Category Archives: Vanilla Life

To a Tea

I post so much about tea that I thought I would expound on it because, well, because I can.

I did a tea portion of a class before a formal Leather dinner and it was, apparently, a revelation to a lot of people, so maybe it will have some value here, too.

Tea is a lovely beverage.  It is the second most consumed drink in the world, after water.

Experts say tea provides as many disease-fighting flavonoids antioxidants as fruits or vegetables.

Antioxidants are naturally occurring chemicals that promote a healthier immune system.

White tea contains the most antioxidants, followed by green tea. Black tea undergoes a fermentation process, which severely decreases its antioxidant content (though it still has more than coffee).

Additionally, tea contains a lot of other natural compounds that promote health, including vitamins C, D and K, amino acids and fluoride.

Tea has a long history of ceremony around it.  According to the records, tea was first introduced to Japan from China in the early ninth century by Japanese Buddhist monks.

According to the evolution of the tea ceremony, which you can read in its entirety here, “Powdered tea is used only in the Japanese tea ceremony (chanoyu), which was created in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries in the midst of Japan’s samurai-dominated medieval age (1185-1568). It is green powdered tea, which is scooped into a rather large bowl and whipped into a frothy, bitter-tasting drink with hot water poured from a kettle.”

While coffee has some of the same health benefits as tea, most health professionals agree that more than two or three cups a day is excessive and is bad for your teeth, reduces the flow of blood to your heart, can cause headaches, indigestion and constipation, and also increases blood pressure. Coffee has even been linked to greater frequencies of sterility in men.

So, in general, tea is better for you than coffee.

My information is from here, but basically all tea comes from the Camellia sinensis plant. What makes each tea different is the way it has been processed.

Tea can be classified according to the amount of processing that goes into the final product.

Black tea goes through the most processing, and is actually fermented.

White tea leaves are the youngest and most tender leaves that are much more rare because they are only harvested at certain times of the year. After harvest, the young tea leaves are fired immediately before any oxidation can occur which results sweeter and naturally mild product.

Because of the use of only select leaves, white tea tends to be more expensive than other tea.

Green tea is produced by preventing oxidation from occurring. The harvested leaves are initially steamed, which stops the fermentation process, before being fired. As it has been for centuries, green tea is the beverage of choice in many Asian countries.

Studies indicate that green tea may be more healthful than other varieties as well.

Let me make a statement that for me, herbal tea is not tea.

It is, in fact, an anathema and an abomination.  Ick.

I like flavored teas, but I’m particular about the flavor.  No mint.  No apple.  No pumpkin.  No chocolate.

I’m lukewarm about vanilla.

I like berry flavors, though not usually strawberry.  I like citrus, but I prefer grapefruit over orange.

Earl Gray is disgusting.  Might as well pour perfume into a perfectly good pot of tea.

Decent tea is worth the price.

If you don’t drink tea but you’d like to have tea around for others, buy a tin of decent English or Irish breakfast tea.

Notice I said tin, not box.

Tea gets stale much faster in a cardboard box, or a paper envelope.

I am quite fond of The Republic of Tea brand.  They run about $10-$14 for 50 tea bags or the equivalent of loose tea.  My longstanding favorite tea is their Blackberry Sage, which I have been drinking for, literally, more than 20 years, and a new variety which I’m also liking a LOT, a Rose Petal tea, with black tea blended with rose petals and buds.

It’s sold in a tin with a tight-fitting lid, meaning that the tea will stay fresh, even if you don’t use it for a long time, and it’s a good quality tea.

If you like coffee, you know that if you come to my house and I offer you coffee, you know that if I pull out an old bag of cheap coffee from the cupboard, one that’s not been sealed or stored in the freezer, or, worse yet, a jar of cheap instant coffee, you’re probably not going to get a decent cup of coffee.

You’ll likely say thanks but no thanks, and have a soda or a glass of water.

If you pull a half open box of Lipton tea from the cupboard, boil a mug of water in the microwave and dump the tea bag in it, then bring it to me with nowhere to get rid of the tea bag, I’m not going to get a very good cup of tea, either.

Water has to be boiled over a fire.  I don’t know what happens to water when you boil it in a microwave, but it does something.  It makes the water flat or something.  It’s disgusting.

I *love* an electric tea kettle.  I use this one, and yes, I know it’s expensive.  It’s worth every cent.

We use the tea kettle on average at least three or four times a day.  It boils water fast and, in my view, the best thing is, it turns itself off and I don’t have to think abut it again.  If you let water boil and boil, it loses oxygen and the tea isn’t nearly as good.  Like in a microwave, it tastes flat.

I boil water in the tea pot for pasta, too.  It’s faster and more efficient, and you KNOW slave drew is all about efficient use of energy.

