Tag Archive | life

My husband, I say, Mah huuuzzzband!

Sealed with a kiss.

Sealed with a kiss.

Merely five years ago today we were legally pronounced husband and husband, and I got to kiss Michael in front of friends and loved ones and all those people got to see me crying my eyes out.

We’d only been together for 14 years and 10 months. We weren’t one of the couples of silver-haired people who finally got to legally tie the knot after 50 or more years together. But it still deserved a non-ironic finally. And even though we had been together those years, and I had never doubted his love for me, and couldn’t fathom my life without him, there was something magical and wonderful and powerful about being able to finally call him husband legally.

I had been introducing him as my husband for years. It was a linguistic and political decision I had made before meeting him. Years before Ray died, we had had a commitment ceremony, signed some legal papers (medical power of attorney, wills, that sort of thing). And after that, I called him “my husband.” And now more than 20 years after his death, I still call him “my late husband.”

He is my knight in shining armor... even when the armor includes a t-shirt that says “Social Justice Fighter.”

He is my knight in shining armor… even when the armor includes a t-shirt that says “Social Justice Fighter.”

I had tried some of the other words, such as boyfriend or partner. But boyfriend sounded far less serious and fleeting than what our relationship had become. And partner—well, let’s just say that one of the times I used it, an acquaintance literally asked about the business that they thought we were joint owners. So, I started saying husband. And while that sometimes evoked nervous stuttering replies, double-takes, and even the occasional angry comment, it was the word that most accurately described our relationship. And, as I had decided a couple years earlier with the word “queer,” there is power it seizing a word and wielding it like a weapon back in the face of both the actively homophobic and the more thoughtless forms of heterosexism.

I wasn’t surprised that I cried at the wedding (and cried while we were on our way downtown three days earlier, and when strangers handed us rosebuds as we exited the license office, and when a random stranger ran up to us as we were walking away from the courthouse still carrying our roses and gushed “Congratulations!” with tears in her eyes, and when two friends surprised us with a string duet at the ceremony, and… and… and…). There’s an old idiom “he cries at card tricks” to describe those of us who are easily overcome with emotion which most definitely applies to me. But what did surprise me was how, after the ceremony, I would have a little hitch in my voice and feel the surge of my eyes getting watery—not quite tears, but definitely tearing up—whenever I said “husband” for the next several months.

I’d been calling him that (and thinking of him as that) for years, but now it was different. Because for most of my life I had thought I would never be able to legally marry the man I loved. The thought was completely unimaginable! I still have vivid memories of a film they showed us in health class, back in the mid-seventies, during the week we studied “sexual deviancy,” and the film included a scene of two men in pastel tuxedoes walking hand-in-hand down an aisle in what seemed to be a church with the narrator talking about how sexual deviation was so normalized in places like California that people pretended to get married. And it was edited to make it look like they were skipping (you could see the jumps in the flow of the image) with some ridiculous music playing. Meanwhile an entire classroom of my peers were laughing and making gagging sounds all around me.

I had lived through a small number of the most liberal cities in the country setting up domestic partnership registries that carried no actual legal rights, but gave some way to register the relationship so that an employer that decided they wanted to be magnanimous and hand out some benefits to their gay employees, there was a legal-looking paper to point to. And I’d lived through the grudging middle stages, fighting every step as the way, as we got some civil partnership or other half-assed quarter-measure acknowledgement in some states and so forth. I’d watched the bigots spend millions of dollars campaigning against civil unions, angrily insisting that it would destroy the fabric of society and so forth. I had watched, as we slowly won the hearts and minds of a growing percentage of the population, those same bigots suddenly switch to insisted the domestic/civil unions/partnerships were more than adequate and why can’t we live with that so that marriage can be reserved for something special?

One of my husband's current art projects is setting up some of our many hats in displays around the new house. These are the hats we wore the day we were married. And yeah, I get that lump in my throat and tear up every time I look up at them. Tears of joy.

One of my husband’s current art projects is setting up some of our many hats in displays around the new house. These are the hats we wore the day we were married. And yeah, I get that lump in my throat and tear up every time I look up at them. Tears of joy.

So intellectually I understand why those same two syllables felt so very different after marriage equality became the law of our home state. As I said after the election, a solid majority of my fellow citizens — a whole bunch of straight people — voted to include us. They staffed phone lines to urge people to vote in favor of equality. They donated money. They showed up and voted. And then hundreds (or more) of those straight people turned up at the courthouses and county offices and so forth on those first days we could get licenses to cheer for people they didn’t know. On the first day the ceremonies could happen, a huge crowd gathered outside city hall to cheer and clap and being the receiving line for a bunch of queer couples — strangers! — who had just been joined legally in matrimony. Knowing that made me cry then. And it makes me tear up long long after any time I’m reminded of it.

