10.31.2014

Cluttered

I was invited to a couple of Halloween parties tonight.  Aside from my neck/back still being sore from Tuesday's shot, there's other shit going on that's keeping me close to home.

It does seem like the shot is helping. The pain has lessened...and I was able to get a good pop this morning (which I hadn't been able to do for months it seems)..so, the swelling might be going down.

That, or judging by the increase in finger twitching, it's shifting...it's probably too soon to tell. According to the discharge sheets, it could take up to a week, 7 days, to actually notice a difference.

And lucky me, the doc said it was too risky to try again. If the shots don't work-he recommends surgery. I'm gonna a) try other routes first (i.e. acupuncture) and b) get a second fucking opinion before I go under the knife again. The post-op complications in '97 are still fairly fresh in my mind thankyouverymuch.

Had it not been cold and rainy with the freeways jam packed with inept drivers on my commute home, I would have probably thrown on the lewd mechanic shirt and ventured to at least one of the parties.

Maybe.

Then, to be completely honest...I'm feeling far from social at the moment. Things are...cluttered...at the moment. Both in my head and in my home.  When I left home to get married the first time, I had a bedroom's full of stuff (from my parents)...even less, actually, because I wasn't taking all of it.  I lived in a small apartment. We moved in to a bigger apartment. I got more stuff. Some years later, the marriage ended. She moved out. I had an apartment full of stuff. Some my daughters...much more of it mine. I moved from the apartment in to a rented house. Bigger than the apartment. I had my daughter's stuff and a lot of my stuff.  I got married again. The wife and her son moved in. Some of my stuff got purged (most got moved to the storage shed and the garage).  We moved out of that house in to another house that wasn't much bigger strictly speaking in square footage...but it had more room to store stuff.  Stuff  that had, by that time been accumulated for over 12 years.

We stayed in that house for another 6 years. All the while accumulating more stuff.  That marriage ended.  And I had a shit ton of stuff. This time I moved out and the ex kept the house (And garage and shed and all the nifty places I had found to house all the 'stuff' I thought I needed. And maybe I did, at the time).

I moved in to an apartment smaller than the first apartment I moved in to with almost 20 years worth of shit that had been gathered since I first moved out of my parents' house in 1993.

I left a lot of stuff behind. It's been over a year and a half by this point...if I didn't bring it, I didn't need it--clearly. Because I damn sure don't miss it.

To put it bluntly...I have 15lbs of shit that I'm trying to cram in to a 5lb. bag. And it ain't working.

Things are...to put it mildly...cluttered.  And it is very close to triggering a complete OCD moment in me.

That's one of the real reasons I didn't go out. Because I didn't want to come home to the clutter. So I stayed in. And sat here eating leftover pizza and devised a plan to eliminate the clutter.

It's a simple plan. Any clothes that aren't likely to fit in the next 6 months are getting donated. That will clear up at least 1/2 of my closet and most of my dresser which is now housing XL t-shirts from when I got down to 265lbs (don't worry...I will get back down there. I just know that realistically, it won't be in 6 months).

There will be a great purging of shit that is just shit for shit's sake. Knicknacks. Collectibles with nothing but geek cred. And any of a number of miscellaneous shite. Software disks that are no longer necessary (since I'm on mac now). All tossed or given away.

It's time to declutter. I need to get the extraneous shit out of my life at this point.  I need for my home to be minimalistic. Housing the essential tools for my creative outlets...music...reading...writing...photography. Time to pare things way back.

Speaking of...I may be paring my photography gear way down, too. I'm finding as I progress, that I like shooting paid gigs for other people less than I like shooting things that interest me. I'm sure that's why I've taken such a shine to the instant camera phenom that has a firm grip on me.

This post doesn't really serve much entertainment value. It's really more of a declaration to myself to get off my ass and actually do it....not just talk about the great purge of extraneous bullshit of '14.

So..yeah...there's that.

If it's all the same, I'll focus on the physical clutter first. With any luck, the mental clutter will abate when I have a more calm abode to unwind in.

We shall see.

Have a wonderful weekend. It is now November. The National Novel Writing Month.

Here's raising a pint to writing a book!!

