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LIFE IS FOR LIVING, LIVE IT!

Life is for living

And love is for giving

And joy is for passing around

Join hands with each other

And love one another

And let’s let the music abound

Life is too short to waste it on gloom

Don’t let your love slip away so soon

Join hands with each other

And love one another

And let’s celebrate this good day.

I’ve always loved this song but it has hit me lately that people seem to have forgotten the first line. LIFE IS FOR LIVING. I bring this up because yet another person has said a something that drives me buggy. “You’ve done so much in your life”. If it’s said by a woman it goes with a look that is either envious or is followed by the question, “Didn’t you ever want to get married and have kids?” Then I get a pitying look or confused when I say “no”.

If a guy says it, they are either disapproving or wondering how I did stuff. I tell them I take chances and that at 60 I’ve had time to do shit. Girls can do anything they choose to do. Life had no gender.

Either way, it makes me wonder about people. You can’t do things or have adventures if you don’t get off the couch and live.

I don’t live my life wrapped in cotton wool and I grew up in the age where the predominant button worn was “Question Authority.” Now kids are taught do what you are told. Don’t question authority, be a good little girl. Bad things don’t happen and if you don’t like something, say you don’t want to do it and you won’t have to. BULL SHIT!

When those things don’t line up and they fail at something or bad things happen, they yell “TRIGGER WARNING”. Well, if you are always avoiding life, you are going to have a big surprise when life doesn’t avoid you.

People die, bad things happen to you, and sometimes you have to do things you don’t like. DEAL WITH IT!

When I was a little girl, I played with the boys most of the time because a dirt clod war in the tree house was more fun than tea in my play house. When I had to play with a Barbie, we sent her down the Amazon to explore not to put stupid fashions on her. As I recall she ended up hanging from a tree and we left her there.

When I was two I jumped off the roof because if Mary Martin could fly in Peter Pan if I got up high enough yelling “I can Fly!” I should be able to, uh no but it didn’t stop me from trying. Things happened that were bad. My dad beat the shit out of me and I would tell myself I was saving my mom and little brother from being hit and I probably was. I got molested by the man next door and never told a soul at home. My dad taught me how to defend myself when I was in 7th grade and I used what he had taught me in college when I was almost raped two different times. What did it teach me? It taught me that I was strong and could take life when it got bad. Being born blind in one eye taught me I could get along if I needed to and I could take the bullying that I got for it. And that I could protect others by standing up to bullies and that that scared bullies. When I was at an event at a college a blind girl attended and I remember being so mad at her. She was absolutely helpless even though she had a cane. She insisted she be walked everywhere even places she had already been taken. She had a cane! It was a college campus with braille markings and wide cement walkways. There was no excuse to be helpless except that her parents had taught her she was.

Working at camp I had adventures, I got struck by lightning. I learned if I had to kill a rattlesnake that I could even though it scared me. I took kids on backpack trips in the wilderness. We dealt with the pervert that was spying on the staff at night. When I was still at home my dad and I went down the American River when it was at flood and a Class iv not once but twice and I got a 3rd degree sunburn with the scars to match but I wouldn’t have traded it for the world because it was amazing. One of the most fun things I’ve ever done. I took rock climbing because to get my degree I had to either take sailing or rock climbing and I broke my foot on a rock face. I still got an A in the class because I kept coming on crutches. I learned that I really hated the idea of falling but if I had to I could climb and that I could trust the guy on the other end of the rope. I chose rock climbing because I really hate to get wet or swim.

I was always one of a few girls in those classes. My specialty was Outdoor Resource Management/ Naturalist Interpreter. I took a lot of math and science to get that degree and I also took Survival, backpacking, High Risk Outdoor Adventuring (which mostly involved how wilderness could kill you) and a lot of other classes that women just did not take. The women in the Rec dept were taking Recreation for the disabled, Playground management and all the acceptable “girl” courses and they were boring as shit.

