Given that this is the season to honor and remember loved ones who have passed from this world, I thought I would make today's blog post a more personal one and talk about a beloved relative, my paternal grandmother.
I forget my exact age, by Grandma Harris passed away when I was very young, before I began school, if memory serves. The past several years of her life, she battled cancer. I vaguely remember many nights where my sister and I would sit in the hospital waiting room with one of my parents while the other one would go upstairs to visit Grandma during her latest hospitalization. I cannot think of Grandma without thinking of memories of her failing health because I never knew her before her battle began.
I am told that Grandma was a caring and strong woman all of her life. I'm inclined to believe that because of the strength, grace, and dignity with which she faced her fading health in her final years. Anyone can be strong and loving in the best of times. However, it takes a special person -- like Grandma Harris -- to be strong in sir darkest hours.
One of my most cherished memories is of a day I spent alone with my grandparents. Grandma Harris gave me a peanut butter cookie1 and I laid on one of the couches in my grandparents' single-wide trailer munching on it. Now, like any preschooler, I was a messy eater. And peanut butter cookies are prone to leaving lots of crumbs. By the time I was done, both I and the couch were covered in crumbs. My grandparents saw it.
Grandpa Harris -- who had a much harder edge than his wife -- started to get upset and critical. But Grandma Harris calmed him and told him that these things happens. Besides, Grandma Harris had a solution. She told Grandpa to go get the old vacuum cleaner. He did and Grandmother began to vacuum up all the crumbs, both those on the couch and those on me. Grandma Harris was a rather practical woman.2
When I think about the kind of person I want to be, I often think of Grandma Harris. If I manage to embody half the love, strength, and no-nonsense approach to living that she did, I think I'll have done a great job. And I'd like to think she'd be pleased with the man that little boy grew up to be.
 Grandma Harris loved making peanut butter cookies, and they are forever intwined with memories of her in my mind. If you asked me for an honest evaluation of which cookies I thought tasted the best, I would likely say chocolate chip cookies. But if you ask me what my favorite cookie is, I will still tell you "peanut butter" cookies more than three decades later. It's not about how they taste, it's about the fact that they are the cookies Grandma Harris used to make.
 Plus it gave me countless opportunities to watch people's reactions whenever I mention in passing that I got hovered by my own grandmother.
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Given that this is the season to honor and remember loved ones who have passed from this world, I thought I would make today's blog post a more personal one and talk about a beloved relative, my paternal grandmother.
Image by adam79 via Flickr
So this morning, I got up, showered, and headed out to pick him up. As he climbed into my car, he handed me an envelope made of heavier paper -- the kind of paper some greeting cards come in. I flipped it over and saw the envelope was addressed to him. Then I saw the return address on it. Whatever I was about to look at, it had come from the White House. You know, the one at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. In Washington D.C. I was excited.
I pulled out the first piece of cardstock in the envelope and began to read a beautifully printed invitation for my godson to attend the White House LGBT reception later this month. I took a few seconds to let what I was reading sink in, then I hugged my godson tight. (Not an easy task when you're buckled into the driver's seat of a Mercury Sable, let me tell you.)
We're not exactly sure how someone at the White House got his name. I'm guessing that someone from GLSEN's national office submitted it, as he's had some involvement at the national level** and is a student member of our local chapter's board of directors. Between that and his involvement with the local LGBT community center and his school GSA (holding leadership roles in all of them, no less), it's no surprise that his name got submitted, really. In fact, the invitation is a testament to and wonderful reward for everything he's done. He's proud and excited about going to the White House. And I don't blame him.
I'm proud of him too. And maybe a little jealous. ;)
* Godfather and godson are the best terms we've come up to describe the friendship that has developed between the two of us, though our use implies no official status as such.
** That includes having his picture appear on both the national website and the promotional literature for GLSEN's Safe Space campaign.
After ascertaining that they would not be here until 12:30pm at the earliest, I arranged to have my parents meet me at Psyschic's Thyme so that I could run in and visit my friends when the shop opened. This worked out well, as I had already planned on taking my parents to the shop to meet everyone (well, everyone who was working) today.
Once the introductions were done and we had a bit of conversation, I took my parents over to DiBella's for a quick lunch, and then we were off to check out the festivities. My mother was quite amazed by the festival. She was not expecting to see something quite on the grand scale as this. This is because she is used to the Laurel Festival in Wellsboro, which is nice, but much smaller. So as we walked all along the hill next to Highland Avenue, going from bush to tree to bush, she was impressed with all the colors and varieties of lilacs.