Which happens to be every time I refer to my husband…

So! Today is the five-year anniversary of the day we stood in front of many of our loved ones and exchanged vows. We were pronounced husband and husband and I cried. He’s the most wonderful man I know. I really, seriously can’t quite understand why he puts up with me, let alone loves me. But I’m eternally grateful that he does.

Happy Anniversary, Michael!

He's the best!

He’s the best!


A note about the title of this post: I’ve been reading the Savage Love advice column for decades, through the years before Dan Savage met his husband, Terry, when they started dating, when they adopting a kid together, when they finally legally married (in Canada), and so forth. After the Canadian wedding, Dan started referring to Terry as his husband in a very exaggerated pronunciation: “mah huzzzzben!” And I always took it as his way of being proud and a bit shocked that marriage equality had arrived in at least some places within his life time. I always thought it was cute. In a recent blog post he answered a question from a reader who felt that the weird pronunciation was an insult to Terry, or something, and Dan explained:

I started calling Terry mah huzzzzben when we got married—more than a dozen years ago—because in all honesty it felt so weird to call him that. To be able to call him that. I never expected that marriage, legal marriage, would happen in our lifetimes. And while I didn’t have a problem calling him my boyfriend, calling him my husband took some getting used to. So I played up my… well, not quite my discomfort with the word. I played up my unfamiliarity with it. It felt strange to say it—the word “husband,” unlike my husband, felt awkward in my mouth—so I said the word in an awkward way. I did what I advise my readers/listeners to do: you gotta embrace awkwardness to get past it. And I am past it now. It no longer feels strange to call Terry my husband, and I’m capable of saying the word these days without hesitation. But you know what? I like calling him mah huzzzzben. It’s less “this is weird and new and feels awkward to say!” and more “this is my own affectionate pet name for him!” And I’m gonna keep saying it.

I still think it’s cute.

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Some people are difficult to shop for, then there’s my mom

“Mom, Thanks for putting up with a spoiled, ungrateful, messy, bratty child like my sibling. Love, your favorite.”

“Mom, Thanks for putting up with a spoiled, ungrateful, messy, bratty child like my sibling. Love, your favorite.” https://shirtoopia.com/products/dear-mom-thanks-for-putting-up-with-a-spoiled-ungrateful-messy-bratty-child-like-my-sibling-love-your-favorite

The is a story in several parts.

First, twenty-two years ago at a holiday potluck at work, the subject had somehow turned to shopping for parents, and I mentioned that I didn’t always know what big present to get my Mom, but there was a particular kind of candy that she loved and I had been buying her a box of it every year since I was a teen-ager, so there was always a point during the opening of the presents when my Mom would pick up the box and realize what it was and grin. A new co-worker expressed shock and disbelief, insisting that any mother she knew would be irritated to get the same thing every year. She further insisted that my Mom must be faking the enthusiasm for the candy.

Second, twenty years ago, I visited Mom for Christmas and drove her to Grandma’s for the big Christmas Eve shindig Grandma used to throw. At said shindig, Mom received a present from one of the other relatives that was an enormous (and ugly) knick-knack. It was taller than any table lamp that Mom owned. And Mom had just recently moved into a smaller place specifically because she was trying to get rid of stuff. Mom had said thank-you to the present, but the look in her eyes had clearly communicated to me, “What am I going to do with this?”

During the almost hour long drive back to her house, there was a point when Mom went really quiet for a moment, then asked, “Where am I going to put that thing? I mean, it’s so big!”

I made sympathetic noises, but otherwise didn’t have an answer.

She suddenly grabbed my arm and said, “Promise me you won’t get me things like that! Give me candy, or cookies, or candles—things I will use up! If you don’t know I need it or will use it, please don’t spend the money!”

Third, seventeen or eighteen years ago, Mom had mentioned needing a specific thing for the kitchen, and I had found it, but it was in a weird, truncated pyramid-ish shaped box. And while I was trying to decide how to wrap it, I noticed that the broad base of the box was almost exactly the size of the box of those candies I have been buying her for Christmas since I was a kid. So with some wadded up newspaper and a lot of tape, I turned the two things into a large, retangular package, then wrapped them together.

Christmas Eve was at my Aunt’s that year, and Michael and I drove Mom to it. During the gift opening, one of the kids of one of my cousins had distributed everyone’s presents as piles beside each of us, and it had turned into a bit of a torn paper frenzy. I had watched Mom getting quieter and more sad looking as the evening progressed. She hadn’t been feeling well that morning and had almost decided to stay home for Christmas Eve, so I thought that she was feeling worse. I quietly asked a few times if she needed something.

