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Archive for the ‘Hometown’ Category

For far too many reasons; some I understand, some I do not…  I am not a Holiday person.

I have great memories of Holidays spent with cousins, Aunts, Uncles, Mother, Dad, a brother, sharing food and laughter and traditions that were so much a part of who we were, who are family was.

But now, Mother and Dad are gone, my brother and I most of the time, do not speak, most of those Aunts and Uncles are long gone, and many of those cousins with whom I would play capture the flag in a pitch-black basement and with whom I would share hugs and laughter, would rather not share any space with me, because I’m gay and they are “Christian” and in their hearts and minds, the two do not mix.

And so, I am left with no family tradition, for basically, there is no “family” with which to share it. There are moments when the loss of these things overwhelms me (watching It’s a Wonderful Life, singing Silent Night, etc.) and I find myself wiping tears away and wondering what we all wonder when things and people are lost from our lives. How did things get so crazy? Why is family not family anymore? How do you spend half of your life with these people, and then not see them or speak to them for the other half of your life?

And then I understand: These feelings? This is just life.  I know I could have never become this grown-up person I am had I not left the confines of that small town and broke the hold my conservative family had on me. We don’t share the same values, we don’t value the same lives, we don’t agree on politics, we don’t really agree on much of anything. I’ve learned to be grateful for the memories, and for those people who helped me grow and loved me as best they could.

For many, myself included, the Holidays are memories of simpler times – not always better times, but certainly simpler times. From what I see, there’s way too much pressure on making the holidays perfect – perfect decorations, perfect food, perfect gifts, perfect, perfect, perfect.

None of us are perfect, no holiday will ever be, or should ever have to be, perfect.  Susan and I love our time with the kids and the grand kids. Our beautiful tree sits in the corner and puts a magical glow over the living room, but perfect would never even enter the conversation. We take the holidays one day at a time and enjoy whatever that day brings us. Just being with her, well that’s all the holiday I need in my life.

Embrace whatever you must to get you through these weeks. If you watch the movies and listen to the music, let yourself go to those places that make you cry. It proves that you’re human, it proves that you’ve grown and become stronger.  It shows that you’ve made a life of your own, but you also remember from where you came.

Say Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays or just smile and say nothing. There are no rules to follow for getting through the emotions and memories that always find their way to your heart.

And as you go into 2017, remember to sprinkle kindness wherever and whenever you can. The world is going to need kindness.  Bigly…

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For her Birthday my friend Ann asked that we spend some time loving someone who is difficult for us to love. She said we didn’t have to forgive or hang out with them – she just wanted us to think loving thoughts and humanize someone we dislike for whatever reason.  She ended her request by saying: “Nothing would make me happier than imagining a bunch of you spending even 5 minutes focusing real love, compassion and understanding on an enemy.”

Somehow I believe it would have been easier to just send her flowers!

However, I respect this friend so very much so I decided to focus my energies on someone who betrayed my trust over 20 years ago. Someone I believed was a friend – someone I loved as a sister – someone I trusted with the deepest secret I had.

In a moment of bearing my soul – I told this friend I was gay. I told her how I have struggled to live a “normal” life but I wasn’t happy. I told her I had always known I was gay but also knew that I could never talk with my family – well because where I come from – being gay is simply not done.  I told her that as much as I cared about my husband – I just couldn’t love him. Certainly not the way he deserved to be loved – I was trying – I just couldn’t do it. I was struggling on what to do – and how to do it.

My “friend” decided that her loyalties were really with my husband – and she told him everything I had told her.  She outed me to my husband – my father – my little community where I grew up.

My life exploded – and I ran away.  From my husband – from my hometown – from my family – from my friend. I’ve never seen or spoken to her since the explosion.

It wasn’t her place – It wasn’t her life – It wasn’t her secret…

Life didn’t end – but for a long time it was hard and hurtful as many people who I thought loved me – apparently didn’t love the gay Barb – they wanted me to be who they wanted me to be and anything other than that person wasn’t welcome in their world.

I have heard through the hometown grapevine that this person’s life the past 20 some years hasn’t been easy.  Her husband divorced her and she’s had to start over.  Every time I heard something bad about her life – I thought that she deserved everything bad that has come her way.

I thought that way until Saturday when I was sitting silent and thinking of her.  In was in those moments of quiet clarity that I understood that this person did betray me in the worst way – but in another way – her betrayal was a gift.  For all the running that I did lead me to where I am at this very moment in time. It lead me to this complete happiness – to this life I only dreamed existed.

