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Thursday, October 27, 2011

My Plumb Line

For most of the last six months, I've been participating in efforts that I'm not typically used to being a part of.  Developing an executive management-mandated and required training project for flight attendants.  It's much larger than simply that.  It is an effort to train all nearly 10,000 employees of the airline that I work for.  Each employee participates in a four-hour morning "All Company" session....all employees will go through this session.  And the afternoon brings four-hours about smaller, individual department sessions....which is the flight attendant session I've helped develop.  It rolled out in the month of October after five months of work.  We started with probably close to 100 ideas, thoughts, considerations.  And ended up in close to, oh maybe, eight or so modules or sections.  It is high powered, energetic, and meant to prod and poke at not only one's flight attendant job and the company we work for -- but also the insides.  The person.  The human being.  My claim to fame all summer long during the development phase is that "I want to poke buttons in each person.  I want them to respond in a positive way.  I want them to leave feeling great about their lives and have something to work toward in their futures."  I don't mind asking more of each person than they are typically used to giving.  I want more.  That's the kind of guy I am. 

The session has been receiving rave reviews from a wide variety of people.  And that makes me happy.  Words like "Uplifting, life changing, and inspiring" are often on the critique forms.  And that's what I wanted to be a part of.  I refused to do the normal, the company, the corporate, the average, the expected. 

But you see, whenever you put yourself out there, push ahead, think in these sorts of ways, it always seems to come back to you.  To me.  At some point I knew the tables would be turned on me.  Toward me.  Focused on me.  My own life, my own personal challenges and where I'm at today.  At some point I knew that my own life would be would be held accountable and see if it runs parallel to the program I've helped produce.  Or if I'm off track.  And who better to bring those sorts of thoughts to light than one's partner, best friend, lover, husband.  Right?  I mean, he knows me.  He gets me.  He's had 14 years to know my ups and downs, my likes and dislikes, and....yes....my shortcomings and parts of my life that fall short. 

He asked me a while back how it felt to participate in such a wide-scale program, developing such introspective and personal pieces for others to consider.  And he asked me if I'd actually considered any of the particulars in my own life.  Had I held myself accountable for this or that.  How it felt to ask others to do something when, perhaps, I hadn't done it in my own life, for myself.  Good lord.  Is that what significant others are supposed to do?  Yes, I supposed at some point they are.  I don't begrudge him the question.  I appreciate him asking me.  That's what he's supposed to do. 

I told him this after careful consideration and thought.  I told him that I was afraid of something.  I told him that despite my hard, crusty -- sometimes arrogant and prideful -- exterior, I knew that I must keep these sorts of thoughts and projects in my life.  I needed them.  I needed them to remind me of my humanity, my shortcomings and failings.  I needed to keep on considering them, developing them, reminding others of things.  And that in reminding others of ways to improve their own life, that I then remind myself to do the same.  I told him that I was afraid I would become an old curmudgeon if I don't do this.  If I fail to keep on thinking positive that I'd end up in a place I don't want to be as I age.  I told him that I needed to keep positive thoughts and energy right in my face via projects, people, and attitude or else I'd end up like "them."  Those who are near us who we don't want to be like.  It's my reminder.  My center point.  My plumb line.  What's yours? 

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Do Ask......Do Tell.......

In all of my wildest dreams I never thought it would possibly come to this.  I'm not even sure that I could have actually crafted the way that it played out in reality.  And I'm not sure that I anticipated that I would be able to be a part, and have a front row seat, to such cutting-edge decisions.

Yesterday morning at 05:30, we met six friends in a dark parking lot at a motel near the Oregon Air National Guard Base located at our airport.  Dressed up.  Jackets.  Dresses.  Ties.  A cold fall morning.  Clearly, tensions were high.  Emotions on edge.  Wanting to laugh and be giddy but the underlying feelings of uncertainty led to deep breaths.  "Okay folks, this is how the ceremony will play out......," he began.  He was being promoted to Master Sargent.  In a formal ceremony at the Air National Guard base.  And he wanted us to all know the order, the formality, who goes in first, who sits where.  This was our good friend of a dozen years or more.  He's been in for 16 years and he loves his military duty time.  He's a great instructor, mentor, teacher....and cares deeply for those in his unit.  They have been on several deployments to the Middle East including the most recent duty in Iraq.  He tells all sorts of stories of his time in Iraq.  And our house has been his house.  Each month when he comes into Portland for his military weekend, he stays at our house.  We feel like we've been on his duty with him.  We know the names of all of his guard buddies and all of the stories about each of them.  We've been there for his ups and downs.  For the good and the bad.  And when his mind just won't allow him to sit in another crowded, noisy restaurant with children running around, we get it.  We understand it.  And we leave.  His time in war has caused his life to be different.

And the reason that things have played out in the way they have is because he is gay.  Yes sir, 100% unabashed homosexual.  Except on the Air Base.  Except when he is leading his unit in weapons instruction.  Except when he is doing his military security duties at an undisclosed base in Iraq.  Except when he is on the shooting range.  Except when he voluntarily takes himself to war for his country.  Until now.  Until September 20, 2011, when the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell came into effect.  Not even a month ago and now his promotion to Master Sargent.  And the dark aforementioned morning in the motel parking lot.

