“You’re pregnant, again?!”

“You two need to get cable.”

“You know what causes that, right?”

“What are you going to do?!”

And then sometimes you really do get the sincerely genuine, “Congratulations! Children are such a blessing!”

But most of the time it’s a comment accompanied with a look of pity. It probably has to do with the look of exhaustion I wear daily—it doesn’t really blend well with the Mac concealer.

Yes. I am pregnant with baby number four. Now that I’m etching past the 12 week mark and the first trimester of exhaustion and nausea, the reality of what I am about to embark upon is overwhelming. It wasn’t “supposed” to happen for another year. I needed to finish grad school. My oldest is just entering pre-k and is not even four years old yet. I thought I’d have more time to prepare…as best as one prepares for four small children.

It seems like the female reproductive system is such a commonly discussed topic among media outlets and politicians. I’ve read so many blogs that talk about what we should and should not talk about with one another. But as more people discover our news, I feel like I have to have some type of stance as to why I am choosing to be so open to life. I may not seem very convincing in person because I am just so tired. 

This week I had my new students read my short story, “The Liver Philosophy”. The moral of the story is to do what is right for you, even if no one else gets it. I had my students write a summary of what they felt it meant and quite a few of them wrote about some of their own choices that they are willing to be a “Liver” for. It was both insightful and inspiring. What moved me more is that I had forgotten to live out the very words I had once wrote!

I know that having a large family is not what everyone desires. I know that being open to “God’s will” is very open to interpretation. I also know that I am not one to judge other people’s choices, as long as they can respect mine.

I don’t know what I am going to do. My motto is that I tend to take life 50 minutes at a time. It’s the teacher in me. Every time the bell rings, a new class begins and anything and everything can change. It carries over into my home life. A meltdown one moment can lead to giggles the next.

Having my children so close together is hard. I’m really finally admitting it out loud. Maybe that’s one of the reasons you have to be open to God to have bigger families. You have to pray a lot for your sanity and you also have to admit that you need other people. It’s a hard thing to do when you have a lot of pride and you were once so independent, but then you look around and you see that you have a real family and real friends who live and celebrate this one life with you.

I sometimes question if I’m making the right choice, but then today happens. After a chaotic day, my three boys will be so sweet. And we do something random like “chase the sun”, which involves driving down an open highway to watch the gorgeous sunset while listening to The Postal Service. And they talk to one another like brothers do and say in an almost synchronized, rehearsed manner, “Good night, Sun,” to the melody of how we read, “Good Night Moon.” And I think, Yes. I can have another. I will survive thrive.

See you in February Baby Bou:)

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God speaks through a wasp

I sat on this random pew in the hallway near the receptionist’s office at the Jesuit Spirituality Center. I was here on a women’s day retreat with my mother and aunt. The first lecture talked about acceptance and how to cultivate happiness. I had just finished my first week of teaching curriculum and some of the presenter’s questions were really hitting home.

Do I let other people take away my happiness? Because I think happiness comes from outside situations based on my own agenda? Do I react with anger based on my own  fear and insecurity?

Hmmmm. When I yelled at my kids this week because they weren’t paying attention, was it really because I was scared shitless that I would not be able to teach them the material?

YES!

So after the first presentation, we were instructed to walk throughout the campus grounds silently. No talking to Mom or Carla. I walked to the cafeteria to get a cup of coffee then I strolled through the library. Out of all of the literature there, I was attracted to “Living Catholic, the Catechism.” For 10 years I have studies almost every other religion except for the one I lived the first 18 years of my life. Based upon my current set of situations, now more than ever I felt I had to explore this religion through a matured pair of eyes.

I carried the book to that pew. I read through the first few chapters, when suddenly I heard this loud buzzing sound. I looked up to the front door, which was surrounded by large, uncovered windows, to see see a huge yellow jacket wasp flying repeatedly into the window. I thought it was on the outside of the window and was just a distraction from the moment, so I started to read again.

