Tuesday, December 29, 2009

a letter to my grandmother

This will be my most personal blog entry yet. It's a letter to my maternal grandmother, who was called "Noon" by all of her grandchildren (long story, email me if you really want to hear it). She died in 1997, but this is what I would like to tell her if I could send her a letter.

Hi Noon,

Your birthday is today, and I've been thinking about you. You would be 96 today. I still miss you. You were a wonderful grandmother to me. You always made me feel loved and you always had time for me. You encouraged me in everything that I wanted to do. I remember as a little kid you indulged the young scientist that I was even then by letting me turn over the bricks that made up the edge of your flower beds to look at the ants, insects and "rolly pollies" that were underneath. I also remember picking dandelions and giving them to you - you treated them like they were a bouquet of roses. I was fascinated by plants as well as animals and I especially liked the red seeds from the magnolia tree in your neighbor's yard. I still think of you when I see those seeds. And you let me do crazy or messy things too, like the time that I wanted to dissolve a bar of soap in a glass of water to see what would happen. Mom and Dad didn't like that experiment, but you were patient and let me do it.

I remember all the great times that I had at your house. You had wonderful holiday meals for the large extended family, and how you cooked for all those people I'll never know. But having worked in restaurants when you were a teen, and later running a school cafeteria, you could cook for large crowds. You would always cook my favorite, your red rice, for me. I'm now a vegetarian, but I would eat it if you would make it for me now. (I fought the tears but here they come now.) As a kid I couldn't understand why the women sat around the table after dessert was over and could talk for hours. When I became an adult, I joined the conversations and came to love them and thought of that as the highlight of the holidays.

I think about your house, especially your kitchen, where I always ended up with the women while the men either napped or watched sports on TV after the meals were over. After you died, no one in the family wanted to move into your house, so it was sold, after being in the family for over 60 years. Your oldest daughter was born there. The person who bought it modernized it and I'm told that it looks good, but I can't look at it - I turn my head if I have to drive by it. It will always be your house to me. I never realized it, but your house was a Craftsman bungalow, which I normally recognize, but your house was "Noon's house", unlike any other.

I want to let you know how I'm doing. David and I have been together for 18 years now, and we were finally able to get married in August 2008 here in California. We moved back here to California after David finished his PhD in 1998. His parents live 3 miles away from us, so even though I'm across the country from the rest of the family, I have family nearby.

I want to tell you about a new member of our family. His name is Leo, and he's our son. We adopted him, and were able to be there when he was born. He's a member of our family, and your fourth greatgrandson, largely because of you. It was at your funeral, and afterwards, that I realized how important family really is to me, and that I had to become a father. For many years before that, I had told myself that family didn't matter so much, that if I lost all of my family that it wouldn't matter very much. That wasn't true, and I realize that it was a defense mechanism that I developed when I feared that I might lose all of my family when I came out. That didn't happen at all - everyone was great. I thought when David and I started the adoption process, that we would adopt a girl. It seemed to me that lesbians always got sons and gay men got daughters. But I also think that I was hoping for a girl so that I could name her Margaret, after you.

I never officially told you that I was gay, but I suppose that you figured it out, probably before I came out. I realize that you were around gay men all of your life. Your cousin Joe was gay, and two of your three grandsons are gay. Plus you worked at two antique stores after you retired from the cafeteria, so there must have been some gay men there.

I also think that you made me gay, Noon. Not that I belive that a loving mother or grandmother can make a boy gay, but being the scientist that I am, I think that I inherited a "gay gene" from you. As I said, there are a number of gay men in the family. I just wish that I had known that growing up. This may seem funny now, but when I came out to Mom, her first words were "You know your father is going to blame me for this." When I asked why, she said "Because of all the gay men in my family." I was shocked until she listed them. Why didn't we ever talk about that in the family? Did we have our own "Don't ask, don't tell"? It would have made growing up easier if I realized that I wasn't the only one.

You may be sad to hear this, but I couldn't remain Catholic. I know that the church gave you strength and happiness, but it never did that for me. All that I hear recently is that my love for David is wrong, and that I am damaging Leo by raising him in a loving home. I never really believed either, I just did what I was supposed to do, what the adults expected of me. Of your six grandchildren, none of us attend church, so it wasn't just me.

