Tuesday, December 31, 2013

preparing to write a new book

It's the seventh day of Christmas, but it's also the last day of the year. 2013 is coming to a close! A big thank you to all who read this regularly and I hope you find something here of value.

Now it's time to close this 2013 book though. I hope your life has had a lot of great moments during the year! Mine has certainly had more ups and downs than ever before and I am blessed to have such wonderful friends.  My sister is also such a wonderful blessing in my life!
Tomorrow we open a brand new book. It's pages are blank. We of course are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and it's first chapter is New Year's Day!  Let's make this new book a best-seller!

Happy New Year everyone!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Like sands through the hourglass

Father Time, also known as 2013, is soon going to be leaving us and making way for Baby New Year. Is there anything you wanted to do in 2013 but didn't? If you had more time, could you get to it?  Better hurry - just two days left!

I'm not one for making resolutions - so many of them are broken in the first frew days anyway. I'm not a big fan of regrets either. You cannot change what is - you can only try to do your best.

Like sands running through the hourglass, the moments of our life roll on by. I always try to do my best. Sometimes I do terribly well. Sometimes I fail. Doing our best though counts a lot. Just keep on trying!

Friday, December 27, 2013

thanks for your wonderful testimony Otis

One of the nicest and kindest men I have ever known, The Right Reverend Edgar Otis Charles, who for more than six decades served as a priest and then bishop in the Episcopal Church, died yesterday afternoon, just a few months after losing his husband Felipe Sanchez Paris-Charles. 
I first met Bishop Otis years ago, after he had retired as the Bishop of Utah and after he had come out as the first openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church (or any denomination).  The gentle yet warm spirit that was his made me know immediately that we would always be friends.  It was so much fun running in to him unexpectedly sometimes at public events.
His place in the history of the Episcopal Church is solid.  For fourteen years he served as a member of the Standing Liturgical Commission, which developed the 1979 edition of the Book of Common Prayer.  In the House of Bishops, he was chair of the Prayer Book Committee and a member of the Bishops' Committee on Racism.  After his years as Utah's bishop, he became dean of the  Episcopal Divinity School. He was also active in the peace movement and, after coming out, became active in lgbt matters.
It was mostly with his husband Felipe that I knew him.  It was always Otis AND Felipe!  When one of them sponsored me for AIDS Walk, I knew it was from them both. The two appear in the film "Love Free or Die," a portion of which you can see HERE and get a sense of the love between Otis and Felipe.  You could see the love in their eyes.
Services for Bishop Otis have not yet been arranged but I imagine that Saint Gregory's, the local parish of which he was a member, will hold some kind of liturgy and there will likely be a service in Utah as well.  Rest in peace dear friend.  Thanks for your wonderful testimony.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

The ethic of reciprocity or prime directive

The ethic of reciprocity, more commonly referred to as the Golden Rule, is a wonderful life guide. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” is the way most of us have heard it. Wonderful concept it is and it can be found in many different religions, although belief in any god, does not seem to be part of this principle.

Islam is one place where this concept shows up a lot. Look to The Quran and read “Woe to those who, when they have to receive by measure from men, they demand exact full measure, but when they have to give by measure or weight to men, give less than due” (Surah 83 vv. 1–4) There are numerous other references in The Quran that deal with the Golden Rule, without calling it that.

In Jewish custom we find it too. In the book Leviticus it says “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against your kinsfolk. Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Taoism gives us the same principle. “Regard your neighbor's gain as your own gain, and your neighbor's loss as your own loss.” (T'ai Shang Kan Ying P'ien)

Christians get it in many forms, but Saint Paul’s letter to the Galatians probably says it best: “For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” We hear Jesus preaching this principle in the gospels.

It would seem to me that this ethic is so very basic, that it should be our prime directive. (Yes, just like on Star Trek). How wonderful it would be if we all followed this rule!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas??

Merry Christmas?

There will be those - there always are, who will utter this greeting with a question mark in their voices. What's to be merry about? A slowed down economy?   Bullying, homophobia, racism, and prejudice still rearing their ugly heads? Pedestrian traffic fatalities?  Horrific weather conditions?  There certainly is a lot of bad news!  For me personally (yes, I know, this is NOT about me) it will be my first Christmas since Mom died this past spring and one might expect it would therefore be a little less merry.

