My best friend died in a car accident Sunday night. I found out just a short while ago. He meant everything to me, and my sorrow is beyond explanation. I’m not sure when I will return to blogging, but right now, I can do little else but cry.
I feel like my world has fallen out from under me.
Monthly Archives: November 2015
My best friend died in a car accident Sunday night. I found out just a short while ago. He meant everything to me, and my sorrow is beyond explanation. I’m not sure when I will return to blogging, but right now, I can do little else but cry.
Today is my thirty-eighth birthday, and since this blog started in 2010, it is the fifth birthday I’ve had while doing this blog. The first year, I didn’t even mention that it was my birthday, though a few friends wished me a happy birthday in the comment section that day. That second year, I wrote:
I am now entering my thirty-fourth year….I try not to spend my birthdays thinking, “I thought I’d be somewhere bigger doing something better by now.” Though sometimes, this thought does cross my mind….However, I have the firm belief that God has a plan for me. I don’t know yet what it is, but I have to believe that I am where I am supposed to be at this point in my life. There is no room for regrets in life, though we all have them. Instead, I like to take each day as they come and look to the future. I try to be the person I want to be and strive to be all that I can be, which is really the most we can ask of ourselves. We also must know our limitations, so that we are not disappointed when we try to do too much at once.
Obviously, I was regretting that my life wasn’t more. I was unhappy teaching, and while,I know I was doing good as a teacher, I felt like I was a failure and was wasting my education. Th next year, in 2012, I didn’t reflect on my birthday. I wrote about it being St. Andrews Day and I mentioned some famous people who share my November 30th birthday, such as one of my literary heroes, Mark Twain. The next year, my birthday fell on a Saturday and I posted a slightly risqué post titled “Moment of Zen: Alone Time.” You can either let your imagination take you where you will with that, or click on the link and satisfy your curiosity, though some of you I know have already read it because you left birthday wishes in the comments. That brings us to last year when my birthday fell on a Sunday, so my post began with the following Bible verse:
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. -Jeremiah 29:11
As I reflect back on this blog through the years, I think that one of my central messages has been that God has a plan for each of us. While this time last year, I had no doubt that God had a plan for me, I don’t know if I truly believed that He would give me “a future and a hope.” This time last year, I was frustrated with my life. I was having chronic cluster headaches that were waking me in the middle of the night. I dreaded going to my job. I wanted an escape. I would never imagine a year ago that I’d be where I am today. I’d have never thought that six months later I’d be out of a job, or that I’d spend a torturous summer looking for a new job. I’d have certainly never believed that I’d not only find an advertisement for a dream job but that I’d get that dream job. Things like that have never really happened in my life.
Now, I find myself with a wonderful job with great benefits in a liberal New England state. I am being given my birthday as a paid holiday, or that my coworkers, insisting that I not be alone all day on my birthday, are taking me out to lunch. My other plans for today are to make myself an official citizen of Vermont. I’m going to get my new driver’s license, new license plates, and register to vote. Then I plan to treat myself to see Mockingjay, Part II and probably go and have a nice dinner. I expect it to be a good day.
As I wrote four years ago:
I love having a birthday. It’s my special day, and though some people hate being a year older, I always find it better than the alternative. At thirty-four, I still have a lot of life left to live, and on this journey, I hope that it is bit of an adventure. There is an old Chinese curse that states: “May you live in interesting times.” I have never thought this to be a curse, especially as an historian. In the present, we live on the front lines of history, and what would life be, if it were always boring.
It’s bound to be interesting times when you live in a state that elects Bernie Sanders to the Senate and where the vast majority support Bernie for president.
May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. –Colossians 1:11-14
In 1621, the Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians shared an autumn harvest feast that is acknowledged today as one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations in the colonies. For more than two centuries, days of thanksgiving were celebrated by individual colonies and states. It wasn’t until 1863, in the midst of the Civil War, that President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day to be held each November.
Thanksgiving Day has become an annual national holiday celebrated in Canada and the United States. It was originally celebrated as a day of giving thanks for the blessing of the harvest and of the preceding year. Thanksgiving is celebrated on the second Monday of October in Canada and on the fourth Thursday of November in the United States. Several other places around the world observe similar celebrations. Thanksgiving has historical roots in religious and cultural traditions, and the day originally began as a celebration of a bountiful harvest. Today, however, as agriculture is no longer the main occupation of most Americans and Canadians, it has become a holiday reminding us of what we should be thankful for. Today, it is also largely a secular holiday, but its origins come from thanking God for the harvest.
