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You know how you sit around a Thanksgiving table and someone inevitably forces you to say what you’re thankful for? I hate that. The moment the thankfulness begins, I feel my stomach start to reject all the food I just stuffed into it. It’s always the same thing as you go around the table: family, jobs, shelter… Not that these aren’t things to be thankful for, but I think we say what we believe we should be saying. If I were honest, I would have said: Cadbury Chocolate (the real stuff from England, not that fake stuff from Hershey’s), whoopie pies, pants with elastic waistbands, and my iPad mini!
But this Thanksgiving is different. This year has brought many changes into my life. Some are welcomed changes that should have happened long ago, some – well, some were not so welcomed. When Susan got sick in August, everything changed. It’s not like she got sick and then got better – she’s sick every single day. It’s a daily process, a daily understanding of how precious life really is. Every day is a gift. We don’t take it for granted, we’re grateful for every moment. It’s taught me not to look back, but rather to live in the here and now. We’re not promised more than that, so… we choose to be happy with what we have. Right here, right now. Of course, we haven’t given up the whole going back to Paris thing, so there’s always that…
Tomorrow when Susan and I carve up our turkey, and she inevitably asks what I’m thankful for I will honestly say to her the following: I’m thankful for you, for the doctors who saved your life and continue to keep you alive. For family, for my friends (who are also my family and surround me with love, acceptance and laughter). For love, for time, for the courage to let go of people who only brought negative things into my life. For sunrises and sunsets. For the birds who bring me such joy on our patio.  For Tawn Battiste’s whoopie pies in my freezer, for pants with elastic waistbands, and yes, for my iPad mini!
Happy Thanksgiving.

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Saturday, July 16, 2016 was the annual San Diego Pride Parade – or as it’s known at our house – Reaffirmation Day!

Pride Parades are always a day filled with joy and love. It’s a day of singing and hugging and making new friends, and letting my soul be renewed in its gayness as I touch that big gay flag at the end of the parade.

But this year – this year was different.

This year it wasn’t just those of us watching that needed to be there. Those who were walking in the parade needed to be there also. They needed their souls to be renewed, they needed to be seen, they needed to be loved. It was like nothing I had ever seen before.

I had a San Diego Police Officer come over to me and take my hands and in hers and thank me for being there, for supporting them. Seriously? Through tears I told this woman: “No, thank you for being here for us.” There was a hug – and then she was gone.  My heart was just full.

There were over a hundred people marching under the Qualcomm banner. Cheering and waving with smiles of pure joy on their faces.

Walmart, HP, Bank of America, Wells Fargo Bank, The San Diego Padres, Harrah’s all there – all marching – all waving, all proud to be human beings not being judged or in fear of losing their jobs.

A high school marching band made up of gay kids from schools all over the county – marching and basking in the glow of the roar of the crowd as they passed by.  No fear of rejection or bullying or condemnation. Just love – lots of love.

Military personal – Army, Navy, Marines, Airforce, Coast Guard – all under the American flag, all walking tall and proud with some tears streaming down their faces.

Police, Firefighters, Sheriffs, Highway Patrol – all walking, riding, waving, hugging, smiling – all joyful.

Almost 4 hours of churches, businesses, politicians, community services walking, waving, singing, hugging, laughing, loving…

This is what happens when no one is forced to hide. This joy is what happens when people are accepted for who they are. This love is what happens when there is no fear of rejection, no thought of discrimination, no laws that divide us one from the other.

Whatever your political leanings may be, I simply ask that before you tick any box this November – you think about what can happen when people come together in love and the knowledge and acceptance that we are our brother’s keepers. It’s not about black or white or Hispanic or whatever ethnicity you may be. It’s not about being a Christian or Muslim or Jewish or whatever religion you may or may not follow. It’s not about gay or straight or transgendered. It’s not about men and women. It’s about the human race. It’s about all of us sharing this life we are blessed to be living.

