Monday, June 26, 2017

A Defining Word, by Ricky

People use words to communicate.  In spite of a few of my acquaintances whom never refer to me as a person, person of interest or disinterest, I use words to communicate.  It behooves all people to communicate accurately by using words whose meaning everyone understands.  Those of us who have (or still have at our senior age) a large vocabulary and can actually remember the words when we need them, hold a big advantage over those persons with a limited vocabulary – this category does not include young children whose minds are trans sponge and cis blackholes.  Any parent can testify to the reality of that fact.  Perhaps you can remember a time when you were small or when your young child accurately used or asked for the meaning of a “colorful” word while your mother was standing nearby – words like: shit, cock, fuck, bitch, son-of-a-bitch, gay, lesbian, homo, or pervert.  A child’s vocabulary expands very rapidly indeed.  Especially when following a child’s inquiry, the adult blurts out “Where the hell did you hear that word?”  The answer is nearly always, “From you Daddy.”  At this point, you get a very very stern look from your mother who is still standing nearby.  (Add “hell” to the previous word list.)  By the way, does anyone know why little children seem to delight in saying those words at the most embarrassing time, place, and circumstance?

While growing up from age 10 forward, I spent many hours of my summer vacation from school reading for recreation to pass the time I consumed babysitting my twin brother and sister.  I had many opportunities to interrogate a dictionary to obtain the meaning of a word, if I could not deduce its meaning from the context of the usage.

If I didn’t know how to spell a word in elementary school, my teachers would always tell me to look it up in the dictionary.  I always retorted, “How can I look it up if I don’t know how to spell it?”  I finally quit asking and just tried to figure out a way to write my assignment without using that particular word.

At one time I was a good speller.  I never won the class spelling bee but I was often 2nd.  When I graduated high school, my ability to spell began to fade away.  Now I depend on my computer’s ability to know what I am trying to communicate and to spell all the words correctly and place them into proper grammatical position.  I’ve discovered that usually the computer and I are both week in the grammar area.

Communicating by pronouncing words correctly (making allowances for regional dialects and not writing a homonym for the correct word) is equally important for presenting a positive image to others along with having your message correctly understood.  Perhaps you can remember President George W. Bush’s mangling of English (some may call it misspeaking or misquoting).  “Dubya” attended some prestigious schools:  Harvard Business School, Yale University, The Kinkaid School, Phillips Academy, and Yale College.  Yet his mangling (there I said it again) of the language does not reflect well on those institutions or upon the Texas education system, which already has major problems of its own.  It goes without saying (but I’ll say it anyway) it does not reflect well upon him either.

Words are used to label things and people.  However, labels do not define a thing.  Poorly paraphrasing Shakespeare, labeling a rose a skunk, does not accurately call to mind its sweet smell.  Placing a label on a person does not accurately define who or what that person is like and the danger of mislabeling someone is all too great.  People are too complex to be categorized by a label.  Humans are more than just words.

I am tired of writing on this topic so here is the defining word of the day, “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”.  If you don’t know what it means, look it up in a dictionary or just watch Disney’s “Mary Poppins”.

© 22 Feb 2016 

About the Author 

I was born in June of 1948 in Los Angeles, living first in Lawndale and then in Redondo Beach.  Just prior to turning 8 years old in 1956, I was sent to live with my grandparents on their farm in Isanti County, Minnesota for two years during which time my parents divorced.

When united with my mother and stepfather two years later in 1958, I lived first at Emerald Bay and then at South Lake Tahoe, California, graduating from South Tahoe High School in 1966.  After three tours of duty with the Air Force, I moved to Denver, Colorado where I lived with my wife and four children until her passing away from complications of breast cancer four days after the 9-11-2001 terrorist attack.

I came out as a gay man in the summer of 2010.   I find writing these memories to be therapeutic.

My story blog is: 

Friday, June 23, 2017

Consequence, by Ray S

Since the beginning of time for the little I know, there have always been untold numbers of situations that resulted in serious consequence to the doer or the doee. Doubtless you may have a few situations of your own that might need to be kept secret, or some sort of cleansing-emotional confession. So goes the state of consequence = GUILT.

There are some old tired consequences such as the ones found in the King James book or the Talmud and the warnings by Nostradamus. “Watch out or there’ll be hell to pay.” Think about your ticket and fine for overtime parking. Can you still be sued for breach of promise? What about divorce or wedding vows?

