Lily

The kitty that showed up at our back door a few weeks ago went home with her new parents this morning. I know she is going to a good home, but it is still bittersweet. Even though I was resisting it, I had become attached to her.

We knew she needed to be fixed whether or not she stayed with us, so she was spayed Friday morning. She also had her shots and was checked for worms. The vet bill was over $200, but it was worth it to know she is healthy and won’t be reproducing.

Although our prospects of finding her an adoptive family seemed pretty slim, one of Honey’s coworkers managed to connect us with a lady who was looking for an indoor cat. A few phone calls later, Lily had a new home.

As she purred loudly this morning, I planted a big kiss on the top of her head and told her I hope she has a good life.

Bye, Lily. I love you.

Fur baby

kitty_tree

A gorgeous young cat showed up at our back patio door weekend-before-last while snow and sleet was coming down. We figure she was either dropped or lost, so we brought her into the garage to keep her warm. She is the sweetest thing, and she just loves attention. I take her outside during the day, and she follows me around the yard like a puppy. I wish we could keep her, but we already have three cats indoors. We are trying to find her a good home where she can stay inside most of the time.

In like a lion

This winter keeps dragging on and on. We had snow and ice again last week, but we finally had a warm day yesterday with temperatures in the 70′s. Unfortunately, a cold front blew through during the night which brought more blustery and cold weather today.

Even though Mother Nature can’t make up her mind about the temperature, I am beginning to see signs of a change of seasons. Eastern Robins have been hopping over the lawn in search of worms, buds are adorning the trees, and daffodils are starting to push their leaves through the ground. The grass is even starting to green up a bit.

I have become a bit obsessed with landscaping over the past few years, so I am itching for warmer weather and the opportunity to get out and work in the yard. I have been sketching ideas for plant beds on notebook paper, and I would like to bring some of those ideas to life as soon as possible.

We recently had our property surveyed and marked, which makes it so much easier for me to tell exactly how our property line cuts through the hilly, wooded area behind the house. I have been exploring the woods over the past month, and absolutely love being in the middle of all the trees and knowing that it is all mine. Heaven on earth.

Even though we have been here four years already, I am still discovering things about this place that makes me happy. The woods are filled with dogwood trees, wildflowers, and even a huge burning bush that is growing inexplicably under the shade of a cedar tree. One of the small dogwoods trees was so lovely that I couldn’t resist transplanting it into the yard last weekend, even though the earth was so wet from the melting snow that I had to wear rubber boots.

I am so ready for Spring.

A year without church

Today marks a year since I have been to church. We started attending services in 2006, joined in 2009, and attended regularly until the first week of February of last year. Honey has visited once since then.

When people find out we are no longer going, they instantly assume something happened to offend one of us. That is absolutely not the case. I can’t recall ever having anything but kindness shown to my partner and myself as we attended church over a span of almost seven years. The issue, my issue, always boils down to a combination of lack of faith and problems with organized religion.

Regular readers of this blog will know some of my history with Christianity. I grew up in a very small Pentecostal Holiness church. Although there were many restrictions on dress and behavior, I believe most of the people I grew up worshiping with were good people who were sincere in their beliefs. My problems with that denomination arose when I became a young man and realized there simply wasn’t a place in the pews for people like me.

Last night, on YouTube, I stumbled across a video of a Holiness woman preaching (female preachers were common in the denomination of my youth). This was the same woman who met with me a few days after coming out to my family to inform me that gays occupy the lowest level of hell. I realized something while watching her last night; she might be charismatic and eloquent, but she likes to use fear and her loud voice as weapons of intimidation. I actually felt sorry for her.

The church we are both members of now is a far cry from the Holiness church. Aware of the UCC’s beliefs on homosexuality, I knew before we even entered the building on our first visit that we should have no problems in that regard. We never did. We were embraced as a couple and as whole people who didn’t need “fixing.”

So, why did I stop going? Again, it all came back to my issues with faith and religion. I felt like a hypocrite sitting in the pews on Sunday morning, tossing prayers toward heaven without any conviction they were reaching further than the rafters. Sure, there were times when I felt more connected to God, but overall my faith in religion has been in decline for several years.

I don’t know what I believe in any more. I want to believe there is a God who loves me and has the answers to all the universal questions we have, but maybe that is just a selfish part of being human and wanting to feel significant. Maybe all we have is what we see, and perhaps we will never know the answers to why we are here and how in the heck space can be infinite. It could very well be that we get this amazing life to live for a few decades and then we die and that’s it. And, really, isn’t that enough?

On this anniversary of sorts, I feel reflective but contented. I love spending Sundays at home with my partner and our spoiled kitties. We sleep in, watch movies, visit with friends, and cook dinner. When it’s warm enough, I often find myself working in the yard. When it’s cold, I often catch myself daydreaming and planning about what I am going to do when it’s warm enough to work in the yard. There are few things I enjoy more.

So, my Sundays are still sacred – just in a different way. And that’s perfectly fine with me.

Beyonce’s Mrs. Carter Show in Louisville

I took this photo with my cellphone and I am quite proud of it. Please don’t reuse it without permission.
I took this photo with my cellphone and I am quite proud of it. Please don’t reuse it without permission.