So – I thought of her with kindness and released my anger and felt gratitude for this life I have – for the friends that I have – for the love which surrounds me and fills my life.

In my moments of quiet clarity, I also thanked my friend for wanting us all to find some peace and love on her Birthday. In my mind I sang Happy Birthday to her and was happy I could give her what she asked for.  It was a gift for her – but really – it was more of a gift for myself.  Happy Birthday, Annie – and Thank You. ♥

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Ft. Rosecrans National Cemetery – Pt. Loma, CA – Memorial Day 2012

Memorial Day is the American Holiday observed on the last Monday of May, It honors the men and women who died while serving in war or while otherwise serving in the United States Military.

Originally called Decoration Day, it came into being in the years after the Civil War when Americans in cities and towns began holding springtime tributes to the fallen soldiers of the Civil War by decorating their graves with flowers, and also reciting prayers and poems to the fallen.

It became Memorial Day as we started to honor and decorate the graves of all of our fallen from all wars and conflicts.

Most cemeteries decorate the graves of our fallen with flags, and hold ceremonies reminding us all of the meaning of the words: sacrifice, honor, duty, Country.

No matter your plans for this Memorial Day weekend – please take a moment and remember why it is you have an extra day off work. Remember why it is you have the freedom to say what you please, write what you please, worship whomever you please, and cast your vote as you please.

I’ll be remembering and thanking my great grandfather, grandfather, father, uncles, cousins, friends who were in uniform during the Civil War, WW I, WW II, Korea, and Vietnam.

I’ll also be thinking of family and friends still living who need to be honored and respected for their service during Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan… War changes everyone – living or dead – and they all need to be honored.

If you can’t get to a cemetery to pay tribute you can honor the fallen in your own little part of the world. The US Government’s website tells us we can also “Pay tribute to the U.S. men and women who died during military service by observing a minute of silence at 3:00 PM, local time.”

To all members of our United States Armed Services, past and present – you have my heartfelt gratitude and thanks for your service.

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I’ve been introduced to Bronnie Ware and her book: “The Top Five Regrets of the Dying,” – which in turn has introduced me once again to my life.

Bronnie Ware is a palliative nurse in Australia who has spent several years caring for patients who are in the last 12 weeks of their lives.  She states:  “When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently,” she says, “common themes surfaced again and again.”

Here are the top five regrets she has witnessed:

  1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
  2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard
  3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings
  4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends
  5. I wish I had let myself be happier.

Anyone who reads these five statements and doesn’t take a moment to review their own lives is missing the point of what life should be.

“I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”  It’s like hearing my own voice in my head when I read this.  I understand this more and more the older I get. I’m 60 and the “I should haves” are taking more and more precedence in my life.  When I was in my 20’s I most certainly did not have that sort of courage, I’m not sure I had any sort of courage at all.

Most of my generation – born in the early 1950’s – knew what was expected of us. I lived in a small, rural town and was raised by a Mother who was quite strong – but also quite a traditionalist. I knew from a very young age what was expected of me, and it most certainly was not to be a Lesbian. I was to be a wife and a Mother and not question – anything.

So, instead of questioning or finding any sort of courage – I lied and cheated and hurt many people on my path to living the life that was expected of me. Oh yes indeed – “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”

I think of my parents and I wonder what they may have regretted at the end of their lives. Mother never really discussed her feelings and I would never even be able to make an educated guess about her regrets, or even if she had any.  My Father was a complicated man – and a stubborn man – when given the chance to make amends and get some things in order before he passed – he refused and died with things unsaid and unsettled. Did he regret that – I have no way of knowing – but I most surely wish he would have made the effort.

This list of regrets by those who have gone before us is a gift for those who want it to be so.   While you have the time – do what you need to do to be happy in your life – Your life. Not your Mother’s or your Fathers or your husbands or your wife’s or your partners or your friends. – Your life.

Perhaps making peace with ourselves will bring peace to our lives.  I’m not sure one can ever live a life without any regrets – but I like to believe we can live a life which brings us pretty close.

At 60, I am well aware that there is more of my life that lies behind me than lies before me.  When I went home for my mother’s funeral – I understood it was time to let go of some anger I’ve been harboring for many, many years. Anger at family, at a town, at memories… I apologized for things I needed to apologize for, I listened when others spoke to me, and when I got on the plane to leave – I left it all there.  I didn’t want to carry it with me for one more moment in my life. I was no longer concerned about keeping peace or keeping quiet or being angry. 60 years was long enough…

Go back and read the five regrets. How many of them apply to your life? And how many of them can you change right now?  What are you waiting for?