You do not grow without doing something, without taking chances, without getting bruised and broken and burnt. I still have a lot of growing to do but I’ve learned to love and lose when most of my family has died starting with my great-grandma when I was 5. I’ve had my heartbroken when I lost family, friends and lovers, pets or jobs and I get back up and I don’t yell “TRIGGER WARNING”. Real life doesn’t have trigger warnings. I’m not saying anything is easy. It isn’t and it can be very hard. I’ve had deep depressions, and I have tried to leave the planet when I was younger because my heart hurt. I won’t ever do it again unless I get a terminal diagnosis but if I do I will have lived first.

I have to say that my grandmother was the one who taught me to be brave and to have adventures. She went to the Yukon Gold Rush in 1906 when she was 16 with her girlfriend on a freighter. Before there were cruise ships or even very many phones, no planes if it got scary. She arrived in San Francisco shortly after the quake and came home with postcards of the devastation. When she was here in LA she climbed the local mountains before there were roads in the Angeles National Forest. Those wouldn’t be built until the 1930s. She was a silversmith, a leather worker. She did all kinds of needlework. She read constantly. She taught me divination and I have no idea where she learned it. When I was little she and my grandpa drove me all over LA to have adventures and see and do things. The first gift I got after my eye surgery was a beautiful book of Grimm’s Fairy Tales because she wanted to let me know she knew I would be able to see when everyone else was wondering if the operation would work. She taught me to trust and to try and I have for the most part. I have learned there are things to fear in life but courage means do it if you can and if you can’t accept that part of you to but you have to at least try.

Always remember to live or you will be old and wonder what you’ve missed and you will say to someone, “Wow, you’ve done a lot.” And you won’t ever have done anything. If I hadn’t learned those things I wouldn’t have come out in 1979 when very few were out of the closet. I wouldn’t have left the safe but boring and non-working for me, haven of the Presbyterian church I was raised in to be a pagan. I wouldn’t have been able to write my stories because I wouldn’t have had the experience to able to write.

Go out today and do something you’ve wondered about. Do something new. Learn something. Do something that might hurt, read something hard or painful. Face life with a full heart. Life is an adventure and you will miss the adventure if you don’t. Why watch Indiana Jones when you can be Indiana Jones even in a small way. BE AN ADVENTURER!.

Did I make a difference?

When I went back to college to get my degree from CSUN, I joined rap groups and other campus groups for lesbians on campus. I would be a member until I graduated in 1984. Somewhere along the line I came out to one of my recreation professors because of something he had said in class and since very few people were out in those days even in LA he asked me to give talks about being gay to his classes and I did several each semester.

The most fun ones were the ones I was actually in. He would announce that there was a guest speaker and I would stand up and the shock would reverberate around the room. Since my attire in those days was generally jeans, a tshirt and a flannel shirt, it shouldn’t have been a shock to them but it was, and then the fun would start.

I learned very quickly to set some ground rules for the Q&A. They were: don’t ask me anything you don’t want to answer yourself. This stopped the sex questions and the second was, no Bible thumping, mostly because once that started the person who wanted to do it stopped listening and nothing could be communicated after that started.

As I said yesterday, it lead to a lot of odd questions from odd people.  The guy who announced I had become a lesbian was one of the nut jobs. I can still see his face when I told him that he was awfully vain to think I lived my life in the eventuality that someday I might meet him. He really hated that he got laughed at for it and now the climate of crazy MRAs might have gotten me raped or worse but thankfully nothing happened.

There were always the football BMOC asshats who would announce to the whole class that all I needed was a good fuck and didn’t really have a comeback when I would answer “yes I had and it was from a woman thank you very much”.

I still remember being about to go into a class to speak when a really cute  dyke walked by and we both looked at each other and smiled and walked on. Gaydar at its finest. And one of the first questions I was asked was “is there such a thing as gaydar and how does one get it?” This person quite clearly indicated that they wanted to know so they could attack gay people or out them so I lied and said there was no such thing all the while smiling to myself about what had just happened out in the hall.

