Monday, May 31, 2021

Pic of the Day

Honoring LGBTQ+ Soldiers 🏳️‍🌈🇺🇸

For many of us, Memorial Day weekend is about cookouts, sales, watching fireworks, fellowshipping with family and friends, though this year, like last year, is a bit different because of the pandemic. However, this weekend is supposed to be about honoring those who made the ultimate sacrifice. They gave their lives serving in one of the branches of the U.S. Armed Forces. 

As a military historian and working at a military college, I am very much aware of the sacrifices made every day by military personnel. Historically, LGBTQ+ soldiers have sacrificed even more. For most of the history of the U.S. military, LGBTQ+ soldiers had to be closeted because being “out” wasn’t acceptable. Being outed could have cost them their military career. Many LGBTQ+ soldiers kept their mouths shut and their business to themselves to protect themselves from harm and protect the nation.

 

In 1982, the U.S. military enacted a policy explicitly banning gay men and lesbians from their ranks. Before that, however, same-sex relations were criminalized and cause for discharge. And in the early 1940s, it was classified as a mental illness, disqualifying gay men and lesbians from service. In 1993, the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy (DADT) went into effect, allowing closeted LGBTQ+ soldiers to serve in the military. Under the policy, service members would not be asked about their sexual orientation but would be discharged for disclosing it. 

 

Many LGBTQ+ soldiers were outed as gay or lesbian by fellow soldiers and not allowed to serve. Some soldiers were killed by their fellow comrades while on active duty. If you saw the 2003 film Soldier's Girl, you are aware of U.S. Army infantry soldier PFC Barry Winchell who was murdered on July 6, 1999, by a fellow soldier for dating a transgender woman, Calpernia Addams. The murder became a point of reference in the ongoing DADT debate. Eighteen years after DADT was enacted, Congress repealed the policy, allowing openly gay, lesbian, and bisexual people to serve in the military.

 

Another barrier was lifted in 2013 when spousal and family benefits were extended to same-sex married partners in the military. After ending temporarily in 2016, the ban on transgender individuals was again rescinded in 2021, allowing transgender individuals to enlist and serve in the armed forces. It’s been a long journey, but LGBTQ+ soldiers have always been part of the American military. In an era before gay marriage or open pride, military men fell in love, formed passionate friendships, and had same-sex encounters. Due to social and official discrimination, most of the stories of these LGBTQ+ soldiers have gone untold. One famous example was Baron Friedrich von Steuben, a Prussian military man hired by George Washington to whip the Continental Army into shape during the darkest days of the Revolutionary War. He was known for his bravery and the discipline and grit he brought to the American troops. Historians also believe he was gay—and served as an openly gay man in the military when sex between men was punished as a crime.

 

So, if you have never considered the LGBTQ+ service members who lost their lives to serve a country that didn’t respect them, you should. We shouldn’t take our freedom for granted. It comes with a price tag, and we all need to remember this. As we celebrate another Memorial Day weekend, please note this isn’t just another time to party. Today is a day set aside to remember those who have sacrificed their lives so that we may live and be free, fight against discrimination, and love who we want. These brave, unsung heroes sacrificed the truth of themselves. Let us never forget them.

 

Be safe, be conscious, be proud, and remember our fallen LGBTQ+ service members who died in times when being “out” wasn’t allowed. Thankfully, things seemed to have changed drastically in the U.S. military. LGBTQ+ service members are able to serve openly and without harassment. While acceptance of LGBTQ+ service members is a relatively new development in the military’s long history, the Department of Defense is committed to maintaining a strong force that reflects the nation’s diversity.

 

Sunday, May 30, 2021

Pic of the Day

A Kind Word

Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, but a good word makes it glad. 

—Proverbs 12:25

 In John 16:33, Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world, you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” This should be the way to a peaceful and tranquil heart, but the fact is, we can sometimes lose sight of what’s essential, and our feelings will betray some of our fears. Friedrich Nietzsche said, "When we are tired, we are attacked by ideas we conquered long ago." Often when we lay in bed at night, anxiety creeps up on us. It is when we are most tired that we are most susceptible to worry. This happens when worry and doubt take up a place somewhere in our minds, and these feelings won’t stop nagging us about the possible negative outcome that rolls around in our minds. 

 

Try as we might to forget it, sometimes we cannot control it. Our inner demons of self-doubt work on this level. Doubt whispers in our ears to keep us focused on the possibility of disaster that awaits if things go as bad as they could. This is the “anxiety in the heart.” It colors every other thought and action until we can get rid of it by solving the problem or trusting God with the outcome. Sometimes, we cannot control the outcome. As much as we want to control everything, some things are just out of our control. That’s when we must trust that God will get us through.