-AT

10.27.2014

Tortured Souls

I'm betting, being the clever lot that my limited readership is, that you've no doubt  guessed by the title of this post that it's not going to be my normal sunshine and glittery unicorn farts of a post.

And you'd be right.

I'd apologize for it, but the moroseness has to come out and see the light of day from time to time. Even if it's the pale light of the moon.

I suspect it's because I've been binge watching some Vampire Diaries  spin-off on Netflix. Or perhaps it's because that sliver of universal truth that lives in each of us and cries to be re-connected with every other sliver in every other living thing is tweaking just the right creative vein. Or rather the right neuron to let the thoughts float in my head. Leastwise until I exorcise them.

And that, as you may have also correctly deduced, is where this blog comes in.

From time to time it's a place for me to lay my demons to waste. Oh sure...I have the requisite eom-kid paper journals to fall back on for the stuff that's truly too private. But this blog is, for the most part, where I lay things bare and let the carrion eaters of this universe take the scraps that are no longer serving my higher purpose.

Purpose.

That's a funny word. I think about it a lot. My purpose. My mission. The reason I'm in this world. This world. This time. This Now. And I've stumbled upon a couple of truths that I need to commit to the ones and zeroes.

Don't worry about me, my friends. You don't need to fabricate reasons to check on me. It's all good. I'm good. This is my way of cleaning out the wounds. Healing. Moving on. Whatever insight in to the universe I'm currently feeling (or think I'm feeling) will likely be canceled out by a cider-induced slumber. All will be right with the world.

But in this moment. I have figured out what a tortured soul truly is.  I used to think that a tortured soul was some poor bastard who failed to follow the Love in this Universe (some of you call that Love "God"...that's not wholly incorrect, although it's not wholly correct either). But by turning their backs on Love, and living from fear and in fear, they become tortured.

But I don't think that's quite right.

I think a tortured soul is one who at some point in their life, gains a glimpse of their higher purpose, their calling....they see it...and they ignore it.  Maybe they don't intentionally ignore it. Some purposes can be frightening. Some can be confusing. Some can be so completely at odds with this menagerie we find ourselves in that some have no choice but to turn away.  And then there are those who just don't know where to start. They know that they need to move to this purpose...this calling. But the mechanics of trust in the Universe just aren't in place yet.

And so nothing is fulfilling.

That is the soul, in my humble opinion, that is tortured. I do not believe in a biblical hell of the judeo-christian machination.  Time may well prove me wrong in that regard. However, I do believe in a hell on earth. And it is populated with tortured souls.

I've been there. I see them sometimes. I see the reflections in the mirror when I deny some of the things in my head that I know I need to move toward.

Yes...sometimes I sit..alone in a crowd. I sit confused as I look at people living their lives.   I look around my apartment. The one place that is supposed to be a sanctuary. A home after a long day 'in the real world.' And I don't see me in this place. What I see as I look around are the artifacts of former lives. Things I dug up or acquired  to play a role. To match the image of what I thought you expected me  to be. What I tried to be for others. The geek. The movie maker. The photographer. The writer. The Musician. The pauper. The plucky, dorky sidekick. The philosopher.

All of those are facets of the true Todd. But no single one of them quite fits me on its own. And so as I see things that litter this tiny apartment, I realize that there are some things that do.

And they are the last thing I see as I close the door. And the first thing I see when I come home again.


On the left is a picture my dad took of one of the last remaining structures on what used to be our family farm. It's a warm house. A natural refrigerator if you will. Warm houses were typically built in to the sides of hills so that they would stay a steady 55 degrees. Canned goods were kept in them. Things stayed preserved. 

That photo reminds me that sometimes we need to stow some supplies away. 

The middle picture is one I took. It's of a chess board. The message is simple. This is but a game.

The photo on the right is the photo that most moves me. It's a photo of my papaw's barn in the winter. Some see desolation. The bleakness of Appalachia. And to be sure, those things are there. But I see so much more in that barn. I see each nail that my papaw hammered. I remember tobacco hanging in the barn as a kid. I remember the black snake my papaw showed me, but would not kill No need to be scared, boy. If they's a black snake around, the other snakes'll stay away. (and I remember him saying it every time my dad reminds me that black snakes will keep copperheads away).  I can see my (grandparent's) dog, Shag, sitting the shade of the barn. 

