Mishmash

My brain has been scrambled and fried since I lost my mother. This is the first time in a very long time that I’ve been on an “up,” hypomania that allows me four hours of sleep a night, if that. The flip side is that I am very productive during these hours, so it is not all bad. It’s kind of like a superpower that I don’t know when or if will come. Most of the time, my Bipolar II presents as a down with very few ups. I do not cycle more than a few days a month, and sometimes I skip it entirely. I do not know whether this is my natural cycle, or if my medication helps (sarcasm because downs are sometimes intolerable). But I do know that when I swing upward, I am happier. It feels good to be productive, to want to go outside, to want to live life to the fullest rather than sitting in my room hoping that something will happen.

It will make me feel a lot better about being in a huge crowd this weekend at the Women’s March. I haven’t decided who I’m going with, because I might go with the UCC, and I might go with my friends. They’re trying to decide if they want to march with another group, or if they want to get their own group together. However, if I go with the UCC, it’s not like I won’t be with friends. I don’t know who from our church will be there, but I’m guessing Matt will, and that is enough. I am greatly hoping that men do not feel excluded from marching for women’s rights, because some of the best feminists I know are male UCC ministers.

It comes from an example that Jesus taught in one story about Martha and Mary. Martha gets hacked off that she’s doing all the cooking and cleaning (as Larry Gipson once said, churches love Marthas… not the hacked off part, but those that see cooking and cleaning as ministry, because it is). But Mary wanted to sit at Jesus’ feet with the rest of the Disciples and listen to what was being said, and Jesus welcomed her, even though in that time and place it Was. Not. Done. Jesus’ feminist example has echoed through time as Christianity has become more and more progressive, although there are still pockets where women are not allowed to preach, being “relegated” to Sunday school teachers because that is what’s seen as women’s work. I recognize that teaching children is perhaps even greater than preaching to the masses, but it is also an incredible glass ceiling (*squints hard at Fundamentalists*).

However, society will leave them behind, and that version of Christianity must change or die.

I have my own feelings about becoming the kind of person God has asked me to be, because sometimes I feel entirely unworthy, and at others, I know that unworthiness is unwarranted because no one in the Bible that Jesus ever called in the New Testament, or God called in the Old, was ever the type person you’d expect to wear the mantle. My saving grace is that I keep working on myself so that I am becoming a vessel instead of focusing on the parts of my heart that have turned black and need cleansing, because I am realizing one day at a time that those black spots can be cleaned with hard work. I have a long and interesting history of being emotionally messed up, and it is my goal before I am finished with grad school to be able to work without passing on my flaws to others.

It is already beginning, but there is a staircase, and I am somewhere in the middle of it, ever climbing toward the top. Perhaps it is Jacob’s Ladder, and perhaps I am building my own spiral. I can promise you that the pericope of Jacob wrestling with the angel resonates with me deeply, and in some ways, my emotional “stuff” to deal with are where God has touched my hip. I can only hope to heal the limp… Ironic only because my sciatica is a constant reminder physically of the road forward in therapy.

Every day, I make a choice to leave my past behind, or to continue to ruminate about it, trying to figure out where and why I went wrong. It is the natural dance of intimacy, getting closer to finding my true self and alternately running away from it. I know that I have been running since I was a teenager, and now it is time to stop. I have an incredible wealth of resources at my disposal now that Vesta takes my insurance again. Perhaps today is the day I will go back, because I have to take advantage of the productivity while it lasts.

The rest of the time, I am content to sit at my computer and send out resumés, because that takes barely any energy at all. I have also sent out applications for things that make money, but don’t require a lot of brain power, like working at a grocery store. I don’t know that it will make me happy, but what I do know is that I can save my brain power for writing as opposed to being tethered to my laptop 24 hours a day. I am capable of that life, and have often done it, and what I have learned is that it keeps me busy enough that I don’t have time to think about where I am going and whether it is a direction or a distraction.

I will have time to think about it on vacation. I haven’t had a vacation in probably ten to fifteen years, and my father and my sister want me to meet them in Orlando to go to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I have tried copycat recipes of butterbeer, and I am hoping that the real thing is better. I also hope they have a bar, because I would like to try a Firewhisky… even though I am very particular about whisky and scotch. Peat moss makes me gag, because the nose is what I call “Band-Aids,” or at least the smell when you used to have to open the old tins. So, my particular advice is to stay away from Islay. I am the type person that will try anything once, but in this case it did not work out in my favor.

And it’s not like I didn’t try the best of the best. My friend David bought me a shot of The Balvenie, so if you’re going to try peat flavored whisky, I started at the top. It just wasn’t my thing. I would rather have a Diet Coke.

I’m excited about going to the park(s), and will definitely bring my Chuy’s “Expecto Burrito” t-shirt. Speaking of which, my dad got me a gift certificate for Chuy’s for Christmas, and though I did have two meals, I spent most of it on t-shirts, because their design team is so fabulous. One has the fish with Walter White’s hat and sunglasses and says “Heisenchuy.” One says “Super Tex-Mex Brothers,” and is a recreation of Super Mario Brothers in 8-bit for the original NES.

Before I go, I want to get a pair of cargo pants, because even though they’re not in fashion anymore, I would prefer it to carrying a bag through the park, and my stuff would be kept safe with snaps and buttons on the pockets. I may also activate my old iPhone 5c(heap) for the trip, because my Samsung is *huge.* I’d look like I had a tumor. Actually, perhaps I’ll get them today because they’d be handy for the march on Saturday as well. If, God forbid, I get arrested, I’ll at least be comfortable while I’m waiting for my buds to bail me out. I can’t imagine that with 200-400 thousand people that it would happen, but stranger things have happened, and strange things tend to happen to me. I’m also planning on going to the Metro station to fill up my card so I won’t have to wait in line for the machines. The tourists alone, oy vey.