If you wouldn’t drink your water in a glass with ice, then you probably don’t want to drink it boiled for tea, either.  I wouldn’t, anyway.

Louisville is very lucky, we have very good water, I don’t bother to filter it, it tastes fine straight from the tap.  If yours doesn’t, then you need to at least use water that’s gone through a filter.

Technically, green and white teas should be steeped with water JUST before it boils.  I do use fully boiled for all of it, unless I happen to be standing by the tea kettle.

Tea made in a mug is usually too strong.  We have three teapots, because we might have a pot of black tea and a pot of green all going at once.  One teabag makes one pot of tea.

Before you pour the boiling water in the teapot, you should rinse it out with warm water, so it’s not a cold pot.  You shouldn’t make tea in a silver or metal pot, because it will taste metallic.

Black tea is usually steeped for three to four minutes, green and white for one or two, but I’m really not a purist about that.  It depends on how strong the tea is.

If you’re using a tea bag, you’re supposed to take it out after that length of time, though I don’t bother most of the time.  If it’s very strong, or very black, I do take it out because it gets bitter.

If you’re a real tea drinker, too, you probably have a tea cozy, to put over the tea pot to keep it warm.

We have two.  One for black, one for green.

We do a lot of loose tea, too, and because of that, we do a lot of blends.  We have three or four tea infusers, the little cup of plastic and mesh that fits down in the pot to hold the tea leaves.  We use about a teaspoon of tea for a pot, maybe a bit more, depending.

I don’t like small cups, I like a big mug,  People who like big mugs tend to not want to refill it as often, people who like small cups really often hate cold tea.

I really dislike coffee, always have.  I have my own travel mugs for tea that are not EVER used for coffee, ever, ever, ever.  Once you’ve put coffee in a travel cup, it always smells of coffee.

I can’t make tea in a hotel room using the coffee pot, either, the water tastes disgusting.

I’ve been known to take a tea kettle with me to a hotel room.

I will warm a cup of tea in the microwave, but I don’t boil it.  I prefer not to have to, but I won’t turn my nose up at it.

Now, have I totally intimidated you so you’ll never make me tea?

Inauguration

What else could I post about today?

I hadn’t planned to watch the inauguration in particular, but it was on and then came the inaugural address.

I did not believe I would live to see a black president, at least not for another 20 years.

I know, I know, he’s half black, what the fuck ever.  His wife is black, his children are black and I don’t give a shit what the idiotic and asinine birthers think, or say.

He’s not the first black man for whom I voted for President.  I voted for Jessie Jackson in 1988.

I just looked up Jessie’s speech, his Common Ground speech, and what both slave drew and I were most struck by was how similar it was to the inaugural address to day.

If you’d like to read it, the text of the speech is here, but I’m going to quote a few parts of it:

America’s not a blanket woven from one thread, one color, one cloth. When I was a child growing up in Greenville, S.C., and grandmother could not afford a blanket, she didn’t complain and we did not freeze.

Instead, she took pieces of old cloth—patches, wool, silk, gabardine, crockersack on the patches—barely good enough to wipe off your shoes with. But they didn’t stay that way very long. With sturdy hands and a strong cord, she sewed them together into a quilt, a thing of beauty and power and culture.

Now, Democrats, we must build such a quilt. Farmers, you seek fair prices and you are right, but you cannot stand alone. Your patch is not big enough.

Workers, you fight for fair wages. You are right. But your patch labor is not big enough.

Women, you seek worth and pay equity. You are right. But your patch is not big enough.

Women, mothers, who seek Head Start and day care and prenatal care on the front side of life, rather than jail care and welfare on the backside of life, you’re right, but your patch is not big enough.

Students, you seek scholarships. You are right. But your patch is not big enough.

Blacks and Hispanics, when we fight for civil rights, we are right, but our patch is not big enough.

Gays and lesbians, when you fight against discrimination and cure for AIDS, you are right, but your patch is not big enough.

Conservatives and progressives, when you fight for what you believe, right-wing. Left-wing, hawk, dove—you are right, from your point of view, but your point of view is not enough…

But don’t despair. Be wise as my grandma. Pool the patches and the pieces together, bound by a common thread.

When we form a great quilt of unity and common ground we’ll have the power to bring about health care and housing and jobs and education and hope to our nation. We the people can win.

We stand at the end of a long dark night of reaction. We stand tonight united in a commitment to a new direction. For almost eight years, we’ve been led by those who view social good coming from private interest, who viewed public life as a means to increase private wealth.

They have been prepared to sacrifice the common good of the many to satisfy the private interest and the wealth of a few. We believe in a government that’s a tool of our democracy in service to the public, not an instrument of the aristocracy in search of private wealth…

Most poor people are not lazy. They’re not black. They’re not brown. They’re mostly white, and female and young.

