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For years now I’ve been writing about tolerance and kindness and how we just need to love one another. I’ve tried to stay focused on the end result which is love and justice and the freedom to simply be whoever we are and live a life of truth as we travel along our journey.

But – I have to tell you – I’m tired.

As tired as Franklin Graham is of … “the tide of moral decay that is being crammed down our throats” – that’s how tired I am of his religious balderdash that’s being crammed down my throat. I’m tired of the Christian religion showing up in my government and my schools and anywhere else they deem it necessary to save humanity. It irritates me that some Christians believe that their religion should dictate the laws of the land that include millions of people who do not follow their religion.

I have nothing against religion – nothing at all. However – We live in a Country that was built on the Freedom of Religion. You know – a Country where we all have the choice to go to a church or synagogue or mosque or meeting hall or a building in a strip mall and worship as we choose.

We also have the choice to not go to any church and not read a Bible or a Koran or any book and simply live our lives doing the best we can trying desperately to do no harm to anyone or anything as we go along.

I’m a lesbian – and the Franklin Grahams, Jerry Farwell’s of this world have decided that my life of “moral decay” is not worthy of their sort of inclusion – unless, of course, I change my ways and do as they say…

Allegedly, Franklin’s Mother instilled in him that he follow the teachings of Jesus, but as far as I know – Jesus never spoke about homosexuals. So – does he follow the teachings of Jesus or does he follow the Bible? And if he follows the Bible – does he believe and follow every word or does he simply pick the parts that suit his gay-bashing agenda?

It’s this sort of evangelical, religious craziness that I have grown tired of. I’m a human being – not some sex-crazed, porn-watching, marriage bashing, end of the human race, lesbian.

My life with Susan has absolutely nothing to do with the high divorce rate in the United States. We had nothing to do with it – really.

My life with Susan has nothing to do earthquakes, hurricanes, fires, floods, tornadoes – and my favorite – September 11.  (Jerry Falwell pointed his finger and his Bible in my face and said the gays and lesbians ‘helped this happen.’)

I understand that people need religion. I understand the need to feel inclusion and acceptance and a purpose to this life that at times feels out-of-control. What I don’t understand is when a religion turns into bashing.

You don’t need a religion to love one another. You don’t need a religion to be kind and thoughtful and polite and gentle. But – if you have a religion and it doesn’t include any of the above – then what is the purpose of said religion?

Religion or no religion – go out into the world and be kind.  That’s it – Just. Be. Kind.

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Each of us have moments that are life affirming. Moments that make you understand why you’re here, and exactly what it is that matters in your life.  Yesterday I had one of those moments…

I was standing in the mist, at a fence, waiting with my camera in hand for my granddaughter Courtney to walk into her college graduation. Waiting to capture that moment with her proudly wearing her cap and gown, living in the moment for which she had worked so very hard.

As I waited for her, I found myself thinking about my life; this life that had brought me to this fence – to this misty moment. It wasn’t an easy journey getting here; and yet this life that I live now is the easiest thing I have ever done.

For those who have lived a lie – you know of what I’m speaking when I say that life is not always what it seems. I spent years pretending I wasn’t gay; when in fact I knew I was gay from the moment I understood what gay was. I’ll save the whole life story thing for another time; just let me say it flashed before my eyes as I was waiting for Courtney to come into view.

The one thing that was clear to me was that my life was meant to have Susan in it.  It’s been 33 years, and still I know she was, and is, the love of my life.

Without Susan – I would have never been waiting for Courtney. I’m not really sure where I would have been, but it wouldn’t have been at that fence waiting for this most special of moments.

Without Susan – I wouldn’t have these children and these grandchildren who have blessed my life, keep me young and fill me with a certain kind of love I never knew existed.

Without Susan -I would never have understood the importance of living a life that’s honest and open. I would never have understood that any other sort of life isn’t really a life at all – it’s only a dream; an illusion of life.

Without Susan – I would have missed so much of what is right and good about living, about loving, about struggling, about putting down roots and watching them grow into these beautiful things called children and grandchildren.

I was pondering all these deep things when I looked up and saw this beautiful smile and saw Courtney waving at me. I wiped away the tears, focused my camera and snapped the shots we’ve all waited years to capture.

I walked back to where Susan and the rest of our family was seated and sat down, weary from all the emotion. Susan put her arm around me and asked: “Did you get to see her? Did you get the shots?”  I smiled at her and said: “Yes, and so much more…”

Life?  It’s about love – that’s it.  Love…

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I’m Sorry

So, here I am – this baby booming, white woman wondering what it is I can say about the unrest in America that will not upset anyone on any level.

