Meeting Hillary Clinton

Sunday evening, while watching our local news channel, I learned that Secretary Hillary Clinton would be visiting a restaurant the next morning that was only about 20 minutes from my home. I turned to Honey and suggested he stop by on his way to work, but the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to go myself.

I saw Mrs. Clinton in my area in 2008 when she was competing with Barack Obama for the Democratic nomination. We stood in line forever before going through intense security, then stood for an even longer period as we listened to introductory speeches from local politicians before finally getting to see Hillary give her stump speech. After she finished and made her way along the front of the crowd, I got close to her, but not close enough to shake her hand or do much more than call her name along with the throng of people around me.

Monday morning’s experience proved to be much more personal.

Honey and I arrived at the restaurant about an hour before she was scheduled to appear, and the parking lot was already filled to capacity, with cars beginning to park in the lots of neighboring businesses. We entered the restaurant to find it was already standing room only, and decided to hang out near the main entrance so we would be guaranteed close proximity to her when she arrived.

Secret Service agents soon appeared and announced that this last-minute stop hadn’t provided them with the time to make proper security preparations, so they would be checking people with metal detectors in order to keep Mrs. Clinton safe. After putting officers in front of the exits to block anyone else from entering, they began wanding the inside occupants.

Several minutes later, we were instructed to move away from the door and stand in the aisles between the restaurant tables. We grumbled aloud, thinking we were going to miss our chance at getting a handshake. Around 45 minutes after her scheduled appearance, Mrs. Clinton walked into the building.

After greeting the restaurant owner and posing for a photo with him, she greeted the crowd and gave a very short speech. She then said she would be greeting everyone. We were ecstatic!

She worked her way through the crowd, laughing and posing for photos, all the while surrounded by national press and security. She was extremely personable, and also much shorter than one would think. She was wearing a pink pantsuit with a scarf tucked into the neckline, and I would describe her as downright grandmotherly. In a cute way, of course.

When she finally got close enough for us to talk to her, Honey introduced himself and then me as his partner of 11 years. She was delighted. He asked if she would pose for a photo with both of us, and as we positioned ourselves, she said she loved the Hillary signature pin I had attached to my jacket. I handed my camera to Alison Grimes (!) who had accompanied Mrs. Clinton on her visit, and we posed for a couple of photos.

Hillary was beginning to move to the next guests when Honey stuck his phone into the air to get a selfie with her in the background, and she unexpectedly leaned in for a few more photos. After he told her he was honored to meet her, and I told her to stay strong, we moved out of the way to make room for other people.

It was only when we got into the car to drive away that it sort of sunk in how incredible the whole thing was. I know a lot of people despise Hillary Clinton, but regardless of what you think of her political views or personal history, this is a woman who was the wife of a very popular governor, First Lady of the United States for two terms, senator from New York for 8 years, and Secretary of State under President Obama. She is one of the most recognizable and powerful women in the world, and I feel very fortunate to have had the pleasure of meeting the person I hope will become the next President of the United States.

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Mrs. J 1918-2015

Our dear friend is gone. After receiving the news early this morning, I thought how this is the first time in almost 100 years that the sun has dawned on a new day without her being in the world.

Rest in peace, lovely one. Words can’t express how much we will miss you.

Sunrise at our house this morning
Sunrise at our house this morning

Religion: You’re doing it wrong

Over the past several years, I have went through quite a cycle in my life with regard to religion. Even while attending church off and on, I have never been able to successfully drown out the nagging questions I have always had about anything to do with faith and its practices. But it has only been over the past couple of years that I have developed such a distaste for religion that overcoming those questions has transitioned from unlikely to nearly impossible.

It has gotten to the point where I view religion as my enemy. The loudest opponents to equality and rights for the LGBT community in America typically consider themselves to be conservative Christians (the liberal Christian is a rare bird, indeed). Most days, after a glance at the news, I spend much of my time feeling helpless and angry.

I get angry when I hear that American Christians and their Republican counterparts are funding and fanning the flames of homophobia in Uganda – where things have gotten so bad that the average Ugandan believes lesbians should be raped and gay men should be killed.