There was only one present left beside her chair—my two-in-one box. Everyone else was finished, and one of the kids asked Mom if she was going to open her last one. She sighed and said something that sounded quite a bit less than enthusiastic. She picked it up into her lap. She turned it around looking for an edge to the wrapping. And when she did, the candy jiggled inside its box—making a distinctive sound she recognized.

Mom’s eyes lit up like search lights. She turned the box again and looked at the tag to see it was from me. She grinned at me. “I know what this is! I know what this is!” And then she tore the paper off like a tornado of ninjas attacking a castle. She liberated the box of candy from the rest of the present and exclaimed, “You didn’t forget my candy! My son didn’t forget my candy!”

Michael had to point out that there was another part of the gift she might want to look at. She was glad that I’d gotten her the kitchen thing, but she was clearly more happy about the candy. And she was enthusiastic the rest of the night.

So, my Mom really does like it when I give her that candy every year1.

Fourth, as long as I can remember, Mom has loved hot tea. She loves nothing more than to curl up with a new book and a cup of hot tea and spend the day reading. For various health reasons, she can’t do caffeine any more. So the tea needs to be herbal. Unfortunately, when most of the rest of the people in Mom’s life think “herbal tea” the go for camomile3. Mom doesn’t dislike camomile, but she gets tired of it after awhile.

So every years I look for interesting herbal teas for Mom other than camomile. Last week I found two boxes that looked interesting while I was out shopping. I went to a rather large number of stores that day. When I got home, there was a lot of stuff to put away. And when I was finished, I couldn’t find the two boxes of tea.

I searched all the shopping bags. I looked around the house. I looked in the pantry with my teas. I looked everywhere. I confirmed on the printed receipt that I had paid for the tea. I decided that when I and the person at the store were bagging my groceries, one of us had accidentally pushed the boxes aside.

The next day I headed out shopping again with a list of people I needed to get gifts for. At the first store I went to the back of the car to get a shopping bag. And there was a shopping bag from the day before with four things in it. Two of which were Mom’s tea. Fortunately, nothing in the bag was perishable, so I didn’t waste anything by forgetting some groceries in the car overnight.

So there will be several presents under Mom’s tree from me this year. And now you know what three of them are. And I’m pretty sure as soon as Mom picks them up, she’ll know what they are, two. Ever since that one Christmas, I have made sure that the box of candy was wrapped by itself, so it would be no surprise to Mom what was inside.

But that isn’t the point of this particular present.


Footnotes:

1. One time when I told this story, a friend who is also a mother and grandmother told me that there was a type of salt-water taffy she liked, and anyone who bought her some of that for Christmas was a winner in her book.2

2. Another person (who also happens to be a mom and grandmother) pointed out that while it is undoubtedly true that Mom likes this favorite candy of hers, by the time I was an adult and I still gave her a box of the candy every Christmas, the candy had become a symbol. “I have absolutely no doubt that every Christmas when she opens that box, she looks up at you and she doesn’t see you as the grown man you are. She sees her little boy—how you looked as a small child. That isn’t a box of candy, to her, it’s a box of memories of her baby.” I suspect she’s right.

3. One time my Aunt found a big boxed set of “herbal teas” in the gift box aisle at Walmart. Except they weren’t herbal. When you read the small print on the box, the teas were all regular black tea2 with artificial flavoring. So the “camomile” was regular black tea with some kind of camomile flavoring. And the “hibiscus” was black tea with hibiscus flavoring. And the “elderberry” was black tea with flavoring and so on.3

4. Loaded with caffeine.

5. The set included I think it was 8 little tins, each of which had the name of the herb in question, and then behind each tin in the box was a little foil packet with three of the skankiest looking oily tea bags. And they all smelled absolutely awful.4

6. Mom begged me to take it home. Michael and I had a lot of fun throwing it away.

Trying to remember to be thankful

“This is Chef. Chef's been cooking since four this morning. You better be hungry. Happy Thanksgiving.” © Don Chooi  http://dchooidoodles.tumblr.com

“This is Chef. Chef’s been cooking since four this morning. You better be hungry. Happy Thanksgiving.”
© Don Chooi
http://dchooidoodles.tumblr.com

The point of the holiday is supposed to be to remember the things in our lives we have to be thankful for. And normally I’m all over that. But I would be lying if I said that everything is wonderful and I have great hopes for the future. And I know that I am hardly the only person struggling to remember that the world is full of good things as well as all the crazy, awful, and so forth that we’re all enduring right now.