I know that I have a lot to be thankful for, especially this year. I am thankful for the readers of this blog who offered tremendous amounts of love and support when I thought my world was crashing down on me. I think of each of you as true friends in my life. I may not know you personally, though there are a fair number who I do know well, I am extremely thankful and I do thank God for bringing you into my life. I am thankful for the love and support of my family and friends. I am also thankful for my new life. Though at times my faith may have wavered some, for the most part, I knew God had a plan for me. I just had to trust Him.
My trust and faith were rewarded with a new life, a new job, and new friends. I am thankful for the love and support that I was given during those hard months after I lost my job. I would name those who helped and how why helped, but I know I would forget someone, and it wouldn’t be fair. Some of you gave advice, some helped financially, others gave their friendship. I know that I did not get to where I am right now without a tremendous amount of help and I want to say, Thank You. I am so grateful for all that you did.
My faith is also stronger because of what I have been through. I put my whole faith in God and allowed him to guide me on the path He chose for me. For the first time in my life, I honestly feel like I am on the right path. It has been a long journey and one in which I got lost many times, but for the first time this path feels right. I am excited to be on this journey. It’s nowhere near finished, but it is just beginning.
In the above passage from the Bible, Paul is saying a prayer for the the Colossians. Paul wrote, “May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience.” In the trials of this year, I let God’s power carry me through and give me strength. I did my best to remain patient and let His will be done. I remember one day after church when I was speaking with my minister and I explained that something good would come along, and he said that he admired the way I was handling things because I was handling them better than he had in the same situation. I told him that I had faith that God would point me in the right direction. I knew that my faith would bring me through.
Now I am joyfully giving thanks to God, who has enabled me to share in His glory. I am thankful that God rescued me from the power of darkness, which I think in my situation was depression and doubt. However, my faith showed me the light. We should be thankful for all that God does for us, large or small. He has given us redemption, and He forgives us of our sins. This reminds me of the 23rd Psalm:
Moment of Zen: Football
Today is the most important day of the year for most Alabamians. Today is the day of the Iron Bowl (named because it used to always be held in Birmingham, famous for its iron production). The Iron Bowl is the annual football game between the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Auburn Tigers. As sports events go in Alabama, not even the Super Bowl comes close. This is a rivalry that truly divide the state. It has caused numerous fights in the state legislature, and violence among regular citizens has been known to break out over which one wins and loses. When I was interviewing for jobs, I made sure that I never wore either teams colors to an interview. If you wear the wrong color, it will cost you the job. To say the very least it’s an important game. Alabama is 10-1 this season, Auburn is 6-5. The stakes are high for Alabama this year. If Alabama loses, they lose their chance at the national championship. If Auburn loses, it will just cement a lackluster season. In previous years, the two teams have been more evenly matched and the chance at the national championship was on the line for both teams. And while Auburn may have a 6-5 record, never count them out. When it comes to this game, the outcome is always uncertain. If Alabama goes into this game cocky and Auburn goes in determined, Auburn could give Alabama a run for its money. This game is played differently than any other game. Coaches know that their careers depend on its outcome.
One major difference in Vermont and Alabama is football. It’s not much of a thing up here. Hockey, yes. Football, no.
My weekly Moment of Zen will be posted whenever I wake up in the morning. I’m not up to scheduling the post the night before.
I had a wonderful Thanksgiving at my coworker’s. This was my first Thanksgiving ever without my family, but it was still a nice Thanksgiving. We had a nice southern style Thanksgiving, since my coworker and her husband are also southerners. There was so much food for just the four of us, but that’s how southerners are, we always cook too much. We can’t handle the idea that there might not be enough, so we make sure to make extra. For my part I took a corn casserole and a sweet potato soufflé. I always love the corn casserole, and the sweet potato soufflé was good but a tad bit too sweet. It wasn’t until I got home that I realize why it was so sweet. I’d forgotten to add the cream to it. I’m a pretty good cook, but that’s not the first time I’ve accidentally left out an ingredient. Thankfully this time wasn’t disastrous, like the time I made a blackberry cobbler and forgot to add the leavening agent. It was so rubbery and hard you could have patched a tore with it. The sweet potato soufflé would have still been sweet but the cream should have cut down a little on the sweetness. It was still good, in fact, all of the food was delicious. My coworker went out of her way to make a traditional southern Thanksgiving for my first one away from family.
