Thursday, July 28, 2016

Finding Happiness

"Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light."-Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Those who know me well know me to be a Potterhead; I don't know how many times I've read the books, listened to the audiobooks, or watched the movies. At one time, I had the entire series in English, Spanish, French, German, and a few other languages I had studied at one time because, well, why not? As I've begun downsizing, some of the sets have found more useful homes.

The quote above was included in a set of four prints of quotes by Professor Dumbledore which I have hung throughout my house. While all four resonate with me as I make this long and often difficult transition to my new life of whatever and wherever it leads, this one is striking a chord right now. 

I was blessed to be able to get this photograph, Ketchikan, AK
As I recently posted, life has been difficult. Life has thrown me many challenges to the point where I've begun to feel I don't matter, nor does life. I realize that is foolish, but sometimes it's a hard feeling to shake when so many changes are happening around you all at once; relationships ending, seeing your basic human rights being threatened, seeing your career under attack, wondering if your sanity will make it to retirement and the sudden death of a dear friend. Let's not forget the violence and vitriol on the news and social media. I've had a hard time remaining positive. But, as Professor Dumbledore said we can find happiness, if we remember to look for it. And that is where the difficulty lies; remembering to look when times are tough. So, I'm going to look around a bit.

Teachers, especially elementary teachers, don't often hear about the impact we make on our students' lives. Yet, I received a letter at the end of last year from a student expressing her gratitude for my recognizing her giftedness, my believing in her gifts and talents, how my encouragement as well as my recommendation of her to a National Honors program all kept her in school to graduate. She is now pursuing a career in Criminal Science. Bless her.

I took my car in for a recall, nothing serious, but a possible potential problem. As I checked my tires before taking my car in, I suspected I might need new ones, and said something to the service representative. After he did the intake on my car, he reassured me I didn't. Not yet, anyway. Bless him.

Recently, I had to repair the central air/heat system in my house. After being told it would take a week to get the part (during the hottest week of the year, so far) I resigned myself to a fate of a week of sleepless nights. To my surprise, the next morning I received a call that the exact parts I needed turned up in the neighboring city and they could install it that very same day. Bless them.

I made the decision to go solar. After a few initial steps, I received a call at 9:00 a.m. that the company was now ready to install the panels. I asked when they had available and was told they could have a crew at my house between 12:00 and 2:00 p.m. that same day! I made the decision to go ahead, quickly showered and ran a couple of quick errands fully intending to be back by 11:00 well ahead of the crew's possible arrival. When I got home, the crew was already waiting for me, an hour early! After they had left, I discovered they accidentally bumped the highly sensitive earthquake sensor on my gas main, completely shutting off the gas to my house. I called the crew leader back and asked him if they had done it and he said it was possible and offered to talk me thorough the process of resetting it. I replied I was too nervous and he then offered to have someone from his office come help me and make sure all the pilot lights were lit. After all, if his crew had done it, it was their responsibility to correct it. His words, not mine. Fifteen minutes later, he called back to say someone was on the way. Fifteen minutes or so later, one of the crew members showed up with his young son in tow, evidently having come from home. (He later explained he lives three blocks away.) He showed me how to reset the sensor, made sure I got the pilot on the water heater lit, and that the stove worked. He also apologized, and said that it was the crew's responsibility as they had probably bumped it. Both men were very pleasant, happy to help and quite professional throughout this situation. Bless them.

I later went to turn on the now repaired air conditioner and noticed a strange sound I didn't recall hearing before and with the issue of the gas main still on my mind, I recalled the heater runs on gas, and had a pilot that also needed to be lit. I also know the blower that pushes the air into the house, either from the air conditioner or heater is connected to the furnace in the attic. In my mind, if the pilot wasn't lit, the blower wouldn't work. The sound I heard reminded me of the sound of leaking gas, but I didn't smell anything. Still, I called the gas company. They had a two week wait to come check a pilot. Two weeks with no air conditioning would be too much especially in the middle of summer. I called the repair company who assured me they could come check but it would be a service call. I agreed as I wanted my air conditioning back. The representative I spoke with said he pulled some strings and could get someone to me between 12:00-2:00 p.m. that day since I was a good customer. 2:00 came and no one showed up, but I did get a call saying the technician was running late and it would be closer to 3:30. Okay, I'd wait it out, as the technician assigned to me had diagnosed the original problem so we already had a working relationship. The technician then called me and asked me to describe the problem as he really didn't want to have to charge me for a service call, after having charged me for the repairs  just the week before. He assured me I would be fine, as the blower, while connected to the furnace, runs independent of the heating unit. And there is no constantly lit gas pilot, I have an electronic ignition. Bless him and his company too.