 

Think about being in the closet. Much of the time we are in the closet, the anxiety is tied to feelings of self-doubt, insecurity, and even shame because of who we are. All of us in the LGBTQ+ community have a period when we are trying to understand our sexuality. It is during this time when a “kind word” is the thing that can cheer up our hearts. “I accept you” or “It’ll be ok” is an excellent place for someone to start. The kindest words to cheer up an anxious person can be found in Philippians 4:6, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.” 

 

When I was trying to come to terms with my sexuality, I prayed a lot. I meditated, and I asked God for a sign. I did not get one immediately. Even when I came out, I still had doubts about my sexuality and my relationship with God. However, I studied the Bible, and I studied the passages that so many Christians claim are about homosexuality. I examined the words that modern translations of the Bible translate to homosexuality. I found that what we understand today about sexuality was foreign to the writers of the Bible.

 

The Word of God became my source of peace. The passages used to condemn LGBTQ+ sexualities gave me the most comfort because I fervently believe that God led me to study those passages. It was His sign to me that He loved me and that true love can never be wrong. I learned that prayer is the best way to deal with a problem. If you are anxious, consider this a kind word to you. If you know someone who is anxious, who is struggling to come out, be a source of encouragement to them, and you will be doing good in the name of Jesus.

 

Friday, May 28, 2021

Pic of the Day

 Milk: It Does A Body Good

Slept In


Today begins my four-day weekend holiday. It was actually a five-day weekend if you count yesterday which I also had off, but because I had a headache most of yesterday, I’m not counting it. I slept in a bit more than usual today, but not as long as I’d have liked. Today may be one of those days when I take a nap in the afternoon. Anyway, I hope all of you are doing great. Have a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Pic of the Day



Weather Changes


Since my dental work healed, I have not been experiencing as many headaches. In fact, some days I have been completely headache free. Yesterday was not one of those days. I woke yesterday feeling pretty good, though a bit sore (the good kind) from my previous night’s activities. It was a warm and beautifully cloudless day. Neither of those things lasted very long. By the middle of the afternoon, a storm front began moving through chilling the temperature a bit. Yesterday’s high was 88 degrees; today’s high is expected to be 66. With the weather changes, I developed a headache. It wasn’t too bad at first, but by early evening, it was a pretty bad one. I went to bed before 9 pm. I was not the only person I know who was affected. Two ladies I work with both developed migraines as the storm front moved through the area. When I woke up for a bit around 11 pm, my headache was mostly gone, enough that I could write this blog post. I hope it will be better today. 

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Pic of the Day

Benefits of Being Fully Vaccinated

I debated whether or not I wanted to write a blog post about this particular subject, but then I decided, why not? Before the pandemic, I had met a guy that I got along with very well. We had a lot of the same interests in science fiction and enjoyed each other’s company. We would occasionally get together for a bit of fun (if you know what I mean), and sometimes, we’d watch a movie, usually we did more than just watch a movie. It was always a lot of fun. I have not been able to see him since the pandemic began. He has some health problems that didn’t allow him to even take the slimmest chance of getting COVID. We have talked a few times over the course of the pandemic, and we always said we would get together again when all of this was over or when we were both fully vaccinated.

Last week, he texted me to tell me that he was fully vaccinated, and I was able to tell him that I too was fully vaccinated. He suggested that we get together last night. Of course, I am writing this before I went over there, but I am anticipating we will have a fun time catching up and maybe even making up for lost time. It feels like things are beginning to get back to normal as more and more people are getting vaccinated. There is light at the end of the tunnel and Vermont is thankfully leading the way.

Vermont leads the nation in vaccines with 52.7 percent of the state’s population being fully vaccinated. We have 69.7 percent of the state’s population with at least one dose of the vaccine. New England has done remarkably well, with only Rhode Island and New Hampshire having less than 50 percent of their populations fully vaccinated. Rhode Island is close with 49.9 percent, but New Hampshire appears to be a bit of an anomaly in New England with only 35.6 percent being fully vaccinated. Vermont, Maine, Connecticut, and Massachusetts are the top four states for vaccinations, respectively. Rhode Island is fifth, but New Hampshire is twenty-third.  New Jersey, Hawaii, New Mexico, Maryland, and New York round out the top ten. All of the top ten are Democratic-leaning states. 

