Friday, December 21, 2007
Don't get me wrong: There is a great deal that I am very much looking forward to over this break. Not having to wake up and go to work will be GREAT. Spending lots of time with the puppies. Making fires. Making LOTS of Christmas presents. Catching up on movies I didn't see while having a glass of wine and crocheting or making jewelry.
The holidays have always been about family to me, though. This is my 5th Christmas without Mom, and that's still a bit tough at times. This year, we made the old family cookie recipes, though, and it was SO nice to have a cookie decorating party again. MandyFish and NerdyGirl will be here in Laramie. Together. For the first time in a LONG time. And from the sounds of it, we could have one of the largest flock gatherings/homecomings/happenings ever. I'm REALLY looking forward to seeing everyone again.
Holidays with Mom were about love and support. "If one of your friends can't make it home, you make damned sure you bring them along. I just need a few hours notice so I can make sure there's enough dinner." And there were Thanksgivings and Christmases and Easters and others where someone would be pulled along. Sometimes they were reluctant at first, but by the time they left they were giving Mom a big hug at the door. They also usually had a plate or tub of leftover something tucked under their arm, so there was a bit of home-cooked goodness to ease us back into reality. We'd put people on the couch or air matress, as the mobile home didn't have a guest room when both kids are home. Mom used to tell potential guests "It's anything but the Ritz Carlton, but there's space to sleep, food to eat, and you're welcome to share anything we've got." She even kept spare stocking stuffer presents, just in case. Because nobody should have to do a holiday without at least one present to open.
Those who've been to Ruby Slippers (my house) might find this attitude familiar. At least, I sure as hell hope they do! We didn't have much growing up. Dirt poor, some might say. But we always had ENOUGH, and made sure to share what there was. I try to do the same thing today. "Sure, you can have some of that." "Yes, bring them!" "Let me make sure I have enough food." "So glad to see you."
Today's lesson: It's not about carols, cookies, or cards. It's not about gifts, getting, or garland. Most of my friends have a LOT of big stuff going on in their lives, and a lot of it is not GOOD big stuff. At this time of year, try to focus on the fact that you have a chance to spend time with someone. To talk with them. When coping with the stress that families bring on, remember that we're all human beings. Nothing else should matter. Be thankful for gifts the universe has given and mindful of those around you. Don't focus on your own problems, and don't focus on the flaws of others. Focus on the good times you've had and laughter you've shared. Remember the times they were there for you. When you think about those things, it's hard not offer every inch of floor space and the last cracker in the pantry. And isn't THAT what the holidays are supposed to be about?
Sunday, December 09, 2007
Visitors rejoice! You can now subscribe to Jim's blog!
It only took a little hackery, but I persevered, and now you can find a handy-dandy "Subscribe" button above our beloved Diva's picture.
Also, you can click here:
P.S. The link will add Jim to your default RSS reader, be it Google, FireFox, Outlook [shudder], or whtaever other backwards program you use... ... Get Google!
Tuesday, December 04, 2007
- Work is busy right now, as it's time for final papers and stressed out students. I'm creating schedules for my employees at work, and PACMWA grant proposals are due tomorrow at noon. This is my way of saying "Sorry if you don't see me this week, or hear from me. It's not personal. Cope." ;)
- I did NOT tear my rotator cuff. It was a sprain with a possible sublexation. This means an almost-dislocation. Think hyper-extension with lots of pain. Prescription: ice, 2 weeks limited activity, and over-the-counter ibuprofen (LAME!).
- My nephew has arrived! Alexander Damien Gerritsen was born at 6:37am (Holland time) on December 3. My sister was in labor for 6.5 hours to deliver the 8 lb. 8 oz. baby, who was 20.5 inches long. Nothing compared to the 20 hours she was in labor the first time. She was home 4 hours after delivery! Everyone is healthy, happy, and Ella is already trying to share her cookies with her new baby brother.
- Reese is getting around under his own power for the most part. I'm still limiting his activity to protect his back legs and feet from damage. He's not walking, as he doesn't quite plant his feet correctly all the time. If he's slow and thinks about it, he's fine. Reese is rarely slow, so he does a lot of tipping over and dragging his hind end around a turn that may or many not have been there. He continues to improve, and I'm not certain he'll even need to use a cart or other similar device. If I can convince him to wear some booties to prevent the sores on his legs while he learns to walk (and run?) again, we might be good to go!
It's a busy time of year. MandyFish got married, Squid turned 21, and Jack Frost is back with a score to settle. Today's lesson: take everything one step at a time, and take two deep breaths before freaking out. I, too, have a shitload of stuff to get done and meetings or appointments to juggle. We can all make it, but need to give each other some extra space time, as tempers are running rampant.
Inhale...exhale. Repeat as needed.
Thursday, November 29, 2007
In other news, World AIDS Day is Saturday, December 1. Educate yourself. Get tested. DO SOMETHING! For those here in Laramie, we will once again be doing Dining Out For Life. Sweet Melissa's is again the only Laramie restaurant participating, but if you're hungry this Saturday, please think about eating there. They will donate a percentage of their profits to Wyoming AIDS Walk. There are also some Casper restaurants participating, but I don't have a final list of those (Casper was someone else's job!). In the meantime, a friend of mine sent me a fun link to a video.
It's a safe sex ad from India, Baliwood style. How can you go wrong with men dressed as colorful condoms singing and dancing? I also figured I'd post a Baliwood link in honor of MandyFish. For those who don't frequent her blog, she's getting married Saturday in Vegas, and is a confirmed Baliwood addict. So it's a link about AIDS in honor of World AIDS Day, but done in a style in honor of the Pink Princess, and my Grace. Ooo...this Will is getting a long-distance Leo!
PS...For those asking, my sister is now 7 days overdue with baby #2. I have filed all the necessary complaint forms with the management. I have recommended spicy foods, walks, and trampolines. My brother-in-law offered lots of vigorous sex to my sister, but I couldn't support that option. She's still my sister, and....EW! My sister continues to blame the baby, saying it's up to Squirt, not Mom.
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
What will you give thanks for, and what would you not normally be thankful for that you perhaps should?
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
Remember. Remember them all. Never let the names lose their meaning. Never let the faces lose their importance. For they are not just victims. They are not simply images to call up when discussing politics. They are people - people with lives, rich and full. They are brothers and sisters, neighbors, cousins, parents, and children. They are teachers and students, clergy, bankers, activists, and citizens. They are souls - and are more than the sum total of their sexual orientation or gender identity, even though many choose to define them in this manner. They leave behind family and friends who knew and loved them. They leave behind those who never met them but still grieve their absence nevertheless. It is unspeakably important that we remember and that we help others remember as well. For when we stop remembering them, we stop learning from their deaths. We begin to forget why we cared, why we ached. The pain can dull - that is as it should be. We could not go on if it did not lessen. But the memory must stay - forever etched into our lives and carved into our very souls. We must remember so that those who come after us - those who perhaps don't know their names, their stories - can learn from them as well. So that their lives are celebrated. Holding tightly to their memory will NOT bring them back - that has never been in question. But honoring them gives them a new life - perhaps one worth as much as their first. A life that teaches and touches hearts. One that creates a new understanding - a new hope. Let their lives and their stories remind us of what we have overcome, for our accomplishments are also spoken in their lives. As we remember patriots and poets long since gone, so should we remember their existence - their place in the world and in history. Remember them honestly. Remember them always - they are worth at LEAST that.
Sunday, November 04, 2007
Greg, Ryan, and Jenn are putting a fair amount of their own money behind the project. I'm not in a financial position to help out with that right now. They've had some success with donations from their friends and family, but they're still fronting a chunk of change. They got on planes and came to a strange place to interview people they had not met, relying only on my word that these were the people who would add to our story. Relying on Greg and I that there WAS a story, and one that people would be interested in, or that would make a difference.
