Tag Archives: memories

Musings on Gaining Understanding

The first step to gaining wisdom is admitting ignorance.

Several years ago, I frequented a number of online message forums that centered around discussing Witchcraft and Paganism.  On one of my favorites, I included the above statement in all of my posts. What most of the other posters did not realize was that I included the line as a reminder and comfort to myself, because it was a reality in my life I was struggling with at the time.

This was back when I was still relatively new to the Pagan paths.  I had a lot to learn (of course I still do and always will, as that’s the nature of any spiritual journey).  In many ways, this was frustrating to me.  Particularly because of my Christian background, which left me brimming with a great deal of knowledge about that religion and culture.  I could tell all of the major Bible stories, quote and explain several different verses in the Bible, and was even knowledgeable enough that I ended up preaching a number of sermons over the years before I eventually left my church and the faith I was raised in.

All of that was behind me.  Being the knowledgeable one was in the past. Instead, here I was having to learn everything about my new spiritual journey from step number one. Frustrating indeed.

I realized if I was going to progress on my journey, I needed to make peace with that reality. I realized that I had to accept that I didn’t know everything — or much of anything, really — so that I could get down to changing that.  So I typed up that sentence and started putting it places where I would see it, remember my goals and what’s needed, and even be comforted by the fact that it’s all part of the journey.

I’ve never forgotten that statement, because I realized there was a greater lesson there. Towards the end of my experience with the Christian faith, I had also grown prideful. I had started to think that I knew it all, which made the realization that my knowledge at the time would no longer serve me.  i was forced to eat a double portion of humble pie.  So I also remind myself of the above statement to avoid that trap of pride again. That sentence reminds me that even though it’s been over a decade since the first time I wrote it down and even though I’ve learned a lot over that time, there is still much I don’t know and understand.  That statement serves as a constant reminder to acknowledge where I’m still ignorant so that I can continue to seek out an even greater understanding, and hopefully do so in humility.


Then and Now: Weddings

Occasionally, I read through all blog posts just to see what I wrote (and if applicable, what people had to say in reply). During my most recently perusal, I rediscovered a post where considered what I might want to do for my wedding. Seeing as I just recently (16 months ago this coming Wednesday!) got married, I thought it would be good to take another look at that post and compared it to what actually happened.

It turns out that after dating many (mostly non-devout) Christian or non-theistic men, I found Hubby, who is a Witch like me.  So we ended up getting a handfasting like I wanted. Also, while members of my family became much more open to my relationships and might have come to a wedding, we decided to keep the whole thing private.  We asked the members of our coven to perform the handfasting and be the sole attendees of it as well.  Out of the six coven members (including Hubby and myself) at the time, five of us were able to make it for the big day.  We all met at one coven member’s cabin in the woods and performed the rite at one of the outdoor altars that had been constructed in the woods.  We wrote our own vows.  I don’t think I remember any of mine and very few of Hubby’s.  I will say that Hubby was creative and crafted vows that were both sweet and funny.

After the rite itself, we built a nice bonfire in the “front yard” and set our vows on fire as an offering to the gods.  Then we celebrated with food we all cooked together and some fireworks.

It also turned out that we had enough people that we were able to treat the handfasting as our marriage ceremony.  The person who presided over the rite signed the marriage license and the other two acted as witnesses.  So we didn’t have to do a civil ceremony afterward.

Overall, it turned out almost exactly as I wanted, but even better.


Coming Out Anniversary Post: The Need for a Relationship

Going to Hell Tee ShirtIt’s April 1st once again.  For those who have been following my blog for a while, you know that this is significant in that it’s the anniversary of my initial coming out.  Eighteen years ago, I quit denying that I was attracted to other men, quit claiming it was “just a phase,” and quit trying to change myself.  (Well, where my sexual orientation is concerned.)

I don’t commemorate or blog about the event every year (See the bottom of this post for links to older anniversary posts), though I decided I wanted to again this year.  This year, I want to consider how my attitude about dating has changed since I came out.

