A Letter

I’ve written versions of this letter several times; in my head, while brushing my teeth, even on my computer on occasion. I’ve never sent it for a few reasons; I didn’t want to supersede all the good you’ve provided me in my life, I didn’t want to stir the pot, and I didn’t want to hurt you. So why am I doing this now, on this bog? I am not entirely sure, actually. Maybe I am a coward. Maybe I’m vindictive. Or maybe I am just……tired. But, in all cases, I am fighting to see where you truly love me. And that is hard for me.

I have often idolized you during my 50+ years on this earth. I have modeled so many aspects of my life around you. I try to think critically. I try to stay calm in stressful situations. I try to to be nurturing and consistent. I try to verbalize the love I feel for others and make an effort to show that love in meaningful ways. SOOOO many things I do are because you modeled it first for me. And for many, many years of my life I felt your pride in my actions. In fact, much of my confidence, joy, and determination is derived from the truth I always followed like a beacon in the storm – you are the one person who loved me completely and unconditionally. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about you in some way, almost always in a positive manner, and that often makes me smile.

However, we both know there are pieces in this picture that are harder to deal with.  How you’ve never wanted to meet Zack and Sophia, two individuals made in the image of God who did nothing to you except be adopted by two lesbians.  The anger and hatred you apparently still carry against my mom.  How you feel about Deana, who by the way I persued.  How you virtually have no active relationship with my brother, his kids, or my kids, and probably blame them and exonerate yourself completely. How you feel about my life.  I have always ignored these shortfalls with you as I felt it was more important to just love you. And all I am asking for is the same from you.

I’m over 50 years old and my heart is breaking because I was wrong about one thing for sure – you love is not unconditional. You see me through a lens that hones into one aspect of my life – my sexuality. And that is just wrong.

For months, I have been having recurring dreams where you are the central figure.  In them, I am almost always a teenager, most of the time high school age, and living with you.  The dreams often change circumstances, but always you are the hero that you were – my main hero, the one that protected me, the one who met all my needs, the person I remember at that time who was the only person I KNEW loved me no matter what.  Ah, I missed that person.  You see, I have known I was gay since about 12.  Maybe 13.  Puberty and all that.  I hated myself because of that.  There were times, even then, when I thought that dying would probably be easier than to admit I was a broken, filthy lesbian.  But even on my darkest days, I’d look at you and realize that you loved me.  SOOOOO much.  And that was enough.  I held on because of YOU.  I knew that, even when I hated myself so much, you carried enough love to hold me over and that created enough for me to face one more day.  Sure, other people loved me too…..I admit that……but YOUR love was my reason to not quit. 

It was in that envelope of love that I started going to church on my own.  In meeting the reality of Jesus in my own heart, I realized that you had already prepared my heart for the miracle that Christ is.  He loves me, just like you did.  He cares for me, just like you did.  He will do anything for me, just like you would.  While those teenage years were hard in so many ways, accepting Christ took the beacon you had provided for me and expanded so much as I grew closer to Jesus.  And, as far as my sexuality, I was SO RELIEVED that now I had the means to be changed from it!  The only thing that held me back a bit during those first years as a born again Christian was my concern for your own faith and related religiosity.  While my church didn’t say those in your faith were not saved, I was so sure that you did not have the connection to Christ that I was having because of the dogma of the religion you were raised in.  I struggled so much for that and often prayed that you would experience what I was experiencing.  I tried now and then back in the day to bridge that gap with you, but it was hard…….it was weird to even suggest that you were lacking anything, and to push too much seemed disrespectful and even intimidating.  I held a burden in my heart about this for many, many years, but I also had peace in my heart that you knew Christ.  It wasn’t that I thought you were not saved, but that you were missing out on so many things with Jesus that I yearned for you to experience. I am very glad your faith now seems to be an answer to all my years of praying for you.

Anyway, you lived through the years that followed, but you probably don’t know the efforts I made through the church, through hours of prayer, through basically reparative therapy I went through to not be gay.  I was determined to be straight.  In addition, I had plenty of guys after me and could have gone down the path of being sexually active with them to build that “straight lifestyle”, but I was also determined to not diminish Christ’s directive to avoid the “sins of the flesh”.  My husband fit that area well for many reasons, and I perceived him as a godly man.  I know now in retrospect that I married him for all the wrong reasons, and apart from the beautiful children we had together, I regret putting him and myself through 16 years of marriage based mostly on my desire to avoid being gay and focus onbeing a “good Christian”, Okay, full disclosure – of also not disappointing you…..right after not disappointing Jesus.  And even though back then I found the idea ludicrous, I was afraid that you’d condemn me. And you HAVE! I should probably add, throughout those years with my husband, I continued through several means to work with Jesus, the church, etc in removing my attraction to women.  Including a suicide attempt, which was done in San Antonio when I was about 25, the first time the two of us separated.

