Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving. Ok, I know everyone and their every last relative are, today, making comments about finding the meaning in and of Thanksgiving. It’s a common practice this time of year. Self help gurus, religious leaders, teachers, tv anchors, all saying solemnly to their respective audiences, “what do YOU think Thanksgiving means?” So, let’s talk about it. And let’s shoot for heartfelt, not solemn.

To me, it simply means giving thanks. Not just to whomever each of us decides is our higher power, but also to the people in our lives for being, well… themselves. For being in our lives. It’s a time to reflect on and be filled by the joy we get from intermingling with each other. Whether, at any given moment, we are with friends, or family, or sitting alone. And it’s not just saying these things to ourselves about the people we care for and love, it’s actually saying it out loud to them. And so, to live in the spirit of my description, I want to give out a few words of thanks during this Thanksgiving season.

First and foremost, to Karen. I love you. I am thankful for you and amazed by you every single day. You have saved my life in ways I can’t even begin to describe and filled in places inside of me I hadn’t, until you, even realized were missing. You are the light, the air, and the breath in me. Every note of music more sweet, every word read more profound, every hue more rich, every part of my life more deeply felt… since you… because of you. So, thank you, thank you, thank you. I’m trying every day, and will keep trying for the rest of my life, to tell you how grateful I am… for you.

Next, to Mom. I am so thankful that, somehow, I was lucky enough to be born your daughter. You are, without exception, the best person I know. You have a powerful love for your family and your life. You are always true and honest. Even when life has brought things that are tough and sometimes hard to bear, you have handled it all with a grace I find astounding and admire very much. I love you so much Mom. Every day I think to myself, if I am half the person you are, I am doing a fantastic job in life. So, thank you. For being the person you are, a person I have been able to look up to my entire life. That’s a huge gift Mom. It’s a huge gift you’ve given me, to be able to say “there’s my Mom” and be so damn proud it’s true.

Kev… We don’t see each other as much as either of us would like. Both of our lives are busy, both of us have a lot of “stuff” going on all the time. Things to do, people to see, lives to live. But, all of that doesn’t really matter. What matters is that I feel you, inside of my heart, every moment of every day. You make me laugh, you support me, you love me. A sister couldn’t have a better or more loving big little brother than you. You are not only my brother, but my friend. And not only do I love you, but I also like you very much. You are smart, kind, sincere, loving, and you have a great sense of humor. You are the only other person, in the world, who has been with me through everything. We have battled each other, when we were younger, and more often, battled alongside each other. I am always here for you, and I know you are always there for me. Thank you Kev. Knowing I have you in my corner is worth more to me than I can express. I love you very much.

To my family. How lucky and amazing it is that I’m a part of your lives. I’m so proud of the fact that I belong to you all, to this history we are celebrating and contributing to every day. I say it all the time, the word lucky, in relation to being a part of the family. You are all such great people. The best people. So, thank you for letting me share in it all. I’m so grateful for each and every one of you.

To my friends. I have the best group of friends in the world. We have all been, some of us longer than others, but all of us none the less, through some great, sad, glorious, horrendous, difficult, spectacular, fun filled, hard, stupendous days. Life has certainly been a journey, and continues to be. I not only am lucky to have my family, but lucky to have the friends I do. Friends choose each other, and I want each of you to know that you bring something unique, amazing and beautiful to my life. I chose each of you, and thankfully, you chose me right back. I don’t know what I would’ve done without any one of you. Thank you, all of you, for giving me the great honor of sharing your lives with me. I am humbled by it and grateful for it.

Finally… I am grateful for every moment of peace I find in a day, for the wonder of living in such a beautiful place, for this life that I am so blessed to be living. Thank you, one and all, for reading.

Art Walk 2005

It’s November, and it was beautiful today. Amazing how it’s still possible to see flowers as gorgeous as this. I love Oregon in the fall.

On A Roll

I had a “thing” happen the other day. I guess you could call it a moment. I went into the bathroom at my house and realized a new roll of toilet paper had been put out in place of the old one. I did what I went in there to do, and when I went to reach for the roll I realized it had been put there with the paper coming out from underneath. Instantly I felt the internal cringe. That well recognized feeling of… something isn’t right. I can’t take it. I must fix it. You see, I’m a paper on the top person. I like the paper to be placed so that it comes over the top of the roll and hangs down. And being a top person, I don’t understand those bottom people. The people who place the roll so the paper hangs down from behind. It makes no sense to me. And not only does it not make sense, I have justification for why the roll should hang the way I want it to. I know, for a fact, that a person uses less paper if it rolls over the top. Grabbing from underneath is more awkward and it’s harder to stop the roll from rolling completely and wildly out of control. I know it’s true. I believe it’s true. It must be true. However, even though I was faced with these irrefutable facts, I used a control I find at times impossible to muster, I resisted the very strong urge to take it off and flip it over. Sighing deeply, I let it go.

Later, this got me thinking. How interesting it is that I had, and have, such a reaction to what is a very minor issue. It wasn’t just that I was slightly annoyed the paper was, I felt, not placed correctly on the spool. It’s that I was incensed by it. Unable to even grasp why a person would do such a thing. I was appalled… every fiber of my being crying out against the dastardly act that had been perpetrated. And the question here is, why? Why did this small little thing bother me so very much?

The answer, I think, is that we are consumed by the details of every day life. We all have an internal order to things. We each have our own barometer of what is and isn’t right. What should and shouldn’t happen. How the world operates, what rules we live by, what is correct. The problem is, everyone has their own sense of order… their own sense of right and wrong. And, bottom line, who is supposed to determine whose sense, or order, or idea of what’s correct, is the right one. Who gets to decide?

Now, if you ask people who are extremely religious, they will tell you that there is only one barometer for what’s right… the good book. I mean, even using that term to describe the belief says it all. It’s the good book, not the bad one. Implying it’s the right book, and not the wrong one. But, I’m not going to argue whether or not Christian religion is good or bad. I’m not a Christian, and don’t know enough about it, really, to argue that point anyway. I’m simply asking, is there any one rule, any one way, for everyone? If Christians want to follow the Christian faith, more power to them. It’s just not for me. So, for me, the good book doesn’t define the rules.

