December 31, 2010

Today On Bilerico: A Canadian Soldier Sends Greetings To His Husband

A Facebook friend linked me to a video posted on the Toronto Star website, one of a series of videos from soldiers sending greetings back home. This soldier wished "happy holidays" to his husband, family, and friends. When will we see this in American media?

Posted also on Bilerico.

December 26, 2010

Hope In Small Things

Barbara King quotes from Here Is Where We Meet by John Berger:

Berger creates a conversation between a son and the dead mother who reappears to him as he stands atop an aqueduct in Lisbon.

The mother says, “Let a few things be repaired. A few is a lot. One thing repaired changes a thousand others.” The son replies, “So?” And out flows a maternal speech:

"The dog down there is on too short a chain. Change it, lengthen it. Then he’ll be able to reach the shade, and he’ll lie down and he’ll stop barking. And the silence will remind the mother she wanted a canary in a cage in the kitchen. And when the canary sings, she’ll do more ironing. And the father’s shoulders in a freshly ironed shirt will ache less when he goes to work. And so when he comes home he’ll sometimes joke, like he used to, with his teenage daughter. And the daughter will change her mind and decide, just this once, to bring her lover home one evening. And on another evening, the father will propose to the young man that they go fishing together… Who in the wide world knows? Just lengthen the chain."

In this season of peace, may you lengthen a dog’s chain. And then see what happens.


This is why we keep trying, doing small things. Ripples in the pond. Breezes in the atmosphere. Hope in small things.

Thanks to Andrew Sullivan.

December 17, 2010

I'm Still Alive

...and busier than ever. I have things I wish I could write, and I've sat down a few times to try. I'm just too tired to put together anything salient. So this placeholder will have to do.

In my mostly part-time work, I have two or three projects to do a month. This fall I've had two or three projects a week in November and December. Of course, December is the biggest month of the year, project-wise. But I've been scrambling for seven weeks straight. It's not the stuff of posts: giving campaigns, special events, pageantry, even teaching a couple of adult classes at their request.

That adult class was interesting, though, because they asked for a repeat after the first one. They had asked the preteen class to tell them what they want from their parents to help them succeed in this world. The kids responded, I made a sort of "Glee-"like presentation out of it, and gave the adults questions to discuss with the kids. It seems they weren't done when class was over, and they asked me to do it all again so they could keep talking. We gave them the DVD of the presentation, and this time I added a few things I could not say while kids are present. They were hungry to hear it all.

This reminded me of when my kids were much younger and how we and all our friends were desperate for guidance on raising children. Many of us don't have extended family nearby to talk things over. Whenever a children's counselor presented for our group, there were never enough chairs. And yet no one talked if they were having trouble.

It wasn't until Ben sent us reeling* that we were transparent with the struggles we were having. I talked a little bit about that with the adults, and several approached me after class to thank me for being honest. If we don't talk about our difficulties, how are we going to get help? Silence perpetrates the illusion that we are alone in our struggles, when in fact just about everyone is making it up as we go along.

I haven't posted an update about Ben in a long time. He's doing just great; he's been on the high honor roll for four semesters. He apprenticed briefly at our auto mechanic's business and he's working part-time for Little Caesar's Pizza. He is happy, at peace, and in control of his future. He is not a standard student—as he says, he needs time, not help, to do his work—yet he wants to work in software, so he is considering an associate's degree at our community college after he graduates in the spring. This is the same boy who two years ago I feared would never graduate high school. He remains my miracle boy.

Well! It seems I did have something to say, after all. It just wasn't the philosophical subjects I have constantly going through my head. I'll save that for a time when I have more mental energy. Meanwhile, I hope each of you is enjoying the holiday season in whatever way suits you best.

This is a time when many feel lonely. Even if you're one of them—especially if you're one of them—reach out to one individual in a personal way to help them make it through not quite so lonely. Just one. Be gracious, even when others are not. It's how we can shape the world.


*If you're not familiar with that story, click on the "Amazing Grace" link in the right-hand column.

December 6, 2010

Today On Bilerico: Chris Colfer, The Face Of Hope

This image was on PostSecret this week. I think it says volumes about growing acceptance. Glee's writers are changing our culture, and it's wonderful.

December 1, 2010

November 25, 2010

Overheard: Chopping Onions

I’m celebrating Thanksgiving with family in St. Louis. My brother was chopping onions for the stuffing and his seven year old son wanted to help.

“Can I chop onions too?”

“Sure. Here’s how you hold the knife. Hold the onion like this.”

My nephew’s eyes began to tear. He squinted and shook his head.

“What’s going on? Why do my eyes hurt?”

My brother saw this as a learning moment.

“That’s what happens whenever you hold a knife.”

“It does?”

“Know what makes it go away? Reading.”


Update: Okay, okay, you guys. He didn't stop there. It was funnier to leave off the immediate correction and truthful explanation my brother offered. My nephew is quite used to his dad's antics and was already onto him.

November 17, 2010

Those Darned Kids

An email to Andrew Sullivan, about the fuss over Willow and Bristol Palin:

I am dismayed at all the online hysterics over the immature behavior of Sarah Palin’s children. For the record, I am no fan of Sarah Palin and I don’t understand how anyone could support her bid for attention, much less a role in government.

That said, I have to speak as a parent: the idea that we have control over what our children say and do when we are not present is a complete illusion. We do what we can to inculcate the proper morals and concomitant behavior, but children eventually figure out that they don’t really have to do what we say. It is our hope that the realization is delayed until they reach a level of maturity that leads to good choices. It is an uneven road to that time, and some choices are better than others.

Kids still don’t understand the impact of the Internet, and they will write things online that they say in private conversation. And yes, they will say stupid things that are not okay. Who among us has not? Thank God I didn’t have the Internet to permanently catalogue my mistakes when I was a kid. And either way, I know as a former Language Arts teacher that poor spelling is no indicator of intelligence or ethics, cringe-inducing as it might be.

Palin’s children did not grow up in the urban landscape of big-city politics. They do not have the political experience or understanding that, say, Bush’s children would have had. Alaska is populated by smart and independent people who say what they think, in my experience. The idea that one must be circumspect is not a natural conclusion in an environment in which survival depends more on community and outdoor skills than political savvy.

Lay off the kids. They’re not changing the political landscape; we are, by the choices we make.

