On Children

I love this piece, written by Kahlil Gibran. The first time I ever heard it was in song, performed by a wonderful gay a cappella group called The Flirtations (LISTEN) that frequented Hartford in the geighties (Did I just make that up or did I steal it?); the second time I heard it was in a sermon on Mothers Day when I was very active in my childhood church; and the third time was when I read it in Gibran’s book “The Prophet.”

My interpretation: Parents, let your children spread their wings and fly. Mine did. Well, mostly.

On Children

And a woman who held a babe against her bosom said, Speak to us of Children.

And he said:

Your children are not your children.

They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.

They come through you but not from you,

And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,

For they have their own thoughts.

You may house their bodies but not their souls,

For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.

You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.

For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are set forth.

The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.

Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;

For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He also loves the bow that is stable.

~ Kahlil Gibran

$20.95

You know those people who stand at the exit of strip malls, holding signs that say, “Will Work for Food?” Or, “Homeless Vet?” You know what bothers me the most about those people? It’s the people who try so hard to convince me that those people are scammers who make a great living out there.

Really? A great living?

I have never hesitated to give someone my pocket change if they asked me for it. Heck, I have even been known to drop a twenty in weak moments. Weak moments when I have felt eternally grateful for what I have. And trust me, I don’t mean money. I mean a roof over my head; clean clothes; a toothbrush and tooth paste; friends and family; a car.

According to some, most of “those people” probably take home more money than I do. And I am okay with that possibility.

I remember being told once that if you are ever approached by a stranger and you feel like you may be in a dangerous situation, you should look them square in the eye and say hello. I have alway taken the same precaution when approached by someone asking me for a handout. Not because I am afraid. I seem to lack the fear gene. But because looking a person in the eye and saying hello changes the dynamics of any situation.

Last night I went out with some friends. I had an awesome dinner… a Greek salad with salmon, a couple of Cosmos, and then later on another snack of vegetable potstickers. I enjoyed the company of old friends, met some new friends, shared some belly laughs, and listened to some great live music. Then I headed to my car to head home to my cozy little rented bungalow located on one of the most beautiful pieces of God’s green earth to prepare for Monday morning and a job I love.

I was safe–parked right in front of the restaurant under a street light.

A couple was walking by as I was getting into my car. The man stopped and asked if I could buy them something to eat. I was thrown by that request. “Those people” don’t usually ask for food; they want cash. I apologized and told them I had no money.

This is when the man pointed at the bank across the street and suggested that I could use the ATM. Okay, so now he wanted cash. He WAS one of “those people.” And he was persistent.

I said, “Hell no, I’m not going to an ATM for you.” That would be my common sense gene. I do have that one.

But I did admire his persistence, so I asked what they wanted to eat. “Whitney Pizza. Right around the corner.”

All I wanted to do was go home. But I said, “Damn, you should be a salesman. I’ll meet you over there.”

Well if looks could kill when I walked in with them… Holy “We hate street people, Batman.”

They selected a beverage like two kids in a candy store and they each ordered a half a grinder. All the while, the man at the counter looked like he wanted to growl at them. It came to $15.95.

I handed the man at the register my debit card and he gave me a look that read something like, “WHAT ARE YOU… STUPID?”

I signed the receipt, I added a $5.00 tip, I looked the man square in the eye and smiled, and I said, “God Bless you.”

He smiled back.

No matter who they are or where they were going or what they would do after I left, I knew those two people had something to eat. I hugged them both and I wished them well. And I reminded him that I thought he should be a salesman.

Scammers? Maybe. But so was the guy who sold me VIN etching on a used car, that I soon realized probably already had VIN etching. So are most politicians in office. So are some of the doctors who “cared” for my parents. Oh, I could go on and on and on about scammers.

So why do people choose to judge the poor?

Twenty dollars and ninety-five cents. In the grand scheme of things, it was nothing.

And here I sit on my new overstuffed chair with my feet up on an ottoman in my cozy, warm little rented bungalow. Feeling blessed. And feeling sad for “those people.” Homeless? Mentally ill? Addicts? Uneducated? Scammers, indeed.

change is good

Several years ago, I sat down and made a list of all of my relationships, long and short term; all of the addresses I have lived at since I graduated from high school; and all of the jobs I have ever had.