So, how about our government? I happen to think that we have a great system here in the old U.S. of A., but is it the best? Is it the right one? If you ask some staunch political activists they will tell you yes. But does that give us the right to then go and tell everyone else how to run their countries, their lives, their children’s lives? Because it seems to work better than any other system we’ve found thus far, is it then the end all and be all of the way to govern all people? Should we determine the rules for all other peoples in all other nations? I say no, but that’s just me.

Then I began to realize, as I got further into this line of thinking that in my little toilet paper incident I found many more questions than answers. I’m interested in this, the idea that there’s only one way to do things, because, really, I don’t believe in it. I don’t believe I know best, or you do, or someone in political office or on the pulpit does. I don’t believe I have a right to dictate what any other person chooses to do. Thinking that we always know what’s best, not just for ourselves, but for those around us, is arrogant. It’s arrogant to think one way, our way, is the best. It’s arrogant to assume we know what’s right for others, in daily living, politics, and religion. It’s arrogant to think we have a right to tell anyone else what to do. Sure, there are rules of society, laws, structure. There have to be systems set up to deal with keeping the peace. But even that is, I feel, sometimes taken too far. We feel the need to legislate everything nowadays. And that, itself, is edging into that arrogant area of telling others how to live their lives. Telling others we know what’s best for them. And, do we? Thinking we have the answers, the solutions, the best and possibly only way of dealing with life in a proper way, is wrong. In doing that, thinking that, we take away another’s opinion, their say in life, their core right to choose for themselves. I might not agree with another’s way of doing something, but that’s ok. It’s ok to think differently, act differently. It’s ok to be different.

This, in the end, brings me back to the paper. I wanted, at the time, to confront the offender. I wanted to shout at the heavens and in the face of the person, whom I love, that I was right and they were wrong. But I didn’t. I didn’t. Because, finally, I realized it wasn’t important. What is important is that we are, none of us, perfect. I, certainly, am not. And because of that there is no perfect way to do anything. There’s just my way, and your way, and the way of that guy sitting over there sipping his coffee who I don’t even know. We are flawed, and we have no right to determine for anyone else what’s right or wrong, for them. We can’t, any of us, be a dictator of the rules for others. We can only, hopefully, agree to compromise, come up with an amicable solution, or even disagree. How silly of me, that day, to think otherwise. How silly of me to assume I was, with absolute certainty, right. How silly of me to be so silly. Hopefully, next time, I will be more tolerant, flexible, open, and less affected, by a simple act of paper hanging.

The Stack returns

Sunset on the Columbia 


Sunset on the Columbia Posted by Picasa

The Great Migration

The think tank has moved. I did, however, bring over my little missives from the previous site. Stay tuned….

    Saturday, November 12th, 2005
    8:46 am
    Back to Busy-ness
    I am amused and feeling a sense of happy contentment. It’s Friday night, and we have no plans. I think to myself… what a luxury. We seem to be busy all the time. And I want to know, when did that happen? When did busy become the way of life? I’m scratching my head here.

    Everyone is rushing. Have to get to the next meeting, the next phone call, the next dinner, the next movie, the next chore around the house. We have calendars on desks, in phones, on computers, in hand held devices. And most of those, well the electronic ones anyway, have alarms. Not only do we constantly have to write everything down, we have to audibly remind ourselves that we wrote it down.

    I know, sitting here right now, there are things I should, or could, or am supposed to be doing. I can walk around my house and see all of the things left undone. If I think on it hard enough I also conjure up all the stuff not done outside, but it’s raining, so I have an excuse. Sadly, not only do the tasks around here plague me, but the piles of paperwork and files on my desk start to creep into my consciousness. They do, if I let them. I must fight it!

    I want to be a kid again. Or, better yet, be me, now, but with the magic secret super power I had as a kid… that strange and mysterious ability to forget absolutely everything, except what I was doing at the moment. To ignore anything, including the sounds of mom calling from the house, even when she used all three of my names, and that meant business. But, I didn’t hear it, at least not right away. And when I did, finally, she’d probably used the dreaded three name technique to gain attention one, two, or even three times. I was in my own world, master of my own fate. In charge, completely, of my destiny. I heard nothing. I saw nothing. I did nothing, except what I was doing, right then, at the moment.

    At the moment, that’s the key.

    Now as an adult, I am distracted. I’m watching a movie, or reading a book, or having a conversation… and suddenly, without intent or warning, the voice starts… my evil little inner twin, the task master. It begins to knock on my consciousness, slowly at first, little pictures or a word floating into “view” inside my head. It lets me know, I am not alone. It is always, except when I’m sleeping, with me. Even in sleep I think it’s there, it’s just probably sleeping too. But when I’m awake, it’s awake. It says things like… trash… or maybe… phone call. It doesn’t have to speak loudly, or even report its message fully. It just has to whisper, like wind slightly rustling the leaves. It pushes me, gently. Starting the swirl of thoughts in my brain…. Can you believe what that kid said today? Oops, I forgot to make that call. Where was that file? The look on that parents face was so sad. I need to remember that number when I go up to court. The car is so dirty. What’s for lunch? The lawn should’ve been mowed before it started raining. That shop door needs a new gasket… And so it goes… the list. Before I know it, three scenes of a movie have gone by and I’m thinking, what the hell just happened? Damn, I have to rewind.

    Our lives, as adults, are busy. There are appointments and weddings, shopping to do, calls to make, bills to pay, papers to finish, and lawns to mow. There are friends and family to spend time with, work to be done. It is a never ending constant parade of to dos, should dos, must dos. From the moment we wake until the moment we sleep, which sometimes does not come easily thanks to all the thinking, we are bombarded with it. And I, for one, think it’s time we left all the busy-ness behind and got back to the business of being kidlike again. The business of living now, seizing, as they say, the day. Letting everything else melt away… until finally, surprised because it snuck up on us, we get that elusive feeling of peace. Finally, if not briefly, satisfied with our lives, our homes, and ultimately, ourselves… inner voices quieted, a pervasive feeling of giddy awe ensuing, we do face the day, freer than we were. Amused, contented, and still. Think of it, a world of happy contented people. Looking at and living in the moment. Our world would quiet, and we… well… we might, finally, get to see an entire movie… without thinking about a thousand other things, and then having to rewind.

