We Are the Mercy We Seek…

The Victims of the Boston Marathon Bombings

The Victims of the Boston Marathon Bombings

Krystle Campbell. Martin Richard. Lingzi Lu.
Three orchids withered on the vine this week.  They never had a chance to fully bloom.

This week, a nation grieves after having once more stared into the bloody, gaping maw of death and destruction visited upon the city of Boston.  Promising lives and futures were swallowed whole behind a cowardly and senseless act of terrorism, and the survivors now begin their struggle behind the unanswerable “why?”

As a nation, we will rally around the families of the dead and maimed and will embrace our brothers and sisters in Boston with action, thoughts, and prayers.  And despite their heroic efforts, the first responders will need our support as the floodgates of emotions finally catches up with them. We will be there for them as well.  But what about us?  What does the average person across America do to navigate the hopelessness and despair we feel in connection with these continuing acts of horror?

What can we do but personalize it?  To extend our support and love to those within our own sphere of influence.  While there is little most of us can do to directly help those who were caught up in the actual nightmare of Boston, we can certainly look around us and see ample loss and suffering in our own communities.  We can take that sense of hopelessness and turn it around, extending our compassion, our strengths, and our love to those who can use it best.  To feel a broken, aching heart for the victims of the Marathon bombing, yet remain blind to the suffering and pain of those closest to us is a cheap, selfish emotion.  We are better than that.

I had a back and forth with a writer friend of mine this week, before the bombings, about the need for each of us to take our gifts, whatever they may be, and assume responsibility for confronting the evil that is so prevalent in our daily lives.  She made what I thought at the time to be a defeating comment about how little we could do to combat all the evil that surrounds us.  I responded to her, perhaps a bit more harshly than I intended, that to accept that and do nothing was, in my opinion, an even greater evil.  She is a powerful writer with a gifted, compelling voice, and I reminded her that with that gift comes responsibility.  She already knew that…but I think my words caused her to stop and reflect for a moment on how powerful her gift really was.  Through the power of her writing, she can galvanize and motivate others into action.  She can do something!  And I know she will.

I often turn my own readers off when I chasten them not to look to earnestly for God’s mercy in times like these.  It isn’t that I don’t believe in God. I do.  I just don’t think He’s as merciful as we are lead to believe.  I believe He expects us to be the channels of that mercy.  But too often, we convince ourselves that falling on our knees in prayer is action enough, and nothing could be further from the truth.  We keep searching for God’s mercy while withholding our own.  And the acts of mayhem around the globe march steady on.  God has no stake in this, or at least none that my weak mind can discern. And if I spend my time looking for his tender mercy in these horrific acts, I’ll be spending most of my day walking in circles.  His mercy is not evident.  But ours can be.

Wow!  As I write this, the radio news channel is reporting a massive explosion in the city West, Texas.  15 people, including first responders, are dead.  Entire city blocks are leveled.  There are over 150 people wounded, and the count has just started.  Say a prayer, if you must, but once you get off of your knees, take then a step toward just one person whose life you can impact and do something.  If you want to honor the victims of far off tragedies, do so by embracing and helping those in equal dire circumstances nearest you.  Figure out what your “gift” is…and extend it to others.  Then, and only then, can we each do something about the relentless evil that invades our lives.

Looking for Work? 8 Side-Gigs That Actually Make Money

Image

If you’re stuck in an unemployment situation and are strapped for cash, all hope isn’t lost. There are plenty of short-term ways to make money and supplement your income while job searching. And who knows? Maybe one of these smaller gigs will bloom into a full-time occupation.

Plenty of unemployed Americans take on side gigs or other short-term positions to supplement their income during tough economic times. But half the task is finding the opportunities.

Here are eight strategies for quick money making:

1. Help out! Everyone needs a hand once in awhile. Pack up someone’s house, do yard work, run errands, make small deliveries, do grocery shopping, or take on any other task people often don’t have time for. Sites like TaskRabbit help people to find personal assistant work in their neighborhood or community, and Gigwalk is a popular option for people looking to get assigned jobs from companies that need real-world data or market research.

2. Earn cash from your car. Anyone with a car can help out their community by moving heavy objects, running errands, providing carpooling, etc. For example, I have a friend who bought a pickup truck for an affordable $1,500. He makes $300 a day picking up couches and other furniture that won’t normally fit in a car. TaskRabbit (mentioned above), Craigslist, and startups like Lyft can help you make money from your car.

3. Write. Being unemployed is tough, and job searching in itself can be a full-time job. But if you balance your day correctly, you may have time to squeeze in freelance work in between job search efforts. If you can write, pitch pieces to newspapers, magazines, or blogs that pay. Just remember to agree on monetary compensation prior to completing any work.

