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Little Boxes

Simple cardboard box

Image via Wikipedia

We live in a box.

Really.

It’s a 960 square foot box, but a box nonetheless.

I love the safety and security of our box. It’s warm and cozy and light filled.

It’s open and inviting and private. It’s easy to get too, but off the beaten path.

It’s large enough for our families to visit comfortably, but just the right size for the two of us.

It’s not so big that it consumes our time. We have little trouble keeping up with it.

We know where everything is. It’s familiar.

We know where the light switches are and how far to turn the faucets to get the temperature of the bath water just right.

We know where dust collects and spiders make webs.

We know we’ll trip the breaker if we turn the microwave on while the little electric fireplace is also running.

There is great comfort in its familiarity.

It holds few surprises and provides us a foundation on which to live.

It gives us too, a place to step out of and away from and gives us a place to come back to.

Our box both protects us and confines us. It is our sanctuary. If we never venture out, it becomes our prison.

Our mind is also a box. It is all those things our home is. It is our sanctuary. Yet, if we never venture out, if we never step outside our own thoughts and ideas and beliefs, our minds becomes our prison.

I use to think I lived far outside any box. It turned out, I’d just found a community of boxes just like mine.

If we don’t step out of our boxes and our communities of identical boxes, our world is destined to be small and truth destined to be defined by the delusions of our own mind or the minds of the fearful like-minded few we let in.

We received an email yesterday, inviting us to join other groups protesting outside a church a couple of hours from here.

The object of the protest was not the church, but the group they had invited in, the Exodus group.

If you aren’t familiar with them, they try to shame and brainwash  people into believing they aren’t really gay.

We wanted to go, but Lee had to work this afternoon and I didn’t want to give up my morning with him and go alone.

So, instead, we took out 3 month old Boston Terrier puppy, Sam and went for a long walk along the lake shore by our home.

The drought that has plagued our region the past year has done us a great favor.

Tiny islands that are normally only assessable by boat are now connected to the shore and to each other by sandbars exposed by the declining water level.

We can literally walk to an island and then to another and another and another.

These tiny bits of land are untouched by progress or economic decline. Owned by the Army Corp of Engineers, they have been left in their natural state and serve as a refuge for wildlife.

Now, they serve as refuge for us and our neighbors and others who have discovered how easy it is to get to them and how beautiful they are.

Many walk with their dogs and even let their pets off leash once they get across the first sandbar.

It is rare when we walk there and not meet others walking with their dogs, jogging or even sitting on a beach beside a small fire. In the mornings, we see the evidence of late night revelers or even campers.

We want Sam to be very social.

Our other dog, a chihuahua/Pomeranian mix, though an angel to us, is a terror around dogs she doesn’t know. She doesn’t care that she weighs only five pounds. There is no dog she would not attack if given the chance. It takes her time to warm up to other dogs and people. For that reason, she stays at home, but we walk Sam every day and sometimes twice each day. Because of my health, to do this is a double joy after the years of not being able to walk much of anywhere.

Sam thinks each person we meet is there just to say hello to her. She also thinks every other dog wants to play.

She never even barks but licks and jumps and shakes with welcoming joy. When it is just Sam and I, we often make new friends, stopping and chatting with other dog families.

When it is the three is us, Lee, Sam and I, we often meet the same response we meet out in the rest of the world. We get the polite hello or nod, but little else, despite our best efforts.

This morning, was different.

We met a couple with a blond spaniel. They had beautiful British accents. They told us how they’d traveled all the around every reachable island and except for a few rocky areas, had traveled with ease.

We met a very young couple sitting by a fire eating Girl Scout cookies. They especially loved Sam and Sam thoroughly enjoyed climbing into the girl’s lap, getting a little closer to the open cookie box.

The couple with the two Corgis were extremely nice as well. Even the jogger in the blue jacket nodded and halfway smiled.

Sam when we first got her

 

I’m quite sure we all live in very different boxes and communities of boxes, but this morning, we each stepped outside them to play with a little dog.

I’m not sure who stepped outside first, us or them.

We were a bit like Gilligan’s Island, a bunch of strangers, strange to each other, together on a deserted island… Sam would be our Gilligan… uncharted territory for sure.

Who can resist that face?

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February 18, 2012 Posted by | The Gay Me, The Straight Me | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

My Last Valentine

Where have I been? Dace, I apologize for not responding. I took a long blog break, computer break really, only using my phone for web world connections most of the time. I read your posts though , as they came across my email and enjoyed each one.