My friends relied on my word that these outsiders were trustworthy. That they were safe opening up in front of a camera, and that they would not be burned as they had in the past. Relying on my word that they really did have something to contribute, and that their voice was important and valuable. That they had something to add to what we were trying to do, though they didn't necessarily even know what that was.
I encouraged. I begged. I twisted arms, called in favors, and begged for trust. And I got it. In spades. And magic has already been happening. After one and a half LONG days of planning and shooting, we have another LONG day remaining. I know it will be even more powerful. I have faith. The very core of my being tells me that the Universe (and Matt, too) are pulling this together, and that everything is happening for a reason. The big picture is revealing itself slowly, but we're pressing on...trusting. Trusting each other, trusting the Universe, and trusting that good intentions and open minds will lead us to the right path.
Greg, Ryan, and Jenn have been awed by the things they've already heard, witnessed, filmed, and experienced. They didn't know what to ask the Squid, but were dumbstruck after her interview...which ran much longer than any of us expected. As she left, they commented "label that tape as 'golden'". To be honest, I think they were surprised by what they learned from an almost-21-year-old.
Jackie was reluctant to be interviewed because she hasn't been as involved recently as she once was. She was surprised to learn how interested we were in what she HAD done, not just what she WAS doing. I wonder what surprises tomorrow will bring?
The bottom line is that I don't take all this trust lightly, and I am truly humbled by it. My Laramie family trusted me that I wasn't offering them up to wolves. My "film family" trusted me that I knew where the story was, and who to talk to. That's a lot of trust...in me. Some part of me is scared by that. But I KNOW I'm right. Not because my head tells me so, though it does. Because my HEART tells me so. Because there have been too many "coincidences" that have proven US right. The waiter at the restaurant. The work study student in the RRC. The couples waving as we filmed at the fence. This was meant to happen. It was meant to include these people. It was meant to happen here, and now. And it was meant to happen in just this way. I can't wait to see what the next step might be.
And I pause, at 1:30am (well, soon to be 12:30am), to thank my friends for trusting me. I know that it means I have done something in the past to earn that trust, but I still respect the risks taken by people who mean the world to me. I am humbled by their trust in me, and by their willingness to open their hearts to strangers...with cameras. I will honor your risks, and focus our intent.
Today's lesson: It is not only important to take risks with and for those we trust and care about...it is also equally important to recognize the risks they take for us in return.
Thursday, October 25, 2007
Most of the response has been supportive, though. Some have asked why she didn't include it from the start. She's been accused of trying to utilize free publicity to increase sales of her books. Well that doesn't seem likely, given that ultra conservatives are likely to step up their boycott efforts, and alienate a segment of less conservative folks with a hot button issue.
I'm all for it. And I love the fact that she'd known Hogwart's Headmaster was gay for some time. It wasn't a big deal. Being gay is a PART of who he is. And not necessarily the most important part. He loved. Not lusted. The revelation wasn't salacious. It was matter-of-fact. And isn't that the way it should be? Being gay might have influenced his character, but he's a good person, role model, teacher, and person. And that's all that matters. His heart and mind. His soul. Gay or straight. Humanity. I can't wait until everyone thinks that way.
Granted it will be a LONG time. Meanwhile, we can all enjoy watching the vein on Bill O'Reilly's forehead bulge out while he rants about it. Or Phelps condemn Rowling. Maybe he'll say Dumbledore's death was God's punishment. Either way, it should make for entertaining bigotry.
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Needless to say, I was an emotional mess and more than a little bit of a train wreck. Parenthood is easy when things are going well, but trouble makes it so much more complicated. I had several meetings and appointments scheduled for the day that I couldn't cancel, though I didn't really want to be doing anything other than worrying and stressing.
My first appointment was one that could not be missed. Yesterday was Teacher In-Service at the high school, and we were asked to do a one-hour modified SafeZone Session for the teachers and staff. We did a full session 7 or 8 years ago, but the principal at the time was nervous enough that he didn't want it to be held on school grounds. So we did the session in the Union and 12 people, including said principal, showed up.
This time we met in a classroom and 31 people attended, including the advisors for the school's Gay Straight Alliance. The sponsor for "The Day of Truth," the conservative anti-gay response to GLSEN's Day of Silence, was also there. The session went VERY well, and I heard nothing but thank you's from the attendees. (No comment from the "other side of the fence.") It did my heart SO much good to make a difference and touch the hearts and minds of teachers who will in turn be there for students. Maybe it will make things easier for a kid down the road, and he or she won't have to go through what so many of us did while growing up queer.
My second meeting was PACMWA (President's Advisory Council for Minority and Women's Affairs), which I'm chairing this year. We've been struggling to find a common meeting time, haven't met for a few weeks, and had pressing business. Namely, planning for a Diversity Summit. It was a very productive meeting, and even though half of the committee couldn't attend, we made great headway on planning, as well as a few other issues. It, too, did my heart good.
The rollercoaster continued with a visit to see Reese at the vet's, which was an odd mixture of difficulty and catharsis. That was followed by a double header in the volleyball tournament. The physical activity was exhausting, but helped me purge a great deal of angst and frustration. Hitting things can be happy, and volleyballs don't press charges like people might.
Today's lesson: life has a lot of ups and downs, twists and turns, whether they come in one day, one week, or one year. It's important to remember that there are bright spots in addition to the dark days. Try to remain focused on that; it helps get you through the rough spots.
Oh...and Reese is showing signs of improvement. Keep your fingers crossed. The next post? Dumbledore is gay!
Thursday, October 18, 2007
You know you're in the world of Jimmy Buffett when you land and the control tower tells you to take taxi way "Niner" to the hanger, adding "It's the one that's NOT flooded." We called for a cab, and an aging hippy who reminded me (in only the slightest way) of George Carlin pulled up and asked us where we were going. I answered "we need a place to stay." After clarifying that we did not have a reservation anywhere, he said "Cool. I assume you want to stay downtown, near Duvall Street?" We said "Hell yes" and were off.
The first place we stopped was the Blue Marlin, and they had a room available for a decent rate. It was only two blocks from Duvall Street, which is Key West's version of Bourbon Street. We dropped our minimal luggage, threw on fresh clothes, and head out for a night of infamy. We stopped at the first restaurant that caught our eye, a place called Crabby Dick's. The first thing to order was a cocktail, and I was debating what I wanted. When Jace said "Pina Colada" I realized there was no other possible order. We had three each with dinner, which consisted of conch fritters (thanks for the recommendation, Jerry!), ahi tuna, Gulf shrimp, and scallops. Yes, we went a bit wild with dinner, but it was SO worth it.
After dinner we set out on our primary mission: get drunk and have a night of pure fun. In Key West, there is a law against open containers. They don't take it seriously, as every block had at least one cocktail stand without seating...just the way I remembered New Orleans. We went from one drink to another, focusing on rum. We staggered through the city, drinks in hand, right past police. As our waiter had told us, as long as you're not being an ass or causing problems, they don't care about open containers.
We found good music, amazing art, and rainbow flags everywhere. We went past at least four bars that were doing drag shows. Nightly. It would seem a good way to get rich quick would be to open a scooter store, as everyone was buzzing around on a Vespa or other scooter. Pizza delivery was done on scooters. At the end of our evening, we staggered home, and eventually found our hotel. It was warm and sticky outside, so Jace peeled down to his boxers, jumped the fence around our hotel's pool, and dove in for a quick cool down dip.
The next morning we cleaned up and called for a cab, as I had to be back in Orlando by 1 for a conference session. Our driver this time was a former stripper who had danced in 49 states. Hawaii is the one she'd missed, and in Wyoming she had danced at this club in Cheyenne known as The Green Door. It really is a small world sometimes. It seems most everyone we ran into who lived on the island had the same story. "I came here on vacation and never left." Our waiter had missed his flight. He didn't bother to find a new one. The stripper used to summer in Alaska and winter in the Keys. She stopped flying out for the north.
