Committed to Home – Happy Pride!


“It’s rare to find a collection of essays so rich and compelling, its contributors sharing the journeys that frequently took them into regions unknown but eventually led them back home – to themselves, their loved ones, and their communities…” Robert H. Brinkmeyer, Jr., director, Institute for Southern Studies, University of South Carolina.

This quote is from the back cover of Southern Perspectives on the Queer Movement: Committed to Home, an anthology of the first-person stories of a few (21) organizers of the LGBTQ movement in South Carolina from the HIV-AIDS pandemic in the 1980s through marriage equality in 2014. I had the privilege of collecting, editing, and securing a publisher for their voices, a labor of love for me for four years from 2013 – 2017.

During the month of June we celebrate Pride month, and I encourage anyone who hasn’t had an opportunity to read a fascinating foreword by Harlan Greene nor the chance to meet these trailblazers (Jim Blanton, Candace Chellew, Matt Chisling, Michael Haigler, Harriet Hancock, Deborah Hawkins, Dick Hubbard, Linda Ketner, Ed Madden and Bert Easter, Alvin McEwen, Sheila Morris, Pat Patterson and Patti O’Furniture, Jim and Warren Redman-Gress, Nekki Shutt, Tony Snell-Rodriquez, Carole Stoneking, Tom Summers, Matt Tischler, and Teresa Williams) to go to Amazon or directly to the USC Press for a read that will make you proud.

Happy Pride!

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The fact that five years have passed since Southern Perspectives was published in 2017 is inconceivable to me, yet I can’t ignore the calendar. 2022.

While our LGBTQ+ community has made impressive achievements toward equality during the past five years, I realize those steps forward are under assault again…still. May the passion of the trailblazers in this collection continue to inspire our vision for the future.

Onward.

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Coeur d’Alene slogan: too great to hate


CNN

“After an alarmed 911 caller reported a group dressed like a ‘little army’ getting into a moving truck, police in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, arrested 31 men believed to be linked to a White nationalist group, who had plans to riot at a weekend Pride event, authorities said.

The large group – which police believe was affiliated with Patriot Front – was seen at a hotel piling into a U-Haul with riot gear, the caller told a 911 dispatcher. They were later pulled over and arrested, Coeur d’Alene Police Chief Lee White said.

The group was headed to a Pride in the Park event at Coeur d’Alene City Park, police said. The event included a Pride walk and performances by local musicians, dancers and drag artists.” – Elizabeth Wolfe, CNN (June 13, 2022)

Happy Pride Month of June, queer people, straight allies, family and friends. But let’s go easy on the celebrations, ok? No fun for you! Pride in the Park in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, for example, is definitely not okay. Right?

Jim Urquhart – NPR

LGBTQ community march in Coeur d’Alene

Pride in the Park event June 11, 2022

“In Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, police detained 31 men near a Pride in the Park event on Saturday, all of them members of a white nationalist group called Patriot Front. Most had traveled to Idaho from other states, authorities said, and the group was outfitted with riot shields, shin guards and at least one smoke grenade.

‘They came to riot downtown,’ said the city’s police chief, Lee White, at a Saturday press conference. Each man has been charged with conspiracy to riot, a misdemeanor.” – Becky Sullivan, NPR (June 15, 2022)

The Coeur d’Alene business slogan is Too Great to Hate which I find hopeful for every city – may this be the time for that brand of greatness.

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Remember Pulse. Remember Ukraine.

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Frances, Lee and Margaritas – love triangle for the ages


Hey gal, have a seat, was the standard greeting Lee offered when I reached the table in Los Pericos where he and my cousin Frances would be sitting down sipping margaritas. Los Pericos was their favorite Mexican restaurant in the little town of Willis, Texas – a fifteen minute drive from their condo at Lake Conroe or maybe shorter depending on how fast Frances was driving.

Frances always drove. I never remember seeing Lee get out of the car on any side except the passenger seat in the front, but then I never saw Frances get out of the car without Lee. Frances and Lee. Lee and Frances. Their names were linked as indelibly as their margaritas were to table prepared guacamole at Los Pericos where the staff knew their names and what they wanted. As soon as they came in, the whirring of the margarita blender could be heard, and two large frozen tequila drinks appeared almost as soon as they sat down. Cheers.

