Saturday, January 31, 2015

Moment of Zen: Smile

I love to see a man smile.  It's such a turn-on.  I have a close friend who every day I have the supreme fortune to get to see his smile.  It doesn't matter what kind of mood he's in or how he's feeling, I get to see his smile.  It's one of the great joys of my life.  I don't always have many, but this week has been an exception.  On Monday, I wrote a post about being in the closet, because it was something on my mind.  On Tuesday, I elaborated on my situation for those who might not have understood.  It never occurred to me that I would get such a response out of those posts.  Not only did I receive quite a number of comments, but email after email has come in offering love, compassion, and support.  (I'm still trying to answer all of them.) Each one of those emails has made me smile, not something I find myself doing often enough these days.  People have said that they just felt the need to reach out, and for that I will be eternally grateful.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Today Will Be a Great Day

Honestly, I have no reason to believe that it will be, but this is how I'm going to start my day today.  I am going to tell myself that "Today will be a great day!"  First off, it's Friday.  Fridays are good.  Second, it's payday.  Paydays are good.  So with two things already going my way, I'm just going to believe they will continue to improve.

The Mayo Clinic says this about the power of positive thinking:
Negative thoughts can feed pessimism and create unnecessary stress. You can learn to turn negative thoughts into positive ones. The process is straightforward, although it's challenging, especially at first. Start by following one simple rule: Don't say anything to yourself that you wouldn't say to anyone else. Throughout the day, stop and evaluate what you're thinking. If a negative thought enters your mind, evaluate it rationally and respond with affirmations of what is good about yourself.
I think I can take this advice.  When students begin to stress me, I will simply decide not to get angry but attempt to deal with the situation in a positive way.  Maybe turn it into a learning experience.  In fact, I did this the other day, and it worked out beautifully.  To give you an example, I have been teaching a unit on Ancient Chinese history, which includes the philosophies of Confucianism, Daoism, and Legalism.  Confucianism is all about respect and learning the order of relationships.  Daoism is the search for the natural balance in the world, but it is said that no one can truly understand the Dao (also translated as "The Way").  Daoists believe that those who speak of the way, do not know the way, and those who know the way, do not speak of the way.  Legalism teaches that human are naturally evil and must be beaten into submission with extremely harsh laws.  By the way, all of these are over-simplifications.

Earlier this week, I'd given my students an assignment to complete a study guide based on a list of terms I'd given them.  I would then go over the list of terms the next day for those who'd completed the study guide, showing them not just how to find definitions but more importantly how to determine the significance of each of the terms.  When I went around to check and see who had done the assignment, only six students out of twenty-five had completed the assignment.  So, I had those six com to the front of the room.  It turned out that three of the six had copied the study guide of one of the other students.  I told those four students to sit back down.  The two remaining who had completed the task would receive a 100 on the test without having to take it.

Then I explained to them my rationale.  You see, if they'd each followed Confucian beliefs, they would have respected me, i.e. their teacher, enough to complete the assignment and have it finished on time. Only the two who completed the task would have been allowed to take the test.  All others would fail.  Furthermore, if this were under a Legalist system, those who had not completed the task would face harsh corporal punishment while the four who cheated would be expelled from the school.  You see it was not fair for the students who did their work, to be rewarded with the correct answers and allow the other students to also receive the correct answers on the study guide, thus rewarding them for not completing the assignment.  Therefore, I needed to find a balance.

The two who had done what was asked of them, no more and no less, had in this instance found the way, the Dao, the balance.  Therefore, they alone should be rewarded.  Hose four who had cheated had done more than asked by taking the extra step of copying someone else's work, and thus had tipped the balance.  Those who had not completed the task, even if it was because they did not do "merely" two or three definitions, had not reached the balance of completing the assignment.  They too had failed to find the way.  If I did not go over the study guide, they'd surely fail, because my students are often too lazy, such as not finishing and waiting for the correct answer from me or by finding only the definition and not the significance of a term.

My solution therefore was to reward the two good students by not requiring them to take the test and automatically giving them a 100, whereas all of the other students would have to redo their study guides under my guidance, and then have to study for the test in order to pass it.  It was a rewarding teaching moment for me as I saw the understanding of these three philosophies truly click in their minds.  They are unlikely to forget them.  This may not have been a perfect lesson, I'm sure there were many flaws, but I did come up with this one on the SPIR of the moment, and it was not planned at all.  As any decent teacher learns to do, my students never knew I'd not planned this lesson from the beginning.

Will knowing the difference between Confucianism, Daoism, or Legalism help them in much more than possibly getting a question correct on Trivia Crack (a new iPhone game they are obsessed with, in case you're wondering)?  I doubt it, but what I do hope is that they will realize, in even a small way, that other belief systems are significant.  There is a greater world out there, and it's a world that we should understand better.

I really do have a passion for teaching.  I don't get moments like this very often, but on the rare occasions I do, it really does make it all worth it.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

My Love for You Will Always Be "Shiny!"

Will Lafferty and Kenny Scalia are both having sort of a day. Will gets fired for letting fifth graders read Harry Potter, and Kenny finds his boyfriend and his sex toys in bed with a complete stranger. When Will knocks over Kenny's trash can—and strews Kenny's personal business all over the street—it feels like the perfect craptastic climax to the sewage of suckage that has rained down on them both. 
But ever-friendly, ever-kind Will asks snarky Kenny out for a beer—God knows they both need one—and two amazing things occur: Kenny discovers talking to Will might be the best form of intercourse ever, and Will discovers he's gay. 
Their unlikely friendship seems like the perfect platonic match until Will reveals how very much more he’s been feeling for Kenny almost since the beginning. But Kenny’s worried. Will’s newfound sexuality is bright and glittery and shiny, but what happens when that wears off? Is Will's infatuation with Kenny strong enough to stay real?
If you've read many of my book reviews, then you know I am a tremendous fan of Amy Lane.  I love the emotions she brings out, though she is known by her monicker "Angst and Pain" Amy Lane,  her 2014 book Shiny! is one of her finest creations.  Not much angst and pain here, but a beautiful love story.  Lane has written romances about knitters, porn stars, and horse trainers, but underneath all of her greatest creations are the shy, awkward, and a bit geeky.  Two of my favorite characters, Shane Perkins and Evan Costa, are both closet geeks, while another favorite characters of mine, Wes "Whiskey" Keenan, is a teacher, professor actually.  Lane does a stunning job when she puts forth a character who is shy, awkward, and geeky, but in Shiny! she has outshone herself with a character I instantly fell in love with, Will Lafferty.  

