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Archive for the ‘Children’ Category

Susan and I went to a funeral yesterday. It’s not something one looks forward to, but a sweet friend had lost her Father, and we wanted to be there to lend our support and love for our friend and her family.

Our friends father (Bill) was a very sweet man. We didn’t’ meet him until the rages of Alzheimer’s had taken over his body and his mind; and yet his sweetness shown through.

I had an inkling this funeral was going to be different when we arrived at the church and there were white chairs set up outside. They were placed on a hillside with beautiful green grass surrounded by trees and flowers with a view of the San Diego Bay that was simply breath-taking. I’d never been to an outside funeral, but after today, I can’t imagine any other way of honoring a loved one.

From those who spoke, I soon understood this was a man who was loving and was loved his entire life. His wife, his children, his grandchildren and great grandchildren. Love, love, love. He loved being outside, loved camping, loved sunsets, loved ice cream and coffee, and loved being the family “tickle monster.”

One of his daughters started to speak about his courage and how he emphasized to her the importance of being still, and it was in that moment I found my mind began to wonder.

I began to think of the death of my parents. My dad in 2010 and Mother in 2012.  I thought of the lessons they had taught me, and what it is I still miss about them.  Some days the image of them is so clear I swear they are walking right beside me. Other days, I don’t feel them at all.  It’s those moments when I am “being still” that I feel them most of all. When I have my tea in the afternoon, sitting quietly on my patio watching the birds, sitting by the San Diego Bay knowing how much my parents loved to sit in the same spot some 30 years ago.  Dad’s ashes are scattered in this Bay so that every US Navy ship that goes in and out of San Diego has to pass over him.

The thing is, I never understood my parents – ever. I thought of this today as Bill’s children and grandchildren were speaking of him so lovingly.  I never understood some of my parent’s decisions, their beliefs, their grudges, their never wanting to talk of anything.  So many things were left unsaid, unsettled, unknown. I love them, I just wish…

I left this funeral with the understanding that life is most certainly meant to be lived. It’s meant to be shared with those who love you unconditionally. You’re meant to be still, to be tickled. You’re meant to watch the sunset, and eat ice cream and drink coffee. You’re meant to laugh and love and share your thoughts and dreams and desires .You’re meant to make memories that will carry on long after you’ve gone. This is what your life is supposed to be.

We walked away from the service on that beautiful hill to the Reception Hall where an ice cream social in honor of Bill awaited us.  Ice Cream, every topping you could think of, whipped cream, cherries, nuts, cookies and coffee. For the first time ever, I left a funeral feeling upbeat and hopeful.

As a side note – the pastor who spoke at the funeral had a voice that simply drew me in. She was kind and compassionate, and spoke in a way that wasn’t condescending or judgmental.  As the pastor was speaking, I leaned over to Susan and said: “If anyone could get me back to church, I think it might be her,”  And it’s been many years since I’ve spent any amount of time in a church.

Bill must have been smiling knowing that I had been still and was listening.

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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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When the top story on my news-feed is about how different Renee Zellweger’s face looks – I know it’s time to shut all my electronics off and try and have myself a zen moment.

Is this really who we’ve become? Is this truly who we are as a people?  We don’t write or talk about curing cancer, we don’t write or talk about the struggles with Alzheimer’s, we don’t write or talk about how we are still at war – and our soldiers are still dying.

We don’t write or talk about how children in the United States of America go to bed hungry, go to school hungry, and live every day, hungry.  I’m not talking about another country here – I’m talking The United States of America…

We don’t write or talk about the inequities of the American people – but we will write and talk about who is to blame for these inequities that only seem to exist in the minds of the dreaded “do-gooders.”

Elections in this country are no longer about who is the best person for the job. They are about who has the most money, and who is willing to do the best job at trashing their opponent.  They are no longer “free” elections when millions of people are prevented from voting because of redistricting or photo ID’s or some other form of “poll taxing.”

But – our free press is not writing or talking about these things. These things don’t sell papers or magazines.

The people who write and publish – well, they only write and publish the things that make them money.   You know – Renee Zellweger’s face, and Kim Kardashian’s buttocks.

When did we stop caring about one another and what we will leave for our children and our children’s children?   When did it become more important that the Giudice’s are going to jail than a child going to school hungry? Seriously – when did entertainment overtake caring about our own humanity?

Personally, I don’t believe my grandchildren’s children will care about the face of Renee Zellweger. It may be more important to their survival that the air is clean and the water is safe to drink and people still have a moral code that doesn’t revolve around how one looks, but rather revolves around how one treats others.

Just sayin…

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1-IMG_0090-001This morning I stood in line for about 4 hours with approximately 1000 women. There were men there – maybe 100 or so – the rest were women. Women of all sizes and shapes and color and religion and status and age – we all stood, without complaining, waiting our turn to meet Hillary Clinton.

There are some moments in our lives that define us – for me – this was one of them. I’m 61 years old and I finally understood why there are men who don’t particularly want women to be united. I finally understood why men didn’t want women to have the vote and why there are men still don’t want a woman to have any voice when it comes to our own bodies.

