What if?

Do you believe that some people should be alone?

I used to think that I was one of those people. Not because I couldn’t find anyone, but because I never seemed to be able to make a relationship work for more than a decade at most.

Until I met my ex, I’d never tried one of those dating sites. I have always been pretty social so I found myself in situations where meeting women was fairly easy.

I played in a gay softball league, played football for a pro women’s league, attended an open church, frequently went to gatherings that were hosted by the cops I worked with, etc. add in the fact that I have always been a staple at town hall meetings, city council meetings and throw in the occasional interview for the news, all due to my work duties and I have never been a stranger to crowds or being recognized.

What made me try a dating site?

I assumed I must have a “broken picker” as my friend J Will says.

I’d find women flirting with me and I’d always stray from the ones that, on paper, were a better match to me than the typical femme, petite girls I was attracted to.

I went for the high maintenance, hot mess, types.

So, my train of thought was that if I filled out the questions honestly, posted what I was looking for, the magic of internet dating would do it’s stuff and I’d find happily ever after.

Let me just say… I almost ran for the hills!!

I met one woman who couldn’t stop talking about how she had cheated on her ex and realized how it was the biggest mistake of her life. (Not over the ex… NEXT)

Then there was the one who was a “one upper”. No matter how good my day was, hers was better. Regardless of how heavy traffic was during my commute, traffic was worse for her. (Too competitive… NEXT!)

And who could forget the one that made me feel like I needed a shower after we met for coffee?!?! The entire conversation revolved around talking about her kids, friends, work, etc. All in all, pleasant. Then, as I’m driving home I start getting texts from her telling me how the entire time we were talking she was fantasizing about all the different ways she wanted to violate my body. Of which, she decided to share with me. (Ick.. Just ick!!)

My ex was a fluke. She was sweet and shy. She wasn’t the best looking girl I’d met, but by this time if decided that a new friend was good enough.

In the beginning I honestly had no reason to pursue anything romantic with her. Then my friends all chimed in.

“She’ll be good for you!” “You need a good girl!” “You’re focusing too much on the outside!”

So, I went with it. Things went well for a while. Then all the things that I worried would come between us did.

Her family and their attitude towards her sexuality. Our differing parenting styles. Our inability to compromise. Her insistence that arguing in a relationship is unnatural.

As time went by, I started to see our lives falling apart. She started making excuses to not be around me and I tried to maintain some semblance of family.

Finally, after weeks of her going back and forth about what she wanted I finally said, “I’m done!”

And that was it. 2 weeks later I moved out and we haven’t spoken since.

When I reconnected with Julie, I thought she was happily living with her partner. She didn’t admit to me until about a month later that they were divorcing.

We became friends.

Something we hadn’t been in almost 30 years.

I enjoyed getting to know her on that level. Hearing her talk about her day, chatting about basketball or school, debating philosophy and religion.

At some point I felt a crush developing, but again, I had resigned myself to the fact that I was just one of those people who wouldn’t have that happily ever after scenario.

I had decided that I could enjoy a woman’s company from time to time but the notion of losing myself in another relationship held no appeal to me.

Then Julie and I did the unthinkable! We found ourselves in love with each other again.

I still spend way too much time worrying about the “what ifs”. What if her family puts her in a position to choose between them or me? What if she decides that I’m too rough around the edges? After all, she’s a well respected, successful Ph.D. I’m a tattooed, abrasive, big, glorified construction worker.

Even the little “what ifs” creep in to my head.

What if she decides she can’t stand the way I throw my socks on the floor by the bed? What if she’s a “make the bed” nazi like my ex was? What if I suddenly decide that the way she organizes the pantry makes me crazy?

I know…I know…

These are all little things that we can sort through. But, these little things have all added up in my past relationships to be used against me or us at a later date.

I’m still planning a future with her. A life that I hope I am able to provide both of us the happiness and security we deserve. A part of me thinks that ignoring the differences is foolish and fool hearty. Another part realizes that this is the only woman I would do anything for in order to see her smile.

We’ve talked about how differently our lives would have turned out if we had stayed together.

I’ve argued that our lives were too different for us to have been successful back then, but the truth is, I led the life I did because I’d lost her.

