* * * My Words, My World, My Way * * *

Please Write: ALewisPDX@gmail.com

Monday, August 31, 2009

The Strangeness and Austin

Leaving Denver, the safety demonstration is complete, the aircraft has already pushed back and is beginning to taxi, and I'm walking down the aisle checking seat belts and such.......Man, woman, and two children....all a bit odd as this conversation will confirm:

MAN to ME: Have we closed the door yet?

ME: (Looking outside at the pavement moving along below us): No.

MAN to ME: Oh, as soon as we do, can my daughter move over by me (there is one vacant middle seat between him and his daughter...all she had to do is slide over).

ME: Sure. And on I go down the aisle feeling no need whatsoever to confront the stangeness that has become our world.

Here is my work week ahead (9,000 and some odd miles)...... complete with a journey to a brand new city that I've never visited before.....AUSTIN, TEXAS. In spite of the fact that it's hotter than a two-bit whore there, I'm looking forward to exploring the food and music and gay scene.....and also watching the thousands of bats return to the Congress Street Bridge at sunset.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Heart and Soul of Our Nation Has Lost

I remember the day just a few years in the past when we were at the Friday morning coffee klatsch with my family in Boise, Idaho. They gather each Friday morning for donuts and coffee. It is no secret that I have strong conservative roots in spite of where I am today. Many members of my family, on the other hand, still cling to hatred and horribly narrow followings. Our conversations are spicy to say the very least. On this particular morning, I remember my uncle waving his big arms up over his head and through the air saying that he "wished that Ted Kennedy would do us all a favor and commit suicide." I lit on fire...instantly. I said something about not being so sure about that.....that our nation needed someone to pound their fists and scream and holler when things are going wrong.....and that there were a hell of a lot of things going wrong that needed to be yelled about. As only I can do, I couldn't leave it there.....I continued pointing out to my uncle that he attends church and how in the world could he reconcile these feelings of hatred and vile words when he called himself a Christian. Oh boy, that went over well. And so, today, I'm reminded of that terrible Friday morning.......

If you've been reading the Spirit of Saint Lewis from the very beginning, you may remember this poignant post from October 2006. Today, Senator Ted Kennedy is being laid to rest. I was crying on the treadmill at the gym an hour ago while his motorcade and coffin passed across the Potomac River into Washington. He announced his candidacy for the Senate three weeks after I was born....and became a Senator that very fall. For, literally, my entire life, he has been in the Senate....and that is a very long time. I mean, the man has been around long enough to have remembered when people of a particular color didn't have all of the rights they do today, when wheelchair ramps were not required in public places, when gays were nothings (yes, kids, we've come a long way no matter how far we still have to go), when women were secretaries.....not vice presidents, and when you could discriminate in housing based on a long list of hatreds. The heart and soul of our nation has lost today. Honestly, there are few as tough, strong and mouthy. Don't miss the article from the New York Times.....

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Voice I Live With

The voice I live with -- it could be an actual, audible, voice....or it could be the silent, still one. There are times it works both ways. It's been with me nearly 12 years. It's the calming voice that stills me when I'm irritated and worked up. The voice of confidence that speaks to me with determination when I think there is no solution. The voice that speaks up to me when I've done wrong. It's the voice of my partner. He's quite the man. And this post isn't really all about him in general terms -- it's about his voice to me. What it does for me. How it keeps me in line when it needs to.

You know, there are times in one's life wherein we need someone else's voice for a wide variety of reasons. We need help, advice, consolation, admonition, reason. And, many times, simply a voice to talk with, talk to, listen to. For no reason at all. There have been times that I've been wrong (imagine that). He has told me so. He has had to speak to me and tell me that I've made wrong decisions or that I've mistreated someone. He tells me when I'm out of line and and when I'm heading down the wrong trail. I mean, he lets me go as long as he can under the "you're an adult and should make your own decisions" rule. But we all need someone, anyone, friend/family, to speak up when we're clearly down a dark road. I can't imagine him standing by, on the sidelines, and simply watching me sort every single thing in life out for myself -- observing me without an opinion or the freedom to yank me back from the brink of destruction. I'm glad he speaks up when he needs to and doesn't simply let me run awry. I can't imagine spending my life with someone who stands on the sidelines, watches me, and never has a thing to say. I love his integration in my life.