Back to my dreams.  I found it curious that they kept happening, always with you being the focus.  I would wake and feel so warm, picturing your love in those dreams, but was always confused about why I kept having them.  I mean, let’s face it, I am now over 50 and those years were a long time ago.  Week after week, I pondered this, but then realized I miss that person in my life.  The person that I KNEW loved me just as I was…..mistakes and all.  Am I saying you don’t love me now?  No, not at all.  But whether that love I felt as a kid/teenager was based on a fantasy because back then I was “straight”, it was real to me and I never sensed any withholding of it.  And I miss it. I haven’t felt that from you in years.

Today, I insist to myself that you love me.  You reassure that you will be there for me, and I try to trust that.  But I also know clearly that out of love, or concern, or whatever the word is – you don’t love the piece of me that is a lesbian.  And you’ve refused to partake in very important pieces of my life – MY FAMILY – because of it. I also suspect you may think that I am not a “real Christian” because I am with Deana and am in this lifestyle, based on the things that your spouse posts on Facebook and your own comments directly to me.  You even say you are worried that I will go to hell because of it.  While all of this is exceedingly hard for me to admit, I want to assure you that I understand that your pastor tells you, and you believe the Bible is clear about this condemnation.  However, I must candidly say that MY faith believes the Bible when it says that no one can know the heart of man, that our sins are completely covered by the blood of Christ, and our own efforts have nothing to add to it. That, when we accept Christ, we bring nothing to the table and Christ assures us that we cannot be snatched from His hand. Also,  I will NEVER suggest to you through statements that I am “praying for you (to change)”, “praying for you (to accept me)”, etc.  Even when our faith differed and some suggested yours was not “true”, I never considered you were heading to hell nor did I pray that you be saved from the first. When I pray for you, I pray for you to be blessed, period. 

On that note, I hope you accept that I love Jesus, that He loves me, that we interact daily (really, in the moments throughout the day), and I completely trust that He will not forsake me –  even now.  I didn’t just “decide” to be a lesbian, nor did I “decide” to ignore Jesus.  I hope you can trust that I have peace that Jesus loves me, period.  I don’t say that lightly, nor am I trying to justify my marriage or anything else.  I am saying I trust Jesus.  And whether you or anyone else defines my marriage as a sin does not diminish the saving grace that we all receive in Christ.  I am not trying to perpetuate a “license to sin” mentality, but I hope you know that after almost 25 years of attempting to abolish my attraction to women, I have accepted that I am who I am and have peace that Jesus will not forsake me.  Admittedly, you and I have different views regarding this about my life, but I hope we can move past it.  We should both trust in Jesus and His saving grace, because we BOTH have sinned and continue to do so (iyes, I have more things to work on besides “my sexuality”) and the Bible is clear that His death and resurrection covers those sins.  But if we don’t believe his blood covers those sins, then the whole Gospel is a lie.  There is no in between – there is no mixing the two and insisting we have to do some intervention with our own actions for SOME sins.  But again, if you don’t see it that way, I am not here to change your mind.  But I would never say you or your spouse are disqualified from heaven due to sin, because in MY belief system, doing so diminishes the power of Christ and the fact that He conquered the grave.

Also, as much as it hurts my heart, I have to share that I am no longer secure that you love me as Jesus does and maybe that is okay.  Maybe it is better that I don’t look to you in the same way as I did, because you’re not perfect.  Wow, it’s weird that I wrote that.  You’ve always been my measuring stick for perfection.  But anyhow, the sad truth is your love has clearly been communicated as conditional, that I am not worthy of it, and while I appreciate your concern and stated love, I mostly feel your dislike for me. Your DISLIKE of me. Can you picture being in my position, of acknowledging that fact? You make it abundantly clear, in every conversion – even the most mundane – that I don’t measure up. That I am at risk. And that I you have no pride in my life.

Even at my age, I wish you’d give me enough credit to treat me as a person that was created in the image of God. Even apart from my role in our relationship, because I have worth. A few years ago, you told me a story about how you gave an old man that had lost his Bible a new one. Your eyes teared up as you recounted the tale. I sense no tears or such emotion for me, even as you also share that when I was born you were floating on the clouds. I have no reason to feel that lack of emotion except for one reason – I am a lesbian. And that just really sucks.