Frances is the daughter of my paternal grandmother’s sister Thelma and has been a fixture in my life since I was born. We weren’t close when we were growing up in neighboring Grimes County, Texas towns because she was too many years older than me (all of five years) plus she had a younger brother who was my age, a boy who entertained me, and a boy who could manipulate me into activities that annoyed his older sister.

Frances married Lee when she was 20 years old and for all practical purposes disappeared from my teenage consciousness while her brother and I remained close. Whenever I saw her and her husband at family gatherings, she was sweet, smiling with the same look her mother had – like they knew a secret the rest of us would never know. Lee looked at Frances with the adoring gaze of someone who knew the secret and loved her either in spite of it or because of it.

The vicissitudes of life, as my daddy often called inexplicable coincidences, brought Frances and Lee into my conscious life again when I became bi-stateual and moved home to Texas to care for my mother. Our home on Worsham Street in Montgomery from 2010 – 2014 was twenty minutes from their condo on Lake Conroe. I shared their love of margaritas and Tex-Mex which led me to meeting them at Los Pericos in Willis many nights for dinner. They occasionally acquiesced to my favorite place, the Big Sombrero in Montgomery, but they rarely gave two thumbs up to its margaritas.

Playing canasta with one of my favorite neighbors, Carol, at the kitchen table on Worsham Street with Lee and Frances was always rewarded with bottles of wine they brought. Lee was an excellent card player with no loss of focus on the game regardless of how much wine I poured for him. We had several afternoons of card games, a variety of wines, but always loads of laughter while my country music station played our background music.

In February of this year, Pretty and I made a quick trip to Texas and had a good visit with Frances and Lee in their new place not far in distance from the condo on Lake Conroe but a world away from the life they had there. Lee was obviously very ill which distressed us; Frances was obviously very worried about him. Health problems for Lee had multiplied after a serious stroke which forced them to change locations of their homes, but not their hearts.

On Friday, June 10th. Lee and Frances were to celebrate their 61st. anniversary. The only people I know who had more than 60 years together were my paternal grandparents, so I am not only impressed by the longevity of Frances and Lee’s marriage but also the abiding love that inspired it. Lee died Monday, June 6th., at his home with his wife and only daughter Kelly by his side.

I loved this man who married my cousin and will miss his hey gal, have a seat greeting. I will remember him and would like to think that somewhere somebody has poured the best tequila in a blender for a margarita that’s already whirring by the time St. Peter opens the gate. No salt please (thanks, Kelly – I had forgotten that)

Pretty and I send our love to Frances, Kelly and the rest of Lee’s family. We are with you in spirit. Rest in peace, Lee.

Lee, Frances and first cousin Eloise sharing a laugh with me in 2019

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a walk on the wild side with the OG a/k/a Bully Cat


The saga of Carport Kitty continues almost without interruption – she has left the warmth of her winter heating pad, forsaken the luxury cat condo we keep ready for her, sleeps under one of our cars every night instead (how weird is that?), greets me every morning at daybreak as I set off for my walk, says goodnight to me every night as she waits for her Temptations. Her friends the Black Cat with the White Chest and the Yellow Cat now known as the Orange Tabby drop in to share her yummy pate on a regular basis until my loud rants shoo them away.

turkey and giblets pate is lip smacking good

But the one constant presence that intrudes on CK’s happiness is the Original Gangster I call the Bully Cat who stalks Her Highness in search of free food to supplement his own obvious care. On any given day I may have the opportunity to share my walk with this made for TV cat.

hey, you with the cell phone – get outta my ‘hood

whatever, I got nothing for you

mind your own business – I’m on my payola patrol

moving on – get outta my way

I said get outta my way

time to take a break from my rounds

get lost, loser lesbian – this neighborhood is mine

I know you’re not still here?

ok, let’s make it official –

I’m otw home so you need to get lost!

some peeps can’t take a hint

my crib – don’t dare follow me

Of course I wouldn’t follow Bully Cat in his home turf, but I have to admit a certain fascination with the family who provides him with food, shelter and a random flea collar. Wouldn’t you be?

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Thank you for your interest in the Carport Kitty story. Unfortunately, CK remains a true urban feral calico who allows me to pet her briefly at her meals but shows signs of slowing which may be a factor of heat or of her ongoing mobility issues. She has spunk, though, so don’t count her out yet.