You are also a moral compass or conscience for me. When I consider whether I should do an action that my be questionable, I sometimes ask myself "Would Noon do this?" or "Would I be embarrassed or ashamed to tell Noon about this?" If I answer "no" to the first or "yes" to the second I won't do the action that I have considered.

I have some of your belongings now. I have the dresser that you bought just after you married in 1935. Apparently you never liked it much but thought that it was OK to use for a while until you could afford something better. When you died 62 years later, you still had it. Now it's valuable, since it's solid wood and well made. I also have your grandmother's punchbowl. I had just bought my first house and Mom and my aunt didn't want to sell the punchbowl, so they convinced me to take it. It comforts me to think that it has been in the family for five generations.

I also have half of your coin collection, and another cousin has the other half. I remember asking you to show it to me when I was a child. In truth, I didn't care much for the coins themselves, but I saw that it made you happy to show them to me. I have the first coin in your collection, the one that your father gave you that meant so much to you.

So my life is going well now. I don't get back "home" (California really is my home now) but David, Leo and I are going back in the spring and by coincidence will be there on Easter. The extended family will get together at someone's house, which will be good. But I'll still think of you and wish that you could be there too.

(I won't sign the name that you and the family call me. It's embarrassing to be called that at age 45.)

Saturday, December 26, 2009

a quiet, ill Christmas

We had a quiet but ill Christmas yesterday. David has a sinus infection, confirmed by a CT scan earlier in the week. His ENT is considering another sinus surgery, which would be his third in less than five years, if he doesn't improve. Leo was also ill with a cold, so the three of us didn't go to David's aunt's house for the family Christmas. It was a nice day. Although I missed seeing David's aunt and grandparents, it a good to stay around the house and relax. Leo is the only kid in the family and gets very bored at the family events, so one of us has to entertain him. From my perspective, David's aunt always keeps her house frigidly cold (don't let perimenopausal women control the thermostat). The last Christmas that we spent there I was wearing long underwear, khakis, a button-up shirt, and a sweater, sitting in front of her fake fireplace and was still cold, while she was wearing a short sleeve shirt and complaining about how hot it was.

My mother bought all of us too much again this year. She has always done that. David loves to read, so he received a stack of books that must be over two feet tall. Leo received several games. I spent hours yesterday playing Chutes and Ladders, which is a fun game but after an hour or so an adult gets bored but a six year old doesn't. Luckily Leo is willing to take my turns for me if I have to do something else, so if I don't mind him calling out a play by play of the action ("You got a three. I got a five!"), he can play by himself.

I included photos of my favorite and strangest gifts. My favorite is a ring that David bought for me from the Etsy.com website. It's an artists' site that lets artists display their creations. The ring is silver, stamped "I heart XX (David's initials)" and on the other side "1991", the year that we met and started dating. I wore a ring for many years on my right ring finger, but it broke a while ago and I've wanted a ring to replace it. It's similar to our wedding rings, so now I've got rings from David on both hands. The other photo is my strangest gift, a Pez dispenser in the shape of the character Linguine from the movie Ratatouille. Leo enjoys watching Ratatouille but I've never watched it, other than a little while sitting with Leo. Pez dispensers are a joke gift each year from my mom. I don't remember how it started years ago, but it continues each year. I have a collection of them now under my sink.

I hope everyone out there had a good holiday as well.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

it's the holidays, so my mother-in-law is going insane, as usual

My mother-in-law is doing her usual holiday freak out. I love her but she makes the holidays way more stressful than they ever should be, usually by waiting until the last minute to do anything. She has known for over a month what she wants to make our son Leo, but as of yesterday she hadn't started yet. The adults had talked about not giving each other gifts this year, and everyone was fine with that, until yesterday. Then she realized that she can't not give her only child, David, my husband, a Christmas gift. So she called, tearful, and asked me what David wants. He gave us a gift list earlier, but my mother bought most of it and I bought what was left. So I thought for a while and mentioned a tablecloth for the kitchen table would be a nice gift that we could use. So she'll make a tablecloth but worried that she couldn't get it ready for Christmas. I gently told her that David is 39, that he won't be upset if his present isn't ready on time. I don't know why people get so stressed about gifts and wanting the holidays to be perfect. I just enjoy getting together with the family, since I don't really celebrate the religious holidays.

