Thursday, December 31, 2009
In an hour, the clock will roll to midnight, imposing on the flow of the seasons the ending of one year, and the beginning of another.
I have had dozens of Facebook well wishes, emails and texts pour in today, all on various lines of "Happy New Year, may next year be better..." It has been a hard year for many, both on the personal level and on a much wider scope. War, uncertainties, politics, poverty, strained and damaged economies, and illness....it has been a difficult ending year to the decade. It is indeed my fervent prayer that things will improve.
However...I want to say, when I look back over this year, despite mine and Dreamweaver's challenges and struggles, I see so many good things. The wonderful challenges of school as we come closer to graduations and the promise of a more expanded future and careers...the love of friends and family, whom we treasure and love, a renewal of our spiritual journeys and the realization of our creative talents and how they might be expanded. Even the things that have been difficult challenges became opportunities to learn, to grow, to have faith, and to work together to over come them.
Perhaps above all, Dreamweaver and I are together, and our love remains strong and undaunted, full of life and humor and joy. She is the most precious person in my life, and our marriage is the most important thing in my life. She encourages me to be a better person, she inspires me to reach greater heights and further goals than I would have ever dreamed possible. And she loves me, as I love her - a miraculous gift that I intend to treasure every day for the rest of my life. I am grateful beyond words for the gift of our lives together and what we have become together; stronger, more resilient and greater than the sum of ourselves. And yet we have also retained the respect and honor of our selves as individuals - joined but not subsumed, unique and whole also unto ourselves. This is not an easy journey, this relationship. Its health and wholeness requires a daily mindfulness and renewal that is as important and necessary as breathing. But it is our joy and our greatest gift, that we are together, for the past 6 years and are moving into the blessing of yet another.
Happy New Year...may the coming year indeed be better, be prosperous, be safer and more fulfilling for all of us. But may we also look back on the year just past, and see the blessings and joy that have been a part of it for us as well.
Blessed Be. See you all in the next post...in 2010!
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
"How was your Christmas - what did you get?" The universal question the day after December 25th.
I have been asked this question by people whose entire focus is materialistic...it is indeed about comparing who got what. I have been asked the same question by those who wish to share the tale of a precious gift that has stunned them for the love it represented in their lives, such as one dear friend who got diamond ear rings from her partner - a gift that was incredible to her because of the love that lay behind it in the giving of it.
As a child, I came down the stairs W-A-Y before dawn to see what Santa brought - and I have wonderful memories of certain gifts both from "Santa" and from under the tree - the year I got my first bicycle (huge for a child who spent 5 years unable to walk) or the year I got my guitar - Santa was still coming by the house at that point, but the illusion had been dispelled by then; I knew whose loving hands lay behind the "Santa" gifts.
(Although, I believed - really believed - in Santa far longer than my peers and had to be gently informed by my mother of the truth behind the legend at mumble-something umpteen years of age. Ahem - well, what do you expect? I got LETTERS from Santa - he even sent me samples of the hay he fed the reindeer! He and I corresponded off and on for years, even when it wasn't winter. Where ever you are Mr. Howell, beloved neighbor and grandfather of my heart, thank you for being Santa for me all those years. The gift of magick and belief was precious to me and always will be!)
But such was the love and beauty of my family's traditions - decorating the tree with my Father, making ornaments with Mom, breakfast in the country at my Aunt and Uncle's farm on Christmas day, that I came very early on to understand that the material presents were representative of the love behind them from the people who gave them, symbolic of the love of Deity, and that as the Grinch found out - Christmas can come without presents at all!
I have had years when I have given presents to a long list of friends and family...and years when all I had to give anyone was a hug. This year has been one of those "hug" years, as we struggled to pay bills - and we made it, but just barely. Part of why we made it was the incredible generosity of those who aided in financial ways as their Christmas present to us - you know who you are, I shan't embarrass anyone here, but THANK YOU! We have been on the edge of desperation for a number of months. Your tangible love tipped us away from the danger of losing everything we had. It won't always be like this - graduation nears and I am closer than ever to embarking on a career that will take us out of the financial hole we have been living in. But it is because of love like this that we will survive to get there. And some will be paid back - and some will be paid forward, passing the gift to those like us who are in need.
Some friends gave precious gifts that were truly symbolic of the love they hold in our hearts for us and for me - one I will treasure forever is a silver and pewter pocket watch with a gorgeous Green Man motif! Another was Celtic music, and who can ever forget the rainbow socks! Our youngest son, Enlightened, sent us framed wedding pictures and Dreamweaver cried for joy at such a beautiful gift from the heart of her son!
So....what did I get for Christmas this year? What was the Christmas present that totally overwhelmed me and filled my heart with so much love that I had tears in my eyes and a joy in my heart that I can barely express?
It was a text message.
A simple text message, that came in the day after Christmas...from my stepson, Enlightened, mentioned above. My phone text message signal went off and I looked down to see on the tiny phone screen his name and number come up.
Understand, I call him my stepson, but I tread lightly with that. His older brother, The Marine, has rejected his mother, Dreamweaver and myself because we are a gay couple; we are cut off from The Marine, his family and our grandchildren, who have no idea that Dreamweaver is their Grandmother. Dreamweaver's younger son, Enlightened, and his wife are far more at ease with us and stay in touch, have given us love and acceptance. But I have tread lightly with the "stepmom" thing. It is hard enough to accept a step parent who has come into your life, particularly in situations where there are broken homes and misunderstanding and sometimes even hate. I have been very grateful for Enlightened's acceptance - but I never presumed too much,I was just simply glad to be his friend and that he didn't mind me being in his mom's life.
Until this text message appeared on my phone on December 26th from him. This is what it said:
"Merry belated Christmas. I just wanted to let you know you've been one of my favorite people in the whole world ever since I met you. Thank you for taking such good care of my Mom. Tell her from me. I love you (and you are in my phone as HannahMom.)"