Look, I need to calibrate this.  It was not my intention to knock you.  I don’t want you to feel as if I am saying you’re in this mean space or that you’re meaning or trying to hurt me.  But it DOES hurt, and that sucks badly. It’s like getting a grade of A- and being told I am a loser. I guess I am saying I want to acknowledge the “elephant in the room” and say – I know we see things differently. I don’t condemn you for your beliefs, but I won’t hide the fact that they are hurtful and seem more important to you than “loving your neighbor and enemies”. It seems self-righteous, especially since you’ve had a lot of sin in your life which I don’t even focus on.  Sometimes I wish and pray so hard it was not this way, but I love you so much NOW that I don’t want to change you.  And I am writing this to acknowledge this and to tell you in my own words that I don’t want to have this separation because of your negative view of me, or the damage that view has caused me.  I don’t want to feel both an urgent desire to call you just to hear your voice, but hesitate (and ultimately, not call) because of not wanting to dance around the truth of this difference. I don’t want to feel like calling you just allows you to point out how disappointed you feel, or that your constant prayers for me are because you believe I am going to hell. I don’t mean to suggest that you stop having these concerns, but it does nothing for our relationship or even the truth of Christ by doing that. To summarize, stop throwing stones at me.

I also want to add that you should have plenty of things to be proud about in regards to me, even if now you no longer see or acknowledge them.  While I will try very hard to no longer focus on the fact that my sexuality is a negative for you, I hope you can see that I am not the sum of that sexuality exclusively.  You should have pride in my life, because I am abundantly blessed. I have been in a stable, loving, and encouraging marriage for over 17 years (something that I could never say about my first marriage).  All five of my kids are thriving in their own way and have the foundation of Christ to build upon.  I work very hard to not be ruled by my emotions, though I leave room for understanding and empathy.  I have overcome some pretty big obstacles and am thriving.  I have an amazing career where I am (now) appreciated and valued.  I am mentoring a few people, in their career and also spiritually, and hope that blesses them.  I am financially sound, which includes helping others who are not as fortunate.  I am introspective, constantly praying and seeking to grow – to have my heart and mind corrected or altered by Christ as He leads.  I hope, by going through this process each day, I can become a better person towards you as well, in that I can at least interact with you without the residue that has permeated me because of this situation.

Finally, I challenge you to think about why you follow your faith. Does it feed your soul and remove anger, condemnation, and judgment from your heart? Or is it so that you can look at others and measure their sin? Do you spend your days worrying about all of the people that are going to hell? Do you DECIDE for yourself, based on what you read and are being taught, that there are so many that DESERVE hell? Do you compare yourself (I assume you believe you’re going to heaven) to others and in that comparison determine others are NOT going to heaven? None of these things describe the Gospel that I follow.

Ephesians 2:4-9 says, “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.  And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. “

John 13:34-35 says, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

And just in case you feel warning me about hell and what you’re concerned about is love, here is 1 Cor 13:4-6, defining love:

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

Finally, despite the harder words I’ve written here, I do love you and wish things were better between us.

On A Journey

This is an unplanned post – skipping my next installment of the Confederate Flag/Bobby story for a moment – to take you through a quick jog to review a journey I’ve been on for a couple weeks. I hope, by doing so, it encourages you.

Without going into too many personal details, my life has gone through a dramatic change which was unplanned and somewhat from left field. It included lies or at least promises that never existed in order to “blind” me, and it included being told descriptions about myself that had not occurred, or at least did not occur in the way I was told they did. For two weeks, I have been assessing myself, my recent past, asking for honest feedback from various people, going through the last couple years with a fine tooth comb…….and during that process I began to take on the yolk of a person I didn’t know. There was the horrible person I was introduced to two weeks ago, and the person those who provided feedback and who I more recognized. As is most often the case in life, the truth is probably somewhere in between.

But here’s the thing – I just accepted the horrible definition of me that I was given two weeks ago. Even though it didn’t really resonate with me. Even if it didn’t really add up to my daily approach to life or the ethos I thought defined my existence. Like a baby elephant that is chained to a stick as it is trained to be in captivity, I was slowly accepting this definition of me. Had I stayed with that acceptance process, my theoretical trainer would have been able to remove the chain from my leg and I would not wander off.

Instead, I’ve turned to focusing on my personal strength and noting how my actions align with them. You too can do this by doing to VIA Character Survey and seeing your core strengths.

My goal is doing this was to seek alignment and my true identity and not let others define who I am. To note my behaviors that feed those characteristics, the evidence that feeds those characteristics, and also to build up aspects of my character that may need some attention. To better use my character strength to overcome challenges and to remind myself I HAVE STRENGTHS. This process has been a fruitful endeavor.

You all have strengths and I encourage you to take the quiz. I am sharing my top 5 here as part of my own exercise as well as to show you that when we focus on our STRENGTHS, great things happen!