There is his voice of quietness which he's very good at. Or his smiling voice that makes any room a better place to be in. He cares so deeply for others. He brings joy when I hear his sweet inflection. When he says "good night" to me at the end of each day, I know he means it. And even if it's on the phone, I know that his voice has the ability to connect me to my life, his life, our life. I can tell when he's stressed because of worry in his voice. He can hide very little from me because I know his voice. I know it well and have heard it many times.

So, I'm thankful for this sounding board in my life. His voice. The protection is affords me, the happiness it brings me. We all need it. I need it. The voice of someone to lend us hope when there is none, strength when we don't have it, and peace when we are wondering where it has gone. For his voice I am thankful.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Her Life Or Something Like It

Have you met my friend Java? She's quite a gal. And a tough one at that. They say that life isn't for the fainthearted....and I'm sure she can attest to that. I found her in October 2007, nearly two years now. I can't remember the exact connection or whose link led me to her. But something about her writing and the story of her life has kept me interested. You'll find 100 Things About Her here.

I won't go into all of the sordid details of her quite active life. But suffice it to say that she's a woman with more than her share of challenges. I mean, I don't know how many difficult events one person is supposed to be able to handle in the time we are allotted on this earth but if I were guessing, I'd say that she has more than most. More than she should. More than I do. She raises four children, two of whom are adopted and run her ragged with special needs. They treat her horribly sometimes. The stories break my heart. She struggles to make ends meet and always does her very best to make sure her family is taken care of -- often at her own expense. She struggles with the throws of depression and self image troubles and there are days that it's even a challenge to run a brush through her own hair .... but if you look her picture, you'll see the face of a woman who has seemingly been through it all and still smiles. She definitely knows how to put a spin on her daily events that brings a smile to my face. She drives an old pickup that is one of the most near and dear pieces of property to her. When I first began reading her site, she was driving a school bus -- getting up early each morning to drive a bus load of special needs kids to and from school each day in the mountains of South Carolina. She's a giant advocate for human rights including gay equality. She and her family are not afraid to dive into the lives of kids struggling with their identities and help them out. And they have attended more than one Gay Pride event in their neck of the woods. She's also exactly, precisely, four weeks older than I am -- which makes me giggle.

Her stories have broken my heart -- the stories of struggle with her children's lives and how they mistreat her. The stories of knowing she is the parent, and that they are her children, and how she knows she is supposed to care for them but has this heart-wrenching guilt twisting at her very being when they make her life hell. Just a day or two ago, she wrote: "The pressure is building. My soul cries out to be allowed to grow. Significant elements of my life are squeezing me, restricting my capacity for contemplation and growth. It's crippling. I am slowly suffocating." My heart breaks as I read of a mother's struggle to survive. Yesterday, in response to her above statement, I wrote back to her: "To My Much Older Sister on The Journey, Small faith holds to hope. No faith is a dark place." I've run out of inspiring words for her as I know she has for herself. My own life experience has prompted me to have a giant soft spot for those who truly struggle in their lives -- not those with negativism or bad attitudes or those who do it for attention -- but for those who are honestly, truthfully, trying to make a real go of this thing we call life. And she is...without pretentiousness or demanding attention. I know that she has no idea what her tomorrow will bring. And that waking up to the next day's sunrise may not always be pretty. With gladness in her heart, she carries on -- or shall I say struggles on. Nonetheless, she moves forward with that beautiful smile and just the right amount of lines etched on her face to give her full authority to speak as a woman who knows life intimately.

