Millions

On the 23rd, I met my friends Volfe and Beth for coffee at a little place called “Silk Espresso” in Gresham. The coffee was great (Stumptown always is…), but the best part was the drive out there. The sun was shining brilliantly down on my little truck, and you could see for miles from the freeway. All of the mountains were in rare form, so gorgeous you would have wished you could touch the snow.

That led me down the path of thinking about skiing. The season is almost over, but surely there are a few days left… maybe I’ll get a season pass since right now, it’s probably only good for one or two more trips… I had such fun when I went last time- a ski guide from Austin, Texas picked me up when I had a “yard sale,” which is where you fall while skiing and your gear goes every which direction. As he scrambled to get me in my skis, gather my poles, and stand me upright, he told me how he got here and what exactly a tour guide does.

It’s a volunteer position, but you get free lift tickets. Seriously. How cool is that?

So I’m thinking about all of this and I realize that I’ve already missed my exit. It’s a long way back. Of course it is. I was driving towards the Columbia River Gorge. I was lucky I was able to turn around within three miles. 🙂

The weather has just captivated me, and rendered me completely useless. I don’t want to think about anything else but that warm Vitamin D touching my skin, especially going 55 down the freeway with the stereo cranked and the windows down.

It reminded me of being 16, and driving my dad’s convertible. The only difference is that in Sugar Land, Texas, there aren’t many distractions like snow-covered mountains and a break in the weather that reduces the blah to a manageable level. No, Sugar Land is a different pace. No mountains, but lush lawns, a baseball diamond, and a large mall that provides many poor people with free air conditioning in the summer… as all malls do, I’m sure.

But I digress.

The snow-covered mountains and the beautiful trees heading out to the Gorge made me realize that I was born at the perfect time. My actual birthday is supposed to be 8 weeks later than it is, because I was not fully cooked when I emerged victorious from 7 months in a so-small-it’s-not-even-an-efficiency apartment.

Being born early made me an earth sign, and even if it’s complete and total hooey, I choose to believe that an earth sign was meant for me. I am connected to the land in a way that seems deeper than a lot of my friends. When I’m hurt, I drive out the Gorge and find a spot to scream it out. The gorge has quite a few secrets of mine, now, and it scares me to think what would happen if it could talk.

Grass and trees and mountains and bugs make me happy (with the possible exception of spiders- I am not scared of them, per se, but I prefer to look at them under glass). The honeybee shortage affected me to the point that I would intentionally look for products in the grocery store that I could buy to give money to bees, because it was the thing that I could do to help without having money to donate on hand.

Dragonflies buzz “I am still with you even if we are miles apart.”

Ladybugs are just stylish.

I like to tend other people’s gardens, getting wet and muddy and gross, because while I am an earth sign, with gardens I just want to help a little bit and then get to go home and not do it anymore. I get my fill after a day or so, and then it’s time to move on to something else, like sitting in the sunshine with a beer or an ice coffee and writing in my journal.

Rocks. Ohhh, rocks. Whenever my friends go anywhere, I ask them to bring me back rocks from where they’ve visited. Ethan, my former boss, brought me two from a hiking trip that are still on my bookshelf at home. My friend Diane went to the Colorado River/Grand Canyon, and I asked her to bring me a rock, too. She brought me a piece of the Vishnu Schist, which is millions and millions of years old. I meditate while holding it so that I have the sense of holding onto grounding earth. The Vishnu Schist has heard it all, and somehow, I think it transfers to me, even if it is only in my mind. I keep it in its little velvet bag hung with a magnet onto the freezer. That way, I always know where it is.

That rock may be the most precious thing I own, because it is my only possession that when I hold it in my hand, I am holding the beginning of creation.

Sermon for Proper 21, Year B

Originally preached on September 29th, 2012

(sung in Gregorian-style chant)

The law of the LORD is perfect
and revives the soul;
the testimony of the LORD is sure
and gives wisdom to the innocent.

In ages past, Psalms were sung rather than spoken. This is because elders in all religions discovered that if they gave their congregations melodies to put with them, it was easier to remember. The practice is not limited to the Abrahamic religions, however. Surviving from the 3rd century BC is a collection of six Hellenistic hymns written by the Alexandrian poet, Callimachus.

It is anastounding discovery in the modern era that these ideas, the ones that occurredorganically in those days, are now at the forefront in the healing arts.Doctors are unsure of the complete explanation as to why, but over the years, several theories have been examined.