It’s because – Women who are united – on anything – are strong and powerful and know in their hearts they can facilitate change.

This is why men want to keep women down. This is why they hit them and alienate them and keep them “barefoot and pregnant.” Not all men – but some men – they just don’t want women to have any power or know that they could even have the chance at any power or self-respect.

I’m not bashing men.  I know there is this belief that lesbians hate men – trust me when I tell you – that’s not the case. I enjoy the company of men – well – most men.  I have men in my life whom I simply adore. I find them sweet and funny and they value the women in their lives.

But – I also have men in my life who absolutely do not value women – any women. Women who have strong opinions – women who are smart – women who have power, they especially don’t like them, and I find these men hard to understand and hard to have any sort of relationship with. Go figure…

The thing I noticed most in my 4 hours of bonding was that we all wanted the same thing – freedom and peace.  We all agreed we were are tired of war and death and yes – guns…

Is that a liberal thing – the not wanting guns? I honestly don’t know – but I know that the women with whom I had the pleasure of spending time with this morning are sick of the guns being worn over shoulders and on belts while we’re being told it’s for our own protection. We all admitted that we thought twice about coming to this book signing for fear that someone with said gun slung over their shoulder would come and take a whack at we crazy liberals wanting to see Hillary; the Benghazi killer!  We also all agreed that if we had stayed home – the gun-slingers would have won, and that wasn’t going to happen – not on our watch. So there we were.

We talked – as women do – about other women. We wondered why any women would vote against their own best interest – and why women just can’t seem to find the strength to stand up for one another.  Some of the questions we asked one another were:

Why would a woman vote for a man who wants to control where you can get birth control? And how do we help her see that this is her right as a human being to be in control of her own body? How do we educate women? How can we help one another? How do we unite and how do we learn how to treat one another with respect? It starts with each one of us – respecting one another enough to leave the men out of the equation. Women need to respect and care for one another – period.

These women made me understand that perhaps television shows such as The Housewives of OC and NYC and NJ and anywhere else – were to blame for how we see each other as women.  My partner Susan, has told me this for years, and now – finally – I get it.  These women certainly do not treat one another with any respect – and I get that I shouldn’t find it entertaining – I should be offended. Scripted or not – these women are not what we should aspire to be and certainly not an example for our daughters, granddaughters, nieces, or any of the women in our lives. The 80-something woman who asked me just what it was I got from those shows was quite pleased with herself when I had nothing to give her as an answer. And when she asked me why I watched – again – I had nothing – and again – she looked at me with raised eyebrows – I knew she was thinking: “Well then – why are you watching?”

What I also got was the thing that united us this morning was Hillary Clinton. We all had our own reasons for being there – but in the end – it was all about Hillary. Maybe we all see ourselves in her in one way or another; Perhaps we’ve been betrayed by a man that we love, or betrayed by a woman we thought was a friend with the man that we love, or maybe we are ridiculed by the men in our lives for trying to be strong and independent thinkers, maybe it’s waiting for the birth of your first grandchild – and maybe – just maybe – we simply aspire to make the world a better place by living our best life.  A life of service – a life of choice, a life of caring for one another.  Perhaps these things are some of what we see in Hillary Clinton.

So – Thank you Hillary – for leading the way – for showing women what we can be – what we should be – what we will be. And thank you to all the strong, loving, caring, powerful women who shared those 4 hours in line with me on Girard Ave in La Jolla, CA this morning.  It was inspirational – to say the least…

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I was informed by an email awhile back that my family wasn’t a “real” family. The woman who wrote me this email went on to explain that my family couldn’t possibly be a “real” family because I’m a homosexual. God would never deem to allow me to have a loving family since I am a sinner in the largest sense of the word.

Susan, my partner of 33 years has 4 children and in the course of those 33 years – her children have also become my children. I love them – I worry about them – I support them – all the things that Mothers feel for their children – I feel for these 4 children.

Along with the children have come spouses and grandchildren and pets and friends. Girlfriends and boyfriends and proms and graduations. School plays and competitions and dressing as angels and wise men in Christmas pageants at church. Weddings and divorces and fights and hugs and love and yelling and laughing and adventures in Las Vegas! Standing in front of Stonehenge crying on my sons shoulder, sitting with my daughter in a courtroom trying to be the strong one for her and my grandchildren. Picking kids up at school, driving all over town to find just the right gift…

Does any of this sound like a real family to you?

Sitting at my daughters house yesterday laughing with the grand-kids and just enjoying all the love in the room – I understood how blessed I was to be surrounded by this family that makes my heart so happy.

I thought of the woman who wrote me that vile email and I sort of felt sorry for her – sort of.  I feel sorry she will never understand or accept the love that flows through our family. I feel sorry that she will never, ever know the joy of loving someone for who they are – and I’m sorry that her “faith” is such that she is filled with such loathing.

