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Carrie & Michael Fox, on grief & healing, Russian roulette & revelation, poetry & music, and a whole lotta love

(Publication Date: 6.4.24)

 In this episode of We Are Chaffee’s Looking Upstream podcast, Adam Williams talks with Michael and Carrie Fox, a married musical duo that perform as Known Odyssey. Michael also is a poet and video artist. Carrie also is a writer, music therapist and grief counselor.

 

Carrie has published writing about grief and loss. She was a music therapist for hospice patients for years, and she lost her dad to pancreatic cancer when she was 22 years old. Michael lost his mom to lung cancer when he was only 17, and his dad rarely was involved in his life.

 

This incredible conversation dives into the human experiences of grief and loss, healing and gratitude, resilience and forgiveness. And a whole lotta love.

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SHOW NOTES, LINKS, CREDITS & TRANSCRIPT

The We Are Chaffee: Looking Upstream podcast is a collaboration with the Chaffee County Departments of Public Health and Housing, and is supported by the Colorado Public Health & Environment: Office of Health Disparities.

 

Along with being distributed on podcast listening platforms (e.g. Spotify, Apple), Looking Upstream is broadcast weekly at 1 p.m. on Tuesdays, on KHEN 106.9 community radio in Salida, Colo., and can be listened to on-demand via khen.org

 

Carrie & Michael Fox, Known Odyssey Productions

Email: knownodyssey@gmail.com

Instagram: instagram.com/knownodysseymusic 

Facebook: facebook.com/knownodysseyproductions 

YouTube: youtube.com/@knownodyssey/videos 

Spotify: open.spotify.com/artist/1C2Icxr0TDSfu7zMZIfb9K 

Apple Music: music.apple.com/us/artist/known-odyssey/1408233738 

Amazon Music: amazon.com/music/player/artists/B07F9MQTT7/known-odyssey 

 

We Are Chaffee

Website: wearechaffee.org

Instagram: instagram.com/wearechaffeepod 

Facebook: facebook.com/wearechaffee

Instagram: instagram.com/wearechaffee

CREDITS

Looking Upstream Host, Producer & Photographer: Adam Williams

Looking Upstream Engineer & Producer: Jon Pray

We Are Chaffee Community Advocacy Coordinator: Lisa Martin

We Are Chaffee Graphic and Web Design: Heather Gorby

Director of Chaffee County Public Health and Environment: Andrea Carlstrom

TRANSCRIPT

Note: Transcripts are produced using a transcription service.

Although it is largely accurate, minor errors inevitably exist.

[Intro music, guitar instrumental]

Adam Williams (00:00:15): Welcome to We are Chaffee: Looking Upstream, a conversational podcast of community, humanness, and well-being rooted in Chaffee County, Colorado. I'm Adam Williams. Today, I'm talking with Carrie and Michael Fox, a married duo of musicians that you might recognize by the name, Known Odyssey. Michael is a poet and video artist. Carrie is a writer, music therapist, and a grief counselor, so clearly, they both are multi-talented and expressive people. 

Carrie published a newspaper article recently, in which she shared reflections on grief, loss and life. That's something that she and Michael know a lot about, rather intimately. Carrie was a music therapist for hospice patients for years, and she lost her dad to pancreatic cancer, when she was 22 years old. 

Michael lost his mom to lung cancer when he was only 17, and for all intents and purposes, he never really had his dad around, even before that. We talk about the anger Michael felt, at that time, and the alcohol abuse that ensued, and the games of Russian roulette, when he was really in the pain of it all.

(00:01:24): We also talk about the revelatory life-changing moment when he recognized that he had more to give the world than his suffering. This is a really incredible conversation. It's one of healing into gratitude, resilience, and forgiveness, at least as much as it is about facing grief and loss. Michael and Carrie exude joy, and love, and light. I'm sure you'll hear it and probably feel it. 

The Looking Upstream podcast is supported by Chaffee County Public Health, and the Chaffee Housing Authority. Show notes with links, and a transcript, plus contact information to connect with Carrie and Michael, are available at wearechaffee.org. They told me that they would love to hear from you about this conversation or otherwise. 

You also can connect further with the podcast through wearechaffeepod on Instagram. Thoughtful reviews of Looking Upstream on Spotify and Apple, help us to spread the good that we're working for here, by connecting the community through meaningful conversations. 

All right, Michael and Carrie Fox.

[Transition music, guitar instrumental]

Adam Williams (00:02:37): Michael, you first came to Salida, when you were 18, I understand. And I think as the story goes, you had $50 in your pocket. You lived at The Palace Hotel, and I'm always sort of curious about that kind of leap in life, and what leads to it. Can you tell me about that story and how that came to be?

Michael Fox (00:02:53): Wow, I love that. Thank you for reflecting. I'm going to go back in history. Yeah, so originally, when my mother passed away, I just turned 17, kind of I was in the flow of life, just trying to find myself, and then all of a sudden, I found myself in Denver with my sister, Brenda, and her husband, Harold. They actually took me in when my mother passed, and some little revolves in life, it just took me down this crazy journey. 

I ended up meeting a really good friend named Ricky Sandman, and he took me in, for a little while, and I was just finding a call to the mountains, feeling really a pull to this area. And I remember just having a $50 bill, actually, two 20s and a 10, or I can't remember exactly, and then showing up to Salida. I don't even think I had a vehicle.

(00:03:45): I don't even remember how I got here, but I remember just getting to the park. I looked at the hotel, and I'm just like, "Wow, this place looks really cool." And the history back then, too, it was just like, it's incredible. And as you know if you're in Salida, if you've been here since those days, everything is shifting, and it's just... 

But yeah, back to that, I looked at the hotel, I walked in, met with the lady there. I'm like, "Hey, do you have anything for rent?" and they're like, "Sure, let's show you," and she showed me the room, and she goes, "How about 50 a month?" I was like, "Okay," and that's all I had. That's all the money I had in the bank. And so from then on, I started looking, and started working little jobs around Salida. One of them was the Bird's Eye Art Gallery, with my friend Carl, and then I tried everything. I worked at Scharch Manufacturing. What else? All kinds of just random things.

Adam Williams (00:04:32): $50 a month is unbelievable. I mean, we're of comparable age, so to think about like this is within my adult lifetime, and I can't imagine paying $50 a month for anything.

Michael Fox (00:04:45): To me, it was a lot of money, at that time, but-

Adam Williams (00:04:47): Well, if that's all you got in your pocket-

Michael Fox (00:04:48): Yeah, that was it. Literally, I had maybe a quarter in my pocket, and I don't even remember how I ate for the first two weeks. Something just... I don't know. I really don't remember that, honestly.

Adam Williams (00:05:00): You said, "I don't remember how I got here," and in my head, I started laughing because I feel like that's probably what a lot of us could say, in general, for life, "How did I get here like how did I get to this point in life?" For me, it's how did I get to my age?

Michael Fox (00:05:12): I like that.

Adam Williams (00:05:14): What is going on, like in general, how did we get here? I want to talk about your mom. Because let's not gloss over, you mentioned that your mom had died. You were only 18. That's a very significant experience, and I know that you were 17 when she died. She died from, was it lung cancer?

Michael Fox (00:05:33): Mm-hmm, yes.

Adam Williams (00:05:35): And your dad was not around, so this was an experience that bore an awful lot of weight for you. It's extraordinary, I think.

Michael Fox (00:05:44): Yeah.

Adam Williams (00:05:44): Can you tell me about that, and tell me about her?

Michael Fox (00:05:47): Yeah, to reflect that time in my life, my siblings were all... My brother and two sisters, they were all doing their life, and kind of on their own journey, finding themselves. I grew up with my mother, and my father, like you just said, and to remind myself, I didn't have him available in my lifetime. So as I was going through that process, I was living in Des Moines, Iowa. 

And my mother and I, we moved around a lot. I seemed to be the one child with her, that would always tend to be connected with her. My other family members were, like I said, they were just out doing their journeys. And to reflect back to the question, my mother was dating a fellow. His name was Bert, and just sort of a friendship relationship.