Something as intangible as wireless signal, passing from tower to tower in moments, from five states away...and it changed my life! I truly do have a son who loves me. I never had children myself - for a number of reasons, several of them quite good, and while in the end I have had cause to be grateful for those decisions, I also love children and would have loved being a parent. Family is a precious and sacred thing to me, whether it is biological, blended or "family of choice". Dreamweaver and I both have struggled with the loss of family due to homophobia and rejection of us and our relationship and who and what we are; we live daily half in the closet with some family members because we know that the relationship could not survive the revelation that we are gay.
We have learned to value family because of these losses, these dangers.
I have a son, who loves me as his mom and parent.
I love him too - and the little text he sent to me is my best Christmas gift, ever!
Thursday, December 24, 2009
In a little bit we will be leaving to go to the Midnight Communion Service at our church this Christmas Eve...
I know all the discussions about Pagan traditions and Christmas Traditions, and how one stole from the other, or how things have become hopelessly secularized. There are Christians who go so far as to refuse to celebrate Christmas because they consider it a pagan holiday, and Pagans who rage over the fact that the Christian church appropriated and then destroyed their traditions.
Christmas is a time of memory - everybody's are a bit different, somethings are the same across the board. Some people have wonderful Christmas memories - others have bitter ones. It can be a beautiful time of year, it can also be a hard one...there are those who wallow in materialism and that's all that it means to them, and those that go hungry and cold while others eat. The world presents us with unattainable goals in the form of perfection and family and presents - and all too many have broken homes and families divided. How do Christmas traditions speak to us...how can they help us? How do we let it in to touch us?
Traditions and ceremonies and ritual all accomplish one thing - they bypass the conscious rational mind and speak to our souls, our inner selves, our subconscious. It becomes a way to connect with each other, or with Deity,or with life, whether you are Pagan, Christian, or even Atheist. Rituals are important and necessary and the most hardened Iconoclast all unknowing will have rituals in their life, despite their resistance to the concept.
One Christmas decades ago, I had the darkest, most bitter December I had ever had. I had no connection to family, or Deity or light or hope, despite being with my family and my church. And yet, paralyzed and emotionally destroyed, I went with my family to the Midnight Communion at the church...
And at midnight, when the lights went down and hundreds of candles slowly, one by one - light to light - multiplied and drove back the Darkness, my heart of broken stone loosened and became flesh again, believed again, hoped again, beat again, as we one by one increased the light in the world physically and symbolically. It wasn't a "revival of my heart" in a religious sense...it was much more primal and primeval than that. It was simple light, warmth and fire, overtaking the darkness that had became a deep metaphor for my inner darkness. And an older Light than Christmas broke over me in that moment - Sun Return. Life. Continuation. I had miles and years to go to heal from that December....but perhaps, that I was able to become whole again, began in that moment and in that ritual.
So there is something deeper at work in the concept of ritual than the surface of these things and the names of these things. Something older...something that may be as personal as a Deity that connects with us, or as impersonal as the simple drive for life that exists in all that lives and breathes. Patterns and rituals give us a connection point, a new beginning each time. Not every ritual speaks to every one...but everyone has something that will eventually speak to them even if it's on a subconscious level.
Our church has been celebrating Advent now for 4 weeks...tonight the last candle in the center will be lit, and the whole sanctuary will be darkened and lit only by the light of hundreds of candles as the 24th rolls to the 25th.
We will rejoice to be there, to remember the Birth of the Child (no matter He was probably born in April, in reality, and that we are actually working off of Ancient Pagan traditions for this date.)
And us being who and what we are will also honor the Turn of the Wheel of the Solstice and the rebirth of the year, rejoicing in the Holly King, and the Goddess delivered of her Child who will grow to become Summers High Lord.
We will be with those we love and those who love us, we will be together and we will remember and honor those whom we love who live far away.
The Wheel has turned - Darkness is passing away and the Light is returning...and perhaps that is all that any of us really need to know. Perhaps that is at the heart of all our rituals and beliefs right there.
Thanks Be to God...
Saturday, December 12, 2009
When I was small child, maybe of about five and a half, I was taken to an orthopedist by my parents. I evidently was not walking normally and falling some and they had concerns. We were devastated to learn I had a condition known as Legg-Calve Perthes...this was in the 1960's and at that time, the treatments for Perthes were leg braces that kept the body weight off the hip socket, traction, and/or bed rest, until the disease had run it's course. If treated in time, it would pass and normalize, if not, permanent damage, crippling affects and severe arthritis could occur. Supposedly it takes about 6 months to a year to heal, if treated properly.
I spent the next 6 months confined to a wheel chair, staying off the hip. 6 months is an eternity to a child, I might add. I also have to point out that I have a lot of gaps and blanks in my childhood memories that are probably due to medical trauma and depression because of these events. You might ask, can a child that age be depressed? Oh, yes. There are somethings that I will never forget associated with the years I spent trapped in the scenario. The first clear memory I have of these next few years, is from the very beginning - sitting in the back of the car, on the way home from the Doctor's office after we learned of the diagnosis. I sat and cried very quietly in distress. I don't know that as a five year old I truly understood what was happening, but I did understand that something bad was occurring, something that was big and scary and that was going to take over my life. I had been told I was not going to be allowed to walk for awhile, and that was more than clear enough for even a child as young as I was.
6 months later, we were back to check progress. No change, or evidently not enough to matter. The next step was an iron leg brace. The whole idea was for me to be able to "walk" after a fashion without putting any weight on the hip joint. The brace had a circular leather covered ring at the top around my leg at the hip...two iron bars down either side to the knee. At the knee there was a leather strap that went around my knee joint. The iron bars continued down to below and past my feet by a good 4 inches. My foot, in a special shoe (white leather) was tethered by a strap from the bottom of the shoe that buckled to a rectangular iron and rubber tipped bar about 3 x 4 inches in size. This bar was what I stood on, and my body weight rode the leather ring at the top instead of my hip joint itself. Since this stuck out that 4 inches past my foot, on the other foot I wore a built up 4 inch high shoe to match the height. The brace did not bend, period, which kept my leg straight at all times, walking, sitting or standing. At this point I was 6 years old.