Dr. Paul Broca, whose research was publicized in the 1880’s, is most famous for his discovery of the speech production center of the brain , now called “Broca’s area.” He arrived at this discovery by studying the brains of aphasic patients-persons with speech and language disorders resulting from brain injury. He was most focused on a small area in the frontal lobe, which he discovered aided in the sequencing and rhythm of words. One of the parts of the cerebral cortex, Werneke’s area, is responsible for creating pathways to understanding the meaning of words.

This is all very technical information that boils down to a simple idea. Music literally makes the two areas of the brain work together, forming deeper neurological pathways. Religious leaders learned that before science. People remember music because they are, quite literally, wired that way.

Music therapists have long discovered that if either area of the brain is damaged,the other one will compensate, creating new neural pathways to restore the brain to normal… and sometimes, the easiest way to jump start that process is by singing.

Think about it. How many of you could recite the words to your favorite song,completely out of context? Yet when you’re driving in your car, listening to Journey, all of the sudden you know every word to Don’t Stop Believing?

Or when you’re walking along, and the soundtrack to your life starts playing in your brain. All of the sudden you can remember every word to Twisted Whistle’s cover of Gin & Juice. If you’re like me, you’ll forget where you are and all of the sudden, “with so much drama in the LBC, it’s kinda hard bein’ Snoop D Oh-h Double G. Somehow-w some way…” It’s the same for Snoop Dogg’s version. Rap gets under your skin not because of the melody, but because of the rhythm and sequence of words.

Bet you never thought you’d hear Snoop Dogg quoted in a sermon.

You’re welcome.

No one is a better example of the strides in this research than Gabrielle Giffords, an Arizona congresswoman. After a major gunshot wound, she traveled to my hometown of Houston, where one of the most advanced clinics of neurological rehabilitation resides.

From the time she was wounded until the time she could speak full sentences was about nine months. One of the reasons she made such incredible progress was due to the use of music in her therapy. She couldn’t recite the words to songs like “Happy Birthday,” but because she was familiar with the rhythm and sequence of the music, when she started to sing, the words came to her easily.

It is at this point we are ready to study the letter of James. He writes:

Are any among you suffering? They should pray. Are any cheerful? They should singsongs of praise. Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up.

In order to research this sermon more fully, I turned to the Biblical criticism of theologian William Barclay:

Here we have set out before us dominant characteristics of the early church.

It was a singing church; the early Christians were always ready to burst into song. Christians speak to each other in psalms and hymns and spirituals; singing with thankfulness in their hearts to God.

Another great characteristic of the early church was that it was a healing church.Here, it inherited its tradition from Judaism. When a Jew was ill, it was to the Rabbi he went, rather than the doctor; and the Rabbi anointed him with oil.

James, meet Paul Broca. Paul Broca, meet James.

SINGING ALLOWS THE BRAIN TO CREATE DEEPER NEURAL NETWORKS, WHICH LEADS TO A DEEPER UNDERSTANDING OF THE MATERIAL.

Singing to God is literally understanding God.

This higher consciousness, this reaching for the divine, is a gift that only humans have. Apes may have a special fondness for God in their hearts, but they will never sing about it. That’s because Broca’s area is nowhere to be found in their brains. This ability for sequence and rhythm supporting comprehension is only found in us. When you think about it that way, it just becomes more and more apparent how great a blessing music is to the life of a church.

And while music is gaining more and more ground in physical rehab, it has long been a voice in the emotional healing of a family, a community, a plantation:

If you get there before I do
Coming for to carry me home
Tell all my friends I’m coming too
Coming for to carry me home

Easy to remember codified instructions. If you get to the plantation before me, and can only take some of the slaves, tell everyone else that I’m coming for them.

In short, be ready. You never know when I’m going to show up, and when I do, your bags have to be packed. Your sandals have to be on your feet. And there is no turning back.

Be. Ready. At. All. Times.

Harriet Tubman led over 70 slaves to freedom with Paul Broca’s help. She may never have read a single word of his research, but she understood the content. Put a melody to the words and people are more likely to remember it, critical because nowhere was it safe to write them down.

So what’s the take-home message here? What does this have to do with modern day life in Portland, Oregon?

(singing in Gregorian-style chant)

God can break into our lives at any moment;
Always be ready for a miracle.
If you are in pain, in body or mind,
Call upon me in song.

Thanks be to God.

Amen.