Life is not about the destination – it’s about the journey…

 

 

 

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I found out yesterday that a friend of mine had died. He was a friend from long ago from a life that was lived with lies and deceit – but also with love and laughter.

My friend was a part of the love and laughter.

I’ve been thinking since I heard of his passing about how we all move from one life to another and people get pushed to the side as new people come into our lives.

I had a husband and a family and a job and friends, dogs, cats, homes – and they are gone now. That part of my life has been pushed away – only to be remembered at funerals and when looking through the pages of old photo albums.

For years I tried to think of how I could get away from that life. I dreamed of a life where I lived openly as a lesbian and wasn’t afraid of hurting anyone or disappointing anyone or being an embarrassment to my family. It was only a dream – and while I was dreaming I was also living the life that was expected of me.

My friend was a part of the expected life as we worked together on a daily basis and life in our small town also required you to share in outside activities. Fire companies, fishing, hunting, drinking…  We all laughed together, cried together, and when bad times came – we stood by each other.

Small towns can be brutal when the bad times come, and when it’s affairs or divorce, it’s mostly required that you pick a side and make your stand. And when the affair happens among a group of friends – well – that is the end of the group, the end of the friendships, and the end of that chapter. When we found out that his wife was having an affair with his best friend – I stood by my friend. I listened when he needed to talk; pushed when he needed a shove, and hugged when he needed a friend.

He moved away from the small town, but we still worked together and when I left to go and see the world with Carl – my friend was my biggest supporter. And when everything with Carl ended and the whole gay thing hit the gossip wires of the town – he was still standing by me, always hugging me every time I got home, always with a big smile happy to see me; always my defender.

We lost touch with one another – but we never lost our affection for one another. I would smile when I thought of him and the fun we had working together and the Friday nights when a group of us gathered and ate too many steamed shrimp and French fries and drank too much beer and whiskey. I always made sure I saw him when I went home – always, as the trip would not have been complete without his smile.

I will miss my friend and his unwavering love for me. He was a good man and a good friend. Rest in peace, my sweet friend, Rest in Peace.

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My emotions have been running the gamut since my mother passed away on November 11. I can go from feeling perfectly happy to anger and feeling just down-right morose in a matter of seconds. Granted, I have always had the ability to be a little moody, but this – this I don’t seem to have any control over. Emotions seem to come and go in the blink of an eye. I’m aware of the whole grief thing, and I believe I expect way too much of myself sometimes. I’m trying to just allow myself to feel however it is that I feel and just be okay with that. This – this whole change thing is not an easy task for me.

So, I’ve been reading a bit more of my favorite Philosophers which I’m finding helps to ground me, and helps to keep me in the center of where it is I need to be.Heraclitus is one of my favorites, and his little bits of wisdom I have always found to be so applicable in my life.

  • Nothing endures but change.
  • The road up and the road down is one and the same.
  • You could not step twice into the same river; for other waters are ever flowing on to you.
  • Deliberate violence is more to be quenched than a fire.
  • Bigotry is the sacred disease
  • If you do not expect the unexpected you will not find it, for it is not to be reached by search or trail.
  • Much learning does not teach understanding.
  • Hide our ignorance as we will, an evening of wine soon reveals it.

Every time I go and sit by the ocean I think of the never stepping in to the same river twice. Susan asked me once why I love to go to watch the ocean so much, and I told her that it’s because it’s always different. It may be that we go to the same spot every time, but the water is always different which makes the view always different. The energy is different, the air is different, and the smell is different. It’s never the same – ever.

I’m discovering that this is the way of life – it’s never the same – ever.  Hence the: “Nothing endures but change” thing.   The world does seem to be changing at an alarming rate – but perhaps it only seems to be moving and changing faster because I’m older and because I now understand how quickly it can all be over and we can be gone. The time it takes for you to be breathing and not breathing can’t be measured – it just is…You are here – and then you are not.

Where we go after we die, and what happens to our soul, is certainly something up for debate. I believe people believe what they must to not fear dying. We have to believe that our life has mattered, that we’ve made a difference, and that we’ve brought joy and love and goodness to the world in some way. Well – at least this is what I have to believe. And… if we haven’t had the best of lives, we’d like to think that where we’re going is better and happier and not filled with so much hate and violence.

