Archive for May, 2011

Memorial Day

May 30, 2011

Trying to wrap my head around Memorial Day has been hard for me this year.  I’ve seen friends post status comments regarding “being liberal but supporting the troops” (which of course implies that if an individual holds conservative beliefs they support the troops and any military incursion.)

Memorial Day, very simply, is a day to remember all who lost their lives in defense of our country.  Maybe it should be extended out a bit more: I’m pretty sure one cannot face the theatre of war and not be changed for the good or for the bad.  War is complex.  Volumes of books have been written about the justification of war. I am not interested in debating the subject.

For me, wars can be justified and I hold (mostly) traditional liberal beliefs.  I don’t find an imbalance in holding those two together.  I become frustrated when individuals make statements about holidays like this “supporting the military-industrial complex”.  Memorial Day started in 1865 by a group of freed slaves who fought with the Union Army to remember their fallen members.

I’ve seen comments about “the current wars not impacting my personal life”. Comments like this are both minimizing and display an immense lack of understanding of economics, geopolitical relationships and common sense.  Look that the sheer cost to our economy, look at the overwhelming cost of human lives lost and altered.  Yes, many people may not know individuals who are or have served in Iraq or Afghanistan but the reality is the lasting implications of these wars will be deep to our nation.

Memorial Day isn’t about BBQ’s, car races and the start of summer.  Memorial Day is a day to remember and reflect those who made the sacrifice to serve.  With few exceptions, we, as a nation, have always been defended by an all volunteer army.  Nobody leaves the military the same.  Memorial Day is a day to remember the sacrifice, and especially those who paid the ultimate sacrifice.

Take a moment today to give thanks.  And to remember.


Until the day this won’t be news, thank you.

May 16, 2011

A few years ago, I was forced to ‘out’ myself in the workplace.  Another individual screamed that she wanted a “gay” day where she could do nothing but hang out with her gay friends.  Her screeching voice which carried quite a distance in a public setting left me more than a bit uncomfortable as she continued to netter on about how “the gays” were fabulous and she needed more “gay time”.  She continued to promote stereotypes, behaviors and other annoying myths that I came within inches of shouting at her.  Fortunately, the rarely working brain filter caught my words and I spoke my boss the next day.  My supervisor informed me this was acceptable in the work place because the screecher has gay friends.  I asked if it would be ok for me to publically demand a Jewish day because I liked their food and advice? (Also knowing full well the screecher was Jewish).  I was told that would be offensive.  I countered with my statement of “I’m gay, and I found her to be offensive.”  At which point, I was told “I needed to have a thicker skin.”  Let me be clear: this wasn’t a dream job, it was a (barely a paycheck) job.  While I really wasn’t looking for an “oh, I see your point, let me address this with her” type reaction, I certainly wasn’t looking for a “you have to be tougher”.  I wasn’t allowed to be offended by myth promoting (nor was I apparently allowed to promote myths, but that is a different blog).

When you first come out, and really before you do, every homophobic comment feels intentional, as if the person saying it knows your secret and is baiting you into a response.  Coming out generally isn’t celebrated.  Almost every gay person I know has a painful story of loss of somebody in his/her life who decided to alter or end a friendship, lost a job, were excluded from family functions (or given conditions for inclusion) and on and on.  Forming the words for the first time is a gut wrenching, life altering admission to self.  Sharing with others is painful at first.  A friend told me once that ‘being gay is exhausting.’ Meh.  I think being a human in the 21st century is exhausting (or maybe it’s just adulthood when I have a well documented preference for being a kid).  I will grant there is something about that extra layer, people who don’t know fall into a few categories: not sure how they will react, have power (ie, employer) over a person or really, it has never come up in conversation and for me anyway, it isn’t important to the relationship.