I get angry when I hear that Josh Duggar has molested multiple girls much younger than himself (including his sisters), yet his mother made robocalls last year to tell everyone to vote down a non-discrimination act for transgendered people, wherein she said men would dress as women to get into women’s restrooms to molest little girls.

I get angry when someone I have never met comes on this blog and posts a comment saying I will be “anally raped by the Devil himself in hell,” and then threatens to kill me.

I get angry when the Vatican says Ireland’s recent vote for marriage equality was a “defeat for humanity.” One would think they would direct their outrage at child-touching priests instead of consenting adults who simply want to get married.

I get angry when Christians habitually discriminate against anyone that doesn’t fit their narrow, bigoted view, and then scream about religious oppression when they get called out on it.

So, when I stop to get gas and the store is playing contemporary Christian music over the loudspeakers, I roll my eyes. When I see parking lots full of church attendees, I feel nothing but contempt. When I hear someone ask for prayer over the most mundane thing possible, I cringe. I don’t hear or see genuine faith in action; I see weak minds and pettiness. I don’t see unconditional love or people helping the poor; I see people who are most likely spending their time and money to work against the very things I want out of life. I see enemies of equality and freedom, and enemies of myself.

There are good Christians and there are bad ones, but even the good Christians I know are usually perfectly content to be ignorant of anything outside their bubble-shaped world. For example, I recently had someone ask me why certain gay men like to dress as women, but as I tried to explain drag queens, they became overwhelmed and said they didn’t want to hear about it. If you don’t want to know, then don’t ask.

The more time goes by, the more I find myself agreeing with the old quote, “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

Onward and upward

It has been a long time since I wrote anything here, but I wanted to detail a huge change in my life that I am very excited about. As of June 1st, my father, a former coworker, and I are partners in owning and operating a small business. Although I legally became a business owner at the beginning of 2014, we have only just now been able to purchase and take over operations of an existing business where we were employed.

We also purchased a new 12,000 sq. ft. building this summer that we hope to be in by the end of the year. The building required quite a bit of demo and construction to make it fit our needs, but things are rolling along nicely.

As the person who manages and takes care of most of the administrative duties of our new business, I have been receiving a lot of “on the job” training in the responsibilities of business ownership. There are things I never dreamed of worrying about that I now have to stress over in the evenings when I should be relaxing, but I believe most of my worrying will settle down as I become more comfortable in my position.

One of the hardest parts of my new position is being responsible for the company’s finances. We currently have a great crew of six full-time employees, and it is a heavy weight to realize you are responsible for not only your own livelihood, but also the well-being of your employees and their respective families.

I was once told I was a “yielder,” so being a boss isn’t something that comes naturally to me. It is even harder when you were nothing more than a coworker to most of them only a couple of months ago. It is usually difficult for me to say something to someone about being late, or taking a long break, or not respecting the rules, but, again, I believe this will improve with time.

I hope to be respected by my employees and seen as fair and empathetic, but I also don’t want to be seen as a weak pushover. While reading Good Boss, Bad Boss by Robert I. Sutton, PhD, I learned that all of a boss’s characteristics (good and bad) are exaggerated in the eyes of their employees. I am trying to be cognizant of that on a daily basis.

It is nice having two business partners who not only excel at their own responsibilities in running the company, but who recognize what I do and don’t take it for granted. All three of us get along well and have mutual respect for one another.

I am so thankful for the opportunities I have been given in life, and it is with a grateful heart that I look toward the future.

Impasse

I am done.

I no longer feel the need to change your mind, to make you see the truth, to convince you that some things are as obvious as the nose on your face.

Your bigotry is astounding, your religion is as flawed as your logic, you make my head hurt and my stomach turn.

I am tired. Twenty years of arguing and pleading my case has left me worn and weary. I can only imagine you are just as bored with those same talking points you have been using for so long, even though you keep throwing them like daggers in hopes they will stick in someone every once in a while.