Both Jace and I understood the sentiment. It was a simpler life. Time and schedules meant little. Spontaneity was rewarded with hidden secrets, local hangouts, people willing to share or help out. Tropical paradise, cliche as it might sound, is a fairly apt description. The title of this post was our radio call sign in the single prop plane. Today's lesson: do something without a plan. Just drop everything and go. Go out on the town, start a road trip, or book a ticket to someplace you've never been but always wanted to see. Say "Fuck it." And live! I agree with Queen Latifah: "I'm Gonna Live 'til I Die."
Thursday, October 11, 2007
Today, October 11th, is National Coming Out Day. I always try to take a moment on this date to ponder the person I once was and who I have become since I came out of the closet. I have now been out of the closet longer than I was in it. I realized the other day while sitting on a panel, and it's an odd feeling, to be sure. I'm so much happier now than I was when I was still living the lie. I feel I've made a diffence, and am happy about who I have become.
I ponder a vision of the future, when the countless people who live in fear of their lives because they love someone of the same sex can be honest about who they are. A world where all can marry, and children are protected no matter what shape, size, color, or chromosomal makeup their family might have. That vision of tomorrow gives me hope, and that hope makes me work even harder today.
And today I always take a moment to mourn. Tomorrow will be another anniversary. At 12:53am on October 12th, Matt died in a Fort Collins hospital. UW President Phil Dubois called to tell me around 5 am. I will cry. I will think about the pain and struggle over the last 9 years. I will think about positive change and discussion over that same period.
I will, once again, renew a promise I made 9 years ago. I will keep pushing. Keep working. Keep speaking. Doing. Fighting. Helping. Teaching. Living. I remember you today, Matt. And tomorrow. And the day after that. And each day after.
Wednesday, October 03, 2007
It's not a simple question, and there are some well-reasoned arguments on both sides. My initial reaction was that any step forward is SOMETHING, and that no struggle for equality has happened all at once. But I also know that gender identity is often forgotten, is less visible, and treated as more "fringe." But isn't providing protection for 80% of a community better that protection for none? It's a tough one, isn't it?
If nothing else, the debate has shown that the queer community can organize well and quickly, almost rivaling the grassroots machine that is conservative Christianity. Every member of the House received a letter signed by 90 different groups, asking that they consider the bill in its original, inclusive form. Over 200 churches - yes, I said churches - organized to have their members flood phone lines in support of inclusion. It's nothing if not impressive.
The more I listened to the discussions, debates, criticism, complaints, anger, and hope, the more I felt conflicted. Make no mistake: I firmly believe that gender identity should be protected in our country just as much as sexual orientation. Period. End of story. I think that if you're a good employee, you should not be fired for any "essential characteristic." Then I heard a very simple comparison. What would we have said if the civil rights movement had worked for rights for African Americans but not Asians? Or if a compromise were made so that light-skinned minorities were protected but dark-skinned people weren't?
It became very clear that if we're not working for equality for EVERYONE, we're not really working for equality. We might not be successful in getting it passed. But that doesn't mean we should try for anything less than what is right. Perhaps we could obtain employment protection for GLB people if we took gender identity out of the bill. But wouldn't that "victory" feel hollow if everyone in the queer community didn't have the same protection? Wouldn't we be hypocritical if we didn't do everything we can to include EVERYONE? If Congress wants to strip gender out of the bill, let them. But not without a fight...for fairness.
Thursday, September 27, 2007
Click here to see more info from the Matthew Shepard Foundation's press release.
Sunday, September 23, 2007
1. What stereotype about "teh Gays" sets your Queen heart a flamin' with righteous indignation the worst? (And while that might sound like I'm asking about heartburn, I'm not...)
Yikes, that's a tough one, as any of them can up the fuego on my already-stoked pilot light. I suppose that what gets me most is the assumption that we have some sort of unified agenda to destroy family values and obtain "special rights." I just want the same thing to which my straight friends are entitled - putting my partner on my health insurance, the visiting them in the hospital, the ability to leave my estate to a partner without higher taxes, the right to live "miserably ever after," to have kids, etc. The list is not short, but full equality under the law sure would fix that. And how does participating in an institution like marriage, family (values), etc. a plot to destroy it?
2. Ninjas vs. Pirates. Who are you rooting for and why?
When I was a kid I always dreamed about being a ninja. I'd watch movies like The Karate Kid or anything with Chuck Norris, largely because I wanted the skills to smack down the bullies I lived with throughout school. I even wore a ninja costume one year for Halloween. That being said, today I still enjoy a hot muscled man using his best moves to block, punch, and kick their way to victory...but pirates are MUCH hotter these days. ;)
3. What do you think is an under-appreciated / under-discussed challenge for the queer community to address?
Something I call "The Oppression Olympics." It's the systemic way in which minority groups are often pitted against one another under the excuse of "limited resources." "If your group wants to have a speaker or event, you must compete against this group AND that group for money and support." What if the three of us pooled our energy and found common ground, then an event or speaker that worked for all of us. Suddenly, we not only have more power and influence to get two or three events, we also heal a rift between groups. We also start to gain as much power as the majority, and that's why we're supposed to fight between ourselves: so we don't see all that we could do together.
4. You have been given six million dollars, with the condition that you must not spend it on yourself. What do you do with it?
Like I haven't been planning this for a while. ;) Buy a plane, hire Jace as a personal pilot. Then my friends would all have debt paid off, houses and cars paid for, and travel around the world doing and seeing new things. If they HAPPENED to bring along their generous benefactor, that would be okay too. After all, how I can say no to what my friends want, when the point is to make them happy!
5. How's the firespinning coming along?
Well enough that I bought a set of actual fire poi! I've recently injured my back and haven't been able to spin for a while, but I believe I'm good enough to light 'em up once I'm back in shape (and have had several others say the same). I have to watch the fire safety video and train a support crew. I have to find a reasonably safe venue so I don't set half the world on fire. I have to find someone with a video camera. But soon...soon there shall be video of actual fire.
If you'd like me to ask you 5 questions for your blog, let me know in my comments.
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
Thursday, September 06, 2007
And he was right...about technology and more. But it made me realize we usually ask ourselves where will I be...in 5, 10, etc. years. How often do we stop to think about where we were...5, 10, etc. years ago? 5 years ago I was starting the semester after spending the summer going back and forth to clear the house and close Mom's estate. Really? Five years ago? 10 years ago I was a junior in college, a member of the student group, and had found a group of amazing Bohemian friends...largely because I had been out for almost two years.
Then I thought about what I didn't know was right around the corner at each of those moments. When I was out for two years, I thought I'd be teaching English somewhere in Wyoming. I didn't know I was about to take over the student group and be thrust in front of a sea of cameras and into a lifetime of activism. When I was talking to my mother after the first press conference, I didn't know that I would lose her sooner than I'd ever feared.
Where were you on September 10th? I was at the hospital visiting Laurel, who had just given birth to her first of two (so far) daughters. I certainly didn't know what the next morning would mean to the rest of my life. We have plans, but never know when something will happen to someone we know, or something happens that changes everyone. We can't plan for everything, of course, and obsessing over what is around the corner could drive you mad.
My hyper-gay, Broadway-soaked brain sends me to Rent, singing "No Day But Today" and cherishing the created families and memories embodied in 525,600 minutes...decade after decade. I've flown into Laramie on the same plane as Anthony Rapp, for pity's sake! I've met people, been places, and done things I've never dreamed of. And though there are things I might wish were different, I have to say on the whole...it's been a helluva ride!
And that's when it hits me...at 29 (for the 4th time), I've got a LONG way to go. Oh the places we'll go! When I'm 60, what will I be looking back on? Not where will I be, but where will I have been? It's an exciting thought!
So...where WERE you? Back then, where did you think you'd be? What didn't you see coming?
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
So while watching TV tonight, I caught a commercial (rare, because I have DVR and don't watching commercials often). Apparently several channels, especially anything with BBC in or near its name, are running memorial specials. It's been 10 years since Princess Diana was killed in a car accident. It made me remember where I was when it happened.
