Roomba Revisited

You’ll recall that about a month ago, I bought a Roomba and I have been thrilled with that purchase every day since!  The docking station where it charges is right by my front door, partly because that was the only free outlet I could find that wasnt’ blocked by furniture and partly because I want it there so I can (and will remember to) hit the button and start it up as I leave for work every morning.  This means, of course, that it’s also the first thing I see when I come home at night.  During these short Standard Time days, it is already dark by the time I get home from work and I do not leave any lights on while I’m out, so when I open the door, the bright green glow of the charging/charged light glows up at me.  On Monday, I came home, opened the door and looked down into darkness.

“Uh oh,” I said to Mischa.  “Where’s Roomba?”  You’ll be glad to know, I was not expecting, nor did I receive an answer.  I went searching for Roomba, looking under chairs, peeking into the kitchen.  My bedroom door is kept closed so I knew she wouldn’t be in there.  And then I found her, peeking out from under the bathroom vanity, just sitting there.  (Don’t ask me why Roomba is a she…  She just is.)

I have double-sided bathroom rugs.  My family learned a long time ago, that cats seem to be attracted to the rubber non-skid surfaces of bathroom rugs for the purposes of peeing.  We learned this not from my problem child who is notorious for peeing in inappropriate places, but from my mother’s perfect little angel of a cat who never did anything wrong, ever, except for repeatedly peeing on rubberized bathroom rugs.  Once my mother bought the first double-sided rug, the peeing stopped.  Naturally, when I was out on my own, with my problem chid who is notorious for peeing in inappropriate places to think about, I went in search of double-sided rugs for my own bathroom.

The thing is, when you mix a robot vacuum cleaner with rugs that don’t hold their position and you throw in a marble tile floor to boot, you get a recipe for trouble.  I never know what I’m going to find when I come into my bathroom in the evenings.  Some days Roomba goes right over those rugs like it’s nothing, other days, Roomba pushes those rugs, inevitably folding them over.  I happened to be in the bathroom one Saturday morning while Roomba was doing her thing and I watched as she went over the first rug and under the vanity, but when she came back around and started making her way for the door again, she pushed the rug in front of her, until it folded over and became an obstacle that Roomba’s sensors are programmed to avoid.  Suddenly, Roomba was stuck in a four-foot square room frantically crossing between wall, bath tub, toilet, trash can and folded rug with nowhere to go, until finally I rescued her and sent her on her way.

When I came home on Monday, I found a similar scene with the rug folded over on itself and Roomba hiding under the vanity, her batteries completely drained of power.  I had to coax her back to her charging station to prepare for the next day.

I’ve had my Roomba for more than a month now.  I’m just as thrilled today as I was on the first day with this product and the developments it has brought into my life.  I never thought I’d have consistently clean floors again until I moved out of my current home.  This stuck-on-the-rug show is a rare occurence and nothing to diminish my satisfaction with the product.

So you can imagine, when I came home again on Tuesday, looked down into the black void that should have been my Roomba, peacefully sleeping and awaiting her marching orders.

“Again?” I said to Mischa, still not expecting an answer.  I went searching again.  checked under furniture, peaked through the kitchen, glanced toward the bathr–  I started laughing.

The bathroom door was closed, but I don’t close the bathroom door unless there’s someone else in my house.  I walked to the door and pushed it open slowly.  Sure enough, Roomba was sitting in the middle of the floor, completely drained of power, with one rug pushed up into a pile by the bath tub, another rug shoved into a corner behind the toilet and my trash can, the trash can which normally stands in the way of Roomba getting behind the door, in the opposite corner of the room.  I told you Roomba was assertive!

Roomba had trapped herself inside the bathroom and run around in circles (well, circles, random straight lines, whatever she does) until she ran completely out of juice and gave up.

I’ll pick those rugs up as soon as I can, but as I said, I have marble floors and the average temperature in my house this time of year, particularly in the mornings is 60 degrees.  Those rugs stay down as long as the temperature does.

I wonder where I’ll find my Roomba tonight…

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Nate Berkus Will Destroy Your Marriage

I read this amazing article on The Huffington Post the other day.  Wouldn’t it be nice if every parent could be as insightful and loving as this one:

… The first time you’re born, you identify the people in the room as your family. The second time you’re born, you identify the whole world as your family. Christianity is not about joining a particular club, it’s about waking up to the fact that we are all in the same club. Every last one of us. So avoid discussions about who’s in and who’s out at all costs. Everybody’s in, baby. That’s what makes it beautiful. And hard. If working out your faith is not beautiful and hard, find a new one to work out. And if spiritual teachers are encouraging you to fear anyone, watch them closely, honey. Raise your eyebrow and then your hand. Because the phrase repeated most often in that Bible they are quoting is Do Not Be Afraid. So when they tell you that gay people are a threat to marriage, honey, think hard.

I can only speak from my personal experience, but I’ve been married for nine years and barely any gay people have tried to break up my marriage. I say barely any because that Nate Berkus is a little shady. I am defenseless against his cuteness and eye for accessories and so he is always convincing me to buy beautiful trinkets with our grocery money. This drives your sweet father a bit nuts. So you might want to keep your eye on Berkus. But with the exception of him, I’m fairly certain that the only threats to my marriage are my pride and anger and plain old human wanderlust. Do not be afraid of people who seem different than you, baby. Different always turns out to be an illusion. Look hard.

Chase, God gave you the Bible, and He also gave you your heart and your mind and I believe He’d like you to use all three. It’s a good system of checks and balances He designed. Prioritizing can still be hard, though. Jesus predicted that. So he gave us this story. A man approached Jesus and said that he was very confused by all of God’s laws and directions and asked Jesus to break it down for him. He said, “What are the most important laws?” And Jesus said, “Love God with all your heart, mind and soul, and love others as yourself.” When in doubt, Chase, measure all your decisions and beliefs against that. Make damn sure that you are offering others the same rights, courtesies, and respect that you expect for yourself. If you do that, you can’t go wrong…

Read the rest of the article here.