So, here are things I’m thankful for:

  • my smart, sweet, sexy, super capable, long-suffering husband
  • coffee
  • the many cute birds that visit my bird feeder every day
  • purple
  • sci fi books that tell of wonderful futures
  • people who help other people
  • flowers
  • people who make art
  • science
  • my crazy, sometimes infuriating relatives who probably find me even more bewildering than I ever do them
  • not having to spend the holiday with (especially) the most infuriating relatives this year
  • cocktails
  • people who love
  • radio and wireless technologies
  • kittens and puppies and tigers and otters
  • books
  • stuffing
  • music
  • the many almost magical computing devices that I can now wear on my wrist, carry in my pocket, and otherwise bring a wealth of information and possibilities that was only barely imaginable when I was a kid
  • all my wonderful friends—who are talented, kind, giving, and clearly the most patient people in the world, because they put up with me

Thank you, each and every one. And whether you’re celebrating Thanksgiving or not, I hope you have a wonderful day full of blessings, because you deserve it

It’s been twenty years, but it still hurts

This was taken at our final combined birthday party, just before the last round of chemo.

Twenty years ago today I had to sign some papers.

Then a couple of nurses turned off the monitors, removed the respirator tubes, and turned off the rest of the machines.

I held Ray’s hand. I said, “Good-bye.”

I’d been crying off and on for hours—days, technically (though I’d only slept a couple hours out of the previous 59-ish, so it seemed like one really long, horrible day).

My last chronologically-in-order memory is taking hold of his hand that one last time. My memories for the next few months are like the shards of a thoroughly shattered stained glass window.

When we had our commitment ceremony several years earlier, he promised me he would stay with me for the rest of his life.

He did.

I consider myself indescribably lucky to have had that kind of love in my life. The fact that after Ray’s death I later met and fell in love with another man does nothing to reduce the sense of loss I feel when I think about Ray.

Ray unpacking after we moved into our second apartment.

My friend Kristin recently sent me this picture saying, “How I like to remember Ray.” This was a trip we all took to the beach. He's prepping his kite for launch.

My friend Kristin sent me this picture saying, “How I like to remember Ray.” This was a trip we all took to the beach. He’s prepping his kite for launch.

Signing papers after our commitment ceremony.

Signing papers after our commitment ceremony.

Ray and I at the Pride Parade sometime in the early 90s.

Ray and I at the Pride Parade sometime in the early 90s.

Don’t let anyone go hungry

And now that November is here, this is a good time to post a link like this: Stop donating canned goods to food drives: Your corned mutton castoffs are only making things worse. Here’s the short version: boxes or barrels full of random groceries actually take more time and resources from the food banks and similar charities than groceries cost, because they have to be sorted, inventoried, checked for expiration date, and put into inventory. The amount of money you or I might spend buying a single can of stew or tuna or the like to donate could be used by the charity to buy much, much, much food at bulk discount. Which they get in already sorted cases that are a lot easier to store.

My particular local food charity, Northwest Harvest, says they can “feed a family of three a nutritious meal for just 67 cents.”

Hunger is a serious problem, and lots of people who work multiple jobs trying to keep a roof over their kids’ heads, often don’t know where the next meal those kids will get is coming from. So, find a local food bank or a blanket food charity, and give them money. Even a little bit can go a long, long way!

If you don’t want to go read the above article, watch “Adam Ruins Everything – Why You Shouldn’t Donate Canned Food to Charities:”

(If embedding doesn’t work, click here

For the birds

It works better is I stay back from the window and have the camera zoom.

It works better is I stay back from the window and have the camera zoom.

After putting up the new bird feeder over a week ago and being really happy when birds actually started using it, a new part of my morning routine has become peeking between the blinds to check on the feeder (since opening the blinds sends the birds scattering, and I’d only just have to close them again before I left). I only caught birds actually at the feeder when I peeked once, but I could notice from day to day the level of seed in the feeder decreasing at a noticeable rate. Which was good news, since the other style of feeder we had up all summer never had the seed level decrease the whole time.

On Friday, a work-from-home day, I had the blinds open all day. The birds flew away when I opened, of course, but soon came back. There were several points in the day Friday when there were between three and four small birds arrayed around the perch of the feeder, and three or four more on the deck under the feeder pecking up seeds. A couple of times a crow would fly up and intentionally chase the other birds away, then it would land on the deck and eat a bunch of the spilled seeds. At one point there were two crows on the deck both amicably eating, put when a third crow landed on the rail, the other two leapt at it, cawing and flapping noisily. Earlier in the summer I had deduced that there was a mated pair of crows with a nest in one of the big evergreens behind us, so I suspect the two that were happy to share the deck are that pair.

The feeder’s package had said it held up to two pounds of seeds. I’d filled it completely full Saturday before last, and by this last Saturday, the feeder was a bit less than half full. So Saturday afternoon I took the big bag of seed out to top off the feeder. There were a couple of birds on the feeder and at least one on the deck when I opened the sliding glass door. They scattered immediately, but landed on the branches nearby and chirped at me rather insistently. I interpreted it as them trying to get me to leave so they could get back to eating.

