Saturday, March 31, 2012


Hush little baby, gotta be strong
'Cause in this world we are born to fight
Be the best, prove them wrong
A winner's work is never done
Reach the top, number one

Cher recorded this song, Perfection, on her self-titled 1987 comeback album. It resonates deeply with me for I am a perfectionist. And that torments me. 
Why am I such a perfectionist? I don't know, and until I know why, I can't completely let go of it. Maybe if I had been more perfect as a child, my parents wouldn't have divorced. But, I have come to accept that their divorce was inevitable, and not my fault. My stepfather was such a perfectionist himself, he demanded it from us as well. Yet, I could never please him. I was identified as gifted in elementary school and perfectionism is an innate trait in many gifted individuals. So, maybe I was just born this way. Or, maybe it's a combination of all of the above. I have been working on it, especially in areas where I am comfortable letting go. But in areas new to me, it has become a frustrating battle.
I love each of my photographs below, yet I can find an imperfection in each. 

Stairwell, San Vicente Lighthouse, San Pedro, CA
 I wish the staircase bled more out of the frame.

Lens, San Vicente Lighthouse, San Pedro, CA
 The bolt in the middle of the frame bothers me.

Chimney, Greystone Mansion, Beverly Hills, CA

Maybe there's too much of the tree?

In my photography, I have learned to adjust my shots based on the imperfections. But often I don't see the flaws until I am home, viewing the shots on a larger screen. So later, when I am in a similar situation, I try to remember the lesson.

As I venture more into writing, my perfectionism is rearing it's ugly head. I haven't had a class in creative writing beyond freshman English, I haven't studied the structure of a novel or short story since college, and I've never had professional reviews of my complete novel until now. Maybe self-doubts are common in beginning writers. Makes sense to me.

I am happy with my novel. Is it perfect? No. I will always second guess some parts of it, but am I being too critical? Maybe. Okay, very possibly. After all this is my first one, and I am taking on a new direction in life, and it's confusingfrighteningandexciting, all at once. That's a lot to adjust to.

Culmination (sixth grade graduation) is fast approaching. My colleagues and I have asked our graduates to come up with a personal motto; a slogan for their life, where they've been and where they see themselves going.  One student's motto had to do with battles. I wasn't sure if he was speaking about physical battles, or emotional ones, so I asked. He said he meant the ones between the head and the heart.

So, this is one of my battles between head and heart; overcoming my perfectionism. In the photos above, I love the shading of the first one, the interplay between light and dark, and the staircase itself. In the second one, the lens was spinning, so I did the best I could at the moment, and the prism effects are amazing. The tree gives just enough of a mysterious feel to the house in the last one.

Yet, in my 'love life' I won't sacrifice my perfectionism. I mean, he doesn't have to be a perfect man (no one is), I'm just not going to settle for less than what I am worth. Again. I know what I am looking for, now I'm just waiting to meet him.

So, back to my writing, maybe it's not really perfectionism, perhaps I just need to build confidence as I begin something new. And trust those who know what they are talking about.

And let go of the past. (That should be my motto.)

Monday, March 26, 2012


San Fernando Mission, San Fernando CA

I love photos like these. Photos where your eye seems to be drawn to a specific point in the shot by the various lines the picture. These are the lines of perspective.

I had a bad day yesterday.

I love taking showers, but I hate them at the same time. As the warm water relaxes my head and body, it also relaxes my mind, causing it to wander, sometimes too far. And that's exactly what happened.

In the year and a half since my ex announced he wanted a divorce, I have made a lot of personal growth. I have acknowledged my strengths and owned them. I have accepted my weaknesses and worked on them. I have admitted to self-esteem issues and have begun to take them on. I have started on another path in my life and have realized that it scares me.  I have come to believe the Universe will bring me another husband, and I accept that it will happen in time when the Universe believes I am ready, not when I want it to happen.

San Fernando Mission, San Fernando CA

But as the warm pulsating water cascaded over my body and my mind wandered,  I began to doubt myself. Was all of this mere lip service? Was I saying all of this to my friends and readers just to save face?