When I came out, dating was extremely important to me.  This is partly because part of the reason I finally came out was because I was tired of being alone.  I was tired of suffering, thinking I may never be able to find — or even allow myself to find — someone I could deeply care about and build a lasting relationship with.  So when I came out, finding someone to love was of grave importance to me.  To put it quite frankly, I was rather desperate at the time.

Consider that I was walking away from years of belief that being gay was bad and that the kind of relationship that appealed to me was strictly prohibited.  Consider that rejecting that belief required me to give up a lot of my identity (being an evangelical Christian — and most evangelicals still insisted that the phrase “gay Christian” was an oxymoron and an abomination at the time — was a huge paart of my existence and idenity) and to strain many freindships and relationships.  So the idea that I’d give all that up and still end up alone was terrifying.  So I ended up putting a lot of energy into the idea that I had to find someone.

It’s a mentality that lasted for years, over a decade and a half in fact.  In time, though, it’s a mentality that began to fade and is now more or less gone.  That’s not to say that I don’t want to find someone to build a life with.  Dating is still important to me.  Having a loving relationship is still important to me.  It’s just not my single-minded obssession anymore.  Now, it’s just something that I’d like to achieve when the time is right and I meet a great guy I’m compatible with and mutually attracted to.

I think I really began to notice this change a few months ago, when I ended my most recent relationship.  I ended it because I just couldn’t see myself being with him long-term, which was something he was definitely looking for.  In general, I’ve found myself far more picky about the guys I date and continue to invest time in, which I think is a positive thing.

I think part of this is due to the fact that once I quit spending so much time and energy figthing with myself over my sexual orientation, I was able to slowly build myself back up.  With the question of how my being gay affects my identity and worth, I was able to more fully explore my identity in all areas of my life.  I was able to build up who I saw myself as, and where I found my sense of worth and emotional strength.  As a result, that idea of a relationship quit being the life-vest I clung to out of desperation.

But that’s something that could only develop once I came out and accepted that one part of myself.

Previous Anniversary Posts

Also, be sure to check out Journey to Queerdom.

Almost 39, and I still love cartoons

SmurfsMy birthday is on Tuesday, so I’ve decided to take it easy between now and then and just do some easy, rambling posts.  Today’s posts is on my love of cartoons.

I guess you could say that in many ways, I’m still a kid at heart.  If you were able to peer into my Netlfix history, one of the things that would probably jump out at you would be the number of animated movies and cartoon series that show up.  Whether it’s watching Disney’s Hercules movie (thanks for the heads up, Rae!) or the 1980’s G.I. Joe series, I just love my animation.  In some ways, I suppose I just love the simplicity of it all.  Plus, I also love the various stories that can be explored through animation.  To name just a few of the cartoons I love, both past and present.

Thundercats.  What can I say?  I guess one might argued that I had a thing for furries before I even knew what furries were.  But yeah, the anthropomorphic Thundercats, their powers, and their adventures completely mesmerized me.  Or maybe that was Mumm-Ra.

Smurfs.  I think this is one of the first Saturday morning cartoons I ever started watching.  I was fascinated by Papa Smurf.  And to this day, I swear the show kept hinting that someday, Baby Smurf would become the new Papa Smurf.  Though the one thing that annoyed me about the show was the introduction of Granny Smurf in 1989.  Excuse me, but from the beginning of the series, it was made clear that before Gargamel made Smurfette, there were only boy smurfs.  So where the heck did Granny Smurf come from?

X-Men/X-Men: Evolution.  If I’m being perfectly honest, I love just about any superhero cartoon.  These two X-Men series were probably my favorites.  Superman was just too perfect.  Batman was either too dark or too campy.  But the X-Men always seemed like real and often complex people who just happened to have superpowers.  Plus, I had a thing for Nightcrawler.  (Okay, I still do.)