Writers, like teachers, don't often hear about the impact our words have. Sometimes we get feedback, most times we don't. I can check the statistics page and see the global reach of my blog, and also see which posts are being viewed the most. While I write mostly for me to help organize my thoughts and emotions, I can only hope I am reaching someone somewhere and helping them through something similar. I recently received such a confirmation. A friend on social media recently shared with me how a real life friend of his enjoyed reading my blog. A while back, a different social media friend made it a point to share how much he enjoys our varied interactions and that I had helped and inspired him in many instances. Bless them all.

It is amazing how the Universe recognizes what we need and when. Now, if we only remember to look for it. And sometimes we find it in the most unusual of places.

Nature itself is such a blessing, Skagway AK

Friday, July 22, 2016

Remaining Positive


It's been very difficult to remain positive lately. 

So many things have been running through my mind, causing many emotions to run through my heart. I'm not going to belabor, yet again, a potential relationship having deteriorated. I've beaten that dead horse to a pulp many times over. 

I've tried moving on. It seems it's not even time to do that. So, I guess I won't. Or maybe there's still something I'm supposed to learn or accomplish now. Time will tell, and fucking soon, I hope.

The men I've tried chatting with have, for the most part, turned out to be phony with the exception of just a teeny-tiny handful. I thought I could go along with chatting with the phonies, knowing exactly what they were and what they were after. But, I was only kidding myself. While I wasn't getting attached to them in an emotional/romantic sense, maybe I was in a Platonic way. Or maybe the sheer number of them following the same pattern has been discouraging. Anyway, I am done.

My summer break from teaching has been a bit of a let-down. I had egregious plans of reading, writing, relaxing, traveling and accomplishing those household/life chores that needed more of my attention as I had more free time to accomplish them.

So far, I have managed to:
  • take care of things I needed to-
    • address discrepancies on my credit report;
    • made necessary appointments-financial advisor, optometrist, though I'm avoiding the dentist;
    • deep clean my house; I've yet to tackle the refrigerator and stove;
    • clean out clothes I no longer wear;
    • clean out my office to make it more creativity inducing-well, I started to;
    • service my car due to a recall;
    • replace some of the dead and dying plants in my garden.
  • take care of things I wanted to-
    • have solar panels installed;
    • have my TV mounted on the wall;
    • get out and play with my new camera-okay, I did that only once;
  • take care of things I suddenly had to-
    • repair the air conditioning (so no little day trips due to the unexpected expense);
    I have also managed (in the less productive category) to:
    • binge a couple of old TV shows;
    • start to get caught up on a film franchise I've been wanting to see;
    • become completely turned off to the idea of a relationship-again (see above);
    • become nearly completely disillusioned in humanity at large (see below);
    • become nearly engrossed in some games on my iPad.
    I have yet to crack open a book and read; shame on me, I know. Or sit down and write a plethora of pages on either of my novels. 

    Something else running through my mind/heart is wondering if my sanity will make it through to my projected retirement date of 2020. It is just four years away. But it is still four years of teaching, parents, grades, report cards, conferences, professional development, students and continued attacks on teachers. I am seriously beginning to doubt I will last. Yet, can I afford to retire early? No. I may just have to leap and pray the net will appear.

    The massacre in the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida and the murders of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, the police officers of Dallas, Texas and Baton Rouge, Louisiana as well as all the other attacks around the world have taken a very heavy toll on me. The vehemently venomous vocalizations around this election have also been challenging to listen to and read. As well as the anti-LGBTQ hatred spewing forth from some candidates and their party.

    Maybe its all piled up and hit me so hard because I've been in such an emotional confusion over the directions my life is taking, or seems to be moving in. Or maybe because my empathy is becoming stronger. So much stronger I have semi-jokingly told two people I want to move.

    Far away.

    Very far.

    Like Mars.

    Or at least a cabin in the woods. Alone.

    But, that would solve nothing, as it would all still be in my head. And if society did turn itself around, I would not be aware of it.

    Sometimes things get darkest before the dawn.

    There's always a day after every night.

    A light at the end of the tunnel.

    Can we please just get there?? And soon, please??? 

    It's becoming increasingly difficult to remain positive.

    Or, at a minimum, very overwhelmed...