(00:06:35): So, I used to take the bus. I think I was just turning 17, in high school, 17, yeah. So I would take the bus to the hospital, and I would watch, and I would see. And I was kind of trying to figure out, "Wow, what's really happening here?" and I was really alone. I didn't have anybody with me. I didn't have any confidants to speak to. And so I was watching that process of my mother passing, and from one day, seeing her happy and alive, and sharing herself, and the next day, not knowing who I am, and it was traumatic, totally.

Adam Williams (00:07:12): When you say your siblings were doing their own thing, is it because they all were older, and out of the house, or what else might have been going on then?

Michael Fox (00:07:20): Yeah, I think the relationship with my sister, Brenda, and with my mother, was an interesting one. I don't know the full story, but I know that they had their differences, and so she was a strong person. My sister, Brenda, and I have we connected in the last couple of years, in a really good way, and we've really rekindled our friendship, and our family bond is really strong. My sister, Carol, and Randy, I truly don't know exactly what was happening in their lives, at the time, because I was sort of... I think my sister, Carol, actually had found a boyfriend in another state, and she was traveling away.

(00:08:00): So I was pretty much left with my mother and I, to watch the history of her, and the passing of her, and that, and then right before my mother passed... She would call me, "Buddy," that was my family nickname. She's like, "Buddy, I think it's time for you to go," and right when that happened... I think that was her way of saying, "You know what? I need him to leave before I can pass." And I remember leaving, moving in with my sister in, I think, it was somewhere in Denver. Inglewood or Lakewood, I can't remember. And then, right when I arrived there, she ended up passing, within a few weeks. So I think that helped her, knowing that I was in a safe place.

Adam Williams (00:08:40): Did it help you? Did you feel that emotionally, that when you weren't there any longer for her, or whatever else you might've felt, did you feel... The gift, I guess she was trying to give you, in a positive way, rather than, "But I should have been there," some sort of guilt that might've come in.

Michael Fox (00:09:01): Yeah, it could have been. I mean, she did her best. If you're growing up with a single parent family, there's a lot in that, and a lot of your listeners and people will understand that. It's still, for me, it's like a lifelong... I'm still learning that. I'm still looking back. I still, once a month, I think, or every day, I think about her, of course, but I am still always trying to process how that assisted me, how that assisted her? What life changes came in between that, and from there? But I do remember when I did leave, once I found out she passed, I kind of had a deep breath of almost of happiness for her, knowing like she's not in pain. The tumor on her chest was the size of a softball. Watching her not know who I am, and just seeing that process was horrible, at 17, and not having a father, not having a lot of people to talk to. Really, no friends like I literally raised myself. And so that's sort of the journey that I've been on with her, with my mother.

Adam Williams (00:10:03): I want to talk with you about your father, and those things, too. However, I do want to bring Carrie's voice into this conversation, and to me, it's so poignant that Carrie, you also, unfortunately, had the experience of losing a parent when you were pretty young.

Carrie Fox (00:10:21): Yes.

Adam Williams (00:10:21): Younger than what we expect-

Carrie Fox (00:10:23): Absolutely.

Adam Williams (00:10:23): ... for that to happen. I think, was it your father passed, when you were 22?

Carrie Fox (00:10:28): I was 22, yes.

Adam Williams (00:10:29): And was that anything expected? Was there a process involved in losing him, or was that one sudden and-

Carrie Fox (00:10:37): There was definitely a process. I would like to... So my father, and Michael, and our backgrounds, are so different, but the grief, there's still that. It ties in there, but just a whole different process. For me, I was raised in a very stable environment, loving parents. All my needs met. Go to college after you graduate high school and everything. So anyways, I was raised in such a nurturing environment, that way. 

Unfortunately, my father passed away from pancreatic cancer. And so, he was diagnosed my junior year of college. And so, I got the news, and with his process, doctors gave him four to six months to live, but he beat the odds, and some experimental drugs worked for him. And his goal was to see me graduate, and he did. And so he saw me graduate from college, but when he did pass away, as expected as it was, it still is just this heart-wrenching experience, because for me, my dad was like my whole world, and you think that they're always going to be there.

(00:11:51): So when I got the diagnosis, we all were in shock. My whole family was in shock. My mom's like, "Oh, it's just a kidney stone, don't worry. He'll be okay. Maybe it's this, maybe it's that." And then, a few days later, it was like, "Whoa," like nobody was expecting it. And unfortunately, yeah, he did. He passed away when I was 22, and now, it's like 22 years later. This has been just a significant year for me because this is the first year, that it's like, "Wow, every day that goes by, I'm actually having more years of my life without my dad, than I did now." So it's just like that whole process is just...

Adam Williams (00:12:30): It's not something I've experienced with my parents, but I know that my parents experienced it with theirs. And the most recent family death that I can think of, and I don't even recall how many years, it's probably more than 10, maybe, at this point, was a grandmother, who was a few days short of her 98th birthday-

Carrie Fox (00:12:54): Right. Right.

Adam Williams (00:12:55): ... and it still hit me like a gut punch when one of my brothers called me at work to tell me. And I left, and went out to my car, and then went on home, and I was too choked up to say anything to my people at work before I left. I later sent a message from home because I couldn't talk. And this was someone, who in my mind, was going to hit a hundred. Absolutely. 

So my point is that when you lose it that early, and when you are that young, I'm trying to reach into that feeling with you, and with both of you. I think that grief, and loss, and death are subjects that we don't do enough of that with. And I think that's one of the really important reasons that I've wanted to have this conversation with you.

(00:13:42): As you know, Carrie, you got my attention with the newspaper article that you wrote, that included reflections on grief, and loss, and life. And that's not only because of your experience in your family, and with your father, but because you have several years, at least, of experience as a music therapist, in a hospice.

Carrie Fox (00:14:02): Right.

Adam Williams (00:14:03): And that to me, sounds like such a tremendous... A very human experience, that so few of us have. So if we continue with you, for now, Carrie, and just the connection here of grief and loss, and I really think what we're pointing at is resilience, and joy, and life coming from it, aren't we? Because people can look at death and say, "Well, this is really heavy, I don't want to talk about it." But I think what we're talking about is your resilience to have carried on for 22 years and forward.

Carrie Fox (00:14:35): Wow, thank you. It's so true. I feel like you were asking how did that... I'm going to tie into a lot of what you just said, because you were talking about at 22, how that shaped the... Because even at the beginning of this podcast, you're like, "How did we get here?" and I've been in that phase, the past few months, too, just like, "How did I get to this point of my life?" especially... And the biggest... And it's so hard because in music therapy, and therapy, and counseling, there's so many tools, like reframing, "Let's reframe how... Because a lot of the goals in therapy is like, "Okay, we have this wound. We have this trauma, but the goal is to reframe it to a manageable place." And I feel like with loss, like losing my dad at 22.

(00:15:26): I've always been a deep thinker. I've always been so curious about life. I was one of those kids that would just sit in my apple tree, and just either read my books, or talk to an imaginary friend, or just ponder life's mysteries, at seven years old, so I've always been that kind of individual. So then when my dad passed away, I'm like, "All right, God. There's got to be a reason... I mean, of course, because he was just the most amazing man. This amazing, just life of the party. Just kids loved him, everyone loved him. And it's just like there's so many songs like, "The Good Ones Die Young," or whatever, and so trying to make sense of it.

(00:16:09): The year that my dad passed away, I moved to Denver, Colorado. Four months after, I got my first job as a music therapist. And so, anyways, tying in that whole journey, it was just like I think because of his death, I found courage. I found the strength to just forge my own path because living in Pittsburgh, at the time, it just wasn't filling my soul. I just was like, "I need to leave, to heal," in a way, being 22, and I had the support of my family. I remember my brother had just been in Boulder, Colorado, and was like, "Man, you'd really love Colorado," and I'm like, "Cool, let's go. Let's try it out."

(00:16:51): But it's interesting, I, in my '20s, because I worked for a private practice, then I started my own, and I was really drawn to children, and adults with special needs, with developmental disabilities. Eventually, that's how I met Michael, but that'll probably come out later on, in this talk. But hearing the word, hospice, I just blacked out. And I remember, we even... The first job I had, we had patients that needed a music therapist, but luckily, I was working with other... I was just like, "There's no way I can do hospice. I'll never be able to do it. In my '20s, no way," and I did. 

I had some young kids that were on a pediatric hospice waiver. For some reason, I could handle the children, but it was just like I had this own blockage, that I just couldn't. And the reason I could handle having the children on my caseload is because they weren't at an imminent stage. It was just that they had this disability, that was going to limit their life.