You see, today his partner is going on the base with us.  For the very first time.  For the first time in Oregon Air National Guard history.  For the first time for every single person at Commander's Call to see and hear.  He is being promoted at a formal ceremony at 06:00 in front of military men, boys really.  In the last few days before the ceremony, he made special coming-out announcements to his Sargent and Commander.  In private before the big ceremony.  Just so that they were not caught off guard.  And we are here too.  So nervous.  Uncomfortable as we enter the building.  Everyone in fatigues.  "Yes sir" and "No sir" the phrases of the day.  We have reserved seats in the first two rows while the room fills up with about 60 or so soldiers.  Lordy, I'm sweating.  And the ceremony begins.

His mother cries.  His partner tells of "acting" and "being an actor" today and in years past.  I hear of his partner's work in advocating on behalf of all of the silent partners who have hidden their faces for years.  Lying, changing names, changing stories, not being able to post on Facebook about great experiences or ask for help in the dark days.  His partner has a rich history of fighting, wanting more, wanting better.  Stories about going to the Pentagon to meet with U.S. Military experts and higher ups.  Of passing the Joint Chiefs of Staff office.  Of being in the room when President Obama signed the repeal a few months back.  Of shaking the President's hand and thanking him on behalf of a nameless, faceless soldier.  Of the big smile on the President's face.  Man oh man, that's powerful stuff.

And now we're in the room.  And he is speaking.  He's introducing his mom.  And then, "Probably this is what you've all been wondering about, this is my husband."  Silence.  What?  What did he say?  And then his story to the group about his husband working for the good.  For the silence that has simply had to be.  And the group claps.  And claps.  And we stand to our feet out of respect.  Remember, this has never, ever happened here before.  The first time.  In history.  And the receiving line afterwards....I'm shaking hand after hand.  Saying good morning.  Saying hello.  Saying thank you.  Everyone pleasant.  Everyone energetic and polite.  And a few....the Sargent.....looking right straight into his face and speaking directly to the formerly silent partner with words to this effect:  I want you to know how much I appreciate all of the work you've done behind the scenes for this cause.  It is a pleasure to meet you.  I've told the military for a while now that we were prepared for this.  Wow.  What a day.  I told my own LoverBoy afterwards that this is definitely in our Top 10 list of great things that we've been able to experience in our time together.  Amazing.  So powerful.  History in the making.  Trend setting.

And last night about 8pm, I receive a text message from the formerly silent partner "Who would have thought that I'd ever be spending the evening eating pizza and drinking beer with a bunch of straight military guys with my partner....these are amazing days."  And they are. 

Monday, October 03, 2011

Palm Springs....

Just two more days and we're on our way to Palm Springs.  With, oh I don't know, maybe a dozen or so fellow friends.  It's birthday time again for our friend Scott....and he always celebrates by picking out a location and asking his friends to join him.  He's done this for 18 years.  LoverBoy and I actually got together at this very belonging way back in 1997 in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.  And we haven't been back since.  So, we're excited!  We have spent very little time together this entire summer.  It's time to recenter ourselves. 

We will be staying at Terrazzo...a small clothing-optional resort.  Continental breakfast and cocktail hour included....nothing to do....books to read....chats to be had ..... dinners out in the evening..... who knows what.  But as long and schedule-heavy as our summer has been, we are looking forward to ZERO... nothing.  Absolutely nothing on our schedule with no agenda and no pressure.  LoverBoy asked me if I was taking my laptop with me.  I didn't have an answer yet.  I'm sort of thinking no. 

Mason will be headed back to his (expensive) dog boarding facility just a mile from our house.  It's a great place, safe, happy, and cage-free where the dogs all roam around together.  They sleep on couches, futons, chairs and the like.  There can be anywhere from 20 to 50 dogs at a given time.  He always comes home ex-haus-ted.  Trashed.  It's clear that he plays his heart out there.  Oh, and one more thing, apparently he's fallen head-over-heels for a one of the female pooches there.  A strong affinity, shall we say.  The lady who runs the place told us that she had to pull him off of the chick dog.  And that his body parts were still erect and wouldn't go down.  So, she hosed him down.  Lordy.  After I stopped laughing it occurred to me that, even I, have never even seen his little wee-wee.  No wonder he comes home exhausted.

The project that I was working on all summer long has been just about complete.  It rolled out last Monday to a full group of 40....the first of 74 sessions.  Even I was caught off guard with how well things came together.  Super powerful, energizing, thought-provoking.  I will be one of the facilitators for the program.  So I'll be making trips to Seattle off and on for the next 18 months while this program continues.  The venue is beautiful -- ponds, streams, plants, trees, flowers and lots of typical Pacific Northwest greenery.  I'm very proud of the work we've done and the time we've invested in making our workplace, our lives, a better place to be.