A friend in Denver, Dusty, was hosting a gay dinner party for Labor Day. We were watching odd movies, and making bitchy comments. Sort of a gay version of MST3K. When we finished watching Poltergeist, we stopped to rewind the VHS tape. That's when we saw the news. A room full of gay men, well fed, liquored up, and all riled up over our own senses of humor. And Di was dead. The mood changed quickly.
My commentary today is not focused on Diana, or even moments of tragedy. It's about memorable moments in general. What makes something memorable? We remember so many things clearly. Things we'll never forget. Our first kiss. Our first date. Our first...time. And yet so many things are trivial to us. What tells us that a moment is special? Is it instinct? Perhaps a biochemical response? "There is an abnormally high level of dopamine present. We are very happy. Take a picture, brain." Or is it something more subjective? That we choose the moments to remember based on an established criteria. Only those events that cause us signficant psychological response in either direction can be remembered, as they elicit the strongest stimuli. That seems quasi-Freudian in a way, and we DON'T want that.
It's just my musing this evening. Leave me a comment and tell me what you think causes you to remember something. An anniversary, milestone, or particular stimulus.
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
What: I never turned 30. Last year, my friend Mary gave me the cute term "thirty-wonderful," and I could live that. This year, I'm going back to being 29. And there are plans for birthday shenanigans!
When: Saturday, August 25th, beginning at 8pm(ish) and ending when the last person collapses. ;)
Where: Downtown Laramie (for starters). Let's meet at the Alibi for a drink or two. We'll start bar-hopping from there! At around 11ish, we'll head back to my place for "drunken sing-a-long karaoke." The Library bar was supposed to karaoke, but they're not cooperating with my master plan. So the night owls and the adventurous can go back to "Ruby Slippers" (aka my house) for a sing-a-long karaoke fest. I may not have my own karaoke machine, but I have CD's, surround sound, and no shame!
Why: It's not every day I turn 29 (though it IS every year now). And it's a last hurrah before school starts. Do you really need an excuse?
Any questions? Give me a call, email me, MySpace me, Connexion me, etc.
Monday, August 20, 2007
We set off late Friday night and came back Sunday afternoon. I didn't have to drive. I didn't have to buy food. I had a bed to sleep in. I was in good company. We had an amazingly fun weekend, and went over to Saratoga for a dip in the hot springs. That felt SOOOOO good on my back. It was eight shades of relaxing, and was just what the doctor ordered before a week of sure hell at work.
When heading up the mountain, I made a show of turning off my cell phone. "Look everyone...I am officially on vacation." And it felt SO good. I didn't have to worry about work calling me. I didn't have to worry about calling someone back before they went to bed. I didn't have to WORRY. No TV. No video games. Our only tech indulgences were a fridge and a stereo system. Wood burning stove even!
I fully recommend this to everyone. Turn off your digi-life for a while. While I live and die by the computer, cell phone, and DVR, it's nice to be without them for a while. Be safe and sane about it, though. People knew where we were. We had phones available in case of emergency. If you turn off and check out, you should do the same. Otherwise, drop out for a day or two.
Monday, August 13, 2007
I've gotten a bit of grief every now and then from friends about some of the TV shows I watch. In addition to crime dramas, fabulously gay shows, the Daily Show, etc...I also watch shows like Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. As Linus calls them, shows designed to make you cry. And to a large extent, he's right. Overly sappy. Mushy even. And it works, too. It's pretty much a guarantee that by the time the family of twelve (who probably have a story like: lost their father to cancer just before the tornado destroyed their ramshackle, termite-infested 4 bedroom house) gets their new house, I'm blubbering like an idiot. And not just because "the team" goes the extra mile by treating the entire house with a special anti-termite goo and installs an underground emergency shelter...just in case tornadoes don't follow the same rules as lightning.
It's because of the love the family has for one another. It doesn't matter what they've been through, how tough times got, or how much they've lost. They have kept their heads high because they have each other. They keep putting one foot in front of the other because they know they're not alone. And more often than not, they also have found some way to give back to their community, their family, or someone else in need. They remind me of many people in my life.
My mother, who never let what we didn't have keep us from feeling loved and blessed. Dennis and Judy Shepard, who found grace and compassion when it was least likely and who still today devote their time, energy, and money in the hopes nobody else has to do the same. And the list goes on and on.
Lately I've been watching a new show on TNT, called Heartland. It's about a team of transplant surgeons and nurses. They save lives, and they lose some. They care about total strangers, and do everything they can to give people more time. more time with loved ones. More time to accomplish a dream. More time to simply live. It's about giving to someone else, even when you don't get anything in return. Out of love. And out of humanity.
I have a confession. I watch these shows BECAUSE I will cry. It's a way to vent the sadness. The sadness I feel when I hear a friend worry about whether or not she can stay in school because her parents don't come through as promised. The frustration I feel when I read today that a 22 year man died in custody because OUR government refused him the AIDS medication he needed to stay alive. His crime? He didn't have a green card. The anger I feel when I hear the Phelps will protest the funerals of those killed in the bridge collapse.
But most of all, it's the worry. The worry that those who mean SO much to me, and have given me so many wonderful yet intangible gifts, will not know how much love I carry inside. Sometimes I feel ready to burst. Like the love inside is overflowing. I was there when my mother died. I was there when I was afraid Scotty was going to do the same. For me, every single day in precious. Like so many of my faithful readers, I've felt the loss of a loved one. And I rejoice in every moment I get to spend with my friends and family.
If you've ever heard me give a SafeZone presentation or speak to a class, you might know that back in 9th grade, I was ready to give up. I felt no hope, and was so tired of the internal struggle. But the day I was ready to swallow every pill in the house, a friend called and asked me to "head into town" for a day of fun. I don't remember what we did, but we had SO much fun. When I got home, I realized that had I followed through, I would have missed the good times too. And so from that day on, I have focused on the good times. I look toward the light at the end of the tunnel. The silver lining. Or at least I try to...I am human after all.
So that's the way I try to live my life now. Always remember the good times. Help each other through the bad ones, and try to learn from them as you go. Take some chances. Love easily, and make certain you share that love. Speak it. Act it. Write it. MAKE IT KNOWN. And not just to those you call family. Or friend. But to everyone around you. The stranger on the street. The person who sits next to you in class. The umpteenth customer of the day.
That's really the point of this whole series of posts. Just by changing the little things, we can make a big difference. "Become the change you want to see in the world." It really does work. And I've found that when you do your best to BE your best, the Universe will give you the best in return. Witness the countless friends and family who stand by you when you're sick, cranky, tired, in pain, poor, or just plain sad. Being filled with love is an amazing feeling. Sharing it is even better.
So at the risk of sounding like a broken record, thank you to you all. And all my love. YOU GIVE ME WINGS!
For the record, the only tears shed during the writing of this post are due to smiles and happy memories. It's not sadness talking...just LOVE! (And you know damned well that SOMEONE would worry it was a depressed or sulky post if I didn't clarify...it's the nature of text on a screen instead of tone of voice.
Monday, August 06, 2007
The Olympics. We love to see athletes coming together in the spirit of sportmanship and competition. Even here in America we manage to make note of the trimuphs, struggles, and efforts of others. The under dogs. Someone who has overcome incredible odds just to participate. New firsts. New records. Heoric feats and daring dos. The Kennedy Center Honors. Celebrating people in film, television, music, and the arts. Where else in one year can you honor Zubin Mehta, Dolly Parton, Smokey Robinson, Steven Spielberg, and Andrew Lloyd Webber? (Don't know them? Look them up. They're worth it.)
Here on campus we're starting to see it. Women's Action Network and Spectrum have co-sponsored countless events, and other groups along the way too. In the past, Spectrum has worked with Campus Ventures, Catholics on Campus, AAPISA, OMA, UMC, the Bahai's, Hillel, MEChA, several greek houses, and many departments. If we all worked together to bring in an event as one...how could it be denied? I imagine funding would be thrown at an event.