So...I labored along on this contraption which was clumsy and strikingly vivid. I could go no where without the most uncomfortable kind of attention. Adults misunderstood00d what they saw; it was at the very end of the polio scare of that era, and most people thought I was a polio victim. My peers were unspeakable. I was lonely, cut off, viciously teased and ostracized. I was very much a tomboy, active and inquisitive, and now I could no longer do even a third of the kinds of activities I had once gloried in - running and climbing trees etc. Actually, I did climb trees, even after I was locked into the brace. But it took some doing! I was also turning into a speed reader...I devoured books as fast as I could get my hands on them, for they were my only connection to the world. I read my way up my grandmother's book collection and library, starting with what I could reach and expanding as I grew taller. (well...a little climbing helped too...) Jack London, Rudyard Kipling, Mark Twain, Shakespeare, Robert Frost and Thomas Wolf, and on and on....One of the good "side effects" of my illness was the reading speed and comprehension I developed early on - by the third grade I tested as reading on a college level! On a sad note - my grandmother died shortly after I was put in the leg brace. I found out later that she was so shaken by my diagnosis, that she believed the situation to be permanant and did not believe I would walk again. Not suprising - her generation saw polio destroy so many lives and cripple many - I assume that association is what contributed to her veiwpoint. But it makes me sad, all the same.
Then a routine x-ray check up appeared to show that I had it in BOTH legs! After an abortive attempt to put me in two leg braces at the same time - which did not work so well, to put it mildly - I then walked with a brace and crutches, holding the free leg up at all times, or sat in a wheelchair, when out of my metal contraption. They also prescribed traction at night in my room which meant every night, my parents put my legs into wrapped weighted pulleys that kept tension on my legs all night long. I spent the first part of the school year with one of my teachers coming to the house to tutor me, during a period when I was told to lie as flat as possible for a few months. Finally, in an effort to see some improvement, they put me in the hospital in traction for maybe 2 - 4 months. I turned seven years old in the hospital, that year. My parents finally put their foot down and said that I had to come home before Christmas. The Dr.s compromise with this was to put me in a body cast that stretched from my arm pits to my toes, with a bar across my ankles to hold my legs at the right angle. So home I went from the hospital, encased in plaster of Paris, and really excited that I got to ride in the ambulance, when they took me home, which was so cool! He even flipped on the lights and the sirens for me just a minute to give me a thrill!
Christmas morning my Dad and my cousin Tarzan (real nick name from his youth - 6'4" and muscular) helped wedge me, the cast and all into the back seat to go to my Aunts farm for Christmas morning breakfast. (it was also the day my cousin and his wife brought home their adopted daughter, which made for a very happy Christmas indeed.)
Now is a good time to speak of my parents in all this. These two incredible people saw me through this situation with resilience, kindness and gentleness. Their love and patience for me never faltered, ever. My mother cared for me with love through difficult situations, helping me maintain my dignity as a small person in difficult straits. She and my aunt designed clothes for me that worked around the difficulty of the brace, so that I could actually wear shorts and pants. Mom never once told me I could not attempt something because I was "crippled" or unable - and cheered me on when I climbed trees with the iron brace dragging behind me. I am quite sure that inside she was quaking with fear to see me up above her head, brace scraping and banging, other leg carefully held free, managing it all on upper body strength and sheer stubborn will power.
During the time I was in the body cast, my parents could have put me in a different room on the downstairs floor for convenience...however, every night my dad carefully balanced me and the inflexible stiff body cast and maneuvered me up a narrow flight of 15 steps to the second floor to put me in my own room. On the ceiling above my bed, he put some beautiful astronomy stencils of the constellations and the planets that glowed in the dark that he had found. I couldn't roll over in the body cast so I was stuck on my back for the duration. I looked up at night in my own room at the stars over head that my father had put there for me.
Finally, after 8 mortal, itchy weeks encased in sweaty plaster, I was hauled back to my Dr.s office to be cut out of the cast. They assured me that the process would not be painful - which turned out to be a flat out lie of monumental proportions. The implement they used to cut off the cast looked like a little hand held buzz saw. It was loud and noisy and left little nicks, cuts and burns up one side and down the other as they sawed through the plaster. I didn't cry, but I remember feeling stressed, anxious and frightened. Then they lifted off the top half of the cast and exposed my plaster dusted emaciated legs. Of course, I now know that the muscles in my legs had atrophied and stiffened up from months of immobilization in the traction and body cast, but they did not explain this to either me or my parents. They simply told Dad and Mom to take me on home. So, Dad stepped forward and put one arm under my knees and one arm under my shoulders and lifted me up. Everything bent for the first time in months and it was absolute agony. I was screaming - the only time in the years I spent like this that I did so. Horrified, my parents laid me as flat as they could in the backseat of the car to go home, and drove at a snails pace...every small bump and variation in the road felt like torture to me. When they got me home, they called my cousin Tarzan again..he came over and between him, my mom and my dad, they managed to lower me flat into a shallow tub of of warm water, without letting anything bend, so they could sluice the dried plaster off and soothe the pain.
Nobody tried to carry me upstairs that night...I spent the night on the bed in the downstairs room, with both parents with me bedded down in various chairs. I never went to sleep, for every time I moved involuntarily, the pain would jolt me awake. Dad and I watched the morning sun come up, and then watched the early Saturday morning cartoons together. By the end of the day, I had figured out how, very stiffly, carefully and slowly, to roll over on my own, and felt very triumphant over this accomplishment.
