If I Could Turn Back Time: an Ode to Crystal

There’s just no way this is happening.  And yet, against everything my soul is fighting against, I find that it’s true.  You see, one of my dearest friends, Crystal, has passed away.  As I sit here looking at a blank computer screen, it seems unfathomable to me to believe that my friend, my “bestie,” my partner-in-crime, has passed.  It doesn’t seem possible that someone so full of life, love and laughter wouldn’t be with us any longer.  All day, I’ve passed through a myriad of emotions ranging from sadness, denial, depression, anger, despair, numbness – and as I type this, I’m in complete and utter shock that all of this has happened.

My dear, sweet friend Crystal is one of those people who is an absolute joy to be around.  She has a way of making you smile, laugh, even feel good about the world around you even when everything is crashing down and miserable.  Through the years, she’s been a rock to so many people, and someone who has always been there to encourage those who are downtrodden to get up and try again.  If there was ever a person who was an angel in disguise, it’s definitely her.  I can’t count how many times she’s been there for me, encouraged me… I simply can’t believe it.  I keep thinking this just doesn’t seem real, that there has to be some mistake.  She is the one who stood by me when times were hard, and gave me the strength to carry on when I thought there was nowhere left to go.

She has always been there for me, regardless of the circumstances.  If I needed a shoulder to cry on, she was there.  If I needed to vent, she was there.  If I needed someone to just be a friend and joke around with, she was there.  I remember how she was such a support to me in difficult times, and such a friend during good times.  There were so many times we joked with each other about doing our Cher impersonations in our own version of carpool karaoke that it almost seemed to be iconic moments in time.  Now, looking back, the lyrics, “If I could turn back time,” have never been so poignant.

There have been so many people who have been touched by her love and generosity, even some who would never have the honor of meeting her face-to-face.  Crystal has always been the person you could count on to quietly lend a hand to the homeless, the downtrodden, the abused; anyone who needed love and compassion was sure to find it if they came in contact with her.  Even those who will never know it was her have been recipients of her love and kindness:  from those who benefited from shoebox gifts at Christmas and various other charities, to those who were in the domestic violence shelter… these people benefited in some way from her generosity and love.

Crystal has always been extremely loyal to her family and friends, and we were blessed to count ourselves in that number.  I personally know that during times of great sadness and despair, she has always been there for me to help me in any way she possibly could.  There are very few people in this world today who have the courage to show the kind of love and compassion Crystal showed.  It’s not everyday you discover these people, and my life has truly been made so much better and richer for having known her.

The main, driving force in her life was her Christian faith.  I realize this has been said about many people, but Crystal is one of the few people who actually “walked the walk” instead of “talking the talk,” as so many people phrase it.  There are many examples of her good works I could share, but the most obvious example of her faith has been her desire to help others around her.  If there was ever a person you could count on to fight for what’s right in this world, it would be her.  I’ve witnessed her do everything in her power to help pick others up and lend a hand in times of need.  If you ever needed anyone in your corner, you were extremely blessed to find Crystal there.

I hope to one day be half the person she was in this life.  To find such a person to walk along beside, even if only for a short time in this journey, is a rare blessing. I’m extremely thankful to have shared this time with Crystal, and I look forward to meeting her again on the other side of eternity.

I love you, my friend. I’m so heartbroken you’re gone, but I know you’re better now and happier now than you have ever been. We may be parted right now, but I know in my heart this isn’t the end. I’ll see you again, and I can’t wait to hear what you’ve been up to in heaven. Until then, know that those of us who are left will keep watch over each other, and always hold you close in our hearts.

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2016: The Annus Horribilis, vol. 2

In 1992, Her Majesty The Queen opened a speech with these words:  “1992 is not a year on which I shall look back with undiluted pleasure.  In the words of one of my more sympathetic correspondents, it has turned out to be an annus horribilis.  I sometimes wonder how future generations will judge the events of this tumultuous year.”  I’m not sure about you, my dear reader, but I believe these words could also describe our look back at the aftermath of 2016.

I think this past year can be summed up in four words:  what the heck happened?!?  While I realize that my memory isn’t one for the record books, I don’t remember a year where we’ve dealt with more hatred, death, bitterness,division and all-around disappointment than we have this year.

On a personal note, this is the year I lost my last living grandparent. My grandma on my father’s side passed away on June 10.  Her health declined rather quickly in the last few weeks of her life, but I’m so grateful to have been able to see her and talk with her before she passed.  It will be I time I shall forever hold dear to my heart.

This year marked a milestone for me.  After over ten years at the same job, I made a move to another office.  So instead of being an oncology nurse, I’m now in pulmonary.

But enough about me, on to the rest of the world…

We’ve dealt with the Flint, Michigan water crisis, which started when high levels of lead was found in the citizens water supply.  Trying to fix it became no easy task, and to this day, the poor people living there are still having to deal with the red tape and other day-to-day problems this has caused.