Counting Thoughts

Some people say that Holiday’s like Christmas are all about giving.  “‘Tis better to give than to receive,” and all that hooey.  I have very mixed feelings about the gift giving holidays.  I want to get presents.  Let’s be honest, don’t we all?  I think anyone who says, “I don’t care about receiving presents.  I just like giving things to people and watching their faces light up when they open the package,” is lying through their artificially whitened teeth.  (I don’t know why the teeth are artificially whitened, that’s just the first thing that came to mind and we’re going to go with it.)

I like to GET presents, but I HATE to give them.  I do.  It’s not because I’m stingy or selfish.  I’m not.  I do like to give people presents that they genuinely enjoy and appreciate.  There is a commercial that keeps playing on the radio right now: I think it’s for Roku (Obviously not a very good commercial because I had to try six different spellings, “Orocu, Orokoo, Arocu, arocoo, etc.” before I actually found ROKU with no O or A in front of it.)  The commercial says something about knowing the different between genuine appreciation and fake appreciation when you give a gift.  I?  I get the fake appreciation most of the time.

I don’t usually try to give people gifts that will blow them away.  I don’t make any sort of effort to surprise people, because I suck at it.  I ask people “What do you want?” and then if I can afford it, I give it to them.  If I can’t afford it, I ask, “What else?”  I hate it when they tell me, “I don’t know.”

I’m just not very good at gift giving.  I suck at gift giving and I come by it naturally.  Observe:

One year, when I was about fifteen, my mother decided, seemingly on the spur of the moment, that she was going to give us something for Christmas.  She ran out on Christmas Eve, in search of some kind of gifts for her children.  The next morning, after we had our traditional Pillsbury cinnamon roll breakfast, we each opened a small package with our name on it.  Each package contained one embroidered dish towel and one pot holder…  with Santa Claus on them.  Again…  I WAS FIFTEEN.

Last year my mother sent me a green t-shirt with a giant Grinch face screen printed on it.  She couldn’t have known by looking at the shirt that the dastardly smiling mouth on the shirt only serves to highlight my much maligned and despised gut.   I also don’t appreciate being referred to as “The Grinch”, which is what she calls me when she’s not calling me Scrooge.  I never have and never will wear the shirt out of the house.

Last week I received a text from my mother:

“I’ve ordered you some Christmas goodies from Harry & David.  Don’t know when they’ll arrive but be on the lookout.”

By chance I came home that night to a box on my front steps.  I opened it up and found a metal tin inside with three different flavors of Moose Munch.  If you don’t already know, this is Muse Munch:

And these are my teeth:

Give or take a few months and a different color rubber band.

I texted her, “This is some awfully mean stuff to send a guy with braces.  😉  Good thing they’re coming off soon.  :-)”

“I completely forgot about the braces!” she told me.

I answered, “It’s OK.  They’ll be off in a few weeks.  That stuff will certainly keep.  Thanks for sending it.  Should be tasty.”

She asked, “Did you get both boxes?”  I told her I only got one.  “The other one will be a little more braces-friendly, I think.”

The next day a second box appeared on my steps.  “This box has air holes…” I texted to her.  “Did you send me a puppy?”  This box had six pears, a small bag of mixed nuts and a block of cheese.  (See the picture of my mouth above.)  I’m not particularly fond of fresh pears, though I don’t know if it’s realistic to expect that she ought to have known that.

It’s clear my mother doesn’t know how to give good gifts, though certainly she means well.  I wrote yesterday about all the pressure, expectations,  and demands on holidays and this is just part of it.

I’ve been thinking, these last several days, about gifts and how I feel about them.  There was a time when I bought into the addage, “It’s the thought that counts” only, I don’t think I believe it anymore.

I’m fully prepared for the one person who actually comments on my blog with any regularity (and the one person who just has to talk to me in person about it because she’ll explode if she puts her thoughts down on the blog instead of – or maybe in addition to – talking to me about it in person) to give me all kinds of grief over this, and that’s okay, but just hear me out.

I have so much stuff.  Way too much stuff really.  I don’t need more stuff.  And I’m beginning to feel like gifts for the sake of gifts? are just stuff.  It’s stuff I can’t throw away, or give away or return, because if the giver catches wind that I got rid of his gift so that it won’t be just stuff, the giver will get his feelings hurt.  The thing is, if the giver gave me a good gift, then it wouldn’t be just stuff it would be something of value, something I might treasure and therefore, would not get rid of it.  I’m coming to a point where I feel like, if  I don’t need, or didn’t already really want, the item the giver is giving me, it’s actually a burdon.  And because I feel this way, I feel very ambivilant about giving gifts because I don’t want my gifts to be seen that way, and so I’m just adding to the pressure on myself to give good  gifts so that they won’t be just stuff and I’m no good at it.

If you’re like me, though, you buy yourself all the affordable things that you need or really want and it’s the things that you can’t afford that you really want someone to give you, only they can’t really afford it either and so there’s nothing for them to give you because you’ve already bought all the things that people can afford that you want.  It’s a vicious cycle.

I’m not sure, now, where this post was going to go, though I’m certain it was a very different direction.  What I do know, now, though, is…

Give money!

I think that’s what I’m going to do from now on.

If everyone who was going to give me a gift, just gave me money instead, maybe I could pool all that money together and spend it on something I really wanted, like an iPad or a new television instead of a box of pears and a —  Well, I don’t know what else, because I really only expect to get one other gift and I have no idea what it will be…  probably Glee DVDs.