  1. Love Valuing close relations with others, in particular those in which sharing & caring are reciprocated; being close to people. VIRTUE CATEGORY: HUMANITY
  2. Honesty Speaking the truth but more broadly presenting oneself in a genuine way and acting in a sincere way; being without pretense; taking responsibility for one’s feelings and actions.VIRTUE CATEGORY: COURAGE
  3. Humor Liking to laugh and tease; bringing smiles to other people; seeing the light side; making (not necessarily telling) jokes.VIRTUE CATEGORY: TRANSCENDENCE
  4. Social intelligence Being aware of the motives/feelings of others and oneself; knowing what to do to fit into different social situations; knowing what makes other people tick. VIRTUE CATEGORY: HUMANITY
  5. Bravery Not shrinking from threat, challenge, difficulty, or pain; speaking up for what’s right even if there’s opposition; acting on convictions even if unpopular; includes physical bravery but is not limited to it.VIRTUE CATEGORY: COURAGE

And just for reference, my last place character, which I confirm should be there ha:

24, Prudence Being careful about one’s choices; not taking undue risks; not saying or doing things that might later be regretted. VIRTUE CATEGORY: TEMPERANCE

Do not allow others to define who you are by using your character to suggest you are horrible.

For those that personally know me, I’d love to hear if you think these make sense!

The Beginning

Bobby sure appeared to mistrust me; I didn’t exactly blame him. I mean, I was a stranger, drove onto his driveway, and started talking to him about his history. When he realized the core of my questions related to his Confederate Flag, his response was what I had pretty much expected; distrust, defense, even a little scruffy anger. I quickly tried to explain myself, admitting I had been judging him for months but that I truly and sincerely wanted to understand from his point of view why he flew that flag. That I no longer wanted to be ignorant, or rely on my own perception, to paint my world view of his yard.

He didn’t immediately put his guard down.

Our first conversation was more of a harsh dance, colored heavily by today’s rhetoric of distrust and anger. References to free speech, the right to bear arms, and even trespassing were repeated more times than I could count. At one point, I seriously thought Bobby would spray me using the water hose he held in his hand menacingly. For my part, I tried to seem safe, almost casual, but the truth is – I am my mother’s daughter. I am pretty confident my words said the right thing, but my face was clearly displaying a message that was closer to “eat sh*t and die!”

But we made it through those moments.

That day, the lesson I learned was that education can be hard work. It can be scary. It can even be difficult to ignore your own “truth” that pulls you back so hard, it is almost easier to give into it than push through to seeking clarity. I learned that we, as humans, are too often controlled by opinions and rage, which comes much more naturally than by logic and calm. But despite all of that, I learned that succeeding in pushing through brings a goldmine of opportunity.

Introduction to Robert

Note: Throughout this post I refer to the “Confederate Flag”, it is in fact the Confederate BATTLE flag. I assumed everyone would picture that one, but stating it just to be safe.

I have lived in my current house just over two year. About 4 months after moving in, the location of my work office changed, thus changing my route to work. It is common to see Confederate Flag fly in the area I live in, but one house I started to pass was different; it was a beautiful house, with a super-well kept lawn, a nice large RV parked in a sizable driveway, and curb appeal that didn’t fit the stereotypical characteristics of “southern pride”. You know what I mean, I am sure….

The tall flag pole, since the first day I drove by, has always had its Confederate flag hung up, and as I usually do, I shook my head in dismay. “Why would ANYONE display that flag?” I mean, to me it was waving a cloth of betrayal – of treason – not to mention the racial overtones that come to mind to many people in this country. Each morning and evening I’d pass the beautiful yard and grimace as I’d see that damn flag hoisted as high as it could go, and I imagined the people that lived in the house. “Racist” was often at the list, followed often by “buddy, you lost the war!”

Week after week, the process repeated, until one day I wondered about the family a bit differently; I will admit I kept going back to the pristine appearance of the house and yard, and wondered how a person could make such beauty could also be so proud of what I perceived as a racist, hateful object. That train of thought lead me to wondering if their view of the flag was something all together different than mine. Could it be?

Then, about 4 months ago, I saw Robert for the first time as I drove by. I wasn’t surprised to see a white man appear in the yard, nor did his age – which I guessed was over 60 – make me immediately think nice thoughts about him. I assumed he disliked blacks, was an avid Trump supporter, and probably had more guns in his house than I had toilet paper. But still I wondered if I was viewing him through just as narrowly as I accused him of viewing the world through the white man’s world.

About 6 weeks ago, he was outside again, and something came over me. I admitted to myself that I was being somewhat racist in my opinions of him, based solely on his Confederate Flag. And, before I could talk myself out of it, I pulled into his driveway, exited my car, and introduced myself. I complimented him on his beautiful yard, and admitted that I was “a Yankee from Southern California” and would sincerely love to find out about his history, that of his family, and how it related to his beautiful home and the flag he flew.

