Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Happy Birthday, Blog!!!

Today is the 1st birthday of my blog. Yes, its true. Exactly one year ago today I embarked on this sometimes strange but mostly interesting journey into online diary-ism. Hope you've enjoyed reading it as much as I have enjoyed writing it. Stay tuned for more!

Holiday Highlights

Fri Joe & I both worked ½ days. He went to his sister’s after lunch to help her make home made ravioli and gnocchi for Christmas dinner. I did some last minute gift shopping, and then did my holiday baking for the neighbors. I made rum-flavored pound cakes drizzled with sweet rum glaze. I wrapped them in rose-colored plastic wrap and placed them in holiday tins and baskets, then delivered them along with holiday greeting cards to my neighbors. They all loved them, and several returned the favor by delivering baked goodies to us!

Sat after lunch at the Stray Cat Café we went to the grocery store to get the ingredients to make corn casserole (the Paula Dean recipe that’s made Joe a big hit), artichoke dip and sun-dried tomato dip. I put on some Christmas music and he made the food while I wrapped gifts. It was a nice day. That evening we went to his sister’s to meet up with the family to celebrate his mom’s birthday. Unfortunately, when we arrived we learned that his brother Paul and his family would not be able to join us because they had been in a serious car accident. A drunk driver crossed the center line. Paul swerved onto the shoulder to avoid a head-on collision, and the other driver slammed into the side of their ’06 Sienna minivan, ripping the sliding door and rear bumper completely off the vehicle. We considered it “The Christmas Miracle” that no one was seriously injured; just the typical small cuts from flying glass and bruises from the front and rear side curtain airbag deployment. Both vehicles were totaled. It was odd to not have them with us as we ate honey baked ham, turkey breast, biscuits, Joe’s two dips, green bean casserole, the corn casserole, and an assortment of pies, cookies, fudge, and brownies. To work off some of those holiday calories, we played a Play Station II game called Dance Revolution, where you listen to a song, watch the indicator on the TV screen, and step on the corresponding places on a wireless dance mat. It was really fun!

Sun morning Joe & I had a lovely Christmas breakfast of Belgian waffles with real Vermont maple syrup (from our Jan trip to Vermont) and sausage egg and cheese casserole. We ate in the dining room because the kitchen table was still being used as my gift wrapping station. After breakfast Joe watched some TV while I continued wrapping gifts. We both showered, loaded gifts into the Suburban, and at 3pm headed over my aunt’s to exchange gifts and take her with us to Joe’s sister’s for a family Christmas. My niece Lauren also joined us, for her very first Christmas. We had a delicious dinner of home made ravioli and gnocchi, meatballs, sweet and hot sausages, cheesy garlic bread, and a bounty of sweets. Dee-lish! Then we exchanged gifts, played Dance Revolution again, watched a Christmas movie, and visited with each other. It was a perfect, relaxing Christmas day.

Mon morning we made our traditional day-after-Christmas pilgrimage to Target to scarf up holiday wrapping paper, bows, and ornaments all marked 50% off. We had lunch at Chili’s, and then Joe watched TV while I wrapped the last of the gifts. Then we headed out to Centreville to our friends Greg & Gerry’s place. We exchanged gifts with them and went to dinner at Bonefish. I had delicious pork chops with sautéed mushrooms and fontina cheese. Joe had a tasty salmon dish. Then we had pie and coffee back and Greg & Gerry’s. We had a great time visiting with these dear friends.

Yesterday evening I drove to Woodbridge to meet up with my old friend Lisa, who was back in VA to visit her family for Christmas. I've known Lisa since elementary school. We remained friends all the way through high school. Eleven years later I organized a little reunion of friends at my place, and that was the last time I'd seen Lisa, in 1993. We recently reconnected via email, thanks to a mutual friend Brian. We had a fantastic visit last night! I brought some photos of some shows we both performed in when in high school, and the photos taken at the 1993 friends reunion. She told me about when her "life blew up" and she moved to New York City to start over 2 1/2 years ago. We talked non-stop for 6 1/2 hours - what fun!

It was a very nice holiday – not too hectic, not too tiring – just right. We seem to have found a comfortable way to really enjoy the holidays. I’m looking forward to another enjoyable evening tomorrow, when Kerry, Hugh, Kelly, and George come for dinner and gift exchanging.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

People just need to calm down

Twice this week I was almost in car accidents, thanks to drivers talking on their cell phones, in an all-fire hurry to get somewhere. People just need to calm down.

The first one was less than a mile from home. I was in the Suburban and the car next to me realized that there were two cars in front of it, stopped with their flashers on. So, rather than being bothered to pause their cell phone conversation and stop, the driver next to me decided it would be preferable to simply put their blinker on as they moved into the lane I was in. I braked sharply and blew the horn, almost running up onto the median to keep from being hit by the driver. The driver couldn't be bothered though, as he/she simply continued driving 1/2 a mile up the road with their blinker still on, then slipped back into their original lane. I hope that driver was on the phone with a friend or relative who was in the hospital swinging on the hinges of death, because nothing short of that could justify that behavior. People just need to calm down.

The second one happened on my way home from work. I was in my convertible, cautiously staying in my lane as I moved through a very trafficky area. But a car stopped in a line of traffic next to me decided they were in too much of a hurry to wait 2 seconds for their lane of traffic to resume, so they simply swerved into my lane, without even a blinker, causing me to have to invoke my anti-lock brakes to keep from running into them. As soon as the driver did this, the lane of traffic they had just vacated began moving. People just need to calm down.

I heard a commercial on the radio the other day that went something like this: "Still having trouble finding that PERFECT gift?" Since when is Christmas about finding a PERFECT gift????? Shouldn't it be about spending time with family and friends, and the baby Jesus if you're into that, and exchanging a THOUGHTFUL gift, not necessarily a PERFECT gift? I don't understand why people drive themselves frantic over a gift. People just need to calm down. Another ad I heard said "Trying to keep your sanity during the hectic and stressful holidays?" I thought to myself: No. My holidays are not hectic or stressful because I don't MAKE THEM that way. I do not feel obligated to put myself through all kinds of gyrations in order to keep some holiday tradition, simply because "that's what we've always done". I write and send holiday cards and bake goodies for my neighbors because I want to and I find the time to. But I do not drive myself nuts in the pursuit of holiday "perfection", and neither should anyone else. People just need to calm down.

I overheard a conversation last night at dinner where a woman was telling her husband that she was wishing each of her colleagues at the office a Merry Christmas when to her utter horror she realized she'd wished a Merry Christmas to someone who is Jewish. She spoke as if she were truly mortified, over a small oversight. I'm sure she's not the first person to make that mistake, and probably won't be the last one. But the worse thing to do in a situation like that is to make a huge deal out of it. Simply say "I'm sorry, I meant to say Happy Holidays" and then forget about it. People just need to calm down.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Stepford Wife???

My friend Mike (from read my last blog post and wrote: "I love reading your blog. You're like... a Stepford Wife. But not in the robot way." A Stepford Wife??? So I wrote an email back to Mr. Michael Meadows and requested he explain just HOW I reminded him of a Stepford Wife. His response? "Well, I meant that as a compliment. Your dinner parties, home decorating ideas.... etc. Perhaps I should have clarified that." Uhh... yeah. Right. Well the next time you want to "compliment" me, Mr. Michael Meadows, why don't you try going on and on about what a fabulous life I've scratched out for myself, huh??? I'm just kidding, of course. In Mike's very own, unique kind of way, I do believe he was trying to give me a compliment. Moving on...

Last week's trip to Richmond for those two agonizing days of sales meetings turned out to be better than I'd expected. Its always kind of fun to meet up with peers who work in different cities, and with whom you normally only talk on the phone or exchange emails. The meetings themselves were sufficiently boring and I believe I learned exactly one new thing, which hardly justifies two full days away from my real work. But there were a few bright moments to be recalled.

I met a very nice man who's only been with the company for six weeks, and who works in our London office. He was interesting and thoroughly enjoyable to talk to. By chance I was seated next to him on day one of the meeting. That night, the entire group went to a restaurant where they had no large tables, so we were all split up into groups of 4. Since my car group was the last to arrive and I got detained talking to a colleague, I took the last empty seat, directly across the table from my new British friend Bruce. On my right was another British gentlemen who happens to be in charge of European operations. He told the story of his first sales job in Paris. He felt fairly comfortable speaking French, but as you might expect, local dialects and similar words with very different meanings soon became his downfall. He went to a posh hotel to meet the female sales prospect. He'd injured his neck while working out at the gym so when she greeted him and asked how he was, he turned his head from side to side and said in French "I'm doing well, but my asshole hurts." Apparently the word for neck and the word for asshole sound very similar, and he used the wrong pronunciation. We howled with laughter, to the point that the those at the other tables became jealous, as they knew we were having more fun. Then next day I sat next to Bruce again. Cheers mate!

Shortly after returning home Thurs evening, I got a phone call from an old JW friend of mine. We'd met in 1984 when I moved (temporarily) to Norfolk VA. We became very good friends quickly. I think we both knew that we shared a certain secret. Finally one day it came out, and we felt good knowing we weren't the only JW guys attracted to men. I moved back to the DC area, but we stayed friends, calling and visiting from time to time. A couple years later, he got married. I wasn't totally surprised, as I knew it was thought to be the cure for any JW guy who was attracted to men. It appeared that they had a happy marriage for several years. Meanwhile, I left the JW religion so I was cut off from all of my JW friends. I moved, he moved, and we lost touch for over 12 years.

He said he'd been trying to locate me for some time by Googling my name and calling the phone numbers attached to the responses. After many wrong numbers, he finally found me. Just for clarity's sake, I told him I wasn't a JW anymore and he confirmed that he knew it. He told me he'd never stopped thinking of me as a friend, and felt like I was one of the few people he could really trust. He was going through a rough time and needed a friend. He told me his wife had left him 5 years ago for another man. About 2 years ago he began to get acquainted with other men he knew to be gay. Recently he'd had a few "encounters" (his words) and felt guilty enough to confess to the JW Elders. He told me he would be disfellowshipped (the JW term for ex-communicated) this coming Thurs. I asked how he felt about that. Was he sad? Was he relieved? He said he really didn't know what to think or feel. He thought he'd just take it day by day and try to come to terms with what he thought and felt. I encouraged this, and told him that as JWs we weren't really given the opportunity to think and feel for ourselves. We read the JW publications, went to church and bible study groups, and our thoughts and feelings were explained in detail for us. There was no real thought or feeling required of us. Now that he was no longer going to be a JW (at least for a while), I told him it was an excellent time to begin to trust himself to think and feel for himself; to trust himself to know what was right for him. He said he wanted to see me, so we are trying to work out a convenient date. I'm excited and scared for him. He is indeed going through a difficult time. I wish I could somehow infuse him with everything I've learned in the 12+ years since I left the JWs. But that is my experience, which may be able to help him, but certainly can't replace HIS experience. My friend: I'm sending you positive energy!