(00:17:51): But long story short, or long story long, yeah, eventually, I found the strength, and it was after we had moved to Hawaii, where I took just kind of the time-out," let myself heal a little bit. And then, it was I had just a calling like, "Okay, I'm ready. I'm ready to get into that."

Michael Fox (00:18:11): It's okay.

Adam Williams (00:18:14): When you work in hospice, I imagine, probably, like an awful lot of people do, that you were around this weight of darkness, and death, fear. All these sorts of emotions that we consider negative, just endlessly. The stress, whatever. And I'm wondering how many people you're working with, in that space, and what it, maybe, really feels like, if it's not all of that, because there's something that keeps you going back, day after day, year after year. 

What is that that you're connecting with, and feeling with all of these people, which I'm just assuming is... Look, I just said, it's been more than 10 years. I don't even know how many, since the last death, impacted my life. How many deaths might someone in hospice be working with, on a constant basis? It's an amazing role that that person, a service they're playing, and serving in our world.

Carrie Fox (00:19:13): For me, what it was that was drawing me to it... Well, are you familiar with the wounded healer archetype, Carl Young? There's something that has wounded us, or we've gone through a trauma, or something, but because we can relate to it emotionally, empathically, that we're called to these careers, whether it's teaching or therapy. And for me, I think I wasn't ready in my '20s, but I was halfway through my '30s, when I was like... Something just hit me. Like I said, when we were in Hawaii, and I was just like, "Okay, I'm really ready to get back into music therapy, but I don't want to work with kids again. I feel like that "mission" was complete." I say mission, in quotation marks, because this ties into your question.

(00:20:01): I felt like, in a grounded reality sense, that it was sort of a calling of mine, or a mission of mine, because it felt so sacred. There were so many times, that I would connect with the patient, and it's that connection. It's the connection that brought me back, because I am a deep thinker. I have a hard time with small talk. I have a hard time with surface stuff. Let's connect, and let's get to the deep heart of what makes us human.

Adam Williams (00:20:30): That's us here. That's why I like to do this podcast.

Carrie Fox (00:20:30): Exactly.

Adam Williams (00:20:35): And that's why you're here with me.

Carrie Fox (00:20:35): Yeah.

Adam Williams (00:20:35): I love that.

Carrie Fox (00:20:39): Yeah, and for me that's... I remember, I don't know if it was I heard a doctor talk about this, or it was always in our weekly meetings with the nurses, the CNAs, the doctors, and for my part, as a music therapist, I was the fun person. I got to bring music. I got to bring like, "I'm not poking you, I'm not changing you, I'm not bathing you. I just get to sit, and we can talk." Because so many times, family members have a hard time, or it's just so I was there for the patient, I was there for the family members, and there was just so many unique folks that we were able to see.

Michael Fox (00:21:18): If I may interject, also, originally, and back to your question, is the spark I saw in her, Adam, when she was applying for this job... It was actually, she was doing a Zoom call with six people, to apply for this job, in hospice in Las Vegas, when we were living on Hawaii. Two different worlds, on so many levels, We were living near the ocean. 

And I remember having the spark of like, "I need to do this," and I'm like, "Wow, this is so incredible," because I'd never heard... She'd mentioned it once, and I had mentioned it, and she's like, "No, I can't do that." And I remember when she got the job, and we're moving from an island near the ocean, to the middle of Las Vegas, into a whole nother world, and then to watch her drastically change our life... I ended up, after a year, ended up volunteering with the same company, with her.

(00:22:10): But I just want to go back to that question, and it's really, "Okay, here I am," and she dove into this job, career, like I'd never seen her. And I'll let her elaborate on the hundreds of miles per week, the hundreds of sessions, the stories from her working with people from the Black Panthers, to they knew Frank Sinatra. And the stories really kept us there, and the history, and the people, and the heart, and it changed our life, dramatically.

Carrie Fox (00:22:41): And in it, I found my own healing, too because I've never been one to seek traditional therapy or counseling. Because at the time, how I was handling my grief was... There's the stages of grief, I'm sure you are familiar with, or listeners are familiar with. Denial, anger, depression, bargaining, and then acceptance. And my 22-year-old self went straight from, I lost my dad, straight to the acceptance role. 

You're telling me you couldn't talk to people, after you found out your grandma died? Within five to 10 minutes of my dad taking his last breath, I went into business mode, and I was emailing my friends, "Oh, my father just passed away. The funeral's going to be... You know what I'm saying, and that was just my MO. Then I started my music therapy business in Denver, and then that's why we moved to Hawaii though, because I kind of hit a wall, because I didn't deal with my grief and everything.

(00:23:38): So then, my process of when we ended up going to Vegas, and I found, "Wow, I can do this," and I found such healing in it, too. So now, I can be around a person in a hospital bed, that's emaciated because of the dying process, and I can handle it, and be there because so many humans need that. I needed it, when I didn't know I needed it, and so... Yeah, but like Michael was saying when he joined in the sessions, he brought such a huge element to it, and I don't know if you found healing in it, too?

Michael Fox (00:24:14): You know, as we're doing this podcast, it's actually amazing, Adam, and when we're speaking, I'm having healing moments here, of reflecting, and I'm so grateful right now. Thank you so much for allowing this space for us, and for your listeners, and for yourself. But I just was thinking about our age, and that connection, that losing your father, and then my mother, was like, "Wow, I never really connected the dots of like, 'Whoa, that's interesting that they say two birds of a feather flock together and they flow,'" but I never really connected those dots until actually right now. Like wow, we really had so much more in common. Your life was a lot different, like you had mentioned. You had a silver platter, and me, I had a wooden cup, which so to reflect that, thank you, thank you. I just had that epiphany. I was like, "Wow, that really helped."

Carrie Fox (00:25:05): Sometimes, wooden cups are nicer than silver platters, too.

Michael Fox (00:25:10): True.

Carrie Fox (00:25:11): But anyways...

Adam Williams (00:25:14): So I'm thinking about grief here, in a bigger sense, because we experienced this with so many kinds of loss. It's not just with the literal physical death of the body. It's in divorce. It's in how we might feel about something, from the way we were parented, or the fact, again, Michael, your father wasn't there. 

There's a sense of grief, that I would imagine accompanying that, and maybe, especially, when you lost your mother. How did you handle that process, you know, anger, and acceptance, and all of that? Because as a young man, I would think that's a very challenging age for any of us, when we are 17, 18-year-old boys. Your father has, well, from what I understand, if I recall correctly, from things you've shared publicly before, this was a man who truly was never around. 

Never said, "I love you," at any moment when he was with you, and tended to be drunk, or drinking, during those interactions, as well. And I imagine there's a lot of cause there for anger, regardless of what happened with your mother. Then you put that on, and it's something I can't imagine.

Michael Fox (00:26:27): Thank you, and I made some notes of that, too. And I think I feel allowing myself to have this time with you, and your amazing listeners, and your connected communities, all around the world, it really helped me dive deep into, "Why, where, how all of that even began in my life." And one of the things I was, when I first moved to Salida, I literally, I drowned myself in alcohol, from 19 to about 23, and I don't remember a lot of my life. And I just remember the anger, and a lot of it was due to my father, and not so much my mom. She did the best she could. That's part of my poem. "She did the best she could, maybe I misunderstood," but yeah, and that time was in Salida, and I truly...

(00:27:16): One awakening for me is one of my friends, he ended up passing away, when he was 20, in Canon City. He got hit by a van, actually, and he was my confidant, reminding me of Carrie, as if he was a female, very similar energy. But I remember one day, his father looked at us, and was like, "Michael, John, you guys look like... You look terrible." I won't say the word that he said. And so I went home, and looked in the mirror, and I started crying. I'm just like, "Whoa, what am I doing to myself?" The rage I felt, and the times I found myself waking up with my car in the middle of the street, on F Street, or in ditches, and playing Russian roulette-

Adam Williams (00:28:06): For real?

Michael Fox (00:28:07): For real, yeah, with black powder pistols. I mean, literally, downtown Salida, and I won't mention the exact place, but some of the things that I don't know truly how I survived it, without counseling, without support groups. I never confided in anyone. I never really truly had anybody that I felt safe with, especially with men, because I felt... 