I went full time into the Army to run away from the fact that she was gone. I was reckless and destructive because I didn’t see any reason to be any other way without her. I was indifferent to the women in my life that wanted to be close to me because I didn’t want to feel the pain I had felt by losing her.

Kids?

That has always been a biggie. Or so I thought.

Last night she told me, “I wish we could have had kids together. I think they’d have turned out pretty awesome!”

I sat there for a long time. Confused. “You always said you didn’t want kids?”

She then began to explain that before she met Milly, she had realized that she wanted to be a mom. She wanted to be responsible for this tiny little person. She wanted that unconditional love that comes from and goes towards having a child.

She then said something that made me feel so very sad for the past 15 years of her life…

“I wanted kids. I just didn’t want them with Milly. I always knew she was too selfish to ever put a child’s needs ahead of her own.”

I’ve seen how she comments on the pictures her friends post of their kids. How she talks about going to see her niece so she can “squeeze” her before she gets too big for that.

I can see how different both our lives would have been had we figured out then what we’ve figured out now.

How the two of us might have been able to have it all. Family, home, careers, love.

But this is where we are.

Trying to put the past behind us. Trying to focus on the future. Hoping and struggling to keep these demons at bay long enough to form a unified front against them.

I will always be afraid of losing her again. Maybe that’s a good thing?

If I know what I could lose, I’ll try even harder to hold on to it.

One thing I do know for certain…

Julie is the best part of me.

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I’m not immortal

At some point each one if us comes face to face with our own mortality.

Before you get all, “shit, this is gonna be a Debbie Downer post!” just hear me out.

I got a call Friday night from J Mac. She was in a mood. She is typically so vibrant and cheery that when she hits a funk, she really feels it.

She is now 38. Has never been married, hasn’t got kids and doesn’t want any, and to a certain extent, still lives life like a 21 year old college kid. She’d give you the shirt off her back, though, and she’s one of the most important people in my life. I’d be lost without her.

She is planning to go back to New York this summer to attend her cousins wedding. She was hoping I’d go as her “date” but I’ll be in the middle of the summer’s second session so she’s going with our mutual friend, Cole.

As she was talking to friends about the trip, she was told that a childhood friend of hers had passed away. “Fuck, Lee! That’s 4 friends in 2 years! What the fuck is going on??”

I sat there for a moment trying to find the words that she needed to hear but the reality is that I too have wondered that same thing, lately.

It started when Colton passed away. Then a few weeks after that a former classmate died from complications from diabetes. Then another passed from cervical cancer. All under the age of 45.

“I don’t know, Jessi. We’re too young to be burying our friends, aren’t we!” Was all I could say.

I remember my mother talking about her childhood friends passing from time to time. “Annie had cancer, ya know?” Or “Ronald had a massive heart attack and didn’t make it!” These people were old, though! At least to me they were.

As I look back, some of them really weren’t. Her friend and our neighbor, Rosemary died from cancer. She was about 50 at the time. A member of our church passed away after trying to fight off a viral infection for months. He was only 42. Then there was my brother: leukemia at 41.

I guess it was all relevant at the time. I was a child. Sometimes literally and others figuratively but compared to now, I was no more than a newborn.

After 3 hours on the phone with her, it made me think long and hard. I’m not invincible. I have an expiration date stamped on me somewhere that no one can see. I too, will be one of the whispers that my friends discuss while shaking their head.

But, here’s the weird thing about that…. I’m ok knowing this. I’m at peace with the idea that I too could be gone from this place sooner rather than later.

No, I’m not suicidal. Geesh!!

Neither am I depressed, morbidly fascinated with death or naive that I’ll be one that lives to the ripe old age of 120.

I’ve seen pain and suffering from those I’ve loved and seen how death actually released them from that. I’m educated enough to know that cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, high blood pressure, heart disease and Alzheimer’s run in my family and I will more than likely be afflicted with at least one.

I’m at peace because I look at my life and wonder, “what was my job while I was here?”

I have two beautiful daughters and an amazing grandson. I’ve loved and been loved in return. I’ve seen progress, even though small, with regards to how people of color and gays are treated. I’ve lived through two wars that some debate as to whether or not we should have been in them.

I’ve made mistakes but none I couldn’t recover from. I’ve hurt those I care about but always tried to mend the damage.