But whether white, black, or brown, the hungry baby’s belly turned inside out is the same color. Call it pain. Call it hurt. Call it agony.

Most poor people are not on welfare. Some of them are illiterate and can’t read the want-ad sections. And when they can, they can’t find a job that matches their address. They work hard every day, I know. I live amongst them. I’m one of them.

I know they work. I’m a witness.

They catch the early bus. They work every day.

They raise other people’s children. They work every day.

They clean streets. They work every day.

They drive vans with cabs. They work every day.

They change the beds you slept in these hotels last night and can’t get a union contract. They work every day.

No more. They’re not lazy. Someone must defend them because it’s right, and they cannot speak for themselves.

They work in hospitals. I know they do. They wipe the bodies of those who are sick with fever and pain. They empty their bedpans. They clean out their commode. No job is beneath them, and yet when they get sick, they cannot lie in the bed they made up every day.

America, that is not right.  We are a better nation than that.

We are a better nation than that…”

Sound almost frighteningly familiar?

I voted for Jessie Jackson for a lot of reasons, one of them being, he was the first candidate for that office that ever asked me for my vote as a lesbian.  He’s the first candidate who mentioned gays and lesbians not as what was wrong with our country.

And today, 25 years later, the President quoted Stonewall along with Seneca Falls and Selma as seminal moments in American history.

I never thought I’d see that.  Never.

I am really nearly speechless about that, and those who know me know I am nearly never speechless.

It was probably that much more moving because I’d been thinking about Stonewall, those people who had been treated as the worst of the worst, the dregs of humanity who had, on one hand, nothing to lose, and on the other hand, had everything to lose, those people said, enough.  We’re done.  We won’t be pushed farther.  We will push back, whatever the cost.

The Stonewall riots happened on June 28, 1969.  Almost 45 years ago.  Today they were linked with women who had no voice, had been given no voice by the founders of the country, women who also said, we are done.

When the Nineteenth Amendment was ratified, suffrage was extended to women across the United States.  That was in 1920.  Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton drafted the amendment in 1878, 42 years earlier.

By contrast, the Fifteenth Amendment, which stated that the right to vote “shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude,” passed in 1869.

Quoting from an Examiner article – the full text is here – “On November 15th, 1917, Alice Paul and Lucy Burns, founders of the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) were arrested along with 216 other women who had picketed the White House under the Woodrow Wilson administration, bearing signs for the right to vote. By morning, some of the incarcerated women were barely alive. Lucy Burns had been beaten. Her hands had been chained to the cell bars over her head, bleeding and gasping for air. When Alice Paul engaged in a hunger strike, guards tried to force-feed her, tying her to a chair and using a tube to pour liquids down her throat. Thirty-three women endured ongoing torture until word was finally smuggled out to the press.”

Seneca Falls was the site of the first women’s rights convention organized by women in the Western world, in 1848.  Now the Women’s Rights National Historical Park is located in Seneca Falls and Waterloo, New York.

Somewhere, among my souvenirs, is a photo of me and my ex standing in front of the sign there.

I pulled this from the Wikipedia entry about Selma:

“On March 7, 1965, approximately 600 civil rights marchers departed Selma on U.S. Highway 80, heading east to march to the capital. When they reached the Edmund Pettus Bridge, only six blocks away, where they were met by state troopers and local sheriff’s deputies, who attacked them, using tear gas and billy clubs, and drove them back to Selma. Because of the attacks, this became known as “Bloody Sunday.”

Two days after the march, on March 9, 1965, Martin Luther King, Jr. led a symbolic march to the bridge. He and other civil rights leaders attempted to get court protection for a third, larger-scale march from Selma to Montgomery, the state capital. Frank Minis Johnson, Jr., the Federal District Court Judge for the area, decided in favor of the demonstrators, saying:

The law is clear that the right to petition one’s government for the redress of grievances may be exercised in large groups…and these rights may be exercised by marching, even along public highways.
—Frank Johnson

On March 21, 1965, a Sunday, approximately 3,200 marchers departed for Montgomery. They walked 12 miles per day, and slept in nearby fields. By the time they reached the capitol four days later on March 25, their strength had swelled to around 25,000 people.”

So, my President invoked Seneca Falls, Stonewall and Selma today.  Standing in front of what was estimated at one million people watching his inaugural address in person, my President said, “We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths – that all of us are created equal – is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall…”

Being seen by an estimate of close to 40 million people, my President said, “Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law, for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.”

So, I don’t much care if you like it or not.  If you’re one of those idiots who said you were going to move if he was re-elected, please, let me point out that the door swings both ways and you are more than welcome to self-deport yourself.

