Tag Archives: kindness

VICTORY LAP

There are beautiful moments in our respective journeys that make us realize, “Wow. I’m glad I stuck around for this!” Last night was one of those nights. As I have documented in past blog posts, I am an avid race fan. If it has four wheels and goes fast, I’m either gonna watch it or be there for it. And I got the rare treat to visit the famed North Wilkesboro Speedway in the Brushy Mountains of North Carolina last evening as part of an open house they were doing before the racing commences next week. It was a beautiful night, full of memories, photos, activities, famous stars and great food. It was also the first time I had been back in the facility since last August, which coincides with my commencing writing blogs on this website. A lot has changed since then, both at the track and in the life of the person who is writing this blog. It’s been a great period of revival, renewal, change, growth, overcoming and trying. But now, I am in one of the best mindsets I have ever been in. And it’s time to take a victory lap. 🏁

The very first blog I wrote on this website was entitled “Moving At The Speed Of Life.” In this blog, I detailed my life and my journey, and how it was just getting started. Earlier in the month of August, I came the closest I had ever come to ending my own life. I found myself under immense and seemingly inescapable stress, I was dealing with loss and self-doubt and feelings of failure in my life, and I thought generally that I was going to go nowhere in my life, despite all of my best efforts. I had gone as far as to seriously consider the thoughts of suicide that were floating around in my mind at the time. I had even written notes, but had either threw them in the trash can or burned them. I thought my race had been run.

Simply put, I was in hell.

But over the span of the coming months, it was dear friends such as Renée Yaworsky, Diane Coll, Sandie Dee Ingrande and Just Another Badass Warrior founder Em Farwell that helped me chart a course. With great patience, diligence, love and kindness, they helped me lay out a game plan for my growth. They showed me that it was OK to take my foot off the accelerator and run my own race at my own pace, instead of trying to people-please and bury myself. They helped me gain resources and tools and tricks to overcome, they helped me find my therapist (shoutout to Elizabeth!), and they showed me that indeed, life is very much worth living. And without the help of those five women, nights like last night would not have been possible. I would have been in a much deeper, darker place.

Last night was my proof that life is worth living. I got to meet, talk to and shake hands with people I never dreamed I’d see anywhere but on television or on social media posts. I got to see and take pictures from viewpoints I never thought I’d get to see. I got to walk around my happy place for the first time in 13 years. And it was all thanks to five kind, sweet, decent, beautiful, loving and caring angels who made it possible. All the moments like last night, all the accolades I receive in my creative endeavors, all the heights I reach will be thanks to those five wonderful ladies mentioned above. ❤

I hope this blog finds you well, and in the comments, talk about something cool you have done recently!

As always, take care, much love and may God richly bless,

-Jon

PERFECTLY IMPERFECT

Too often in our lives, we worry about being perfect. We’re all guilty of it in one way or another-we could be making a dish and spend hours on it, but we’ll fret if it’s slightly burned. Or we could have a poem or song idea spring to our minds, then we’ll kick ourselves afterward over a chord we missed or a note we didn’t hit. Or we could write someone a long letter, make a sales pitch, or see someone we’ve not seen in 20 years, and we’ll spend the time afterward chewing our fingernails past the first knuckle about what we should have said or done in the moment. Furthermore, we spend who-knows-how much time worrying about ourselves. Our eyes. Our hair. Our weight. If we have enough of a tan. How our smile looked in a selfie. How our voice sounded on a call or message. The list goes on and on.

I am guilty of this in my own right, especially in creative endeavors. Many, MANY times after interviewing someone, I will have those thoughts of, “well, why didn’t you say THIS,” or, “why didn’t you ask them THIS at THIS time,” etc. And many times when making videos for my ongoing radio/TV time capsule project, I’ll watch them back through and think, “why didn’t you include this piece of audio? Why did you have the audio clips in this order? Why did you cut out this much of a song?” Even in writing these blog posts, I’ll often find myself wishing I’d have gone longer, or included one more photograph, or posted one extra blurb about x, y or z.

It can be a draining and seemingly never-ending cycle. The vampire of perfectionism is highly persuasive. But in the course of a lifetime’s run, we begin to discover that, instead of being perfect, the most beautiful and genuine thing we can be is imperfect. ❤

I am spending this month of April writing various pieces of poetry, as a challenge a friend and I are partaking in for National Poetry Month. This morning, I posted a tanka, a haiku-like poem but with two extra seven-syllable lines tacked to it. It read as follows:

“dewdrop pearls shine
as forest daylight finds us
in each other’s arms
kisses on the riverbank
it’s a beautiful morning”


I shared it with her and some others that are writing with me, and our own Em pointed out that I had only four syllables in the first line when I thought I had five. After some conversation, I realized that the word pearls is only one syllable-at least in most dialects! I had spent most all of my life thinking the word was a two-syllable word, and when it was pointed out to me that it was only a single syllable, I felt highly self-conscious about my voice and largely Southern dialect. Until it was pointed out to me by my closest poetic friend Silvia that, although I had been mistaken, I had still written a beautifully-worded tanka poem for this day of the challenge. Something beautiful had sprung from this Parnassian imperfection. And without realizing it at the time, my 30-out-of-31 syllable tanka poem resembled a pearl-a sacred verbal geometry created by irritation and formed by grit. And it put everything into perspective, and showed me what to write this blog post about today.