One way or another, we have to learn to work together. The similarities between racism, sexism, homophobia, ageism, classism, politicism, etc. far outweigh the differences. Oppression is the same, even if the particular flavor isn't. It's not about us and them. There is only us. We are ALL connected. Not matter how many little boxes we try to create to separate us from one another, we're all still in the same container.
What happens in Mexico impacts us in the U.S. Any conflict in the world has an impact on the entire globe. HIV crosses all boundaries, and the number of AIDS orphans who are coming of age and the number who will be orphaned in 10 years will certainly have global impact. How will nations of children eat? Learn? Govern? We must act now to prevent disaster down the road. And will take a concerted effort from everyone.
But the good news is you don't have to go to Africa and work with AIDS orphans. You do, however, have to get involved. In something. Find something you're passionate about and volunteer. Donate your time and your money. Think globally and act locally is a great motto! It reminds me of something a Lakota healer taught me once.
"First, I must heal myself. Then I can heal my family. Then we can heal our community. Then we can heal the world."
Tuesday, July 31, 2007
When you are trained to fear the other or the different, it makes it easier maintain a kind of systemic control over groups of people. It's something that's often seen in times of war: representing the "enemy" as somehow less civilized or human. Think about how our current media, a fair percentage of the populace, and the government present the folks we're fighting. They're shown as inhumane, wanting to destroy "our way of life." They're nameless and faceless. They are vilified and demonized, even though our country's history ought to teach us something different. We're not as likely to see women and children on the news, unless there are American soldiers helping them and being kind. The technical term would be propaganda.
After wars are over, we often learn a great deal more about the "other." We learn that not all Germans were Nazis, and that life wasn't always easy on the other side of the front lines. We also learn that we, too, are capable of horrific things. Internment camps for Japanese Americans. The Atomic Bomb. Abu Ghraib. Deception about weapons of mass destruction that didn't exist. But these sorts of things often don't matter until after the fact, because at the time we're too busy being against the "other guys." And it's much easier to do that when we don't know as much about them or don't talk about them as people.
We give them names, so they're even less "normal" to us. Charlie. The Gerrys. Gooks. Sometimes it's not so much a name, as a grouping. Viet Cong. Al Qaeda. Insurgents. Rebels. Guerrillas. Anything to distance them. We draw political cartoons lampooning them. Sometimes we use marketing and advertising campaigns. If you've watched a decent quantity of Bugs Bunny or Looney Toons cartoons, you've seen another form of this. We are taught it is a simple game of us vs. them.
And the same is true domestically. A great deal of effort is spent keeping different groups fighting one another. Blacks vs. gays. Christians vs. Muslims. And the list, or more accurately the cycle, never ends. When the Federal Marriage Amendmentment was being introduced, its supporters lobbied black churches heavily, trying to stir up this animosity. "They are trying to compare their CHOICE with your experiences, and isn't that wrong?! They're not the same thing! Stand with us against them!" They went to other churches saying "They want to force you to accept and perform weddings that go against your beliefs!" It doesn't matter if it's true, the tension and division is the goal.
It's also done through economic means. "There's only so much money to go around, and we can only work on so many things at once." We're then taught to fight each other for that small piece of the pie. "Put in your budget requests so you can have programming available!" When a group does get something, the others are again set against them as opponents. "See what they got? You should have the same thing. You're just as good if not better than them." I learned a term for this at a conference a while back: the Oppression Olympics. As long as we're competing with one another, we're not working together and seeing the flaws in the system as a whole. And we're just getting little table scraps. LITTLE pieces of pie.
Next time: United We Stand - Why not work together?
Thursday, July 26, 2007
I'm not sure if it's human nature or just the current societal values, but we like to feel as though we're in control. And we're taught that knowledge and understanding leads to power. To control. If we figure out where something fits in the "scheme of things" we somehow have a better sense of the world around us. We break things down into its component parts in order to analyze it. (Again, for the geeks out there - deconstruction!)
We pick apart a movie or TV show, identifying themes, images, dialogue, etc so that we can pull some meaning out of it. We listen for specific words or lines in music that help us understand what a song is about, what its message is supposed to be. We do the same thing with people as well. We spend a lot of time sorting people into nice, neat little boxes for the purposes of identification. We sort people based on their religion, gender, politics, sexuality, race, age, socio-economic status, etc.
Think about it this way: Have you ever been talking about an actor or musician before, and someone is quick to point out "You know they're gay, right?" This is especially revealing when you were saying "I love this song," or "He's a good actor." Does their sexuality have anything to do with the quality of the music or film? We reduce people to one aspect of their identity, and often times don't give ourselves mental permission to let them out of one or two boxes.
This often leads to a lot of assumptions, too. Just because someone is gay, doesn't mean they can't also be a Republican. Or that they are automatically for gay marriage. Or that they're sexually active. Obviously, we're talking about stereotypes here. By defining people in a certain way, and using those definitions to deconstruct and categorize, we're limiting them. But it gives us a sense of control. Knowledge. Something upon which to base decisions.
An example from SafeZone: My friend Jackie looks like everybody's grandma. White hair, sweet disposition, wears her glasses on a chain. You just know she wants to bake you cookies. She also wears a gold cross around her neck. It's easy to put her into a mental box as a sweet little old retiree granny type. Putting her in that particular box might mean you wouldn't swear around her, or wouldn't bring up topics like being gay. She's got white hair and wears a cross, so that conversation couldn't possibly go well, right? Until you find out her son is gay and that she can swear like a sailor.
We like to believe we understand the world around us. Largely because if we know where to place everyone and everything else, it helps us figure out where to place ourselves. Where WE "fit in." And that's really where the sense of knowledge and control come from: knowing where we stand in relation to "other." This category of people feels this way about this issue, so I won't be around those people or discuss that issue with them. Wouldn't it be amazing if we talked it through instead, and learned that today a majority of Americans support employment protection for GLBT people? And perhaps we could change the minds of people about some things.
I've heard about so many people who start viewing a group differently when they find out someone they care about is a part of it. When you know someone who's black, it's harder to be scared or nervous when walking past an African American on the street. It's harder to oppose gay marriage or civil unions when one of your kids comes out. It's not because there's something different about the person or group. It's because we've broken down the little boxes into which we place them. After all, how many of you fit neatly into one or two categories?
Next time - The Oppression Olympics: How these categories are used to keep us from working towards unity.
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
I learned something in Senior Seminar with the English Department. Language, words, and most symbols are all quite arbitrary. There is nothing inherent about a tree that says "the word for me is tree." Think about the myriad of languages that exist in the world today, and those that have "died out" in the past. They all have different words that represent "tree." We have chosen arbitrary words and arbitrary spellings in order to communicate with one another. The combination of letters t, r, e, and e doesn't have anything to do with what makes up a tree, where it grows, etc. They are connected only because of a mutual agreement and understanding that gives us a mental picture of a tree.
There are problems with this, of course. When I read or hear the word tree, I might envision a pine tree. Sharp needles, rough bark, tall, hearty, and green year round. Someone standing next to me, hearing or seeing the exact same word, might picture an aspen tree. Dormant over the winter months, smooth bark, broad leaves, and changing colors throughout the year. If we were both to describe the process for climbing the tree, uses for the wood, the smells, the textures, etc...we would probably be on two different pages, though the books would be related. It's why you learn about things like "specificity of language" in school. It helps to remove some of this confusion.
But how do create the image for tree in our heads? How do we know what a tree IS? We create a definition by what something is NOT. "Tree" is not "cat." It's not rock, or river. It's not a taco, and so on. Because "tree" can be more than one thing to us, we only what it means in relation to what it isn't. With words or images, this can be fairly simple.
