Friday, May 23, 2014

Honoring Our Nation's Military

This weekend, this nation will observe Memorial Day. At some point throughout the weekend, some well-meaning friend will take the opportunity to thank me for my service as a United States Marine. While I appreciate their words, I feel compelled to clarify for them the distinction that Memorial Day holds.

As a nation, we have three distinct holidays that involve the military:

  • Memorial Day
  • Veteran's Day
  • Armed Forces Day

Memorial Day
Memorial Day is the day we honor those who have died while serving in the military.

Memorial Day is observed on the last Monday of May (today).  It commemorates all men and women, who have died in military service for the United States. Many people visit cemeteries and memorials on Memorial Day and it is traditionally seen as the start of the summer season.

Veterans Day
Veterans Day is the day we honor those who previously served in the military.

In the USA, Veterans Day annually falls on November 11. This day is the anniversary of the signing of the armistice, which ended the World War I hostilities between the Allied nations and Germany in 1918. Veterans (former members of the armed forces) are thanked for their services to the United States on Veterans Day.

Armed Forces Day
Armed Forces Day is the day we celebrate and thank those who are currently serving in the military.

This holiday is celebrated third Saturday of May. It is a day to pay tribute to men and women who serve in the United States’ armed forces. Armed Forces Day is also part of Armed Forces Week, which begins on the second Saturday of May.

Please know that thanking someone for their military service is a kindness that is appreciated year-round and should not be limited to any one day. But on this weekend specifically, when we honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of this nation, it's important that we know what we are doing and why.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Tread Carefully.

It's been a difficult week. So many different reasons, but the take-away for me was a reminder that sometimes I need to step outside of my own life and be mindful that other people are dealing with their own problems. The happiest friend I have may be the one struggling the most.

That lesson played out repeatedly with different friends and different situations, but the message was always the same: tread carefully, for everyone is working through their own pain.

Fast forward to today and the realization that I'm nowhere near as wise as I think I am. Or more accurately, I'm nowhere near as empathetic as I thought I was.

I saw on article this morning about a judge who was extremely lenient in sentencing a convicted drunk driver. Reading it just made me mad, and I decided to share the link on Facebook with my friends. Not surprising, the post kicked off a conversation amongst several of my friends.

Now, I'm not saying that I should have seen this coming, because I have many Facebook friends and don't always know everything about this lives. But, I am bothered that the thought never even occurred to me that it might be a very painful subject for some friends to discuss.

People have strong opinions about drunk drivers. And sometime, those opinions are formed by direct experience. Today, for example, I learned that a Facebook lost his brother to a drunk driver. As you can imagine, the experience was painful for their entire family. And there I was, telling this friend what the judge should have done, how it should have been handled, and about the possible future consequences of this person receiving such a light sentence.

Seriously? Pretty sure my friend knows all about that and could teach me a great deal about it.

I share this blog not to make their pain about me, but rather as my own reminder to tread carefully in public conversations. People bring their own frames of reference to difficult topics, and I would be better off learning to ask questions, encourage open conversation, and listen to what others have to say before spouting off on every topic like I'm an expert.

Monday, May 12, 2014

"I'm Still Here."

It's been a tough few days for so many people that I care about. Lies, illness, even the deaths of a friend and of a parent. And my heart breaks for the pain that they are enduring right now.

But they are strong, each of them. They are surrounded by people who love them and they will get through all of this that is happening. They have to, because in spite of the pain, this life is still beautiful and amazing.

Hang on, friends. This will all pass. And there's no way that it's stronger than you.

I'm okay, I'm alright
Hurricanes and trainwrecks only last one night
Would you believe all I've been through?
Held the hands of tempted fate
Oh, if you only knew
What it costs, how I paid
What I got, what I gave

I'm still here...
After the heartache, after the storm blew through
I kept me and it saved me
I'm still standin', right where you left me
On a cold dark cloud, with nowhere to fall but down
Like a single, naked unrelenting tear...
I'm still here

There was darkness, all around me
There were times that I was sure I was drowning
There were people, who tried to reach me
But no matter how they loved me, I kept sinking
When I got tired of my own hell, I reached inside and I saved myself

This time I can survive
I ain't dying on nobody else's cross
I ain't sufferin' no more unforgiven loss
Oh, no

I'm still here...
After the heartache, after the storm blew through
I kept me and it saved me
And I'm still standin', right where you left me
On a cold dark cloud, with nowhere to fall but down
Like a single, naked unrelenting tear...
I'm still here
I'm still here

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

It's Ric By My Side.

This is my husband, Ric, and I, on an early vacation to Palm Springs. In this photo, we're side by side. And for the last seventeen years, that's how it's been.

When I found the strength to walk away from a toxic and painful relationship, it was Ric by my side. He showed me what it meant to love, and to be loved, and to find happiness again.

When I spent the first night in our new home and felt, finally, like I had found my place in this world, it was Ric by my side.

When I accepted a job offer to move halfway across the country and start a life from scratch, it was Ric by my side encouraging me to chase my dreams.

When we came back to San Diego, again starting over, it was Ric by my side telling me that I had made the right decision.

When the longstanding cynic in me felt called to stand before friends and family and commit myself to one man for the rest of my life, Ric was by my side to exchange vows.

