First Class Flight to Haiti

Wednesday, July 23, 2014 1 Permalink 0

January 10, 2014

Little Lena, with her pretty pink dress, is fast asleep on her 20-something, Haitian mother’s lap across the aisle from me. She is maybe a year old. A small team and myself are on a relief trip, for One Vision One World, to aid some remote villages in Haiti. I have all my camera gear and this positive buzz fills the aircraft. This trip is finally happening. Everything about this trip feels right. As I get to know a team-member sitting to my right, I hear a rustle. I turn to see baby Lena’s mother slipping into a full-blown, in-flight seizure. Her brain is misfiring. Majorly. Lena’s mother is out of control. Every muscle is at max contraction. Her entire body is frozen with anguish. The spit pools and spills from her lower jaw onto her blouse and child. Baby Lena is slipping head first through her mother’s preoccupied hands.

I grab Lena by one leg and scoop her neck before her tiny head hits the ground. A young Haitian man rushes up to help from a few rows back, but doesn’t know the mother. He calls out for a doctor in Creole (the French-Haitian dialect). No one responds. An Asian-American flight attendant runs down the aisle to discover the mother seizing. She frantically shouts up and down the aircraft cabin, in English this time, “Is there a nurse or doctor on board? A nurse or doctor on board?!” The plane is stirring and the mother’s seizure is just ramping up.

Lena, however, is fast asleep on my lap. Whether she is unaware of the situation or simply accepting of a stranger, she is calm. From what I’ve learned of Haitian culture, I’d guess the latter. There are countless orphans in Haiti, but no Haitian would say there are orphans. To witness communal responsibility for children without parents is a beautiful thing. Either way, for Lena’s sake, I am happy she’s comfortable enough to sleep.

An older American doctor rushes back from the front of the cabin. The flight attendant is pressing the doctor for specific details regarding the mother’s condition. Sternly, he says to her, “Give me just a minute.” Every second in flight is taking us further away from a safe landing and the pilots must decide, immediately, if we’re going to divert back to the America or not. It may go without saying, but an in-flight medical emergency stacks the odds heavily against you. The doctor shouts, “I need a spoon! Can someone get me a spoon?” He pulls a pen from his pocket, sticks it in the mother’s mouth, and holds down her tongue until the spoon comes. This prevents her from suffocating on her own tongue.

“Well, this is inconvenient,” I say to myself. I look down at sleepy Lena. I’m ashamed. The future Lena would hope her mother survives while I’m worrying about a potential four-hour detour. What if her mom dies two feet from us on this plane? What if I’m holding her when her mom dies? I’m not ready to be a dad. That’s a crazy thought. Why would I be her dad? Shit. She may already have a dad. I don’t know. But where did I lose my compassion? How did I? Who took it from me? I love people. When did selfishness become an attribute of mine? Snap out of it.

I warm Lena’s shoeless foot and hold her free hand. Lena is taking small, quiet breaths while sucking her thumb. I’m not so bad. In fact, I’m going to be a good dad one day. Even with all my friends’ kids, something more primal happened when Lena slipped off her mother’s lap. This is not my child, but I will protect her. And that single, selfish thought embarrassed me to myself.

Was I not coming to relieve? Here it is right in front of me. Haiti has virtually no medicine for its suffering population, bucketed well-water at best for its poorest, and an overwhelming majority can’t afford a doctor visit, let alone a hospital if something dire happens.

Shit was very real and we hadn’t even touched down. I am fighting to suppress emotion as I realize what I’m getting myself into. The seizure is not letting up. Her shins grind against the seat in front of her. Her position slowly shifts. The doctor holds her in position so she can’t injure herself. Her fingers tightly grip an invisible railing. I mimic the grip, but it hurts to hold more than five seconds. I can’t imagine more than that across her entire body. Fuck. It hurts to watch. I’d seen one other seizure where a woman was standing, seized, fell to the floor, and hit her head. I’m no expert, but it seemed like the medics just helped the seizure pass.

The mother is coming down. She is exhausted and extremely disoriented. Her wild eyes look for her baby girl while she attempts to comprehend the environment. She is overwhelmed. She wants to move around, but is still being held down for her safety. I feel the mother’s pain as she looks right through me and down to her baby. Little Lena, still sleeping, is perfectly in sight across the aisle and her mother slightly calms.

“There’s nothing we can do at this point, but get her to a hospital in Port-au-Prince,” the doctor says. The flight attendant walks to the cockpit with a message to continue on to Haiti. We are an hour away. I don’t think Lena’s mother could tell us what she had for breakfast, but she was mumbling. A good sign. After a few minutes, the doctor convinces her to stand. She is lifted to her feet and holds the doctor’s hand. He guides her to first class where she has the space to relax her muscles. A gentleman quickly swaps his first class seat for coach.