4. Be a babysitter or nanny. Watching children is a task that will always be needed somewhere. Pay for a nanny varies from state to state, but the average income of a live-in nanny is $250 to $850 per week. Sites like Nannyjobs.netCare.comNannys4Hire, andenannysource.com can hook you up with families in need of childcare. While nannies are considered family employees, babysitters are independent contractors. Sites like Care.com,SitterCity.com, or babysittingjobs.com can get you in touch with babysitting jobs in your area.

5. Try pet sitting or dog walking. Plenty of people need help taking care of their pets. Dog walkers can make anywhere from $10 to $30 per 30 minute walk, but the rate is usually negotiable and depends on a variety of factors, like whether or not you took it to a dog park.Dogwalker.com can hook you up with dog walking opportunities, and Care.com also offers resources for pet sitting and related efforts. DogVacay is another great resource for people looking to board dogs–participants set their own rates, and many make up to $200 a week.

6. Take care of the elderly. Here’s an area where plenty of families are looking for affordable and reliable aid. Help families take care of elderly relatives by taking up caregiving jobs in the home. Sites like HomeInsteadTheCaringSpace, and SeniorCare.net can hook you up with opportunities.

7. Create or sell what you don’t need. Plenty of people make money selling old clothes, used electronics, books, furniture, kitchenware, or other items they no longer need. Sites likeEtsy allow anyone to create and sell their own homemade products–clothing, accessories, art, and household items are especially popular on the site. eBay is another popular option for selling unwanted or used items, and Craigslist is great for selling locally.

8. Promote other people’s products. Plenty of people have blogs these days, but few consider offering advertising space to others. Sell advertising space on your personal website or blog, or try ClickbankAmazon Associates, and Red Lemon Club, or any other place with affiliate programs to sell or promote products on behalf of others.

Being unemployed is a job in itself — it requires patience and strategic thinking. While you should never neglect your job search, try these eight tips for making money on the side so you don’t burnout in the meantime.

About Dennis McHale: 

Writer and Author, FreeLance Columnist .Gadget lover, investor, mentor, husband, currently working on his two books, “The Winter Bites My Bones” (www.dlmchale.com) and “Echoes Across Time”

 

Kayaking the Everglades…Never!

Image

Kayaking the everglades is both exhilarating and foolhardy.  Each thrust of the oar into the moss-covered water propels you a few feet further into an unknown destiny, whether that be a divine photo-op of cormorants fishing beneath the shade of a bald cypress, or to put yourself down as the special-of-the-day on a gator’s lunch menu.

Imagepulled my kayak to the water’s edge and settled into a launch site not twenty feet from an alligator nestled in the sparse cattails lining the shore.  I had not even noticed his presence until I was ankle deep mud-sucked into the water’s edge, prepping my kayak for the day’s journey.  I only looked up because of an eerie “hiss” I heard as I placed my camera in the watertight hold of the boat.  I glanced up and there he was.  All twelve feet of him!

Image

It was a hot, moist morning absent the cooling breezes of the previous day.  Salted sweat trickled down my chest and forearms, requiring little effort on my part as I warily eased my kayak into the still waters near the sun-bathing gator, whose lizard eyes were locked on my every move.  To reinforce his primacy in this back-water environment, his massive jaws opened ever so slowly to reveal two rows of sharp daggered teeth.  While my limited knowledge of Florida gators reassured me that he was merely cooling down, I chose to interpret the gesture as an invitation to dinner.  I backed away another twenty feet.

Slowly, I eased my blood-red kayak into the water, never once breaking the stare-down I was engaged in with this pre-historic reptile.  I strategically placed the boat between me and the lounging lizard of death, but I knew in my gut, which was slowly churning in warning, that this was a vain effort. So to reassure myself (or further delude myself!) my left hand fell upon the sheathed Bowie knife I had attached to my belt.  Instead of bolstering my confidence, I suddenly felt like a child who had brought a pop-gun to a high noon shoot out at the O.K. corral.

I gently stepped into the kayak and pushed off with the gator-side oar.  As the bow of my craft quietly knifed through brackish water, the silence was cut short as the gator, too, entered the bayou.  I paddled four times for every single effortless swish of his giant tail.  This was not good.  Not good at all.  His eyes, which had been locked on me since my foolish arrival, suddenly slipped beneath the greenish waterline. 

No, this was not good at all!  Where had he gone???

With several deep, full-armed strokes to my left, I reversed course and headed back to shore only slightly less quickly than my heart was then beating.  I crashed up the embankment and bolted from my kayak.  I sprinted through the low grass toward the parking lot and the relative safety of my nearby waiting truck.  I left my $3,000 Pentax in the captain-less kayak; a peace offering should the alligator choose to accept it.

