"It gives me great pleasure indeed to see the stubborness of the inorrigible nonconformist warmly acclaimed." - Albert Einstein

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I aspire to a stubbornly incorrigible nonconformity. The degree to which I have achieved my aspiration I leave in the capable hands of those whose wisdom and humilty exceed my own.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Standing On The Side Of Love

On Sunday June 24, 2012 I was a part of the Cascade Unitarian Universalist Fellowship contingent in the Seattle Gay Pride Parade. It was unbelievable, in a good way. I had so much fun.

There were just eleven of us with the church banner and signs promoting marriage equality, standing on the side of love, and acceptance of all people including LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) people. We were so welcomed into the crowd in the several hours before we actually started marching in the parade. People thanked us for coming all the way from Wenatchee for the parade.

Along the parade route we passed out beads, temporary tattoos, and candy to the crowd and we got more positive comments and expressions of appreciation for coming all the way from Wenatchee.

On Saturday evening before the parade I was thinking how nice it would be to be able to have a Gay Pride Parade in Wenatchee. And then I thought how difficult and potentially dangerous that would actually be. I see so much around me changing and know that the day is coming, and soon, when my LGBT brothers and sisters will be fully accepted, allowed to marry the person of their choice, and any discrimination will be socially unacceptable. Just like what has happened for African Americans or people in mixed race relationships. But we are not there yet.

That got me thinking about what needs to happen so that in my lifetime we will have a Gay Pride Parade in Wenatchee. The first thing is for people of conscious to speak up, publicly, loudly, and passionately. And I think that the first institutions to do this should be, at least in my mind, religious and/or spiritual institutions that celebrate, in word if not in deed, the inherent worth and dignity of all people.

It has become a passion of mine to help shepherd this into reality in my own church home, the Cascade Unitarian Universalist Fellowship (CUUF). We are starting the process and we are on our way. The Unitarian Universalist Association has a formal program for recognizing congregations that fully welcome and include LGBT people in the life of the church. There is a process to being able to have that designation awarded to a congregation. It will be a time consuming process and one that may, at times, be challenging or difficult. I have already run into a few people who question the need, since they already feel that LGBT people are welcomed at CUUF.

It is not enough to say to each other how tolerant and welcoming and inviting we are. It is a hollow gesture if it is not public and proud. That is one of my primary focuses for the coming year, to shepherd this process into reality.

Perhaps it is fortuitous that I am recently retired and have a little more time on my hands. Perhaps it is the universe affirming my calling to this ministry. Maybe it is just random good luck. In any case, I have a mission and tasks that I understand and appreciate.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

My new storytelling and inspiration blog, Whispering Circles, http://whisperingcircles.blogspot.com/ has been up for just a little over a week and I have gotten such positive feedback from so many people. I am a little surprised, though I don't know why I should be. I have never lacked confidence as a storyteller, even when my career seemed like it was stagnant and I didn't get invited to tell stories at places or events that I thought would be sure to invite me.
Now that I am retired and rethinking this whole professional storyteller thing, because of the gradually increasing difficulty for people to understand what I am saying, I have channeled that energy into writing; including writing these two blogs. I am finding my voice as a writer and it is exciting to discover another way to be a storyteller.

My twenty-two year old daughter Becca amazes me sometimes. She loves Ellen Degeneres and watches the program every day. Becca decided that on our vacation to Southern California in September, it would be fun to get in to see the Ellen Show. So Becca wrote to Ellen about all my health problems and how much fun it would be for all of us to get in to see the Ellen Show and how amazing her parents are and how she would like to do this for her parents. I don't know what, if anything, will come of this. I am sure Ellen gets a lot of requests from people at least as, if not more, deserving than we are, but I am so impressed that Becca came up with an idea and was able to do something about it, all on her own.

This trip that we are planning, in late August and early September, will be my first vacation in over eight years. Our attention has been so focused on doctors and hospitals and insurance and other important medical and/or health related stuff that a true vacation has never even really been considered. Now that I am retired and I no longer have to worry if I have enough annual leave days, we can take a vacation; and I am really looking forward to it.

We are going to stay at one of the time share properties in Oceanside, California. We will be close enough to my favorite niece and nephew who live in the Los Angeles area that we can visit and we have family down there too. My niece and nephew are expecting their second child right about that time so we are hoping to get to be there for the birth of the new one. I am already anticipating that our trip will produce some great stories.

One of things that we plan to do on our trip is to go to Las Vegas for a very special supper. When I was first diagnosed the third person I told was my friend Kathy, who was more like a sister to me. The first person I told was my wife and the second was my friend Chip. Kathy lived with her husband and son in Oceanside California. We had worked together years ago at a homeless shelter in the transitional housing program where families could get the help they need to become independent again. As a matter of fact, I was the one who hired Kathy.

When I called Kathy I told her that I had some news to share with her. She said she needed to tell me something first and told me that she had just recently been diagnosed with non-Hodgekin's lymphoma. That made it easier for me to tell Kathy that I had just been diagnosed with throat cancer.