Look what’s happened to good old boys and locker room parlance. Here’s the question: when is it sexual harassment and when is it dirty conversation between consenting parties? What constituted sexual harassment of the male gender, present company excluded or may be included—it depends on who, what, and when, and of course, maybe?

The devil’s in the details-how many times have we been beseeched to “REPENT” for the end is coming? And don’t forget the little red warning light that comes on with the message CHECK ENGINE, or EMPTY.

Presently we citizen’s who are registered to vote in this November’s presidential election are faced with some truly numbing consequences. But fear not because our shining peroxide white knight has this ‘fixed’ election all wrapped up. You can’t go wrong with Mr. Putin’s gang working the computers and the Fox Network and Donald’s “fact finders” grinding out more lies, lies, lies. Oh sorry, I got the wrong candidate, but that’s alright because the new Attorney General will take care of those consequences.

About global warming—another lie, and if some insignificant foreign second-rate NATO countries do have a little seacoast shrinkage, we will threaten Russia to stop producing nuclear and start shoveling Siberia into the Pacific Ocean to cool things down.

What are the consequences of all these lies about a little friendly groping? It was pretty convincing preceding the last debate with the happy maidens attesting to it was “Just like one big happy family.”

To top that bit of showmanship, the Donald will present to the USA a joyful, giggling group of 426 previous contestants of Trump reality TV shows. They will bear witness to what has been sanctimoniously labeled sexual harassment by ship-jumping party members; they all were extremely pleased and somewhat aroused by the candidate’s attentions. Their payoff will be front step seats at the Trumpian Coronation.

Every day it gets more exciting. It has become a huge game of “Truth or Dare.” Hold on to your bikini, Sister. Or better yet, “Truth or Consequences” and guess what? This time no one tells the truth and every one of us gets the consequences.

P.S. do you have a valid passport for Canada?

© 17 October 2016

About the Author 

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Life before Ice, by Phillip Hoyle

It’s no wonder Mom was happy to live in town where almost everyone had electricity in their homes. Not so on the farm where she grew up just ten miles south of Junction City.

When Mom moved into town to attend high school, she entered a new world of running water in kitchen and bath, flush stools inside the house, electric lights in every room, natural gas stoves and heating systems, and refrigerators that could even make ice. No wonder to me that she never wanted to return to the farm except to visit her folks. And when she was being courted by a young man who wrote for a newspaper, was buying into his father’s grocery store (that wonderful citified substitute for a farm garden and fields), played the piano like a dream (classical, church, and jazz), and sang with expression and in tune, it looked like her life could become one of relative ease, say contrasted with her mother’s.

In town Mom could have ice every day—winter and summer: iced coffee (which she abhorred), iced tea (great with meals in summer), and iced cream (need one say more?). She could quickly get ice onto a burn, bruise, or swelling should a child need it, and make better whipped cream by beating it in a bowl surrounded with ice, on and on. And should she see a need for a large quantity of ice for any reason, she could simply call the local Ice House and the Ice Man would show up to deliver the size and style of ice needed. It took me years to understand any of this; in fact, I just figured it out this year, 2016, my 69th year, when I started writing about my early childhood.

My great grandparents on both sides of the family rarely had ice and certainly had no electricity in their homes. My grandparents grew up without electricity but fortunately got some when the Hoyle’s moved from Dwight to Junction City, Kansas in the 1920s and when the Schmedemann’s greeted the national rural electrification program to Clarks Creek in 1947—the year I was born. I’m sure the same was true of my rural Colorado in-laws as well. To my amazement, my mother-in-law used to eat crushed ice a lot, even had her own ice crusher to make it. For her the habit may have been some kind of celebration of what she had missed in childhood and probably kept alive the hope that she might someday retire to life in town. Eventually she did so and kept enjoying her shredded ice.

My family was lucky to have a refrigerator with a freezer compartment. It was rather new, probably purchased the same year I was born. I say this because the folks’ old refrigerator, a small one with a very small ice maker near the top, went out to my maternal grandparents’ farm. Their lives surely got easier. By the time I could make sense of anything, we in town were living high with running water, city sewage, electricity, natural gas heat, a gas range and oven, a swamp cooler, and a refrigerator with a freezer unit. This was luxury in our town. Ice was made in cubes at home using trays with movable grids. Pull up the handle and out pops the ice cubes, but watch out; they might be all over the floor. Or you might have trouble getting them out at all. That’s when we’d run water over them to begin the melting.