In the constant tug-of-war we find ourselves in between striving for perfection and doing our best, we can lose sight of what our true intentions are. Renée, my closest friend and co-creator has clashed many times with me over the notion of “done is better than good”. I fought tooth and nail against that notion for so long. I had it in my head that, if something was worth doing, it was worth doing to perfection. Until I realized that perfect is just a pipe dream, something that is pumped into our heads from an early age. Perfect may be achievable in certain fields or passions or lines of work, but the width and breadth of it is that perfect is something we can only chase after. Doing your best is more than enough in most situations! And most times, doing your best will lead you to the most beautiful of situations, scenarios and places. Being yourself unapologetically will be worth more to you than any amount of silver or gold.

Post that selfie of you in a baggy t-shirt and sweatpants! Sing that song or read that poem in your beautiful voice and dialect! Embrace your eyes, nose, smile, belly, stretch marks, beauty marks, anything that makes you uniquely you! Your imperfections do not define you, nor do they make you any less of a person. They each make you your own beautiful and evergreen kind of perfect ❤

I hope this blog finds you well, and in the comments, talk a bit about how you embrace perfect imperfection!

As always, take care, much love and may God richly bless!

-Jon

LOOK TO THE ENDGAME

I do not cower to opposing views. I am not afraid of challenging my thoughts on different matters. What concerns me is the possibility of becoming close-minded and living in an echo chamber surrounded only by people who agree with me. It would be a stagnant and ignorant existence. Not conducive to personal growth or learning. It is crucial to surround myself with different people and ideas, even if it’s uncomfortable. Engaging people with opposing views can broaden my perspective and deepen my understanding.

You’re under no obligation to like everyone, forgive anyone, or tolerate hatred. Listening to opposing views is evidence of my desire for actual change on the topic. Finding common ground is essential for real, long-term change. As human beings, we all have thoughts and ideas shaped by our experiences and history. By listening, we can learn what’s in a person’s heart and get to why a person holds a particular view. Even if we cannot agree with their views, we can try to understand and see how they arrived at this opinion. Only then can we find a way to meet them where they are and attempt to make them understand our perspective. Or perhaps, we will discover that we are now unsure about our views and that it’s us who need to grow and change.

Don’t be afraid to challenge your views. The real weakness lies in being unwilling to listen. Every generation grows old and the young will challenge their views in the name of progress. Don’t get left behind because of pride. When you have a conversation with someone who has opposing views, listen, be patient, and be kind. No one has ever been insulted into an agreement. We can use what we learned to be the root of their views and take steps to change their perspective or, at the very least, find common ground to move forward on.

It is important to educate ourselves to understand why people believe what they do. The ultimate goal is to come together and solve problems. We often find that our end goal has some semblance of common ground if we listen. We can either dismiss hateful views and tell them to shove them up their ass, or we can make an effort to understand the reasons behind them and stop it at the cause.

I am not saying, we should tolerate hatred. I’m suggesting the solution isn’t to hate back. Rather, to put an end to it, we need to comprehend it. Once we grasp the reasons behind it, we can make a plan to educate others and work towards a solution. Resolving significant issues takes time, support, and education. Real change comes in the seeds we sow for the next generation. The truth is we may be banging our heads against a wall, with some people. But our efforts can impact future generations, and maybe they’ll embrace love over hate.

Love Not Hate

When it comes to dealing with hatred, our focus is often on the victim. We tell them to toughen up, ignore the negativity, and build self-esteem. This puts the responsibility on the victims to adapt and fit in better. Why not redirect our energy toward understanding what creates the hate? With this knowledge, we could create change at the roots & prevent it from happening. It seems more compassionate to support the victims and put those who hate, to work on becoming better people.

This is my chosen approach and I apply this to any issue where there are strong opposing views. I focus on the problem, get to the root, and hopefully find a solution. All while supporting the victims and growing, changing, and educating myself as well. Every one of us can play a part in making the world a better place if we would only listen. Look to the end game.

DON’T INVITE THE BEARS

Handling toxic situations can be challenging, and if we don’t approach them differently, we are setting ourselves up for failure. We will be doomed to live like salmon swimming upstream, expending energy and effort, only to make a few inches of progress. The difference is, the salmon don’t invite the bears to disrupt their momentum, to push them back to the starting line, or to pick them and their friends off one by one and eat them for lunch. Every time we allow a toxic person to disrupt our lives and force us to start again, it’s like inviting those bears to lunch.

Don’t invite the bears!

While toxic people are responsible for their actions, we are also responsible for what we allow in our lives. Although it’s understandable to accept apologies, if we continue to allow toxic people to stay and wait for them to change, it will poison the whole stream and cause innocent people to suffer. We bear some responsibility for the harm it brings to our journey. While the intentions are good, and some people love deeply and want everyone to be happy and thriving, continually living with toxicity while hoping things will change will never bring peace.

Everyone handles personal boundaries differently. Some have no boundaries and take on the burden again and again, some allow those lines to blur depending on the person crossing them, and some fiercely enforce their boundaries and protect their peace. There are even people who invite the bear to lunch, and we’ve all had toxic people slip through our radar. In these moments, it’s often not the toxic person paying the price and being given a chance to grow and learn, it’s innocent people, good people, suffering again and again. We have to see these moments as opportunities to learn and strengthen our boundaries.

Not everyone who is toxic is evil or cold-hearted; many believe they are coming from a place of love. Often, it’s a learned behavior or a response to trauma. We’ve all exhibited toxic behavior at some point in our lives, but the difference is, we learned from our failures and grew from the experience. We must be willing to force the hand of those who are harming themselves and others, even if it means letting them go to create space for growth. Sometimes it’s necessary to break the toxic cycle and prevent them from stealing joy and energy from those around them. As a friend, I won’t blindly support everything you say you want on this journey. I’ll always meet you where you’re at, but I expect the same in return. It’s essential to expect what someone is capable of and not accept anything less. We must love someone enough to challenge them and push them to grow, even if it’s uncomfortable in the moment.