Seems to me – no matter what I might say, someone will take it wrong and before I can blink an eye, feelings are hurt, words are spoken, and there is more chaos, more anger, more dissent  in a world already filled with way too much anger and intolerance.

Let me simply say this; I grieve for America. I grieve for all of us. Every age, every religion, every race, every gender, every sex, every political party, every protestor, every mom, every child; every single one of us.

For the thing that unites us is that we are all Americans – and this – this is the thing we all tend to forget from time to time. We are all Americans.

Is the bar equal for all of us?  Absolutely not – but that doesn’t make anyone more of an American than another.

I can’t sit here and say I understand the life of an African American living in the neighborhood called “The Avenue” in Baltimore, MD.  I’m a 62-year-old white woman living in a nice neighborhood in San Diego, CA. What on earth can I possibly know of their life? It would be wrong of me to even speculate on any of it.

What I can sit here and say is simply this; “I’m sorry.” I’m sorry people in your American feel it’s okay to judge who you are by the color of your skin, or who you love, or what you believe, or where you live, or how much money you have – or don’t have. I’m sorry you feel unwanted, unloved and unheard in an America where every citizen is supposed to have an equal voice. I’m sorry politicians are more concerned about money and power than they are about doing the work of the people. I’m sorry.

The bottom line for me is this – I treat every single person I meet with dignity and respect. I am not a bigot – I am tolerant – (I’m a lesbian – I understand and know what intolerance looks and feels like). I try and send into the world a feeling of love and acceptance, even when I really don’t understand because it’s not my job to judge –

It’s my job to love…

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I was roaming the aisles of our local Barnes and Noble yesterday afternoon and I came across this book by John Izzo titled: “The Five Secrets You Must Discover Before You Die.”

I pulled the book off the shelf and started leafing through it. Leafing led to reading snippets, and the reading of snippets led to sitting on a chair reading word for word taking notes.

Maybe because I’m going to be 63 this year and I know there is more of my life behind me than in front of me – I feel the need to live my life to the fullest and to be the best person I know how to be.

Here are the Five Secrets Mr. Izzo believes we must discover before we die.

  1. Be True To Yourself
  2. Leave No Regrets
  3. Become Love
  4. Live The Moment
  5. Give More Than You Take

I was only confused by #3 – Become Love.  I wasn’t sure what that meant – and then I read this:  “life is love, and if you miss love, you miss life.” ~ Leo Buscaglia

It’s pretty clear to me that the only thing that matters when you get to the end of your life is love.  From the things that I’ve read, and the things I’ve experienced, people who are dying don’t surround themselves with piles of cash and bank statements on their deathbed; they surround themselves with photos of loved ones, with photos of vacations that were filled with love and happiness; and the only thing they spoke of was the love they gave and the love they received throughout their lives.

They also speak of regrets and what-ifs and I should haves – which covers all of the things Mr. Izzo says we should discover before we die.

The Be True To Yourself is the hardest for me.  I try; but there are times when I find myself defending who I am and what I believe way more than I feel I should have to. I don’t understand why it matters so much to so many what I believe.

I don’t struggle with my beliefs – I struggle with those who insist I’m wrong. And it’s not so much a struggle as it is me not understanding why we just can’t let people be. So we believe different things – does this mean we are no longer human beings? Does it mean we no longer love our fellow man?  Does it mean we no longer treat each other with kindness and respect? Does this mean you are no longer my friend? I don’t understand believing in something that makes you separate from others, when the whole purpose of life is to love…  These – these are my struggles…

Read over the Five Secrets again and think of your life as you’re reading. How are you doing? Have you discovered the secrets?

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Today I was sitting in a Panera Bread eating my lunch.  This man came up to me and asked if he could sit with me and chat.  Not wanting to offend, I said yes.  Turns out he was a “Christian Minister” and what follows is part of the conversation…

  Minister: Are you a Christian?

  Me:  Well, what do you consider a Christian?

  Minister: You live your life in accordance with the Bible, you follow the teachings of Jesus, you go to church, you tithe to your church, you follow the bylaws of your church – and you spread the word of God everywhere you go.

  Me: Well, by those standards – no – I am not what you would consider   a Christian.

  Minister: Well then – what are you?

  Me:  I’m a human being.

  Minister: NO – what religion do you believe in?

  Me: I believe in human kindness. I believe we are all one people – all deserving of love, respect and kindness.

  Minister:  So – you have no faith?

  Me: I have an abundance of faith.

  Minister: But you don’t go to church, you follow no religion – how can you have any faith?

  Me: Some days it isn’t easy – but most days I believe in the goodness each of us have within ourselves to help others, to love others, to show respect and kindness toward one another.