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The In-Between Years


This post was originally made on December 31, 2012 – many of you might have missed it, and others will be reminded perhaps of what you were feeling on that New Year’s Eve almost ten years ago when you read it for the first time.

Through the good or lean years and for all the in-between years is a line from a Frank Sinatra classic All The Way. As I lay 2012 to rest for a final countdown before the ball drops in Times Square in New York City tonight, I ask myself to rate the year as good, lean or in-between. Understand this is a subjective, biased, prejudiced and totally personal evaluation. It meets none of the standards for any Academy of Anything and as such, is not subject to review by a replay official. I’m not sure if the year passed as quickly for you as it did for me, but I confess mine seemed to pass faster than a falling star so I hope you have a notated calendar to refresh your memories as mine does for me.

The first day of 2012 I was in Texas and spent New Year’s Day with my mother who lived in a personal care residence with two other older women and the two wonderful sisters who cared for all of them. She was in the severe stage of her dementia and, although I had no way of knowing it on that day, she wouldn’t survive the year;  neither would the other two women who shared the home and enjoyed my New Year’s visit. I’ve always loved women of any age, and these were some of the most entertaining ever.  It was a good start to the new year.

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Mom

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Miss Ann

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Miss Virginia

Whenever I’m in Texas I always have great visits with my favorite Aunt Lucille who lives in Beaumont, one of my least favorite Texas towns. My aunt will be ninety-three years old in 2013 and is an avid reader and crossword puzzle aficionado. She lives now in an independent living apartment in a retirement community in Beaumont. The nearness of neighbors and a standing dinner group of six women from her building in the late afternoon for dinner suit her social nature, her need to be out and about. Movies? Politics? TV shows? Books? Ask my aunt about any of these and she’s in her element with an attitude toward life that says hey take your best shot at me, but I’m hanging in for as long as I can. In 2012 I saw her more than a dozen times which was more than I’d visited her in one year…ever.  Each visit lifted my spirits and was just plain fun.

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My favorite Aunt Lucille

The year confirmed my status as a bi-stateual with extended periods of time in Texas and South Carolina plus keeping the roads hot from here to there and back. My partner Pretty traveled with me whenever she could get away from her job – I managed to coerce other friends to make the trip when she couldn’t go with me and refused to let me drive by myself any more. Even with my “new” eyes from a second cataract surgery in July, my truck bears the dents and dings of my parking misadventures and alas, let’s face it. I have a GPS but occasionally disagree with it, and then I find I am not there when I need me. I am somewhere else.

Pretty and I did some fun trips during 2012. At the end of February, which is our anniversary month, we drove to Valle Crucis, North Carolina, in the Blue Ridge Mountains for a couple of days of work and play. She worked.  I played.

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Blue Ridge Mountains, Boone, North Carolina

Six months later in August we had a family vacation with our son Drew and his girlfriend Caroline. We drove to the northeast to sightsee and spend time together, to try to re-group from the losses earlier in the year. Abraham Lincoln blessed us in Gettysburg and we traveled safely to the shores of Maine, along the coast in Rhode Island, saw beautiful scenery in Pennsylvania and Connecticut. Boston was a hit for many reasons not the least of which was its good food. We counted on Caroline to make sure we ate at the best restaurants according to her online guides.  Iphones were in; Pretty and Drew had dueling GPSs that didn’t always want to go in the same direction. So many gadgets…so much confusion. So much merriment.

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On my birthday in April I was at the funeral of the woman I knew as a second mother for over forty-five years. She and my mom were as close as sisters. They were both heartbroken when I had to separate them four years ago because they could no longer take care of each other. Willie Flora was eighty-two in March of this past year and my mom was eighty-five that same month. Willie died on April 14th in Richmond, Texas and my mom died eleven days later in Willis. It was sorrow upon sorrow.

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Willie

In September my neighbor Heather and I had a shower for another neighbor, Becky, who created additional excitement by announcing that her water broke a couple of hours before the shower was to start. High drama, but we moved the time up, she came and opened her gifts, had a piece of cake and was then whisked away by her husband Gary to the hospital where she gave birth to her third baby boy four hours later. George is growing by leaps and bounds and should be a fine nuisance for his older brothers Oscar and Dwight.