Oh, hold on a minute here, I've just reminded myself of one of my earliest connections to Java. And she doesn't even know this story because I've never even told her. I had been reading her site for only a few weeks when I ran across her post from October 13, 2007. She ended this post with these words:

"If I had a working digital camera I would take pics then post them here for you. But alas, I have no camera worth taking. That's one of those things on my wish-list, for when I have enough money to spend on that after buying food, gas, paying utilities, etc. Being a grown-up has disadvantages, for sure."

And it hit me....I was supposed to give her my own digital camera. I knew it. I felt it strongly. You see, I've felt a few times in life like I was supposed to do this or that for someone. Sometimes I've not done it and have always regretted not being attentive to my own spirit guiding me. Nowadays, I am much more in tune and try to follow its lead. And so, on this day, I knew that I was supposed to box up my digital camera and mail it off to this woman who did not have one and could not afford one. Unfortunately, I had only just met this woman and took just a few days or a week to formulate how I was going to present this camera to her. In the meantime, she was given another camera......and my whole theory on doing the right thing was shot......damn it. I've never told her this story until today -- and she is reading this firsthand just as the rest of you are. About knowing knowing knowing that I was supposed to send her the camera. Just because. Because it was right. And then it folded in on me as she got a new camera for herself. Ugh. I need to move faster when life's opportunities call.

So, today my dear beautiful friend, I send you wind for this fragile journey (or up your skirt if that works better for you). A breeze behind you during each troubling day. The sun to warm your sinking shoulders and the gentle finger of love to reach just underneath your chin and lift up your pretty head. You've been nothing but an inspiration to me, to the blogging world, and to your family. It's time you be an inspiration to yourself. With much peace and confidence, I tell you today that I believe in you. For yesterday, today, and for tomorrow.

You'll excuse me now, I have to go. My eyes have filled with tears for those who struggle.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

She Is In Control of Her Life

Well, well now....what have we here? I'm in the middle of a relaxing day, prepping with Hubby for a neighbor/condo BBQ.....and I run across THIS from my friend over at TSM . It's quite list from a woman who is declaring that she is taking back her own life. Clearly, I admire her...for what she aspires to, for stating it without reservation, and for her ability to make me think. She and I have met only once in spite of the fact that she lives in the Portland area. We ate Indian food and gelato together....enjoyably. I think I need to develop my own list. I like her line in the post about this being "a list too deep to Tweet. Too personal to post on Facebook alone." She is so right. Twitter and Facebook are far too shallow of venues for something that is steering one's life. I love her depth, the breadth of her world, the taking back of her life -- without drama, guilt, feeling bad, any of that. Just plain old straight forward get-to-it-tiveness. We only go around once, folks.....unless you're of the Shirley MacLaine variety. Nonetheless, dream on, create on.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Visitors and Dog Sitting

I'm home from a very long stretch of days spent in The Great Land of Alaska....two nights in Juneau and one in Sitka. I can't go on long enough to tell you about how amazing this part of our world is....the glaciers, the water, the rocky islands dotted with trees. And I'm tired, really tired. But we're up early because today has officially been declared Wil (from Designer Blog) & Fritz Day in Portland. They have been out here visiting family who has a new baby. And today, they've dedicated to spending with us. You'll recall my visit to their beautiful piece of the world two years ago. We are picking them up downtown at their hotel later this morning. Tonight will be spent in Laurelhurst Park at one of Portland's free summer concerts in the park....Big Band music tonight. We always take a picnic and enjoy the trees, sky, friendship and music. We're hoping to drag them out after the concert to one of Portland's gay haunts for a drink.....we'll see. Nonetheless, we're thrilled to have visitors and be able to show them one of the world's greatest cities. Welcome Wil and Fritz!!

Our friends Alex and Paul will be gone the entire coming week on an RSVP cruise to Alaska. So, out of jealousy and spite, we have agree to have wild sex orgy parties in their house while they are gone.....(actually, we're just going to dog sit their cute little Jack Russell "Toby" for them.....shh....shhh). Can't you just picture the two of us in Alex and Paul's giant king bed along with our little squirmy Mason and their wild and handsome Toby? Pictures, please......

