal life struggles you and your family are going through or other commitments (in my case, work and school).  You put yourself on the back burner because you’re too worried about everything and everyone but yourself.  If we had access to a decent restaurant, I would have gorged myself everyday (oh, wait, I did); if we had a spa, I would have been broke with how often I would have needed to go.  But, I didn’t have the time or the ability to concentrate on something else in the ways – healthy or not – that a person could use to take their mind off of what was going on.  I was literally too busy to think about things and do something about it for me.  And that is just not healthy.  Looking back, I should have taken a day by myself, for myself, doing something I enjoy and literally getting the hell out of Dodge – I was too close to what was going on around me, and I needed an escape.

I thought seriously and hard about whether I should post any of the details of my personal life that I’ve mentioned above.  I was worried that it would bring up emotions and thoughts for not only me but others mentioned, but I realized that I own these thoughts and feelings, and they are mine to share.  I had to do what was therapeutic for me, and what might give me at least some semblance of closure.  Hopefully, no one has to go through these things, but that’s not realistic – non of us are immune to “bad shit.”  But, I do believe it’s important to not keep these emotions bottled up.  It may seem shameful or difficult to share your feelings and struggles with others, but it’s only when you confide in friends that they can help you or try to help get you out of the muck.  I am so appreciative of those friends who – even if it was just for a few moments – provided a sounding board or advice, or just plain got my mind off of what was going on.

After thinking about my own struggle – thinking it was small or insignificant in relation to others’ issues, I realized that it doesn’t have to be compared to other people’s problems.  It was big to me, and that’s important to realize.  Just because someone else has it worse than you doesn’t diminish the difficulties that you are going through; I think that’s crucial to realize.  Guilt should not be added into your problems – you have the issue, and that’s OK.  With that in mind, I’ve come to realize how blessed I am that even with these issues, I have friends, family and support to get me through it.  If you’re going through this, don’t crowd people out – let them come in and let them help.

31-Day Blog Challenge: My Earliest Memory

Day 13/31

So, in full disclosure, I did write this post but kept it Private because the writing was that bad and my heart just wasn’t in that post.  I’m just checking in to let you all know that yes, I did do the challenge for today!

Today was one of those days where things are going pretty well until you encounter a life-sucker.  You know the type…  People who are negative energies who try to suck the life and happiness out of others because it makes their menial, closed minds think they are powerful.  Luckily, the rest of the day went better after this brief WTFDIDTY (what the $#!* did I do to you) moment, but I’ve just never understood what compels people to think that making others feel small will somehow make them feel big and special.  I suppose we should just feel pity and pray for those people that feel the need to compensate for their lackings by spewing toxic energy towards those around them.  All I have to conclude at the end of some interactions anymore is that, if there really is a force called karma (and I believe there is), then some people are in for one hell of a rude awakening.

Anyway…  Back to positive thoughts as I drift to sleep soon…  Buenos noches, mis amigos!  (I’m channeling my inner Juan Pablo here, sans accent and six-pack…  Now I just feel sad…  Good night!)

Spent / What’s the story here?

Spent

Whenever you see something like this, you have to wonder, “What is the story behind this?” As co-editor of the newspaper at my high school, our first issue of the year explored the theme, “Everyone’s Got A Story.” I encouraged (read:  cajoled)  the staff to find people whose stories were either ordinary or extraordinary and write a story sharing that person’s story and experience with our readers. The results were fun and enlightening to see, and with that reflection in the back of my mind, it made me ask that question about anyone I saw – in person or even driving by – as well as things I saw in everyday life. I find I’ve had a much richer imagination by making up stories about people I’ve never met! One day, I’ll write a book full of those characters and places.

Curiosity killed the cat? Pssh.

Goodbye, My Friend!

Goodbye, My Friend!

I’m saying goodbye to my baby today… She has been with me around the world to ten countries, has shared with me in some amazing experiences, and has been there to record family moments, important and momentous occasions, as well as the passage of time. She has been right there over my shoulder and around my neck the last couple of years, but it’s comforting to know that she is headed to a friendly new owner who will now be able to capture her own family’s moments and experiences.

My new camera will arrive today as I retire this one. I will look fondly on my memories with this camera and look forward to sharing the journey with my new friend, too. And, in closing… I know this isn’t the best picture, but, then again, I didn’t take it with you. 🙂

Confusion

Confusion

Sometimes in life, you just get confused. You think you’re doing the right thing, but then you start to think about it a bit more, or perhaps certain events prompt it, but you start to doubt and question yourself.

This has been happening a lot lately for me. Last night, nearing midnight, I got so frustrated that I could have screamed! I thought about how work and life aren’t always fair (at least in my eyes), and I decided that rather than go off the deep end and start the virtual B Roll of negative thoughts and feelings, I would channel it into my Moleskine sketchbook/journal.

Being new to the game of journaling, I’ve still found it therapeutic and relaxing to create art rather than bring negative energy into the world. Because God knows there’s enough of that out there already!

This piece, to me, shows confusion at its best… Converging, diverging and crossing lines show how circumstances so frequently enter and exit our lives; the curly and curved lines show that no path is correct, or the same as another’s; the opposing focal points and the reds show the anger and frustration that we must all experience to see the good things in life; the EKG lines, abstract mountain peaks and other objects show the obstacles we face daily; and the torch represents the coming-to-a-head of all these emotions, thoughts and feelings.

In the end, we question the meaning of our lives here on earth. The age-old question, “Why are we here?” doesn’t have an easy answer, if it has one at all. Many of us have goals, activities and other reasons that keep us living, and when we stray from those things, it’s important to find ways to get back to center. For me, I hope that journaling and getting back to creating art will make for a good start.