Will is big and awkward, socially inept, loves science fiction and fantasy, and is a teacher, who has such a supreme passion for teaching, it makes my heart ache.  Lane is a former teacher, and the mind of an educator comes through so well in Shiny!, as Will shows what I can only believe was the enthusiasm that Lane showed as a teacher.  Those students who had Amy Lane as a teacher have to be some of the luckiest students in America.  Lane passion for education comes across in Will throughout the book, even though Will lost his job as a teacher in the first chapter.  When at the end of the book, Will explained why he'd let the students in the fundamentalist Christian school read Harry Potter, your heart leaps with joy for someone who can understand the supreme value of reading.

Don't get me wrong, I love the character of Kenny Scalia.  Kenny is full of worldly sass and really finds it difficult to trust and you just care so much for him.  He’s also fun and dorky and nice (though sometimes he forgets to be the friendliest of people, but it is unintentional).  Kenny is a fun character that serves as just enough of a contrast to make him the perfect fit for Will.  And it’s hard not to love him when he says things like this: 

“I was looking for sparkly.  I should have been looking for warm and real.”

Kenny finds warm and real in Will, but Will is the true star of this book for me.  He may not be as shiny as the outgoing Kenny, but he shines brighter than any character that I've ever been introduced to by Amy Lane.  Will's brilliance only shines brighter when in a nearly twenty-four hour period, he realizes that he is gay, when it took me nearly twenty-four years to realize.  With Will, it just all clicked into place.  However, Will, like I did, never thought it was a possible action to be gay.  For me, that was taught consciously, but for Will, it was just not something he is aware of.  Though it is a speedy coming out, which serves as a quick literary device, it mirrors my own coming out but mine was at a much slower pace.

No one can quite capture geeky awkwardness like Amy Lane can. Shiny! is a perfect example.  As you know, I often listen to audiobooks on my drive back and forth from school.  This was no exception and one of the things that makes this book even more enjoyable is the narrator Tyler Stevens.  I cannot say it any better than Lisa did over on her blog "A Novel Approach" so I won't try:

[Tyler Stevens] gives Will a voice that builds in confidence. Will was very quick to describe himself in the beginning of the story as “a totally average, normal, Christian-looking dude!” Tyler Stevens was able to build Will’s voice. At the beginning of the tale he did sound like an average, normal dude. When he discovers his “gayness,” he sounds like a kid in a candy shop discovering all sorts of new things. In the end he sounds confident, mature and completely in love. That’s what keeps a listener engaged, in my opinion. Not only did the story have a beginning, middle, and end, the narration did too. It kept me engaged throughout.

On a final note, the discussion Kenny has with Will about the realities of teaching as an out gay man, really brought this story home to me.  If you've read my posts Monday and Tuesday, you know I can identify with this.  Will is so good-natured and caring that he would never have been satisfied with not being able to be open and honest about the love of his life.  If Will were forced to hide his true self, whether it be his love of Harry Potter or that he loves a man, he wouldn't have been complete.  When a teacher has to hide a part of himself, then he is not able to give his all for his students.  When I've taught college, I had no reason to have to hide my sexuality, and it helped me to be a lively and engaging lecturer, but when teaching high school, there are so many parts of myself that I must hide and thus my students don't get the real me.

Shiny! really is a must read. It is Amy Lane at her finest.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

I Thank You

Sonnet: I Thank You
By Henry Timrod

I thank you, kind and best beloved friend,
With the same thanks one murmurs to a sister,
When, for some gentle favor, he hath kissed her,
Less for the gifts than for the love you send,
Less for the flowers, than what the flowers convey;
If I, indeed, divine their meaning truly,
And not unto myself ascribe, unduly,
Things which you neither meant nor wished to say,
Oh! tell me, is the hope then all misplaced?
And am I flattered by my own affection?
But in your beauteous gift, methought I traced
Something above a short-lived predilection,
And which, for that I know no dearer name,
I designate as love, without love’s flame.

Source: The Collected Poems of Henry Timrod (1965)

Since Henry Timrod's output before the Civil War was limited to verse sufficient only for a single volume—published in December 1859—his literary reputation at the time was modest. The political activities surrounding the formation of a new nation and the impact of the war itself aroused Timrod's poetic imagination, however, and he quickly became widely known as the literary spokesman and eventually as the so-called poet laureate of the Confederacy, an unofficial title he has retained ever since. After the war, poor health associated with the complications of tuberculosis and abject poverty related to political and social conditions in South Carolina during Reconstruction made it impossible for Timrod to fulfill the promise or equal the achievement of his wartime performance, and he died in 1867, two months before his thirty-ninth birthday. 

As a southern man who love poetry, history, and lost causes, who better to give my heartfelt thanks than the poet laureate of the Confederacy, Henry Timrod.  When I wrote my post on Monday, I was not prepared for the response I received.  I had merely wanted to explain my situation, though it took an extra post and a lot of soul searching and gut wrenching realizations.  I agonized over both of those posts.  I wrote and revised Monday's post many times over the weekend, and revised and revised my post on Tuesday many times before I was satisfied with it.  Like I said, I was not prepared nor had I even expected the outpouring of comments and emails.  So many of you have been so encouraging and understanding of the position I find myself in currently.  You all have given me hope and renewed my spirit. Thank my friends for I "know no dearer name, I designate as love, without love’s flame."  For I will hold the flame of love close to my heart until it burns brightly for a man for whom I can share my life and passions.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Why I Went Back, Why I Stay...For Now

Since I began this blog, I have always posted a poem every Tuesday.  This week will be different.  I will post the poem that I had ready for today, tomorrow.  I'm doing this because I wanted to address a few things about my post yesterday.  I would have answered these things in a comment or two, but there was a lot I wanted to say, more than I wanted to leave in a comment.  I want to thank everyone for their comments and for reading what I wrote, but I think a few things were misunderstood.

First, let me make it very clear that I was not attempting to have a pity party.  Yes, when I wrote that I was in a very depressive mood, and I was extremely worried about an event that had occurred and been on my mind.  I often deal with those issues by either talking them out, or writing about them.  This time, I chose to write about being in the closet on my blog.  It's my prerogative to be able to do so.  I apologize if it sounded like I was whining.  However, I wanted it to be in writing what it was like for me personally to be in the closet.  Many times I find that by writing about an aspect of my life, others can identify, and maybe for some it makes them feel better about their own situation to know that their own life is either better than someone else's, or to realize that they are not alone.  This blog is about all things gay, and it is my way of stating how I fit into that world and to put forth my knowledge of the gay world, however limited that might be.

Second, it was said that I was overly hyperbolic when I wrote, "Being in the closet is one of the most humiliating, degrading, and torturous things I can imagine."  First of all, I said "one of the most," I realize there are many other life circumstances that fall under that category.  However, I do believe that being forced to live a closeted life is a demeaning life.  People live closeted lives for many different reasons.  I have my own reasons, and while there are things I could do to change those circumstances, right now the cost would be too high.  Furthermore, before returning to Alabama, I lived an out and proud life.  I did not care who knew I was gay, nor did I care what they thought.  Those circumstances changed when I moved back.