But he never resurfaced.  I waited for a full half-hour, scanning the water for any sign whatsoever of my dinner-host before I braved the slow, methodical return for my boat and my camera. And then I saw his eyes break the water once more.

Image

Fuck the Everglades. Fuck my kayak and my camera, too!  I returned to my my truck, shakily turned the ignition, and headed north, to Orlando.  I heard they just refurbished the “It’s a Small World” ride…just my pace.

The War Within the States

Image

The sovereign people of these United States have spoken. Barack Obama has been reelected president of the Republic, and the Man from Kolob has been sent on his way. I would not have been much happier had Romney won. But Republicans may take comfort in the fact that they will have no responsibility for the next four years’ events, unless the Mayan calendar puts us all out of our misery on December 21. That might be best for all of us.

The problem is that our head of state is inheriting a bankrupt nation from himself—though said bankruptcy has been decades in the making. In such a position, governments generally either: a) inflate the currency; b) deflate it into a depression; or c) go to war. For reasons known best to themselves, modern rulers seem to prefer the last alternative. I fear that His Excellency may feel compelled to follow in their train—we’ll need a lot of bayonets and horses to break through to Tehran.

Infanticide and alternative matrimony shall become ever more prominent, and those who oppose such things will be increasingly uncomfortable. No doubt the Catholic Church’s struggles with the state will increase. Still, given that a majority of those claiming to be Catholic voted for Obama, it must be said that these worthies will reap what their predecessors in the purple sowed in terms of poor moral and political leadership.

“It is not merely the country as a whole that is severely divided. Each of the states is, too, and that does not bode well for the future.”

It is a gift from above that Obama defeated his rival handily in the popular as well as the electoral vote; otherwise it would be the turn of so-called “conservatives” to advocate abolition of the Electoral College. The left has long called for the College’s abolition based on the notion that it is undemocratic. It would have been sad to see historically ignorant Republicans embarrass themselves by echoing this rant. Since the 1913 change in the Senate’s makeup, the College has been the sole effective constitutional remnant of the states’ sovereignty.

Speaking of the states, the electoral map for 2012 appears to reveal the formula for a new War Between the States, with the Old Confederacy (save Virginia) and most parts of the Great Plains and Great Plateau states pitted against the Northeast and the Far West. But when you look at a map of how the counties voted, the pattern is more complex. The cities, together with rural counties of primarily black, Hispanic, or Indian populations, went for Obama. The white rural counties tended to go for Romney regardless of the state. It is not merely the country as a whole that is severely divided. Each of the states is, too, and that does not bode well for the future. The Republicans could reach out to minorities on social issues: In 2008, California’s mostly Hispanic Imperial County turned in the Golden State’s highest majorities for both Obama AND Proposition 8. But since the GOP’s leadership does not really disagree with the Democrats—whatever their base may think—this is a resource that will remain untapped.

Here in California, the 2012 election proved that all is well in this Happiest Place on Earth. Not only did our undead governor get his tax proposition passed, the Democrats won a supermajority in the state Senate and appeared about to do so (there are still three undecided seats) in the Assembly. Having over two-thirds of both houses will allow them to tax anyone or anything they wish with abandon. Still reeling over their ban on foie gras, I can only imagine what the legislators will do with their newfound freedom from restraint. Even if business continues to leave the state in droves, Sacramento will be a fun city indeed.

Los Angeles County had a few propositions of her own, of which the most exciting was Proposition B. Taking the porn industry under its maternal wing, the county under this measure requires that sex-industry workers wear condoms and that film sets are subjected to inspection by county authorities. Opponents replied with libertarian arguments. No one questioned the morality of the trade itself, since years ago a court ruled that while having sex for money without a camera was prostitution, doing it with one was not. One supposes that smart hookers keep their cell phones in photo mode. The proposition passed overwhelmingly.

So what are we to make of our deeply divided nation? The evil-minded would declare that we have become a country consecrated to infanticide, sodomy, confiscatory taxation, and foreign wars. The good and virtuous would maintain that we are an enlightened nation that has safeguarded reproductive and civil rights, are about to force the rich to pay their fair share, and are trying to spread democracy throughout the world. The separation between these two narratives grows greater every day. I fear the effect that national bankruptcy may have on these fault lines.