In contrast, South Carolina, Idaho, Utah, Wyoming, Tennessee, Georgia, Louisiana, Arkansas, Alabama, and Mississippi make up the bottom ten states with Mississippi having the lowest vaccination rates. The fact is the U.S. vaccination map looks a lot like a map of how states vote in presidential elections, with most blue states vaccinating at levels well above the national average and GOP states bringing up the rear. Sadly, the politics of COVID-19 have been partisan from almost the onset of the pandemic, and polls consistently show that Republicans, particularly men, are more hesitant than Democrats to get vaccinated.

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Pic of the Day

Clair de lune


Clair de lune (English "Moonlight")

By Paul Verlaine

 

Votre âme est un paysage choisi
Que vont charmant masques et bergamasques
Jouant du luth et dansant et quasi
Tristes sous leurs déguisements fantasques.

Tout en chantant sur le mode mineur
L'amour vainqueur et la vie opportune
Ils n'ont pas l'air de croire à leur bonheur
Et leur chanson se mêle au clair de lune,

Au calme clair de lune triste et beau,
Qui fait rêver les oiseaux dans les arbres
Et sangloter d'extase les jets d'eau,
Les grands jets d'eau sveltes parmi les marbres. 

 _________________

 

(English Translation)

 

Your soul is a chosen landscape
Where charming masquerades and dancers are promenading,
Playing the lute and dancing, and almost
Sad beneath their fantastic disguises.

While singing in a minor key
Of victorious love, and the pleasant life
They seem not to believe in their own happiness
And their song blends with the light of the moon,

With the sad and beautiful light of the moon,
Which sets the birds in the trees dreaming,
And makes the fountains sob with ecstasy,
The slender water streams among the marble statues.

 _________________


"Clair de lune" (English "Moonlight") is a poem written by French poet Paul Verlaine in 1869. It is the inspiration for the third and most famous movement of Claude Debussy's 1890 Suite bergamasque. Debussy also made two settings of the poem for voice and piano accompaniment. The poem has also been set to music by Gabriel Fauré, Louis Vierne and Josef Szulc.

 

Paul-Marie Verlaine (30 March 1844 – 8 January 1896) was a French poet associated with the Symbolist movement and the Decadent movement. He is considered one of the greatest representatives of the fin de siècle ("end of century") in international and French poetry.

 

Paul Verlaine was born in a town called Metz in northeastern France in 1844. He received his formal education from what is now the Lycee Condorcet and originally found a job in France’s civil service, despite the fact that he had been writing poetry from an early age; he published his first poem before his twentieth birthday.

 

Poet Charles Marie Rene Leconte de Lisle, who led the Parnassian movement, heavily influenced Verlaine in the beginning. The Parnassian movement was a style of poetry which utilized emotional detachment and a strict adherence to form. Verlaine was also influenced by the many people he socialized with, most of whom made up the intellectual and artistic elite of the day.

 

His first book of poetry, Poemes saturniens, was published in 1866. Four years later, Verlaine’s life underwent massive changes; he got married to Mathilde Maute de Fleurville and joined the French equivalent of the National Guard, though he later became a supporter of the Paris Commune, a group of anarchists and Marxists that took control of Paris from March to May. When a large number of Commune members (called Communards) were killed and imprisoned after the fall of their government, Verlaine escaped to Pas-de-Calais, returning in 1871.

 

In 1872, Verlaine began his first homosexual affair, though he had probably had homosexual experiences before then. He received a letter from the younger poet Arthur Rimbaud, and Verlaine’s reply was, “Come, dear great soul. We await you; we desire you.” Though Verlaine’s wife was pregnant at the time, Rimbaud came to stay with the older poet and his seventeen-year-old wife. Later that year, Verlaine and Rimbaud lived together in London, having abandoned Mathilde. Both poets frequently drank absinthe and used hashish, living in poverty and making a living by teaching and getting an allowance from Verlaine’s mother. The relationship grew very strained, and Verlaine shot his lover in the wrist during an alcoholic furor just days after the pair had split and subsequently reunited in Brussels.

 

Rimbaud originally refused to press charges, but Verlaine’s increasingly violent and odd behavior forced the younger man to seek protection. A judge sentenced Verlaine to two years in prison following testimony from Mathilde. Not even a last-second change of heart from Rimbaud could save Verlaine; the Symbolist poet spent two years in prison in the Belgian city of Mons. While there, Verlaine converted to Roman Catholicism, which spurred him to write further poems. Rimbaud mocked Verlaine’s conversion to Catholicism. Verlaine also managed to release another collection of poems while imprisoned, Romances sans paroles. Upon his release, Verlaine worked as a teacher in various cities in England. He returned once more to France to teach and fell in love with one of his students, Lucien Letinois. When Letinois died of typhus in the 1880’s, Verlaine was devastated and spiraled into drug and alcohol abuse.