    Monday, June 6, 2016

    Moving forward

    Letting go and moving on is hard.

    Especially when the love is still there.

    And especially when the connection is was extremely deep.

    And even more so when he still haunts you, because you focus on why you should be together instead of why you aren't.

    And when guys you meet just don't come up to the standard he has now set which, admittedly, will be nearly impossible to surpass.

    Nor do they touch my soul the way he did.

    Pathway, Franklin Canyon
    I guess I just need to try harder to focus on the last thing he said to me, "I'm just not ready."

    Which leaves me in limbo, because he may never be ready for a relationship with me. Or if he ever decides he is ready, will he have the courage to find me?

    And will I then have the courage to trust him?

    I could just allow life and time to take their course and see what happens.

    And as long as I'm true to myself, I see no harm in that.

    In fact, I see it as healthy.

    But, I also struggle with the other question: if no one meets the very high standard he has now set, will I be settling for someone just to be with someone? Yes, I know each relationship is different, because each person is different, and each set of people interacts differently based on numerous factors; age, past histories, upbringing, self-image, ethnicity, national origin- and the list goes on.

    But, as a human, it's only natural to question and wonder.

    And if I move on, and if I meet someone, and if I start something, and then he comes back, what then?

    I'll just have to cross that bridge...if I get to it.

    Bridge, Sepulveda Wildlife Refuge

    Saturday, May 21, 2016

    Online Adventures

    Online chatting is becoming interesting.

    I've noticed a pattern among those responding to my profile. They seem to fall into a few groups:
    1. Men who are horny and say so in the first few messages;
    2. Men, mostly from Asian countries, who are seeking a boyfriend/husband and say so in the first few messages;
    3. Men whose picture doesn't match their description in their profile who are seeking a long term relationship and say so either in their profile or their first few messages;
    4. Men who just want to chat and maybe see where things go.
    The first group is self-explanatory.
    • Him: "Hi, horny?"
    • Me: "Nope"
    And that's it. Though sometimes they come back and try again. And strike out again. And, once in a while, I see them on my "Recent Visitors" page...like the men who keep circling in the bar, hoping for a different answer the third or fourth time they ask.

    The second group seems to be comprised mostly of Asian men, primarily from the Philippines, India or SE Asia, who are seeking love/or a long term relationship and are quite direct in saying so:
    • Him: "Are you looking for love or an LTR (Long Term Relationship)?"
    • Me: "No"
    • Him: "Would you take me for a husband?"
    • Me: "If I'm not looking for an LTR, why would I want a husband?"
    • Him: "Okay, bye"
    And some are quite determined.
    • Him: "But, I know I'm the right man for you!"
    • Me: "And how exactly do you know you're the right man for me?"
    • Him: "Because I can make you happy!"
    • Me, thinking: (and you know that because we've been chatting for all of three minutes, yeah, right.)
    Two weeks later they message me, "I miss you," like the one night stand who won't go away.

    Um, yeah, okay.

    The third group is interesting. I'm really beginning to spot them right away. For example:
    • The physical description does not match with the picture; Eye color: Brown (yet, in the picture they're blue or some color other than brown.) Or, they say no facial hair while they sport a full beard in the picture; or they don't have tattoos while the arms in the picture are covered with them. (Not the sharpest pencils in the box.)
    • The ethnic description does not match with the picture; Yes, I know I am generalizing or stereotyping, but some times things just don't add up. The ethnicity says "Middle Eastern" and the picture is of a blond haired blue eyed man? Perhaps, but my guard will be up. 
    • The description of what they're looking for is too damn perfect. E.g., "I am an honest, caring and reliable man. I am also a good listener and I seek a loving man that shares these same qualities. I believe a relationship is built on the loving foundation of trust, appreciation and mutual respect." Or this, my personal favorite: "I want a man who can handle me like the tender fragile egg that I am. I love from the depths of my heart and soul." And you are 25? Yeah, right.
    • The photo is of a man in a military uniform. And for some reason, they are all mechanical engineers stationed in Afghanistan, ending their tour of duty in the next six months and are absolutely sure they are the right man for me, and why wouldn't I want a military man. And they tell me all this in about five to six messages.
    • Their English is not quite correct enough.
    • They usually only post one picture.
    • And after a few chats, it hits; they all need money.
    These are the hustlers in the bar scene.

    Buh-bye.

    It's the fourth group that has been the most interesting. And sadly, the smallest. But, definitely the healthiest men in the bar.