The flight attendant asks me if I can move up to first class behind the mother. I pass Lena over to Luiza Bennett, a fellow NGO team-member and mother to the president of One Vision One World. I quickly fill out my immigration papers. I take Lena back, grab a bottle of water, my carryon, and head to the front. I feel like a dad. This is comfortable.

So there I am, in a first class seat, on my way to the poorest country in the world. I smile at and adore this child I was certain to never see again. I’m stunned by the entire event. My heart has calmed its beats per minute, and I go into this place of comfortably numb. I look out the window and see the slums of Port-au-Prince start to fill the airplane window on descent. We bounce until the tires catch and the reverse burners kick in. We’re landed.

As we approach the gate, I ask a Haitian man in first class to translate for me. “Can you ask her what her daughter’s name is?” He repeats the question in Creole. “Lena,” she says. Pronounced LEE-nuh. The mother, sitting directly in front of us, strains herself to turn around. I can see in her eyes that she is embarrassed. She mutters, “Merci beaucoux.” I know what she means, but I don’t know how to say “no worries” or “you’re welcome” so I just smile, nod, and say, “Oui.” Yes. We hold eyes for a moment. The aircraft door opens.

A nurse and wheelchair greet us. We are the first off. The flight attendant says to me, “Please go with the mother to the hospital so that Lena has someone she is comfortable with.” The matter is clearly urgent, but I need to talk with my team. I’m scared shitless by the request and my team is several rows back. I’m being rushed through immigration, a Haitian baby in hand, and I don’t have anyone’s phone number on the ground. I don’t know where my non-profit team is staying. I don’t know what hospital we’re going to. I know nothing about nothing and I’m being split from the only people I know.

As I’m rapidly ushered along, I look over my shoulder and catch eyes with the doctor. There is great relief in seeing him. He is a doctor. He can go to the hospital. My relief slips to fear when I realize that’s not true. He’s not going to the hospital, and without words, his eyes tell me everything I need to know. “Welcome to Haiti.”

I kiss baby Lena on the forehead, squeeze her foot, and whisper “I love you” in her ear. I hand little Lena over to her mother. The nurse then wheels the exhausted pair past the growing immigration line. I stood there still as stone. I open my mouth to say anything, but nothing comes out. No one was there to listen anyway. For the first time in my life, I was jaw dropped.

Ya. Welcome to Haiti.

ben renschen - haitiThe One Vision One World team in Titanyen, a village north of Port-au-Prince, to help locate a young man who will receive a donation to build the village’s first permanent structure since the 2010 earthquake. photo credit: Caroline Jacquelyn

There is a current trip planned for Dec 27-Dec 30, 2014.

If you would like to participate in that trip, please leave a note in the comments and I’ll make sure to get your info email address forwarded on to the right people!

Or click here to reach the One Vision One World website.

Finding Happiness in Los Angeles

Friday, July 11, 2014 0 Permalink 0

About to make the move to Los Angeles? Already have? You should know this city does not harbor the pretentious reputation so many are convinced it carries. We all know that a major struggle for anyone in a new city is finding our feet on solid ground. Be it friends, career, lifestyle, or other, we should be looking beyond creature comforts to maximize the enjoyment of wherever we land. Sometimes that takes a little bit of work, but again, we know, well worth it. I’m confident if you look in the right places, you’ll find happiness in Los Angeles.

The reality of Los Angeles is that it’s an incredible city.  Yes, there’s traffic.  No, there’s not great public transit.  And, yes, there are pretentious a-holes in this city. But let’s be honest with ourselves, you’ll find the same flavor of jackass from LA to New York and London to Paris.  Time to put that weed wacker to use–cut the bullshit.

Most of us are probably okay at this, but really be honest with yourself and who you want to hang out with.  If you don’t get a good vibe, no need to hang out.  Don’t waste your time or theirs with relationships you aren’t convinced will be mutually beneficial–especially if you are a “giver”.  There are a lot of “takers” out there that like to “take” it all.  That goes for anywhere in the world.  And you certainly don’t need to make yourself feel bad for not wanting to hang out with the “takers”.  They probably aren’t going to produce that circle of friendship you’re interested in anyway.  You know there’s no forcing the square block in the circle hole.

But be patient and continue to experience the people of Los Angeles.  The key to finding your happiness in a new city is finding YOUR crew.  A city is just a city without the friends that make it YOUR city.  Best scribbled by Christopher McCandless, “Happiness is only real when shared.”  Find those people to share that.  I promise it’s much easier than you think.  Stay open to it.  It’s a surprisingly kind, competent, creative, and caring city.  If finding those friends doesn’t seem so easy, kindly, you probably have some work to do on yourself.  Touch a nerve?  Think about it.