A few sentences later and the buzzing seemed to get louder and louder–demanding my attention. So I started to watch the wasp and realized he was actually on the inside of the window and he was trying to escape I watched him jump from pane to pane. Scratching. Buzzing. Trying to escape.

I felt I could do something to help out this little fellow. I got up and opened the door. I thought maybe he would feel the breeze and follow the wind to his escape. But he just kept flying into the glass.

Other retreaters were entering the door I was holding open-they just thought I was being nice. I was just patiently waiting to see if the wasp would get my gesture. He didn’t.

I went back to my pew while the wasp stayed in the same place. It made me wonder, how often when I wanted to escape was God holding the door open and I refused to follow the breeze? How often did I just bang myself against the glass? Like the wasp, maybe I just wasn’t ready for the escape at the moment.

I walked back to the retreat room with the sound of the buzzing in my ear. He may not be ready for the wind, but I think I’m ready for the current.

The Orange Juice Philosophy

An editorial I wrote two summers ago:

I have come to understand that I live my life by various philosophies. It allows me to bend my own rules instead of having to defend strict beliefs. Maybe, I don’t really like to be wrong and I like to leave some space to play.

Recently, I started to covet a new guitar. Don’t get me wrong the one I have now is great…for practicing. The action is high and it is very challenging to perfect high bar-chords. In the long run this will make me a much better player, but for now I am trudging on this nasty plateau.
Being a poor college student, I have some free time between my four jobs. When it comes to thinking of free things to do, I decided to check out a local music store to see what I should set my intentions on next. This is never a good idea when you don’t have the money to back it up. Yet, it strikes a desire to figure out a way to make your aspiration a reality.
Still, the ability to have a new guitar was not happening in my current reality.
I was telling my mom about the predicament and she told me this is a complete example of her “orange juice philosophy”.
See, when we were growing up, we didn’t have a whole lot of money. My mom had to have orange juice in the morning and she could only afford to get the cheap concentrate Winn Dixie brand. We thought it was fantastic. I can even remember eating it directly from the canister. We drank this orange juice for years with no qualms whatsoever.
Then Wal-Mart opened in the neighboring town of Crowley.
For the same price, my mom could get the Minute-Maid brand. Orange juice as we knew it was changed forever.
There was no returning to the cheap brand. Even if she ran out, she would drive the extra ten minutes to get her new fix.
So as I was telling her about my yearning for a new guitar after playing a new one, she told me to remember the orange juice.
“Never try something new if you are not willing to stick with the old one, because you may never want to go back,” she said.
I thought it was a pretty nifty little piece of advice.
Not long after that, I had a new roommate who moved in…with a brand new Yamaha guitar.

Saintly Faith

I wrote a few entries ago about how I’m trying to understand my own version of faith. There are a few recent situations that have caused maturation in this process.

The first occurred on December 7, 2009 when my second niece, Catherine Grace Marcotte, was born.

My sister Meggan was diagnosed on October 10 (our deceased grandmother’s birthday) with the news that she was a high-risk pregnancy case. She had very little–if not, zero—ambiotic fluid in her womb. She would have to be on extreme bed rest and if she reached 24 weeks, she would be admitted into the hospital for monitoring.

Well she did make it to 24 weeks. In fact she made it all the way to 27 weeks before she went into labor.

Catherine was born around sunrise on the morning of our great-grandmother’s 94th birthday. The 2.5 pound miracle was  immediately admitted to the NICU.

During Meggan’s recovery, her high-risk doctor told us just how miraculous Catherine’s birth was. She said she had never been so impressed with a little baby. With how little fluid Meggan had, the fact that Catherine came out so strong and healthy was amazing.

I still have yet to see Catherine. She is still in the NICU and now weighs 4.1 pounds. She was taken off of the oxygen tube just two days ago. At this rate, she will be home in a month.