Princess Mononoke.  Okay, hardcore anime fans are probably going to scream that I’m referring to an anime movie as a “cartoon.”  To be honest, I see them all as cartoons, just cartoons of a different kind and possibly with a different target audience in mind.  (Bear in mind that Bug Bunny cartoons were originally intended for adult audiences.)  I love the imagery and deep theological, environmental, and sociological issues explored in this movie.

Kim Possible.  Because who doesn’t love a rocking teenager whose motto is “I can do anything”?  And I have to admit, Ron’s dorkiness grew on me.

Memories: Super Mario Brothers

Super Mario Brothers ScreenshotMy birthday is on Tuesday, so I’ve decided to take it easy between now and then and just do some easy, rambling posts.  Today’s is about my favorite video game growing up.

I forget what grade I was in at the time, but at some point I ended up getting a Nintendo Entertainment System.  When I got it, they were giving out Super Mario Brothers with each game console.  I fell in love with that game.  I don’t know how many hours I ended up playing it.  I know that both my parents and my sister commented more than once they were often entertained by watching me play it, as we had the Nintendo set up in the living room at the time.

I don’t remember when I finally beat the game by playing through all eight worlds in order.  Prior to doing so, I used the “warp zones” that were hidden behind the end of various underground levels.  After exploring every possible warp zone, I eventually decided to go back and try winning the game by playing straight through with no shortcuts.  (I think I did use one of the tricks to get “infinite lives” by continuously jumping on a koopa troopa on steps, though.)

One of the other things I was completely proud of was the fact that at some point, I figured out the secret to both making sure I landed on the topmost part of the flagpole at the end of non-castle levels, but got the maximum possible fireworks each time as well.  It was a matter of figuring out when to start the running jump from the top of the stairs just in front of the flagpole.

Later, I got into other games, including The Legend of Zelda and the Dragon Warrior series of games.  (I have a thing for role-playing games like that.)  But there will always be something special about running around while eating magic mushrooms and stomping on turtles.


Memories: Taking up the Runes

A bindrune for good fortune.
A bindrune for good fortune.

Back in 1998, my first boyfriend, Zech, stayed a few days.  We were driving somewhere and I mentioned in passing that I was thinking about learning to read tarot.  “Why don’t you learn runes instead,” he suggested.  “They’re a lot easier.”  As a result, I went to the bookstore and bought a set of runes with a well known but not very good (at least from a more traditional point of view) book.  I read through the book in a day and started doing readings for myself and friends.  I was amazed at how well I took to them.  Little did I know the key role they’d play in the journey I was about to undertake.

A couple months later, Zech and I broke up and I lost at least one friend in the aftermath.  As a result, my life was thrown into a sense of chaos.  Around Halloween, I decided to do a massive rune reading for myself, one that involved twelve runes.   That reading led me to search new spiritual paths, which brought me to the Pagan paths.

A couple years later, I started reading other books on runes, as i was still fascinating by them.  I began to read sources that were more traditional, which was difficult.  In time, I devoured books by Thorsson, Diana Paxson, Nigel Pennick, Freya Aswynn, Jan Fries, and a few other authors whose names escape me.  In fact, it was my love of runes and the lore surrounding them that caused a trusted mentor to suggest that I should look into following the Norse gods.  That’s how I ended up a devotee of Freyja.

I don’t use runes as much is my personal practice these days, though I still have a grand love for them.  Also, it led me to teach a rune class — and developing a follow-up mini-class — on runes for my local Pagan store.  I’ve also since learned tarot which I like as well.  I’m not sure I agree with Zech that runes are actually easier.  But they still have a special place in my heart and I probably have a bit of a preference for them.

Memories: Camping

Through much of my childhood, my family would often go camping.  My parents owned a small pop-up camper with plenty of bed space for them, my sister, and I.  We would often take it to the campground that was just a few miles outside of the town we lived in (well, near) for a weekend.  We liked that campground because it was run by the Army Corps of Engineers and unlike the campgrounds in Pennsylvania State Parks, they allowed pets.

