Monday, June 17, 2013

Father's Day

Note:  I wrote this yesterday, on Father's Day, but I didn't know if I should post it.  Tonight, I read Liz's post, and told her:  Wow - it's like we wrote the same thing!  So, I'm going ahead and publishing this entry, and although Liz's writing is more descriptive, I think you'll see that we were on the same page.  

Oh, and mine is even MORE late. 

It's Father's Day and facebook is filled with posts about dads.  I just lost my dad on May 14, and it leaves me without anyone to parent me.  This past Mother's Day, I heard Garrison Keilor say, because he lost his mom last summer, "nobody feels much sympathy for a 70 year old orphan.".  I suppose that's true, but missing your Dad on Father's Day is universal once he's gone.  I sure miss mine.  

Looking at photos of my kids' dad on facebook,  I miss Ray. But I miss him in a different way because we don't have him around to share this Dad-honoring day with his grown-up kids.  

Ray is and always was a good dad.  Besides so many good qualities, Ray brought fun to our home, and took notice if I was too uptight or stern in keeping things in order.  (With four kids, who knew order?)  Ray always planned time for the kids, making tours around their school calendars way in advance.  We took trips keeping in mind what the kids would enjoy.  

One of Ray's specialities was helping Karen finish her science projects (which always ended up being done at the last minute), or achieve the "Super Reader Badge" from the Victory Drill Book.

When Phil was little, Ray said he'd rather be home every Friday night, watching "Dukes of Hazard" with 4-year-old Philip, than traipsing off to sing or be on the road.  He liked just being with his kids.

Ray called "Elizabeth" his little dandelion, because her super-curly hair practically floated away from her head.  He loved to brush and fix her hair - if she would let him.  

Sara, our 4th, came along, and Ray never let it show that financially things would be tighter than ever.  He just worked harder to make our family work.  Since we didn't have a separate nursery, and she shared our room for about a year or more, she sometimes would wake up if he came in from a concert late.  No matter, he just got her up - to PLAY!   

It's been a long time since Ray and I were bringing up those little kids.  Now there are six GRANDKIDS to watch, and it's up to our kids to be the parents.  YAY for that!  The little ones all know their Pappaw Ray lives in Florida.  They LOVE it when he visits them, taking them to McDonalds, or the zoo, or wherever the "fun place" is for the day.  They adore him and their faces light up when they see him.  

Now, not to be a downer, but not all divorced gay granddads are as fortunate.  Yes, some have abandoned their responsibilities, abandoned their families, leaving them in terrible straits.  And just as bad, some families ostracize the dad/grandpa/brother, etc., by shunning him for coming out after having had a family.  How awful. 

When Ray and I saw our first counselor after his disclosure, she asked me three questions:
1) How do you feel about being here?
2) Do you think if Ray prayed hard enough, that he could change to straight?
3) What do you see as the best possible outcome?

I was crying plenty as I tried to answer each question...
1) Awful
2) No
3) I wanted Ray close enough to still enjoy our kids.  I didn't want to make him stay around so long that we became bitter, and I couldn't bear that we'd end up fighting and hating one another.  Mostly, I hoped that we'd still be family.  

I would say that we've done a pretty good job to accomplish #3.    

 It could have been different, but  even though he had to miss some events, when he was home he played video games,

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Handwritten letters.

Remember LETTERS? 

I watched an old movie by Wes Anderson.  Two 12-year-old campers fell for each other, and one wrote:  "Write to me," and gave an actual street address.  The setting was 1965, when I would have been 12 years old!  And I remember going to the mailbox back in those days, hoping for a letter. 

Sometimes a letter came from my Aunt Evelyn who lived in Kentucky.  She didn't have any little girls, and she was just about my only aunt.  How I loved seeing the return address, in her handwriting, "615 Maple Ave."  She had taught me her address, in case I ever got lost, the summer I spent a week at her house when I was 7.  Back then, a long-distance phone call was a big deal, where sometimes two of us would horn in on the extension phone, and we had to make everything count when we took up those expensive minutes that showed up on the bill a month later.  But a letter you could hold and read, re-read, and keep in a drawer.

Letters from my brother in Viet Nam were welcomed in the late 60s.  His handwriting was distinctively his own, and my mom couldn't wait to hear from him so far away and in danger daily.  Once, he even wrote just to ME, his little sister.  I treasured that letter.

When I had a boyfriend, we'd send letters back and forth, and I always used special paper.  I remember using a light blue with torn edges.  It was exciting to get home, check the mailbox, and read the sweet words, carefully selected, and then write a reply.  