Don’t ask why I did that. I have no idea. I can’t explain why my brain works the way it does.

It was the same number for each. Don’t ask… I won’t tell you.

There was a time when that number might have embarrassed me. And God knows, I have been criticized for all of the changes I have made. But I thank God that I never allowed the critics to hold me back.

I do regret the number of relationships and that a few of them didn’t last. One really big regret… not that it ended, but how it ended. But most of them were really bad decisions. I would like to think I don’t make bad decisions any more.

I just did that laugh/snort thing. In public. Do we ever really stop making bad decisions?

Jobs and addresses… no regrets. Whatsoever.

Working in the insurance field really didn’t contribute much to my “worldliness,” although it did give me the opportunity to live in the greatest city in the whole world for four years. And during those four years I was in a really fun, though short lived, relationship; had an unlimited number of great things to do (for free) on any given day; visited Europe for the first (and only) time in my life; and learned about confidence and self esteem, because it really is true that “if you can make it there, you’ll make it anywhere.”

Fast forward to 1998 when I started my first job in the Development field. Since then I have worked for a world renowned graduate level theological school; the oldest public art museum in the country with a collection of over 50,000 works of art; an emergency food pantry in one of the most affluent communities in New England; an organization that serves an uncanny number of homeless people each day; and two college preparatory high schools.

I have worked with and met people from every walk of life–economically, racially, culturally, religiously–and it has made me the person I am today. I am equally comfortable chatting with a multi-millionaire, Joe Six Pack, or a homeless person panhandling on a city street. A Jew, a Christian, or a Muslim. A white person, a Latino/a, an African American, or an Arab.

When I engage in a conversation with another member of the human family, I don’t see color.

I am blessed.

Addresses, I’ve had a few.

Three in the Big Apple alone.

I was fortunate to return to my hometown as an adult and even owned a home there for a few years.

For several years I lived in an apartment complex that had all the best amenities. An indoor pool that I frequently had to myself; an L-shaped outdoor pool that was huge and beautifully landscaped; a fitness center with a treadmill that I could see from my bedroom window, so I could see when it was available; hiking trails; and a boat slip where I could put my kayak into the Farmington River. And the apartment itself was perfect, with my own little private patio and back yard.

I spent a year in Rhode Island, where I could smell the ocean air and hear the seagulls from my office window.

I spent several years in “Lesbianville, USA,” which really isn’t Lesbianville at all if you’re trying to meet someone. But still one of the greatest towns in the Northeast if you like good food, great music, and beautiful scenery. A town that I would like to retire to.

And now, the “Quiet Corner,” where I live in a 500 square foot “bungalow” on 26 of the most beautiful acres you could imagine. Going home each day is like going to a vacation cottage.

The number is astounding. But change is good.

Change is very good.

h a t e

It’s a strong word, isn’t it? Hate?

Hate.

HATE.

hate.

It doesn’t even matter how you write it or say it. It’s harsh. Mean. Well, it’s hateful.

Is there anything or anyone that you hate?

I have hated a few people in my lifetime, but I feel like the energy it takes to hate someone or something is draining. It sucks the life out of you. And forgiveness is freeing.

However, I am not free of hate. And I remembered that this evening, while I was in the fitting room at TJ Maxx.

I am not even kidding.

So I am invited to three weddings this year, which means I need to look presentable. One is this weekend, and I have most of my outfit. But I need one more item to bring it all together.

ONE!

And yes, I DO know how to bring it all together and look presentable. But clothes shopping?

BLOCK YOUR EARS.

Holy fucking panic attack.

Who makes women’s clothing? And why do most women love shopping? I would rather have a fucking root canal. No, wait. I would rather have YOUR fucking root canal.

Nothing fits. The mirrors in the fitting rooms are like carnival mirrors. The fluorescent lighting shines on every bump, bruise, and blemish on your body. And everything is made in some third world country by slave laborers.

Everything about clothes shopping sucks.

If I go to the Gap, I give my waist measurement and my length measurement IN THE MEN’S DEPARTMENT and BAM, it fits. So how many different sized and shaped women can SQUEEZE into the same size 12 or 14 pair of pants, with no consideration for length?