Also, as it was pointed out, I'm a 37 year-old man who has never been married and loves poetry and literature.  My sexuality is an open secret.  Gay men who have lived in larger more metropolitan areas may not understand the full dynamics of what that means.  People may suspect, they may "know," but they can ignore it and merely snicker and gossip behind your back as long as they do not have proof.  Once they have proof, then they cannot ignore the facts, and they will decide to act and most will act negatively.

You might ask then, "Why the hell did you move back to Alabama?"  One word:  MONEY.  I was a graduate student, and I was at the limits of my finances.  I believed at the time that I had three choices.  I could continue working a meaningless job and continue to be non-productive with my dissertation; I could find a teaching job that would pay enough for me to finish my research; or I could move home with my parents, finish my dissertation, and save some money.  

The first option was not possible because my job did not pay enough for me to continue living over there and get a new apartment that I needed because my lease was up and my home was being rented to a family member of my landlord.  I worked extremely hard for the second option; however, after more than forty applications and several interviews, the economy bottomed out, and all but two of the jobs I applied for, cancelled their job searches.  In the case of one of those jobs I applied for, they had posted the wrong job description and when I was interviewed it became readily apparent that the job I'd applied for was no longer the job being offered.  That left me, with what I believed at the time to be my only choice: move home.

It was supposed to be for one year as I finished my dissertation and looked for a job.  Little did I realize that my graduate advisor would take a job elsewhere, and I would be stuck with a graduate advisor that neither believed in my research project nor believed in me.  He consistently did everything to hold back any progress on my degree.  My own bouts with depression over what I felt was my own failure in addition to living with my parents again, did not help the situation.  However, I continued to pursue jobs elsewhere, all while realizing (remembering) why I'd worked so hard to get away from home in the first place.  I do not get along with my father, not in the least, and my mother thinks I'm an abomination for being gay and pretends that conversation never existed.  I had thought we had each matured to an understanding that we could all live with.  I was wrong.  After application after application was sent through the local post office, the local postmaster stopped me one day to tell me that the local private school was hiring.  Unlike all of the other places I applied for, they were thrilled to have me, so I took the job.

My new job basically paid peanuts and my financial situation worsened considerably, especially after moving out of my parents' house.  For the first time in a year, I had some freedom.  Money continues to be what holds me back.  I cannot afford to quit my job, and I can barely afford to keep it. I realize now that I made a terrible mistake moving back to Alabama, but it's too late to change that now.  What is left is to attempt to escape again.  If you have ever been deeply in debt, barely treading water, and drowning little by little, then you may understand the depths of my despair.  It has been suggested that I just leave my job, move elsewhere, and force myself to land on my feet, but when circumstances keep going against me, and it seems like every decision I make is a bad one, there does not seem much hope at the end of the tunnel.  I am forced, for now, to keep my job and hope that as I continue to send in application after application to other places, one of those places might hire me.  Teaching jobs may be abundant in many places, but if you were to pay attention, the teaching positions in demand are not social studies or English positions.  So, I continue putting in applications.  I have applied to positions across the country and even some beyond, so geography is not an issue for me.  I will go where a job takes me.  Until one of those schools or colleges hires me, I feel trapped. And before anyone asks if I have considered non-teaching positions, be assured that I am looking for all avenues for which I am qualified, but teaching is my passion.

Furthermore, I do not blame my current circumstances on anyone but myself.  I am merely attempting to explain and not make excuses.  However, because I have a precarious situation, not all of which I am willing to outline on this blog, I do feel that my statement of "Being in the closet is one of the most humiliating, degrading, and torturous things I can imagine," is an accurate statement.  Maybe I should have said instead that being poor, drowning in debt, and in the closet after previously being out and open are a few of the most humiliating, degrading, and torturous things I can imagine, and I do live that everyday.  To at one time have my freedom and have it yanked out from under me due to a series of unfortunate events, some of which I was all too willing to do to myself, is very disheartening.  I made mistakes, and I am addressing those mistakes and making progress.  I will be the first to admit my mistakes and believe that we pay for those mistakes.  My job is currently my security, and trust me when I say that if I were out, I'd lose my job.  It might not be the reason they found for getting rid of me, but they would find a reason.

Finally, let me make it clear, I am not looking for your pity.  This is my fault.  I will find a way out of my current situation.  It will take time, but it will get better.  Of that, I have no doubt; God does have a plan for me and it does not include this current torture.  It's just a detour through the briar patches.  I may get a few scrapes and scratches, but I'll make it to the other side.  On that day, I will rejoice, but until then, I will trudge through using every resource available to me to overcome the obstacles in my way.

Monday, January 26, 2015

The Closet

Being in the closet is one of the most humiliating, degrading, and torturous things I can imagine, and I live it everyday.  I hate it, but life circumstances have demanded it for now, hopefully, that will change someday soon.  Teaching at a small conservative private school, where gossip is a sport that ranks up there with football makes it even worse.  To explain, my students are taught by parents and pastors that being gay is disgusting and sinful.  They hear their parents constantly make racist and homophobic comments, and so words like faggot and nigger roll off their tongues like any other word.  My students learn quickly that any derogatory language will not be tolerated in my classroom or in my presence.

To give an example of the attitudes that I am trying to fight against and teach more tolerance to, let me tell you about teaching the Holocaust.  As I was describing the systematic murder of 11 million people, including 6 million Jews and 1.1 million children, my students were laughing, joking, and gossiping.  One had the gall to ask me to tell a holocaust joke, because they think it's funny.  I was beyond furious and frustrated.  If I could just make them understand that it is attitudes like these, the attitudes of hatred and indifference that led to the Holocaust in the first place, maybe they would take life more seriously, but as long as there is no support from parents and pastors, the role of teachers is diminished.

They do not understand the consequences of their actions, and a large part of that has to do with their parents who have always gotten them out of trouble and made them believe that there are no bad consequences.  I have a few students who find it one of their great joys to gossip about my sexuality.  They have tried in every way to out me, but yet they don't understand the consequences of their actions.  So I wanted to simply put in writing what some of those consequences would be.  First, I'd lose my job, publicly and humiliatingly.  There would be those who would fight for me to keep my job and those who would fight for me to lose it.  It would either become an ugly public battle in the community, or I'd leave quietly with my tail tucked between my legs not being given the chance to fight.  

