Wednesday, September 26, 2012

My Last Word on the Election

     My last word on the election, because I'm going to blow a gasket if I remain in this conversation.

     There are three branches of the United States government: legislative, executive, and judicial. The separation of powers was intended to offer checks and balances to ensure the rights of citizens would be protected. Balance, something lacking in our politics today. I love Rachel Maddow’s quote, “But here's the thing about rights – they're not actually supposed to be voted on. That's why they're called rights.” Yet, here I am at fifty-one-years-old basing my entire voting ballot on my civil rights, the ones I’m not supposed to have to vote on.
     Yes, I’m worried about the economy, but we’re better off than we were when the Republicans left the mess, a fact some people seem to overlook, and despite the fact that the Republicans have stonewalled that progress with the goal of getting Obama out. I’m one of the people, a sole proprietor, who is happy about having affordable insurance. I also run a business and have taken advantage of the tax breaks offered. (No offshore accounts to dodge taxes, though. No horse to write off either.) I once was on food stamps and AFDC, until the state could collect my child support, while I was going to school and raising a child. I had one $1800 student loan in seven years of college, undergrad and graduate school. I did use the Pell Grant and work-study system, but most of it was scholarship money. I have always been in favor of a hand up, not a hand out. I took advantage of the system and have been a working citizen since age 14. You’re right about one thing, Mitt, this member of the 47% will never vote for you.
     I brought up the branches of government, because it’s important to realize that every vote counts. The legislative branch has proven to be the stumbling block to many issues that concern me. No matter who the President is, this branch carries the most weight. They can, and have blocked legislation simply for political reasons, sticking to the party line, without care for the real people they hurt, again with the stated goal, “Get Obama out.” They also have the power to block Supreme Court nominations, and that my friends is very important, as the current judges age into retirement. Do you want Paul Ryan, (I’m dismissing the puppet Mitt. They’ll throw him under the bus,) deciding who will defend the Constitution? Hasn’t the Republican Party said enough about what they will do when they are in charge to frighten you? Let’s see, women will have no rights, the LGBT community will lose every step it has gained, and the rich will get richer.
     The President nominates Supreme Court Justices. If for no other reason, Obama has to remain in office. This is what is driving my vote. I may be concerned about other things, but the main issue for me in this election is my civil rights. I got into with my parents over this election. Nothing I say will change their Fox News watching minds, not even the fact their daughter has fewer recognized rights than their son. I say recognized, because I agree with Ms. Maddow. I have the rights. There are merely narrow-minded legislators, both state and federal, standing in the way. I want them out.
     I’ve been with the same woman, owning joint property, for twenty-five years. We’re rewriting our wills. The hoops we have to jump through are ridiculous and completely unnecessary. Recognize her as my wife and half that paperwork disappears. She has insurance at work. I have to have my own individual policy. That’s an expense that would be far less, if I was allowed on her policy. Our house and car insurance would be less, if we were a married couple. I wouldn’t have to carry papers to the hospital, giving us medical power of attorney for each other, if we were married. Those are just a few of the issues we deal with, but the one that hurts the most is she can’t put a picture of her family on her desk at work. You’d think that would be a small thing, but to the LGBT community, there are no small things. 
     I hear people say, “Just live your life and shut up about it,” “Why do you have to throw it in our faces?” My all time favorite is, “Can’t you be happy with a civil ceremony?” My reply: Hell yes, I can be happy with a civil ceremony, that is what I want, but with all the rights associated with heterosexual marriage. I don’t want to get married in your church, if you don’t want me. I’m not encroaching on your religious beliefs, but you sure as hell are encroaching on mine. My higher power doesn’t discriminate because of sexuality, but that’s neither here nor there. The point is SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE. Sorry, to yell, but you seem to have missed that part of the Constitution.
     So, my rights are what I’m voting for. I can’t see us making any progress with a conservative Supreme Court. If the Republicans get control of all three branches of government, DOMA stands, DADT comes back, and any gains the LGBT community has made go right down the toilet. Not to mention a woman’s right to make health decisions with a medical professional whose hands are not tied by government regulation. My rights, your rights, are in jeopardy. My wife and I will be voting in a state that is sure to go RED, Oklahoma. (Side note: I’m still laughing over our Governor, Mary Fallin, at the Republican convention, stating Oklahoma was created out of nothing by pioneers who needed no help from the government. She seems to have forgotten they were all homesteaders, buying cheap land from a government that cleared the land of indigenous people, then took most of the tribal reservations to accommodate those self-made pioneers. She’s a piece of work.) If you care about your future, you’ll vote too.
     I implore everyone to vote. I don’t care how red your county or state is, every vote counts. Make the time, go to the polls, read the whole ballot, and VOTE. I will end with what I said to my parents. "Yes, it is personal to me. It does matter to me that you would put people in office that treat me as a second-class citizen, for being a woman and a lesbian, a double whammy. I can’t believe that people who supported the civil rights movement can’t see that I am being denied my rights as a citizen of this country. And last but not least, I cannot for the life of me understand why two educated, lifetime democrats have turned into Fox News, tea-party, birther, “he’s a muslim” shouting, fact denying, and I’m sorry, but racist bigots, which I find most surprising of all. I certainly wasn't raised that way. Honor thy father and mother may be one of the commandments, but it does not include agreeing with your ignorant tea-bagger politics."
     If you stand there with your mouth open, believing that no way is anyone buying all the lies and misrepresentation being spouted by the extreme right wing, think again. Time to vote folks. Time to make some noise. Time to tell the world that at least part of the US has a heart and soul.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Let no man put asunder.