I don’t care who disagrees.

I never before had a President who was willing to talk about gay rights because it was RIGHT, and to hell with whether it was politic or not.

I’m proud I voted for Jessie Jackson, and I will tell you that his speech about common ground made me cry.

I’m proud I voted for Barack Obama, and I will tell you that his speech today made me cry, too.

 

 

 

 

Fairness is Coming

slave drew pointed out a story to me today in the local paper, the Courier-Journal.

The online link to the story, Kentucky — it’s a state of Fairness, is here, but I want to quote some of it, too.

“As our coalition of organizations has worked across the commonwealth over the past several years to advance lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) anti-discrimination protections, that’s what we’ve been hearing. Most folks seem to agree everyone deserves the opportunity to earn a living, put a roof over their head, and eat at their favorite restaurant without the fear of being turned away just because of who they are.

This week Vicco, a small Appalachian town of just over 330 residents, confirmed everything we’ve heard by becoming the fourth municipality in Kentucky and smallest city in America with an anti-discrimination Fairness law.

When this Eastern Kentucky community’s city commission met Monday morning, they calmly and rationally laid forth the potential pros and cons of elevating LGBT members of their community to the same protected class status afforded women, people of color and others who have historically been the targets of discrimination.

Following a frank and transparent dialogue that got to the heart of the issue — that LGBT Americans lack the basic civil rights afforded other minorities — the commission concurred that a Fairness law would reflect the values Vicco already held. Though one commissioner preferred not to sign the ordinance for personal religious beliefs, he adamantly agreed with other community leaders in the room that no one — including LGBT people — should be treated differently from anyone else in the workplace, housing or public accommodations.”

I was and am genuinely moved by this story.  Part of what I liked the very best was, “Though one commissioner preferred not to sign the ordinance for personal religious beliefs, he adamantly agreed with other community leaders in the room that no one — including LGBT people — should be treated differently from anyone else in the workplace, housing or public accommodations.”

Isn’t that the way it should be?  That a person might disagree on a religious basis, personally, still believed “adamantly,” that no one should be treated differently than anyone else?

It also makes me proud that people who have spent their lives being stereotyped as bigots, idiots, and racists – people from a tiny town in Appalachia – became the smallest city in America to have a Fairness Law.

So often, being southern is shorthand for being stupid.  That has always bothered me.  I don’t always like the political persuasion of the state in which I live – hell, I often despise it, living as I do in a thankfully very blue city in a regrettably red state – but the south is no more homogenous than the rest of the country is.

It is beyond me, genuinely so, why anyone CARES who the rest of the world is sleeping with, on a general basis.

If I’m sleeping with you, then I have a personal interest.

If you’re sleeping with my best friend(s), then I have at least a general interest, but really only as a topic of conversation.

Beyond that, though, at some level I just don’t understand.

How can my relationship, whatever it is, threaten yours?

The neighbors on one side of my home are clearly and obviously having marital issues and have for the last few years.

Sometimes at night I can hear them screaming at each other, from my bedroom upstairs, down to their house which is not terribly near.

Shane called me one night, late, when we were at an event, to say that they were fighting so loudly and apparently violently that he wanted to know if I thought he should call the police.

There is no love lost between us, alas.  He has cut down some of my plants he thought were too wild that were close but not at all on his property, his wife reported us to the code violation department for not opening our pool one year, complaining of mosquitoes.

I planted thorny roses in a pass through that their son used, to prevent him trampling my garden.

You know.  Neighbor crap.

I said, well, if you do, they’ll know it was us – even if it wasn’t – and that’s not going to make things better.  So unless you hear them actually killing each other, I guess not.

One night a couple of weeks ago, when it was in the low 30’s, she was sitting outside in her yard.  Alone.  Not smoking.

He seems to move out sometimes, sometimes she does.

A month or two ago, I was wakened in the night by a loud noise.  I believe it was actually a branch that had fallen in the alley due to the wind.

But when it woke me, the first thing I thought was that one of them had finally shot the other.  I spent a few minutes speculating on whether he had shot her or she had shot him, and I do not say that blithely.

I honestly lay in bed and tried to decide which was more likely.  I considered, for a few brief moments, getting up to look and then thought, no, they both hate us, if one of them HAS killed the other one, they’re sure not going to have any problems shooting me.  I am going to stay put.

I would not have been in the least surprised had I seen cop cars at the house the next morning.

I did not, or I’d already have written about it, but still.

These people are not a threat to traditional marriage.

These people who have a ten year old kid who has to know about this, they’re not a threat.

These people who, I think, have a relationship in which they shove each other around, then torture the other for having done it, no threat.