Fri evening Joe & I headed up to the beach. Sat after breakfast we headed out to a few outlet stores, trying to cross that last Christmas gift off our list. After no success, we decided to pick up a few things for ourselves... nothing big deal, just a few pieces of clothing on sale, more holiday cards, and some items for Toys for Tots. We drove to Herring Point (in the state park) and got out to look at the ocean. It was very calm and beautiful. Joe took a nap in the afternoon while I wrote and addressed more cards. This is the latest I've ever gotten my holiday cards out. With only a week until Christmas, I gave myself Sun as the deadline.

Sat night I decided to indulge Joe by acquiescing to go to The Wharf in Ocean City for dinner. They have an all-you-can-eat buffet that has crab legs so he loves to go there. I think the food is terrible and most of the time convince him not to go. But since we didn't have anything planned for the evening I figured I didn't mind driving the 45 minutes to get there. I could put up with the food since we hadn't been there in a long time. On the way down there and back we enjoyed seeing all the holiday lights and decorations. Bethany, Fenwick, and Ocean City all had decorations on the utility polls and elsewhere. We had the radio on the station playing nothing but Christmas music. It was nice. We drove into the tiny downtown area in Bethany to look at the lights, and drove around several blocks in Rehoboth to enjoy the ample displays of lights, garlands, candy canes, and snow men.

Sun morning we came home, showered and shaved, and went to a small holiday gathering at our friends Ron & James' house. It was nice, and we saw some friends we'd not seen since last Christmas. Ron & James normally have a huge open house where you SEE lots of people but aren't able to TALK to many, so this year they decided to do something much smaller and more intimate. It was nice to catch up with everyone and wish them happy holidays. (Mike is now thinking I'm a Stepford Wife again...)

Afterward we came home and Joe took a nap while I continued writing and addressing cards. When he woke, I talked him into sealing the envelopes for me. FINALLY... all 126 cards were written, addressed, sealed, stamped, and ready to go into the mailbox. I dropped them off at the post office this morning. I don't mean to sound like the card thing is a big chore. I don't feel that way at all. I write and send them because I like to. Its a time when I think of friends I see frequently and those I've not seen in years. I jot them a short note inside a card with a printed holiday greeting, and hopefully they feel good when they receive and open the card. That's the point, right? I know I enjoy getting holiday cards, knowing that friends are thinking of me and wishing me "every happiness this holiday season, and always".

Monday, December 12, 2005

Weekend Round Up

Very early Fri morning it snowed and then sleeted. We got about 3 inches of accumulation. Amazingly the Federal Government opened two hours late! That's Washington DC for ya...

Joe & I both had large, late lunches on Fri so we decided to go Christmas shopping Fri night and then eat dinner later. I had heard about a special 'Night Owl' sale at Kohls, from 8pm-midnight. The Kohls is near the Home Goods and World Market, two stores we always find good Christmas gifts at, so we headed on over. It was very cold, and the moisture on the parking lot was freezing up. But we shopped at all 3 stores and were able to mark a few more items off our gift list. About 9pm we had dinner at Uno's Pizza. We rarely go there, so it was nice to eat somewhere different. We discussed our holiday plans, work frustrations, and thankfulness in this season of good will. We got home at about 10:30.

After a leisurely morning, we headed out Sat for some lunch at the Stray Cat Cafe. The decor and menu items are all cat-related. I like it there. We got one of the last open tables, which was near the window. (I love a window table.) After fortifying ourselves with a tasty lunch, we went to the grocery store. We bought all the stuff for a lasagna dinner (along with some Home Depot gift cards - who knew?), then came home to cook and tidy up. Joe assembled the lasagna but didn't bake it. I wrote out some holiday cards and wrapped a "hostess gift" for the party we were going to that night.

We went to a party at The Dicks. The Dicks are a couple: Dick & Dick. We refer to them as The Dicks. Every year they have a swell holiday party that we don't miss. A few years we've even left another holiday party early so as to be at The Dicks party the same night. As usual we said hello to people we only see once a year at The Dicks party, met some new friends, nibbled on goodies, and sipped on cocktails. (I made Sour Appletinis.) One of The Dicks made a pistachio cheesecake that was out of this world! We had a good time. Afterward we stopped at an Italian brick-oven pizza place we realized we'd never been to before. I wasn't hungry so I just got an appetizer of stuffed, fried olives, while Joe got a calzone. Although it was only 10pm I felt exhausted. We watched a little TV at home and then went to bed.

Sun morning we headed out to Manassas to Kerry & Hugh's for a post-birthday breakfast. (My birthday was Wed, but Sun was the first opportunity we had to catch up with Hugh & Kerry.) Kerry's sister Kelly and father George were there, too. We had a wonderful time, as usual. Hugh made waffles, which were the lightest I've ever had, along with delicious Vermont maple syrup, purchased on our Vermont ski trip back in Jan. We lingered over coffee, nibbling on fresh pineapple and cantaloupe, until we had to get going. On our way home we stopped at Trader Joes so my Joe could pick up some vitamins, and we got a fresh green wreath to hang over the fireplace mantle. When we got home I vacuumed and straightened up the house a little, then pulled out the rest of the Christmas decorations. I removed the photos from the fireplace mantle and replaced them with holiday garlands, candles, holly from a tree in our backyard, and some artificial berries and greenery. (Tip: mix in some real greenery with your artificial greenery to 'fool the eye' and give a fuller affect.) I sprinkled the rest of the holiday votives and such around the house. Now it REALLY looks like Christmas.

Sun evening our friends Michael & Jamie (aka: The Newlyweds) and Doug & Jim came over for a casual holiday dinner. We had lasagna, salad and garlic bread, and french apple pie for dessert. We had a great time chatting, swapping stories, and hearing about each other's holiday plans. The Newlyweds are going to visit Jamie's parents in Las Vegas, then going to Korea and Thailand for their belated honeymoon. They'll be gone for 3 weeks!

Tonight Joe & I went back to the Stray Cat Cafe (again) for dinner. I thought it was Half Price Burger Night but it wasn't. Oh well, we enjoyed it anyway. Joe is currently out at a client appointment and I am supposed to be working on our holiday cards, but instead I am writing this. I wanted to update this site before being out of town for a few days. I'm being forced to go to Richmond again, this time for 2 whole days of sales meetings AND evening team-building events. UGH!! I have real work to do for real clients, back in my office. I do NOT need to be tormented by sitting in sales meetings for 2 days. Unfortunately, my boss feels differently so I must go. I'm leaving Tues night and coming back Thurs night. Then Fri night we're headed to the beach for a little R&R, to see the Christmas decorations in downtown Rehoboth, and to hopefully finish our holiday gift shopping. We're coming back Sun morning so we can clean up and go to a 2pm party.

I'm hoping to get a chance to pick up some items for Toys For Tots, but I'm not sure when the drop-off deadline is. Anyone know? Leave me a comment if you do.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

"Its the most wonderful (and busy) time of the year"

Fri evening we got together with Michael & Jamie (aka: The Newlyweds) and tried out a new (to us) restaurant called Portabellos. Its a small, intimate, bistro-style restaurant. We enjoyed it. We were enjoying our time with Michael & Jamie so much that we decided to go somewhere for dessert too, and continue talking. We had a ball.

Sat morning we picked up Joe's mom and my niece and drove out to Manassas for the Christmas parade. It's a hoot... kind of what you might expect a Christmas parade to look like in Mayberry RFD. There are high school marching bands, fire trucks, floats, antique cars, Santa, reindeers - you name it! The great part about this annual tradition for us is that our friends Kerry & Hugh live right on the parade route. They invite a bunch of friends and have coffee, hot tea, cocoa, and loads of sweets and goodies to snack on when you duck inside to warm up. We had such a good time that we stayed for 2 hours after the parade had ended and most of their guests had left. Then the remaining group decided to have a late lunch (2:00 or so) at a restaurant nearby. We had a great time! I was really glad my niece Lauren came, as this is her first year celebrating Christmas. I was also glad my friend Dee and her family came, as Dee was also a JW (like me and Lauren) years ago, and I think Lauren liked chatting with Dee. I did, too.

Later Sat night Joe & I went out to look for a Christmas tree. We found a place with many beautiful Fraser firs. There were so many pretty trees it was hard to pick one! Joe seemed less enthusiastic than I expected, so I asked him about it. He said "I must be getting old, because I kind of don't want to deal with having a real tree this year... hauling it in the house, trying to get it straight in the tree stand, remembering to water it every day, having to sweep up the dropping needles... I'm thinking maybe we should look at artificial trees." This really surprised me, as I had suggested years ago that we get an artificial tree since they are much easier to decorate. He'd resisted, in favor of the wonderful scent of a real tree. So we left the tree lot and went home.

Sun we went to Target at 10am, hoping to beat the holiday weekend crowds. There we found a lovely artificial tree that was very reasonably priced. We both thought it would due nicely, so we bought it. We figured the worst case scenario would be that if we didn't like it, we could always sell it at a yard sale or donate it to a family in need. But to our pleasure, we liked the tree even better at home than in the store. It took quite a while to get all the branches fluffed out and attached to the base, but I figure I'll only have to do it this once. When Christmas is over I will remove the decorations and carry the tree downstairs to the basement and put an old sheet over it. Voila!

Sun evening we got together with our friends Michael & Sandy for dinner. After a lengthy discussion with lots of options, we ended up going to Portabellos again. We were seated at the same table we'd sat at on Fri, and had the same waiter. To top it off, Michael & Sandy ordered the same dishes that Joe & I had ordered on Fri! We had a lovely dinner with our new friends and closed the restaurant.