Second, if I lost my job, in this economy, it could prove impossible to find another teaching job.  I love teaching, but there just aren't that many jobs available.  Yes, the economy may be getting better, but anyone who is familiar with the politics associated with education knows, education, especially higher education, takes the first budget cuts when there is economic turmoil, and it is education that is the last sector to see a recovery once the economy improves.  I may get frustrated with my students but I truly have a passion for teaching.  Anyone who knows me, knows how excited and passionate I get about new ways to teach subjects, spreading the knowledge I've accumulated over the years, and seeing someone have even a glimpse of interest in what I talk about.  Yes, I get frustrated with students, but the pros outweigh the cons.

Furthermore, my family would be humiliated.  Grant it, I think my family should love me no matter what and accept my sexuality for what it is, but that's a fantasy and not the reality.  They would face ridicule and gossip behind their backs and sometimes to their faces.  I've dealt with this all of my life, and it would devastate me to know that I was the cause of those I love facing the same torture.  They would suffer as much as I would, and even if they accepted my sexuality, they'd still be ridiculed and shamed.  All for something that I cannot change, and that God created as part of who I am.  I can no more change my sexuality than a black man can change his skin color or a leopard his spots.  I was born gay, I have always been gay, and I will always be gay.

I wish we lived in an ideal world where homophobes were the ones who were shamed, where racists were derided, and no one ever had to live in a closet.  Sadly, that world does not exist.  I hope it will some day, but it is a long way away.  What I would settle for now is that people understand the consequences of their actions.  Cruelty and gossip can have devastating consequences far beyond someone's understanding.  There is a snowball effect that can occur and slowly, deliberately, and effectively destroy someone's livelihood and life.  The life I live, I live because I have certain circumstances and obligations.  Because of that, my depression often worsens.  I hope one day I will not only be out completely, but I will also be out of this current situation.  Alabama is not the best place for me, at least not the part of Alabama where I currently live.

Alabama may have seen their gay marriage ban ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge, but Alabama hasn't changed much since the 1960s when federal judges declared one segregation law after another unconstitutional.  Just because something becomes law through the courts, does not mean that it will be accepted.  Discrimination will continue against the LGBT community, just as it did for the African-American community.  As Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, said when he was accepted last year into the Alabama Hall of Fame, Alabama and the nation "have a long way to go" before realizing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream of equality (and I realize King's dream of equality did not reach to LGBT Americans).  Cook went on to say that Alabama was "too slow" to guarantee rights in the 1960s, Cook said, and "still too slow on equality for the LGBT community. Under the law, citizens of Alabama can still be fired based on their sexual orientation"  Cook went further and stated that "We can't change the past, but we can learn from it and we can create a different future."

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Equality in God's Eyes

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."
John 13:34-35

God does not show partiality or favoritism (Deuteronomy 10:17; Acts 10:34; Romans 2:11; Ephesians 6:9), and neither should we. James 2:4 describes those who discriminate as “judges with evil thoughts.” Instead, we are to love our neighbors as ourselves (James 2:8). We should do our best to make people feel welcomed and loved.  One of the ways many of us discriminate and not realize it is through gossip.

Gossip is incredibly damaging. All people whose reputation or relationships have been damaged through gossip would have no trouble identifying it for the evil that it is. God’s Word speaks plainly about gossip. It hurts others: “The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels; they go down into the inner parts of the body"  (Proverbs 18:8).

James, the half-brother of Christ, explains why gossip occurs: “For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison" (James 3:7-8). Sadly, it seems that everyone eventually finds himself or herself the recipient of gossip and tempted to gossip about others. The tendency to gossip is part of human nature, and taming the tongue requires God’s help.  When we gossip, we show contempt for others in a malicious way.  In my belief, that is another way in which we discriminate because we gossip about something that is different about another person.

Jesus commands us to love one another as He loves us (John 13:34). If God is impartial and loves us with impartiality, then we need to love others with that same high standard. Jesus teaches in Matthew 25 that whatever we do to the least of His brothers, we do to Him. If we treat a person with contempt, we are mistreating a person created in God’s image; we are hurting somebody whom God loves and for whom Jesus died.

Gossip and discrimination, in varying forms and to various degrees, has been a plague on humanity for thousands of years, but it doesn't make it right.  Victims of racism, homophobia, prejudice, and discrimination need to forgive. Ephesians 4:32 declares, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Homophobes may not deserve your forgiveness, but we deserved God’s forgiveness far less. Those who practice racism, homophobia, prejudice, and discrimination need to repent. “Present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God” (Romans 6:13). May Galatians 3:28 be completely realized, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Moment of Zen: Equality

With yesterday's federal court ruling, with it being an almost foregone conclusion, Alabama is one step closer.

Friday, January 23, 2015


MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - A federal judge has ruled that the State of Alabama's "Sanctity of Marriage Amendment" and the "Alabama Marriage Protection Act" are unconstitutional because they violate the equal protection and due process clauses of the 14th Amendment.

The judge effectively declared Alabama's ban on same-sex marriage unlawful.

“We are disappointed and are reviewing the Federal District Court's decision. We expect to ask for a stay of the court's judgment pending the outcome of the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling which will ultimately decide this case," said Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange's spokesperson Mike Lewis in an emailed statement.

Gov. Robert Bentley's office has also released a statement saying the governor is disappointment.

"The people of Alabama voted in a constitutional amendment to define marriage between a man and a woman. The Governor is disappointed with the ruling today, and we will review the decision to decide the next steps," the governor's spokesperson Jennifer Ardis said in an emailed statement.

Another powerful state politician, Alabama Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn) is speaking out, promising an appeal issuing a statement that reads:

"It is outrageous when a single unelected and unaccountable federal judge can overturn the will of millions of Alabamians who stand in firm support of the Sanctity of Marriage Act. The Legislature will encourage a vigorous appeals process, and we will continue defending the Christian conservative values that make Alabama a special place to live."

The Southern Poverty Law Center called the ruling a victory for families and children of same-sex couples in Alabama. David Dinielli, deputy legal director for the Southern Poverty Law Center's LGBT Rights Project, released the following statement:

“This historic ruling is a giant step toward full equality for LGBT people in Alabama and does not harm anyone. It is a victory for Alabama families and the children of same-sex couples whose lives will have more stability and certainty now that they are afforded the same rights and privileges as other married couples."

“Yet, more work remains on behalf of LGBT people. They still face discrimination in the Deep South, including formal discrimination enshrined in the law. It is still a felony in Alabama for LGBT people to have sex. Teachers in Alabama are still required to teach that homosexuality is immoral and illegal. And, of course, there is the private discrimination that LGBT people face every day, but the law fails to prevent.”

The ruling came after two Mobile women, Cari Searcy and Kimberly McKeand, filed a federal lawsuit to force the State of Alabama to recognize their out-of-state marriage in order for them to both become legal parents to their 8-year-old son. The suit said Alabama's ban on same-sex marriage and its refusal to recognize legal, valid marriages from other states violated their constitutional rights. 