November 9, 2010

Tornwordo: It Gets Better

Canadian-American Tornwordo talks to himself in high school and makes an insightful comparison of "norm" and "normal."


Torn's blog is one of the first I discovered on the Interwebs. If you haven't read it, you're missing out. He shares his upbeat philosophy about life with his husband and dog. Great read!

October 31, 2010

Today on Bilerico: Megachurch Pastor Comes Out

Meet Jim Swilley, a man I want the world to know. When he learned of the recent swath of youth suicides, Jim decided it was time to come out to his congregation and the world.



While it's only the beginning of what will be a difficult but ultimately rewarding time, please read his story that I just posted on Bilerico.

October 29, 2010

A Quiet Grief

This past week has been emotionally draining. We started with a wonderful celebration of my mother’s 90th birthday in Florida. But the rest of the week was spent in talking with my siblings and parents about their increasing need for assistance. While my stepfather will accept that it’s time, my mom will not go quietly into that good night.

I love that she is guarding her independence, but it comes at a cost. The ravages of a body that is betraying her cognitive and physical strength have also taken our friendship. With forgiveness and patience I forged a new relationship with my mom for about twenty-five years, getting as close as she would allow. I worked very hard to maintain it.

It is the passing of that friendship that I mourn today. I grieve too for the loss of her independence, something I pray I face with grace (and some feistiness as well). I still love her, I still forgive her, but it won’t be the same. It was great while it lasted and I will cherish the memories.

October 20, 2010

Chicago!

Last month I had a chance to meet a man I've known only online for several years. Brian, originally from Australia and now from New Zealand, planned a world trip that included Chicago for a couple of days. That put him close enough for me to visit for a few hours, so I took a day off and drove up to meet him at his hotel. We agreed that a boat tour of the river and lake sounded good, so we took off to find it.

I was so excited about being with Brian that I left my camera in the car as we explored Chicago. I didn't even get a picture of him. Duh. So here's the shot he sent me so that I would recognize him. Yes, he is a sweetheart of a guy.



On the Chicago River, our tour guide told us about the architecture and history of Chicago, most of which I cannot possibly remember. But it was fascinating anyway. I took pictures with my phone.



Each bridge we passed had a distinct bridge-tender's building. I don't know if they're still in use.



This "Corn Cob" is an apartment building with parking open to the air.



This is a close-up of the building which won the owner's request for "the world's most beautiful building." (Sorry, I can't remember its name.)


The city installed locks at the mouth of the Chicago River and established the level of the river two feet lower than Lake Michigan. It's a small lock, only 100 x 600 feet, but it's in frequent use. Because of that lock's inrushing water to the river, engineers have managed to reverse the flow of the Chicago River from the lake down to the Mississippi River. This has really helped to keep the lake clean; don't know how much it's helped the Mississippi.


This is only a small fraction of the city skyline visible from the lake. Pretty much the entire skyline (several miles long) was engulfed in the Great Chicago Fire. Chicago is now called the Second City because all the buildings you can see are built on the ashes of the first city.

Brian and I had lunch in a quiet place before I had to head back to Indy. I really enjoyed getting to know him and his story a little better, although he is quite forthcoming in his blog. You can read about his travels, his observations of the Anglican Church, and New Zealand life at Noble Wolf.

P.S. This makes fourteen InterWeb people I've met. Isn't it great?

October 16, 2010

Ze Frank's Spamologue


Ze Frank is difficult to describe, but he is someone you need to get to know. Brilliant and funny, he creates a nexus for connection that produces works of humanity, humor, and music from contributors all over the world. By himself he's pretty special too.

I can't embed the video headlined here, so you need to follow this link to witness the re-enactment of an actual spam letter from Africa, requesting "assistance" with a large sum of money. After you see that video, bookmark his webpage. Hours upon hours of delight await you.

Also: watch his TED talk on connections on the Web.

October 14, 2010

Best. Comment. Ever.

I love this ad, but I love the comment below it even more.



The following comment appears on the YouTube page:

Look at your comment. Back to mine. Back to yours NOW BACK TO MINE. Sadly, it isn't mine. But if you stopped trolling and started posting legitimate crap it could LOOK like mine. Look down, back up, where are you? You're scrolling through comments, finding the ones that your comment could look like. Back at mine, what is it? It's a highly effective counter-troll. Look again, MY COMMENT IS NOW DIAMONDS.

Anything is possible when you think before you comment or post.

I'm on a computer.

October 4, 2010

Fox News Faceoff

The opposing written opinions have been posted on the local Fox news site. Twelve to fifteen minutes of debate was edited down to about three. At least they used the part when my words were distinct.


Update: while the video remains available, apparently the written opinions are not archived.

Today On Bilerico: Fox News Face-off: "Cupcakegate" Debate

I get to find out tonight along with you whether I held up in my fight for LGBT equality. If you live in Indiana, the debate will air tonight on Fox affiliate Channel 59 at 10:00p, on the segment called "Face-off."

I was asked to write an opinion piece to be posted on their website (with the video? I don't know). You can read the essay on Bilerico.

It's Getting Better All The Time

I totally stole Blobby's post title to put up his "It Gets Better" video because it's the perfect description for what he has to say. Big bonus: he smiles at the end.

October 1, 2010

Now, Where Was I?

Oh, yeah. Guys, it's been crazy. Posts I owe you:

I went to Chicago last week to visit with an Aussie blogger who was coming through on his world tour. Brian and I had too short a time, but it was wonderful. While you wait for my tidbit and pitiful phonecam shots, check out his reports on his travels.

This morning Fox News (I know!) taped a debate between me and the executive director of the American Family Association - Indiana. My mouth was so dry my tongue wouldn't move against my teeth. Dear Lord. I guess I did okay.

I'll be back to explain it all.

September 28, 2010

It Gets Better

My blogger friend David is on hiatus, but he posted this video to the "It Gets Better Project" on YouTube. His message is a strong one.


If you have a story or words of encouragement to young LGBT people out there, please consider making a video of your own. This project will save lives.

September 26, 2010

Dear IRS

An actual letter sent by a wonderful friend of mine (whose name I've obscured), who's just had enough. Click to embiggen.


He enclosed a check for $5.00. I love this man.


Update: I gained permission from the author to post it on Bilerico. It's up.

