Monday, May 31, 2010

Hark! The sound of my own ego!

I had this great post all written out, full of wise insight. Took me two days to finish.

But this morning, I edited out sentence after sentence until there was nothing left, because it turned out to be a boatload of self-serving crap.

So I got nothin'.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The end of DADT?

Representative Patrick Murphy (D-Pa) is reportedly introducing a proposal that would repeal DADT while still allowing the military to continue its study of how to implement the repeal.

According to the report in the AJC, a recent Gallup poll found that 70% of Americans polled were in favor of the repeal. Between 1998 and 2008, more than 10,000 soldiers were discharged under DADT. And a bunch of them were Arabic interpreters.

Republicans plan to fight the compromise proposal. (Now, there's a huge surprise!)

I would love to write more and give you better sources, but hey, I'm in the middle of moving.So I'm outta here.

Monday, May 24, 2010

How did this one slip under the radar?

Bilerico reports this evening that the State of Nevada will now allow transgender people to change the gender designation on their driver's licenses based just on a doctor's say-so. Previously, the state required documentation of gender assignment surgery. This is quite a step forward, given that many people elect not to have reassignment surgery even if they can afford it.

At any rate, that reminded me of a small treasure I discovered last week tucked neatly away in the Administrative Code of Georgia:
 375-3-1-.17 Changing Gender on License
(1) A person may have the gender designation on their driver’s license changed after a gender reassignment operation upon the presentation to a driver examiner of either a court order reflecting such change, or a physician's letter certifying such change. The letter or court order shall state the person's name and date of birth, and the date of gender reassignment operation, as well as other identifying information.
(2) A person applying under Section (1) shall surrender all licenses in their possession and shall be required to pay either the renewal license fee or a duplicate license fee, whichever is applicable. No rebate will be given for any licenses surrendered.
(3) In all cases the decision to change the gender designation on the license is at the discretion of the Department.

For Georgia, this is downright progressive. How the heck did this little regulation manage to get on the books? Probably very quietly. Some state employee deep in the bowels of the DMV decided to make a difference, and got the ball rolling.  I love that!  And then somehow, got it past public review. It wasn't completely without controversy though, at least internally at DMV: Subsection (3), which gives the agency absolute discretion, was, no doubt, a requirement for getting the regulation through. 

Perhaps at some point Georgia will follow Nevada's lead and no longer require evidence of actual reassignment surgery. 

Hope springs eternal, even here in the Deep South.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Transition Begins.

Today my daughter becomes a rising senior, and tonight she is watching many of her friends graduate. As I wait in the car for her, I hear cheer after cheer from inside as the Class of 2010 crosses the church stage. The next time I hear those voices, mine will be among them.

I want to cry.

But I don't, because when I see her across the yard, she's already in tears herself. It's not easy navigating adolescence under the best of circumstances, much less with a mentally ill mother. Some of these seniors are close friends, both boys and girls. They have supported her and nurtured her and loved her when I was too sick to know how. They gave her the stability I couldn't provide. And now she is saying goodbye.

Later my daughter will collapse from excitement and exhaustion and an empty stomach. Her boyfriend will gently scoop her up and place her on the couch, and I'll take him home. No time to cry then, either.

For now, though, I watch the river of people pouring out of the church. The graduates first, dressed in purple, each with a single rose. Their families following, dressed in their finest. I want to write about it, but I'm drawn instead to experience this. I realize I must stay in this moment, here, now, for as long as I can. I see my daughter approach Asher, a close friend. As she breaks into sobs, Asher envelopes her in his purple robe and holds her tight. She is safe right now, right there in those strong, loving arms, but that doesn't make it any easier. My heart breaks for hers.

And then I think about quantum physics. String theory, I've heard, posits eleven dimensions instead of the three we can see. The fourth dimension, I know, is time. I drink in the colors and the crying and the balloons and the hugging all around me. Life is happening. It's exploding. I feel invisible, but pleasantly so. Perhaps "now" -- that infinitely small point where time and space intersect -- is another of the dimensions. "Now" is different, special, apart from all else. My daughter's friends can protect and comfort her in the now. In the now, I can work to regain my health and make better choices. We can love only in the now.

I grasp, just for a second, the profound power of something so indefinable and minute. Whatever it is, this "now" thing, I see only its shadow, if even that. I inhale its essence, and time stops.

My daughter opens the passenger door, cueing time to move forward once again. And as I start the car, I realize there is much to do.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Yeah. Funny.

About this house thing. I’m scheduled to close a week from today. I continue my prayer of “bless it or block it” and so far, the transaction has flowed almost effortlessly. Indeed, the experience has been full of little miracles. Little, but striking.