Over the weekend, I saw that the Phoenix Suns CEO announced he is gay.  Rick Welts discussed his intentions of announcing his sexual orientation with key executives, players and others before making his announcement.  ESPN reports that Welts met with David Stern the day before Kobe Byrant’s gay bashing tirade.  Quickly going through a list of owners, presidents and managers of men’s sports, I think Welts is the first to come out.  Today, NPR published an article with CNN weekend anchor Don Lemon and his decision to come out.  Lemon points out, rather accurately, that many consider this ‘career suicide’.  I hope not.  I also hope that he doesn’t become the ‘gay’ CNN anchor.

Rick Welts helped this weekend to break down the door for those who work in sports, at all levels be it an athlete or in the front office.  Don Lemon held open the door for those who are African-Americans or working in the news industry.  Sadly, this is still news.  But until the day it isn’t, thank you.  For showing others that you can be gay, you can be successful and you can be admired by your peers for the work you do.  It’s just a few more cracks in that other glass ceiling.

The wisdom of a 5 year old

May 15, 2011

I called my twin 5-year-old nieces this week to say “Happy Kindergarten Graduation” and see if they were excited about summer.  A bit of background, niece #3 all year has listed her favorite events of the kindergarten day as “lunch” and “recess” to the point that I found myself saying “aside from lunch and recess, what did you like about school today?” when talking to her.

me – to niece #3: “Are you glad to be finished with school?” (They ended on Thursday.)
niece #3: “I have to go back.”
me: “You do?” (thinking maybe they had ice storm make up days).
niece #3: “Yes, next year for first grade. You don’t just go to school for one year.”

I bit my cheeks to stop the laughter.  She was dead pan serious and not the least bit upset/disappointed that she had to go back again next year.  Yes, there is probably something to the fact that her brothers will be entering 10th and 8th grades in the fall, and her non-twin sister will be entering the 8th grade combined with the fact her mother is a teacher helped her make this correct assumption.

But what a metaphor.  Don’t stop learning.  Ever.  Be it from learning about social media, how to program the clock in the car or more in-depth: deciding to educate yourself from a variety of perspectives on an issue, a point in history (usually, there are 2 sides to most historical conflicts neither of which is the romanticized, mythological view-point that is generally passed off as history) or a pressing local issue.  Many people stop learning at the programming of the DVR (or other such tasks).

I remember trying to prepare how to answer my grandmother’s dreaded question of “what did you learn today?” as a tweener (nothing wasn’t an answer . . .).  Looking back, I see how a quest for knowledge, to constantly be learning something (from lousy tennis skills, to a  few knitting projects gone bad, to tossing a few pans from culinary experimentation gone terrifically wrong, to reading about WW II in the Pacific before the US involvement and more than a few nerd casts, I’m constantly learning) is instilled at an early age. Ok, granted my answer of how I know that lobsters mate for life did come from Phoebe on Friends and yes, I did defend my knowledge of this fact citing Phoebe, chances are I’m reading a few books on one topic, listening to nerdcasts on a second and watching some weird docudrama on a third.

But I still had a laugh on my by one of my 3 favorite protagonists; and found myself a bit jealous because in August, they all get shiny erasers, new pencils and skills to conquer.  It’s easy to stop learning except what is needed.  To quote Edmund Burke, “all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing”: it is very hard to do nothing when one keeps on learning, year after year.  Even if you don’t get the shiny erasers and trapper keepers (do they even make trapper keepers anymore?) in the fall.

Cracked, broken and a little disappointed

May 11, 2011

Today I did an ‘adult’ thing: I took care of me.  Ok, most days we all do this without thought.  Today, this action involved thought.  I have been working a series of temporary jobs on quite frankly a battered and broken body.  I had accepted an assignment with the following description:

*matching invoices

*organizing slips/paperwork

*pulling paperwork, entering data

 I’ve worked for this company before: it is a fantastic, proactive corporation that is forward thinking.  The reality is that the job involved standing in a non-temperature controlled warehouse pulling invoices out of boxes.  I know my limitations; I’ve painfully become aware of them.

