Thursday, October 28, 2010

Mourning and Celebration

cross posted from my project365 blog, View from the Maypole:

My grandfather died last week... here are some pictures...

84 : 365
Three Kleenex Breakfast
When The May Queen woke up we broke the news that her Great Grandfather had died. She barely touched her pancakes, and when her plate was cleared this is what was left on the table.

85 : 365
Sanibel at Sunset
A view from the plane

86 : 365
Young Driver
Driving the golf cart was a kick for me as a child, and The May Queen and her cousin were thrilled to be deemed old enough to drive it themselves. My cousin was patient- and strong stomached- enough to let them drive round and round the cul de sac. I love the joy on their faces and the way the sunlight is captured. Grandpa would have been smiling. And then telling them not to drive with two feet ("You'll strip my brakes!" ... like mother, like daughter!)

87 : 365
I have a picture at this same beach of a 2 year old May Queen holding hands with her great grandfather... wait... let me see if I can dig it up...
There it is. Nov. 2004. We decided that taking the kids to the beach was a great way to honor Grandpa... by doing something he loved doing.

88 : 365
Fancy Dishes

We spread out the stuff, and each took what we wanted to remember, and thought we would use. The rest... most of it... we boxed up to donate.

89 : 365
Grandpa's Garden

Still blooming...

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow

My grandfather died Monday night. I'm relieved it went quickly, overall, but still sad. The May Queen cried when we told her the next morning.

I realize that although all of my grandparents saw me into adulthood, this grandfather was the only one whom I really knew as an adult. He visited our family, and we visited him. He told stories of his time in the Navy, of his childhood, of his love for my grandmother. We went sight seeing together, we played games around the table, and we enjoyed each others company. Like friends.

But he was still always my Gramps.

And I'll miss him.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

< three

I don't know how to tell the story of my grandfather dying.

Every day there is at least one e-mail in my inbox documenting his rapid decline. It's only been three weeks since he was diagnosed with late stage pancreatic cancer.

It's been less than three months since I last saw him. Since we walked together, and sat chatting poolside while the kids played.

Three months before that he was still regularly playing tennis, before stopping for his usual summer break as the heat in Florida became too unbearable and his usual partners made their summer treks back north.

But three days ago my mother sat at my kitchen table, tears in her eyes, telling me what it's like to be watching her father die. Preparing herself to fly back to Florida the next day to stay with him until the end. Which cannot be far off. It is happening incredibly quickly, although the days of caring for him creep by incredibly slowly.

Growing up I knew I was lucky to have all four of my grandparents alive. All 4 were there for my confirmation. My high school graduation. My college graduation. My wedding.

My grandfather is the last man standing.

He has lived a full and active 86 years. He will likely die in his own home (thanks to Hospice and the generous care of his three children).

The May Queen has a special relationship with him. For the longest time she insisted he be called Great Grandpa [Maypole]. If I left his surname out in referring to him, I was scolded. He would pretend to nap on the couch while she piled him high with stuffed animals, then he would "wake up" and scare her. She would giggle. He would grab an animal and chase her in circles around the house. He played endless games with her. They sat at our kitchen table and colored. He allowed her to dress him up in the silliest outfits.

impromptu dance party, May 2007

When she heard that her Great Grandpa was sick, she immediately wanted to go visit him. I debated it, but quickly realized it would not be good. I want her to remember him as he was, not as he is now. They just had a wonderful time together this summer. She said to my mother "you're so lucky you get to go see Great Grandpa." It broke my heart. Is it lucky to watch and wait for your father to die?

But we have been lucky. The May Queen has been lucky. Because she got to know him, her great grandfather.
Nov 2008

Monday, October 11, 2010

God Loves Fags

I'm reposting this. I wrote it in December 2007. With the recent rash of gay suicides due to bullying, I feel it is, sadly, still relevant:

Let me begin by simply stating that I truly believe that GOD IS LOVE (1 John 4:16). I'll come back to that.