Mon after work I untangled and tested my strings of lights for the tree, and then put them on. (One year I put all the lights on the tree without testing them first. When I finally plugged them in I found I had a non-working string of lights in the middle of the tree! I had to take almost all of them off to get the bad light string out of there.) Once the lights were on, I spent 4 HOURS putting the ornaments on! Although that might sound like an exaggeration, I assure it is not. I really spent 4 hours putting ornaments on the tree. Usually Joe & I do it together, but he didn't feel like doing it last night so I did it alone. And don't even bother asking me how many ornaments there are because I don't know. All I can tell you is that they came out of 4 large shopping bags and 1 box. There are a few large, many medium, and quite a few small ones - perhaps 300 in total, but I really don't know. The tree, however, is breathtaking.

Tonight Joe & I went to dinner at the Carlisle, one of my favorite restaurants, for my birthday. Although my actual birthday is tomorrow, Joe has 2 client appointments tomorrow evening so tonight worked out better for his schedule. We had a lovely and delicious dinner. We both started with their fabulous mixed green salads with dates, cranberries, grilled corn and goat cheese. I had roasted pork tenderloin with grilled corn relish and parmesan mashed potatoes. Joe had a marinated rib eye steak, mushrooms, and the parmesan mashed potatoes. We shared an unbelievable banana pudding and coffee for dessert. The Carlisle is a beautiful restaurant to begin with, but with their tasteful holiday decorations, it seemed to glow. Although a large restaurant, it somehow felt cozy and intimate to me tonight. Joe said "Happy birthday. I'm glad you were born." I blushed.

Monday, December 05, 2005


I got my hair cut and highlights put in. The blonde came out a bit 'brighter' than I had expected, but I don't mind. I can wear rather light blonde highlights because my complexion is so fair, especially in the winter. I feel fabulous!

Monday, November 28, 2005

Thanksgiving: The Aftermath

Not sure why I picked this title - it sounds rather ominous, when in reality, Thanksgiving was wonderful. Anywhoo...

Man, that whole "clean the house on Saturday" idea was a great one. It really gave us much more time on Thanksgiving day. We actually stopped and took little breaks, and we were ready before anyone showed up! Go figure. This was the year I decided I was not going to get pissed off if people showed up early and we weren't ready. (One year they started arriving as I was stepping into the shower.) But this year our advance preparations paid off.

I picked up my niece Lauren (since she is currently sans vehicle) and my aunt Mary. When we got back, everyone else was here. I introduced Lauren to everyone then showed her around the house, since it was her first time here. Then I helped Joe "set up the buffet" (his words). We put all the food out on the kitchen counters, said Grace, and formed a line. How fortunate we are to have so many good cooks in the family. Everything was absolutely delicious and we all ate until we couldn't fit anymore inside us. Then we had dessert!

We had a lovely time, and everyone left by about 8:30. Joe, Lauren, Mary and I sat at the kitchen table and talked for another hour, and then I drove them both back to their homes. I was so glad to get back to my home, put on my flannel pajama pants and T-shirt and relax on the sofa! We watched TV together until 11:30 when Joe went to bed. I came up at midnight.

I didn't realize how tired I was, but we both slept until 11am on Friday! I don't think I've ever slept that late, even when I've been up half the night. But it felt wonderfully luxurious to sleep until I was ready to get up - no alarm clock, nothing to disturb my delicious sleep. Joe had to get up at 7:30 and let Jordan outside to pee, but then he came back to bed and fell asleep again.

Friday turned into a day of relaxation and shopping from the comfort of our TV room. As you may know, Joe is a fan of HSN (Home Shopping Network) and would watch it for hours and hours if I didn't protest. But Friday they were having their day of Christmas gift specials so we watched and shopped. We really found some great gifts at prices you couldn't beat at a regular store, even on sale or with a coupon. We got 7 Christmas gifts and never had to get dressed! In fact, we stayed in our pajamas the entire day. Around 1pm we heated up those delicious Thanksgiving left-overs for lunch, then continued watching TV and relaxing. (The main benefit of hosting Thanksgiving is having all the left-overs.) Joe even went back to bed for a nap. Around 8pm we put a frozen pizza in the oven and that was our dinner. Back to relaxing and TV watching. We never showered, we never got dressed, we never left the house. It was fabulous.

Sat we slept until 9:30, showered, dressed, and headed west. We stopped at Kerry & Hugh's and watched as Hugh and Jose installed their new stove. Its a gorgeous retro stove that looks like something from the 1920s. Then we had lunch at Five Guys, and Joe and I headed out to Front Royal for some real, in-store shopping at Big Lots. (Note: Not all Big Lots are created equal. We've been to 2 other Big Lots closer to our house and both were disappointing. If you really want a bargain shopping experience, go to the Big Lots in Front Royal.) We came home with 9 more Christmas gifts, plus several items for ourselves. It was fun! For dinner we heated up those yummy Thanksgiving left-overs and watched TV the rest of the night.

Sun we slept until 10. I watched home improvement/home decorating shows on TV and Joe surfed the internet. Then Joe washed up the last of the Thanksgiving platters and I got out the leaf blower for 'Round 2'. This time I took sinus/allergy medicine to ward off the sinus flare-up I experienced the last time I blew the leaves. It worked. Then I put away the last of the Thanksgiving paraphenalia and vacuumed the main level of the house again. Joe vacuumed upstairs. All day we kept asking each other 'What do you want to do today?' I offered a few suggestions, but Joe never said yes or no to any of them, so we just kept doing little things here and there: cleaning, putting things away, watching TV, surfing the internet, etc. Finally at 5pm it became apparent that we just weren't going to do anything else outside the house. Besides, it was dark now, and a light sprinkle was falling, so it seemed best to stay put. For the 3rd and final time, we heated up those dwindling but wonderful Thanksgiving left-overs for dinner and settled in for a relaxing night of TV. We watched several shows on Logo, which was fun.

It was a wonderful 4-day weekend, full of tasty food, family, laughter, sleep, TV watching, relaxing, and Christmas shopping. Just the way Thanksgiving should be.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Preparations for Thanksgiving

Last night Joe & I went to the grocery store for all of our Thanksgiving dinner needs. We spent $127. but saved $31. with our Safeway Club card. Fortunately it wasn't too crowded and we got everything we needed except for the gravy. We forgot it, so we'll have to go out tonight and get some.

As usual, we are hosting the family at our house. Joe is making an 18 lb turkey, homemade dressing (my recipe, although he thinks its his), corn casserole (ala Paula Dean), peas, and biscuits. His sister Mary is bringing mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, green bean casserole, and macaroni and cheese. His sister-in-law Karen is bringing pumpkin pies and whipped cream. His mother is bringing the traditional Italian favorites: clementines and mixed nuts in the shells. His sister-in-law Denise is bringing a second turkey and potato salad. My aunt Mary is bringing sweet potato shuffle and orange sherbet jello in a mold. We also have a French apple pie and vanilla ice cream in case anyone doesn't want pumpkin pie. Is your mouth watering yet? Mine sure is!

There should be 17 of us this year, split up at three tables. We're hoping to eat at 4pm. Let's hope the turkey is ready on time this year.

My niece Lauren will be with us for the first time this year. In fact, this will be her first Thanksgiving ever, as Jehovah's Witnesses don't celebrate Thanksgiving or any other holiday. She seems very excited, and I hope she really enjoys being with us.

Last Sat Joe & I did our big, major housecleaning so that tomorrow while he's cooking I will just need to tidy up, set the tables, and get everything ready. All of the table cloths are washed. The 'good' dishes and 'good' flatware are clean and waiting in the sideboard, but I'll need to run the dishwasher tonight to make sure all of the 'everyday' dishes and flatware are clean too, since we'll need some of them.

I'm looking forward to a joyful day with tons of delicious food, family, laughter, and thankfulness for all we have. I wish all of you a happy Thanksgiving as well.

Monday, November 21, 2005


Yuck. I'm feeling sick. My sinuses are hurting, I'm congested, and I have a sore throat. I think I have a fall allergy to leaves. It seems that every year, about a week or two before Thanksgiving, when the leaves are falling like crazy, I get sick like this.

I mentioned it to a friend who suggested I might be allergic to leaf mold. I hadn't really considered that leaves get moldy. My friend has a friend whose doctor said he was allergic to leaf mold, so I guess its legitimate. Plus, yesterday I spent about an hour and a half using the leaf blower. Today I have a significant flare up in my symptoms, which previous to the leaf blowing chore, had been slight.

I'm taking an over-the-counter sinus/allergy medication at night, which really helps dry me up and let me sleep through the night. When it wears off during the day I just blow my nose or clear my throat as needed. I don't like taking medication during the day at work because it makes me feel dopey - even the "non-drowsy formula".

The front yard looks like nice though.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Highlights of the film festival

The Rehoboth Beach Independent Film Festival was... GREAT!

Wed night the weather had once again gotten very warm, so I put the convertible top down and hit the road. Nov 9th at 8pm it was 73 degrees! My spirits were high as I sailed down the highway, singing along with Bette Midler (The Rosemary Clooney Songbook), RuPaul (Supermodel), and Madonna (The Immaculate Collection). I took my bag into the house, turned on the lights, and headed out to find a bite to eat and perhaps a cocktail. But... it was 10:30 on a Wed night. The only places serving food were fast-food restaurants, and although I enjoy the occasional foray into McDonalds and Taco Bell, I just wasn't in the mood for them that night. So I skipped the food and went right for the cocktail. I drove by the Blue Moon, but it looked to be closed, so I stopped at Partners Bistro. The wonderful and talented Matthew was entertaining the handful of patrons with his excellent keyboard skills and nice voice. I had a Malibu and coke.

I stopped at the 24-hour Food Lion on the way back to the house and got a few necessities, which included cereal, milk, and this wonderful strawberry cheescake-flavored pound cake I wouldn't have gotten if Joe were with me. I had a slice of the cake as I watched TV, too excited to go to bed. I finally made myself go to bed shortly before 2am, and I was surprised the next morning that it didn't take me long to fall asleep.

At 8:30 am I left for the box office! I had already read a brief summary of all the films being screened and had filled out my ticket order form. As I stood in line for nearly an hour, I crossed my fingers and thought happy thoughts in the attempt that it would keep my selections from selling out before I got up to the ticket counter.