So, now at about age 7 and a half, nothing had changed after the traction, and the cast. I went back to the leg brace, crutches and the wheel chair, told that it still affected both hips and I must not walk on them, eventually things would get better, we'll see how things are on the next visit...in truth, my orthopedic Dr. was not being cavalier about this at all...he was tearing his hair out trying to figure out what was going on and why I had such an atypical case. He used to take my records with him to conferences and talk to other orthopedists in the field, looking for answers. We had been told six months to a year to recover, and it was now over two years, and I quite possibly was worse. My life became a steady merry go round of Dr's offices and x-rays, and I remained brace and wheel chair bound.
By about the summer of my 8th year I was in a silent internal emotional crisis. It had been over three years since I had set foot on the ground to walk. (and I never cheated, an unusual scenario for a child, but I had been told that if I wanted to walk again ever, I was not to try to walk or put weight on my legs. I took it seriously. I never once set foot on the floor.)
At the beach that summer, I wheeled my self out onto the porch of our rental beach house and sat in the warm darkness of the August night. I was only 3 months from turning 9 years old. It had been so long since I had actually stood on my own two feet or walked normally, that I had no memory of having ever done so, not really. I sat and listened to the roar of the ocean beyond the sand dunes, and wondered for the first time if I ever would walk again. I had an innocent child's faith in my world - one that my parents had never betrayed in their love for me. I believed in God. I believed in what people told me. They had told me I would get well in six months, originally. Oh, well...another six months, lets try this brace...hmnn - a little longer, lets try this, oh...well, now the other leg is affected, but we'll check it again in a few months...hospital, body cast, leg brace wheel chair - a never ending ride on a nightmare on a dark merry-go-round and the brass ring had faded away...
More than three years later, on that night, I finally concluded - and I was a child, with a child's logic, remember - that I was not ever going to walk again. That something had gone wrong that couldn't be fixed and this was to be my life from now on. I didn't cry very much, I just felt hollow and numb inside. I made a desicion to accept this, and to just do the best I could around it. And then I wheeled my chair inside and went off to bed - a little low cot that my parents set up at the beach house that I could get on and off of by myself from the chair. And I curled up on the cot in the dark, listening to my parents and my aunts out in the main room, and beyond that the blending tones of the waves and the great land breeze that blew at night off the coasts. And I went to sleep, somehow with a measure of peace. This is what it was. I would work around it.
Another year passed of x-rays and consultations and no change. Next summer came and went - a memorable one, as I stood on the high dunes in my brace and watched the eerie algae-choked waters of an extremely high "red tide" stain the beach at the base of the dune with blood red color and dying fish. September came, starting 3rd grade, October, November and I turned ten years old. The leg brace I now wore was twice the height of the first one they made for me, though the battered crutches remained the same - worn ring marks in the wood as they were adjusted higher and higher. (I still have those little crutches...) December and Christmas, then January and February....
...and then in March came the big snow storm - a gloriously excessive blizzard of three feet of snow in our southern climate. The afternoon that the grey mackerel clouds rolled in and the temperatures dropped, my mother and I were at my Orthopedist's office for yet another check up. I sat on the high examining table, with my brace and shoe off, swinging my bare feet after x-rays. The door opened and my Dr. came in and looked at mother and me with a smile on his face. He spoke in jargon about targeted goals, and optimum out-comes, and finally said, I think we have gone as far as this will take us in improvements...we're done. A few moments of asking for explanations of the explanation, he said simply - "You can walk. We're turning you loose. No more leg braces or anything."
I sat there on the table, shocked. Walk? What was that? I was confused and actually a little frightened and simply could not bring myself to climb down. I didn't know what "walk" meant any more in anyway that was meaningful. After encouragement from my mother and dr for some minutes and I was still imobilized on the table, he very gently lifted me down and simply put me on my feet. I froze like a frightened creature caught out in the open, exposed and frantic. Slowly, they got me to take one step...then another...then another. I walked to my dr and threw my arms around him and he and I cried together. After all this time I remember still the traitor lines of moisture on his face, and the joy in his eyes as he was finally able to let me go free! The happiness and thanksgiving in my mothers face was like the summer sun breaking though in midwinter!
Of course, now my mother and I were seriously snowed in, with the car trapped in a snow bank that had not been there several hours ago. Phone calls brought rescue later that evening, as my dad plowed his way to us in a heavier vehicle with chains on the tires. We had not told him the good news, and when he stepped through the door, I was standing with my crutches under my arms, for just one moment, and then mom pulled them away and I RAN to my father's waiting arms. Stunned and laughing like a maniac, he scooped me up and carried me out into the snow into the most glorious snowball fight of all time!
It was done and over at last...from age 5 to age 10, over five years of my childhood gone; in fact, I never had a childhood. But it was done and I was walking. It did not become easy over night. I walked clumsily, and still was the butt of cruel teasing by classmates. I had trouble with social interaction - I did much better with adults, than with kids my own age - my peers seemed like an alien species to me. I had few friends (though the one's I did have were wonderful!) and I was lonely alot.
I grew into an adult - one with a passion for things like mountain climbing and camping, pushing into the freedoms I never had when I was small. I was an energetic factory worker, and mural painter, and was physically quick and strong and capapble. And never a day has ever gone by with out me at some point in my day, looking down at my legs and giving silent thanks for the miracle of walking....
But slowly - oh so slowly, as my 20's passed into my 30's, I began experiencing pain in my hips. An assessment by a different dr more than 20 years after the fact showed that osteoarthritis had set in and would eventually become crippling. By the time I was in my forties, the right hip had become so debilitating and painful that I had trouble walking, even with a cane. My ability to paint murals had ground to a halt. However my beloved Dreamweaver actually had a job that offered partners benefits at this time and we made the decision to go ahead and get the right hip replaced.