Kathy and I went through cancer treatment together. We emailed each other almost every day. We shared the miseries of cancer treatment that are hard for anyone who hasn't been through it to appreciate and we talked about grand plans for when we finally got well. One of our grand plans was that when we were finally well, we would meet up in Las Vegas so that we could have supper at Mario Batali's restaurant. Mario is my favorite celebrity chef.

I got better, but Kathy got worse. I managed to go and visit her for a week. When I got there I went straight to the hospital where Kathy was in the process of getting ready for her second bone marrow transplant. I am so thankful that when I walked into the room Kathy was asleep. I had tried to prepare myself so that my face and expression would not betray anything when I saw her, but I don't know how successful I was. Kathy, my dear dear friend, looked worse than I could have imagined. It was a blessing that I got to adjust myself to her appearance before she woke up.

That visit was great. Kathy actually got much better during the course of my visit and was discharged. It was so good for both of us that I got to visit. I hated to leave Kathy, but I was reassured that she was getting better and the bone marrow transplant was going to work this time.

Kathy got her bone marrow transplant after I returned home. Once she got the transplant she couldn't be around anyone except immediate family because of the risk of infection and her own resistance being so low. But we still emailed. Kathy reported to me that her white counts were going up and things looked good, for a while. Then they didn't and one day Lane, Kathy's husband, called and told me that Kathy had died. It was hard on me, especially since my own recovery was going so well.

I thought about making that trip to Las Vegas in memory of and on Kathy's behalf but just couldn't bring myself to do it. Over time though I thought about it and finally just recently decided that this should be something I would do. Of course, now I can't eat or drink anything, but Alice and Becca will get to enjoy the meal and I will get to toast Kathy. I will probably have a glass of wine even though I am not supposed to and it drives my doctors nuts. I never have been all that good with rules.

It is getting sunny around here these days and is warming up. The sun feels good on my skin and I love riding my motorcycle (technically a scooter) in this kind of weather. It is so liberating and exhilerating to ride in nice weather.

I have tasks around the house today. Right now I am doing laundry - the whites. While I am writing this. So, I am multi-tasking. It feels good to me to actually be productivve, which is why I set out this morning to discipline myself to write a new blog entry, even though I didn't think I had anything interesting to say.

The warmer days are just another reminder of my coming vacation. I can't wait. It has been a long time since we, my family and I, have made a trip just for the relaxation and fun of it.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

A New Blog

In addition to being a husband and father and a reluctantly retired social worker I am a professional storyteller, workshop facilitator, and aspiring inspriational speaker. Or perhaps I should more accurately say I was a professional storyteller, workshop facilitator, and aspiring inspirational speaker. My gradually acquired speech impediment is getting me thinking about this creative aspect of my life and if I can continue with it. I'm not sure how comfortable I am speaking in public anymore and am particularly anxious about taking money for speaking when it can sometimes be difficult to understand what I'm saying.

I have been channeling my storytelling creativity and energy into writing. I have started a book; I have an idea for another book; and I have resurrected this blog. I am also writing a few articles and sermons [it seems more acceptable to speak in public in church].

I was a guest on an internet radio program the other day because I am a storyteller and the hosts thought that it might be interesting to talk to a storyteller. Storytelling is a passion of mine, it is spiritual work for me. I mentioned this blog where people could read my random thoughts and ideas. The hosts were a little surprised that my blog didn't have my stories. That got me thinking, so I have created a brand new blog, Whispering Circles http://whisperingcircles.blogspot.com/

Whispering Circles will be dedicated to stories, folklore, and inspiration. It should be fun and maybe a little inspirational too.

I invite you to visit my new blog and read some of my stories and inspirational thoughts.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Only Constant Is Change

There have been too many changes in my life for comfort. Now I should mention that I believe that confort is vastly overrated. Comfort can become be an insidious way of becoming stagnant and refusing to grow.

Back to me, because this blog is really all about me. Eight years ago I contracted throat cancer even though I had never smoked or used tobacco products. I have survived the cancer and am learning to negotiate the changes that the treatment have produced in my body, mind, and spirit. I lost all of my bottom teeth and now I cannot eat or drink anything. All of my nutrition comes through a tube in my belly.

I thought I was doing fairly well with all of these changes. If not really placidly accepting them, at least I was tolerating them and trying to make the best of the situation. But then time happened and more changes.

The minister at my church, who I just love to death, is leaving us. Also the Church administrator, a very dear friend who is directly responsible for my discovery that I am a storyteller is also leaving. There must be some reasonable limit to the amount and rapidity with which the average person is forced to change ... and I am decidedly below average!

I am a student of Buddhism and one of the tenets by which I try and structure my life is to "be here now." Be present just where I am in this moment, every moment. From that perspective things can start to make sense. Not because there is less change or the change is more pleasant, but because one realizes that everything in temporary and subject to change.

We risk at least as much, if not more, physical, mental, and emotional trauma from cultivating an attitude that resists change and holds on too tenaciously to what is comfortable as we do from experiencing the change itself. We even hold on to that which is harmful, that we know is harmful, just because it is familiar and comfortable.

No growth or progress in this journey happens without change. And from that perspective I may need to admit that change is a good thing and that a lot of change is just a lot of good things. I may need to relinquish my fear of change and embrace the moment, this moment, every moment.

I'll work on that.