I really want to write more because we haven’t talked in a while, but I need to get moving. Possibly more later- we shall see.

Love you miss you mean it. 🙂

The Art of Prayer

When I was in middle school, we got the call on the Saturday before a holiday that my mother’s father had died. My mother had a children’s choir program the next morning, so there was no way we could take off for Lone Star immediately, about a five and a half hour drive from Houston if you’re going the speed limit…….. My mother, instead of calling everyone and postponing the program (which everyone would have understood), got up like a champ and conducted the hell out of that program. It is one of the times that I remember her as a true hero, because she was able to put away her grief for a few hours, an impossible feat, and get it handled….. literally the Olivia Pope of choir directors.

I wish I could remember more specific details, like what the program entailed and whether my sister was a soloist (I think she was, actually, and that might have gone into her decision as well). But the take-home message is just how much my mother worked with grace under fire. Unlike my mother, my grandfather did not die suddenly. He’d been diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s Disease, the aggressive kind where it started with his throat muscles and worked down so that he could not eat without a feeding tube. Because of this, my grief was tempered, because I had a long time to process the situation… unlike my mother, who we learned from her autopsy that it was indeed an embolism that blew in her leg which killed her almost instantly.

Our family friend, Suzanne Wales, came to the funeral and played the piano, and accompanied me as I played Amazing Grace on my trumpet. As usual, I was calm during crisis with an immense delayed reaction. Perhaps I take after my mother more than I thought.

These memories are why I am praying for my choir director today. She has made the decision to show up and conduct despite receiving the news that her father died. Grace under fire just as my mother was all those years ago. We have bonded over losing our mothers recently, and knowing her is painful and cathartic. The only time I ever really cry at church anymore is when she is playing a piano solo, because she sounds so similar to my mother that it gets me every time.

Praying for her is my way of letting art flow through me, whether it’s hers, mine, or ours as a collective choir. There is nothing in the world that would keep me from church today, because I know her pain. I have seen it with my own eyes. I can only hope that my love for her shines in them, because on days like this, it’s important for her to see it. She has supported me beyond measure as I sing through my own grief and pain. Now it’s my turn to return that favor.

Please join me in prayer, all over the world, because the art of prayer is the thread of humanity that runs through us all, the art that sustains us through good wishes for others in their distress. I know I have felt all sorts of energy from the rest of the globe, from the UK to Australia to Romania to Africa to Scandinavia. All I ask today is that you send it her way, too.

Amen.
#prayingonthespaces

Politics and the Cool Kids’ Table

I didn’t fall asleep until about 0400 because I made the mistake of watching Snowden at 2100. I thought I didn’t care about privacy because I didn’t have any, anyway (I’ve had a wallet stolen and Dana accidentally gave my passport to Goodwill). However, this was beyond my wildest dreams in terms of the power of the NSA/CIA/DIA/etc. As you can tell by the time of this posting [Editor’s Note: I started writing at 0830.], it didn’t take long before I woke back up just as freaked. If there’s anything that the movie points out, it’s that just because something is ruled illegal doesn’t mean that the intelligence community won’t do it, anyway. I’m not worried about access to my Facebook account- it’s all public, anyway. But access to every e-mail I’ve ever written, my phone, and my web cams on both my laptop and desktop? I am doing my best to remain in chill mode, because I have been sure since the Internet became mainstream that I didn’t have private information anymore. I just had information. But there’s one scene where the NSA is watching a Muslim woman and she starts to take off her clothes and they don’t not watch, because they’ve activated her web cam from their SCIF (Secure Contained Information Facility). The scariest part is that this could be dramatization for a movie, or it could be exactly the type behavior that Snowden was trying to highlight. The things that Snowden told the public were being fought internally, and nothing changed. I can’t necessarily support “telling family secrets,” and I can’t decide if I am better off for having seen the movie or not.

Because it’s Oliver Stone, there are real news clips mixed in with the dramatization, and I can’t recommend it highly enough as a good movie. I can promise that the issues it presents are complicated and there’s no easy answer. I have friends on both sides of the aisle, those that think he’s a traitor and a hero. I don’t know what the hell to think. I am able to see both sides of the equation, and just how involved the dialogue must be. Thus, my sleep last night was mostly reduced to sneezing and my eyes closed for a second. Who knows if I am a third or fourth connection to someone that deserves to be watched? How would I even know? I am glad that I am taking anti-anxiety medication, because even if I can’t turn off my brain about this, I’m not having any physical reactions to it. When the credits rolled, though, I was nauseous. By then, my medication had worn off and I couldn’t take any more until this morning. I have to be really careful with the clonazepam, because overuse tends to cause addiction and that is the last rabbit hole I need in my life. It would be easy to accomplish given the amount of stress and grief I’ve been under lately. Even with my mother dying, I still managed to get my savings to last until recently, because I greatly underestimated the time it would take me to get a job. Being a freelancer helps, but it’s not enough. The best I’m doing is expanding my network in hopes of meeting someone that can point me in the right direction.

It’s the same in terms of working for the church as a volunteer. It may also lead to something paid because on the social communications committee, I’m meeting other people who do what I do, which for the church is responsible, measured responses and in my own life, whoring my dirty laundry for money (explain your job badly). But the thing is, I don’t write for anyone else but me. If money comes from it, it’s a blessing, but it is not in any way necessary. Although I have to say that my favorite donation came from a woman who said you must have custom fonts. At the time, my reaction was you get me. You really, really get me. 😛

This is because any money that comes through goes right to WordPress.com and professional development. So far, I’ve been able to upgrade to the pro version of WordPress and get a subscription to LinuxJobber.com. Speaking of which, I need to create a CentOS virtual machine… more of a reminder to myself than telling you about it. That’s just an added bonus to hold me accountable. Although, wait. I don’t have to install anything on my local hard drive, because I can get a free VM in the cloud thanks to LinuxJobber and Amazon Web Services. It would just be nice to be able to learn stuff when I’m offline. It doesn’t happen often, but if my internet goes down, I’m not SOL, either.