And then there were the two women that made all of the trouble and hate that I had sometimes faced doing it all worthwhile. Two women came up to me and stopped me outside one of my classes and thanked me for speaking afew weeks earlier in their class. They told me that I had given them the courage to come out and to be together. If no other thing came out of it, that made it all okay. I had gotten screamed at, told I was in league with Satan and a whole lot of other nastiness but that made it okay.

I sometimes wonder if those people listened and remembered if their kids came out to what I had said and if it helped them be kinder to their child or a friend or anyone else. I hope I made a difference but one never really knows, does one?

How hearts break

Hearts can get broken in tiny increments and hearts can be broken in the flash of an ax. When you love someone with a terminal disease your heart breaks in tiny painful and deep slices. When you love someone with the terminal disease if they pass into dementia, the blow lands hard and is no longer a tiny slice, it is the ax blow. And you stand alone helpless because now you get no feedback that is positive and it hurts.

M has now passed into the realm of dementia. Dementia for each person seems to be a different place. Sometimes there are lucid moments that can steal your breath and hope springs because you think they might stay but then they slip back into that faeryland and you lose them again and it hurts even more. Some dementia is a land the loved one never returns from and you stand there a stranger to the one you love, adrift and bereft of any comfort because you no longer are part of their landscape.

M can’t even really communicate what that new land she ventures into is like because the ALS has stolen that too. D’s heart is breaking and I know Di and mine are too.

M is our sister in our Grove, she is a sunny spot in the four of us. She is a vital piece in our friendship and she is passing into the realms of faery. She doesn’t know where she is and she has lost where she is in our time.

I wish I could be there for D, but at the moment that isn’t possible and it hurts my heart.

This isn’t the first time in my life that life has turned cruel and it won’t be the last but it doesn’t get any easier.

Coming out isn’t easy — Part 3

I said I came out by the Oops method because I did. I had been moved out for a while and for some reason was over at my parent’s house gardening, I think, and my mom must have started at least four sentences with “when you get married”. I finally lost it and said I wasn’t getting married and she lost it. She lost it at the top of her lungs. She kept screaming, “You’re just like your brother!” Well duh?

She had met all my friends who were out and she liked them but my being out meant her stakes in the “I have to show off my grandchildren at church” lottery had dropped astronomically. What she never figured out was that even if I had been straight she would never have been allowed near my kids. She was just too mean and self-centered a person. To the point that when I had an emergency hysterectomy many years later I had to ban her from visiting with Security because she said she was going to stop it and I was being a hypochondriac. Even when told I was going to die without it, it didn’t matter to her because everything was about her and according to the surgeon after I was about 2 weeks from dying from gangrene.

She really didn’t want grandchildren, she just wanted to have them to show off to everyone. My mom was all about her image and how she looked to others. Sadly, my sister and I, by being the least girly girls ever had started embarrassing her in public early in our lives. I was an obvious nerd by the time I was 6 and a lot of people fed that and considering that was in 1960 that says a lot about whom they were.

Example? At the yearly Choir retreat, the men of the choir went diving and brought up a huge kelp tree onto the beach and it was full of creatures. I am told, I ordered them to stop and not touch anything until I got my books on sea creatures, tidepools, shells and other beach life  and they honoured that request of an excited 6 year old and I went and got them and they helped me identify everything and collect everything that I wanted to save in my plastic bucket. That was an error in 6 year old judgment because I collected a teeny tiny lobster along with a really tiny octopus and some small starfish. The lobster put a hole in my bucket and the water ran out and they died sometime in the night but as a 6 year old I had established my nerd/geek propeller head status. So not a girly girl.