The reality is that Los Angeles is full of AMAZING people!  It’s a wonderful mix of locals and transplants.  It’s a city inspired by creativity and its evidence is everywhere.  It’s a city rich with collaboration and breathe given to dreams.

I had a very proud moment a few years back when I was coming off of a hike at Runyon Canyon in Hollywood.  My friend and I pulled up behind a “star-seeing” van stuffed with Germans, Japanese, and Floridians.  They were nipping at the buds to spot a celebrity.  Cameras out.  Snapshots of everything.  From the Jack Sparrow’s on the Walk of Fame to the celebrity homes, they were elated and inspired by this tiny little section of the greater Los Angeles area known as Hollywood.  As we followed the van I said to myself, “I’m so glad they are getting something out of this city”.  I thought for a second how absolutely cheesy it was to see all the vans and sidewalks carrying the same comically dressed tourists, overdressed buildings, and horrendous souvenir shops. Never mind the general chaos of the Hollywood and Highland intersect.

There it was.  The dawn on me.  All that “cheese” had become my cheese.  It was people from around the world coming to see my city.  Sure I’ve only lived here for about seven years, and much of that time was spent traveling for work, but I’m emotionally invested in this city.  I want to be the driver of my own van for all of my friends around the world.  I want to be the teacher of all things that make LA so wonderful for me.

So what makes LA so great?

I found that living in the midst of this particular array of terrain, I had volunteered myself to live an active lifestyle.  There are mountains and ocean and trails.  You have some insanely beautiful hikes with hidden waterfalls all around LA County–including the heart of Hollywood.  You can surf some of the best spots this country has to offer from Ventura County all the way down to San Diego.  And I love to surf.  There are miles and miles of bike path…although I’ll be the guy you’re pulling on a skateboard.  Cliche, but true, you can snowboard or ski yourself stupid by day and still be surfing by sunset.  I’ve done it.  And, yes, I slept like a monster.

And then, of course, because Los Angeles is an entertainment capital, there is a tremendous amount of creative energy.  There are always projects happening that you can collaborate on.  There’s no limit to what you can set in motion.  There’s no real “structure” to way things are succeeded.  You can achieve the same successes as a Julliard graduate without a lick of formal education.  And you have access to all the same people and equipment.  The question is will you get it all because its what you really want?

I have made friends in film, music, sports, web, and advertising.  Some are happy.  Some are not.  But it’s to be expected.  Some own their own companies.  Others work for agencies or major production companies.

To the ones that feel “stuck” in a job in a city full of creative opportunity, I say, “quit your day job.”  If you can’t, save enough for a few months, then quit.  You have always been in complete control.  Don’t let fear of failure get in your way.  Don’t let fear of failure force anger on a city that is ripe for your picking.  Once you shed your fears, I promise you’ll have nothing to lose.  I have always believed it a safe bet to assume your successes.  Bets are you’re far more capable than you give yourself credit for.

The one thing I have gratitude for, in all my time in LA, is my friends.  I thank everything for the people I’ve met and the bonds I’ve forged with them.  They are the ones that make living in Los Angeles worth it.  Even if they come and go.  They are the ones that encourage me when I’m lacking motivation.  They are the ones I will encourage when they are running on empty.  It is the people in this fine city and region that make me proud to live here.  For the last several years, whenever asked, I proudly admit that “I love Los Angeles”.

So get out there and meet people until you meet your people.  It’ll make the whole journey to LA complete.  You don’t want to go to the Long Beach Lobsterfest alone do you?

Photo Credit: Navid Serrano

Permission Slip Away

Friday, June 13, 2014 9 Permalink 2

*This post will auto-play music as part of the reading experience unless you pause.

EL CAJON, CA

Her breathing – labored. Her limbs – frustrated. Her eyes – open but unable to blink. We have all given my grandma permission to slip away. The time between taking a breath lengthens from three seconds to five. Five to seven. She gasps for air. Now eleven without breath. A gasp. Her son (my uncle) Chris, rubs her chest and tells her, “We love you mom. It’s okay to rest now.”

We surround her. We are going to love her to sleep.

permission slip away

When I got the text from my mom that my grandma was in her final hours, I packed up and headed down to San Diego from LA. My dad’s dad died before I was born of a heart attack. My dad’s mom died of lung cancer while I was on tour. My mom’s dad committed suicide when I was eight. So, I’ve never actually dealt with or seen death. I wasn’t going to miss the opportunity to see my final grandparent off. It’s a learning experience that, no matter how painful, I needed to be a part of. I expect this to release a ton of pain over the coming weeks/months. Yay. And that process, for me, will start by unpacking my bags with someone else. On that note…an open letter to my next girlfriend…

 

Dear Girl Who Will Handle The Luggage I Carry,

A little background on my grandmother. She was no stranger to gettin stoned, cross dressing, or hiring strippers for my grandpa. I’m proud to have known this woman for she has lived fully.