I’m sorry that she doesn’t know that “family” is all about the people who love you and accept you and support you – no matter what. It’s not always about blood – it’s about love. Sometimes the whole blood thing is just too complicated and way too judgmental. I don’t know why that is – I don’t know why the people you want to love you the most just can’t… or won’t…

I never thought I wanted to be a Mother – I never thought I’d be a very good Mother… I was wrong – on both counts.  I love these children and grandchildren more than they will ever know – I hope they know they can count on me – I hope they know the joy they have brought into my life, I hope they know how they fill my heart with such joy just being in the same room with them. I tell them – I just hope they know.

That vile, email woman is wrong…   2 Mothers – 2 Grandmothers loving you, supporting you, accepting you, baking for you…   Who doesn’t need that?   Who doesn’t want that?

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Susan and I celebrate 32 years together on this day, May 1, 2013. We chose May 1 for reasons that we have chosen to keep between each other, just know that if we could have 32 years ago – we’d have a marriage license and a wedding album full of photos and mementos to commemorate the occasion of our commitment to one another.

It hasn’t been 32 years of bliss – It’s been 32 years of husbands and children and parents and families and religion and culture and fear and denial. But always – always, there was love.

I haven’t always been this “out” blogging lesbian – I spent most of my life running from who I was. My family wasn’t and isn’t really – shall we say – gay friendly. Some are – most are not. Some try – most do not. I wasn’t always as strong as I am now – and there was a time when their opinion of who I was mattered. I’m grateful that it no longer matters.

For most of my life I ran away from everything. I was a lost soul wanting so badly to fit in to the world that surrounded me that I tried to be something and someone I was not.   When I met Susan, I knew that my world had changed.

She was married with four children; I was married to a man in the United States Navy. We tried not to fall in love, but love doesn’t know gender – love only knows love. The thing is – it was complicated – very complicated. This was the 1980’s and society was certainly not evolving as quickly as it is now.  We handled things the best we could – which in looking back – wasn’t all that great – but… the truth is – had we done one thing different, we wouldn’t be at this exact place that we are right now.

I did what I always did when things got too complicated – I ran. When my husband got transferred from San Diego, CA to Annapolis, MD, instead of staying with Susan and finding a way to make things work – I ran  – not to some place safe – I ran to my home town which I knew would keep me in my little closet and not make me face the grown-up world of the truth. As far as I ran – it never changed my love for her – ever.

Susan is a stronger woman than I am. She divorced her husband, accepted that she was a lesbian, came out in People magazine, and moved on with her life. She patiently waited for me to find the same courage, but I was not as willing as she was to jump off the gay cliff. We parted ways, but still she waited and still there was love. We got involved with other people – but still there was love. Almost 10 years had passed and still there was love and still I was unwilling to make the jump so when she told me she was done – D.O.N.E. – waiting for me – I knew I had a choice to make.

Within two months of her telling me she was D.O.N.E. – I was standing on her doorstep with my two dogs and my life packed into a truck. Lucky for me – she opened the door – and my life started at that moment.

Now – there is a home filled with love and there are friends and neighbors and always – there is love.  Our children are a blessing and have shown us unconditional love. Our grandchildren are such a source of pride for us, and I can’t imagine loving any of them more than I do at this very moment.

In the end – the only thing that ever mattered with Susan and I was love – for 32 years there has always, always been love. Let people say whatever they will – love is simply  – love…

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I was told many times in my life I would never be a success, I believe the phrase was: “You’ll never amount to anything.”  I heard it so often, I started to believe it. My parents never encouraged me, never pushed me, never expected great things from me, in turn I didn’t expect great things from me either.

How does one measure success? Is it by how much money you have? How many children you have? How many times you have or haven’t been married? How many friends you have? What sort of work you do? Where you live? What kind of car you drive? Where your place is in society?

Or

Is success measured by who you are as a person?  Is it the amount of friends you have or the quality and the character of the people you choose to call your friends? Is it the amount of money you have or how you choose to use the money you do have?  Is it whether or not you have a job or how you choose to spend your time being a productive member of society?

And

Is success measured by where you come from or where you end up?  Is it by what you were told as a child, or what you say as an adult? Is it by the family you were born in to or the family you chose to end up with? Is it being stuck in the mud of “You’ll never amount to anything” or is it living your life free of secrets and lies?

I don’t measure the success of my writing by how many columns I write, how many people read my blogs, or how many articles I get published.  I measure my success by the emails I receive from people who read my words and are helped out of a very dark and lonely place and by the people who read what I write and are changed by something I said. I feel most successful when someone simply says: “Thanks for writing this.”

I measure the success of my life by the fact that Susan decided to share her life with me. By my friends who don’t judge me but instead just love me. By Susan’s children who have accepted me as another Mom who loves them and now trust me to be a part of their lives. By my grandchildren who simply know and love me as Grandma Barbie, and have learned that I am the Grandma who will cave first!

If success is defined as a favorable or prosperous termination of attempts or endeavors; then my life as it is at this moment in time – is most certainly a success.

How do you measure success?

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