Anyway, while I was getting the feeder down and such, I managed to spill maybe half to three-quarters of a cup worth of the seeds from the bag in a spot right next to where I was working. I filled up the feeder, hung it back up, resealed the bag and put it away, then came back out with the broom and dustpan. I had already planned to sweep the whole deck. The birds scatter a lot of seeds in the course of eating. And they get everywhere. It’s the only thing worse than pine needles. I swept up everything except the little pile where I had spilled, and once it was altogether I only had one dustpan full. And about half of the volume of what I had was the aforementioned pine needles. So while they knock a lot of the seeds out of the feeder while they’re eating, they also eat a lot of the spilled seeds.

So, they appear to go through about a pound of seed a week.

I took this one during lunch on Friday. On work for home days I like to eat lunch out on the veranda. This little guy was the only one brave enough to come back to the deck and hop around eating while I was there. Several times he was no more then three feet from me.

Once I had finished sweeping and put the deck furniture and such back to their usual positions, I then scattered my spilt pile under the feeder. My reasoning being that the seeds on the deck will rot once they get damp, but a lot of the birds like to feed from the deck rather than the feeder (some times I look out and there are none on the feeder, but several on the deck pecking away). I probably won’t intentionally scatter any seeds on the deck in the future (unless I have another spill). But I do have to note that on Sunday afternoon when I went out, it was clear that the birds had eaten most of what I spilled. There were seeds on the deck, but it looked like their initial scatter had after a day last week.

I need to try to get more good pictures and see if I can identify them better. The black-headed chickadees were easy to identify, but none of the others are an exact match of the pictures of any other birds in my Audubon book. I think most of them are sparrows, but I also hear the distinct “chick-a-dee” style trilling when I don’t see any black-headed chickadees out there, so maybe we’ve got some other species of chick-a-dees, too.

One brain, two brains, my brain, your brains!

Cup of coffee with the phrase, “Hello Darkness, my old friend.”

“Hello Darkness, my old friend.”

I’ve seen the opinion expressed more than once that there is nothing more boring than reading about other people’s dreams. But I have also noticed that the people who say that frequently are the sorts whose blogging consists of long cynical (and boring) discourses on how horrible every single person they have ever known is and/or how every book/game/movie/TV series episode they watch is horrible. So, I’m going to ignore them.

Recently I had a weird series of dreams. My husband leaves for work about two hours before I need to get up to get ready for my job. So most weekday mornings I wake up at least partially while he’s getting ready. So I may mumble something to him and roll back over in bed, then wake up a couple of times again before my alarm goes off, each time squinting at the clock and being relieved that I have time to get a little more sleep in. This was one of those mornings. Right after Michael left, I fell back to sleep and seemed to immediately begin dreaming that our friend, Keith, was trying to help me reach an important destination and was driving me in a car belonging to another friend, Mark. We kept getting interrupted by weird things, like a golden box full of Magic: The Gathering Cards being left on the side of the road, or a couple of people who desperately needed directions somewhere, and I was getting increasingly worried we weren’t going to make it to whatever we were trying to get to.

Then someone outside was revving their car motor, and I woke up enough to squint at the clock, note that I had only been asleep, at most, 25 minutes, and fell back again. And I began dreaming not about the weird road trip, but instead about trying to finish laundry. Except the laundry room was inexplicably located inside a hollow tree in a park that was perhaps across the street from my home. It was a little unclear. I kept running back home to work on errands, then back to the park to move the laundry from one machine to another. And there was this guy who kept stopping me in the park to ask questions. I kept thinking he was trying to steal my wallet, and then being relieved that I still had it each time I got away from him.

Something woke me up again, I peered at the clock to see that I still have nearly an hour to go before the alarm went off, and rolled back over to start dreaming about helping a bunch of people I didn’t know restore a six-color web press because we needed to get news out to the world because there had been some horrible disaster, the city was half destroyed, and so forth. I had been drafted to help because I had some familiarity with the process. Some moments the group I was working with included soldiers or government agents of some sort, and other moments we were all just ordinary civilians.

Then I heard another noise outside, pried my eyes open, and saw that my alarm clock was going to go off in less than twenty minutes. And I needed to go to the bathroom, but even though I only had a few minutes left before the alarm went off, I laid back down afterward and closed my eyes. And seemed to immediately dream that I was awakened by a noise outside and I looked to see what time it was and the clock clearly said it was 6:20pm, and I had somehow slept through the entire day or possibly several days and I need to get up right now and start getting ready…

…and I did leap out of bed, because I was convinced I was very late for work, and I grabbed my watch off the charger, strapped it on my wrist, was trying to get my thoughts together… and the watch on my wrist started vibrating because it was exactly 7:30 in the morning and time to wake up. And I stood there, after tapping the snooze button, for a good 40 seconds trying to figure out what was dream and what was reality, because I swear that the watch was flashing in weird colors both a time and a date later in the week just milliseconds before it started vibrating on my wrist, and I was standing there wearing the watch and its face was just changing to 7:31, so the jumping up and grabbing the watch had been real while also being part of the dream.