Mom & Dad Halloween 1959

She smoked like a chimney, drank like fish, and read books like she owned a national f*****g library. 500 pages in a day was child’s play to her. Oh, you read that book? She read it three times before you could pronounce JRR Tolkien or Dean Koontz.

grandmasmoke

Fair warning – you should know I cringe at the thought of reading. Which is ironic because I write. My high school English teachers couldn’t get me to read the cliff’s notes on the greatest pieces of literature ever written. I would get a pop-quiz on The Great Gatsby, sign my name, and return a blank page to Mr. Hansen before he finished passing the quizzes out. I was that little shit.

This means that I will not teach our children to read. Not because I’m an anti-Reading Rainbow fan, rather, I want our children to grow up and be writers just like their dad. By creating a major literary void early on, our children will feel the natural absence and need to go back and explore it. The best part – they’ll think they figured it out on their own. Poor saps will never know what hit em. I hope you want kids with me. We’ll have two boys, two girls, and six adopteds – I don’t care what they are. I’m not Mormon.

grandmalaugh

Anyway, the last few days have been really hard. We take turns kissing my grandma on the forehead and saying sweet things to her. The intentions behind everything we say are always “I love you and goodbye”. That sucks. And when it feels like she’s going to make her final departure, she takes another deep breath. I begin to wonder why she doesn’t just let go. Then again, is it as simple as “letting go”?

grandma mc

I think she’s scanning her entire life’s memory bank. Processing the last little bits of life. The corners we only learn about on our death beds. Then it seems like she might be slipping away again. So we, again, make sure she knows that is her decision, and that we love her and it is okay if she wants to go. We hold her. But again, she gasps for air. One of us gives her morphine to keep any potential pain to a minimum. We like to think this helps her if she’s suffering. We don’t know if she is, but giving her morphine is a decision made from a place of compassion. So we do…

IMG_8452

If you haven’t been through this, waiting for the inevitable is really hard. Really fucking hard. So, I hug my mom when she cries. Somehow that makes me feel better. Seeing my mom cry is shitty. She’s amazing. So when she cries its super not amazing. Don’t worry though, you’ll get to know her. She’ll be super nice to you if we work out. She’ll actually be super nice to you if we don’t. Moms. Am I right? Just promise you won’t call her if we break up. We probably won’t be friends after. I’d like to think I’m bigger than that, but the truth is I have a track record.

smiley moms

My uncles are stronger than I and this is their mom. I can see my uncle Craig (below right) internalizing as he looks over. He seems to say most of what he needs in his head. I’m a lot like him in that way. Until I volcano. Then you get my wrath. Please ignore the red flags as I raise them.

My uncle Chris (below left) internalizes also, but interestingly, he has taken on a very care-giver role in the situation. Something I had not expected from him. He has been the first to sit down beside her. A real stepper-upper, ya know? There is something about that relationship that he cherishes more than I knew. It’s very cool to watch. I think it’s extra painful for him though. On two separate occasions he thought he was really saying goodbye to his mom. To the point that he broke, let go of her hand, and walked away. Then she would gasp for air. It’s like she knows she’s playing this terrible joke on him. We laughed our asses off when it happened. You have to. The tension is too great not to. And, again, we’re jokesters so it was perfectly appropriate.

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Almost 25 years ago, my grandpa (husband to the woman we’re saying goodbye to) was suffering from esophageal cancer. When swallowing a glass of water became impossible, he wheeled his hospital-supplied “tree of bagged meds” and a shotgun through my family’s backyard and into a neighboring lot. In his suicide note, he apologizes for the selfish act. His death was on November 6th – my sister’s birthday. After talking to my uncle Craig about it, he never considered his dad’s method to be a selfish thing. He was already in an unfathomable amount of pain. So, while his death came under the guise of a selfish act, my grandpa was guided by selfless intentions. He knew how much the cancerous experience was costing the family on all levels. Pictured below: Me trying to cop a bite of cereal from my Grandpa Don.

eating cereal

My grandma has ink all over her hands from pulling the damn fire alarm so many times. That’s not even a funny joke because you have no context for all the craziness this woman has survived. But I promise my comedy is top-notch. It will get better when we are actually together. That or I’ll wait until I’ve locked you in proper to deliver the bad puns and embarrassing shit you shouldn’t say in front of people. Pictured below: Grandma M.C. & Grandpa Don circa 1956

Mom & Dad (Myrtle) 56'

If you can’t make me laugh via text, I won’t marry. Also, marriage isn’t important to me. It’s a piece of paper. However, that unconditional level of commitment is. I learned that from my parents and my grandparents. They’ve all been in good, sometimes challenging, but always healthy marriages.

misc. 05

I expect a lot from you. I don’t need long to know if you’re right for me or not. I won’t waste your time if you’re shit. I promise. I don’t like long walks on the beach. I love the ocean and my ashes will be scattered there, but walks are boring. If you want to skinny dip, that’s an ocean activity I totally approve. Even if we are on the cold ass west coast. I also like reality TV and will only ever make it through the first two seasons of any tv show. It gets stupid after that. Even Breaking Bad. Blasphemy, I know. But if that’s a deal breaker, you’re better off without me.