Other people at church or at least, the choir loved us and didn’t really care. They knew us from birth, it really shouldn’t have been a surprise when we came out. I do have to admit my parents lost some close friends from their Sunday School class/social group because they obviously “hadn’t raised us right.” But no one from the choir ever loved us any less that I know of. Mom’s best friend did give her a book called “Where do I go to resign” about de-gaying your kid but for the most part no one ever said anything to me or Cam.

Once she had me drive her to what was allegedly her psychotherapist at church. I don’t remember why she didn’t want to drive but sometime during the drive I figured out if I went in with her there would be a full court press to get me to REPENT and go straight. So I just politely refused to get out of the car when we got there and she got really mad and she had to go inside without me because she couldn’t tell the truth about setting me up. She was convinced she wouldn’t get into heaven if we stayed queer. And she felt she looked bad.

It was when she found out I was a witch and went blabbing all over church that I was worshipping Satan things got said. But I wasn’t and anyone with a brain should have known that but I haven’t been back to church except for my dad’s funeral since. Mom had the minister do an altar call at my dad’s funeral because she knew my coven and some of the Temple of Isis were coming. I have never been so furious in my life and I was glad I was sitting with my aunt and cousins and not up front with her or there might have had to be two funerals.

I had a graveside service for mom and gave the minister readings that were really stealth pagan readings like the Gaelic blessing, Deep Peace. It made me happy, it made the Christians happy because they sang the incomplete version in choir and it made my pagan friends happy.

I did go to both Cam’s funerals at his Episcopal churches, one near where he lived in northern California and one at the one he went to in Pasadena before he moved up north. At the one up north I was asked to read something at the reception. It was a little easier because I only knew a few of his friends. I read the Hymn to Osiris from the Book of Coming Forth AKA the Egyptian Book of the Dead. I did announce that I was a Priestess and pagan and watched some mouths drop open. That was kind of fun. Mom couldn’t go and I was very glad. The SF Gay Men’s Chorus sang because he was a member. It was really beautiful.

I guess for most people Coming Out is a process that never really ends. You are always coming out to someone new whether coming out as a lesbian or as a pagan or as both. And lot of times it doesn’t make the bigots happy. It makes people question themselves and they really don’t like having to questions their own life choices.

I have lost many friends over the years over one or the other. It hurts but you learn that the ones who always love you no matter what are the ones that matter and the ones that don’t are the ones that you have to leave behind on your journey and maybe you have made it easier to love the next gay or pagan person that comes into their lives. Knowledge does create change. And love is all that really matters and we choose our families the older we get and if it means we lose blood family, were they really your family?

Coming out is never easy — part 2

Part 2

There were a lot of things I had to work through. My parent’s church was heavily anti-gay even though every minister at the church just about had a gay kid including the executive pastor and the one my mom went to when she began to figure it out, who told her there was no such thing as lesbians when his own daughter was a dyke.

The next year at camp I was almost ready to come out when this woman I could not stand kissed me in front of the kids in the dining hall and told me to come out and I went running to our camp director who was also an out lesbian that year who just laughed. I’m afraid that scared me into the closet for another year especially since I later got that counselor fired for molesting some kids and assaulting another on a backpack trip and all I kept thinking was “I’m not like that” even though I knew the rest of the camp counselors were really nice people. Some of the one’s friends still haven’t forgiven me to this day for getting Huggie fired.

The third year at camp I spent edging out of the closet a toe at a time because I was in love and because I was A&C/ Nature Director I had a place to sleep in Lakesite Unit but no kid responsibilities so I could sleep around the camp in whatever shelter my crush was living in that week and people were convinced something was happening even though it wasn’t. It was also the year we had Peter Pervert running around at night torturing counselors by appearing at their bed after we were lights out and trying to sleep so I had an excuse of being extra security in the worst hit units. By the time I was out of camp that year I had finally admitted at least to myself that yes, I was a lesbian but it was not easy nor a fun process.