Searcy and McKeand have been a couple for more than 14 years. They were married in California in 2008 but have lived in Mobile since 2011.

The Human Rights Campaign, which says it is America's largest civil rights organization working for gay and transgender equality, praised the ruling by Judge Callie Granade, an appointee to the federal bench by President George W. Bush.

"Judge Granade's ruling today affirms what we already know to be true – that all loving, committed Alabama couples should have the right to marry,” said HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelow. “As the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to hear a landmark case on marriage equality, today's ruling joins the dozens and dozens of others that have recognized that committed and loving gay and lesbian couples deserve equal treatment under the law.”

There is currently no stay on Judge Granade's ruling, meaning gay and lesbian couples could begin applying for marriage licenses when county clerks offices open on Monday.

Judicial Review

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee disputed what he called the "notion of judicial supremacy" on Tuesday, arguing states would have the final say on gay marriage regardless of whether the Supreme Court rules that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry.

The idea of nullification has been tried over and over.  Courts at the state and federal level, including the U.S. Supreme Court, repeatedly have rejected the theory of nullification. The courts have decided that under the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution, federal law is superior to state law, and that under Article III of the Constitution, the federal judiciary has the final power to interpret the Constitution. Therefore, the power to make final decisions about the constitutionality of federal laws lies with the federal courts, not the states, and the states do not have the power to nullify federal laws.

Nullification has never succeeded in United States history, and will not succeed this time despite the rantings of Huckabee.  Andrew Jackson is the only President to openly defy the Supreme Court, and he has been vilified in history for doing so.  In the 1832 U.S. Supreme Court decision Worcester v. Georgia, U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall, in writing for the court, ruled that Georgia could not impose its laws upon Cherokee tribal lands. Jackson is frequently attributed as responding to this decision by remarking, "John Marshall has made his decision, now let him enforce it."  Georgia refused to accept the Supreme Court's decision. President Andrew Jackson did not believe Georgia had the right to nullify federal law, but was sympathetic to Georgia's goal of forcing the Cherokees to relocate to the west. He took no immediate action against Georgia. Before the Supreme Court could hear a request for an order enforcing its judgment, the Nullification Crisis arose in South Carolina. Jackson wanted to avoid a confrontation with Georgia over states' rights. A compromise was brokered under which Georgia repealed the law at issue in Worcester. Despite the Court's decision finding Georgia's actions unconstitutional, Georgia continued to enforce other laws regulating the Cherokees. Ultimately the Cherokees were forced to agree to a treaty of relocation, leading to the Trail of Tears.

However, Cherokee removal occurred in the 1830, when the Supreme Court was a relatively weak branch of the government.  Since the 1830s, the power of the Supreme Court has grown to become an equal branch of government alongside the executive and legislative branches.  Nullification and interposition resurfaced in the 1950s as southern states attempted to preserve racial segregation in their schools. In Brown v. Board of Education (1954), the Supreme Court decided that segregated schools were unconstitutional. At least ten southern states passed nullification or interposition measures attempting to preserve segregated schools and refusing to follow the Brown decision. The advocates of these nullification and interposition measures argued that the Brown decision was an unconstitutional infringement on states' rights, and that the states had the power to prevent that decision from being enforced within their borders.  The Supreme Court explicitly rejected nullification in the case of Cooper v. Aaron (1958), which directly held that states may not nullify federal law.

Huckabee, a conservative evangelical and potential 2016 presidential candidate, said a Supreme Court ruling, expected this year, would ultimately be moot because "one branch of government does not overrule the other two."  He could not be more wrong and needs a basic government lesson about checks and balances.  Huckabee went on to say, "One thing I am angry about though ... is this notion of judicial supremacy, where if the court makes a decision, I hear governors and even some aspirants to the presidency say, 'Well that's settled, it's the law of the land.' No, it's not the law of the land."  Huckabee obviously does not understand judicial review. 

"Constitutionally, the courts cannot make a law, they can interpret one and then the legislature has to create enabling legislation and the executive has to sign it and has to enforce it," Huckabee added.  While the U.S. Constitution does not explicitly define a "power" of judicial review (which is not making law), the authority for judicial review in the United States has been inferred from the structure, provisions, and history of the Constitution.  In 1803, Marbury v. Madison was the first Supreme Court case where the Court asserted its authority for judicial review to strike down a law as unconstitutional. At the end of his opinion in this decision, Chief Justice John Marshall maintained that the Supreme Court's responsibility to overturn unconstitutional legislation was a necessary consequence of their sworn oath of office to uphold the Constitution as instructed in Article Six of the Constitution.

A ruling from the high court, however, would not "make law," but rather would invalidate existing bans on gay marriage as unconstitutional. State legislatures would need no additional law to recognize same-sex marriages. Similar appellate court decisions have already done so in 36 states and the District of Columbia -- all of which now recognize same-sex marriages.

This isn't the first time Huckabee has flirted with the theory of nullification. The comments place him on the far right of his party -- even more so than Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), a potential rival in the race for the White House.  There are few things I can think of more disastrous than Mike Huckabee becoming president do the United States, however, I believe that idea is a moot point.  Huckabee doesn't stand a chance in an election. Just like many of the Republicans who have hinted at running, he has a bad problem of putting his foot in his mouth and coming across as just plain stupid.

Thursday, January 22, 2015


On Sunday, while promoting his new FX show "The Comedians" at a Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour panel, Billy Crystal was asked about playing a gay role on the ABC show "Soap" in the late '70s and how television has changed since that time.

In his response, the comedian talked about being uncomfortable with how sexualized some shows have become and, in doing so, employed a few phrases like "a little too far for my tastes" and "shove it in our face" that always trip my homophobia sensors and make me want to protest by grabbing every man in sight by whatever appendage is handiest and dragging them into a studio to stage a gay sex telethon that will be broadcast into the living rooms of every family in the world.

This led some gay Americans to ask questions about Crystal's statements.  Was some kind of further context missing? Did you have to be in the room to see his body language or hear the tone of his voice? Was he really separating his displeasure with viewing gay sex scenes from his displeasure with viewing straight sex scenes?

However, in a follow up interview with Xfinity's tv blog, the actor addressed his earlier comments, saying in part:

"First of all, I don't understand why there would be anything offensive that I said. When it gets too far either, that world exists because it does for the hetero world, it exists, and I don't want to see that either. But when I feel it's a cause, when I feel it's "You're going to like my lifestyle," no matter what it is, I'm going to have a problem and there were a couple of shows I went 'I couldn't watch that with somebody else." That's fine. If whoever writes it or produces it...totally get it. It's all about personal taste."