A typical morning while camping normally started with me waking up and waiting for it to get light outside.  Then I would crawl out of my sleeping bag, shivering in the cool morning air as I put on some clothes.  I’d then step out into the sunlight and dig my bike out from under the end of the camper where we normally stowed them.  I’d hop on and peddle my way along the various roads throughout the campground and down the sidewalks leading to the beach.  I would to this for a couple of hours before returning to our campsite where Mom and Dad would finally be getting up.  Dad would set up the small two-burner gas-based stove.  I remember having to fill its tank and then pumping it to aerate the fuel before plugging the long pipe into the burner.  I’d often convince Dad to let me use the mechanical striker to ignite the burners, as I was fascinated by the way how it would spark.  Then Dad would get down to making eggs and toast for breakfast.  For some reason, the eggs cooked on that little stove always tasted different and better than the eggs we made at home.

After breakfast, I might go back to riding my bike.  Other times, Mom and Dad would be ready to take the canoe (when my sister and I got old enough that the four of us couldn’t share the same canoe, we’d borrow my uncle’s canoe as well) out and paddle it around the lake.  We’d paddle from one end to other and often swing by the nesting site the Corps set up, looking to see if we could spot any eagles or osprey.

Alternatively, we might hike one of the trails (though my favorite hiking experiences actually involve hinking the Falls Trail at Ricketts Glen State Park) surrounding the campground.  We would often walk into the tent-camping only trail that is only accessible on foot or via boat.  That particular walk usually took us an hour or so, if memory serves.

Of course, at some point during the day, my father would go fishing, often joined by the rest of us.  To be honest, I never really cared for fishing.  I was way too active of a youngster to appreciate an activity that mostly required me to sit their quietly and monitor a fishing pole (or the bobber, if one was attached to the line).

No day camping would be complete without swimming, so the whole family would don our swimsuits and head to the beach at some point.  At Ives run, the beach is mostly grass, though there are a couple sections that have been bounded by cement and filled with sand for those who are inclined to build castles and/or moats.  Also, the floor of the swimming area is cement.  Of course, that made for a few scraped knees in my youth.

Another fun thing about Ives run is that while they have a designated swimming area, you’re actually allowed to swim anywhere in the lake you choose.  You just have to remember that in other areas, you might have to be aware of boats and jet-skis.  (Fortunately, most boaters are pretty considerate and aware of their surroundings as well.)

At night, we always built a camp fire for roasting hot dogs and marshmallows.  When we were lucky, Mom made sure the camping budget allowed for graham crackers and chocolate bars for s’mores as well.  We’d much on our goodies and sit around the campfire until Mom and Dad sent my sister and I off to bed (or we went off to bed on our own when we were older).

Sometime in my early or mid teens, we quit going camping.  At first, we just started going less frequently.  Partly, it was because my sister joined a baton troop and had parades to attend most weekends.  This made it difficult to go camping those weekends.  Then the other problem was that because we were camping at campgrounds, the prices for sites increased.  This made it harder to justify going as the cost of going kept going up.

Every now and then, I think about camping again.  I miss the fires, the early mornings, the hiking, and all the other activities.  But then, I also miss what a key bit of family time those camping trips were.  Right now, if I were to go camping, I’d end up going by myself.  That just doesn’t feel right to me.


Memories: Being a ham

Today’s going to be just another light glimpse into my past.  I hope you enjoy the lightness of it all, dear readers.

Growing up, I enjoyed acting.  I was in just about every production my Sunday school or church production did, mostly Easter and Christmas pageants.  When  I made it to high school, I was excited to join drama club.