I've got many other things to tell you, and I know you're just dying to hear them....but, unfortunately, this day has got to get kick started....and fast. So, I leave you with warm summer wishes for health and happiness wherever you are today.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Showin' Off Our Panties

Yeppers, it's that time of the week again wherein the boys dig down way deep and come up with something educational, wise, and worthy of presenting to the international audiences on the world wide web. It's the Return of Undie Monday at Idle Eyes and a Dormy! So, in spite of blog posts smattered with pretty words like spirit, energy, happiness, wisdom, future, and life today I leave you with cheap and honest words like pretty, handsome, sexy, delicious, yummy and the like. Enjoy. I know that I do.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Sitka Alaska

I find myself in Sitka, Alaska, again tonight....I've already been here one time this summer and have one more layover here later next week. Today, my entire crew ventured to the Alaska Raptor Center at my prompting. I don't quite think I was prepared for the fantastic afternoon we were going to have. I mean, this place is all volunteer run and operates on donations. They take in raptors from around the state of Alaska who have been injured, mostly with human interaction (car accidents, electrical lines, poisonings, shootings, etc.). They do emergency surgery on them here at the center and then decide if they are healthy enough to be sent back out into the wild or not. Some we saw today will be released soon....others will never been. Many of the electrical injuries have seared the raptors heads or eyes...it's quite sad. Many of their talons or wings have suffered injuries which renders them incapable of flying properly again. And then they brought in a beautiful female bald eagle named Sitka. She was something as she stared back at us, her pretty white head twitching back and forth, her piercing eyes looking at us much in the same way we were looking at her. I got giant tears in my eyes....staring at such a creature of beauty, injured but now safe. She was so pretty. We saw all sorts of hawks, falcons, kestrels, and owls....the grey owl was one of my favorites. Again, the eyes looking back at us......unsettling. We also caught sight of maybe six other bald eagles high atop the old growth forest trees as we walked around....their screeching drawing our eyes skyward until we could look no further up. And there they sat, WAY up there....just hanging out.

We also passed over a stream containing hundreds of pink and red salmon spawning......at the end of their lives. The thrashing about in the water, trying to get to a safe place to deposit their eggs before they die. It's been many many years since I've seen fish spawning.

And, the bears....yes.....they have had three bear sightings in town this week. One just yesterday at the Raptor Center. So, many trails are closed with signs about bear sightings. And the hotel van driver said he was required to tell us to not be out by ourselves.

All in a day's work.....beats sitting at a desk watching a clock, doesn't it?

Tomorrow morning, we fly from Sitka to Juneau, then to Anchorage, and then to Portland....and after four long days, I'll be greeted by the two giant loves of my life...Hubby and Pooch. And The Trinity will be complete again.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Family Circus

I'm not talking about the little cutsie round-shaped cartoon that appeared in the Sunday Comic Section of newspapers nationwide for many years....I'm talking about my very own loved ones (and less love today than yesterday). You'll recall my list of things that have gone on in my family from earlier this year. And here all of these years I thought we were perfect all these years...hehehe. I do have to admit, we have been a loving family, a big family, a family who spent many holidays together, stayed close-knit, caring, admiring, family dinners, lots of birthday parties, the whole gig. We were truly a nice, caring, close family. And when I say family, I mean the extended version including aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. Today, however, it's beginning to look a bit more like a freak show than anything else....you know, with the third eye, the extra appendage, the two heads.

There's been a problem with my great aunt's will. She is 87 years old and really doesn't have much anyway. My mother, cousins, myself, and a variety of others have cared for her for her whole life. Great Aunt Ruth has been an integral part of all of our lives and we've all spent time caring for her. She was my grandmother's sister who never married and lived with my grandparents for the entirety of their lives....from 1940. She was willed the house by my grandmother when grandma went into a nursing home. Great Aunt Ruth's will designated two family members as executors and divided what few remaining assets between my grandmother's three remaining children. All as it should be in a perfect, fair world.