I’ve created amazing structures that my grandson can proudly drive past one day and say, “my Nonni built that!”

I’ve touched lives and allowed mine to be touched. I’ve felt pain and fear, hate and anger, love and loss.

In short…. I’ve done it all.

So no, I don’t fear the day I’m forced to leave this world. I’ll do everything in my power to postpone it, but I hope I can exit with dignity and courage.

In the meantime, I’ll love Julie and push forward with my plans to continue to work to be the person I am destined to be and the person she needs me to be. I’ll love and support my children and grandson and occasionally give them the kick in the ass we all need from time to time.

I wish I had been more comforting to J Mac. I wish I’d have been able to find the words she needed to hear. Hopefully, she found at least some of the same peace from our conversation that I did.

I can feel the rat race coming on

Today was one of many future, crazy, hectic days.

I had to take Louie to get her drivers license. Little did we know what an ordeal this would be.

Here in Texas, for a person receiving their license for the first time, they are required to take a driving test. That’s probably pretty standard in most states.

Here, you are now required to make an appointment. The days of showing up and testing are long gone.

Well, tomorrow I have to take her to her school to get her laptop, schedule, and parking permit. Obviously, in order to get a permit, she has to have a current license.

I get online to schedule an appointment and discover that no appointments are available in the entire Houston area until mid October.

Her testing then would mean no permit, missing a day of school, me or Jenny missing a day of work and her having to get another verification of enrollment. (in order to get or keep a license, they have to be enrolled in school until their 18th birthday)

When I say none, I mean NONE. I checked all of Houston, Sugarland, Missouri City, Conroe, Humble, Huntsville, Hempstead, even College Station.

Why so booked? A rush for students to get the DL? You’d think so. But no. As I discovered today, it’s because the Houston district of the TxDOT (the governing body of the TxDPS) will not staff or update their offices.

How did I discover this info? I asked. I called the main branch of the DPS in Austin, TX. They had an appointment available for today. Actually, they had 22 available for today.

So, at 10:00 am, Louie and I made the 2 hour trek to “A Town”

When we got there, we were met by a kiosk. The screen prompted you to touch the various buttons that resulted in you being checked in accordingly.

I figured that since my license is due for renewal next month, I might as well kill two birds with one stone.

We got out tickets, with our numbers (I was given the one document I needed to fill out without having to search through endless forms) and sat down in the air conditioned comfort of a building that would easily accommodate 100 people.

We checked in at 1:38 pm. There were at least 59 people ahead of us. That meant a long and boring wait, right? Nope, by 1:50 pm Louie and I were both standing at a clerk, having our photos taken and paying our pound of flesh.

Next, I had to take Louie and the car to the “drive lane” to wait for an instructor to meet us, inspect the vehicle, check the insurance, and take her for her drive.

When we pulled in line, there were 9 cars ahead of us. Wow! Here’s where we’d have to wait, right?

By 2:15pm, Louie was sitting at the front of the line and the instructor was climbing in.

By 2:45, she was done and we were finalizing all her paperwork. By 3:00 pm, we were on our way back to Houston, both with new drivers licenses.

For some folks, 1 1/2 hours may seem like an eternity. But considering that we stood outside, in the rain for 3 hours, just to get to the door where we were then given the paperwork to fill out and then directed to wait another 2 hours in a building that could only “legally” hold 30, when we got her permit, I’m impressed.

I talked to the clerk and she explained the whole “Houston District” philosophy to me. Today was Tuesday. And my daughter was the 8th student to be tested that drove up from this area.

They had 16 clerks. A far cry from the 3 at the ofc here. They had an automated system. Not a woman with a clipboard flipping through various worksheets. They have an information desk. Not a security guard telling you to get to the back of the line and wait your turn.

It was fast, efficient and they were very friendly.

It went so smoothly, I actually felt like we were doing something wrong. So I went to the information desk and asked, “is this all we need to do?”

“yes ma’am. The screen will flash your number and it will be announced over the speaker”

If a system is in place. And a good system, at that, why on earth wouldn’t every office use it?

Oh, that’s right. Because we don’t have any money.

Well, let me tell you this. For my daughter to go to Austin, it only cost her $11 and me only $25. If we’d done it here, it would have been $16 and $36.