I wouldn’t say that I was ever Hollywood material.  Certainly not Broadway material.  However, I felt I did well enough, especially for my little corner of rural Pennsylvania.  I remember when i was in eighth or ninth grade and the drama club was planning on doing a fun little play called “Agatha Christie Made Me Do It.”  (See synopsis here.)  We were sitting through try-outs and the role of Waldo the butler was still up for grabs.  One of the upperclassmen suggested that maybe I should try out for the part.  The club adviser — who also acted as the director — said she just couldn’t see me in the part and couldn’t imagine me doing it.

As I’ve mentioned before, I love a good challenge.  So I snatched a copy of the script, found a scene in which Waldo played a prominent part, strolled onto the stage, and gave my audition.  I got the part instantly.  In fact, by the second week of rehearsals, our adviser had taken back her original assessment, but admitted that I played the part so convincingly that she half expected a British accent to start rolling off my tongue every time I took the stage.  (Alas, I wasn’t that good of an actor.)

We never made it to show-time, unfortunately.  Due to various issues, the production got canceled.  It’s a shame too, as I think that was my best role ever.  Though I did go on to take a speaking part in a musical a couple years later, which gave myself and all my classmates the chance to discover that I do an amazingly good imitation of Fred Rogers.  (“You know what?  You’re a wonderful person.  There’s no one else in this whole world just like you.  You’re special.  Very, very special.”)  Then where was the year that our new drama advisor proved how quickly I could pick up a part when she approached me a week before showtime because one of her actors had become ill and there was no understudy.  (The original actor recovered in time to play the role.)

After high school, I quit acting.  When I went to college, things changed.  We had a drama department, and most of the drama majors fought over the parts — and were incredible actors by virtue of the fact that they were actually going to school for it.  I figured that a simple computer science major who just used to do high school and church stuff was no match in that competition.  Some part of me wishes I had tried just once though, just to see what would’ve happened.

Missing my Precious

Precious gazing up at daddy lovingly.
“I love my daddy!”

[Content Note:  Brief mentions of depression.]

In a few hours, I’ll be heading down to my parents’ house to spend the night and collect my little darling, Precious.  I sent her to stay with her grandparents almost two weeks ago while I was traveling to Canada.  I’ll be happy to bring her back home with me, as my place seems too quiet without her.  I’ve already started mistaking a lump of wadded up sheets for her laying next to me or thinking I heard her meowing at different intervals.

I think that having her around also tends to make me feel better about myself and not fall into depression so easily.  I remember the first time I moved out of my parents’ home — in the late 1990’s.  At that time, I had my cat, Strype.  However, I left him at my parents’ house as the apartment I moved into did not allow for pets.  Also, Strype was such an old cat, I wasn’t sure I wanted to make him leave my parents home or his litter-mate, who had been a part of his whole life.  As a result, that apartment was dull and quiet and left me feeling quite lonely.  (Granted the massive things I was dealing with at that point in my life didn’t help, either.)

When I moved to Rochester, though, I knew I needed to bring Precious with me.  Part of that was due to the fact that although I’ve always had a good relationship with my other cats, Precious and I seem to share a sort of bond I’ve never experienced before.  I’ve never had a cat before that is as clingy as she can be.  (She’ll spend the next few days giving me the stink-eye every time I head for the door, as if to say, “You already disappeared for several days, Bub!  Where do you think you’re going now???”)  So when I moved up here, I made a point of making sure I found a place where I could have a cat.  That and having washer and drier hookups were my two major non-negotiable items.

On Challenges and Geekery

As I’m getting ready to head to Canada, I thought I’d take a step back and just offer a bit of insight into another area of my life and psyche.

I learned to program in machine code when I was in junior high school.  Some of my readers are probably somewhat impressed. A couple of them might be saying, “me too!”  I suppose some might have even learned at a younger age than I did.  The rest of my readers are going, “What the heck is machine code?”  For this group, let me give a quick explanation.  (Those who already know this or can’t handle so much geekery are welcome to skip over the next few paragraphs.  I’ll throw up a flag letting you know where you can rejoin me post-geekgasm.)