The Powerball lottery reached a record 1.6 billion (yes, that’s Billion, with a “B”), and I didn’t win one red cent of it.Powerball Lottery

A bunch of redneck he-hanks in Oregon, led by some Jethro Bodine wannabe, decided they wanted to go live in a wildlife preserve to protest the government not letting them do whatever it was they wanted to do on federal property.  They became such a laughing stock by not thinking their little sit-in completely through and going on youtube or wherever asking people to send them supplies, that they were actually sent, get this… boxes upon boxes of dildos!  Eventually, their great leader was caught outside the compound with a few others in his car when they were pulled over for a minor traffic violation.  Things went from bad to worse when one of them got testy and decided he wanted to run towards the cop and throw a hissy-fit (or something along those lines, I forget) and get himself shot. Things went downhill from there.  Let’s just say they’re all in jail now, or on trial, or both.A pro-militia supporter holds a constitution while chanting

This year we saw a rise in police shootings in the black community, which brought about the Black Lives Matter movement to counteract the shootings. Then, an All Lives Matter movement started to counteract the Black Lives Matter movement.  Throughout the entire year I’ve seen my friends go back-and-forth with each other over who was right and who was wrong. Personally I think that having sunk to the point of needing either movement and not automatically treating each other as equals and having mutual respect for one another, is a sad commentary on where we are as a society.2015-09-04-1441395137-7049687-image3

A new game came out on smart phones everywhere called, Pokemon GO.  If I understand it correctly, you run around with your phone catching imaginary pokemons, and he who has the most, wins.  People were running around like they had lost their ever-loving minds, standing in the middle of roads, running onto others private property, and even falling off cliffs to their death trying to catch these things. I don’t know about you, but trying to catch some Peek-a-choo, Peak-at-you, Hoochi-hoo, Coochie-Coo, or whatever they’re called isn’t enticing enough for me to risk my life.  Thank you, but I’ll pass on this one.1-go-300x169-jpg

The biggest news, for myself anyway, is the vote in Great Britain to leave the European Union.  The “Brexit” vote, as it had become known, came as a surprise to practically everyone, since all the pollsters predicted the victory would go to the “stay” campaign. Ironically, it was only AFTER the results were announced the next day that Google declared there was a huge uptick in the people of Great Britain looking up, “what is the European Union?”  David Cameron resigned as Prime Minister, as well as other Tory leaders.  Theresa May was placed in the role of Prime Minister, all in a time span of approximately two weeks.Great Britain and European Union

The summer Olympics were held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, even though there were doom-and-gloom predictions of the city not being ready for them, due to being behind on construction of the proper facilities.  To add insult to injury, they also had to deal with the Zika virus outbreak, as well as reports of the water being unsafe to swim in.  For the most part, however, the games went smoothly from what I understand.  But of course, I didn’t watch them since I don’t keep up with the volleyball.maxresdefault

Samsung began selling the Galaxy Note 7 to much fanfare, only to discover once you got yours, it was destined to spontaneously combust into flames, burning you and everything around it.  Even airlines refused to allow them on their flights. Samsung eventually had to discontinue the phone, even after the initial recall to fix the problem failed. I knew it was hailed as the new hot item, but I think actually setting itself on fire is taking the idea of being “hot” to the extreme.160902161818-02-samsung-galaxy-burnt-phone-note-7-exlarge-tease

The closer we got to Halloween, the more we started hearing about these bizarre clown sightings, where weirdos dressed up in clown costumes would just stand in the edge of the woods near playgrounds, creeping out kids and parents alike.  If it was just an isolated incident, I could understand that it was most likely one sicko with nothing better to do than scare people, but it seemed to be happening all over the country.  Simultaneously. That just added way too many levels to the creepiness for my taste.download

One of the most unusual things about 2016 is the amount of notable people and celebrities who have died this year.  It seemed that it started in January, and never stopped.  Here’s a list of some who have died, although it’s by no means a complete list:

Pat Harrington, Jr
Most famous for playing Dwayne Schneider on “One Day at a Time.”  Died January 6.

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David Bowie
Iconic musician, actor.  Died January 10.

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Rene Angelil
Celine Dion’s husband and manager.  Died January 14.Celine Dion & Rene Angelil Arriving At

Alan Rickman
Actor famous for roles in “Harry Potter,” “Love Actually,” “Die Hard,” and others. Died January 14.alan2

Glenn Frey
Co-Founder of the band “The Eagles.”  Died January 18.635887447644481100-xxx-glennfrey-glader-hp2a5017-v01-78965680

Joe Alaskey
Best know for voicing “Daffy Duck” and “Bugs Bunny.”  Died February 3.020316-joe-alaskey-composite-getty-3

Maurice White
Founder of “Earth, Wind & Fire.”  Died February 3.maurice-white

George Gaynes
Best known for roles as the commandant in the “Police Academy” movies as well as “Punky Brewster.”  Died February 15.960

Angela “Bid Ang” Raiola
From the reality show “Mob Wives.”  Died February 18.960-1

Harper Lee
Author of “To Kill a Mockingbird.”  Died February 19.Nelle Harper Lee

Tony Burton
Played Apollo Creed’s trainer in the “Rocky” movies.  Died February 25.8bb103a0-3c0e-4fca-935f-beb470b8f0f4-large16x9_tonyburtonz

The Earl of Strathmore
Michael Fergus Bowes-Lyon, the Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne, cousin to Her Majesty The Queen.  Died February 27.

