Monday, June 11, 2018

Pride

Why do I celebrate LGBTQ Pride? My uncle Tony and I were born into the same rural Southern Baptist household. We lived under the same roof during my childhood, and he was just the most amazing person. In my eyes he was magical. He could twirl a baton, throw it in the air soooooooooooo high and catch it behind his back. He didn't have any training of course...boys were not allowed to do those things back then. He listened to the most amazing music...very cutting edge and modern with lots of synth, not the easy listening, country, or talk radio I heard most of the time. He was an incredible dancer and he had an infectious laugh. He made mud pies with me when the weather was right, but his were always fancy. It didn't matter how fancy they were though, we still got into trouble for the mess we made together! ;)

My uncle had BIG dreams...bigger than anyone I ever knew. He was going to go to New York and become a professional dancer. He went to cosmetology school when I was a little girl, and he learned all the fancy braids and he'd spend hours practicing on my hair. I was tender headed, and hated to sit still, but he made me look so pretty, and he was so proud of the skills he was learning, so I'd grin and bear it...or at least bear it. Tony could cook like nobody's business, and every year he popped popcorn right on the stove so we could eat it while watching the Wizard of Oz.

Time went by and we both grew up. When Tony came out as gay, many of the people he loved, and society at large rejected him, ridiculed him, and severed ties with him. They loved him before he admitted what had been true since he was a little boy but suddenly, he was unworthy, unlovable, damned. The thing they refused to see is that his coming out didn't change anything about who he had always been. At a wedding, he spoke to his brothers, who continued to have a conversation between them as if he was less than a ghost, right in front of me. But he never stopped loving them. He still prayed for them and hoped one day that they'd see him as their brother again. (One of his brothers did come around.) He was one of the most spiritual people I have ever known, despite how hard the church home he grew up in tried to shut the door in his face. He loved God, he loved music, and he loved me (and many others) with all of his heart and soul.

Tony never met a stranger. He was incredibly generous. He had a wicked sense of humor, and he would do anything to help the people he loved. He was both beautiful and flawed. He suffered from anxiety and depression, but he found a way to keep going no matter how roughly life treated him. He found the courage to be bold and brave, and to do many things that he set out to do. He learned a lot of things simply for the thrill of the journey. He accepted others despite their quirks, and often because of them. He taught me so many things about the kind of person I want to be. My uncle Tony was like a brother to me. He was one of the few people I could be utterly myself with and never be judged.

Tony had a brain surgery that left him debilitated for 8 years, so our last years together were filled with difficult times as my mom, my grandmother and I cared for him. He passed away two summers ago after his birthday, which happens to be during Pride. I miss him every day, and I celebrate Pride in his memory. I celebrate all the progress and greater acceptance that he never got to fully enjoy. I celebrate that little boys can to to twirling school and be in color guard, and try all of the things they enjoy. I celebrate that people who love each other can have a marriage and a family that is recognized by the law and entitles them to the legal benefit of taking care of one another. And I know that these victories are precarious and must be constantly protected and defended. I celebrate Pride for every person who just wants to live their lives loving, laughing, worshiping and learning without being turned away, and their families and friends who love them. I celebrate for Tony.



Saturday, June 9, 2018

I'd like to believe...

It all started to really unravel a couple of years ago. My uncle/brother/friend was rushed to the hospital. For several days, my family gathered together to tell him we loved him, to tell old funny stories in the waiting room, and ultimately to see him off into the great beyond. I held my grandmother's portable oxygen machine for her so she could hold her baby's hand as he left this world. Four months later, my slightly smaller family gathered at the hospital to tell her goodbye as well. This time, there were fewer stories. She held me in her hospital bed and said my name over and over like a mantra for an hour. This time, I could not stay. Almost exactly one year later, I stood in a hospital once again and promised my mother-in-law that I would take care of her family, hoping that she already knew, because she probably couldn't hear me, and I hugged my husband, her only son, wishing I could somehow make things better, but knowing I could not. Last week we said goodbye to my husband's grandmother, who was a ray of sunshine to everyone she met. I'm writing this, probably not coincidentally, on the 11th anniversary of the death of my brother, Nathan. He was just 24.

In the past few years, new people came into our lives, and some of those really important people left, choosing to step out of our circle for reasons unknown. (Some of them were like family.)

I'd like to believe I'm going to be ok again, that all of us are going to be ok again, but I've come to realize that my definition of ok is just going to have change for now.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Almost

I stood in the aisle at Walgreens, staring at all the pink Mother's Day cards. Some were funny, some emotional, and others musical. I spotted the one with the sweet brown dog on the front and I almost touched it. She would have loved the goofy look on the dog's face. It probably said something funny on the inside. Sometimes I like to get the emotional cards, but this one was perfect. She would need cheering up after all that happened last year. But then...she saw me smile at the card. I know she did. And that is enough.
I love you, Nanny.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Not the Lesser of Two Evils

So, I'm going to get this off my chest because it's been sitting there too long. I am voting for Hillary Clinton. I am not voting for her because she's "the lesser of two evils" or simply because I am appalled by everything Donald Trump stands for. I am voting for her because she has inspired me since the first election I was eligible to vote in. You see, when I was young my family did not vote. They rarely talked about politics because they were just busy making ends meet, and they didn't really believe it made a difference. Well...my 6th grade Civics teacher had something to say about that. She set up a mock election, and I was in charge of campaigning for my chosen candidate. All week, we made posters, and even did a small speech about the candidate we supported, and this lit a fire in me. My candidate lost that classroom election, but I did not lose that fire. I wanted to make a difference. I wanted to change the world.