I know these kinds of births happen often. But when you witness the preciousness of life first-hand, it makes you wonder just how delicate things are pieced together. It really wowed me as to how so many people from Rayne prayed for Meggan and supported them through this difficult phase.  It was a beauty to witness.

On an almost completely different plane, the New Orleans Saints have proven the longevity of the fruition process of faith.

After 40 years, they have finally won an NFC Championship and are headed to their first Super Bowl.

The fans have formed such a bond of unity during this season. I work at a restaurant on Sunday mornings and the vibe was so energetic. To see elderly ladies pulling for the Black & Gold gridiron was a spectacular site.

For the past few months, all you hear is “Who DAT!”. And I live in Lafayette, two hours from the Crescent City.

But Saints fans have existed through all 40 years of shotty seasons, yet they are still ever present and faithful to their patrons.

I feel this is a movement for Louisiana. After devastating hurricanes (Katrina and RITA), we are still here. Happy. Prospering. Even if the rest of the nation can’t see it.

Don’t you think it’s interesting that Yahoo.com released a poll on the happiest states and Louisiana ranked #1?

The media likes to play out devastation, and yes they did highlight the humanitarian acts of people going on air boats to help victims in the 9th Ward, but how much have they focused on the aspect of rebuilding?

George Clooney commented on the Haiti telethon yesterday that we should still donate money over the next few months to help rebuild the country. I totally agree, but what I want to know is how much coverage will still be allotted to the effort? How long before even that is old news?

The point is that many people still focused on all of the negative aspects from the levees breaking. What the media failed to emphasize was that a few weeks later, Hurricane Rita wreaked more havoc on the other side of our state. My sister who just gave birth lived in a FEMA trailer for months while she attended McNeese State University because she lost everything in her apartment in Lake Charles.

That wasn’t shown. It doesn’t really matter to the people here. We just rebuild and have faith that we will make it through. And have a great time while we do it.

I’m starting to see that whatever you have faith in, comes to fruition. It may take 40 years, but it happens. It happens faster in numbers, too.

Maybe we should take notice of what people really put their faith into. It could be an interesting outcome.

Explosions of awakening

I saw light through my closed eye lids and thought it was the sun. It was florescent lights at a gas station.

“We’re in Wyoming. You have to drive now. But you’re about to see the most amazing sun rise.”

These were the last words I heard from Nick for hours. I got out of the back of Louis and went to the restroom in a grody bathroom. After scrubbing my hands and splashing some of the questionable water on my face, I purchased a LARGE coffee and banana.

When I slipped into my coveted driver’s seat, Nick was already crashed in the back and Rick was resting his head against the window. I started the vehicle and looked up to see nothing but an open sky that was now a navy blue.

It was 5:30 a.m. There were hardly any cars on the Interstate as I pulled off of the dirt road onto the ramp. A tiny strip of yellow blessed the horizon as a few of the stars danced their finale of the morning.

Rick asked if I wanted to listen to anything in particular, but before I could answer he already had a band in mind.

Explosions in the Sky.

No other band would have completed the moment more perfectly. I drove as the melody lulled the sun from slumber. This was going to be my first sunrise I witnessed on the trip. From the anticipation building in my tummy, I knew it was going to be glorious. It was the same feeling I had at the Grand Canyon. Peaceful excitement. Something from Nothing. An ironic paradox.

I originally planned on running at sunrise in almost every city. I learned quickly that gluttony and indulgence are so much easier to succumb to than energy exertion. Most people would rather do nothing than something too. I fell into that category several times this trip. Several times during my life.

I have all of these expectations. All of these things that I want to do. Life always seems to have another plan for me. Oh this hidden plan. It gets me where I need to go; where I envision I will be. Just never, ever the way I think it will get me there.

It’s like my mind and life like to play tricks on the “me” that witnesses it all. Because I won’t enjoy what’s right in front of me because I always feel like there is something else I should be doing. The things I have already thought about what I want to do.