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Joey Feek
Part of the country music duo “Joey+Rory.”  Died March 4.gty-joey-feek-cf_151214_16x9_992

Pat Conroy
Author of “The Prince of Tides.”  Died March 4.gettyimages-697790_wide-52f67899aee1aa239c59c58300242f10ca4e9dca-s900-c85

George Martin
Manager of “The Beatles,” often called “The 5th Beetle.”  Died March 8.george-martin

Phife Dawg
From the hip-hop group, A Tribe Called Quest.  Died March 22.tribecafilmfestival2011portraitstudioczmefy2dmkal

Garry Shandling
Actor most famous for “The Larry Sanders Show.”  Died March 24.gs_headshot

Jim Harrison
Author, “Legends of the Fall.”  Died March 26.28harrison-obit-master675

Mother Mary Angelica
Founder of the Catholic TV network, EWTN.  Died March 27.160327-mother-angelica_3328b036067ec2fc40d88a3c54c3ad7b-nbcnews-ux-2880-1000

Patty Duke
Star of “The Patty Duke Show.”  Died March 29.29906170001_4821895521001_4821837867001-vs

Erik Bauersfeld
Voice of General Ackbar from “Star Wars.”  Died April 3.admiral_ackbar_erik_bauersfeld_split

Doris Roberts
Actress who played the mother on “Everybody Loves Raymond.”  Died April 17.50942744CBS_CON025635067

Prince
Musician known for “Purple Rain,” “When Doves Cry,” “Raspberry Beret,” and “Let’s Go Crazy,” among many others.  Died April 21.prince

Michelle McNamera
Crime writer and wife of comedian Patton Oswalt.  Died April 21.160423102606-michelle-mcnamara-patton-oswalt-exlarge-169

Papa Wemba
Known as “the king of Congolese Rumba.”  Died April 24.Congolese singer Papa Wemba performs dur

Billy Paul
Singer best known for “Me and Mrs. Jones.”  Died April 24.billy-paul

Alan Young
Actor best known for his role in “Mr. Ed.”  Died May 19.21youngsub-obit-master768

Muhammad Ali
Award-winning boxer.  Died June 3.Muhammad Ali 1970

Anton Yelchin
Known as Chekov in the new “Star Trek” films.  Died June 19.anton-yelchin-2015-869x1024

Elie Wiesel
Holocaust survivor and humanitarian.  Died July 2.elie-wiesel-9

Miss Cleo
Famous for playing a Jamaican psychic in infomercials.  Died July 26.miss-cleo-dead1

The Duke of Westminster
Gerald Grosnever, the 6th Duke of Westminster.  Died August 9.Duke of Westminster death

Kenny Baker
Played the droid R2-D2 in “Star Wars.”  Died August 13.1_star10

Gene Wilder
Known for playing the title role in “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” as well as characters in “Haunted Honeymoon” and “Young Frankenstein.”  Died August 28._90962477_mediaitem87811809

The Lady Chablis
Transgender performer made famous by the book, “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil,” and played herself in the movie version.  Died September 8.ripladychablis2016-500x565

Alexis Arquette
Transgender actress.  Died on September 11.169768042_1473621270

Shawty Lo
Atlanta rapper.  Died September 21.

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Agnes Nixon
Creator and writer of “All My Children,” “One Live to Live,” and other soap operas. Died September 28.agnes-nixon-dead-ftr

Shimon Perez
Nobel prize winning Prime Minister of Israel.  Died September 28.166

Raine Spencer
Raine, Countess Spencer, step-mother of the late Diana, Princess of Wales.  Died October 21.Countess Spencer

Janet Reno
U.S. Attorney General under President Clinton.  Died November 7.janet-reno

Leonard Cohen
Canadian singer-songwriter.  Died November 7.1411561144285-cached

Robert Vaughn
Actor from “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.”  Died November 11.172582164_1478889790

Gwen Ifill
Co-anchor of PBS “Newshour.”  Died November 14.gwenifill

Florence Henderson
Best known for portraying the mother on “The Brady Bunch.”  Died November 24.agape_rg3_florence-henderson-horiz_s4x3_lg

The Hon. Margaret Rhodes
Margaret Rhodes, cousin and best friend to Her Majesty The Queen.  Died November 25.Margaret Rhodes

Fidel Castro
Former President of Cuba.  Died November 25.1420832283181-cached

Ron Glass
Actor best known for his roles on “Barney Miller” and “Firefly.”  Died November 25.

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John Glenn
The first astronaut to orbit the earth.  Died December 8.john-glenn

Joseph Mascolo
Actor best known for his role as super-villain Stefano DiMera on “Days of our Lives.”  Died December 7.

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Alan Thicke
Actor who played the father on “Growing Pains.”  Died December 13.2014-08-08-alanthickehs1

Zsa Zsa Gabor
Hollywood icon and socialite.  Died December 18.zsa-zsa-gabor-1

George Michael
Musician best known as the front-man for the 80’s rock group Wham!, and his later solo career.  He was known for having hits with songs such as “Faith,” “Father Figure,” “Careless Whisper,” “Outside,” and many others.  Died December 25.