Apparently, Michelle was going to buy me a new printer since the one I had doens’t work with my new-ish computer…  But I bought myself one on Saturday so now she has to come up with something else.  Way to go, me!  But in “me’s” defense, Michelle stood right there and watched it happen and didn’t say anything until we got back to her house with it.  She could have stopped me.

OH!  I know where I was going with all that!

I’ve been struggling for the last several days with the idea of gratitude and appreciation vs. expectations and dissappointment.

When I opened the box of Moose Munch, I was dissapointed that my mother sent me what amounts to caramel corn and chocolate chips.  (You Moose Munch enthusiast can just back-off.  I’ve never had it and I can’t eat it for at least another two weeks and probably six.)  It’s food.  She sent me food for Christmas.  I can afford to buy my own food so this didn’t fill a need.  A quick glance at the Harry & David website tells me she probably spent close to $30.00 on this caramel corn and chocolate chips.  Plus she sent the pears and cheese.  Another $40.00? At least it is food and will go away.  It’s not just stuff.

On the other hand, there were lots of years when she didn’t give me anything.

So I can’t help but wonder…  Am I making too much out of this?  Is it really “the thought that counts”?  Am I just ungrateful?  Is it my own fault for having too high expectations when I find out someone sent me anything at all?

Then again, it occurs to me that since I can’t remember any of the gifts I did get when I was a kid, and more often than not, I can’t remember a few months later what I gave anyone or what anyone gave to me…  Maybe it is the thought that counts…

The truth is, I’m feeling simultaneously grateful and dissapointed, I just would like to open a package and just be delighted by what I find.  But the fact that I feel grateful and dissapointed at the same time is soemthing in itself.  I’m certainly not accustomed to the ability to acknowledge two contradictory feelings at the same time.

By the way, the pears are awesome, much to my surprise.

The Reason For the Season?

Like pretty much everyone else lately, I’ve been thinking about Christmas and holiday spirit and gifts and so on.

Growing up in a Christian family, I was always tought that Christmas is about celebrating Jesus; “Jesus is the reason for the season” and all that.  I don’t exactly dispute that, it’s just that, growing up in a Christian family, I always felt like Jesus should be celebrated all the time and “Jesus is the reason for every season”.  I don’t need a special day to remember Jesus.  I remember Jesus every day.

Christmas was usually a bad holiday for my family.  My parents split up when I was two yeas old and when I was a really little kid, everybody thought I was lucky – and I kind of did too – because I got to have two Christmases.  I remember huge holiday events at my dad’s house in Cincinnati, Ohio where I lived until just before my 9th birthday (in Cincinnati, not my dad’s house.)  My brother and sister and I would go to my father’s house for the week leading up to Christmas.  My father’s wife’s oldest son worked for a local establishment called Swallen’s.  Swallen’s was a “department store” of sorts though it was more along the lines of a Walmart Superstore.  Their tag line was “Anything you want, everything you need, you’ll find it at Swallen’s” and it was pretty much true.  The location where this pseudo relative worked had everything I could think of (except automobiles) right down to a boat dealership and a lumber yard across the street from the main store that had housewares, electronics, clothes, groceries, you name it.  The store offered employees and their “families” a 20% discount so we did all our Christmas shopping there.

On Christmas Eve, we would have a big gifting extravaganza.  I remember one year specifically.  My father was renting this enormous house on hundreds of acres of land.  The living room was on the back corner of the house, with a screened in porch off the back.  On the inside wall of the room was an enormous fireplace and on the outside wall was a gigantic bay window-type floor to ceiling protrusion where the Christmas Tree was set up.  Santa had been very generous that year and there were so many presents under and around and behind and for several feet in front of that tree, I, at about six years old, was beside myself with anticipation.

The Swallen’s employed pseudo sibling was fond of trick gift wrapping and I remember that year he gave two gifts that completely stumped the crowd.  He gave my sister a small stuffed bear, but to wrap it, he bought a large flat box of Puff’s tissues and carefully opened the end, removed most of the tissues, and stuffed the bear in underneath the top layer before sealing the end with glue so it looked unopened.  My sister later admitted that she was almost in tears at the idea that this person had given her a box of tissues for Christmas until he told her to open it and she discovered the real gift inside.

He had also given my father an axe for Christmas, but the way it was wrapped it seemed certain he had gifted my father with a guitar.  It was only after the outer layer of paper was removed and my father discovered a layer of cardboard and another layer of paper that we realized he was up to his tricks again.

Ironically, I do not remember a single gift that I received that year at my father’s house.  I suspect it was a lot of clothes, mostly second-hand and garage sale purchases, I’m sure, and all to be kept at my father’s house (my mother wouldn’t let us bring clothes to my dad’s house because they always came back dirty, she said.)

There were seven of us in this party and by the time we finished unwrapping all the gifts, we were swimming in a waist-high sea of wrapping paper.  I have vivid memories, which I’m certain in my older and wiser years are not real, of us shuffling that sea of paper, with our feet, into the now roaring fireplace.  Surely that would have resulted in burning the house down, but that’s how I remember it nonetheless.

With all the paper burned and all our gifts put away it was off to bed and up early for the long, cold drive back to my mother’s house on the other side of town.

My father, at that time, drove a beat up old Ford Maverick he didn’t even own, comprised of spare parts from two different Maverick’s left on the property he rented.  It was an ugly amalgamation of baby blue and lime green side panels with rusted out floor boards and it ran on scavenged parts held together with chewing gum and desperation.  There were holes in the floor we had to actively keep our feet out of as we watched the roadway fly by beneath us.