And while my watch has a lot of customizable faces, none of them look anything like the flashing “OMG, you’re late!” watch face which I could still close my mind and see in memory as if I had just been looking at it.

I don’t understand my brain. I mean, sometimes I am able to tell that a particular dream is just anxiety manifesting because of things going on in real life. And occasionally I recognize individual elements in a dream as probably being inspired by this specific thing that happened to us recently. But mostly they are just weird mishmashes of things that make no sense outside of a dream. So sometimes I think it is a pretty amazing that we manage to communicate and have conversations and such where we seem to understand each other.

Even more amazing that we can read some fiction that someone else has written and get caught up with it to the point that we imagine the events of the story, become invested deeply enough to care about what happens to the imaginary people, and even get into long arguments with other people about whether these imaginary people in an imaginary setting having imaginary adventures were portrayed realistically. Like the time back in high school where one friend angrily asserted, “Come on! A real dragon would never behave that way!” and another starting laughing so hard, he fell off his chair.

In conclusion: brains are weird. Not just mine.

Confessions of a gadget addict

This is not a photo of me with my very first iPhone... it isn't, really, but...

This is not a photo of me with my very first iPhone… it isn’t, really, but…

I fully admit to being addicted to gadgets. I spend a lot of my time at home writing, reading, and researching on a Macbook Pro, but I also own one of the big Mac Pro Towers with an Apple Cinema Display for a monitor, and I own an Asuratek Ultrabook that runs Windows 7. Plus I have an iPad Pro with the Apple Smart Keyboard, upon which I do a surprising number of tasks that previously required a laptop, plus my iPhone and Apple Watch, and did I mention my Kindle? And that doesn’t even get into the more than half-dozen iPods of various models that I load up with music and rotate through the car. Plus there is a dizzying array of accessories for all of the above. The number of different types of headphones I own (even after purging a whole bunch during the move) is enough to make most people’s heads spin.

Sometimes I try to rationalize this by pointing out the my husband has more computers than I do… and more iPads, and… and… but that’s really deflecting.

Now one thing that I will say in my defense is that many of these things were not paid for at full retail. Most of the iPods, for instance, were picked up used, some of them with more than one previous owner before I got them. And, as I explained in Confessions of a penny pinching packrat, my childhood and early adulthood spent living (barely) paycheck to paycheck taught me to hang on to things. When I buy a new appliance or gadget or whatever the old one is seldom disposed of. Instead it is held onto as a backup in case the new thing breaks. Often older computers and such are passed on to friends and family who need them, and when that isn’t the case, I can frequently find away to sell them or trade them in to get a discount on something else we need.

But, I also love tools that work well, and I especially love tools that work well for particular tasks. The headphones I use for commuting, for instance, need to meet several requirements: they need to be wireless and feel comfortable and not awkward when worn with various hats and scarves and such that I need in various types of weather. They also need to be able to hold up to rain. Because of some issues with my inner ears, they can’t be in-ear. The models that meet those requirements don’t usually have fantastic sound fidelity. But I don’t necessarily want that, because I don’t want headphones to block out traffic noise, and so forth, because since I take a bus, a part of my commute involves walking on sidewalks along busy city streets. So I need to be able to hear what’s going on around me.

That means that the commute headphones aren’t ideal for other listening situations. So I have a pair of wired noise-cancelling headphones that live in my desk drawer at my office, so on those days that I need to block out conversations going on in the cubes and halls around me, I can. And also, if I’m going to listen to music while working, I’d like the quality of the sound to be a bit better than what I’m willing to settle for during my bus ride and walking, right?

Then I have a nice pair of wireless headphones to use at home for listening to music or podcasts while I’m writing or editing. And again, I prefer them to have better music quality than the commute headphones. Unfortunately, it is often the case the wireless headphone with great sound, have inferior microphones. So if I’m trying to have conversations or gaming sessions with friends online, I need a headset that has good sound and a good microphone, which winds up being a wired headset.

And then… well… so the nice bluetooth and wired headsets I mentioned in the above paragraph basically live with my laptop. So there is another set of headphones, wired, that some years ago used to be the primary for listening to music on the laptop, that have been handed-down to the desktop Mac Pro, so that when I use that machine, I can listen to my music without disturbing my husband on the other side of the computer room. And there is a pair of really nice wired noise-cancelling headphones that permanently live in the On The Go computer bag, so that when we’re at cons or whatever, I’ll have a good set on those occasions I need them…

…and then there is a small stash of some older ones that still work well enough in a pinch, and usually one or two pairs of still in box backups for the commute headphones, because when they die, they tend to completely die, and I need a backup right away, right?