Yeah, that went as awkward as it read!

But, it started a conversation that I will be sharing with you in this series, about all I learned from Robert, call him Bobby. Bobby is a retired engineer, he’s in his late 60’s, has been married a long time, has always lived in this area, and has dashing blue eyes below his bright white hair. He is fit, enjoys the outdoors, is very articulate, and didn’t think I was completely crazy, just maybe a little. Over the last few weeks, we had some interesting discussions, and I can’t wait to share them with you!

What I Would Say If I Could

Today, it is calm, though rainy, where I live. I have been enjoying the day move from sunny and warm to overcast….and still warm. The rain started and somehow its building rhythm distracted me from the book I am readying to thoughts of my Mother.

Most of my life, I felt a disconnection from my mom. She defined what I didn’t want to be, while I found comfort and security in my dad. She was loud, had huge mood swings, while he was always even keeled and calm. She pushed me to want to scream, and he soothed me. I always considered myself more like my dad, and I would emphasize that in numerous ways, year after year. I wasn’t ashamed of my mom, really, but the things I recognized in her I wanted to minimize, and the things I saw in my dad I emphasized.

Having the benefit of age, of days like this that allow me to gaze back on the years that brought me here, I realize so many years were wasted with my myopic view of my parents. I don’t mean to suggest the hugely important and real impact my dad has had on my life; but like many things we humans do with people, I created a fantasy of my own truth that I suppose I needed, but nonetheless fractures upon inspection. I cannot separate from the goodness and love my dad provided for me, but my mom was not the woman I believed her to be, at least not the extent I manufactured in my mind for too many years.

My mom, born in a generation where many words used were not considered racist, was the first person I really knew who accepted all walks of life without hesitation. She raised eyebrows by having friends that were black, Chinese, Jewish…..the list goes on. I don’t recall her ever saying a certain race was bad or anything negative. She never said I couldn’t have a friend due to their race. She divorced an abusive man when the stigma for being a single mom was worse than being a prostitute. She bore on her shoulders the thought that her own mother did not love her and was often a shadow in her own family history (distant relatives I’ve come across through Ancestry knew of her brothers/my uncles or even met them, but never knew they had a sister). She always seemed to want to be loved, but somehow built scenarios in which even the strongest love didn’t work. She definitely had her demons to content with, many of which I witnessed throughout my years and often ran from in dismay, but somehow always offered unconditional love and acceptance no matter how heated the last exchange might have been.

I see now that the woman I defined mostly as negative for most of my life was not this angry, irrational being. No. Instead, she was supportive. She was fearful. She was hungry for love. She was confident. She was intelligent. She was resilient. She didn’t step on those beside her, fighting to survive as she was. Instead, she shared what meager tools she had to assist them, too. Most often, she’d make a friend while doing so. I thought hard today, trying to remember when she spoke badly about someone or uttered words of judgment; I couldn’t. Even during the prolonged years of my own parent’s tumultuous divorce, she’d focus on the issues she was fighting for and never once spoke badly about my dad. Even as our own strained relationship ebbed and flowed as I grew into adulthood, trying so desperately to be anything but like her, she never told me I was not her daughter. She never made me feel like I’d failed her. She always spread her arms wide and welcomed me. Even when I exposed how broken I was, or how hurtful I could be, she loved me and shone with pride.

So I sit here, regretting the time I lost with her. How I failed to come to this realization completely when she was alive. How I failed to ask simple questions like how it felt as a little girl during World War II, or what her favorite meal was as a child, or how she reacted to her first period, or what country she always wanted to visit. How she survived such a hard life (and it was very hard) and yet come out loud, emotional, but always loving. How, in the years when she was home bound and fighting COPD, she avoided becoming a bitter, mean old woman. How, even as I overtly fought being like her, she never once said she was disappointed in me or suggested I lacked in anything. How, in fact, she built me up even if I was too ignorant to notice.

So today, I looked up at the cloudy, rain soaked sky, and spoke to her. I apologized for not asking those questions. I apologized for sitting days after her death, listening to horrible things be said about her, and doing nothing to defend her memory. I said I was proud to look so much like her, and yes, even act a lot like her, and admit I am glad that I do. I thanked her for all the unrealized gifts she provided throughout my life, feeling their weight like a gift and not regret. I thanked her for creating a model that I am just now embracing wholly, instead of as an example of what I should avoid.

I am forever thankful that she knew my love, that she heard from my mouth that she was a great mom to me before she died. I am thankful that I could feel her love once more before she left. And I am thankful that I am so much like her, even if just realizing it.