What is it about getting a personal handwritten note that means so much?  Today we don't do it enough.  Even though we still have "snail mail," and cards and letter are not totally forgotten, it's not the norm. I know that checking the inbox can be a thrill.  Texts are INSTANT, and they usually go through without fail.  But it's not the same as when we had to wait DAYS for a letter, saw your own name in familiar handwriting, and recognized the return address.  I don't want to ever forget how much that meant and how it felt. 

Friday, October 26, 2012

My view on Lance Armstrong: "The truth is better than lies."

Bad week for Lance Armstrong, with all the stripping of the titles, wins, endorsements.  Bummer.  It's brought down everything to do with cycling, much less his cancer foundation, Livestrong.  I figure he's been lying now for his whole career as a cyclist, and he's brought down everyone who has ever been associated with him.  Bummer.  (I have no idea what will happen to Livestrong, which has done so much good for cancer patients.)

Last night on NBC's RockCenter, Betsy Andreu and Emma O'Reilly told the story they've been telling for the past 15+ years, and are finally being heard.  I tell you, in the past, I didn't listen, either.  Like Emma says here, it was a lot prettier to listen to a "fairy tale" and 7 Tour de France wins, that to listen to two women who were trying to tell what they knew. They were villified by Lance himself (in court depositions), and silenced by court filings. 

It took the confessions of the 26 riders - and teammates, including Floyd Landis, Tyler Hamilton, Dave Zabriskie, George Hincapie and more - to bring out what seems to be known by all the insiders.  The truth has come forward, and we HAVE to hear it.  Painful, sad, damaging, but true. 

I have no stake in this but my memories of Le Tour de France, wonderful summers, and a lot of enthusiasm.  Lance Armstrong has brought down a whole sport and the industry of cycling, all the marketing, all the support services that go into bringing the Tour to the world, and the individual cyclists that have brought out the truth over the hidden world of doping. 

What have I lost?  I've lost what it all meant.  These guys were really my heroes, and just like other sports that people love, I admired all of them.  I don't throw it all away, except for the hero part.  And just like I say about a lot of other things, the truth is better. 

If you are interested...
Here's more video detail:  Armstrong teammates testified.   and more.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Children of gay parents: Out of God's will?

 A very good question came in my e-mail box the other day, and it was regarding the worries of one of the children born to a gay-straight mixed orientation marriage.  Because I had never addressed this, I decided to do a post about it.

For background, let me say that Ray and I had four kids in ten years, and they are all loved and wanted.  When Ray came out to us, our oldest was 29 and married, and our youngest was 19 and a freshman in college.  They all graduated from a conservative Christian university, and were very involved in ministry/missions. It was a terrific shock to all of us that Ray was gay, and we all had a lot to learn about what this meant.  We all ended up changing our views as we understood that you don't choose your sexual orientation, and that you do choose what you believe.

Our family is pretty tight, and we really like being with each other.  My counselor once said that we probably insulated ourselves with each other, partly because of Ray's career.  I don't know if that is true, but I do know that we have stuck with each other, even when it was tough to hold up our heads and face the world who knew Ray, versus who we knew Ray to be.

So, although I haven't asked each one of the kids what they think, I did ask our youngest, Sara, since she was a teenager when this big event changed our lives forever:  "Did you ever wonder if you were meant to be, since your dad is gay?"  I don't know how I put it, but it was something like that. 

Sara replied that just this week the subject had come up with a co-worker.  She told her friend that the whole thing doesn't, or hasn't ended, that there is always more to deal with.  Even though she is fully accepting of her dad (and glbt people), there is always someone who hasn't heard, doesn't know, or will react with uncertainty regarding her dad.  But she also told her friend, "My parents probably have a better working relationship that some parents who stay together."  And to my question, she looked at me and said, "No, never, not at all."

So, below I have copied most of what my e-mailer wrote, and I have also included my reply.  I hope this is helpful. 

the question:
Carol,  I am a big fan of your ex-husband's music and I enjoy your blog.  I have a question.  How do you address self-esteem issues related to the children of mixed-orientation marriages?  ...  I am haunted by a conversation with a Christian teenager who was the product of such a marriage.  His anguish, basically, was that if it was never really God's will that Mom and Dad be married to one another, then it was never God's will that he be born.  I basically answered him that God can bring good, even marvelous, results out of bad situations, and that God can "hit straight with a crooked stick," to use an old saying. 
I don't know if I handled that conversation well or not.  What would you say to a young person who is struggling with whether or not he or she was meant to be born due to the fact that they are the product of a mixed orientation marriage? 

my reply:

Thanks, *********** !  And that's a good question, one I've never addressed on the blog.  I went to one of my kids for help in answering, to see if it has ever occurred to her that she was never in God's will to come into existence/been born.  Fortunately, she didn't look at it that way.  She knows how her dad believed the fundamentalist doctrine, how well he did in following what we were taught, and how much he tried.  (It might also help that I've helped her understand through my own understanding.) 