I think I am back. I’ve written a few posts on my life with heart disease blog, a lighter sort of posting mostly about our vegan intentions and efforts. Life and living seems to be easier these days. I’m either use to the threat of dying from this disease or I really am miraculously much better. I like to think it is the latter. How else could I walk the streets of downtown Atlanta at last year’s Pride Festival in October? I was in a wheelchair the year before.  How else could I walk the shores of the lake by our house? How else could I be back at all?

I wonder too, is life easier as the perceived “same-sex couple?” or, am I simply growing use to it as well? The stark differences remain. In fact, as I go and do more, I see the difference more. When I walk along the lake with just our little dog, Sam, people stop to chat. They smile and look me in the eye. When Lee goes with us, seldom do people stop or barely even say hello.

If time allows, we “win them over.” In a restaurant, we usually bring a hostile server around with our warmth and smiles. Sullen cashiers often come around, too.

There is a loneliness though. It is not a personal, as in my own loneliness, but a piece of life that is not available to us well beyond the legal gaps in our basic human rights. Other than with family, and only some family at that, there is an absence of men in our lives. Despite our being in truth a heterosexual couple, we are almost void of heterosexual couple friends.

Women are comfortable around us, both straight and lesbian. Men, however, are not. With the exception of a very few, even the men who claim to be comfortable exert a quiet hostility towards Lee and cannot seem to resist the urge to make snide remarks disguised as funny comments or sad jokes. Daniel, Charlie, Johnny, Jim, Keith, you are the exceptions should you ever read this.

Perhaps it is Lee’s own guardedness that calls this out in men. Perhaps, it is Lee’s silent demand that they not see him as a woman who puts them on edge. Who is on guard first, Lee or them? And, why?

Perhaps, it is the wholeness, the completeness, the quiet strength of Lee that intimidates them so. I have known a few so well, these biologically correct men, through failed relationships and painful marriages. None of those come close in strength, nor in gentleness. None have dared to see me nor have allowed me to really see them.

I’m reminded of the movie, “What Women Want.” Lee has lived that movie, without the comedic punch lines. Lee knows too well the woman’s heart and mind. Not only has he lived in a woman’s body, he has been allowed in where few men are allowed or dare to enter. He has been the confidant and safe place, much like the gay guy friend of a group of giddy girls. Perhaps straight men know that and are intimidated by that truth, that Lee has gone where they cannot go and would never have the courage to go if allowed to. Of course they would not be allowed there, though. It takes that gentleness and wisdom that only comes by personal understanding and even experience to gain entry.

With all the harshness of a bigoted world, life is indeed far easier still.

Despite all a cruel world and the insanity a fearful humanity can dish out, life has never been so kind.

Despite all the attempts of religiosity to demonize a loving God and the layers of human love that reflect It, love itself is far greater than their efforts.

I have beside me a most gentle man of strength.

He is my last Valentine.

Life saved the best of the best for last.

I love you Lee.

February 12, 2012 Posted by | The Gay Me, The Straight Me | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Award Winning Friend

Physical bullying at school, as depicted in th...

Image via Wikipedia

I haven’t had a lot to say since the election. I can’t say the results were a surprise, but the disappointment has had to slowly sink in. I’ll be there for the runoff’s next month, standing in line for my right to vote and to get my little sticker. Today though, I heard some most excellent news.

One of my grandsons is in middle school.  Today, this friend of my grandson, won the “Anti Bullying Award” at their school. I’m not quite sure exactly what this means. I have no idea what he did to earn this accolade, but obviously what he has not done is bully anyone.

I’m very proud. I’m proud of my grandson’s friend. I’m proud of my grandson for picking such a friend. I’m proud of my daughter, my son-in-law, my other daughter, her boyfriend, my grandson’s little brother, another grandson of mine, and I’m even proud of their school for giving out such an award.

I’m so proud of this young man. There are adults far less grown up than he.

 

 

November 12, 2010 Posted by | The Straight Me | , , , , | Leave a comment

Voting for Basic Human Rights

Tomorrow we vote. At least, I hope you are voting, too. I know that there are a lot of important issues on the minds of those voting tomorrow. We all probably have the one issue that matters most to us. I lean towards those pertaining to equal rights and health matters. The economy, political corruption, terrorism, taxes, war, environmental issues and countless others will be at the forefront of the minds of the American people tomorrow.

I just have a hard time getting past not being treated equally. That right is so basic and fundamental. How can we build a future or repair a present when our foundation is built on inequality and the most basic rights of humanity in our country are not given to everyone?