The answer was 'yes'. I didn't really believe all that I was saying. I didn't really believe in myself. I would remain a confirmed old bachelor the rest of my life. At that moment, I wanted to dry myself off and crawl back into bed.

But I didn't. Crawl back into bed, I mean. I had my novel to edit, and errands to run. So, I dried myself off, and started on my day.

San Fernando Mission, San Fernando CA

As I went through my day of errands and editing (and playing with my four-legged kids) the fatigue and malaise were overwhelming. I couldn't seem to get myself going. Yet I persevered and accomplished everything I needed. Then it dawned on me why I was so exhausted. It was the last few weeks at work.

I had just finished Parent/Student/Teacher conference week!! And that meant grades were due the week before! Which meant I had to finish grading and entering all student work before that! And we were testing all second graders for possible gifted identification that same week, and as the GATE coordinator I had to prepare all the tests, and in-service the teachers on top of teaching all day. (I do get a stipend for this extra job, so there is some benefit. Well, this year at least.)

Plus, it's Spring and the students' hormones are kicking in. And the parents were disappointed in their grades. And I had to share with two families about possible emotional issues with their child. And I had to suspend a student.

No wonder I was doubting myself; I was physically and mentally exhausted. And that's what altered my lines of perspective. My exhaustion. God, I need Spring Break.

And today, after a decent night's sleep, though still still tired from last week, my perspective has indeed shifted back into place. I DO believe in fairies. Oh, wait, that's a line from "Peter Pan."

Yes, I do believe in myself again. I'll just need to keep my lines of perspective in check.

And get plenty of rest.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Six Sentence Sunday 3/25/12

Six more sentences from my upcoming novel:

“Where do you think you will go?” she inquired.
“I’ve no idea; he said he would get back to me.”
“Paul, I am so happy for you.”
“Gina, we’re only going for dinner;  we’re not getting married, or moving in together.”
“I know, but it’s a first step,” she said, cradling my hand in hers.
It was a very scary first step, but also one I wanted; no, I needed to take.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

A Night Out

A couple of weeks ago I went out. I needed to get out of the house and with a very nice tax return I felt I could afford it and I was long overdue for a night out. An artist whose work I have recently begun to admire was participating in a show in Long Beach, California and I wanted to go,  possibly to purchase a piece of his art to slowly begin to make my house mine. I invited a colleague of mine to come along for a couple of reasons: she needed a night out as much as I did; I wanted  her to see this artist's work; and hell, we'd just have a good time together.

We arrived at the gallery, a small performance space in Long Beach and went in. There were about eight or nine artists showing their work and we took our time admiring the various works and styles, including paintings, sketches, and photographs.

After about two hours, we felt we had finished with the showing, and as it was still early in the evening I suggested we go to a gay bar I knew in Long Beach. On arriving at the bar, a banner over the entrance declared it to be Bear Night. My friend was curious as to why they were promoting bears. I endeavored to explain to her what 'bear' meant in gayspeak, and then proceeded to explain 'cub', 'otter', 'wolf', 'chicken' and 'chicken hawk.' I was more familiar with 'bear', 'cub', 'chicken' and 'chicken hawk' as they were the more commonly used words when I was first out, and I did my best to enlighten her as the others were newer terms to me, having been out of circulation for so long and not remembering hearing them back when I was first gaily single and available, some twenty-six years ago.

We found a small table and a couple of short stools, more like ottomans, and sat down. As it was still early, there were only a few patrons in the bar. The others were also mostly mixed couples; women together with  men of questionable orientation. As the evening wore on, the crowd slowly increased and eventually we were sharing our table with others.

The first to join us was a male pair. I say 'pair' as they made it very clear they weren't doing each other. (Those weren't their exact words, but as this is a family blog, I won't quote them.) Even they were amazed they were friends as Noo Yawk had just moved here from NY a few months ago and Jersey, was born in New Jersey but his family moved here when he was a few months old, and they both were quick to point out most New Yorkers look down on New Jerseyites and vice versa. I never did find out how they knew each other.