    Wednesday, November 2nd, 2005
    6:48 pm
    How to Accessorize
    Lately, I feel like an accessory. Or, more to the point, I feel like in being gay, I’m a sort of accessory. Ten years ago, we weren’t, the gay I mean, even talked about, except, of course, in a negative light. Now we are everywhere. Flip the channel on the television and you’ll find us… on talk shows, sitcoms, the food network, and many of those home-decorating shows. We are the best friend, the funny neighbor, and the hip buddy with the excellent fashion sense. We are politically savvy, and not just where gay marriage is concerned. We know and are passionate about environmental causes, finding the cure for various kinds of cancer, keeping arts programs in schools, and education.

    The marketing people, whoever they are, have figured this out. Because not only are we everywhere, we are also spending money. We are, generally, successful. Marketing firms know this. They have found a new and vital segment of the population. Sneaking into visual and print media are more and more ads with gay couples, or inferring gayness, in some way. They are trying to tap our market. And us… we’re easy. All a marketing firm has to do is acknowledge us and we’re theirs. Say to the heavens that we exist and are just as normal as every other person or couple, and we are with you, ready to do almost anything, support almost anything, buy almost anything.

    Not to say we’re cheap, no… just hungry for simple recognition. A simple acknowledgement that we, just like all those straight people and couples out there, are the same. We love our families, our friends, and our partners. We want homes, jobs that provide a decent salary and some good benefits, peace in our lives. We want to raise families and contribute to society. We are passionate, creative, driven, smart, loving, playful, generous, deep souls… just like all of you. We breathe the same, feel the same, and love the same. We are no threat. We have no plans to take over the world. There is not a covert gay conspiracy, as some would suggest, lingering just under the surface of our wish to be “just like everyone else”. We are not recruiting. There is no secret phone line we must call every week to report the numbers we have scored for our team to determine if we’ve met our quota. No… we are, as much as anyone else, boringly normal.

    And the media, as I’ve already toyed with earlier, is aware of this. They know we are here, and yes, we are queer. All of this new acknowledgement and media attention has lent itself to a mysterious phenomenon. Not just as portrayed on television and in movies, but maybe partially because of how we are portrayed on television and in movies, we are actually, in some circles, cool. We are hip, or at least, to know us is hip. Want to be thought of as “in”… mention you have a gay friend, roommate, old college buddy you always knew was gay. Want to be happenin‘… say casually, while relaying what you did last night, that you went to dinner with your gay friend and their partner. It’s social clout you can spend, it is. Think it isn’t so? Think being “in” with the gay doesn’t get you anywhere? Think again. Having a gay friend, relative, and/or a close acquaintance, can get you a long way up the hip and happening ladder. Say you watch Ellen or Will and Grace regularly, that you listen to Melissa Etheridge, the Indigo Girls, or Elton John… let on that you have heard of, or better yet have been to, a gay club or two and you, my friend, are in “the club”. That group of trendy, with it people, who are cultured, savvy, urban, and living on the cutting edge. Know how to accessorize, and the world is not only your oyster… it’s harvested, cooked, and prepared just the way you like it.

    Let me explain. Need decorating tips, help with your wardrobe, a new recipe to try on your arriving company from out of town? Ask your male gay friends. They can help. They know which tie to wear with what shirt. And for that matter, they know which shoes to wear with what skirt. They can whip up a soufflé while simultaneously deciding what couch position provides the best feng shui. Need to know how to build a shop out back, tune your Harley, or what football team is ahead in their division, ask your female gay friends. They will be able to knock out a room remodel while quoting the prices of the best and most effective hiking boots sold at REI.

    They key here is, according to our ever-present media, you have to know what you need and then know which gay person can be most helpful to your cause. Shoes? Harley? Plants for the sunroom? The starting line up for the San Diego Chargers? Choose wisely, and the gay can help. In fact, it’s best to have a bevy of gay people in your life. You never know when one will come in handy. If nothing else, you’ll be hip in non-gay circles and in with the newly trendy gay crowd. You’ll have an in. You will no longer be the back woods, unintelligent, uninformed, sad excuse for the regular person you once were. You will be, tah dah, friend of the gay. With the right gay friend, you’ll be a well rounded person. Lead a life that’s more vivid, more interesting, more colorful. No longer afraid to shop, to ride a Harley, to better arrange your furniture. No longer in the dark about what goes into a crème brule, or how many players are actually on a baseball team. You will be better equipped to deal with anything life throws at you. You will have constant comic relief. You will be politically correct, and yet somewhat controversial. All because you, my friend, know how to accessorize.

    Tuesday, October 18th, 2005
    12:07 pm
    Chin Up
    I have this problem. Some wouldn’t think about it in that light, but to me, it’s a problem. I am a bit overweight. And on the surface, that would seem, to most people, to be the problem. But, it’s not. The real issue for me is, with my inner eye, I see myself as thin. It’s true. On the inside, I’m thin and in shape, just as I was 20 years ago at the height of my most in shape period. I can’t seem to realize that I’m not the same smallish, athletic, physically fit person I was then. Because inside, I feel like I am that person. Consequently, I don’t seem to be able to get motivated to work out. Which, at the center of it, is the thing.

    It’s a conundrum of sorts. I “know”, some place within myself, that I am overweight. I “know” that the best thing to do is to eat better, work out, drink lots of water. Yadda yadda yadda. I know all of this. And yet, my thin inner me protests. It tells me I am already in shape, I’m already healthy. Why do I need to spend all of that time on the stationary bike, lifting weights, doing strength building exercises? Why do I need to choose the salad sans dressing over the burger with fries? A thin person doesn’t need to worry about all of that. And me… I’m thin. I know it. Thin.