Their lives and their relationship is so fucking miserable that she would rather sit outside alone in the dark when it is below freezing rather than go into her own home.

But they are no threat.

The neighbors just across from them are Robert and Ziggy, the gay guys.  They’ve lived there a couple years, renting, but they apparently this past summer made some decisions about staying there, and they went a little crazy with gardens and fences.

I took them some plants.  I took them cookies at Christmas.

drew noticed one windy day that the ferns on their porch were swaying wildly, and that their storm door was slamming, so he ran over and took down the ferns and closed the door.

They have a pug.  Of course.

They brought us a tin of really good popcorn as thanks for the cookies which, Ziggy said, had disappeared amazingly quickly.

They trade plants with June, the indefatigable gardener who lives behind them.  She’s didn’t use her mailbox once for about three months because a wren had built a nest in it.  She had a plastic box on her porch with a note to the postal carrier to please leave her mail in that rather than open and disturb the nest.

They keep their lawn mowed and their dog quiet and I have never had to speculate on whether or not one has murdered the other, or pondered if I needed to call the police on them.

THEY, however, are a threat to marriage, by the very fact that they exist.

It warms the hearts of slave drew and me both that the fighting duo, who routinely have political signs in their yard for whoever we’re voting against, probably despise that the queers have moved in.  And are better liked than they are.

And clearly, their son is getting a wonderful example of a good, healthy, heterosexual relationship.

 

 

 

Passages

It has been a strange few days in several ways.

I had gotten a letter earlier this week from the daughter of a woman I grew up with.  She was a friend of my mother’s, though, over time, she became more a friend of mine.

I had visited her when we were on our honeymoon and went back to my hometown.  She was Portuguese in heritage, and an artist.  She and her husband owned a little junk shop in the town I grew up in, a place that we visited regularly.

She sold comics and books and I remember taking old ones in and trading them for different used books and comics.

It was in her store that I clearly remember seeing a rhinestone brooch and telling my mother how pretty it would be on a black dress.

I was all of nine or ten and I remember my mother saying, “But you don’t HAVE a black dress.”

I remember buying a hand colored photograph there, which still hangs on my wall in the living room, titled “The Great Wayside Oak.”

Wayside Oak

 

 

 

 

 

It was the first thing I ever bought myself that wasn’t something to read, or wear, something relatively practical.  It wasn’t expensive, $1 or less – it was a long time ago, remember.

She was also an accomplished artist, with works in collections all across the west.  The first piece of original art I ever bought was by her, a pastel of a Chinatown street at night, in the rain.

I also have a small sketch she did of me, when we both took an art class.  She sketched me, as I sketched, and gave me the piece afterwards.

I had sent her a Christmas card this year, as I always did, and her daughter responded to let me know that she had passed away this past fall, two days before my birthday.

Her note was lovely, and said, in part, “Yours is a lovely name and fitting, too, when I consider the ways in which you remembered, visited, and wrote to my mom.”

Mrs. Cooper, Audrey, was the first person to encourage me to make art myself.  She mattered to me, and I’m sorry she’s gone, but glad, for her sake, that as her daughter said, “She died in the same way as she lived – on her own terms, in her own way and as nature intended her to go.”

My half brother, Thomas, was born to my father and his first wife, Florence, on February 28, 1934.  My father would have been 32 at the time.

1932 - RJ with Thomas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

His parents divorced while he was still young and my father married again.  My brothers were born in 1946 and 1948, and I in 1957.

I never met Thomas, but I corresponded with him over the years.  His mother was always lovely to me, far nicer than my mother ever would have been to her, or to her son.  She died ten or more years back, and he let me know.

He had graduated from Annapolis, and worked in the space program for a number of years.  I was told by one of the other family members that after the Challenger explosion he lost his heart for it and retired soon after.

When we married, I sent him an invitation, really as a notice more than anything else, and a few weeks later, I got a package from him.  He’d sent me some silver that was from my family, an old knife, fork and spoon from the 1880’s or so, engraved with the name of a long dead aunt, Alice.

He also sent me a set of fruit knives with a beautiful brocade pattern on the handles, and a set of fruit spoons with lovely faceted bowls.

It was a completely unexpected gesture of generosity, and I was genuinely touched by it.

Each year I got a card from him detailing what he and his wife, Betsy, had done over the year, you know the kind. I always read it, and always responded with a card, letting him know how my two brothers and I were.  I sent a photo, usually, as well.

On the 24th of December, he called me and left a message, asking for my email because he’d lost it, and inviting me to call him back, or email.

Those of you who know me will know I emailed him, but kept the message and entered his information into my phone.

I got another email this afternoon, telling me Thomas had passed away on Sunday, the day that was so gray here and was such a difficult day.