The solstice was two days ago. It will be good to see the rays of the sun moving back toward the Northern Hemisphere, where they belong. Sorry Poppy and John, but I'm ready for more light and heat around here.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Ben needs his squirrel back

Last night David received an unsual telephone call. He answered and there was silence on the other end. David said "Hello, hello." Finally a little voice answered. The voice was very timid, and it took some coaxing from David to get the little boy to talk. It was Ben, one of Leo's classmates. Leo and Ben are in a combined kindergarten and first grade Montessori class at school, and Ben is a kindergartener while Leo is a "big kid" first grader. Ben desperately wants to be Leo's friend, and gave Leo a Bakugan, the latest Japanese toy craze for the young set. I thought that it might have been an exchange and didn't think much about it, but it turns out that Ben gave it to Leo so that Leo would be his friend. Then Ben gave Leo a stuffed squirrel with a nut in its hand. It turns out that the squirrel is Ben's favorite toy, and he was very sad without it, to the point of crying on the phone when he called to ask for it back. How sad is that, for a 5 year old to give away his favorite toy so that another kid will be his friend? If they were teens I'd wonder if Ben was gay and had a crush on Leo, but I'm not going to think about that. I talked to Leo about Ben at breakfast, trying to help him understand how much Ben wants to be his friend, but I'm not sure that Leo really understood. So I'm going to do what I can to help Ben and Leo be friends by setting up a "play date" for them this weekend if we can. I empathize with Ben, since I didn't have many friends growing up and would have done just about anything to have more. I took a photo of the squirrel and will try to post it in the next few days.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

I'm a hypocrite, and possibly a bad parent

I realize after a really bad day yesterday that I'm a hypocrite and possibly a bad parent. First why I'm a hypocrite. As you may know, on the blog I had for a few days before it was labeled "born with a p in place of the b" (since I can't actually have that word in my blog without the internet filter at work labeling the blog "born with a p in place of the b" (henceforth referred to as BWAPIPOTB), I had a fairly vicious post about my feelings on BWAPIPOTB and "the act or practice of engaging in sexual intercourse for money". I really am sorry for anyone that I offended with that post, and I've removed it now. Well, I'm a hypocrite because I did what I said that I don't do and looked at BWAPIPOTB last night. It was a shitty day, I was upset and horny. To explain why I was upset and horny I've got to give you background on my husband and son.

I'll refer to my husband as David, which is obviously not his name. He says that he comes from a long line of stoic Germans, many of whom were depressed by today's definition of depression. David has had major depression since he was in his 20s and probably earlier than that. He's been on medication for depression for many years, trying many different meds or combinations of them. He also has seasonal affective disorder, SAD, or "winter blues" as it is sometimes called. When there isn't much sunlight, he gets more depressed. He's doing all that he can for it, going out to exercise in the middle of the day, using a lamp that emits light in the wavelength that most helps SAD, keeping all the curtains open to let in natural light. But tomorrow is the solstice, and there is little light now. During this time of year, his sex drive is very, very low. Plus he's had a cold this week. So I think that we've had sex 3 or 4 times in the last 2 months. He realizes that even during summer and when his depression is under good control that there is a large difference in our sex drives, and he's fine with me doing whatever I need to for me, within a monogamous relationship. But I feel kind of guilty about that, even though I know that I shouldn't. He apologizes to me about his lack of interest in sex. Another aspect of the issue is that he's a top and I'm a bottom, and sometimes I just need.. you know (gotta watch the language if I want to access this at work.) He's fine with me buying a toy, and I should, but I just haven't. And sometimes our timing is way off. I'll take care of myself and ten minutes later he suddenly has the interest, even though an hour ago when I asked he didn't. I don't want to say "Sorry, too late" so I don't tell him - and 99% of the time everything is fine. So I guess with a bad day, sexual frustration and feeling like a failure as a parent, I caved and looked at BWAPIPOTB. I do still feel that the actors can be exploited, but I guess not enough not to look at it.

