Homeless in the Homeland

Homeless Veteran (Source)

Homeless in the Homeland 

I recently took a trip to Las Vegas, NV to celebrate my birthday. I was so excited about seeing the lights and all the famous, well-known buildings in Vegas. You know the deal: “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.” However, I found this not to be a true statement.

Despite all the fun I had in Vegas, I couldn’t help but to notice the large homeless population on the streets begging for money, food or anything one was willing to give. A majority of these homeless folks were Veterans.

What happened in Vegas DID stay with me: seeing homeless veterans, standing on the streets of Vegas, clothes tattered, war wounds evident, somber faces, holding cardboard signs that read, “Homeless Veteran. Will work. Please help. God Bless” all while holding their military identification cards to contribute to the validity of their ask for help.

Never, should one who was willing to give all for you and me; our country’s freedom be left on the streets begging for handouts with no roof over their head or a warm bed to sleep in a night. As advanced as we are in the United States, never should anyone, especially a veteran, be homeless in the homeland.

Homelessness is a major issue in the United States of America. The State of Homelessness in America 2016 reports on a single night in January 2015, 564,708 people were experiencing homelessness — meaning they were sleeping outside or in an emergency shelter or transitional housing program. In total, 33 states and the District of Columbia (D.C.) reported decreases in overall homelessness, while 16 states reported increases.

The chronically homeless population, 83,170 individuals, accounted for 15 percent of all persons experiencing homelessness on a given night in 2015, according to Part 1 of HUD’s 2015 Annual Homeless Assessment Report.

According to a fact sheet from the National Alliance to end Homelessness, in January 2014, communities across America identified 49,933 homeless veterans during point-in-time counts, which represents 8.6 percent of the total homeless population. Homeless veterans tend to be male (91 percent), single (98 percent), live in a city (76 percent), and have a mental and/or physical disability (54 percent).

Veterans are more likely than civilians to experience homelessness. Like the general homeless population, veterans are at a significantly increased risk of homelessness if they have low socioeconomic status, a mental health disorder, and/or a history of substance abuse. Yet, because of veterans’ military service, this population is at higher risk of experiencing traumatic brain injuries and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), both of which have been found to be among the most substantial risk factors for homelessness.

There are programs such as Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program which provides a variety of time-limited services and financial assistance. Homeless veterans can receive assistance both from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), provided they have an eligible discharge status, and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), regardless of discharge status. In a joint supportive housing program between the two departments (HUD-VASH), Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers housing vouchers are combined with case management and supportive services at VA medical centers. Despite the help available, it is up to the states and localities to educate and take an initiative to end homelessness.

In January 2015, New Orleans became the first major city to announce that it had ended veteran homelessness. Throughout 2015, other communities are sure to follow. The success of the HUD-VASH, SSVF, and other programs targeted to veterans, combined with the dedication and commitment of America’s communities prove that ending veteran homelessness is possible.

This post is to bring awareness to the homeless population in the United States and to share with you my passion and opinion on the topic.

Read more and think of ways you can help fight homelessness in America at these links below.

Sources used for this article:

http://www.endhomelessness.org/pages/about_homelessness
http://www.endhomelessness.org/pages/chronic_homelessness_overview
http://www.endhomelessness.org/library/entry/fact-sheet-veteran-homelessness
http://www.endhomelessness.org/library/entry/SOH2016
https://www.hudexchange.info/resources/documents/2015-AHAR-Part-1.pdf

Peace and Love
xoxo

-AK

3.14.17

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When You Break A String…

Broken String

If you play guitar, or any instrument that relies on strings, you’ve been there; right in the middle of a practice or a performance, out of nowhere….”bing…snap!” and there you are with a broken string. Dang.

Most musicians have a backup instrument or two that they can grab. Or even, in some cases, some musicians will string the instrument right there on stage. (I love when that happens and wish I was skilled in the craft).

For others, like me, who only have one guitar, this can  cripple a performance.

So, how do you prepare for this unexpended event.