And that's one thing I connected with you, Adam, is I felt very comfortable to speak about it today, is because of the energy that you carry yourself, your tone, the way that you speak. Because literally, in the last two years, I finally have started to be able to be around men, and to not feel fearful, and that loud, if somebody talks really loud, it reminds me of my father, and so...

Adam Williams (00:29:00): Do you have a fight or flight response, in that kind of moment, where you feel like you need to meet them, in what you perceive as a place of ego, or aggression, or this alpha sort of energy?

Michael Fox (00:29:15): I always tended to be the people pleaser in that, and I always tended to just say, "Yes, sir. No, ma'am," and I never really used my voice, the way I do now. And I feel like, literally, in the last six months, with the help of Carrie, especially. She's carried me through this, tears and all, and the thousands of buckets I could fill, and anger. 

And seeing actually, she's watched me almost abuse myself, and punch myself, and just not know how to release that anger from that fatherhood piece of my life. And I was thinking... I asked Carrie, the other day, I'm like, "Carrie, doing this podcast with Adam, it's really making me think a lot." And I'm like, "I'm trying to remember like what's one really cool memory, that I had with my dad, in the times that I would see him," because I would leave from Minnesota, or Iowa, and come to Kansas, actually.

(00:30:15): And one of the best memories I found was like we went to Elitch's together, but then I remember he was drunk, and I was so happy just to see him sitting on a bench, watch me ride the rides, and knowing, "He's not going to yell at me." Or driving the backwoods of Kansas, down dirt roads, at 14, being like, "Wow, my dad's letting me drive," but not really realizing it, until later in my life, he really wanted me just to drive him to his friend's house, while he's drinking, and so the story goes on and on, Adam.

Adam Williams (00:30:47): Yeah, yeah. Well, thank you for sharing that. What I'm hearing here is a lot of loss, for both of you, has been experienced, and Carrie, for you, through hospice, there's a lot of learning from that, I would imagine?

Carrie Fox (00:31:03): Mm-hmm.

Adam Williams (00:31:03): I am curious about the stories that people might share, like you mentioned the Black Panther, who you were with, or whatever the stories might've been. But also, if we go into the deeper human places with those people, what you might've been witnessing, in terms of how they faced this impending end to this life. Did they have fear? Did they have a spiritual sort of peace? Did they have unresolved issues with family members? I imagine you saw a whole spectrum of all of it, and so then, it's what did you, as this sensitive lifelong thinker, and feeler, and communicator, what did you take that in, and do with that, in your own life?

Carrie Fox (00:31:44): The word that comes to me in that question is perspective like perspective is everything, and for me, it's helped me... Wow, just being around people of all ages, different cultures, different races, different everything. I came out of this five and a half year long chapter in Las Vegas, just like a changed person because Michael and I did a lot of traveling in our early years. We traveled to Costa Rica, Italy, India, everywhere. But then to be in Las Vegas, which is a melting pot of culture, community, people. 

It's just like every day was just that adventure. And the thing with hospice, the hospice that I worked for, it's so hard because I know your question wasn't about this part, but it's like I saw the business side of it, too. And that's hard because we're talking about human lives, and everything was just like you have marketers as part of your hospice team. You have a social worker, chaplain, myself, the music therapist, a volunteer coordinator. Then, you have your nurses and your CNAs, but it's like it's constantly because we want to be able to help people, we have to have the patients.

(00:33:02): So it's like you would work with one person, walk them through their journey, they'd eventually pass away, then there's another person, so it's like it's this ongoing process. But as far as the people, and the stories, and all of that, for me, it was just a lesson on perspective. And then, connecting the dots, too, because we were in Hawaii, where I learned so much about the Hawaiian culture, and the music. 

The music, especially, of Hawaii, and how music is so special to Hawaiian culture, and learning the Hawaii Aloha. Learning and understanding what the Mauna Kea protest was all about. We weren't living there, at the time, but that was in 2019, I believe. I was still very deep in hospice, and I don't know if you're aware, but Las Vegas is considered the ninth island. A lot of people from Hawaii live in Las Vegas.

Adam Williams (00:33:56): I did not know that.

Carrie Fox (00:33:56): Yeah, so there's-

Michael Fox (00:33:56): Portability.

Carrie Fox (00:33:57): ... a big Hawaiian culture, Samoan culture. So it's really interesting. Some of the first patients I had, had those roots. So because of my experience in Hawaii, I was able to bring that culture to them.

Adam Williams (00:34:11): Isn't that wild? If we go back to the question of how did I get here?

Carrie Fox (00:34:15): Yes.

Adam Williams (00:34:15): What are the pivotal moments, in our lives, that end up connecting later? And it's only in hindsight, we can look back and be like, "Wow, I could never have planned this, and now here it is." And with reflection, we're like, "Well, my time in Hawaii is making this difference, as I transition into this hospice role."

Carrie Fox (00:34:35): Mm-hmm.

Michael Fox (00:34:36): Yeah.

Carrie Fox (00:34:36): Do you remember that video that made it... It was sort of viral, within my hospice community, but there's one story I had with a Samoan family, and he was considered the chief of his family. He was also a very Christian man, so he blended the Christian roots with his Samoan roots. Was this very big figure in his community, and I remember... This is how music and culture... 

There's this song called, Just a Closer Walk With Thee, and I was playing i on the guitar, and he was humming along with me, literally, three days before he passed away. And I remember, they knew that song in Samoan, in their language, so here I am playing the guitar, kind of singing the Christian words, but not singing them, letting him kind of guide the way, and then one of my teammates was videotaping this. And we made it the most beautiful legacy project for them, but it was where I was able to at least play the song. They start singing along, and then he passed away, within three days, and that was the last time they heard his voice.

(00:35:47): So there's moments like that, where it's not even just the presence, but the music connecting, bridging the cultures. And then, each patient to patient, as the years went by, there would be a patient I would see, that I'd remember from six months ago, from this other person, "Oh, if they liked this music, they might like this music," and then I could connect the dots. For me, it just made me a more empathic person, able to be a better listener, just to hold space, and just to-

Michael Fox (00:36:16): And if I may interject too-

Carrie Fox (00:36:18): Oh, yeah.

Michael Fox (00:36:19): ... because I was an optional part of this-

Carrie Fox (00:36:19): Absolutely.

Michael Fox (00:36:20): ... as a volunteer with this company. But back to your question, the eclectic energy of different personalities, from 29 years old to 101 years old, I saw Carrie as a friend, as a husband, as a coworker, or whatever, and in a new way. And in the way that she would respond, the way that she would just not... Way beyond the music, the way that she would interact with people. Literally, one time, we were in a room with probably six family members of a person, a niece, or nephew, or somebody said, "Hey, can you play this song by Michael Jackson, You Are Not Alone?" 

Carrie starts playing this song. The individual passed away right then, with all of the family in the room, within his last breath, on a note of her guitar. And I remember, beyond the music, the energy that Carrie was sharing. She had a big responsibility, Adam, to not just play a melody, but to actually be there for the family, for months afterwards, and to have that-

Carrie Fox (00:36:20): Bereavement is important, yeah.

Michael Fox (00:37:20): ... connection with people. We also did that with a police officer, that was in her '30s, in the same type of situation, in a room with the whole family, and that energy... I remember, sometimes, looking at it, and having to be strong, and having to hold back tears, and having to be that. I was seeing Carrie as literally this angel, in these moments. And I don't know if you remember a lot of those moments, and then dealing with... Working with people that... One of them, Veronica, was it? There was an individual, that she was telling us how she would be walking in the woods-

Carrie Fox (00:37:56): [inaudible 00:37:56]

Michael Fox (00:37:55): ... and she was seeing people, hung up in the trees and yeah, exactly. That was my thought. I did a big gulp in my mind like, "Wow." And then, playing music with her, and then the healing energy from playing music from the '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, and then, even sometimes, even techno. It's just like the eclectic energy, it's mind-blowing, and we would need like 10 hours to tell you.

Adam Williams (00:38:22): It's remarkable what music can do in to call back, for any of us. Maybe it's our youth, our childhood, something with family, with church, with whatever the connections are, that we make to those things. And what a beautiful sort of experience, but also maybe guide, for these people, in particular, as they pass into whatever realm, and their-

Carrie Fox (00:38:22): Absolutely.