September 22, 2010

Today On Bilerico: Dan Savage Tells Bullied Kids "It Gets Better"

Dan heard the tragic story of Billy Lucas from a reader and decided to do something to stop any more young suicides that result from bullying. He has started a YouTube channel to offer videos from adult LGBT people who tell the kids "it gets better." You can read about it here.

September 13, 2010

My Heart Is Breaking

A fifteen-year-old boy in Greensburg, Indiana killed himself last week because he was being bullied for being gay. The sub-header read that he was bullied for "being different," but the story quotes fellow students as saying he was teased mercilessly for being gay. There is no indication whether it was true or not, but it doesn't matter. After years of this kind of treatment, another student told him to go kill himself. And he did.

It was common knowledge among the student population that this was happening. Why did no one step up? What sort of culture has to exist to allow that kind of cruelty? Is it possible that not one adult knew? Having been in public education (as a student and a teacher), I have to think the evidence was there.

I remember seeing a young girl being teased when I was a student teacher. I asked my mentor teacher to please send her on an errand that would take some time. When she was gone, I ripped into the class. They had never seen me angry before, but there was no question how I felt about her treatment. I told them I could not wait for them to grow up and that this behavior would stop now. And you know what? It did stop. They were stunned at my tirade and took it to heart. She was never teased in my presence again. I don't know if it stopped altogether, but I did what I could.

We all must do what we can. We have to stop this behavior when we see it, no matter the age of the perpetrator. We have the power. We must have the conviction to use it.

Update: the Bilerico publisher asked me to write a post about Billy. It's here.

September 7, 2010

Today On Bilerico: Toward Life

I learned from PostSecret that this is National Suicide Prevention Week, and it reminded me of the post I wrote last summer. I think enough time has passed that I can tell it to the world. I posted a lightly edited version today on Bilerico. New readers can find it here.

September 6, 2010

Verbatim: Emoticons

Abe has discovered the chart of yellow emoticons on his new BlackBerry. He loves sending the kids messages with them. He texted Sheba a good night note, and then I got a text from her.

Sheba: PLEASE tell Dad not to send me emoticons of vaginas anymore.

Me: WHAT does that look like?!

Sheba: ({}) WHO is teaching him these things?!

Me: He insists that it is a big hug on his emoticon chart. :D

Sheba: Hahaha So what were the boobs when he sent me those?

Me: Ben also asked why he was sending him boobs, but I can't remember the emoticon it represented. He'd better not be sending these to his colleagues.

Sheba: Seriously! Hah! These are the boobs he sent: (.Y.)

Me: I think it was something like open arms.

Sheba: Weeeeird.

Me: Thanks for the biggest laugh I've had in a while.

Sheba: Haha. I just had a friend tell me it shows up as a hug on her phone too and she confused a few friends.

Me: If she figures out what the boobs are, let me know. Good night, sweet girl.

Sheba: Haha. Ok. Night night.

I'm willing to bet there's a small group of programmers out there somewhere laughing at their in joke.

September 3, 2010

Overheard: Classic Rock

Ben and I were riding in the car, listening to one of our favorite classic rock stations. The Eagles came on.

Me: "Can't they play ANYTHING else? It's always the same stuff."

Ben: "They don't make new classic rock, Mom."

Me: "Oh. Yeah."

August 28, 2010

S**t

I've got a big day at church tomorrow, lots going on for which my presence is desired. Then I have a nearly four hour drive to Chicago to give a presentation to the entire Sunday School volunteer staff at my old boss's new church. It's my first paid gig, and I'm finishing the PowerPoint tonight.

I went down to the basement to do a small load of clothes that would be best for the Big City. I came upon a horror scene suitable for Stephen King: the sewer line has backed up, and there is a fifteen foot circle of waste that saturated the boxes, full laundry baskets, rugs, and miscellany stuff that ends up stacked in basements. SHIT. (Literally. And it's everywhere.)

My son, his sainted best friend and I just spent an hour bagging up and carting out a boatload of saturated crap to the end of the driveway. We can't wash up here because the drain would back up further. Thank heaven for Huggies Wipes, which I keep for household cleaning.

While I wait for the plumber, my mind wanders to the SIX houses in the vicinity that have had their front yards plowed up with backhoes to replace these same pipes in the past year. (Cost: about $6K each.) Something's not right about this.

My neighbor has given me her remote code so that I can enter through her garage to bathe over there if I need to. Ben is going to stay at his friend's house after the plumber gets here. (Oh! He has a new car! I bought him a 2001 Camry LE. Very pleased with the deal.) Abe is out of town for another week. I'll probably be up all night sanitizing the basement after the pipe is cleared.

4:30 a.m. update: Plumber's been paid and the pipe is clear. (Not sure if it's roots this time. Hmm.) Not so the basement, but two 30-lb. bags of kitty litter really helps. I spread it and scrub-swept most of it into two large piles. No powdered chlorine at this hour, so I'll make a solution and swab when the litter's gone. Now I can shower and scrub and scrub and scrub and go to bed. Good night.


Tip: About ten years ago I bought two pairs of plastic Birkenstock clogs. They ended up being the "yard shoes" for everyone: mowing, raking, you get the idea. When they get dirty you just hose them off; replace the footbeds every few years. These things saved us tonight! Ben and I each had a pair to go tromping around that disgusting basement. Rinsed and scrubbed under the hose, they're ready to go under the bench by the door. You need a pair of these.

Day Two update: I'm baaaaack. And so is the water, dammit. At least this time it's ONLY water (from the shower) and a two-foot circle. Gonna have a talk with that plumber. I've got better things to do.

Day Three update: The 35-year-old clay pipe is separating at the joints, allowing tree roots to prosper and block the flow. Next week they will replace it with PVC for the princely sum of $5K. *sigh*

August 24, 2010

"Malignant"

The word "malignant" is one of the ugliest words in the English language. I heard it in 1986, from a doctor who removed a spot on my back and sent it to the lab. It was melanoma. I'll never forget that phone call.

I am in the hills of southern Indiana today, completing a two-day annual retreat for pastors and program staff of my church. I offered my car for others to ride, and one who rode with me was a woman on our pastoral staff.

This morning she joined me on the dock of the lake, telling me she was expecting a call from her doctor. She said yesterday she'd had a biopsy on a lump in her breast and was awaiting the results. Moments after she sat down near me on the dock, her phone rang.