And here we arrive at the point of this whole, long blog post. At the age of 45 I went to my GP to get an MRI of my hips, and a referal to an orthepedic surgeon. I had told her my entire back story, and when she came in to give me the referal, she had a strained wary look on her face. Yes, she would refer me to a surgeon, and yes my arthritis was as bad as I thought it was, I was definitely a candidate for a hip replacement.
...the MRI showed that I had never had Legg Calve Perthes Syndrome at all. Instead, I had been born with the infant shallow socket birth defect, that was completely correctable, without surgery if caught in time in infancy...
In other words, the five years in my childhood were based on a misdignosis and should have never occured at all. Further more I was standing there with severe arthritis pain and disability, that had I been correctly diagnosed as an infant, would not have developed as I grew older. I got the hip replacement and the pain is gone from my right hip, however, I will eventually have to do the left hip as well...
Some research on line and my own knowledge of my own x-rays confirmed what she said. When I looked up pictures of Legg Perthes, and Shallow Socket x-rays and compared them, it was evident even to my layman's eyes that I had indeed been born with the Shallow Scocket birth defect. Of course there was over 30 years of medical advancements between the early x-rays and todays MRI's, but still...
Some research shows the possibility that the diagnostic tests and treatments for the shallow hip socket syndrome were developed in the later 70's, long after the fact for me, born in '61 as I was. So they may not have had the right information in front of them to help me or even know what the problem was when I was born. And there is the fact that being born at 6 months, I was tiny, less then five pounds and and had other difficulties as well...I was born with a inner cleft pallette that required surgery when I was 18 months old (and I really have no memory of that!!!). And if they did not know what to look for or even that shallow hip sockett existed, then of course any consultation or search would not have turned up information that would have changed the direction of the diagnosis. It was also probably easy to over look potential problems elsewhere in the scramble to deal with the cleft pallette. If the diagnostic and medical knowledge of infant shallow socket did not exist prior to the 70's I can see how my Orthopedic Dr. diagnosed it as best he could with the knowledge he had to hand.
I admit that when I found out that because of timing and misdiagnosis, I basically lost my childhood, it was a shattering thing. Everybody always points out, would you be you, who and what you are today, if something like that had not happened, or never occured. That is very true - there is NO question that I would be a total different person today, and what I would have been if my life had gone a different direction, I don't know. There is no way to know.
What I do know is that the loss is real. The pain and grief are real. And the anger! What my parents went through was real!!! And that even if I could go back and change it - and chose not to, because I would not want to be other than what I am, it makes no difference to the horrifying realization that what happened to a lonely frightened child happened needlessly.
I have not told my dad. My mother passed away in the late 70's, and I did tell my step mother. She and I both agree, that telling my dad at this point would be pointless and cruel. He still becomes angry today over the painful episodes associated with taking me out of the body cast. I cannot imagine his fury and pain if he realized that it was truly all for nothing, and unnessesary, if he would even believe it. Even discussing it, if he rejected this in denial, the stress would be cruel in the extreme. So, I am not telling my dad.
I am here, and I survived. Those five years and a little more gave me life skills to survive and insights that have served me well. They have shaped my character, and given me a deeper understanding of many things.
So let us remember the child of yesteryear...
and honor her survival and her strength....
and her pain and sorrow.
I am the adult that grew from that child...
and I am that child still.
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Thursday, December 3, 2009
TRANSGENDER OFFICER LIVING
HIS DREAM, AS A COP AND A MAN
Bountiful police: 'We're glad he works here,' says chief.
By Rosemary Winters, The Salt Lake Tribune
As a child, Kerry Bell dreamed of growing up to become a policeman -- both a police officer and a man. Becoming a cop was relatively simple -- Bell joined the Bountiful Police Department 14 years ago. Becoming a man took more time.
Born female, Bell came out as transgender about a year and a half ago and started a transition to a new life as a man. He always had felt male, but did not think switching genders was a viable option until he saw transgender people gaining wider acceptance, along with advances in medical technology.
Surprisingly, the 42-year-old -- working in what many perceive as a super-macho culture -- says he did not fret about telling the police chief or his co-workers to start referring to him as "he," not "she." "I wasn't worried about coming out at work," says Bell, who has had hormone treatments and surgeries.
"I've worked for Bountiful for 14 years. I know everybody I work with." Although some employees have trouble remembering to use masculine pronouns, Bountiful Police Chief Tom Ross says, "everyone's done a great job of accepting Kerry and staying focused on why we're here in the first place." Bell, a corporal and SWAT member, is a "well-rounded police officer," Ross adds. "We're glad that he works here."
Some things about Bell's transition were easy. He did not have to wear different clothes to work. Uniforms, he jokes, are exactly that --uniform. His first and last name also stayed the same, although he dropped a middle name, Ann, and changed the gender marker on his driver license.
His "only anxiety," he says, was telling his parents, who divorced when Bell was 2 years old. But his mother, his father and their spouses were supportive.
"You have to accept your children for who they are," says his dad, Terry Bell, who lives in Rockville near Zion National Park. "It's a little difficult for me, after 40 years, to think of my daughter as a son. That's hard. [But] it hasn't changed a thing about how I feel about him as a person."
Now, Kerry Bell works to increase understanding between his two worlds: law enforcement and the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. The relationship between the two communities has had ups and downs. A police raid on a New York gay bar erupted into the 1969 Stonewall riots, launching the modern gay-rights movement, and it was transgender people who led the way.
Far less hostility exists today -- homosexuality has been decriminalized -- but many LGBT people remain wary of contacting the cops, Bell says. Some worry about whether they will be treated with respect. Others, who are in the closet, fear being outed. Bell belongs to the LGBT Public Safety Committee, an informal group with police representatives from Weber County to West Valley City that has been working for nine years to bridge the gap.
The committee members help gay and transgender people understand police procedures. They coach police on how to respond to cases of same-sex domestic violence and gay cruising in parks. In fact, they helped launch a successful Salt Lake City program that steers those caught having sex in public places toward counseling, not jail. If the violators do not repeat the offense for a year -- the vast majority don't -- the charges are dropped.