SIDE NOTE: I’m also looking for a good cook. I can’t cook. I don’t care about the stereotypes of women or anything. Its just that I can’t cook. So if you’re a good cook and I’m not, I’ll swap you skill for skill. You teach me how to cook healthy. I teach you how to beat Call of Duty in Veteran mode.

Back to the fire alarm though. That was a figure of speech. Of course, you knew this because you are also funny. My grandma, who you will not meet, but you will hear much about, has had skin cancer, heart attacks, and strokes galore. And yet, the energizer bunny keeps going and going and going. She scares everyone every time, but she’s a fighter among fighters. I bet she’d get a few punches in on Tyson before he’d bite her.

grandma-bw

Don’t worry though, you’ll get an earful on my other grandparents and every past relationship as well. Whole lotta pain there. I’ll probably have to read you some poetry or share some grandiose artist-type crap thing I’ll make on the heels of this experience.

That said, my grandma MC is a beautiful woman. This is someone who has been challenged by life, and in turn, has challenged me. She has seen some shit. She has lived a good life. This is someone who has inspired endless jokes in my family. An amazing family at that. I warn you though…we’ve all learned to laugh at a very early age. And we all laugh…a lot. I’m honored to share the bloodline. Pictured below: Craig (left), Candy (my mom/center), Chris (right)

kids smiles

If you don’t like comedy, hand-me-down recipes, the occasional drink, grilling, black labs, big cities, small suburbs, camping, surfing, running, spaghetti on Christmas, deep talk, coffee talk, or not talking, you’re on your own and you’re batshit crazy because we’re awesome. But if you’re cool with being embraced by a family that is able to laugh their asses off through death’s bitter process, by celebrating the joys of life, we just may have a chance. Without my grandma I cannot be me. So you must respect her authority. I do.

grandma laughs 2

It’s the morning of June 13th. My mom’s birthday. I’ve been writing this all night on 5-hour energies. I haven’t slept more than a half hour. She’s been at this fight for nearly nine years. Nine years since her heart attack in Las Vegas. My keyboard is wet and the energizer bunny is no longer in the room. It’s very close now. It’s about 7am.

Her heart slows. Her feet are turning a grayish purple. They’re cold to the touch now. She swings in and out of fever. Her breath is extremely shallow. Like a fish out of water. She can’t swallow the accumulating spit at the back of her throat. She gargles with every breath. That is a sight and sound you cannot prepare for. I finally understand why my parents have protected me from this.

I am here. I’m to the brim with grief and gratitude. It’s amazing how those two things can go hand in hand. It is a true yin and yang. It’s almost as if they are they are equal and opposite. F***. That’s an epiphany if I’ve ever had one. The smiles this woman has inspired are too many to share. Look at that face and try your best to frown. I dare you. I feel lucky and honored to have known this woman.

grandma 3 - plays with sisters

At 9:04am, on June 13, 2014, we watched my mom’s mom, Mary Carol Poulsen, at 84 years old, take her last breath. My mom considers it a privilege and an honor to share her birthday with her mother’s passing. What a woman my grandma was. What a life. What a beauty. You got some serious shoes to fill, potential girlfriend.

Grandma MC

To be with the ones we love on their journeys. This is why we live.

-Ben

6 Totally Doable Things to Climb Out of a Creative Slump

Monday, June 2, 2014 0 Permalink 0

Whether you’re a creative type or note, we all have our creative outlets. Which means we all, from time to time, will suffer creative slumps. Here’s five ways to encourage the discovery of your creative side.

1. Wake up before everyone.  Yes, I mean 5am.  Or 6am.  And no, not every day.  But, yes, that means try to go to bed a little earlier.  You’ll find you think much more clearly and you’ll lessen that “lack of productivity” guilt as the day wears on.  You’ll often spark an idea in those golden morning hours.  It’s a very natural transition to continue the imaginative process post-dream…particularly with that lazy morning brain.

2. Write down every idea you have for a few days.  You’re WAY more creatively active than you give yourself credit for.  That includes you, accountants, production assistants, and anyone “working for the man”.  Keep a pen on your person.  Text yourself.  Write on a napkin.  In a notepad.  In your laptop.  Email yourself.  Tell a friend your idea.  It’s kind of fun even if you never do anything with those ideas. And bets are, you’ve already let too many slip by.