Our American Ethos

Having just celebrated the USA’s 243rd birthday, combined with the fact I just finished two weeks in Europe, I have been thinking much about what makes my country of birth great. Our constitution is pretty amazing, for sure. The freedoms it promises I often take for granted and explaining differences abroad to the kids made me feel proud. The diversity we have also makes me smile, especially when I consider the bulk of my life was spent in Southern California where dozens of countries were represented with my neighbors alone. And, as much as I love pasta, it’s nice that within 20 minutes of my home I can eat at least 6 different ethnic meals. The list could go on and on.

However, being abroad also made me see outside of my “normal” in many different ways. Throughout my life, but most especially in the last few years, living in the US has started to expose our collective need to separate, to divide while also highlighting a patriotism that seems like a stranger to me. In sometimes tacit fashion, the definition for a “true American” has become blurred to me. We have all seen the viral videos of white Americans confronting others who are not speaking English (here is one such incident but there are many, many more https://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/412647-woman-demands-to-see-passports-of-spanish-speaking-family-at). Many of us are either decrying the “dangerous people storming our borders”, or are watching in pain as hundreds of children are being held for weeks at a time without basic necessities such as water, toothbrushes, and compassion. But that is another post in itself.

In our country, there is this “rule” that you must speak English to be truly American, at least it feels that way. While no language has been designated as official for this country, most agree that English is needed for success in this land. In the 1980’s, a push was made to make English the official language, originally so that federal funds could be allocated for language classes for immigrants so that they’d have an easier time getting work and establishing themselves in American society. Shortly thereafter, it was morphed from that to a way to “keep America great” but assuring that English (aka “white Americans”) would retain its place in this country. That push was influenced by Nationalists (some of the racist bent, but not all). It went from a way to help immigrants to succeed to forcing immigrants to turn their backs on their heritage and, yes, even give room for English-speaking Americans to confront and belittle anyone who dared to speak another language on our sacred soil. Had I read that information a few years ago, I’d have scoffed. But the reality is, today that is abundantly true.

So it is with great disappointment that I’d like to share that this American Ethos is quite literally BS. Not only because I believe our country was meant to be an amazing experiment in democracy and DIVERSITY, but because it is extremely hypocritical. In the last two weeks, I have been to Paris, Florence, Pompeii, Positano, and Rome. THE MAJORITY of every person I interacted with spoke at least some English. Deana and I tend to avoid tourist stops when shopping and eating, and we were often off the “beaten path”. You’d think that we’d encounter people who did not speak English. We were surprised. Even years ago in a small town about 8 hours from Moscow, we met many people who could converse with us in English. Our own ability to speak the local language recently and in Russia was horrible, at best.

I’ve even met some people at my work’s Buenos Aires location that have never been to England or the USA who speak English. When I am there, I try my best to speak Spanish, but let’s be real – had the tables been turned and I moved there to work, I am confident that if I spoke to my family in English I would not be confronted or ridiculed.

Some of you reading this might be thinking, “well, the USA is important so it makes sense that the world speaks our language.” I don’t disagree with you. But what I AM trying to say is, we are a lazy bunch. Somehow we’ve moved from patriotism to Nationalism. Nationalism is ” identification with one’s own nation and support for its interests, especially to the exclusion or detriment of the interests of other nations.” In doing so, we want everyone to bow to us (or our language, our preferences, our definition of anything) while we also expect to be accepted “as is” when we enter into other nations. We don’t put our own requirements on ourselves and hold onto our language of birth in arrogance and maybe even defiance. We want to say we are better than others because of where we were born while paying big bucks to visit other countries for vacation. We often don’t even invest much of our time to learn other languages and just expect them to be able to meet our needs on our terms when we are there.

This was a humbling lesson to experience in real time, to discuss with our youngest kids, and to remember that all humans have a right to live in this world. I am a Proud American, but that does not mean pride is exclusive to me and mine. We are better than that people!

Peace.




The Day I Met Grace

Many of you may not know this, but my family and I moved to North Carolina in late May.  While the move has been a positive one, it took place when – for lack of better words – this country has been in a mess of turmoil.  Racism, political polarization, social media bullying, and religious noise seemed to be the norm……and for me, it meant my personal life and attitude was being hugely impacted negatively.  Day in and day out it was becoming harder to find something positive to focus on, and for me that meant despondency was my first and strongest thought on most days.

de·spond·en·cy
dəˈspändənsē/
noun
  1. a state of low spirits caused by loss of hope or courage.

I pretty much had lost hope and did not demonstrate much courage in my life.  Day in and day out.  It sucked.