When I read some of the criticism of Crystal's statement, I had to wonder: is what he saying really homophobic as many pundits are claiming?  I'm not sure that I agree that it is.  He clearly states that sex scenes on television go too far whether they are heterosexual or homosexual.  Furthermore, shows like "Scandal" and "How to Get Away with Murder" produced by Shonda Rhimes, both of which I really enjoy (and the gay sex scenes are a major plus), unabashedly show gay sex in the same context that straight sex is often portrayed on television.  Furthermore, Rhimes has explicitly admitted that she is pushing an agenda to see more equality in sex scenes on television.  Crystal merely said what Rhimes herself has said, but he also said that it was too much for him.  Sometimes the explicit way that straight sex is portrayed on television is too much for me, does that make me heterophobic.  I don't think it does, any more than saying the same makes Crystal homophobic.

We live in a very scary time in many ways. You can't say this, you can't say that, you can't offend this group, that group. As someone who has lived in the Deep South my entire life, I've seen plenty of homophobia and racism.  All across America, and especially in the South, what people say about race is often taken as being racist.  So much of the country believes that if you are white and you have an opinion on race, then that opinion is racist.  People claim that there is no such thing as "reverse" racism, but when you are the minority in your area, whether you are white or black, if the majority discriminates because of your race, it is racism.  People get too easily offended and they take political correctness to the extreme.  That's offensive to me.

The thing is, we should all treat everyone as we wish to be treated.  So if Billy Crystal says that sex on television, and gay sex on television in particular is not something he wants to watch, well that's his right to have that opinion.  If Billy Crystal has a sex scene on television or a movie, I don't want to see him naked either.  My opinion is that we have the right to watch what we want to watch.  If that includes gay sex, or straight sex, or whatever kind of sex, then we had that right, but we also have the right to say, "Look, that's just too much for me.  I don't think I want  to watch that," well that's our prerogative.  And if I don't want to watch something because it has an agenda, then I don't have to watch it.  

Case in point, I will not go to the movie theater to see "Selma."  It's not because of racial tensions or that I'm racist, but because the movie is politically bent to put forth an agenda and skew the history of that event.  The makers of the movie have admitted to that and have admitted to changing certain facts because it fit their artistic vision (i.e. political agenda).  As a historian, I constantly having to fight against how history is portrayed in movies because people take it as fact, when it is fiction.  So for a movie about an event as important as the Selma to Montgomery March to purposefully skew those facts is abhorrent in my opinion.

So I won't be going to see "Selma."  Does that make me a racist?  No, it doesn't, and neither does Billy Crystal saying that he thinks sex on television goes to far when asked about his previous role playing a gay man on television nearly forty years ago and how it compares to gay roles today.  We have our opinions and we have the right to voice those opinions.  We also have a right to call bullshit when someone takes our words out of context because something we said hurt their over sensitive ideas of the need to be political correct 100 percent of the time.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015


Last night, I watched the State of the Union address.  Some of it I found quite interesting, but most of it was merely political nonsense.  Most of the SOTU is merely political posturing.  It would be nice if Congress would sit their quietly and listen instead of clapping and not clapping to make a political statement every five words, then we could listen and the President could finish.  Interruptions aggravate me and I get bored.  My students often love to interrupt me in hopes of getting me off subject, or to cause me to lose my train of thought, resulting in what they think will be less work for them.  They never have caught on that it ends up being more work for them, not less work, but back to the SOTU.  I did like Obama's idea of free community college education.  It should expand the need for more college teaching jobs, which would be good for me and hopefully get me out of teaching high school and back to teaching college.  The thing is, with a Republican Congress, I don't think it will pass.  Republicans seem to be allergic to the word "free."  And I know, it won't actually be free (I just taught in economics the idea of TINSTAAFL--There is no such thing as a free lunch).  The American people will have to be taxed more, and we all know that if Republicans raise taxes it will be on the lower and middle class and not the upper income levels, where I think there should at least be less loopholes if not higher taxes for those who can afford them.

However, the SOTU address was not the major distraction of the night.  I'm not for sure what came up in the SOTU, but something started me googling a topic. Oh, I remeber what it was, they showed Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and I thought how ancient she looks, which made me wonder just how old she actually is, so I googled it.  That lead to me researching Sandra Day O'Connor and other Supreme Court Justices, including Hugo Black from Alabama.  Research and learning is one of my favorite things.  Even as a kid, I used to go pull an encyclopedia off the bookshelf to look something up, and as I was trying to find one thing, I'd see numerous other things I wanted to read about, so I'd mark those with a finger.  I'd read the one I'd started out to read then read the others.  Before I knew it, I'd looked at a dozen or more articles in that volume of the encyclopedia and then I'd have some other interest that I wanted to look up, so I'd put that encyclopedia volume up and get down another.  This could go on for an hour or so until I got tired.

Now with the internet, I can begin searching for something and open numerous tabs in my browser and then read each one.  Often there is a hyperlink or two that I also want to check out, so I open a few more tabs.  It's a lot easier than getting down another volume of the encyclopedia, but it traps me in a vicious cycle of never ending curiosity and research.  Eventually, I exhaust myself or I just can't absorb any more information at that time, so I close my browser.  But like last night, this can last not just and hour but three or four hours.

The biggest problem is that sometimes I get so carried away in reading different things, that I forget what my original plan was for the evening.  Last night, I'd planned on answering about a half a dozen emails that need to be replied to and writing a blog post for today, but then I realized that it was almost 11 pm and I needed to get some sleep.  So the email replies and the blog post I'd originally planned will have to wait until tonight when I will have the time to write them.  Since I will have limited internet access tonight (I'm staying with my grandmother, long story but she asked and since she's my last grandparent, I could hardly say no), I will hopefully get those emails replied to and be able to write the post I'd originally intended for today.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Whitman’s Twenty-Eight Young Men

Twenty-eight young men bathe by the shore,
Twenty-eight young men and all so friendly;
Twenty-eight years of womanly life and all so lonesome.
She owns the fine house by the rise of the bank,
She hides handsome and richly drest aft the blinds of the window.
Which of the young men does she like the best?
Ah the homeliest of them is beautiful to her.
Where are you off to, lady? for I see you,
You splash in the water there, yet stay stock still in your room.
Dancing and laughing along the beach came the twenty-ninth bather,
The rest did not see her, but she saw them and loved them.
The beards of the young men glisten’d with wet, it ran from their long hair,
Little streams pass’d all over their bodies.
An unseen hand also pass’d over their bodies,
It descended tremblingly from their temples and ribs.
The young men float on their backs, their white bellies bulge to the sun,
they do not ask who seizes fast to them,
They do not know who puffs and declines with pendant and bending arch,
They do not think whom they souse with spray.