If you want a friend who won’t be honest when you’re hurting yourself, me, or others, I’m not her. But if you want a friend who will fiercely support all of your efforts to become the person you want to be, sign me up.

THRIVE TO SURVIVE #1: AN INTERVIEW WITH RENEE YAWORSKY

Hello all! Welcome to the first installment of Thrive To Survive! This is a very special blog/interview series where I, Jon Phipps, will sit down with some of my closest contemporaries to discuss with them how they overcame various physical & mental hurdles in their journey, or overcame obstacles outside of that realm! I couldn’t have picked a better guest of honor for this maiden voyage of TTS…….I had the thrill of sitting down and chatting with my best friend and closest co-creator, the inimitable Renee Yaworsky!

Renee is the embodiment of the words strength, kindness, fearlessness, love, compassion, friendship, beauty, care and inspiration. A native of New York and a long-time resident of the Peach State of Georgia, Renee has been involved with many different things over the span of her life, including law and prison work, modeling, acting, being a singer/songwriter, poet and novelist-all while valiantly and bravely battling health issues, namely lupus and seizures. Says Renee of first finding out about and subsequently tackling these issues in her life:

“I was 18, I was on Grady Avenue in Athens, Georgia and had a typical Athens night. We were swimming, and doing band rehearsal and was up most of the night and really having a great time, and when we fell asleep in the morning after being up all night, I did not wake up. And so luckily, one of my friends who was there tried to wake me up and was confused that he couldn’t, so he called my other friend and got on the phone with 911, and my other friend, my girl-friend was there with me and they were able to wake me up. The paramedics told me my heart had stopped and that they were gonna take me to the hospital. I said, I don’t want to go to the hospital and they said, well we’re taking you anyways. So they took me to St. Mary’s and determined that was the beginning of the understanding of the fact that I was going to have something going on with me, and I didn’t realize what it was. In fact, the initial doctors were reticent to call it a seizure.…….And then I came back up to New York and I was lucky, I was able to be seen by a cardiologist, a very, very good one, and he checked out my heart. And then I started seeing neurologists back in Georgia and they just, you know, called it seizures. At some point, they started saying seizures because they gave me EGS tests, and I was showing seizure activity. But actually after that moment, I didn’t have that many Grand Mal seizures. The Grand Mal seizures is like that when you’re losing consciousness. I’ve only had about two of those, maybe three In my entire life. Typically, my seizures that I had for the next six years, which I had almost every minute of every day were Complex Partial, I think they’re called. It’s been a long time, so some of my terminology might be wrong, but I was medicated and the medicine I don’t remember ever helping that much. I essentially had seizure activity 24 hours a day for about 6.5 years and that limited my ability. Even though I wasn’t losing consciousness, it affected my sense of self, the way I saw the world, what I was able to do, what I was not able to do. I sometimes would have to stay home because the lights outside could make it worse, fluorescent lights made it worse, sunlight could make it worse, But I didn’t get a lupus diagnosis until about 12 years later, and that’s disappointing because I had all of the symptoms. But for whatever reason, even though I was under a neurologist’s care, they never connected those dots.”

Despite the darkness and uncertainty, Renee nevertheless found a cure for the seizures she was suffering, and it was nothing short of a miracle. Renee portrays the scene when she found this miracle cure:

“It must have been 2005. I had trouble traveling, although I tried to travel as much as I could. I often was canceling trips because if the seizure activity was particularly bad, I wouldn’t even be able to leave the house. In 2005, my mother wanted me to come up for part of the summer, and I was able to make it up there. And when we got there, she mentioned that there was a shrine to St. René Goupil, which was not close, but in Upstate New York. It would have been a day trip. And I said, ‘that’s so weird because my name is Renee!’ I said, ‘how did I not know? I’m a Catholic! How did I not know that? I had a saint named after me that has a shrine right near where I grew up!’ She said, “I don’t know.” And we went there, and we toured the grounds, and it’s a lovely, lovely place. It’s out where the Mohawks were. There’s a lot of Native American history there, and a lot of museums, and it’s beautiful countryside.

I was having my general seizure activities, and the sun used to really adversely affect me. That’s a symptom of lupus, and it also can make certain seizures worse if you have that photosensitivity. And it was a hot day. And she went back to the parking lot and I said, “well, I’m gonna linger down near the river a little longer.” I had no plans, no hopes, nothing. I was just by myself and I for some reason bent down and put my hand in the water of the stream, a tributary from the river, which is where the body of St. René had been martyred. And it was once, it was maybe 3 seconds. I just put my hand in the water and I blessed my forehead and I said, “St. René, take away my seizures.” And I had never prayed for my seizures to leave me. I had never given them any conscious thought. I tried to ignore them. And instantly, my seizures were gone. The whole world looked different. The sun was different. And it was just…..gone. And I walked back up to the car, I didn’t mention it to my mother, but I knew I was totally cured and I never once had another seizure. I went off of medicine, I went to law school, my whole life totally changed.