My connection with this issue fully began when I was a freshman in college. A dear friend of mine in my dorm had grown up in a very traditional but loving Baptist home. He was also gay. He struggled mightily with this, and knowing that I was a Christian, too, he would talk with me about it. We spent hours talking about it and reading the passages in the Bible that people always pull out in their arguments against homosexuality. The following fall the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (the denomination I belong to) put out the first draft of its Human Sexuality study. This study was, in my opinion, a fantastic exploration of these bible passages, and came to really great conclusions about how to interpret them and how to create an ethic within the church for supporting homosexual individuals and relationships. Unfortunately 2 years later they released a second draft that reflected the outcry of many of their members, and they backed off from some of their previous assertions. I wrote a very detailed letter expressing my disappointment (they also took out a section on how masturbation is OK, saying it was so obvious it didn't even need to be in there. The fact that it made front page news when the study was first released seems to me to indicate that it DID need to be in there!) I am saddened to say that 15 years later they are still "studying" the issue. All of the studies have, as far as I can tell, come to the same conclusions as the first one, but it seems they are afraid of angering the people and dividing the church, and therefore are afraid to take the stand I wish they would make for this very important issue. But I digress a wee bit. (edited 10/11/10: In 2009 there was a big national church body vote on this issue, and the Lutheran church has finally changed so many of its previous positions. This came after much prayer and research. It has caused a great deal of division, but I think it is SO IMPORTANT that we stand by this. You can read the whole statement on the official church beliefs regarding sexuality here)

Back to those pesky bible passages. There are some pretty good resources out there that deal with them in detail (see resources section below) so I won't dissect them all... I will say that I believe the Bible to be silent on the issue of a committed homosexual relationship. None of the passages in the bible speaks to a partnership, a committed and loving relationship. They refer to temple prostitution, the disregard of hospitality laws, the abuse of young boys by older men. Both the Hebrew and the Greek languages have many, many more words that describe things that we boil down to one word (love, for instance) and the words used in these various passages often give a much clearer description of what is being discussed than our translations suggest.

What is clear to me in the Bible is that GOD IS LOVE. So... if the Bible is silent on the issue of a committed homosexual relationship, that is the first thing I look to when I think of how to respond. With love.

Because I think the Bible is silent on the issue, I think it is folly for us to say that homosexuality is a sin. I don't think it is. Let me repeat that. I DON'T THINK THAT HOMOSEXUALITY IS A SIN. However, even if you do take the position that homosexuality is a sin, I think you HAVE to remember that GOD IS LOVE and respond with love. There is no excuse for saying things like "God hates fags." I believe that God loves everyone... murderers and child molesters and gamblers and alcoholics and shoplifters and little white liars and me and you. That doesn't mean that he likes everything we do. But he still loves the person. Take a look at David. The man was a lying, murdering and adultering fool. And yet still today we look to him as a pillar of faith. If God can love him, God can love anyone.

Some people in the church look at homosexual relationships a bit like they look at divorce. They believe it is not what God intended, but see them both as a symptom of our fallen world, and feel that if, because of our fallen world, the only way 2 people can experience that committed love relationship is with a person of the same sex, that we should support that relationship. They welcome gays and lesbians into their congregations and support their decisions. They don't try to "cure" them, but rather accept them as they are. I think this is a very loving Christian response.

I want to make sure I haven't muddied the waters too much here. Again, I don't think that homosexuality is a sin. I also acknowledge that I could be wrong. I may get to heaven and God may say "Painted Maypole, you were wrong." But if that happens I believe He will say "but you acted in LOVE for your fellow brothers and sisters, and that's what matters."

So for me, the biggest issue is that Christians need to respond to gays and lesbians with LOVE. I think that as a whole we have not, and this saddens me greatly.

I work in the theatre, and so you would expect that I know a lot of gay and lesbian people. I do. I also have other friends and family who are gay, including 2 of The May Queen's godfathers. We attended their wedding, and they have been wonderful friends to us and faithful godfathers to MQ.