The bigger issue yesterday was my son, who I'll refer to as Leo, our little lion. Leo is a great kid, and I've loved him since the moment that I saw the nurse rounding the corner carrying him into the nursery in the hospital when he was born. He was a great baby and toddler, but in the last year of preschool before he started kindergarten, he seemed to change. He became argumentative, impatient, rude and some other not good characteristics. It got worse in kindergarten, and came to a head this past summer when he was kicked out of a summer day camp for hitting and threatening other campers and teachers. David was much more aware that sometime was really wrong than I was - I thought that Leo was just a difficult kid. David had him assessed by two counsellors and later a child psychiatrist, and Leo was given the diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, inattentive type. He's not hyperactive except when he's tired. But we realized the problem was that he can't concentrate to follow any directions and has no impulse control. And each frustration would build until he would explode, often violently. I've been hit, called names, spit on, had things thrown at me. He was difficult to be around at times, and when I was very frustrated I would find a room to get away from him, which must have felt awful to him. He was put on medication last summer and it was as if we had our pleasant, happy son back. But the first medication caused side effects and when it wore off after 12 hours he was right back to how he was before. The second medication didn't work quite as well but didn't cause the side effects and lasted all day. So things were good for a while. But then he grew and the dose of the second med wasn't enough. We've increased the dose but it doesn't seem to be helping much. Yesterday was the worst it has been in months. He had swim lessons, which always makes him tired. But he refused to nap, which we usually make him do after swimming if he has another activity. He had a birthday party to attend at a local karate school. Karate is always bad for him - it gets him too keyed up and too active. I picked him up and he was out of control. He couldn't follow any direction. He was the last kid of about 25 to get his shoes on after the class and argued with me about everything. Getting him home and being around him was awful. At one point he picked up a rock and threatened to throw it in my face. Both David and I were exhausted by the time we got him to bed. Today didn't start any better - by 7 AM I had been hit, called an idiot and ordered out of this room, only to be begged to come back 5 seconds later. We decided to put him back on the first med in addition to the second, and he's a completely different child - polite, sweet, pleasant. For an hour or so he cuddled in bed with David while David was reading and Leo was watching a movie on my iPhone. Luckily he has an appointment with his psychiatrist on Tuesday.

I don't want to give anyone the impression that I don't love Leo, because I do. I would definitely adopt him if I knew at that time what I do now. I just wanted to give you an idea about why yesterday was so hard for me.

I also don't want to discourage anyone who is thinking of adoption, now or in the future. We have an open adoption, in which we met Leo's birthmother when she was about five months pregnant with him. We were told by Leo's birthmother that his birthfather had ADHD, and we suspect that she may have had it as well. Since there is a strong genetic component to ADHD, it isn't surprising that Leo has it.

The photo that I've included is a fish that Leo made at one of the clay classes that he's taken at a local art center.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

why am I anonymous?

I was thinking about why I am anonymous on this blog. I'm totally out, am part of a visible gay couple and family, all of my friends, family and coworkers know that I'm gay. So why use a pseudonym here? I have nothing to lose by being out, unlike others whose blogs I read - Poppy, Jeremy, John, Mikey and others. But I guess a blog is somewhat like the journal that I've kept since 1991 - personal, not something that I would share with others. Then why publish this for the world to see? Perhaps an anonymous blog is a way to have personal thoughts that can be shared with others without embarrassing myself or those that I write about. And I quickly learned how much support there is out there, both receiving and giving.