That may not seem like a lot, but consider the 9 of us that were there in these two days.

If you come up with an average of $8 per person. Multiply that by 20 days in a month and figure in only 2 offices (we have 7) that’s almost $1500 a month the Houston District looses due to outdated system management. A penny saved, my ass!

Well, by 5:00pm, we got back to town. I dropped Louie off at choir rehearsal, paid a few bills, put gas in Jenny’s van, went to the bank, picked Louie back up, came home and noticed it was after 9:00.

This is just a small glimpse of what life is going to be like in a month.

Jenny will be back at school, I’ll be working up in Hays county building a new bridge system, kids will be in school, Louie will be raising her pigs and working (she got a job at the same supermarket as Huey) and this lazy life we’ve been living for several months will be a memory.

Welcome back to the real world!!

1 year

It’s another beautiful Sunday morning and I’m wondering what life holds for me and Jenny.

Today, we celebrate our 1 year anniversary.

In that year, we’ve been through a lot. The smiles and laughter that goes along with birthdays and holidays; the crying and angry words that coincide with arguments that later seem trivial; the heartache that accompanies the loss of family and friends; but through it all, love.

We’d met just over a year ago. At first we planned to just be friends. We’d meet for coffee to chat about kids, work, family, friends and church.

We’d text and call each other just to see how the others day was going, or to share some exciting or disturbing news.

As time went by, we realized that our friendship had become more and that there was, not only a physical attraction, but an emotional attachment that neither of us had felt in a very long time.

In this past year, I’ve lost my job, we bought a house, tried to raise our kids (sometimes with great frustration), met new friends, joined a church together, mourned the loss of my mother, welcomed our new grandson and lived life!

Today I’m thankful to God that he brought this woman in to my life! I didn’t realize I needed her then but know now, I can’t make it without her.

As I look forward at my life, I’m able to see her next to me. In every scenario that runs through my head, she’s by my side. And I have to say, I like that!

So, to the first woman, in a long time; and the last woman ever; Jenny, I’m grateful to call you mine!

Happy anniversary. I love and adore you. You have managed to complete a life that I thought was already full. For that, I will always cherish you!

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The Chick-Fil-A debate from a lesbo outsider

It appears I have managed to start a “shit storm” by posting my opinions of the whole Chick-Fil-A debate on my Facebook.

I am gay. I live, happily, with my partner and our 5 at home kids.

We have a home, bills, jobs (thankfully I can now say that), arguments, pets and all the other things that go along with having a family.

Regardless of what anyone else thinks, we are a family!

But, my opinion of Mr. Cathy and his restaurant is not what most would think it is.

I like Chick-Fil-A. Yes, you heard me right. I like Chick-Fil-A.

I’ve never been denied service, my food has been of the quality if expect from a fast food restaurant and I’ve never been made to feel uncomfortable while dining there.

People in the gay community are in an uproar because Mr. Cathy announced that yes, his company is run on biblical principals and in his opinion that means marriage consists of one man and one woman. (he actually said that a man married to his first wife. But you don’t hear polygamists in an uproar)

I heard a saying when I was in the Army that has since stuck with me.

“Freedom of speech was not given to you by a newspaper. Freedom of religion was not given to you by a priest. Freedom to assemble was not given to you by a protester. It was given to you by the same soldiers, who will die to protect your right to burn the very flag that will one day be draped across their casket.”

We all hear phrases thrown around like freedom of speech, freedom of the press, etc.

And yes, in the U.S.A. those are the very fundamental ideals that our country is based on.

So, is it any more important that a group of gay protesters be heard than a religious group?

Is it less valid when a priest speaks his thoughts than a drag queen?

These may seem like ridiculous questions but that’s how I feel the gay community is acting.

Would I want a straight couple to stand on my front lawn, kissing and fondling each other because I’m not heterosexual? No. But I wouldn’t want a gay couple doing it either.

Just as I wouldn’t want that straight couple there, their actions won’t make me change my mind.

I doubt that Chick-Fil-A will change their stance either.

We live in a world where people believe they have to be loud, militant types to have their side heard. The truth is, when you are behaving in the way that reinforces their belief that you are wrong, you only damage your own credibility.

We demand respect, but aren’t willing to give it. We demand equal rights, but protest when another exercises theirs.