So, some six years later, it was election time and I was 18 years old. Bill and Hillary Clinton were on the campaign trail, and I heard that they wanted so many of the same things I wanted for my family. I proudly cast my vote for Bill Clinton. And then came Hillary... She was a new kind of First Lady. She was used to contributing and DOING. She was not a trophy wife. She was intelligent and opinionated, and she had a drive to make the world a better place. She started working on healthcare and suddenly everyone was up in arms. "A First LADY should not be involved in such matters", they said. Many people wanted her to just smile and cut ribbons at charity events and be content. Hillary was not that kind of woman, and neither was I. I saw in her the strength and independence I felt. I saw that she could stand up for what she believed in and that she did not back down in the face of all the extreme pressure and criticism. Then came the scandal...and she made up her own mind once again. She decided what to do about her personal life, and she remained steadfast and steady under more pressure and scrutiny than most people could take. And while the country enjoyed some of the best financial times in my lifetime, and some strides toward healthcare were made, she fought these personal battles, and never lost her wits.

After her very difficult time in the White House, she did not do as many would have done and quietly fade from public service. She hit the campaign trail to run for POTUS 8 years ago. I did not vote for her in the primary because I felt that one of her opponents was a little closer to my stance on a couple of issues but it was a tough call. I voted for Joe Biden and I hoped that she would be his Vice Presidential running mate. Well, that didn't work out, but she did serve as Secretary of State and once again endured not just the scrutiny due her office, but also jabs about her clothing, hair, and makeup...something no one in her office had ever endured before...because people love to attack a woman that way and it rarely occurs to anyone to think about what a man wears. Still, she did her job. She built and maintained diplomatic ties in one of the most important offices in the world. And through all the tough times in office she didn't crack.

Now, she's running for president one more time. And I am proud to vote for someone who has always been dedicated to issues that are dear to my heart, especially the issues of children and children in poverty. (For more on that, read It Takes a Village, by Hillary Clinton.) I am proud of her. I am proud that she has continuously struggled to improve the world and stress the fact that it does take a village to raise a child. It takes strong role models and people willing to help. It takes Civics teachers and parents, and yes...even politicians. I want my daughter and my nieces and nephews to see that this woman has what it takes, tries very hard, never gives up, and sacrificed much in order to further the values of family, unity, and equality. I am voting FOR Hillary. I'm with her.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Ponder This...Giving Birth to a Teenager

My daughter is about to leave middle school and embark upon the adventure called high school. In recent days, I've been traveling back in my memory to different parts of her childhood, completely against my will. I try to live in the moment, but I keep having to look through old photos for slide shows, which are nothing more than clever devices meant to make me cry. During these forays into her virtual babyhood, I have come to the realization that having a teenager is VERY similar to having a baby. Now, I'm not talking about having one around the house. I am talking about the ACT of HAVING a baby/teenager. Let me explain.

Before you become a parent, you mentally prepare yourself as best you can with stories, books, and advice from other parents. Before you become the parent of a teen, you do the same. In both cases you think you are getting a pretty good handle on it, and then when the process begins, you realize that only about 4% of what you learned applies to your situation, and your time would have been better spent reading fantasy novels. You spend a lot of time and money buying "stuff" that you will "need" for a baby, such as a crib, and diapers, and little gadgets to put in their room so you can hear them if they need you. You spend a lot of time and money on "stuff" you will "need" for a teenager too. But now it's an Ipad, neon socks (which will not be worn as matching sets), and a smart phone so you can hear them if they need you.

When labor begins, it starts with a pain. This pain is usually centered in your abdomen and radiates out to the other parts. It comes on with little or no warning, and it changes who you are...until a moment later, when the pain disappears as if it never happened. This process of alternating earth-shattering pain and complete lack thereof progresses until the little person inside your body is finally pushed out into the world...the real world, where you can only do so much to protect them from harm besides love them and offer them the shelter of your arms.