 The company I’m working for and I looked at job modifications: there was one critical element that could not be modified.  I am grateful for them for working with me to try to figure out how/if the job could be modified: yes, it’s the law, but I’m also a temp.

 Today is one of those days, there aren’t enough ice packs, heating packs, muscle relaxants and e-stimulation to quell the pain.  The pain is exhausting.  In the midst of all of this, I was listening to a podcast on lower back pain: I was hoping to get tips on how to manage multi-level disc involvement.  Instead, I found a podcast delivered to medical students about how many people with chronic pain are looking for disability claims.  I felt stabbed.

 As I stood pulling information out of a warehouse, I heard the myth of chronic, persistent pain continued by a medical school professor.  Today was a day I’d give you everything I own if you could promise me a pain free day.  Just one day without pain: one day.  I wanted to find that lecturer and let him examine my body and tell me that I was seeking special treatment. I wanted to find him and show him a few years of working in jobs which caused me to undergo countless steroid injections into my back, a few nerve burnings and constant pounding dull pain. Actually, I didn’t want to see him: I wanted to find the medical students who were subjected to these myths.

 A few decades ago, a wise orthopedist told me that ‘around’ the age of 35, I’d have issues in standing, walking distances.  Telling a 15 year old that . . . well, 25 is ancient.  I wish he was wrong.  I wish one minute when I was 10 didn’t alter my life forever.  And I wish I could find a job.  The sad thing: I can work; I tried to do this job and just realized that I couldn’t.  72 hours of non-stop pounding pain and not being able to modify an aspect of a job, I had to let my boss know that I wouldn’t be back on Monday.  I had to surrender and admit that while I’m willing to do anything, my body can’t.

 And just once, just once, I’d like for my body not to betray me.  For various reasons, I’ve had 31 surgeries: 28 of them orthopedic: all on my legs (everything except my left knee, knock on wood).  And I want to find the myth-mongers who say pain like this isn’t real and let the walk in my shoes for a week.  I’m not interested in disability: just a job that doesn’t leave me wrapped in ice for 10 hours.  And just once, I’d like somebody to understand how emotionally painful this is without saying something like “well, I know my pain isn’t as bad as yours but. . .” or “Oh, I hear you.”  I don’t know what I want people to say.  Maybe just an acknowledgement that the system sucks, that most people who live with chronic pain aren’t looking for an easy way out and maybe understanding that there are jobs that just can’t be done not because of pride but because of the body.  Or maybe I just want a hug.

Mother’s Day: A Case Against

May 7, 2011

Let me be clear.  I love my mother. Yes, at times she drives me batty. I drive her batty. It’s called a mother-daughter relationship.  I think my siblings and their spouses are fantastic parents.  And I despise this holiday more than every other schmaltzy Hallmark holiday created.

Why? First it celebrates an ideal.  A June Cleaver combines with post-modernity woman who can balance everything with a smile and STILL have time for a “girls night out”.  Hell, I’m single, can barely get myself out the door most mornings having fed the cats and figured out something for 3 meals.  Mothers aren’t perfect.  Shock, I know.  Mothers are human. They make mistakes. Try finding a card that says something to that effect. 

Second, Mother’s Day doesn’t acknowledge the wounds of being motherless, being un-mothered, not being able to have a child (for many reasons).  That pain is deep and ever- lasting.

Finally, Mother’s Day doesn’t acknowledge those couples, the women who choose not to have children yet provide mentoring roles.  Where is that celebrated? It takes a village to raise a child.  Part of that village very well probably includes childfree couples or individuals.  They may not be raising a child but  in providing a unique mentoring  of not being a parent, these individuals often can be the ‘adult’ sounding board that a child may need and provide insight to the parent(s) about the uniqueness of the child.

To my friends who parent: enjoy your day. May it be full of love of the rewards of your hard work.  To my friends who struggle on days like this, my thoughts are with you.  We don’t live in a Hallmark world, I just wish we’d catch up to it.