Friday, June 30, 2023

Pic of the Day

Relaxing Weekend

I don’t have to go back to work until Wednesday. I’m working from home today, and Monday and Tuesday are holidays. I have no plans for my four day weekend.  Most likely, Isabella and I will just have a relaxing weekend at home. For my American readers, do you have any plans for Independence Day?

Thursday, June 29, 2023

Pic of the Day

Showing Some Skin

I'm not sure I have ever spoken about this before, but I have a condition known as vitiligo, a chronic autoimmune disorder that causes patches of skin to lose pigment or color. It is most notable in darker-skinned people. Some fair-skinned people have it, but it is not noticeable unless they get a tan. I have a light olive complexion, so it is noticeable on me. Most people notice it on my hands. I have very little pigment on my fingers. There are other places where it is, but we will not discuss that. 


Recently, there have been some models who have been seen with vitiligo. I think a Gap commercial, or a similar store used a model with vitiligo in one of their ads. It's even showing up in gay porn, which I find shocking. The picture above is the Cocky Boys model Theo Brady. Looking closely, you can see that it affects his legs and around his waist. If you watch one of his videos, you will see it more prominently in other areas of his body. This was the only picture I could safely show on my blog.


So, why am I telling you about this? Throughout my life (this started around puberty), I have always been told there is no effective treatment or cure. Recently a new drug has been discovered called Opzelura. The medicine is a cream for the treatment of chronic treatment of mild to moderate eczema and a type of vitiligo called nonsegmental, which is what I have. A thin layer of the cream has to be allied twice a day to the affected areas. Also, the treatment can take up to a year to see any repigmentation. 


My vitiligo has been a source of embarrassment for me since it began. The depigmentation has accelerated in recent years, though it is still only in certain places on my body. Many people have asked me what happened to my hands, and I tell them it's vitiligo. If they are of my generation or before, then I can tell them it's what Michael Jackson had before he had his skin bleached. Skin bleaching used to be the only "cure" for vitiligo, but it was only used in extreme cases.


Once I heard about the medication (thank you, Susan), I talked to my doctor about getting a prescription. He referred me to a dermatologist. Initially, my appointment was scheduled for September 27, but I was told to check for cancellations. On Monday, I found a cancellation for Tuesday and made the appointment. I saw the dermatologist, who told me that it had been proven effective in some people and was worth trying. 


It has some possible side effects like all medications have. One of them is that it causes acne where it is applied. She said we'd treat the acne if that were the case. The dermatologist told me to try it in a small, affected spot for two weeks and see how I reacted to it. If there are no problems, then we will continue the treatment. So then, I had to get it approved by my insurance. Amazingly, my insurance company, which denies everything, quickly approved the medicine, and I am waiting for my pharmacy to get it in stock today.


It can take up to twelve weeks to a year to see any improvement, but I have my fingers crossed that it will work. I am excited because there has never been the slimmest chance of hope before, and a treatment has finally proved effective.

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Pic of the Day

The Stonewall Riots


At 1:20 a.m. on Saturday, June 28, 1969, four plainclothes policemen in dark suits, two patrol officers in uniform, Detective Charles Smythe, and Deputy Inspector Seymour Pine, arrived at the Stonewall Inn's double doors and announced, "Police! We're taking the place!" The music was turned off, and the main lights were turned on. Raids of gay bars in New York City, particularly Greenwich Village, were not uncommon in the summer of 1969; what made the raid on the Stonewall on the night of June 27 so different was that the patrons of the bar resisted instead of going peacefully. Approximately 205 people were in the bar that night. Patrons who had never experienced a police raid were confused. A few who realized what was happening began to run for doors and windows in the bathrooms, but police barred the doors. The police had a standard procedure for these raids. They lined up the patrons and began checking identification. Any person appearing to be physically male and dressed as a woman would be arrested. This particular raid did not go as planned. Those dressed as women that night refused to go with the officers. Men in line began to refuse to produce their identification.


The New York Post was the first of the New York newspapers to report the raid and the first “melee” that followed the raid. The Post described the scene following the raid on the Stonewall Inn, “a tavern frequented by homosexuals at 53 Christopher St.” The raid was staged because of the unlicensed sale of liquor. On that first night, twelve people were arrested with charges ranging from assault to disorderly conduct because of the impromptu riot that soon ensued. As the police drove away with those in custody from the raid, the newspaper describes how “hundreds of passerby” shouted “Gay Power” and “We Want Freedom” while laying siege to the bar with “an improvised battering ram, garbage cans, bottles and beer cans in a protest demonstration.” More police were sent to 53 Christopher Street, where the disturbance raged for more than two hours.


For the next two days and again on July 3, the New York Times ran small pieces about the “Village Raid.” On June 29, the Times reported that shortly after 3 a.m. on the previous day, the bar had been raided. About two hundred patrons were thrown out of the bar and soon were joined by about two hundred more in protest of the raid. Police seized several cases of liquor from the establishment, which the police stated was operating without a liquor license. The Times reported that the “melee” lasted for only about forty-five minutes after the raid before the crowd dispersed, and thirteen people in all were arrested, with four policemen suffering injuries, one a broken wrist. The June 29 article also stated that the raid was one of three conducted in the last two weeks, and on the night of June 28, “throngs of young men congregated outside the inn. . .reading aloud condemnations of the police.”  