We can only define things based on our own knowledge and experience. If you see the word "Hund," you cannot pull meaning from it unless you have something filed away in the rolodex of your brain that matches it. In this case, it's a word in German. If you've never learned German, you won't have much luck searching your mental databases. If you're lucky, a word will be similar to something else. (For the geeks in the room, these are called cognates.) Hund looks and sounds like the word "hound," and means dog. I can usually pull some meaning out of something I read in Dutch, because the written language is similar enough to German that I can make educated guesses about the meaning it's trying to convey. We create definitions through comparison.
The problem with this is that we do the same thing with people. We're quick to create distinctions about "other." Black vs. white. Republican vs. Democrat. Young vs. old. Jewish vs. Muslim vs. Hindu. We assign these labels to people quickly and easily, and use them to define that which is different from "us" or "me." We focus on these differences, even though there are far more similarities to be found. No matter the color of your skin, most people are born with the same number of toes, fingers, eyes, etc. We have different blood types, but they're made of the same thing. Yet we continually focus on what separates us or sets us apart. More often, we focus on what sets someone else apart. They are not like us in X way, so they are "different" or "not normal."
We then assign value to "normal." "Was the baby born normal?" "Why can't I have a normal job?" "Is that normal?" And normal is always defined in relation to ourselves. It doesn't matter if a majority of people in the world are not "white," that is considered "normal" to us in the US. Normalcy is like us, largely because we want to believe that we are like others, that we are normal and that we are operating in the natural state and ways.
Think about how you define things around you, and then how you define the people around you. How do you describe someone if they're not present. "You know Linus, the guy in the kilt." "Squid, the one with pink hair." "Big Gay Jim." Don't we use the differences as a basis for ruling out the things we're NOT describing? At what point do those differences become a definition? And do you want a part of you, one singular difference, to define you? Am I ONLY gay?
Coming next - Control: Why do we feel the need to categorize everything and everyone?
Monday, July 16, 2007
I'm really grateful for close friends. Whether it was 5 of us hanging out by the lake this weekend, someone dropping off a present for the camping trip before I left, the all-time greatest puppy/house-sitter of all times coming through ONCE again, someone mowing your lawn and staying for 3 more hours just to chill, someone calling just to say hi, or any of the myriad other ways my friends (read: family) enrich my life. You guys rock. Though some people might think I say it too often, I'm of the opinion you can't say it enough. So thanks, all.
Tuesday, July 03, 2007
As it turns out, the Squid twisted my arm like the bully she is. ;) When she was off work, I met her at Flock Hall 2.0 for leftovers and refreshments. She had to stay home waiting for the FedEx man to deliver plane tickets for Tessa, and we both decided company was in order. It also means I got to see FH2.0 for the first time. Nice digs, kids! Gay approved, and I'm seriously jealous of the Rev's new lair. *waggles eyebrows* Maybe, if we get him drunk enough, he'll give me a tour...
So here I sit, back at work. And the meaning of tomorrow isn't as daunting. I already have several offers for plans, and know I'll find a way to have some fun and get into trouble. The rest of it will fall into place, and I'll learn whatever lessons present themselves. At some point, I'll feel sad. Mostly, I'll feel happy. That's what lunch with Squid reminded today. Surround yourself with good people, fill yourself with good intention, and enjoy the simple things that unfold.
Even some leftover noodles, bottled pasta sauce, and leftover crab cakes (I am SO glad Tessa is back!) can turn into the most wonderful afternoon diversion. Just catching up with someone, even when you see them often, can be relaxing. And every now and then, take a moment to stop and enjoy things at a slower pace. No music, no tv. Stay in. Sit for a moment. Let it all soak in.
Thanks, Squid. And Universe.
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
There was a bit of a blemish on the trip, however. Sunday morning a friend borrowed my car to run down the road a half mile or so to use "the facilities." I had set a volleyball set and my kite bag on top of the car so they wouldn't get damaged when packing everything back in the car for the drive home. My friend didn't notice this fact. When I took a load up to the car, I did. And panicked. After confirming the bag hadn't been moved to safety, I jumped in the car to look for it frantically.
Five different people were involved in the search mission. Despite only having about a half mile of terrain to cover and having noticed the loss within 30-45 minutes, they were nowhere to be found. I was, of course, quite upset. The bag was worth between $500 and $600, and most of the kites are no longer made. But it was the sentimental value that hurt me more.
The Prism Fanatic was the first REAL kite I ever bought, and was my "big" keepsake from the California road trip with Nerdy and Mandyfish. I bought the High Level, a German kite, from the Rev, who had flown it for years...and I was thrilled to own a piece of his own kiting history. The 3D (a low-wind kite), the Spirit (a quad-line kite I never actually got to fly), and the Prism bag itself were bought from someone on the kiting forum. I had a small single line delta Jace gave me, and a new cheapy dual line that made the perfect "learning" kite for friends. It cost $10, so it didn't matter if someone killed it in a blaze of newbie glory. Add in the line sets, winders, handles, etc. and there was not only a lot money and memories in the bag, but also a lot of time and prep work. Gone. In an instant.
My friend felt VERY bad about the loss, and I was doing my best not to be bitter, as I knew it was an honest mistake and not something malicious or intentional. But still...I was NOT happy. It was NOT the ending I had envisioned to an otherwise spectacular trip. As I drove home from Wheatland, I was almost in tears, but tried to remind myself of something very important. Something my mother had always tried to teach me.
They were just...things. THINGS can be replaced. People and friendships cannot. The memories were connected to the things, but not contained in them. I still have the memories. And I'm certain that one day I will again experience the peace, joy, and relaxation that comes from dancing a kite through the difficult Wyoming skies. There will be other kites, and new memories. Everything else is just details.
This, of course, is much easier to say and more difficult to FEEL. I'm still VERY unhappy and saddened by the loss of the bag. I'm certain someone drove along the road and found the bags. I have reported them to just about every agency in Platte County, Wheatland, and anyone remotely connected to Gray Rocks. But if they haven't been turned in yet, I'm not certain they will be. That saddens me, as I would like to believe there are still honest people in the world. But if they aren't turned in and I never see my babies again, I at least hold this one hope: that whomever has them finds a much fun and peace in the strings, sticks, and nylon as I did. That they create their own memories and take good care of them, as I tried to do. At least that would give me some smattering of peace about it.
Today's lesson is a tough one: some lessons are very hard to learn, and it's much easier to help others learn than to deal with our own lessons. It truly is easier said than done. Lesson #2: Good friends will usually surround you, ready to simply say "That fucking sucks!" and be there to distract, console, and comfort you when you need it. Thanks, gang!
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
Pentagon Confirms It Sought to Build a "Gay Bomb"
That's right...they researched the possibility of making a bomb that would turn the enemy GAY. Some choice quotes from the article, just to make sure you all read the article:
As part of a military effort to develop non-lethal weapons, the proposal suggested, "One distasteful but completely non-lethal example would be strong aphrodisiacs, especially if the chemical also caused homosexual behavior."
The Ohio Air Force lab proposed that a bomb be developed that contained a chemical that would cause enemy soldiers to become gay, and to have their units break down because all their soldiers became irresistibly attractive to one another.
And my favorite:
...it uncovered a strange U.S. military proposal to create a hormone bomb that could purportedly turn enemy soldiers into homosexuals and make them more interested in sex than fighting.
I have a few places I'd like to drop such a bomb...think of the millions of hot men we could turn gay instantly. Rev, Brendon, Mark, Smith...beware! No longer will my only hope be a 6 pack of beer or bottle of tequila... Then it's off to Hollywood to convert Matt Damon, Colin Farrell, Heath Ledger, Brad Pitt (sorry Mandy), and all the rest of the hunks we lust after. They'll all be mine. Mine, I tell you, all mine! *maniacal laughter*
PLEASE...I want to see your thoughts on this, so leave me a comment about the article!
Monday, June 11, 2007
For almost ten minutes the moth flew around, dancing and investigating. But then something frightening happened. He wasn't sure if he flew too close to the lights, or too close to a speaker, but soon he found himself on the ground at the front of the stage, right next to a speaker. Something had stunned him, and he couldn't fly. He didn't know what to do, so he sat there waiting...trying to gather his strength and find his bearings. Then maybe he would be able to fly away again.