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Ricky Harris
Comedian with a recurring role on “Everybody Hates Chris.”  Died December 26.58627e111500002300915fdc

Barbara Tarbuck
Actress best known as Lady Jane Jacks on “General Hospital,” as well as Mother Superior Claudia on “American Horror Story: Asylum.”  Died December 27.

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Carrie Fisher
Best known as Princess Leia from “Star Wars.”  Died December 27.carrie_fisher_2013

Debbie Reynolds
Actress and singer.  Carrie Fisher’s mother.  Died December 28.debbie-reynolds

While not a complete list, and I’m sure I’ve missed some, it’s astounding to me how many notable people have passed away this year.  I’m convinced there is some kind of cosmic serial killer on the loose in Hollywood.  I do hope they’ll catch this cosmic killer before he/she does anymore damage!

Since this was an election year, I would be remiss to not mention the election cycle we just survived.  The Americans just experienced the most bizarre election that I can personally remember.  Mind you, I’m not one to get into American politics, but this year was different for me.  To begin, the Republican party seemed to begin the election cycle with everyone who was a Republican running for President. Eventually, they whittled away their candidates until they were left with one:  Donald Trump.  On the Democrat side, they had Hillary Clinton running against Bernie Sanders for the nomination, and it was Hillary who won the nomination of her party.  In the spirit of full disclosure, I have to tell you the only reason I was remotely interested in the American elections was Hillary. I’ve been a huge fan of hers ever since her husband, Bill, was President.  Even in those days I wanted her to one day be President herself.  Don’t ask me why… I chalk it up to a “cult of personality” thing more than any stance on any issue.

Given the vile, misogynistic, xenophobic, fascist, nauseating and overall repulsive things Donald Trump said during his campaign about minorities, women, LGBTQ’s and anyone who isn’t a white, straight, Republican male, I couldn’t in my wildest nightmares imagine this guy would have a chance to become President.  During the campaign, videos emerged of his rally’s where people were attacked, thrown out, and bullied.  The man was endorsed by practically every hate group in the country, including the Ku Klux Klan, who said he was the candidate that “most embodied their beliefs.”  And yet, Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton in the electoral college, although she won the popular vote by nearly three million more votes. Now the orange hemorrhoid is about to lead the country for the next four years.

On the other hand, there actually HAS been some good to come out of this year.  I met some amazing people at my new job who are absolutely wonderful.  I had to buy a new car when my Mazda gave up the ghost, but so far, my new gray Nissan is running really well. We nicknamed it “The Gray Ghost.”  We’ve made plans to visit England this coming February, and airline tickets and hotel have been reserved.

So having said all that, here’s to the end of 2016, the annus horribilis vol.2. Let’s all hope and pray 2017 is somehow much better.  Lord knows, it couldn’t get much worse.

Runway Runaway

I’ve been mulling over the idea of whether or not to write this particular post, due to the possibility of offending certain people. With that in mind, and not being one to back down from setting the ill-informed straight, here we go… and to “heck” if the guilty are upset.

Lately I have found myself being an attendee at a few weddings and funerals; two very different observances in the circle of life, but both extremely important. While attending these particular ceremonies, I have noticed (as one would over the last few years) that I need to remind my dear, precious readers of the importance of at least one very important thing.

What is that thing, you might ask? To put it simply, it’s HOW YOU DRESS!! Of course, there are other things I could discuss concerning how to conduct yourselves during these events, but for this particular blog entry, allow me to focus on this one particular subject.

There is hardly anything in our lives that are more important than weddings and funerals. They are, for the most part, once in a lifetime events for those who are the center of such functions (although I know there are those who marry two, three, four or more times… as well as those who “die,” but there’s a mistaken identity which leads others to believe the dearly departed is another person… or perhaps I’ve been watching too much Days of our Lives, you never know). In times such as these, it is extremely important to remember that those in attendance should have at least one thing for the person or persons you are honoring: that thing is called RESPECT.

For most of us, it pretty much goes without saying that you should dress appropriately for said ceremony, but unfortunately, it seems that it is becoming more common among some people to totally disregard the appropriate dress for such occasions. That brings us to the point that I feel I simply have to remind you of what is acceptable and what is not.

While I thought about discussing each event in individual blog entries, I decided to lump them together since it seems the offending individuals treat both with the same disregard for decency. When you are invited to a wedding, that should alert you to the fact that the couple thought enough about you that they decided to share their most important day with you and that you would, at the very least, wear the appropriate attire based on the time of day the wedding will take place. As a general rule, that would include a suit and tie for men, and dress for women. Based on what time the wedding is to take place and the venue, a quick Google search would tell even the the most ill-informed what would be the most appropriate items to wear to said event. But even if you’re too stupid to read subtle hints, I can assure you that shorts and a t-shirt will not be on the list.

The same rules apply to funerals. If you loved or admired the dearly departed enough to attend their funeral, even the most common of attendees should have enough sense to wear something appropriate for such a ceremony. I have attended funerals lately where people have actually shown up with t-shirts with various wording printed on them, jeans, shorts, flip-flops, etc. Since these people seem to have no frame of reference to base their poor decisions on, let me be the first to tell you that this is not acceptable. At the very least during a funeral, you should wear a suit and tie or dress, similar to the proper attire for a wedding.