I admit that I found the experience far more enjoyable than when I go alone. When I'm by myself, I don't spent quite so much time wandering through the lilacs or really appreciate them. Of course, I also had to keep reminding Mom that no, she could not uproot one of the bushes (like the one that produced the lovely purple ones in the picture) to take home with her. Of course, she was joking. Or at least I think she was joking.
After we got done checking out the lovely flowers and the arts and craft fair, I took my parents over to Genesee Valley Park so she could see where I plan to take my sister and her family the evening they come to visit me later this month. Mom was again quite impressed. Apparently, she's just not used to city parks the size of the ones we have around here.
It was a wonderful day, if a bit exhausting. Hopefully, I get plenty of rest tonight, as tomorrow is the Walk to Cure Diabetes.
When Stephanie first gave everyone the initial news, I began to think about what I wanted to say about Tas. I wanted to give her something of a tribute like I did with Saddle when I heard he had passed. So having thought about it, I've decided that even though it looks like Tas is going to be with us for a while longer, I figured I'd go ahead and offer my tribute anyway. After all, why wait until a loved one is gone before expressing how much we love and value them?
For those who may be wondering, Tas's comes from a character in the Dragonlance Chronicals by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. My brother-in-law, Bill, was a huge fan of the whole Dragonlance series at the time he and Stephanie took Tas into their homes as a little puppy. Bill decided the name fit Tas as she was always friendly and high-spirited. And of course, the day that Tas was sleeping on Bill's lap and he suddenly realized she had somehow managed to snake her front paw into the pocket of his jeans just cinched the whole deal.
When I thik of Tas, I most often think of her younger years, before she started facing the health issues of getting older. I remember the highly energetic pup who loved to be chased through Bill and Stephanie's apartment in Rome, NY. I still laugh when I think of how she would run up the couch at an angle, shift her body just enough to push off the wall behind the couch with her legs -- I always joked that her legs were longer than the average beagle's legs so they could fit the springs inside them -- and run back down the couch on a new trajectory. I also remember the day that I had to stop in total amazement as I watched her leap from a total stopped position over the back of the couch (it had been moved so it was in the middle of the room rather than against a wall) and landed on the seat cushion. I never understood how such a small dog could clear that height from a velocity of zero.
The other great thing about Tas was that as Bill and Stephanie began to have kids, she proved to be one of the best family dogs I've ever seen. She was quite protective and nurturing of each as the kids when they were born, often expressing distress if the adults around allowed one of them to cry or fuss for to long. (To Tas, thirty seconds often seemed to qualify as too long.) And then there was the day my sister and I watched as Tas managed to retrieve her paw from my then-infant nephew's death-grip simply by licking his hand until he let go.
The years have worn on Tas. She's not quite as energetic as she used to be, though the last time I saw her I still saw the occasional glimmer of that old fire in her eyes. She's taken more to sleeping and her days of flying around the house or chasing rabbits in the yard are mostly to a close. But she's still a sweet old girl and everyone who has known her can attest that she's probably one of the best furry family members anyone could ever ask for. And I'm thankful we all have a little more time to spend with her.
This past Saturday, I took my parents out to dinner at TGIFriday's. While there, our waitress asked me about my pendants. I normally wear two pendants:
- A silver pentagram which is a little bigger than a dime. It has a bear at the top point, walking on all fours.
- A brass spherical cage, which contains a piece of amber resin.
Both pendants are religious in nature and are deeply personal to me. I've had a handful of people ask about them, and I'm usually quite happy to answer their questions. In fact, the only two times I'm hesitant to say anything are as follows:
- When I'm at work (or a work-related function) and there are customers around
- When I'm with my parents, especially my mother
Sadly, this situation falls into that second category. And I could already see my mother's expression when the waitress asked about it. The problem with being the sole witch in a family that consists mostly of evangelical (and even fundamentalist) Christians is that it can certainly strain family relationships a bit.
After a brief hesitation, I simply told the waitress that they are religious symbols of significance to me. I think she realized I was being somewhat avoidant (and I hated that I was being avoidant) and let the matter drop. Fortunately, the subject quickly changed.
Then again, maybe that's not so fortunate. One of the messages that I keep getting over and over is that I need to be more open with my family. I need to let them into all aspects of my life. The problem is, that's difficult when there are certain aspects of it that they don't really care for. Certain subjects cause hackles to raise.
