Monday, December 22, 2014

How Music Helped Me

During the past three years, and in fact most of my life, there has always been a small amount of items that I find to help me through a rough time.  One item that I tend to have forgotten way too much, is the belief in something greater than myself.  Usually when I forget about IT, IT seems to slap me in the face in some way to remind me.  No, I’m not saying that IT can be vengeful, hurtful or anything of that nature.  What I am saying is that when we go off in a deep dark space, we have forgotten what IT is and how IT relates to us. 

That IT can be a thousand different things; God, Yahweh, Inner Peace, etc.  IT is what you believe is greater than you are.  It is where you find your strength, your faith, your understanding of the world around you.  To me IT is LOVE!  Not a physical love, or solely an emotional love, but a LOVE that grips you and makes you to want to be better then you are.  LOVE is knowing that you have to do something in a Positive way to help change lives, to help improve the world for Everyone.

When one is centered in LOVE or IT, they show love towards everyone and everything.  They act in a way that is unselfish, that is given freely, that is positive.  It is when we are not centered that our love becomes tainted and negative.  That’s when people are injured physically, emotionally, and when people die.  When we are not centered, it is when we act from our selfishness and do things that we want and not what is best for humanity.

During those times that I am off centered, I usually can be brought back to by my surroundings and in many cases, those surroundings has music playing.  I am a man who loves to hear an upbeat song, a song that reminds me that LOVE is greater than I am.  And during these past three years, there have been many songs from my past, and in my present that remind me of how off centered I can be.

Music, has always been there to help me through my path, my trials and tribulations.  But, I know there are songs that can be negative, and have no positive value to the world at hand.  People express themselves in a variety of ways, for the place and time that they find themselves.  I do the same by choosing songs that are about LOVE.  It is at those times that I can find my way back to being centered, and at peace.  And yes, I will admit, it may take days or months of listening to a lot of songs to get myself back to where I should be.  But, oh it is so worth it.

Over the past few years, even right before I became homeless, I had started to work on a concept of a Spiritual Musical using songs that have a dance beat.  There is nothing more enjoyable than sharing joy through dance.  To dance to a song that is uplifting and inspiring is to me a way of sharing the LOVE, to show ones desire to be in the moment and to show joy.

Thus, I have been compiling a collection of songs that I believe will tell of a story of loss, understanding and finding of ones centeredness with LOVE.  Will it ever be made, I sincerely hope it will be. I have even thought of the staging, who would work with me to meld the music together and a fun and joyful beat.  But, if it is not to be made, I at least can enjoy listening to the music and daydreaming of what it can mean to millions of others that are off centered and just need a reason to remember who they are and to celebrate that joy.

As part of this concept, I had created the Freedom Dance event.  Sadly, finances kept me from doing it more than one year.  On July 4th, 2013 I held the only event in Austin TX.  I had worked towards a second event and found a great dance song that I know would touch many people in different ways.  I still hope to make these events happen down the road once I have more money to spend on creating it.  Until then, I know that IT will share the concept with others who will create something similar to what I created.  Joy and Love should always be shared, especially during the dark times of one’s life.

Let music guide you to your peace and joy.

Life goes on…I go on

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

What is Your Motivation to keep Going?

What is Your Motivation to keep Going?

This question was recently asked of me by my Aunt.  She has followed my struggles over the past few years, and knows in more detail of my ups and downs, then I have put on this blog.  I was at first taken back by the question, but I guess I should help explain why she asked the question in the first place.

My aunt, like many people today, is going through a rough time of her own.  In fact, for the past five years she and her husband have been struggling to get out of bankruptcy, refinance their home and to keep their business alive.  They live in California, so that may help explain why she is having a rough time.

She has commented to me a few times that she sees me as an inspiration for her, which for me is a bit bizarre for me to understand.  She’s a few years older than I am, and so I can’t see why a younger man, who has not lived a very successful life could be an inspiration.  But as I have been thinking back over the past few years, I have done my best to keep living.  And that is the key, and why I believe she sees me as an inspiration.

