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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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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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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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Mother’s Day – I knew it was coming – The reminders have bombarded my email inbox for a few weeks now.  Proflowers has been reminding me of Mother’s favorite bouquet – and did I know I haven’t sent her any flowers in a while?  See’s candy reminded me that her favorite assortment was the dark chocolate nuts and chews variety – did I want the 2lb box to make her really happy this Mother’s Day?

My mother passed away on November 11, 2012.  I know I’m not alone in my grief on this Mother’s Day; millions of people no longer have their Mother. Still – this is my mother and this is my grief.

Most of us have issues with our Mothers. In some form of other we like to blame our Mothers for the issues we have with men, or commitment, or love – or the lack thereof in our lives.  If only she had loved me more – or treated me the way she treated my brother. If only she had hugged me more or praised me more or encouraged me more.  If only…

I can’t speak for anyone else; I can only speak for myself and my mother.   No matter the relationship – the fact remains that she is no longer at the other end of the phone, and I no longer get those cards signed “Love and Prayers, Mom.”  I can no longer call and ask her questions about family or history or family recipes, I pick up the phone sometimes when I don’t feel well and I just want to hear my mother’s voice – then I remember she’s gone -and the tears flow down my cheeks.

I tried to not leave things unspoken before she passed – I knew there would never be another chance to get it right with her. The last time I saw her – I knew in my heart it was going to be the last time I saw her. She had dementia and it was progressing – but the one thing she could still focus on was family. So, I set up my computer and we spent 3 days looking at the same files on ancestry.com. She would get something in her head, and I would try my best to find her that information. She was happy, she was smiling, she was laughing – and this is how I have chosen to remember her.

I’ve also decided to not blame my mother for what I consider to be my faults. I mean – I buried her the day before my 60th Birthday – and it seemed foolish for a 60 year old woman to still be blaming her Mommy for her problems. It is after all – my life and not my mothers. At some point in my life, the mistakes became my mistakes, regrets were my responsibility, and makings amends was all on me. I grew up – as we all are meant to do.

My mother lost her Mother when she was 9. She didn’t have the time with her Mother to learn about what relationships between Mothers and daughters should be. I know now – she did the best she could. I’m going to focus on the good things she passed on to me – Love of Country, love of history, the desire to travel, her love of cooking, the need to read, and how she could never sit and do nothing – her hands were always busy – as are mine.

And I remember her telling me how much she always wanted to be a writer…   This one’s for you Mom – Happy Mother’s Day.

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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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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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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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