Success!!! I was able to get tickets to all the films I'd selected except one. It wasn't that the film had sold out, I just couldn't get the show times to fit into any of the openings in my schedule. Without further ado, here's what I saw:

American Potpourri Shorts, a collection of American short films that included 'Flix' a 2 minute animated film about the high price of theatre tickets and the temptation to buy pirated films, 'The Road Taken' another animated film without dialog about a woman's decision when she unexpectedly finds she's expecting, 'Pretty Ugly' a cute film about a funky high school girl who wants to go to the prom but not with any of her classmates, 'Pee Shy' about a group of boy scouts whose scary campfire stories get out of hand, 'I Killed Zoe Day' a whodunit murder mystery told in multiple flashbacks, 'Such Great Joy' about a woman who brings her new girlfriend to the engagement party being thrown for her and her ex-fiance, 'Night Swimming' about a gay teen and his best friend who begin to tackle subjects more complicated than swimming. Although I'm not a fan of animated films, this collection of shorts only included 2 animated films and both were very short. I enjoyed the collection in all.

My Summer of Love, a story about a working class Scottish girl who falls in love with a wealthy English girl. Not only is their summer of love complicated by their drastically different background, but it is further complicated when one girl finds the other has lied to her about several things. A bit of a strange ending, but very interesting and enjoyable. Recommended rental if you see it on Netflix.

Loggerheads, based on a true story of a young man fascinated with the loggerhead turtles of coastal North Carolina. He was given up for adoption as an infant, raised by his adopted parents (a preacher and his wife), then kicked out of the house at 17 because of coming out. His biological mother yearns to find him, and his adopted parents struggle with their feelings and their religious beliefs. Very nicely done. Recommended rental.

Saving Face, the story of a closeted Chinese-American woman who's widowed mother suddenly becomes pregnant at age 48. The mother is ostracized from the close-knit Chinese-American NY community and moves in with her closeted lesbian daughter. A cute story with a good message and a lot of laughs. Recommended rental.

Cote D'Azur, a film I saw this passed summer during the DC Pride Film Festival. This film shows that love can mean many different things: commitment, romance, family, tolerance. For more details of the plot, see my entry on June 5. In French with subtitles. Recommended rental.

Mysterious Skin, the dark tale of two 8-year olds who had played on the same little league baseball team. One grows up believing he was abducted by an alien. The other grows up to become a hustler. They meet in order to help each other deal with the truth of their shared past. Excellent cinematography and a compelling story. Recommended rental.

Mrs. Stevens Hears the Mermaids Singing, the ficticous story of a controversial author and poet, whose 'muse' has been a mystery for decades. This film was too long (over 2 hours) and could have easily been told in much less time if the editor had picked a theme or two and concentrated on it/them. There were way too many 'messages' and the production quality was poor. Don't bother renting this one unless you have insomnia and need something to put you to sleep.

The Favor, a hilarious comedy about a female couple in Barcelona who want to have a baby. They try to implement a plan to drug one of the women's visiting brother so he will impregnate the other woman. Everything goes wrong, but you'll laugh out loud at nearly every scene. In Spanish with subtitles. Recommended rental.

That Man: Peter Berlin, a documentary about the self-created gay icon of the '70s. John Waters and Armistead Maupin contribute their impressions and recollections. On a scale of 1-10 I'd give this a 5. Although the topic, photos, and video clips were interesting, most of the dialog with Peter Berlin was vague and lengthy. I'd only recommend this if you are a Peter Berlin fan.

Heights, a Merchant Ivory production, and possibly one of the best films of the festival. Four or five independent stories appear to be happening in the beginning, until characters from one story begin showing up in another story, demonstrating the whole inter-connectedness of life. Very 'Tales of the City', so of course I loved it. A solid and believable performance by Glenn Close. Recommended rental.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005


The saying holds true: Time flies when you're having fun. And we've been having some fun lately...

Fri evening Michael & Jamie (aka: The Newlyweds) came over for a little snack as we waited for their friend Missy to arrive at the airport. They picked her up and met us at Bangkok 54, a stylish Thai restaurant on Columbia Pike. It looks like a place you'd expect to see in Manhattan, with its high, open ceiling and sleek decor. We enjoyed a tasty Thai dinner and some interesting cocktails: I had a pumpkin martini and Michael had a Basil cocktail. Mmmm... Its fun to try new martinis.

The Newlyweds reminded us that the next day was the last of the Civitan Rummage sales until next spring. Imagining crazy bargains from vendors who didn't want to store stuff for 6 months, we decided to go. It was a bright, sunny, warm day, and I was overdressed with a long sleeve shirt. I hadn't paid attention to the weather. Two hours later we came home with a cute set of old aluminum canisters (sugar, flour, tea) and a 3-tier dessert stand. Fabulous bargains!

We changed into shorts and T-shirts, tossed a suitcase in the trunk and Jordan into the back seat, and headed south with the top down on the convertible. It was 72 degrees and sunny on Nov 5th!!! The traffic gods were on our side and we ran into no typical bad traffic on 95, so we got to Kerry & Hugh's log home in the woods in 2 1/2 hours. We had a lovely weekend talking, laughing, eating, drinking, playing pool, and watching movies. I hadn't played pool in years, but it was a lot of fun. Sun afternoon we headed home, again with the top down. It was clear and sunny, 76 degrees. Although I had originally been hoping for a cool, Nov weekend wrapped in fleece and flannel, this unusually warm weather was certainly welcomed by this convertible-enthusiast. Fun!!!

On the way home on Sun we stopped at Joe's mom's house, but she wasn't there. We headed over to his sister's house to see her new appliances. Her stove, dishwasher and fridge all broke at about the same time so she replaced all three with new stainless steel appliances.

This is a short week for me at work, as I am taking off Thurs and Fri to go to the Rehoboth Beach Independent Film Festival. I am so excited! I've gone to the festival several years and have always enjoyed seeing the indy films. I don't mean to sound like a snob, but I can hardly stomach the typical 'Hollywood' releases, where the 'good' characters always live happily ever after and you can figure out how the movie will end after the first 10 minutes. The indy films are not made to appeal to the mindless masses. They're not made to make money. They're made to entertain, to tell a story, to make you think, to let you escape.

I bought a $60. RB Film Society membership, which entitles me to enter the box office one hour earlier than the general public, and to purchase all of my film tickets for the entire festival, rather than just the tickets for that day's films. I can't wait!

Joe enjoys the occasional indy film too, but he's not interested in spending an entire day watching 3 or 4 films. So he and his mom and Jordan will come up Fri night after work. I'll report on some of the films in a few days.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005


I have always been a fan of McDonalds. I really do like the food. I did a project on McDonalds in a business class I took several years ago. Despite the fact that McDonalds is known for their hamburgers, they didn't start out that way. The first McDonalds was a place to get milkshakes.

I can remember going to McDonalds with my family in the early 70s. Because my family was of modest means, we 4 kids were allowed to get a Big Mac, small fries and a small drink - OR - a cheeseburger, small fries and a milkshake. We were not allowed to get a Big Mac AND a milkshake... it was one or the other. I can still remember going there on Thurs nights after church, my sisters in dresses and me in a suit. The floor was brown tile, the chairs were rust colored, and the booths and tables were gold and beige. Yep, our McDonalds was stylin'.

I also remember going to the new McDonalds built near our house in the early 80s, when 2 of my 3 sisters were married and none were living at home. It was close enough to walk to. I remember my best friend Rodney would come over for the weekend, and we would walk without any parents to the McDonalds and 'dine'. Going to McDonalds then meant independence. We both got small allowances so we could order whatever we wanted. I remember the thrill of ordering a Big Mac, fries AND a milkshake! The decor of this McDonalds was a bit more hip. It had a tan/gold tile floor, beige chairs and booths, and navy blue tables.

I can remember in the late 80s when a new McDonalds opened near Potomac Mills Mall. The mall had been open for a few years, so when they began developing the land surrounding the mall, McDonalds bought in. But this was a special McDonalds - it had a 1950s theme! The floor was black and white checkerboard tile, the booths were covered in sparkly red vinyl, there were photos of 1950s film and music stars on the walls, and record albums hung from the ceiling. Sometimes I'd meet my friends there for dinner when I was working at the mall. Not long after that, a drive-thru only McDonalds was built on the other side of the mall. There was no customer entrance or seating area; it was strictly a drive-thru.

In the mid 90s I was living with my first boyfriend in Gaithersburg, a growing community within a reasonable commute to DC. The McDonalds near our house was rather new, and had the latest, hippest color scheme: purple, teal green, and raspberry! Yeah, that's right. It was colorful. As I recall, this was the first McDonalds that gave you a cup so you could determine your own perfect ratio of ice and soda.

In 1998 I began working in Herndon, after having moved back to VA in 1996. The McDonalds near my office was located in a shopping center. I don't mean out in the parking lot of a shopping center, but rather, IN the shopping center, between the bagel place and the cellular store. It must have been the smallest McDonalds ever, and it was always crowded. A year or so later they opened a new, normal size McDonalds half a block up the street. I have been going there for about 6 years now. It is hands down the most efficiently run fast food restaurant I have ever been to - ever. Even on the busiest days at the busiest times, you never wait in line more than a few seconds. You place your order and pay, and by the time you put your change or debit card away, your food is ready and on your tray. It should be the model for all fast food restaurants. My only complaint is the woman whose job it is to wipe down and restock the condiment area. Lots of times when I'm in a hurry I find myself waiting for her to finish wiping the 3 droplets of coke from the stainless steel counter before I can grab my straw and run out the door. But its a small price to pay for such great service otherwise.

Then there's the McDonalds closest to our house. From its color scheme, it appears to have been decorated in the mid-80s, with its southwestern hues of dusty turquoise, dusty peach, and beige. There are even wallpaper inserts on the walls with a southwestern, American Indian motif. The food and service are usually good there, but occasionally there is a problem with the a/c in the summer. The left side and the main counter area will be fine, and the right side will be noticeably warmer. But when you're really in the mood for chicken McNuggets with hot mustard sauce, one does what one must.