In fairness to my parents, it's not just them, either. Any time the subject of my faith comes up around family, I get defensive. I automatically expect a problem. And that's not fair. Not only that, I'm beginning to wonder if on some levels, my own family is unconscioually reacting to my own defensiveness. It wouldn't surprise me.
But at the same time, I still haven't found a good way to overcome my first reaction in such situations.
Last night, Aunt Janet and Uncle Tom came to visit my parents. My parents have DSL, whereas my aunt and uncle only have dial-up. Aunt Janet asked if she could use our computer to view the following video of my cousin, Chris, running:
This was the 1 mile race at the Division II National Championships for indoor track and field. Chris (he's the one in the red shir tand black and white shorts) finished second in the race, only 0.01 seconds behind the first place runner. Way to go, Chris!
In an entry on Mutiply, I talked about my perspective changed in regards to getting involved with a guy who has kids. It seems proper to note that while I've only become fully aware of this change, the actual change process has been a long time in the works. In fact, I can trace its beginnings back as early as 2001.
Back in 2001, I met Mike, who I ended up dating for four years. Mike didn't have any children of his own, but was fiercely devoted two his sister's two sons, especially David, who was in his mid teens at the time. In fact, he was so devoted to them, you would've thought they were his own kids.
Again, this level of devotion was very attractive for me, for all of the same reasons I mentioned in the previous post. And there was the fact that Mike was devoted and close to his family in general, including his mother. (To be honest, he struck me as something of a "momma's boy" at times.) That in itself was also an attractive quality. I myself have always been close to my family, so it was nice to see that reflected in the person I was with. Of course, I also think that it was a bit of a comfort to me, as my family was becoming more distant at the time, too. So it was nice to be reminded that such closeness could still last, even if not in my family. (Fortunately, things are on the mend in my own family now.)
Of course, in the end, Mike's closeness with his family contributed significantly to the end of our relationship. This is mainly because in the four years we dated, Mike never reached the point where he was comfortable coming out to his family. This meant that he spent that entire time leading a double life, keeping our relationship safely separated from his relationship with his parents, sister, and nephews. This also meant that when his time was limited, that time was usually spent with his family rather than me. After a while, that simply became unacceptable to me. Along with other issues, I finally confronted him and ended our relationship when he admitted he was unwilling to do anything to resolve these issues.
In retrospect, I don't hold Mike's devotion to his family against him, even if it did contribute to the end of our relationship. To this day, I consider that a positive quality and something I'd still find attractive. However, I do take issue with his unwillingness to integrate his devotion to me and his devotion to his family, because his failure to do so was the real problem. To this day, that fact is something of a sore spot in my life, though I've mostly made my peace.
Through the grapevine, I've come to understand that Mike's gone back to dating girls, and has been with the same girl for at least a year now. I guess things are going quite well, at least from what I can gain from indirect sources. When I first found out about this, I was deeply hurt. In fact, I won't say I don't still feel a twinge of pain over it now. However, I've come to be more accepting of his choices, and I hpoe he can truly find happiness with this woman. After all, I don't think he'd ever find happiness with me or any other guy. Because it's become clear to me that he could never make that choice that would ultimately be necessary. So I hope he can find happiness in the choices he has made.
I know I have. And to be honest, I'm starting to realize that my new choices since breaking up with him have offered me more chances for happiness than I ever would've had with him. (I just hope that doesn't sound too cruel.)
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I've spent the last couple of days thinking about my story about coming out to my parents. I feel like there was so much that I left out. Of course, when I shared them during the panel discussion, I naturally had to keep my comments short, and this meant an extremely abbreviated story. So I shared what I felt were the most relevant points at the time.
However, now that I have more time to spend, I feel it's important to share a bit more. After all, when I talked about how much time it's taken my parents to work through everything, I felt like I was attributing it to them. That's not entirely accurate. In retrospect, I made my own share of mistakes which has probably prolonged the reconciliation process.
The most immediate example is the fact that I came out to my parents well before I was ready. After all, I had only come to accept my sexuality a scant two months before I told my parents. So in reality, I was still emotionally processing everything myself.
Mind you, I don't regret my choice to come out so quickly, mainly because it was the right choice at the time. The week before I had that fateful conversation with my mother, I had made another poor choice, the choice to tell another person about my sexual orientation. Telling that particular person was a horrible error in judgment on my part, and I can only say that I did so in a moment of emotional weakness.