When I first gazed upon the beauty that is Yosemite, Ric was by my side.

When I first dared to rock climb, it was Ric by my side.

Skydiving? It was Ric by my side.

White water river rafting? It was Ric by my side.

Scuba diving? It was Ric by my side.

Celebrating - finally - being able to marry legally in the State of California? It was Ric by my side.

Through thick and thin, through moments of joy and moments of grief, through laughter so non-stop it hurts and tears so intense I thought my very heart was breaking... it's always been Ric by my side.

As I celebrate my anniversary today, I'll enjoy the love and support from friends and family. I'll visit with them, share stories of our lives together, and consider myself so very fortunate to have them around to make this life what it is.

But mostly, today and every day, it will be Ric by my side.

Husband of mine, this is for you:

"Right By Your Side"

Give me two strong arms
To protect myself
Give me so much love
That I forget myself
I need to swing from limb to limb
To relieve this mess I'm in
'Cause when depression starts to win
I need to be right by your side

No one seems to touch me
In the way you do
Nothing seems to hurt me
When I'm close to you
I'm so full of desire
When you set my head on fire
I need to be right by your side

Every single one of us needs
Love, love, love
Everybody needs to give and receive love
Every single day can drag us
Down, down, down
But there's nothing left to fear
When love gets into town

I'm so full of desire
When you set my head on fire
I need to be right by your side

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Don't Talk To My Friend Like That.

Imagine you are visiting with your friend at her house, enjoying drinks and catching up. Someone else shows up and starts saying these things to your friend:
"Wow, you got so fat. What the heck happened to you?" "Why do you even go to the gym? You quit everything you ever start." "Don't bother with the mirror. Of course you look fat." "You know you are the fat one in the group, right? They're laughing at you." "You look ridiculous trying to run." "Why sign up for that? You won't finish it." 
What do you do? If you're like me, you immediately stick up for your friend. You tell this other person (nicely) that they are being hateful and hurtful and should probably mind their own business or you tell them (not so nicely) to shut their pie hole before you put your fist in it.

Either way, you don't just sit there and let it happen. You protect your friend. And after the idiot leaves, you spend time encouraging and supporting your friend, convincing her that she can do anything she puts her mind to. You tell her that she should sign up for any race she wants and that you will be right there with her to cheer her on. You tell her the only thing ridiculous is being afraid to get out there, to run, to exercise, to make her life better. You make sure she knows that she has the power to make whatever change for the better she wants to make.

In other words, you encourage and support your friend. And you do it because she matters, because she is important to you and you hate to see her struggling or in pain. So why on earth don't you treat yourself with the same courtesy?

How often do you say those words above to yourself? How many times a day do you fill your head with "I can't" or "I won't"? What do you say when you see yourself in the mirror? When you try on clothes? When you get dressed to go out?

You would never let someone else talk to your friend the way you talk to yourself. You would say, loudly and directly, "don't talk about my friend like that." So the next time those negative thoughts come to your mind, send them right back where they came from. Learn to be a friend to yourself. Learn to protect yourself from your own hateful comments.

Is it easy? Heck, no. I've spent a lifetime running myself down, so learning to encourage and support myself still takes work. Old habits die hard, right? But I'm worth it. I deserve to be treated with respect, and that starts with my own thoughts and opinions about myself.

Today, I will protect myself the same way I would protect any other friend. Because I'm worth protecting.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

"Then we are not friends."

This was not at all the post I thought I would be writing this morning, but sometimes, the day takes me in a completely unexpected direction.

I logged on to Facebook to see this:

"Tearing down and tearing apart traditional institutions that have been pillars of our society and civilization. And I'm not just talking about marriage. Military being transformed."

This was posted by a friend, and a Marine Corps brother, as part of a bigger anti-liberal post. And all I could think was, do you NOT understand what this is saying to me? Me, who could now serve in the Marines openly instead of hiding. Me, who is now legally married to my partner of 17 years.

What it says to me, friend, is that these very positive changes for me are bad for this nation.

So, what I am saying to you in return is this: If you honestly believe this, then we are not friends. Because I don't need people in my life who think this nation is better off denying me the full rights of citizenship. Because I don't want people in my life who think that gay Marines who stand up to serve this nation somehow make the military weaker. And because I won't have people in my life who think that my marriage to my husband is anything less than a blessing in a world desperate for love and compassion.

I am not saying that all of my friends must share my opinions on everything. That's nonsense. I have very conservative friends, very liberal friends, and a bit of everything in between. And I respect the different opinions and often learn much from listening to them.

But this is more than a different viewpoint. This is as clear as it can be, that recognition of me just as I am is somehow a bad thing for this nation. And that's an opinion I don't have to invite into my life.

And for those who don't know, this is Ric, my partner since May 1997, my husband since July 2003, and my legally wedded spouse since July 2008. You can think whatever you want of him, but what you cannot do is change the fact that he is the single greatest person I have ever known and that loving him - and being loved by him - has made me the man I am today.

(If this post bothers you, and you agree that equality for gay men and women is somehow a bad thing for this nation, feel free to unfriend me. Because I'd rather be hated for who I am than loved for what I'm not.)