So, requiescat in pace Mrs. Cooper and Thomas McColloch.  I will miss you both, and I will think of you more often than either of you might expect, often enough, I suspect, to surprise myself.

Father B

I am going to post tonight something I wrote earlier today.

The minister who married us is leaving the church.

Yes, I was married in a church and the ceiling did not fall down on us.

I wore a leather pillbox hat and leather gloves I’d been given as a piece of earned leather.

I’m not really a Christian at all – I don’t honestly know how I’d define myself, it changes nearly daily.  But we both wanted a fairly traditional ceremony, none of the unity candle and vows we wrote ourselves.

slave drew grew up in an Episcopalian church, and that was where we went to be married.

We were very lucky, our minister was a lovely man, and a wonderful speaker, and is now leaving us for the greener pastures I always knew would beckon.

We in the congregation were asked to write something for him to be bound in a book to present him when he left, and this is, with some editing, what I sent.  I thought you all might enjoy my memories of his sermons.

I didn’t refer to him as slave drew in what I sent.

What I sent is this:

When slave drew and I had decided to marry, we were looking for a location, and someone suggested this church.  I made an appointment to talk to Father B.

It was important to both of us to have some traditional aspects to our wedding.  We didn’t want to be married in a place we’d never been before, by a person we’d never seen before, and wouldn’t see again.  We wanted to be married by someone who had history with us, and for us, and we have never been sorry that we made the choice we did.

Father B took some of the things we talked about in the counseling we did with him before the wedding, and his wedding sermon was something that a lot of guests mentioned to us later.

We married later than most – I was 50, slave drew was 48, and we both felt very strongly that we would remain separate people, we were not 20 years old and foreseeing our future as two lives becoming one, but as our lives moving together, but remaining separate, and that was something he talked about, in ways that were both meaningful and accurate.

He had listened to us and understood how we saw the path forward.

Some of Father B’s sermons have stayed with both of us over the years.

He spoke once about grief.  His father-in-law had passed away, and he spoke about how the fall of a giant redwood left a jagged hole in the earth, and a hole in the canopy above, but the hole in the canopy allowed light to reach the ground and new seedlings to flourish.

Over time, the hole remains, but the edges grow less sharp and ragged and as the hole fills with rain it creates a pool that reflects the moon above.  It provides water for the life around it, and the fallen tree gives shelter as well.

I have thought of that often when I have lost people over the years since he spoke about it.

He spoke another time, when the financial crisis was happening around us and it felt as though the world was ending.

He used the example of a day when, in the early years of this country, probably due to a storm and other factors, the sun appeared not to rise.  One of the state senates was in session, and there was a great call to end the session and go home, to be with their families when the world ended.

The speaker’s voice of reason prevailed.

If the world was not ending, he said, then there was no profit in leaving their jobs, and if the world was ending, then he believed that they should meet God doing their work, doing as they ought.

It was a truly comforting parable at a time when it did feel as though the world just might be ending.

The final sermon that I do think of often, and I expect I always will, was a Christmas eve sermon one year.

He spoke about a farmer who had a devoted wife who went off to church, but the husband begged off and stayed home, because he didn’t see the point.

While his wife was gone, a flock of geese landed in his field, sent to ground by a sudden storm.

The farmer realized the birds would freeze in the field if he couldn’t bring them into the warmth and the safety of the barn, where they would be safe from the cold and the wind.

But he had no way to make them understand that he meant them no harm, that his only purpose in approaching them would be to lead them to safety.

If only, he thought, if only he could clothe himself in feathers, if only he could present himself as one of the flock, so they would follow his lead and he could gather them into the safety of his enclosure.

That was why, he concluded, Christ had come to us as a baby, and as a man, so we would follow him as one of our own kind, so he could draw us into the safety of his enclosure.

What I didn’t add was that there were other things that mattered to us, too, the fact that there was a Lesbian couple who attended the church, and that their daughter stood in for the Christ child in one Christmas pageant.

The baby cried during the whole thing, but really, how many people would have picked the child of the dyke couple?

Another time his wife posted a photo on Facebook of him officiating at a wedding that was clearly and without question between two women.

He’s an Episcopal Rector, this was not going to make him friends in every sector.

We had, as you might imagine, a lot of gay people at our wedding.

We had transgendered people.

We had a kinky dwarf.

I swear.

(And he would be the first to use that particular term.  Once at an event he sang the Oompa Loompa song.  I told someone that and they asked, shocked, did you laugh?  Well, of course I did, I’m pretty sure that’s why he SANG it.)

And Father B was perfectly lovely to every one of them.

He was also SO submissive that the times he and I had conversations about the wedding or a project I did for the church once, I would have to not only stop speaking but remain totally silent for several seconds before he would speak at all.