     The first time it happened, I’d only had her a few months, but I knew she was the one. She went home for her annual vacation, when she always scheduled her yearly physical with the same doctor she’d had since she was a teenager. I got a call from the hospital. She was having test, serious test, and trying to be brave. I did too, until I hung up the phone. She was fifteen hundred miles away and I felt the first wave of what it would feel like not to have her in my life. We had been together only eight weeks, but I knew in my soul she was my missing piece. I remember crying and asking God why he would give her to me, just to take her away. Yes, I asked God, because I truly believe she is my gift from the universe, sent to save me.
     I’ve been criticized for the love at first sight story lines in some of my books. I’ve had people say that never happens in real life. They are wrong. It does, and did happen to me. The first time I laid eyes on her, it clicked. I did not imagine it. It happened. I physically felt the presence of my other half within seconds of seeing her, and yes, everything made sense. I had felt things I did not fully understand, so to those that say a straight girl that falls that fast wasn’t straight to begin with, I give credence to that. I was, I believe, predisposed to be a lesbian, but up to that moment I had not acted on those confusing feelings, and never felt anything like what I experienced when she walked into that theatre lobby. Call it destiny, fate, happenstance, I knew I had found my missing piece, and though I knew the road ahead would not be easy, I had no choice but to fall head over heels in love with her. I loved her already.
     The first scare turned into just that, a scare. The second time, it was more than that. She stopped breathing and I had to perform CPR to get her back. That’s when we learned about severe hypoglycemia. When she recovered from that incident, I spent months having nightmares of her fixed and dilated eyes, but we survived. Then came the breast cancer. I never knew the full extent of her strength, until I saw her take that disease head on, never once feeling sorry for herself. The only time she cried was when they knocked her two front teeth out while she was having the cancer surgery. I was a basket case, but tried not to let her see it. We survived that too.
     Last spring, she developed hypoglycemic unawareness. As the name indicates, she had no idea her condition had changed. We discovered it, when I again had to do CPR, this time long enough for me to think she was gone for good. I have never been so terrified in my entire life. I was still trembling days later. The nightmares followed and still rear their ugly heads months later. In those few seconds that I allowed myself to think she would never smile at me again, I felt my world fade away to nothing, for that is what I would have without her.
     I’m writing this, not to people who understand what it is to love someone that much and be loved in return, but to those who would think that my love is a sin. To those who have lost a partner and had to suffer the indignity of having people dismiss their pain because of the sexuality of the couple, I hear you loud and clear. I have only this to say to the bible thumpers who believe the creator thinks less of me, one of his creations, and I will quote from your religious ceremony, the one you would withhold from me and mine. “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” People should think about what that really says. I know the heavens played a part in granting me this love. I thank them every day.
     So, you see, no matter what you throw at us, we’ve been through worse, and we’re still here, twenty-five years and counting. The chances of a girl born and raised on the coast of North Carolina meeting a girl from Oklahoma were astronomical. Lots of things happened to each of us that made our finding each other possible. The stars aligned, the fates blew their horns, and she wound up walking through those doors at just the right moment. Oh, hell yeah, I believe in a higher power. I am also absolutely sure that power believes in this love too. Why make a matching set, if they are not meant to be together?
Again, I say, “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.”

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The teacher says thank you.

“Demolition time,” two words that can turn a group of teenagers into a horde of working minions. When it was time for a set to come down, stagecraft students were at their best and worked their hardest, because it was damn fun. I thought of my students today, as I stared at the heating and air conditioning unit I was disassembling. I laughed all by myself, standing there looking around for Tray – or Lindsay, Christen, Wyatt, Skelly, Pony Boy, Trout, Tom, (Alex and Mike, stay in the booth, we got this,) and so many others I’m sure I’m offending by leaving out and too numerous to name – so I could say, “I’d really like to see that gone.”
A statement like that would be met with a wide grin and a question, “We’re not saving any of it?”
To which I would respond, “Do not hurt each other. Stay under control, but yeah, DESTROY THAT SUCKER!”
Oh, to unleash the pent up emotions of a teenager on a seek and destroy mission is an amazing thing to watch. It is also fun as hell to participate in. It gets rather tedious toward the end of the project, when the mess the destruction created has to be cleaned up, but swinging a sledge hammer at something is cathartic, I don’t care how old you are. I miss those moments with those kids. We had good and bad times together, but mostly I remember the laughter. I remember the smiles, high fives, and hugs for a job well done.
I also remember standing in the wings, beaming with pride, as those kids dressed in black, the stagehands, made the magic happen. I was proud of the performers too, but they received praise from an audience that saw their work. Only those of us privileged enough to be backstage can know the hard work and dedication it takes to live up to the adage, the show must go on. “They’re the first to come and the last to leave,” as Jackson Browne said, “Let the roadies take the stage.” I bow to those kids dressed in black, the unknown faces behind the scenes. They are not unknown to me. I will remember them long after the lights fade on the stage. 
I receive thank you notes from former students, and I always wonder if they know how much I owe them. I owe them moments of remembrance, smiles and laughter I will never forget, and the knowledge that I did something good once. I owe them moments like the one in the backyard today, when I smiled and thought of them. I owe those performers for the smiles that overtake me when I hear a song from a show we did together. I owe my students for helping me to remember to laugh, to seize the day, and to swing that sledge hammer every now and then.
I am totally enjoying my new career, but there are moments when I remember why I was a teacher. I’d like to thank my students for that.