    Then it happens. The wake up call. I see a picture of myself and BAM! I can’t avoid it. There they are, staring me in the face. The chins. And, there’s not just one of them, as there should be and is on a thin person, there are two of them. Worse yet, as I hold back the gasp, sometimes there are three… if the angle is not quite right or my head is down. I know it’s me, I see the picture… yes, it’s me. I’m appalled. I’m shocked. I’m horrified. The visual image doesn’t match my inner picture of myself. Where’s the thin me? And who, someone tell me, is this girl with the chins? I can’t get my mind around it. But there it is, in the picture I’m holding in my hand.

    If only I could hang on to that image of myself. Keep in touch with the shock of seeing the chins. Spoken of so often now that I almost feel the need to capitalize them as a signal of their “enormous” importance. If only I knew how to translate all of the visual horror into a change of self image. But no, I can’t. I’m horrified one minute, holding the picture, and feeling like the ol’ thin me the next after I put it down. Strange, but true.

    I know what needs to happen. I know what I need to correct this terrible disparity. What I need is a brain exchange. A thought swap of sorts. I need to find a thin person who thinks they are too fat and switch mind sets with them. That, it seems, is the answer to my problem. Because just as I know my problem of perceived thinness is getting in my way of weight loss success, I know there are thin people out there whose thoughts of fatness are hindering their struggle to maintain and gain weight. If, somehow, we could switch patterns of thinking, we might, and probably could, both find success. Me as an overweight girl on the path to a thinner me, and them as a person who is too thin on the road to a fuller bodied them. We would both be much healthier. I think it could work.

    I know, in the grand scheme of things, there are more important issues to worry about in the world. I know that the state of my reduced me self image should not be compared to world peace, hunger, war, incongruities in the fight for equal rights. And yet one small victory here is big for me. It would mean a reduction in my number of chins. I would see myself as I am now, and act. Which, if one looks at it, is a cause for celebration. Because finally, I might find myself with an inner thin self image that matches the truth of what is. And isn’t that what we are all looking for? An inner truth matching our projection of ourselves into the outer world. Just think… if we had a world where people could truly be themselves, whatever that would mean, what a beautiful world it would be. Self images, far and wide, improved… inner and outer. The thin inner me would rejoice at that. No more inner conflict. No more thinking I’m thin only to find, alas, I am not. No more shock in seeing pictures of myself. I can start… I can… it would just take a strong conversation with myself, again… and a chin up… or two.

    Tuesday, October 11th, 2005
    12:14 pm
    Pie and Coffee
    Here it is, Tuesday, I’m back at work. How to describe the weekend? I find myself at a loss in this area because I’m emotionally pulled in so many directions. But here I sit, alone in my office during lunch, about to give it a try anyway, as torn as I am.

    I guess the first thing that comes to mind is beautiful. And it was. The celebration of my grandmother’s life, held on Saturday, October 8, at noon, was simply beautiful. Not just the setting, though it was, and not just the people, though they were as well. No, it was the spirit of it. The mood. There we were, a large room full of people, all thinking and feeling so deeply about her. All honoring her. And honestly, there was joy in it. Sadness, to be sure, but also a feeling of joy and connection. She would’ve loved her day. Children and grandchildren getting up to talk about her, their voices all filled with so much love and respect. Music… sung and played, food… including, of course, chocolate, a slide show… with music, and people laughing about this thing or that thing they remembered her doing or saying. So much love, and so present in the room, the sense of a life so well lived. And I guess, thinking about it sitting here, that’s the thing. She lived her life well. And we, those lucky enough to be related to her, to be present because of her, learned that from her. We have learned how to live our lives well. The whole event so well organized by her children, the slide show so well done by her son. Her husband, our father and grandfather, so well looked after by his children, his grandchildren. So much compassion, so much respect. And there it is… the truth of the matter, and the truth of a life like hers. Even that day, with her physically gone from us, we were more connected because of her. The family bond strengthening… feeling her arms wrapped around the collection of us, hugging us tightly together. As if she was saying to us, I’m still here, holding you all. We all felt it. As we held each other, as we cried, and even as we laughed. I feel it still. I don’t think it will ever go away. Her power so strong, her influence so rich, her love so great.

    We spent the rest of that day together, those that could, and the better part of the next. And then Sunday night we went to watch my uncle play music. She would’ve loved that as well. People enjoying his music, some food, some wine or beer or whatever, and again, being together.

    Karen and I left for home after Tom was done making music, and half way there, tired from driving so late, we stopped… for pie and coffee. I thought it was fitting, and I know grandma was smiling. She herself a fan of stopping during early morning hours for pie and coffee, getting a break from driving during long road trips, children asleep in the car. I thought to myself, as afterward we got back in the car and continued the drive home, grandma was there with us. And I know that she’s here with me now. As she will always be… during stops for pie and coffee, during those transcendent moments listening to a great piece of music, during a hug, a call, a laugh, the reading of an email from family. She is there. And that, as it always will, gives me a great sense of comfort… and joy.

    Tuesday, October 4th, 2005
    12:10 pm
    A life… Beautiful
    My grandmother passed away early this morning. I got the call from my mom some time around 6:30, though now it’s hard to remember just when. I drove to work, not really remembering the drive, and have found myself sitting here, not able to concentrate on whatever task it is I’ve had at hand. And that much, I’m sure, is to be expected. I’m working today because, I think, if I didn’t, I’d just be sitting at home, restless… thinking. Instead, I sit here… restless, interrupted at times by a phone call or email I have to answer, and thinking.