My mind is the race track. There are always six lanes running at the same time. It seems like different participants at times. One finishes first. One has to finish last. But they all eventually cross the finish line of this grand circular motion.

This is what I realize as Louis climbed a mountain to reveal the entire sun beaming over an open valley. I was elevated to at least 7,000 feet and shared such an intimate moment with the source of light.

It was as though my answers were illuminated for this instant. I knew they existed and will now always be present, even though reality was going to throw a few hurdles across my track. This is why Alison told me to write this all down. She knew I was going to need proof to remember the illumination.

It’s kind of funny. You can always make something from a memory. Even if it didn’t exist in the moment you originally experienced it.

That’s why I take history with a grain of salt. Half of the time, the intention of action is different than most people expect. Plus, it’s just a culmination of several hundreds of thousands of people’s experience and perception.

How will we possibly be able to write the history of now? There are 7 billion people on this planet. The difficulty of keeping things accurate and true could be nearly impossible.

But I digress from my original memory. Off on another track.

I drove in a peaceful state until 7:30 a.m. We were 30 minutes from Fort Collins and I had no energy left. We stopped at a McDonald’s and I reverted to the back seat.

I needed a nap after that mental race.

On the road again

The alarm went off before I knew it.  I splashed some water on my face, tried to blow my sinuses through my nostrils, and attempted to get the guys moving. I knew I was in for a long day. Our goal was to reach Fort Collins, Colorado–which was 24 hours away.

I opened the door to find a gentle rain pouring. It wasn’t huge drops like in Louisiana. It was more thin, pin-like pellets that seemed to bounce off of you, rather than dissolve into your clothing.

We packed up Louis and were on the road by 7:15 a.m.

Rick called David to locate their position. The plan was to eat lunch in Bend, Oregon. According to Tammy, we would get there right before 11 a.m.

We drove through windy, mountainous roads past several Oregon State Parks. The view was breathtaking. I felt like a sponge trying to absorb any last drop of this experience.

We arrived in Bend right on time. I received a text message from my aunt Carla to check my email ASAP, so I grabbed my laptop and connected to the restaurant’s wireless Internet.

My sister Meggan was to be married in a few weeks and her bachelorette luncheon was that afternoon. The message said “Wish you were here.” The picture was of my grandmother, mother, a few aunts and Meggan’s friends and they were all making a peace sign. Except for Carla, she was sticking out her tongue.

"Wish you were here"

It was the first moment of the trip where I felt like I was missing out on something important. I knew I had missed a few parties and such, but I had the whole “Out of sight, out of mind,” mentality. Had I not thought that way, I would have been homesick the whole time and would not have appreciated the experience right before my eyes.

I smiled to myself and made a peace sign back to the picture, then closed my Mac. I would be home soon enough.

Interesting tidbit here about Bend. My brother-in-law plays online games and made a buddy through a particular game. They played for years but had never met. A few months prior to my trip, his online friend came visit Louisiana. I didn’t meet him personally because I was still living in Lafayette at the time. He was from Bend.

Once I arrived home, I was listing the cities we visited and my brother called his buddy to tell him I went through his small town. When bro told him where we ate lunch, his buddy said he could literally throw a rock and hit the restaurant from his backyard.

Small world.

We had an amazing lunch that day, shared some intimate hugs with our new friends and piled into Louis again.

Then we drove.

And drove.

And drove some more: through the high desert of Oregon, through the SMELLY dairy farms of Idaho.

We decided I would switch from the driver’s seat once we hit Utah. When we were an hour or so from the border, we realized we were at a quarter left on the tank. We hadn’t pushed Louis yet to see how “E” was “E”.

The gas light came on and we all three grabbed our iPhones to see how far it was to the next gas station. I turned off the A/C and dropped speed to 60mph. The next stop was 50 miles away.