The problem was, I knew that this particular person sometimes wasn't the best at keeping secrets, and I was concerned that news of my revelation could get back to my parents. When I realized this, I decided that if my parents were going to find out, I wanted it to come from me. So I I made my decision to make sure that's exactly what happened.
I made what I still believe was the moral choice. However, the moral choice meant trying to deal with my parents' reactions to my sexuality while still trying to go through the emotional healing and self-acceptance process myself. That was a high price to pay, and I probably wasn't always as understanding and patient with my parents as a result.
Another choice I made -- and I'm not sure whether this one was ultimately a mistake or not -- is that I backed off once I told my mother. Because of her reaction, I let the whole topic drop for a long time. I didn't deny my sexuality, but I didn't bring it up either. I didn't correct my mother a year later when I moved back home and she told me that I wasn't allowed to have "overnight guests of the female persuasion." (Actually, I snickered to myself, thinking that wouldn't be a difficult rule to keep.) In effect, I did allow my parents to linger in their denial and otherwise ignore the whole matter.
Was that a mistake? I don't really know. In some ways, I wonder if I might have sped up the process if I had pushed the issue a bit more at crucial moments. But then, I also think that maybe they really did need that time.
Then there was an incident that I'm almost positive I made a mistake. It was back during the first few months when I was dating Mike. I had met him and taken a picture of him. One day, I printed out a picture of him because I was going to visit friends and wanted to show them what he looked like. My mother saw the picture and asked who he was. I told her he was a friend and left it a that.
I think she knew I wasn't being completely honest with my answer. In fact, even back then, I had the impression she was looking for the real answer. But I chose not to tell her he was my boyfriend. I was afraid to admit it. I was afraid she'd once again go into a tense and brooding silence as a result. And I didn't want to deal with that at the time.
In retrospect, I think she was trying to bridge that gulf of silence that had developed between us when she asked about Mike. Instead of responding with honesty, I chose to reward her efforts by maintaining the wall between us. I have to ask myself what percentage of responsibility for the time it's taken us to be more open since then lies on my shoulders because of that choices. And I wonder what other ways I've shut my parents out without realizing it.
It's something I've been working on recently. That's partly due to my friend, Amy, who did a reading for me while we were at the Naturist Retreat this past August. She told me that I needed to share all of my life with my mother. And as Amy predicted, Mom's been fairly open to it.
Originally posted to Multiply on 3 February 2008.
Two weeks ago, I started taking dance classes. Half my friends are laughing over the whole thing, but all of them are being relatively supportive.
This is not the first time that I've taken a dance class, mind you. My junior year in college, I took two semester's of dance class. I took the first semester because it counted against my phys ed requirement to graduate. I figured it was a nice alternative to trying to play a sport (I have yet to find one I'm not awful at) or go fly fishing (which I despise). So when my housemate suggested Joan's dance class, I decided it was worth a shot. I ended up taking the class for the second semester simply because I enjoyed it.
A few weeks ago, I noticed some cookbooks on a table at work for sale. After reading the material next to the cookbooks, I learned that they were to raise money for the Park Avenue Dance Company. I also found out which coworker brought them in and inquired as to his involvement with the organization. As it turns out, he's one of their dancers.
As we briefly discussed the matter, he suggested I give one of their dance classes a try. As I had already been thinking about it (I had already checked out their website), it didn't take him much time to convince me. The following Tuesday, I took my bag of with workout clothes over to the dance studio and had my first class.
I've had three more classes since that night and have loved every minute of it. In fact, I'm reaching the point where I feel like the class is the highlight of my week. I enjoy dance that much. In fact, I forgot just how much I enjoyed it.
It's been close to thirteen years since Joan's class. And while Joan's class primarily focused on ballet, Christine's class is more contemporary, which means that I've had to relearn a few things anyway. However, I have noticed that a lot of the work at the bar is the same, which is why I seem to be picking that up pretty fast. Now if I can get just as good at the rest of it all. But I'm making slow progress.
One nice thing about the class is that it's an answer to my concern about exercise during the cold months. Now I have at least one hour a week of good exercise planned -- exercise which is far more intense than the walking I normally do, anyway. I'm also considering picking up the Wednesday night class, which is 99% floor and bar exercises. Add to that the fact that I hope to eventually start practicing the routines at home (I'm still trying to learn them right now and don't wish to practice them "wrong"), and I should have no problems maintaining my physical activity year round.