As mentioned before, Renee has been involved with many different things, but one of her foremost passions earlier in her life was acting. Having taken acting classes at various points since the age of 2, she developed a brawny love of the stage, but a very serious incident made her steer away from acting. Renee recounts this event:

“I’ve been acting my whole life, but I always stayed away from screen because I felt it would be safer, and I love theater. I love the stomps on the stage, I love seeing the audience, I love memorizing the lines and I became a stage actress and that seemed safer to me. Fast forward to about 2007 or 2008, I was in with the acting troupe in Athens, Georgia, and they had a mass shooting there at a function that I was supposed to be at, that I overslept. That was when I made the decision to go to law school and to not continue my acting. So if you fast forward till now, you might understand when people who don’t know me when people who don’t know me think I’m looking for attention, or, “oh, you think you’re so beautiful, you want people to look at you,” they don’t understand how much of my life was spent trying to get people to stop looking at me and for various reasons, and when the mass murder happened, it was very, very intimate and very close, both in proximity to where I literally, physically was and then also emotionally where I was. I did not want anything to do with entertainment again. I only came back to entertainment at all in 2020 during quarantine, but sure that I was going to focus on writing and law, and I absolutely did not want to go back into modeling. I did not want to go back into any sort of public activism and certainly not anything entertainment, nothing with acting, nothing with music.”

Nonetheless, Renee powered forward and dove headlong back into the creative realms of acting, modeling, music and writing. As mentioned before, acting & especially modeling are just one part of Renee’s MO. Through her work in these fields, she inspires and encourages scores of others to find their inner & outer beauty and embrace it, not just for one time only, but throughout the rest of their lives. And Renee is truly a shining beacon of hope for those looking for inspiration, or for those just on a journey to love themselves and accept themselves for who they truly are, not for what society wants them to be. Renee herself talks about the long road it took to overcoming food addictions and to love the skin you’re in, no matter how long it may take:

“I never had an eating disorder, but when I had a fainting spell in my teen years, I was grossly underweight and I did spend many years of my childhood with doctors, you know, monitoring me for bulimia or anorexia. That’s not what was happening. I was eating everything in sight when I was free, but I was highly active and I had a bit of an insecurity about being so underweight. When I was hospitalized for the fainting spell, I weighed 94 lbs. It was quite shocking that that’s why I was hospitalized. There was concern about that, but it wasn’t deliberate. In fact, I would buy these powders and stuff and try to gain weight. It’s what I really wanted. But I was riding horses competitively, so I was active. I was also playing basketball, I was playing tennis, and then I was in a touring rock band while at the same time as starting college at age 16, and I was also running an N.G.O. I ran a nonprofit that I started. I was doing all of that and I was so young, and I just loved it. My mother was so concerned about me because she said, “you’re not eating, you’re not sleeping.” And I’m like, ‘yeah, but I’m so happy.'”

With the modeling & acting work, plus current music endeavors and past activism considered, Renee is no stranger to being in the spotlight. And while this has been a mostly pleasant experience for her, Renee, like any other who is consistently in the limelight, has had to deal with more than her share of catty comments, hurtful messages, situations gone awry, and in some cases, even stalkers and people spying on her. Renee describes what this is like, and what she has done to overcome it:

“It’s disappointing, certainly, because I do havefearful things that I wouldn’t have otherwise. I would say that I was exposed to it early, to the point where now I don’t know any other way. I started my my anti death penalty work when I was 14. And the band I was in became really popular when I was about 15, and so between prisoner issues, prisoners or people from the activist world who maybe didn’t agree with me between that, and then the fans for the band……..I was a drummer. I was the drummer, but I was the only girl. So although I was not getting the level of attention that the front man was getting, I was getting the boy attention because I was the girl. And this is certainly pre social media, but the internet existed. I think we had AOL chatrooms, it wasn’t like what it was now, and it never occurred to me that that could exist. The technology wasn’t popular. So when I was 14 starting this, this anti death penalty work, it never occurred to me that I would be able to be tracked down or my family would be able to be tracked down by prisoners or families of victims or families of prisoners or gangs, it never occurred to me because the internet didn’t exist like that. We were primarily still doing things over snail mail. I created an alias, I had a a pseudonym and I had an activist alias, and I felt like that would be enough. I had no idea what was coming in the years to come with that. Now anybody can find anything. The rock and roll business of it was a little different. I felt very safe because most of our fans of course were like teenage boys our age. I remember our school would have events, we had interviews coming out in the papers and they would put us outside and we would autograph everybody’s copy and things like that. Certainly, there was a lot of attention on the band, but again, because there wasn’t social media and all that. One of the funny things that would happen is many times the band and I would be out in normal places, the mall or a carnival and we would see fans wearing our t-shirts and they wouldn’t recognize us because they had never been to a show, They heard our cassette tape or something, they were fans of ours, but they didn’t know what we looked like. There were fans that came to my house, there were fans that came to my mother’s place of work. There were fans that called us at all hours of the day and night, but they tended to be well meaning and I didn’t fear them, but it did make me very cautious.”

To say life for Renee has been ridges and valleys would be an understatement. But through it all, she has never lost her smile, her passion, her drive, and her compassion and love and kindness toward others. She is someone we all aspire to have as a friend and a cheerleader in our lives. I speak for myself when I say that having the gift of Renee’s friendship has benefitted me and change my life in ways I’m sure I don’t yet know. Add to that the fact that we both have a common goal for ourselves in terms of paths forward and creative ideas, and it’s a friendship that is rivaled by few and duplicated by none. Renee is the definition of taking the high road. When asked about how she would like to be remembered when her times comes, she said:

“I would like to be remembered as somebody who truly showed that you can suffer in your life, and shine a light instead of bringing more darkness into this world, and to be known as a bridge builder and a peacemaker. I think peacemaking and bridge building are things that came naturally to me because I have a duality in my nature. I’m that textbook Gemini, I really do see things from different points of view. When somebody is arguing with me, I always see it from their point of view. I can see it from their point of view as they’re describing to me how unhappy they are with me, and I can jump aboard. I really see things from both points of view. And when you do that, you become a diplomat, you become a leader, a coordinator and organizer. And at the end of the day, you’re becoming a peacemaker. You’re sitting down with someone who might have done something horrible to another human being and you’re finding some common ground there with those people. And that to me is the most important thing, because if we don’t have peace, we don’t have freedom. And if we don’t have freedom, we can’t have happiness. More than 51% of my time as an adolescent teenager and young adult were spent listening to older people talk about their journeys, telling me things and I got to sift through what I believed in, what I didn’t believe. But I was listening. I was acquiring that knowledge. I don’t always have an opinion, and that’s the part of peacemaking, when you’re constantly jumping to conclusions without all the data, you’re constantly, stubbornly clinging to what you believe is fact. Even when different facts are presented to you, with that type of rigid personality, it’s very hard to progress, and it’s very hard to build peace because the more that you’re segregating people and telling them how different they are and how horrible one side is and how great the other side is, all you’re doing is limiting truth and you’re you’re not allowing the person you disagree with to ever progress in their own journey. So hopefully, I will be remembered as a peacemaker. You can’t make everyone happy all the time, but at least that’s my ambition, and I think that’s what I was doing even at nine years old with my animal rights. I was trying to build peace even back then. I think that’s been the theme of my life.”

I want to thank Renee for taking some time from her busy schedule to sit down with me and be interviewed, and I want to thank you, the reader for taking some time from your busy schedule to read this first installment of Thrive To Survive through to the end! without you, none of this is possible! Thank you all again, and until next time, take care, much love and may God richly bless!

-Jon

WE ARE THE DREAMERS

I remember the exact moment I realized I had matured into a responsible adult. It was the day something didn’t go the way I wanted it to and instead of saying, “why is this happening to me”, I thought, “what did I do to create this outcome”. Somehow, life became easier after this revelation!

Unfortunately, the biggest obstacle in my life I did not create and I can not fix. Scleroderma is the beast I can not outsmart or outrun. It’s there, it’ll always be there. Every once in a while, I just want to curl up in a ball and shut out the entire world. But then I get discouraged and angry that I’m wasting precious time. The older I get, the more I realize how every minute matters. I don’t want to curl up in a ball, close my eyes and wake up having missed years of my life.

The lesson I’ve learned from being chronically ill is that everything matters. My lust for normalcy is insatiable. I want to get up, shower, drink coffee, whine about going to work, drive to work while bitching about traffic, survive my day to come home, make dinner and whine about doing it all again tomorrow. But my reality leaves no time for normal things.

On top of the desire to find balance in a world made for the healthy, I also want to do everything, see everything, meet everyone, and I want to experience all of the goodness in the world. Again, my reality leaves little time for all of these things. I can not tell you how many people have told me to “just do it”, go on that trip, and do all the things my heart is set on, while I still can. But I’m here to tell you that not everyone has the financial means or the health to be that person on TikTok traveling the world crossing things off their bucket list. I’m not hating, I say do all the things if you have the means. It’s just not possible for a majority of the disabled community. Whether it be a physical or mental disability, we live day by day with constantly changing medical needs and paycheck to paycheck trying to pay for those needs. We barely have time to write a bucket list, never-mind live it!

The other side of this is the people who, with negative intentions, have told me to shrink my dreams, to accept I’ll never have a normal life and move on, to adjust my life plans, and to just give in to my new reality. I’ve even had people tell me to just stop fighting the inevitable. What the…This one is probably the most painful and infuriating. When someone says this, I hear, “You’re inconveniencing my life and I need you to just be a good little patient”.

If you get nothing else from this blog, please read this and burn it in your brain. When we dream it’s with some semblance that these things are possible. Hope gets us through our darkest days. It drives us to push & never give up. Possibilities, goals, small triumphs, and even the hard work it takes to see a dream come true, are all burned as fuel to carry on. We savor the thought that the pain may end, that tomorrow will be better, that a cure may be found, and that our dreams will come true. Please don’t take that from us.

Yes, having a permanent and incurable illness means you will have to learn to navigate all the changes and hindrances that come with the diagnosis. But it does not leave a person less intelligent, damaged, incapable, irrelevant, unable to make their own choices, less worthy of friendship or love, and they, sure as hell, are not weak. An illness doesn’t make someone less of a friend. It doesn’t make them less fun or leave them not needing fun & excitement in their life. It doesn’t make them a burden, and it is not a free pass to steal their passions, hopes, and dreams.

I will not climb into my bed and be a good little patient. Sorry if this inconveniences some people & makes “their” life more difficult. But we all have the choice to be in someone’s life or not and love should be unconditional. If you see me as a burden, find a better patient, it’s not me. Unless you have a degree and can put Dr. before your name, I am not your patient. Do not cast shade on my hope. It would be better if you just walked away. It would be your loss. Because I am a fierce & loyal friend and you will never find a more welcoming & loving group than my circle.

Lucky for me, I’m a stubborn bitch who loves learning, life & people. I will not cower, I will not succumb, I will not have my life stolen by Scleroderma. Even on a bad day, I will accomplish something. Sometimes it’s a huge thing & sometimes it’s small. But to me it’s everything. I’ll continue to visit loved ones, make people smile, create, talk, study, practice, help others, make new friends, dream, hope, love, laugh, and fight until I take my last breath. I will not let the lack of money, resources, or bad health keep me from dreaming about doing all the things I want to do in this world. Will I do it all? Probably not. Will I die trying? Absolutely! 