That many LGBT officers now serve openly at several Utah law-enforcement agencies speaks volumes to how far society has progressed, says Salt Lake City Capt. Kyle Jones, a founding member of the committee. "Twenty years ago, they wouldn't have been [welcome]," says Jones, who was inspired to get involved with the LGBT community after his son came out as gay. "The current crop of officers, by and large, don't give it a second thought."
Jones, along with other committee members, recruits potential new officers at the annual Utah Pride Festival for the Salt Lake City Police Department. "Our department has tried for years to recruit from the populations that we represent," Jones says. "Anywhere from 8 to 12 percent of [Salt Lake City] is thought to be LGBT so we should have 8 to 12 percent of our cops who are LGBT."
Bell hopes being out can help "demystify" what it means to be transgender. As a Davis County kid, Bell says he always felt like a boy. It was something he didn't know how to express to his family. At age 6, he gathered up all his dolls and gave them to a neighbor. He hated going to church on Sunday because it meant he had to wear a dress. "I thought God had just put me in the wrong body, and one day I'd wake up and I'd be the way I was supposed to be," says Bell, a Salt Lake City resident. "Of course, you reach an age where you realize that's not going to happen."
At 16, Bell told his parents he was attracted to women after they asked if he was gay. As a lesbian, Bell found a home in the LGBT community. He also learned more about people who are transgender. He looked into surgery at age 18 but decided the techniques were too "barbaric."
More than 20 years later, he decided he was ready for the change. "I'm a generally optimistic and happy person," he says. But "I've probably felt better in the last year and a half than I have at any point in my life."
His other joyful moments are similar to those for most police officers: helping someone in need, maybe even hearing a "thank you."
[Contact: rwinters@sltrib. com.]
[The Tribune, joining only a few other major newspapers (so far), accompanied its article with an educational sidebar which may help to demystify common terms in the TLGB community. These glossaries are not always as comprehensive -- or accurate -- as might be wished by the people they claim to describe or explain, but they are probably better than nothing, and they seem to be getting better, perhaps because they are more often written these days by people in the community themselves.]
Gender identity: One's internal, personal sense of being a man or a woman or in between. It is different from sexual orientation, which pertains to whether a person is attracted to men, women or both sexes.
Transgender: An umbrella term for people whose gender identity or expression differs from their birth sex. The term may include people who identify as transsexual or gender queer or who cross-dress.
Transsexual: A person whose gender identity is other than his or her biological sex. Transsexuals may alter their bodies through hormones or sex reassignment surgery to align their anatomy with their self-perception.
Cross-dressing: To occasionally wear clothes traditionally associated with people of the other sex. Cross-dressers usually are comfortable with their birth sex and do not wish to change it. "Cross-dresser" should not be used to describe someone who has transitioned to live full time as the other sex or who intends to do so in the future.
Gender queer: A person who rejects the traditional two-gender system. It is an evolving concept, but generally refers to those who do not consider themselves solely masculine or feminine.
Transition: A complex, long-term process of altering one's birth sex. It can include coming out, changing one's name and sex on legal documents, hormone therapy and, possibly, surgical alteration of the chest and/or genitals. Not all transgender individuals wish to transition to the other sex.
Source: The Utah Pride Center and the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation
Copyright 2009 The Salt Lake Tribune
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
And me - well...I help out in the booth, and haul beads, boxes and supplies - and friends, beads in these quantities are HEAVY!!!. I provide bathroom breaks and pick up food. I give input on color and design, and am starting on learning the polymer clay processes so I can get in on the creative side of things. And I try to be loving encouragement when sales are down and a supportive presence when the weather is bad. I do my best to be a part of her growing dream, so that it is our dream. I am excited by it! And I think that I, too, will create some wonderful things as I learn more and more about how to do all this.
Sunday, November 29, 2009
But this is what has caught my eye, rather than all the glitz, tinsel and artificial plastic decorations.
Out beyond my neighborhood, where no developments have sprung up, no stores have moved in, it is still nothing but scrub grass and steep hills that graze cattle on either side of the road. Trees ride the ridge lines in the distance and there is no sense of civilization hovering at either end of the little bypass as you navigate the middle. Down in the high yellow grass at the pavement's verge, there are tiny volunteer pines that have sprung up here and there, 10, 20, 30 yards apart, seedlings blown by nature and not planted by man.
A few days ago I was driving towards my house down this road and did a double take...someone, quite randomly and for no rhyme or reason other than sheer joy, had made their way to one of the little trees, and they had decorated it with Christmas decorations! There it stands, all by itself, perhaps no more than four feet tall, with tinsel and Christmas ornaments glinting and swaying in the breeze of passing traffic. Somebody was practicing random kindness and senseless acts of beauty and decorated a random anonymous tree on a busy road, for no other reason than the joy that it might bring! I pulled the car over and got a picture.
The commercialism fades away and the artificiality is gone - for me the real Spirit of Christmas this year began on a paved cut through road devoid of everything save trees and scrub, as a gift from a stranger...Lets pass it on, people. What can each of us do, to randomly represent the true Christmas/Solstice/Yule spirit?
Let us give, with love, to the stranger at our gates...
Monday, November 23, 2009
"Girl meets Girl. Girl becomes Boy. Girl and Boy become a band. Meet COYOTE GRACE. If you want a lesson in organic chemistry, take notes and watch the sparks fly between the acoustic downhome duo known as COYOTE GRACE. This old-timey salt & pepper shaker pair is comprised of Joe Stevens, a transman singer/songwriter from Northern California, backed up by Ingrid Elizabeth on vocals and upright bass, a sassy femme originally hailing from the hills of Southeastern Ohio. The two met while living in Seattle, and have been performing as a duo since December 2004, sharing the stage with bluegrass, old-time, folk rock, jazz, and cabarets alike."