And of course, I want to try the jazz class someday. But I think I need to get more comfortable with the contemporary dance stuff before I confuse myself with a second style and instructor.
In my previous post, I talked about a panel discussion hosted by the GAGV after a free screening of the movie Anyone and Everyone. In that post, I mentioned that I chose to share a few comments based on my own experiences. What follows in this post is an outgrowth of what I chose to share. I chose to modify and refine my comments here rather than offer an exact quote for two reasons. the first is that I don't remember exactly what I said. The second is that I feel I can say more and say it better, and wish to do so in hopes that it might further help others.
One of the things that I loved about the movie we watched is that many of the parents admitted that it took them a while to come around and accept their children's sexuality. Prior to that point, they even admitted to trying get their children -- even through manipulation -- to change their minds and live a "heterosexual lifestyle."
However, one of my biggest criticisms of the movie is that none of the parents gave a time frame, but instead left people to draw their own conclusions on how much time "a while" amounted to. Indeed, I myself was left with the impression that most of them were measuring that time in terms of months, if not weeks. The sad truth, however, is that for some parents, "a while" can be measured in terms of years.
I came out to my mother back in the early part of summer 1996. I'm not sure when she told my father that I was gay. I know I never did. After her reaction, I just never felt like I could bear it. She did not react well, and it is a truly painful thing to watch your mother cry, knowing that you caused those tears.
For years, my parents and I lived in a sort of unspoken standoff. They clearly loved me, but there was now an aspect of my life that we simply would not talk about. Indeed, I remember more than one time when I bitterly commented to friends that my relationship with my parents was fine just so long as we didn't discuss my love life (or religion, but that's fodder for another post). If it came up, my mother quickly turned quiet and moody, and I tried to find the quickest way to move the subject on. And the subject never came up with regards to my father.
It is only now, almost twelve years later, that I really feel that I can openly talk to my parents about this aspect of my life. And I have to admit that I still find it somewhat frightening to do so. Even after over a decade, I can say happily that things are finally improving, but we still have a ways to go.
I should also note that to the best of my knowledge, my parents still believe that homosexuality is a sin. I doubt that will ever change. And though I wish they'd change their views in that respect, I do take comfort that they're coming to a point where they can at least accept that aspect of my life and embrace me for it despite their own feelings on the topic.
So to anyone who thinks their parents might react negatively, I would offer some advice. My first bit of advice is to come out to your parents anyway as soon as you're ready. But my second piece of advice is to realize that you may be in for a long, rough road, and you need to be prepared for that possibility.
That means having the support you need to help you through the rough times. That means having someone to be there when you need to cry if and when your parents are less than understanding. That means being ready to offer your parents resources to help them with their own emotional processes during this time. The more prepared you are, the more likely it is that you can make it through such a difficult process, hopefully long enough to see some positive outcomes from the whole ordeal.
To close my thoughts, I'd like to offer a bit of story from my own experience. Four or five years ago, I was eating Easter dinner with my parents. As the conversation progressed, we got onto the subject of grandchildren, and my father said something about me having children. My mother took on a forlorn, bitter tone and announced, "Jarred won't have kids." I think I might have actually cringed at this point, as this was not a topic I really wanted to have dampen our Easter dinner.
However, my father completely surprised me by saying the first thing he ever did on the topic of my sexuality -- while in my presence at least. He took a consoling and even optimistic tone of his own as he reassured my mother, "You never know. He might end up meeting a nice widower with children."
Never let the long, rough road get you to a point where you close yourself off to the possibility of such an unexpected turn of events.
In my last post, I reviewed the movie, Anyone and Everyone. In this post, I want to briefly discuss some of the highlights from the panel discussion that the GAGV hosted after the screening I attended.
The panel consisted of four people. The first two people was a woman and her gay son. Her son is highly active in the GAGV Youth program. The two of them shared their experiences from when he came out to her. The other pair were a married couple who also had a son come out to them. Likewise, they shared their own experience. Then the audience was invited to ask questions or offer their own comments. Much of the question period focused on how people could further help our gay and lesbian youth, as well as help them during the coming out process. A few also commented on the realization from the movie that parents of gay children often have their own coming out process, a concept the parents on the panel were able to offer more insights on.
One brave young woman spoke up with a somewhat different question. She told of her initial attempt to come out to her own parents. She indicated that her parents' reaction was so bad that she eventually told them it was all a lie and that she had just been frustrated with her boyfriend at the time. Tonight, she was looking for advice on what to do, because she realizes she still needs to come out to her own parents, but isn't sure how to proceed from here.