My friend is a talker. She loves to talk to and meet new people and Noo Yawk and Jersey were easy prey for her as both were already under the influence, though of different substances; one liquid, one herbal. She soon had the run down on which bars in Long Beach were happening and which were boring, on that night anyway and what each of them was looking for that night. 

Noo Yawk wanted a "drive-by." I'm thinking sex with guns, because in my school's neighborhood a drive-by means gang shooting from a moving car, so duck and take cover. But evidently, in the new gayspeak, a "drive-by" is a one-night stand without talking; no names, no questions, no breakfast in the morning. Just doing it. Jersey was at least up for breakfast in the morning, but was more concerned about whether two gay men could have a bromance and proceeded to show us every picture on his smartphone of his intended, who was home watching television. NooYawk and Jersey soon left to check out the dance floor, patio and upstairs lounge.

One of the ottomans was briefly occupied by a man who seemed to be waiting to take off again, like a bird in flight, migrating around the club. Before we could initiate any conversation, he flew away.

Our next resident guest, Zoomba, arrived about thirty minutes later, seating himself right down announcing, "Oh, I just love to people watch, and I've been watching you two watching others. Now let's set the record straight. I'm gay and you are straight?" He said, pointing to my friend. She acknowledged. "And you're gay." He indicated me. I agreed. "I just love dancing, oh don't get me wrong I'm not here to pick up anybody I already have a partner and I am here just to meet friends and dance with guys but I always go home to my partner. Maybe some night we can all go dancing where do you live and what do you do?" And only then he took a breath. When we told him we both teach and where we lived, "Oh, my God, this is a miracle, I work with kids, too. This was just meant to be. Divine Intervention. We were so meant to meet. I have to go pee and then I'll give you my number and maybe we can all go dancing some night. I'll drive an hour and a half up to the Valley!" I deleted his number when I got home.

Perch migrated back to us shortly after Zoomba returned to the upstairs dance floor where the friends he had just met were awaiting his return. (An entr'acte?) Just as Zoomba had the energy to match his profession, Zoomba instructor/day care worker, Perch's energy also fit his profession, sales clerk and part time reader in a psychic book store. He enlightened us with his specialty, the Buddhist Tarot. I thought the Tarot was the Tarot. I didn't realize the Buddha had developed one as well.  While he didn't read for us at the bar, he did try to explain why that particular Tarot had appealed to him and what his life's energies were. And for the life of me I simply can't recall what it was. Or maybe the music was just too loud for it to have made an impression. Or maybe it was just something else....just can't put my finger on it.

By now it was late and I had my four legged children to tend to, so we left.

Well, at least I got out of the house, saw some intriguing art, and my friend and I were entertained by some interesting men. And the next time I hear of a drive by, I'll check to see if LAPD was involved and how the handcuffs were used.

Oh, I never did meet that artist, nor buy a piece of his work, yet.

And I learned that bars can be merely a source of entertainment, or a good source for future characters.

All in all, a great night out!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Six Sentence Sunday 3/18/2012

 I have a couple of writer friends who participate in Six Sentence Sunday, a writing exercise to stretch the writer's brain and tease the reader's eyes. I have decided from time to time I will participate when possible. I have taken the first few sentences from my forthcoming novel, When Love Calls Your Name, and edited them into the requisite six. I hope you enjoy it.

Chaos theory states that something as inconsequential as a butterfly flapping its wing in South America could ultimately cause large-scale events, possibly even a hurricane in China.

I had heard of the so-called Butterfly Effect; Ray Bradbury described it in A Sound of Thunder, and Ashton Kutcher even starred in a movie entitled The Butterfly Effect yet I never expected to experience it myself.
My “butterfly” arrived in the form of an envelope from the Superior Court telling me I had been assigned to the courthouse in San Fernando, about 25 minutes from my home in Lake Balboa, a small community in the San Fernando Valley, north of downtown Los Angeles. However much I disliked jury duty, I was resigned to my fate, and  had postponed the inevitable until winter recess from school and now I had to serve.  I called in to register like a good boy, and then waited until the day I had to call in to see if I needed to report.  Damn, I did have to go in on Monday.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

I'm sexy....