How can we be taken seriously as a valid, productive group in society when the most visual are the ones that aren’t?

I told Jenny the other day, “I wave at the people who walk down our street, not because I know them. But because I’d rather be known as that friendly lesbian couple down the street, rather than those mean dykes.”

It’s all about perception. And the image you portray today is the one that will stick for many years to come.

Will I see equal rights for gays and lesbians in my lifetime? I don’t know.

What I do know is that until we stop acting as though we deserve special rights, we’ll never be treated equally.

Realization

One thing I’ve noticed about being unemployed is the feeling of helplessness.

As a 39 y/o who has never been without a job for more than a month since I was 14, being out of work for almost 7 months really took its toll on me.

I have always been busy. I always had a “purpose”.

I’d get up, go to work, do my job, come home, take care of my family and start it all over again.

I had a routine. I had a means to provide for my family.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I have been getting a check ever since I got laid off. There hasn’t been a time when Jenny and I couldn’t pay a bill. But not knowing how long I’d be able to “pull my weight” had started to wear on me.

So much so, that I’d learned to dread the mundane. Things that I took for granted before.

Mowing the lawn, maintaining a garden, cooking breakfast on Saturday morning, cleaning the cars and my truck.

Things that I used to enjoy doing because I had a sense of pride in taking care of the things I could call mine.

As time went on, I’d come to hate doing those things. Not because I didn’t feel that same sense of pride, but because I started to see those as chores to simply keep me busy.

I love our house. It’s roomy and comfortable. It’s clean and usually tidy. A place for everyone and everything.

I love my lawn. It’s well manicured and nice. Yes, I’d venture to say its one of the nicest on the block. We have Jenny’s roses, a big magnolia tree, several smaller trees, a neat and conservative flower bed and a small garden.

In my old life, I could be found on any given Saturday or Sunday morning working diligently to keep all of it looking it’s best.

This time of year, I’d be plotting out the best way to decorate for Halloween and be in full swing getting ready for school to start.

This year, though, it seemed like everything was something to dread instead of look forward to. Halloween decorations cost money, FFA meetings cost money, school clothes and supplies, yes, they cost money.

Again, I have money coming in. It’s not as much as I was getting, but it’s enough to get us by and be comfortable. But I almost felt like I hadn’t earned it so it wasn’t the same.

Is this silly? Of course it is. But I was raised by a woman who instilled upon me the notion that “if you are healthy, educated and able bodied, you get up and go to work everyday.”

I wasn’t able to do that. I wanted to. I longed to. I hoped and prayed everyday to be given that opportunity.

Today I woke up at 7:30. Got dressed, made my coffee, fed the dog, and walked outside to begin working on my lawn.

In my mind I started to make my mental to do list.

1. Weed the flower bed
2. Plant the second crop of squash
3. Clean out the truck and van
4. Water the back yard

Yesterday Jenny and I sat down to make our grocery list. Something we haven’t done in a long time.

It too had become one of those busy work chores and I think I almost resented doing it.

Finally getting a job after all this time has made me realize that those little chores were something I actually looked forward to doing. They gave me the validation that I was contributing to the comfort of my family.

I’m renewed and excited.

Yes, this job is less money than I’d hoped for. But as my oldest daughter, Dewey, stated “Mom, when you were at TxDot before, you were miserable. You worked nights, your phone rang every 5 minutes and you always had someone expecting you to make the right call.”

This time I’m starting out a few steps below where I was. I’m ok with that.

I’ll be doing the job that I used to train others to do. I’ve been calling it a no brainer position.

And I’m looking forward to it.

I look forward to being that “new guy” that my boss doesn’t have to train. The one that he can send on site, knowing that I’ll do the job right and without any guidance. And I won’t have to shoulder the responsibility of being the boss.

I’m not naive enough to think that this will resolve all our problems. But the knowledge that I’m out there again. Being productive and useful. Doing what I do best and getting paid to do it, made getting up this morning a whole lot easier!

I hate

I hate that this blog is censored.

I hate that I sometimes need to vent, bitch, whine, scream and I’m not allowed to because of what others might think.

I hate that I’m forced to stuff my frustration and anger down so deep inside me that I think I’m going to explode.

Is hate a strong word? Yes. But very appropriate right now.