Old Scrooge in the wonderful Dickens classic was one of those who used to question the joy of Christmas. "Humbug!" That's how he summed it all up. Scrooge found out though, and just in time, that there is always reason to be happy - there is always something to be joyful about!

I am reminded of the words preached by Saint Leo the Great way back in the fifth century:

"Today our Savior is born; let us rejoice. Sadness should have no place on the birthday of life. The fear of death has been swallowed up; life brings us joy with the promise of eternal happiness."

May we carry that message with us with no question mark at all. Merry Christmas everyone!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

O Holy Night

Finally!  The special night is here!  Tonight people all over the world will be welcoming Christmas (oh and by the way, tomorrow is the first day of Christmas, not the last).  You still have a few hours for those last minute preparations but don't delay!
Whether you gather with family and friends in a church at midnight and sing O Holy Night (or perhaps Silent Night) or stay at home in front of a fireplace (or the yule log on television), I hope that yours will be an enjoyable celebration.
In just a few hours I will be heading down to my sister's house to spend the night with her - our first Christmas since Mom died.  Tomorrow will obviously be quite different from last Christmas, but it will still be good.
Whoever you are and where ever you are, Christmas should be a wonderful time of celebration.  Enjoy!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Is pink still for girls and blue for boys

At the very beginning of the movie Torch Song Trilogy, a young Arnold is caught by his mother dressed in some of her finest and putting on some of her makeup. Those of you who have seen the film know that Arnold grows up to become a drag queen. How about in real life though - what happens if little boys are into dresses, wigs, and makeup?

A year ago I asked the question "Is pink still for girls and blue for boys?"  Except for the post about my mother at her time of death, more people have read that blog entry than anything else I have written.  Not long after, the New York Times Magazine just happened to ask about the same subject. Every now and than I see a post on facebook or twitter. It seems to be a subject that everyone is interested in.

When a baby comes home from the hospital and through its first couple of years, the color choice is very clear: pink for a girl and blue for a boy. When folks don't check gender ahead of time, they might build a wardrobe of neutral yellow, but no other colors are used. When children become old enough to dress all by themselves, what is a mom to do (or a dad) if the child wants the other color?

The Times magazine article I mentioned was written by Ruth Padawer who teaches at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. She does a pretty complete job of laying out facts, quoting experts, giving examples and getting folks talking. She does such a good job that, as I said, many are still discussing this. But what does it matter? Does a young boy's wardrobe choice directly influence who he becomes?

There are those who will condemn parents who allow a more fluid gender expression in their children. Are they wrong? Some of the things that really need to chance in this world of ours are negative attitudes. Is this an area where we need to do some re-thinking? Your thoughts are certainly welcome.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Happy birthday Mom

Today I expect will be a difficult day for me and my sister because this would have been Mom's 87th birthday and it of course is the first December now without her. 
I remember last year.  Mom and my sister had just moved to the Bay Area days before and so all three of us were going to spend the evening together - something we rarely had the chance to do in recent years.  I grabbed three roast beef sandwiches from Mom's favorite deli here in town (which has since closed down) and headed over to meet them.  It was a very quiet and simple birthday celebration and I remember telling Mom we would "do something bigger next year."
My sister and I have both taken the day off from work and will spend the day together.  At some point we plan to go to the churchyard where Mom is buried.  Happy birthday Mom.  This is something bigger indeed.  Today you are with Daddy, and Nana, and Grandpa in paradise.  Happy birthday Mom.  Rest in peace.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Strawberry, vanilla, or chocolate?

Listening to a talk show the other day, I heard a well-meaning person several times speak of "lifestyle" and "sexual preference" when talking about lesbians and gays. Well, after the smoke came out of my ears, I realized it was time to do one of those "educational" posts.

First off, it is NOT a preference!  Let me give you an example of preference.  Some people eat vanilla ice cream.  Some like chocolate better.  My favorite happens to be strawberry.  Of course I will eat any of those flavors.  I love ice cream.  What we are talking about here though is a preference.  I prefer strawberry.  It is my personal preference.