Now before you get all huffy-and-puffy and try to blow somebody’s house down, I completely understand and accept that there are exceptions to every rule. There are some situations where other attire would be completely appropriate. For example, I recently attended a memorial service for a very dear friend who wanted his service at the beach, led by a friend who asked others to share stories of their time together, and they specifically asked people to dress casually, in beach-appropriate clothes. It was an amazingly beautiful service, and it reflected the personality of our friend who passed away perfectly. That, my dear readers, is an instance where it’s totally acceptable to show up in shorts, flip-flops, t-shirts, etc.

The same exception can also apply to something like a backyard-barbecue-styled wedding, where the bride and groom have asked those in attendance to wear casual, street clothes. I’m hoping you can see a theme emerging for the exceptions, but if you’re much too daft to catch on, let me spell it out for you: only wear what I would call “street casual” clothes to such events if you’re told by the hosts that it’s the preferred style of dress. Got it? Lord have mercy, I hope so.

Not only does dressing appropriately for said functions show respect for those you’re honoring by your attendance, it also shows respect for YOURSELF. One would hope that when you go to functions such as weddings and funerals, you would also show enough respect for yourself as to want to make an effort to look your best. It may seem counter-intuitive, but actually, dressing appropriately will help deflect attention away from yourself (even though that might be slightly traumatic to those who are actually narcissistic enough think they’re always the center of attention, regardless of the situation), and allow the focus of attention to be on the ones you’re actually honoring by being at their service. When it’s all said and done, after all, it’s about them and not you.

Don’t misunderstand my little rant here by assuming I’m suggesting that everyone show up in the latest Christian Dior or Vera Wang ensemble to come off the runway. Far from it. If you’re someone on a tight budget (and believe me, I know there’s more of us than those who can afford designer clothing), I’d like to point out that even Walmart carries clothes that would be considered appropriate styles for such events. So you see, dear readers, dressing appropriately doesn’t have to break the bank. If you don’t have at least one suit or dress in your wardrobe for such events, now you can go out and get one. You never know when you’re going to need it. Believe me, no one is going to know where you got your clothes or how much you paid for them unless you’re one of those crass people who shout that kind of information from the rooftop.

Keep in mind, all of this is simply my opinion, which I realize in some circles doesn’t mean anything. You might disagree wholeheartedly with what I’ve just said, and that’s fine. You’d be wrong, but you can disagree all you’d like.

So having said all this, please keep in mind that if you ever get the chance to attend my wedding or funeral, I would personally prefer you dress for the occasion. A word of caution, however; if you come to my funeral in flip-flops and t-shirts, I will jump out of that casket, snatch you bald, and have security guards drag you out and throw you onto the street for showing such disregard for my memory.

Got it? Good.

Of Crime and Passion

First of all, I’d like to apologize to all my followers out there for not writing in such a long while. It seems once life speeds up and throws one thing after another at you, plus the lack of inspiration, writing seems to take a back seat to everything else going on in life.

To make everyone aware, my paternal Grandmother passed away this weekend. As you’ve most likely discerned from my previous posts, I’ve always been close to my Grandmothers. Even though I may have been closer to my maternal Grandmother (my Grandmother who passed away this weekend lived much farther away, so distance played a large part in our closeness growing up), that in no way diminishes the love I have for her. But that, as they say, is another topic for another time, when my head can wrap itself around everything that has transpired over the last few days.

The biggest news to come out of this weekend is, obviously, the mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. With everything going on in my own life, I was one of the last to hear the news until much later. It seems around fifty people were killed, along with an additional fifty-or-so people wounded when a shooter opened fire on a crowd inside a gay nightclub in Orlando named Pulse. I’ve heard some call it one of the worst mass-shootings in modern American history.

Since I’m one of those people who practically stay logged into Facebook, I soon saw all these reports being posted of the incident, and the horrific tales which soon followed. As I began scrolling through my friends posts and reading comments, one in particular stood out to me. Trying to come up with something meaningful to say about the incident was extremely difficult for me, given my own personal loss this weekend, but I think the following summed up what I was thinking more succinctly than any other. After receiving the authors permission (thank you so much, Alex Darke), I’d like to post the message in its entirety for all to read. I think it says a lot about the state of mind and the struggle fought by those affected by this tragedy.

Earlier today, a friend remarked: “I don’t understand. The way you are reacting, it’s almost like you knew someone in the club.”

Here’s the thing you need to understand about every LGBT person in your family, your work, and your cirle of friends:

We’ve spent most our lives being aware that we are at risk.

When you hear interviewers talking to LGBT folks and they say “It could have been here. I could have been me,” they aren’t exaggerating. I don’t care how long you’ve been out, how far down the road to self acceptance and love you’ve traveled, we are always aware that we are at some level of risk.