"It's my doctor. This is it," she said quietly, picking up the phone. "Hello."

She nodded, saying "uh huh" several times. Then her mouth tightened and the tears began to flow. She acknowledged what the doctor was saying, although if her experience is anything like my own, she probably has no recollection of what was said after the diagnosis. She eventually hung up after taking a few notes. The pad read "Invasive Ductal Carcinoma."

She looked up at me. "Fuck."

I grabbed her in a hug as she let the tears and sobs finally free. "I've had that same phone call," I whispered.

If she follows my own pattern, the next ten days or so will be filled with making plans and forgetting all of it unless it's in writing. The moments alone will be spent grappling with "why me" and "what if."

The "why me" part isn't about victimhood so much as it is about purpose. What should I do about this, now that it's here? What in my life is incomplete? What can I let go? This becomes a time of allowing grace into one's life, allowing others to help in whatever way they can.

Being in a position to help is a great privilege. If you're used to being the one helping, then you know. But to suddenly become the one who needs help is jarring, and our first impulse is to keep everyone at arm's length. Having been on both ends of giving and receiving help, I can tell you how humbling it is to be in need. But grace is not on a balancing scale; it is not a matter of keeping score; it simply is. It is a gift to allow others to show their love in whatever way they can.

If you are someone who believes in the power of prayer, please lift up my friend and colleague in prayer as she deals with this illness and stress. Her own mother has recently completed treatment for lung cancer, and that prognosis is good. There is always hope.

August 23, 2010

This And That

I was waiting at the light when this car pulled up next to me. With about five seconds left before the change, I managed to get this shot with my phone cam. You can't see the row of "spikes" that line the hood and lead to the arrangement on the roof. Look closely at the furry things affixed to the edge of the trunk: those are troll dolls. The car is heavily stenciled and the license plate reads "plate." This guy is having fun.


My head's in a spin from all that has been happening for the past few weeks. After the busiest week of the year—so far—getting ready for four different startups for the fall, I went to another Inclusive Church two-day seminar this past Friday and Saturday; taught on Sunday; met with our ever-growing Friends and Family of LGBT church group; and now I'm attending the annual two-day retreat for pastoral and program staff. This retreat is all about releasing anxiety and living in the moment. It's exactly what I need.

I spent an hour trying to draw the pastoral view from the hillside of the camp in southern Indiana. Do you have any idea how hard that is? There are WAY too many leaves. I really do want to learn how to employ some latent but totally untrained artistic ability. My amateurish efforts look childish, but I have hope. Isn't that what keeps us going, after all?

Good night.

August 18, 2010

Florida Phone Pics

Rain in Florida has a standard pattern: sun/wall of water/sun.


Abe, Ben and I spent one day at Disney's Typhoon Lagoon. This is where I discovered my new thyroid medicine has made me a motion wimp: one twisty slide ride was enough.


I crossed the Sunshine Skyway four times to pick up and drop off the boys at the Tampa airport. Alas, it was not in a convertible.

My mother retired this year at age 89 as a travel agent. My parents decorate their house with souvenirs from all over the world. For years we had to hide this Balinese mask from the kids, who were terrified of it. They still don't like it.


August 14, 2010

Even If Your Hands Tremble



From the Facebook wall photos of Andrew Wood.

P.S. I've been working on four projects, all due this weekend. Tomorrow sees their fruition and my return. See you soon.

August 9, 2010

An Open Letter To My Fellow Straight Christians About Marriage Equality




I wrote an article about Proposition 8 and why I support its repeal. There are a lot of people who are wondering if they can do the same and be true to their faith. Please forward a link if you know someone like that. You can find it here.

August 5, 2010

Laughter

I'm in Sarasota visiting my hometown and family. I went to dinner with my sister where we caught up with what's going on in each other's lives. Just as we were getting ready to leave, a man at the table next to us commented, "You two have wonderful laughter. It was great to sit here and listen to it." Yeah, it was great.

July 28, 2010

What's Your Sign?

Here's mine.


This past Monday the National Organization for Marriage held a rally on the steps of the Indiana Statehouse. I joined several hundred counter-protesters in a successful bid to seriously outnumber rally attendees. Well, someone took my picture and posted it on the NOM Tour Tracker website. From there, that picture has gone viral. Wow. Even Joe.My.God picked it up and posted it. I'm overwhelmed at the response.

I've written my newbie report of the event for Bilerico. I'll update when it's posted.

Update: The Bilerico post is up.

Photo courtesy of Phyllis Lozano, Courage Campaign

July 21, 2010

A Person Of Privilege

That's me, in so many ways. I was born into privilege as a white person. I've never had to question whether my race was the reason for someone's decision affecting my life. I am an American, born in the most powerful country in the world, where I take for granted the freedom I have to move, work and learn. I have an education and all of the many options it gives me. I am straight and therefore what people have come to expect in their casting of roles.

Now I have a new sign of privilege: my car. I had no idea the impression it would give others. I was so excited to own exactly the car I wanted for the first time in my life. I still love to get in it every single time. But three times now I've been cursed for the crime of driving a convertible. The first time, I drove by a man standing on a corner downtown. As I passed he called out, "Asshole!" Who, me? Why? It took me a few minutes to realize what had transpired. It really made me think. The next two occasions of unintelligible remarks yet unmistakable intent told me this was a trend.

Huh. I'm being seen as a member of the elite, an entitled conspicuous consumer. I, who remembers those years when I put cardboard in my shoes to hide the holes in the soles; who drank powdered milk and wore hand-me-downs; who qualified for food stamps one unemployed summer; who didn't own a car until I'd been teaching for a year and a half.

I want to stop and correct these people's misapprehensions, but it doesn't really matter. I ask myself: how many times have I been guilty of the same assumptions? What crimes have I mentally accused people of doing simply based on appearances?

It's yet another wake-up call for me to not leap to conclusions, one of my own greatest failings. I need patience, pondering, and peaceful resolutions. It is a privilege to be able to drive the car I want. I can handle the heckling with grace.

July 17, 2010

Overheard: Words I Didn't Think I'd Ever Say

I was preparing demo supplies for this morning's talk on HIV 101.

"I have too many penises. What do I do with these?"

July 14, 2010

Ms. Grammarian Leads The Way

Okay, everyone, listen up. You over there, I need your attention.