I HATE CLOTHES SHOPPING!

Most people don’t know that about me, but they should. Because I wear the same four or five shades of Gap Khaki every day with one of six or seven different colored v-neck Gap sweaters every day. Which transition to twelve different colored Gap v-neck t-shirts in the summer.

Outside of work, I currently live in one pair of Gap jeans that still fit and any loose fitting top that doesn’t require ironing.

Holy hate.

I found nothing at TJ Maxx.

Of course, as limited as my wardrobe is, I hate crap. I HATE crap. I HATE CRAP. I want a garment that will last me ten years, like the other parts of my wedding ensemble.

So, for tonight, cocktails win over shopping. I could only take so much.

Oh, and the only other thing I hate… dancing.

The act of eloping is underestimated. I could give all of them a wedding gift PLUS my clothes shopping money. And double that, just to eliminate the stress.

But I love you guys. And I am always ready for a celebration.

The irony is that my mom loved clothes shopping and dressed to impress… and she danced like Ginger Rogers.

Regrets… a reply to a question

My mom and I had a strained relationship for the last 10ish years of her life. I can’t explain why, but I have a couple of theories.

One is that she underwent treatment for lung cancer back around 2005 and I was her primary care giver. My employer at the time allowed me to take off Fridays to take her to chemo treatments. We actually enjoyed that time, but that is when she started biting my head off for every little thing. Just me, not my siblings.

She survived the lung cancer, but our relationship got worse. To the point I just didn’t want to call or visit.

I would complain to my siblings, and to her, but that didn’t help matters. So I reached a point where I decided I would just keep my mouth shut. That was when my siblings started to notice how she treated me, and they would defend me.

And that is when I started to hear stories about other people who tend to be the primary care giver. Same thing. They also tended to become an emotional punching bag.

But I loved her very, very much. And when she got sick in January of 2013, I was allowed to spend a lot of time with her. But things were different. She didn’t treat me badly; she appreciated everything I did. I think she knew her condition was really bad. Of course, I was spending a lot of time with her, which was what she always wanted. I slept at her place on weekends and sometimes during the week. And during her hospitalizations, I slept there. My siblings, did, too.

Ironically, I have a different employer than when she had cancer, but the same boss. So, again, I was allowed to take the time I needed. Twice, when I needed the time, I have been blessed to work for people who believe family comes first. As it should be.

Actually, thrice. When dad was ill in 2012, too.

Thrice? You’re impressed with that word, aren’t you?

My regret is those many years that we bickered. And the years that I hated calling or visiting for fear of being criticized. In hindsight though, my mom had a crappy life. Though you wouldn’t know it. And she had every reason to be bitter. But she, like me, always let her joy outshine her problems.

I would take her and my dad back in a heartbeat. And I would be more patient and give them more of my time. And I would buy them more sundaes and milk shakes.

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 Sadly, it’s too late.

I hope there is ice cream in heaven.

A good friend told me several years ago that I would miss her when she was gone. I had told her how grossed out I was when she asked me to clip her toenails.

She was right.

During her last five months though, I was happy to clip her toenails, clean her dentures, wash her back… anything she wanted.

I do feel very blessed to have been with both of them at the end of their time on earth. It was an extraordinary experience, witnessing the end of their pain and the beginning of their peace. Witnessing them being taken home.

“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.” ~Psalms 116:15, read by my brother-in-law Joe just after dad left us at 8:55 AM on Saturday, October 20, 2012.

 

Would you start over?

I know you’ve been asked before. Would you start over if you could? From the beginning? From high school? Career?

I have never really thought about starting from the beginning. I would have to say no. As great as my childhood was, it was equally volatile. My dad had “issues.” And then, after mom and dad divorced, mom remarried and we were a blended family. Let’s just say that I am not a believer in the success of blended families; at least not when the kids are young.

High school? Oh yeah, I would start over from high school in a heartbeat. Right this second. I loved high school. Even though I was struggling with my sexuality and then witnessed my brother’s diving accident, which left him quadriplegic. But I loved high school. The friends. The teachers. The sports. The drugs.