I used to care what you think. About me. About people like me. About people completely unlike me who you insist are my bedfellows simply because we share the commonality of belief in human dignity and justice.

But I don’t care any more.

You are so hell-bent on hatred and bigotry that nothing could convince you to change your mind. You revel in your role as victim, and you nurture your prejudice under the umbrella of religious freedom.

You make me sick.

You read your book, say your prayers, and flood the internet with your attacks on the “least of these.” You say God made us all in his image in one breath, then damn us all to hell in the next. I can only hope there is no afterlife, because I can’t stand the thought of spending eternity with you.

So we have reached an impasse, as it were. I can’t change your mind any more than you can change my sexuality. The only thing I can change is whether or not I waste another minute of my life on you.

You are the past, but I am the future.

Celebrating 10 years

A couple of weeks ago, Honey and I celebrated our 10th anniversary. Because we aren’t married (and can’t get married in our home state of Kentucky), we annually recognize the day we first met.

We wanted to travel somewhere special for our big year, so we decided on Savannah, Georgia. This was a first visit for both of us, but some of our friends have been there and highly recommended it. We settled on a condo in Tybee Island, which is about 20 minutes from historic downtown Savannah, and made reservations at a few restaurants that looked promising.

Our condo was beautiful and inviting, with floor to ceiling windows facing the Atlantic Ocean. We could sit on our balcony and watch gigantic commercial freighters slowing going out to sea, before they dropped out of sight on the horizon.

View from our condo on Tybee Island.
View from our condo on Tybee Island.

We visited Paula Deen’s Lady & Sons restaurant for lunch on our second day in town, and it was just as delicious as expected. We walked off some of the buttery goodness with a long trek to Forsyth Park to see the famous fountain filled with mermen.

The Lady & Sons restaurant in Savannah.
The Lady & Sons restaurant in Savannah.
Fountain at Forsyth Park in Savannah.
Fountain at Forsyth Park in Savannah.
Live oaks with Spanish moss in Savannah.
Live oaks with Spanish moss in Savannah.

The weather was overcast and rainy for the first two days of our vacation, but things changed dramatically when the day of our anniversary arrived. I snapped a photo of a beautiful sunrise from our balcony as my heart almost exploded from contentment.

Sunrise on our 10th anniversary.
Sunrise on our 10th anniversary.

We learned of a movie being shot on the beach about a mile from where we were staying, so we walked there to do a little snooping. Zac Efron’s character takes his grandfather (Robert DeNiro) to spring break in Daytona Beach, Florida, but they chose Tybee Island for filming because it wasn’t as crowded.

Movie shoot starring Zac Efron and Robert DeNiro on Tybee Island.
Movie shoot starring Zac Efron and Robert DeNiro on Tybee Island.
Another view from our condo.
Another view from our condo.

We chose Alligator Soul as our dinner spot for the evening, and it was the nicest restaurant I had ever entered. I felt slightly out of place as our waiter completely reset the table between courses (and even used a crumb scraper on the table cloth), but it was a lovely experience with incredible food.

Lamb chops from Alligator Soul in Savannah.
Lamb chops from Alligator Soul in Savannah.

The next day was our final full day in Tybee Island, so we decided to take advantage of the gorgeous weather with a dolphin tour. I didn’t really have high expectations, but Captain Derek’s Dolphin Adventure knew exactly where to go to get the amazing creatures to interact with the boat. It was definitely one of the high points of our trip!

For our final dinner on vacation, we gorged ourselves on seafood at The Crab Shack. Our “Dinner for Two” included snow crab legs, shrimp, crawfish (yuck), mussels, potatoes, corn on the cob, and sausage. It was pretty amazing. We enjoyed seeing the baby ‘gators outside in the lagoon.

Dinner at The Crab Shack.
Dinner at The Crab Shack.
Young alligators at The Crab Shack.
Young alligators at The Crab Shack.

It is amazing how fast ten years can go by. I am so proud of our relationship, and so thankful to be sharing my life with such an outstanding person. I am looking forward to the future with great hope (here’s looking at you, Supreme Court!), and I feel like one of the luckiest people alive.