It's time somebody spoke up about the correct forms of the verb "lead." This is a lovely word with very few quirks, but so many people misspell the past tense form that I'm having to say something. When teaching irregular verbs to young teens, I would use the following sentences to help out:

Today I _____.
Yesterday I _____.
I have _____.

When we use the verb "lead" (pronounced LEED) in spoken form, we use all its forms correctly: lead, led, have led. But in writing, I see it repeatedly written in the past tense as "lead." When "lead" is pronounced LED, it is a noun. So:

Today I lead.
Yesterday I led.
I have led.

Please pass it on.

Grammatically yours,

July 9, 2010

Verbatim: Phone Cam

Abe is in California with Ben (and I'm alone!). Never having done it before, Abe sends me five pictures in quick succession and of questionable quality.

July 9, 2010 3:55 PM
I remember that place. Did Ben just show you how to use the phone cam?


July 9, 2010 3:57 PM
Maybe.

Here, Look At Something Cute

Terrible quality photos taken by my BlackBerry.

Baby bunny by the rail trail just sat there as we looked at it.


Innocent puppy sat by the evidence, which had four canine indentations from gentle handling.

July 2, 2010

Saturday on Bilerico: Christians Apologize At Chicago Pride

It's all over the InterWebs. This picture depicts a young gay man hugging a pastor who says he is sorry for what the church has done. It is an uplifting scenario and you can read about it on Nathan Albert's very moving post.


I couldn't wait to write an article about it for Bilerico, so I set about doing my homework. I found information about the Marin Foundation, which staged this event, that is disturbing. While you wait for my article to post on Saturday afternoon, read this 2006 article written by Michelangelo Signorile for The Advocate.

Update: It's up.

Update II: Wow. This post on Bilerico certainly has garnered attention. I've been exploring other links offered by commenters, and my conclusions only get darker about Marin. Sorry to have ignored this blog, but I'll be back shortly.

Photo credit: Michelle at maladjustedmedia.com

June 29, 2010

Verbatim: Movie Review

Sheba went to see "Twilight" today. She gave a one-sentence review.

"Twilight's like soccer: they run around for two hours, nobody scores, and its billion fans insist you just don't understand."

Update: Apparently she's quoting this review that is all over the InterWebs. I still like it, no matter the author.

June 24, 2010

This Is A Post

So much going on, but the muse has abandoned me. So this is a report just to keep you informed.

I attended my second Pride, and this one was three times bigger than last year's. Even with high temps and muggy humidity, the throng swelled and filled the new venue. I sat at the booth for our AIDS support center, selling water bottles to raise funds for our food pantry. We surpassed our goal and made enough to stock the pantry for a week. Pretty cool to see a lot of straight couples wandering through all the booths, and my favorite sight was seeing a knot of six junior-high boys, out and proud, laughing and gaping at the fabulousness. Now THAT'S a sign of progress.


Later the same week, I manned the booth for a company health fair. One of many tables under a tent, most employees came by to sign up for our raffle (restaurant certificates), but some still glanced sideways at us and wouldn't get closer than six feet.

I write this from St. Louis, where I'm staying with my nephew at a hospital during the day when his parents are working. He is in traction, preparing for surgery on his hip on Monday. The traction was a last-minute call by his doctor, so my brother asked if I could help them out. They already are taking all of next week off to be with him post-surgery. The little guy (age seven) has a hip injury that refuses to heal properly. Without the surgery he would have a permanent limp and eventual arthritis. This on a kid who is a natural athlete. He's good at everything. Of course he won't stop moving, which exacerbated his injury. I'm really hoping this surgery is the repair that ends it. "Tony Hawk: Underground" keeps him occupied.

[This picture has been pulled due to an extraordinary amount of traffic on this post which I cannot otherwise explain.]

At some down time this evening, I went for a walk from my brother's house. He is smack next door to Grant's Farm where all the Budweiser Clydesdales are raised. I took pictures that I will download sometime later. No hardware here. This one is from my BlackBerry (as are the two above).


I'm grateful for the flexibility in my job that lets me take off on a moment's notice and help out. I'll be back home on Saturday and ready for church on Sunday.

I have finished two books that require some time to digest before reviewing:

Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith by Barbara Brown Taylor


and The Velvet Rage: Overcoming the Pain of Growing Up Gay in a Straight Man's World by Dr. Alan Downs.


Very different subjects, but each of them tells the story of coming to terms with the essence of self. I highly recommend both of them and would love to hear from anyone who's also read them.

I really can't explain why I'm stuck and unable to post anything more meaningful right now. I'm commenting and wishing I could say more. It will return. I'll let you know when.

June 12, 2010

Local Fauna

Courtesy of my little BlackBerry, I have some photos of local wildlife.

Just after a rain, the new neighbors went for a stroll.


I was enjoying lunch al fresco in my new car when a goldfinch happened by.


Sophie joined me at work for a day.


Sophie goes topless whenever she can. (Her harness attaches to the seatbelt.)



June 10, 2010

Answered Prayer

Early Sunday morning, I was getting ready to leave Fort Wayne to attend worship at another church in Indianapolis. I checked my phone for any emails that I might need to answer before heading out. The one I received from our good friend "Kevin" made time stop as I went back to the early weeks of 2008, when my world fell apart.

In a stretch of ten days in late January 2008 two friends died; we learned our son was on drugs; and our daughter was hospitalized for stress due to keeping the secret about her brother. Thus began the most difficult year of my life. We were reeling, and we turned to our friends for help. We told everyone we knew what was happening, hoping that someone could help us. Kevin and his wife are longtime friends and introduced us to someone whose son was going through similar straits. (It was that acquaintance who started us in the direction that led to our healing.)

In February of that year, Kevin sent an email to me:

"I already asked Abe this question and he gave me his own individual answer. I would like to know what I can pray for, for you (not for someone else, but for you).

Peace."


Here was my response:

"Thank you for asking, Kevin.

I would like prayers for WISDOM: the right words, the right actions in relating to all members of my family. For PATIENCE under stress: a silent tongue. For the ability to show my LOVE for Abe, Sheba and Ben in a way that they know it to be love. For STRENGTH to not hide from the fear, hurt and anxiety and work through it instead. For PEACE and COMFORT that God is in control and His good will come of this.

I have many good friends praying for us, and it lifts my heart to know this. God bless you."