When teendom begins, it starts with a pain. This pain centers around your heart and radiates out to all the other parts. It's usually in the form of a rude comment, a friendship breakup that you can't fix, or the fact that your little sweetheart wants to do anything that doesn't involve you. It comes with little or no warning, and it changes who you are...until a moment later, when you are joking and laughing, and your kid gives you a hug, and the pain disappears as if it never happened. This process of mind-numbing pain, and complete lack thereof continues until your child is finally pushed out into the world...THE world....the REAL world...where you can barely do anything to protect them besides love them, and offer them the shelter of your arms.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Ponder This...Naked Graves

It's Memorial Day and I am probably going to get roasted for this blog post. I'm just going to put that out there right now. I have decided to go public with what may be a very unpopular statement. I don't decorate graves. I understand that people like to show their appreciation for our soldiers. I am deeply appreciative of them (and their families) myself. But I do not understand decorating graves. Now, let me just say that I am not bashing people who want to do this. Everyone deals with death differently, and I respect that, so if it fills you with joy or completes you in some way, then by all means don't let me stand in your way, but I have never participated in this ritual, and here is why:

Dead people don't care what their graves look like. I'd rather buy someone living a lovely bouquet with that money than spend it on someone who is probably enjoying more flowers than you can even imagine in Heaven.

A decorated grave can't express what a person meant to me. It simply cannot. Only my private memories and shared memories which involve that person can do that.

Cemeteries are not full of memories, (unless you and the dearly departed used to hang out in cemeteries, in which case I stand corrected), so if I want to remember someone I have lost, that is the last place I would go.

I feel that honoring a person's life should be more than a trip to the cemetery each Memorial Day. Maybe it would be nice to donate the flower cash to a cause, or even a person the departed person would have supported in life.

Two days after Memorial Day, the flowers are blown all over the place, and it all looks a mess, and has to be repeatedly straightened by family/staff, which are the only people who are seeing it anyway. (See my first point.)

So, ponder this...I love people. I have lost people I love. I support our military. I support naked graves.

P.S. If I happen to be wrong about dead people looking at their graves, please don't feel bad if you never decorate mine. In fact, I'd be fine if I didn't even have one. Just remember me when you hear a song I like, or when something makes you think of a great inside joke we shared, and remember I love ya. ;-)

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Ponder This....Stand for the Silent

Ugly! Dog! Bitch! Nerd! Slut!



Unusual way to start a blog, isn't it? But, it wasn't an unusual way to start the day...not for me. I grew up in a very small town. I had about 27 classmates, most of whom had been in classes with me since the first grade. You would think with such a small group, we'd all be friends, that we'd have each other's backs, that we would be like a family. That was not my reality. Several of those kids bullied me on a daily basis, starting late in elementary school. One of the favored taunts was to simply bark at me as I walked down the hall. Another was to tell me to "speak English" when I used "big words" I had learned from reading so many books.

For years, I tried mostly to ignore them...That was the advice my mother gave me, and it seemed to be the most effective thing I could do. It did not make them stop, and it did not stop the pain. Intellectually, I knew the words were not true, but that didn't stop the pain either. It wore on me day after day, tainting my days and nights. I could not understand why these kids...people whom I had grown up with, would be so mean to me. It was devastating, and alot of the time I suffered through it alone. Most of the time I was silent, and so were the ones who could have made a difference, because we were not empowered. No one told us that we had a right, and the POWER to end the abuse that a lot of us faced, or at least soften the blows by encouraging each other with kind words and deeds.

I grew up, left that town, and I didn't look back for many years. I had a couple of close friends that I stayed in touch with, but that was it. Not much thought did I give to those years...after all, I had come into my own in the adult world. I was successful, well respected, and liked by most of my adult peers. Not until my own child started approaching her school years, did I re-visit that dark place in the past. I started seeing more and more reports on the news of suicides, and even homicides that were attributed to bullying. It broke my heart. Every time I hear a story about how a child has been hurt inside or out by classmates, and even teachers, I am saddened to my core.

There are many anti-bullying programs in the schools now, because so many children have died as a result of cruelty on the part of their peers. I have seen some of the efforts the schools make...anti-bullying signs in the hallways and the like. I don't think much of them, because they are empty words that don't empower anyone. There is one organization that I have seen recently who seems to have a better approach. It is called Stand for the Silent. It was started by the parents of a boy in Perkins, OK who took his own life recently, after being suspended from school for fighting with a bully. After this father explains the devastation a family feels after a child commits suicide, (a very emotional journey for the entire audience), they give out pledge cards that really make a person think. It is not aimed only at people who are being bullies, it is aimed at ALL people. I strongly believe in the message, and it is my hope that you will pass it on, and even support their mission, ask to have them speak at your school or event. Lives can and MUST be changed, for the sake of all of the children who are being bruised...on the inside or out by bullying.

I Pledge
From this day forward, I promise to respect those around me as well as respect myself. I am somebody, and I can make a difference. I can make another feel loved. I can be the helping hand that leads another back to a path of hope and aspiration. I will not stand silent as others try to spread hatred through my community. Insdead, I pledge to lift up these victims and show them that their life matters. I will be the change, because I am somebody.

There are wristbands you can purchase that say "I am somebody." on them. We bought some as Christmas gifts for kids we believe in, and as a reminder that we are all "somebody" who can make a difference.

Please visit www.standforthesilent.org.

Ponder this...if you don't Stand for the Silent, who will?