    Me, on an Alaskan adventure
    I have met some genuinely nice men who simply want to chat. There has been no mention of sex. I have had some deep spiritual discussions with a Native American man, several compliments on my Spanish from a Peruvian, a Colombian, a Mexican and a very cute Chilean. A couple of men were interested in my writing or photography and inquired about my work, and a few retired teachers have asked how the profession has changed. One immense drawback, none of them are local. Well, one is; and he may turn into a writing buddy. 

    Several friendly chats have started off nicely, yet have gone nowhere. They would start off in general conversation, but then we seem to miss each other. I guess the idea of chatting is to do it live, rather than leaving a message. Maybe live chatting is more important with gay men in case the messaging takes a, um, more, um, discreet turn. I don't know.

    A couple of these men have led to the foundation of a nice friendship, however geographically challenging it might be. One even virtually held my hand while I was in Urgent Care for a recent appendicitis scare. (Turned out to be a torn, overworked muscle, but in the general area of my appendix. Better safe than sorry...and I'm grateful he was "there" when in reality he was about 250 miles away.)

    Yet, whatever direction any of these conversations take, it will all be one new adventure.






    Saturday, May 14, 2016

    Catfishing Questions

    Catfishing, according to UrbanDictionary.com, is "The phenomenon of internet predators that fabricate online identities and entire social circles to trick people into emotional/romantic relationships (over a long period of time)." Possible motivations for catfishing are: revenge, loneliness, curiosity, boredom.

    I've recently discussed the idea that people only say what we want others to hear. Following that idea, I'm also suggesting we hear only what we want to hear, but maybe up to a point. And both ideas together are ripe for catfishing or falling prey to one.

    I've also discussed my recent online chatting adventures and that one man in particular seemed to have expressed more of an interest in me. And I in him. And now, based on the ideas above, some questions have come up to start me questioning his behavior.

    But, first, what are the signs of a catfisher? According to SocialCatfish.com, there are twelve signs:
    1. They appear too good to be true.
    2. They get too serious too soon, or they appear to care too much too fast.
    3. They have very broad interests that could apply to anyone.
    4. They don't know what Skype or FaceTime is, how to use either, or seem to avoid it.
    5. They travel excessively for business, especially to the Middle East or Africa, usually under the guise of being a contractor or an engineer.
    6. They ask for money too soon.
    7. They initiate contact via email or chat, as opposed to a social medium, to start a relationship or romance.
    8. They have bad grammar, as if English is their second language.
    9. They have pictures of friends on their profile that are not in their list of friends, or those who comment are not their friends or seem to not know them.
    10. They look like they could be a model or someone famous.
    11. They seem unattainable, far-fetched, or unwilling to meet in person.
    12. Something just doesn't add up.
    Any one sign by itself does not necessarily constitute a catfisher, but the more there are, caution is advisable.

    As a disclaimer, this guy and I have been chatting on and off for just about a month. So, some of what I may suspect is still very superficial at this time. But, I'm going through the points above. I'll skip number one as it seems more summative.

    Point 2: He didn't seem to get too serious too soon, but did express his concern for me over a couple of rough days I had. We also spent several hours chatting the first couple of days, focusing on how much we enjoyed chatting. And after a few more chats, seemed to suggest we'd be a good match.

    Point 3: It seems a bit early to know his interests. But what I do know seem broad; reading, gardening, painting art.

    Point 4: Here he is guilty on not using Skype, but is curious about FaceTime. 

    Point 5: I would hardly call one trip (that I know of) excessive. And it was to Toronto, Canada. (As far as I know). And he's not a contractor nor an engineer.

    Point 6: He has not asked for a dime, so far.

    Point 7: Well, we connected via a social medium many gay men use for romance, relationships or just hooking up, whether in person or sexting. 

    Point 8: Nope, so far perfect grammar, except for typos which he corrects.

    Point 9: Not applicable, as this site is not Facebook-like in that you can't post pictures of you with friends. And only on the website, not the app, can I stalk see who his friends are.

    Point 10: Yes, he is very handsome, and sexy. Not sure I'd see him modeling.

    Point 11: This is possible, as we chat daily for a few days, then a few without. Again, it's still a fairly short time that we have been conversing, and he owes me nothing at this time, nor do I owe him any explanation. But, still something to keep my eye on.

    Point 12: As he's told me he was badly hurt by a romance before, he might be running scared, which could explain the on-again/off-again chatting. He's opening up slowly, as he told me he was, and then taking a breather. Or, it's his way of keeping me guessing. So, I can see both sides of the coin-not always an advantage. 