 

Verlaine spent the rest of his days drinking absinthe in Parisian cafes and using drugs, though by this time the public’s love of his work allowed him to draw an income. His peers even voted to bestow the title “France’s Prince of Poets” upon Verlaine in 1894. two years later, Verlaine died from drugs and alcohol on 8 January 1896. He was 51. He was buried in the Cimetière des Batignolles.

 

Verlaine's poetry was admired and recognized as ground-breaking and served as a source of inspiration to composers. Gabriel Fauré composed many mélodies, such as the song cycles Cinq mélodies "de Venise" and La bonne chanson, which were settings of Verlaine's poems. As mentioned above, Claude Debussy set to music Clair de lune and six of the Fêtes galantes poems, forming part of the mélodie collection known as the Recueil Vasnier; he also made another setting ofClair de lune, and the poem inspired his Suite bergamasque. Reynaldo Hahn set several of Verlaine's poems as did the Belgian-British composer Poldowski.

 

Verlaine’s work was characterized by lurid content and common themes including sex, urban life, and fatality. He often used repeated sounds to evoke certain moods and emotions. Verlaine’s poem “Chanson d'Automne” was used during World War II by the BBC to signal to the French resistance that Operation Overlord was to begin. The 1995 film Total Eclipse was based on Verlaine’s relationship with Rimbaud; David Thewlis and Leonardo DiCaprio played Verlaine and Rimbaud, respectively.



This video of Clair de Lune contains moonlight paintings by the Victorian painter John Atkinson Grimshaw. In this recording, Stanley Black conducts his arrangement of Clair de Lune with the London Symphony. 

Monday, May 24, 2021

Pic of the Day

Mount Washington and the Cog

Other than anywhere in the state of Maine (the only New England state I have not visited), I have wanted to visit Mount Washington in New Hampshire, which is called Agiocochook by some Native American tribes. Mount Washington is the highest peak in the Northeastern United States at 6,288.2 ft. and the most topographically prominent mountain east of the Mississippi River. The mountain is notorious for its erratic weather. On the afternoon of April 12, 1934, the Mount Washington Observatory recorded a windspeed of 231 mph at the summit, the world record from 1934 until 1996. Mount Washington still holds the record for the highest measured wind speed not associated with a tornado or tropical cyclone. The mountain is located in the Presidential Range of the White Mountains, in Coös, New Hampshire. 

A few years ago, I read Jamie Fessenden's Murder on the Mountain, a gay mystery novel that takes place on and around Mount Washington. Here is the publisher's summary:

When Jesse Morales, a recent college grad who aspires to be a mystery writer, volunteers to work on the summit of Mount Washington for a week, he expects to work hard. What he doesn't expect is to find a corpse in the fog, lying among the rocks, his head crushed. The dead man turns out to be a young tourist named Stuart Warren, who strayed from his friends while visiting the mountain.

 

Kyle Dubois, a widowed state police detective, is called to the scene in the middle of the night along with his partner, Wesley Roberts. Kyle and Jesse are instantly drawn to one another, except Jesse's fascination with murder mysteries makes it difficult for Kyle to take the young man seriously. But Jesse finds a way to make himself invaluable to the detective by checking in to the hotel where the victim's friends and family are staying and infiltrating their circle. Soon he is learning things that could very well solve the case--or get him killed. 

Fessenden lives in New Hampshire, where several of his books take place. Murder on the Mountain is a mystery and gay romance, which is always fun. It is also my favorite of Fessenden’s books. I rarely read books more than once, but this one I have. It’s always enjoyable, and it got me interested in Mount Washington.

The Mount Washington Cog Railway, also known as the Cog, ascends the mountain's western slope. The Cog is what attracted me to want to visit Mount Washington. I’ve always loved trains, and the Cog is a historic and interesting locomotive. Built by Sylvester Marsh between 1866 and 1869, the Cog is the world's first mountain-climbing cog railway (rack-and-pinion railway). The railway is still in operation. It uses a Marsh rack system and both steam and biodiesel-powered locomotives to carry tourists to the top of the mountain.

 

The steam locomotive above is the Waumbek built by the Manchester Locomotive Works in 1908 and is still in operation. In the picture above, you’ll notice how the boiler is tilted to compensate for the steep mountain grade of the tracks going up the mountain. The boiler needed to be even, so they tilted the boiler to compensate. The original locomotive #1 Hero (nicknamed Peppersass) first reached the summit in 1869. While it was primarily designed to build the railway, Peppersass saw passenger service until it was retired in 1878. Until 2008, the Cog was a steam railroad. As more locomotives were added over time, the wood-fired engines gave way to coal when the railway began to operate biodiesel engines. These engines were more economical, easier to maintain, and environmentally friendlier. The biodiesel engines take anywhere from 18-22 gallons of biodiesel fuel to complete the nearly 7-mile round trip; by comparison, the steam locomotives consume 1000 gallons of water and a ton of coal to make the same trip.