This won’t make a lot of sense to non-computer people, but my computer has this inane thing where access to the extensions that make it possible to run a 64-bit guest operating system are soft-coded into the BIOS, and I Googled it, and there should be a BIOS update that fixes it, but so far, all of the BIOS updates I’ve downloaded haven’t included that one feature I really need. However, my computer is fast enough and has enough RAM that I can run a 32-bit guest operating system, and I have. Right now I’m running Windows 10 and can’t decide if I want to dual boot or just install VirtualBox. I had to switch back to Windows when my wireless adapter didn’t work natively in Linux and I have to install the Windows XP driver to get it to work, which reduces my download speeds to absolute shit. In order to properly use my internet connection in Linux, I have to tether my Android, which comes with two problems. The first is that I can’t use file transfer and tethering at the same time. The second is that there’s a large chance I could burn out my phone battery from keeping it plugged in so long. My laptop is fully capable of running multiple operating systems with VirtualBox, but I took it to the church so they wouldn’t have to provide a computer for me, and I got a refurbished desktop for Christmas, which is why I had to add USB wireless in the first place. Overall, I am extremely happy with it. Windows 10 doesn’t suck, and I’ve missed Fallout 3. The second is that the browser plugins are just better… I can use any browser for anything, which is important because I switch between Chrome and Firefox *a lot.*

It is shameful for me to admit this. It really is. However, if I upgrade to the Anniversary edition of Windows, I can install BASH, which won’t mean anything to you except that I’ll have a linux shell inside a Windows environment, and can run all the applications I’ve come to know and love that don’t make an open source Windows version. The easiest solution would be to take my desktop to the church and bring my laptop home, but my desktop is much, much faster than my laptop and has 3x the RAM. Plus, in Linux, my printer works perfectly, but the scanner won’t work over wireless… and I think it is lazy and pointless to buy a printer cable.

The entire reason I got an Android was to work in Linux natively, and I am surprised that the one feature that doesn’t work in Windows that does work in Linux is the media transfer protocol. Nine times out of ten, when I plug it in, it won’t even show up as a drive so I can’t drag and drop my music and videos. Regardless, it has a lot of features that my iPhone wouldn’t even touch, like having a fingerprint reader that allows me to log into my phone, Bank of America, and LastPass. I feel that feature alone was worth the price, even though I didn’t pay it… it was a Christmas present, too. Although it was a deep discount to get a refurbished one and take it to AT&T rather than upgrading my phone there. It’s not the latest and greatest phone, but it is to me. The fact that iPhones do not have an expansion slot is crazy. Mine is 128 GB so that it will last for a while. I use Handbrake to convert my movies to Android size, and I have a habit of using a LARGE amount of space for podcasts so that I don’t have to stream them in the car. Handbrake is invaluable because it backs up encrypted DVDs and Blu-Rays, although I do not have a Blu-Ray drive in my desktop. Perhaps that is one of the next orders of business, but first is a TV card so that I can run my cable through Kodi and record my shows onto my 3TB external drive. Thank GOD it comes in a Windows version that is identical to the Linux version, because I would be lost without it. It doesn’t have plugins for Amazon, Netflix, and Hulu, but there are so many video addons I do use, and here’s a list:

  • ABC Family (Freeform)
  • Crackler
  • TED Talks
  • Syfy
  • Travel Channel
  • Geek & Sundry
  • Linux Gamecast
  • This Week in Tech
  • PBS
  • PBS Kids (even at 39, still addicted to WordGirl)
  • WABC
  • WCBS
  • WNBC
  • YouTube

There are also programs called “Scrapers” that will download the subtitles and movie posters for my movies, which makes the interface beautiful. The OTA channel plugins often post shows before Hulu, because they’re recorded live. I also really, really love the PBS plugin, because my favorite show in the entire world is Frontline. Second to that is Mercy Street, because most of it takes place in my old hood, Alexandria, VA… and if there is a third, it’s American Experience. With the Travel Channel plugin, I have access to No Reservations. The last episode I watched was Finland, because my favorite episode of NR is Iceland, where Tony basically bitches the entire time about the cold/food and it is seriously entertaining.

I was looking forward to more of that, but as it turns out, he liked Finland much better. I would totally move there in a heartbeat if I wasn’t tired of moving and I know I would be gobsmacked by the weather- considering even though it was a lot warmer in Portland, the constantly grey skies undid me. After ten years, it was time to come home, whether it was Houston or DC. I do like their approaches to education, health care, a living wage whether you have a job or not, and the fact that if I got pregnant, my baby could live in a cardboard box. Also, there’s one train that serves beer and wine so you can have one on your train ride home. What’s not to love except for the soul-crushing weather?

Plus, Linux was invented in Finland. How can I not love that? Although ironically, Linus Torvalds lives in Portland now.

In other news, I am meeting an old, old friend at SBUX this afternoon. She was in my 7th and 8th grade classes at Clifton, and now works as a journalist here. I’m excited because she introduced me to an organization working to mobilize Montgomery County in terms of calling Congressmen and just generally trying to decide what we’re going to do over the next 2-4 years. I have a sneaking suspicion that the Midterms are going to be exciting. The hardest part we face is that this area went blue, so in some ways, we are preaching to the choir.