He was a lovely man, and I’m sorry he’s leaving, but that is purely selfish on my part.  I’m sure it’s a better move for him, but I will still miss him.

One of Those Days

Ever have one of those days?

It began with a LARGE dog mess that had to be cleaned up.  A mess that spanned two rooms.  First thing.

I’ve worked on laundry all day, which I honestly don’t mind, but it’s been a lot of steps up and down stairs, since the laundry is in the basement.  There has also been moving the clean clothes up to the upstairs, another flight.

I feel as though I’ve been doing a stair master all day, and while that’s not bad, my joints are beginning to protest.

I had another mess to clean up when the big plastic container of liquid laundry detergent somehow fell off the dryer, breaking the screw top, and spewing a certain amount of soap over the dryer, the washer, and some of the clean clothes.

Then there was the large pool of detergent on the floor.

I got it cleaned up, and now I have washcloths that are going to function as laundry drop-ins, since they are saturated with soap.

It has rained. ALL DAY.  I know, I know, we’re getting rain and I should shut the fuck up and be grateful, but it’s rained ALL day.  Drizzled.  Steady, drippy, boring rain.  Gray day, not a ray of sunshine to be seen.

Dogs can’t go out, or when they do, they track in astonishing amounts of mud.  There are puppy footprints on the floor where I swept up the puppy footprints yesterday from the rain yesterday.

I don’t know how much rain we’ve had over the last few days, but it’s been a lot.  The pool that we’ve never gotten around to draining for the winter because we’ve barely HAD a winter is about to overflow.

And for those of you who know about sub drop, let me tell you, event drop is just as real.

One is on and being all charismatic and upbeat and everything and it went well, but there’s a price one pays, too, in terms of the internal batteries, as well as external.

I’ve not done some of the things I wanted to do, and that’s ok, there’s time, but I feel unproductive, and that is never a feeling I like.  Bluegrass Leather Pride looms, GLLA is on the horizon, and Fringe Elements is always there.

I have had to do some bottoming for the community lately, and that’s not my favorite thing.  Sometimes we do things we find repugnant because it’s what’s required for the better of the community, and those are never the things that anyone notices.  One throws oneself on the sword at times.

I’m tired and probably hungry – dinner is bean soup I thankfully started this morning, and frozen biscuits.  I’ll survive, it’s not anything serious, but I would be much happier if tomorrow were a sunny day and the dogs could stay out longer than five minutes without bringing in so much mess that it feels like mud wrestling preliminaries.

I hope your Sunday is more cheerful than mine.

Indolence

I have had an unusually lazy day, in some ways..  slave drew had a minor procedure yesterday and I’ve spent most of my day laying in bed with him, watching television.

I did run an errand or two, and made a rather lovely dinner of a fish casserole with olives and garlic and potatoes and lemon.  I’m also looking after a friend’s dogs while they’re out of town for a couple of days.  I do need to run out and take care of them shortly.

I rarely have the kind of day that involves watching a move or two, a longish nap this morning, and the seeming inability to do ANYTHING of any value.

Although, having written my own blog about accepting quiet as a time to recharge, perhaps I should just shut up and enjoy, huh?

 

 

Routine

I am sitting in bed, with slave drew, watching television and generally hanging out, something we rarely do.

He is playing on his Kindle, surfing and at this moment translating a German phrase of some sort.  He tells me it says, I am very cute, smart, clever, sympathetic, pretty and arrogant on top of it.

I think you have to be German for it to make sense.

We are watching Midsomer Murders, one of our BBC mysteries, about which it always strikes us that so many people could be murdered in these sleepy English villages and there still be enough to put on the next year’s church fete.

I am drinking a lovely tea, a black one made with rose petals and tiny buds.  It would likely be too flowery for most people, but I’m quite fond of it.  It smells like a bouquet of roses.

I spent some time today working on Bluegrass Leather Pride, which will be my focus for the next few weeks.  I’m getting there.

I hope to have a bit more focused and structured time tomorrow to get some emails sent, some schedules created, a program drafted.  We shall see.

In the meantime, though, it’s past my bedtime.

Nothing is Wasted

I spent some time today going through an old hard drive.

I found several things I’d been looking for, including, hallelujah, that story about the cat named Stiletto.

It needs a bit of reworking, the place it ended up was a bit different than the place it began and I want to work on it a bit, but I am much happier to have found it.

I found some other things, too, some bits and pieces of writing, some things that I was glad to find, some I’d forgotten, some I’d remembered but given up on.

One of the things I found was something I’d written about advice, and one part of it in particular struck me.

Someone a long time ago gave me a lot of good advice, but one of the ones I had mostly forgotten was, “Nothing is wasted.”