Here’s to the warriors and all who know your worth and willingly step out into the world and share your journey. Keep hoping, fighting, surviving, and thriving, for we are the dreamers & we will not let anyone take that from us.

RIDGES & VALLEYS

As 2022 draws to a close, I catch myself reflecting back on the year that was in this wild ride we call life. And it much resembles my beloved Appalachian Mountains: Lots of ridges, but a whole lot of valleys as well. Creatively, I summited several ridges, and was able to drink in the views from them. I was able to do things this year that most could only dream of doing. I got to interview several people I look up to across many aspects, I got to organize virtual festivals and fundraisers to help out several dear friends, I got to be witness to and have directing abilities over many wonderful, inspirational, eye-opening and moving shows this year. I scored one-third of my all-time front page selections on the poetry site I frequent this year, and furthermore submitted one of my poems for publication in an actual hard-copy book.

Outside of the creative realm, I was able to spend more time with beloved friends this year, including helping one move to this wonderful Tar Heel State. I also got to visit places I had not been to since I was a child, namely Nashville and surrounding environs. I got to attend multiple racing events this year at an array of historic tracks here in North Carolina, including Charlotte Motor Speedway, Hickory Speedway and the famed North Wilkesboro Speedway. I was able to find deeper love, meaning, kindness and care in the friendships I have already cultivated, and was able also to make several new friendships this year, both in my personal life and in my life online. I was also able to find several online communities that catered to the things I love, like auto racing, radio & television history, true crime and more! And not to mention, I finally found a new feline friend in Vidalia!



But also in the span of this 365-page book we called 2022, I fell to the valley floor several times. I let emotions and feelings get in my way on multiple occasions, which led to many worry-filled & sleepless nights this year, as my mind played out wildly unrealistic scenarios and events. I let the “red mist” overcome me on several occasions, and it resulted in me becoming a hassle to work with, and in some cases to be friends with. I found myself unable to take my foot off the throttle and give myself a break & a chance to get my head in a proper place, which resulted in me very nearly ending my life back in August. I lashed out at friends and co-creators when they didn’t deserve it, and when the situation I was mired in was nothing more than my mind feeding me lies and tall tales about those people. Above all, I put my own self on the back burner for the sake of those around me in my life. I thought I could be the knight in shining armor, rushing in at the last instant to protect them from themselves, when all I was doing was tripping over my feet and faceplanting into the mud.

But after every valley floor comes another ridge to climb. I started therapy in November of this year, and I am very much looking forward to scaling this ridge in front of me, and to take in the sweet, unobstructed view from high atop it. It’s going to be a hell of a mountain to climb, but now being equipped with the right tools for such a task, I feel I can fly to the top of it, or better still, take that mountain and move it outright! With the help of great friends, a wonderful therapist, and readers like you, I can do no wrong in this ever-evolving journey ahead! Not every part of this leg of the journey will be easy, but I feel a lot more confident about than I did a year ago, a month ago, even just one minute ago! And I hope you all will stick with me on this journey ❤

I hope this blog finds you well, and in the comments, mention some of the ridges and valley you have experienced in the year 2022!

As always, take care, much love, and may God richly bless,

-Jon

A WEDNESDAY IN APRIL

Those who have read my blogs may not know that I also am a poet. I have over 360 published pieces on AllPoetry, with nearly 50 of those being front page selections. On this day, I am dealing with drama within friend circles I am in. And rather than write a long, angsty blog for the millionth time, I decided this time to channel what I am feeling into a poem. This poem summarizes my feelings toward the matter, without saying it directly. In this poem, the title summarizes the wanting for peace, friendship, kindness and love to flourish; simply put, the wanting is a Wednesday in April.

“i wish for a wednesday afternoon
in the middle of april
cotton ball clouds, silver springs babbling

green leaves in the trees
birds standing shoulder to shoulder

on the telephone wire, singing
dogwoods and azaleas blooming

dandelions flying through the air
an apple orchard with shade enough

for a post sun-bathing nap
the hum of a passing car on highway 45

or a plane engine overhead
dogs barking, children giggling

the scents of pies in window sills
still-damp clothes hanging on the line

drying in the springtime
an orb weaver spider spinning a web

in a corner on the roof
a bottle of apple wine

and a pair of gold-rimmed glasses
for you & i
an old blanket and a hillside for cloud-gazing

kisses and embraces”

I hope this poem finds you well, and in the comments, tell me a bit about how you deal with drama.

As always, take care, much love, and may God richly bless,

-Jon

TO MY BEST FRIEND

To my best friend,

I am sincerely grateful for the gifts of your friendship, care, lovingkindness, patience, grace and encouragement. You and I have rode out many a dark time together in our time of friendship, but have had many beautiful days as well, and not a second of this would I trade. You love me when I can’t love myself. You offer me a torch when I am going through the dark wilderness of my mind, and a life raft when I am drowning in the oceans of emotions. You and your unique kind of full-service friendship is so welcome in my life, and to have had it now for two full years is a blessing wrapped in a miracle.

I know I’ve not been the easiest to deal with. I have fucked up many times. I have given you ten thousand reasons to leave me dry. We’ve clashed on many things. But you always take the high road, and are always willing to work things out and listen and hammer out a solution for those issues. I am so grateful you have a long fuse with me, and your patience is worth its weight in gold. I know I worry a lot about you, and I know you wish I wouldn’t worry so much, but you are my dearest friend, my closest confidant and one of the most valuable assets in my life. To win the friendship of someone like you is to catch lightning in a bottle, and I will forever cherish this.