That Christmas morning was bitterly cold, the temperatures having dropped to below zero, and an ice storm had passed through overnight.  After 14 years in California, I can’t even conceive of sub-zero temperatures and ice storms anymore.  I remember sitting in the back seat of that beat up old Maverick with my sister, huddled together and teeth chattering like…  Well, like this:

My oder brother sat in the front passenger seat next to my dad, and at some point I remember my father becoming concerned about my sister’s and my feet becoming frost-bitten and so he told my brother to wrap his scarf around our feet and rub them to keep them warm…  Well warm enough.  I didn’t really feel like we were that bad off, but my brother, who I sort of hated and who resented if not hated me, was being forced to do something nice for me so I wasn’t about to speak up.

Eventually, we were back at my mother’s house and we walked in to another bright Christmas Tree, overflowing with gifts.  It was the early 80’s and my mother worked for a tech company that still gave out Christmas bonuses.  While we were at our dad’s house she had been out shopping up a storm making it a very exciting Christmas for us kids.  I remember anxiously looking through all the gifts, wondering which ones had my name on them and my mother telling us we couldn’t open any presents until after we ate the big breakfast she had prepared for us.

I don’t particularly remember any of the presents she got for us either, interestingly.

A couple of years later, my mother and siblings and I moved from Cincinnati to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, where we never had another good Christmas, ever.  My parents unofficial custody agreement when we moved was different, depending on who did the telling.  They began to fight over who we should spend the holidays with.  My father felt that he should get us for Christmas, since we lived 900 miles away and he hardly ever got to see us (he had a point.)  My mother felt like it wasn’t fair to her that he should get us for every holiday (she had a point.)  At some point they decided that we should decide… We, their 9, 12 and 14-year-old children, should decide who we were going to spend our Christmases with, placing us in the unenviable position of having to disappoint and hurt one of our parents.

We always stayed with our mother, quite possibly for no reason other than the fact that if we chose our father we would be subjected to her pouting and guilt tripping for the weeks leading up to his arrival to whisk us away and if we chose our mother, we’d never see his pouting and feeling sorry for himself.  This is just one of many examples of us being responsible for our mother’s feelings and behavior.

I don’t know when Christmas bonuses went out of style, but my mother never received one after we moved to Oklahoma (and I’ve never received one at all.)  Christmas became harder as she had three teenage children to support and no extra money to spend on gifts.  Before long, we had chosen to stay home with our mother who couldn’t afford to do anything for us and so, in spite of having chosen to stay with her so that she wouldn’t pout and guilt trip us for leaving, she pouted anyway, because she couldn’t afford to do anything special.

Come to think of it, it wasn’t until this time that my mother really started pushing the “celebrating Jesus’s birthday” angle.  I think I always resented it because it felt more like a justification, or at least an excuse for why it was okay that we didn’t have gifts at Christmas.  It felt disingenuous because it was new and contrived, just something to soothe the ache; whether it was her ache or our own, I do not know.

I grew to hate Christmas.  All the holly jolly and the cheer, the incessant Christmas music everywhere you go, the pressure to be happy and “feel the holiday spirit”, all the togetherness and FUCKING HAPPY PEOPLE!!!  And most of those fucking happy people?  Aren’t!!  They just act like they are because it’s what people expect of them.  I hated the season, the build up, the antics and attitudes, and I just couldn’t wait for it to all be over!  My mother took to calling me Scrooge, because she thought it was funny to make a literary reference and a dig at her most sensitive child, all at the same time.

So naturally, I worked for three years in retail, because where else should a Scrooge work during the holidays, than AT THE MALL!!!

I had enough.  Not just of the holidays but of the family togetherness and the expectations and demands and general atmosphere of my life.  I moved away… As far away as I could get, without crossing a body of water.  I spent my first Christmas with another family, because that’s what you’re supposed to do… apparently.  Because being alone on Christmas is somehow shameful and pathetic.  I spent the afternoon with a family I didn’t really know, in an environment I didn’t really enjoy and watching as they all exchanged gifts and I had nothing to give and received nothing in return.  They were perfectly lovely to me and I’m still friendly with that family today, but I came to realize that Christmas is a time for family togetherness.

The first two years after my first niece was born, I went back to Tulsa for Christmas.  I stayed with my mother and visited with friends and spent time with my family… and experienced all the same old strife and resentment and pressure and bitterness and general sucky, sucky time.  The second year, my mother was completely unreasonable, and when I stood up for myself, she acted as if she was going to hit me.  I vowed then and there never to spend another Christmas with my current family again.

I realized, Christmas is a time for Family togetherness, as long as the family is your own family and you can stand to be around them.  I spend Christmas alone now and I’m content to do it.  Sure I’d like to spend it with people, but I’d like to spend it with the right people and at this point, I haven’t found the right people.  I’d like to spend my Christmases with my Ross, Rachel, Phoebe, Monica and Joey.  (I left out Chandler, because several people have told me that I remind them of Chandler – or at least my sense of humor does.  Could I be any more different?)

Deb asked me at our least session how I felt going into the holidays.  Our next session won’t be until after Christmas and she just wanted to know how I was doing with the looming occasion.  I told her I’m fine.  And I meant it.  I am.  Yes, spending the holiday alone is a bummer, but I’m used to it, more importantly I’m fully aware of the fact that I choose it.  If I was going to spend my holidays with other people, I would want it to be like the friends on Friends.  A bunch of people who are like me either in that they don’t have family locally, or they do not want to spend this time with their family if they do.  Until I find those people – Deb referred to them as my “chosen family” – I will spend it on my own and be perfectly content to do so.

 

Need a Nap?

Just in case you were in need of some extra zzz’s and couldn’t fall asleep, I bring you the following:

I’m on stay-cation next week. There’s no particular reason, except that I have three float holiday’s that I will lose on December 31, 2011 if I don’t use them and I’m also dangerously close to maxing out on my Paid Time Off hours and if I don’t start taking some, I’m going to hit the max early next year and will be essentially giving my PTO back to my company. Stupid.