    I saw my grandmother three weeks ago. Frail…yes. Tired… absolutely. Full of life… always. She was an amazing woman. Had an amazing life. I walked around my grandparents house three weeks ago in wonder. Slowly passing by photographs of a positively amazing history… awe struck. Phenomenal. 64 years with my grandfather. 64 years of love, of life. A life so rich, so beautiful, that wandering around looking at the record of it, I could feel it’s texture. There were books and drawings, copies of marriage licenses, and picture after picture of a life so full it spilled from those photographs out into the living room, where the miracle of that life sat manifest… in children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. The legacy that’s been left is not just that these people all exist because of her, but that they are all, every last one of them, stellar. Magnificent. They are the best people I know. Intelligent, kind, loving, curious, full of laughter, accepting, driven, artistic, educated, musical, good to the core people. There is never judgment, never an unkind word, ever. They rejoice with each other, celebrate each other, comfort each other… all of them. All the time. There is never a criticism, even a hint of should or shouldn’t… always, in the truest sense of the word, there for each other. My grandparents had seven children, who themselves had 19 children, who themselves have starting bringing many more into the fold. And in the bunch of us, there is not one who is not, in his or her own way, an outstanding human being. All of this, for me, started with my grandparents… the people that they were… are… have been to us. Those two people created the beautiful tapestry that is our family. Those two people created something rare. And we, who are lucky enough to be part of it, know it. It is not, and has never been, taken for granted.

    There was a lot of laughter that weekend, three weeks ago, as there always is with this family. My grandmother, central to the scene, as she has always been, involved in it all. I thought to myself, sitting with them that day, what an honor it was, and is, to be a part of it. The luck of my draw. I often wonder how it happened, that I ended up a part of this history, a link in this beautiful chain. I am thankful, every day, for my fortune. I am grateful every day, for the honor of it. And from now, until the end of my days, I will be celebrating my grandmother’s life, as she would’ve wanted me to… by living my life in the best way I can. With joy, love, peace, and happiness, amidst the family… that she made.

    Monday, October 3rd, 2005
    1:37 pm
    Three days in San Jose
    Just got home from hanging with the in laws. It was a good trip. Karen’s parents seem to have accepted me, and better yet, they really like me. I think it’s nice for her. All the years of not really being able to be herself, and now she can just be. They are obviously happy she is happy, which is really the important thing anyway. We didn’t do much while we were there, other than hang around chatting, but that was nice. Every time I’m with them I like them more.

    We did go to a movie one night with her sister, Cathy, and her nephew, Charles. I really like that kid. He’s 16 and sort of quirky, and it’s that great kind of quirky. He’s smart, has a great off beat sense of humor, and he doesn’t feel the need to conform to what’s hip. He’s a kid who absolutely loves movies. Old and new, it doesn’t matter. Plus, he knows about them… technique, directors, cast, etc. He’s passionate about it, and that, in anyone, is very attractive. We saw the movie Serenity. Good movie even if you’ve never seen the tv show. There were a lot of people there who obviously had not just watched the tv show, but have gotten into it so much they dress the part. There are clubs for browncoats. Who knew. Not I, but it was pretty entertaining watching them. It was premiere weekend for this particular film and since there’s such a huge cult following, which I also was unaware of, there was a line, the people in costume as I mentioned before, and pre-show trivia complete with prizes for those who knew obscure tidbits about the characters, etc. Needless to say, I didn’t win anything. I did, however, come home with a key chain, thanks to Cathy’s quick grab of a flying key chain after the trivia was over.

    Karen’s parents made a full on turkey dinner Saturday night. I guess they figure that they don’t get their kids together very often and since all three were there, it was a time to celebrate. I got the honor of being the forker. When Karen’s dad carves the turkey a person stands there and forks the carved turkey onto the platter. I was told that not everyone gets to be a forker so I was touched he asked me. Standing there, forks at the ready, I felt the pressure to perform and live up to my new post and title. He said I did well, so I might, if I’m lucky, be asked to fork again.

    Today I’m lucky enough to be able to hang at home. Relax after traveling. Karen, busy as she is, had to go in to work today. A perk of my job is getting to take off quite a bit of time. I’m fortunate enough to earn comp time on top of my accrued vacation time, so that helps. I slept in today. What a luxury. Sitting here sipping on green tea, still wearing pajamas that I know I won’t change out of, looking outside at the forest and the rain, I think it’s time to head in and see what movie I can find to watch. It’s Monday, and I’m home. How lucky am I?

    What ya’all had to say to this point….

    (Anonymous) 2 weeks ago

    Jeeze Girl…I gotta take issue with your latest epistle. Your’e one of my best friends and there is absolutely nothing “with it” or “cool” about me…I’m the old frumpy grumpy guy; the token old fart. Therefore your whole primise is ruined. Sorry about that, but then it’s not the first thing I have ravaged or despoiled. ted
    (Anonymous) 2 weeks ago

    I’m so proud to have a gay friend. Makes me kinda cool. You go girl. But hey the white socks/w black pants have got to go!!!!!
    (Anonymous) 2 weeks ago

    chins

    If ones knows TOKENHIPPYGIRL they also know that chins don’t matter. sm
    (Anonymous) 3 weeks ago

    Tam, you have a way with words that keeps me cracking up…You are very talented, and this note would be fabulous in some magazine somewhere…When are we going to get you published???
    (Anonymous) 5 weeks ago

    Pie & Coffee

    Tam
    Thanks for this. I came here to read, once again, the previous piece you wrote (and to send it on to Aunt Elizabeth) and find you have been spinning your magic again. I love these things you write and I know everyone else does too. Thanks again. Love, Syd


Back to Busy-ness

b7ef3-14701060_683140565197440_9021200053557002240_n
Photo by TJ Parker

I am amused and feeling a sense of happy contentment. It’s Friday night, and we have no plans. I think to myself… what a luxury. We seem to be busy all the time. And I want to know, when did that happen? When did busy become the way of life? I’m scratching my head here.

Everyone is rushing. Have to get to the next meeting, the next phone call, the next dinner, the next movie, the next chore around the house. We have calendars on desks, in phones, on computers, in hand held devices. And most of those, well the electronic ones anyway, have alarms. Not only do we constantly have to write everything down, we have to audibly remind ourselves that we wrote it down.

I know, sitting here right now, there are things I should, or could, or am supposed to be doing. I can walk around my house and see all of the things left undone. If I think on it hard enough I also conjure up all the stuff not done outside, but it’s raining, so I have an excuse. Sadly, not only do the tasks around here plague me, but the piles of paperwork and files on my desk start to creep into my consciousness. They do, if I let them. I must fight it!