That barn reminds me that no matter what others see when they look at me, I know the true magic within.

Those three things are enough to remind me that as tortured as I feel sometimes...it's only temporary. I take one more step out of my hell with each word I write.

With each post that makes someone smile...or laugh...or cry...or (gasp) think, I come closer to living my life's purpose. 

But what if we never find our purpose?

Excellent question. You're probably not going to like the answer.  But I believe that you either figure out your life's purpose or you don't. No one can tell you what your purpose is...you have to know it. You have to know that it's the one thing that you would still be if everything else you think you are were taken away.

I think we are here to teach...and learn. And then the next life time...we're here to learn....and teach.

It's a dance.

The music was written long before this thing called 'time' became fashionable. And it will be played long after our part in the score has passed and we are regarded by some other beings much the way we regard the 'lesser' species on our planet. Mildly amusing, and as Douglas Adams said, 'mostly harmless.'

Sorry if I worried you for a bit. The cider's kicking in and all is well.

Until the next time I'm awake and dreaming, have a great evening my friends.

-Andrew Todd Skaggs


10.20.2014

The Surreality of a Single Second

When someone says something is ‘surreal,’ I believe they mean that something is/has/or will happen that is outside of the normal parameters for what they have up to that point known as their reality.  I have some experience in this definition, as I tend to find things like that on an almost daily basis.

Yesterday was no exception. Dad and I were on our normal sojourn to the Farm. This is something we do or try to do every month or so. The Farm is in Kentucky, and if you knew anything about my history with this place, you’d stop obsessing over the fact that I tend to almost always put it in caps. Yes, it is that important to me. 
Our route takes us down 23 southbound for almost half of the trip. Although, after yesterday, it’s possible we will find another way around Chillicothe. 
I remember this as though it was yesterday, because…well, it was yesterday. But, after what I had seen…been a part of…I imagine that in 50 years when I tell the story, I will still preface it by saying I can remember it as though it happened yesterday…

I was on the phone with work-my day job. I was on my phone and in a pocket of coverage where T-Mobile happened to still work. As I was talking, time slowed down and found myself saying the following

“Holy Shit. I…Holy sh— I gotta let you go. An accident is happening right in front of me. I’m going to have to call you back.”




My co-worker started to say something. But I didn’t hear him as I hung up the phone. I set it in the center console and mentally braced for impact. 
What gave me pause first of all was the sound. It was the sound that caused me to look up from my phone call. The exact sound is from the movie The Terminator when Ahnold is driving the semi-truck and he locks up the brakes on all 18 wheels. That monstrous groaning like a giant whale too far from home…the screeching….the sound of rubber going against the grain on asphalt. In short, it was the sound you hear when you know something is totally fucked.
That sound was what caused me to look up from the call. What I saw prompted the holy shit comment and quick termination of the conversation.
It was an army truck. Dad called it a deuce and a half.  It looked like the kind that troops sit in, only there was no canvas over the ribbing. And it was on the other side of the highway. Going perpendicular to the road. Making that godawful sound. And then it was in the median….still sideways although seemingly gaining speed as it was about to make a glorious entrance on to our two lanes of the highway. We were in the rightmost lane traveling south. The truck was now flying up out of the median (yes, I swear it seemed airborn) in to our lane- directly in front of us. 
As it hit the pavement, it came in on two wheels.  I thought for an instant that it would actually right itself and all would be copacetic with the world. It didn’t. If flipped. 
We hit the brakes and swerved right. Almost in the ditch ourselves. 
I’d been playing with my seatbelt for a large part of the trip. I can’t be certain if it locked or not. If we had hit the vehicle, I’m not sure it would have held.
But we didn’t hit them.  We didn’t wind up in the ditch.  What we did do was as soon as we were stopped and ascertained that we were still alive was get out of our car and head to the overturned truck. There was a body against the windscreen and we were both..or at least I was…holding my breath until I saw movement. Dad was already trying to find a way to climb up the cab to help them open the door.
What seemed like an eternity later, two servicemen from the Army Airborne were on their feet in front of us. Another car had stopped by then and had called 911.  Dad moved his car up and made a lane using the shoulder. And we started directing traffic.
The whole thing was pretty fucked, to be blunt. 
If we had been in the lefthand lane. Or if we had been 1 second later in our travel, we would have hit that truck head-on and there is not telling what would have happened or who would be injured. To be sure, it would have put a damper on our trip to the farm.
One second.
Think about that for a moment. I can assure you that in watching that truck flip in front of me with the full realization of what was about to happen—time slowed down. Everything was in slow motion. 
One second felt like minutes at the time. 
In remembering it now, one day later and thinking about what could have happened-one second feels like an eternity.
I’m not sure if it was our guardian angels, or those troops’ but whatever the case, they were busy. I’m glad they didn’t pause.