It was the longest 50 minutes. No one talked. The uncomfortable tension between Nick and I could have made Mr. Rogers cringe. Rick said we were going to be fine and he calmly read a book.

I wish I were as cool as Rick sometimes.

When we got to about 10 miles away I started to breathe easier. Every mile that passed at that point was one less that I had to walk and I knew it would be easier and easier. Finally we saw the lights of a gas station and a “Welcome to Utah” sign.

The sigh of relief sounded like a tsunami crashing against the shore. There was now a vibe of peace after the tension storm.

Rick filled up the 14-gallon tank with 13.48 gallons.

We stocked up on water and jerky. I sat shotgun and smoked an American Spirit as we drove through Salt Lake City. I was contemplating my role in the universe and what I may do upon my arrival home. Did I want to move away? Did I want to stay? What is this path unknown?

The hour was creeping past midnight and I was getting nestled into my seat when Rick tapped me on the shoulder and handed me a letter with my name on it.

I was quite confused. Then I recognized the handwriting.

Alison.

My little chief. She was taking my position at the Vermilion and told me she was trying to plan a surprise for me. I had completely forgot.

I opened the envelope and found a novella written on journal paper. No sooner did I start reading her words did I also reach for the Kleenex. No one has ever written anything like that for me before. It was beyond an Ode to myself. It was the truth. About  friendship. About life. About sharing. About learning. About everything.

It made me cherish the relationships I get to experience with people. It cemented my understanding of what I know Alison will accomplish in her lifetime; and made me grateful that I will get to witness her achieve it. I am fortunate to have the bonds that I do.

Rick was given the mission to give this letter to me at an appropriate time. He had been carrying it around with him for a few days and that was the first moment I would have had to read it. Given what I was thinking about when he handed it to me, it was more than perfect.

“Lafayette, she needs you,” Alison wrote. These words have haunted me since Utah. It sounds like such a boost to the ego. But in all actuality, sometimes I think I’m just the one who needs Lafayette.

I fell asleep after rereading the letter. My heart was smiling. Part of me felt like I had just accepted this mission of a lifetime.

I went through one rem cycle and awoke to my phone ringing. It was Neal. It was 3 a.m.

Neal has done a complete 180 in the past two years. He has become very involved with social activism and environmental issues–very far from Pub daze.

He had just gotten into a very heated porch discussion with a friend and the friend’s ex-co-worker; both of whom were just laid off from oil field related companies. We were starting to see this happen more and more where we lived.

It was a very twisted point for Neal to have someone very dear to him challenge everything he had been working for, especially when those individuals were shafted from the source of his frustration.

(P.S. Since this situation things have evolved)

Either way, it was a cool moment for our friendship because we realized the value of how we can level one another out. We both live in these big imaginative worlds inside our heads, and somehow those two fantasies collide into reality every once in a while. It’s even more exciting to know we will see those fantasies become reality one day during our physical existence.

Our conversation ended as Nick pulled into a gas station. We were at the edge of Utah and Nick said he had a few more miles in him. I decided to try the back seat out for the first time of the trip. I curled in the captain’s seat and looked up at the stars through the view of the back sunroof.

There were so many shining throughout the sky. I suddenly felt like a shooting star: flashing through the eyes of thousands of strangers for a moment as I travel to an unknown destination. Unknown to myself and to the viewers.

Hopefully I spark something inside of them as I shoot by. Cause them to take a breath and realize they are awake. Alive.

I fall asleep to the thought, but my vessel kept moving.

Drifting through memories

I have sat in a cubicle for four months. Like the song “Little Boxes” on “Weeds,” I feel like I’m made of ticky-tacky and we all look just the same.

I have drafts for three children’s books. I have more ideas than time to make any of them happen.

And somewhere in the Internet, I am drifting to Eugene.  I am somewhere on I-5 awaiting an epic party, still reveling my time in Portland.