That's my bad ass self on the softball field. I always thought I was fat in high school. I wish I was that fat now. I loved softball...proud to say I circulated the petition that would start a team at RHHS. Maybe I should have been a politician.

That’s my bad ass self on the softball field. I always thought I was fat in high school. I wish I was that fat now. I loved softball…proud to say I circulated the petition that would start a team at RHHS. Maybe I should have been a politician.

Kidding. I never did drugs. In high school.

If I started over I would ignore everything our “Guidance Counselors” told me. They really didn’t give me any guidance at all. They only helped the kids they were sure would get into a good school or the kids whose parents were playing an active role in planning their future. They turned their noses up at kids like me who wanted to start at a two year school. Fact.

I would go to any college that would take me and I wouldn’t let anyone get in my way. Any degree would be better than the one I wound up with. And that was primarily because, at the age of 18, I was on my own in planning my future.

Career?

This one I have been thinking about a lot lately. I’m not sure why. But yes, I would definitely choose a different career if I could start over. Even though I truly do love what I do.

So what would my career path have been?

There was a time, as an adult, that I would have said a minister. But that was before I gave up faith in organized religion to follow something much greater. But, for a time, I was very active in my childhood church as an adult and did a good amount of speaking from the pulpit. It’s a powerful feeling to speak and look out at people and feel confident that they are listening. It was during that time that I conquered a fear of public speaking.

And then… getting to know, on a casual basis, the talented Hartford Courant columnist, author, and all around cool person, Susan Campbell; finding that a first cousin is a New York Times best selling author, Joanne DeMaio; spending time with another author, Laurelynn Martin; and starting this Blog… I realized how much I love to write. And I frequently think back to high school English teachers, especially Mrs. Hayden, God rest her soul, who taught a journalism class that I still remember.

Third. I would love to be a pilot. I actually looked into it in my twenties, but the cost was prohibitive. But every time I fly I think how much I would love to be in that cockpit, piloting that plane.

Those are my three. How about you? If you could start over, how far back would you go? And what would your career choice be?

Next question. What if something in your life changed tomorrow and you had an unlimited source of revenue? Would you quit your job? Would you not work at all? Would you work, but do something different?

I know what I would do.

First, I would give a bunch of money to the facilities my mom and dad spent their final days in. That beautiful hospice in Georgia and the Hospital for Special Care in New Britain, Connecticut.

Second, I would give to some very special charities.

Third, I would create my own career that was all about helping people, beginning with the homeless. Especially homeless with mental health issues and addictions. And homeless veterans… who, sadly, usually have mental health issues and addictions.

Dream big. You never know what God has in store for you.

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Unconditional Love

Dictionary.com

Main Entry: unconditional love

Part of Speech:  n

Definition:  affection with no limits or conditions; complete love.

Idgie and Buddy were my most successful relationships… twelve plus years. My most successful relationship with a human was ten years. Their other mom.

I loved them. And they loved me. Unconditionally. They were the greatest companions one could ask for, during some of the most difficult times in my life.

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And then there was Sadie. Her other mom had custody of her, but I had visitation rights. Okay, so I really just got to dog sit when her other moms went on really great vacations. But I always got really great gifts. And the four of us always had a great time.

Sadie

The only thing was, I am not sure Idgie and Buddy could figure out WHAT she was.

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Sadie was an adorable Shih Tzu who made an obnoxious snort noise that only a mother could love. As Sadie got older, her other mom started cutting the hair on her ears short… so she wouldn’t drag them through her food and water. I don’t know why, but she reminded me of Phyllis Diller. Hey, I have no explanation for the way my mind works.

Sadly, all three of them left us in the same year. The timing was strange.

And then I met a handsome boy that I named Gage. I found him at an SPCA while visiting a friend in a town called Gagetown in New Brunswick, Canada.

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imageGage served a very important purpose in my life… it’s a long story. Unfortunately, I was not able to keep him. But I found a beautiful family to take care of him, who, ironically, were directly connected to the very important purpose that he served in my life. Don’t ask.

He is now called Gabe, after the archangel Gabriel. And he lives in Northampton, MA.