I took my son to his swim lesson today at a local indoor pool. He had a male instructor who looked to be in his early 20s. That's an advantage of living in a college town - lots of mostly attractive young people. Swimmers tend to be fit as well. I was admiring one part of this guy's anatomy that I have found sexy since I was in 7th grade - his underarm hair. It's not a kink for me, I don't obsess about it, but it is an attractive body part that is often ignored. I can remember exactly when I became attracted to underarm hair, and the person that triggered it in me. It was at the beginning of 7th grade, when some of the boys were playing a form of baseball using a tennis ball and their hands for bats. A basketball hoop was first base, and one of the boys raised his arm to lean on it. I was standing on the sideline watching and was shocked to see that he had hair under his arm. I was one of the youngest and smallest guys in my class, and I had not started to develop at all, so I was surprised to see that one of my classmates was. From then I looked around and saw underarm hair on some other guys too. I thought of them as more mature, better than me. I also realized that my attraction to their bodies was wrong in the moral universe in which I was raised, which made me feel more inferior. That lasted for many years, and to be honest I'm not sure that even now I've completely eliminated those feelings.

That makes me realize how successful straight society is in instilling homophobia into us. And our families, who should be our greatest support, can instead be the source of hatred and mistrust. There has been much talk here in the United States about similarities and differences between gay rights now and African American rights in the past. Conservative African Americans object to those comparisons, claiming among other things that there isn't lynching of gays as there were African Americans. But they are wrong, the lynchings occur, they are just now called suicides,and instead of angry white mobs doing the killings, young gays and lesbians do it themselves, many times because their families offer no support or offer violence and hatred instead.

Wow, how did a post on being anonymous turn into one on underarm hair and gay suicides?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

running, marriage equality

I went for my usual three times a week run last night. It was not nearly as cold as the last few weeks, 48 F when I got back. I enjoy running. The activity helps me feel energetic, and I think that it helps with stress. I don't feel right when I can't run. I broke a toe a few years ago and really missed it when I couldn't run.

The DC (that's Washington, DC) city council passed a marriage law this week. It should be signed by the mayor soon. Congress can overturn it, but with the Democrats in control probably won't. Nancy Pelosi probably won't let it come up for a vote. Every state that passes marriage equality (that's the term that I prefer - it emphasizes that we only want what everyone else already has) is a big plus. I am hopefully that here in California we can overturn Prop 8 with another proposition in 2012. I am also interested in the challenge to Prop 8 in federal court - that trial starts in less than a month. Another legal challenge is Massachusetts' challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act. I think that if the judges would objectively review that lawsuit without anti-gay bias then DOMA will be declared unconstitutional. I'm trying to do my part to change people's minds and perceptions about gays. I'm as out as I can be, I talk about my husband and son, I have a marriage equality sign in my front yard and on my car. I also want to be out for those who can't be out yet - Poppy, Jeremy, John, Mikey, the baseball guy whose name I can't remember, and others whose blogs I read. I feel very fortunate to have married my husband last year while it was legal to do so in California. Hopefully when you guys are ready to marry your guy it will be legal everywhere. I guess that it already is for you in South Africa, Poppy.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

original post now

Here I am on my new blog. The issue with my old (about 5 days old!) blog was that I used "the F word" and the words that mean "The act or practice of engaging in sex acts for hire" and another p word, that I can't find a definition of that might not make the internet filter at work have a problem, but it's born with a p in place of the b. So I'll watch what I write if I want to check for comments, or check the other blogs that I follow while at work.

Why green ectomorph? Because every other phrase or combination of words that I could think of was already taken. I am an ectomorph, and as much as I wished that I was larger when I was younger, I've accepted the body that I have. It was difficult being one of the shortest and thinest kids in school. I try to be green. Green is also a family name, so it fits I guess.

fifth post, second time

high school can be awful

I'm posting my response to 'a gay hockey kids life' whose blog talked about older dudes who forget what high school is like, and that he wants to take a straight pill. Sorry to post a comment to someone else, but I wanted to put my thought here.

Those of us who are "older dudes" haven't forgotten what high school was like. The homophobic slurs were ever present at my all male military high school. Being called queer or homo was an everyday event for me. I remember the day that it was much worse, when everyone was calling me "homo". Finally at the end of the day someone came up to me and helped. He peeled off the adhesive letters "homo" that someone had slapped on my back hours earlier. I just wanted to die then.
Every night I prayed for it to go away, to be normal, to take a straight pill as you said. But it never came. Now I can say that I'm glad that it didn't. I wouldn't be me if it had. I wouldn't have left my small town, moved to a much better place, gotten the good career that I have, met and married my husband, and had our son.
So yes, high school can be hell. I haven't forgotten, but I did hope that it was better for kids now. And it is some places, including the liberal California town where I now live, it is. The local high school had a gay couple as prom princes a few years ago. For most people, especially gays and lesbians, life gets better after high school. It won't last forever, and you can survive it. And you've got support here to help, Mikey.