I have had so much trouble finishing the tales of my road trip through the west. I have issues accepting when certain phases are over. But somehow, I have managed to bring Portland to me.

I feel I am ready to complete the first portion of my blog. I didn’t make it to Canada. Instead, I chose security, which defeats the concept of a path unknown.

While I stand at the copy machine, I am at war with my inner conscience. I feel like a sellout, however, the responsible side knows this is what I had to do to pay the bills for a little while. This is not forever.

By finishing this adventure online, it will be time to embark upon a new one here in Louisiana.

I never thought I would have an unknown path at home, but alas, I do. It is a trail I have yet to explore.

I plan to share it here. No longer will I drift nowhere. My current has a purpose, even if I don’t know what it means yet.

That’s the new concept for me; faith.  I don’t know how to explain it exactly, but that’s where the journey comes in. Through my stories, I hope to grasp and share the understanding. I just know for the first time in my life I absolutely know in my heart I am exactly where I need to be. It is not where I expected. It rarely ever is.

So now, it’s onward to Eugene. Who’s coming with me?

My Moroccan Cab Driver

I had a life-encouraging conversation with a cab driver form Morocco, the country Penny Lane wanted to travel to in Almost Famous–one of my favorite movies.

It was one of those moments when you felt like you met someone who introduced you to someone who haled the cab with the driver with whom you were meant to exchange words.

I was on Facebook earlier that afternoon chatting with Val. She was in Austin, I in Portland. She told me she had a friend who lived here who I just had to meet.

A little back story. The whole reason I know Val is because of a mutual guy we both had a thing for. We often pick on him and say the whole reason we both liked him was for us to end up becoming friends.

Well, her friend Kate had been living in Portland for a few years. Val sent me Kate’s info and after a few rounds of phone tag, she came meet me at this trendy restaurant. We discussed how Val and I had met and she told me she remembered the incident.

These are reasons I do not believe in coincidences.

Anyways, Katie took me around the Northwest part of Portland, which I hadn’t seen yet. We drank and hung out with some other locals: one who told me about a girl he is in grad school with who wrote about the travesty of Katrina (the girl’s last name is Trickey). The other guy was from south of Savannah, Georgia and we talked about the South.

Another anyways, Katie and I both realized how tired we were and she was going to call me a cab. She ran outside of the bar to conduct the search and ended up haling me one that was already outside.

We say goodbye and I hopped in to find this 40ish black man driving the cab. He and I strike up a conversation and I say I’m just passing through Portland.

This sparks a whole discussion on what exactly is passing through. He says he is a child of the planet and has traveled the world twice over. I am completely understanding what he is saying and we catapult ourselves into this very deep talk.

We crossed labels and cultures and barriers that most people won’t allow. We were both so astounded as to just how much we understood one another on a universal level.

Yet again, it was one of those conversations that I don’t think I can adequately capture.

The one thing we both emphasized though is that there is hope in this world.

One of the things that gives me hope is that I have reached this level of universal understanding.

I am from South Louisiana. We are the last to get anything. The fact that I have these types of conversations on almost a daily basis with people from my state gives me hope that there is a larger understanding taking place within the human species.

I tell this to the cab driver and he is flabbergasted. He then tells me about this monkey theory about a single monkey evolving and another monkey modeling that monkey’s action. Eventually, there is this exponential growth of monkey understanding and that’s how it becomes an evolutionary cultural custom. It’s all in the exponential sudden spurt.

That’s how I know something big is about to happen. It’s the whole reason I had to get away from the South. I knew in my heart that something is taking place in humanity that most of us don’t even realize. You can find it in the most unexpected places.

We can’t compartmentalize how we find truth. But as humans, we try to figure out everything. This life is not meant to be understood. But we spend lifetimes trying to say that the answer comes in a certain form. However, when you let go of the expectation, the answer shows up in an unexpected fashion.

We have to let go and trust one another.