The June 30 edition of the newspaper stated that on the early morning of June 29, a crowd of about four hundred gathered again on Christopher Street, and a Tactical Patrol Unit was called in to control the disturbance at about 2:15 a.m. The crowd was throwing bottles and lighting small fires. With their arms linked, the police made sweeps down Christopher Street from the Avenue of the Americas to Seventh Avenue, but the crowds merely moved into side streets and reformed behind the police. Those who did not move out of the way of the police line were pushed along, and two men were clubbed to the ground. Stones and bottles were thrown at the police, and twice, the police broke ranks to charge the crowd. Three people were arrested on charges of harassment and disorderly conduct. The June 30 article also stated that the crowd gathered again on the evening of June 29 to denounce the police for “allegedly harassing homosexuals.” Graffiti painted on the boarded-up windows of the inn stated, “Support gay power” and “Legalize gay bars.” A July 3 article in the New York Times stated that a chanting crowd of about five hundred gathered again outside the Stonewall Inn and had to be dispersed by the police while four protestors were arrested.


On July 3, 1969, The Village Voice published two more substantial articles on the incidents surrounding the Stonewall Inn. Of the two articles, Lucian Trusctott IV’s article is written in a tongue-in-cheek style focusing on the several days of riots that ensued after the first raid. Truscott reports that the crowd, which returned on Saturday night, was being led by “gay power” cheers: “We are the Stonewall girls/ We wear our hair in curls/ We have no underwear/ We show our pubic hair!” The article is mostly sympathetic to the gay cause and quotes Allen Ginsberg, a gay activist, stating, “Gay Power! Isn’t that great! We’re one of the largest minorities in the country--10 percent, you know. It’s about time we did something to assert ourselves.” Truscott is prophetic when he ended his article by stating:  

We reached Cooper Square, and as Ginsberg turned to head toward home, he waved and yelled, “Defend the fairies!” and bounce on across the square. He enjoyed the prospect of “gay power” and is probably working on a manifesto for the movement right now. Watch out. The liberation is under way! 

Gay liberation was underway. 

No one really knows what set off the “flash of anger” that began the riots. Most of the people who were there just said that all of a sudden, the crowd grew angry and either began throwing bottles or trying to free one of the men in drag who were being arrested. Even if it cannot be determined what set off the anger that went through the crowd, it must be asked why that night. Many factors could have contributed to why the people in the Stonewall Inn fought back. It could have been because most of them had reached their breaking point, with the criminalization of their behavior to the Vietnam War that had raged for the last four years in the living rooms of every American with a television. One theory is that with Judy Garland’s funeral earlier that day, the men in the Stonewall Inn were distraught over losing their greatest icon. The heat in New York that summer was probably another factor. Also, the Stonewall raid occurred early in the morning. Usually, raids happened earlier in the evening so that the bar could open back up. The mafia ran the gay bars, and the police were being bribed. The raids were rarely major incidents, nor were the raids expected to be. But the night of June 27, 1969, was different for one reason or another.


Once the crowd began to fight back, the fervor of rebellion and the feeling that a revolution was happening among the gay community swept through the crowd. No longer were gays going to work with the system to make themselves feel more normal. They wanted to be accepted for who they were, not for who the establishment wanted them to be. African-Americans had made great strides in their civil rights struggle, and women were just beginning to make strides for women’s liberation and equality. As pointed out by Alan Ginsberg earlier, gays and lesbians were a large minority in the United States. If they could make themselves heard, this could change everything for them. 


A catalyst had been sparked by the Stonewall Riots, and there was no turning back. From 1969 to today has been a bumpy road in the fight for LGBTQ+ rights. The AIDS epidemic set back the movement as many in the gay community died, but the fight lived on. In 1973, the board of the American Psychiatric Association voted to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder. Eventually, the Supreme Court overturned sodomy laws and ruled in favor of gay marriage. The movement isn’t over, and we cannot rest on those and the many other small victories. With transgender rights being attacked in so many states, we have to continue to push for LGBTQ+ equality.

Tuesday, June 27, 2023

Pic of the Day

The Star Dial

The Star Dial

By Willa Cather


Δέδυκε μὲν ἀ σελάννα

καὶ Πληΐαδες 



When the moon was high I waited,

   Pale with evening’s tints it shone;

When its gold came slow, belated,

   Still I kept my watch alone


When it sank, a golden wonder,

   From my window still I bent,

Though the clouds hung thick with thunder

   Where our hilltop roadway went.


By the cypress tops I’ve counted

   Every golden star that passed;

Weary hours they’ve shone and mounted,

   Each more tender than the last.


All my pillows hot with turning,

   All my weary maids asleep;

Every star in heaven was burning

   For the tryst you did not keep.


Now the clouds have hushed their warning,

   Paleness creeps upon the sea;

One star more, and then the morning—

   Share, oh, share that star with me!


Never fear that I shall chide thee

   For the wasted stars of night,

So thine arms will come and hide me

   From the dawn’s unwelcome light.


Though the moon a heav’n had given us,

   Every star a crown and throne,

Till the morn apart had driven us—

   Let the last star be our own.


Ah! the cypress tops are sighing

   With the wind that brings the day;

There my last pale treasure dying

   Ebbs in jeweled light away;


Ebbs like water bright, untasted;

   Black the cypress, bright the sea;

Heav’n’s whole treasury lies wasted

   And the dawn burns over me.