If this organization is non-partisan, just trying to combat injustice rather than being a mouthpiece for the Democratic party, I want to include Matt and Christ Church to it… because this was not a typical election. Even some Republicans are terrified, because this is not about a Republican administration, but decency and humanity. I don’t think we’d be this outraged had someone like Mitt Romney or Jeb Bush won. They have their issues, but they have two things going for them. The first is that they are not batshit crazy. The second is that I doubt either would have turned the country into a theocracy, because gay marriage and abortion were settled by the Supreme Court, and I doubt either one would try to overturn those cases.

I agree with President Obama, though. If the Republicans can come up with a solution to health care that is actually better than the ACA, I will personally support it. I believe that chance is less than zero, though, and perhaps by a large margin. I am grateful that I am covered by state Medicaid, and even though that may be affected, too, it stands a better chance of existing than the federal Affordabe Care Act. Nicknaming it “Obamacare” is both excellent and terrible. It reminds people that POTUS was responsible for passing legislation that truly helped a lot of people… and mobilized Republicans to paint Obama as the anti-Christ for changing the way health care is handled in this country. Before I applied for Medicaid, I got a federal stipend of $250, which made my insurance 37 cents a month. I can easily afford it, but the truth is that Maryland’s Medicaid program provides so much more coverage for free. There’s no deductible, my doctor’s appointments are free, and my medication costs are reduced to a dollar a bottle. Any insurance I’ve ever gotten through work has never been that good. If, God forbid, I have to have surgery or something, I will not have to file for bankruptsy in the process due to co-pays. With surgery and major illnesses such as cancer or an autoimmune disease, co-pays go up to thousands of dollars.

I am a huge fan of single-payer, because it takes away the Golden Handcuffs. No one is stuck in a job they hate because COBRA is ridiculously expensive. Also, when I was working for Marylhurst University, because Dana and I weren’t married her insurance had to be taken out of my salary at full price, which was $600 a month. I gladly paid it because she needed it, but it was still a huge pain in the ass when my straight coworkers paid a tenth of that to add a dependent. Alert Logic was on point. I was able to add Dana, and even though it was taxable income, it was also a tenth of the price at MU.

Single-payer would have saved us a ton of money, although I am sure that’s been changed since national gay marriage is a thing…. for now. Right now, it pays to be single, because if I get a job, not adding a dependent will make my health insurance either free or greatly subsidized.

I am terrified of a Republican president and a Republican Congress all at once. There are no checks and balances on repealing the progress that has been made over the last eight years, and I’m glad that President Obama is remaining in DC until Sasha graduates, because it will enable him to campaign on a huge platform for the midterms.

I am also greatly disappointed that Merrick Garland and President Obama will not become Supreme Court justices, because especially with Obama, as a Constitutional Law professor, it’s a job he might have enjoyed even more than being President. I’m not sure that he even wanted to be nominated, but at the same time, I don’t think it is any less true that he would have made an incredible “Supreme.”

I’m also incredibly disappointed that Ben Carson is such an idiot, because I think it would be interesting at this time in our lives to have an MD in The White House. But Carson seems to have gotten his medical degree from Bob’s College of Medicine & BBQ Pit. If Tiffany Anthony ever had any interest in becoming President, I’d vote for her in a heartbeat (see what I did there?). It also wouldn’t hurt to have a doctor on the Supreme Court… because there are no qualifications for being a Justice. It is traditional for them to be lawyers, but that’s just precedent. Anyone can be appointed if they make it through the vetting process, because in the Constitution, they are literally just Nine Guys in Robes (thanks to Ken Wall for that description). I’m not even sure that you have to have any degrees if you are smart enough.

It’s interesting to think of me getting a government job right now, because I am sure I would be a part of the rebellion that is starting as we speak, especially if I was a White Hat hacker, able to discover vulnerabilities and find SQL injections, rootkits, etc. Rootkits are of the devil, because you can actually overwrite memory as they’re working, so you can’t even see the running process. I am just not a math and science brain. I can teach someone how to use a computer and offer incredible tech support, but I am not the type person to whom programming/reverse engineering comes easily. However, maybe that wouldn’t matter in this administration. If Trump is any indication, I am qualified for any job. Any of them.

If I had aspirations in that area, it would be to work for “No Such Agency,” the only government institution that cares enough to listen. #tshirtwisdom I’ve seen it in two places. The first is the gift shop near Old Ebbitt Grill, and the second is at the Spy Museum. Especially after watching Snowden, it may go on my birthday list.

I do have a CIA baseball cap because my great uncle was a badass hero before I was born. However, I don’t wear it a lot because even though it’s just a tourist gimmick, I’ve noticed that other people look at me suspiciously, as if the CIA actually advertises. The rules for being in the intelligence community are roughly the same as Fight Club. The second is that it is black, and gathers all kinds of dust bunnies and dog hair, and I haven’t managed to get it clean in years.

And on that note, it’s time to get ready to meet “Ace.” I’m looking forward to sitting at the “cool kids’ table.” I finally think I’m worthy of it… and to be honest, it is exciting to think about my future in social justice rather than the grief that is threatening to undo me every single day. My mother would be so proud.

#beastmode engaged.

Grey Skies, White Roofs

first_snow_2017There’s really nothing better than waking up to the first snow of the season. It’s still exciting, you know, before it gets dirty, repetitive, and repetitive. The picture is through my window on the second floor, and I’m sure it would look better without the screen… I’m just not dumb enough to go outside without bundling up until I look like a queen-sized bed. I hear that if I don’t do that, I’ll eventually acclimate to the cold. I tried that in Oregon. It did not work.

