Reflections on Pride

The CBS Evening News just ended and it has left an impression on me. The Orlando tragedy has been the focus of every news broadcast but the reports are all over the place and hard to comprehend all of this information that is thrown into the report. But the 30 minutes of news that I just watched were more about the survivors’ stories than any of the other information about the shooter. I was transfixed by the interviews of these people and the images of the vigils and the tear-stained faces of the people who are there supporting one another and it made me want to cry along with them.

I also wanted to immediately post something on Facebook about how touched and saddened I am by all of this. So many of my Facebook friends have already gone into great detail about their feelings about this horrible event and yet, I don’t feel that I can do the same. I am employed at a Catholic school and at the same time, I do work for the Catholic church that is attached to the school. I’m friends with my priest on Facebook and even though Pope Francis himself has come out and given prayers for those affected by what happened, I feel unable to the same. Certainly this is not about me. There are bigger things to worry about at a time like this. And even though one of the survivors interviewed on the news said this wasn’t a hate crime but a crime against people,  I can’t help but be reminded of the misguided people that I know in my life that I wish I could speak out against. The janitor at my school posts things on Facebook that make me want to bang my head against the wall. One recent post said “You can be gay. You can be a Christian. But you can’t be both.” He also posted a meme that showed something underlined in a Bible that supposedly explained why being transgender is against what it says in scripture. Living in North Carolina means that the controversial House Bill 2 (HB2) is on the news at least once a day. At our end of the year teacher luncheon, my principal said that the superintendent of Catholic schools for our diocese told the principals not to make any comment to the media if asked about the president’s mandate about schools and transgender students. She responded by saying that it’s a good thing we don’t have any of those _______ kids here. I want to say that she used the word ‘funny’ in that blank. Whatever the word was, it made my stomach twist to hear her say that. Our priest was sitting at the table with us and he didn’t join in that particular conversation.

As a teacher in a Catholic school, I have to be very cautious about what I say. I have to censor what I put on Facebook because I can lose my job over what is posted there. I’ve seen teachers in my school be called to the office over a group picture of them with wine glasses in their hands. This part of my job sucks. I want to scream at the janitor and my principal that it’s not wrong! Being a person in the LGBT community is not immoral! This is not a choice that these people have made. I don’t know a  lot about people who are LGBT as I have not really been friends with anybody who is, however, I’m pretty sure it is not a choice. I believe that people are born this way. If that is the case, God can’t possibly condemn these people for something they have no control over. So how is it acceptable that we condemn them?

Because of being diabetic and the numerous medications that I take, I can’t donate blood. But what I have decided to do, is send a care package to an organization that I discovered in New York City. I can’t remember the acronym of the church, but it’s a shelter for teens who have come out to their families and have been thrown out of their homes as a result. There are charity knitters who make hats and scarves and things to send during the winter months, and hand-knit towels and washcloths during the summer months. I plan on doing the same. I have always been a huge advocate for journal writing. It got me through the agonizing teen angst that we all experience. I want to buy a stack of journals and inscribe each one with words of support to be given to the teens seeking shelter. Now more than ever, I want to show my support in whatever way I can. The host of the CBS Evening News ended the broadcast with the message that the gay pride flag is an important symbol now because there’s always a rainbow after the rain.

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Sunning It Outside

Living in the southeast during the summer months does not afford a person many opportunities to sit outside without becoming completely soaked in sweat. People who venture outside during the summer down here are either doing so because their job requires them to, or because they are swimming in a pool or other location where bodies are submersed in water for leisure. While it is not yet summer according to the official meterological calendar, I’m on summer break, so it’s summer. And today was day 2 of a very mild weather pattern. Yesterday temperatures were hardly in the 80s and the humid was incredibly low. I spent the day in the air conditioned apartment wishing that I felt like going running so I would have a chance to go outside. Today, I decided I wasn’t going to let another opportunity pass. The temperatures are supposed to get ridiculously close to 100 degrees this weekend, so it was now or never for the next three or four months until it turns cool again for another season change.

So I made a quick trip to our camping equipment stash at my mother-in-law’s house and picked up the camping chair that my husband and I tend to fight over. He seems to always forget that he was the one who bought this delightful chair with the footrest for me on our first Christmas together, so by that memory alone, the chair is mine. But I digress. Upon returning home, I went out the back door of our apartment, the one that we never use because it’s also the perfect place to stash the kitty litter box. I took one of my knitting projects, a book that I’m reading, my phone for a gratuitious selfie of sorts, and a large cup of ice water, and I sat down…with my feet up…in the shade. There was a breeze blowing ever so slightly and it was absolutely glorious.

This simple act reminded me of what summer break is all about. Relaxing in whatever way possible. For a brief moment, I was even rethinking the structure I have been trying to establish for myself by way of the six rules I laid out. The truth is, I have not been very successful with those rules. And every night that I go to bed and have a few minutes before my medication kicks in to think about the day, I feel incredibly guilty about not going running or not getting on the elliptical. I always vow that I’m for sure going to get started tomorrow. I’m going running TOMORROW! But then tomorrow comes and I…just don’t want to, so I don’t. Outside on the patio, I felt so great just being out there and feeling comfortable that I really wanted to not beat myself up so much over this exercise issue. Being so down on myself for NOT doing something can’t possibly be helping the situation. Yet, I know that I can’t give up on at least trying. I remember how good it felt when I was successful the last time and started losing weight for the first time ever in my life. And I know what’s at stake now. Becoming a mother is the most important reason for doing this. I’m about to have another birthday, which means time is still moving forward and running out at break-neck speed. Even as I reflect on this, I feel the anxiety rising in my stomach, which is completely contrary to how I felt this afternoon. I had felt peace and all around satisfaction with simply being outside with my feet up. I recommend it for anybody. The world will not stop in that moment, the cars will still drive past as people are coming and going in and out of the apartment complex, but there will be peace.

Memories to Forget

In a previous post, I mentioned that my mom and dad were getting back together. That is still the case. They have each gone through with the divorce of my step-parents and my dad has even gotten his job relocated to the city my mom lives in. One of my sisters is still happy for them and my other sister is still not talking to my mom, though I hear she’s beginning to come around. As for me, I’m stuck in a constant state of emotional confusion. My parents are coming down to visit for several days, one of those days being my birthday. I receive texts and phone calls from both of them several times a week, which is not unusual for my mom, but for my dad? I have communicated with him more in the past couple of months than I have in the 16 years since he walked out on my mom and me.

I want to be happy for my mom. I really and truly do. I hope for her sake that this doesn’t end badly. If it ends at all, I want it to be amicably, with very little to no hurt feelings. Though I want her to be happy, I’m so confused as to how I feel about all of this. I’m used to hating my dad. I’m used to him not being in my life. I had resolved it with myself that my future children would not have a grandfather. My husband’s own father died when he was in high school and his mother never re-married. Not that I was o.k. with any of this, but it’s what I was used to.

Now that everything has completely turned around, I’m still stuck facing the other direction. I still want to be angry at him. How can I not be upset? I have never had a good relationship with my father, even growing up. The constant criticism and what I can honestly say may have been verbal abuse wore me down after 18 years. What’s absolutely the worst thing about this reunion, is that my mom has now begun to defend the past that hurt me so deeply. My father left, apparently, because it was the only way to fix the situation at home. Her life was devastated as much as mine was by his unexpected departure, and now she’s justifying it.

The latest blow to my psyche came by way of a text containing the above picture of gummy orange slices that they have on the dessert bar at the Golden Corrale buffet restaurants. In high school, the three of us often ate at that restaurant and cracked up laughing until we were practically doubled over when it came to dessert. I honestly don’t remember what was so funny, except that my mom loved the orange slices and always made a production about putting them in her napkin so she could secretly stuff them in her purse to take home and eat later. This picture was sent to me last week by my mom who thought it was funny that they still had her beloved orange slices at the restaurant where she and my dad were dining. A follow up text read: “Oh the memories…” I ignored the text completely. My memories of those times are tainted so darkly with how broken down my spirit was because of my father. How can she look back at that time and smile? Worst of all, how can she expect me to look back and be happy?

My husband said I should text her back with an old picture of my arms cut up and bloody, as the result of my own way to cope and deal with the past. A reminder that when I was coping in this self-harming way, neither of them were there. Both had left me completely alone when I needed them most. My father first, then my mother, less than a year later. She moved back north to be with the other members of my family. She claimed she couldn’t support herself here anymore after filing bankruptcy. “Oh the memories…” Unfortunately, I don’t have a picture of my arms at their worst, but I do have several very faint pink lines that scar my skin. I don’t think I could be that outwardly vindictive. In fact, when my mother called to see why I was ignoring both her and my dad’s texts, I refused to talk to her about why I didn’t appreciate the picture of the orange slices.

I don’t know how this will end. I don’t know how I will even get through their visit next month. I don’t know how I’m supposed to feel about this. Am I supposed to be happy for them? All I know is that I roll my eyes when I get a text from my dad, and today in Wal-mart, listening to Kenny Rogers’ “Through the Years” playing overhead–my parent’s ‘song’, I could only shake my head as the cashier bagged our groceries. This is weird, this sucks, and I’m not sure that I ever want there to be a time when I feel o.k. about it. For now, it just is what it is.

 

Summer Rules

While teachers in the local public school system were heading back to work today after the long Memorial Day weekend, I was enjoying my first official day of summer vacation. With the last day of school for me being last Friday, I have been in a perpetual state of relief since then. But now that break is officially here, I have to hold myself accountable to the things I promised myself I would do once I was out of school for the summer. I have two main goals for the next two months–re-develop my diet and exercise regime and read as much as possible so that I can prepare myself for the great leap I will be taking in August from teaching on the elementary level to the secondary  level. I have heaps of books I have purchased lately to help me with this preparation, which I suspect I will not truly be prepared for until after the first day of school in the fall.

So that I will not look back on these upcoming months with regret when they are over, I have come up with some rules that I’m going to use to guide me through June and July. I’ve developed a routine like this before, so I’m positive I can do it again. And like before, I plan on losing count of how many consecutive days I have been at it. I don’t plan on stopping after school starts back.

Rule #1: Drink only water. As an added bonus, I’d like to keep track of how much water I’m intaking so that I can log it on my FitBit app.

Rule #2: Complete the Couch to 5K app. I’ve already run a 5K, but I’d like now to pick up my pace. I’m going to re-work the program, except I’m going to replace my slow, feet-shuffling jog with a faster, longer stride.

Rule #3: Don’t sleep all day. I’m going to run in the mornings before the steamy southeastern heat and humidity kick in. I’m not counting out a nap later in the day, but an early start is what I’m initially after.

Rule #4: Eat only food that is prepared at home. Eating out makes it too easy to get off track with my diet goals.

Rule #5: Use the elliptical on running ‘off’ days. The Couch to 5K app requries only 3 days of running per week. I may increase this by repeating some of the days, but when I’m taking a running break, I have found that going for 20 or 30 minutes on the elliptical helps increase the strength in my legs.

Rule #6: Make time to read every day. I really do have many books that I would like to read this summer. In fact, I’m already halfway through The Life of Pi, one book that I see as a potential book to teach my future 8th graders.

Six rules shouldn’t be too difficult to follow. Eagerness and a desire to make the most of my summer is what I’ll take to bed with me tonight. Hopefully it will last through the night and help get me out of bed in the morning. I have no reason to suspect it won’t.