Your thoughts should not be about hate and walls and guns and laws that divide us one from the other. Your thoughts should be about what you can do to unite us as a people, what you can do to make things better for you, for your neighbor, what you can do to stop discrimination, what you can do make peace in your family, in your community, in your own life.

For me, my peace is grabbing that big gay flag at the end of the parade. That’s where I promise myself to never look back, to never go back, to never settle, to help where I can, to hug and love and keep talking and writing until I’m no longer able to do so.

And grabbing that big gay flag is about love. My love for Susan, for my kids, for my grand kids, for my brother, my nephews and their wives and their families. For my friends, who are also my family, I want the world to be kind to them, I want them to grow up in a world where they are free to be whoever it is they are. Not who or what the world thinks they should be – but who they are.

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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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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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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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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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Grudge:

Noun: A persistent feeling of ill will or resentment resulting from a past insult or injury

Verb: Be resentfully unwilling to give, grant, or allow (something).

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Why do we hold grudges?  Seriously, I’m asking why.

I come from the land of holding grudges – I think they put something in our town water supply when I was growing up and grudges just breed for generations and generations. You know what I’m talking about – Your Mother tells you not to talk to certain people – to not walk down a certain street – to not even think about dating the Catholic boy – to not ask why there are no people of color living inside the town limits – to not upset a certain Uncle – to just be quiet – to not ask questions – to just do as I’m told.

Is it easier to hold a grudge than to face the truth? Is it easier to just continue to blame than to look in a mirror and think maybe – just maybe – the person you see staring back at you might also be to blame?

I know people who are still upset and resentful about something that happened over 30 years ago – I can’t remember what I did an hour ago and yet these people cling to this grudge like it was the Holy Grail. This grudge defines them – it’s in their soul – it’s been a part of every decision they have made for over 30 years.  I find that amazing. They have wasted over 30 years being angry and hateful over a perceived snub or a word that was taken wrong or an alleged action.

I will admit I did what my mother told me to do because – well – that’s what one did in the 1950’s and 60’s. At least that’s what I did because I’ll be honest – I was just a little afraid of my mother, and I wanted her to be proud of me – so I did as I was told. To my credit – I did ask why – a lot.

Now that I’m 60 – I’ll admit that I do not understand the whole grudge thing. If there is someone you don’t want in your life because it’s not a healthy relationship – walk away. Don’t harbor any ill-will – just walk away and let it go. If you hold on to the feelings of anger and resentment – you’ve gained nothing by not having that person in your life. The point of not having that person in your life is to have your life more peaceful and fulfilling – you can’t have that if you get rid of the person but hold on to the feelings.  Let it go – let them go.

Life is hard enough as it is without the extra burden of remembering to keep a grudge alive. If you’re carrying a grudge, try to find a way to resolve it – for you. From experience – I can tell you that it’s wasted time and wasted emotions. I held a grudge against someone for almost 13 years, and I was the only one suffering. The other person simply went on with their life and didn’t waste a moment thinking about me. I, on the other hand, spent years being angry and playing the poor, poor pitiful me card. Was I hurt and betrayed? Yes, I most certainly was, however I should have simply spoke my peace and walked away. Instead, I spoke my peace and then spent 13 years being angry and trying to make her pay. Well, let me just say – you can’t make someone pay when they simply don’t care.

We all travel the same roads, but everyone’s journey is different. If you put two people on a bench to watch the sun set over the Pacific Ocean and then asked them what they just saw – you would most likely hear two entirely different accounts of the sunset they just watched. One might say – the sun went down over the ocean, and the other may say the sun looked like a big orange ball as it slowly disappeared over the contour of the earth. Same experience, two different levels of involvement.

As much as you can – try and be on good terms with everyone. Don’t carry around your families grudges for they don’t belong to you, they belong to those who have passed – let the grudge pass with them.  Mostly – be on good terms with who you are, with your journey, with your passion for what is right and just and decent and honorable. Walk away when you must and love with your whole heart when you can.

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