Here are two of their amazing songs. The first is "A Guy Named Joe", which speaks directly to Joe Stevens transformation from a girl to a guy and showcases his musical talent as singer and song writer.
The second song is called Summertime and tells the same story from her perspective with the delightful line "thank God boys like her like the girls like me!"
As they travel the Midwest performing, they continue to speak of transgender issues and awareness. Their music is available through their website, and they are generous about posting music to listen to on their site. If you like this quirky delightful laid back music, go buy some CD's and help keep them singing!
Friday, November 20, 2009
Having posted some very somber statistics for the Transgender Day Of Remembrance, I wanted to take a moment and remember and honor the living. Heather and Alex's story is a triumph of music, art and the power of the human spirit. I wrote a three part blog post about them awhile back, but I wish to share again their music.
You see, Heather and Alex are one and the same person. Heather was Transgender...and after years of internal struggle reached the point where she could not go one step further without turning and becoming who and what she truly was...she risked her voice and career to transition and become Alex.
She gave one last concert as Heather to say (and sing) fare well, and then she "went to the Land of Fairy to be granted her deepest wish." Alex meanwhile, "escaped" from the Land of the Fae and came and stood in her place, heir to her musical legacy.
Here are two videos, one of Heather and one of Alex. The video of Heather is dark and the camera is shaky, but it is worth seeing for the power of her performance of Fairy Queen" and her presence on stage.
This next is Alex's version of the same song, to tell his side of the story, as he came back from the lands of Fae...
So this is a triumph of the human spirit, of authenticity and some fantastic music as well.
(and this is not the only trans musician I follow...I will post more of that another time)
Please enjoy the music, and if you want to read my original three posts, follow the tags. They are linked, in case you wish to read a fuller account of their incredible story.
Alex's website is found at Fairy Tale Minstrel,
Please go check it out, support his music and get CD's...and Heather's music is still available though this site as well.
This is tagged so that it is linked with the other posts I did about Alex and Heather.
So this Trans Day of Remembrance closes here with inspiration and hope.
May you enjoy the music and be blessed even as I have been...
Saturday, November 14, 2009
Buddha, known as BooBoo, was only four years old.He was an incredibly enthusiastic solid cat who meeped and mrrped and headbutted and loved on us with all the affection in his body for the brief time we had with him.
There was no visible reason for his passing...his weight, health and hydration all appeared good. He was, however, from a very inbred population and I think his heart basically stopped. None of his brothers and sisters survived birth. I suspect we had him as long as we were meant to have him.
I cannot believe he is gone - Dreamweaver and I are both devasted. I thank God for the blessings of BooBoo in our lives.
May he be well in the Summerlands, until we meet again.
Monday, November 9, 2009
May you be blessed, as I have been....
Major in Fanfics & Procrastination, Minor in Sleep
I recommend it highly...not only is she a terrific writer, she is an artist and a brave courageous person whose life inspires my own...her latest post is powerful and I'd like to share it...go take a look!
Monday, November 2, 2009
I attended church with energetic consistence, went to singles groups and retreats (these were designed btw, pretty much for the sole purpose of catching a spouse, not for how to function as a single individual, whole unto one’s self. The singles activities were all social, with a thin veneer of Bible study, designed to have you meet your opposite number and prepare to be a good little submissive wife, or authoritarian husband. There was an unspoken undercurrent that we were all in the singles groups until we “graduated” by marrying some one…until then, we were just marking time.) In an interesting aside - none of the nice, well spoken Christian young men in these groups ever looked twice at me. I was actually well liked, but I was also always treated like a friend or a sister, or even as “one of the guys”. It would be years before I figured out the how’s and whys of that dynamic!
At this point, I was 24 about to turn 25. I dated men with a grim determination – a friend, “Irishman”, who owned a local independent bookstore…a handsome co-worker at my job whom I will call “Doubter”…a good friend of Irishman whom I will call “Couch Potato”. There was even, very briefly, one more woman, “D” who was more than a friend…but I still could not face this part of myself, and I turned away from her, even more determined than ever to be true to what my conservative upbringing had indoctrinated into me – Homosexuality was a sin, a choice and one I must reject or lose my connection with God.
After a confused period of about three years (and I am leaving SO much out, but this is focused NOT on the details, but the substance of this part of my life…) the relationship with Couch Potato had grown and deepened into dating, loving and became an engagement. It was not without it’s ups and down. Twice during those 3 years we broke up, and then came back together. He was far more in love with me than I was with him. In many ways he was the ideal for me – we shared many interests, he was gentle and loving and he was a joy to talk to. I had told him my deepest darkest secrets – everything from the rape in my past to my struggles with my sexual identity and my “choice" to give up my interest in women…he never once flinched. I was able to talk honestly with him, as I could few people in my life at the time.
However in many ways, Couch Potato was also a big problem. He was ambivalent about the church – that was an issue, because I refused to marry outside my faith. He had a difficult relationship with his mother and sister – their communication consisted of verbal abuse on three sides; NOT a characteristic one wants to follow in to a marriage. He is not nicked-named Couch Potato here in my blog for nothing; he was utterly addicted to television, and I so was not. This last was masked from me, because at this time, in the end of the 1980’s, there actually were TV shows I was following, a rare event in my life. When the 3 – 4 shows I was watched finally ended a few years later, suddenly I was no longer particularly interested in TV…and his constant TV fixation grew over the years to the point of seriously interfering with our relationship. He was also a porn addict – and I say that in all seriousness. Someday, I will post about him and the years that I knew him, until his death last year. He deserves an elegy. But this post is for other things...
