Saturday, January 26, 2013

Meet Steve Miller

Meet Steve Miller.  I did.  No, not THE Steve Miller, but KC's own Steve Miller (see photo to the right).  He didn't write or record a top selling hit (I'm pretty sure), but he could (I'm pretty sure) "Fly Like an Eagle."

He was walking down Grand.  I was on my lunch break.  He asked me for a cigarette.  I asked him for an interview.  He agreed.  I agreed.  I got the better deal!  Full of spirit, full of optimism, full of hope he was.  His poverty was apparent in his dress, but in his heart and soul?  He was wisdom rich, mansion rich, rich as they come rich!

So what does one ask a complete stranger on a chilly winter day while standing on a sidewalk in the middle of a busy down town area?  My mind was blank!  Here was my first face-to-face interview opportunity, and I didn't want to fail . . . him. . . you. . . or myself.  What should I ask?  What could I ask?  I didn't want either of us to be uncomfortable.  I didn't have my tape recorder so I had to be able to remember his answers.  Truthfully, my mind was racing out of control and I felt tongue tied.  But!  I was pumped up and full of adrenaline.  So I let the energy carry me and asked the first thing that came to mind.  "How do you see the world 50 years from now."

Without hesitation this environmentalist who was likely "green" before "green" was cool said, "cars will run on water".  Water?  Really?  Do you believe that's actually possible, I asked?  "Sure enough," he said.  "Won't be long now and you'll be filling your gas tank with nothing more than tap water," he said as he flashed me a toothless smile.  Wow!  That's what I call thinking outside the box!  When I consider how much of the earth IS water and how easily water can be recycled and how heavily humans depend on their vehicles to get them from point A to B, well it just sounds like win-win to me.  

Mr. Miller had an optimistic view of many things I learned.  He was convinced that the future of education was bright.  "What with computers and all . . .  everybody who wants education will get it," he said.  Guns?  "Won't have to worry 'bout 'em 50 years from now, cause there won't be no bullets.  Everything will be a laser beam that will just stun ya if ya act out," he told me.  About health care?  Well, Mr. Miller wasn't quite so optimistic about the current state of affairs, but he had high hopes for the future.  "Why," I asked when he told me how much better future health care would be.  "Cause Mr. Obama is a good man.  He cares about common folk.  He's gonna see to it that everybody can get their medication so folks won't be so sick in the future."  I smiled.  "I like the way you think, Mr. Miller, I truly do," I told him.  And with that?

Interview over.  Always good to end on a high note whenever possible I think.  We spent the next few minutes chit chatting and I learned the coolest thing.  Mr. Miller is a collector of cans.  He recycles them.  See?  Told ya he was green!  But Mr. Miller is no spring chicken.  He's getting up there in years and carrying big awkward bags of cans to the recycling center is a challenge.  So he devised a plan that would allow him to haul his cans around town without further injuring his back.  He found that he could tie the cans together with a string and drag them down the sidewalk behind him.  Clever, huh?  So if you're ever in downtown Kansas City and hear rattle, clatter, clickety, clickety, clack, take a look out the window before concluding that Santa has arrived.  Cause it might just be Steve Miller and his string of cans (which is currently the length of a half city block he told me with great pride).  And if ever it is Mr. Miller?  Take a minute to introduce yourself.  You might just learn something.  I sure did.

Thanks for taking time to stop by the porch today.  And for all you environmental, scientist types?  How 'bout that water idea?  Anyway to make it happen?  If so, let's not wait 50 years.  Mr. Miller likely doesn't have that long and it would be the ultimate gift if his dream became reality in his lifetime.


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Momma Knows Best

What do you see when you look at this picture?  Nature?  Serenity?  Beauty?  Opportunity?  Color?  Good fishing spot?  A place to camp?  Nice place for a picnic?  Perfect spot for a new shopping mall or maybe a high rise or two?  All of the above?  None of the above?  Possibilities are endless I suppose.  If I asked 50 different people, I'd likely get 50 different answers.  Why come (yeah, yeah I know - improper English, but I like it so I'm saying it!)?  Cause that's just how folks are.  Everyone sees life through their own set of eyes.  What's important to some is irrelevant to others.  Advice is like that too.  It is!  I promise!  Keep reading. . .