The Medical Side of Mental Health

People are becoming more and more aware that mental illness is not just psychological. Education is so necessary around this point, even for patients. There may be plenty going on in their lives to cause them emotional distress, but at the same time, I’ve never known anyone who could talk away a chemical imbalance.

And now, a fitting Monty Python quote:

“This new learning amazes me, Sir Bedevere. Explain again how sheep’s bladders may be employed to prevent earthquakes.”

You cannot treat a chemical imbalance if your brain is not making that chemical in the first place. There are three main neurotransmitters that have to be hit to not get depression: dopamine, seratonin, and norepinephrine. If all three aren’t balanced, you will go one of two ways: down into depression or up into mania. For most people that go up into true mania, they cycle. Whether that person’s cycle takes four months or four days, there is an extreme fluctuation in those three brain chemicals that have to get evened out.

Because each person’s mental health is individual to them, I can only talk about what I’ve been through, what’s worked, and what hasn’t.

I didn’t realize that I had depression so much as I realized that I was only getting three productive days per month. I couldn’t function because I couldn’t motivate myself. I was mired in sadness, with no reason for it at all. I didn’t believe I could handle my life, so I didn’t. I was about 19, and my anxiety was trying to kill me. I don’t mean that I was suicidal. I mean that I got panic attacks and the shortness of breath was severe.

After that, I was put on an antidepressant called Celexa. It helped with the depression because it hit my serotonin, but not as much as I needed. I continued with it for years, sometimes adding Wellbutrin to hit dopamine as well.

It wasn’t until 2005 that I saw a brilliant psychiatrist at University of Houston who said, after running some tests, that I had been misdiagnosed, and that’s why I didn’t feel much better. He said that instead of monopolar depression, I was Bipolar II. This meant that I wasn’t cycling into true mania, but often staying up for days at a time. I tapered off everything I was taking and started a cocktail of Lamictal (lamotrigine) and again, Celexa.

That was eight years ago, and I have been mostly stable ever since. Occasionally, I have days where nothing feels right and everybody sucks. Other days, I can’t get enough of being with people and listening to their stories. It’s a cycle, but a small one.

I take medication every day so that the rise and fall stays true to my personality and I can be who I want to be without being too sedated or too miserable to get out of bed.

So many people do not even bother to take the tests to see if they’re depressed, most likely because their insurance is shit and they can’t afford it – or – admitting that you need professional help is hard. You have to admit that you have faults, big ones, and even though you aren’t knowingly causing unrest, you do. Both for yourself and those around you. That’s the danger of not getting mental health treated- you fall into such a hole that you cannot see the ways you are affecting the people you love. You can unintentionally put a severe burden on a relationship if they are close enough to you to see that you need help.

Plus, getting better in terms of mental health is difficult at best… not so much when you find the drugs that work for you and you can stick to them. However, when you are in the throes of finding that “right thing,” you may feel as if the world is ending and a brick keeps hitting your head repeatedly out of spite. Thrown from a third story window. If you’re lucky, you’ll have someone to lean on when all this is going on. I didn’t, because PEOPLE WILL NOT COME AND HELP YOU UNLESS YOU ASK THEM. I went to the “I can handle this” school and quickly figured out that I could not maintain. I was freaking out at everything, and once, on a memorable trip to Homo Depot, thought someone was following me with a gun. Who knows? They could have been, but I sincerely doubt it. I have never been a fan of asking for help, because I’d rather sit in a cave until my brain gets ahold of itself. The problem is that sometimes it takes more time than you can afford to recover. Let people help you, or life will not move forward.

The bitch about crazy meds is that it takes a while for them to work- up to six weeks, in fact. What you do during that time will be anything but normal, and not necessarily on the outside. For instance, you may feel as if you have the type of headache you get after wearing someone’s glasses… except that you can take glasses off.

Acknowledge that you are sick, and get in bed. People will say your pain is not real, and that’s ok. They’re just really uneducated about what it feels like to start psychiatric medication. Assure them that your head feels like it’s coming out of your skull, and that should about cover it.

My best wish is to share some common ground with this article. I think we need to start a dialogue around mental health that is more personal and less emotionally violent than what we’re hearing in the news right now. For most people, mental health is just that. Taking a pill like you would if you had high blood pressure. Believing the media when they act like all people who are diagnosed with mental health issues are thisclose to snapping and blowing up everything.

Don’t listen. Just tell your story, and hope that the people reading it will gain new insight as to what you’re going through.

Most of all, though, I am here to show you that you are not alone, and you will always receive compassion here.

