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On July 16th I will celebrate my 14th San Diego Pride Parade. I remember my first Pride Parade in 2002 like it was yesterday.

I was 49 years old, still mostly in the big gay closet, but trying really hard to make myself understand it was okay to swing that closet door open. I had made a mess of my life, and I was finally on the way to making it not quite so messy.

I was with the woman I was meant to be with, but… One foot was still firmly ensconced in that closet.  That closet of wondering how many members of my family will walk away, how many friends will I lose, how do I possibly tell my parents, how do I live my life without having to lie? 

This Parade was like nothing I had ever seen, and as it was coming to an end, my sweet Susan told me I needed to go get under the big gay flag. As it came around the corner I went out onto the street and I grabbed on to that big gay flag, and my emotions just overtook me. I cried tears I didn’t even know I had. It was the turning point in my life. I’ve never looked back; and I’ve never again questioned who I am or wondered if my life had any meaning.

I go out onto the street when I see that big gay flag coming around the corner and I reach up and grab on to it every year. I cry tears of relief and happiness and joy that I had this Pride Parade to show me that my life had meaning – that I mattered – that there were people just like me who suffered and agonized with all the same fears and feelings I had.

For those of you who may wonder if Gay Pride still matters, I can tell you from personal experience – Yes, it most certainly matters.

It matters because we, as a people, ­­­matter.

It matters because there will always be those who are trying to swing that closet door open and find a safe, accepting world to step out in to.

It matters because a Father won’t claim his dead sons body from the worst mass shooting in the United States because his son is gay.

It matters because laws are made specifically to discriminate against LGBTQ Americans.

It matters because politicians still spew hate-filled rhetoric against us to garner votes.

It matters because LGBTQ kids are homeless and alone and need to know their lives matter.

It matters because some religions preach a gospel of hate and loathing.

It matters because – well because every life matters.   Period.

If you are lucky enough to go to a Pride Parade and they have that big gay flag at the end – embrace it.  Let it float over you and surround you with love and peace and joy in who you are and know that your life matters. 

If there is no Pride Parade where you are, know in your heart of hearts that you are surrounded by a big gay flag. Know you are loved. Know that your life matters.

Every life matters.

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With marriage equality now supported by the highest court in our land; I’ve been asked that since we’ve won this one – will I finally just stop talking – will I finally stop shoving my “agenda” down the throat of the conservative evangelicals who tend to not appreciate my point of view?

First of all – it’s not an agenda, it’s my life – and second – My answer to your question would be:  No – I don’t believe I will ever stop talking, nor will I ever stop asking questions to those religious leaders who love to preach about the sin of homosexuality.

And mostly – I will never stop talking as long as there are LGBTQ brothers and sisters who suffer – mostly in silence – as their families walk away from them – their friends turn their backs and they find themselves alone, questioning the benefits of “coming out.”

I remember those days – those days of thinking that living the lie would be how I would spend my life. Those days of living a life that most certainly wasn’t mine – those days of believing that I had to have the acceptance of my family more than I needed to live my life.

I lived that life until I was 50 – I knew who I was, I just didn’t have the courage or live in an environment that encouraged individuality. I spent way too many years trying to make everyone happy and in the process I pushed who I was to the back of my closet.

And that’s where I stayed – in the back of my closet – until I saw that 300ft rainbow flag at the end of my first Pride Parade in 2002.

There is nothing more welcoming than a Pride Parade. There is nowhere safer, more accepting, more loving than being surrounded with your people. With people who have been where you are and will gently guide you to step out of your safe little closet.

There is nothing that will make you feel more proud of who you are than placing your hand on that 300t flag and just letting the tears come.

It’s not about your Mother, Father, Brother, Sister, Cousins, Aunts, Uncles, Grandparents, children or grandchildren – it’s about you. It’s not about your church, your friends or even your government. It’s about you, who you are and the life you were meant to live.

At this time in our Country’s history – Pride matters more now than ever

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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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Perhaps the answers to life lie in not where we’re going, but where we have been. And maybe not so much where we have been, but who was there with us – who traveled the road with us. Who ran us off the road, who walked beside us, who helped us find the short-cuts, and who was reading the map along the way.