I think that one of the most remarkable things was that everyone on the panel as quick to express understanding with regards to her choice to go back into the closet with her parents, and rightfully so. I'd imagine the young lady probably feels a great deal of guilt over making that choice, let alone admitting it to a theater of sixty or so relative strangers. So it was appropriate that they addressed that first. They then went on to encourage her to try again, but to take her time and be sure she's ready. They gave her a lot of advice, including suggestions on literature she might want to acquire and even that she might want to consider counseling to help her through what could be a difficult process.
Towards the end of the discussion, I decided to speak up and offer a few comments of my own. One of the things that I had noted as the discussion had progressed was that the panel consisted of parents who were relatively accepting of their child's sexuality right away. I felt that someone needed to speak up to offer some insight on the other possible experiences, especially after hearing the other young lady speak about her own bad experiences. So I raised my hand and took a deep breath as I received the microphone. I hope to share my own thoughts (although it ill likely be a modified and refined piece rather than an exact quote from earlier) in another post. However, i will say that it was well received and I had more than one person thank me for speaking up afterwards.
The movie was a one-hour documentary about a handful of families with gay children. (As an aside, I should note that "children" in this post is used to describe a family relationship, as everyone in the documentary was over the age of eighteen, as near as I could tell.) Both children and parents alike talked openly about the coming out experience and how everyone responded to the situation and handled the revelation. The families themselves were from varied backgrounds. Families from liberal and conservative backgrounds as well as religious families (including one Mormon family) participated in the documentary. Also, various ethnicities and various geographic regions were represented.
As each family told how their child came out and shared their emotional experiences and how they handled the situations, the viewer got a strong sense of the variety of responses that gay children face when "breaking the news" to their parents. They even told the heartbreaking story of one young man who was thrown out of his own home upon coming out to his mother. Fortunately, for that particularly guy, he found a family willing to take him in.
Fortunately, the rest of the families came to some level of acceptance and found a way to maintain their relationships with their children, though the road was not always smooth. Indeed, some parents admitted to starting out trying to change their children at first. In fairness, it was good to see one lesbian in the documentary admit that she could've handled the coming out process a bit more tactfully and sensitively. I felt this helped to remind everyone that we kids make our share of mistakes in the coming out process, too.
One of the most touching parts of this movie for me was to hear some of the fathers' responses. At least two families told how upon finding out, the father immediately wanted to call their gay son. The one wanted to reassure his son that he was loved no matter what. Another wanted to call and apologize, because he realized that he had said some things that were hurtful, especially now that he knew his son was gay. In a world where most gay men expect our fathers to be the most upset due to our sexuality, it was moving to see fathers who showed such deep concern and compassion for their sons in such an instant way. The fact that these men were not the type to be accepting right away (both had come from conservative upbringings) merely underscored just how meaningful their immediate actions were.
After the movie, the GAGV invited some of their local speakers to hold a panel discussion. I hope to review the highlights of that discussion in my next post.
For those who may be interested in seeing this movie, both screening information and ordering information is available on the movie's website. (See the link in the first paragraph of my post.)
Earlier this week, Adam tagged me with a meme. I decided to spend the week thinking about it. But now I'm ready to give it a whirl.
1. Answer the question, If you could spend one more day with someone who would it be? Why? What would you want to talk to this person about? This can be someone you know or someone from history.
2. Tag as many as you want or as little as you want. Participate even if your are not tagged!!
3. (Optional) Include a link back to the original post if you were tagged with the person who tagged you. Invite others to comment back to the original post.
I think I would choose to spend one more day with my father's mother, Grandma Harris. She passed away when I was still quite young, and all of my memories are from after she started chemotherapy and the rest of her battle with cancer.
I would spend the day with her in the kitchen, helping her bake. One of the things I do know about Grandma Harris is that she loved to bake. While we worked to turn out delicious goodies, I'd just spend the time talking to her and finding out more about what her life was like before I knew her. I'd find out things like what it was like to raise six children. Most particularly, I'd like to find out more about what my own father was like growing up. And I'd find out what kinds of things concerned her before her life was consumed by cancer.