I take it all for granted and do so love my Monday bowl of Guinness Ice Cream with chocolate chunks, but that could be for the enjoyment of the ale flavor and that of my favorite candy.

© 5 Dec 2016  

About the Author 

 Phillip Hoyle lives in Denver and spends his time writing, painting, and socializing. In general he keeps busy with groups of writers and artists. Following thirty-two years in church work and fifteen in a therapeutic massage practice, he now focuses on creating beauty. He volunteers at The Center leading the SAGE program “Telling Your Story.”

He also blogs at

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

My LGBTQ Hopes for 2017, Pat Gourley

At first blush my most important Queer hope for 2017, and that would stretch to 2020, is that Donald Trump remains the president. No, I haven’t lost my mind. I am very aware of what a terrible indictment he, and his election, is of the tattered state of our democracy. Though he is certainly racist, xenophobic and sexist in the most despicable of ways his attitude toward LGBTQ folk was certainly muted during the 2016 campaign.

If we loose Trump through impeachment, early retirement or most likely a big myocardial infarction that leaves us with Mike Pence. In addition to the negative qualities attributed above to Trump we get a toxic dose of homophobia. Pence truly scares me. At least with Trump I do on rare occasions see very human expressions on his face. He is malleable around most things except perhaps his ingrained sexism. Pence, on the other hand, is a zealot and I see in his steely gaze a real hatred for all things Queer, feminist and just plain other. Catholic fundamentalism is truly something to fear.

My second hope for 2017 is that we LGBTQ people do not further abandon our strong and to date very productive sense of queer identity. Identity politics, fueled of course by the powerful coming out process, has been at the root of our success. This has been success, not only through self-acceptance in the form of our own internally vanquished homophobia, but also success in the form of an emerging place at the table of society at large. 

The main hurdle has always been overcoming our own internalized homophobia.  The key to this has been a realization on a soul level that we are different in many ways and that these unique traits are gifts. We can and do exploit and extrapolate these differences to the larger society for a profound mutual benefit. Harry Hay had it absolutely right in asking his three questions of the early Mattachine: who are we, where do we come from, and what are we for. Finding the answers to these questions is not a finite task but an ongoing process that continues to evolve to our benefit and that of all sentient beings.

My third and last hope for 2017 is that our Story Telling group continues to thrive. Our sincere participation in this group really is in part the antidote and juice we need to steal our resistance in the coming Trump years. Whether we want to openly own it or not our participation in this group is a revolutionary act that is soul food for our ever-evolving queer identities.

Recent proof of the power of this Story Telling collective of LGBTQ folks was the memorial for our friend and comrade Stephen Krauss. The event was attended by a variety of individuals and groups all of whom had been important in Stephens’ life. The Story Telling group may well have been the most recent group he was a part of in his 70 odd years.

The group was very well represented at the memorial and I thought provided a loving and a very purple patina to the whole event. Thoughts expressed by Gillian and Betsy and the powerful readings by Lewis and John were all heart-felt testaments to how quickly we as a group have come together in just a matter of a few short years. It is one of our many queer gifts, our ability to coalesce quickly when the space to do so is available, through shared life experiences, into a vibrant and a truly supportive community. I sincerely hope this continues to grow and thrive in 2017.

© January 2017 

About the Author  

I was born in La Porte Indiana in 1949, raised on a farm and schooled by Holy Cross nuns. The bulk of my adult life, some 40 plus years, was spent in Denver, Colorado as a nurse, gardener and gay/AIDS activist. I have currently returned to Denver after an extended sabbatical in San Francisco, California.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Flowers, by Nicholas

I find flowers amazing. They appear delicate but yet can be strong and resilient. Their shapes and colors vary wildly from the palest shades to the brightest hews. I have tulips in my yard that are pure white and some that are so deep a purple as to appear black.

I trace the progress of the season through flowers, what’s in bloom, what is preparing flowers stalks and buds, and what has finished. Already I have spotted tiny leaves breaking through the ground in my yard. Within weeks flowers will appear.

When I lived in San Francisco, I marked the beginning of spring with appearance in late February of the plum tree blossoms in Golden Gate Park. Any day now, their pale pink flowers will appear breaking the dreary coastal winter with their delicate brightness.

Here in Colorado, at the lower elevations, it is the brilliant yellow of the forsythia that dares to announce Spring. Even though we have many more weeks of winter, maybe even the worst of winter, ahead, these tiny flowers will soon appear. I have two forsythia bushes in my yard. The early one will show blossoms by the first of March. The other one is later by about a month.

Around St. Patrick’s Day, I will uncover the planter boxes on the porch and plant pansies with their delightful array of purples, yellows, oranges, burgundies and splashes of white to brighten those late winter days. Pansies love the cold and are beautiful in the snow. It’s the summer heat that will kill them off.

Then some early daffodils will appear, starting what I call their annual “death march.” I don’t know why this variety shows up so early only to face hard freezes and heavy snow. But they persist and eventually bloom in time for a spring snow to crush them. The snow won’t kill them, just bury them. Fortunately, I also have later varieties with the good sense to wait until the weather is more favorable.

Tulips are beginning to show up but they seem more patient and wait out the winter weather to bloom later. A little bit of snow heightens the brilliance of the colors in bloom. But it doesn’t take much to push them all to the ground.

When it is safe to come out in late spring, the cherry tree will overnight burst into white blossoms. And then the iris will show up. When I was a kid, we called them flags because they bloomed around Memorial Day. Maybe because of climate change, my iris seem to be almost finished by the end of May.

Soon the roses will appear and the first bloom is always the best. My favorite is the bright red rose near the back door.

When the warmth of spring begins to turn into the heat of summer, the hawthorn trees flower. The white flowers are pretty but they, frankly, stink. For two weeks, my backyard will smell of rotten fruit. However, the bees love these malodorous blooms and the yard will hum with the buzzing of thousands of bees harvesting what must be rich nectar.

All summer, my garden will be full of bees attracted to the flowers on the herbs I grow. I use the oregano, sage, chives and thyme from the garden but I think the bees get more use of my herbs. The little yellow arugula flowers seem to be especial favorites.

I think climate change has altered the flowering time for the lilies. They used to be a late summer flower with their oranges and yellows. But now, it seems that they bloom by early July and are finished before August. Maybe it’s the dry heat of Colorado, but late summer sees a lull in flowers. And then in September, some come back to life—like the hot pinks and reds of the impatiens—and bloom again before the cold returns.

Fall brings its own colors as the plumbago produces its cobalt blue flowers along the front walk. And I know what time of year it is by the shade of the sedum. Early summer, its flowers are white. Gradually, the color turns to a pale pink. And in the fall, they deepen to a dark red and then rust. It’s amazing to watch this one flower change color over time.

So, that’s the year in flowers in my yard.

© 13 Jun 17 

About the Author 

Nicholas grew up in Cleveland, then grew up in San Francisco, and is now growing up in Denver. He retired from work with non-profits in 2009 and now bicycles, gardens, cooks, does yoga, writes stories, and loves to go out for coffee.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Why Donald Trump getting elected POTUS is not the Apocalypse or End of Days, as so many liberals claim, by Louis Brown

(1)                        Most Democratic politicians and rank and file Dems. Are “devastated” by DT’s victory. I’m not.

(2)                        When I could not vote for Bernie Sanders, I chose Jill Stein. But even she is overreacting in her revulsion for DT

(3)                        DT claimed, for example, he is going to impose tariffs on products, especially on automobiles that are imported here from foreign countries especially when those products could/should have been produced here. Buy American!

(4)                        The allegedly pro-Labor Democrats claim that protectionism is in the long run counterproductive because it impedes free trade. Well, yes, when so-called free trade makes companies profitable, which it does do, 99.9% of the profits, however, go to the upper 1/10 of 1% of the population. The American working class gets unemployed and impoverished on a massive scale.

(5)                        Also, DT has hinted that he is going to adopt Rand Paul’s isolationist foreign policy. I he does, that means peace for a change. All we are saying is give peace a chance. What is the actual difference between left-wing pacifism and rightwing isolationism anyway?

(6)                        DT said he will do business with Bernie Sanders when the time comes.

(7)                        Most everyone has noticed that Hillary Clinton goes to war at the drop of a hat while Barack Obama has fallen head over heel in love with perpetual war in Afghanistan. The American people do not want this war at least not forever. If HC got into office again, it would have meant more and bigger wars and endless hostile trade deals.

(8)                        In other words, DT is promising (at least) important concessions to the real liberal left. We should be gratified not “devastated.”

(9)                        Over my life time, I have been told that protectionism and isolationism are unworkable and extremely destructive in the long run. Considering everything, this is exactly what we desperately need right now.

(10)                  Did you notice that Hillary Clinton’s campaign attracted the approval and support of three undesirables: Meg Whitman, Michael Bloomberg and Henry Kissinger? That should make you suspicious. “Be afraid, be very afraid!” as Rachel Maddow puts it.

(11)                  Bernie Sanders heroically and ultimately unsuccessfully tried to dissuade HC from courting the favor of Wall Street and its leaders. I think Bernie Sanders should think in terms of starting a third political party, he should abandon the sinking ship that is and will be soon be the “new” conservative Democratic Party, as it becomes more bellicose and hostile to American working people, the Dem. Party will, next election, definitely shrink dramatically in size and influence.

(12)                  I thought the election campaign went on too long; the word “hate” was used much too often.

(13)                  Of course, Hillary Clinton did get more votes than DT, yet DT is going to be President. That does seem unfair.

(14)                  Anti-Trump Democrats repeated endlessly that DT was a racist and hated and disrespected women. Personally, that did not ring true at least not to my ears. DT is not a racist and he does not hate women. In fact, in general, DT seems broad-minded and willing to negotiate.

(15)                  My elder and elderly brother, until this last election, voted Democratic, Democratic, Democratic in almost all Presidential elections. In this past election, he voted for DT. DT appears to be actually less of a rightwing reactionary than Hillary, if he follows through with his campaign promises. If he does keep his promises, he will be reelected easily 4 years from now.

© 12 Nov 2016 

About the Author 

I was born in 1944, I lived most of my life in New York City, Queens County. I still commute there. I worked for many years as a Caseworker for New York City Human Resources Administration, dealing with mentally impaired clients, then as a social work Supervisor dealing with homeless PWA's. I have an apartment in Wheat Ridge, CO. I retired in 2002. I have a few interesting stories to tell. My boyfriend Kevin lives in New York City. I graduated Queens College, CUNY, in 1967.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Poetry, by Lewis

When Death Comes
--by Mary Oliver (Oct 03, 2006)

When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn; 

when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse 
to buy me, and snaps the purse shut; 

when death comes
like the measle-pox

when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,

I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

And therefore, I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,

and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,

and each name a comfortable music in the mouth,
tending, as all music does, toward silence,

and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.

When it's over, I want to say all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it's over, I don't want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.

I don't want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.

I don't want to end up simply having visited this world.

--Mary Oliver

© 30 Jun 2014 

About the Author 

I came to the beautiful state of Colorado out of my native Kansas by way of Michigan, the state where I married and I came to the beautiful state of Colorado out of my native Kansas by way of Michigan, the state where I married and had two children while working as an engineer for the Ford Motor Company. I was married to a wonderful woman for 26 happy years and suddenly realized that life was passing me by. I figured that I should make a change, as our offspring were basically on their own and I wasn't getting any younger. Luckily, a very attractive and personable man just happened to be crossing my path at that time, so the change-over was both fortuitous and smooth.

Soon after, I retired and we moved to Denver, my husband's home town. He passed away after 13 blissful years together in October of 2012. I am left to find a new path to fulfillment. One possibility is through writing. Thank goodness, the SAGE Creative Writing Group was there to light the way.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Muleshoes, by Jude Gassaway

Interesting spell check fact:  the correct spellings are horseshoe and mule shoe; I am talking about shoes for a mule, not pumps for a drag queen.


Knowing the difference between horseshoes and muleshoes might be esoteric knowledge, yet it might occasionally come in handy.  A horse’s hoof is circular in shape and a mule’s hoof is a long oval.  A blacksmith-forged, custom-made iron shoe reflects the shape of each hoof.

In June 1974, as a newly minted field geologist, I got a summer job in Death Valley. The Tenneco Company had recently purchased borax mining and mineral interests from the Kern County Land and Cattle Company. This included an operating borate mine in Death Valley National Monument, a borate processing plant in nearby Nevada, and numerous mining claims and prospects in the region.  We were hired to relocate and reassess the mineral properties, and to search for new mineral prospects.  Field geologists are always looking for things, and some discoveries are real surprises.

The dozen summer hires found lodging in the Amargosa Hotel, Death Valley Junction, at a cooler elevation than the valley floor. The hotel was a formerly exclusive establishment.

I have never seen a bathroom with such elegant tile work.  We had full access to the unused hotel kitchen, especially the refrigerators.  Outdoors, the tiled swimming pool was filled to the brim with wind-blown sand.

The hotel’s phone number was Death Valley #3.  Another unexpected find, this was the last twelve party telephone system in the USA.  To use the phone, you held the receiver to your ear and wound the crank.  When the Operator answered, you told her the phone number you wished to be connected to.  As you continued your call, you'd occasionally turn the crank in order to keep the central battery charged.  Also, you got used to hearing clicks on the line as the other party-line members listened in.

There was no radio or TV reception in the area, and the party-line was a way for far-flung neighbors to keep in touch and to be entertained.  And we, the summer geologists, were the newest game in town.  We learned to use the more private dial-up phone at the Tenneco plant in Nevada, some nine miles away.

Another discovery was Stateline, the bar en route to the plant.  It was run by Sandy, formerly the head hooker at Ash Meadows Brothel, now closed.  The menu was cocktails, beer, coffee, top ramen, and hard-boiled eggs.  The naked lady painting behind the bar, rescued from the whorehouse, had been painted by Marta Becket, the ballerina at the Amargosa Opera House.  But that’s another story.

Tenneco sent me and another geologist on reconnaissance to the southern Mojave Desert for July and August.  At 2000 feet, Barstow was much cooler than Death Valley Junction.  At night, it cooled off to below 100 degrees.   I had to borrow a sleeping bag!

In the Calico Mountains, we followed Mule Canyon Road to the abandoned town of Borate (1894-1907).  Mule Canyon is a narrow canyon in soft shale, cut by iron-shod mules pulling iron-clad wheeled freight wagons.  Borate’s open pit borax mine yielded 900 thousand tons of ore.  One principle use for borates then, as now, is for laundry and cleaning products (Boraxo).

The site of the town dump, now piles of rusty cans and wire, is called “Tin Can Alley”.  All that was left of the town were several dirt streets and a few pieces of concrete foundation. There were many broken bottles and bits of iron, suggesting that bottle hunters had already explored the site. I found many waist-high cone-shaped piles of loose dirt with bits of broken glass scattered about the townsite.  The whole danged town had been sifted by the bottle hunters.  Sifted!  Dang!

We moved on to look for rock outcrops with promise of borax. That’s why we were there.  A short incline led to a flat railroad bed.  Rails and ties had been removed many years ago.  The narrow bench was all that was left of the Borate & Daggett Railroad.  Soon we found a pile of rusty artifacts: the dump for the blacksmith’s shop.  Lying in the twisted metal scrap were a dozen used muleshoes. Wow! TWENTY MULE TEAM muleshoes.

Relics that had been missed by the relic hunters.  A bonanza!

© May 2017

About the Author 

Retired USGS Field Geologist.

Founding member, Denver Womens Chorus 

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Choices, by Gillian

Choices are what we all make, constantly, throughout our lives. Most of the obviously huge ones we all recognize as such: marriage, divorce, babies, changing jobs or homes, coming out, retirement, suicide. Meanwhile the innumerable tiny choices we make go almost unnoticed; tea or coffee? Should I watch ‘Gone with the Wind’ yet again or the Bronco game? Or is now a good time for a nap?

Sometimes we will say, ‘I had no choice’, ‘I've run out of options’, which of course is never true. Except for a few who are tragically unable to make choices, or incapable of following up on them, we always have options. What we really mean is, there are no good options to choose from. Our transgendered friend Margaret, who came to this group for a while, says she reached a point in her life when she had to change this 'wrong body' she inhabited or kill herself. Period. No other options were available. But still, she had a choice; just not a good one. I guess that's how it is with all suicides; heartbreakingly, it's their last best choice.

When I talk of my own coming-out process I sometimes say it never felt like I chose to come out. It was something that happened to me. I was swept up on this runaway train, going wherever it cared to take me. But I know that's not strictly true. I had a choice. I could have thrown myself, at great risk of serious psychological injury, off that train. I simply chose not to.

But choices are not always what they seem. Apparently small ones can turn out to be huge; literally a matter of life and death.

A month ago, over three hundred people chose the same course of action.

Hey, lets go to Pulse tonight. It's Latin Night y'know?
Yeah, we're planning on it.
It was great last year. 
I know Tony and Luis are going.

Non of them knew they were choosing a night of terror. Fifty of them did not know they were choosing to die.

I am invaded by sadness for the terrible losses of that Orlando night. I am sad, of course, for all who died, and for the many who were seriously injured. I am sad for those who loved them. I am sad for all who survived, though physically unscathed, to live with what must be terrible psychological traumas. I am sad for the entire LGBT and Latino communities, whose tribes have been attacked. I am sad for the crazed shooter, so lost and astray that he felt compelled do such a terrible thing. It was a choice, of course. He could have chosen one of oh so many other ways to go. But most of all, I think, I am sad for the parents who found out, in one nightmare moment,  that their son was dead and that he was gay. (I say 'son' because the majority of those killed were men, though lesbians died also.) I can imagine little worse. I learn in the same instant that my son is dead and that I never really knew him. And now I never will. What choices of word and deed did I make, that my son was a stranger to me and I didn't even know it?

But, whatever right or wrong choices we might make, our ability to chose is of great importance to us. Our free will gives us at least some slight feeling of power; of control over our lives. And for others, power is found in the act of taking away our ability to chose. The classic example of that battle would be the abortion issue, which seems as if it will go on forever.

At this very moment, combining thoughts of choices with my sadness engendered by the Orlando tragedy, I finally get the connection. My very sadness is a choice. A terrible thing happened. I can close my mind to it: forget it, shove it down deep and not think about it. Not good. I can be very very angry. But I'm doing my best to give up anger. But sadness is OK; not fun, but it seems like a reasonable reaction. So I chose it. But it came over me in too dark a cloud; with too much weight. I have felt overwhelmed by it. And now, just knowing it was a choice has mitigated it's hold on me. Even as I type, I feel it lifting, becoming a much lighter, less overpowering, form of itself.

Once again, writing things out has helped me deal with, lessen, change, and understand, emotions. But it's not just the writing. So again I thank you all for this wonderful group - for your caring and sharing and support. That's where the real magic lies.

© Jul 2016 

About the Author 

I was born and raised in England. After graduation from college there, I moved to the U.S. and, having discovered Colorado, never left. I have lived in the Denver-Boulder area since 1965, working for 30-years at IBM. I married, raised four stepchildren, then got divorced after finally, in my forties, accepting myself as a lesbian. I have been with my wonderful partner Betsy for thirty-years. We have been married since 2013.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Setting Up House, by Gail Klock

This is my third and final attempt at writing this piece on “Setting up House.” I struggled with it twice yesterday, both attempts were wiped out with the delete key. I woke up this morning asking myself why it was so hard, what was the struggle all about. As all of you in this room know getting words down on paper requires an act of God, well not quite, but it does kind of require a coming to terms with yourself. My first two attempts sufficiently covered the superficial aspects of setting up house, all the details were there, but none of the heart. I am attempting to reach into my soul and rectify it with my brain to get to the emotions of this piece.

“Setting up house” represents to me the essence of life, the determining of how I am going to live my life. Am I going to set up house by myself and find contentment in the doing or am I going to attempt to set up house with another, and perhaps realize my hopes and dreams. When I’m honest with myself I know I desire the latter as I am a social person and I really enjoy being in a loving relationship. I had a couple of dreams lately which relate to this topic. In the first one I was trying to get out of Golden on a highway, but I didn’t know which road to take. The one I was on led to a flyover which was very high and narrow with an arc so great at the top I couldn’t see where it was leading. I wasn’t sure if it was the right road to be on, but I knew if I could focus on the road and not on the frightening aspects of the path itself I would be okay. I awoke at this point and began to analyze this dream before the details of it escaped me. I knew why I was leaving Golden, it was where my former partner and I had lived with our family, and our family as we knew it then no longer exists. Much of the setting up house which we had done so well unraveled. We, my partner and I, had not paid enough attention to the infrastructure of our dwellings. The road being high and narrow spoke to two of my fears, height and confinement. The “focus on the road” aspect of the dream is literally focusing on knowing that “I am”. I lost sight of my existence when my little brother Karl died, when our family crumbled under the grief. I thought I could regain my mother’s love and attention by giving her back her happiness. In the process, I gave up myself as I tried to anticipate what her needs were, if I was only good enough I would make her happy and she could return to the loving mother she had been before she lost her baby. I tried to “set up house” at the age of four, almost five. The materials I used worked for the time being, they were at that time the best available. But it was a bit like using asbestos, the long-term damage was potentially greater than the original benefits gained. I’m using better building materials now which are being supplied by more informed builders, not a four-year-old, but sessions with a very skilled psychologist, Vivian Schaefer; readings by authors such as Brene Brown and Eckhart Tolle, which are supplemented greatly by the thoughtful discussions Betsy and Gillian and I have concerning the meaning of these writings, particularly Tolle’s; and by the relationship Trish and I are forming. Without Trish, very little of the progress I am making would be taking place. It is not possible to develop relationship skills without relationship and both Trish and I are bringing the integrity needed which allows us to grow.  Through these efforts I am regaining my awareness of myself and my emotions and the infrastructure of my life is being rebuilt.