Now that I’m in my 60’s, I understand that our lives are touched in some way by all the people who have come in and out of our lives. If only for a moment or a day or years – our lives are somehow changed by every encounter we’ve ever had.

Every path –every person – every opinion – every compliment – every criticism – every love – every hurt – every laugh – every tear – every little thing and every single person has brought us to this very moment in time.

We may have been shaped by where we grew up and who are families were, but as we grew up and faced the world on our own – the decisions we had to make were ours. At the moment we were making these decisions, we may have thought we didn’t have a choice – but – even if you did not make a decision – that was your choice – your decision was not to decide. We have to own our decisions – at some point we need to take responsibility for our lives.

I believe we spend way too much time finding a way to blame our parents or our siblings or our friends or religion or politics or whatever you can think of for our lot in life.  The simple truth is – we are responsible for our lives – we are responsible for our happiness.  It’s up to each of us to make ourselves happy. No one else can possible be responsible for that – no one.

I also believe we spend far too much time trying to figure out what makes us happy and we miss out on just being happy.  Life isn’t about what you have – it’s about who you are.

I read a book recently that made me understand that every day we can choose to go one way or the other. To go with the good or not go with the good. To go away from things like anger, hate, war, evil, prejudice – or – we can choose to go toward them. The choice is ours to make.

Whichever you choose to go toward – that is who you become.  If you fill your life with anger and greed and hate and unrest – then it’s inevitable that you become this person – angry, arrogant, hateful, resentful, blaming, bitter…

On the other hand – go toward the good – and this is the person you become. Nonjudgmental, loving, understanding, giving, compassionate, happy, content.

It may sound easy – this going toward the good – but during the course of a day we can slip toward anger in the blink of an eye. Someone pulls in front of you on the freeway and you have to slam on your brakes to keep from hitting them – going toward anger happens before you even blink your eyes! Someone’s teasing feels more like being bullied, someone pushes your buttons simply to get an angry reaction from you, and someone plays games with your heart…

It is the wise choice – this going toward the good – but it’s not always the easy choice. Choose wisely.

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For the past 2 days I have thought of little other than the fires that are burning to the North and East of my home here in San Diego County. It’s been unusually hot in San Diego County – over 100 – and windy. The sort of weather we expect in September or October – certainly not in the middle of May. And yet – here it is.

Susan and I are safe – We have electric – We have the internet – We even have a portable Air Conditioner that keeps us quite comfortable. We have food and water and a bed to sleep in. Our children and grandchildren are safe – but  others are not so fortunate.  My heart breaks to watch the devastation and see homes going up in flames. I feel helpless and without a sense of stability. There is this sense that all is not safe in our world.

Southern California is dry – I mean – 100 year drought dry.  The canyons that surround our home are filled with things that would probably ignite if someone just has the thought of a burning match.  Add to that the signs that tell me there could be unexploded weapons buried there – and you have the formula to keep me awake at night when fires are burning.

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I’ve also been thinking the past 2 days about the people in the world who live with the threat of fire and bombs and gunfire and death every day of their lives.  I can’t imagine how their lives must be. In certain parts of the world – this is their life – this is what they know. There fears are mostly a reality, and my fears seem minuscule compared to what they face.

But, the thing is – these are my fears, and this is my home – mine and Susan’s. I understand that most of our things can be replaced. Still, I love where I live and my neighbors could never be replaced. I’ve never lived anywhere where I have been so loved, so cared for and accepted for exactly who I am. Susan and I are safe here; and that means more than you could ever know.

Everyone wants and needs to feel safe in their home. Safe from abuse, safe from violence, safe from prejudice, safe from harm, safe from a world that sometimes chooses to belittle and judge.  We all deserve such a life, such a home, such a refuge. We are blessed with such a place.

Now – if I could just do something about those unexploded weapons that are scattered all over this place I call home…

Keep San Diego County in your thoughts and your prayers.  We need all the goodness we can get…

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Lots of “stuff” running through my mind this morning – you know what I’m talking about…  Nothing in particular, just a whole bunch of jumbled up thoughts that didn’t seem to have comas separating them.