I actually do have enough layers to make myself comfortable if I decide to venture out, but for right now, I am comfortable at my desk, just watching what may come. Capital Weather Gang  (they have a great Twitter feed, BTW) is predicting that it’s not over yet, but I’ll be surprised if we get the same unholy dump we got last year. In some areas, it was between a foot and 18 inches. I, however, have been known to be wrong. When I first moved to DC in April of 2015, there were still small patches of snow on the ground. It may not be that the first snow is heinous, but another storm to be determined later. That’s the thing about living on the east coast- it gets just as hot as Houston in the summer, but our winters last a lot longer.

I do a fair amount of complaining about the cold, but the truth is that I prefer it. I can always put on more layers, but in 100 degree heat, I’d have to be indecent before I was comfortable. But hey, no tan lines. #smallblessings

Right now I am listening to dogs barking with absolute delight as they play in the fluff… or at least, the big dogs are happy (Lincoln is a pit bull, Daisy is a BBD [Basic Black Dog, about 40lbs]. We have two Pomeranians (Sadie and Pixie) who are Just. Not. Impressed. I am imagining that their inner monologue runs thusly…. Peeing in the snow is FROWNED UPON IN THIS ESTABLISHMENT. I don’t blame them. I shiver violently just taking off my layers to get in the shower.

Because of this, I don’t shower that often. The winter is drying to my skin, so it’s not like it’s necessary, anyway. I guarantee that I am not doing any sweating, and I rarely put product in my hair because it’s so cold I have to wear a hat.

Sometimes I wear my Rice baseball cap, but most of the time I look like a hippy douche with one of those knit hats that look like it should have come with a bottle of patchouli oil and some sandalwood soap (not that there’s anything wrong with that…. chill, Portland).

As for bundling up, I’m set in terms of groceries, so the biggest decision I have to make today is what movie I’m going to watch, holding my soda with gloves on because it’s cold enough. If I get industrious, I may go out and take pictures… but that would involve putting on real pants, so don’t hold your breath. My electric blanket is heating up, and once I get under it, an Act of God wouldn’t get me to move.

Perhaps I’ll take pictures when I’m required to leave the house, like walking to choir practice. In the time it takes to scrape the windshield and get the defroster working, I could be there already.

Tomorrow’s service centers around the baptism of Christ, wading in the water… however, Christ never mentioned what to do if the water was frozen…. walk on top of it, I guess.

The Slideshow

Everyone in my family contributed pictures for the slideshow that played during my mother’s visitation at Clayton Funeral home. My stepfather, Forbes, sent me a DVD, but I have a habit of losing them and this was too important not to back up to my own drives and the web. Even if you didn’t know my mother, I think you’ll enjoy it… especially if you want to see embarrassing pictures of me as a child.

The one thing I want to point out is that the background music is comprised of piano solos, but my mother is not the soloist. It’s kind of eerie how well her style is captured, though. It makes me wish I had more recordings of her, and perhaps my grandparents have some. My father’s father has a huge repository of family video and audio. In fact, I’m fairly certain that some of the pictures in this slideshow originally came from their house, because our parsonage burned down when I was 11, and it was “Nanny & Paw-Paw” that came to our rescue in terms of all the photos we lost.

My favorite pictures in the set are watching my mother prepare for me, her firstborn, and she never missed a chance to call me that to my face. I don’t think that parents actually have a favorite, but I do think I had a special place in her heart because I was the first to call her “Mom.”

I Wish I Could Tell You…

I wish I could tell you why I’ve had no energy for writing lately. I’ve written a few things in Word documents meant to be published later, but when I went back and read them, I didn’t like them. They were mostly about the New Year’s Eve party I went to and just meandered off into nothing… not that I haven’t done that before, but looking at it with fresh eyes convinced me that I needed the “Post” button to keep myself from doubting what I was about to put out there. Web sites that remain static do not get traffic, but at this point, I’m not worried about it. I’ve needed time to reorient and get with the program, and you may see more content and you may not. Writing is such a personal thing, and I have to have a life to write about it.

I got invited to two New Year’s Eve parties, actually, but I decided to stay on this side of the river rather than going down to the Alexandria waterfront, because that would have meant a 40 minute trip home with a bunch of drunks wandering down GW Parkway and 495. Besides, not only was it New Year’s Eve, it was also Ingrid’s birthday party. We toasted with sips of champagne at both 8:34 PM AND midnight. It made me feel all warm inside, especially since we were sitting outside by a campfire, just talking and joking. It was the best of both worlds… a huge party raging inside with just a small, intimate group outside. So, even though it was cold, I preferred sitting with the small group and making each other laugh than wandering around the house trying to find people I knew.

One of the people I know from choir told me a little bit about her life in the theater. She was backstage tech before she retired, and her biggest story was meeting James Earl Jones before Star Wars. As you can imagine, I was totally down with that. She really wants to spend some time with me, so I imagine that there will be outings in our future, and I am trying hard not to be the anxious spazzbasket I’ve become in terms of wanting to get out of the house and make friends.

Leslie #1 and her husband, David, were also there (everyone in the choir was invited), which alleviated my party anxiety greatly. Leslie is a judge, and for a while she worked out of town and I was not in the choir. So I sat with David and my nickname became “Substitute Leslie.” They asked me what got me back in the choir, and I said, “the chairs.” I got a big laugh over that one because everyone knows that our pews are hard backed and force you to sit up straight as if you’re attending a service in Amish country.