Everything prepares us for the next thing.

Our lives are linear; we cannot get from one point to the next without passing through all the stages in between.

Nothing is wasted.

We learn from it, we gain insight and understanding, we develop scars to remind us of the lessons.  Every experience has value.

Nothing is wasted.

It isn’t always pleasant.  It often isn’t, in fact.  Life isn’t always gentle in the ways in which it handles us.

Sometimes it feels like we stumble along, tripping over our own feet.  Or at least I do, and I doubt I’m alone.

But even when we stumble, it teaches us something, I think, if only to look where we are placing our own feet.

I also like the cosmic message there.  Nothing is wasted.

Time isn’t wasted, not really.  Sometimes what feels like time wasted is really a lesson in patience.  It is a lesson, sometimes, in learning what we can, and can’t, control, and how much, or little, that control matters.

Love isn’t wasted, even if it’s not returned.  We are, I think, transformed not by the love that we receive as much as the love we give.  Receiving is nice, and it gives us validation and a lot of other things, for sure, but it is the live we give that teaches us, the transforms us.

Pain isn’t wasted.  It forges us, it makes us better, or stronger, or it breaks us, and sometimes we have to be broken before we can be remade.  The pot that can’t stand the kiln may shatter, but the pieces can be used to form a mosaic, too, another pattern that is not what we imagined at first, but something valuable nonetheless.

Paralysis isn’t wasted.  I think the inability to move forward, or what feels like that, is often really the lesson in listening to oneself, that small, still voice that is so often drowned out, when the world is too much with us, late and soon.

As little as I like lack of productivity, I need to remind myself that that is also not wasted, that sometimes what we need to move forward is the time to rest and gather energy.

Nothing is wasted.

The only people for me are the mad ones…

“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes “Awww!”
-Jack Kerouac

Isn’t that the truth?

Who wants to be around commonplace people, people who don’t explode like roman candles, who aren’t desirous of everything at the same time, who don’t burn, burn, burn?

I ran across that quote for the first time 25 years or so ago.

My ex and I used to have a friend- Jim – who every year for a half dozen, gave us the same Christmas present.

He would find a calendar, something he knew we’d like.  One year it was about wild women, another year a literary calendar, another year a dog calendar, one of the big ones you post on the wall, or in our case, on the basement door in the kitchen.

Then he would spend some time, I’ve no idea how much, gathering quotations and other bits of trivia.

Then he’d spend another block of time, again, I’ve no idea how much, but it clearly wasn’t a last minute, throw-together gift, inscribing blocks of the calendar with appropriate quotations or notes.

He would note, for instance, the birth date of authors that Beth and I liked.  James Thurber, Tennessee Williams, Kurt Vonnegut, Langston Hughes.  Then on that date, he’d transcribe a quotation from them.

He could write in very precise block drafting letters, so it was very tidy and very easy to read.

Some years there would be more dates with transcriptions than without, other years, not so much.

I have always thought it was a great idea for a very personal Christmas gift, and we never threw the calendars out.

It’s funny, when I think of that quotation from Kerouac, I see it in his hand, written on the calendar block.  It wouldn’t have been the whole quote, that would have been too large, but I remember the first couple of phrases.

It’s also funny that in my mind, that quotation is inexorably linked to him.

He married a woman that we just didn’t click with, moved across the river, they eventually had a baby.  They were at our wedding, and we exchange Christmas cards every year, but we’ve stopped adding those phrases about having lunch sometime.

But I still appreciate the quote, and as it turns out, considering where I ended up, it’s kind of funny, isn’t it?  I think that kinky people are greedy, in the best sense.

They’re not usually greedy in the bad sense – witness my Santa Run blog, or the fact that every single time I’ve ever asked for money or donations for a good cause, they have come through.

But I think we’re greedy in terms of our experiences.

We want more, we want more intense, we want more depth and breadth and height, and if there is a potential price for that, if there is some pain, or tears, some walking a path far less trod, I think we accept it as a fair trade off.

I never wanted to miss out. I think that’s been an ongoing theme in my life, not wanting to miss out.  I didn’t want to get to the end and be sorry I had played it safe, had an average life.

That’s not to say I don’t have regrets, don’t we all?  I have some private and personal regrets, but in general, I am pleased with the intensity of my experiences, with the depth and breadth and height.

Sound familiar?  That phrase is from one of my less-favorite poets and one of her more mawkish – in my opinion – poems, but in case it’s bothering you:

“How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.”

It’s Elizabeth Barrett Browning, of course, the wife of one of my favorite poets, Robert Browning.

So, one of my new year’s objectives is to strive more for that, to spend more time around those “who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes “Awww!”