Having all of next week off should come in handy as I am (Gasp!) 14,513 words behind if I plan to complete NaNo this year. More importantly, I’m in a difficult to digest portion of my story and I’m having a hard time finding the space to do the writing unencumbered by numerous distractions. I hope that by being home and with little on my plate, I’ll be able to power through and get to a good pace again (and caught up).

I do have plans to go, next week, to a local clinic where I will FINALLY get my pre-employment physical done so that I can move forward with getting my ambulance driver license, the latest in a series of obstacles that have provided me with good excuse not to have gotten an EMT job yet.

After a conversation with my friend Micah who was a class or two ahead of me and who I became friendly with when he was the other “Teaching Assistant” last spring, I am now aware that while I have the paper work the Doctor needs to fill out for my physical, there is another little card that I needed to have, which could not be downloaded. So for lunch today, I went to the DMV. Fun right? It needn’t have taken long. I wasn’t doing anything but grabbing a form that was supposed to be out for the taking… And it was, only since I was there, I figured I should ask about getting an Ambulance driving Manual.

See, while I’m basically getting a commercial driver license, I couldn’t believe that the 160 page document I printed that is very broad could possibly be what I needed. It’s Friday, it was bout 1:30, the DMV wasn’t terribly busy, so I asked the young man (GET OFF MY LAWN!!) at the front desk if I had the right book. He told me I did not. I asked if I could get it from him, he said yes, it’s $5.00, and made no move to get the book for me. I asked him how long the wait would be. He looked at his computer screen and said, “not long”. Everything is relative.

Aside: Why does he not have this book at the front counter where he could take my money, hand me my book and send me on my way?

He handed me a number and I waited for… well, I don’t know how long… two and a half chapters in the book I’m reading, long. Finally I was called to a window were a very sniffly, coughy, non-hand-washy girl very lacadasically went about selling me a $5.00 booklet that they clearly printed and stapled together in the back room.

Aside: Why could I not just download a PDF of this book on-line?

My oldest nieces birthday was on November 5th. My status as “Favorite Uncle Kevin” is quickly dwindling away as she has not yet received a gift from me, nor did I call her on/for her birthday. Don’t judge me! Have you spoken on the phone to a 9-year-old child lately? No thanks!

Being 2550 miles away, I have no idea what to get an 9-year-old girl, I don’t spend nearly as much time with as I would like, for her birthday. So I asked her mother. Prepare for cringe worthy moments ahead…

After thinking about it for a couple of days, my sister came back and told me that what Caitlin really wants is “to get the clutch on her motorcycle fixed. This bad idea is going to cost about $600.00 and so the suggested gift for the 9 YEAR OLD GIRL was a “rechargeable visa card” with some money on it that she could add to until she had enough saved to pay for the repair.

Aside: I hate the idea of my 9-year-old niece being on a motorcycle, let alone owning one of her own, so I at least take comfort in the idea that it doesn’t run, and since I was only going to spend about $25.00, it’s not like I’m going to put her over the top or anything, but still!…

Reluctantly, I agreed to this plan, only, I really have no idea how to go about procuring a rechargeable visa card for a 9-year-old, and so here we are 13 days after her birthday and I haven’t even started the ball rolling…

My sister has since suggested that she thinks I should be able to get it at my bank and so, since I was already out at the DMV (see, you didn’t think these stories were related, did you?) I figured I could go into a branch to inquire there about whether and how they could make this happen. So when I finished my DMV business I went back to the car and I asked my iPhone, “Siri? Where is there a Bank of America around me?” And, well, I have an iPhone 3Gs, so, my iPhone didn’t say anything back, but the app told me where there was a Bank of America, less than half a mile away. As it turns out, I already knew this Bank of America was just where it was, I just didn’t realize I was so close to it while at the DMV, which I did not know where was and had to have my GPS direct me.

I drove toward the BofA, thinking how long I had been at the DMV, and how long I had already been MIA and what I should have for MDM (Mid Day Meal – otherwise known as lunch.) As I rounded the corner in front of the BofA I was reminded, ’cause I saw the sign, that there is a Boston Market right next to the Bank. Seemed like a good idea. Nothing fried there; that’s a plus right?

I walked in the front door of the bank and saw a longer line than was at the DMV and turned right around and walked out again. Thirteen days and counting, still dont’ know how I’m going to go about getting my niece her card.

At Boston Market, I ordered a combo plate with meat and two sides. I ordered brisket. No matter how good my intentions are when I go into a place like a rotisserie chicken restaurant, if there’s red meat there too, it’s almost guaranteed that’s what I’ll order.

Looking at the sides though, I thought, this place is supposed to be healthy? There sides are all carbs! New potatoes, mashed potatoes, loaded mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes (actually yams, yuck!), stuffing, corn, green beans, creamed spinach… OK, granted green beans and creamed spinach are probably not that high in carbs, but, yich! Don’t like either of those.

I ordered loaded mashed potatoes and this squash, zucchini casserole thing topped with melted cheese (who doesn’t like melted cheese?) That shouldn’t be too bad, right? Squash isn’t high in carbs. There’s the cheese, but I’m less worried about a little extra fat than I am a lot of extra carbs.

Lo and behold it was some sort of stuffing type thing with the sliced squash over top and the cheese over that. It was delicious, to be sure, but still… Someone said, “Oh, wait. There’s not enough carbs in this dish, we need to rectify that!”

Also, I had an extra slice of cornbread.

Possibly the Droids– Er the Post You Have Been Looking For

I had planned to include a disclaimer here, that this is going to be a long post and to be prepared…  But when aren’t they long?  So–  Yeah.