It’s a little harder to explain how the primary laptop, iPad, desktop, and Windows-based laptop all fit some of my use cases but aren’t the best tool for some of my other tasks. I mean, I have the Windows laptop because occasionally I need to process a file in software that is only available on Windows. And some of my old backups were done on Windows, since I used that operating system for many years. My new laptop is, in theory, pretty water resistant, but I’m still a bit reluctant to take it outside when rain is likely. And now that we have such a nice veranda, I spend a little bit of pretty much every day out there either writing, reading, or chatting with friends. So the iPad is a better tool for that location, since it is much much much more water resistant than the laptop, right?

I also, whenever possible, I spend my lunch break at the office writing or editing my own fiction, and that happens on the iPad. Which is much tinier and easier to transport along with my lunch and stuff than the laptop.

This is a long way of saying: what works for me, works for me, but may not meet the your needs. Likewise, what works for you may not meet my specific needs at all. And it’s okay if some of us spend more of our time and resources on different things than other people.

You do you. I’ll do me. Okay?

No one deserves to live in a closet

“If Harry Potter taught us anything, it's that no one deserved to live in a closet.”

“If Harry Potter taught us anything, it’s that no one deserved to live in a closet.”

It’s National Coming Out Day! And just for the record, in case it isn’t clear: I’m queer! Specifically I am a gay man married to a bisexual man. For many years I lived in the closet, and am ever so happy that those days are far, far behind me. So, if you’re a person living in the closet, I urge you to consider coming out. Being in the closet is scary—you live in a constant state of high anxiety about people finding out and what they might do when it happens. Studies show that this affects us the same as extended trauma, inducing the same sorts of stress changes to the central nervous system as PTSD.

The problem is that coming out is also scary. 40% of homeless teen-agers are living on the streets because their parents either kicked them out because the teens were gay (or suspected of being gay), or drove them away through the constant abuse intended to beat the gay out of their kids. This statistic is the main reason I advise kids not to come out until they are no longer financially dependent on their parents. Yeah, there are many stories of kids who came out to their parents and those parents became supportive allies. But not all, by any means.

“My only regret about being gay is that I repressed it for so long. I surrendered my youth to the people I feared when I could have been out there loving someone. Don't make that mistake yourself. Life's too damn short.” —Armistead Maupin

“My only regret about being gay is that I repressed it for so long. I surrendered my youth to the people I feared when I could have been out there loving someone. Don’t make that mistake yourself. Life’s too damn short.” —Armistead Maupin

Even if you are a self-supporting adult, coming out is often accompanied by drama. Some of your family and friends will not take it well. You will be surprised at some of the ones who you thought would be okay with it being exactly the opposite. On the other hand, some people will surprise you with how fiercely supportive they become.

In the long run, being out is better than living in the closet. You will finally know who loves you for who you are, rather than those who love the idea of who they think you ought to be. You will also find out that you were expending far more energy than you realized constantly being on the look out for signs your secret is discovered. There will be a moment when you feel the burden lifted. But you will also discover the coming out isn’t a one-and-done deal.

But the freedom of no longer living a lie is incredible. So when you’re ready, come out, come out, where ever you are!

Don’t just take my word for it:

“Oh, it’s not that bad!” and other adventures in being human

This picture of a “vintage alarm clock” was as close as I could find to the old clock on line, but this looks a bit more modern than that one.

This picture of a “vintage alarm clock” was as close as I could find to the old clock on line, but this looks a bit more modern than that one.

There are many little aspects of our move that I haven’t written about. Not that every little anecdote is worth a blog post, but we had a few discoveries/epiphanies during the course of the packing and sorting and reducing and hauling and unpacking and replacing that are at least a little amusing. For example, there’s the matter of our alarm clocks. Way, way, way back when Ray and I first moved in together, we had two alarm clocks. Since Ray’s job at the time sometimes required him to get up earlier on some days than others, while I generally tried to catch the bus at the same time every day to get to the office by 9-ish. So we each had an alarm clock on each side of the bed.

Both were digital alarm clocks with that formerly ubiquitous red LED display, though Ray’s was a large print display, because without his glasses, even if he picked up a regular alarm clock and held it so close that his nose was almost touching the display, he still couldn’t read the numbers. My alarm clock was a clock radio, and I always set it to start playing NPR about a half hour before I needed to wake up, then the alarm when I had to get out of bed. Because I was less likely to be a Grouch Monster™ when the alarm went off if I’d been eased into waking up by the radio. After Ray died, I kept both alarm clocks. For one thing, while my eyesight had never been quite as bad as Ray’s, I liked the fact that I could read the large print clock from the far side of the bedroom when I didn’t have my glasses on.