3. Surround yourself with people.  You need breaks from creativity and humans are fantastically inspiring in the most wonderful ways.  It takes the observance of a singular human interaction to recognize the beginnings of an entire feature film or book or photograph or painting or poem or anything creative for that matter.

4. Try ten minutes of free-flow writing with PEN and paper.  Truly free.  NOT on a computer.  Do not restrict yourself.  Do not judge yourself.  Do not correct grammatical mistakes.  Do not cross out words.  Even if it doesn’t make sense.  Even if you can hardly read it.  You’ll appreciate that fact when you read it back over.  Write, literally everything, as you think it for ten minutes.  Try to keep up with yourself. You’re really good at thinking.  You’ve been doing it your whole life.  People laugh at this sometimes, but when you start dumping your thoughts onto paper, you really start to learn about yourself.  It’s sometimes jarring, but always revealing.  By emptying some space in your head you make comfortable room for some of that creative work you’ve been pining for.

5. Seek out and reach out to people who already do what you wish to be doing.  Read that again if it didn’t make sense.  There are many out there who would love to be validated in their work by helping “the grasshopper” finder his or her legs.  You’d be amazed at how true this statement is.  For every person who protects their work and processes with an arrogant diligence, there are ten more who can’t wait to share in a collaborative and creative experience.  And remember, your challenges and questions for a mentor create an environment of mutual benefit.

6. Get your ass into nature. Seriously. The natural order of the animal and plant kingdoms will force a bit of perspective when you’re standing at the base of a 100ft tall tree. It’s nice to center yourself in a quiet place, but even nicer when you realize there is life all around you, all the time.

Go. See. Do. Be.

Humans Just Achieved 24/7 “Live from Space” Public Broadcast

Friday, May 2, 2014 0 Permalink 0

Mind blowing stats. Stunning visuals. Our International Space Station travels at 17,150 miles per hour (27,600 km/h). That’s 4.79 miles per second (7.71 km/s). Which means it orbits earth more than 15 times a day. And people are inside the ISS. We can officially marvel at the first 24/7, live from space broadcast.

TIPS FOR WATCHING:

  • The cameras change so stick around for the forward-facing curve of the earth shot. I promise its worth it.
  • Play music while you watch – this is a no-audio video feed

As of April 30, 2014, the High Definition Earth Viewing (HDEV) experiment commenced in an effort to test camera equipment in space environments. Even crazier, a group of high school students, as part of the High Schools United with NASA to Create Hardware (HUNCH) program, helped design some of the hardware that’s floating 220 miles above the Earth on the ISS. This is to educate the ISS community on the use of high quality camera equipment for future missions.

VIEW USTREAM BELOW

We are but specs of dust in the grand scheme of things. However that scheme came to be is well beyond our realm of knowledge. We have theories at best. We get one shot at life and the years go by quickly. Enjoy them because, no matter ethnicity, religion, sex, etc, we are all born butt-ass naked, fumble through life, and die. Grim when simplified, but true.

With the time we do have, it might as well be spent working towards improving each other’s condition. Be it with love, encouragement of friends, charitable efforts, conservation for future generations, being there for family, or simply taking the dive when you’re just not sure.

Life is a balance of selfishness and selflessness. They each serve each other. You may need to take that trip to Bali to discover yourself. Somewhere in that, you’ll find your desire to help others. Or, in your helping others, you’ll learn that you need to focus more on yourself before you are able to give the whole of you back to the world.

If you consider that our lives are an hour glass glued to the table (thank you Anna Nalick for the lyric), it’s fair to say, cut the bullshit and live a good one because it might be the only one we have.

*a grey screen means the HDEV is experiencing a signal loss with the ground or is non-operational
*a black screen would likely mean the ISS in on the dark side of earth

 

10 Ways to Attract Amazing People Into Your Life

Monday, April 28, 2014 0 Permalink 3

Over the course of my time as a rolling stone, I’ve had the unique opportunity to cruise the world, and meet hundreds of thousands of people. I would produce content for artists & musicians on the road. My tours ranged from high profile arena tours right down to stuffy college bars. It was always amazing. Point being, I met a shitload of people from all walks of life. And across the world, I’ve been able to attract amazing people into my life. Some bonds have been stronger than others. Some romantic. Some platonic. Some kinda soul-matey. You just have to be open to it.

All of these suggestions aim to open yourself up and help attract the right kind of people we all need in our lives. Through some experimenting, you’ll start to understand the value of surrounding yourself with quality relationships.

1. Go on an adventure with someone you don’t know.  Some of the most rewarding experiences we can have are with strangers.  Why? No judgements. No expectations. I promise, if you let yourself, you’ll enjoy a startling honesty when sharing with a brand new friend. And bets are if you’re geared up for a great adventure, you’re already like minded. You’ll probably have a few, if not several, “Damn…that feels good to say” moments.