Kevin re-sent this email this past Sunday, and it brought tears then (and again now) as I recalled those days of fear for our children. I can now say with confidence that they are going to be okay. Last year was the first time I could say that about both of them, and it is such a gift. Sheba is living with her boyfriend and working at a job she enjoys. Ben remains on the high honor roll and is considering school beyond high school as he finds a sense of direction.

Those of you who were here with me through that time of turmoil were caring and sympathetic, and I am grateful for your prayers and words of support. If you are not familiar with this story (pretty much the reason I started this blog), you will find it under the title "Amazing Grace" on the right-hand column. Life is good.

June 8, 2010

Love And Light

I spent this past weekend in Fort Wayne with Abe. He had an extended work week and invited me to join him for a couple of nights. After getting everything ready for my absence on Sunday, I left Friday afternoon to join him for dinner. It was a glorious two-hour drive, temps in the high seventies with the roof down in late afternoon.

We ate at Casa’s, his favorite restaurant outside of Indy. This time we managed to meet the owner, who sat down with us and told us that they’re planning to expand from their small chain of restaurants in Fort Wayne to a couple more in Indy. I think they’ll make it, too, in spite of the economy. Their places are packed every night of the week.


The next morning we went to Abe’s favorite breakfast place, the Liberty Diner. It is owned and managed by a Greek couple from New York. They have built the quintessential East Coast diner and plunked it in Fort Wayne. The interior d├ęcor has a human-sized Statue of Liberty by the front door. American flags drape various parts of the diner, and large black-and-white photos of Manhattan hang high over one row of booths. It is next to Bambi’s Exotic Lounge and across the street from a truck stop. And it is packed with locals who want a great breakfast any time of day or really good Greek food. The owners—better dressed than most of the patrons—drop by your table to make sure everything is good.

While I highly recommend both restaurants, the top place to go remains DeBrand Chocolatier. They make some of the finest chocolates I’ve ever eaten, and they ship! I asked about summer shipments, and I was told their freight company uses special ice packaging to insure fresh chocolates wherever they ship. If you have a chocolate connoisseur you wish to impress, this is the stuff to send. Warning: Not Safe For Budgets.

Abe and I had a lovely time. It was Date Night times three! He was so sweet and planned all of our ventures. I just went along for a wonderful time. Let’s say we both had a wonderful time.

I had to slip out early Sunday morning to head for Indy again, but not to my own church. I made arrangements with a friend to meet her at St. Andrew Presbyterian Church for worship and a meeting afterward. “Jane” is from Columbus and has been instrumental in helping me in my efforts to have my church become open and affirming. She has pointed me to resources, events and authors more than any other person I know. Jane was bringing her church group to St. Andrew, so I joined them.

St. Andrew* is the first and only Presbyterian church in Indiana to join the More Light Presbyterian network of churches. The mission statement of MLP says “Following the risen Christ, and seeking to make the Church a true community of hospitality, the mission of More Light Presbyterians is to work for the full participation of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people of faith in the life, ministry and witness of the Presbyterian Church (USA).” It is a strong statement to make in this denomination, and some churches who are truly open and affirming still have difficulty adding this label to their names.

Jane and her group of ten or so fellow supporters and I met with the two pastors of St. Andrew after worship. We asked about the process that led them to this important—and to some, risky—step of affirmation.

Although for each church it is different, this small congregation had already been “More Light” in practice for some time. The session—that is, the ruling group of elders—held a three-hour meeting to discuss and vote on the idea. Three hours, and it was done! Of course, it was years in the making.

Something struck me when I was driving home that afternoon: for the straight members of that congregation, declaring the church More Light changed nothing. All would go on as before. For its gay members and those seeking a church and gay children growing up in this church, everything changed. They are affirmed not only in general but in writing and in action. This is powerful stuff and it costs the straight members of the church nothing but understanding. I will be taking this idea to my church group. We are years away from this step, which frankly I considered an impossibility in my congregation. I don’t see it that way anymore.

I hope to partner our church with St. Andrew in LGBT outreach and advocacy. I have some thinking, talking and reading to do about this. We continue to move toward the Light.

*I have yet to find out how a Presbyterian church comes to call itself Saint Anything. Sounds Catholic, doesn't it?

June 4, 2010

I've Been Castled


Actually, it isn't what I crave. I've never had a White Castle burger until last night.

Our church has facilities that permit us to house people in times of need (showers, room for folding cots, etc.). We offer hospitality to homeless families one week a month, one of a number of churches that have combined for mission in that field. Last night, the Red Cross Emergency Shelter team enacted a mock drill to prepare us for response to a large number of homeless families due to an emergency. (Our "emergency" was an apartment fire that displaced fifty people.)

It went well. I managed to contain a "member of the press" to the public areas and keep him busy and informed without violating the privacy of our residents. This was our second mock drill, and we still have a few bugs to work out, but our team of about fifty volunteers could respond now and do a good job, I think.

Our reward at the end of the drill was dinner. And dinner was nothing but White Castle hamburgers. They're okay, I suppose. The Red Cross serves food that is donated by local businesses, so we can't complain. But even after I removed just about all those little onions, they haunted me the rest of the evening. I took four Tums over the course of the night.

Maybe next time Chick-fil-A will donate dinner.

May 29, 2010

Today On Bilerico: Lubricants and HIV

Two preliminary studies were presented this past weekend that indicate some lubricants may increase the risk of HIV infection. Two lubes were labeled "problematic" and two were recommended as safest. Read about it here.

Polka Boy

It’s race weekend, and the city is packed with hundreds of thousands of visitors. The traffic is nuts and everyone wants to rev their engines. It’s time to party.

Abe was too tired, so my neighbor and party bud Dee joined me Friday night downtown. She brought a co-worker along and we cruised with the top down in the warm night air. As is my custom—honest!—I got rock star parking smack in front of the entrance to the club. Life is good.

Polka Boy was playing at the Rathskellar Biergarten, which was built over a hundred years ago and modeled after German clubs of the time. We arrived early enough to barely catch a seat at one of the picnic tables spread in front of the bandshell on the outdoor patio. Six men well into their cups allowed us to sit with them. They made awkward attempts at conversation, but they were friendly enough. They invited us to join them at a “titty bar” later. Somehow we found the fortitude to decline.