He showed up with a seal and Pliiades



About this Poem


“The Star Dial” appeared in McClure’s, vol. 30, no. 2 (December 1907). In “‘The Thing Not Named’: Willa Cather as a Lesbian Writer,” published in Signs, vol. 9, no. 4, (Summer 1984), Sharon O’Brien, adjunct faculty in creative writing at Dickinson College, argues that “[i]n Sappho, [Willa Cather] found a poet who celebrated the delights and agonies of love between women. Cather read Sappho during her college years and in 1907 wrote ‘The Star Dial,’ a poem revealing her identification with this literary and sexual foremother as she assumes Sappho’s voice [. . .]. Evidently Sappho’s poetry formed a bond between Cather and Louise [Pound], for Cather refers to her verse in one of [their] letters; understandably the two young women were drawn to this poet of ‘love and maidens’ where they found their own experience of romantic love mirrored.” Expanding on O’Brien’s argument in his book Sappho: ]fragments (Punctum Books, 2018), Jonathan Goldberg, former Arts and Sciences Distinguished Professor Emeritus of English at Emory University, writes, “Fragment 168B [in Eva-Maria Voigt’s edition of Sappho’s poetry] lies behind the poem: ‘Moon has set / and Pleiades: middle / night, the hour goes by, / alone I lie.’ In Cather’s poem, her speaker waits for a lover who never appears as a dawn arises that would, in any case, have necessitated their separation. Theirs is a secret love; although no gender is explicit, the fourth stanza of Cather’s light-drenched nocturne is particularly sapphic [. . .]. She burns to the end of the poem.”


About this Poet


Willa Cather was born in Virginia on December 7, 1873. Her family moved to Nebraska in 1883, ultimately settling in the town of Red Cloud, where the National Willa Cather Center is located today. She attended the University of Nebraska–Lincoln.


Cather moved to Pittsburgh in 1896 to pursue a career in journalism and work for the women’s magazine Home Monthly. After a few years, she took a break to teach high school English and focus on her creative writing. In 1903, she published her first book, April Twilights (The Gorham Press), a collection of poems, and began writing and publishing short stories. In 1906, she moved to New York City to take an editorial position at McClure’s Magazine, where she worked until 1911, then left to focus again on her creative writing. 


Cather is the author of twenty books and best known for her works of fiction, including Death Comes for the Archbishop (Alfred A. Knopf, 1927); One of Ours (Alfred A. Knopf, 1922), which won the Pulitzer Prize; My Antonia (Houghton Mifflin, 1918); and O, Pioneers! (Houghton Mifflin, 1913).


Cather was awarded a gold medal in fiction by the National Institute of Arts and Letters in 1944. She died in New York City on April 24, 1947, and is memorialized at the American Poets’ Corner at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine. 

Monday, June 26, 2023

Pic of the Day

SCOTUS and LGBTQ+ Rights


On this day in 2003, 2013, and 2015, the four most important cases for LGBTQ+ rights in the United States were handed down by the Supreme Court of the United States.


On June 26, 2003, the Supreme Court issued a 6–3 decision in Lawrence v. Texas. The Court ruled that laws against consensual, adult, and non-procreative sexual activity (commonly referred to as sodomy laws) are unconstitutional. In the decision, the Court reaffirmed the concept of a "right to privacy" that earlier cases had found the U.S. Constitution provides, even though it is not explicitly stated. It based its ruling on the notions of personal autonomy to define one's own relationships and of American traditions of non-interference with private sexual decisions between consenting adults.


In 1998, John Geddes Lawrence Jr., an older white man, was arrested along with Tyron Garner, a younger black man, at Lawrence's apartment in Harris County, Texas. Garner's former boyfriend had called the police, claiming that there was a man with a weapon in the apartment. Sheriff's deputies said they found the men engaging in sexual intercourse. Lawrence and Garner were charged with a misdemeanor under Texas' anti-sodomy law; both pleaded no contest and received a fine. Assisted by the American civil rights organization Lambda Legal, Lawrence and Garner appealed their sentences to the Texas Courts of Appeals, which ruled in 2000 that the sodomy law was unconstitutional. Texas appealed to have the court rehear the case en banc, i.e., in front of a full panel of judges, and in 2001 it overturned its prior judgment and upheld the law. Lawrence appealed this decision to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which denied his request for appeal. Lawrence then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which agreed to hear his case. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Lawrence that struck down Texas's statute. Five justices held it violated the Due Process Clause, while a sixth, Sandra Day O'Connor, held it violated the Equal Protection Clause.


On June 26, 2013, the Supreme Court ruled in United States v. Windsor that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which denied federal recognition of same-sex marriages, was a violation of the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment. In the majority opinion, which was joined by four other justices, Justice Anthony Kennedy declared Section 3 of DOMA to be unconstitutional "as a deprivation of the liberty of the person protected by the Fifth Amendment."


Edith Windsor and Thea Spyer, a same-sex couple residing in New York, had their marriage recognized by the state of New York in 2008; Spyer died in 2009, leaving her entire estate to Windsor. Windsor sought to claim the federal estate tax exemption for surviving spouses but was barred from doing so by Section 3 of DOMA. Seeking a refund, Windsor sued the federal government in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. As the Department of Justice declined to defend the constitutionality of Section 3 of DOMA, the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG) intervened to defend the law. District Judge Barbara S. Jones ruled that Section 3 of DOMA was unconstitutional, and her ruling was affirmed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. The Supreme Court granted certiorari (judicial review of a lower court decision) in December 2012 and handed down its judgment on June 26, 2013.


On the same day, the Court also issued a separate 5–4 decision in Hollingsworth v. Perry that effectively allowed same-sex marriage in California to resume. Following the decision, the Obama administration began to extend other federal rights, privileges, and benefits to married same-sex couples. Two years later, in the case of Obergefell v. Hodges (2015), the Court struck down all state bans on same-sex marriage, ruling that marriage is guaranteed to same-sex couples by both the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution. 


In Obergefell v. Hodges Supreme Court of the United States ruled that the fundamental right to marry is also guaranteed to same-sex couples by both the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution. The 5–4 ruling requires all fifty states, the District of Columbia, and the Insular Areas to perform and recognize the marriages of same-sex couples on the same terms and conditions as the marriages of opposite-sex couples, with all the accompanying rights and responsibilities. Prior to Obergefell, same-sex marriage had already been established by statute, court ruling, or voter initiative in thirty-six states, the District of Columbia, and Guam.


Between January 2012 and February 2014, plaintiffs in Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee filed federal district court cases that culminated in Obergefell v. Hodges. After all district courts ruled for the plaintiffs, the rulings were appealed to the Sixth Circuit. In November 2014, following a series of appeals court rulings that year from the Fourth, Seventh, Ninth, and Tenth Circuits that state-level bans on same-sex marriage were unconstitutional, the Sixth Circuit ruled that it was bound by Baker v. Nelson and found such bans to be constitutional. This created a split between circuits and led to a Supreme Court review. Decided on June 26, 2015, Obergefell overturned Baker and required states to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples and to recognize same-sex marriages validly performed in other jurisdictions.


We can’t rest on our laurels, though. Sadly, all of these cases are in jeopardy with the current makeup of the Court. In 2022, the Supreme Court ruled in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization that the provisions of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment have been held to guarantee some rights that are not mentioned in the Constitution, but any such right must be "deeply rooted in this Nation's history and tradition" and "implicit in the concept of ordered liberty." Justice Alito wrote the majority opinion, and Justices Thomas and Kavanaugh wrote separate concurrences. The most worrisome concurrence was by Thomas. He argued that the Court should go further in future cases, reconsidering other past Supreme Court cases that granted rights based on substantive due process, such as Griswold v. Connecticut (the right to contraception), Obergefell v. Hodges (the right to same-sex marriage), and Lawrence v. Texas (banned laws against private sexual acts). He wrote, "Because any substantive due process decision is 'demonstrably erroneous,' we have a duty to 'correct the error' established in those precedents." In Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, for the first time in U.S. history, rather than expanding our recognition of constitutional rights, the court explicitly took a constitutional right away from the American people. 

Sunday, June 25, 2023

Pic of the Day

Secret Place

He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.

—Psalm 91:1


Many of the newer translations of this passage use the word “shelter” instead of “secret place.” However, I think the King James Version (or in the case above the New King James Version [NKJV]) has a better translation because one need not limit the noun to merely a shelter (Hebrew, “cether”) as a structural entity. “Cether” can suggest construction of a physical nature, here it leans more toward a meaning akin to circumstances of secrecy, safe keeping, or protection. When dwelling in the secret place of God’s providence, faithful believers purposefully invest their trust in the One who promises to be the steward of their ultimate good in all things. 


I did a deeper dive into the word “secret place” or “shelter” for a reason. LGBTQ+ people spend part of their life in the closet. In a heteronormative world, we are seen as different which causes us to hide that part of ourselves until we feel comfortable to come out. You could say, “we dwell in a secret place.” I think Psalm 91 has a special meaning for LGBTQ+ Christians. The psalm is titled in the NKJV as, “Safety of Abiding in the Presence of God.”


Here I want to give you the whole of Psalm 91 (don’t worry, I won’t do a deep dive into all 16 verses):

He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High
Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “
He is my refuge and my fortress;
My God, in Him I will trust.”


Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler
And from the perilous pestilence.
He shall cover you with His feathers,
And under His wings you shall take refuge;
His truth 
shall be your shield and buckler.
You shall not be afraid of the terror by night,
Nor of the arrow that flies by day,
Nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness,
Nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday.


A thousand may fall at your side,
And ten thousand at your right hand;
But it shall not come near you.
Only with your eyes shall you look,
And see the reward of the wicked.


Because you have made the Lord, who is my refuge,
Even the Most High, your dwelling place,
No evil shall befall you,
Nor shall any plague come near your dwelling;
For He shall give His angels charge over you,
To keep you in all your ways.
their hands they shall bear you up,
Lest you dash your foot against a stone.
You shall tread upon the lion and the cobra,
The young lion and the serpent you shall trample underfoot.


“Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him;
I will set him on high, because he has known My name.
He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble;
I will deliver him and honor him.
With long life I will satisfy him,
And show him My salvation.”

Some people would see the “closet” as living a lie, but it is our “secret place” where we dwell in the shadow of God. We are closeted because we are scared and want to be safe. Some people can’t come out because it is dangerous for them. They are abandoned and disowned by their families and are forced to live in the streets, or they are forced to go through some type of religious therapy to make them straight. For many of us, coming out of the closet is a fear that we cannot confront, and we are constantly in fear that we will be found out. 


For many LGBTQ+ Christians who were raised in a conservative Christian environment, it is a struggle to accept ourselves in the face of those who tell us we are unnatural or an abomination. The fear of an eternity in Hell scares us, and we struggle with admitting that we are the way God made us. I have always said that “Christians” who preach hate are not Christians. They are people who use their religion as a way to discriminate and oppress others. If they believed in a universally loving God, then there would be no reason to have to come out and there would be no hate. Universal love and acceptance are a utopian world that we sadly do not live in. However, we live in a society (especially in non-authoritarian countries), where we can fight for that acceptance. It is a constant struggle, but it is a struggle where we “abide under the shadow of the Almighty.”


Psalm 91 tells us that we are safe under God’s shadow. I’ll be honest, I am at odds with my understanding of how God is in our daily lives. When I see good people suffer or die, especially “before their time,” it is hard for me to understand how God can let this happen. I don’t think it’s a question that I or anyone else can answer. However, I know we can take comfort in God’s love for us. When we are closeted, we do so for our safety, and I think God guides us through that safety net. When it’s our time to come out, if we ever do, I think we do so with God’s blessing, but I think we also can live in the closet with God’s blessing. He loves and protects us, though that protection may just be the comfort we take in our beliefs.


For many, believing in God is a comfort. It is our safety net. Believing that God exists gives me the strength to continue day to day. I look to God for guidance, and I pray that I recognize the signs of His guidance. I also believe that for those “who dwells in the secret place,” in this instance the closet, we do so “under the shadow of the Almighty.” God understands that the circumstances for being able to come out are varied, and everyone has their own struggle with coming out. For some, it is easier than others, but for those who it is not easy for, God will shelter them until the time comes to live outside of that “secret place.” There are two things we must understand, no one should be forced out of the closet, and we need to have understanding for those who remain in the closet. That being said, I have an exception to that rule: I have no pity for closeted people who do harm to the LGBTQ+ community just to hide their own sexuality. That is when someone is living a lie that cannot be tolerated by us or by God.

Friday, June 23, 2023

Pic of the Day

A Century

Tomorrow, my grandmama would have been 100 years old. I lost her nearly 10 years ago, and a day never passes that I don’t think about her. I think she was the only person in this world that loved me unconditionally. She taught me a lot of life lessons. One of the many things that she taught me was how to cook. My mother never cared to teach me how to cook. She was only intent on teaching my sister how to cook, who to this day can barely cook a can of soup. My sister did master cornbread, but I doubt anyone could really live on cornbread alone. Anyway, I’m off topic.

Mama tried to teach my sister how to cook so she’d have the “skill” when she got married. My grandmama taught me how to cook because she recognized it was something I loved to do. I can’t remember Grandmama ever using a recipe. She had a box full of them that she’d cut out of magazines or newspapers. The box mostly sat on top of her refrigerator untouched. She cooked by instinct and years of practice. I’ve never known a better cook.

Part of it was the fresh ingredients she grew herself, but another part of it was that she cooked with love. I’m not going to try to be modest here because I’m a damn good cook. I learned to make Grandmama’s recipes from her showing me step by step. I also learned a lot from watching Food Network back when it was about cooking and not food competitions.

If I ever found a man I wanted to marry but he needed convincing, I think if I cooked for him, I’d have a ring on my finger before dessert. When I have cooked for or talked about cooking to non-family members, they all say I’d make a great husband to a lucky man. I think my charm and personality would help, but I’ve yet to find the Mr. Right. Again, I’m off topic. 

I miss my Grandmama every day. Whenever I cook, I think of her. For years after she passed away, I’d round the corner in her house or walk through the kitchen and expect her to be there. At first, it made me so sad every time she wasn’t. Eventually, the expectation became less and less, but things remind me of her every day. For example, when I was young, we ate supper with Grandmama and Granddaddy every Wednesday night. She would often cook food she new I loved, but at some point in my life she got convinced that I loved meatloaf. I don’t know where she got that notion from, and I never had the heart to tell her that I hate meatloaf. If I had to eat it, I preferred hers, but it was not a favorite by a long shot. Nowadays, I’ll sometimes make a meatloaf and think of her. I always convince myself that it is something I want, and while, like Grandmama, I can cook a pretty good meatloaf, it also reminds me of how much I dislike meatloaf.

I loved her dearly, and I don’t think I’ll ever stop missing her.

Thursday, June 22, 2023


"The most basic and powerful way to connect to another person is to listen. Just listen. Perhaps the most important thing we ever give each other is our attention…. A loving silence often has far more power to heal and to connect than the most well-intentioned words."


Rachel Naomi Remen


Rachel Naomi Remen is a physician and educator. She was trained as a pediatrician but gained fame as an author and teacher of alternative medicine in the form of integrative medicine. In the quote above, she is talking about using empathy and listening to help heal a person. Isn’t that what therapists often do? They don’t tell their patients what they should do, but they listen to the patient and ask the right questions to guide them to realize for themselves what they should do. At least, that’s how I see therapy.


As some of you know, I am an oral historian. I rarely conduct interviews anymore because the primary responsibilities of my job have changed. However, I am often asked to teach others how to conduct oral histories. There are technical aspects, such as recording and digitally archiving, that can be taught to anyone. I teach the protocols of good manners when scheduling and conducting interviews. These are all important lessons that are necessary for conducting a good oral history. However, conducting a great oral history can’t always be taught. The reason is that a person must learn to listen. They need to listen to what the interviewee says, how the interviewee says it, the inflections of the interviewee’s voice, and the body language of the interviewee. This can be achieved through learning to be empathetic and listening with your “third ear.”


The "third ear," a concept introduced by psychoanalyst Theodor Reik, refers to the practice of listening for the deeper layers of meaning in order to glean what has not been said outright. It means perceiving the emotional underpinnings conveyed when someone is speaking to you. You can’t listen with your third ear if you are speaking and not listening. As Remen said, “A loving silence often has far more power to heal and to connect than the most well-intentioned words." You might not immediately see why I think this is great advice for an oral historian. After all, it’s used in psychoanalysis, but part of being an oral historian is using the same techniques as a therapist. You have to listen not only to what is spoken but also to what is not spoken. Notice I did not say “what is said” because we can speak in ways other than vocal words.


One of the things we learned, while I was at my retreat to Easton Mountain, was ecstatic dance. Now, I am not a great dancer, but that’s not the point of ecstatic dance. Ecstatic dance is moving in a way your body tells you to move and remove your inhibitions. During ecstatic dance, we were told to not speak vocally but only speak through body language. I guess you can think of it as a form of interpretive dance. You “listen” to the other person’s body language, facial expressions, etc., to understand what they are saying. Now, I will not be teaching ecstatic dance as a way to learn to listen to your third ear, but it would not be the worst way to teach it. 


The most important thing to listening with your third ear is to have empathy. Oral histories are done for two major reasons that are intertwined. First, the oral historian is recording history from the mouths of those who lived it, and second, it is to let the interviewee tell their story. A lot of times, we just need to let our voices be heard, though we may not always know it. The oral historian's job is to bring out that story in a person. Oral histories can tell us so much about the person and the history that person lived. The emotions and reactions, or lack thereof, can speak as much as the spoken word. Listening with the third ear allows you to read a person and to take clues from their body language and voice that will tell you: Should I continue with this line of questioning? Should I stop this line of questioning? How can I get more of the story? When have you gone too far? Etc. In oral histories, you have to know when to hold back, and that comes from listening with your third ear. If you push too hard at the wrong time, then the interviewee is likely to shut down, and it won’t be you who is silent anymore. It will be the interviewee. By not practicing empathy, you can ruin an interview.


 These are lessons that we can develop in our everyday lives. People who have prejudices do not have empathy. They cannot understand why someone is different from them. They only care that the person falls in line with their beliefs. I often say that the central tenet of Christianity is unconditional love. Those who ignore the command to love do so because they have no empathy for others. They only have hatred. Empathy is so important in our lives. It allows the world to be a better place. So, I challenge you to be more empathetic in your life: to “give each other is our attention” and to offer “a loving silence.” Empathy can help cure the world of many of the ills that humanity often brings with their prejudices.


I could probably write a whole book on the importance of listening, but I’ll stop my ramblings at this point and just say, “Listen.”

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Pic of the Day

Happy Summer Solstice!☀️


I had a migraine all day Monday, but it was tolerable most of the day. However, by the time I went to bed it had begun to intensify. This migraine woke me up several times during the night. When it woke me around 3 am, I wasn’t able to fully fall back to sleep. I eventually got up at 4 am.  I ended up calling in sick to work. The slightest amount of light was causing more pain. I kept my blinds closed, but light was still coming in. Eventually, I put on a sleep mask, which seemed to help. I slept most of yesterday. Each time I woke up my migraine seemed better, but that didn’t last long. It was a miserable day. Thankfully, I am feeling better this morning.

Tuesday, June 20, 2023

Pic of the Day



By Joyce Kilmer


I think that I shall never see

A poem lovely as a tree.


A tree whose hungry mouth is prest

Against the earth's sweet flowing breast;


A tree that looks at God all day,

And lifts her leafy arms to pray;


A tree that may in summer wear

A nest of robins in her hair;


Upon whose bosom snow has lain;

Who intimately lives with rain.


Poems are made by fools like me,

But only God can make a tree.



About the Poem

Joyce Kilmer's reputation as a poet is staked largely on the widespread popularity of one poem—"Trees" (1913). It was first published in the August 1913 issue of Poetry: A Magazine of Verse which had begun publishing the year before in Chicago, Illinois and was included as the title poem in a collection of poems Trees and Other Poems (1914). According to Kilmer's oldest son, Kenton, the poem was written on February 2, 1913, when the family resided in Mahwah, New Jersey.

It was written in the afternoon in the intervals of some other writing. The desk was in an upstairs room, by a window looking down a wooded hill. It was written in a little notebook in which his father and mother wrote out copies of several of their poems, and, in most cases, added the date of composition. On one page the first two lines of 'Trees' appear, with the date, February 2, 1913, and on another page, further on in the book, is the full text of the poem. It was dedicated to his wife's mother, Mrs. Henry Mills Alden, who was endeared to all her family.

Many locations including Rutgers University (where Kilmer attended for two years), University of Notre Dame, as well as historians in Mahwah, New Jersey and in other places, have boasted that a specific tree was the inspiration for Kilmer's poem. However, Kenton Kilmer refutes these claims, remarking that,

Mother and I agreed, when we talked about it, that Dad never meant his poem to apply to one particular tree, or to the trees of any special region. Just any trees or all trees that might be rained on or snowed on, and that would be suitable nesting places for robins. I guess they'd have to have upward-reaching branches, too, for the line about 'lifting leafy arms to pray.' Rule out weeping willows." 

The popular appeal of this simple poem is likely the source of its endurance despite the continuing negative opinion of the poem's merits from scholars and critics. According to Robert Holliday, Kilmer's friend and editor, "Trees" speaks "with authentic song to the simplest of hearts" and that "(t)he exquisite title poem now so universally known, made his reputation more than all the rest he had written put together. That impeccable lyric which made for immediate widespread popularity." Its popularity has also led to parodies of the poem—some by noted poets and writers. The pattern of its first lines (I think that I shall never see / A poem lovely as a tree.) is of seemingly simple rhyme and meter and easy to mimic along with the poem's choice of metaphors. One of the best-known parodies is "Song of the Open Road" by American humorist and poet Ogden Nash (1902–1971):

I think that I shall never see

A billboard lovely as a tree.

Indeed, unless the billboards fall,

I'll never see a tree at all.


About the Poet

Joyce Kilmer was born on December 6, 1886, in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Kilmer attended Rutgers Preparatory School and graduated in 1904. He attended Rutgers College from 1904 to 1906, then transferred to Columbia University, where he completed his bachelor’s degree in journalism in 1908. That same year, he married poet Aline Murray.


After Kilmer graduated college, he took a job teaching Latin at a high school in Morristown, New Jersey, and wrote features for The Literary DigestThe NationTown & Country, and The New York Times. From 1909 to 1912, he worked for Funk and Wagnalls, writing definitions for The Standard Dictionary, and continued to write magazine articles for publication.


In 1911, Kilmer published his first poetry collection, A Summer of Love (The Baker & Taylor Company). Two years later, he published what would become his most famous poem, “Trees,” in Poetry magazine. The poem was included in his second collection, Trees and Other Poems (Doubleday, Doran & Company, 1914). 


Kilmer published his last poetry collection, Main Street and Other Poems (George H. Doran Company, 1917), the same year he enlisted in the U.S. Army to serve in World War I, during which time he continued to write poems while fighting in the Sixty-Ninth Regiment. He died of a gunshot from a German sniper on July 30, 1918.

Monday, June 19, 2023

Pic of the Day

Some of you might not like his furriness or the sleeve tattoo, but honestly, how can you not fall in love with those eyes? I would let him cook for me any day. Those eyes are "bedroom eyes," if I have ever seen any, and Lord knows, I would be happy for him to be in my bed.

Sleepy 💤

I slept like the dead last night. Not even Isabella could wake me until 5 am. I still don't feel completely rested and wish I could just go back to bed. Alas, I cannot go back to sleep. I have to go to work today. I seem to be the only one who will be there today. It should be a quiet day. Most days during the summer are; however, you never know. Anyway, I am far too sleepy to write much today. I hope all of you had a wonderful day and a wonderful week ahead. Until next time...

Sunday, June 18, 2023

Happy Father’s Day

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. "Honor your father and mother" (this is the first commandment with a promise), "that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land." Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of The Lord.   Ephesians 6:1-4 

Listen to your father who gave you life, and do not despise your mother when she is old. Buy truth, and do not sell it; buy wisdom, instruction, and understanding. The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice; he who fathers a wise son will be glad in him. Let your father and mother be glad; let her who bore you rejoice.  Proverbs 23: 22-25

I know there are at least a few dads out there who read my blog, maybe even two gay dads out there raising sons and/or daughters, and I want to wish you a very Happy Father's Day.  Just like mothers, fathers can drive us crazy.  Most of us may not have been as close to our fathers as maybe we should have been or should be, but all of us have a father somewhere.  Besides wishing you fathers out there a Happy Father’s Day, I also wanted to tell you about my father.

We are very different in so many ways.  He is very outdoorsy: he hunts, fishes, and constantly works outdoors.  I was always a bookworm who liked books better than sports.  I’ve learned to like the outdoors:  I walk nature trails, I like to hike, and I even like to fish occasionally.  Whereas my father worked outside all his life, I prefer to work inside, research, writing, teaching, etc.  There are a lot of other differences as well.  We can generally have a conversation for about 15-20 minutes before we get into some type of argument.  My father has never felt I was right about anything.  I can be agreeing with him, and he will fuss at me for agreeing with him.  No matter what I say, he will say the opposite.  One example is that I once made a remark about a house being painted white (it used to be gray). He argued with me that the house was painted gray, just a lighter shade.  Everyone else I know says the house is white, but he still says that it is gray.  Often he tells me that I am not a very pleasant person to be around.  It's odd because, as far as I know, he's just about the only person I know who feels that way.   It’s that sort of thing that drives me crazy.  Needless to say, we barely get along.  I love him, but I don’t like him.  He can be very cruel and frustrating.

To switch gears a little bit, I want to tell you also how great my father can be without me ever knowing it.  This is part of the reason that I forgive so much of the misery he causes me.  When my parents found out I was gay, it was a very traumatic experience for all concerned.  My mother had suspected for quite a while and was very nosy.  She checked my email.  She didn’t like some of the emails that she saw.  Most of them, if not all, were fairly innocent, but there were some, like an ad from Showtime about “Queer as Folk” and maybe another one from I was over at my grandmother’s checking on her when my mother called me and confronted me about it.  I was tired of denying it.  All of my friends knew, so why shouldn’t she.  I knew she wouldn’t like it.  She had confronted me several years before about it, and I denied it then.  I wasn’t ready, and to make sure that I never was, my mother told me, “If you would rather have a dick up my ass, then be part of this family, then leave.  We will have nothing more to do with you.”  When this time came around, we got into a huge argument.  I yelled, she yelled, and I left.  I was still dependent on them for some things, but I could live without them.  My mother went to bed and cried for the next two weeks.  By the way, this all happened two days before Christmas while I was home on Christmas break.  My mother did get up and do the family things the holiday required but was very cold toward me the whole time. When my father got home, he talked to my mother about what was wrong.  She told him.  She tells him everything. This was one of the times when he sided with me.

He told my mother that I was their child.  She could not stop loving me just because she did not agree with my “lifestyle.” He would continue to love me, and she would have to do the same.  No matter what his children did, they would still love them (it may have helped that my sister married a complete and total jackass, who doesn’t physically abuse her, but abuses her mentally). Then he came and talked with me.  He told me that he didn’t care what I told my mother, but to tell her something or she would die in that bed in there (you don’t know my mother, but she would have).  Then he told me what surprised me the most, “I should have taught you how to fight the urges.  I am sorry that I failed you.”  It is the only time my father ever apologized to me for anything.  I never asked about the “urges,” but I am pretty sure I know what he was talking about.  I think he knew exactly how I felt, and it may be why he is such a miserable person.  Maybe, he had been there himself, but he had chosen a different path.  This may be why they still believe it is a choice.  But I see the misery in him almost every day.  I went to my parents and told them both that I was celibate and would remain that way, that I had never acted on my sexuality (yes, it was a lie, but it was one I think was and still is for the better, even though I hate lying more than anything).  They made me promise that I would not tell anyone else in the family, and I have agreed to that. Eventually, I told my niece, who came out as transgender. Our family has become a “Don’t ask, don’t tell, don’t discuss” zone.  It is not my preference, but it is what I must deal with for the time being.  If I ever find a man to live my life with, I will deal with the other consequences then.  I don’t think I could hide from my family the love of my life (if he ever comes along).  My mother continues to be the queen of denial and believes I will find the right girl and get married someday.

They still consider my being gay a lifestyle choice. I never will.  I don’t believe I would have chosen to be gay.  I would have chosen to live a more open life, but that is mostly not possible where I lived back then. I have a different job now and live 1200 miles away. I am far happier being open and honest about my sexuality. I know what makes me happy, and after a lot of prayer and meditation, God told me that love is what matters most in this world.  I came to understand that if I lived a lie and married a woman, I would make her and my life miserable (somewhat like my father has).  If I was going to be alone, then I would be alone. At least I wouldn’t be hurting someone else.  I realize that some people had more pressures to get married and have a family and come out later in life.  I do not fault them for that. It was a different time and/or different circumstances.  But in this day and age, I felt I could not lie to myself or anyone else and spend a large portion of my life as a lie.

Friday, June 16, 2023

Pic of the Day

Rough Week

I am so glad it's Friday, and I am working from home today. It's been an exceedingly rough week, and I am pretty sure I could not have put up with it for another day. I've had a migraine nearly all week long. Thankfully, yesterday was better. I just want to be able to relax this weekend. 

I hope you all have a great weekend. Does anyone have any special plans for the weekend? 

Thursday, June 15, 2023

Pic of the Day

Migraines Suck

I’ve had a migraine since the weekend. It started while I was away, but it wasn’t too bad. However, it has steadily gotten worse. Yesterday was really bad. It doesn’t help that I am under a great amount of stress at work. The weather changes haven’t helped either. We had a thunderstorm last night, which is pretty rare in the part of Vermont. Hopefully, today will be a better day.

Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Pic of the Day

Flag Day

Today is Flag Day. It commemorates the adoption of the flag of the United States on June 14, 1777, by resolution of the Second Continental Congress. The Flag Resolution, passed on June 14, 1777, stated: "Resolved, That the flag of the thirteen United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation." But June is also Pride Month, so I thought I’d do a post about the Pride Flag. Flags are symbols of community membership, unity, and visibility. A country’s flag shows a sense of citizenship and national pride. Likewise, the Pride Flag was created as a symbol of community membership, unity, and visibility.


In the late 1970s, Harvey Milk, a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and the first openly gay man elected to public office, asked his friend Gilbert Baker to design a symbol to represent (what was then referred to as) the gay community. Baker collaborated with his friend Lynn Segerblom (also known as Faerie Argyle Rainbow) to design the rainbow-striped flag with eight colors: 


·      Hot pink: sex                                      

·      Red: life                                              

·      Orange: healing                                 

·      Yellow: sunlight                                 

·      Green: nature                                     

·      Turquoise: magic and art                  

·      Indigo: serenity                                  

·      Violet: spirit                                       


Baker and Segerblom’s flag debuted at the Gay Freedom Day Parade in SF in 1978. Each of the original eight colors had their own unique symbolism. With the help of close to 30 volunteers working in the attic of the Gay Community Center in San Francisco, Baker was able to construct the first draft of the now world-renowned rainbow flag. It was first showcased at San Francisco’s Gay Freedom Day Parade on June 25, 1978.

 After the design was unveiled, participants of the parade proudly waved the new symbol in solidarity. Baker then took the design to Paramount Flag Company, which sold a version of the flag without hot pink and turquoise, which were replaced with blue for practicality purposes. After the assassination of Harvey Milk on November 27, 1978, demand for the rainbow banner only increased. Popularity spiked again a decade later when a West Hollywood resident sued his landlord over the right to hang his flag outside his residence.

Queer artist Gilbert Baker preserved this 10- by 28-foot section of an original 1978 pride flag. 

GLBT Historical Society / Courtesy of Andrew Shaffer

Despite their outsized global impact, the two original flags were thought to be lost for more than four decades. One flag was stolen from a community center and never recovered. But Baker managed to quietly rescue a 10- by 28-foot segment of the second flag, which had been placed in storage after sustaining water damage. Baker took the item with him when he moved to New York City in 1994. After Baker’s death in 2017, the flag and his other belongings were shipped to his sister, who later passed the fragment along to Charley Beal, president of the Gilbert Baker Foundation. Beal did not realize he was in possession of the original 1978 banner until early 2020, when a vexillologist (or flag expert) examined the item firsthand and confirmed its provenance. In June 2021, the GLBT Historical Society Museum unveiled a glass case containing this rare artifact: a segment of the original rainbow gay pride flag, its colors as vibrant as ever. 


The iconic rainbow design has succeeded in part because it conveys a bright, hopeful message. In the years since it debuted, the rainbow flag has only grown in popularity and is now seen around the globe as a positive representation of the LGBTQ+ community. A mile-long version of the flag was created to celebrate the 25th anniversaries of two landmark events; the Stonewall Riots and Baker’s creation of the flag itself.


Baker died on March 31, 2017, at the age of 65, just two years after the legalization of same-sex marriage throughout the U.S. His legacy lives on in the six-colored flag that flies proudly every Gay Pride month, recognizing the lives, and loves, of LGBTQ+ people worldwide.