Last Fri when Joe & I were headed up to the beach, we decided to stop at a McDonalds in our town (not the one closest to our house). We were really surprised to see that it had recently been remodeled. I nicknamed it the 'Bistro McDonalds'. There are no booths, and no stationary chairs bolted to the floor in front of the tables. The lighting is dim, coming from tiny spots in the ceiling. There is a circular ceiling 'sculpture' with indirect lighting behind it, too. There are tall tables with high bar stools, and some regular tables with silver aluminum chairs. Instead of wallpaper, the walls are covered in a faux granite material (likely a laminate). There were large flat-panel plasma TV screens mounted in the corners of the ceiling, playing CNN. It was the wildest thing I'd ever seen in a McDonalds! With this 'Bistro McDonalds' we began to wonder what would be next? I've already seen a DVD rental machine in one McDonalds. Credit and debit cards are accepted at all McDonalds, including the drive-thru window. So what's next? Maybe a partnership with massage therapists to knead your muscles while you eat? Maybe a partnership with Starbucks and the local beauty school so you can get a pedicure while you sip a latte? Who knows, but I'm sure that whatever it is, it will be successful.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Surprise - the furniture is ready

It was Friday, my catch-up day at work, and I'm thinking about the fact that we didn't hear from the furniture store about the furniture we ordered. We bought it at a very reasonably priced furniture store up at the beach. Although not so convenient for delivery, the price was right AND there is no sales tax in DE. They had said 2-3 weeks, but thought it might be 2 weeks. I was hoping it would be 2 weeks, as we'd be able to pick it up right away. If it were going to be ready in 3 weeks, we'd have to wait another week after that, as we already had plans to be out of town the 3rd weekend.

So since it appeared we weren't going to be tied up with the furniture, I emailed our friends Liz & Robert, with whom we had 'back-up' plans for dinner on Sat, in case the furniture wasn't ready. But Liz & Robert decided to go to Williamsburg for the weekend. They invited us to go, but we really have no interest in visiting Williamsburg so we politely declined. Besides, we didn't have any arrangements for our dog.

So then I began trolling my friends via email to see who was doing what this weekend. Since Halloween is on Mon, I figured some of our friends may want to go downtown on Sat night to the clubs and bars and see all the boys in their costumes. But everyone I contacted either had other plans or didn't respond to my email.

I began to think 'Man, we really are losers. Here it is, Halloween weekend, and we have absolutely NO plans what-so-ever.' So I called Joe and asked him how he felt about just going downtown the two of us and checking out the Halloween costumes. He didn't want to. So I braced myself for a truly uneventful weekend.

When I got home from work on Fri, Joe said "Surprise - the furniture is ready." The store had called and left a message saying the furniture had just come in. Suddenly I was kind of glad that none of my attempts to make plans for the weekend had worked out! We began to make our new plans.

Our existing TV room sofa was going to Joe's brother's house in Bowie. We had hoped he could come and pick it up, but with such short notice, that wasn't going to happen. Fortunately, his house is on the way to the beach, so we put the sofa in our Suburban and dropped it off on the way. The love seat was going to Joe's sister in Alexandria, but we didn't have time to deliver it on Fri, so we left it in the TV room for some future delivery date.

We were both dreading getting the existing sofa and love seat out of the house, as we remembered how hard it was to get in. We couldn't use the front door because the furniture was too big to go around the corner to get into the TV room. We had to bring the furniture in through the exterior door to the TV room, which is not as wide as the front door. It just barely squeezed through - only after totally removing the door off of its hinge. So with great strain tempered with excitement, we finally extracted the old furniture to make way for the new stuff.

When we went to pick up the new furniture we really didn't think they'd be able to get both pieces inside the Suburban. We planned to take one piece home Sat morning, drive back to the beach Sat night, and take the second piece home on Sun. But we'd removed the 3rd row seat and flipped down the 2nd row seats, creating an impressive amount of space, so the loading guys were optimistic. It took a couple tries and several configurations, but amazingly they got both pieces into our truck!

With both pieces of furniture snugly in the truck and the weather forecast at the beach being good, we thought we'd stay up there for the weekend, and then unload the furniture on Sun evening. But after driving around at the beach with that load of furniture for about 20 minutes, we both agreed to just go home. We were excited to transform our TV room.

We got home around 4pm on Sat and unloaded the furniture, took all the protective plastic and cardboard off, and screwed on the feet. Then we placed the furniture on the wall where the TV/VCR/DVD had been, moved the area rugs, and decided to call it quits. It was 7pm and we were both ready for a shower and some food.

This morning we made a quick trip to our local hardware/variety store to pick up a few necessities and got back to work. Since we wanted to turn the room around and put the furniture where the TV had been, we needed to get the cable over to the other wall where the furniture had been. Fortunately I could pull the cable from the basement and poke it up threw a pre-drilled hole in exactly the right place. Then we put the TV/VCR/DVD onto the new entertainment center we'd bought last weekend from the scratch-n-dent area at Ikea (you can't even find the flaw) and placed it on the wall where the furniture had been. We replaced the lightbulbs in the overhead light that were too bright with some more appropriate lower watt bulbs, and slipped some rubber anti-skid discs under the eight feet of our new furniture, threw the ottoman back in and voila! It looks fabulous!

The new furniture is an ivory chenile, two-piece sectional. There is a sofa with a left arm, and a chaise with a right arm. Put them together and add the toss pillows with a graphic red & ivory design and add our existing red ottoman and you get a stunning designer look. (Michael: this is WAY better than the furniture you remember!) We even had time to deliver the old love seat to Joe's sister, and have an early dinner with his mom.

So much for weekends with no plans!

Friday, October 28, 2005

Lovin' my Logo

We got a postcard from our cable company alerting us to the fact that they were adding 4 new channels to the digital cable channel line-up on Sept 26th. One of them was Logo, the gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender cable network. That’s all I needed to hear (read). I made a note on my mental calendar for Sept 26th. I save the postcard.

Sept 26th finally arrives and I anxiously attempt to tune in to channel 163 for Logo. Nothing. Hmmm… I go back to the postcard and read it again, this time a bit more carefully, and notice the key word I’d missed before: digital. The 4 new channels (including Logo) were being added to the digital cable service. We have analog.

I’d never switched from analog to digital cable (despite the repeated attempts by the cable company’s marketing department) because I had no incentive. At the time, the only gain for upgrading was getting music channels, which I don’t need on my TV since I have a CD player and CDs. Oh yeah, and there’s the higher price of digital.

But knowing there was a GLBT cable channel out there that I couldn’t watch made me call the cable company and inquire about the cost differential and any other added channels. I found that by subscribing to a particular upgrade package, combined with the rep’s ability to remove other a la carte charges that would be included in the package, I’d only have to pay about $7. more per month. “Okay – sign me up” I told him. Within about 20 minutes, I had my new, expanded digital cable programming, including Logo!

Logo shows movies with gay themes, and original series and programs. I was thrilled to watch my favorite movie of all time “Torch Song Trilogy”. They also have an interesting show called “Noah’s Arc”, which is kind of like the black gay man’s ‘Sex and the City’. They also have a stand up comedy show called Wisecrack that I’ve enjoyed a few times, and “Roundtrip Ticket”, a travel show with a pink passport.

Not all the programming is wonderful and satisfying, although it is all gay related in some way. One of the less enjoyable films was called “Our Sons”, starring Julie Andrews and Ann Margaret, who play the mothers of two gay men who are in a relationship. One of them is dying of AIDS… you know the rest of the story. But like I told Joe, that film was made during that dark period in gay cinema when all films included a gay man dying of AIDS. Not to minimize that real-life experience at all, but it seemed that during the late 80s/early 90s every movie with a gay character also had one dying of AIDS. Gratefully we’ve moved on to some other pertinent topics in gay cinema.

I found that my upgrade to digital cable also brought me even MORE home improvement shows, as well as several channels of Encore and Sundance, which often have non-mainstream selections I enjoy. Sundance even has a series called “TransGeneration” which chronicles the lives of 4 transgender college students, in various stages of transition. Very interesting and enlightening.

All in all, I’d say the additional $7. a month is worth it for all the new GLBT and non-mainstream entertainment I’m receiving. So if you call or email and I don’t respond, I’m probably watching TV.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Dinner with Lauren

A few weeks ago I had a ‘cyber reunion’ with my niece Lauren (see my entry on Sept 27), and since then we have been IM’ing and emailing each other. She seems to be adjusting well to life outside the JW religion, and outside the watchful eye of her parents. She’s 18, living with some friends, and working for a temp agency.

Although she didn’t say so directly, I could tell she was eager to see me in person. I was excited about the idea, but also a bit nervous. I hadn’t seen or spoken to Lauren in 12 years, due to our family’s religion’s prohibition of associating with former members. She was a 6 year old little girl the last time I saw her. The idea of meeting up with her in person seemed about the same to me as meeting a stranger – only we have all kinds of stuff in common that strangers usually do not.

I really didn’t know anything about the kind of person Lauren is. My aunt Mary hasn’t seen Lauren in over 3 years. My cousin Nez has seen her several times at family picnics, but she really couldn’t offer too much in the way of Lauren’s personality, other than that she was outgoing and seemed independent. Then there’s her age. What do I know about 18 year olds? Although Joe has a niece and a nephew around that age, they live in MD and we only see them at Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. I can’t say that I really ‘know’ them, or that I know what 18 year olds are like or what they do nowadays. Then there’s the whole gay thing. From our conversations I knew that Lauren’s best male friend is gay and that she is totally cool about it. But I was concerned that it might be different for her friend to be gay and not be dating anyone (more of the idea of being gay), then for her uncle to be gay and living with his partner, (it ain’t just an idea anymore, Dorothy).

With these reservations in mind, I suggested we meet for a casual dinner on Tuesday evening at Fuddruckers. It’s near where she lives now, and is very casual. I asked Joe to join me, since we do all social things together, and because I value his professional evaluation of Lauren, he being a social worker and therapist. Lauren and I exchanged photos via email so we’d be able to recognize each other at the restaurant.

Joe & I arrived first and waited near the door. When Lauren came in and saw me she got a huge smile on her face, threw open her arms and gave me a great big hug. “I’ll never let you go again” she said. I introduced her to Joe, we ordered our food, and sat down at a table. The conversation began to flow without effort.