Now when it comes to dating men or dating women, this is NOT a preference matter.  I do not simply like one better than the other.  Oh no!  I am ONLY attracted in a sexual and in a romantic way to men.  I am gay.  It is my orientation, NOT my preference.  It's also not a lifestyle choice.  You don't wake up one morning and say "I'm going to wear the gay outfit today."

Now I am sure that someone may disagree with all of this, so I ask as I always do for your comments below.  I'd love to know if anyone agrees.  From where I sit though there is a big difference and saying sexual preference suggests what we make a choice, when in fact our orientation was predetermined and was not out choice.  So, what do YOU think?  Any thoughts? 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

adopt a shelter animal

Looking for an animal to add to your household?  Consider adopting a shelter animal.  I have written here a number of times about pet adoption, but you really cannot say enough.  It is one of those win-win situations - there are many advantages.  Click HERE for some general information from the Humane Society.

A word or two about shelters (which some refer to as the "pound," short for impoundment).  Animal shelters provide a safe and caring environment until the animal is either reclaimed by its owner or adopted by a new owner.  While we often hear about shelters euthanizing animals (and this does indeed happen in many public shelters when animals are not adopted with a certain time period), most private shelters are run as no-kill shelters.

Animals deserve love and affection though.  Just because they are not going to be euthanized, does not mean they should continue in a shelter.  Yes, they generally are well feed and provided for, but animals deserve more than that.  They deserve love and attention.  In return, they usually GIVE love and attention to their care-givers.

Ask your co-workers.  Talk to your friends.  Do a little reading.  I'm certain that everything you hear about adopting a shelter animal will say the same thing.  It will warm your heart and it will warm theirs too!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The message of the season

It seems that every day there is something bad in the news. Some days are worse than others.  From schoolyard shootings to fatal pedestrian accidents, we see way too much of death in this season of our Savior's birth. How can we attend a party when we are thinking of the innocent lives lost?

I was thinking about this and it occurred to me that we have sorrow and joy even in our traditional Christmas observances. On the Church calendar for instance, the most holy night is December 24th and then the great day of our Lord's nativity comes next. Wonderful celebrating. What next though? The Church remembers the very first deacon, Saint Stephen - who was stoned to death! Just two days later we remember the horrific massacre of the Holy Innocents by Herod the Great. How can we not think this year of the twenty children killed in Newtown when we observe Holy Innocents Day, the biblical remembrance of that wicked infanticide which produced the first Christian martyrs?

Good and bad side by side. Nothing new. It has been that way for a long time. Should we just give up? Hardly! There is always a reason to keep on trying. There is always a reason to try and make a difference in the world!

Monday, December 16, 2013

we need to make true equality a reality

Read these words from The Declaration of Independence, signed on July 4, 1776: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

It’s only February right now, so we cannot possibly be celebrating Independence Day yet, but there is never a bad time for this reminder. ALL ARE CREATED EQUAL. ALL. Every single person. There is not one who was created to stand above the rest. We all should have the same rights and nothing less is ever fair.

Hispanics are equal. Asians are equal. African-Americans are equal. Lesbians are equal. Gay men are equal. Transgender persons are equal. People of advanced years are equal. People who practice different religions are equal. People who practice no religion are equal.  All are equal.

Let’s get to work and make true equality a reality. We can begin with the workplace or with marriage or with any number of things where discrimination still exists.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Your own person of the year

We are getting closer and closer to the end of 2013 and I was thinking this morning about who I might choose as Person of the Year. Time Magazine of course does this annually and most of the time I have agreed with their choices, but what if instead of this big overall person they choose, we all came up with our own person of the year?

Is there someone who really made an impact on you this year? Think about it. Perhaps a famous person did something that you felt personally or perhaps someone you work with or a friend or a relative did something that was so significant that it really made your life better.

Some organizations choose an annual person of the year and some do it in various categories. Each one of us could do the same thing. The persons we choose wouldn't get an article about them or a magazine cover, but perhaps if someone really made a difference in your life this year, you could simply tell them!

Think about it. Who would YOU choose?