Who Do You Think You Are?

“I’m The Doctor.”

“Doctor Who?”

It’s one of the oldest jokes on television, starting in 1963 and, off and on, progressing to a new era of viewers. But that’s exactly what the Disciples want to know from The Jesus this week- “Jesus who?”

The Disciples are, for once, bold enough to have a “coming to Jesus” meeting. They ask him straight out, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.”

This verse is the only place in the gospel where Jesus is asked directly if he is the Messiah (christos). Prior to this, Jesus has not claimed the title for himself, although others have given it to him. Giving the title to himself would have about as much clout as the “King of Pop.” You don’t invent nicknames and titles. You earn them. Additionally, calling himself the Messiah would have attracted so much political attention that he could no longer focus on his ministry. The people who were convinced that he was just an attention-grabbing nut would have had a field day.

What does Jesus do? What Jesus does best. Confuse the ever-living #$@^ out of them.

Jesus answered, “I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name testify to me; but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep. My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.”

Did you catch that? Jesus is not talking about a literal interpretation of eternal life, but something closer to John 3:19-21:
This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

The reason I’m going with this interpretation is that I highly doubt Jesus was telling the Disciples that they were not members of his flock. Jesus was talking about the Disciples’ responsibility to take up the mantle of Christianity, to heal in Jesus’ name, to do more and be more than they could possibly handle on their own. Despite this, though, they trip and fall all over their own humanness. They, like us all, turn toward darkness when the going gets rough.  Jesus is telling them to overcome that part of themselves so that their deeds are done through God instead of despite God.

We all know that feeling of good things happening despite God. We forget to say thank you, we don’t acknowledge the huge bounty of gifts that we have been given by our Creator, and still, life goes on. People win lotteries, wars get treaties, children are fed in spite of our unbelief. The eternal question, however, is “how much better could things be if we were focused on light?”

The God I know is of us, within us, around us. God is a chord that runs through each human being on earth, in every sense of the word. However, you will never find it if you don’t look. Tapping into that energy requires listening to the still small voice inside, nurturing your compassion and empathy, awakening your kindness to a level you haven’t experienced before.

That is what Jesus is talking about. Those who are dialed in reap the benefits of, in effect, wearing the universe. As I have said many times before, God is the answer to every question in every paradox, every time rift, every black hole. Every story that has ever been told.

Jesus uses period language for this, but it is no less powerful.

The works that I do in my Father’s name testify to me; but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep.

It’s a radical invitation, because in order to belong to the flock, you have to want it. Jesus does not intrude. God does not intrude. You invite yourself, you show up at the house, they pour you a lemonade. If you join the flock and you stumble, it is not about punishment. No one will steal you from the Father or the Son, because they are one. No, if you stumble, you are still a precious child of God, with the chance of redeeming yourself. Not because God enriches your life, but because the study and pursuit of light can help you keep your own.

They are the teachers that are ready when the student arrives.

In this week’s news, we have the chance to test our mettle at responding with light. On Monday, April 15th, there was a bombing at the Boston Marathon. Runners were injured, and in some cases, killed. Those that live in darkness will hide from the deep emotional chasm that has been left in its wake. Those that have invited the light into themselves, want to show it burning, will rush in with blankets and food and hugs and smiles. Their light will shine, and the dark, broken places won’t look so, well, broken.

The amazing thing about the Gospel is that you have free will to choose which side you’ll take. You can choose either, and good things will come your way by accident. Living in light will encourage them to happen on purpose.

Thanks be to God.

Amen.

Drinks

Here, in no particular order, are the drinks I love. This should probably go under “Recommendations,” but I already know what I’m going to do for tomorrow. 😉

  1. Diet Coke
    1. I don’t really like Diet Coke that much anymore. I like the memories attached to the Diet Coke. Every singer I’ve ever known has been all about it at one point, it’s the soda we always had at our house growing up, and everyone I know who Drinks Diet Coke drinks a lot of it. So ubiquitous that I can get it anywhere, and if things are quiet, a memory will come to mind, like this joke.

      Q: How many sopranos does it take to change a light bulb?
      A: Two. One to hold the Diet Coke and one to go get the accompanist to do it.