Lauren was rather talkative, which I was happy about, as I was really more interested in listening to her than in talking myself. She opened up rather quickly, and we learned that she drives too fast, enjoys going to frat parties, and has several good and loyal friends. I found myself becoming concerned when she mentioned drinking beer at parties, but I resisted the urge to tell her so – not wanting to sound like a parent. When the time is right I’m sure I’ll find a way to voice my concerns about underage drinking and all the bad that can come from it. But for now, I just needed to be the uncle she was meeting for the first time.

We had lots of good, hearty laughs! Lauren reminded me of family nicknames and comical habits I’d forgotten about. She did an imitation of my mother that really cracked me up. She was also able to update me on some of my other relatives I’ve not been able to see or hear from in 12 years. It was like a walk down memory lane to hear her refer to our relatives by their nicknames.

Something I wasn’t prepared for was the difficulty I had in knowing how to refer to our family members. Do I say ‘my sister’ or ‘your mother’? Do I say ‘my parents’ or ‘your grandparents’? The first couple of times I said both. But then I decided to speak of these people in the relationship that she has with them, rather than the relationship I once had with them.

I was curious to find out if Lauren was still in contact with the family. When I left the religion I made it clear that I no longer wanted to be a member of the religion, that I was gay, and that I was now living as a gay man. There was no negotiation – it was a done deal. I was 29, had my own place, and was supporting myself. Lauren’s situation is a bit different. Although she also announced that she didn’t want to be a member of the religion anymore, she did not have a new lifestyle to announce. She had just turned 18, was living at home with her family, and was not self-sufficient. Although it is not clear to me whether Lauren was actually kicked out by her parents or she felt forced to move out in order to be happy, Lauren did say that she is still in contact with her parents for now, and that they allowed her to keep the car she was driving when living with them. They also gave her some money to tide her over until she could find a job and become self-sufficient. Lauren did say that she is not hiding her behavior anymore, so she expects that one day her family will tell her they can no longer associate with her, as they told me 12 years ago.

When that happens I think Lauren will be in a far better position that I was at that point. For quite some time she has had friends outside her family’s religion, and has been doing things her family’s religion prohibits. She’s already built up a social and support network that can help take care of her when the final shoe drops and she is finally cut off from her family. I’m happy that her transition to ‘civilian life’ will be smoother than mine, so she can get on with her life.

When talking about the upcoming holidays, Joe mentioned that we host Thanksgiving for “our family” which consists of Joe’s family and my aunt Mary. He kindly invited Lauren to join us for Thanksgiving, since she is family too. Her eyes brightened, she smiled and excitedly replied “YES, Thanksgiving with family!”

Sunday, October 23, 2005


I guess this is the time of the year for changes. Currently the weather is changing from long, warm Indian summer days to shorter, cooler autumn days. The leaves are just beginning to change from green to red, yellow, orange, and brown. Last week I wore long pants to work for the first time since May. That was not a welcome change, as I love warm weather and wearing shorts.

At work there is change, too. Just recently we gave up our second office suite, which housed 3 offices, a cubicle, and some storage space. Since I was located in one of these offices, I experienced a change in my office space. My new office space was vacated by one of the former principals of the old company that was acquired by our new company. He will be gone as of Nov 1, so he is currently working out of the old production area, located in the suite we are keeping. My new office is the same size as my old office, but the new one has a vaulted ceiling, two skylights, and sliding glass doors onto a deck that faces the woods. Not to shabby. I guess you could call this a change for the good.

There are changes at home, too. We decided to get new furniture for our TV room. The current furniture was very inexpensive, and was selected because it could easily be wiped off in the event of an unauthorized nap by our dog, Jordan. We've had the furniture for 5 years, and feel we've gotten our money's worth out of it. We sit on it every night to watch TV, and its not very comfortable anymore. It was time for a change. So last weekend while we were at the beach, we ordered a sofa with a chaise lounge that butts up to it. They said it would be ready in 2-3 weeks. It's ivory chenille, with throw pillows in a graphic red, black, and ivory pattern.

We've also decided to change the orientation of the TV room when the new furniture comes. We're going to put the new furniture on the opposite wall, where the TV currently is, and put the TV where the old furniture currently is. That way when you enter the room from the hall, the first thing you'll see is the new furniture, rather than the TV.

Speaking of the TV, it is currently sitting on a metal stand that is barely big enough to hold it. We've never liked the look of the TV on that stand, so today we went to the "As Is" room at Ikea to look for a 'scratch-n-dent' deal. We found one. It's a wooden entertainment stand, in a light stain, that's about 4 feet wide. It is plenty big enough for our existing 19 inch TV, and a much larger one we'll get some day.

It seems that even old habits are changing around here. Joe and I both did a little housecleaning today, without the usual prodding and complaining. Joe even went through all of the laundry baskets and hampers of clothes (containing clean, dirty, out-of-season, and no-longer-fits items) and organized them appropriately. Next weekend he will go through the items that no longer fit and decide which ones to keep and which to give to charity. This is real progress, people!

And if that wasn't enough, we both felt so good about our accomplishments today, we vowed to adopt this change in attitude and continue doing a little bit every weekend, to keep our house tidy and our minds peaceful.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Wedding in the Berkshires, Part II

In my 9/18 post called 'Wedding in the Berkshires' I talked about attending the wedding of our friends Michael and Jamie. In my recounting I neglected to mention that a reporter was there, collecting information for an article he was writing about gay weddings. He wrote a very insightful piece I thought I'd share. It's not long, and worth the read. Check it out.

At A Same-Sex Wedding, The New Is Made Old Again
Jonathan Rauch, National Journal© National Journal Group Inc.
Friday, Oct. 14, 2005

A cloudy afternoon on a recent Saturday in western Massachusetts. Rain sprinkles the Berkshire hills. Strolling in twos and threes along paths between broad lawns, 80 or so wedding guests make their way to a performance barn on the grounds of Jacob's Pillow. Rustling, cheerful, curious, they take their seats. Gray light filters through high windows and casts soft shadows among the rafters. The barn is not a sanctuary, but it feels like one today.

A violinist, one of the relatives, begins a Corelli prelude, and the wedding party enters. Both grooms wear tuxedos and boutonnieres. The minister, a young seminarian in the United Church of Christ, tall in his robes, begins. Under order of the state Supreme Court, same-sex marriage is legal in Massachusetts, and today the minister will marry Jamie Beckland and Michael Pope.

"Every relationship of love is holy, sacred, and worthy of public affirmation and celebration," he says, with a touch of emphasis, slight but sufficient, on the word every. "We pray that this couple will fulfill God's purpose for the whole of their lives." Emphasis again, this time on the word whole. Not everyone in the hall picks up the inflection, but the grooms do.

Jamie is 27, originally from Wisconsin, now a development officer at the Brookings Institution in Washington. Michael, also 27, works at a private research company. They plan to move to Massachusetts, the place where Jamie lived when they met and the only state where their marriage has legal force. Jamie is taller, blond, bespectacled, thin, with the bearing of the former dancer that he is. Michael is dark, heavyset, as reserved as Jamie can be bubbly, a product not of the liberal Upper Midwest but of conservative southwestern Virginia, a state notorious for its gratuitously anti-gay legislation.

For all the differences, Jamie and Michael and their families have this in common: divorce. The newlyweds' immediate families count eight divorces between them, four on each side. Michael's parents divorced when he was 6, Jamie's when he was 10. "I think there's a whole generation of kids from broken homes who only want to be married once," Michael says. This marriage of two men, so radical by some lights, aspires to reconsecrate the deepest of marital traditions.

A few weeks before the wedding, over coffee at Starbucks, I asked Jamie why he wanted to marry. For my generation of gay men (I am 45), legal marriage was unthinkable, and emerging into the gay world often meant entering a cultural ghetto and a sexual underworld. Jamie, who could just about be my son, replies with an answer that turns the world of the 1970s and 1980s upside down. Once he realized he was gay, he says, he simply expected to marry.

"Why does anybody get married?" he asks. "I wanted the stability, I wanted the companionship, I wanted to have a sex life that was accepted, I wanted to have kids. For me, it's not a choice. A marriage evens you out."

The couple met on May 18, 2002. The next day, they exchanged telephone numbers at church (both are Christian). Within weeks, they knew it was serious. In February of this year they took a trip to Massachusetts and went snowshoeing on the grounds of Jacob's Pillow, a dance center where Jamie had worked when they met. There, on an outdoor stage, Jamie got down on one knee. "Which was hard, because we were in snowshoes."

He gave Michael a compass inscribed, "May we always find our way together," and launched into his carefully planned proposal, doing fine for about a minute before starting to cry. Michael began laughing, Jamie pulled himself together long enough to propose, and the two kissed, their faces stung by freezing tears.

Most weddings occasion unambiguous joy, but at this one, reactions run the gamut from delight to incredulity. Jamie's mother, Laura, freely confesses to having been a "monster mom" when Jamie first told her he was gay, seven years ago. He recalls her blaming a demon that might have possessed him one day while he was using a Ouija board. Today, however, she is fighting a losing battle with her false eyelashes as the tears flow, and the tears are happy ones. "It's amazingly wonderful and appropriate," she says of the marriage, "and it breaks my heart" -- not that Jamie is gay or is marrying a man, but that he is making this final transition out of childhood.

Laura's parents, Lee and Ludene, both in their early 70s, have shown up at their grandson's wedding on the advice of their priest, who counseled support for their family even if they could not condone a same-sex marriage. They say they are open-minded Catholics, but today's event has pushed them to their limit. "I feel that it's wrong," Lee volunteers. "I don't think it's real. I kind of wish it hadn't happened." He loves his grandson, no doubt about it. But "this is hard for me, to see it happen." Ludene, who believes that marriage is for procreation, struggles to find a more conciliatory note. "We're living in a different age," she says.

Jamie's two younger brothers are enthusiastic about the marriage. It never occurs to them to regard a same-sex marriage as anything but real. His father, Kim, has been supportive all along. But his paternal grandparents, Jim and Carol, are guarded as they sit on a bench awaiting the ceremony's start. "We love Jamie, and I'm not going to drive a wedge in the family," Jim says. Carol mentions that both are Christians who are close to the Bible. "This will be interesting," she says. "I'm not the judge."