My family never had money, we were always just above the poverty line, well most of the time we were.  My mom had worked hard to earn a living and support my sister and I.  Not an easy task for anyone to do.  She never had the opportunity for college, so like myself, we could not advance through company structure as one with a college degree can do.  No matter how smart she was, and she was very smart in her industry teaching her male bosses how to get things done properly, she never really earned enough, nor was given the opportunity to advance.  While I’m no genius, I do have the knack for learning things that I want to learn, and excelling in my own way.  But again, one of my perceived short comings is no college degree.

Even so, I have seen people worst off then myself, even now as I am homeless.  I see others on the street barely surviving.  I see people who have good jobs totally losing it when something bad happens to them.  I watch the news and read about people who commit suicide because they believe their life is not worth living for.  And yes, I too had those thoughts at times.  I mean, who wouldn’t.    You lose all physical belongings, a place that was considered a home, your income and faced with little to no help or the possibility for help.  Why continue to live?

That’s the thing, while you may have lost everything, you haven’t really lost it all.  Just look around and you will see people in worst shape then you are.  The homeless, the uneducated, the ones that seem to be kept down by others, and so much more.  In addition, there is one thing that NO ONE can take from you that really does make a difference; Your Spirit, Your Soul!  Until that is taken away from you, then life is worth living for.  Even if it seems like you are in hell. 

While this is cliché to say, ‘from the ashes rises the Phoneix’, ‘God only gives you what you can handle’, ‘from this, you will become stronger,’ and so many other sayings.  It’s true!  But it all depends on YOU!  Do you want to become stronger, better, wiser?  Do you want to survive?  Do you want your life to mater?  Even if your answer is a small squeaky yes, it’s worth trying.

So while I continue to look around and see people who are in worst shape then I am, I am grateful to be where I am, and to know that I am moving forward.  There are times that something happens to me that makes me feel as if I have gone backwards, but even in those times, it is only temporary.  I am 54 as I write this, and I do not believe my life is over.  I do not believe that I do not still have something of value to give to this world to help make it better.  I REFUSE to believe that I am done!

For that reason, Life goes on...I go on

Thursday, December 4, 2014

The Progression of my bed

Over the past three years, I have had many sleeping arrangements as a homeless man.  While there have been moments of joy in sleeping at a hotel room when I travel for work, the reality is really what I sleep on the most in my storage unit.

Below are pictures showing the progression, while the bed coverings have remained the same for the most part, the quality of the bedding continues to improve.

For the first week of being homeless, I slept on this park bench that was alongside a run/walk trail at Lady Bird Lake here in Austin.  Luckily, money came in quick enough that allowed me to get my first storage unit, a 5’x 10’ unit, where I curled up against my boxes in an extremely small space for sleep.  Since I was unable to lock the door while I was inside, I had to be careful not to kick the unit door open by accident as I tried to get comfortable, and stay comfortable during the course of a night’s sleep.

After three months of that small space, I was able to upgrade to a 10’ x 10’ unit, which allowed me space to stretch out, while also giving me a little more peace of mind about accidentally kicking the door open, as this new space had a roll up door.

I had quickly purchased foam bedding that people use as an extra cushion on a mattress and slept on that for over a year.  I was then able to buying a folding cot.  This simple luxury lasted only a few months, as cots are not really designed for daily use.  The springs soon started to give out to my 200 lb weight and by the end of six months, I lost half the springs, which meant the material sagged heavily, not giving me much to sleep on. 

Instead of buying a replacement cot, I used the metal frame and bought a piece of ply wood to go on top of the cot.  The 1” thick bedding material from the cot, and the foam egg shell bedding didn't make the hard ply wood easy to sleep on at times.  But, I was off the floor, not having to fight with roaches, spiders or other bugs that crawled on the floor at night.  So, no matter how uncomfortable the ply wood was, I was still happy to be off the floor.