I’ve written here, a lot, I think, about my family dynamic and how much I feared coming out to my mother and sister particularly.  Lots of people have expressed, rightly so, that coming out to my family would be a big relief.  A number of you have also expressed that you can’t imagine a mother not loving her son no matter what.  While I wanted to believe that, I have had multiple opportunities over my lifetime to be clearly informed that “unconditional love and acceptance is too much to ask for.”  I’ve lived a lifetime of being afraid to tell my mother I was gay, because I knew she would not be OK with it, and the possibility that she might turn her back on me was, at least in my estimation, very real.

It wasn’t until very recently that I was able to come to grips with the idea that I could live without my family if I had to, but I couldn’t continue to live with the burden of having to keep a significant fact of my life a secret.  I could not continue to censor myself and actively work to prevent certain things from being revealed to members of my family.  It was only after coming to this realization that I was able to write and send the e-mail I spoke of here.

My sister’s response was about what I expected:

Ok, I wish I could say I am shocked, but I can’t. I have suspected as much for some time now. I just haven’t wanted to ask.

You already how I feel about the subject, so I don’t need to tell you. My attitude is one of hate the sin, love the sinner. So while I see your choice (and yes I do see it as a choice) as a sin, I still love you. I will continue to do so regardless. I will still talk to you, harass you, pray for you, and love you. I wish I thought you would get as much from mom, but it will surprise me if you do. At best I think you will get a big lecture.

As far as guardianship is concerned, we are still undecided. Since we don’t currently have much to send with them, there is temptation to choose someone who we know would have the means to take care of them. But there is also something to be said for the love of family. At any rate, this revelation is merely confirmation of my suspicions, so I will add it to the pile of considerations.

So, I don’t know what you were expecting my reaction to be, but there you have it. No I don’t approve, no I don’t agree, but no I don’t hate you. We can agree to disagree and I will just pray that if I am not wrong God will convince you that I am right so that we see each other in heaven.

Not an ideal response, but about what I would have expected from her.  My mother took longer.  When I first sent the e-mail I dreaded her reaction, or rather how she’d convey it.  I didn’t want her to call me, or try to initiate an instant message conversation with me, just to start preaching at me.  But then there was no acknowledgement whatsoever for seven whole days.  I went from dreading any direct interaction with her to being somewhat angry that she hadn’t acknowledged me at all.  Would it have been so hard to send a simple e-mail that says, “I’ve received your e-mail.  I’m not ready to talk about it, but yes I still love you.” or “I don’t love you anymore.” whichever.

Finally seven days after she received my coming out letter, she sent me this reply:

Dear Kevin –

Thank you for being honest with me.

If you think this takes me by surprise, you’re wrong.  God talks to me about my children.  I’ve been expecting this for a while now.

If you think it means I’ll stop loving you, you’re wrong.  You’re my son, and I love you.  Nothing will ever change that.

If, however, you think that means I will give you an “oh-honey-that’s-ok” pat on the head and release you with my blessing to pursue a lifestyle that is degrading and dangerous for you and dishonoring to the God we serve, you’re very wrong about that.

If you think you will ever find lasting peace and fulfillment in that lifestyle, you could not possibly be more wrong about anything.

You are not a homosexual.  You’re wrong about that, too.  What you are is deceived.  It was as predictable as tomorrow’s sunrise.  You distanced yourself from the people and the things and the teaching of the Word of God and planted yourself smack in the middle of a hotbed of satanic deceit.  You made yourself a sitting duck, and now you’ve been picked off and turned into yet another mounted head on the devil’s trophy room wall.  He loves to pervert the image of God in human beings, and it gives him particular pleasure to do it in someone who has been marked since before conception for the covenant blessings of God.  He thinks he’s won a big victory, here.  He is very, very wrong about that.  This is not nearly over.  He doesn’t get to hold my children captive.

Fortunately for you, being right with God does not depend on anything you do or don’t do.  Being right with God depends on the finished work of Jesus Christ, who suffered and bled and died a horrible death to redeem you from sin and all of its side effects, and who gives that redemption freely to anyone who will receive it – which you did.  I remember it well.  You were four, maybe five years old, and I will never forget the look of pure-hearted joy and excitement on your face as you ran down the hallway toward me from that children’s meeting.  “Mommy!  I asked Jesus into my heart!” The price He paid has made you right with God.  So, no, you won’t go to hell, although it is a shabby and wasteful thing, indeed, to relegate Him merely to the position of Eternal Fire Escape.  You will never experience the blessing and fulfillment He means for you to have in this world, as long as you live a life that disregards His truth and disrespects His holiness.  But yes, the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ has made you “right with God” as far as your eternal destiny is concerned.

So, here’s how this is going to go down.  I’m not going to preach to you – at least not with any regularity – because your born-again spirit already knows the truth, even as you seek to override it.  And you’re not going to flaunt this in my face.  I’ll have nothing to do with anybody or anything that places Kevin Riggs and homosexuality in the same category; and I will not have my son, whom I love, dishonoring my God, Whom I worship and adore, in my hearing, in my presence, or in my line of sight.  Quite simply, I cannot bear to watch that going on.  You don’t get to argue your case with me or try to justify yourself to me.  You just leave me out of it.  This is not negotiable.  My bond with God my Father, with my precious Savior, with His sweet Holy Spirit, and with His holy, living, unchangeable, life-giving Word – these are not simply things I believe.  They are the very essence of my being.  They are not going to change, and you don’t get to mess with them.  You certainly have the ability to break my heart, but there’s nothing you can say or do that will change it.

We’ll go on as we have since you left here.  You can ignore me and distance yourself from me, as you have already done, only more so.  Or we can interact without reference to this mess.

And, finally:  Yes, I am angry, but not at you.

I love you very much.

Again, I was not surprised by much of her reaction but the more I thought about it the more I realized how much it doesn’t say.  Lots of words, but not much meaning.