Also, I'd ask her about my grandfather, who survived well into my twenties. But I have to believe that he was a much different man when they were together. The grandfather I knew was something of a bastard. He was old, cranky, and very bitter. But when I think of my sweet, caring grandmother, I have to believe he wasn't always that way. I figure there had to be something which drew them together. (I often think my younger cousin was right when she so thoughtfully opined that the best part of Grandpa Harris died with Grandma.) So I would love to find out what their relationship was like, as well of what kind of man he was before he had to endure the failing health and inevitable death of his beloved wife.
I'm not going to specifically tag anyone, given the intensely personal nature of this meme. But I would invite any reader who is willing to take us for a stroll down memory lane to partake.
Pam over at Willful Grace created a wonderful post in which she describes the major events in her life in each of the last twelve months as well as the lessons she learned from those events. It's a fantastic post and I encourage everyone to read it.
More importantly, Pam inspired me to do something similar. Sadly, my post won't be nearly as organized or well thought out as Pam's is. To be honest, I don't think I could come up with a single even for every month since last January. And besides, there are a couple of months that I doubt I could boil down into a single event or a single lesson learned from the events of some months.
The good news is that I'm not in a competition with Pam, so I'm under neither obligation nor pressure to match her excellent post. This gives me the freedom to simply allow her to inspire me and see where the inspiration takes me. So for that, I'd like to say thank you to her. And without further ado, I devote this post to the highlights of the previous year of my life.
I think that the first major highlight of the year came in February, when I met Rob. I didn't talk about Rob much in this blog, and there's a good reason for it. Rob represented the first time that a potential (and real, however temporary) love interest actually read my blog. As such, I struggled with finding the balance of what I could say, knowing that I didn't want to reveal anything I hadn't already discussed with him. After all, reading about what another person is feeling about you in his blog rather than firsthand strikes me as a horrible thing.
Rob found me online -- on Valentine's Day no less -- and contacted me to express a desire to get to know me and explore the possibility of a relationship. In many ways, we hit it off quite well. And I have to admit that I was swept off my feet. Rob was the first guy to actually pursue me. (Usually, I've had to chase after the other guy.) I learned just how much I could enjoy being the object of pursuit. In fact, I'd say that one of the things I learned about myself due to my encounter with Rob is that I like a slightly aggressive guy.
Sadly, things with Rob were fast-paced and terribly short lived. After a few dates and immediately after our first night together, Rob decided I wasn't what he was looking for after all. I have to admit that after being pursued that hard and dropped just as quickly, I was stinging. Though I did learn an important lesson in that respect, too. My guides tried to tell me things were going too fast and I should slow things back down. But I allowed myself to get carried away in the heat of the moment.
Of course, I don't think things would've ended any differently. After much time, I realize that Rob and I just weren't right for each other. And that would've been the case no matter how slowly we took things. Though I do admit that I wonder if slowing down would've enabled us to realize this before we took things as far as we did, saving at least some heartache. So the lesson I learned from that is that when spirit says slow down, it's best to listen, even if you are enjoying the heat of the moment.
March and April brought new choices with them. After the events of February, I realized that I needed to get out more and put myself in positions where I could meet more people. Before then, I had a small group of great friends, and I'm still thankful for them. But I realized that if I wanted more out of life (especially in the realms of socializing and dating), it was time to expand my circles even farther. So I began to join various groups and look for other ways to get out in the wider community. I would say I've seen some mixed results from those efforts, but I'd say they were positive overall. And it's still a work in progress. And I've made some great friendships (especially one in particular) as a result that I think I will always cherish.
The summer months, starting with June, brought unexpected changes in me. In June, I started walking more. In fact, the weekend before my birthday, I took my first ever seven mile walk along the Erie canal. That first walks was both exciting and draining. I came away with a sunburn and some pretty serious blisters on my feet, but I also developed a passion for the trek. In fact, I loved it so much, that I repeated the walk once a month through September and am even counting down the days until the warm weather returns and I can resume the little tradition.
In addition to the canal walk, I began taking a walk after my weekly dinner with friends on Monday nights. Those walks began when I got ready to leave the restaurant one Monday night and decided it was too gorgeous an evening to just go home. So a second walking tradition was born. By the end of summer, I was up to three one-hour walks a week (except on the weekend I'd take the canal walk, in which case that trek would replace one of the regular walks). I began to see this as something I did for enjoyment.
As an aside, this is also the summer that I began to enjoy sunbathing. This is something I had considered a waste of time while growing up and would often shake my head at my sister in disgust during summer vacations when she'd sunbathe daily. In fact, when I confessed to my sister this summer that I'd started enjoying the practice myself, she immediately asked, "Who are you and what have you done with my brother?"