I want to be a kid again. Or, better yet, be me, now, but with the magic secret super power I had as a kid… that strange and mysterious ability to forget absolutely everything, except what I was doing at the moment. To ignore anything, including the sounds of mom calling from the house, even when she used all three of my names, and that meant business. But, I didn’t hear it, at least not right away. And when I did, finally, she’d probably used the dreaded three name technique to gain attention one, two, or even three times. I was in my own world, master of my own fate. In charge, completely, of my destiny. I heard nothing. I saw nothing. I did nothing, except what I was doing, right then, at the moment.

At the moment, that’s the key.

Now as an adult, I am distracted. I’m watching a movie, or reading a book, or having a conversation… and suddenly, without intent or warning, the voice starts… my evil little inner twin, the task master. It begins to knock on my consciousness, slowly at first, little pictures or a word floating into “view” inside my head. It lets me know, I am not alone. It is always, except when I’m sleeping, with me. Even in sleep I think it’s there, it’s just probably sleeping too. But when I’m awake, it’s awake. It says things like… trash… or maybe… phone call. It doesn’t have to speak loudly, or even report its message fully. It just has to whisper, like wind slightly rustling the leaves. It pushes me, gently. Starting the swirl of thoughts in my brain…. Can you believe what that kid said today? Oops, I forgot to make that call. Where was that file? The look on that parents face was so sad. I need to remember that number when I go up to court. The car is so dirty. What’s for lunch? The lawn should’ve been mowed before it started raining. That shop door needs a new gasket… And so it goes… the list. Before I know it, three scenes of a movie have gone by and I’m thinking, what the hell just happened? Damn, I have to rewind.

Our lives, as adults, are busy. There are appointments and weddings, shopping to do, calls to make, bills to pay, papers to finish, and lawns to mow. There are friends and family to spend time with, work to be done. It is a never ending constant parade of to dos, should dos, must dos. From the moment we wake until the moment we sleep, which sometimes does not come easily thanks to all the thinking, we are bombarded with it. And I, for one, think it’s time we left all the busy-ness behind and got back to the business of being kidlike again. The business of living now, seizing, as they say, the day. Letting everything else melt away… until finally, surprised because it snuck up on us, we get that elusive feeling of peace. Finally, if not briefly, satisfied with our lives, our homes, and ultimately, ourselves… inner voices quieted, a pervasive feeling of giddy awe ensuing, we do face the day, freer than we were. Amused, contented, and still. Think of it, a world of happy contented people. Looking at and living in the moment. Our world would quiet, and we… well… we might, finally, get to see an entire movie… without thinking about a thousand other things, and then having to rewind.

How To Accessorize

Gay Pride Flag
Gay Pride Flag (Photo credit: sigmaration)

 

Lately, I feel like an accessory. Or, more to the point, I feel like in being gay, I’m a sort of accessory. Ten years ago, we weren’t, the gay I mean, even talked about, except, of course, in a negative light. Now we are everywhere. Flip the channel on the television and you’ll find us… on talk shows, sitcoms, the food network, and many of those home-decorating shows. We are the best friend, the funny neighbor, and the hip buddy with the excellent fashion sense. We are politically savvy, and not just where gay marriage is concerned. We know and are passionate about environmental causes, finding the cure for various kinds of cancer, keeping arts programs in schools, and education.

 

The marketing people, whoever they are, have figured this out. Because not only are we everywhere, we are also spending money. We are, generally, successful. Marketing firms know this. They have found a new and vital segment of the population. Sneaking into visual and print media are more and more ads with gay couples, or inferring gayness, in some way. They are trying to tap our market. And us… we’re easy. All a marketing firm has to do is acknowledge us and we’re theirs. Say to the heavens that we exist and are just as normal as every other person or couple, and we are with you, ready to do almost anything, support almost anything, buy almost anything.

 

Not to say we’re cheap, no… just hungry for simple recognition. A simple acknowledgement that we, just like all those straight people and couples out there, are the same. We love our families, our friends, and our partners. We want homes, jobs that provide a decent salary and some good benefits, peace in our lives. We want to raise families and contribute to society. We are passionate, creative, driven, smart, loving, playful, generous, deep souls… just like all of you. We breathe the same, feel the same, and love the same. We are no threat. We have no plans to take over the world. There is not a covert gay conspiracy, as some would suggest, lingering just under the surface of our wish to be “just like everyone else”. We are not recruiting. There is no secret phone line we must call every week to report the numbers we have scored for our team to determine if we’ve met our quota. No… we are, as much as anyone else, boringly normal.

 

And the media, as I’ve already toyed with earlier, is aware of this. They know we are here, and yes, we are queer. All of this new acknowledgement and media attention has lent itself to a mysterious phenomenon. Not just as portrayed on television and in movies, but maybe partially because of how we are portrayed on television and in movies, we are actually, in some circles, cool. We are hip, or at least, to know us is hip. Want to be thought of as “in”… mention you have a gay friend, roommate, old college buddy you always knew was gay. Want to be happenin‘… say casually, while relaying what you did last night, that you went to dinner with your gay friend and their partner. It’s social clout you can spend, it is. Think it isn’t so? Think being “in” with the gay doesn’t get you anywhere? Think again. Having a gay friend, relative, and/or a close acquaintance, can get you a long way up the hip and happening ladder. Say you watch Ellen or Will and Grace regularly, that you listen to Melissa Etheridge, the Indigo Girls, or Elton John… let on that you have heard of, or better yet have been to, a gay club or two and you, my friend, are in “the club”. That group of trendy, with it people, who are cultured, savvy, urban, and living on the cutting edge. Know how to accessorize, and the world is not only your oyster… it’s harvested, cooked, and prepared just the way you like it.

 

Let me explain. Need decorating tips, help with your wardrobe, a new recipe to try on your arriving company from out of town? Ask your male gay friends. They can help. They know which tie to wear with what shirt. And for that matter, they know which shoes to wear with what skirt. They can whip up a soufflé while simultaneously deciding what couch position provides the best feng shui. Need to know how to build a shop out back, tune your Harley, or what football team is ahead in their division, ask your female gay friends. They will be able to knock out a room remodel while quoting the prices of the best and most effective hiking boots sold at REI.