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Dwight plus Oscar plus cookie jar = Good Times

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George in his New Baby phase

In November my third book was published and I was thrilled with how it looked when it came from the printer. I loved the cover and had a sense of accomplishment as I placed it in my office next to my first two books. I hope my cyberspace friends will want to read the final version since you’ve shared a number of the stories with me in the past year right here on this blog. There is freedom in growing older and a sense of entitlement to Call It Like You See It — and even sweeter to see what you’re calling in print

Good year? Lean year? In-between year? The votes have been tallied by an unreliable CPA (me) and I have to report the in-between has it. Births and deaths mark our beginnings and our endings, but the middle is what keeps our attention. I’ll lay 2012 down tonight and pick up 2013 in the morning. I can’t predict what will happen in the New Year, but I can predict I will struggle to stay awake to ring it in.

Pretty and I wish all of you a Happy and Healthy New Year!  Thanks for stopping by…

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P.S. I would lose my favorite Aunt Lucille in 2013. I think of her often and am grateful for that Texas time with her.

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just another war? don’t get used to it, please


Olena Zelenska is the wife of Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and during an exclusive interview with Robin Roberts on Good Morning America this week revealed what she wanted most from the United States:

“Don’t get used to this war.”

Point taken. A quick review of US involvement in the Cold War with the Soviet Union following World War II shows conflicts of various degrees in names familiar to me over the past 70 years – Korea, Bay of Pigs, Vietnam, the Gulf War, Yemen, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria and certainly Afghanistan where our recent withdrawal of support after 20 years was far more than unsatisfactory – names I recognize but can’t remember details of some. Old age? Possibly. Got used to? Most likely.

The war in Ukraine turned 100 days old yesterday as Russia’s missile strikes continued to rain down on Eastern Ukraine while President Zelenskyy acknowledged the loss of 20% of his country to Russian occupation. The ongoing stream of people leaving their homeland as refugees to escape obliteration numbers in the millions with families divided, fathers saying goodbye to their wives and children to stay and fight to protect their democracy. Please don’t get used to this, they say to us from across the Atlantic Ocean. We still need your help.

Meanwhile back in this country, the daily images of men, women and children being killed by mass gun violence rock our sensibilities when we hear them cry out from their coffins “don’t get used to this.” And yet, we have. Whenever we continue to cast our votes for our representatives at every level who vote against more effective gun control measures, we are saying oh well, that’s just how it goes, right? We’re used to it. All politicians are the same. They’re all corrupt. What does my vote matter anyway?

Stop that excuse, think about the people you love, ask the right questions of candidates on the ballot, then vote as if your life and the life of your loved ones depends on it.

Slava Ukraini! Remember Uvalde.

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anytime, anywhere


just another pain to manage, just another tear to cry

just another pain to manage, just another empty lie

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Ella and Molly James, May 21st. is your Nana’s Birthday


If this story seems familiar, you have a good memory – the original post was 2 years ago; but significant editing was done to include a second granddaughter!

Pretty with 2 1/2 year old Ella and four month old Molly in April, 2022

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Dear Ella and Molly,

Once upon a time your Nana visited a faraway place called Greece, and she loved that place very much. One night she was going out to eat the yummy Greek food with your Naynay and their friends because the yummy Greek food was one of Nana’s favorite attractions while she visited the faraway place.

On their walk to get  the yummy Greek food, a little white dog appeared on the steps in front of your Nana.  The little white dog was very dirty with curly fur that had not been combed for a long, long time.

Your Nana stopped to sit on a large stone next to the steps. And can you guess what she did next?

She petted the little white dog for a long time, gave it one of her best smiles and then followed the little dog home to make sure it wasn’t lost.

The End

This story has a moral for you, Ella and Molly. Your Nana has always believed in rescuing both people and animals in distress. As you grow older, you will most assuredly see her strength and determination to make your world a better place in action. You are very lucky little girls. Imagine the love your Nana will give you, her special granddaughters, if she made a place in her heart for a little white dog in a faraway place.