San Vicente Lighthouse, Rancho Palos Verdes, CA  March 2012
Or so I've been told. Yet, I don't think I am. Women and gay men both tell me I am, but I have a difficult time believing them.

I've also been told I am a wonderful teacher. But, again, I don't see it. My students don't do well on the prescribed tests, but they do give back the information I teach when they have a say in how they are to present the information. But, the district, state and federal governments want mind-numbing bubble-filling tests which I have to administer on the District's timeline, not necessarily when the students are ready. And they judge my effectiveness as a teacher solely on the results of the tests.

I have been told by others my writing here in this blog is good and powerful. But, it's words on a page to me. I'm just sharing my journey through this transition in my life right now. It helps me understand myself and some of the emotional demons I'm confronting. And if someone else can benefit, all the better.

I am on the verge of a new stage in my life, a new direction. One I never had seriously considered; a published author. I'm nervous, a bit scared, yet excited.  About three years ago, I had a dream I remembered. I RARELY remember them. I may awaken with an inkling that possibly I may have dreamed something. But, that morning back in 2008, I woke clearly remembering this dream from start to finish. "What a great story this would make!" And I decided to write it right then. Over 68,000 words and 130-some pages later, I had a rough novel. But, no plans to do anything with it. I didn't think it was good enough that anyone else would want to read it, let alone pay for it. Yet in the back of my mind, I thought "What if..? How would I go about it?" I was at a loss as how to proceed.

And now, it will be published. I had no idea it was that good. I didn't consciously write it to publish, but I thought, why not? A couple of friends read it and liked it. Other stories began bubbling around in my head, aching to get out. I started putting some of those ideas down on paper, but came to some blocks and never continued.  I read somewhere that's because I don't believe in the story; I don't trust myself as a writer. Maybe that's true. I've never had a creative writing class. I don't know how to organize a story, how to develop my characters, how to captivate my readers. My full novel has never had any professional editing, until now. A couple of professionals had read the first 20 pages or so for free. And they liked what they read. One even gave me some constructive advice. Okay, I had some encouragement. My current editor referred to my full novel as "a big, beautiful glass bubble." And it "unfolds like a flower, or a dream." Yet it still feels rough to me. But she doesn't believe I should change anything. Seriously?

Still, I am overwhelmed they liked it, which brings me back to my original point; why are we so reluctant to believe the positive in ourselves? Why are we our own harshest critics? Why do we doubt ourselves?

I think for many of us, and LGBTQ people in particular, we grow up in a very negative atmosphere of self-loathing and self-deprecation.  We are bullied, tormented, harassed, beaten and sometimes worse, during our formative years.  As much of a thick skin we try to cultivate, some of the damage does get through. Even though we try to repair much of the damage through counseling, or some other means, the foundation of our self-esteem may still remain weakened. We may still end up with a negative self-image, one which is very hard to overcome.

Or, we may assume we are responsible for a traumatic childhood event. We caused our parents to divorce, or maybe even, a death in the family. We internalize our responsibility. As adults we can rationalize and ultimately accept that we were not responsible, but has our inner child let go of the guilt? Maybe not. So we can carry that guilt forward without really learning to be completely free.

We must learn to seek out what supports us. The Universe has presented me with this opportunity to add this layer onto my life and résumé, for which I am very grateful. So, I choose to surrender to the Universe's direction and trust in what is happening. If the Universe believes I am ready for this step, I must take it and learn to let go of the self-doubt and believe in the professionals. It's not easy to do, but very necessary for a healthy and productive life.

And if my students and their parents tell me I'm wonderful, I must accept it, as long as I believe I am doing my best. 