Adam Williams (00:38:45): ... physical life here is done. It also does that with all kinds of grief, doesn't it? If you feel like you're in a sad mood, and your depressed, or whatever, maybe you put on something that's happy, and you start dancing, so you can feel better, or maybe you put on a sad song because it helps you get it out, in a different way. It's really a really incredible thing.

(00:39:02): And so as we're talking about all this grief and loss, and that you two have so much experience with what I feel is an undercurrent, here is the joy, of how you are working with it, and especially through music. You both are musicians. Creators, in various forms. I think Michael, I know you're also a poet. You both work with words and write. Let's talk about that. Let's talk about the role of creativity and joy. Maybe, it's as healing, personally, but also in however you see it for others, because you do play and perform publicly, and share publicly.

Michael Fox (00:39:36): I really truly love how you just expressed that because my final note yesterday was called Celebration of Resiliency, celebration of that, and you just said that. You just took the words out of my mouth, and I was like, "That's the best part of it, is knowing, and going through the flame, the fire, your one desire." That's one of my poems, "Igniting the passion, only we can inspire. 

From the time a leaf falls from a tree, and lands on the earth, so much has transpired in those moments in birth, death, life." And that's how I've kind of come to the poetry of my life, and assisted with Carrie. I mean, she's a master musician beyond... I mean, she's a board-certified music therapist, and being with her energy to assist me, in my healing process, that's a big piece of how I healed a lot of my father's stuff, and my mother.

(00:40:24): One poem that I wrote, I just spoke at an event by the Salida SteamPlant, not long ago. It's called The Vox, which means the voice. And allowing that, just getting up in front of a lot of people, speaking a poem. Your heartbeat starts racing, and you start thinking, and then you look back. 

And then luckily I recorded it, Adam, and others, to be able to look back, and be like, "Wow, okay." I'm actually reaching another poem, it's called, The Summit, that I wrote is, "I'm getting to that summit. I don't know if I'll ever reach it," but with the help of good people, meeting you, Adam, your wonderful listeners, which I've been able to hear some of your podcasts, the energy that you share this company. And then, of course, having Carrie by my side, with the music, has been such the healing modality, that I never knew how that would assist me, and it just continues to amaze me every day.

Carrie Fox (00:41:19): Absolutely. Well, and this guy, he's a creative genius, in his own right. He's so good at complimenting, and building up everyone, which is a huge gift of his. He's the biggest cheerleader, for the human spirit, that I've ever met. Yet, I also know it's hard to receive sometimes, and I want you to realize what an amazing creative genius you are, because you've inspired me to be a better musician. 

When I was in my younger years, it's like I always just thought of myself as a music therapist, and put myself in the music therapy box. And just was like, "Oh, this is who I am," and never really believing in that creative artistry. And I feel like, these past couple years, I've really allowed that artistry, which has contributed to my own healing. We didn't really get to the part of why we left Las Vegas, and for me, it was the pandemic, really shifted my whole outlook on my career of music therapy, because music therapy was my biggest healer.

Michael Fox (00:42:21): It's okay. You can feel the emotion.

Adam Williams (00:42:23): Yeah, yeah.

Carrie Fox (00:42:24): That's how passionate I was about that field, and when the pandemic hit, it changed everything. And I think, I personally, am still grieving the loss of this career that I knew, that is still going on today, but it's just so different. And I think being in our '40s, those of us in our '40s, have had maybe a different time pivoting from this, because it's like I've had 22 years, which is a long time, seeing the world as it was. Being able to hold a patient's hand, at the bedside, being able to have that connection. And what the pandemic, what I feel a lot of us lost was that human connection, because now we're paranoid of getting sick.

(00:43:07): And I know it's 2024, and we're all kind of moving on, but in that regards, as a music therapist, and hospice, where I couldn't go see my patients. I was locked out of all the assisted living facilities because I wasn't an essential employee, and that was only the nurses and CNAs could get in. And a lot of our patients, within those first six months of the pandemic, died prematurely, because of that social isolation. There was so much of that.

(00:43:35): So what I'm getting at, as far as this creativity, I mean, that's where I've really embraced my artistry, because I've been able to put that pain, and be like, "Okay, well... Right now, I'm in this recreation mode of wanting to get back into doing music therapy, but it has to be in this new realm, that I'm still figuring out myself.

Michael Fox (00:43:58): And back to the creativity part of it, you just had me thinking of a magical moment, we were on the news. Carrie has been in the news, all over Las Vegas, for music therapy. And one of the times, during the pandemic, we're singing with people on microphones, to a building full of people, staring out the window, to us. So we're singing to our patients, outside, on the street, news cameras, and we're just singing to the windows. People are waving. It was magical, Adam, and that creativity.

(00:44:22): But now, I think, and who we are now with our music, and we love all genres of music. She's an amazing classical pianist. She can play reggae. Anything under the sun. And back to the creativity piece, we're really truly, right now in our life, finding out who we are on the music, what do we want to play to? How can we make a career of this? How can we really truly tune into what genre... Well, we're in so many genres, but how do we continue this life, in the creative world, with doing it in a way that's beneficial for you, the listener, and then, also us the performer, to where we can have a nice balance between... And we actually just had a concert downtown, in the Historic District of Salida, and in that, with our first album called One Voice, it just reminded me of Carrie, and really truly in what you just said about learning your voice-

Carrie Fox (00:45:16): Right.

Michael Fox (00:45:17): ... and overcoming the music therapy in the hospice world, at the end stage of that five year run.

 

Carrie Fox (00:45:25): And that concert on April 13th, that we just gave, that was our first performance in two years. And for me, I feel like that was, for the first time in my life, my own music therapy, because I was able to share songs that I'd written, that I'd never performed before. Some with just some really sad themes, and I feel like I just released that, and now we're ready to embrace that celebration, like our resiliency. I was telling Michael, the other day, I'm like, I'm really sick of writing sad songs. I really want to start writing-

Michael Fox (00:45:25): Exactly.

Carrie Fox (00:45:25): ... some more cheerful songs, which I have, but-

Adam Williams (00:45:25): How do you connect-

Carrie Fox (00:46:02): ... especially with my kids songs. Go ahead.

Adam Williams (00:46:03): Sorry. How do you connect all these reflections on grief, and those things, as maybe fuel for the things that you're writing in poetry, Michael? For the songs that the two of you're writing and performing, so that it comes out, as something creative and joyful, this positive? I mean, how do you spend the time, mining the grief, and those moments, for this stuff?

Michael Fox (00:46:28): I have a reflection on that, if you're... Unless you're ready.

Carrie Fox (00:46:31): I don't know. Yeah, go ahead.

Michael Fox (00:46:32): Yeah, I really love that question. And back to the poetry, the musical part of that, Adam, especially with the one poem I spoke about called the Vox. When I write something like that, I'm not just thinking about myself, I'm thinking about others, and why I'm writing this, and how it can maybe help a kid, that maybe had a rough childhood. 

I think we all have our childhood stuff, and some people overcome it a little bit better. It took me a whole lifetime, and literally, just until a week ago. I'm still finding myself in Carrie's lap, just letting it all go, and these tears. And it wasn't always that easy for me to let go of that emotion, and to touch myself, in a way as like, "Wow, do you love yourself?" and that goes back to the music. That goes back to my poems.

(00:47:20): And long story short, I remember we were in Costa Rica. We used to go there every year, volunteer in schools. We'd knock on the door and say, "Hey, we're coming back tomorrow for Musica, and we're going to play with the youth," because youth is a big part of our life with music, and we are starting to get back into that piece of ourselves. And I remember her, and my friend, that just passed away, literally, last month, one of my longest friends, and my boss, my mentor, and my teacher. 

She looked at us, and Carrie looked at me, and she says, "Michael, you don't love yourself," and I was like, "What? What do you mean?" "You don't love yourself." And so I start crying in Costa Rica, on the ground, and I finally had that awakening. And right then, Adam, I think that's when I started to write poetry, and to really connect to that deeper part of myself, to start that healing.

(00:48:05): So for you, or others, or Carrie, or listeners, or whoever, I mean journaling morning pages, and not running away from the pain that I felt, truly helped me without... I feel lucky to even be here today. I don't know how I'm alive, sometimes.