Countries and cultures come and go. It may be that the United States is on its way out, Mayan calendar or no. We leave behind some good—if not spectacular—contributions to world civilization: the Broadway musical, the Golden Age of Hollywood, and jazz come to mind. They’re nothing on the level of Roman law or Greek philosophy, but they’re worthy achievements nevertheless. There are worse things to leave behind, as the Carthaginians could tell you

THE WANDERER by D.L. McHale

 

Image

I am what they call a “Wanderer.”  Not exactly a social pariah, more of a curiosity.  My disdain for social conventions puts me upon a lonely path, but I am not alone.  There are others like me; dark, brooding, faithless.  In another time we were called Writers.  Much like spiders who craft intricate webs to ensnare their prey, Writers painstakingly spin intricate phrases with the thread of words designed to trammel the unsuspecting Reader.

In another age, Writers were revered.  Turned and examined, magnified for detail, polished until their inherent nature shimmered in the light; their words lovingly bound in the finest of leather and placed high upon shelves as a beacon guiding the lost through the fog of Human condition.  We were Artisans and verbal Musicians, who, with the careful stroke of the pen cuts through the suffocating haze of uncertainty and lays straight the path toward true understanding.  But that was then.  Today, we are held in much lower esteem, not quite reviled, but avoided nonetheless. And so we Wander.

We Wanderers toil in the wee hours of the morning, honing our craft for eyes that cannot and will not see.  Our books, our life work, are used to prop open unruly doors and to serve as false counter-balance to the plasma screens and the computer monitors.  In a pinch, they still serve as excellent mortar to chuck at the wayward spouse.  Few of us who remain still wield the courage to load the printer with paper and actually print out that which we write.  As  long as our words remain framed in the relative safety of the Internet or the hidden Journals, no one can do more harm in their criticisms than the “delete” button or the roaring  fireplace  will allow.

We exist in the sharpened edges of social relevance, often cut asunder beneath the weight of the smart-phone and the IPad. We subsist by prostituting our vocabulary for a few meager coins of acknowledgement, often to our fellow Wanderers.  Yet we remain shackled to our craft and devoted to that slim chance that we might one day rise again in ascendency.  Like Moses, we roam the deserts of art with our tablets tightly tucked beneath our wings, searching for the promised land.

Until that day, we Wander.

An Abandoned Life is Still Worth Living

Image

“Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.”  Such a clever line, but it begs the question: where is “here?”

Here for me has been a myriad of people, places, and things.  Ever naïve and hopeful, I have entered relationships, new places, and acquired things with every expectation that “here” was laid my true path to happiness and self-fulfillment.  Surely bright and shiny people and places and things, when gathered in sufficient quantity, would fill my life with purpose and meaning.

It never did.

People came and left. Either they abandoned me, or more likely, I abandoned them. As the song goes, “disappointment was my closest friend.”  Places shifted according to financial necessity or in my awkward attempt to substitute geography for responsibility.  And things, well, I’ve lost everything I’ve owned several times and I’ve never truly missed any of it.  It became clear to me that lack of commitment and abandonment were my sunrises and sunsets.

The funny thing about life, though,  is no matter how utterly you screw things up; no matter how isolated and diminished you allow yourself to become, it comes looking for you, continually seeking to make amends. It is relentless.  Life only abandons you once, and in that moment, it doesn’t really matter anyway…you’re dead!

Abandonment is a shifty thing.  We are never truly alone, nor could we be.  We are all threads in the colorful tapestry of life and together we are woven into a continual fabric of oneness. I’ve long since stopped confusing abandonment with growth…being ruthlessly thrust out in new directions for my own spiritual good.   If I find myself alone, in a new place, surrounded by new things, well then, I’ll grasp a little less frantically and simply enjoy the moment.

I still hope.

Ingenuity on Display

She walked into the pet shop with her precocious seven year old son in tow. They had obviously just come from the mall movie cineplex as they each carried the tell-tale striped red and white boxes of popcorn. Immediately upon entering, the child tore from his mother’s grip and rushed to the bank of windows displaying this week’s crop of new puppies.

In his manic exuberance, the box of popcorn he was precariously clutching went flying, raining white puffs of popcorn all over the store’s recently vacuumed carpets. The mother shrieked, mortified by the mess, and gathered the little hellion back into the relative safeguard of her motherly clutches. She shook him excessively and in response to her own embarrassment, launched into a tirade about how he had promised to behave and how utterly disappointed she was that he was acting like such, well, a child.

The teenage store manager, herself embarrassed by the mother’s harsh recriminations, swooped down upon the conflagration and assured the mother that “these things happen.” Then, demonstrating the ingenuity that made America great, she unlatched the window of the nearest puppy corral and placed three junior rottweilers upon the popcorn laced carpet. In a blur, the puppies went to town, and within thirty seconds the entire floor was returned to its previous pristine condition.

The offending waif shouted in glee and the mother’s scowl was quickly replaced with a smile. The universe once again spun on its steady axis.