Last Friday I needed to fax eighteen pages of contracts and paperwork to my attorney, but I didn’t have a fax machine. I was tempted to fax it from work for free, but that’s forbidden and I’m trying to follow the rules these days. Well, at work anyway.

 I’m a Craigslist junkie, and at least once a day I check the “free” category. (Okay, fine, so I’m outing myself as a dumpster diver. What of it?) Amazingly, on Friday, the day I wanted to send the fax, a fax machine showed up on Craigslist for free! I mean, it’s uncanny!

I whipped off an email to the gentleman and waited. Nothing. Clearly someone had gotten to it before me. Good free stuff goes fast like that.

When Monday morning rolled around, I realized I was just going to have to cough up the money to pay for a fax. At lunchtime, I headed over to Kinko’s and sent off the fax.

Later that afternoon, I checked my personal email. And there it was: an email from the Craigslist guy saying the fax machine was mine if I still wanted it. Time sent: 8:30 a.m.

If I had I checked my email before I left for Kinko’s, I wouldn’t have had to pay for the fax. Damn!

No doubt there will be other faxes to send before this house purchase is completed, though, so I told the guy I wanted it.

On my way to work the next morning, I stopped to pick up the fax machine. As I carried it back to the car, I reflected on how grateful and amazed I was at how things work out. And, I admit, I congratulated myself a on how fucking spiritual I’ve gotten lately. I mean, really, I should get a special chip or something for how well I’m aligning my will with God’s.

I stuffed the fax machine into my trunk and got in the car to head for work. And that’s when it hit me. You need a land line to run a fax machine. I don’t have a land line. I haven’t had one in years. The fax machine wouldn’t have done me a bit of good.

But I still got the message: Great rewards will come to me if I just have faith. If I’m properly aligned with the Universe, it’ll work out almost like magic.

That, and God likes to laugh at me.

So, um… Anyone need a fax machine?

Monday, May 10, 2010

It's all about perspective.

Sometimes when I'm feeling particularly broke (which is pretty much, oh, always), it helps to remember that as human beings go, I've really got it pretty damn good.

The Global Rich List has found a way to quantify just how good I've got it. You enter your annual income, and it tells you where you rank financially among the entire world population. I don't know what their methodology is, so I can't attest to its accuracy, but even if the exact numbers aren't precisely correct, the point is hard to ignore: it's all about perspective, and I have a lot to be grateful for.

How rich are you? >>

I'm loaded.
It's official.
I'm the 49,322,169 richest person on earth!

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Mother’s Day, in which I give Nancy Rae Rhys the Floor.

Yes, I'm back, and I'm lazy, too, 'cuz this is a post from 2010. It's old, but it's apt. 


For Mother’s Day, I thought I’d tell you all about my mom. Instead, I’m posting this letter she wrote to me about a month before I got sober. It says more about her than I ever could.

A little background: She had just visited my husband and me in Kalamazoo, Michigan. A lung cancer survivor, she drove all by herself from Albuquerque and back in her little red Datsun.

Just a few months later, she would learn that she had several malignant, and inoperable, brain tumors.  That’s when we moved to Albuquerque.

Mom died a month and a half after she saw me pick up my one-year chip. She was 52, and had nearly 11 years sober herself.

Until today, I've never shown this letter to anyone except my current sponsor and my daughter. I haven’t changed a word, although I have shortened it.  I would have preferred to leave out some other parts, but I believe she would have insisted that I leave them in. So, I did.  Sadly, I’m just now learning the lessons she was trying to teach me back then. Even so, her letter has helped me through countless difficult times.

Mom, thank you. I love you always.

June 29, 1981

Dear Lynne,

I think we haven’t had much chance over the past ten years or so to have mother-daughter – or woman-to-woman talks. I hope Donald will understand if, because of this feeling, I sometimes write to you separately. I don’t mean to exclude him at all. But he has had a mother all his life and you haven’t had your fair share of mothering.

I got the feeling when I was with you that there are some things you don’t know about Lynne. I am your mother and allowed to be prejudiced in your favor. But I am also a mother in the unique position of having seen you so seldom as you changed from a child to a woman, that I am quite objective about you in many ways.

You have heard it so often you don’t hear it – If I could have any daughter in the whole world, I would choose you. I have told Bob the same about a son. These are not just words to me. It is a prayer of thanksgiving. I am twice blessed and my gratitude is boundless.

Lynne is beautiful, intelligent and she has a good heart. That is the way it is. Perhaps a mother could want more in a daughter, but I can’t imagine what it would be. Perhaps a human being could want more in another human being – but what?

I am going to assume you know you are intelligent. If you question that, let me know and I’ll address the question. I have answers that have nothing to do with my opinions or observations. If you don’t give Lynne credit for outstanding intelligence, it’s time you do that.