Adam Williams (00:48:21): I've wondered how you have come to that place of love, and you use this music, also, in spiritual settings. I think there's a lot of spirituality in your perspective, and how you go about life. And I'm curious how you came to this place, again, from really stuff that connects to your dad, largely. But then also when you lose your mother, and it's in that context of, "Haven't I taken enough? Why me? Why do I have to lose my mother, too?" 

Again, as a young man, I would've felt... I already felt, without that loss in my life, plenty of anger, plenty of aggression, plenty of alcohol issues, all this stuff. And you've come to a place of love, and all of this growth. And I mean, we could talk about crying too, as men, that is a massive obstacle for me, just like love is.

Michael Fox (00:49:15): Wow, that's great. Thank you so much. And I just want to just reflect again, and I don't want to keep repeating myself, but I'm so grateful today, Adam, and Carrie, and to your amazing community, that you've created here. To be able to have this moment, to actually look into myself, and then to keep learning, and growing, and disintegrating the place of knowing. Everything I say, sometimes, is a poem that I wrote, which helped me get to this part. 

But back to your question, as far as some of the notes I was writing too, and feeling, was like the things my father tried to instill in me, as a child at 13, 14, 15, with racism, in my youth. It confused me, Adam, and others. I had no clue what these things meant. And I remember having to really search my soul deeply, to be able to find myself in this emotional place at 14, 15, 16. And your father's telling you, I won't mention these things that he said, but really horrible things. And then, I would look at the individual he's talking about, and I'm just like, "Wow."

(00:50:23): So back to your question, is the thing that helped is really my father doing those things, actually helped me grow into being a better man. And it helped me look at people, and I would see individuals, and I would start to look at them as small children, and I would look for the best in people. I still do that today. If somebody has yells at you in traffic, which we don't have a lot of that here, thank God, in Salida. But when we were in Vegas, I started to be like, there was moments, where I got so upset when I was in traffic, and I look at people, and look in the car next to me. I'd be like, "Wow, I see you. I see a little kid, in that little body," or that big body, or the adult body.

(00:51:01): And so looking at the innocence in people, I figured that out on my own, and my dad sparked that. It's like, "Well, thanks Dad. You did a few things for me. You never said, 'I love you once.' You never respected me. I never was enough for you." I mean, I could go on and on, and the verbal and mental abuse. Never do I remember being physically abused, but sometimes, I actually would've loved that. I would've liked to be spanked. I would've liked to have that, and I never had those. 

My mom used to whip me with a belt, and I used to love that belt, because I knew that, "I'm getting attention." And I don't know how others would've handled that, but I turned that negative into a loving source of energy, and through Mother Nature, to carry my best friend, and my wife through her healing, and just taking a moment to listen, and if you can find...

(00:51:52): MY best advice, Adam, and whoever, is just having that one individual, that will listen to you, and allow that healing to begin, even if they don't do anything. Mother Nature has been a big part of that. Our travels to India, being almost kidnapped. We have so many wild stories of traveling all around the world, and in it, I was finding myself, and seeing other cultures, and looking. Like when we're on the floor in India, eating with a family, in the size of this room, an 8-by-8, 10-by-10 room, and we're eating on the floor, food with them, and just feeling that-

Carrie Fox (00:52:27): Love.

Michael Fox (00:52:28): The love, exactly.

Carrie Fox (00:52:29): Love.

Michael Fox (00:52:31): So definitely, traveling is a big, big part of my healing. And sometimes, I look back, I'm like, "I don't know how we've traveled the world, the way we have, with the income that we had. And how did this happen?" Well, it happened, and luckily, here we are today, and-

Adam Williams (00:52:47): It's a very important piece of our lives, I think, and in our household, as well. I think travel is such an unbelievable opportunity to learn, to see, and connect with things that go beyond the boundaries that have been imposed, by wherever we were brought up, by whoever we were brought up by. 

I want to talk about relationships right now though, because the two of you, clearly, you have this bond. We started the conversation in referring to the loss of parents, but there's been so much more, that you've shared here, that clearly there's this connection through your own experiences, through music. And I've been thinking about something specific, within relationships, lately.

(00:53:28): My wife and I are just celebrating 21 years together, and I've thought about, had I met, or decided, made a choice different in my life to be with somebody else, had she, how would that have impacted our lives? So I put that to you now, to think about-

Carrie Fox (00:53:28): Right.

Adam Williams (00:53:47): ... the maybe, fateful, lucky, whatever. The meaning of the two of you coming together, and how you've been able to help each other, whether that's healing from grief? Or as creators, and how you bring joy into the world?

Carrie Fox (00:54:01): Well, I'll take this one, honey.

Michael Fox (00:54:03): Yeah, my only thought was the struggles that we went through, in the beginning of our relationship, to be able to get to where we are. There were a lot of different types of situations, that we had to work through as-

Carrie Fox (00:54:14): But what was the unifying force? The unifying force was definitely the spiritual path, that you were talking about. So we were living in Denver, at the time. So I met Michael when I moved to Denver. Luckily, that year, the year that my dad passed away, he passed away in February of '02, and I started a job that summer, working for a music therapy, a private practice, in Denver. 

And they were getting a new contract, and the contract was at an organization in Denver, that provided services for individuals with special needs. Well, Michael just happened to be a counselor there, and I came in to do a music therapy demonstration. So long story short, we met, but we just kind of knew each other, but I knew there was something special about that place. And then fast-forward a few years later, he invited me to go on a camping trip, and I was going to bring another girlfriend of mine, well, she couldn't go at the time, and we were just coworker friends.

(00:55:10): But we definitely experienced a lot of magic in the San Luis Valley together. A lot of unique things that couldn't be explained, like synchronicities, coincidences, just a lot of unique stuff, that we both share this spiritual perspective, or the magic of nature. We both found healing in the outdoors, and I feel like what we experienced together that night, was just a unique situation that kind of bonded us, that I feel like because of that trip, there's just higher forces guiding, sometimes. And when you both share that perspective, it's like no matter what human stuff we're dealing with, or little things, there's something that's bigger that's keeping you together. Do you know what I'm saying? That we've been able to-

Michael Fox (00:56:01): Almost like we were two little kids, relearning ourselves, looking at each other, and we are seeing this innocence in ourselves. Maybe, we were feeling the pain, too. We-

Carrie Fox (00:56:09): But we never discussed-

Michael Fox (00:56:10): We never reflected that.

Carrie Fox (00:56:10): ... the grief. Us talking about our grief, and our loss of our parents. I think a lot of times, in our early years, we just loved being together. We found healing in the traveling. Sometimes, stuff would come up, or he knew, I think, because I lost my dad, he had lost his parents. We did have that shared thing, but we didn't talk about it a lot. I think it was just... Yeah, but I think over the past few years, because we've really been doing some deep healing, that the pandemic brought up a lot of this stuff, that these past few years, we've just been really going through it, and really facing the deeper aspects now. So it's interesting.

Michael Fox (00:56:52): Yeah, I love that. And back to where I was working as a counselor for 14 years, I worked with thousands of people, and it's still a big piece of my heart, working with people with developmental disabilities, with all abilities, I like to say. I don't really look at people with-

Carrie Fox (00:57:04): For sure.

Michael Fox (00:57:05): ... disabilities, but that changed our life, in so many ways, Adam, and I remember-

Carrie Fox (00:57:08): Yeah, we had that shared passion.

Michael Fox (00:57:09): ... the first note of her guitar. I remember I was working, maybe I had 14 individuals I was working with that day, and we're in a basement. For me, relearning myself through Mother Nature, and that's another story. But I remember the first note of her guitar, and I was like, "Wow." I looked at her, and I was like, "This girl is super cool." She's playing this music. I'm seeing the people I'm working with, that never would react to anything, the way that they reacted with music, and with her, and I just had this spark for her. 

And we were friends for years. We were just friendships. And it did, it took that one fateful amazing camping trip to Valley View Hot Springs, and the mountains there, and then like you just said, the San Luis Valley saved our life, I really feel like, and it connected us in ways. And as you know, you're drawn here, and other people are drawn to Chaffee County, and that's [inaudible 00:57:59] your podcast, and it's just like there's a magical healing feeling-

Carrie Fox (00:58:03): Energy.