Many people had seen him, as he was easy to spot in the lights, though it was late and very dark outside. But most on the stage hadn't noticed him. And then a kind blonde woman (the crowd kept calling her Cyndi) noticed him after finishing one of her songs. "Oh...he's hurt or something. Poor thing!" she said. She began her next song, but was very careful not to step on him or hurt the moth. She went back to check on him, and though she was wearing a very nice purple dress, she got down on her hands and knees to look him over more careful. She even talked to him, and told him that she'd try to take care of him, and that he should stay where he was, as he was out of the way for the time being. She even told the crowd she was worried about him.
During the next song, a nice man crept onto the stage behind the nice blonde woman. Using a cup and piece of paper, he careful scooped up the moth and carried him to safety, hoping to release him to safety. It had been both an exciting and frightening night for our friend the moth. He was so surprised that someone so big as the blonde woman, who was in the middle of a very big concert, would take time to stop and worry about a simple moth like him. And so he smiled a mothy smile...and felt special and loved.
Yes, this really happened last night at the True Colors concert. Cyndi Lauper cared about a moth, albeit a really BIG moth. At first, it looked almost like a bat. But that's what the concert was all about, really. Being nice to other people. Being yourself and letting other people (and moths, apparently) be who they really are. It was oddly touching, and is one of the little things a shama-wicca-paga-druid notices and pays attention to. Today's lesson: be kind to those in need, no matter how many legs (or wings) they use to get around. Simple acts of kindness make a difference, and not always to those who are being helped. You never know who's watching, and who will be touched.
PS...a HUGE shout out to Max and Brittany, who drove me to and from the concert. Oh yeah...and let me use one of their spare tickets...IN ROW 8!!! I was in a queer child of the 80's bliss all night long.
Thursday, June 07, 2007
PS...thank you for not killing anyone with the 4 tornadoes that touched down in Campbell County last night. The last big one was enough for Wright to cope with.
Monday, June 04, 2007
And we had a fabulous weekend anyway. Cocktails, dinners, cocktails, BBQ's, and cocktails...and in no time it was Sunday night. We had decent seats in the mezzanine, great company, and it was closing night of the show. IT WAS BEYOND FIERCE! Phantom has always been my favorite show. Then I discovered Rent, and it moved me in ways Phantom never could. And then Elphie came into my life. I've read the book and memorized the OBC album, so I was well-informed going into the theater. I wasn't ready to fall so deeply in love with this show.
Perhaps even more so than the book (which is SO rare for me), the musical resonated with my life and soul. Elphies struggles for acceptance and constantly being the outsider. The taunts and snickers from her peers. The pain of loss and search for identity. The beauty of finding a true friend who understands and accepts you no matter what. The fighting between dearest friends only to come back together over and over again. Appearances are deceiving. Rising above the challenges and working to make a difference in the world around you. I'd say that I want to be Elphie when I grow up, but the truth is that I'm already her.
Naturally I raced out during intermission (right after Elphie sings "Defying Gravity," my FAVORITE song) and immediately overspent at the merchandise kiosk, as I NEEDED more. And that's where today's lesson comes from, gentle readers. It pays to be a nice person. At the upstairs "Ozdust Boutique," I waited while an obviously tired clerk did his best to meet the demand for t-shirts, posters, and trinkets. I bought the hat, the glasses, the Grimmerie, and the photo book. He sensed my enthusiasm for the show (and probably noticed my puffy, bloodshot eyes from where I'd been moved to tears...for the 3rd time), and smiled. While he bagged and rang up my goodies, we chatted about what an amazing job the cast was doing, how FABulous the script and score are, and how glad I was to be there.
That's when he quietly asked "You know where the stage door, is right?" I didn't, but knew what it meant. Cast autographs. He gave me directions, and tips on catching the stars when they were out of makeup (Elphie is 6 feet tall, Glinda is a tiny little brunette with an Italian accent). I quickly found Scotty's mom, Sue, to tell her we had the inside scoop if she was willing to wait around a bit after the show. Armed with a pen in her purse and the soundtrack echoing in our heads, we headed out after the final curtain. Without too much trouble, we found the magical door...and a VERY gracious cast. We were there for about an hour after the show, waiting for the last of the talent to head out. Sue's eyes were glowing, my hands were shaking, and Dad and the boys were having fun watching us.
All because we took the time to be nice to the man behind the counter. Sometimes, it's important to pay attention to the man behind the curtain. So remember this as you go about your day: the "little people" matter too. Be nice to everyone. It is, after all, one of the themes of my new favorite musical. Sorry, Phantom.
Friday, June 01, 2007
The next year, a parade was held to celebrate what most regard as the birth of the modern gay rights movement. And June has never been the same. For me, it's a chance to recharge my gay batteries. It's also a time to remember how far we've come. Colorado will now include employment protection for people based on sexual orientation OR gender identity. New Hampshire is now the first state to create civil unions without a judicial mandate to do so. It's amazing how our rights have expanded in the last 3 years, despite amazing opposition and political roadblocks.
There will be more to discuss about Pride over the next 30 days, but today's lesson is simple. Take a moment and simply be proud of who you are. Who you were. Who you have become. Obviously, anyone reading MY blog must be a cool person and deserves to be proud. And I'm proud of you. Gay, straight, lesbian, bi, queer, trans, or somewhere in between. Smart, simple, heavy, thin, bold, meek...it doesn't matter. Just be the best YOU that you can be. And revel in it.
There are still far too many in our country and in our world today who are not allowed to do so. People who are silenced, physically, spiritually, or metaphorically.
I'm SO proud of YOU!
Friday, May 25, 2007
Memorial Day is also something more to me. For many, it's a time to remember the men and women who defend our country and keep us safe by serving in the military. A chance to remember those who have fallen. I do that today. I think about the many relatives (two uncles, my father, grandparents, cousins...) who have served with honor and distinction. I think about those in Iraq or Afghanistan, and hope they are safe. I mourn for every life lost...and not just American lives, for the record.
I also think about the men and women who are serving in silence because they are GLBT. I think about the almost 60 Arabic translators who've been fired recently because they were "caught" and "discovered" as queer. I think about C and Kate, who've given their whole lives to service. I think about Tim, who was prepared to do the same, but was discharged because of who he loves. And it angers me. There are thousands of GLBT Americans who are willing to put their lives on the line for this country and her citizens. Yet they are told "no" because they might disrupt "unit cohesion." It seems so pointless and discriminatory to me.
Memorial Day is also about remembering all those who have departed this spinning ball of rock. Mom. Matt. Uncle Ed. Each of them touched lives in their own way. They left their mark on the world, and certainly the people around them. I believe that so much of us is made up of our experiences and the people with whom we surround ourselves. They are all a part of me. Though they have passed, they are not gone by any stretch of the imagination. They live on in the stories we share about their lives. They live in the love we hold for them, and the space we will always keep for them in our hearts.
So today, I pause for a moment to simply remember. And say thank you to those who have gone before. Who have taught me. Changed me. Supported me. Inspired me. I say thank you to the Universe for bringing them into my life and teaching me that they will never truly leave my life. And thank you for the people who are still here with us today. May we learn even more and meet many more amazing people.
Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal. - From a headstone in Ireland
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
Well, a shortened version, as it was the very first report that he had, in fact, died. I didn't feel sad. But I also didn't feel glad. I just pretty much didn't feel anything. Other than a sense that this is very important news and I should tell people. A few text messages and IM's informed the folks I figured would know who he is and care enough to not to say "So why are you telling me?"
