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Coping Mechanisms

Monday started off pretty busy at work. It seemed like every time I started a project, another one would pop up to demand my attention. Still, I got some things done.

Tuesday, I spent most of the day creating contact lists. Not just for me, but for the company, for our systems, for everyone to access. I made sure the contact info for all of the schools that BAC services was up-to-date and as complete as possible in the database, and used that information to create mailing lists and file folders. Hopefully all of that will come in handy for rental season.

Afterward I had hoped to practice a little bit, but decided against it. There are still so many things that I need to take care of here...health insurance and car registration, inspections and transfers and banking and lots of other things, most of which (of course!) will have to be done during working hours. And it seems like more to-do items pop up each day. After my first visit to the apartment complex gym and some serious thought, I realized that there was no way I was going to be working out there. Of the two ellipticals only one seems to work, and the weight station can only be used by one person at a time. That's why instead of practicing trombone on Tuesday, I went to Planet Fitness to get membership paperwork. Then I went to Target for a mattress pad, because my bed is uncomfortable. As stupid as this sounds, I was in denial about waking up in pain and numbness every morning. I didn't want to spend more money on more household stuff that I don't care about. But sleep is important. So mattress topper it is, and a new pillow too.

Wednesday started off in a pretty frustrating way. I learned that there were several packages for me at my apartment complex office, some of which had been sitting there for more than a week. Yet I had not been notified of their existence by either the postal service or the office. When I called the office to find out why I hadn't been notified, the response was "We don't have time to notify people." Ok then. From now on I'm having things mailed to work (really grateful that my bosses are cool about this) plus I'm going to stop by the office every Saturday and make them sort through the mail to see if I have anything. Seems like that would be a hassle for them, but if that's the way they want to do it, cool.

After dealing with that first thing in the morning, I went to the shop to grab a horn for delivery to the factory, then the rest of the day was pretty normal although I felt like I got very little done. Some days are like that. Since some of the packages I'd unknowingly received had been sitting there for weeks, I decided to hustle out of work to get back home before the office closed. I quickly clocked out and power-walked to my car...and even though I was in this big cranky hurry, I had to stop and smile at this black and white rabbit that was unexpectedly sprawled out next to my car.

Sometimes it only takes one little thing to put things in perspective.
Sometimes it only takes one little kindness to get you through a day.

I got to the office in time and got my packages. Two of them were bank cards, one of which had been cancelled by me, assumed lost in the mail. The third was an unexpected gift: a "Happy New Apartment!" present from Mr. and Mrs. Boyce! Inside was a gift card to a HomeGoods store, a trombone-themed card, and this awesome (and very appropriate!) journal. Thank you, Jeff and Kathy. You two are incredibly thoughtful and wonderful. This really made my day.

Then, I just took a much-needed moment to decompress. In the relative silence of my apartment, I looked around and contemplated. June 7th. It's been a month since the Red Unit ended. A month. As I watered my plants, I considered how far they've come with me on my journeys. Looking at my flytraps, I am happy and proud to see that they're growing slowly but surely, despite having been run over and crushed and wilted and refrigerated. Seeing them now makes me think that I should try to be stronger, too.

There are other mementos of circus life that I've kept...and now that it's June and my affiliation with Feld has officially ended, I'll share with you some of the items that I took with me. No, I don't have a stash of stuff that I stole. These are items with zero value, that would have been 100% destroyed if I hadn't taken them with me.

This odd little thing was once attached to my train room wall.

Not every room had one of these. I remember looking at it for the first time back in 2012, afraid to touch it in case the button did something weird. And I remember the strangest feeling of "I've seen this before. Where have I seen this?" Turns out, as an anime fan, I had seen a similar colorful circle depicted in an abstract way in two different Miyazaki films, once in a train station...

...and once inside a door on a "moving castle".

It was this second depiction that I recognized most strongly, as the placement is very close to where mine was, to the right of the door to my train room.

I found out later that this is a mini-state antenna rotator. Mini-State products are still in use today, in RVs and boats mostly. Before my train car became a part of the circus train, it was a BUDD passenger car. From the 1950s on, some of the rooms would have been outfitted with TVs, and back in those days you got your reception via an antenna. This controller allowed the user to rotate the antenna remotely to get the best signal without having to, you know, climb onto the roof of the train :) Hayao Miyazaki is well known for his love of trains and rail travel. I wonder if in his younger years, Mr. Miyazaki encountered these controllers, and later incorporated them into his films as a bit of childhood nostalgia.

In any case, it is nostalgic for me now.

The night before I moved off the train forever, I debated with myself whether or not to detach this little thing from the wall. It was only held on by a few screws, and would come off easily. Would anyone be angry that I was taking it? Was this theft? What ultimately decided me was looking around my empty room. Really looking, and really understanding that everything--the bunked beds, the table, the cabinets, the walls--EVERYTHING was going to be destroyed. Not one thing that I could see with my eyes would remain, ever again. I took it. I unscrewed it from the wall, cut the wires (most of them were already rotted through), cleaned it carefully, put it back together, and packed it away. And now that all is said and done, I'm glad I did. I'm glad to have one small fragment.