If you don’t know who to vote for, you have time to read up on the candidates. You can print out a sample ballot. You can even bring it with you to the polls (you just can’t share it with anyone there when you go). No matter what you had planned for tomorrow, if you care enough to read this, please vote tomorrow. It doesn’t take long. You’ll feel good when you walk out of that building, remembering that this is how we put people in office in this country. All the corruption; all the nasty campaigning, all the lobbyists, the bribes, the gifts and underhandedness cannot replace your vote. Your vote is only for sale if you give it away.

November 1, 2010 Posted by | The Gay Me, The Straight Me | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Heart of Stone?

I write a lot about things I find uncomfortable or cruel or unfair. Maybe one eventually becomes desensitized to injustice as it is witnessed and experienced over and over. I haven’t become desensitized, in fact I seem to become more sensitive to the discrimination I see and feel and find. First I will share an experience I had at an Office Max store last week. I went alone, looking my heterosexual self, so the experience had nothing to do with LGBT issues. It has a lot to do though with the ignorance, thoughtlessness and idiocy that fuels all injustice, cruelty and discrimination.

First of all, most of the employees at the store were kind. Three times someone asked me if I needed assistance; three different salespeople offered to help me. I found on my own, exactly what I was looking for including a ream of white copy paper which was one sale. I arrived at the check-out without having to wait. The young man at the register was immediately friendly. He traded the ream of paper I was buying though for another wrapped in pink paper, saying it was the same paper, and a portion of the sale was for breast cancer. He said they were trying to get rid of them. I said that was fine.

He kept talking, saying he had two family members with cancer in the last year. With barely a breath taken, he told me that one family member had been diagnosed with cancer in February but was declared cancer free by the end of the year.

Though I sometimes wonder at the flooding of pink and news of breast cancer while heart disease, the number one killer of all of us, women included and Lupus, such a varied and insidious disease, gets far less mention and attention, I too have lost a friend to breast cancer. I  told him that just this March my mother died of colon cancer. He seemed not to hear me.

He didn’t look up but as he handed me my bag of purchases said,

“My other relative with cancer, my uncle, he wasn’t a christian and started drinking again and he died. It serves him right.”

I was speechless. I took my bag and walked slowly from the store.

Did he mean his uncle deserved cancer because he wasn’t a christian? Or because he drank?

Did he mean his uncle deserved to die because he wasn’t a christian or because he drank alcohol? Maybe because he was an alcoholic?

 

There is little else I can think to say even now, other than how on earth can someone think, believe, feel and speak in that way?

 

The next thing I will write about today deserves a post of its own. It deserves a parade and fireworks and angels and trumpets. Stay tuned.

 

October 25, 2010 Posted by | The Straight Me | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Love

I’m making a slide show with all the Atlanta Gay Pride Parade pictures. I was looking for music to go with the pictures and came across this video. We saw Sugarland in concert a couple of months ago. They were fabulous and are evidently a favorite of the LGBT community. From kids to teens to elderly couples; everyone seems to love Sugarland.

 

October 15, 2010 Posted by | The Gay Me, The Straight Me | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

For Sure

Federal Judge Orders ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ Injunction, Finally

Sure, they’ll appeal.

Sure, folks won’t like it.

Sure, for sure, finally.

Read more:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/10/12/AR2010101203815.html?hpid=topnews

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20101012/ap_on_re_us/us_gays_in_military

 

October 12, 2010 Posted by | The Straight Me | , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Smile of a Bigot

There is more to discrimination than an inequality of basic rights. Rarely are we overtly denied the same rights and privileges of everyone else, except marriage and spousal benefits. Yet, discrimination has many faces and layers and methods, the most prevalent of which is simple unfriendliness. The first two years Lee and I were together, we seldom were apart. I, at least, seldom went anywhere without him, at first because we worked together and wanted to be together, then because of my health, or lack thereof. Now that he is working and I am not and I am able to get out more, I am often out alone. Just as I don’t look like I have advanced heart disease, I do not look gay.

It’s impossible to say for sure that someone I encounter would behave differently to Lee and I as a couple than to Lee alone or me alone. That people in general are profoundly more friendly to me when I am by myself is horribly obvious, though. I don’t’ think I am less friendly when we are together. I’m quiet, shy, reserved no matter who I’m with. In fact, Lee is far more outgoing than I am and quick to help a stranger with a door or heavy bag. Still people seem friendlier by far when Lee is not with me.