 

They key here is, according to our ever-present media, you have to know what you need and then know which gay person can be most helpful to your cause. Shoes? Harley? Plants for the sunroom? The starting line up for the San Diego Chargers? Choose wisely, and the gay can help. In fact, it’s best to have a bevy of gay people in your life. You never know when one will come in handy. If nothing else, you’ll be hip in non-gay circles and in with the newly trendy gay crowd. You’ll have an in. You will no longer be the back woods, unintelligent, uninformed, sad excuse for the regular person you once were. You will be, tah dah, friend of the gay. With the right gay friend, you’ll be a well rounded person. Lead a life that’s more vivid, more interesting, more colorful. No longer afraid to shop, to ride a Harley, to better arrange your furniture. No longer in the dark about what goes into a crème brule, or how many players are actually on a baseball team. You will be better equipped to deal with anything life throws at you. You will have constant comic relief. You will be politically correct, and yet somewhat controversial. All because you, my friend, know how to accessorize.

 

Chin Up

jowl study 2of3
jowl study 2of3 (Photo credit: IntangibleArts)

 

I have this problem. Some wouldn’t think about it in that light, but to me, it’s a problem. I am a bit overweight. And on the surface, that would seem, to most people, to be the problem. But, it’s not. The real issue for me is, with my inner eye, I see myself as thin. It’s true. On the inside, I’m thin and in shape, just as I was 20 years ago at the height of my most in shape period. I can’t seem to realize that I’m not the same smallish, athletic, physically fit person I was then. Because inside, I feel like I am that person. Consequently, I don’t seem to be able to get motivated to work out. Which, at the center of it, is the thing.

 

It’s a conundrum of sorts. I “know”, some place within myself, that I am overweight. I “know” that the best thing to do is to eat better, work out, drink lots of water. Yadda yadda yadda. I know all of this. And yet, my thin inner me protests. It tells me I am already in shape, I’m already healthy. Why do I need to spend all of that time on the stationary bike, lifting weights, doing strength building exercises? Why do I need to choose the salad sans dressing over the burger with fries? A thin person doesn’t need to worry about all of that. And me… I’m thin. I know it. Thin.

 

Then it happens. The wake up call. I see a picture of myself and BAM! I can’t avoid it. There they are, staring me in the face. The chins. And, there’s not just one of them, as there should be and is on a thin person, there are two of them. Worse yet, as I hold back the gasp, sometimes there are three… if the angle is not quite right or my head is down. I know it’s me, I see the picture… yes, it’s me. I’m appalled. I’m shocked. I’m horrified. The visual image doesn’t match my inner picture of myself. Where’s the thin me? And who, someone tell me, is this girl with the chins? I can’t get my mind around it. But there it is, in the picture I’m holding in my hand.

 

If only I could hang on to that image of myself. Keep in touch with the shock of seeing the chins. Spoken of so often now that I almost feel the need to capitalize them as a signal of their “enormous” importance. If only I knew how to translate all of the visual horror into a change of self image. But no, I can’t. I’m horrified one minute, holding the picture, and feeling like the ol’ thin me the next after I put it down. Strange, but true.

 

I know what needs to happen. I know what I need to correct this terrible disparity. What I need is a brain exchange. A thought swap of sorts. I need to find a thin person who thinks they are too fat and switch mind sets with them. That, it seems, is the answer to my problem. Because just as I know my problem of perceived thinness is getting in my way of weight loss success, I know there are thin people out there whose thoughts of fatness are hindering their struggle to maintain and gain weight. If, somehow, we could switch patterns of thinking, we might, and probably could, both find success. Me as an overweight girl on the path to a thinner me, and them as a person who is too thin on the road to a fuller bodied them. We would both be much healthier. I think it could work.

 

I know, in the grand scheme of things, there are more important issues to worry about in the world. I know that the state of my reduced me self image should not be compared to world peace, hunger, war, incongruities in the fight for equal rights. And yet one small victory here is big for me. It would mean a reduction in my number of chins. I would see myself as I am now, and act. Which, if one looks at it, is a cause for celebration. Because finally, I might find myself with an inner thin self image that matches the truth of what is. And isn’t that what we are all looking for? An inner truth matching our projection of ourselves into the outer world. Just think… if we had a world where people could truly be themselves, whatever that would mean, what a beautiful world it would be. Self images, far and wide, improved… inner and outer. The thin inner me would rejoice at that. No more inner conflict. No more thinking I’m thin only to find, alas, I am not. No more shock in seeing pictures of myself. I can start… I can… it would just take a strong conversation with myself, again… and a chin up… or two.

 

Pie And Coffee

Coffee + Pie
Coffee + Pie (Photo credit: borkazoid)

Here it is, Tuesday, I’m back at work. How to describe the weekend? I find myself at a loss in this area because I’m emotionally pulled in so many directions. But here I sit, alone in my office during lunch, about to give it a try anyway, as torn as I am.

I guess the first thing that comes to mind is beautiful. And it was. The celebration of my grandmother’s life, held on Saturday, October 8, at noon, was simply beautiful. Not just the setting, though it was, and not just the people, though they were as well. No, it was the spirit of it. The mood. There we were, a large room full of people, all thinking and feeling so deeply about her. All honoring her. And honestly, there was joy in it. Sadness, to be sure, but also a feeling of joy and connection. She would’ve loved her day. Children and grandchildren getting up to talk about her, their voices all filled with so much love and respect. Music… sung and played, food… including, of course, chocolate, a slide show… with music, and people laughing about this thing or that thing they remembered her doing or saying. So much love, and so present in the room, the sense of a life so well lived. And I guess, thinking about it sitting here, that’s the thing. She lived her life well. And we, those lucky enough to be related to her, to be present because of her, learned that from her. We have learned how to live our lives well. The whole event so well organized by her children, the slide show so well done by her son. Her husband, our father and grandfather, so well looked after by his children, his grandchildren. So much compassion, so much respect. And there it is… the truth of the matter, and the truth of a life like hers. Even that day, with her physically gone from us, we were more connected because of her. The family bond strengthening… feeling her arms wrapped around the collection of us, hugging us tightly together. As if she was saying to us, I’m still here, holding you all. We all felt it. As we held each other, as we cried, and even as we laughed. I feel it still. I don’t think it will ever go away. Her power so strong, her influence so rich, her love so great.