I’m about as “don’t give a shit what ANYONE thinks” as anyone you’ll ever meet… and when I reach to hold Matt’s hand in the car? I still do the mental calculation of “ok, that car is just slightly behind us so they can’t see, but that truck to my left can see right inside the car”. If I kiss Matt in public, like he leaned in for on the bike trail the other day, I’m never fully in the moment. I’m always parsing who is around us and paying attention to us. There’s a tension that comes with that… a literal tensing of the muscles as you brace for potential danger. For a lot us us, it’s become such an automatic reaction that we don’t even think about it directly any more. We just do it.

And then… over the last few years, it started to fade a little. It started to feel like maybe things were getting better. A string of Supreme Court decisions. Public opinion shifting to the side of LGBT rights. Life was getting better. You could breathe a little bit.

What happened with this event was one of a few things that are pretty dramatically demonstrated by how Matt and I are reacting to this. Matt came out fairly late, during the golden glow of the changing tide. He’s never dealt with something like this. It’s literally turned him inside out emotionally because all that stuff he read about that was just “then” became very much “NOW”. For me, I’ve had some time to adjust to the idea that people hate us enough to kill us. Matthew Shephard was my first real lesson in that. So this weekend was a sudden slap in the face, a reminder that I should never have let my guard down, should never have gotten complacent… because it could have been US.

Every LGBT person you know knows what I’m talking about. Those tiny little mental calculations we do over the course of our life add up… and we just got hit with a stark reminder that those simmering concerns, those fears… they probably won’t ever go away. We’ll never be free of them. Additionally, now we just got a lesson that expressing our love could result in the deaths of *others* completely unrelated to us. It’s easy to take risks when it’s just you and you’ve made that choice. Now there’s this subtext that you could set off someone who kills other people who weren’t even involved. And that’s just a lot.

That’s why I’m personally a bit off balance even though (or because, depending on how you look at it) I live in Texas and was not personally effected by this tragedy. Don’t get me wrong: nothing will change. I will still hold my husband’s hand in public. I will still kiss him in public. We’ll still go out and attend functions and hold our heads high.

But we will be doing those mental calculations for the rest of our lives. Those little PDAs you take for granted with your spouse. They come with huge baggage for us. Every single one is an act of defiance, with all that entails.

So do me a favor. Reach out to that LGBT person in your life. Friend, co-worker, or family. Just let them know you are thinking of them and you love them. That will mean the world to them right now. I promise you.

For me, reading this post and reflecting on the tragedy of this weekend really drove home the point of how hate and bigotry are still alive and well, even in spite of the recent examples of people being more tolerant and accepting of the LGBT community. Of course, I never thought it had gone away, but knew it was hiding in the shadows, ready to strike at any given moment. I suppose I never expected it to strike out in such a dramatic way. I suppose I say all this to express that I simply can’t understand how such crimes against humanity can occur to people who are passionate about nothing more than wanting to go about living their own lives on their own terms, loving another human being without causing harm to any other person on the planet. But hate is an all-consuming, relentless, deplorable state-of-mind, and it causes misery in its wake wherever it goes.

I pray for the families of the victims, hoping they can somehow find peace in all this chaos and sorrow. I pray for others affected by this tragedy that they can (and I know they will) find the strength to keep fighting the evil that seeks to destroy them and hold their head high, knowing that their bravery has overcome that which seeks to destroy them. To everyone personally affected by what has happened, please know that I stand with you in spirit, and I’m sending love your way and encouragement for you to keep being true to yourself, no matter the odds!

Prayer for France

Join with me in praying for the people of Paris, and for all those in France and the rest of the world touched by these senseless acts of terror:

Lord of all compassion,

We pray for all of those caught up in the midst of tragedy or disaster.

For those who have lost life and those working to save life,

For those who are worried for people they love,

For those who will see their loved ones no longer,

Lord have mercy.

For those in need of the peace that passes all understanding,

For all who turn to you in the midst of turmoil,

For those who cry out to you in fear and in love,

Lord have mercy.

For those in confusion and those in despair,

For those whose tears are yet to dry,

For those in need of your unending love,

Lord have mercy.

Amen.
from http://www.churchofengland.org

 

 

The Drama-Llama Goes To A Funeral

I’m sure that most people can agree that, most of the time, social media is a good thing. Sites such as Facebook and Twitter make it so much easier to keep in touch with others we know who might live far away, and gives us a chance to see what’s going on in their lives. Like all good things, however, there seems to be a rotten, vile, decaying underbelly of a dark side to it which I stumbled across this weekend.

While I’m still not sure how it happened, I found myself with a notification on Facebook glaring at me that a friend of mine had a family member who passed away in another state. Being the wonderful, sweet person that I am, I thought I’d click on the message and see what happened and offer my condolences. Well, dear readers, just when you’d think it was safe to wade back into the waters of Facebook status updates, the sharks I ran across in this thread made Jaws look like a mild-mannered goldfish.

Even as I write this, I’m not really sure what happened to the dearly departed – and from the comments left by those on this message thread, it doesn’t sound like they were 100% sure either. From speculations of a drug overdose to stroke, the cause of death ran the gamut between the two. Eventually, a family member joined in the conversation and told someone it definitely was NOT an overdose, and the one spreading such erroneous information should take that post down due to it upsetting the family even more. Astonishingly enough, said poster refused to take it down, stating that she heard it was an overdose, and she might amend her statement, but she wouldn’t take it down.