Even for one second.


-A.T.

10.14.2014

Lard Ass

Before I get started...I just have to clear this out of my brain bucket.  Every time someone post "FML" on something, I just kinda wanna scream. FML= Screw My Life or something close to

I get it. We've all been there. Something shitty happens in your life. Say for example, you go in to see the doctor because your wife tells you that she's no longer dealing with your depression and leaving you with the baby if you don't get some help. And in that Dr. visit, doing their routine physical, they find something wrong with your heart. And determine through subsequent tests that you have 6months-tops-to live without heart surgery. Oh. And you're 25.

Certainly that would merit saying 'fuck my life...'

I mean, sure I pulled that example out of my ass, but you get the point. Point is...shitty things happen to all of us.

What frustrates me about the whole "FML" phenom is that it ultimately (in my humble opinion) winds up bringing additional negative energy. Which, in turn, fucks your life up even more.

But to be fair...Life doesn't really care. We are all here to learn something. We are all here to teach something. How we go about those two things are where the whole free will thing comes in. Ultimately it's up to you how to proceed. But sometimes, when I'm tempted to say FML (as I surely would have been in 1997), I instead ask myself, "Am I supposed to learn something from this...or teach something from this?"  Ultimately that puts things in a better light for me.

Alright *pushes soapbox aside*...that's enough of that.

Lard Ass.

A pet project that I might be reviving. You see, I had a doctor once tell me that the reason my wife didn't want to sleep with me was because I was fat. Well, she said 'morbidly obese'  (because the medical term sounds so much better). And that if I were her husband, she wouldn't be attracted to me sexually either.

It was rude. Probably a bit over the line as far as bedside manners go. But it got the ball rolling. I lost 50lbs before my wife and I divorced (and another 15 after). And there was no change from then to well before the doctor dropped that bomb on me. Clearly it was not my girth that was the issue in our marriage. But that's a story for another time.

Speaking of the girth. I was going to make a movie called 'Lard Ass' and chronicle my journeys. It was the impetus behind the whole 'nomorefattodd' things that I did for a good bit.

In November 2011, I weighed 330lbs. In the course of the next 18months through exercise, dietary and nutritional changes, and a regimen of vitamins and supplements, I got down to 265lbs.   I thought I was fit enough to cross something off my bucket list--the Warrior Dash. So I entered it. And finished it. And got hurt somewhere along the way. But I finished it.  By myself. I had friends there, but we never met up. So I crossed the line, hobbling...in agony, but happy and feeling accomplished. Some people I didn't know cheered.

Then I would up straining the muscles in my shoulder and back....and through the course of this found out that I have arthritis in my neck. So....the exercise that I had been doing has fallen to the wayside.

I'm sneaking some of the bad food back in to my dietary rotation. And I've cut back on the vitamins and supplements.

And I'm back up to 315lbs.

Here's the thing that might come as a surprise. I may not look like Hollywood sexy, but I feel sexy as fuck. My esteem is finally being built back up--brick by slow brick. So...when I say I'm resurrecting the whole 'nomorefattodd'/LardAss project, it has nothing to do with my image of myself.

It has to do with the physical limitations. I'm determined to get the weight off and keep it off for the following reasons:

  • I want to live to see my daughter have an amazing family of her own.
  • I want to fly on a commercial airliner without wondering if this is going to be the time I need the seatbelt extender.
  • I want to be able to shop for clothes in normal department stores
  • I want to be able to ride roller coasters again
  • I want to not have to worry about the weight limit of things
  • I want to be able to sit in a plastic chair without worrying if the legs are going to buckle
  • I want to sit in a camping chair and not worry about breaking the frame
Those are just some of the reasons. I don't quite have a formal plan of attack yet, but I know what needs to be done. 