Opponents of gay marriage have argued that same-sex couples, especially men, will undermine marriage by regarding it merely as a path to legal benefits, rather than as a moral and spiritual commitment. Gay couples may get married, goes the criticism, but will not act married. To judge by Jamie and Michael, there is little cause for worry on that score.

For their part, gay couples have had reason to worry that their marriages, however valid in the law's eyes, might be regarded as less than authentic in the eyes of family, friends, religious institutions, employers. After all, a marriage is a marriage not just because the law certifies it but because the community accepts and underwrites it.

Jamie's and Michael's relatives will face a question that never comes up after a straight wedding: whether to inform their friends, neighbors, and colleagues that their son or grandson or brother or nephew is married to a man. Among the parents' and grandparents' generations, most people said they would share this information selectively, or they would play it by ear, or they just didn't know what they would do. The marriage is no secret, but neither does it bask in the social sunlight that straight spouses take for granted.

Yet marriage has its own dynamic, one that deepens bonds between spouses and forges links to kin and community. From time immemorial, parents have expressed ambivalence, even dismay, over their children's choice of spouse, yet have been won over, if not to the choice, then to the marriage and the stability it provides. Michael's mother, Kathy, is from the town of Buena Vista, Va. She was raised in a strict Brethren Church but now considers herself "spiritual." She has been married and divorced twice. "This is truly not what I expected to see in his marriage," she says of Michael, her only son. But she adds: "I hope this is going to be a stabilizing factor in his life, because he's been at loose ends for a long time."

Marriage creates kin, a process in evidence today. Laura, Jamie's onetime "monster mom," toasts the couple with the words, "I'm so happy to have a fourth son." Jamie's father says, "I've seen these two together enough to know that this is the kind of relationship that marriage is about." Times may change, and marriage may change, but parents are ever parents.

It is almost 5 p.m. The minister has given his blessing, invoking Solomon's song that many waters cannot quench love. "Remember this," he says, "remember this, remember this. Amen."
Then: "Before God and all present, do you, Michael, enter into this marriage with an open mind and heart and promise to love Jamie as long as you both shall live?" Michael firmly answers yes, and then Jamie, less steadily, gives the same answer, wiping away tears as he says, "Most importantly, I will work every day at loving you better." The minister calls for the rings, and laughter relieves sniffles as Jamie, flustered, offers his right hand.

That mistake corrected, the minister makes a pronouncement that I never thought I would live to hear. "By the authority vested in me by the state of Massachusetts, I declare that you, Jamie and Michael, are joined in the covenant of marriage, with the blessing of Christ's church. You may kiss."

They do. It is done.

-- Jonathan Rauch is a senior writer for National Journal magazine. His e-mail address is

And speaking of gay weddings, I became privvy to one of the cutest things - I simply must pass on. Accompanied by her parents, a second grader attended the wedding of her uncle. Afterward, back at school she wrote this (spelling left in tact):

"I went to Portland and I went to a wedding and two boys got married and kissed and huged. At the reception there was danceing and cake and pizza and sald. And it was fun."

I bet you're smiling right now.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

This 'n that

Last weekend we went to the beach with our friends Greg & Gerry. We knew the weather wasn't supposed to be great, but I thought it would just be overcast the whole time. I was wrong.

After an entire summer of less-than-average rainfall, Friday it poured all day, and all night as we drove up to the beach. We stayed up late talking, so we slept late on Sat morning. It was raining when we got up. Joe made a delicious breakfast of banana walnut pancakes with bacon, orange juice, and coffee. We lingered over breakfast, hoping the rain would stop so we could go out.

Finally we decided to go out anyway. We showed Greg & Gerry the town of Lewes, the bay beach, the ferry depot, then went to a furniture store on Rt 1. We drove into the town of Rehoboth, but it was raining too hard for us to get out and walk around, so we went to lunch at a spot on Rt 1 and then picked up two movies from the video store.

Once back at the house Joe and Greg took naps, while Gerry and I chatted some more. When everyone was awake we watched the first of our two movies 'Crash'. You may remember from a previous blog post that I had seen this film before, but none of the others had seen it, and I liked it enough to see it again. We all enjoyed it.

We were going to go out for dinner, but the rain just wouldn't quit and we didn't feel like going out in it again, so we ordered a Grottos pizza to be delivered and watched our second film 'Beauty Shop'. Queen Latifa plays this gifted hair stylist who is taken for granted by the salon owner. She opens her own beauty shop but finds that she must be able to do more than hair. It was a fun movie.

Sunday we had brunch at Partners Bistro, then strolled around Rehoboth. The rain had finally stopped. We had a nice time peeking into many of the stores in town, then headed back to the house to get ready to leave.

After arriving home I talked with my friend Dave regarding his invitation to Sunday dinner. He makes dinner for his friends on most Sundays, and the group's attendance changes a bit from week to week. We confirmed we were coming and headed on over.

Dave and I met in the spring of 1993, as we were both coming out. He lived near me and we met at a casual social event for GLBT folks in the community. We got along quickly and became good friends. That summer we went to Ft Lauderdale and Key West on vacation. Some years later, we both moved away and didn't stay in touch. A few months ago I saw Dave in the John Waters film 'A Dirty Shame', so I dug out his email address and we reconnected. It was great to see him again on Sunday, and to meet his partner and several friends.

Tuesday evening we met Kerry & Hugh and George for dinner. Joe's mom came with us. We chatted about Kerry & Hugh's planned house addition, as well as other upcoming events. We had a fun time, as we always do with them.

Wednesday I got up before the sun (aarrgg...) in order to catch a 7:59am flight to Chicago. My boss (who is leaving the company in 2 weeks) and one of the sales guys who is taking over some of my boss' accounts and I planned a quick trip to Chicago to introduce the sales guy to some clients, take them to lunch, and talk about upcoming business. The weather was cool and overcast in Chicago, but it was fun to be there. I returned home from the airport at 10pm and was exhausted. I had a little ice cream and talked to Joe, then went to bed.

Tonight is the opening night of Reel Affirmations, the gay and lesbian film festival in Washington DC. Joe and I had planned to go to tonight's opening film, but Joe's back has been hurting for a few days, and since it was raining all day/evening, we decided not to go. (The fact that tonight's film was $15./person instead of $9./person like all the other nights had a little something to do with it, too.) So we stayed in this evening, had a dinner of warm chicken pot pies, and he is currently watching 'Muriel's Wedding' on cable while I read/wrote email and updated this blog.

We're heading to the beach again this coming weekend. Rehoboth Beach is having its annual Jazz Festival AND the weather is supposed to be sunny. YAY!!!

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

The Summer I Got A Tan

It was 1987. I remember it clearly because I had been laid off from my job (which I hated and wanted to leave anyway) right after Memorial Day weekend. It was the same summer all three of my sisters were pregnant. 1987. At first I was pissed, but later took comfort in the fact that the pool at my apartment complex opens on Memorial Day weekend. J

Now getting a tan might not sound like much to most people… who’ve never seen me. I have a very fair complexion and do not tan easily. If I go out with no sunscreen for more than 30 minutes, I will get sunburned. Spending a week’s vacation at the beach does not result in me getting a tan because I just get too hot, baking in the sun, so I don’t stay out very long. Except in 1987.

This was, of course, before the internet, which now makes job searching so much easier. No, back in 1987 someone looking for a job had to mull over the ‘want ads’ in the newspaper and then mail a hard copy of their resume to the street address printed in the ad. Sounds archaic now, huh? But that’s what I did. Of course, there were only one or two daily newspapers, and after the first couple days of scouring them for suitable jobs, it didn’t take long to find the one or two I’d actually apply for. My job searching would be done by 10:30 am.

So, after carefully folding my resume, placing it inside the envelope, hand-writing the address on the envelope (this was also before anyone had a computer at home), and putting the stamp on the envelope… I’d go to the pool for a couple hours.

I could go to the pool for a couple of hours because those hours weren’t in succession. I’d go from 11-12, then go back to my apartment and have lunch, throw a load of laundry in the coin-operated washer, then go back to the pool from 1:30-2:30, go back to my apartment for a soda, then toss the laundry into the coin-operated dryer, then go back to the pool from 3-4.

I repeated this routine every day for a couple of weeks, until I got a call about one of the jobs. I was interviewed and then accepted a job at a grocery store. While not my ideal career move, I had no money in savings so I had to take the job in order to keep from getting behind in my rent and bills. But alas – since I was the ‘low man on the totem pole’ at the grocery store, I got the hours that nobody else wanted: shifts like 5-11pm, 6-midnight. These hours were perfect for me, as I could continue my morning job search, followed by middays at the pool.

Finally, near the middle of August, I got a permanent full-time job that was more of a career move for me. But by mid August, I’d had 10 weeks of gradual sun exposure and I had a gorgeous, golden tan. Pair that with the fact that my hair was blonde and I weighed about 50 pounds less than I do now, I was a stunning vision of youth and vitality! (I know those of you who’ve actually seen me in person are having a difficult time envisioning the person I just described… don’t be jealous!)

After 1987 I never really tried to get a good tan. I mean, working full-time during the day just didn’t leave me with the kind of schedule I needed to get a tan. Plus, it seemed every other minute there was something on the radio or TV about people getting skin cancer from tanning, so that kind of put a damper on my desire to once again transform myself into the bronze god I was in 1987.

But then came our beach house, which we bought in Dec of last year. We love going to the beach and just being near the water, even when its not ‘beach season’. We consistently spend weekends at the beach even in the winter; all year round. So when we got the beach house and began writing those checks to pay for it every month, I told Joe that we should really try to spend a lot of time at the beach this summer, and he agreed.

Even though the traffic getting across the Bay Bridge to the beach can be harrowing during the season, we found a way around that, too. We’d leave our house on Friday nights at 8:30 or 9:00. By the time we’d get to the bridge an hour later, there was no back up. We’d sail right on to the beach; taking the same amount of time it would take us off-season. On Sundays we’d do the same. We’d leave at 6:30 or 7:00, after all the majority of the beach exodus had occurred.

Some weekends we’d go by ourselves, and other weekends we’d invite friends to join us. In May we spent 3 out of 4 weekends at the beach. In June we spent 3 out of 4 weekends at the beach. In July we spent 4 out of 5 weekends at the beach, including an entire week of vacation there. In August we spent 2 out of 4 weekends at the beach. In September we only spent 1 weekend at the beach because we were in Las Vegas another weekend and Massachusetts another weekend.