I had a few responses. Jerry. Greg. Linus. Nobody else seemed sad either. Odd that. And then Jess sent me this:
I freely admit I smirked. Then giggled. And I didn't feel guilty about it, either. I also read the first 6 pages of comments about the post. They were interesting, for certain. And it raised the question in my mind: Did it make me a bad person that I found a joke about someone's death amusing, if not funny? Jaded? Bitter? And I didn't have an answer. Surely it's not right to laugh at a person's death. I don't wish pain on him, and even as I write this I hope it was swift and peaceful. I've witnessed an ugly death, and don't have enough hate in my heart to wish that even on Phelps, whom I consider to be one of the most evil and foul people I've ever encountered. I was simple at loss for an answer.
But here's what I do know. I know he claimed the Anti-Christ was a male Jew who was already alive. (He later apologized for the remark...not the belief.) I know at one of the most painful times in our country's history, he had the gaul to call it God's wrath. And to blame "homosexuals and feminists" and "abortionists." For September 11th. (He later apologized. Again...for the remark.) I know queer people who were kicked out of their homes because of his words and actions. Their churches. I know of others who tried to kill themselves. And some who succeeded. I know how much pain he has caused, and some of it is my own.
I admit much of the pain was caused by him only indirectly. He didn't directly tell me to hate myself. But he told people who told people, and they told people, and so on. And someone told my mother. And my Pastor. And most of my teachers. And firends. I truly believe that much of it was unintentional. I do NOT believe that he WANTS us to kill ourselves. I don't believe he WANTS us to be homeless. I don't believe he WANTS us to be beaten. Or murdered. I think he just doesn't want us to BE. At the very least, he wants us to be something other than we are.
All I wanted for you in life was enlightenment, Jerry. My beliefs tell me that you now have that. So I forgive you. Now please do what you can to help us fix it. I'll keep trying too. Peace to you.
Friday, May 04, 2007
I have watching people come and go. Countless friends have left town to begin their own "grown-up" lives. To start careers. To travel around the world. To join the Peace Corps. To get married. For whatever reason, people leave. It's the nature of the beast at institutions of higher learning. And it's always hard on people, myself included. This year is another tough one.
One of the biggest perks I enjoy is watching students grow and develop during their time here. Who knows...I may have even helped one or two of them do so. ;) They grow up right before my eyes. They find passion, they become involved, they learn, they speak up. I've watched Travis graduate twice now. He became a leader on campus, and helped secure the future of many groups on campus. Scotty used to look down his nose at "the rainbow queers" who were "in your face" and "pushy." Then he joined the Spectrum board, AIDS Walk, and is looking at a career helping AIDS patients. Keith was one of Travis' "straight" friends. Now he's come out to his parents and helped coordinate some amazing queer events on campus. But now it's time for Travis to become a lawyer, Scotty a personal trainer, and Keith a full-time nerd at the AHC. It's the way it needs to be. We all have to continue to "become."
They also become family. That's what really makes the leaving so difficult. I'll miss the random phone calls to meet someone for a martini at Tommy Jacks or a fishbowl at Mingles. I'll miss bottles of wine and our favorite TV show. I'll miss planning events and wondering how in the world we're gonna pull something off. I'll miss lunches at Sweet Melissa's or listening to a friend at Jefferey's. I'll miss seeing people on a regular basis. Miss the ability to get together randomly on a moment's notice when one of us has had a bad day...or needs to celebrate. Seeing Kristen at the Cowboy. Hearing Scotty's laugh in the office.
The logical part of my brain tells me that leaving doesn't always mean an end. Phones exist. Most folks aren't moving across the continent, but it sure as hell feels that way. I travel. They can travel too. Visits are possible. But I'm not sure I'm ready for things to change. AGAIN. And the logical part of my brain isn't really in control right now. It's my heart, which is once again aching at the thought of people drifting out of my life, even if it's slowly. There are so many who have left before, and we talk once or twice a year. We email once in a blue moon. When we do, we still feel that connection, that link. The family-ness. But it's different. Disconnected somehow, or at least strained. When we catch up, it's the guilt you feel for not knowing or being there when something bad happened. It's the disappointment for not being there to celebrate and share in the good times. For me, it's mostly about not having a part of my everyday life that I've come to depend on.
I don't have an answer for you all today, or even any sage wisdom. I'm feeling at a loss this time of year, as I always do. Amazing people moving on, and moving forward, is a good thing. But it still hurts. And then again, maybe that IS wisdom. Let it hurt a little. Be a little sad. Be a little worried. The pain and the fear of loss is a reminder to hold on to what you have. And a sign that you've been doing something right. Otherwise it wouldn't hurt so much when good people leave.
I love you with all my heart.
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
Thursday, April 12, 2007
In California, they're saying that the State Supreme Court's invalidation of the San Francisco Marriages proves you can't ignore "the will of the people." This argument has been used a lot recently, and is part of the reason so many states had initiatives on the ballot. There's just one problem with this theory.
THE RIGHTS OF A MINORITY SHOULD NOT BE DETERMINED BY A VOTE OF THE MAJORITY.
Thomas Jefferson said "All, too, will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will, to be rightful, must be reasonable;that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal laws must protect, and to violate would be oppression."
If we left the rights of the minority up to a popular vote, we would have far fewer ballots to count. Women would not have the right to vote. African Americans wouldn't either. Millions of people of color were able to become US citizens in the first immigration amnesty in 1986. They now have the right to vote, but had the decision been left to the electorate, I doubt that they, their spouses, and their children would hold the power of the lever today.
We might still have slavery. Or Prohibition. I'm certain that bi-racial or inter-racial couples wouldn't have the right to marry in most places. Would our schools still be segregated? Women would not have the right to make decisions about their own bodies, though that right is slowly being whittled away too. Would we have a state religion, determined by which faith boasts the most followers at the time?
Our history is full of examples where the will of the majority was clear...and it was wrong. I'm tempted to make comparisons to Germany in the 1930's and 40's. The will of the majority was also clear there, but it didn't mean that it was correct. Or humane. Or even human. The similarities seem obvious, but if I make those assertions, how many people would stop listening or accuse me of inflating the issue? What about South Africa and Apartheid? Ghandi and the English colonization of India?
Our country first claimed its independence because the controlling government was treating them as second class citizens. They were being taxed unfairly and did not have representation in the government. I pay into Social Security just like my heterosexual friends. But if I die, my partner cannot receive a survivor benefit. Inherited assets such as a house or bank accounts are taxed at a higher rate because we are not married. Health benefits are not accessible. And how long was it before we had openly queer representation in the Federal government? How many states still don't have legislators, city councilmen/women, governors, mayors, etc. who are openly queer? How many had to wait until AFTER an election to do so? Is this not taxation without representation?
I'm not advocating for a violent revolution or an overthrow of the government. I'm simply fed up with the argument that because the polling and vote tallies say most people believe x, y, or z about gay people or their rights, that's the way things should be. History has tried countless times to teach us that the rights of the minority cannot be entrusted solely to the ballot box. It's up to elected officials, legislators, heterosexual allies, and activists. And it's up to so-called activist judges. During the women's rights movement, the civil rights movement, and even before, the term "activist judge" has been used when the courts step in to protect the rights of the few from the will of the many. In other words, when they do their job.
Perhaps this is why we don't let the public majority vote on a person's innocence or guilt. Perhaps it's why we don't vote on budgets. Why we have rules about the separation of Church and State. Why we have the Bill of Rights. Why the term "inalienable rights" is part of the American vocabulary. It's about checks and balances. The three branches of our government working together to create a bright future and a stable present. Maybe this is just a Judicial check balancing out the power that the Executive and Legislative branches have denied the population too long, along with a few Legislative efforts to do the same.
I'd rather the government do what's right instead of what's popular. I know they know how to do that, or we wouldn't still be involved in a war in Iraq with the threat of another in Iran. While it's not popular, we're told that the decision to stay there is right. Let's end the double standards, shall we? I leave you today, gentle readers, with another quote and another example of history trying to teach us from our own mistakes. From a labor activist who died in 1926.
"When great changes occur in history, when great principles are involved, as a rule the majority are wrong. The minority are right." - Eugene Debs