Not long ago, I asked an old high school friend of mine what one piece of advice she had given her children that she hoped they would never forget.  Of all the things she could have said, she said this:  "learn how to drive a stick shift."  Huh?  At first, I was puzzled.  Not "live well" or "love well" or "believe in yourself" or "always follow your dreams" or "treat others as you would like to be treated"?  Nope.  None of those.  This witty, thoughtful, fun-loving mama said, "learn how to drive a stick shift!"

The more I considered her answer, the more I realized that her response was analogous for something else.  Something along the lines of:  don't live on automatic pilot. . . learn to do the hard thing and you'll always be able to do the rest.  Pretty good advice if you ask me!

And here she is.  My lifelong friend doing what she does best. . . smiling and laughing and living life and lovin' the heck out of it!   Did I mention she loves cars?  Did I mention she can drive a stick shift?

Love you my friend.  Thanks for reminding me that life isn't complicated unless we make it that way.

So that's it for the front porch today.  How 'bout you?  Ever learn to drive a stick shift?  It's not too late ya know!


Monday, January 21, 2013

Believe In Yourself

Believe in yourself.  That was the round about response I received from a friend when I recently asked her what her greatest life challenge had been and how she overcame it.  She didn't say, "believe in yourself."  Instead, she bravely shared the horrors of her childhood and told me what she did to survive.  The message I heard?  Believe in yourself.

First, a bit about my friend.  She is breathtakingly beautiful.  She has this glow about her that is hard to describe.  She walks in the room and suddenly the room is brighter.  Yeah, she's like that.  Radiant.  Glowing.  Brighter than bright.  To quote from Victoria Moran, she is "Lit From Within", and it shows on her face, in the way she walks, in the way she talks, in her very presence.  The woman you would see if you passed her on the street - well dressed, not a hair out of place, make-up perfectly applied, shoulders back, head up, walking at a confident pace like she knows where she's going. . . she knows where she's been.  My writing skills are not sufficient to describe this ethereal being so I ask you to visualize your ideal of beauty and there you'll find her.  My strong and beautiful friend.

In childhood, love came packaged in a bottle of alcohol her father would drink just before beating her mother in front of her toddler eyes.  Love included hiding in the closet or a car or a neighbor's house trying desperately to avoid and escape the rage, the abuse. After teaching her what love looked and felt like, my friend's father passed away.  She was 6.  Her brother quickly picked up where their father left off.  He found the bottle, drank from the bottle and soon surrendered to the bottle so he could continue the love, the abuse he too had learned at a very early age.  Addiction, hatred, rage, fear, beatings - they became the norm.  Love looked and felt like hell.  After the death of her father and continued abuse by her brother, she began spending time with a friend.  A place to escape.  A place to hide.  A place of safety.  A place where she could start to heal and learn from a "normal" family what love really felt and looked like.  But no!  That was not to be!  Abuse and terror were not finished with her yet.  Regardless of where she went or what she did, she could not escape the evil love she had learned from an early age.  He was 17.  She was too young to consent.  He did as he pleased.  He showed her a new love.  Wrapped in unwanted hugs and forced kisses, she was introduced to love on a whole new level.  Sexual abuse.  That's what she called it.  He sexually abused her for years.  And she remained quiet.  Submissive.  She obeyed his commands because that's what love did.  She knew that.  She learned it from her father, the parent that every little girl looks up to for sound advice and guidance.  This sick and twisted man/boy raped her over and over.  Physically, she could not escape.  There was nowhere to go.  No one to tell.  She was all alone as her body was used, abused and tortured in every imaginable way.  But!  In her mind, she could hide.  In her mind, she could find safety.  In her mind, she could escape.  And she did.  She stayed in the closet.  She stayed in the car.  She hid in her mind wherever she could.  Stay safe.  Stay alive.  Believe in yourself.  And she did.