Say what? I sat there in disbelief as I read that statement. Even after someone with intimate first-hand knowledge of the situation at hand reveals this person did not die of an overdose, the poster in question still refuses to take down erroneous information?

That’s when things really got heated!

You could tell that people all of a sudden divided themselves into two camps over the issue of who was right and who was wrong, and the hatred and vitriolic comments spewed forth like no one had ever heard of a personal filter before. Suddenly people were attacking each other like they were involved in the cyber version of the Battle of Normandy, and honestly, I think they forgot what they were fighting over. I think if we could have gotten them all in the same room, it would have been the bar fight to end all bar fights.

The whole time I was reading the foolishness people were saying to one another, I kept thinking to myself, “do you people not realize you have someone here who has passed away? Of all times, this is NOT the time for this kind of pettiness!” If the drama llama were to ever attend a funeral, I’m sure it would be really proud of the scene playing out before me on my screen.

Having said all this (and believe me, I left a lot of what was said out of the story because there might be children reading), I want to tell you that this is NOT how to behave when someone dies. I felt bad for the deceased as I read, thinking he would be ashamed of how those he knew and loved were treating each other, especially over Facebook where all the world could see it and read what was being said. While I’m sure there were deeper issues at play than what was revealed on my computer screen, things like this shouldn’t find it’s way out into the world for everyone and their Grandma to see. As a sign of respect, I would have thought that those in mourning over the passing of their loved one would at least honor his life by not fighting over a computer. Maybe I’m old fashioned, but we just don’t do that sort of thing here.

As someone who has spent more time at funerals and wakes than most people my age, allow me to give you a few pointers on how not to behave:

1. When you give information on how the dearly departed has died and are then shown the person in question didn’t actually meet their Maker in that fashion, you should politely apologize for spreading false information and retract your statement. In the same instance, others should accept that apology and move on.

2. This is definitely not the time to drag up old issues that have gone unresolved. Nerves are raw enough without dragging out what Aunt Suzie or Uncle Joe did twenty years ago that still has you miffed. There is a time and place for that, and this is NOT it.

3. If you’re unsure if what you’re about to say is helpful or not, KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT. Simply offer prayers and support instead of risking the start of World War III over saying something stupid.

4. Never, and I mean NEVER, resort to blaming others over what happened or using the moment as an opportunity to air your dirty laundry in public. No one wants to see that, and believe me, you’re doing the person you’ve lost a disservice by acting in this manner.  Keep this argument quiet for another time.

I’m sure I could go on and on about things you should and should not do, but I think you get the point. Maybe someone who was involved in that argument might read this and come to the realization they were acting like petulant children and being an embarrassment to the memory of their loved one. Maybe they’ll see this and get all bent out of shape that I’m using them as an example of poor behavior. If that’s the case and you get angry, well… that says more about you and your self-centered, despicable attitude than it does about anyone else.

Either way, I’m sorry for your loss. I hope you come to honor your loved one with love and respect and can at least put aside your differences until after the funeral.

Until We Meet Again…

As I sit here, it’s so hard for me to believe that my friend has passed. It simply doesn’t seem possible for someone who has always been so full of life, love and laughter to not be with us any longer – at least in this physical life. Right now, I feel as though I’m in complete shock that all of this has happened.

My dear friend – who I’ll keep nameless for the sake of privacy – is one of those people who has always been a joy to be around. He’s always had such a fantastic sense of humor. Listening to him tell what could be considered the most mundane of stories from someone else would have you doubled over in laughter hearing him recount a story as only he could tell it. Whether he was describing an encounter with a “Wal-Martian” in a particular shopping chain he absolutely hated to go to, or recounting the story of some drunk neighbor falling down the stairs of the apartment building where he once lived would always have you gasping for breath between fits of laughter.

Not only was he well known for his sense of humor, his cooking was legendary among all who knew him as well. The spread he and his partner would prepare for friends during Thanksgiving and Christmas were spectacles which would make Martha Stewart foam at the mouth with envy. Everything was always beautiful, and tasted even better! How some people had shows on the Food Network and he didn’t always boggled my mind.

He and his partner have always been extremely loyal to their friends, and they obviously counted them as family. I know during times of great sadness and despair, they have always been there for me to help in any way they possibly could. Very few people in this world today have the courage to show the love and compassion for those around them that he and his partner have done. It’s not everyday you discover these people, and my life has been made so much richer for knowing him.

One of the driving forces in his life was his Christian faith. I realize that has been said about many people, but he is one of the few who actually “walked the walk” instead of “talking the talk” as so many phrase it. Out of the many examples I could share, the most obvious example of his faith has been his desire to help others around him. If there was ever a person you could count on to fight for what’s right in this world, it would be him. One thing he absolutely hated was injustice and how others who were downtrodden were treated at times. I’ve witnessed him do everything in his power to help pick others up and lend a hand in times of need. If you ever needed anyone in your corner, you were extremely blessed to find him there.