Thursday afternoon, Amanda and I headed for Louisville, KY, to see Beyonce. This would be my second time to see her, but Amanda’s first. We were both very excited.

After arriving at our hotel and getting dressed, we drove downtown and parked a few blocks from the arena. Knowing we had general admission tickets for the floor and that we would be standing the entire time, we ditched our coats in the car and practically froze to death during the walk to the venue. Standing outside in line for an hour and a half didn’t help our frozen extremities, but we finally got inside at 7 pm and literally ran to the floor area where we had to wait in line again to get wristbands.

Once we actually made it to the floor, we were astounded at how close to the stage we were able to get. I had checked Twitter earlier in the day and read that the first fan had arrived outside at 8 am. I figured the floor would be filled before we had a chance to get a good location, but we wound up just a few feet from center stage.

For the next several hours, we stood. No drinks or bathroom breaks. Just standing, screaming, dancing, and sweating. It was a blast.

It doesn’t seem possible, but Beyonce is even more beautiful in real life than she is in digital format. She is also a consummate entertainer, and I have even been thinking of her as the female version of Michael Jackson. It must feel great to have so much talent in such a lovely package. I can only imagine.

Beyoncé told the audience this was the 100th show of the tour, then sang a beautiful rendition of “Happy Birthday” before doing a silly little dance to end the show. We walked back to the car, dehydrated and tired.

After returning to our hotel and scarfing down some liquids and pizza, we discovered Beyonce’s new album had dropped without any warning whatsoever. It was a nice surprise and a great way to end a remarkable evening.

Stop it!

My maternal grandmother suffered a stroke yesterday morning – just over 12 years since another stroke left her with short-term memory loss. She was transported to a local hospital and given a drug that will hopefully lessen the effects of the stroke, but so far things aren’t looking very good. She is having a hard time communicating (sometimes not at all), and the right side of her body has been affected.

Yesterday afternoon, after sitting in two different hospitals all day, my nerves were frazzled. I was also starving, since the call came early in the morning before I had a chance to eat anything. Several family members were gathered in the CCU waiting room, and to say there was a wide range of individuals would be an understatement. There were young and old, Pentecostal and Baptist, black and white, married and divorced, straight and gay, smokers and nonsmokers.

Although things are always a little awkward around my extended family because of the whole religion/gay thing, you can imagine my surprise when one of the women I thought was the least judgmental struck up the following conversation with me after a brief group discussion about Obama.

Her: I am very conservative.

Me: No! You are probably the least conservative person in this room.

Her: No, really. I am very conservative.

Me: What makes you conservative?

Her: I don’t believe in abortion.

Me: I consider myself to be pro-choice, but I would never have one if I were female. However, I believe a woman should have access to a safe abortion if she wants one.

Her: I also don’t agree with all the gay marriage stuff.

Me: Why?

Her: Because I think we need to follow God’s plan.

Me: Do you think people are born gay?

Her: Yes.

Me: Then why shouldn’t they be allowed to marry if God made them that way?

Her: We are all born into sin. There are many different sins, but the Bible says men will leave the natural use of a woman and turn to other men.

Me: But I didn’t do that. I wasn’t attracted to women before I was gay, so I didn’t leave women and turn to men.

Her: I know, but the Bible also says he will turn people over to a reprobate mind in the end times. Brian, I believe that if you would truly get saved, Jesus would change your mind.

Me: You actually think I would become attracted to women?

Her: I believe Jesus would change your mind.

And with that, I simply stopped talking. I also declined her invitation to join several of them for dinner.

Many years ago, Maya Angelou gave some excellent advice for people who feel like they are being attacked. She said people who cut you down are trying to “kill” you by tearing you apart bit by bit. She recommends that whenever you encounter a person trying to tear you down, you simply look at them and say “Stop it.” I think there could be great power in that, and I intend to start putting it to use.

Stop pretending

There is a story in the news almost every day about homophobia. People deny tips based solely on the assumption that the person serving them is gay. Homosexuals are beaten and killed in Russia and around the world. Protestors chant “God hates fags!” outside funeral services for members of our nation’s military.

Less news-worthy instances of homophobia affect me personally. After eight years together, there is still no legal recognition of my relationship. And after eight years, most of my family members still don’t acknowledge my partner. My immediate family, in many ways, is fractured.

What’s the common denominator? Religion.

I haven’t been to church in around nine months. While discussing that fact with a friend recently, I was finally able to verbalize my feelings on the matter. What it boils down to is that almost everything negative in my life is a result of religion.

Religion separates my family. Religious zealots threaten my safety and security. Religion makes my world a less welcoming place.

While I still believe in God, I have no desire to associate myself with a denomination. My church might preach equality for everyone, but the people driving by don’t automatically realize that. If I say, “I’m a Christian” or “I go to church,” I worry that many will assume I am just like the other bigots who go around bashing those who are different.

I don’t need religion to be moral. I don’t need church in order to go to heaven (if there is one.) What I need is for people who call themselves “Christian” to at least make an effort to live up to the name. Don’t pretend you love everyone when you are so clearly filled with hate.