Sunday, May 23, 2021

Pic of the Day

Behave Like a Christian: Overcome Evil with Good


Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.

 

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion.

 

Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. Therefore

 

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;

If he is thirsty, give him a drink;

For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.”

 

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

—Romans 12:9-21

 

This is the fourth and final part of my continuing series about the message contained within Romans 12:9–21, often labeled “Behave Like a Christian.” Last week, we looked at how we must love even in adversity and how we should remain humble and show humility. This week we will look at the final verses of this passage (Romans 12:17-21; the underlined verses above). This final section tells us how we must not sink to evil's level by being a vigilante for God and taking revenge upon those who caused us harm. Instead, we must overcome evil by doing good to those who harm us.
 

In Romans 12:17, Paul wrote that Christians must not repay evil for evil. He expands on that idea to clarify what he is saying. Those who follow Christ are commanded never to seek vengeance themselves, to never "get even." Whether the hurt comes from fellow believers or unbelievers, revenge is simply not an option for us. Paul gives us a reason for this command. After instructing us to sacrifice ourselves for the good of others, we might expect something similar. Instead, Paul writes that we should refuse to take revenge because God is the ultimate judge in the universe. 

 

Paul quotes from Deuteronomy 32:35, “Vengeance is Mine.” The whole verse says, “Vengeance is Mine, and recompense; their foot shall slip in due time; for the day of their calamity is at hand, and the things to come hasten upon them.” A desire for justice for ourselves and those we care about is not entirely wrong. Paul simply wants us to trust God's timing and power to deliver justice as He sees fit. 

 

In Hinduism and Buddhism, this is called karma, which is the sum of a person's actions in this and previous states of existence, viewed as deciding their fate in future existences. Karma means action, work, or deed. The term also refers to the spiritual principle of cause and effect, often descriptively called the principle of karma, wherein intent and actions of an individual (cause) influence the future of that individual (effect): good intent and good deeds contribute to good karma and happier rebirths, while bad intent and bad deeds contribute to bad karma and bad rebirths. Some might question my example of Hinduism and Buddhism to explain something in Christianity, but I believe in spirituality as well as Christianity. Brené Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston who has spent the past two decades studying courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy, wrote in her book The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are: "Spirituality is recognizing and celebrating that we are all inextricably connected to each other by a power greater than all of us, and that our connection to that power and to one another is grounded in love and compassion. Practicing spirituality brings a sense of perspective, meaning and purpose to our lives."


Even in Christianity, there is a rebirth. Jesus says in Matthew 12:36-37, “But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” In Romans 14:10, Paul tells us, “But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.” On the Day of Judgement, we will all be judged on how we treated others in this life. In Matthew 25:31-36, Jesus says:

“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’

For those who have mistreated their fellow man, Jesus tells them their fate in Matthew 25: 41-46:

“Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’

 

“Then they also will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

 If we live with good intent and good deeds, then on the Day of Judgement, we will be told, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.” (Matthew 25:21) However, if we live a life of evil intent and evil deeds, God will tell us, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!” (Matthew 7:23) 

 

It’s not always easy to behave like a Christian at all times. Matthew 7:13-14 tells us, “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” I believe though it is our intent that is most important. Some may claim their intent is with good intentions, but if they do not show God’s love in their intent, they are using God’s name under false pretenses. We must feel it in our hearts, minds, and souls and let our intent shine to others. Matthew 5:14 tells us, we “are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.” Matthew 5:16 tells us to “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”

Saturday, May 22, 2021

Pic of the Day

Moment of Zen: Stretching

No matter the circumstances, whether it’s first thing in the morning or before rigorous exercise, stretching usually feels good. Stretching keeps the muscles flexible, strong, and healthy, and we need that flexibility to maintain a range of motion in the joints.