Since that time I first sat in a room with my college friend and discussed faith and love and relationships and so much more... I have worked for social justice in this area. When I was in Los Angeles I performed and conducted theatre for social justice workshops with Fringe Benefits, a theatre company with a mission that began as building bridges between GLBTQ youth and their straight peers, but has lovingly expanded to "promote the idea that every man, woman and child deserves to be treated with dignity and respect." I also worked with my congregation in Los Angeles to adopt a statement that clearly outlines a welcome to gays and lesbians.

Where I am right now, both physically and life situations wise, I am not currently actively involved with a group that works on this issue. But it is the main issue that causes me to write letters to my government. I speak up about the issue with friends and acquaintances. I pray about it. It weighs heavily on my heart. I have seen friends and family hurt (both physically and emotionally) by the prejudices that surround this issue. I have seen a dear friend and excellent pastor leave the ministry because he could not openly be in a relationship, and it was tearing him apart.

I believe that God is Love. Denying marriage and other rights to gays and lesbians is not displaying that love. Making demeaning remarks is not displaying that love. Trying to "cure" a homosexual is not displaying that love.

Last week I was reading an article about "The Little Rock Nine" (9 black students attending an otherwise white high school in 1957). A picture showed a protester carrying a sign that read "Save our Christian America."

It struck me as the same type of argument that people are using now to keep gays and lesbians from legally marrying. They claim it is against our Christian values. That it cheapens the idea of marriage. I disagree. I think we cheapen the idea of marriage by being exclusionary. I think we cheapen the idea of marriage by not allowing people who want to dedicate their lives to each other in a public fashion that chance. I think we go against our Christian values when we do not act in loving acceptance of our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.

Resources for more information:

Lutherans Concerned - working for full inclusion of GLBT individuals within the Lutheran Church

Cootie Shots: Theatrical Inoculations Against Bigotry - not only do I appear on the cover of this book, but inside you will find some wonderful plays, songs and poems for children that teach tolerance and fight bigotry. And the illustrations? Oh.. it's beautiful! Think of it as Free to Be... You and Me for a new generation.

Sexual Fulfillment for Single and Married, Straight and Gay, Young and Old - this book is written by Herbert W. Chilstrom and Lowell O. Erdahl, two retired Lutheran bishops

The Nature of Sexual Orientation - link to actual article by John R. Ballew, M.S.

Affirmation - this United Methodist movement provided me with lots of ideas and resources when I was working within my own Lutheran congregation

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Just Like Sarah Jessica Parker

That's me. Just like Sarah Jessica Parker.

Not Sex in the City Sarah Jessica Parker.

Go further back.

Way, way back.

When I was a kid I watched Square Pegs. I though Sarah Jessica Parker, and her braces, were really cool.

Then, I had to get braces. Not so cool.

But here's the scoop.

They are even LESS cool when you get them at age 36.
I've been uncomfortable with my smile for a while now, and actually decided to bite the bullet, so to speak, last winter. I figured I'd rather be embarrassed about my braces for a little over a year than with my smile for the rest of my life. I looked into braces then, but decided to wait until we moved to start treatment.

So... on September 20th I got braces. Again.

And oh. my. word. did they ever hurt. I basically took painkillers for 5 days straight. The second night I had them my husband reported that I was crying in my sleep.

They are only a little bit tender now, but I still have to be really careful what I eat. If I eat anything too firm they will ache for HOURS. I don't remember being this miserable last time around. And I think I have a pretty high pain tolerance (I was in labor for 36 hours before I let them give me any drugs).

So right about now I'm second guessing this whole braces thing.

But in 14-16 months when they are off and I can smile confidently? I'm pretty sure I'll say it was all worth it.

And that will be my mantra. Until 2012.

At least alcohol is a soft food.

(ok... as I tried to find an image of SJP in braces to put in this post, I realize it was the OTHER GIRL (aka Amy Linker) in Square Pegs who had braces. Well, then, I guess I'm just like Tom Cruise. He even had his braces as an adult. But if Oprah invites me on to her show (she has this last season. It could happen) I promise not to jump on her couch)