And it's going to happen....FML---fuck my lard!! Or something like that anyway...
         
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

Peace out!
-A.T.


10.07.2014

Bigger In Texas

So...as you may or may not know, I'm currently in Houston, TX for work. I'm working on a new store that we're opening and I flew in last week.

That sets the background that you need (and may or may not prevent the who gives a rip moment you may or may not have).

I have mentioned it before, but in my hobby of photography, I have been blessed to be friends with the photographers who inspire me. Jerry Kuamoo, all of the friends I've made through Help Portrait, and one other that always inspires me when I see his work.

Tommy Lyles of Signal2noisephotography. He's based out of Houston (there's your A-ha moment).
Cool thing about this recent trip is I got to actually have a day off AND I got to meet up with Tommy.

We'd been Facebook friends for several years, courtesy of our mutual friend Bee.

We hit a cool bar Saturday night called Neil's Bahr.  If I lived in Houston, I would be there all the time. The place had such a geek vibe that I clicked with it instantly.

It's always a weird thing when you meet an inspiration face to face. I haven't seen a photo that Tommy's shot yet that hasn't in some way inspired me. I see amazing depth in his photography and the ability to capture so much. His shots are art.  It's very cool to me to witness.

So...it was a little...well, weird for me. I don't know if star struck was the word. It wasn't like that, really. The whole evening I was pretty much marveling in how many things in the universe fell in to place so that Tommy and I could be drinking kick ass Houston beer on what he described as one of the perfect Houston nights. To extrapolate it out was kind of mind blowing. And left me with one conclusion....I need another beer.

OK. Two conclusions. There are no coincidences or accidents where people are involved.

And....several times in the evening, the world just got ridiculously smaller. Turns out that Tommy's cousin is someone I gradated high school with.

It was a trippy but cool evening. And I even got a couple cool shots of the Houston Skyline (as well as some kick ass shots by Tommy of Super Action Action Man.

It's not easy traveling. I don't do it much, but going to a city for a week or more and not knowing anyone is kind of rough.  I have to say that it was much better than I could have ever thought.

And, like I said, it was one of those times when you know there's a higher power.

And don't even get me started on watching the Brown's game with Tommy's family.

Beyond words. The feeling of how they welcomed me in to their home was truly beyond words.

Work is going well, we'll be on track for the store opening, but that's not going to be what I remember most about this trip.

No, what I will remember is that a friend, met online, and then in person became someone that I can truly call friend (not just in the way that people think they have friends on Facebook). And that to me is pretty cool. I had a smile for 2 days straight marveling at how amazing the universe is.

I know that this is kind of a departure from my normal writing, but I just felt that I needed to express my appreciation for the friendship and hospitality shown me. It was bigger than I could have ever imagined. That's Texas for you, I guess.

-A.T.

10.02.2014

Crazy Ivan

I am a leaf on the wind. Watch how I soar

I was cautioned before this trip to be flexible..to not let things upset me because they may not be on schedule or at a place our team is expecting them to be.

When I was first told this, I thought of Wash from Firefly. His mantra (which is also on my license plate holder) was the above quote.

I got 3 hours of sleep. No worries. I am a leaf on the wind.

I got to Port Columbus...and out with relatively no hitch. Got to Chicago and kept seeing the 8:30 (Chicago time) departure get bumped. At 10:30 we finally got airborn. We're flying under radar because of issues with Chicago Air Traffic control...so it's bumpy as shit.

AND...none of the foodcourt spots had the signature Chicago cuisine availble (because YES, I might just want a slice of deep dish or a Chicago dawg at 7AM...DUH). And no, the cookie stand is NOT part of the food court.

None of this is bugging me though. I'm not frustrated or upset. I got some great Super Action Action Man shots (I'm really thinking he needs his own FB page). I'm mostly just tired at this point.

But it's all good. I'm definitely getting my money's worth out of the in-flight wi-fi. Now to settle back for the next 2 1/2 hours.

 

Catch you on the Texas side, my friends!

 

-A.T.

 

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