  Minister: You’re a dreamer.

  Me:  As are you.

  Minister: If you don’t follow the teachings of Jesus, you are damned to walk the road that leads to hell.

  Me: I don’t believe in hell.

  Minister: Well, what do you believe in?

  Me: Love, Kindness, Goodness, Tolerance, Respect,

  Minister: You need Jesus in your life.

  Me: How do you know this? You don’t know me at all. You know nothing about my life, you know nothing of what I do in my life – And yet – you judge me. 

  Minister: I’m not judging – I’m telling you, you need Jesus.

  Me: And if I don’t have Jesus?

  Minister: You are on the road to hell – there is no saving your soul – there is no hope for your life…

  Me: I live a good life – I’m kind, I’m loving, I’m tolerant and respectful and yet – you’re telling me if I don’t have Jesus – nothing about my life matters?

  Minister: Jesus can save you.

  Me: I don’t need saving.

  Minister: You are on the road to hell.

  Me: Well – my road is paved with good intentions.

  Minister: You need Jesus

  Me: You need to leave now…

This – this is what makes me crazy.  This man had never seen me before – and God willing – will never see me again. And yet – he felt he had the absolute right to tell me my life didn’t matter unless I had Jesus making all my decisions.  This man was an ordained minister – supposedly a man of God – telling me my life didn’t matter. He certainly did nothing that would entice me to follow his religion. If anything – he convinced me I don’t need to go to church to be a good, loving, kind, caring person.

I have people of all religions and no religions in my life. I love them all, I respect them all, and I do not judge them. I respect that this is what they need in their life to get them from day to day, and I would never tell them their life didn’t matter – every life matters.

Apparently, I’m on the road to hell – I wonder where that intersects with the yellow-brick road?

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Ready or not – another year looms in front of us – which also means another year is behind us.

The question is – what will you do with this New Year – this 2015?

I am not a New Year’s resolution sort of gal. I have found that my resolutions – as great as they may sound – are too far-reaching – and in the end I am more disappointed with myself for falling short – once again – of the demands I have placed on myself.

There are no resolutions this year. No lose weight, no write a blog a day – no take a picture a day – none of that has even crossed my mind.

There are only the promises I have made to myself to be a better person. I can be kinder, I can be more loving, I can be more understanding, I can be less judgmental, I can be me.  A better version of me – but me.

I spent a portion of yesterday (New Year’s Eve) afternoon at Ft. Rosecrans National Cemetery.  There was a woman and her little daughter, both wrapped in blankets, sitting in lawn chairs beside the grave of a fallen solider. The grave was new – so this woman’s loss was new – our nation’s loss was new.

My heart ached for her loss – for her pain – for her suffering. It was in that moment that I realized I needed to live my best life, and it was in that moment that I made those promises to myself to be kinder, to be more loving, more understanding.

People are suffering every single day. They survive things I can only imagine. They beg for food – for money – for clothes. They live in boxes. People face Cancer, Alzheimer’s. They die in War…

I know I won’t be perfect every single day, I know I will make mistakes. Still – I’m going to be a better me.

How about you?

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There is this perceived notion that we always have to be happy – that we always have to be up and smiling – that we have to show the world that all is bright and cherry in our world.

The thing is – we are not always happy – and the sun isn’t always shining in our lives – and sometimes just sometimes – there is not one ounce of cheer to be found – anywhere…

And you know what? That’s okay – you’re okay.

Life isn’t always happy. Sometimes life is quite complicated and happiness isn’t on the list of priorities we have. Sometimes our priorities are simply to get from day-to-day or hour to hour or moment to moment.

We don’t always wake up bathed in sunshine hearing the birds singing their sweet little tunes.  Sometimes – well – sometimes we just don’t hear the birds singing – anywhere.

That’s okay – You’re okay.

We don’t have to always feel inspired or always feel that we have the answers to everything in the Universe. We all have our dark sides – we’re all human. No one person can be happy and confident and inspired all the time. It’s the darkness that sometimes leads to the most brilliant sunshine.

The trick is to take the good with the bad – feel however it is you’re feeling – talk about how you’re feeling, write about how you’re feeling; cry, laugh, scream, whatever you need to do. And then you need to move on.  And by move on I mean really let whatever it is go.

If 10, 20 or even 30 years down the road finds you still talking about something – you haven’t let it go. You’ve actually let whatever “it” is run your life for all those years.  Let. It. Go.

Mostly – just be gentle with yourself.  Understand that you’re human and life isn’t always about what’s right in the world – life is sometimes all about the messy bits.

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