I hope one day I can be half the person he was in this life. To find such a person to walk along beside, even if only for a short time in this journey, is a rare blessing. I’m extremely thankful to have shared this time with my friend, and I look forward to meeting him again on the other side of eternity. As he lay in his hospital bed, I whispered to him before he passed, “Tell my Grandma I love her, and make sure you hang out a lot with her. You guys are so much alike you’re gonna get along like gangbusters! And when I get there, I want to hear all about your antics!”

I love you, my friend. I’m so heartbroken you’re gone, but I know you’re better now and happier now than you have ever been. We may be parted right now, but I know in my heart this isn’t the end. I’ll see you again, and I can’t wait to hear what you’ve been up to in heaven. Until then, know that those of us who are left will keep watch over each other, and always hold you close in our hearts.

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Cemetery Beautification Project

I wanted to break from my usual ramblings to write a quick blurb here to let all of know about a project I’m starting. The cemetery my Grandma and Granddaddy are buried in has been in need of a facelift for many years now. It is out in a little community in North Carolina named Kelly, and it sits about 3/4 mile from the highway. This project is going to involve cleaning the headstones, planting grass, trees, shrubs and attempting to make it look like a garden.

All of this work, however, will require money and time. I’ve started a crowdfunding page over at gofundme.com which gives details of what I’d like to do there. Please take a moment to look at it here and consider giving, regardless of how small or large you might think your gift might be. Every little bit helps! I’ve also created a facebook page which you can “like” so you can stay abreast of the progress we make in making the cemetery a beautiful place.

It will require a lot of work, but I consider it a labor of love. Help me make this spot a beautiful place that those who are buried there would have been proud of, and those who have loved ones there will be delighted to see.

Please pass this along to anyone you feel would be interested in helping. Thanks so much!

–Glenn

A Letter to Grandma: One Year Later

It has been one of the most difficult things to try to write, but something inside me told me I should at least try. On the first anniversary of my Grandmother’s passing, here’s an open letter I would imagine myself writing to her if I could get it to her in heaven:

Dear Grandma,

I can’t believe it’s been a year since you passed. But nonetheless, here I sit, a year after you left this world to be with God and rest of the family members that have gone on before us. There’s so much I want to say to you, and so much I want to hear you say back to me.

This has been the worst year of my life. I never did accept the idea that I would lose you. Somehow I always believed I would leave this world before you did. Maybe that was my subconscious way of not dealing with your passing, or maybe that’s how I actually wanted things to be. Either way, here we are a year later, and I’m left struggling through this life without you.

Regardless of the reasons why, and regardless of all my hopes and wishes, I find myself now trying to carry on some kind of existence without you here. I try to put on a brave face, try to carry on like I’m supposed to, but without you here to talk to, to share our laughter, to cry, to fuss and complain about things, I’m simply going through the motions of everyday life feeling just as empty as one human being can feel. There’s nothing in this world that can fill the void where your presence was.

Every Sunday when I visit your grave I stand there crying, asking why this happened and why it happened to you. Not being able to see you or talk to you and tell you how much I love you rips me apart inside. I realize people might think I should be farther along in this thing they call a “grieving process,” but I just can’t move on from where I am.

I’m also angry. I’m extremely angry that whatever happened after your surgery happened, and that the doctors attributed it to your “age.” Those people never knew your spirit and how agile and strong you were. My mind is constantly filled with thoughts of vengeance and ways to avenge your leaving us. I know it’s not right to feel this way, but I can’t help it. If people could understand exactly how much you mean to me, maybe they would somehow understand wanting justice. Evidently, however, it must not be meant to be in this world, so I have to wait on God to make things right. I just wish God’s timetable was much quicker.

When I went to Cassi’s graduation party a few weeks ago, I couldn’t help but think about how you wouldn’t have missed it for the world. Aunt Estelle was there, and as I sat beside her, I couldn’t help but see you in her eyes. I had to leave earlier than I had planned, simply because I couldn’t stop crying because you weren’t there. I’ve never stopped crying, it seems. I don’t believe a day goes by where I don’t shed tears over losing you and asking God why your passing had to happen.

I guess I’m supposed to go on living in this world, but I have to say it’s the hardest thing to do without you in it. I know I can feel you close to me in spirit, and I know you wouldn’t trade your spot in heaven to come back here for anything in this world, but I wish I was with you; right here, right now. I don’t know how I’m getting by, day-after-day, trying to put on a happy face and acting as if everything is okay. Others may not be able to see through the façade I put up for the world to see, or maybe they can (either way, I really don’t care. I don’t think I’ll ever understand why we can’t grieve openly without ridicule; I guess that’s just the way our culture is wired). Inwardly, however, I’m just a ball of raw, grieving nerves that I just can’t work out. I know you realize how much I love you and miss you, and I know you can understand so much more now than I can on this earthly realm. I pray to God and beg him to help me understand, but that understanding just doesn’t come. I hope when I do see you again on the other side, you can sit down and explain it all to me – because I’ll never understand how I could lose you while I’m on this earth.

Until then, know that I love you with every fiber of my being, every minute of the day. I’m sure I’ll shed tears everyday for the rest of my life for you, and I can’t wait until those tears of grief and heartache turn to tears of joy when I can finally see you on the other side. Give my love to all our family you’re with now, and let them know I can’t wait to see them either.

I love you, Grandma!

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