I don’t have the answers about where we go or what happens; I only know that since my mother has passed I hear a woman singing in my home every now and then.  It’s not loud singing, it’s soft and comforting. I heard it last night when I was watching Monday Night Football and Susan was reading. I didn’t say anything, I just smiled and then Susan looked up from her book and said: “Do you just hear that woman singing?”  “If you do not expect the unexpected you will not find it…”

I remember those folks who used to come into the restaurant my mother worked in when I was a little girl.  They were gruff and complaining about how the world was changing and how it wasn’t good and it would ruin the country and society.  They were concerned that the “colored” would get the vote and live within the confines of our little white village! They were concerned that women would no longer know their place, and that television would ruin society.  Sadly – some of these concerns still permeate our politics some 50 years later… Change can indeed be a good thing, but not always. When change comes and it’s evil, we must find the courage and fight for that which is good and right.

Your life is simply that – your life. Whatever path you travel up or down – it’s still your life.  Hence the “The road up and the road down is one and the same” little bit of wisdom. It’s your choice, but the road is always the same. You can travel up the road to bigger and better things or you can travel down the road and wallow…

My road is well-traveled up and down; what I understand now is that it is my road, my path, my life, and it can all be gone in less time than it takes to blink. I don’t want to get to the end of my life and wish I had done something or said something or written something.  I’m going to travel up the road – one more time…

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I just spent a week in the bosom of my family – not by choice – but because my mother passed away suddenly and I went home to honor her memory and lay her to rest beside her Mother and Father.

To be clear – most of my family has no idea who I am.  I left the place of my birth and the people with whom I share a blood connection over 30 years ago, and most of them don’t understand why I left or why on earth I haven’t returned! In their minds-eye I’m whatever age they remember me being before I left the little village we called home.

Also, to be clear –

The discussion of my being gay seems to permeate conversations whenever I’m around some of these people with whom I share DNA. I don’t know why – it fascinates and sickens them at the same time.  I was hopeful since I was there to bury my mother they might lighten up on such things and simply let me mourn in some sort of peace the week I was there.

I was wrong.  Throughout the week – this was my experience:

I was told that my family loved me and that they wanted me to make an effort to be a part of the family once again.  They didn’t understand the whole “gay” thing, and they still believe it’s a choice I made, and the Bible still says it’s wrong – but – they want me to feel welcome and loved…

Yes sir – warm and fuzzy – that’s how I was feeling.

For the sake of peace and harmony – I tried to hug one of the Bible relatives to thank her for bringing a desert to the church for my mother’s service, only to have her recoil like I had a gun to her head. She couldn’t look at me and walked past my partner Susan as if she didn’t even exist.

Oh yes – welcomed and loved – I was feeling it.

I was also informed that there was no way they were going to stop eating at Chick-Fil-A and if that upset me – well that was too bad.  Besides – why should I care where they eat they asked me.  They don’t care where I eat. Even after Susan explained to them where the money goes and what the money does – They informed us that they wouldn’t be giving up their chicken sandwich, waffle fries and sweet tea for nobody!

And – by the way – why do I have to write so much about gay issues? And why am I making such a big deal out of it? And – Why do we gay people have big parades and our own Oreo cookie?

Lord… Give me strength.

I came to the sad realization that there are members of my family who are just hate-filled people who believe that their religion gives them the absolute right to treat me with no respect and condemn my sick little soul to hell.  So be it.  Condemn away…

I also came to the sad realization that there are members of my family who are content to stay un-educated and ignorant to the fact that there is a world that exists outside of the confines of their little village. A world filled with wonder and excitement and diversity.  A world where stuffing isn’t considered a vegetable and going to Chick-Fil-A isn’t considered a night on the town!

On the other hand – I came to understand that there are members of my family who love me with no strings attached. They love me for me; they hugged me to death and comforted me and made me feel safe. There was no talk of Chick-Fil-A or anything gay – I was simply cared for in the most loving of ways.

And my sweet home-town friends who were there for me – no questions asked, with smiles and hugs and more love than I could have imagined. These are friends of the heart – not friends of the road.

The world is filled with the Chick-Fil-A eating crowd – Bless them – and let them go.  I won’t stop writing or marching or protesting their ignorance no matter how they wish that I would – and that gay Oreo cookie? I’d send a case to every Chick-Fil-A loving member of my family – if the cookie really existed!

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