I have mentioned this before, but I have a corkscrew scoliosis in my back that make it almost impossible for me to sit up straight without pain, both in my back and radiating down the nerves in my legs, especially in those pews because the back of them hits the knot in my spine. Once I get approved for Maryland Health Connection, one of my first orders of business is to see if acupuncture and chiropractic services are covered. If they’re not, I’ll go and hit both of them up once I’m making my own money again. Angela the Med & my dad looked at my back years ago, and told me I’d probably have to have surgery on it in my 60s, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have options if surgery is out of the picture until then…. it’s only 20 years away now. I’ve waited longer for other things. Piece of cake.

I also need to get back to Vesta, because when I transitioned to insurance at DSI, they didn’t take it. I lost Leighton as my nurse practitioner and Sarah as my therapist, who are both probably wondering why I never came back… and not for lack of trying. They were the first people who believed in me, that I didn’t have to explain over and over that I wasn’t being catfished and that Argo was a real person with real feelings that never just tried to fuck with me for the hell of it… probably because I never used her real name in therapy and they thought I didn’t know it… that she was a screen name and not someone with whom I’d actually connected. However, this was in my intake evaluation at Montgomery County, and I can’t help but feel that they might have mixed me up with someone who had schizophrenia or something. They see all sorts of crazy in that place, so I can’t say I blame them. I am sure it was an honest mistake, but I was hacked off that they were listening to reply and not listening to hear me. As far as Bipolar II goes, I have a relatively mild case, my hypomania presenting with insomnia and not much else. However, what I didn’t know is that my anxiety was so bad that I needed medication for it, and once those meds were added to my protocol, it opened me up to a world in which I could function when I wasn’t “on a down.”

Argo and I both got into heated arguments, but there was never a time in which I didn’t feel like I needed her friendship, even though it has never extended past e-mail. As you can imagine, as a writer, words on a page are sacred, and reached me in a lot of ways that in-person conversations never would’ve, because it would have taken so much longer for me to open up. My favorite conversation on the subject happened between Dana and me:

Leslie: One of the reasons that Argo is so sacred to me is that when I’m writing to her, it feels like I am entering my God space, and though I can’t know if God is listening, I know that she is.

Dana, with tears in her eyes: Go tell her. Right now.

Having someone listen to my feelings at a time when I really needed it was a life raft of enormous proportions, and I miss that day-to-day of alternately deep conversation and laughter that made me double over.

That being said, my biggest mistake in that relationship (and I made a metric fuck tonne) was not realizing sooner that although she could listen to me with an unbiased ear, she also wasn’t trained in dealing with mental illness and I needed a professional. I can’t help but wonder what might have happened had I had that AHA! moment sooner, but I’ve stopped beating myself up over it (most days- it’s a deep scar).

It also might have calmed Dana’s fears that those teenage butterflies I felt over the dopamine rush of meeting someone too cool for school, because with a professional, it might have happened on her timeline rather than mine. Moreover, it might have stopped the emotional hand grenades she threw at me by using Argo for her own purposes to try and get every fight to devolve from our own problems into the “threat” Argo was to her. Argo was never a threat. It was all my own stuff to deal with after opening the Pandora’s Box of emotional abuse and trying to figure out which end was up.

I literally felt like I was being yanked by my stomach into a different and frightening world, because everything I thought I knew was upended into catastrophe. I couldn’t stop beating myself up for everything I didn’t know, or in my mind, wasn’t smart enough to figure out. I started to forgive myself when I realized I was just a child at the time, reinforced by the fact that my eighth grade history teacher saw it and didn’t know what to do. She told me that she has carried guilt over that fact for over 20 years, and I hope I have done my best to release her from it, because at the time, I never would have talked to her about anything at any time. As the “enabler,” you always protect the path, and she knew members of my congregation at St. Mark’s and even though chances are it never would have made it back to them, I couldn’t bring myself to open up even if the odds were one in a million. So, even though I was a child and Diane was an adult, I still take responsibility for the choice I made not to talk, and it wasn’t and never will be her fault…. because there were plenty of people trying to get me to say something, and I ran away from all of them, not just my teacher…. for two reasons. The first is that because the abuse was psychosexual/emotional and not physical, it didn’t feel real. The second is that because Diane is a lesbian, I just thought that the adults around me were pushing their homophobic agenda and not trying to protect me.

Even leaving the psychosexual abuse part out of it, the emotional abuse was intense and powerful, because she was sharing secrets with me that had no business being passed from an adult to a child.

I also take responsibility for the choices I made once I was an adult, because the statute of limitations had run out and I still didn’t get a therapist and try to resolve both the boiling rage and the intense sadness I felt over the situation. I forgive, but do not forget the e-mail I wrote her detailing what had been done to me, and she offered to come to a therapy session with me, taking it back almost immediately. She wanted me to talk to her partner, Susan, instead.

What I didn’t realize at the time was that Susan was not listening with an unbiased ear, didn’t believe a word I said, and defended Diane to the death. To add insult to injury, I wrote to Diane after the meeting, and she said that Susan’s feelings on the subject were not an accurate representation of hers. My e-mail back only said WHICH IS WHY YOU SHOULD HAVE TALKED TO ME YOURSELF. I felt betrayed because I’d known Diane almost twice as long as Susan, and there was no way that Susan ever could have understood the issues between Diane and me because she wasn’t there. Susan had me pegged as this Single White Female character who was just coming to Portland to steal Diane’s life and friends… as if Diane had never written to me and said she thought it was a good idea to move there when I turned 18 so I could get out of the Bible Belt and later, when I came to visit, told me I looked really happy in Portland and perhaps I should look for a job. She introduced me to a whole host of people, some of whom I talk with regularly to this day.