You are beautiful – physically beautiful. I don’t use the words often because I believe it is seldom appropriate. But you are a beautiful young woman. I know you are not aware of your beauty. I think that’s a terrible waste. It is nothing to gloat over or take credit for. But it should surely be appreciated and cared for.

You quit hiding that beauty, and I guarantee you, Lynne will be one helluva beautiful woman. 

It has taken me 50 years to accept my attractiveness. And the Nancy I finally accepted as attractive has outrageous scars and a face that aged from the illness.

You don’t have to do that to Lynne. I want desperately for you to begin to allow Lynne to live now.

Okay – as for the good heart. You have tried to be good all your life. I’m not saying you’ve been good every minute or that there aren’t times when you just say, “The hell with it, I’ll just be bad.” No one is good every minute. (But) you’ve never been able to avoid trying to be good for very long. You have sought approval from other people – so you have tried to be good as you thought they wanted. But we can’t read the other guy’s mind.

The only “good” we can rely on is our own instinct to be good. I am human – not bad. I’m quite practical, loving, try to be honest and fair with others, mean no harm to other people, and believe everyone has a right to share my world. I think these are good instincts. I believe I have a good heart. I’ve a long way to go, of course. But I am working my life in the direction of acceptance of this one of God’s children.

I am obligated to know your instincts as best I can. You have a good heart, in my opinion.

If you could have any daughter in the whole, wide world, wouldn’t you choose one who is intelligent, beautiful and has a good heart? And wouldn’t you want for her to accept herself as she is?

I want you to learn to accept my daughter as she is – intelligent, beautiful and good-hearted. That’s worth fighting for. And, honey, I’m gonna fight for it.

If we were closer I could tell you all these things in bits and pieces as we go along. I would keep reminding you that you are intelligent, beautiful and have a good heart. We don’t have that luxury. But we do have cheap paper and pens. We do have 18 cents for a stamp. We do both express ourselves in writing when we choose to.

So – whatever –

I love you right where you are right this minute – and this minute – and this minute. That is a given. So you might as well stick it in your personality computer system’s memory and push the memory button a hundred times a day. You won’t figure in enough love – but you’d be on the right equation.

The message is acceptance and love.


Thursday, May 06, 2010

Did Peter Gunn Need Alanon?

I just watched "Fill the Cup," an interesting episode from the old Peter Gunn TV series that ran from 1958 to 1961. If, like me, you're too young to remember the series (I was a year old when it debuted), it was a hip private-eye show starring Craig Stevens. Classic noir. With music by Henry Mancini and cool jazz and everything. 

The few episodes I've seen before have been scripted with some humor, which is not surprising considering that the show was created (and sometimes written and directed) by Blake Edwards.

But "Fill the Cup?" Not lighthearted at all. This one is about alcoholism, and it's grim.  Right here, I'm impressed, because it would have been so easy to make the episode a comedy. Who knows, maybe it was originally written as one.

Here's the plot: William Getty (played by character actor John McIntire) plays an alcoholic who desperately wants to keep from drinking until his daughter arrives by plane the following day. He tells Gunn he can't do it alone, and wants Gunn to keep him sober for the next 12 hours.  Getty warns Gunn that even though he doesn't want to drink right now, he'll be desperate for a drink later on.  Gunn takes the job, takes Getty's keys and money, and settles in to Getty's apartment for the night.

Of course, it's not long before Getty has second thoughts about this whole arrangement, especially after Gunn pours the mouthwash down the drain when he catches Getty about to drink it. Getty tries everything he can think of to escape or convince Gunn he can drink. And Gunn does the stuff all families of alcoholics do to prevent him from drinking. At one point, he ties Getty to the bed with a necktie. Getty, by now somewhere beyond desperate, eventually manages to chew his way out of it. Then he knocks Gunn out, and leaves.

Once Getty leaves his apartment, drinking seems inevitable, but every time he's close to a drink something gets in the way. He manages to get a quarter from someone so he can buy a shot; but the drunk next to him swipes the quarter while he's not looking. After several attempts, Getty finally busts out a liquor store window and steals a bottle -- but then he drops the bottle and breaks it.

Gunn finally catches up to him, and they finish out the night. Getty is sober when he meets his daughter at the airport the next day. Obviously pleased to see Getty, she suggests that they go into the airport bar and have a drink. Getty agrees, following her straight into the airport bar, with Gunn looking on.

And that's how the episode ends.

I'll admit the episode was a tad melodramatic in a couple places. But it did a great job conveying the desperation of addiction, that "incomprehensible demoralization" we've experienced. And it does so compassionately and without judgment. Throughout the episode, Gunn refers to his client as Mr. Getty. I haven't watched enough episodes to know if that's Gunn's usual demeanor, but here it demonstrated respect. At all times, Getty was portrayed as a sick man, not just a worthless drunk.