I think you answered the questioning teenager as well as you could.  Since his/her parents had put it like that (that they never were in God's will to be married) that would be how the teen would look at it as well.  What an awful thought, trying to figure out if your birth was never meant to be.  But I would also think that any child who was caught in her parents' divorce, to whom it was explained "we never were in God's will" - whether it was an unplanned pregnancy, a mismatched couple in whatever situation, that that child might assume that he/she TOO were never "supposed to be." 

Rather, in many cases, two people DO love one another, and hard as they try, one is gay.  No, they probably shouldn't marry (I firmly think this way), but in many, many cases, church dictates 1) marriage is supreme, 2) family is the ultimate goal for all (no matter the innate sexual orientation, 3) and that gay can change if you love each other/pray/want to.  Church leaders (fundamentalist ones) teach these things, and gay people who are trying to do the right thing, follow the instructions, despite what their gut tells them.

So, from my point of view, I would never tell my kids that God didn't mean for us to be together.  I believe, in my case, that God did bring us together, for some reason I don't always understand. Some purpose  that is very real...(because there is more to my story that I don't fully try to explain on the blog).  I know, 100%, that God knew and understood Ray's orientation, and God also knows how much we put into our marriage.  (I also probably question God's wisdom in doing this, probably at least every other day.)  And even though I don't understand, I believe that the love I felt for Ray (and his feelings for me) are real, and that our kids are fully intended in the great scheme of things.  

Probably, if I were honest, I'd tell those parents to be careful how they explain their own actions to the vulnerable kids.  I'd want them (the parents) to understand and explain how they got together, why they married, and reiterate their love for their kids.  

I would also add this:  Just like God didn't make a mistake when he created gay folks, he didn't make a mistake in who this kid's parents are. 

Thanks again, for writing.  :)

Saturday, July 7, 2012

"Cool" is relative.

I ventured outside today, and since it is only 97* right now, it feels cool.  Yesterday it was 104* on my car thermometer.  Those can be inaccurate of course, but it felt hotter yesterday.  Today could hardly be considered normal weather for June in Indiana.  It's dad-blame HOT.

Someone commented today, as is often the case, with instructions about how "wrong" I am to be gay-supportive.  I was glad to publish the comment as well as write a short reply, since today I have the time to do so. - look for today's date.  While I have no wish that families break up, I repeat and say again:  Being gay is not sinful. 

There is real tragedy when mixed-orientation marriages happen.  Especially when the people getting married are not fully honest when they enter into marriage.  It's usually the false hope by the gay person that with love and enough commitment, the same-sex attractions will be suppressed.  Sometimes they have been counseled by well-meaning Christians that if they pray, dedicate "the problem" to the Lord, and never act on their desires, that the desires will go away/dissipate.  Sometimes the gay person is asked to be accountable to someone "overseeing" them.  They are asked to give up computer passwords, facebook pages, and account for spare time - all with the expectation that they won't be GAY any more.  It doesn't work.  Eventually, whether or not they "act" on their desires, there are consequences.  Either there is an affair, or psychological breakdown, or simply a loss of emotion - and it's not how anyone should live. 

While I know that some may not agree, many don't have my perspective.  I know the feelings I've lived through, and I know what my life has been.  I know how hot it is outside, and I know how it felt yesterday.  I know.

If you want me to read what Leviticus says, well, that's an old book, written when times and the culture was vastly different than today.  And there are LOTS of things we disregard in Leviticus and the rest of the Bible.  We eat shrimp and pork, and we work (drive cars, play games, and throw footballs - i.e. pig skins) on Sunday.  There was a time when tomatoes were "forbidden fruit."  No more.  Divorce is legal.  I don't wear dresses all the time.  I cut my hair.  When I let it grow long, I've been known to plait it.  I wear rings - GOLD rings that don't signify marriage!   I am female, I'm not married, I live on my own, and I handle my own affairs - new ideas to the 20th Century.

It may appear to you as scandalous, but when it comes to likening being gay with what people point out in the Bible, I disregard those arguments. While you may disregard me, I have this to say:  
"Oh, well."

Here are some simple reasons that justify my position, and I don't care to write a long defense on these statements. 

1 - In Genesis, the story of Sodom and Gomorrah is probably the story of same-sex rape.
2 - Don't point to Leviticus to prove your point, unless you adhere to ALL the rest of the rules/law in the entire Old Testament.  Even if you do, those who are glbt are just who they are.  Leave them alone.
3 - Jesus never talked about homosexuality.  Period.
4 - I accept life, and things happen.  It's rough and I don't like all of it.  I just have to go forward and stand up for gay people.  A lot of them are Christian, some are not. 
5 - I choose to be Christian.  I didn't choose my sexual orientation, nor do others choose theirs.