I am so thankful to have a creative partner like you in my life! We’ve done so much together, and have both climbed and moved mountains together! I cannot wait to see what the future holds for us creatively, whether it be in music, television, poetry or book writing, or even something beyond those! I am so proud of you and us and the work that we have done together and apart, but the best is yet to come! Memory lane is in the headlights, and I cannot wait to experience it all with you! Thank you for taking a chance on me over a year and a half ago, and trusting and encouraging me in these endeavors. I hope I’ve been a good leader, and have set a good example for all ❤

Without you, I wouldn’t have so many things. I wouldn’t have been able to create an online network with a wide-ranging variety of programs. I wouldn’t have been able to find the courage to send a writing of mine off for publication. I wouldn’t have been able to find my voice as a musician and songwriter. I wouldn’t have took the time to re-sharpen my skills as a poet. I wouldn’t know all the wonderful people I have come to know over the last two years. I am blessed beyond any possible explanation. You came into my life and completely changed it for the better, and more than that, you have helped me change and grow, and have helped me heal and move past the scars that I thought would define me. You are a saving grace.

I am so thankful you hold my hand when times get rough. I’ve been through so many changes over the past weeks and months, and it’s been hell. But you have stayed by my side through it all. Even though you don’t experience the things I go through, I so love, admire, respect and cherish your willingness to learn, to offer help, and just to be my shoulder to cry on. And I pray I’ve been this for you, when you face challenges and hurdles in your own life. I am so grateful we have experienced both the ridges and the valleys together.

My dearest friend, you are red-on-a-rose beautiful, sharp as a tack, strong as steel and sweet as love. I’ve seen you overcome so many things, and don’t think for one minute that I’ve not been watching! You are leading me and showing me how to overcome the hurdles that appear in my own life, and I would be forever lost if not for your guidance. You wield great power inside you, and to watch you harness it and use it for the greater good is so wonderful, so beautiful, so inspiring and so amazing. You are changing, touching and molding so many lives right now, and your impact will be measured in terms of decades and centuries. I will forever be so proud and so blessed to know you, and to have you as my best and closest friend ❤

To Renee, you are my sunshine, and you are an angel. I am so thankful for our friendship, and I cannot wait to see what the future holds for the both of us, as friends and creative partners! Thank you for taking me under your wing and teaching me so much. You are the best, and I love you ❤

I hope this blog finds you well, and in the comments, please talk about your best friend on this side of life!

As always, take care, much love, and may God richly bless,

-Jon

TAKE INVENTORY

I may be an enigma. If I am, I’m ok with being odd-woman out.

I do not play with drama. I will not listen to gossip. When it comes to love I’m all in. My integrity means more to me than anything. My reputation is so far down on the list of things that matter. Giving first is a compulsion. I trust until given a reason not to. I’m not afraid of confrontation. As a friend, I’m all in. I choose kindness, honesty, love, & peace.

I have a few sayings that if you know me, you’ve heard.

~“Don’t waste your minutes.” Life is short we are only given so many minutes, don’t waste them.

~“Make good choices.” We all have choices. Don’t let anyone make them for you. Remember all choices come with consequences so put thought into them. Once you’ve made a choice, own it. If it was the wrong choice, learn from it, make amends, & move on.

~“Protect your peace.” Set strong boundaries. Do not bend them for anyone. Personal peace is as vital as breathing when it comes to quality of life.

I don’t try to fix people or their problems. I support them, love them, but allow them the space to fall. All of life’s stumbles teach us how to be better. I won’t take the chances to learn away from others & I do not let them take them from me. I’ll handle my business & be grateful for loved ones support.

This time of year we all start taking inventory of our lives. Checking in with ourselves, what we like, what needs work, what we can leave behind, what we need moving forward, etc… We seek out & celebrate our blessings, reminisce about those we’ve lost, & make an effort to express our gratitude to those still here. I always try and do this all year. But life is busy & messy. I’m grateful we have this time to remind us to focus on what is important & to contemplate changes that may be needed.

Kindness doesn’t have a season. It’s so simple. Start with being kind to yourself & it’ll grow. It’s so much better than growing the gossip grapevine.

IN THIS VERY MOMENT, EVERYTHING IS OK

Many times in our lives, especially this time of the year, we often catch ourselves hung up on all that has transpired over the last year, or looking ahead to what may be coming in the new year. We may fret over projects we have completed, or a job opportunity that passed us by, or deadlines and commitments. I am not above this, either. Quite frequently over recent days and weeks, I have found myself worrying over friendships, partnerships, when to commence recording music, when to start writing my first poetry book, plus starting therapy soon, getting my ducks in a row for a potential move in the new year, taking care of my new feline friend Vidalia, amid many other things. It can get to be a slog. Until seven words cross my mind. Seven words that immediately put my mind at ease. Seven words that is a saying, one that my dear friend and musical co-creator Kim Ware taught me to abide by:

In this very moment, everything is OK.

I will repeat: In this very moment, everything is OK.

These seven words have become a big help to me lately. It helps me center and focus on the now, instead of worrying about what I should have said or done in the past, or worrying about what the future might hold. I can apply these seven simple words to heart and use it to see the good that is around me at this time: I have a cat for the first time in over two years. I am starting therapy, the first part of a brave, new leg of my journey. I have confirmation that a poem of mine will be published in a physical book. I have a head full of creative ideas. In this moment, I am listening to a podcast and doing something I love doing, blog-writing.

In this very moment, everything is OK.