It would be years before I was out to my parents. I only came out to my brother because all my friends said Cam was gay so the first time we were alone I asked him and his answer was “Are you because all my friends say you’re gay?” We ended up abandoning the errand we were supposed to be on and went to the grand opening of the first Different Light bookstore when it opened in Silverlake and meeting a bunch of Cam’s friends.

Mom confronted Cam first about being gay and it wasn’t that bad for him when he said yes. When she finally figured out I was during an Oops moment on my part, she started screaming because my being gay made her getting grandchildren had dropped by 2/3s. Good thing my little sister wasn’t really out until mom had dementia.

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“2 queers and a question mark”

Meanwhile my friends were convinced my sister was gay too and used to call our family, “two queers and a question mark”. My sister played softball and was really good in sports, refused to wear dresses unless my mom threatened her lifetime and would only wear her hair really short. She had better dyke credentials than I did.

Coming our is never easy — Part 1

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I came out in 1979 and it wasn’t easy. I didn’t know why or what I was growing up. I just knew I had no desire to having anything to do with boys. I spent a lot of my time in high school avoiding dates. My senior year in high school a bunch of us gravitated together and went around in a big group. I now know that most of us were gay and the rest just liked being in a group with no pressure. We confused the hell out of the rest of the school because we seemed to be always switching partners and the rest of the school sometimes thought we had something very weird or kinky going on but what we were was a mutual protection society. My brother, Tony, and Jerry were cute and always had some girl after them and hanging out with me, Georgia, and Michelle meant we were nice beards for them as they were for me. Clayton was a good friend and a late bloomer, 10 years after high school he turned out to be gorgeous but then he was over 6 feet tall, pizza faced, braces and skinny. There were a few other girls that would join us but we were the core. We’d go to the movies and sit in different couple combinations so no one could figure out who was supposed to be with whom. It was also cover for things like homecoming dance that we wanted to go to but didn’t want a date. Cam, my brother, Jerry and I all went to the same church and Tony when to another Presbyterian church in Glendale so we had that in common too. None of us were out to ourselves let alone each other.

I spent the first 2 years of college avoiding dating except for when a sorority sister would ambush me with a blind date. One poor guy I ended up with twice and there was absolutely no chemistry. Many years later I found out why when I monitored the AIDS quilt and found his name lovingly embroidered on a large panel. I wish I had known in college and we might have been friends instead of something to avoid. That hurt.

I left school to work at a year round camp and things started to relax and for the first time in my life I felt free to be me. I started at a YWCA camp in 1975 and worked all of 1976 until we ran out of money in the spring of 1977. My boss, a Camp Fire Girl like myself talked me into working for her a the Girl Scout camp she has been hired to direct to be her Arts & Crafts Director. That year was a year in hell and it was a wonder that I decided to try a different camp the next year and not just stop

. That year I fell heavily in love with a straight woman and scared the crap out of her and me since I really didn’t understand what was going on. That year there weren’t any out lesbians or if there were they didn’t come out to me and I felt really alone. In July I got struck by lightning and pissed my friend, the boss off for scaring the kids and then in August I ended up getting poisoned by buckthorn and almost dying at camp because they wouldn’t take me to the doctor until I was unconscious but that is a story for another time. The poisoning happened during a staff game and my boss got mad at me for that too and even though I was really sick she sent me home with a concussion, a deep wound from surgery on my calf to try and get the thorn out and shock and a fever of a 105 and a blood pressure of 80/60 when they finally took it a day later. Camp was done for that year and I never heard from my boss again.

I learned then to keep things to myself and when I went to my next GS camp I thought I would do the same. The first night of precamp was a full moon and I got invited to a top of the road party by an bunch of the staff. We couldn’t drink in camp so you had to go to the top of the road to partake and this group of staff turned out to be lesbians and had assumed I was but I still didn’t really even know what a lesbian was. They were very confused when they figured out I was clueless about why I was invited. They left me alone for most of the rest of the summer and I had started to process that I might really be like them.