When Michael moved in with me the year after Ray died, he already owned an alarm clock. And since he also had a job where he needed to get up at different times each day for work, it made sense to have a separate clock. But we didn’t get rid of my second clock. Instead we moved the clock radio to the far side of the bedroom, which I found made it less likely that I would hit the snooze alarm a bunch of times and oversleep. Over the years, the clock radio had to be replaced a couple of times. And Michael’s clock’s display went wonky and had to be replaced, but the large print clock which had been Ray’s just kept chugging along.

Or at least, that’s what I told myself.

I don’t know how old the clock was, because Ray already owned in when we started dating in 1990. But that means it was at a minimum 27 years old this spring when Michael and I were packing. Not surprisingly, after 27+ years of use, some things didn’t work as well any longer.

  • One of the features the large print clock had which was innovative and unusual in 1990 was a battery compartment in the bottom of the clock so that if you kept fresh batteries in there, the clock wouldn’t lose time during a power outage. The clock wouldn’t actually stay lit up or sound its alarm when it was on battery back up, but you didn’t have to reset it once the power came back on. Now it is pretty standard for electronics to have a in-built mini rechargeable battery for this purpose, but back then it was unusual. The battery backup stopped working years ago. You don’t want to know how many times I changed the batteries and cleaned the contacts in the battery compartment, or shone a flashlight into it while I peered through a magnifying glass trying to fix it before I admitted to myself that the memory chip or whatever it was that the batteries powered must have failed.
  • A couple years after the battery backup stopped working, the alarm became inconsistent. You could set the alarm, and when it came time for the alarm to go off, the clock would try to sound an alarm. But sometimes all you got was a click and a single weird little chirping noise. other times the buzzer would sound, but it wasn’t very loud. Other times it chirped and chirped and chirped until you turned the alarm off. Very rarely did the buzzer just buzz loudly. But since by this time I had a clock radio that had two alarms in addition to the radio, I didn’t really need the alarm on this clock any longer. But the large print display I still had a use for.
  • More recently, the power cord had gotten twitchy. By which I mean, if you bumped the power cord, it would temporarily lose power. And because the battery backup wasn’t working any longer, that meant that basically if you sneezed in the vicinity of the clock, the display would go dark until you jiggled the cord again, and then you had this enormous blinking 12:00 on the screen. Now, I’m not saying the cord was frayed or otherwise showed any sign of the sort of wear that would make it a fire hazard, I think the iffy connection was actually inside the body of the clock on one side or the other of the rectifier (this is the part inside most electronic devices that converts the household 110-volt alternating current into the much lower voltage direct current that circuit board and chips and such use). So this didn’t represent a fire hazard, just an annoyance.
  • Cosmetically, the faux-gold coating on some parts of the plastic bezel around the display had been wearing off. The labels on some of the switches and buttons necessary to setting the time had faded to the point of being difficult to read, and there was a half-inch-long crack in one corner of the display.

When I actually type these things up, it seems really ludicrous that I hung onto the clock as long as I did, right? And it is ridiculous. But it’s not that unusual for people to let small annoyances like this build up to a ridiculous point and try to keep muddling along. How many times have you known someone in a relationship which had obviously soured or become awful over time who didn’t notice the thousands of little ways they were walking on eggshells to keep the peace?

Yeah, part of the reason I was more willing than was reasonable to overlook the growing list of problems with this clock is because it had belonged to Ray. And I am a sentimental fool, so of course I don’t want to get rid of something that had any fond memories attached. And yes, the alarm clock did have fond memories associated with it. Not to get too graphic, but it was the only light on in the room the first time we made love, after all. But the other part was the human tendency to make-do with something because it seems easier to keep the thing we’re familiar with than to replace it.

As it was, the clock radio, though many years newer than the large print clock, was also beginning to develop some issues, and the alarm clock on Michael’s side of the bed had a crack in the display that made it difficult to read from some angles. And so Michael bought a brand new bedroom clock for the new house within a day or two of the move. And he found a single clock that replaced the functions we had actually been using on the three old ones. The main display shows time, day, date, and the temperature in the room. It has a radio, multiple alarms, alarms you can specify for different days of the week, and it has an adjustable, focusable laser display that projects the time on the ceiling or a wall in very large print so I can read it in the dark (and it doesn’t have to be that dark, just dim in the room) from across the room without my glasses.

It’s a very big improvement, it wasn’t expensive, and one little clock takes up a lot less space than the three old things we had before.

Change doesn’t have to be bad!

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