Nearly every one of those weekends at the beach we would spend 2-3 hours (Sat and Sun) enjoying the sun and the water. Then in Las Vegas I spent a couple hours each day at the pool, too. So without really trying, I once again got a really great tan. I kind of surprised myself, but it is really noticeable. Friends and co-workers have noticed and commented about my tan.

Recently if Joe and I get into some kind of a little argument or something, I say “Don’t be jealous of my tan…” as if that were the real reason behind the argument.

So now if I recall ‘The Summer I Got A Tan’, I’ll have to pick between the TWO!

Monday, October 03, 2005

Our Old House

In October of 2000, we sold our old house. It was a light gray Cape Cod, built in 1941 on a nice lot on a street that was not a through street. It was very charming, and had lots of its original character.

The previous owners had popped the attic with a shed dormer on the back, which really expanded the upstairs space. It already had two regular dormers on the front. They’d also enclosed the back porch, creating a sunroom, and had built an enormous multi-level deck in the back yard. It was our first house, and we loved it.

But despite all the painting and decorating we did to make it even more charming and inviting, it was just too small. Realtors like to use the word “cozy”. It was just too small. We used to entertain small groups of church friends for dinner, but could barely fit 6 people in our dining room. We could sit 6 in the living room if we pulled one of the dining room chairs in. And when Joe’s family came over for Thanksgiving – forget about it! We had people eating in 3 different rooms, and there just wasn’t enough space when the kids started getting bigger.

At first we thought about adding on. An architect came for a look, and told us that adding on a family room would cost at least $100,000 (back in the late 90s), and even then we would be left with one decent-sized room stuck onto the rest of our cramped rooms. Plus, there were many other things that needed to be done, like replacing the original 60-year old windows and kitchen) in addition to the addition. All we could see were dollar bills floating out of our wallets in a constant stream. So we decided to move up.

We found a wonderful brick Cape Cod with generous rooms and simply fell in love. That’s where we live now. A young couple bought our first house, and seemed excited about the prospects of first-time home ownership and putting their own touches on the place. We were sure that in time they would do the things we’d not done, like replace those old windows and kitchen.

Fast-forward 4 ½ years and it’s the spring of 2005. We saw a real estate ad in the local paper that looked an awful lot like our old house, so we drove by to check it out. Indeed, it was our old house in that ad, and the sign indicated they’d be having an open house the next day. We knew we’d be there!

We tried to imagine what they would have done. We could see they had not replaced the windows, so we guessed they’d redone the kitchen and possibly one or both of the bathrooms.

We couldn’t have been more shocked and disappointed. Our charming little house looked terrible. First off, it was dirty. Second, they had not redone the kitchen, except for the flooring and countertops, both of which were so ugly it’s amazing anyone would have selected them. Having been built in 1941, the house had real plaster walls. The owners after us had painted the dining room a deep wine color, and used semi-gloss paint. It showed every flaw and imperfection in the plaster. In one of the 3 bedrooms they’d tried a faux paint treatment on the walls that resembled a quick clean up at a bloody crime scene. Red smears all over the cream colored walls. It was horrific. In another bedroom they’d apparently kept a dog or two, because there were gouges and scratches from the dogs nails in the wood door. Upstairs in the master suite they’d painted over the ‘Candlelight’ walls with stark white and navy blue. We both felt like we’d been run over by a bus when we left the house. It was so disappointing.

Later in the summer, we swung by the old house and were encouraged to see the ‘For Sale’ sign was gone, and the exterior of the house had been painted a quaint pale lilac, and the windows had been replaced. We saw our old next-door neighbor, Terri, working in her yard so we parked and got out to talk to her. She told us that a very nice man named Evan had bought the house and was remodeling the entire thing. We commented on the new windows and paint. She told us we should see the new kitchen and bathrooms. Our hearts leapt for joy!! Finally, someone was taking care of this lovely, charming house.
When Evan came outside Terri introduced us and asked if we could come inside and look around. He agreed, so we got to see the completely new kitchen, bathrooms, refinished hardwood floors, beautiful faux treatment on the brick fireplace, and all the new lighting and fixtures. He apparently had enough money to not only undo all the ugly the previous owners had done, but also to redo all the things we never had the cash to improve. Although not yet completed, the house looked gorgeous. We were so happy! And the old house seemed happy, too.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Family Reunions... well, sorta

As you know from my past posts or from personal conversations with me, my family has no contact with me because I decided to leave their fundamentalist religion, the Jehovah's Witnesses (JWs). Anytime someone decides to leave or is forced to leave for behavior they do not tolerate (like being gay), all JWs are instructed to cut off association with that person, even family members. Further, they tell members that anyone who leaves or gets kicked out will certainly wind up living an empty, loveless life, without God's spirit or assistance. (I remember being taught that those who left were certain to become drug addicts, alcoholics, and tramps who would never have any 'real' friends. They may have toned that down in recent years, I don't know.) Sounds kind of harsh, but that is how they emotionally blackmail members who may be 'on the fence' to stay in the religion. It didn't work for me, as I left 12 years ago, and do not have contact with my parents, sisters, brothers-in-law, nieces, nephews, and other extended relatives who are also JWs.

About 2 weeks ago my cousin Inez (Nez) who is not and never was a JW IM'd me at work, telling me that my 15-year old niece Leslie had been asking her about me. Apparently Leslie does not wish to be a JW anymore, but is fearful of her parent's reaction. Leslie was curious about me and wanted Nez to put her in contact with me. Nez decided she would not do so unless Leslie could get approval from her parents. After all, Nez is a mother too, and would not appreciate someone assisting her children to do something they know is against their parent's wishes.

A few days later, Nez told me that not only does Leslie not want to be a JW anymore, but her 18-year old sister Lauren doesn't either. Lauren also began asking Nez (via IM) about getting in contact with me. Nez gave her the same answer: as long as they lived under their parent's roof, she couldn't help them contact me since she knew their parents didn't approve.

Just before leaving on vacation, I got another IM from Nez telling me that Lauren had told her parents she was no longer going to be a JW or attend their religious meetings. Apparently it was an emotional and heated discussion which resulted in Lauren being told to leave the house for good. That's right - my sister and her husband kicked their 18-year old daughter out of the house for having different religious beliefs (or non-beliefs). I was rather shocked, as the JW religion does not require parents to kick their kids out if they are living at home. But apparently Lauren was rather adamant about no longer going to church with them or living under all of the religion's strict prohibitions.

When I returned from vacation I confirmed with Nez that Lauren had left her parents' home and was staying with some friends in a nearby town. My sister had called Lauren and pleaded with her to reconsider her decision and to come back home, but Lauren said no. She was unwilling to live under those conditions. Since Lauren was no longer under her parent's rood, I asked Nez for Lauren's IM screen name, and when I saw her online, I IM'd her.

After introducing myself I was pleased at her excited reaction. I explained that the main thing I felt was important for her to know was that all that stuff they said about those who leave or get kicked out was CRAP. I was pleased to find that she was aware of that and understood the manipulation behind it. We then went on to catch up on what was going on with her, I checked to make sure she had a safe place to stay, and she asked questions about my life. She was only 6 years old the last time we had seen each other.

Since then we have IM'd on several occasions, and I've been able to help her understand some of the unknown/scary/unsure feelings she's beginning to have. As I explained to her, she's in the biggest transitional period of her life right now, and it is understandable to have such feelings. I shared with her some of my feelings from that period as well as my coping strategies. Part of what she's going through is the realization that her actions have separated her from her family - the main people she's grown up with and trusted. So I'm helping her to know that she can trust others too, like me, to understand her and help her through this time.

So far she's not requested to see me in person yet, but my guess is that that is coming soon. She knows I'm gay, she knows about my life with Joe, and she's totally fine with it. She told me one of her best friends is an 18-year old young man named Ryan who is gay and who is also trying to deal with his parents and the issue of not being a JW anymore. I'm glad she's cool with the gay topic because I definitely had no plans to hide it from her, or anyone else.

I asked her about her sister, Leslie. She said Leslie is pretty much miserable because she's being forced to continue going to church with her parents even though she's told them she does not believe in it. But being only 15 it is illegal for her parents to kick her out, so I guess that house is going to have some stress for the next 3 years. Lord help them.

Two days after initially making contact with Lauren, I received an email from my cousin Hilleary. Being the oldest of the cousins, Hilleary decided a long, long time ago that the JW religion was not for him, and stopped participating. Since his father was not a JW (only his mother and siblings were) there was never any question of him being kicked out of the house. His father was probably glad about it! But Hilleary moved to California a long time ago and I only remember seeing him a few times here and there, when someone in the family got married or had a baby. Even then those of us who were 'good JWs' treated Hilleary coolly, since we knew he was not a JW anymore.

Hilleary explained in his email that he had thought of me many times over the years, especially after hearing that I was no longer a JW, and wondered how I was doing. He finally found a way to contact me by asking my non-JW cousin, Nez.

I was thrilled to hear from my cousin, and happy he took the time to tell me a bit about his life and family. He and his female 'partner' Mindy are not legally married, but they live as married people, like me and Joe. They have 3 sons together, and live in Mendocino. He works for a music company, out of his home office, and volunteers at his youngest son's school. The older two boys are in college. He told me he'd like to know about my life if I cared to share.

When I wrote back I thanked him for his email and told him briefly about the circumstances that surrounded my leaving the JWs. I told him about my life with Joe for the last 9+ years, and about my work and interests. I told him I was sorry I missed his recent visit to the east coast (4 months ago) for his nephew's wedding, but offered to meet him the next time he comes out here. I also told him I hoped our dialog could continue so that we could catch up on all the lost years.

These two recent cyber reunions have made me happy. It's ironic: For many years after leaving the JWs (which resulted in loosing my family) I believe I really grieved that great loss. I resigned myself to the fact that I would have to find family enrichment elsewhere. Joe's family came to the rescue, and I was so, so blessed to have them fill the family void that used to exist in my life. Feeling that that was enough, I was content. And then, Lauren and Hilleary contact me in the same week, and I am now getting reacquainted with them. How lucky can a guy get?