We stayed parked in front of the Ace hotel talking about these universal ideas for five minutes. Both of us were so excited to have found someone who “gets  it”. Neither of us wanted to part ways because we both knew it could be a while before we found another soul to share this truth.

All we did was tell one another to pass along the peace and hope that it does exist.

His name was David. We shook hands after formally introducing ourselves and smiled.

This is the Liver philosophy. This is life. It exists. I found it in Portland. I have found it everywhere. It is me. It is you. It is now.

Through the Redwoods to Eureka!

The Redwoods are big. It’s almost a redundant statement because anyone who has been there knows it’s an understatement…just like the Grand Canyon.

My friend Sarah had written on my Facebook page that driving through the Redwoods Forest is a humbling experience. She was right on several levels.

To witness vast, living nature makes you feel like a single spec of existence. You realize how tiny you are in an infinite universe. Plus, it feels so still and all-knowing. It made me realize how often I run in unnecessary circles and waste potential energy by replacing productivity with worry.

We drove through scenic California mountains and ventured through one of the tackiest, yet must-see, tourist spots: a Redwood tree you can drive through. It’s $5 to go through the park, which is located in a 700 population village.

I bought some Redwood incense from the gift shop, along with a Viewfinder for my godchild Ellah. It had pictures from major American signature spots, most of which I saw on this trip. Plus, I had one of those small, blue, optical gadgets as a child and I used to look at Disney stories on it. Who needs modern HD, when an imagination and still frames can get you that simply excited?

Nick had the idea to set up Louis with the doors open and us jam out Remy’s song. After a short debate, we decided to film it as well. He grabbed his djembe and I played guitar and sang. Random cars drove by and waved as if we were rock stars. Or maybe they just admired that we were living life.

We drove through more terrain for hours until we reached Eureka. It was one of the last cities in California. We ate at Hana’s sushi restaurant. I cannot even describe how fresh the fish was. I know I live on the Gulf Coast, but I feel like I’ve been lied to. The Rainbow Roll had the most delicious salmon and tuna. I washed it down with Happy Hour saki and then we hit the road again.

We didn’t realize we still had another six or so hours to Portland.

We were slightly discouraged until we saw the Pacific Ocean. Nick was driving at the moment and pulled off the exit. My nerves started to intensify as we parked. At first I walked slowly onto the sand to take in the open view. The sun was starting to set, there were people tossing frisbees to their dogs, and a few couples were snuggling on the sand.

I inhaled the salty, fresh air and was about to sigh a refreshing exhale when Nick took off running and said “Beat ya to the ocean.”

We were a half mile away from water and I took off in a sprint. The young chap didn’t stand a chance.

The water was colder than a snow-cone on a hot summer’s day. I’ve heard the Pacific was cold, but compared to the Gulf it’s Arctic.

I waded in the water, reveling in my small victory, searching for stones to take back to my other godchild Malorie. I triumphed in my search and even discovered a crab claw to bring back for my fellow Cancer, Aaron.

For a split second, we thought about camping out on the beach, but my buddy Ben had scored us a room at the Ace Hotel in Portland and I didn’t want his ambition to be a waste.

So on we drove through windy roads. I have to admit, I did get queesy quite often. I had to lay back in the passenger seat and close my eyes in order to deter the puking sensation.

We finally crossed the Oregon border after darkness prevailed throughout the sky. We pulled up to a gas station in order to fill the tank and were astonished to find a guy walk up to our car and ask how much we wanted to purchase. Nick told him not to worry about it, but then we were told it was illegal to pump your own gas in the state of Oregon.

What?

I thought we had left the weird laws in Oklahoma.

Evidently, it’s supposed to create more jobs and it stops drive-0ffs.

We snacked on popcorn as we made the trek to downtown Portland. We didn’t arrive until 3 a.m. I thought the streets seemed pretty bare considering the size of the city.