Happy Birthday, Pretty – thank you for rescuing me twenty – two years ago – you’re simply the best. To paraphrase from the book of Proverbs, you are a noble woman who has children and grandchildren that will rise up, and call you blessed. Your wife does, too. I love you dearly and wish you every happiness this year. Celebrate yourself every day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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no one is born hating


No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion.  People must learn to hate, and if they learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” Nelson Mandela (1918 – 2013)

Nelson Mandela was a super hero to me, a man whose extraordinary personal sacrifice changed the politics of his own South Africa which inspired dreams for peace and democracy around the world. Facing the death penalty for sabotage at his trial in April, 1964  Mandela spoke these words:

“I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”

He was sentenced to life imprisonment but was released in 1990 by President F. W. de Klerk who then negotiated with Mandela’s party to end apartheid in South Africa. Twenty-seven years of his life with no personal freedom, and Nelson Mandela became a symbol of freedom for his nation and the rest of the world.  In 1993 Mandela and de Klerk were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their work to end the oppression of apartheid in their country. Mandela became the first black president of South Africa in 1994.

This past weekend the news of another racially motivated massacre of ten Black people in the United States took place in Buffalo, New York, at a grocery store in a zip code the alleged 18 year old shooter stated in his manifesto he believed had the highest percentage of black people close enough to where he lived. According to Dustin Jones of NPR today the teenager said “the influx of immigrants, more specifically people of color, will lead to the extinction of the white race…decrease in white birth rates equates to a genocide.” This young man was not born hating, but somewhere along the way he was vulnerable to evil influences similar to those that enabled a 21-year-old white man to murder nine Black people while they held a prayer meeting in the Mother Emanuel AME church in Charleston, South Carolina in June, 2015.

Meanwhile almost 5,000 miles from Buffalo, New York across the Atlantic Ocean, a 21-year-old Russian soldier was put on trial last week in Kyiv for allegedly killing a 62-year-old unarmed Ukrainian civilian riding his bicycle on a road in the Sumy region when the soldiers suspected the man of telephoning their location to Ukrainian defenders. Russians and Ukrainians may share the same color skin but radically different ideas about their governments – the ideals of democracy the Ukrainians believe in are very much like Mandela above who was prepared to die for his hope in a “democratic society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities.”

I am at a loss to understand the ongoing mass shootings in my country, an experiment in democracy that has failed to deliver on its promise of harmony and equal opportunities for all. Not only has the nation failed in providing fundamental rights to all but also is currently in the process of a sitting Supreme Court actually reversing some of the precious fundamental rights that were guaranteed for the past 50 years. What’s that I hear? Oh, never mind. It’s only the cries of 166 million females in the US as we await the decision of 6 men and 3 women called the Supremes who will determine whether the government controls our bodies or we do.

If Mandela can be our north star, then we have the capability of teaching love to our children as surely as we teach them to hate the persons of different colors, different political beliefs any “other” from ourselves and our families. Portions of the human race are surely broken when we teach teenagers and twenty-somethings as children to hate enough to kill with weapons we refuse to prohibit.

But that’s a topic for another day.

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Stay safe, stay sane, and please stay tuned.

Posted in family life, Lesbian Literary, Life, Personal, politics, racism, Reflections, sexism, Slice of Life, The Way Life Is, The Way Life Should Be | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

kids say the darndest things


Pretty Too, Pretty, Ella, Molly – Mother’s Day Brunch

Number One Son and Pretty Too treated Pretty and me for a Mother’s Day brunch at our favorite restaurant Luzianna Purchase this past weekend. When we arrived approximately on time (for us), everyone was seated at the lovely table including two and a half year old Ella who sat at the far end of the table looking very grown up in a regular chair with no booster seat – her head barely visible above the table’s edge. She greeted us with “Daddy is going to order for me. I wouldn’t mind if you brought me Cheetos.” Now why on earth would that child think Pretty and I would have brought Cheetos? Hm.

Brunch was delicious even without Cheetos – luckily Ella discovered New Orleans style beignets were equally yummy.

The adults raved over chocolate truffles, blackened shrimp and grits, Eggs Benedict, French toast and “Mamosas.”

Number One Son and Molly say Brunch a huge success

As we said our farewells in the parking lot with hugs and Happy Mother’s Day wishes, Ella looked down at me from her father’s arms, wagged her finger at me and said out of the blue but clearly from a place of parental admonitions when being sent to her room for an afternoon nap, “Don’t play in your bed, and don’t play with your toys.” I assured her I would do neither.

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Thanks for sharing this Mother’s Day adventure with us. Pretty and I appreciate every day with our family but never forget the mothers and children of Ukraine who struggle for survival in unspeakable circumstances, mothers everywhere who struggle with overwhelming grief and loss, daughters who are motherless. May God the Mother grant you comfort and amazing grace.

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