Fast forward to last week when my mother discovered that there is a "new will." What? Excuse me? Why? Apparently it was drawn up numerous years ago when my cousin Tom took Great Aunt Ruth to his own personal lawyer "because Great Aunt Ruth wanted to make a few changes to her will." So now, the will appoints only Cousin Tom as the solitary executor and divides assets between only two people.....1/2 to Cousin Tom and 1/2 to my mother (the only remaining sibling). Cousin Tom won't allow anyone to actually see the will.....this is all hearsay from his reading it to my mother over the telephone. My mother is very upset -- and I rarely, if ever, see her upset. She's claiming that it's not fair. It's not what my grandmother would have wanted from her home and assets. And Cousin Tom is not the only one who has helped take care of Great Aunt Ruth...it's been a family affair all along. Plus, he's the very last one who would possibly need any additional assets added to his bank account. He's a Republican, conservative, a former military man who prided himself on his time in Vietnam flying helicopters -- and he's just a little too big for his conservative britches.

My mom is really distraught. And rightfully so. So, my cousins went to Aunt Ruth and talked her through the whole thing....and that Grandma would not want the will to look the way it currently does. "You're right," she says. So, they go back to the lawyer to have it redrawn more equitably and fairly. But Cousin Tom jumps into the middle of the fray and tells Great Aunt Ruth to "not sign a thing." So, my mom and cousins get into a big old cat fight with Great Aunt Ruth and tell her that she's out of the picture from now on. They've taken care of her all of their lives and have had it. Great Aunt Ruth will not be included in the family gatherings any more...nor Cousin Tom. Whee.........

In a family that has prided itself on unity, being together, staying together, can't we just go back to the simplicity of the Family Circus days?

Monday, August 10, 2009

Monday Madness

UPDATE: I'm just back from the beach and simply had to share what I've seen today: Saw a giant empty ship headed into the Port of Portland and a completely loaded container ship headed out to sea. Watched a seaplane do a touch-and-go on the river in front of me. Played with a five-month-old labradoodle named August....it was his first time in the river...he loved it. Watched hawks dive after each other and then dive headfirst into the river for a fish. Ate two giant handfuls of dusty Oregon blackberries straight off of the vine. Watched two guys do nude yoga on the beach down at the river's edge. Saw a 2-foot-long black snake with a pale green stripe running down its back and a teeny tiny little less-than-pencil-thin black snake about four inches long (no, not that kind). What a nice day it was......oh, and I got to try on my friend's military hat...the one he wore the whole time he was in Iraq.....I looked damned good in it...well, gay, but good....

I know, I know...it's been days since I've posted. I've been on a three-day trip and now home for two days before heading out on a 4-day trip. Bits and bobs for you:

1. Headed to one of our two clothing-optional beaches today -- and you know which option I'll choose.

2. Finally got to see our good buddy home from Iraq.....I only had tears in my eyes three times as he told me stories from abroad. Hearing him tell of his final departure from Iraq on his way home aboard a C-17 aircraft climbing out while doing giant left and right turning maneuvers to avoid getting fired upon was one of those time. Welcome home, my friend.

3. I've had sinus congestion for two months, but the cough has stopped thankfully.

4. I can't believe it's the second week of August.....no camping this year, minimal beach time, minimal patio BBQs. Why do I have these thoughts of lament every single year?

Wishing you caviar dreams and warm days ahead.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Through the Years

I can't decide which one I like best. Visit Yearbook Yourself to make your own. And the scary part? Picture #1 looks remarkably like me....highlights and all.


Pollyanna? Perhaps...I'm not ruling it out. I've just returned from Boise, Idaho, where my mom had cataract surgery and needed just a little extra help. I never mind the drive over and back. It takes me along I-84 for 415 miles, about 7.5 hours. It's pretty much the same route that the Oregon Trail took with lots of history along it. As I rolled through the leafy green potato fields of Eastern Oregon near Ontario this morning, the sprinklers splattered their mist onto the rolling hills. The hills make their way over to a pretty deep ravine that holds the Snake River, the border between Idaho and Oregon. It's very dry this time of year. The hills tan and brown without moisture. I took a good whiff of onions in the air -- their scent heavy in the morning, without any wind.