Except in pictures as a very small child, there has never been a mistaking Lee is either lesbian or trans-gender. In his teens, twenties, thirties, and now forties, his pictures show a steady progression towards living as a man with an undeniable non-heterosexual identity at every age. Has he never know how people behave when they are not bigoted? I realize not everyone is, but those that are flavor every experience out in public. As we all scan a crowd, the faces, eyes, smiles and energy of the group at large is received as friendly or hostile, safe or a threat. Has my hero husband never known what it is like to scan those faces and feel completely safe? To feel no contempt or hostility? To not be judged at all, but accepted completely?

Though my world was friendlier, was his world perhaps more real? I only thought the crowd was friendly. Some of the friendly faces I saw were  disguises. Bigots lived behind those smiling masks. Just like it is hard to tell if someone is a bigot or is just unfriendly, it’s hard to tell which perception has been real. It’s hard even now.

October 6, 2010 Posted by | The Gay Me, The Straight Me | , , , , | 1 Comment

The Gay, The Proud, The Extremes

Next weekend is Gay Pride here in Atlanta. I went last year for the first time ever. My daughter Holly and her boyfriend Daniel went with us. We had a great time looking at all the booths and at all the people. Lee pushed me all over in my trusty wheelchair. We missed the parade. The only thing that bothered me a little was all the drinking, but no one was rude or abusive that we witnessed. I especially enjoyed seeing all the families but also enjoyed the extreme-ness of it all. Lee and I don’t hide our togetherness, but there was somehow a freedom there, an air of celebration of our togetherness.I did indeed feel “Suddenly Gay” but so absolutely proud.

We’ll be going again next weekend and not missing the parade. We are meeting  my newly found long-lost former niece, and her best friend for lunch, then going to watch the parade. I’ll ask Holly and Daniel to join us there again. I am even more proud.

Just yesterday, we encountered a salesperson who was telling us how he was new to his position and new to the company he worked for, the company we were doing business with. As he sang the praises of the company, he said, “We treat everyone the same, no matter what their circumstance.” He could have been talking about a million things, but I believe he was referring to our “gay-ness.” After he said that, he paused and looked at both of us. Perhaps I offend too easily, but it seems to me if he was treating everyone the same, he would not have made any mention of that fact. To treat us as anyone else, should not be cause to toot one’s horn. Again though, there was that powerful pause… (see post “I give you pause”)

I suppose extreme is part of achieving balance in an unbalanced world.

October 3, 2010 Posted by | The Straight Me | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

No Excuses

Oprah Winfrey Show title card

Image via Wikipedia

Did you see the Oprah show yesterday? if you didn’t, you can read about it here,

http://www.oprah.com/oprahshow/Oprah-Returns-to-Williamson-West-Virginia

I remember 1987. It’s the year I moved back to Atlanta after six years in north Georgia. I was still a nurse then. Even in the medical community, the horror of AIDS and HIV was as a mysterious nightmare and it seemed veiled in far more questions than answers. We had finally started to wear gloves when drawing blood because of AIDS. It was much easier to do without them, easier to feel the vein it seemed. I remember the hesitation before giving mouth to mouth when someone stopped breathing and their heart stopped beating. It was just for a second, but it was still a hesitation. A moment of wondering, “What if I could catch it by this?”

I remember in 1983, we still stuck the needle on a used syringe into a little red box called a needle cutter at the small rural hospital where I worked. The boxes were frequently overfilled before replaced with a new one. When too full, the needle would occasionally bounce out after it was cut. I unknowingly carried one of these cut off, bounced out needles home on the bottom of my shoe. I then stepped on it when barefoot. The needle went completely into my foot, no longer visible except as a slight bulge beneath the skin. At first the doctor thought it would work its way out. After a few days, I’d developed cellulitis  and had to have it surgically removed. That happened right before the scare began. That needle haunted me for years.

I get so frustrated with the bigotry that still runs rampant. I feel equally embarrassed by my own past ignorance. I think I knew one gay man back then. Looking back, he was incredibly brave to be out at that time,  in that small town. He was young, kind, very good-looking and quiet. He would sometimes hang out with the girls, other nurses after work. I think most wished he wasn’t gay and were a little jealous of the men he talked of dating. Most of the men in that area spent their free time hunting. He was like a breath of fresh air.

Watching Oprah helped me remember that though slow, great progress has been made. Maybe humanity will always need someone to persecute, to hate, to bully. Maybe that is the nature  of the human beast. Maybe though, someday it simply won’t be tolerated anywhere, by anyone. One of the men on Oprah’s show yesterday, one of the men who had treated young Michael Sisco so badly twenty-three years ago, admitted being caught up in the mob mentality. It was a good explanation but a lame excuse. Ignorance is not an excuse. Neither is the the mob, the group or the majority.

September 16, 2010 Posted by | The Straight Me | , , , , , | Leave a comment

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