But then the band began to play. Polka Boy is a fourteen-man polka band, complete with tuba, three accordions and lots more brass (two of the three meanings apply here). This band is awesome. They played polkas, of course: Polish, Italian, and German. They may have slid in something Russian; we weren’t sure. But they took those accordions into new realms and played Tom Jones, Irish drinking songs, zydeco, Johnny Cash, rock and roll, Franki Valli, and the national anthem. Yes. And all of it was just great. The crowd was singing along with every song.

We left early, but the last song before their break was funk from the Average White Band. While you play this video, picture three accordions backing it up, swaying and playing and rocking out. That, my friends, is Polka Boy. They’ll be back July 9.

May 16, 2010

Furniture Takedown

Ben was eleven when he earned his black belt in Tae Kwan Do. I think he was ten and still a red belt when we had a friend come over to help us with handyman tasks. (Actually, we had won four hours of his very talented time in a Christmas gift exchange. Is that great or what?)

Our friend “Don” is a whiz with tools and we were thrilled with our prize. Don fixed the kitchen light, repaired a broken drawer, and came into the living room to remove the tambour doors from our entertainment unit.

We have a five-piece entertainment unit, a very nice set from my days of working for a furniture chain. The center unit isn’t wide enough for large TVs, and those doors took another inch of width. Back in those days, flatscreen TVs were only for the wealthy. But I could afford a really nice 32” CRT TV to replace our dead one. The problem was that this new Sony would fit only if we removed the tambour doors on the unit. We never used those sliding doors anyway, so that was okay with us. But how to get them out?

The way the unit was built, the only way to remove those doors would be to break them and pull them out of the track groove in which they sat. Don’s plan was to use his jigsaw to cut them in half horizontally and lift them out.

We were discussing the game plan when Ben wandered in to listen. He had an idea.

“Mom Mom Mom! You want to break the doors, right?”

“Yeah...”

“You don’t care what happens to the doors, right?”

“Yeah...”

“I could kick the doors and break them.”

“What?”

“Yeah!” Ben demonstrated by turning sideways and placing his heel against the middle of the tambour door. “See? One or two kicks and it will give way.”

“Wait a minute. There are glass doors above this space and flanking on both sides. Those doors could shatter if you don’t hit it just right.”

Ben spent a few minutes explaining how, with his well-placed foot, this would not happen. Don was just about speechless.

“You’re actually considering this?” he asked incredulously.

“If he does it just right, he could do it without breaking the glass.”

“You’ve got more guts than I have.”

I asked Ben to demonstrate his placement once again. I finally agreed, but he was to wear something to protect his foot from splintered wood.

He returned with a snow boot on his right foot. We stood back while Ben took his stance, practiced once very slowly, and then POW POW CHOP CHOP CHOP—two kicks and three punches with his fists—and those doors were sufficiently broken to pry out of their tracks with ease. The unit never moved and the glass doors didn't even rattle.

Not bad.

Don cleaned up the doors while shaking his head. Ben grinned and went back to playing computer games.

That night I told Sheba and her friends how the new TV came to be in its rightful place.

“I’d put Ben up against any piece of furniture in the house. I feel quite safe.”

“I dunno. I’ve got a sofa I think can take him,” quipped a teenager.

I related this tale to a number of my friends over the next week. One mom put it in a way I like to remember.

“You let him kick in your entertainment center? YOU are the World’s. Best. Mom.”

May 11, 2010

Overheard: The Sound Of One Boy Sinking

Ben is on the phone with his girlfriend of two years. He speaks calmly.

Ben: “You’re telling me about your shopping day. How do you expect me to react?”

The boy has a lot to learn.

May 7, 2010

Everyday Normal Guy

Courtesy of my daughter, this is the only rap song I've actually liked. The language is totally not safe for work, but it's hilarious.



Money quote: "My parents are really nice people, mothaf**ka!”

May 6, 2010

The Mind In Neutral


I was talking with “Father Tony” Adams the other day about his recent South Florida Gay News interview with Mark King, owner/operator of the blog "My Fabulous Disease.” The disease so described is HIV, for which Mark tested positive in 1985. (Check out Mark’s website, which is filled with information and links on HIV/AIDS with an unusual take: humor and gratitude. He pulls it off, too, with intelligent and hilarious commentary. It is refreshingly honest.)

Anyway. Tony repeated something very interesting from his interview with Mark that struck me and stayed in my head. Mark was talking about his years doing drugs and said, “My mind in a neutral state wants drugs.”

The mind in neutral: this is when there is nothing pulling on you but yourself, no outside influences until you pursue them. Where does it go? My mind today is in a totally different state than even a couple of years ago, but left to my own devices—as is often the case, much to my delight—I want to read. I want to know more. There isn’t enough time in the day when I’m reading.

The desire to know more sounds so, I don’t know, noble, doesn’t it? But it can create problems if you can’t get out of neutral. I don’t hear anyone or anything when I’m reading; it’s angered plenty of people who thought I was ignoring them. And my reading material vacillates from primarily nonfiction—science and religion—to trashy nonsense—no, I’m not telling. My mind in neutral can successfully keep me from interacting with my environment with astonishing ease, leaving my family and friends a distant second if I’m not vigilant.

Is the mind in neutral always a negative drive? I’m not certain. Sometimes I’ll put down the books and computer and go looking for a new experience, like the parks I discovered in my city last year. (But that was due to fellow bloggers’ writing, so I guess I’m back to square one.)

What about you? No one’s around, you have no immediate needs to meet, your mind goes into neutral. What do you do?

Image from somewhere on TED.com.

Update: Look what I found.

May 1, 2010

Two Years Old


"Strelitzia" is two years old today. Two years since I took the hint that my comments were bigger than the posts on which I felt I must share my wisdom. I can't believe it's been only two years; it feels like forever, since so much has happened in the interim.

What's next? Who knows. I'm so glad for your company. Have a cupcake but watch the crumbs.

April 30, 2010

Overheard: Overnight

I just picked up Ben from an overnight lock-in at his high school.


Me: "Did you get any sleep at all?"

Ben: "No."

Me: "What did you do all night?"

Ben: "Avoided getting penises drawn on my face."

Me (after I recovered from laughter): "Did anyone sleep?"

Ben: "One guy did. He covered his face, so they drew it on his hand."


Do girls ever do stuff like this? Not in my experience.

April 26, 2010

Emerging

My reaction to negative stress is to hide. That’s what I’ve been doing since before I returned home from Florida. The visit to help my parents took much more out of me than I ever expected.

