Friday, April 29, 2011

Create Joy

I looked around a room of 20 women this morning - all gathered early for a Royal Wedding party - and realized how important it is to create simple joy. We wore hats for our own "royal" picture. Hats have become a humorous symbol of several groups of women I know recently. And perhaps the hats symbolize a simple embracing of fun and the creation of joy - a lifting of spirits for no other reason than to lift spirits.
A group of American women gathered in the wee hours of the morning to watch a Royal Wedding. To me, these were no ordinary women and it wasn't about watching a royal wedding. It's was about a reason to get together for a created special purpose. One with no agenda at all except getting together to comment on hats, the young couple, the pomp and have some coffee and crumpets.
I'm part of a facebook group of women who have been doing these kinds of events for over a year now. No one is in charge. Anyone who wants posts an event and whomever can come will come. Sometimes it's coffee in the morning. Sometimes it's an outing. Sometimes it's a birthday celebration. Sometimes a movie night. Always it is a creation of joy. We are building strong bonds as we get to know each other - with no agenda except to create and share joy.
I am learning from these strong women that joy is mine. But it is sweetest when it is shared with as many as possible. I am also learning that no one can steal our joy without our consent. So, don't consent!
If you are reading this and thinking 'it all sounds like a lot of silliness to me', you are right. And that is what makes it so wonderful. It's art. It's playtime. It's getting together for no other purpose than the fun of it.
Why is play time so important for children? Because they learn how to get along with others. From what I've been seeing in the news, on the internet, and on TV, I think we adults need to find a way to get along with others. Play time might just do it.
Over the past year it sure has helped me to see the human side of people I may never have gotten to know otherwise. If you would have asked me a few years ago if I would see myself getting up in the wee hours of the morning to watch a royal wedding with a group of women - some I barely know - I'd have laughed and said 'think not'.
I did. I loved it. I wore a hat. I've smiled all day about it. Simple joy.
Thank you Sonja - our special royal mayor.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Humor and Creativity

I am so thankful to be surrounded by people who have a great sense of humor and are full of creativity. If you don't have someone near you every day who makes you laugh - change that. If nothing else, become the one who makes yourself laugh. It is the healthiest thing we can do for one another.
It's not laughter at the expense of anyone else. That is not healthy. It's laughter about life. Finding humor in situations. Teasing each other into seeing our funnier selves. Seeking opportunity to create funny occasions out of any possible event. I so admire that in people and can quickly jump on board.
Laughter creates an energy of its own. It's renewing and refreshing. It's positive. It's uplifting and it's unselfish. Simple pleasure.
Work can be a stressful environment. I work with great guys who will find a way to make me laugh no matter what. How good is that!
I have great friends who love to laugh and they easily find humor around us. All of these people have one thing in common - they give to life. They believe life is a creation and they believe they can create something bigger than themselves. That bigger thing may be as simple as a better day for the person beside them but to me that is VERY big.
If every one of us could do just that - make a better day for the person beside us - how good could that be! It's happening beside me. Make it happen beside you!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


I just read about the transformation of Louis J. Marinelli.

There are many layers to this story that stand out for me. First, LGBT people and allies kept showing up and kept talking. They were successful in presenting themselves in a way that reached Louis. It took time. I'm sure some contact with the LGBT community was quite confrontational but enough was patient and specifically addressed his position in a way that helped him see that his position was NOT one of compassion or reason.
We are not going to change hearts and minds overnight. But we need to keep patiently talking and showing up. I believe respectfully showing up, patiently questioning and carefully speaking truth will make a difference. It takes time. It's not easy.
Hearts and minds are changing dramatically - seemingly overnight - EVEN in Venango County.
The LGBT community is no longer silent and invisible. Openly gay people are serving in leadership roles all around the community - at the hospital, the university, on boards and in elected political positions. It seemingly happened overnight - right here in Venango County.
Why? Anger, division and lack of compassion get very old after a while. It drives people away. Venango County churches have seen the results in dwindling numbers. It doesn't lift anyone's spirits to be stepping on others.
My friends have recently encouraged me to visit churches with them. THIS was a tall request. I know about the petitions that circulated the Venango County church community that directly attacked me and my friends. One of my friends was forced out of the clergy because she openly declared her love for another woman. I have not felt safe or comfortable in a church for decades.
With great resistance, I have gone. Three churches now - I'm beginning to calm down a bit. There's no doubt that 90% of the church community knows who I am so if they accept or reject me, it is about who they think I am. Most don't really know me, of course. They just know what they have been told.
I am experiencing my own personal transformation. I'll likely have a lot more to say about this excursion into the Venango County church community. I'm told we will be visiting many churches and as this is evolving, I am enjoying the experience more.
Having been far from the traditional church for decades, my spiritual and religious beliefs are VERY far from traditional. However, I have often missed the feeling of a church family. I also love discussing philosophy and hearing messages that make me think about the human condition. Going with friends that I love and trust, who also love to discuss afterwards, is turning into a real joy.
So, how were these church visits? I will say overwhelmingly positive. Now that I am embracing the experience, I need to think about what my criteria are for finding a spiritual home base. And maybe it would be valuable for me to write about the experience. There must be others like me in Venango County desiring a spiritual home. If things are going to change, we need to be there. And I am beginning to believe, there are more welcoming churches here and churches in transition toward becoming more welcoming. If you agree - Say Amen!

Friday, April 1, 2011

It Gets Better

Previously I posted about producing an "It Gets Better" video for Venango County. Since then a number of people have agreed to be interviewed. And last Saturday, I met Cale who responded to my post. He is a Venango County native now attending Slippery Rock University; my alma mater.
He's a very thoughtful, bright young man and his interview reflects it. I so appreciate his reaching out and taking time to talk. It reminded me of how important it is to hear one another's stories.
One of his comments has resonated this week. It was about how important straight allies are and how often they will quietly say they are with us, then follow with a comment that they know many are not. Polls across the country - and I wager Cale's and my own experience - are telling us otherwise. Many are allies. Many believe in varying degrees of equality and many are actually beginning to feel safe to say so.
Just 5 or 6 years ago, I did not know what Cale knows now. He is experiencing acceptance as an openly gay man. He's in a fraternity and can take a boyfriend to events. He has simply opened up and stood tall. I admire him so and am excited to know about his experience.
Finding his way - getting comfortable with himself - came after he left Venango County.
That also resonates with me. Part of that is simply growing up. But part of that is finding safe spaces that are not readily available in Venango County. He noted PFLAG as the first place he found safe space. We have no PFLAG here. And not long ago, I had a friend seek my help in finding a support group for a friend of his struggling with coming out. I could only refer him to PFLAG elsewhere.
So what about Venango County now? Are there allies? Emphatically, I can say YES. I am surrounded by them. Wonderful friends who have let me know that they accept me for who I am - for my heart - for my talents - for my ethics - and value whom I choose to love. I hope some of them will offer words of encouragement for Venango County LGBT people who may not have learned that they are out there and do believe we are equally able - equally qualified to have all rights in our community.
We just need to talk. We need to build trust. We need to work side by side. We need to build understanding. Cale and my allies remind me that it is here. Silence is being broken in Venango County. Breaking the silence is breaking misunderstandings. We have work to do together. It is Better - It Gets Better the more we work together. Tell your story. Be part of a positive change.