I didn’t just make my own friends, I made my own urban family. The worst part was when we were in the middle of a sushi restaurant, Diane crying her eyes out because I’d made my own choice to marry Dana (or as close as we could get with a domestic partnership), as if making this choice had anything to do with her. She got on board eventually, but it was a rough haul, because I really didn’t understand why she was so upset. If I had to make a guess, it was twofold. The first is that she really didn’t know Dana that well and didn’t see everything I saw in her. The second is that I didn’t have a big church wedding where she was invited.

However, that was never the plan. The plan was to separate out the legal aspects of our relationship and have a holy ceremony later, because our parents were so far away that we wanted to be the people who made life decisions for each other because if something serious happened, there was no way our families could get there in time, especially Dana’s, because IAD to PDX is a long damn flight…. even further than the four hours and 23 minutes it would have taken for my parents to arrive. There was also the possibility that Dana’s parents, because they did not support our relationship, would try to pull rank over me and Dana wouldn’t have gotten what she told me she needed and wanted, so we both felt we needed protection from it.

By the time Dana asked our priest to marry us, it was long after we’d worked out our legal obligations to each other and I wouldn’t have wanted Diane there, anyway. She made it clear that she was free to drop in and out of my life at will, but if I emoted in kind, she ran like a house on fire.

But those feelings aside, I had enormous fears about getting married in a church, because when I was growing up, being gay was still seen as a mental illness all its own, and all that internalized homophobia had to go somewhere. The Episcopal Church USA grew up, and I didn’t necessarily grow with it. My little kid attitude (after having come out to some people at 13 and the rest at 17) has stayed with me, even, in some ways, to this day. After Dana talked to our priest, I wrote to Argo and told her that even though I wanted to marry Dana, my thought process was what if I planned a wedding and nobody came? It wasn’t reality, but it was real to me.

I had to let go of a lot of anger that Dana talked to our priest without me, and it wasn’t a decision we made together…. mostly because Dana didn’t seem to have the internal Southern conservative views of which I was terrified…. or maybe she did, and was just much stronger than I was… a definite possibility.

In Houston, I was affectionate with her, but looked over my shoulder on every street to make sure we were in a safe neighborhood to do so. I, for instance, had no qualms about it in The Montrose, but outside of it, I am ashamed to say that my thought process sometimes where Dana was concerned was could you not be quite so gay? To say that I had a lot of issues that needed to be worked out in that area is an understatement.

It’s one of the reasons I love living in DC/Maryland. While Virginia still has its issues the further you get toward Richmond and beyond, I never have to look over my shoulder here, because the area is overwhelmingly liberal and supportive of gay rights. Even in 2001, before Kathleen and I separated, we thought about moving to Maryland for just that reason. Although, if I’m honest, I didn’t get a civil union in Vermont with Kathleen for love. I didn’t need a piece of paper to tell me that I wanted to love her for the rest of my life. I needed a piece of paper because a PR spokesman for ExxonMobil told the Washington Blade that for gay couples who had legal proof of their union, they would honor it in terms of benefits.

I honestly don’t think they expected anyone to take them up on it, because we were the first couple that applied, and even though the PR spokesman had said the thing about benefits on the record, XOM hadn’t actually made a policy for it…. so they wrote one just for us. We worked with HR for about a month before the health insurance went through, but it’s an experience I’ll never forget…. being the “poster children” for a notoriously conservative company and living to tell about it. I have also often wondered if that PR guy got to keep his job, because when we e-mailed a digital copy of our civil union certificate to HR, they had no idea what we were talking about. We did, however, make a ton of friends that way because we didn’t know that XOM had a GLBT group on the downlow and all of the sudden, we were heroes. I can only hope that in the 15 years since I left that it’s not on the downlow anymore.

I did get some blowback from it, though. I was a blogger on a different server, and one of the conservative engineers in my group (I worked for the Marine, Civil, Safety, and Technology division at ExxonMobil Research & Engineering, or EMRE) started leaving these nasty comments on my entries, and my boss read them, always having my back.

I’ve always had plenty of people who’ve had my back, and it’s only now that I’m learning to have my own. I come by it honestly, but that does not mean there isn’t room for growth and improvement, such as becoming the Writer in Residence at Christ Congregational. An e-mail just came through that the bulletin is ready to be published online, so I better get to it. Better living through technology, allowing me to work hard and pray on the spaces all at once…. because as always, it’s not just the words that matter, but the spaces in between.

2016 in Review -or- It Wasn’t All Bad

2016, while it had its awful moments, has also been very good for me as I have learned who my friends are. Help has come where I least expected it… for instance, when Susan heard that my mother died, she was Johnny-on-the-spot with the e-mails of support and just checking in to make sure I was okay. I can’t help but be a tiny bit jealous that her mother is still alive and mine isn’t, but the take-home message isn’t my jealousy. It’s to treasure every moment she has left. One of the last things I said to her on the subject was do me a favor. The next time you see your mom, hold her for one second longer than you ever have.

Truthfully, I don’t remember much of the year before my mother died. It wiped out everything, because my world just tilted, and in some ways, exploded as blindingly as Alderaan. Princess Leia couldn’t go home again, and neither can I… but only in some ways. Of course I still have a place at my father’s table, but I will never sit next to my mother on the piano bench, her page turner and carrier of melody when she’s trying to learn an accompaniment for a singer.

Now that everyone has been told, I can let the cat out of the bag that it’s Bryn’s wedding I’m doing, and although I am extraordinarily nervous about going back to Portland, I am willing to do it for two reasons:

  1. It’s Bryn’s day, and it’s what she wants. I want to marry her, and as I said, with one signature she’ll have proof I did. It will be a significant milestone in our relationship, one that we’ll both remember for the rest of our lives, and I don’t argue with brides.
  2. Getting ordained over the Internet, while a bit sketchy in my book, might lead to other weddings once people realize I’m actually good at it. I liken it to when I was a trumpet player and had to play Trumpet Voluntary for honorariums because that one piece is how trumpet players eat. Of course, marrying my best friend and her fiancée is her wedding gift. I am talking about the possibility of weddings in the future that will help pay for college and grad school…. you know, the one where I am ordained by the UCC. I don’t think of it as more valid, just more accredited.