I especially appreciated the ending, which was understated and chilling. No big speech about how Getty doesn't drink anymore. No debate about whether or not he should go into the bar. He just walks in because his daughter suggested it.

Somebody involved in that episode knew what they were doing.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Lazy-Ass Librarian Sunday: Oh, Sweet Mystery of LIfe, I've Found You!

(in an attempt to get my house vacuumed, dear readers, I'm recycling an old post. So there.) 

I have been deflowered. There, I’ve said it. And what creation has so captured my fancy? No, it’s not a beautiful woman. And it’s not the finest wine in Europe, either. 

It’s Bed, Bath and Beyond that has turned my fair head. I’ve heard mention of it, but I had no idea. The variety! The style! The prices!

I spent some time there today while waiting for a ride, and I learned so much about myself. I learned that there are all kinds of things I simply must have in order to survive!

Think I’m being melodramatic? Absolutely not. Here, let me tell you what I found. Maybe you need this stuff, too!

First, there’s the crème brulee kit for $19.99. I’ve never eaten crème brulee, and honestly, I don’t really even know what it is. But the kit comes with a torch!

The digital grilling fork is another bargain at $14.99. Now, I don’t cook, but I've heard grills are used for baking steaks, and that's reason enough to own one. I must be digitally prepared!

Oh – there’s the AM/FM radio pen. Only $4.99! It even has a string so you can wear it around your neck! It’s purple!

And I mustn’t forget the Fill’Er Up Liquor Pump. You fill this old-fashioned gas-pump thingy with your favorite booze, and then you dispense it out the little nozzle. At $49.99, it brings a whole new meaning to the word “gassed.” Just too cute!

And where else can you get 100 cookie cutters for $9.99? Okay, so I haven’t made cookies since 1997, but I could get a domestic hot flash at any time!

Oh, and the Party Pump! What is a Party Pump? I don’t know! But I’m pretty sure that at $29.99 (on clearance!), I really need one!

Do you see why I’m so excited? And I didn’t even get to the bathroom stuff! I’m telling you, there are just all kinds of things out there that I have to have. 

You’ve got to hand it to our capitalist economy. Talk about efficiency! I mean, knowing what you need before you even know you need it yourself!

But I’m afraid I’ve tarried too long here. You’ll have to excuse me so I can go meditate over my L.L. Bean catalog. Fleece! Flannel!

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Choosing Faith that Works.

It was 1982, about three months before my mother died of brain and lung cancer. I had moved to Albuquerque to be with her. It was right around the time I picked up my one-year chip. Right around the time I had to gently tell her to stop looking for subsidized housing, because there wasn’t time.

While she was still able to communicate, she and I would talk about how lucky we were to have such an unusually good mother-daughter relationship. It came from never having enough time together; we were separated when I was 14 due to divorce, alcoholism and, paradoxically, her love for me and my brother. God, how I missed her mothering. Even now, sometimes I ache for it.

During one of these conversations, I asked for a favor: “Mom, if there’s any way you can do it without scaring the shit out of me, please let me know if there's something on the other side.” And she said she would. Then she added, “If we have been able to remain together even across a separation of 2,000 miles for all these years, surely we’ll be together after I die, too.” I didn't really believe that, but it was comforting all the same.

The night she died, I woke up smelling a sweet burning odor. It was strong enough to wake me up, and I took a quick walk around the apartment to make sure we hadn’t left the coffeepot on or a cigarette burning.  It was early, early morning, and just starting to get light. I checked the clock, climbed back into bed, and fell into an incredibly deep sleep.

The phone call from the hospital came about five minutes later.

Was that her? I'd like to think so. There have been many little signs like that through the years. Most commonly, a car with a New Mexico license plate will go by, often at an eerily critical time. The day my husband and I reaffirmed our vows in Boston, we turned out of the synagogue parking lot and found ourselves right behind a New Mexico license plate. (I’m going to have to have a talk with her about that one when I see her). As I was leaving town to attend a recovery retreat in the mountains, I saw one too. So a couple hours later, when I ended up in the middle of a blizzard on nearly impassable roads, I knew that one way or another, I was going to be all right.

Lately, I have been looking for a less expensive place to live, and I’ve been praying for clear guidance. After all, I have an impressive capacity to fuck things up, left to my own devices.

Yesterday, I put in an offer on a house. The seller has accepted, and we're doing owner financing. If all goes as planned, we close three weeks from today.

After I signed the purchase contract, I headed toward a meeting. I was a little early, so I stopped by the bank. I got out of the car and headed for the entrance. And there she was, directly in front of me.

Does that mean I picked the right house? Who knows. It doesn't really matter. The license plate reminds me that either way, it's all figured out for me already. And it's going to be just fine.