2. Get in the habit of sincerely asking friends, family, and strangers, “How are you doing today?” You’ll find reward in asking.  That simple question often touches a nerve because EVERYONE is going through something (positive, negative, or neutral).  Life is a series of somethings we’re going through.  Asking someone about their somethings might be the perfect ice breaker to a new and insanely wonderful personality in your life.

3. Remember we all have reasons for the way we are.  Gosh, to have compassion. It’s priceless. It’s so easy to judge a book.  There are a million reasons why “he is like that” and “she acts this way”.  It’s okay not to further your bond with someone, but be forgiving.  You do expect the same, correct?  Simply understand that countless have been through shitty relationships, abandonments, loss of life, betrayals, freak accidents, etc.  We all have our share of baggage which inevitably bleeds into conversations.  Sometimes it dominates conversation. But, for the record, people who have grown from traumas are among the most resilient and qualified in bleeding love. Hands down.

4. Respect yourself enough to be present with others.  Laugh at the things in front of you. Get mad if you’re mad. Respect yourself enough to cry when it hurts. Ask questions when you’re curious. Do your best not dwell.  Enjoy your stories as they play out more than you’ll enjoy telling them. ”Carpe the diem”, as they say, or “Seize the carp.” Everything we feel is just part of this wacky ass emotional roller coaster we all live through called life. Mentally being there for it is one of the biggest favors you can do for yourself.

Ben Renschen Greg Stump - laughing

5. Listening is not the same as hearing.  Listening is the most popular failure in personal (and professional) relationships.  When someone actively listens to you and asks relevant questions about your life, are you wise enough to recognize it?  If so, don’t you almost ALWAYS walk away with a sense of trust? Learn to enjoy richer conversation by really listening to someone.

6. Call on people when you need to.  Everyone thinks we can handle our own shit. Wrong. That’s what we project. Whether its music, mom, or an awesome weekend with friends, it’s the outside influences that guide and encourage us through. People enjoy being needed when they have something to give you. Also, remember, there’s over 6 billion of us. In other words, you’re not the only person going through your problem. Plus, sharing the embarrassing and shit parts of life with friends and strangers will help forge some of your strongest bonds.

7. Put away your phone when in company.  We’re all guilty, but seriously. Put that thing in your pocket, your purse, or leave it in the car. If you’re buried in Instagram, Facebook, WhatsApp, email, text, Skype, blah blah blah, people in company recognize themselves as a lower priority to you. Therefore, efforts to get to know you are already being sidelined. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot before you even shake a hand. Go to any gathering with the intention of giving your time.  It is why you’re there, right?  The energy you put in, more often then not, you’ll get right back.

banksy mobile

8. Ask questions about anything you’re remotely interested in.  The simple act of wearing curiosities on your sleeve will open yourself up to more than you think.  When you start understand how enjoyable learning is, you’ll want to absorb faster than you can keep up with. And even if you don’t go “gung ho” into a hobby, the worst you did was learn a little and build a relationship.  Also, most people are multi-talented so forging a bond here could be an “in” to something so much better in the future.

9. Practice hospitality by inviting people into your home. This will not apply to all, but many of us use our apartments, condos, and homes as caves. They are a safe haven. A place where we get to store all our privacy’s. Try, once, to host a dinner or a party.  Shake it up a bit. Even if your apartment and kitchen are small and you have only one bathroom.  It’s a good experiment to see what people take away from your hospitality. Think of this way, do you not want to be friends with someone who generously invites you into their comfortable home and cooks you dinner and offers you a drink? Life could be worse.

10. Let people watch you learn.  Of course, there’s always some fear in letting people watch you “give it your best”. What if you fail?  What if you embarrass yourself?  You’ll quickly shed layers of ego by encouraging a bit of humility to take hold.  As walls come down, friends come pouring in. Just the way it works. And you’ll attract quality people if you help others learn how to learn.

11. Travel the world. That’s a bonus one, but trust me.

When you’re tired of all this law of attraction crap, drink a beer and watch some episodes of Family Guy to normalize.

 

CREDITS:

Feature image by Jenna Rosenfeld. follow her on Instagram.

Two men laughing from the short docu film Road’s End.

Banksy image from an article on This Is Colossal.

The What I Be Project Will Give You The Holy Shits

Tuesday, April 22, 2014 4 Permalink 0

I am honored to be authoring the narrative of Steve Rosenfield’s book on his controversial What I Be Project. Entire communities, family units, and friend circles are being jarred as Steve shines a light on traditionally “shameful” topics. Participation requires courage as this often sets an uncomfortable path. This project is far from a gimmick.