I have been building my credit back up since the bankruptcy and the loss of my business, and because of that, I have been able to buy my latest bedding on credit; a roll away mattress.  The mattress that came with it, in addition to the egg shells bedding and cot mattress gives me a much more comfortable sleep at night.  It only took three years for this progression, and though it’s still not a formal bed in a home, it is still an improvement and one I am grateful for.

In time I know I will be in a home of sorts, and I will be able to buy a formal bed.  Until then, I keep working towards a bright future as I work at my day job and work my non-profit helping people achieve their goals.

Life goes on…I go on

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

An Average Homeless Man?

Below is a short story that I created for fun, but it does clearly represent in a short concept what my life is and about as a homeless man.

It’s five in the morning as he begins to wake up.  It’s cold in the room that he calls home.  As he swings his feet off the cot he uses as his nightly bed, the cement floor is cold to the touch.  He grabs the plastic 32 oz. bottle, stands up naked as can be, opens the top of the bottle and inserts his penis into the hole to begin his morning ritual.  This is a normal morning for him, though on some mornings, he gets to sleep in, but that is rare and only due to a holiday.  Holidays and Sundays are when the staff of the storage facility he lives in doesn’t arrive until 10 a.m. or later.  It’s those days he doesn’t feel the rush to get dressed and get out of the unit as quickly as possible. 
The fear of being caught sleeping in the 10 foot by 10 foot square box makeshift home is always on his mind.  If caught, they could lock up his unit and only allow him access during their working hours, or have him removed.  That is not a possibility for him; there is absolutely nowhere else to go. No friends or family in the area and no other shelter that will accommodate his working hours or give him access to an office or work space he constantly needs.
He gets dressed in his gym clothes and packs his gym bag with the clothes he will wear at his day job.  Within 15 minutes of getting up, he is heading out to the gym to begin a long day. 
The gym serves two purposes: a place that he can use to work out when he has the mental mindset and physical energy to do so hopefully to keep old age and poor eating habits from consuming his body and to have a place to shower and clean up.  For less than a $30 per month membership, he has access to the facilities at any time, day or night.
The storage facility he lives in has no running water or gas.  Electricity is the only saving grace for him, as the unit he has lived in now for the past two years, has a faulty ‘sleep’ switch that allows the power to remain on 24 hours a day.  He knows how to tap into the system safely, allowing him to run a mini-refrigerator, computer system, television monitor and heater or fan, when needed.   He calls this space he goes to every day, home, though he really doesn’t want to.
When he first became homeless over three years ago, he started off sleeping on park benches.  Thankfully, that only lasted one week.  The money he had been waiting on to pay his rent had finally started to trickle in, but it was too late to get his rental space back.  He had to look at alternative living arrangements.  That’s when the first concept of a storage unit came to mind.  He had to place what little possessions he owned into a safe place, thus a storage unit was a good opportunity.  He choose a space that he could afford and had a little extra space to lay out in during the night. 
That first unit measured 10 foot by 5 foot and the closest electrical outlet to his unit was across the hall, four feet away.  That outlet was on an eight minute sleeper, an automatic shut off system.  The running of electrical cords had to be late at night when the facility was closed to avoid people seeing the cord.  It was at that time, he began the cat-and-mouse game with the property employees.