She's an adult now.  Behind her is the evil.  Behind her is the black, rotten, nauseating kind of love she was taught as a child.  She believed in herself.  Enough so that she graduated from high school and then college.  Though she could no longer concentrate or think clearly or stay focused because her mind was "never clear" after all the horror she endured, she did what others told her was impossible.  She fought back.  She fought hard.  She proved all the naysayers wrong.  She - the first in her family - earned a college degree.  Somehow she knew that education would open doors for her, and it did.  She got book smart.  But more than that, she learned the truth about love.  What real love looked and felt like.  She discovered it was not the face of evil so many had painted for her.

She may never have the answers she wants.  She may never know "why" people did what they did.  But what she now knows is that she was the victim.  She didn't do anything wrong.  She stayed afloat through the storm and she came out strong and wise on the other side.  Abuse - physical, emotional, sexual has been her greatest life challenge.  Education is how she overcame.  She found a new path.  She found new people.  She found a way to discover love - the right kind - the kind all people should be shown from birth.  Today, she is loved in all the right ways by her doting husband and faithful friends.  She now knows real love not because of evil, but in spite of it.  

To my friend, thank you.  Thank you for your honesty.  Thank you for sharing a piece of your heart.  Thank you for showing all of us what is possible if only we will believe.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

My Dream

NPR does this thing called Storycorps or maybe it's Storyboard or maybe it's. . . oh gosh, I'm having a senior moment and can't now recall the name of the show.  In any event, it's interesting, it's fascinating and it's entertaining.  Why?  Because it's a way for folks to share their human-ness.  Share their stories.  Share who they are and how they got that way.  I love it!  And it got me to thinking, why isn't there more of that sort of thing?  Look around.  The world is huge and it's populated by billions? trillions? gazillions? of folks who are similar but at the same time different.  All of us has a story to tell.  My story will not be the same as yours or my neighbor's or my co-worker's or a complete stranger's living 2000 miles away.  It just won't.  While all people are born looking similar to one another, it's their life, their experiences, their beliefs, their values, their lessons learned that make them unique.  And that's what this little blog is about.  It's about me interviewing people from all walks of life - getting "their story" - and then sharing it here with you.  Why?  Why am I doing this?  Because it matters.  People matter.  What they have to say matters.  From one another, we learn, we grow, we evolve.  I don't speak the "King's English", and I don't write it either.  So I must ask you to forgive me my mistakes.  This blog is not about how well I write or don't write.  Again, it's about people.  Human, fallible people.  I hope to make this blog a nice mixture of fascinating people, fascinating stories and pictures that probably won't be fascinating but will hopefully be at least not-too-out-of-focus. Yeah!  We all enjoy pictures, right?  Right!  

About the blog name?  For those that might be curious. . . 

When I was just a kid, I spent summers at my aunt's farm.  Like many, her quaint lil farmhouse had a front porch. . . with a swing.  Gawd how I loved that swing.  I could sit and swing (or not) for hours just looking out at the pasture and cows and chickens and dogs and cats and birds, and it was always. . . heaven.  Peaceful.  Beautiful.  Still.  It gave me a warm, safe feeling on the inside.  The world seemed far away yet close enough that I still felt connected.  Every day "someone" would stop by.  Whether it was a relative or neighbor or preacher or even a stranger.  Someone stopped by and that someone always ended up on the front porch with my aunt or uncle or both. And the adults would sit and chat over a cup of coffee about childhood adventures, current issues and/or what the future might bring.  And this kiddo would sit and observe these adults while believing in her heart that there wasn't a thing - not a single-solitary-thing - that couldn't be fixed sipping a cup of coffee, chatting with a friendly face, while sitting on an old porch swing.  I believed it then and I believe it now.

So welcome to my front porch.  The one with a swing.  I hope you'll always find good things here.  And I hope you'll always leave a piece of yourself (you know, down in the comments section) to be shared with others.   Remember, your words matter.  They do.

                                                                                                             ~ Quinn