While this was happening, something else was occurring as well.  For, on each drive from my new home to work, on the corner of Midway School Road and Thomas School Road, a black woman stood each morning waving to passing cars.  As she waved, her face was alive with the brightest and most sincere smile I had seen in quite some time.  At first, my reaction was to think, “gah, that woman is crazy.  Doesn’t she know how screwed up we humans are?  Her mornings would be better spent somewhere else.”  But as each day passed, and no matter if I passed at 7am or 8:45am, she’d be out there waving and smiling brightly to each and every vehicle that passed.  Her arm would be raised high and with confidence, as if attempting to throw out the joy that was so evident on her face.

This daily event was “no big deal” to me, at least I convinced myself of that fact at first.  She was just doing something that made no sense, and while my attitude moved from the idea of her being crazy to more like apathy towards her actions, I could not shake her beaming, smiling face.  The only time I would not see it would be on rainy days, and when that would happen I realized I would actually feel disappointment.  Maybe even concern……I wondered if she was okay……until I realized she never came out if it rained.  And slowly, with each passing day, I realized I was trying to smile at others more as the residue of her smile seemed often to be reverberating in my own mind.  “Gosh, that smile is contagious…….maybe I should wear one once in a while, too……”

The truth is, my friends, after weeks and weeks of passing this person, I had to acknowledge something – she was changing my life.  Day after day, she was sending love to me in a world where hate seemed to reign.  No matter her religion, her social standing, her race, her gender, her sexuality, or her political affiliation, she waved and smiled and connected with strangers all morning long.  She connected with ME.  Sincerely.  Physically.  Consistently.  She seemed to care SO MUCH about this, she invested hours each non-rain morning spreading this message with no expectation of return.  And it was working out a miracle in my heart and thoughts.

When I finally formed these realizations in my own mind, I was shocked.  And, in that shock, a flicker of hope sparked in the depths of my soul……and it felt good.  Courage began to spread deep in my gut and I could not contain it.  I felt energized for the first time in months in a way that reminded me of the Gina that used to exist; one that knew it was okay to believe in a future that was not all bad.

So, the next day I decided I had to meet this person “for real”.  When I got to that corner, I pulled over, shut my car off, and began to walk toward the woman that initiated this change in me.  As I got closer, almost feeling the power of her smile as cars passed by, I was surprised to see she was much older than I had expected.  Her raised arm was so feeble and aged, I was surprised it could sustain the hours of waving it accomplished everyday.  She was also tiny, MUCH smaller than she appeared as I flew by her day after day.  I started to feel a bit nervous as I took each step, something my extroverted personality rarely feels, and also careful not to scare her.  I quickly introduced myself and as she turned her gaze to me, she shook my hand and said, “Hello, I am Grace.”

grace
ɡrās/
noun
          1.
          simple elegance or refinement of movement.
         2.
         (in Christian belief) the free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings.

 

To be continued……….

Voices of Americans

You know, those who know me personally, know I love America.  Even on its worse day, the country of my birth is pretty darn amazing.  The freedoms we have here we often take for granted, and as someone who has been blessed by being able to travel internationally, I have seen the differences that exist around the world.  One freedom I hold very dear is free speech; sure, I often am saddened or infuriated by some who utilize this right (can you say “God Hates Fags”?), but I would still stand up for their right to say it.

And that brings you to today’s “shake your head” moment – every American, whether you agree with them or not – has a right to share their views.  Political views.  Religious views.  Those who have a larger platform than I do have a right to share it and to call us to stand up for whatever, and those who are “nobodies” have a right to climb onto a box and share theirs as well.  We, as Americans, usually can decide whether we want to follow, agree with the statement, etc.  But to say ANY American should not have a voice is blatantly disregarding the very core of our constitution.

Recently, I read the following post a friend shared on Facebook:

Dear Hollywood celebrities,

You only have a place in my world to entertain me. That’s it.

You make your living pretending to be someone else. You play dress up like a 6 year old. You live in a make believe world, in front of a camera, buffered from the everyday struggles of hard working Americans. Your entire existence depends on my patronage.

I’ll crank the organ, you dance.

I don’t really care where you stand on issues. You see, you aren’t real. I turn off my TV or shut down my computer and you cease to exist in my world. Once I am done with you, I can put you back in your little box until I want you to entertain me again. I hope you realize that the only words of yours that matter are scripted. In my world, you exist solely for my entertainment. 

So, shut your pie hole and dance!

Many liked this post, and shared comments either laughing, saying “amen!”, or decrying actors and actresses for the incredulous act of voicing their beliefs publicly.  In many scenarios, I have heard it said that “they are just actors, they should shut the hell up.”