2016 was not the wedding, but the ask, and it meant more to me than diamonds.

2016 was also the year of making friendships that go deeper than surface pleasantries. I really opened up to Dan & Autumn, as well as Pri-Diddy. I am only a little bit closer to Dan for two reasons. The first is that Pri-Diddy is off on an adventure, and the second is that Dan’s mother is dead as well. She wraps me in hugs when I need it, those that last a second longer because she recognizes that particular brand of pain…. the fire pit that seems to be The Neverending Story.

Opening up to Pri-Diddy has been more about forward motion and where I go from here. She has been relentless in her support of me, whether it’s dropping going back to work and concentrating solely on school, or putting me in touch with people who could help me get jobs that would allow me the type salary to graduate without much debt.

2016 was becoming Christ Congregational’s Writer in Residence, literally, because I have an office and a red Swingline stapler. I am proud to be their “webmistress” and look forward to all the social media responsibility that comes with it. Matt asked me if I was capable of editing a book, and I told him that I’d never done it before, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t, because I am ruthless with a red pen. Here, you get all my thoughts, all over the place, but you don’t get what I am truly capable of in terms of academic and formal writing. It’s a different type completely… this is just one style, rarely crafted but vomited logorrhea. I am positive that I could do better with this web site if I did first drafts and second drafts and outlines and all that shit, but I think the blog would also lose character as I craft a narrative instead of just truly telling you what I’m thinking on a moment-to-moment basis. Even my marriage article was stream-of-consciousness, and took approximately 15 minutes to write, which is why I was so blown away by the response… and I am so sad that it didn’t work for my own.

2016 was about letting go. Letting go of Dana, letting go of Argo, letting go of anyone who thought I was crazy for opening up to someone over the Internet and developing real feelings about a virtual relationship. Though neither of those relationships worked out, the lessons I learned were invaluable and I carry them in my heart, pondering what I could have done differently so that anyone new I meet isn’t tainted by my past moods and behaviors. I had to learn to let go of rage and anxiety about those situations and just chill the fuck out. So far, it’s working. It was working before my mother died, but afterward, I realized what was truly important and what wasn’t, and decided to live in love instead of fear. I don’t always manage it with everyone, because I am quite socially anxious with people I don’t know. But anxiety about them and where our relationships have ended up is mostly gone, and they live in my memory with fondness instead of enmity…. again, most of the time. It’s a spectrum that lives in my heart and my inbox.

2016 was the year of finding the Outlander phenomenon, because I read all the books earlier than that, but not the immense fandom that lives on Facebook and Twitter. It was also the year of watching Season One of the TV show, where it cut me deeply and I had to stop. I’m not finished with Season Two because of it. Seeing that level of pain on the screen rather than reading it gutted me like an axe, as well as reading a soldier’s tweet that she’d been through the PTSD sex scene and realizing that those things happen all over the place and not just in fiction. I didn’t cry while I was reading the book, but the TV show and that tweet undid me for days on end and it took time to recover. Still taking time.

Perhaps in 2017 I’ll catch up, but in 2016, it was just too much.

2016 was getting more distance from Diane and realizing I was indeed capable of leaving her behind in a way that I never thought possible… because the break happened years ago, but it took awhile to settle in and make it really, really real. If I ever run into her again, which is possible, I know to be guarded and polite, Leslie Lanagan.™ There’s nothing in the world that would make me open up to her again, as hard as it was when my mother died. The tapestry of memories that included them both was large and somewhat depressing, but what lifted me out of it was knowing just how many people have come forward and said that they knew what she was doing wasn’t right or sane. Even “she didn’t mean to” is no longer a valid excuse. As my father would say, mean not to. This year has been learning to breathe through that anxiety with a little less labor, but especially since we are both musicians, there are still certain pieces that leave me in pieces, too…. although not as many as they used to, which is progress in my book.

2016 has been learning to breathe for all my friends that work for the Obama administration, because they’re all out of a job once Trump is in office. Living in DC has introduced me to several of them, and they are not forgotten in my mind as they go through this transition. As for my other friends that work for the rest of the government, believe me when I say that the rebellion has begun, trying to figure out how to make the bureaucracy work even more slowly than normal to avoid upending a number of good policies, both foreign and domestic.

This year has also been about me learning to be a lover and a fighter all at the same time, taking on going to meetings where the county government covers things like race relations and police brutality. People of faith have to speak up, even when it’s difficult. I know within myself that I am capable of so much, and if I get arrested for peacefully protesting, there are a number of people willing to bail me out of jail… a talk I never thought I’d have to have, but police brutality extends to people who are just sitting there. It may not be getting worse, just filmed, but there it is. I have a feeling that there will be a lot of protests this year over a multitude of things, including what we are doing militarily, but soldiers, listen up. I will never, ever, ever disagree with the boots on the ground. I couldn’t be more proud or more thankful for your existence. However, I will gladly disagree with your Commander in Chief if he is using you for inane or dangerous purposes. My Jesus wouldn’t stand for it, and neither will I.

Most of all, I have learned that no matter what I do, good or bad, there is nothing that will ever separate me from the love of God, and the whole host of faces I use to talk to them (using this pronoun because God is genderless). I have sat in so much silence and prayer, trying to find my still, small voice that it is emerging in a big damn way.

2017, stay tuned.