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Gay in America

The picture to the left, is the cover of a book that sits on my coffee table, Gay in America. What a wonderful book it is! New York photographer Scott Pasfield documented the stories of 140 gay men, and has done a truly remarkable job. I saw CNN reporter Nina Raja ask Scott “What inspired you to take on this project?” His reply: “First and foremost I started this project to make a difference.”

Wow! Making a difference - that’s what we talk about here every day. There are so many ways to do it, and here Scott Pasfield shows us another one. He made a book he says he “wished existed when (he) was a kid, one that (he) could learn about the realities of being gay.”

How did I happen to notice the book? Well the cover is a photo of Dan Choi, whom we have written about here so many times. When reporter Raja asked Scott about the cover, his answer was long and told of his first meeting with Dan Choi, after all the other photos had been taken. He closed though by saying “And it only seemed right to put the soldier that fights for us all on the cover.” I agree.

I should point out that this isn't a new book - it's a few years old, but I hope you will pick up a copy. (I might make a nice Christmas gift).   Perhaps it will inspire you to go out there and make a difference too!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

toys for the kids

Recently I wrote here about the many toy drives happening and Ellen Degeneres has very kindly been promoting this on her popular television program.  I've also seen a number of businesses with collection bins that give shoppers a discount when they drop off a toy.  Churches and other faith communities have gotten in to it as well.  All this is great news. 

There is a bit of bad news though.  Toy collections are down from previous years in many locations.  On top of that, thieves posing as firefighters have gone to several collection sites with large garbage bags saying they are there for a toy pickup.  (Note to stores with collection bins:  Ask for ID!  Firefighters have badges and members of the Marine Corps have military ID cards).  Police are investigating, but meanwhile there are fewer toys.

And this is why I mention the toy drives once again.  If you are able to, help out.  It will mean a lot to a kid!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

favorite times of the year

When I was young, I always looked forward to this month. I loved the colder weather and the snow, and of course I loved Christmas. This is also the month when there is a break from school, and that is always nice. My mom's birthday came in December too, and then there were all the other holiday parties. Good times!

August though could also be a favorite time. We would be out of school then. There were so many fun summer activities. Oh yeah and my birthday! What about November? I liked that a lot too with Thanksgiving (I love the traditional dinner) and Veterans Day breaks from school or work. Fall leaves are always so pretty! Of course May can be fun, with summer right around the corner, and those wonderful Memorial Day picnics! Come to think of it, there is something to look forward to in every month.

You get the idea.   We don't have to reserve our fun to just one day or one week or one month.  Why not make the best of every single day?  Let's live life to the fullest.  I think I am going to have 365 favorite times this year!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Toys for all

No, it is not Christmas yet - it is not even the Christmas season, despite what the stores may be telling you.  It is however a good time to think about kids who might not be fortunate enough to have toys and books and games to brighten their days.  Each year, starting around Thanksgiving, various organizations hold toy drives and then distribute those toys to needs children within a few days of Christmas.

You have all heard of the Marine Corps' Toys For Tots program.  That is probably the best know of them all since it has been around for a long time.  They not only accept donations of toys, but also will take money to purchase toys.  If you know a child in need and want to request a toy for them, click HERE to go to their site.

Similar toy drives take place all over the country.  Walgreens stores are collecting again this year.  There are collection barrels in all of their stores and they go to whatever agency they partner with locally (here in San Francisco for example, it is the Fire Department).

Brighten a child's day.  Donate a toy.  We aren't even talking about a lot of money here.  At Walgreens for example you can buy two toys for $6.99 each and get a third one for free.  Just about everyone can afford that!

Friday, December 6, 2013

By bread alone

Father Leo Patalinghug calls Grace Before Meals a "movement" that promotes the importance of families preparing and then eating meals together. (Wasn't there an old saying that "the family that eats together, stays together")? So much of what we do happens around a meal table.  It seems the good padre is on to something!

I wrote here about Father Leo several years ago.  He and I exchanged a few emails.  Father Leo really is an inspiration to me.  His faith is strong and his commitment to family is a joy!