In August, I went with friends the Northeast Naturist Festival. I had a pleasant time while there (though I will note that I kept my clothes on 99.9% of the time I was there) and enjoyed my first real vacation (i.e. a prolonged period off where I did something other than visit family) in years. I came to appreciate again the importance of pampering myself.
The naturist retreat also marked the point in time where I'd say I really began to start coming into my own in terms of spirituality. I had a few moving experiences while there, and they initiated changes in myself that continued over the next several months, and will likely continue into the coming year.
At this point, I will also note that I started really "coming into my own" in general around this time. Or at least I began to notice it. I began building much more self-confidence and a willingness to take risks and make myself more vulnerable. In some ways, I'd say my transformation into a minor social butterfly started to become more noticeable at this point.
In September and October, I had more spiritual awakenings. It is at this time when my patroness, Freyja, began to make it more clear that the nature of our relationship was going to change significantly. (I'm still not ready to publicly discuss the nature of that change, however.) Again, I found myself in situations where my comfort zones were pushed and I was encouraged (not quite at knifepoint) to stretch as a person.
Also in October, I went to a cousin's wedding. While making the trip with my parents and members from my father's side of the family, Freyja also impressed upon me the fact that I've cut myself off from my family. She began to impress upon me the fact that I need to get closer to them. She says it's because there are ways in which I can help various people in my family. Of course, I'm not sure how that's going to work, considering that the kind of help I can best offer is something most of them would be opposed to. But I guess time will tell.
Then in December, the bombshell dropped. About two weeks before Yule, Freyja suggested (again, not quite at knifepoint) that I should plan the Yule ritual for a small group of friends. So I placed the necessary calls, made the commitment, and moved forward. I have to admit, I was rather nervous, especially after becoming sick for the week prior to the ritual, which I had originally hoped to better use for planning. But things turned out beautifully and everyone had a pleasant time. And fortunately, I have much more advanced noticed for the next ritual I'm expected to plan, which isn't until the Spring Equinox.
I'd say it's been an interesting, profound, and profitable year. Hopefully the coming one will continue in that trend.
The picture in this post is a poorly scanned image of one of the professional photographs I gave my mother for Christmas yesterday. (I'm hoping the bad scan-job will save me from a copyright infringement suit if the photographer ever visits my blog. I know, bad me.) In fact, this is the shot of which I ordered an 8x10 print and took it to Jo Ann's to have it custom framed. I wanted to take a picture of the framed picture as well, but (1) I forgot my camera and (2) Mom didn't get it hung on the wall before I left yesterday afternoon. I hope to get a shot of it sometime in the next few months, however.
Needless to say, Mom was exceedingly pleased with her Christmas present this year. Similarly, Dad was happy with the electric air compressor I bought him, as well. (Of course, he should be happy with it, considering he helped me pick it out Christmas Eve.) He says he'll thank me every time he has to pump up a tire on the Jeep, the tractor, or the lawn mower. I didn't realize he was having so many problems with tires going flat.
Christmas was a pleasant time for me this year. I spent the night before Christmas at my parents' home. I had a full night's sleep which was uninterrupted by the sound of hoofbeats on the roof, despite the fact that my room is on the second floor. When I awoke, I found Mom already in the kitchen. Dad woke up shortly thereafter, and we enjoyed a pleasant breakfast together before heading to the family room to open gifts.
I received a new polo shirt and a couple pair of sleep shorts, along with some much needed items to help organize my home and keep it that way. My mother received some framed pictures from my father, including a collage of photographs which he spent more than three hours working on putting together the day before. Mom in turn gave dad a new snow gauge and some clothing necessities.
Shortly after we finished our gift exchanged, my sister called from Mississippi to wish us all a Merry Christmas and give a report of their morning. Apparently, the children were all quite excited about their gifts. (In fact, they were too busy playing with them to hop on the phone long enough to speak with my parents or myself.)
After a tasty ham dinner and an hour or so of after-dinner conversation, I decided it was time for me to scoop up Precious and head back to Rochester. The trip home was uneventful, though I could've used a nap before making it, now that I think about it. Once I got home, I spent time with Precious as she got re-accustomed to our home. (She spent the time since Thanksgiving living with her grandparents.) I then found a light, quick meal and watched a bit of television before deciding to call it a night.
I hope all my readers had an equally restful and blessed Christmas.