During the first year and half, living in the storage unit was also the most intense situation he had ever experienced. In that time, three separate break-ins occurred to various units surrounding his.  His unit was never touched which was a blessing.  But it was the last theft that got his heart racing the most.  As he slept in the unit, he was awakened by the sound of clanging metal. As he lay there, listening carefully, he could hear people walking in the aisle behind his unit, and the dropping of metal onto the floor.  Quietly, he called 9-1-1.  As he was on the phone, he questioned what to say as to why he was there and how to avoid being considered one of the thieves.  He told the 9-1-1 operator he was working late and his unit was closed to stay warm.  He gave the female emergency operator his unit number and remained on the line as he quickly got dressed.  When the police arrived and opened his unit, he was sitting still in a chair.  As they talked, one of the officers recognized him from a previous call a few months prior, a thought of comfort in one aspect, as he would not be considered as a possible suspect, but also a thought of fear, not knowing how it would look in the police report.  That simple statement could lead to the possibility of him living on the property.
The thieves broke into 10 units, but easily escaped due to the lookout man who was sitting in a getaway car with the engine running, carefully watching for the police.  This was the last time a robbery occurred on the property, as shortly after, he purchased a vehicle and always parked on the lot.  A small factor he believes is helping to deter thefts.
The first year of his homelessness was a year of growth and determination for him on many levels.  He already had many negatives working against him that contributed to not being able to find a well-paying job.  Add into the mix, a business that had consumed all of his funds and the economy still in a nose dive, he was left with no option but to shut it down.  His debts were too much to recover from, so he was forced to file for bankruptcy, something he thought he would never have to do.  It would be a year before he would get a job of any length.  Working part-time jobs was the best he could arrange during that first year.  But through the gift of a friend, he was given a contract job paying $9 per hour when he started. Now, 18 months later, he earns $10 per hour.  The job is a contract job, so he can work as many or as few hours as he wants though he tends to work nearly 50 hours a week. 
A couple of months after getting the job, another friend then offered to sell him a car.  All he had to do was take over the payments and cover the additional cost of insurance.  The car was another great gift, allowing him to continue to work and invest time in a non-profit organization he had started just weeks before his situation arose.
In his third year residing in a storage unit, where the temperature has dropped from a sweltering 90 degrees or more in summer down to 40 degrees at night during the winter, he learned to deal with the seasons.  The temperature didn’t fluctuate much from night to day in the steel unit, so it actually takes a week or more for the temperature to go rise or fall in a measureable amount.
This past summer was one of the worst seasons.  He not only had to fight the weather in excess of 90 degrees during the night which led to mild heat stroke that lasted for a week, but also the bed bugs that arrived in early spring and continued to linger into winter.  He feels grateful there aren’t as many as there was in the beginning.  Thankfully, the hot summer helped kill the bed bugs or at least brought their numbers down to a small amount…a bearable amount.  He has had to replace his pillows and bedding at least once due to the bed bugs, but he is grateful to have the money to be able to purchase replacements.