Well, let’s start by examining some potential reasons why guitar strings break:

  1. The bridge may be too sharp – this can easily be fixed with a small file or sand paper to smooth out the situation.
  2. Rough fret edges –  sand paper can also be used if you find this could be the cause of the same breakage over and over.
  3. The nut is dirty or worn – inspect the nut for any dirt or grime and remove it. Also, you can file down to make it smooth. (I personally think this is what I’m facing).
  4. Burred tuning posts – sometimes you find sharp edges on the tuning posts, this can be fixed with another smoothing technique using a thick string (see article link below)
  5. Using the wrong strings – (this is also likely my problem) seek the right strings for the right job i.e. if you are playing open turning but plan to raise the pitch above standard more often than not, check into getting some custom strings for your playing preference.

Source: https://www.stringjoy.com/why-guitar-strings-break/

Regular maintenance is encouraged to also help prevent a string break on stage. Just like preventative care at the doctor, take your precious musical baby to get a ‘checkup’ regularly.

Now let’s also think about how to respond if a guitar string breaks mid-performance.

Breaking strings is to be expected, however, in the event a string breaks throwing a little tantrum like a child is not.

Most musicians would never throw their guitars down, mainly because our instruments are kind of expensive and because it is silly pointless behavior, as well as a sign of immaturity and a lack of appreciation for the instrument and craft.

Have a plan B or C or D if you really want to prepare for the unexpected.

Have your ‘next step’ in mind after a string breaks (i.e. do you stop the performance, keep playing without the string, grab a new instrument etc.?)

Ultimately it’s up to you how you respond to when you break a string.

In a way this reminds me of life. Sometimes we don’t see it coming and a string will break. We can either choose to cry about it and just give up, or find a solution to the challenge and overcome with a positive outlook.

Boom. Motivation for the day folks! Ok, I’m done trying to be a philosopher. lol

I hope this post was helpful.

Peace and love

-AK

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Leaving Your Comfort Zone

Growth

If we’re growing, we’re always going to be out of our comfort zone.” ~ John Maxwell
Recently I decided I’m going to do it; leave my comfort zone. I’m really going to go for it, venture out, leave the place I’ve called home for my whole life and move; leave behind my security blanket.

I’m a mountain girl so my roots are strong and love of where I come from is something I take pride in. I’m ridiculously close with my family and love where I spent my childhood into adulthood. I’ve arrived at a point in my life I needed to explore a little;  challenge myself and my abilities. I needed to place myself in a situation where growth was inevitable aka outside my comfort zone.

*gulp*

Oh dear, here it is, that feeling creeping in. The waves of fear and doubt crashing in.

The thought of leaving the place that you’re familiar with and love can be overwhelming and scary. For me, especially at first, it was really overwhelming. My mind was racing a million miles a minute. A ton of ‘what if’ scenarios flooded in…

1. What if I hate it there?

2. What if I can’t find any friends?

3. What if all my friends forget me back home?

4. What if my close connection with my family is weakened?

5. WHAT IF….???

Ahhhhh!

After my mini freak out session, I told myself to get a grip. This is a superb opportunity to travel, work at an exciting new company, get out of your comfort zone and really grow. Think about the reasons and benefits for this intentional introduction of chaos.

So just to back myself up (and to calm myself down) I sought after some inspiration to motivate my move.

It was good to read others blogs and experiences. It helped me to relate and feel like, “others have done this, they were happy they did, it was tough but they made it and yeah I can do this.”

It’s often said, in the end, we only regret the chances we didn’t take. That’s  a terrifying statement. I don’t want later life ‘what if’s’ haunting me all over the place. No way, no how.  So here I am, in all my scared glory, leaving my comfort zone.

*jump*

Maybe, you too, are on your unknown adventure, journeying out of the comfort zone. Hats off to ya and best of luck on your voyage ahead! You’re not alone in the unknown.

Thanks for reading and feel free to tell me about your ‘leaving the comfort zone’ experience.

Peace and love.

-AK

 

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Meet My Personal Trainer Jaime; Helping me get my Fitness On

So as of late I had been in a fitness slump, I fell off the band wagon. Yeah, that’s right. It happens to all of us.

New Years rolls around and we all get real motivated and hit the gym but that fades. Then summer approaches and we all do the panic dieting and exercise to look semi-decent in a bathing suit. And don’t even get me started on winter gains (and not the good kind either, more like saddle bags from all those yummy Christmas treats).

So, I decided I’ve had enough of this roller coaster fitness journey. I want to be fit on a constant basis. Not only does it make you look better and be stronger, it also makes you FEEL better. That’s what counts folks. I was so exhausted and feeling just bad about myself in general so I said to myself, “I need to set a goal and get my rear in gear.” Sometimes motivation is hard to come by. I’m a type A for the most part so I work well with lists, calendars and schedules to hold me accountable. Therefore, I found a half marathon training schedule, running all the time.