When not busy teaching future priests at the seminary where he works, or speaking at a high school or college just about anywhere in the country, Father Leo hosts an internet and cable cooking show.  He also maintains a website for Grace Before Meals, and has written a book.  Also, he has lately been contributing a regular cooking show to the EWTN network.  Busy man, huh?

There are some wonderful food ideas at the Grace Before Meals website and there is also tons of additional information.  I invite you to check them out though for the grace you will receive and the lessons you can learn about sharing around a meal with friends and family.  Go to http://gracebeforemeals.com/

Thursday, December 5, 2013

can you spare some food?

Food drives are popular this time of year. There is often a big push for food around Thanksgiving and again around Christmas. In many communities there are numerous programs. Here in San Francisco there are several year-round programs, which is a good thing - the need is certainly there!
I don't know whether you think much about these things, but that extra can of tuna that cost you just a buck or the boxes of mac and cheese for about the same price can really help someone who has nothing. If your income is low and you don't have much, don't think you have to donate fifty or a hundred dollars worth of groceries to make a difference. Your can of tuna and your neighbor's box of mac and cheese and the chicken noodle soup that the retired school teacher put in, all add up. Yes, every single contribution helps!
I'm not saying just give one thing - give as much as you feel you are able to. The important thing, as always, is involvement. We all have the capacity to help!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The toughest job you'll ever love

With so many remembrances of John Kennedy's Presidency these days, it is certainly a good time to talk about The Peace Corps because it was Kennedy who, by Executive Order on March 1, 1961, created the government-run agency.  (I was, I should note, talked about before Kennedy, but it was he who actually made it happen and then Congress authorized it on September 21, 1961, with passage of the Peace Corps Act).  In its 52 years, over 210,000 Americans have joined the Peace Corps and served in 139 countries.
The Slogan “The toughest job you will ever love” says volumes. President Jimmy Carter's mother Lillian served as a nurse Carter says she had "one of the most glorious experiences of her life" in the Peace Corps.  Political commentator Chris Matthews, This Old House host Bob Vila, author Paul Theroux, and film director Taylor Hackford also served.  The experience of a lifetime they all say.

The work they do all over the world continues and the need is always there.  There are three different types of volunteers and you can find out more on their website at http://www.peacecorps.gov/ - note that all volunteers must be US citizens and at least 18 year old.

Want to know more?  The website I mentioned is a very good source.  You can also subscribe to their newsfeed HERE.  Oh and age does not have to me a factor.  Mrs Carter applied when she was 68 years old!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

no more Moishe's

Joe Sattler, owner of Moishe’s Pippic deli here in San Francisco's Hayes Valley, has called it quits.  What a guy!  What a place!  Joe and his ever-faithful sandwich maker Able have been putting smiles on my face for years.  They brought many smiles to my mom too!
Saturday was officially the last day but yesterday the sign went up.  I was sworn to secrecy last week when I found out, but I didn't swear to sing the praises of Moishe's Pippic.  How can a couple of guys running a deli, make a difference in this world?  I don't have the answer, but they sure did!
They will indeed be missed!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Sponsoring Jason makes a great holiday gift

A couple of months ago I told you about Jason Villalobos (that's him on the billboard) and how he has signed up again for AIDS LifeCycle and set his most ambitious fundraising goal ever. I've donated.  Many of you might have also given by now.  Yesterday was World AIDS Day.  Sponsoring Jason would be such a great way to make the day.  It would also make a great holiday gift. 
I've written here about Jason and his activism on a number of occasions - not just about LifeCycle, although I am particularly pleased to see him doing this again and again.  You see, Jason doesn't just participate, he has actually credited the Ride with giving him a new relationship to AIDS and to himself.
Jason used to live right above where this picture was taken and he was a fixture at rallies and gatherings there in the Castro.  You would see his face on posters like this and read his words in print and watch him speak at forums and on television.  Even though he has moved away to a small town, his contributions haven't become small.  Jason was just named one of this year’s POZ 100, a group of HIV-positive people who are unsung heroes in the fight against AIDS.
Click HERE if you can help by sponsoring Jason for any amount - all donations help!  He's riding again to raise awareness, funds, and to do his part to eliminate the stigma surrounding the disease. Won't you do your part too?