There's really only one other item that I took that maybe I shouldn't have. The key to my train room.

I know that in my final blog post, I mentioned that I "left my key on the counter". Well, I did. I left a copy key. And I took the original with me. Because let's be real. What will it unlock now? Nothing for anyone but me, and then just memories. The memory of my first time pulling up to the train with all of my belongings, getting out of the car, and Brett (my boss) standing there waiting for me. Day one, moment one. He put that key in my hand and said, "This is your home now, come and go as you please." For five years that key lived on a keyring next to a shower key, a vestibule key, and a brass carousel ring from Knoebels Amusement Resort where I'd had my very first job. Not once in my entire five years with the circus did I ever forget or lose my key. Why lose it now? I wear it on a chain on my neck. While I'm at work, if I feel myself starting to get frustrated, depressed, anxious, or impatient, I feel the weight of the key resting on my sternum, right over my heart. And I remember to be proud of who I am, and to do my best no matter where I am or what my job is. Circus magic can be applied anywhere, and home is where you make it.

I'm sure that this is all gigantically sappy for everyone reading. Too bad :P It's only been a month, and there are feels to be had.

The rest of the week was pretty straightforward. Somewhere in there I came down with a mild cold, a sore throat and stuffy head just annoying enough to distract me. On Friday after work I was hungry and feeling crummy, and decided to treat myself. I went to Pan-Asia Market and went straight to the junk food aisles. I goggled at all of the interesting foods, and picked out a few things that seemed interesting. They had a giant seafood market in the back that I'll have to revisit. The freezer section had one whole aisle dedicated to dumplings, but I didn't get any because everything was so dang SALTY. Why do TWO dumplings have to have 50% of your daily salt allowance?? Still, I walked out with many fun foods to try! Black sesame coconut mochi, cantaloupe-flavored cookies, purple potato Kit-Kats (???), garlic roasted peas, and some interesting frozen foods like a "vegetable cake" that I'll have to pan fry, and a "sweet taro (potato) pie" that I'm not sure whether it's a dessert or a meal!

Then I went to Whole Foods because it was right next door and I haven't been to one in a long time. I got ALL of my regular groceries there. This is not something I'd normally do...Whole Foods is nicknamed "Whole Paycheck" for a reason. But heck. Life is short. Along with the usual yogurt and produce and bread and such, I got a bunch of frozen foods to try, including some frozen bowls from Saffron Road. I also picked up some Epic brand jerky: salmon, venison, and beef. I'm curious to try all of these things!!

Saturday Morning was an early one for Kristy and I. There was an event at a nearby mall, called Rally for Kids, sponsored by a local hospital. There would be many events, including face painting, live entertainment, and activities for the kids and parents. Kristy and I were there to represent B.A.C Music Center (the retail store) and provide some student-level instruments for parents and kids to check out, and hopefully sign up for rentals before the school year. We were sharing the booth with one of the local partner companies, Music House School of Music, which provides lessons. It took a little while for a crowd to form, but once people were gathered and having fun, we were able to share some music with some kids!

Most of the kids were younger than we'd expected, but that kinda made it more fun, because they just had no idea what they were doing but were having a great time all the same. I learned a lot watching Kristy work with the kids. She's been a band director for eight years, and it was clear that she loves working with young musicians. I can learn a lot from her. I'm terrible with kids, but did my best to be energetic and not-awkward. Kristy got these great pics of me helping two young ladies with some brass instruments. Thank you Kristy!!

We had a great time. By the time the event was over, I was hungry and tired, so just went home for lunch and a nap. My boss had invited me out for a jazz event nearby, but I was still feeling pretty bad and wanted to rest. I spent the day indoors, out of the heat, sampling weird asian foods and playing the newly-released Monument Valley 2. Such a gorgeous game.

The next day, I was excited to begin volunteer training with the Lakeside Nature Center. I didn't know what training would entail, and was pretty nervous. Turns out, it was pretty much a crash course in what the Center does and how we would help to do it. We filled out paperwork and paid a small fee to take the course, then were given a tour of the Center. This is where I went for a walk two weeks ago; they have an impressive array of rescued animals. And as I also found out today, there are probably four times as many animals in the rehabilitation ward, off limits to the public. We volunteers were taken through the ward to see where the food was stored and where the animals were kept.