Walt Whitman, Song of Myself, sec 11 in Leaves of Grass bk ii (1855)

In 1887, Renoir painted the "Large Bathers," and in 1885 Eakins painted the "Swimming Hole." There is a good deal connecting these paintings. Both present swimmers in full nudity, testing the prudery of the day (though in a context that was acceptable on the margins). Both have a frank eroticism which could easily have provoked scandal. But then there are also important differences, and among them the fact that Eakins painted men and Renoir women. There is also a sort of national sense of aesthetics. Renoir’s work is undeniably French, and Eakins’s is a masterwork of the American realist school. But Eakins work is more interesting to me. It’s carefully composed but it hopes to be a glimpse of an everyday outing to a favorite swimming hole. It’s drawn, like much of Eakins’s painting, from photographic masters. 

It’s popular today to talk about Eakins and his work (and this one more than others) as homoerotic. That may well be. But not necessarily. It follows an obsession that Eakins had with the human body and its movement throughout his life; nearly all of Eakins works are in some way a study of the body, and his most famous works, the two clinic paintings, are studies of studies of the human body. He aspires to show it gracefully and naturally. And he also aims to provoke. He detests the prudishness of the Victorian age; its obsession with tightly fitting and uncomfortable clothing and its sense of shame over the human body. “Eakins was a deep student of life, and with a great love he studied humanity frankly,” said his friend Robert Henri. “He was not afraid of what his study revealed to him.” His entire life was marked by controversy surrounding this point, and students who worked with him noted his preference for nudity—he posed for them and they posed for him. In this painting he presents himself in the right foreground in an almost voyeuristic pose. 

Eakins’s ideas about the human body find an interesting parallel in the poetry of Walt Whitman, and indeed, they may have been acquired from Whitman, at least to a degree. This attachment to Whitman survives from the records of Eakins’s students—they called themselves “the Whitmans.” Eakins admired Walt Whitman tremendously. He painted Whitman’s portrait and developed a rapport with the poet, and Whitman appreciated Eakins extraordinary vision–calling on him to speak at a testimonial dinner and then remembering that Eakins did his speaking through a medium other than words. Eakins was particularly taken by the Song of Myself. The painting "The Swimming Hole" seems unmistakably inspired by the passage quoted above from it, and Eakins himself, referring to it as one of “his Whitmans,” would support this reading. It’s a remarkable example of a poem realized in oil and canvas.

This article was originally published in Harper's Magazine and written by Scott Horton.  I was inspired to use this poem because it was mentioned in the book I am currently reading, Skylar M Cates' The Only Guy.  There is a scene where one man observes another swimming in the lake and watches for a minute while he contemplates joining him.  It's a beautiful scene and the character begins to quote this poem as he looks on at the other man.  I can't wait to review The Only Guy for my readers.

Monday, January 19, 2015

MCM: Jonathan Groff

Last weekend, we received a free preview weekend of HBO and Starz.  Usually during the free preview weekends, they never show anything really great, but the second season of the HBO show 'Looking' premiered last Sunday, so I had the good fortune of getting to see a marathon of the first season of 'Looking.'  If you're not familiar with the show, 'Looking' offers up the unfiltered experiences of three close friends living -- and loving -- in modern-day San Francisco. Friendship may bind them, but each is at a markedly different point in his journey: Patrick (Jonathan Groff) is the 29-year-old video game designer getting back into the dating world in the wake of his ex's engagement; aspiring artist Agustín (Frankie J. Alvarez), 31, is questioning the idea of monogamy amid a move to domesticate with his boyfriend; and the group's oldest member -- longtime waiter Dom (Murray Bartlett), 39 -- is facing middle age with romantic and professional dreams still unfulfilled.

The trio's stories intertwine and unspool dramatically as they search for happiness and intimacy in an age of unparalleled choices -- and rights -- for gay men. Also important to the ‘Looking' mix is the progressive, unpredictable, sexually open culture of the Bay Area, with real San Francisco locations serving as a backdrop for the group's lives. Rounding out the ‘Looking' world are a bevy of dynamic gay men including Kevin (Russell Tovey), Lynn (Scott Bakula), and Richie (Raul Castillo), as well as a wide-range of supporting characters like Dom's roommate Doris (Lauren Weedman), Agustín's boyfriend Frank (O.T. Fagbenle), and Patrick's co-worker Owen (Andrew Law).

Jonathan Groff who portrays Patrick is so incredibly hot, sexy, and talented. I really love his character, and if it wasn't for Groff, I'm not for sure I'd even really like the show that much.  I did like Murray Bartlett's character Dom, but Frankie J. Alvarez's character Agustín just left me cold.  Overall, I enjoyed the show, and I hope I will get to see the second season.

Sunday, January 18, 2015


So we do not lose heart. Though our outer man is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18

For all of us, life has rich joys. There's no question about that. God has filled the world with goodness and we enjoy that. In fact, the world even stops to pause at a time of thanksgiving to recognize that there is joy and goodness all around. We experience good and fulfilling relationships, good and fulfilling experiences, satisfying sights and sounds and smells and tastes, adventure, exhilarating things, love, refreshment, peace. Life has its riches. It has its joys.

As LGBT Christians and Christians who support LGBT Christians within the community of Christ, we are often persecuted most by other Christians. All believers will face affliction for their beliefs but LGBT Christians often face adversity from within for wanting to be included.  A friend of mine was trying to find a church that he could feel comfortable and a part of the congregation.  He wasn't raised with a denominational background, and thus does not have the same connection I do to a particular church.  The first church he attended in his new town were very welcoming until he told them he was gay, then they treated him like a pariah and seemed not to be able to get rid of him fast enough.  The next week he tried another church that was more accepting, but he still did not feel as comfortable as he should because too many Christians reject the LGBT community regardless of our faith.

Job said, "Man is born unto trouble." Jesus said, "In this world you will have trouble." James wrote, "We fall into various trials." None of us would question the fact that life can bring disappointment, discontent, pain, grief, loss, disasters of all kinds. It is filled with unexpected turns, unanticipated events, dread, sometimes debilitating and painful experiences. That's life. And the longer you live it and the wider your experience is and the more people you connect with, the more potential there is for pain and difficulty.

Being able basically to cope with this is everybody's goal. The world is filled with people trying to adjust to the pain, trying to deal with life without total collapse, break down, burn out, hopelessness, fear, apathy or just giving up. And all of that really is a matter of learning how to endure. And that's our key word of this post because the passage in front of us gives us the secrets to endurance...the secrets to endurance.