My other two dreams involved the living spaces I was occupying. The first one was rather shabby and run down with locks on the exterior doors which a man was trying to break into. In the next segment of the dream I was living in a new apartment which had very secure locks, but was incredibly small; as I looked around the rooms I realized there was space for cooking, but no space for a bed. Upon awakening and further analyzation of these dreams I recognized the locks I have use in life are perhaps not as sturdy as I expected them to be, but rather false providers of security. I tried for too many years to protect myself and my emotions by locking them up, which in reality created a less safe environment. The small safe living quarters allowed me access to provide sustenance for myself, but it did not allow for a bed, which was the metaphor for an intimate relationship.

From these dreams, I would conclude that “setting up house” requires unlocking the emotions within. In order to be safe in a relationship I must be aware of my own needs, wants, and desires. I must also allow my vulnerabilities to be known, because they are the infrastructure which left unacknowledged will destroy the housekeeping. It is unreasonable and unfair to think another person should be able to intuit my areas of insecurities and thus respond in the understanding, loving manner I am hoping for.

When Lynn and I set up house there were never any conflicts over where we lived, the décor, who would do what chores, landscaping, the amount of money each of us was contributing, or any other domestic decisions. We were building our lives together, knowing each person was making a fair contribution and accepting and respecting the fact that together we would be happier and have more. We lived in rental properties for the first eight years and finally acquired the finances we needed to afford our own home. The first house we lived in was designed by my brother Eric, as he said, to compensate for how horribly he had treated me when we were kids- I kiddingly told him it was partial payment. Lynn and I did a great deal of the work on the house ourselves in order to make it affordable, we insulated the house, worked with the electrician as a gofer, stained all the wood in the interior, painted and wallpapered all the walls, and did all the landscaping. It was a lot of hard work, yet exciting at the same time. We did a good job with the housekeeping aspect of “setting up house”. We had a lot of love and respect for one another, but we didn’t have enough internal integrity to support the housekeeping for the duration of our lives. We didn’t know how to be vulnerable with one another, we used strong locks which provided false security.

I want to combine the aspects of my relationship with Lynn which contributed to our long-term relationship and our two wonderful daughters, with my internal integrity which allows for the “I am”. This combination will provide the most beautiful house I have ever set up. It is the house I have been seeking for the past 65 years. I have no doubt I will find it as long as I stay focused on the road which will lead me there and not allow my fears to distract me. Slowly, I am unlocking the rusty locks which I put in place many years ago and I am finding the unshackling to be rather freeing. I’m still a fledgling beginning to test my wings, but I trust the inner strength which I know is within me, that which will allow me to soar like a hawk.

© 12 Sep 2016 

About the Autho

I grew up in Pueblo, CO with my two brothers and parents. Upon completion of high school, I attended Colorado State University majoring in Physical Education. My first teaching job was at a high school in Madison, Wisconsin. After three years of teaching I moved to North Carolina to attend graduate school at UNC-Greensboro. After obtaining my MSPE I coached basketball, volleyball, and softball at the college level starting with Wake Forest University and moving on to Springfield College, Brown University, and Colorado School of Mines.

While coaching at Mines my long-term partner and I had two daughters through artificial insemination. Due to the time away from home required by coaching, I resigned from this position and got my elementary education certification. I taught in the gifted/talented program in Jefferson County Schools for ten years. As a retiree, I enjoy helping take care of my granddaughter, playing senior basketball, writing/listening to stories in the storytelling group, gardening, reading, and attending OLOC and other GLBT organizations.

As a retiree, I enjoy helping take care of my granddaughter, playing senior basketball, writing/listening to stories in the storytelling group, gardening, reading, and attending OLOC and other GLBT organizations.