  2. Dr. Pepper
    1. Dr. Pepper took the period out of its name in the ’50s, and apparently, I still can’t adjust. My extended family on my paternal grandmother’s side are basically founding members of Waco, Texas, where Dr. Pepper was invented. I would like to believe that my family had something to do with it, because I often call Dr. Pepper the nectar of the gods.
      1. Dr. Pepper Ten, to me, is just as good as the original, and doesn’t leave that syrupy feeling on your tongue.
  3. Cheap Grape Soda- All of them
    1. Faygo, Nehi, Safeway Select… doesn’t matter. They all make Purple Cows, the point of the whole exercise. Get the same flavors in a cocktail with vanilla vodka.
  4. Beer
    1. I am quite a beer snob, and I could talk about it all day if you’d let me. I took one class on beer, and like everyone who’s ever taken one class of anything, I am an expert. However, when we’re poor, I’m just as happy with a cold can of Hamm’s or Pabst Blue Ribbon. Beer snobbery can only go so far when craft beer is up to ten bucks a six pack. But that’s what I’d rather have, of course. The brands I frequent depend on the season.
      1. Winter- Dechutes Jubelale on nitro and Ninkasi Sleigh’r
      2. Spring- Ninkasi Spring Reign, Widmer anything, Rogue Dead Guy
      3. Summer- Pyramid Apricot Ale, Mike’s anything, St. Arnold’s Krystal Weizen if I’m in Houston, McMenamin’s IPA (sitting outside)
      4. Fall- Ninkasi Oatis, Hopworks Urban Brewery DOA, IPA, ESB, McMenamin’s Hammerhead, and anything Belgian
    2. I could be way snobbier than that, but these are also affordable.
  5. Tequila
    1. Being from Houston, Texas, I am very picky. However, I am only picky about sipping tequilas. Throw whatever shit you’ve got into a margarita, Good tequila should never be wasted on serving it with mixers. If you need a good recommendation for a mixing tequila, I am awfully fond of both Two Fingers and Sauza Blue (Pure Agave). For sipping tequila, you can go industry standard and use Patron Añejo. It is also an axiom that for real sipping tequila, it’s going to cost you some bank. Be prepared to spend $50-60 for a bottle. In the times that I have done this, I have hidden it in the very back of the liquor cabinet and drunk it a half ounce at a time so it would last.
  6. Cheerwine
    1. It’s frustrating to love Cheerwine so much in the Pacific Northwest. It’s made in N Carolina, so the distribution isn’t exactly national. I can get bottles at Fred Meyer and Pine State Biscuits, but in terms of being able to buy a 12-pack in the grocery store, no dice. They also make a Diet Cheerwine that I would love to get my hands on, but in Portland, it’s as rare as a purse without a bird on it.
  7. Aloe Juice
    1. You need it in your bar and in your refrigerator. That stuff is amazing. It’s a quick pick-me-up when it’s hot outside, and excellent with peach vodka or in a margarita. I like the kind with pulp because it adds texture to cocktails and tastes amazing when you’re roasting.
  8. Root Beer
    1. Interestingly enough, I’ve always liked root beer, but I didn’t become an aficionado until I worked in a Cajun restaurant. How many of you knew that root beer was cajun? I didn’t. Barq’s was originally a New Orleans company, so we sell it at Tapalaya, along with a selection of small-barrel artisan batches  My personal favorites are Old Dad’s, A&W Ten, St. Arnold’s, and Abita. I don’t like a lot of the Portland microbrews because they are too sweet and go overboard on the vanilla. I prefer a lot of wintergreen. A lot. Did I mention I like wintergreen?
  9. Ginger Ale
    1. All of the commercially available ginger ales are pretty good, but there is a clear winner in my book. I am a big fan of all Fentiman’s sodas, but the ginger ale is outstanding. A note for recovering alcoholics who aren’t allowed to have alcohol at all: Fentiman’s sodas are fermented, so there is about the same amount of alcohol as a kombucha tea. If you don’t like ginger ale that much, try a different flavor, like Victorian Lemonade or Dandelion and Burdock.
  10. Caffeine
    1. I can’t pick a favorite, so I’ll just list them all. I’m a big fan of Folger’s Black Pearl coffee because it’s cheap and doesn’t taste like it. I’m also an energy drinks fan, and it doesn’t really matter what it is. If it will almost stop my heart, I’m for it. Currently, I drink Viso, and Will the most often. Careful, that shit is toxic. 300mg/per bottle. Handle with care.

What Are We Going to Do About Our Kids?

Originally posted January 2013

You don’t have to be queer to read it, but this message is not for straight people. This message is for all of my GLBT Facebook friends, because I’m issuing a clarion call. I hope you hear it loud and clear.

WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO ABOUT OUR KIDS?