Somehow I wound up in Connecticut’s Quiet Corner, renting the most awesome little house on the most awesome huge piece of property. When I moved here, I was concerned about the “no pets” policy, especially since the owners are veterinarians. But we came up with an agreement when I told them I might eventually need a companion living out here in the middle of nowhere.

And then I met Stanley. The love of my life.

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Stanley was a cat that a client had brought to their clinic, but they couldn’t afford to care for him. He had been hit by a car and if I recall correctly, he had two broken legs, a broken hip, and an inflamed brain.

Apparently, sometimes vets will have you sign over your pet to them and they will care for them at their expense, especially if they require procedures that are out of the ordinary.

It took three months for them to bring Stanley back to life. And then they brought him home.

Unfortunately, the cat they already had… JJ… hated Stanley. So Stanley wound up living in what would become my garage.

Well, it was only a matter of hours after I moved in before I encouraged the brain damaged, one eyed wonder to make himself at home inside the “Bungalow.”

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And just when we thought that we had a perfect marriage, along came Ollie. Oh what a story… one of those stories you just cannot make up.

Back in August of 2012, I went to 85 Main in Putnam for a bite to eat. I parked my car at the bank nearby and there was this CUTE little feral kitten. Scrawny little thing. She wanted NOTHING to do with me, so I went along my way.

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When I headed home, she was still wandering around that parking lot. So I went back into 85 Main and asked them for a small cup of milk. When I returned, she was nowhere to be found. I called for her for well over 20 minutes, but she never came back.

So I headed home. A 20-30 minute drive, including several miles on I-395 at 65+ mph.

The next morning I was just ready to jump in the shower and I hear Gavin, my landlords’ son, yell “Mommy, there’s a kitten under Mary’s car.” My first thought… not good. So I went outside only to find Gavin and Jenna in my garage… with that cute little feral kitten.

SOMEHOW she hitched a ride home with me.

Jenna, a vet, was able to catch her and brought her in for a check up right away. She was healthy but VERY skinny and malnourished. In fact, too skinny to even tell for sure she was a girl. She cozied right up to us and has been a little purring machine ever since.

Ollie… I know it’s a boy name. But I wanted something to go along with Stanley. Like when I had Idgie and Buddy… two characters from my favorite movie in the whole world.

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Ollie1

Stanley and Ollie …well, they remind me of Idgie and Buddy. They came from different worlds, but they love each other like a brother and a sister. We have a happy little home.

Stan and Ollie 1 imageAnd the best part is that they love me… unconditionally.

d r i n k s

I think it is interesting that in my immediate family only two of us drink. And it isn’t even a 12-step/AA thing.

Mom and dad did when they were young. The liquor cabinet was always filled for their card parties back in the 60s and 70s. But never as they got older.

We BEGGED mom to drink wine, just to take the edge off, but she wouldn’t.

My youngest brother got it out of his system early on. The oldest just never did, but WOW is it fun to watch him drink just one adult beverge. My sister… a religious thing. Mostly.

Me and my other brother…we enjoy a few from time to time. Okay… we drink. Okay, because mom was such a ball of stress, we would meet in the kitchen for a shot of schnapps on holidays and family get togethers.

Ahhhhhhhh…

I recently had an appointment with a new doctor and he asked me about my drinking habits. You see, because I do care about my health, I don’t lie about habits that may have a direct impact on my health. So… I did the math in my head.

Pause.

imageHow many alcoholic beverages do you consume in one week?

If you drink, the answer may be…well…sobering. No pun intended.

I asked a friend what they would tell a medical doctor and they said, “Six.”

LIAR! I mean, this was a regular flippin’ beer whore. Six? Six drinks in one week? Come on. Maybe six drinks in one night.

Okay, that could be an exaggeration.

I was honest with my answer. So now I wonder what he wrote in his notes. My guess is that I am pretty darn average.

Here’s the thing. I am approaching my 52nd year and I have bigger issues to worry about. My “bad” habits are in check.

So why is that question so “sobering?”

Well, you do the math.

The answer is very personal.

I said ten to twenty in a week, with periods of going several weeks without. I think I may have been the first person to answer him honestly. There was no concern whatsoever… and he knew what medications I take.

Why would I lie? It’s my health we’re talking about.

What would your answer be? Shhhhhh… it’s a rhetorical question.

Cheers!