Michael Fox (00:58:03): ... here.

Carrie Fox (00:58:04): It's hard to explain.

Michael Fox (00:58:05): It's interesting because I'm writing a poetry book, and the first trip we took, we were following a gray bus, maybe a '62 old gray bus, and that's part of, with the poetry-

Carrie Fox (00:58:14): The title.

Michael Fox (00:58:15): ... it's called Behind the Gray Bus, that I'm working on, but yeah.

Carrie Fox (00:58:18): And this kind of ties into what you're talking about like with your wife and 21 years. I feel like that was maybe destiny. It's destiny that I came to Colorado, we met each other, we've been able to heal, and then live a very just filled life of service but just creativity and everything and... Yeah.

Adam Williams (00:58:39): Carrie, you said that you didn't mention the loss of your parents together, initially, but I suspect that that was a felt understanding. That there was something that you had safety with each other, that you didn't necessarily feel with others. What do you think?

Carrie Fox (00:58:56): Well, I think you're right because I think I remember that camping trip, that my friend was supposed to go on, but she couldn't go on, and I remember that whole time talking his ear off, driving down 285. Right?

Michael Fox (00:59:08): We're going on 16 years, next month.

Carrie Fox (00:59:10): I think that's actually when I brought up my dad, probably because I think I was... Because that summer, I remember this would've been in the year 2006, and I remember just that summer, having a lot of just unexplained occurrences, just that I needed, and I knew he could understand that-

Adam Williams (00:59:11): That was part of the magic.

Carrie Fox (00:59:30): So that was part of it.

Adam Williams (00:59:31): There's a shorthand to understanding each other when you can just say one simple thing, and the other person's like, "I know that I know those feelings. I've had that experience." So now you don't even have to say a whole lot, to know that you both understand something that is what you thought was unique to you, but you find you have somebody you can bond with over it.

Carrie Fox (00:59:50): Yeah, absolutely. And working together with individuals with special needs was like a unique bond already, because we were really close, and were coworkers at that time, and so we had a lot of shared stuff that we'd probably already talked about already, but then, that specific weekend, and then going forward.

Adam Williams (01:00:09): Michael, I want to ask you, this question keeps coming to my mind, so I'm going to circle us back to this. You came to this area, as we started off this whole conversation, you're 18, you come to Salida, and then you talked about the anger, and the alcohol, through those early years, when you're here. You're here under very different circumstances, and in a very different life chapter. And with Carrie, and with this sense of spirituality. And with the music, and I wonder what it's like for you to come back to the same geographic place, but in such a different spiritual, and emotional, and mental space.

Michael Fox (01:00:49): Wow. To all listeners out there. You got to meet Adam. He tunes in, and he asks... I didn't expect that, but it's funny because Carrie and I have just spoke about this. She asked me, all the time, "How do you feel? It's a different energy. You're not who used to be at that age? And you had some really weird experiences in Salida. You were doing some crazy things in the places that…” 

And she works part-time at Vital Living, right on Main Street there. I do a lot of the music at Yoga Olas on Mondays, and lots of other things, but I walk by these areas, Adam, and I do gulp, sometimes, like, "Whoa, that was... Where Benson's is, that's where I used to work, and I used to do wood carving with the fellow there, and that's where I played Russian roulette at. I think I was 20 then, maybe 21, going through it.

(01:01:42): And so yeah, there's a lot of memories here that strike up lots of deep emotion, and some of them we would need another day to talk about. But then I look at the renewal piece with Carrie, and seeing her eyes light up. She's from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, seeing her in the Colorado Rockies, the rivers, the mountains, and all of those things that we love about this area of Chaffee County, and beyond. But there is deep emotion, honestly, and it's day by day, even today. And so for me, I'm almost relearning who I am, and renewing my spirit of seeing Salida in a whole new way, because a lot of my experiences here, in that era, just weren't very positive.

Adam Williams (01:02:23): Right.

Michael Fox (01:02:24): I never saw the river the way I see it now. I never saw the fresh mountain snow. I never felt the energy of just somebody, maybe this could be their last vacation, and just seeing the happiness, the people on bikes, the dogs. I never noticed that, when I was here in '19, '20, '21 so-

Adam Williams (01:02:43): I'd imagine it is gratitude, that is part of that for you?

Michael Fox (01:02:48): Deep, deep gratitude. But to see Carrie, she's my life's blood, and to see her happy, and to meet good people like yourself. We're still learning it here. We're still meeting people. We have a few friendships, but nothing too deep and connected, really. Mother Nature is our guide here, and back to... That's part of my healing, we spoke about this whole time, is that whole piece of my healing is just finding myself, and sometimes just being alone on a rock, and just looking to the sky, and be like, "Hey Mom, Hey Dad, I forgive you, and thank you. Thanks for the things you did do. Thanks for those moments, in my life, with my…” 

I don't look back. I'm not angry at my father, I'm not angry at my mother, and if you ever listen to my poem, you'll understand it, and that's my healing part. But yeah, that's huge. Thank you for asking that because I just thought that, an hour ago.

Adam Williams (01:03:39): Well, I want to speak to your being so kind and generous in how you are describing me, and what I bring to this. It's that I get to have the same experience with everyone who sits across from me. That I get to ask these questions out of curiosity, that have been on my mind, from my own experience. 

So for example, for you to be in this space, where you have had some things that were coming from a darker place, and more challenging, and a less healthy place. A couple of years ago, my family, my now wife and two sons, we were in New Orleans. I had been there 20 years before, under very different circumstances, as a young man in my '20s, going through my own challenges with myself, and life, and alcohol. Now, in my mid-forties at the time, I'm running on Bourbon Street at six in the morning, and I'm smelling the aftermath of the night before, that 20 years before, I would've been part of.

Carrie Fox (01:03:39): Right.

Adam Williams (01:04:38): Right? I had so much relief and gratitude to be on this side of it, and to know that my wife and sons were staying at a nice Airbnb somewhere, waiting for me to get back from my run. And I would have breakfast with them, and how much better my life is now, than when I was out there doing that, in those streets, when I was in my '20s. 

And that's the place I'm coming from, when I asked that specific example, is that you're giving me an opportunity to reach into myself, and learn something about myself because I have the opportunity to ask you questions. And that goes across everybody that I have on the podcast, where we get into these deeper things. So this is of benefit to me, at least, as much as it is to anybody else.

Carrie Fox (01:05:21): Yeah.

Michael Fox (01:05:21): Wow. That's so awesome that you mentioned Bourbon Street, and we've never been to that part of the world.

Carrie Fox (01:05:22): Not to New Orleans.

Michael Fox (01:05:27): We've been to India, but we haven't even been to Oregon, so we always joke about that. That's our [inaudible 01:05:32] junk car. We actually do an act of that, in our music, but that's sort of like our banter. But it's interesting, we just spoke about that the other day, about Bourbon Street, and how that would've affected us, being there, in that energy.

Carrie Fox (01:05:46): And this thought just came to me, too, because I feel too, you almost had a transition period with Salida, because when we started dating, we would come to Salida, and he'd show me all the fun places he would like. So I feel like back in the 2000s, it's not like you're just going straight from those memories, back when you're 19, 20 to now, because we have had in between times where we've come, and make new memories, or the summer, so maybe that's helped too. I don't know with just how you view things.

Michael Fox (01:06:16): I mean, if I may just be totally transparent, the one moment in my life actually, was at the Great Sand Dunes of Colorado. Have you been?

Adam Williams (01:06:25): Yeah, yeah. Yeah.

Michael Fox (01:06:27): Yeah. I don't even know how old I was, many moons ago, but I do remember I had my shirt off, no water, no shoes, just a pair of shorts on. I climbed to the highest dune. The winds, the sands are blowing, they were ripping at my skin. Part of another poem, "Yelling me to wake up, over and over again," and that's my poem called The Summit. And I remember being on that mountain sand dune... Is the Great Sand Dunes still a part of Chaffee County?

Adam Williams (01:06:53): No, no.

Michael Fox (01:06:54): It's still... It's not?

Adam Williams (01:06:54): That's further south.

Michael Fox (01:06:55): That's more Alamosa? Okay.

Adam Williams (01:06:55): Yeah.