I remember praying each night not to be gay. High school is much too difficult for too many people.

third post, second time

Saturday at work

I'm at work on Saturday afternoon. I have to work one weekend day a month, so I chose this Saturday. I like to get the weekend work out of the way early in the month - I've always wanted to do something unpleasant early rather than postponing it. Not that work is unpleasant, just not what I want to do with my Saturday.

Last night my office had our annual "holiday party". I used the quotation marks because the reality is that it was a Christmas party, but that term isn't used so that those of us who aren't Christian won't feel left out. I'm not that dumb, I know what the party really was. It wasn't too bad, a little surreal at times. It was at an Italian restaurant, and we were put in the bar section, so there were two large televisions showing a basketball game at each end of the table. There was a woman who's only job seemed to be walking around with a large bowl of cheese and a spoon, who would appear at your elbow when your meal arrived and exclaim "frommagio?" (sorry if my Italian is off) I declined her offer. Being a vegetarian, my choices for the meal were limited to two: linguine with tomato sauce or linguine with tomato sauce and garlic. I chose without garlic but it ended up in there anyway. I don't want to sound too negative, I had an OK time. My coworkers are generally nice people, I just don't have much in common with them other than that we work together.

I have a follower! That's shocking to me. How to people find each other here? I haven't found a search function. Maybe someone (pops zn?) can help me with that. I've read some blogs that I found on other's lists of the blogs that they read. There are a lot of young gay guys dealing with coming out. It's great that this resource is there to help, and people do help each other out - I even read a suicide note from a 13 year old when he came out to his mother and she locked him out of the house. He survived, and she's coming around. I want to help, but coming out was a long time ago for me. The only way that I could be more out is to have a tattoo saying "gay" on my forehead. I always mention my husband and son when conversation leads that way, I have photos of the three of us on my desk, a gay bumper sticker on my car (well, it's a marriage equality bumper sticker, so I could be a straight ally). I haven't found many blogs from others my age. Maybe I'm an "early adapter" if that's the term for a guy in his 40s who uses technology before many my age. I did that with Facebook.

I'm rambling here. I'll see if there is some work to do now.

second post, second time

proud of my son

I just heard good news about my six year old son. He advanced one level in reading in first grade this week, so his reward is a new book, to encourage more reading. (He has two fathers who are avid readers, so we want to encourage him.) My husband took him to a bookstore and he chose a book that he wanted. But the cover was partly damaged, so my husband suggested that he ask a bookstore worker if they had another. He found a worker, politely explained the situation and asked if they had another book. He was told that they didn't but was offered another copy of the book in a few days or a discount on the damaged book. He consulted with my husband and chose not to wait and to get the damaged book. This may not sound like much, but being assertive with a strange adult, politely explaining the situation, and making a decision about what to do were all good things for him to do. I guess that you have to be a parent to understand.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

first post, second time

This is my new blog, since I used "bad words" on my first blog and had it blocked by the internet filter at work. I want to be able to blog at work (only at lunch, boss) and read what other bloggers write. So I've tried to learn my lesson and not use "the F word" or "the P word" that caused problems. So here's my first post from strivingtoward, my old blog. I may eventually shut that blog down, but I'll leave it up for now.

I've been reading other blogs and thought "Why not try it?" I don't have profound insights to share, just my thoughts and experiences.

For some background, I'm 45, gay, a vegetarian, married to my husband for 1 year now but we've been together for 18 years, and I have a six year old son. I work in health care and live near Sacramento, California in the United States. I'm an atheist and somewhat of a Buddhist - it appeals to me but I haven't been putting the effort into it lately that I would like to. I'm fairly politically active and follow what's happening in the world. My passions are my family and civil rights, especially gay rights.