Truthfully, I liked his long hair, but the gesture was a noble one, and it did ease some things for my dad a bit. Finally, the engagement became a marriage – on May 5th, 1989, he and I were married. There was one other thing that was a part of his life – he had Muscular Dystrophy. He had the Myatonic type that affects the extremities…his arms and hands did not have the strength they should have had and his legs as well. But by in large, he was reasonably unaffected by it, and the Dr. who diagnosed it assured him that he would have a mostly normal life. Little did we know then, that the Dystrophy would cost us so much more than we ever dreamed in the future…but on our Wedding day in May, we were happy, and young and in love, truly.
Every now and then, the deep part of me that was put aside forever would stir...the sight of an attractive or striking woman walking down the street would catch my eye...or there would be inevitable new program or political upheaval about gay rights...and I would turn away from that deep internal twinge. Of course, the fact that things were stirring every so often inside me meant that - even if I denied it - someday, it was all going to rise again, to the point that I could not ignore it. But at that point in time, I was happy where I was. It was the happiness of someone oblivious in the path of a hurricane of epic proportions, or living on a slowly slipping, eroding earthquake fault. The happiness was real...but it could not last. Other things were also stirring subconsciously - undealt with issues with the rape and assault, undealt with situation with church. I was a walking ticking time bomb. And simply could not see it coming.
It was the summer when the movie Rob Roy starring Liam Neeson and Jessica Lange came out. Couch Potato and I scrambled to see it, and then saw it again, multiple times more. Great movie...but it triggered something within me in that deep uneasy silent place that I was so busy ignoring. To this day, I still haven't quite unraveled it. In the oddest way, I found myself identifying so strongly with the lead character. I still haven't unraveled my gut reactions to that movie - but I am quite sure that some of the deep nudges to my intuition had to do with being a butch lesbian and my years later realization of being transgender. At the time, I simply knew that I felt more than I could express about what I saw in the character of Rob in the movie. Strange how the smallest things that seem trivial can have messages for us that we can only unravel much later. It's like having a random piece of the puzzle, but not enough of the rest of the picture to put it in place. You know it's significant, but without context, the meaning eludes you...it haunted me for a long time to come.
The other thing that happened in the fall of '95 is that over a period of months, Couch Potato simply checked out of our relationship emotionally. All of a sudden, over that fall and into the winter, he simply, somehow left even thought his body was still sitting there. We became like roommates, sharing space. I was confused, I was lost. I could not figure it out - I still haven't, even in the wake of his death last year. I have some educated guesses, that I think are pretty close to correct, but since I never could get him to talk about it, and now he is gone, I will not know in this life what happened for certainty. Another distressing part of this time with him was that in parts of our relationship, he became abusive...not something I would have ever expected from him, or ever saw any warning signal that things could turn this way. It was completely out of character for him. I struggled desperately with the situation, unable to cope or understand, unable to ask for help, or confide in anyone.
Over the next four years the situation worsened. The abuse became frightening, though it finally peaked and burned out at last towards the end...and left us just coexisting in our house like two strangers who happened to meet in the middle to pay the bills. Needless to say, in the vacuum of my marriage's destruction, and after over a decade's suppression, the long buried issues of my sexuality and orientation, and my faith and beliefs all began to rise. I wandered around my house empty and lonely, and thinking of things that I had firmly set aside...
....and this time there would be no stopping the inevitable truths. The change was inevitable, unavoidable and necessary - change or die, all over again. I'd been down that road before, almost to the bitter end. I chose a different road this time.
And my journey was never going to be the same...
Saturday, October 31, 2009
So, I took it home and began the process of turning a pumpkin into a jack-o-lantern. First, I was quite fortunate in finding our little stash of Pumpkin Carving Tools ( http://www.pumpkingcarvingtools.com/ ) which I have hung onto for years and carved quite a few generations of jack-o-lanterns. They do tend to find their way to odd corners of little used drawers, so finding them at Halloween always makes things interesting...
And the process continued for awhile - I was sort of carving with one hand and taking pictures with the other - non-sticky - hand, but after the next shot, I finally had to cease picture taking and get both hands into the situation...
When I finally had the shell of the pumpkin nicely hollowed out and smoothed, I then began comptemplating just WHAT to carve into it. This image popped into my head of a scruffy black Halloween cat in front of a full moon, so that is what I finally went with...this is where those pumpkin carving tools come in handy! They are beautifully designed to to this specific task, and they truly simplify the process!
And this was the end result of my jack-o-lantern design for this year's Halloween;
So may my little Halloween cat here bless you on your way...and hope everyone had a Happy Samhain! Oh, and of course, we will be fixing toasted pumpkin seeds...but I am holding back a handful of the seeds...
Next years Jack-o-lantern will come from our garden!
Thursday, October 29, 2009
The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act was included as part of a $680 billion defense spending authorization act, which President Obama signed at a ceremony in the East Room of the White House....I have seen tons of blogs, discussions, and pictures, all of Mathew Shepard.
Monday, October 26, 2009
Sunday, October 25, 2009
He seemed perfectly happy and content - all was right with his world and he was just soaking up the autumn sun.
This is the first time I really got to play with the zoom feature on our new (to us) camera. Since we didn't get the manual that had come with it, I am figuring it out as I go. These pictures were actually taken through the windshield of the car - so I did not have to get out and scare the little guy to death to try to get this lovely portrait.
It was a neat thing to share the lovely day with this chipmunk! And I think we are going to enjoy this camera. He eventually hopped down and skittered to a new set of bushes, where we lost sight of him. Hope the rest of his day was as pleasant as that moment in the sun.
I'll be returning to the post series I have going, but I just had to share the moment. Maybe it will share with someone else the joy of a perfect autumn day!
Thursday, October 22, 2009
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
1) Trusting in the gracious mercy of God, do you turn from the ways of sin and renounce evil and its power in the world?
Response: I do.
2) Do you turn to Jesus Christ and accept him as your Lord and Savior, trusting in his grace and love?
Response: I do.
3) Will you be Christ’s faithful disciple, obeying his Word and showing his love?
Response: I will.