We walked into this freshly renovated, rather trendy building. It was classically chic and very purposefully put together. We were handed a real, old-school skeleton key and told our room was on the second floor.

I had so much adrenaline rushing through me as I creaked up the stairs. Ben, one of my dearest friends, works at the Ace in NYC. He was originally supposed to take part of this roadtrip with me. As I peaked around the lounge and hallways, I felt his presence.

It had been months since I had seen my pal, but as I opened the door to my room, I felt like he had set the stage for me. Everything was clean, precise and unique. The detail to how the magazines, brochures, and products were placed made you feel how the staff cared about the experience of this hotel. It had Ben written all over it.

I felt so connected to him at that moment, that while Nick passed out, I stayed up and wrote an email to him. I then began to type uncontrollably. I had only been in Portland for a few hours, but there was an energy here that awakened a part of my soul.

By the time I closed my Mac, the sun was coming up. I nestled myself into a ball and hugged my pillow as I fell asleep with a smile across my face. This wasn’t a sweet dream. This was a sweet reality.

My Ben Harper Experience

I couldn’t stop thinking of that djembe. I have wanted a drum for a while. Not because I’m even half decent at keeping a rhythm, but sometimes you just need something productive to bang on.

I found the perfect little companion at the Folk Music store in Claremont. It was only $100, and at that size normally they run for at least $150.

We were headed that direction anyway, so it only made sense to stop and see if it was still at the shop. To my delight, it was.

I call this a serendiptous purchase. It happened once at an Artwalk at home. I saw this turquoise ring that fit perfectly on my ring finger. I wanted it badly, but thought patience was the route to take. So I walked around for hours and went back at the end of the night. It was there waiting for me. I have worn it almost everyday since.

This same feeling arrived to me when I saw the djembe still there. It has this deep soulful sound when you beat the middle of it, yet the “ping” when you hit the side of the rim keeps you yearning for the next strike.

I grabbed a $9 tambourine before I went to the counter and I couldn’t wait to start my Partridge family.

Nick had found a smaller drum and a small Ben Harper pin and as we were both checking out we started small talk with the cashier. The reason the drums were so cheap did have to do with the recession, so I felt better about stimulating the economy.

However, the most interesting point is when the conversation turned to Ben Harper. There was a lot of memorabilia and albums available, even on vinyl. But there really wasn’t any other artists featured there.

Turns out, the store was opened by his grandparents. He grew up in the store. His grandparents passed away (God bless their souls) a few years ago and now he and his family run it.

So I saw my Ben Harper in New Mexico and the first drum I ever buy is from Ben Harper’s store.

It still gets a little weird.

Nick and I left on cloud nine and as we were driving on I-5 North, I asked him to plug in my iphone. Somehow, he managed to accidentally call my friend Val.

I was ecstatic to hear her voice and learn that she was with our friend Beth (or as I like to call her Viv–I’m Liv…come to think of it Val and I are Sly and Slick…I have too many nicknames). We all know one another through weird coincidences, which we don’t believe are coincidences at all. But alas, I digress.

I told them the story and they laughed because they had literally just bought the new Ben Harper c.d. and were listening to it for the first time at that very moment.

Somehow we are all connected through Ben Harper. It’s like 6 degrees of separation. Is Kevin Bacon going to show up?

If I end up meeting Ben on this trip, I would not at all be surprised. I just like how I have followed signs through this whole trip and I’m starting to notice when I am in the right place at the right time. I kind of ignore the rest…so my theory is always right.

I’ll end with a few quotes from some of Ben Harper’s songs. I find them appropriate for what I’ve learned thus far:

“I knew a girl. Her name was truth. She was a horrible liar.” -Diamonds on the Inside

“So before you knock it, try it first. For you’ll see it’s a blessing and it’s not a curse.” – Burn one down

“And it’s so hard to do and so easy to say. But sometimes, sometimes, you just have to walk away.” -Walk Away