We spent the rest of that day together, those that could, and the better part of the next. And then Sunday night we went to watch my uncle play music. She would’ve loved that as well. People enjoying his music, some food, some wine or beer or whatever, and again, being together.

Karen and I left for home after Tom was done making music, and half way there, tired from driving so late, we stopped… for pie and coffee. I thought it was fitting, and I know grandma was smiling. She herself a fan of stopping during early morning hours for pie and coffee, getting a break from driving during long road trips, children asleep in the car. I thought to myself, as afterward we got back in the car and continued the drive home, grandma was there with us. And I know that she’s here with me now. As she will always be… during stops for pie and coffee, during those transcendent moments listening to a great piece of music, during a hug, a call, a laugh, the reading of an email from family. She is there. And that, as it always will, gives me a great sense of comfort… and joy.

A Life… Beautiful

413758_10151043518492389_936384095_oMy grandmother passed away early this morning. I got the call from my mom some time around 6:30, though now it’s hard to remember just when. I drove to work, not really remembering the drive, and have found myself sitting here, not able to concentrate on whatever task it is I’ve had at hand. And that much, I’m sure, is to be expected. I’m working today because, I think, if I didn’t, I’d just be sitting at home, restless… thinking. Instead, I sit here… restless, interrupted at times by a phone call or email I have to answer, and thinking.

I saw my grandmother three weeks ago. Frail…yes. Tired… absolutely. Full of life… always. She was an amazing woman. Had an amazing life. I walked around my grandparents house three weeks ago in wonder. Slowly passing by photographs of a positively amazing history… awe struck. Phenomenal. 64 years with my grandfather. 64 years of love, of life. A life so rich, so beautiful, that wandering around looking at the record of it, I could feel it’s texture. There were books and drawings, copies of marriage licenses, and picture after picture of a life so full it spilled from those photographs out into the living room, where the miracle of that life sat manifest… in children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. The legacy that’s been left is not just that these people all exist because of her, but that they are all, every last one of them, stellar. Magnificent. They are the best people I know. Intelligent, kind, loving, curious, full of laughter, accepting, driven, artistic, educated, musical, good to the core people. There is never judgment, never an unkind word, ever. They rejoice with each other, celebrate each other, comfort each other… all of them. All the time. There is never a criticism, even a hint of should or shouldn’t… always, in the truest sense of the word, there for each other. My grandparents had seven children, who themselves had 19 children, who themselves have starting bringing many more into the fold. And in the bunch of us, there is not one who is not, in his or her own way, an outstanding human being. All of this, for me, started with my grandparents… the people that they were… are… have been to us. Those two people created the beautiful tapestry that is our family. Those two people created something rare. And we, who are lucky enough to be part of it, know it. It is not, and has never been, taken for granted.

There was a lot of laughter that weekend, three weeks ago, as there always is with this family. My grandmother, central to the scene, as she has always been, involved in it all. I thought to myself, sitting with them that day, what an honor it was, and is, to be a part of it. The luck of my draw. I often wonder how it happened, that I ended up a part of this history, a link in this beautiful chain. I am thankful, every day, for my fortune. I am grateful every day, for the honor of it. And from now, until the end of my days, I will be celebrating my grandmother’s life, as she would’ve wanted me to… by living my life in the best way I can. With joy, love, peace, and happiness, amidst the family… that she made.

Three Days in San Jose

Just got home from hanging with the in-laws. It was a good trip. Karen’s parents seem to have accepted me, and better yet, they really like me. I think it’s nice for her. All the years of not really being able to be herself, and now she can just be. They are obviously happy she is happy, which is really the important thing anyway. We didn’t do much while we were there, other than hang around chatting, but that was nice. Every time I’m with them I like them more.

San Jose, California.
San Jose, California. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We did go to a movie one night with her sister, Cathy, and her nephew, Charles. I really like that kid. He’s 16 and sort of quirky, and it’s that great kind of quirky. He’s smart, has a great off beat sense of humor, and he doesn’t feel the need to conform to what’s hip. He’s a kid who absolutely loves movies. Old and new, it doesn’t matter. Plus, he knows about them… technique, directors, cast, etc. He’s passionate about it, and that, in anyone, is very attractive. We saw the movie Serenity. Good movie even if you’ve never seen the tv show. There were a lot of people there who obviously had not just watched the tv show, but have gotten into it so much they dress the part. There are clubs for browncoats. Who knew. Not I, but it was pretty entertaining watching them. It was premiere weekend for this particular film and since there’s such a huge cult following, which I also was unaware of, there was a line, the people in costume as I mentioned before, and pre-show trivia complete with prizes for those who knew obscure tidbits about the characters, etc. Needless to say, I didn’t win anything. I did, however, come home with a key chain, thanks to Cathy’s quick grab of a flying key chain after the trivia was over.

Karen’s parents made a full on turkey dinner Saturday night. I guess they figure that they don’t get their kids together very often and since all three were there, it was a time to celebrate. I got the honor of being the forker. When Karen’s dad carves the turkey a person stands there and forks the carved turkey onto the platter. I was told that not everyone gets to be a forker so I was touched he asked me. Standing there, forks at the ready, I felt the pressure to perform and live up to my new post and title. He said I did well, so I might, if I’m lucky, be asked to fork again.

Today I’m lucky enough to be able to hang at home. Relax after traveling. Karen, busy as she is, had to go in to work today. A perk of my job is getting to take off quite a bit of time. I’m fortunate enough to earn comp time on top of my accrued vacation time, so that helps. I slept in today. What a luxury. Sitting here sipping on green tea, still wearing pajamas that I know I won’t change out of, looking outside at the forest and the rain, I think it’s time to head in and see what movie I can find to watch. It’s Monday, and I’m home. How lucky am I?

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