    So, the points somewhat in his favor seem to be Nos: 5, 6, 8.

    Points decidedly against: 4, 11.

    The rest are a draw: 3, 7, 9, 10, 12. 

    So, it's all inconclusive, and partly because it's still too early.

    Which means the only path to find the truth is to continue to move forward. I'll stay the course and focus on his actual behavior-and push for a bit of video chatting. And soon.

    I'll be comforted by the Buddhist saying, "Only three things can never remain hidden for long; the sun, the moon and the truth." 
    And just maybe, he might be a needle in a haystack.

    Sunday, May 8, 2016

    Huh?

    I am not sure I heard what I think I just heard.

    A colleague just wished her most profound hope for me.

    She hopes I can get to a point where I entertain the thought of exploring a relationship with the possibility of getting married again.

    WTF?

    What was that? Did I hear you right?

    You hope I will get married again.

    I see.

    But a few years ago, you said with heartfelt conviction, as you pointed heavenward, you believed marriage was a God-given sacrament reserved for one man and one woman.

    And now you are hoping I will entertain the thought of a relationship with the possibility of getting married again.

    To another man.

    I am floored.

    Deeply touched, honored and moved; yet floored.

    We had been discussing the end-of-schoolyear frustrations when we segued into our end-of-career aspirations. I explained that, due to my personal post-divorce financial collapse, my financial adviser suggested I not retire due to my soon-to-be-fixed income and projected inflation rates, unless I found another source of income. My colleague, who I should say is recently married, suggested (for about the umpteenth time)that I get a roommate, "you have such a big house, and don't you live near a college?"

    The thought of someone I don't know in my house when I'm not there was enough to send shivers down my spine and I told her so. And I was visibly upset as well, as I literally shivered as I explained myself. Yes, literally.

    Then she expressed her hope. And it took a minute or two to realize I heard her use the 'm' word, "married."

    About four years ago, when the topic of same-sex marriage came up, she went ballistic and expressed her very religious convictions about marriage being reserved by God for one man/one woman. This astounded me as she had always been on my side once she'd heard of my divorce; "You're too good for him", "He doesn't deserve you", "You have a lot to offer the right guy".  Once, she even told me she dreamed I brought my very handsome, also-writer husband to a staff retreat. She would occasionally ask if I was seeing anyone and I would confide in her I had several issues to overcome before I felt comfortable entering the shark-infested gay dating pool. And yet, her recent use of the 'm' word, in regards to her hope for me, signaled a very big change from the last time we'd discussed the topic of same-sex marriage. I remember those earlier comments, and then her follow-up, "It's nothing personal." And my retort, "You just made it personal" as I stormed off to my classroom to prepare for the day ahead just as the office manager had entered the room due to our raised voices. 

    And now she hopes I will entertain the thought of marrying again.

    I'm deeply touched. 

    I guess attitudes can change.

    And sometimes we may never know why, or what caused them to change.

    And I guess that's okay.

    Sunday, May 1, 2016

    Haunted

    Some words recently came back to haunt me. 

    Kind of.

    I was sharing my recent heartbreak over the ending of my relationship with my young friend, when a friend offered this unsolicited piece of insight: "I think he's only saying what he wants you to hear."

    And yet behind those words, I heard, "Don't you realize he's only playing you?"

    Seriously? 

    And that was my initial reaction. After a few weeks, okay months, of reflection, I have come to believe that is what we all do in the majority of our conversations. We say only what we want/believe the others to hear.  I teach my students what they need to know for that lesson, only what I want them to hear. I share details with friends about my life, but only what I want them to hear; certain friends get certain details depending on our type of relationship and where it is at the moment.

    Which takes me back to my friend; she, too, only told me what she wanted me to hear, as well. Or, perhaps I am projecting. But, what else could she be thinking? 

    As I have begun to anticipate the possibility, no, the probability of re-entering the gay dating pool at some future point, these very words from my friend came back to reverberate throughout my mind. They became a giant caution sign. Almost a nuclear warning sign. Any guy is only going to tell me what he wants me to hear; all the good stuff. That makes sense, who would lead with his faults? Bad habits? Tell me what he doesn't like about me?

    It's the other kinds of comments that make me freeze up and wonder: "You're very sexy", "I always play safe", "I think we'd be good together."  It could be he is being sincere. It could be otherwise, only to get what he wants. 

    It will only take time.

    And my gut instinct.