I was honestly glad to be able to be there, to help in a way that was needed. Trouble is, my parents aren’t quite ready for that help; at least Mom isn’t. She’s 89 years old and she retired from work as a travel agent the week I was there. She begrudged the idea that anyone felt I was needed there, but she didn’t let on for the first week, acting as though everything was just great. Then she exploded with resentment and it took all the wind out of me.

I think I understand her panic at having to face less independence. It would shake my world too. I know that I won’t fully understand until it hits me right between the eyes.

Meanwhile, my stepfather very much wants my help and is comforted knowing I’m willing to participate in their planning for the future. This is a fine line I walk.

This is happening at a time when a lot is going on elsewhere. Thank heaven my home life is just great, with the normal ebb and flow of things to fix and joys to celebrate. I need to find how this new responsibility will fit in with all the other aspects of my life.

My modus operandi is to grab moments to myself for respite. It surprised me that the “moments” I needed lasted about two weeks. This is not depression—I know whereof I speak on that. It is a quiet time of processing, of limiting intake. But I know to give it time to sort itself out, and now I’m returning with the energy to face all of life once again. I have several topics about which to write. I hope to get to each of them soon.

The sun is out, and I emerge into the light once again.

April 18, 2010

Today On Bilerico: Carol Boltz: Straight To The Point

Some time ago, I wrote an article about two women who were married to men who came out at the top of their careers. Jemma Thomas and Carol Boltz were women of grace, defending their husbands in the face of strong criticism. Through that story, I reconnected with Carol's blog. She lives an hour away, so I sent her an email asking if she would be willing to meet with me and talk.

This article is the result of that meeting.

April 14, 2010

Cilantro, The Evil Weed

I hate cilantro. I can't understand why it's the Herb of the Decade. I literally cannot eat a dish that has too much cilantro in it. (Ask my sister-in-law, who asked if I like garlic—"Yes!"—and then proceeded to chop a bundle of fresh cilantro over a perfectly good plate of garlic shrimp pasta. Couldn't touch it.)

The New York Times has an explanation for people like me. I'm not alone!

April 11, 2010

Today On Bilerico: Mitchell Gold: Fighting The Crisis Of Religious Bigotry

Remember the story I posted about using Mitchell Gold's book Crisis as an introduction to understanding for a friend of mine? That post caught the attention of Brent Childers, the executive director of Faith In America, Gold's foundation for LGBT equality. Through an interesting series of connections, I ended up being able to do an email interview with Mitchell. His answers were so eloquent and clear they needed nothing more from me. We didn't want to cut a single word, so Bilerico is posting it in two parts. Read Part One to see just how dedicated this man is to his very worthy cause.

Update: Part Two is up.

April 7, 2010

Verbatim: Big Box

I'm in Florida. Abe and Sheba are in California. Ben is alone and eighteen. (What could possibly go wrong?) Ben was home when a package was delivered.

April 7, 2010 6:22 PM
A big Woot box came. What is it

April 7, 2010 6:24 PM
Sheba's Christmas present. Pls put it in basement under the stairs. Thx. Sorry nothing exciting.


April 7, 2010 6:24 PM
Lame

Update: I returned home eleven days later. The box was on the sofa.

March 31, 2010

Just Checking In

Guys, it's crazy around here. I'm working ten-hour days all of a sudden, to prepare to leave for ten days to go home. Of course, it's Holy Week. Holy cow.

My parents are not doing well. My stepdad had a stroke, Mom is mentally fading, and my sister is crumbling under the burden of caring for them. I will be going down to ask the hard questions about future care, living wills, and their ability to handle the fading years ahead. My stepfather is getting therapy with a reasonably good prognosis; we're going to have to wrestle the car keys from Mom's tight grasp; and we've got to find new avenues for care and transportation, since my sister obviously cannot do this alone.

Abe and Sheba will be heading out to the west coast for a few days. That means Ben will be alone. During spring break. Temptation, anyone? We are going to have to trust him to set his own boundaries. He's eighteen. Deep breath.

So my posting will be light as I garner all the facts and inform all the siblings (eight, in this blended family). At least there will be sunlight and heat.

March 28, 2010

Today On Bilerico: Starting Over


You never know when it will hit: the muse for writing. I was in the car listening to NPR when a passing remark—I can't even tell you what it was—prompted me down a trail of thought about starting over. Memories stirred about a number of times I've begun anew. You can read about it here.

March 24, 2010

Nature By Numbers

This is a beautiful illustration of the patterns found in nature, explained mathematically.



Hat tip to Towleroad

March 23, 2010

Picture Album

This is just a miscellany post to report a few little things I've done lately.

My brother brought two of his five children to visit over their spring break. Kids #3 and #4 are seven and eight years old, the perfect age for our children's museum. The Indianapolis Children's Museum is the largest one in the world and frankly one of the few things well worth the visit. We've got a nice city but not a lot of WOW.

One item that is definitely WOW is the Chihuly installation in the core of the spiraling ramp of the museum. Dale Chihuly is at the top of the food chain in glass art, and this is his largest work in the world. These pictures do not do it justice.

The column of blown glass rises through four floors and contains 3200 pieces, each of which is a work of art. "Fireworks of Glass" is mounted on an armature of steel spikes, and each blown piece simply rests on a spike.


At the bottom of the tower of glass, four panels of clear acrylic are covered in 1600 more glass works of art, making a kaleidoscope viewed from underneath.


My pitiful photography can't show you the stunning blend of color and light. Can you tell that art glass is my favorite medium?


Last week Sheba and I and her friend went to see Great Big Sea at a local club. They are a Newfoundland folk band and a whole lot more fun than that sounds. Their sound has Celtic roots and the whole evening was one big party. (You can hear "When I'm Up" and "Ordinary Day" on my playlist in the side column.) What's more, there was no smoking, I didn't need ear plugs, and drinks were $4. I would have felt like I was back in college except for the fact that Sheba was probably the youngest one there. A woman next to me had also come with her daughter. I commented that I was probably the oldest person in attendance.

She waved in dismissal. "Oh, no. You and I have to be about the same age."

"I'm 56."

"Oh."


Sophie found a new toy in Ben's room. See the fun ball in her mouth?


This is what it really is. Every time she drops it the house resonates. I made Ben take it away.