If there is anything that my friend Diane has taught me over the last 23 years, it’s not to wait for someone else to step in and do something about gay kids killing themselves. It’s our community, they’re our kids, and we are their “parents,” but only for lack of a better term.

We are the non-bio superparents that these kids need because at home, they may not really exist. Coming out may be seen as an invitation for their parents or siblings to commit incest. Coming out may be seen as an invitation for their parents or siblings to commit assault, battery, or homicide.

Less physically damaging, but truly emotionally awful is that coming out may be seen as an excuse to pretend that their child/sibling has died. If you think that I am using hyperbole, it happened to my ex-partner.

If you are a child and GLBT, the chance that your news will be met with violence is high. Look at it this way: when a black child gets made fun of at school, in most cases, he/she comes home to a black family that will raise him/her up and teach him/her to be proud of his/her blackness. What are the odds that you have that type of family life as a gay kid?

There is no shortage of love in this community, but we have been taught to stay away from children. We have been indoctrinated with the falsehood that gay people molest children, and so we ignore them… but not because we don’t love them. Because we don’t want to be seen as inappropriate, so we walk away. I know I’ve felt it at times, and I’m done with that kind of shame. I hope you are, too.

The tables are turning. It continues to get better. But some of the kids we ignored took their own lives.

The children that are taking their lives now could have been us in a different situation. We need to ask ourselves what it was that helped us through, and find a way to take that strength and give it to others.

I am putting out the idea, but I cannot do it by myself. What are we going to do?

WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO ABOUT OUR KIDS?

An Open Letter to Oprah Winfrey

Originally posted May 25, 2011

Dear Oprah,

For most of my childhood, I had a stay-at-home mom. Therefore, every afternoon at 4:00, your show was on at my house. I think the first episode I saw was when I was 9 years old. You’ve said in interviews that the fans you feel the most emotion for are the children who grew up with you, and every time you say it, I get a big lump in my throat… and the first time, I totally went into the “ugly cry,” the name you give for that “I don’t care who’s watching and there’s snot on my face” wailing. It seems impossible that the show is ending, but my grief is not for you. You’re going on to do amazing things, and I support that. You deserve every happiness for the thousands of shows you’ve already done. My grief is for the children who won’t grow up with you, won’t know you as the force of nature that you have become.

It has been a pleasure and an inspiration to see you scale unimaginable heights as a woman, and as the best example I know of building something from nothing. Though you have said many times that writing a biography isn’t your thing, I think it’d be a great book… because the best part of your story is not where you are now, it’s how you got there. Surely as a little girl in Mississippi, you had no idea where your life would take you, and even if you did, there’s no way anyone could imagine what you have done in such a short time.

For instance, here’s what I know for sure: the first time I saw a gay person was on your show. The first time I saw a person with AIDS was on your show. The first time I saw a transgendered person was on your show. You have such a large part of my heart because you were one of the people that taught me there was nothing wrong with me. My chest swelled with pride when you agreed to be Ellen’s therapist on her coming out episode. Not only were you one of the first people in television to say you were inclusive, you were one of the first people to truly walk the walk.

Marshall McLuhan said it best in the famous phrase, “the medium is the message.” Your television show reached out to all the senses, and burned into people’s minds sounds and images that have lasted these 25 years, and will continue to live on far beyond The Oprah Winfrey Show. In fact, I am willing to bet that phrases like “make the connection” and “what I know for sure” will live on for generations, even if they’re not aware of the original source.

But always know, Oprah, that I am glad to know the original source. My life has been changed and enriched by you and your show in greater measure than you can possibly imagine. All I have left to say is a heartfelt thank you, and a stolen line from another great journalist…

Goodbye, Oprah. Good night and good luck.

Big love from an enduring fan.

Always,

Leslie.

P.S. If there’s anything that I forgot to write that truly should have been included, it’s that part of my love and adoration of you comes from the way I feel about myself when I watch you. In half an hour, people will start feeling that feeling for the last time. For me, that moment will be unspeakably hard, but again, you have given your audience so much that it is my only hope for you to find a way to feel that feeling yourself. Though I know that now you are a network executive (“I have my OWN network… those initials worked out for me!), I’m rooting for you to delegate, delegate, delegate. Go to the mountains. Go to the beach. Play Scrabble on your iPad. Take the dogs for a run. In short, be amazing to yourself, find YOU outside the show, and let us know how it goes in O magazine. Gayle isn’t going to let you off that easy.