Then I noticed, I was looking kind puny. I don’t want to be puny, I want to be fit and strong and toned.

So…this is where my dear Jaime Robinson, personal trainer, comes in to my fitness picture.

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Jaime Robinson is a personal trainer, group exercise instructor and certified in sports nutrition at Next Phase Fitness (nextphasefit.com) so basically she knows her stuff! She specializes in women’s fitness and nutrition so naturally, as a woman, it was only logical I seek her help in my fitness journey.

She inspired me by showing how hard work and dedication can transform your body for the better. She went from 32% body fat to 17% in just a year and a half! This especially hit home when she said, “Your body is capable of anything you want it to be; you just have to focus.”

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She has even competed in a bikini contest, where those ladies be looking smokin’ gorgeous, and held her own with the best of them! (Way to go Jaime!)

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So, I reached out to Jaime and her response was nothing but positive and encouraging and helpful. I’m telling you this girl had me a fitness plan in no time and on the track to fitness. Any time I need her to show me the proper way to complete a workout move, she is there to help! She said she would rather take a few moments to show me the right way than to risk me guessing on how to do a fitness move.

What a great support system and wealth of knowledge Jaime is.

So anyone out there looking to join the fitness revolution to look and FEEL better, I must recommend Jaime Robinson.

To find out more about Jaime visit her website: JFRFitness.com or Instagram my girl at @jfrfit

In the mean time, I’ll be getting my sweat on and toning up at the gym thanks to Jaime’s help!

Peace and love y’all.

-AK

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Adventure Crew: It All Started With A Cancelled Flight…

Random Adventure Crew

(Featured Above: Random Adventure Crew )

It all started with a cancelled flight…

So, here’s the story:

I get stranded at the airport (faulty radar equipment, thanks a lot American Airlines). I’m about 3 hours out from my final location I need to get to and the most logical thought is to rent a car and drive.

Go to the car rental place.

OUT OF CARS!

What??? How can this be? It’s a huge airport and they are out of cars! No way this is happening too. So, I’m literally stranded. Faced with this challenge I think, hmmm maybe I can get a car service of some sort.

I ask the rental car guy (who was super nice) if he can check on a car service rental cost.

“Sure,” he says and calls the people he knew that provided a service like this.

How much? $660

OMG! I can’t afford that. So, I’m thinking. Well, that’s it. I’m spending the night in the airport. Horrible feeling.

So, then rental car guy asks me where I’m heading. I tell him and he says,”Oh there was a few other people going that same direction, maybe you can share a car and costs!”

BRILLIANT!

The plan is devised. Luckily, car rental guys sees other guy who needs to go to the same place I do. Flags him down and I pitch the idea.

He’s from our destination state of Tennessee and totally on board. We shake hands and do our intros and he’s cool. I say, “If we find a few others to share the car with us this cost will go down even more.” He’s right there with me in thought process.

As awkward as it was, Tennessee and I both set out asking randoms in the airport, “Are you going to this destination?”

NO

Are you going to this destination?

NO

We get a little discouraged and our hopes go down. I start telling him I talked to a guy from Cali right before this that needed to go our way too. I wish I would have gotten his contact because I bet he would join us.

As the universe would have it, he walks right through the doors in front of us. (Thanks universe).

“HEY HEY!” I flag him down and tell him this idea we have to share a car! He’s totally on board too.

YES! (Tiny fist pump).

We all three do intros again and we have the goal to find one other person.

Cali sees a man he knew from the cancelled flights and this man already called a friend to pick him up.

BUMMER.

So we pretty much feel like we’ve lost that battle because we see no on else that fits the bill of being on our cancelled flight.

Our driver calls and is about to arrive and we are in agreement we will just go on ahead. Then Cali sees a younger gal that may have been on the plane. I approach her and ask if she is going this direction and would like to ride with us. Obviously, she has an accent and isn’t from the U.S. She’s from Italy in fact and needing to get to Tennessee too! So I ask Italy to go. After several phone calls and some long awaiting approval from her folks she’s in too!

So we set out on this adventure!