Michael Fox (01:06:56): But I do remember to make this... I remember being on that mountain top, Adam, and I literally, I thought I was going to die. I was dehydrated. The sun felt like a thousand degrees. I literally had sand in my eyes, and I just remember just, I was crying just like, "Wow." There was so much more in life, than I was thinking at the time, than in the body, than my mind, and my traumas, and all of those things. 

And that one experience was like my wake-up call to, "Whoa, what are you doing, man? You need to stop. You need to really look at yourself. You need to help people. Do something more than just feeling your own sadness." And so yeah, the Great Sand Dunes was really my summit of the spark of everything that ever shifted in my life, spiritually, mentally, physically, friendship wise, family wise.

Carrie Fox (01:07:49): Mm-hmm. Yeah.

Adam Williams (01:07:52): Michael, you wrote in an Instagram post, this is quite some time ago, but I love it and I want to share it. "I believe that people are inherently good inside. Sometimes, the outside world shows us things that may break our hearts," and I think it's incredibly beautiful, and the forgiveness and the love you've come to for yourself, and that you shine for others. 

It's such a remarkable path, and it could have gone a very different way. You could have held on... You would've had every right, that so many take, right, to be angry and bitter, and to not allow yourself to open this, with the relationship with Carrie, and all of these things to evolve. 

Carrie, do you have thoughts on what I just said there, about Michael, and about his comments of the good in people, and in the world, despite sometimes getting hearts broken?

Carrie Fox (01:08:46): 100% like he blows my mind every day. The kindness and the love that pours out of him, it's astounding, at times. And there's times, because I think as I'm growing older, and I'm just learning more, and seeing the world, I don't know. I feel like I'm becoming... I'm definitely a lover, and I definitely believe in kindness, and all of that, but I get very intellectual. I get very intellectual, and I analyze, and it's like what's so great about him is he can take me out of that mode because I feel so many of us, as human beings, we can get so caught on societal programs, and what is acceptable to be in the human.

(01:09:35): And for some reason, we're taught from small children dependent upon generations, or ancestral stuff, or this, that or the other, we're taught not to express ourselves. We're taught not to be a certain way, that men behave this way, or they don't cry, or this, that or the other. And he's been defying that, since I met him, and he has opened my mind. I am the way I am because of his heart, because of his kindness, because of his compassion with people of all walks of life, and I learn from him every day so it's just...

Adam Williams (01:10:12): And vice versa, Michael?

Michael Fox (01:10:14): Yeah, it's such a kind thing, and I didn't think-

Carrie Fox (01:10:16): [inaudible 01:10:16]

Michael Fox (01:10:16): ... I would have it here today, but thank you both. That was just a beautiful thing. When people reflect that, I always reflect back, and it's been a really tough road for me to accept. And I've always been a people pleaser, and I've always, if somebody says a comment to me that's kind, like that today, I actually just thank you for that, and-

Carrie Fox (01:10:35): No, it's true.

Michael Fox (01:10:36): ... I didn't expect that here today but-

Carrie Fox (01:10:40): I don't know if I was as articulate as I should have been.

Michael Fox (01:10:40): No, it's true.

Adam Williams (01:10:40): No, it was beautiful. It was beautiful.

Michael Fox (01:10:41): And I see that. And like what I said earlier about seeing the best in people, and seeing the small child in individuals, if I could give any advice, it would just be in moments of rage or anger or anything. Just look at how would you feel if somebody handed you a newborn baby, and the smell, and the caressing, and the energy of a baby, in a whisper, without the tears. 

Just imagine holding a baby, and that's how I usually like to see people. And that's how I feel with Carrie, too, is she's cradled me, as this energy, throughout my whole life, and I owe her the world, and she knows it, and we spoke about it. And especially knowing we were coming for this podcast, it really tuned us in in a new way.

(01:11:25): And actually this podcast has helped us become even closer because we're bantering, we're talking, we're bringing up things. "Holy father, whoa, where were we? Why, when, where here?" So my reflection back to Carrie is she's one individual, and it's such a deep connection to say, it's like when you meet somebody, especially, Adam, you're going on what, 21 years, you just said?

Adam Williams (01:11:53): Yeah. Yup.

Michael Fox (01:11:56): To be able to reflect back a feeling of gratitude and love to somebody that literally would fly to India, and bring me a cup of coffee in the morning, which she would do. It's such a strange feeling to really know that to be true. And I joked about this with her, either this morning, or last night. I was like, "You are the one person, if I needed something, and I'm in another country, you're going to figure out a way, if I have to hitchhike there, and get there." And so, the loving bond that Carrie goes... She's unbelievable, and we're going on 16 years, June 28th, and it's just like these years go by fast, right?

(01:12:35): So this, I don't know how I would even keep continuing. I'm just babbling now about the love that she shares, and the kindness, and the music, and her having a voice, as a strong female in this world. I look up to her so much, and I want to protect that energy. And growing up, just my mom, it's like I've always had this fascination with helping women on their path, whether it be just being a good man, and just being there for people, and that's what Carrie has shown me.

Carrie Fox (01:13:10): Thank you. Yeah.

Adam Williams (01:13:11): Thank you both for this. This has been a wonderful conversation. And Carrie, again, thank you for writing that newspaper article, which drew me to you for this conversation, so we could elaborate, go much deeper, and share much more of who you are, with the community. So thank you both.

Carrie Fox (01:13:26): Yes. Well, thank you, and thank you Mountain Mail for accepting my article because that was just a.... I think I told you the story, how that all happened, but yeah, it was great. So thank you.

Michael Fox (01:13:37): Yeah, and thank you, Adam, and Chaffee County, and all your... The podcast we listened to, of you, and the energy that you bring. It's just we pray that the abundance, and the continued energy that you share, is just thrown at you in ways that you wouldn't expect, on this journey. Because what you're doing is more than just a podcast, you're bringing about a healing energy to, even if it's one person in your stream that hears that, and be connected to that energy, it's like, that's my whole life. 

If I can help one person, I feel like we've helped thousands on the path, but one person, truly, really makes the difference. So thank you for being that person in our lives, because right now, it's just you've assisted us, and we'll leave here today, and just probably sob later tonight, and just be like, "Wow. Wow. How did that happen? And how did you meet us, and how did you know about us, and how did you even care enough, or anybody, about us, to even want to speak to us?"

Carrie Fox (01:14:33): [inaudible 01:14:33]

Michael Fox (01:14:33): So we really appreciate that, and we have deep, deep gratitude for you and your podcasts, and for who you are, as a human being.

Carrie Fox (01:14:39): Yeah, thank you.

Adam Williams (01:14:41): Like you, Michael, I'm practicing receiving. I'm practicing accepting what those positives are, that people shine towards me, and the gifts they give, and those things, so I will receive all of those generous words. Thank you.

[Transition music, guitar instrumental]

(01:15:03): Thanks for listening to the We Are Chaffee: Looking Upstream podcast. If our conversation here today, sparks curiosity for you, you can learn more on this episode show notes at wearechaffee.org. If you have comments, or know someone in Chaffee County, Colorado, who I should consider talking with on the podcast, you can email us at info@wearechaffee.org

We invite you to rate and review the We Are Chaffee: Looking Upstream podcast on Apple Podcast, Spotify, or whatever platform you use, with that functionality. We also invite you to tell others about The Looking Upstream podcast. Help us to keep growing community and connection through conversation. Once again, I'm Adam Williams, host, producer, and photographer.

(01:15:43): Jon Pray is engineer and producer. Thank you to KHEN 106.9 FM, our community radio partner in Salida, Colorado. To Heather Gorby, for graphic and web design. To Andrea Carlstrom, Director of Chaffee County Public Health and Environment. And to Lisa Martin, Community Advocacy Coordinator, for the We Are Chaffee Storytelling Initiative. 

The We Are Chaffee: Looking Upstream podcast is a collaboration with the Chaffee County Department of Public Health, and the Chaffee Housing Authority, and it's supported by the Colorado Public Health and Environment Office of Health Disparities. You can learn more about the Looking Upstream podcast, and related storytelling initiatives, at wearechaffee.org, and on Instagram and Facebook at We Are Chaffee. 

Lastly, until the next episode, as we say here at We Are Chaffee, share stories, and make change.

[Outro music, horns and guitar instrumental]

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