Friday, May 21, 2021

Pic of the Day

Benevolent Hatred

I grew up being taught that “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Although, I prefer what Clairee Belcher (Olympia Dukakis, may she rest in peace) said in Steel Magnolias, “Well, you know what they say: if you don't have anything nice to say about anybody, come sit by me!” 😂  I try to be a nice person, but sometimes, the gossipmonger in me comes out. I think it’s part of being a southerner. We love to gossip, which is often one of the worst things about the South. I grew up around people who never wanted to show outward hatred to anyone. Yes, in private, they would say horrible things about people, and they would often discriminate against people subtly, or sometimes not so subtly. They always wanted the outward appearance of being nice. That outward appearance was far more important than actually being kind. A kind person is loving and giving out of the goodness of their heart. Nice people often just want to avoid conflict at any cost. Charlie Ray, a gay Birmingham, Alabama, TikToker says it better than I can:
@desipbhm

There is a difference between ##nice and ##kind ##southern ##laidoff ##bekind ##helpingothers

♬ original sound - Desi P

 In the South, there are a few phrases that are meant to be nice, but are often anything but kind: “Bless your heart” and “Aren’t you precious?” Bless your heart as a phrase has multiple meanings. It can be used as a sincere expression of sympathy or genuine concern. It can be used as a precursor to an insult to soften the blow. It is also sometimes used to mean "you are an idiot, but you can't help it" by individuals who wish to "be sweet” and do not wish to "act ugly." It can also be a “pleasant” way of saying, “Fuck you.” I once heard that it was like aloha in Hawaii, there were many meanings according to the context. I think only true southerners can really interpret the meaning of how it’s being used at the moment. Then there is Aren’t you precious? Although this phrase sounds like a question, it can genuinely be a statement to compliment something cute or sweet. It’s usually intended as an interjection and generally in reference to a child’s outfit or behavior. But in the South, beware. If you hear someone saying, “Well aren’t you precious?” it’s probably being said sarcastically. It’s a phrase usually said if someone has said or done something you find stupid or insulting. The same goes for the phrase of calling someone “sweet.” When you see a baby that is just not attractive, I’ve often heard, “Well, isn’t he/she so sweet?” It means that the person did not want to say, “How beautiful!” or “What a pretty baby!” but they couldn’t outright say, “OMG! What an ugly child!” My mother used this one a lot.

 

One of the hardest things to handle when I lived in the South was when people were nice to me, but they never really accepted me because either they knew I was gay or perceived I was gay. They would hug me when I saw them. They’d ask about my day or my life and mean it. They would welcome me over for dinner and make sure I got more than enough to eat. They’d laugh with me (though often you could sense they were laughing at you). However, no matter how nice or kind they acted, they never accepted me. I remember one time I mentioned that I thought a guy was attractive (this was amongst a group that I was out to), and the husband of a friend of mine said, “I don’t have a problem with you being gay, I just don’t want to hear about it.”

@desipbhm

##gay folks don’t need your acceptance or your ##bigotry & ##hate ##lgbtq people are just like you. ##bekind ##blm ##pride ##gaypride

♬ original sound - Desi P

It’s hardest when they are kind because then when they are not kind it cuts more deeply. When they ask about your life but then you see the tense jaw and the pursed lips as you answer. Even when you are telling about something that is incredibly important to you or that you are passionate about, they have a hard time actually feigning interest. You can see their tension if it goes against what they deem appropriate, proper, and/or Christian. They might respond with a “that’s nice” but you know they are thinking it’s anything but nice. Then, the next time they ask about your life you are more careful. You tell the sanitized version. You leave some stuff out. I did this a lot. When I felt someone’s judgement of me or was told I told too much (that they did not want to hear), then I’d censor myself around them from that point onward. It kills you a little bit each time it happens, each time you have to censor yourself. It wears away at you when they are nice because it’s harder to say, “Your behavior hurt me.” They will almost always say they didn’t mean to hurt you; they were just sharing their beliefs. Often, they will claim that you are being too sensitive.

 

Later on, when they realized that they missed a big part of your life, they might even call you dishonest. They will say you left too much out, that you deceived them. They will say that you are the one who shut them out of your life. They will never realize that they are the ones who set the boundaries on the acceptable conversation and behavior with their non-verbal gestures, with their snide comments back, with their clear disapproval. They will say that you hurt them, or you made them feel excluded. They tell you they love you and want to be in your life. Then we often try again to let them into our lives, but we get the same response, and it hurts even more this time. They will often claim you were the one who caused the rift. You weren’t respecting their feelings or beliefs. They will claim that you weren’t willing to compromise. Even though, for years, you were the only one to always compromise and kept your mouth shut and acted the way they wanted you to act. I have spent nearly forty years denying myself happiness because I spent so much of my life hiding parts of myself from my family. 