Along with the cold weather, comes the holiday season.  His desire to have a good ‘holiday’ meal is limited to a variety of simple sources.  At first, the meals came from The Salvation Army kitchen, where the meal had the usual fixings and twice as much food  as meals served elsewhere.  During the second year, he ate meals at the HEB holiday dinner, which was just as good as The Salvation Army’s except with a lot more people. The meals were not served on the actually holiday, but usually a week earlier.  On the actual holiday, he usually worked in his storage unit finishing up paperwork for his non-profit, or if funds were available, he would enjoy a simple pleasure and go to the movies.
While he misses the enjoyment of having a holiday meal with family and friends, he is always grateful for the things he still has.  Now, with the larger unit, and a non-interrupted electricity source, he enjoys the use of a mini-frig and microwave oven, both of which allows him to eat a variety of frozen meals, including a turkey dinner.  During the first two years, he was forced to eat as cheaply as possible, which meant going to the soup lines and buying very cheap frozen dinners, when possible.  Both options had downsides, but he learned to accept them and make the best of what he has without complaining.  Now that he earns a bit more, he is able to eat at fast food restaurants from time-to-time, and on rare occasions, he allows himself to go to a nice restaurant for a sit-down meal.  He misses being able to cook a meal on a stove or in an oven, but they are simple pleasures among many he yearns for.
Going to the bathroom is one of those simple pleasures.  When he comes home from his day job, he is forced to use a plastic bottle he empties daily into a larger plastic bottle, which he then empties out every three or four days into the local sewer during the very early morning hours when no one is around and darkness shields him from being seen.  At times, he feels like he’s cheating on something or doing something wrong, but he is only adjusting to what is available in such a harsh environment and situation.
His worst moments regarding his bodily waste, were when he was sick or had minor food poisoning.  A simple small trash bucket lined with a trash bag has taken on the job of a toilet.  With each use, he ties off the bag to cut down on the pungent smell.  Over time, his body acclimated to a normal cycle, waiting for the morning shower at the gym or  at work. 
While he has been living in the unit, his life has improved slowly over time.  He started off with few possessions; no car or refrigerator, just a personal computer and monitor, which was able to receive TV signals. 
After filing for bankruptcy and losing his business, he has worked hard to build his credit, which nose-dived to the mid-500s.  He was not prepared at how difficult it would be to build it back up, but eventually he hit the mid-600s.  The car purchase did not help, since the payments were given to a friend and not a finance company.  Though, he was able to purchase a new laptop on credit from a store which has given him the ability to improve his credit score and forming his non-profit.
All of these are small wins for him, but they can’t compare to the larger wins he experiences from the non-profit work.  It is this work that keeps him moving forward, keeps him grounded and sane.  While the type of work is unimportant to the overall aspect of life on earth, it does have value for thousands of people in small ways.  It does help improve people’s lives and inspires them to do better, to reach for their goals, to live a more fulfilled life.  It is for that purpose that he doesn’t complain or walk around looking like he’s homeless.  It’s the joy of helping others that makes his situation bearable for him.  No one else needs to know about his homelessness, nor what brought him to that point.  That information is not relevant to who he is.
It is what he knows about himself that is important to him, not what others think. But he also knows that he just can’t scream, “I’m homeless,” as people really wouldn’t understand.  People, he has learned the hard way, are quick to judge.  They don’t want to find out why the situation exists, they just find it difficult to understand that it does.  Though, as the years have gone by, and with more and more people becoming poorer day-by-day, he knows his situation is not unique.  He knows others have also lived in storage units on the same property as his, for short periods of time.  A couple of whom had been discovered and kicked off the lot.
His personal love life doesn’t exist, though he would love for the right person to come along one day, but until he has a home, he doesn’t want the situation to come up, where he would be asked to come over and spend time together.  He simply tells those who ask, that he has a roommate and they agree no one is to come over at any time.  People usually understand and accept it.  It’s a lie he doesn’t like to tell, but it has become all too easy to say with each passing day.  He believes that keeping a wall up from getting too involved with people in a romantic way, is the best thing to do for now.
He has just turned 54 and this was not how he envisioned his life when he was a young lad.  He dreamed of the typical home and loving spouse, maybe kids, and a dog or two; a good job, a life of happiness and joy.  While happiness is something he does have even now, it was something that he has learned to accept and understand as he dealt with his situation.  The home, spouse, kids and all, are great, but as with personal belongings, none of that matters if you do not love yourself first and foremost.  It is that lesson of life that he began to learn many years ago and finally came to terms with when he became homeless. 
He believes that no matter what your situation is in life, if you truly love yourself, you will get through it. You will not only survive, but become a better person for it.  How you choose to deal with the negative thoughts and actions by others all depends on the ability to love yourself.  Your faith in yourself and balancing the good and bad makes all the difference.  For one to be grateful for the good things in life is all so easy to do, but to be grateful for the negative things is a challenge that most are unable to accomplish.  It is the bad things in life that make or break you.
While he has never thought of himself to be better than anyone else, he knows that how he has chosen to deal with things has also kept him from becoming the tortured soul, the broken person seen sleeping on the streets, living a life of hopelessness.  He has become more and more grateful for what he has and what he receives on both ends of the spectrum.  He is grateful and thankful for when he finds a penny on the street or a friend reaches out with an incredible offer of help.
Each morning as he rises, he knows where he is, but he is grateful for what he has.  When he heads to the gym to work out and take his shower for the day, he is grateful for what he has.  When he gets to drive to work and earn a small living, he is grateful for what he has.  When he is able help other through his non-profit organization, he is grateful to be of service.  When he hears of accomplishments made by those he helps, he is full of joy for being able to be a part of the experience.  He’s no saint, and when he forgets to be grateful, life reminds him that his life could be worse. 
He only hopes that what little that he does, in turn helps to inspire others to do better and overcome their obstacles in life.  He doesn’t see himself as special, just an average guy dealing with each situation life brings him the best way he can.