These adversities though are "preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (and beyond description).  We should not be looking at “the things that are seen” (all the bad around us) but “to the things that are unseen,” which is the place that Jesus is preparing for us (John14:2-3). This earth is “transient” or passing away but Jesus promises a room in the mansions of heaven that we do not yet see.  If we embrace these verses then we will not “lose heart.” Paul wants his readers to pursue a godly way of life, though it is hindered by trials and afflictions.

Sometimes we may think that our suffering is unique and belongs only to us. The truth is that others have gone through, is going through and will go through similar adversities. There is always someone who can identify with it. And we can identify with Paul because he learned how to endure it. His suffering by any human measure was severe, far beyond anything that we would experience in terms of the cost of discipleship. And because his suffering was so severe he becomes for us the best example because if he can endure the most suffering, we can certainly endure the least. Those people who get depressed and burn out, who become fearful and apathetic or indifferent, who quit, and whose despair reaches such a point that they're debilitated can to learn something from Paul.

As I work through my studies of biblical passages, I'm usually reminded of certain hymns.  Today's message is no exception.  To endure, we must have faith.  First John 5:4 says "For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world-our faith."  It is faith that allows us to endure the trials and tribulations of life and to looked toward the eternal hereafter.  Faith is our victory, just as the song says:

Faith is the victory! Faith is the victory!
O glorious victory, that overcomes the world.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Friday, January 16, 2015

Looking At Ourselves

From about Thanksgiving until the first few weeks of January is a time when I often reflect on my life.  My birthday is at the end of November, so it always makes me reflect on another year and my life as whole up until now, and December and January are the end and beginning of the year, so I tend to look back on the past year and look toward the year to come.  But it also goes beyond looking at myself as an individual, but how I fit into society at large.

As members of the LGBT community, so many of us for so long have been taught to be ashamed of who we are because we do not fit the predominant image and standard profile of acceptable persons. We have been taught to look at ourselves through lenses that are not able to see clearly our true beauty and essence as citizens in society, as people of God and as children of the greater universe. When we look at ourselves we must try as best we can to see everything that’s there, but this is sometimes hard to do without a real desire to take a hard look and to see what’s really there; to view ourselves clearly, squarely and freely. The beauty and goodness of what we see sometimes gives way to the not so beautiful things that we see, say and do and we must cast aside all fear in taking that honest look if we are to grow into a greater awareness of who we really are and what we can ultimately become as genuine persons of promise and value.

So each day that we rise to meet the morning, we must look at ourselves in the mirror and proceed to make the necessary physical makeovers that will present us “flawless” to the outside world. Sometimes we undervalue what we see because of what we have been taught to look for and how we have been taught to look at it. But the truth is we must come to terms with the person that we see in the mirror each morning. We must acknowledge what we see through our own eyes.  We may not always like what we see looking back at us, and sometimes we can change it, sometimes we can't.  The fact is, we should change what we can, and accept that which we cannot change.  We can't always be perfect.

It doesn't help much when our friends point out what we did wrong. If we're so scared of hearing from ourselves that we made a mistake, just imagine how much we hate hearing it from someone else. And our friends know this: the answer to "Does this outfit make me look fat?" is not supposed to be "Yes." We may joke about our friends' foibles behind their back, but we rarely do so to their face. Even at work, a lot of effort goes into making sure employees are insulated from their superior's most negative assessments. This is what we're taught: make five compliments for every criticism, sandwich negative feedback with positive feedback on each side, the most important thing is to keep up someone's self-esteem.  We also have to work on our own self-esteem.

In moments of great emotional stress, we revert to our worst habits: we dig in and fight harder. The real trick is not to get better at fighting—it's to get better at stopping ourselves: at taking a deep breath, calming down, and letting our better natures take over from our worst instincts.  Even if seeing ourselves objectively is the best option, all our natural instincts all point the other direction. Not only do we try hard to avoid bad news about ourselves, we tend to exaggerate the good news.

Looking at ourselves objectively isn't easy. But it's essential if we ever want to get better. And if we don't do it, we leave ourselves open to con artists and ethical compromisers who prey on our desire to believe we're perfect. 

I have a confession.  I really didn't know what to write about today, but I loved the picture at the top of this post.  Doesn't he have the cutest ass?  So, I came up with a post to fit the picture.  I do think it's a decent post, and I hope you do as well.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

A Glamour Beginning

Often times, I read books because friends suggestion them.  I have one particular reading buddy who I love to discuss books with.  He and I both are Amy Lane fans, but occasionally, I come across a book that draws me in because if the title or author, even sometimes the cover art.  I don't want to say which of those three drew me to this book, but for those who happen to know me personally, I bet you can guess.  When I saw The Guy from Galmour by Skylar M Cates, I knew this was a M/M romance I had to read. And, I am so glad that I did.  The Guy from Glamour is part of Cates's "The Guy Series," which I'm eagerly starting the second book in the series today.
Anthony Carrino loves his big, gregarious Italian-American family, even if his sisters are interfering, and his dad, the local sheriff, knows everything going on in town. He’s happy as a middle school guidance counselor. Despite helping kids and their parents fix their problems, Anthony can’t manage to get his own love life right. If only everyone would stop calling him the “nice” guy.  
Dean Pierce doesn’t do relationships. A tough-minded military man, he is dedicated to his job as a Night Stalker, flying Chinook helicopters and not speaking much to anybody. He certainly doesn’t want to deal with a mess of emotions. But when tragedy strikes, Dean finds his hands full with his troubled niece, her irresistible guidance counselor, and a meddlesome family, which includes a rather large puppy.
The story of Dean and Anthony warmed my heart.  There were a few places where the book was predictable, I've read enough Amy Lane to now always expect the worse to happen, but Cates has a gentler way of dealing with the angst.  Sometimes she draws it out and it tugs at your heart strings, and sometimes your breath is taken away, but your confidence is quickly restored.  The Guy from Glamour has  a variety of twists and turns, but you can't help from falling in love with the loquacious Anthony or the stolid and silent Dean, mostly because we get  to read Dean's thoughts and know that he's just not used to expressing himself.

The book is also about a small town romance.  I've lived in small towns all my life, and whereas, I haven't yet found the love of my life, I do enjoy reading about those who do.  I enjoy books that make me feel good, and this book made me feel great.  I listened to it as an audiobook, as I often do on my drive to and from school, and the narration by Matt Baca was phenomenal.  I had no trouble keeping up with who was who, which some readers are not as good at conveying.  Also, usually I am content with listening only when I'm in the car, but I found myself continuing to listen once I got home and even listening some before I went to sleep at night.

The Guy from Glamour was a hit in my book.  I loved it, and I can't wait to read more from Skylar M Cates, who by the way, sounds like my kind of woman.  In her author's bio, she is described as a woman who "...loves a good romance.  She is quite happy to drink some coffee, curl up with a good book, and not move all day."  Now that's my kind of day!