Hitting the road...with a purpose

In just about a week's time, I will be hitting the road and I cannot wait. I am long overdue for a break and some time away. Having a job in the public's eye comes with benefits and many cons, not a week goes by that I don't have to deal with drama or straighten out something. For the most part, I do not mind but when someone goes after my bread and butter and I am not even involved in whatever fantasy world they live in but they drag me in, well, then the claws come out - and, that has happened one too many times in the last 6 months.

You can call me just about any name in the book and I will probably laugh but I work too hard and too many hours for carpetbagger bullies to attempt to harm my income and especially over something I was not involved in, to begin with. I will and have stood my ground - I'm not one to go down without a fight, no matter how exhausting it may be. I blame my father's bloodline for that attitude. I fully admit that I will kick a dead horse until it is 20 feet underground - thanks, Dad.  It is a flaw as much as a strength.

Yes - I need a break - a long overdue break.

The last time I had one was spent surviving the aftermath of a rather nasty storm, one that knocked out electricity for just about the entire length of my stay, and in 90 plus
degree humid weather.  Needless to say, it was anything but relaxing - I mentioned that a few times before in posts and do so because it was and still is, a traumatic memory!

The best part of this break is not only do I get to see my sons but I am traveling again and the weather looks good. I don't know about others but I come alive when I travel. New sights - varying cultures - new experiences. I thrive off of those things. Life goes from humdrum back to being an adventure I can enjoy. I guess I am a bit of a wanderer at heart.

This time I am heading from Wisconsin to Memphis via Amtrak. I love taking the train. Not only, during this time of year, is it cost effective but it is always an experience to remember.

Traveling by plane is also nice but doesn't offer the same chance of interaction with others that a train does.  Yes, I am one of those people who likes to spark up a conversation with strangers, much to the horror of children when they were younger. Just ask them what it is like to be in a quiet but filled elevator with me, lol.  I can still see them rolling their eyes.

The last time I took the train it was from the Wisconsin Dells to Washington D.C. The train was packed with activists and advocates from Chicago heading to the very same conference I was going to. People from all walks of life. From grassroots organizers to the people standing up for a better way of life and the rights of others.  The people I met were incredible - their stories, most tragic but also mind-blowing examples of survival.

One woman in particular still stands out to me. She was from the inner city and advocating for the students in the public school system - their buildings falling apart - moldy food being served - gang violence in the schools. She was also there to protest against predatory lending practices in the inner cities. She was using her voice in a nonviolent manner - preparing to meet with legislators. After we discussed the issues motivating each other on this trip she told me about herself. She had lost all of her sons to gang violence. She was a single working mother/grandmother trying to get out of poverty and to a better life - but felt like she was drowning in quicksand. She was also raising her grandchildren. At the time I was still married and pretty much considered middle class, a stay at home mom -  my cause was children with disabilities and their rights. I was a volunteer advocate for special needs students. Listening to her tell her story - all of it, was humbling. She was a soft-spoken woman, and oh so wise - a life she had led and while experiencing pains most would never understand - for if they did, the problems wouldn't exist.

I will never forget her thanking me for being a special education advocate. It brought tears to my eyes as I didn't feel worthy after hearing her story and knowing why she was heading where she was, the same conference as I - that is when she told me about someone once helping her with one of those grandchildren who was special needs and who needed an IEP.  She said that without that help it would have been just one more thing for her to handle and she was getting tired, but not yet willing to give up.

That hour plus conversation was amazing- life-changing. There were over 1000 advocates at the conference we attended and each one had a personal story that would be mind-blowing to others. I remember one day sitting there, along with the others, while I waited to go up to speak about special education rights. For some reason, I had been targeted as a leader for that cause at the conference and for some of the meetings with legislators, but all I could think about was how each person there was a leader and should be standing where I was, especially that woman. I'd rather tell their story and let all of you know how incredible of a person they were and why they were using their voice...show that regardless of the color of our skin, our supposed economic class, or even our chosen faiths, we share more than we have different.

So, that brings me to my little jaunt coming up on this train ride.  This time I am going alone - no other like-minded people that I know of - no conference. Just a mom on the way to see her sons and to watch my youngest chase a dream as he performs at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis.  (yes, I had to get that in! :) )

His story and our family story on how life has led to this point is interesting, I know that, but I also know that on that train filled with strangers there are going to be more stories of survival - stories of hope, of loss, and more importantly, of common bonds. I plan to dig those stories out for a writing project here on my blog.

Why not use that gift of gab for a reason, eh? It is something I feel we need more of in this world of division and so much intolerance. It is at the point I just cannot stand it anymore and feel a need to at least try something in my own little part of this world.

So - readers - I asked this question on my personal Facebook page the other night -

If you could ask a stranger on a train any question other than where they are going and why, what would it be? Let me know! Comment or email me at chewedupspatout@gmail.com


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