It is changing lives in profound ways. People are boldly addressing their depression, rape, bigotry, coming out as gay, molestation, cutting, substance abuse, suicidal thoughts, etc. Unfortunately, not every participant has survived their demons. But by encouraging participants to face their darkest insecurities, Steve’s project went viral in early 2014 and now inspires millions of readers, viewers, and participants alike. It usually takes a closer look, but when you truly start to understand the impact of the What I Be Project, you too, should have that “holy shit” moment. It usually comes with reading the overwhelmingly positive responses on the project’s Facebook page.

The format of the What I Be Project is simple. The title of a subject’s image always begins with “I am not my…” With that insecurity, story, or stereotype in mind, the subject bears an image or phrase on their skin to share their point of pain. Steve snaps the shutter and posts it online. The idea being that the subject DOES, in fact, identify with their insecurity. But they are also saying, “This is not the only part of me.” Rather a small fraction that doesn’t merit a full character judgement.

What I Be Project Website

I am not my amputation.
I am not my turban.
I am not my bulimia.
I am not my body image.
I am not my number.
I am not my gender.
I am not my adoption.
I am not my guilt.
I am not my abortion.

As a behind-the-camera person, it was very uncomfortable when he asked to photograph me. However, the message behind his efforts convinced my participation, and about two years ago, Steve captured the below image at my apartment in Orange County.  Two years went by and I still hadn’t written a statement about where my insecurity had come from (something Steve requires from everyone). I think mostly because I couldn’t have articulated what it was at that point. Now that we’ve engaged the book writing process, I’ve been forced to address what I’ve been avoiding for years. The people I’ve latched on to and the people I’ve abandoned.

Here is a sneak peak into what you can expect from the What I Be Project Book.

This is my image and my statement. Both of which pale in comparison to the bravery of other participants. I would encourage you to scour the thousands of images online. You’ll discover people who are going through the same difficult shit we think we’re alone in. Thank goodness for community. Thank goodness for **this** community.

And thank you, my friend, Steve.

Ben Renschen What I Be

STATEMENT (addressing my insecurity)

“I am not my self-indulgence”

You know how people say they have “types”? My type was the girl whose guts were scattered across a sandbox. I thought, “I can put this back together.”

I come from a cush life, cush family, cush everything. We were far from wealthy, rather, I was emotionally well protected. Too protected.

As I grew out of boyhood and into manhood, I dated bulimics, the anxiety ridden, and severely abused. I was a moth into the flame. It became a specialty. I was a fixer. I had so much positive to give that, surely, I can overcome the negative.

It started in college. I enjoyed getting girls to cry in our dormitory lounge about their problems because, to me, that meant we were developing a bond. It’s college, we’re supposed grow, ya know? I didn’t know much about pain or sadness at that point so it was like this movie I had to watch. I loved it and I got to pull all the strings.

What I didn’t realize then, was that I had started stirring the pot without any intentions of actually making soup. By getting someone to open up and share their story, I got to feel a bit of pain. I got fulfillment in that. But because I never wanted to see my own reflection in those conversations, I would just as quickly abandon those people. I would just stop talking to them. Easy. It scares me, still to this day, how easy it is for me to walk out on people.

Congratulations, me, and thank you, you. On to the next.

Years go by and I’m still doing the same because I’ve justified that I’m a learner, a challenger, a grower. So I started consciously speaking my desire for pain. I’ve dug around in wounds so deep that I got lost.

I was head-to-toe covered in a girl’s mess one time. I didn’t understand the twenty questions I was asking her without actually asking them. I didn’t know what I was doing or why I was doing it. It took the wisdom of one girlfriend to tell me I had no business making her traumas my own. Not because she was unwilling to let me play in the sandbox, but because she’d spent her entire life building a sandcastle that worked. It protected her. It was her roof. It was her safety. There was this beautiful relationship between the way she cared for it and it cared for her. I knew it protected her inner child from the storms that I was busy brewing. I didn’t even care. I still wanted to knock it down. I had to if I was going to build a sandcastle big enough for the two of us. That statement alone tells me how selfish I am. It tells me how presumptuous I am for how things are “supposed to be”. I still think that way. Needless to say, we are not together.

But I am starting to get it.

There is no such thing as either party being free-from-harm when you penetrate the source of a wound. I told one girl that I wanted her pain. She laughed and said, “Ben, you can have it all. And if you don’t want it all, I have enough for the both of us.”

So, now, I’ve spent the better part of the last ten years consciously seeking other peoples’ traumas to use as my own learning curve. This goes for friendships & relationships alike. Friends, family, men, women – no one is off limits. I’m afraid it repels a lot of relationships as people get to know me. I’m always trying to be aware of this so I don’t do more harm than help.

I don’t know if it’s truth or ego speaking, but I can still say with confidence,

“I am, in fact, going to use you.”

That hurts me.

I hope if anyone is reading this that has been on the wrong end of my process, you can forgive me. I promise you that I’m slowly growing and I love you for what you’ve given me.

Ben