 

Maybe you are someone who sits alone on a holiday or misses out on a family gathering because you simply cannot bear to go and hear people force you to be someone you are not for one more holiday. You cannot bear to smile even though you want to be weeping. You cannot bear to keep so much of yourself hidden. You become the one who is alone, and you feel like you are punishing yourself, when it is they who are punishing you. Maybe you know you did the right thing to save your sanity, but it still feels like you are the one being punished. For many of us, we realize that whenever we meet someone new, it’s their voice you hear in your head telling you that you aren’t worthy of love. But it’s a subtle voice with kind tones. This is benevolent homophobia. In racism, it’s akin to paternalism. People in positions of power restrict the freedom and responsibilities of those subordinate to them in the subordinates' supposed best interest. The same is true of homophobia, they want to save us from ourselves by imposing their twisted beliefs of what they believe the Bible says to force us to conform to their twisted morality. Some people do this with “kindness,” but it is veiled hatred, and we cannot pretend it’s not.

 

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Pic of the Day

Two Scenarios

For the past several months, when I have gone to my local pharmacy, I’ve noticed that they hired a new pharmacy tech. Most of the people who work at the pharmacy are women, including the two pharmacists, but they recently hired a male pharmacist and a new male pharmacy tech. The new tech is very cute. I’ve seen him around town a few times, and it always takes me a minute to remember where I know him from. I doubt that will be a problem after yesterday. So, my two scenarios start the same way. I went into the pharmacy to get some prescription refills. The new pharmacy tech got my prescriptions and checked me out at the register. When he got to the register, he said, “I see you every morning at Cumby’s.” (Cumby’s=Cumberland Farms convenience store.) I saw him in there Tuesday morning getting coffee as I was getting an iced coffee before going into the museum. I may have seen him in there once before, but I rarely go to Cumby’s in the morning. It’s the opposite way of the university. Then we had a short conversation about seeing each other out and about and what the weather was like outside. While everyone at the pharmacy is very nice, some are more talkative than others. He has never been particularly chatty to customers and is generally busy filling pill bottles. So, it was not only unusual for him to wait on me, but that he was so talkative. So, which scenario do you think is correct?

 

Scenario #1

 

Guys generally don’t flirt with me a lot, but he was more than a little flirty yesterday. You really can’t tell when someone has on a mask, but you can tell a lot about someone’s eyes. He seemed a little excited, so I am wondering was he flirting. Should I go by Cumby’s a few mornings to see if he flirts more there? Maybe I just have an overactive (and hopeful) imagination.

 

Scenario #2

 

He was just being nice. He saw me the day before, and now I was in the pharmacy, so he may have just been making conversation. This pharmacy has always been very friendly, so I don’t think they’d have hired someone who was not pleasant with the customers. So, maybe he was just being nice, but he’s never really paid any attention to me before yesterday. He seems to have noticed me at Cumby’s, so who knows?

 


How would you take it? Would you do anything? Maybe I am just deluding myself into thinking he was being anything more than just nice. It’s a small town. People see each other around town all the time. Besides, he’s probably out of my league and too young. He looks to be in his late twenties.



P.S. This post is all in fun. While this did happen, I don't really think there is a possibility he was flirting with me. I think he was just being friendly to a customer, but it's nice to daydream occasionally.

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Pic of the Day

Return of Warmer Weather

As I said on Monday, I hate the heat. Vermont can get hot and humid in the summer. Vermont has warm and humid summers with average high temperatures of 75°F to 82°F in the peak of July. In contrast, Alabama summers have average high temperatures above 90°F and are among the hottest in the United States. Mississippi was just as hot and humid. Vermont usually only has a few days each year when the heat and humidity can be oppressive. Most people here don’t have air conditioners. I tried to live without an air conditioner for the first few years I lived here, but I just couldn’t take it. During those years without an air conditioner, I’d go to the museum, which is air conditioned and climate controlled, on the most oppressive of days. However, for the most part, I like the weather in Vermont. Yes, the winters can be brutal. Vermont winters are extremely cold and snowy, with average low temperatures during January from 2°F to 12°F range across the different regions in the state. 

However, once the temperature rises above 60 degrees, the shorts come out and the shirts are put away, at least for men anyway. Technically, Vermont has no public nudity laws. We have public indecency laws, but no prohibition on public nudity. What this means is that anyone can be naked in public as long as they leave their house naked. If they undress once they leave their house, then it is considered public indecency. Vermont is an interesting state at times. In the last few weeks, we have had a warming of temperatures, and today, we are actually expected to be in the low 80s. This means we are likely to see a lot of skin. With the students mostly gone at my university, we won’t see a lot of shirtless guys here, but you will in Burlington.