And then I thought about it even more, and I became a bit angry.  She contradicts herself, “thanks for being honest with me, now don’t do it anymore” and “I’ll have nothing to do with anyone or anything that puts Kevin Riggs and homosexuality in the same category”, except, I’m the one doing it.

I didn’t want to react hastily.  I was unsure how to formulate my thoughts and feelings and I wanted to be careful.  I sat with her letter for nearly two weeks and finally I sent her this:

I’ve been trying to figure out how best to answer your letter.  I have to admit to being more than a little surprised by what you’ve had to say, which I did not expect.

I’m also somewhat confused by your response and the contradictions that lay within.  You start by thanking me for being honest with you and then you end the letter by essentially telling me not to be honest with you anymore.  You want to pretend, and for me to pretend, that I didn’t tell you I’m gay, that you don’t know it after all.  I have to tell you, I’ve lived that way for many years and I won’t do it anymore.  That’s why I told you in the first place; because being honest with you is important to me.

Interestingly, we are in agreement about something.  I am a child of God, He loves me and I am going to heaven when I die.  Honestly, that was the one thing that was hardest for me to accept; the idea that you would look at me and believe I was going to Hell.  That was the part it took me so long to come to terms with.  I knew that not to be true, but I was certain you would see it differently and I had to come to a place of being able to disagree with you openly before I could share the truth with you.

I’m not sure what “flaunt[ing] this in [your] face” would look like to you, but I never had any intention of flaunting it in your face.  The fact is we don’t talk about relationships in our family.  There’s no reason why that would change now.  But having our own relationship means being able to be truthful with each other, not actively working to protect parts of ourselves, and that is all I wanted to accomplish by telling you the truth.

That does not mean I’m willing to accept things going on as they have, worrying at every turn how you will react to things if they were to come to your attention.  I don’t expect you to be proud of, or even happy about, everything I say or do, but I think it’s better to know the truth and not like it all, then to only know the pieces that you find acceptable, therefore not really knowing me at all.

I appreciate that you don’t intend to “preach to me”.  At the end of the day, I know what I believe and it’s not what you believe.  I don’t expect to convince you that I’m right and I would expect the same courtesy from you.  We disagree.  It happens.  We have to accept that and move on.  I know what you believe, so there’s no sense in you telling me again and again.  By the same token, I know I’m not going to convince you.  I had no intention of even trying.  I guess that would be my line in the sand, just as it is yours.

A lot of what you had to say came as no surprise to me, but there are two things from your letter about which I’m not happy.  The first is the healthy dose of guilt you tried to heap on me and the second is the untenable ultimatum you set, which places me in the position of being the jerk, no matter what I choose.

“You can ignore me and distance yourself from me, as you have already done, only more so,” you said.  It takes a lot of nerve to make a statement like that when you consider your own relationship with your mother and the relationship between all of our family members.  None of us talk frequently.  None of us interact on a regular basis, and in fact, I have interacted with you with more frequency than anyone else in the family.  And let us not forget who it was, that dropped everything and spent two weeks taking care of you after your heart attack and surgery, never once complaining, expecting anything in return, or even doubting the decision to go.  Don’t forget who helped you with your computer problems, or who came to you with the opportunity to purchase a new television for a good price.  Let’s not forget all the times I’ve been here when you’ve needed someone.  Maybe more than I should have.  How dare you suggest that I have ignored you for the last fourteen years when that has been patently untrue?

Perhaps there has been “distance” between us, but that is because I have been protecting this part of my life from you for quite some time.  Can you not see that as the reason for my telling you the truth now?

I do not appreciate the guilt trip and I do not accept the guilt.

As for your ultimatum, you left me with three choices:

1.        Never mention this again.  Never post anything on Facebook that could even potentially be construed as being a reference to my sexuality.  Never tell you about friends or outings or any kind of activity that gives you insight into my life if it also alludes to my sexuality.  Perhaps that works for you, but it’s not fair to either one of us, really, and it is unacceptable to me.

2.       I actively choose to cut you out of my life.  Never acknowledging you.  Never giving you the chance to acknowledge me.  Never giving you any opportunity to know me at all.  In essence being cast in the role of the ungrateful son who “turned his back on his hardworking single mother who sacrificed everything for him.”  It might make you feel better to see it that way, but it wouldn’t be the truth.

3.       My last option is to disregard your letter and continue to be honest with you.  To “flaunt it in [your] face” as it were, thus being the jerk for being so “confrontational and flagrantly offensive” when all I really want is to be real and open.

Clearly, this doesn’t leave me with any good options.

There’s something I don’t understand.  You said, “I’ll have nothing to do with anybody or anything that places Kevin Riggs and homosexuality in the same category…”, only this was in response to me, Kevin Riggs, telling you that I am gay.  Therefore, I am putting the two in the same category.  Will you have nothing to do with me?  I don’t believe that’s really what you want, but correct me if I’m wrong.

It’s not difficult to take that thought a bit further.  Your statement suggests that in the unlikely event I actually pull myself out of my dysfunction and insecurity enough to actually meet someone and fall in love and want to share the rest of my life with, you don’t want to know anything about it.  You don’t want him in your life.  So, you propose that I should pretend to be single forever as far as you’re concerned and not bring a significant other into your life.  Setting aside that you don’t agree with my choices, do you really think that’s a fair and reasonable thing to ask?  Do you suppose Erin would comply with that if you told her never to mention David or bring him around your house?  Do you really think if you forced Erin to choose between you and David, she would choose you?  I don’t.