The goal of the Center is to rehabilitate animals for release back into the wild. Due to federal and state laws, the Center may only take in and care for Missouri wildlife. It has to keep stringent records of every animal it takes in, and keep a detailed record of everything about the animal's care, from its weight to its feeding to its defecating habits to its progress. The facilities could be inspected at any time by the USDA (hey, sounds familiar!) and so everything needs to be in order at all times. During the spring (in other words, now), there is a big influx of animals, especially babies that have been injured, abandoned, or are sick. While walking through the rehab area, we saw baby raccoons and baby birds. In the fridge we saw vegetables, fruits, and dead mice for feeding, as well as formula blends for baby animals. Volunteers can assist with rehabilitation, but if we want to work with animals that carry rabies, we'll have to get rabies shots ($$$). I'll think about it.

After the tour we spent a LOT of time discussing all of the diseases that it's possible to get from wild animals, and all of the nasty cleaning of poop/fluids/blood that working with sick/injured animals entails, and the injections that many animals will need. Clearly, the message was, "If you're here because you want to play with cute baby animals, this is not for you." This is serious, lifesaving work. The Nature Center receives limited funds and donations, and as a result it can only feed house and care for a limited number of animals, so this is literally life or death for the animals that are taken in. If an animal cannot be rehabilitated, and if there is no room for a new outreach animal, unfortunately the luckless animal will be put down. Animals that imprint onto humans, or who cannot hunt, will not be saved. Only those that can be released or incorporated into outreach. I'm sure that this sounds harsh, but that's the reality in our survival-based world.

And that's why I'm doing this. By now everyone knows that I take serious issue with the blanket accusations leveled against circus animal specialists. I do not like that ignorance has gotten so out of hand that "all circuses abuse animals" is widely accepted as fact. And it's not just the circus: horse owners, farmers, zoos, and many more across the animal industry are being attacked and slandered despite the fact that the majority have done nothing wrong. Good people's livelihoods are being ruined by these false accusations. I hate that The Majority's response tends to be either apathy or climbing on the accusation bandwagon.

I'm including myself in that sentiment. If I had not joined the circus, I'll bet I'd also be shrugging at Ringling's demise and thinking the animals are somehow better off. That's unacceptable.

Anyway, back to today. When defending circus animal specialists in writing, I've always had to defer to the experiences of others. I've always been the onlooker. Yes, I've seen a lot firsthand, and I've gotten to see a lot of animal industry stuff that most of the public has not. But I haven't seen enough of the ugly bits to know what I'm really defending. I don't know the dirty, bloodly, heartbreaking work that goes into the human-animal relationship. And I think it's past time that I did. A non-profit nature center is a far cry from a circus, yet the premise of providing food, shelter, stimulation, and medical care for living beings is the same. You have to start somewhere and I'm starting here. I want to stop saying I care for animals, and actually care for animals. Will I ever be a vet, probably not. But I will learn some things hands-on, and gain a better understanding of why it is (or is not) necessary for humans to interact with animals.

After the training I was feeling pretty bad again. This cold is kicking my butt. I picked up some dinner and drove home to drink fluids, lie down, and write this post. This ended up being a long rambling post with few pictures...sorry about that.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 13th, 2017 03:04 am (UTC)
Please allow me to say thanks for keeping this blog alive. I've come to look forward to your Sunday updates and no week would be complete without them.

In reading your entries it has become quite obvious the love you have for Ringling Bros. and your circus family. I found it especially touching the tribute you gave at the Hartford circus fire memorial by spreading a little vodka around the band marker for the enjoyment of long past windjammers. If there is a circus heaven I know they are looking down and smiling on you.

You definitely did the right thing by taking the key to your circus train car room. I know that you will treasure it and the memories it will unlock for the rest of your life. Hopefully it will become a priceless family heirloom to provide future generations a physical link to a world they sadly will never get to experience.

As far as your desire to help animals, you have more compassion for God's creatures than the whole PETA nut cases put together. Your description of how the protestors in Mexico would stand around accusing Ringling employees of animal abuse while homeless dogs and cats were starving in the street just feet away illustrates perfectly the hypocrisy of the so called animal rights movement. Clearly these fools have no sense of shame. In a sane world, circus workers would be applauded for their efforts.

Oh well, I starting to ramble and apologize for getting a bit carried away in my comments. If fate every brings us to meet someday I would be honored to shake your hand and maybe share a hug or two. May many blessings be yours!

Jun. 18th, 2017 01:42 am (UTC)
Re: Thanks...
Thanks. You're too kind.

It's kind of crazy how blind we've all gotten to various things, due to our biases (including self in that). Politics for example. Or any controversial issue, such as eating meat or abortions or war or race. We favor our own prejudices so much that we don't want to even hear what the other side has to say. I feel like it used to be possible to have respectful debates, even if the people on opposing sides felt strongly. And now it just feels like a screaming match.

Anyway, wow, that's off subject. Just something I've been thinking about a lot today after reading the news. Nothing wrong with rambling, right? :D

Thanks again. Tomorrow is my first day of volunteer work with the nature center. I'm excited and nervous! Pretty sure I'll just be cleaning lol!
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )