Good Friends & Chosen Family

In the LGBTQ communities, there is a lot of talk about chosen families. The original purpose of these families was, ostensibly, to serve as a replacement for families who had rejected their children due to their sexual or gender identities.

I did not start using this term until very recently, when I sat back and took stock of my life and realized how few of my blood relations I really wanted to call family anymore. And how very many of my close friends I considered to be members of a strange and beautiful tapestry of gorgeous and dependable souls.

This is not to say that I don’t appreciate and love my close blood relations. My parents, brother, and I all get along really well. And their support and love means a lot to me. But the lack of an extended family of aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents has been something that I have felt keenly in my adult life.

Last night, after my Thanksgiving meal with my parents and brother and his girlfriend, I headed over to the home of two dear friends just in time for post-eating hangouts.

In the warmth of their apartment, I felt a glow that was familiar to me and that I had not felt in many years. It was the same glowing warmth that I used to feel when I was surrounded by my aunts, grandparents, and cousins when I was a kid enjoying the holidays.

Surrounded by kindred souls brought together by choice rather than chance, I felt like I was a part of something greater. And it feels so much  more special, given the fact that it is built of a mutual love for each other that is chosen rather than dispensed by birth.

More than anything else, if I had to list a thing that I am thankful for this year, my chosen family would be that thing.

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Happy Thanksgiving!

As I said in my post yesterday, Thanksgiving brings up a lot of feelings for me. It’s not just the family members who have passed on that get me thinking, though.

Like Christmas, Thanksgiving is a secular holiday for me and for most of my family and friends. I don’t put on any pretense that this holiday has anything to do with something positive in our history. In fact, the history of Thanksgiving is pretty messed up.

This time of year always gets me thinking about historical revisionism and the way that we write history so that we come out looking like the best possible version of ourselves.

When I first started studying history in college, I was shocked to find that so much of what I learned at school was at best morally ambiguous, at worst morally repugnant.

That said, I have a hard time with the notion that Thanksgiving itself has anything to do with happy pilgrims and Native Americans holding hands and eating turkey.

What I don’t have a problem with in regards to Thanksgiving is the notion of coming together with the people I care about and preparing to usher in a time of cold and hardship with a celebration of warmth and love.

I also think it’s important that we remember to be thankful for the things in our lives that make the upcoming winter season easier for us.

This year I am thankful for my chosen family first and foremost. From my chosen partner and our furry babies to our friends and the people that we choose to have in our lives. When I think about it, I have a small army of people behind me at any one time. And that knowledge makes it possible for me to fight any battle, knowing that I will be backed up no matter what.

I’m thankful as always for my health and the health of those around me. And for my blood family that have grown so much with me over the past year, who support me in everything that I do, and who I love so much.

I’m very thankful for my job. And for the comfort that having employment at a place like that affords me.

I’m also thankful for turkey. And pie. And other delicious noms.

And for you, reading this. Because your support and readership means a lot to me as I’m growing this space. Thank you for being here.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!


Featured image found here.

Burnout. Holidays. Self Care.

Thanksgiving is finally upon us. Tonight we are heading up to my parents to decorate the tree ahead of the Thanksgiving gorging that will happen tomorrow.

It’s strange how families can change over the years. Or our attitudes to them can, at any rate. I’m really excited to see my parents and eat and relax and have everyone together.

Thanksgiving has turned into a holiday filled with mixed feelings for me. When I was growing up, the whole family would turn up to my grandparents place and we would all eat together. So many of the people that I used to celebrate this holiday with are dead now or have moved on. Nowadays my Thanksgiving is small. My parents, my brother and his girlfriend, Frankie and I.

But the good thing about the smallness of the holiday for me is that everyone is a known quantity. I have seen so many articles recently on how to survive the holidays and how to talk to racist relatives and so on. It seems like people really don’t know how to handle their families at the holidays. The only thing I really have to do is avoid talking politics. But outside of that, everything is pretty smooth.

And honestly, if my parents and my family gave me so much stress that I had to think about coping mechanisms like drinking games when they were racist or thinking “YOU’RE AN ASSHOLE” in order to avoid saying it out loud, I probably just wouldn’t go to family holidays any more.

One of the biggest things about self care is the ability to say “no” to things that we know are bad for us, after all. And toxic people aren’t good for anyone. Not for themselves and not for the people around them.

At any rate, my small Thanksgiving isn’t so bad. It’s a little sad, but the people who are there are such a good and big part of my life that I don’t mind being a little sad when I think about the people who are gone.

Another reason I’m happy to have some time off and relax with family is that I won’t be on social media as much. The things going on in the news lately have been making me so sad that I can barely stand it. Hopefully I’ll be better able to cope with what I’m seeing after I’ve had a little time off from the constant grief streaming.

Moving & Colds

Self care is important. I tell other people that all the time.

But when you get a cold the week of your move, it’s hard to follow those rules. I did manage to spend three days basically doing nothing to let my body recover.

Today I slept in and spent the rest of the day packing. We have almost everything done at this point.

The most exciting thing, though, was finding a really decent washer and dryer set for $1,000 at Lowe’s. Free delivery and install and 12 months no interest payments. Yes, please!

We also picked up the permit that will let us reserve space on our street and in the neighborhood.

All in all, it’s been a good day. I’m still feeling a little under the weather, but I’m excited for the weekend and our new home!

Adoption

I promised each of them, before we met, that I would never leave or give them up.

Trusting eyes in fuzzy faces. They do not understand my promise.

Somehow that makes it stronger. That they, unknowing, trust that I will always stay.

Xena’s Birthday!

Today is Xena’s second birthday!

When Frankie and I moved to this apartment, one of the first things that we knew that we wanted was to get a dog. We didn’t even look at an apartment that wouldn’t let us have one.

After a month or two of settling in to the apartment and getting used to the neighborhood, we set out on the hunt. We looked around at a bunch of different adoption agencies and finally settled on Pibbles & More Animal Rescue. We loved what we saw from them. They rescue puppies and dogs from high kill shelters, foster them in a loving home, and then adopt them out. They also paid to have the dogs microchipped, which we thought was super great.

When we started to look for the puppies they had up for adoption, we saw this face.

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We were in love. There were a few other puppies that we thought were cute, but everything about the puppy named “Leah” called out to us with every furry fiber of her being.

We spent the next few days waiting with baited breath to hear back from PMAR about our baby. When we did, we were thrilled. We drove up to New Jersey and met up with the foster parents and our sweet little girl.

Since we brought her home, she has brought so much joy into our lives. Every day she is sillier and sweeter and more wonderful. She is our cuddle buddy. Our weird little girl. Our velcro dog.

Happy birthday, little fuzzy girl! I love you!

A World in Pain

On Friday the 13th of November, terrorists coordinated attacks on Paris that consisted of mass shootings, hostage taking, and suicide bombing. When the dust settled, 129 people were dead and 415 were wounded.

ISIL is claiming responsibility for the Paris attacks in the wake of attacks made by France on targets in Syria as part of Opération Chammal, a French military operation that has been ongoing since September of 2014. And France is responding to their declaration as an act of war. On November 15th, France sent 12 planes to drop 20 bombs on ISIL training camps and ammunition facilities in Raqqa in the single largest air strike of Opération Chammal so far.

I followed the explosion on Twitter as everything unfolded on Friday night. I watched people sending out messages saying that they were OK. I watched the inevitable unfurling of racist tongues lashing out to speak hate against groups they felt justified in maligning.

The next day, I watched people speaking out against the violence that has been happening in other areas of the world. Violence in Syria, Beirut, Baghdad, and elsewhere that goes unremarked.

Like a lot of other people, my mind went back to the only substantive moment of terror that most Americans can remember. September 11, 2001.

The actual circumstances of where I was and what I felt and thought while it was happening don’t matter. What matters is the fallout. The aftermath.

In the days and weeks that followed the terrorist attacks on American soil, America did what it does best when it feels directly threatened: It fought back. And we the people saw paraded in front of us a veritable parade of reasons for fighting. A parade of images of the people who had harmed us and who rightly deserved our hatred.

When I look back at that time, I remember to my shame how I locked step with the rest of the country and hated a whole group of people without discrimination. I was 17. I focused my hate along with the rest of the country, impotent as it may have been.

I was so, so wrong. And even a year later, if you had asked me what my thoughts on the Middle East were, my answers would have been so, so different.

Before we even had a death toll on the attacks in Paris, people were taking to the internet and calling for the blood of the “Islamic State” without having the first idea of the implications of what they were saying.

It’s so easy to turn to a place of absolute hatred when things like these happen. And I think it’s especially easy for developed, western countries to flip a switch and go to a terrible and hateful place. But ask yourself this before you give in to that feeling.

We experience attacks like this very rarely. When you feel that hatred well up inside yourself, pause and think. Imagine what it would be like if we experienced an attack like this every year. Every month. Imagine experiencing something like this every day. Imagine the fear, the terror, the hopelessness that would come from experiencing something like that. And then realize that what you are imagining could not possibly compare to the reality of living under those circumstances.

So when you feel like the pain is too much and the world is too scary a place. When you feel that hatred well up in you, try reaching out with compassion to areas of the world that experience terror and violence every day. Turn your pain and your anger into love and empathy and compassion. Make a donation. Volunteer to help refugees in your area. Write your elected representatives and ask them to speak out for the rights of people fleeing violence.

As hard as it is, that love is the only way that I can see out of the horror that threatens to overtake us in those dark moments.

As an atheist, that love and compassion is the closest I can come to an offering of prayer.

Fat Shaming: Could we just not?

When I was in high school, I remember lying on the couch on my side. I was lighter than I am now, but not skinny by any stretch of the imagination. My mother came over to me, put her hand on my stomach, and grimly intoned three words that would stick in my brain for years to come.

“You look pregnant.”

That comment, along with a litany of others, rings in my head at my most vulnerable moments. When I’m standing in a store dressing room. When I’m deciding what to wear for the day. When I catch a glimpse of myself naked in a mirror. I am always hearing the voice of my mother in that moment. But I’m also hearing other people. I’m hearing my friends as well as strangers and the comments they make about women they see on the street.

“What business does she have wearing that?”

“Look at those thighs! They’re huge!”

“Why is she eating that? Isn’t she fat enough?”

“What a fat slob.”

Those voices and comments have stuck in my head to the point where they even make my efforts to lose weight difficult. When I go to the gym, for example, I feel the weight of the eyes of everyone around me. I have failed to go to the gym so many times for that reason. And I have one one occasion actually left the gym in the middle of workouts, near crying, because of the imagined gaze of fellow gym-goers.

The judgment that we aim at fat bodies is something we do so easily. It’s effortless. And it doesn’t get noticed by most people. It certainly doesn’t get called out most of the time. And while we are criticizing fat people as a society, we are making judgments about them, their lifestyles, and their bodies that we have no right whatsoever to make. Whether someone is fat because they eat a lot or fat because they have a medical condition, the bottom line is that it’s none of our business one way or the other. And judging them for their bodies is discriminatory and shitty.

The fact of the matter is that you can be an active person without being razor thin. You can also be thin and grossly unhealthy. Fatness and fitness are not mutually exclusive things. Just like thinness and health are not always concurrent bodily states.

I have been making an active effort in my life to criticize the people around me less. And not just when it comes to their size. The fact of the matter is that criticism and negativity have been truly damaging to me with regard to my body as well as to my sense of self in more ways than one. I encourage all of you to do the same. Fat shaming and other forms of unasked-for criticism don’t help anyone, but they do cause wholly unnecessary pain.


Featured image found here.

Some thoughts on Frankie’s birthday.

Today is Frankie’s birthday.

This is the third time that I have been with her on her birthday. And one of the best things about it – and about her in general – is how happy and excited she gets about parties and gifts and special things that we don’t get to do all the time.

One problem with this is that I can almost never resist giving her gifts when they are in the house for me to give. Because her joy is such a beautiful thing to me. Making her smile is the best part of my day.

So here is a message for Frankie on her birthday.

It’s been three birthdays now and you still make me smile every day. Your intelligence delights me. Your smile thrills me. You make every day with you fun and challenging and fulfilling. From making sure that we both eat healthily to creating a great environment for our puppy and taking care of the kitties, you make life so easy.

Thank you for always thinking of me. For being considerate and blunt. For being my cheerleader all the time. You are the best and I love you with my whole heart.

Thank you for making wherever I am feel like home all the time.

Here’s to many more birthdays together.

Nesting

I’ve already started making things for our new house. I have two cross stitching projects underway. And I have a ton of things saved that we are going to buy all saved in emails and pictures.

In other words: I am nesting hardcore.

We never really settled into this place. As a result, most of the stuff that we have never really got put away properly. So we have boxes in the hallway with camping stuff and books. Our closets are packed with stuff that doesn’t really fit properly and that falls out all the time.

I am looking forward more than I can say to being in a place where we can put everything where it belongs.

More than that, I’m super excited to live in a neighborhood that’s actually a neighborhood. Where it’s quiet and people have their kids. Where drunken assholes don’t flock to the street. Where I don’t have three or four cars a day drive by with their music so loud it shakes my windows.

Two weeks from now we will be in our new place.

Fuck, I have so much packing left to do.