# # #

Life goes on...I go on

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Another Year - 3rd to be exact


I can't believe that it has been a year since I last posted on here.  Yeah, I know, they say a good to great blogger should be posting daily if not weekly.  Sorry, but I just can't imagine people wanting to be reading about my day to day life as a homeless man.  With that being said, I will now bring you up to date in my life as homeless.

First off, I realize that I am in a much better position then most homeless people are.  I have actually been in a better position since I first became homeless.  I believe the main reason is simple, I try to continue to find the positive, the good that still exist in my life instead of focusing on the negative.  Thus, one of the main reasons why I don't post on here often, I don't want to post negative things and dwell on them.  Don't get me wrong, negative stuff does happen, but it's not the main focus of my life.  I want the true balance of accepting both positive and negative and be at peace with both.

Since my lost of income and housing in 2011, I have been able to find a job that pays just above minimum wage (now currently earning $10 p/h).  I have been able to purchase a vehicle from a friend and paid it off.  I have been able to continue building one of my non profits into a strong organization that continues to expand and grow for the good of the membership and for the world.

While there is much good happening to me, there is the continued lack of housing.  I just can't seem to get to a financial point where I can afford to rent an apartment or a room in someone's house.  The income from the day job has continued to grow over the past year and half, but not enough to afford housing in Austin. 

The growth in Austin is too much and the city is heading for disaster if they don't get it under control.  But, that's for the politicians to figure out.  For now, I have to continue to work towards my survival. 

Most people have in their minds that I am a bit crazy not focusing more energy into finding a better paying job that would get me off the streets, and while I understand their thought process, they don't know the whole story.  Which is typical of people who judge, they only see a small sliver of what is happening and are quick to judge others based on their small vision of things.

Previously I have posted why I can't get a normal job with a great income.  It is for those reasons that I work hard in building my non profit.  True, my non profit may not serve the over all good of man kind as perceived by many, but it is something that I believe strongly about and because of my belief I am willing to continue to be homeless.  And with that being said, I also realize that I have created a catch 22. 

I work 40 plus hours in my day job to earn a decent income, and because of that, I lack the time to really work hard on the non profit that will ultimately get me the income I need to afford a decent place to live.  When I leave the day job, I am mentally exhausted, which cuts into my mind set of doing what is necessary for the non profit.  In addition, I work mostly during the day at the paying job, which has also limited me in being able to work on the non profit in a proper way.  However, I am also grateful that as a contract employee, I can set my hours so that I can attend events and work on the non profit when I must.  But, my loyalty to my friend who got me the job also keeps me focused on doing the job I am being paid for first and foremost during the day.  Now you see the catch 22 situation.

None the less, I continue to work towards the goal of the non profit being able to hire me as a paid director, thus allowing me to continue to grow it and to be able to find a home to live in.  Until such time, I continue to work hard in developing the non profit and assisting the membership in full filling their dreams.  I honestly believe that by helping others, I will be helped.  I know, many people will say I am crazy, mad and stupid to not think of myself first.  That's fine, that's their point of view.  Yet, I also believe that the mess of our society is tied to greed and I just can't be a part of that.  I want to find that middle ground that allows for both to exist without the welfare of human spiritual life to be destroyed in the process.

Over the past few months, I have contemplated writing a short autobiography about my time as a homeless person while developing a non profit that helps others.  The concept sounds good, but I ponder additional thoughts: who would read this?  have I succeed since I am still homeless?  Is there a positive message that motivates and inspires people coming from my story?  Is this just a way of gaining self promotion?  Please feel free to share your thoughts to these questions.

Life goes on, I go on....