However, I would like to offer up a few alternatives, because if you agree with the above and want to shut the voices of Americans who happen to be Hollywood celebrities, you open up the door to do the same in other venues.  For example:

Dear Janitors,

You only have a place in my world to serve me, to clean up my mess. That’s it.

You make your living scrubbing my toilets or throwing away my trash. You probably dropped out of school and maybe even get government help on my dime.  I have no idea if you are able to read, take drugs, or have had an intelligent conversation in your life.  You obviously have no ambition in life, let alone have the capacity to have an opinion in areas such as politics.  Your entire existence depends on my crap.  Literally.

I’ll make a mess, you clean it up.

I don’t really care where you stand on issues. You see,  I walk away from that toilet or trash can and you cease to exist in my world. Once I am done with my mess, I can put you out of my mind until I need you to clean for me again. I hope you realize that the only words of yours that matter are “let me get that for you”. 

So, shut your pie hole and clean!

Many would say the above is offensive, but perhaps not the first “letter”.  And to me, that is hypocrisy.  Why would one job/social standing/income be excluded from constitutional rights while others are allowed to have a voice?  Why does an American that has a job that makes more money be relegated to “dance”?  Aren’t they just as American as you and me, even if we struggle more financially?  And to THAT point, where are the letters to professional athletes, Wall Street Executives, or millionaire businessmen who made their money initially from family loans?  Does the first letter suggest that OTHER people who are “buffered from everyday struggles” do not need to shut their pie hole?

Hmmmm.

 

Maybe the truth of the matter is this…….people who don’t agree with your political views need to shut their pie holes and dance.  And that, my friends, is taking the constitution and spitting on it.  And that, sadly, is where I believe we really exist today.  But I will not stop loving America.

Questions

It has been ten months since my mom passed away.  Of course, dealing with that has been a journey; sometimes something reminds me of my mom and I laugh, or sometimes I get tears in my eyes, and I often miss her.  That is all normal…..to be expected.  Sometimes I look at myself in the mirror – especially when my hair is wet and slicked back away from my face – and I get a little freaked out because I look so much like her.  Sometimes I just ruminate about my life with her, the moments we’ve shared, etc.

I have been traveling to Kentucky for work lately, and I never expected it to create such a stir with memories about my mom…….I never thought it would create a serious of questions that I have no way to answer.  My mom moved to Los Angeles when she was two years old and lived in California the bulk of her life.  When she and my dad divorced in the early 90’s, she was working for her brothers.  However, some were retiring and eventually the company was sold.  I BELIEVE my mom lost her job at that point.  Not sure what she was going to do to support herself, she and a friend she met at work moved to Kentucky, where her friend grew up.  I was a young mother at that time, focused on taking care of baby Kirstie and making my own marriage and life work, so I wasn’t as involved in my mom’s life as I usually would be.  I remember we exchanged letters during this time, and honestly she was pretty bitter about her divorce and I emotionally pulled away since I felt I was put in the middle of it.  But, the bottom line is she moved away from everyone she knew, went to a place where she basically knew no one, and was on her own.

Being here, I wonder where she lived.  I wonder what she thought about the green hills, the pictures of horses everywhere, did she like the Bourbon BBQ that is so prevalent here?  She ended up getting a job at a Taco Bell out here, she really couldn’t find work (the economy was struggling at the time) and I wonder how the heck that felt.  I wonder if she was scared, if she felt isolated.  In one of her letters she mentioned that there was only one phone in the neighborhood she lived in and the owner would take messages for the neighbors and it was difficult to connect.  She said she got a message that someone called her but they didn’t think to get a name, so she wondered if it was me.  Reading that letter in my mind now and being in this state triggered so many things to wonder about.

And that led me to so many other questions.  My mom was born in 1935 – she was alive during all years of WWII and was 10 years old when it ended.  How did that impact her life?  Did she and her family have rations during this time?  Did she fear Germans at this time, when Germany was easily the targeted “enemy”?  Was she ever scared that the war would come to California?  Does she remember the Japanese Internment Camps and what did she think about them?  And why the hell did I never think to ask her about this?  I know SO MUCH about my paternal Grandma during the depression, even about her early marriage during this timeframe, but not my own mother?  I have no idea why.  And now I can’t even ask my mom.

So, here I am early in the morning blogging about it.  I feel a connection to my mom here in Kentucky and that also seems strange.  But I guess while I write this as a form of personal therapy, I also yearn to remind you something you probably will nod at but maybe not think about again – treasure the time you have with family.  Don’t take it for granted.  Inquire about life details that may not seem important really now and maybe even feels mundane, but are actually pieces of gold that will be lost forever if you miss the opportunity to ask.

And mom, I miss you.