Machine code is the only programming language that the microprocessor that makes your computer work actually understands.  While most programs you use are written in C, Perl, Javascript, Java, Python, C#, or one of dozens of language, another program which is already in machine code either took the program written in that other language and converted it over to machine code or read the program in the other language and told the microprocessor what to do.

It’s much easier to write a program in C, C#, Pearl, Javascript, Java, or Python than it is to write one in machine code.  Machine code consists of very simple instructions, like:

  • Add the number stored here to the number stored there and store the result over there.
  • Check the number stored here and if it’s greater than the number that’s stored there, set this flag over here.
  • If that flag over there is set, jump back twenty instructions in this program and start running from that point.

Even the simplest of tasks can take dozens of instructions in machine code to complete.  Doing everything a word processor does would require hundreds of thousands of machine code instructions.  Maybe millions.  Only people who write device drivers and extreme masochists (and believe me, there’s a lot of overlap between those two groups) write in machine code.  Even then, they tend to write in assembly, which uses keywords to represent instructions.  So for example, if I was writing in assembly language, I might write:
ADD AX, BX  (Meaning:  Add the value in AX to the value in BX and store the result back in AX)

In machine code, that would just be a bunch of numbers:
102, 01, 208

The microprocessor would read in those three numbers and know that it was supposed to add the value it had in AX to the value it had in BX and store the result back in AX.  There are programs (conveniently called assemblers) that read programs written in assembly and translate them to machine code for you.

Like I said, in junior high school, I learned (taught myself, actually) to program in machine code.  Technically, I learned to program in assembly too.  But I had to learn to translate my assembly programs into machine code myself (this is called hand-assembling, by way) because I didn’t have an assembler.  You see, I was working on a VIC-20 (the predecessor to the Commodore 64, for those who remember them, and those who don’t, well, just assume we’re talking some really old computers that probably aren’t as powerful as the graphing calculator you used in your algebra class) that my father had gotten me at a garage sale.  I had the computer, the power supply, the old tape drive that you could use to save your programs to cassette tapes.  It was an ancient computer when I got it, so there was no way I was going to find an assembler for it.

Okay, the geek-talk is more or less over.  Welcome back to those who chose to skip it.
  So, why on earth did I decide to teach myself programming in machine code when I was so young?  Well, because I was bored.  As I said, I was playing around with a computer that I had nothing for, a computer that let you type in programs written in BASIC (an old programming language hardly anyone ever uses before — and no, VisuaBasic is not (quite) the same) and run them.  I had written all the programs in BASIC I could think of and I was bored with it.  I needed something new to do.  Something challenging.  Then I noticed that one of the manuals I got with the computer included a section on assembly code and listed all the machine code instructions that the microprocessor in the computer knew.  So my next challenging adventure presented itself.

My point in all of this isn’t to show off my geek cred or brag about what a smart (and possibly insufferably smart) kid I was.  It’s that I’ve always loved a challenge.  When I get bored, I want something to do.  I want something to tinker with.  I want a problem to solve.  I especially love those challenges where people tell me I can’t do something, especially when it comes to computers.  (I had college professor use that fact to trick me into taking on a project for him, actually.)  Learning to program in machine code on that old computer meant doing something that wasn’t easy.  (It also gave me the ability to do something with that computer that an uncle said I couldn’t possibly do.  Like I said, I especially love challenges where people tell me I can’t do something.)  It’s a trait that’s marked most of my life.

Granted, the downside is that it also means that I’m more interested in the challenge than the result at times.  There’s been a few times where once I’ve conquered the challenge, I’ve lost interest in the work that was actually related to the challenge.  “Why should I finish the program?  I figured out how to do the hard part.  The rest of it is easy tedious, and uninteresting.”  Needless to say, that’s an attitude the college professors found irritating.  Fortunately, I learned to suppress it on the job.  But I’ve also learned to let my boss know when I need another challenge.  Because I live for them.  And I falter without them.