So, you told me how it’s going to go down; now let me tell you.  As I said in my previous e-mail, I’m telling you that I’m gay, because I love you and I want you to know me.  I’m not going to pretend it isn’t true.  I’m not going to pretend I didn’t tell you and I’m not going to censor myself for you.  I’m also not going to try and convince you, or push you to change your ways.  And I’m not going to be belittled and condemned for something I know to be right.  I don’t know what the future holds or what opportunities will present themselves.  I’m sure there will be times when you will be reminded that I’m gay.  How you’re going to handle that is your choice.

I’m not going to be forced into having to choose to turn my back on you.  If that’s what you want, you’re going to have to be the one to do it.  I hope you won’t, but I’m prepared if you do.

I  love you.

I certainly didn’t want to initiate another back and forth with her.  I didn’t want to be insulting or instigate anger with her, but I wasn’t going to roll over either.  I was no longer willing to be the dutiful son and just play nice.  I was determined to establish my own boundaries.  But I had no way of knowing how she would react either.

It took her another week, and as the time passed, I really began to anticipate another less than concise but nonetheless preachy response.

Instead, I got this:

I love you very much.  As I used to tell you when you were growing up, you’re my favorite Kevin in the whole wide world.

Ironically, I have no memory whatsoever, of her having ever said that.  I’ll take her word for it.

I realize now though, that’s the only response that she’s going to send.  I’m choosing to interpret it, and in fact, really believe that it means she’s going to back off.  Certainly she’s displeased.  Certainly she wishes I wasn’t gay and that I would never ever mention it to her or say anything that even sort of brings it to light, but I think, after reading my letter and seeing where I stand, she’s decided to keep her feelings and opinions to herself.

I can’t ask for much more than that.

The Hardest (And Most Important) Thing I’ve Ever Done

Have you seen this?

Karin and I talked about it the other day.  She said it brought a tear to her eye.

I said, “hmmmm.”

“Didn’t do anything to you?” she asked.

It didn’t.  As we know, I’m not quick to emotional reactions to things.

But I admit, I couldn’t stop thinking about it.  And I watched it again, that day.

And again the next day.  And several times since then.  I don’t really know how to explain how the video affected me, but it did affect me.

On Sunday, I sent the following e-mail to my sister:

I don’t think it will come as a surprise to you to know that when I think about our family, you are the person who means the most to me (well, you and your kids.)  You are the ones that I care the most about.  And you are the ones that I would most hate to lose.

Because of this, I have felt for some time that if I was ever going to share what I am about to share, you would be the one I needed to tell first.

I hope that what I’m going to tell you won’t change things (though I imagine it will), but for the last two years, ever since I asked you if you and David had a guardianship decision in place for your children, I have felt like it was only right for you to know this…

In the next few days I’m going to send the following e-mail to mom.  For the most part, though, I wanted to say all the same things to you… just… first.  Here goes…

There is something I have wanted to tell you for a long time, but I’ve been too afraid of how you would react.

It has seemed like it’s been more important not to upset or offend you, than it has been to be honest with you.  But now, somehow that seems wrong; it doesn’t seem fair to you and it is certainly not fair to me.

I want you to know that I love you very much, and it is because I love you that it has been so hard for me to tell you that I am gay.

I’m not going to drag this out.  I know you don’t approve.  I know you think it’s wrong and all I can say to that is that I did a lot of soul-searching, research and praying in the process of coming to terms with this for myself and I did not arrive at this conclusion easily or take it lightly.  I believe that I am right with God.  I do not believe that to be gay is a sin, an “abomination”, or that he will condemn me for it.  While I know you strongly believe that your perspective is the right one, I strongly believe that mine is and I’ve finally reached a point where I’m ready to accept that we will disagree on that.

I know that you are disappointed.  You’re hurt and you’re probably angry.  I’m sorry for that.  I know that this is something that you’re going to need some time to get used to.  I wish this were easier for both of us.  I only hope that you can still love me and show me that love, in spite of this disappointment.  That will be for you to decide, though.

For the record, I still want to be your children’s designated guardian, but I realize I’ve just made it a much tougher decision…

I love you.

~~~~~

I sent the e-mail to my sister around 6:00 yesterday evening hoping she would e-mail a response.  I put the computer down and went about doing some household chores.  About 30 minutes later, she called me, but I didn’t answer the phone.

I hoped she would send a response via e-mail since I didn’t answer the phone, but she did not.

Around 10:30 last night, when it was clear I would get no response from my sister that night and before I could change my mind and wimp out, I sent the e-mail to my mother.  I knew she wouldn’t see it before this morning and while I hoped she, too, would e-mail a response and not telephone me, as of now, I’ve not heard from her at all.  While I realized it’s possible she simply hasn’t seen the e-mail, the much more likely answer (and what I should have anticipated to start with) is that she won’t acknowledge it for a couple of days while she “mulls over” the “correct response.”

Erin called me again this morning, first my cell phone, then my work number.  She finally left a message on my work phone in which she said she wasnt’s sure she still had right numbers for me since she hadn’t reached me, that she had received my e-mail and that she wanted to “visit” with me so I should give her a call when I had time.

I sent her a text message and said, “Call me a wimp, but for the moment, I would rather have you say what you have to say in writing.  I don’t regret telling you, but you can’t begin to imagine how difficult this is for me.”

Her response was, “So does that mean you are ignoring my calls?”  😎

“Some of them.  Others I wasn’t around for,” I said.

To which she replied, “Wimp!   OK, I’ll e-mail you as soon as I can.”

~~~~~

The tone of her texts suggests playfulness (trust me, this is her being playful), but her message on voice mail was less than comforting.  She didn’t say anything about loving me, or not being particularly surprised, or anything remotely encouraging or supportive.

I have to believe that this is not a surprise to either of them, though maybe not what they wanted to hear.  But I also know that, whether they accept it or not, this was the right thing to do.  I’m pretty wrecked over the whole thing right now, but I know that once the initial storm blows over, I’ll feel much better for having done it…

Blow storm, blow!