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     There’s been a problem recently at work. A few months ago the company revamped the bathroom. Nothing huge, just a change.
Before, the urinals were automated. They had switched to the hands free model in an effort to save water as most people apparently needed to double flush their frothy brew and the company wanted to save money. So, the automated flushers were installed to deliver the exact amount of fresh water needed to eliminate the urine as well as refill the receptacle with water you would consider drinking during the apocalypse. The problem with the automated urinals was the sensors. They would go off when people hadn’t stepped away or even if they stood in front of it at a ten foot distance. I don’t know about my coworkers but I couldn’t deliver a ten foot stream on my best day. Maybe if I had a step stool and a steep drop in front of me…
   So with all that extra unsanctioned flushing, the urinals would overflow and make a mess in an already dirty as hell bathroom. The company was once again losing that sweet water profit while gaining a certain musty smell as urine soaked into the cracks of the tile floor. Needless to say, they switched back to the manual flushers.
    Now here’s where it gets gross. Imagine stepping up to one of these receptacles and instead of seeing a pleasant dollop of neutral water, there is a bubbling witch’s brew of steaming urine to gaze at. If you’re into that kind of thing, good on you, but for me and at least a few others I know, we find it disgusting. And try peeing in that without getting pee-body splash-back. 
    Why are we seeing this split pee soup? There’s some speculation that these non-flushers haven’t realized that the urinals are no longer automated but I doubt that. No one is blind. Some people just don’t want to flush because they don’t want to touch the germ invested handle.
    Look, I get it. Touching something in the bathroom that everyone has laid wiener covered hands on can be mildly disturbing if you think about it. Just thinking about the six degrees of penile contact brings to mind some people I would rather not have anything to do with. But leaving your waste water for the next person who needs to relieve themselves is selfish. It’s annoying. And gross. And after a few hours of stagnation, the smell is vomit inducing.
    I appreciate the fact that bathrooms are gross and touching anything in them can be creepier than anything in a David Lynch film but let’s work together on this. No one wants to see, smell, or feel another person’s piss water. So for the sake of all of us, take the half second to flush. All those germs will be gone from your person anyway because you’ll be washing your hands afterwards anyway right? Right? Blaaaaaaaaaaagggghh!!

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  As experiences go, I’ve always looked to spreading my wings, flying off to some foreign land to experience the food and culture of a society I had little to no connection with. Or if not, a far off place, an activity I never got around to doing within driving distance of my home. I never expected to be a part of something that actually required NO action. At least not in a way I had previously thought.
Last weekend, I participated in a mindfulness retreat.
I had heard of these retreats and thought they were relegated to yogis or naturalists looking to reach the next echelon of higher understanding. I want to know things as much as the next person but that’s what I thought school was for. Not sitting in a room with dozens of others, not speaking and barely acknowledging each other. I respected people who did but it didn’t seem like something for me.
I have one of those brains that has been shaped and saturated with T.V. and internet signals so any moment of silence feels awkward and harsh. I check my phone constantly like a little kid tugging on his momma’s pant leg in need of attention. I listen to music and/or podcasts/audiobooks like I have an IV attached to my eardrum. Silence is something that almost hurts.
And silence was something I had to embrace.
For six hours, including lunch and bathroom breaks, we practiced mindfulness. We alternated mindful breathing, yoga, walking, eating, and sitting. During each one, we attuned our thoughts to only our bodies. Whether it was the movement of our lungs as we breathed or the movement of our ligaments as we walked, we focused our thoughts on the present moment of our bodies.
At least we tried. While I could focus on my muscles during the more active of the meditations, my thoughts wandered profusely during the sitting and laying positions. Focusing my thoughts on my breath became boring.
The first half of the day was a real struggle, concentration wise. Then, roughly three hours in as lunch time approached, my hunger pains became another cause of focus loss. I was beginning to think I wouldn’t make it.
But something happened after lunch. After another unfocused sitting meditation, I seemed to get my second wind. I was somehow blocking out my extraneous thoughts. Somewhere between lunch and another walking meditation, I had managed to settle into a clear and focused mind. There was no internal chatter. I didn’t think about it at the time. Only after we talked in small groups afterward did I realize how mindful I had become. My wife even noticed, pointing out how mindful and slow I had been walking. I had also noticed how energized I felt compared to how I started; in a haze of lethargy. By the time our teacher rang the final bell, I felt as if I could do another couple hours of mindful practice. 
I was still glad to be done.
When speaking about it later, I told my group that the day had felt like running a marathon. The beginning was spent tired and finding my pace. It wasn’t until getting my second wind after lunch that I settled into my body and mind. It was then that I found my true enjoyment in the day. I had accepted where I was. I had accepted my occasionally wandering mind. I had accepted that I would be there until seven o’clock and I might as well give myself over to the process. 
The experience was so different and unique that I would encourage anyone interested in the subject, or not interested for that matter, to give it a try. I’m glad I did. 