 

The other day, I was in Burlington doing some shopping up there, when I saw a guy outside the grocery store unchaining his bike. He must have taken his shirt off as soon as he walked out of the store. He was a cute young blond guy. I didn’t get a good look at him at first, but once he got on his bike you could tell just how fit he was: nice chest, flat stomach, and broad shoulders. I had noticed the nice butt on him earlier. While I don’t often see shirtless guys on bikes in Vermont, I do often see shirtless guys out running. It’s always a welcomed sight. However, I read an article in GQ Fitness recently where the author said, “I’ve come to believe that, in most cases, running shirtless does look ridiculous. It’s an exercise in vanity, a sin against the unwitting bystanders who emphatically don’t need to see that.” My thought was, “Speak for yourself.” As long as the guy is in moderately good shape and doesn’t have a body like mine, I have no problem seeing him shirtless. In fact, it’s a very welcomed sight.


The article went on to give some guidelines for when to go shirtless and when not:

  • Do wear a shirt if you’re running in a major American city with sidewalks where other, normal people are apt to brush against your slippery naked torso.
  • Don’t wear a shirt if you’re in a place with population density ranging from “suburban bedroom community” to “more corn stalks than people.”
  • Do wear a shirt if you’re at the gym, please. In fact, your gym should not even allow shirtless exercise. If everyone in a sweaty room is walking around topless, that room stretches the definition of “gym.”
  • Don’t wear a shirt if you’re training for a Tough Mudder in the backwoods. You are clearly already insane and disinterested in hygiene. For you, wearing a shirt is just putting on airs. Don’t bother.
  • Do wear a shirt if you commute to work by running. Obviously. And even then, we have to ask: Who exactly commutes to work by running? Do you people have showers in your offices? Isn’t that weird?
  • Don’t wear a shirt if you’re at your local track. Anyone else committed enough to running to actually be at a track won’t mind if you’re shirtless. They’re probably shirtless, too.
  • Do wear a shirt if you have a chest tattoo. We know you see this as your big opportunity to show it off to the world, but it’s cooler to be like Kevin Durant and keep the goods hidden most of the time.
  • Don’t wear a shirt if you are—or physically resemble—Matthew McConaughey.

I wholeheartedly agree with the last statement. I’ve always found Matthew McConaughey to be very hot. While most people might name Magic Mike as a prime example, I have to say that McConaughey in A Time to Kill has been a particular fantasy of mine for the past twenty-five years.


There are a few drawbacks to the return of warmer weather. I will soon have to reinstall my air conditioner. That’s always a chore. It’s a window unit, so it’s quite heavy. Also, with the return of warmer days, we always have a large number of motorcyclists riding up and down the road. I have nothing against all motorcyclists, but I hate hearing the really loud engines that drown out the sound of my television even though I’m inside. I also have a problem with them blasting their radios. Not everyone wants to hear their (usually) crappy music. They make helmets with Bluetooth earphones, so it really bothers me that we either don’t have noise ordinances or no one enforces them.


Even with the drawbacks, I love this time of year in Vermont. There is something so incredibly sexy about seeing a hot guy shirtless, and I enjoy hearing the birds singing their songs and seeing the flowers and trees in bloom. Most people only consider the beauty of fall foliage in Vermont, but springtime, however short, can be just as beautiful.




 

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Pic of the Day

The Mountain

The Mountain

By Laura Ding-Edwards

 

If the mountain seems too big today

then climb a hill instead

if the morning brings you sadness

it’s okay to stay in bed

 

If the day ahead weighs heavy 

and your plans, feel like a curse

there’s no shame in rearranging

don’t make yourself feel worse

 

If a shower stings like needles 

and a bath feels like you’ll drown

if you haven’t washed your hair for days

don’t throw away your crown

 

A day is not a lifetime

a rest is not defeat

don’t think of it as failure

just a quiet kind retreat

 

It’s okay to take a moment 

from an anxious, fractured mind

the world will not stop turning 

while you get realigned

 

The mountain will still be there 

when you want to try again

you climb it in your own time

just love yourself til then

 

 

About the Author

Laura Ding-Edwards is an artist and writer from Herefordshire, UK. She started her business, Rainbird Roots, in 2016 and quickly went from painting as a hobby to full-time artist, commissioning pet portraits, unique wildlife artwork & typography pieces. The Rainbird Roots brand name comes from her mother's beautiful maiden name of "Rainbird". You can see Laura's artwork by visiting RainbirdRoots.com. Her first poem, “The Mountain,” was written in a car back in January 2019 and details her experiences of living with anxiety. It rapidly gained momentum on social media, having had millions of views and shares across the world. From this, more poems were written and eventually The Mountain book was born. 

 

Ding-Edwards’ book The Mountain tackles mental health, relationships, bullying, body image, hate, love, and everything in between. In her first collection of poetry and prose, she focusses on the importance of being human, in its rawest, purest forms. The book doesn’t have the answers to our most intricate complexities, but it does reassure you that you are only human, after all.