My mom is a Christian woman and we have devotions before every breakfast around the table. She reads from a little devotional book. Yesterday's was on Pollyanna, the childhood character that learns to find good in any situation. If there was ever a current day Pollyanna, it's my mom. No matter what, she tries to find the good. But I got to thinking about me...am I a Pollyanna? Not really, I don't think....but I do tend to err on the side of positive, not negative. I frequently see other people less fortunate than me and comment about how lucky I am.

I've been told many things about myself in my life. As the eldest child, I'm quite typically the Type A personality. I've been told, "You think you're perfect." I've been told that my ideas typically "have a little white picket fence" in them. And it's been clearly pointed out for much of my life that "You think you can do no wrong." And it's true....I like things organized, clearly defined, workable, common-sense oriented.....and, well, perfect....I guess. I used to be defensive about those sorts of comments. I mean, who in the world likes to hear comments about themselves...especially when they know full well that there is some truth to most of them. Ouch. But as I've aged, I've discovered comfort in the skin that I wear and the things that I've turned out to be. I'm me. And I'm happy. I count it as a compliment to be told that I have some Pollyanna-ish ideas. That I always set the bar pretty damned high and hold expectations of myself and others higher than most. I don't think I'll ever feel badly about expecting a lot out of myself. I thought today on the way home what I'd be like if I had just the opposite personality -- what if I had few, or no, expectations of others? What if I didn't think highly of myself? What if I had a bad attitude regularly? What if I had a dark personality that wanted to achieve nothing? What if, what if, what if. It was a good drive, I must say.

My sister and I had a brief discussion about what makes both she and I irritated in life. She knows me well, I'm afraid. The things that set us off and give us ire. It was a good chat about life, about where's she's at, and the fact that we are both in our mid 40s and, truly, only 20 or so years away from retirement.....that sort of slaps each of us upside the head. As if we haven't all heard it enough, life is quite short. So, Pollyanna if you choose. Perfect if you choose. Whatever you choose to call me, I know full well that it probably has some amount of truth to it. And that's cool. I'm comfortable with knowing it. I'll sort it out, separate the wheat from the chaff....and end up with the best that life has to offer.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Hairly There

So, I'm on a layover in Seattle. And I need a haircut. Because as soon as I get home tomorrow, I'm repacking and driving to Boise, Idaho, with the pooch for a 4-day visit with my family. All of that to say, that I headed across the street from the hotel to the mall in Seattle. I found a Master Cuts hair joint....with a grand opening special of $10....I'll take it. I have my regular place in Portland -- but just this once, I'll get it done on the road.

No credit cards today, she tells me...the machine isn't working yet. We just opened today...just two hours ago. Gee, I'm a guinea pig, it seems. She is close to my age....giant, giant bangs curled with a large diameter curling iron and gracing her forehead. The back has been permed and dyed and strikes the middle of her back. The scent of gum wafting from her mouth is cinnamon....and about three days old, I'm guessing. She is pleasant...very much so. Tells me she's from Pendleton, Oregon, which didn't really surprise nor phase me. It's a conservative town of 17,000 in Eastern Oregon state. Both of her parents, aunt and uncle worked at the prison there. Another hair cutter named Zoey was paired up with a guy slightly older than me while I was there. He sat down, Zoey took her place behind him to cut his hair, and she stopped. Zoey had no idea what she was doing. They had to drag another chopper of locks out of the back room to cut the dude's hair. Zoey was banished to standing nearby and told to "watch me so you'll know how to do it next time." Oh dear Jesus.....help me. She asks me what kind of product I use on my hair (that's the new buzz word, you know....product....). I tell her I've got numerous that I go back and forth between....Joe, Super Ego, Crew, KMS, Axe...... She tells me she's heard of one of them.

I'm glad she was nice. And I'm glad it was only $10.