And when I meet that one special man who finds me as sexy as I find him, I'll just take his word for it.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Time, Frogs, a Prince and a Parable

One day, an expert in time management was speaking to a group of business students and, to drive home a point, used an illustration those students will never forget. As he stood in front of the group of high-powered over-achievers he said, "Okay, time for a quiz" and he pulled out a one-gallon, wide-mouth mason jar and set it on the table in front of him. He also produced about a dozen fist-sized rocks and carefully placed them, one at a time, into the jar. When the jar was filled to the top and no more rocks would fit inside, he asked, "Is this jar full?" Everyone in the class yelled, "Yes." The time management expert replied, "Really?" He reached under the table and pulled out a bucket of gravel. He dumped some gravel in and shook the jar causing pieces of gravel to work themselves down into the spaces between the big rocks. He then asked the group once more, "Is the jar full?" By this time the class was on to him. "Probably not," one of them answered. "Good!" he replied. He reached under the table and brought out a bucket of sand. He started dumping the sand in the jar and it went into all of the spaces left between the rocks and the gravel. Once more he asked the question, "Is this jar full?" "No!" the class shouted. Once again he said, "Good." Then he grabbed a pitcher of water and began to pour it in until the jar was filled to the brim. Then he looked at the class and asked, "What is the point of this illustration?" One eager student raised his hand and said, "The point is, no matter how full your schedule is, if you try really hard you can always fit some more things in it!" "No," the speaker replied, "that's not the point. The truth this illustration teaches us is, "If you don't put the big rocks in first, you'll never get them in at all. What are the 'big rocks' in your life, time with loved ones, your faith, your education, your dreams, a worthy cause, teaching or mentoring others? Remember to put these BIG ROCKS in first or you'll never get them in at all. So, tonight, or in the morning, when you are reflecting on this short story, ask yourself this question, "What are the 'big rocks' in my life?" Then, put those in your jar first.

As I look at my life post-divorce, I have noticed many changes in both my self and my life. One change I've noticed is that time has become my enemy, sort of. I don't seem to have enough, which makes sense as I am living alone doing the work of two around the house. My dog and cat both have issues, the cat has physical issues (she's aging) and the dog has emotional issues (he stresses out). Both of which lead to bowel problems, which means medicines and cleaning up after them. It also feels like my teaching load has doubled, since I am teaching more students, but less subjects, which is a big change to adjust to after twenty-eight years of being self-contained. I am trying to stay on top of the housework, the lesson planning, the paper grading, the other school related duties, and especially my blogging, as it has become somewhat cathartic for me. And now that I will be a published author with a book to promote, (yay!) that will be one other rock to add to my jar. But wait, did I mention a social life? Let alone dating? Exercise? Writing my next best-seller? Or at least a short story? Reading? Playtime with my dog and cat? And above all, just plain RELAXING? How do I fit it all in and not lose my sanity, which at times feels like it's too late?

Obviously, I just need to prioritize and label the rocks, gravel, sand and water for my own jar. And find the balance between all of the rocks. For me, the rocks are, in no particular order, my health, time with my dog and cat, my career, and my house. The gravel would be; a social life, writing, and reading. The sand and water would be anything left over, like dating.

I sense my life is taking on a new direction. I don't know why I sense it, I just do. Maybe it's in the wind, or the stars. Over the last few months, many of my horoscopes have been hinting at just such a change. What direction it will take only the Universe knows. Career? Hmmm... Financial? That would be nice. Romance? Nah, I don't have the time right now to include a new boyfriend in my life. And I am content with being alone for right now. Yes, I really am. Seriously. (But, now that I have said that, watch it happen! Last time I made a comment about wanting someone to take care of me, I met someone special, but things didn't work out.)

When my ex first left, and I went into recovery/self-discovery mode, I KNEW the Universe had someone for me. Now, I am not as convinced there is someone. In time, if it's meant to be, it will happen. For the meantime, I must concentrate on the task at hand; learning to better manage my time.

There is an old saying from the 70's (that's when I first heard it). To meet Prince Charming, you have to kiss a lot of frogs. That is true. But, before I can kiss them, I have to meet the frogs, and to meet them, I need to get in the pond. And to get in the pond I need the time to get out there. And I will, eventually.

Horned Amazon frog. (I didn't take this photo.)

I'd like to end with one of my favorite pictures. The spider doesn't worry about time. The spider just keeps working until it all gets done. And it all does get done in the end. And so it shall with me.

Spider Web, San Fernando Mission, San Fernando, CA 2007