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  It’s my first time in Texas and I’m seeing far less sunshine then I expected. An omnipresent cloud has covered San Antonio since our arrival Saturday night and the only glimpse of sunshine occurred last night while we were visiting the Tower of the Americas. It made for some great pics but as we’ve entered the first days of summer officially, I expected more. As it stands, we’ve seen more rain and clouds then Seattle has seen in the past month.

Unfortunately, it’s put a delay on some of the things we wanted to do and because our stay is so short, there is a good chance the delay will be more then a few days. Hot-air balloons, rodeos, caverns…will have to wait. Between the weather, my wife’s conference meetings, and short duration of our stay, some things just had to get cut.

   

  

  

 What I have been able to see has been well worth the trouble and a must for anyone visiting this beautiful city of San Antonio. First, the San Antonio River Walk is something for anyone from out of town to experience. Located in the heart of San Antonio, the River Walk boasts a number of restaurants, gift shops, and boutiques that a traveler could spend an entire day exploring. In several hours, I still only managed to scratch the surface of what the River Walk had to offer. I plan on going back. 

   

    

  

 One of the other activities my wife and I were able to try out was the Tower of the Americas. Also located downtown, the tower stands against the skyline with an observation deck that gives a three hundred and sixty degree view of the surrounding area. Though it stands nearly twenty feet taller then Seattle’s Space Needle, the Tower is not nearly as visually pleasing (sorry Texans!). However, some of my favorite pics came from here. One thing I found surprising about the tower is that I enjoyed the view from the elevator’s west facing window more than from the observation deck. This was most likely due to the overcast day and the tinted glass of the observation deck where the elevator glass was completely limpid. As a result, the clear view of the setting sun was a sight to behold. Also included with our ticket price was a screening of a 4-D short film called The Skies of Texas, a ten minute commercial for the state, which was humorous in a cheesy, forced-fun kind of way. The floor moved, small air jets whipped our legs when a snake slithered away onscreen, and light water sprayed our faces when a bull snorted. I don’t think it’s what they were going for but I couldn’t help myself from cracking up. That being said, both were well worth the price of admission.

We still have a few more days in the city and I am excited to experience what there is to offer. I will report back on The Alamo, free museum Tuesday, and a possible surprise or two. Happy exploring!

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Looking around wordpress today, I came across a fun little flash-fiction piece that inspired me to try my fingers at fiction. It’s been awhile since I’ve worked on my novel or written any fiction at all so I wanted to get back into it. Just a short story, a few hundred words, maybe a thousand to keep the fiction writing juices flowing.

But after struggling to find a place to start and somehow blanking on how to spell ‘missile’ and ‘scratch’, I decided the fiction part of my brain is just not feeling it today. It wasn’t bad but I need to apply a fair amount of editing to it before I post it.

I was hoping that all the personal stories and observations I HAVE been writing about would translate into a better writing style for my fiction, to make the writing process a little bit easier and not such a struggle. But they are VERY different muscles and popping into a new world, building it from scratch (HA! spelled it on the first try!), and making it believable is too much at this point, especially with prepping for my album. 

Fiction – I will return to you.

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I had to put a hold on my novel until I figure a few things out for it. The writing has been slow but steady but it’s at a point where it feels like a plodding mess. After putting in a major revelation that felt exciting, what I’m writing now just feels anticlimactic. It also feels like a return to a point earlier in the story, where the characters are acting almost exactly the same as before the reveal so it feels like the reveal never happened.

So I’ve decided to try and move the current section towards the front somewhere and see how it feels. I think it’ll work but it’s a part of the editing process that I don’t like. Perhaps if I planned everything out to the last detail, the writing would go easier since all the plot points would be there for me to follow. And with a story like this, it feels like every plot point is extremely important. Everything in it matters. That’s the difficult part of this story and why it’s taking so long to write. I haven’t thought it out completely. I know the major events I want to hit but getting from event to event while keeping things entertaining is such a great challenge I feel like I’ll have to wait until I’m an old man to create the perfect story.

But I’ve found that some good things come out of the writing. A throwaway, descriptive line can spin into a whole new line of thinking that works great and ties in more meanings and support of the themes. Oftentimes, I’ll have to then go back and solidify it more throughout the rest of the story but it adds so much that I can’t discount writing for writings sake. I guess that’s why I write this blog.

So the next novel I write, if I ever get around to it, I will do my best to outline the hell out of it, create character bios, draw maps, act out scenes, and all that kind of thing. And if something comes up as I’m writing that will help the story, I’ll add it and massage it in. I think the writing process will go much easier that way.

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