Driver from a service called ‘Step Above Limo Service” is very nice and helps us all with our luggage and we load up in this Lincoln Town Car and set out on our way! We do some intros in the car and driver is from Egypt we find out.

So here we have Egypt, Italy, Tennessee, California and Virginia (me) all piled in this car, all needing to get to the same place and all totally relying on each other’s word and good will to get there.

GPS, being the lovely navigator it is, takes us the “shortest route” which was long, curvy roads over the river and through the woods. (When I say woods, I mean DEEP woods, like deer everywhere and snakes and random back road drunk drivers, all the above.) It was an adventure through the rolling hills of North Carolina, long ‘country miles.’

Those country miles, however, were full of good conversations, laughter, sharing stories, and relating to one another.

All five of us in that car, had no clue we would cross paths that day. Little did we know we would need and rely upon one another to accomplish a common goal; to get to our destination.

It made me realize how beautiful the roadblocks of life can be, and if you are open to adventure, it will find you.

At first, it seemed like everything was going wrong. My flight got delayed then cancelled, then they had no cars to rent, then the next flights got booked up. Literally every thing that could go wrong was.

After meeting these folks, my perspective of this trip changed. I met a person who was in the same boat as me. Then I met others who all needed to ride the boat too! So everything that could go right was going right. We found one, then another that wanted to join us. We secured a driver who was awesome and willing to drive us through God’s country at the crazy early morning hours with four random people who all just wanted to get home.

Once my perspective changed, this trip came across as successful instead of a failure because not only did it renew my feeling of human connection it was an amazing adventure. It all started with a cancelled flight and I would not have had the chance to experience had my flight not been cancelled.

I may never see those people again, but they helped to make a memorable night that we all experienced together. That’s how it should be. We are all human, we were “up the creek without a paddle” and we found others up the creek without a paddle and we build a boat and paddled together to figure out a way to solve the problem we faced.

What a beautiful night and beautiful experience of the human connectivity present. We were all from different places, different walks of life, but we all shared this moment together, uniting us and rejuvenating my view of humanity.

Hey Cali, Tennessee, Italy and Egypt: If you are out there and reading this, I hope all is well. Thanks for making the adventure great.

So, next time you are faced with a delay or shift in gears from your original plan, remember to see the opportunity to seize the adventure for all it’s worth. You may just make some new friends along the way, and I can guarantee you will make a memory that will last a lifetime.

Peace and love.

-AK

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Coffee Language


How do I take my coffee? Seriously. Very Seriously.

Coffee Language: This is a real thing folks. Just like Spanish, German, French etc.; Ordering coffee is linguistic art all its own.

This morning as I was venturing to my airport terminal, I stopped to grab some coffee in one of the terminal shops.

You could hear the busy bustle of blenders buzzing, coffee bubbling, the
buttons being pressed on the register from the orders ahead. The main
person making the orders started to go down the line of customers asking
each what they would like.

“Ma’am, what would you like?”
-a grande latte
-chai tea with vanilla
-non fat double shot cappuccino
-medium dark roast with coconut milk and vanilla
-a…..caramel double foamy frappe – — foamy and hot with vanilla and coffee with more
coffee and foam sprinkled with diamonds and gold encrusted around the
edges and a some gold dust shavings on top with some drizzled blah blah
blah…..

Ok. Maybe they weren’t ordering like the last one
but essentially you get the idea; Elaborate coffee language. I swore
some of the orders were totally fabricated due to the fact each customer
would have their 15 seconds of ‘coffee fame’ to ordering in front of the
group.

Before my turn to order I got a slight twinge of nervousness.
What am I really ordering?
Where did all these coffee experts come from?
When and where did they acquire coffee language?
How am I going to do this?

The barista focuses her attention on me; this is it, my moment to really shine…

And I’m over here like, “umm black coffee please.”

(Waaaa Waaaa Waaaa)

She’s asked, “Do you want a shot of espresso or extra foam in that?”
Thinking: What?? Is this a real question?

I say, “No foam please.
Just something to wake me up.
(It’s 6am. I don’t have time to worry about foam.)
How about just shots, just espresso, two shots of espresso, let’s keep it simple.

Boom.

I took my espresso, downed the horrible tasting caffeine boost and went on my walk of non-coffee expert shame away from the coffee booth.

Needless to say, I missed the bandwagon of expert baristas and learned a lot about coffee language today.

So, how you take your coffee?

7.25.2016

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