Never has seven words been so freeing to me like these seven are. Anxiety has always been a bear for me to whip, and so too FOMO, the fear of missing out. But these things cloud my view of life, and as a result, it makes me not see the trees for the woods. Taking in the good around me, the glory in front of me, the sights of my dearest friends, co-conspirators and creatives stepping up to the plate and crushing home runs in their endeavors-and the fact that I’m here to watch it and cheer them on!!! It’s a blessed, refreshing and welcome feeling. Too long I have spent in the midst of fear, uncertainty, the hungry, biting wolverines of my yesterdays and the grim, brooding specters of tomorrows.

I’m alive.

I am six feet above the ground.

I am surrounded by some of the best people a man could ever ask for.

Is every day red and rosy? Not by any stretch of the imagination, but by taking in the good and filtering out the bad in my life, I can see that today isn’t so bad. Nor is it fleeting and forgettable. Every day that I wake up and see the sunrise is a blank canvas, my opportunity to make a masterpiece out of it. And I intend to create many, many masterpieces in my time. ❤

I hope this blog finds you well, and in the comments, tell me about something positive that happened to you today, and how you savor the little moments of your day!

As always, take care, much love, and may God richly bless,

-Jon


ON TINY ISLANDS, LONELINESS, SMALLNESS AND FIGHTING YOUR MIND

“Sometimes I feel like a tiny island, floating in the sea……..”

Today is the 77th birthday of one of my favorite guitarists, the inimitable Leo Kottke. And on such a day, I figured I would write a bit, and center it on a theme of a song he had on a record called Greenhouse 50 years ago, a cover of an Al Gaylor song called Tiny Island.



In my mind, I often find myself stranded on tiny islands. Feeling like I am stranded in a place where the only person I truly have is myself, a place hundreds of miles from those I love and cherish. A place where dark clouds and stormy gales are moving in, and I can do nothing but watch, and maybe put my hands over my head and curl into a ball for protection, if I can think clear enough to do so. And I write to you this day, September 11, 2022 from one of those sun-baked and lonesome islands in my head.

These tiny islands manifest themselves as feelings of smallness, forgottenness and abandonment, and feeling as though I’ve been placed on the shelf to collect dust. I know where this stems from. When I was 7 years old, I lost my mother, Nancy, at the all-too-young age of 44. My rock, my safe harbor from life’s great storms. The solid ground I walked on as a child. My sunlight and the North Star in my sky at night. Gone. At the all-too-young age of 7, I had this first taste of loneliness, forgottenness and smallness. And it’s a taste that has only grown more bitter to me over the long arc of time.

In the 18+ years since that day, I have been fighting those feelings tooth and nail. And like kudzu, they spread, wrapping their choking vines around friendships, relationships, creative partnerships, etc. Always feeling like I’m one comment or missed call away from a dissolution of said friendship, relationship or creative partnership. Always walking on eggshells with my view on certain things within my creative work or elsewhere. Going down dark rabbit holes and snapping off at people I love and care about, because I feel they are forgetting me. Being too clingy and overbearing, and slowly having those things drive a wedge between the folks I love and care about. Always having hellish and insanely unrealistic scenarios about friends and loved ones. Fearing I will wake up to bad news about someone I love and cherish. Feeling 50,000 pounds on my chest when someone I love and cherish does have bad news in their lives, knowing I can’t physically be there to help. Projecting my fears and concerns on those around me, and my mind trying to pin those fears onto those around me, and trying to paint them in a bad way. People pleasing. Losing sleep. Backsliding in my mental health. Shutting down. The loneliness and need to feel accepted has cost me dearly, and very nearly cost me everything a couple of times.

But, on those tiny islands I find myself on, I am finding something I’d not noticed before now: Bottles washing up on the shore with messages inside them. Messages of folks relating their experiences to mine. Messages of love, hope, care, and help. Messages of support. Messages I desperately needed to hear. I have had it in my head for so long that I and only I could fight my way off these islands and swim to help, even though the waters are infested with sharks and the waves are high and whitecapped. But I am no longer alone in these struggles. I finally have a viable, healthy and loving support system in the many who have stepped up to help me in my fight, including one Em Farwell, one of the founders of this very site. In these kind, loving, sweet and wonderful people, I have a team who are willing and ready to roll up their sleeves and chop wood and help me build a boat to sail off these islands with, toward calmer waters and islands with my friends and loved ones on them.

Though it doesn’t come without those friends having a healthy dose of patience and VERY long fuses. Even with the support team, I still find myself having to weather storms that move in. I have to sometimes encounter parts of my path forward that are flooded. I have to sometimes cope with the fact that my torch lighting my way gets put out due to the rain and wind. But at least I have these friends to turn to when storm fronts move in over me. In their friendship, kindness, patience, love and understanding, I have a home with impenetrable and unbreakable walls. I have a home where the bonds are strong, the love runs deep and has solid roots, the foundation is sturdy, and the roof over my head provides cover from all that life may throw at me. Sincerely grateful am I, for these people that are willing to share my experience and help me in my journey, and are not afraid of getting rained on and getting battered by the wind at times.

I hope this blog has inspired you to reach out and find your team that will be a home to you, and will be boat-builders and shelters from the storm in your life!

Much love, all the best, and may God richly bless,

-JP

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-j5ilgP1Ov8

MOTHER’S DAY IS COMPLICATED

For many, Mother’s Day comes with conflicting emotions, triggered by all of the Hallmark-esque, posts, & comments of perfect children, perfect mothers, & perfect lives.

Continue reading MOTHER’S DAY IS COMPLICATED