I decided to take myself to my favorite spot by the Pacific Ocean in La Jolla to just clear my head, and place some comas in the thoughts that were running amok in my head.

On the drive over to La Jolla, I was listening to my Frank Sinatra station and there was Peggy Lee singing:   ♫ “Is that all there is, Is that all there is? If that’s all there is my friend, then let’s keep dancing – let’s break out the booze and have a ball, if that’s all there is…” ♫

Of course my mind went there… Now, Theresa Caputo – The Long Island Medium – tells me every week on her show  that this most certainly is not all there is, and the noises and voices that happen in my house tell me that this most certainly is not all there is, and my Christian upbringing tells me that this is most certainly not all there is – but still – my mind went there as I was singing along with Peggy Lee.

What is this really is all there is.  What then?  What have I done with my life?

Once I had parked the car, my camera and I went for a long walk. We saw birds and flowers and seals. We listened to the ocean and seagulls and the wind as it hit me in the face. I put my camera in the car – grabbed my lawn chair – and I sat on one of the cliffs by the water, and I simply listened to what the Universe was telling me.

I’m going to be 62 years old this year. I haven’t always lived a life that was good and honest, and I haven’t always been the best person I could have been. When I look at my life now and know that I have more years behind me than I do in front of me, I think about things in an entirely different way.

What’s done is done. I can’t change anything, and honestly, I’m not sure that I would. Every decision I made, every mistake I made, every turn in the road – it’s brought me to where I am right now and made me the person I am right now.

And right now – I’m a happy girl. I have the love of a wonderful woman who makes me happier than I ever imagined I could or would be. I have friends that love me unconditionally and make me feel special, cherished and cared for. My brother and I have contact with one another – it’s not constant – but you know what – it’s contact – and I’ll take that over no contact at all. My ex-husband and I are friends – as we have always been. My biological family who disowned me – well – they still disown me – and that’s okay. It’s okay because my family, the biological ones who have stood by me,  and my friends who surround me, they love me big time!

I try to live a life now that is filled with love, peace, joy and happiness. I try and be there for my family and friends, and I try to make things as easy as possible. I don’t like drama – I don’t like conflict. I love my friends, my family, and my Susan more than they could ever know.

So Peggy Lee – If this is all there is – I’ll consider myself lucky and blessed to have had so very much…

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I’ve been asked numerous times why it is that “you gay people” need a parade.  One person suspected that it was merely a chance for me to “prance around in your underwear.”  Let me be clear – I have never pranced around in my underwear in public – ever.

My first Pride Parade changed my life. It was the first time in my then 50 years that I allowed myself to acknowledge in public that I was gay. When I saw that 300 ft flag and my sweet Susan insisted that I go and grab hold of it – It was the first time I openly wept and accepted who I was, and it was the first time ever that I understood I was not alone.

For some of us Pride is a life-changing, life-affirming event that changes how we look at the world from that moment on. There are those that like to focus on the drinking and partying but if you were to ask my friends – they will tell you that Pride is really about – Pride.

For as long as I can remember being gay in a straight world has been a struggle. Prejudice, ignorance and intolerance tend to make the environment in which we live unhealthy and unsafe. We were dragged behind trucks, beaten unmercifully, spat upon, and killed for nothing more than having the courage to live our lives as who we are.

Pride was the one time it felt safe to stand on the street and be your gay self. It was a day to refuel and brace yourself for the coming year – for the struggles and battles that were looming. It was a day of celebration – our day of jubilee.

Pride has a whole new meaning this year. There is less hiding and more celebrating as laws change along with the hearts and minds of the American people.

I won’t be in San Diego this year when that 300 ft. flag comes down Sixth Avenue. I won’t be able to walk out onto the street and grab hold of that flag that changed my life 11 years ago, and gather strength and courage from the thousands who are walking under and around this beautiful flag.

I may not be there in person – but my heart will be under that flag and with all of you as we celebrate the wonderfulness of Pride.

San Diego PrideHappy Pride…

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