I think the highlight of my day was my coworker’s son. He’s only six, but he was so excited to have a guest. I think her son just thinks I’m the greatest thing. He’s so cute. At one point he just curled up next to me on the couch and he insisted that I sit next to him at dinner. He has lots of energy, just like my niece does. Also, like my niece he has ADHD, which he takes medicine for. I’ve known a lot of people with ADHD. My best friend has ADHD. He always tells me about his little rabbit brain that jumps from topic to topic. I always love to talk with him because we can go from conversation to conversation so easily (I have a bit of a rabbit brain too). He gets embarrassed by his ADHD, and I understand. He was diagnosed very late in his college years, but he still managed to be very successful. He’s an amazing guy, but I’m a bit off track.
My coworker’s son is just a bundle of energy, but he is the sweetest kid. He went outside and took a picture of their house and had his mom text it to me so that I’d know where I was supposed to go. Then he sat by the window waiting for me to arrive. He was very excited. One thing I’ve learned from ADHD kids, from my niece to my friend to former students, is that when they have a difficult time with something they get impatient and thus frustrated. My coworker and I were watching her son try do something, and it took him several tries to do it. My coworker said that he was about to get very mad, but I watched and I could tell he was really trying to be good today while I was there. I could tell that he was doing his best to keep himself under control, which shows just what a good kid he really is. It was very sweet. I know he was struggling to keep control, but he did because he wanted to do his best to make a good impression.
I was amazed at how well he did, but one thing I’ve noticed with most people with ADHD is that they are very smart. Not all of them realize it because they have a hard time concentrating on one thing at a time. They have so much energy and their brain is going in so many different directions. I have to say though, in everyone I have known with ADHD, a little patience is what they really need, and those who don’t have ADHD need a lot of energy. If you’ve ever known someone with ADHD, you know how loving and good-hearted they are. That might not be true of all people who are ADHD, but it is true of all the ones I’ve known.
I think that the most important lesson I’ve learned in life is to have patience and to trust in God. Those two things go hand in hand. Sometimes, there just isn’t any need to be in a hurry. Just because I’ve learned to be patient doesn’t mean that I always am. A little patience goes a long way, and you never know how much you can affect someone’s life by just being patient with them. So here’s my lesson for the day: when you know someone who is ADHD, be patient. Too many people think that ADHD is really just someone being bad, but what’s really the problem is that people aren’t patient when they need to be. Also, it sometimes has to do with the fact that we don’t show enough love when it’s really needed and sometimes being patient is the best way to show love.
Usually, I write my posts the night before and schedule them for in the morning. Trust me I am not punctual enough to post at the same time every morning. I sometimes sleep late, but last night I was sleepy and decided that this would be a post that I would actually write on Thanksgiving morning.
I have so much to be thankful for this year. I won’t list everyone, because most of it would be repeating what I’ve already said in previous posts, but you can go back and read posts like “I Love My Job” or yesterday’s “Vermont v. Alabama.” There are of course others that I’ve talked about being happy and loving my new life. Six months ago, I’d have never believed that this life would be possible. I certainly wouldn’t have believed anyone saying that I’d be living in Vermont.
While I a, very grateful for the big stuff, there are little things too. Take for instance the fact that I can sit on my bed naked and type this post up without worrying if someone will walk in. It’s one of the things I love about living alone, which is something that I’m grateful for because it allows me certain freedoms I lacked before. If I want to get on Grindr in the middle of the night and bring a guy here or go to his place, I can do so without any explanation. I can run and do errands at any time without worrying about anyone else. I can watch what I want on TV. Yes, those are mostly small things, but it’s a freedom I haven’t had in years.
So I am very thankful for my new life: a new job, a new home, a new location, etc. Nearly everything about this experience is new, but it’s wonderful. I’m loving every minute of it. Now, I need to get up and put on some clothes so I can cook a couple of dishes to take to my coworker’s house for Thanksgiving lunch.
Vermont v. Alabama
I received the following comment on my Saturday Moment of Zen post:
Joe, you have now been in Vermont for a month. What about a post on the differences in the aspects of living in the Deep South and living in Deepest New England? Your comments would be very interesting. Your last post touched on accent and way of speech but what else – not just material things, such as food and the time difference, but the way people behave and think?–The Academic
The first thing I had to get used to, especially when driving around, is that I am in the mountains. Where I live is about 750 feet above sea level. Alabama’s highest peak is 1445 ft, whereas where I grew up was about 400 feet above sea level but so was everything else (In other words, it was relatively flat). The mountain that I am closest to, and is part of the university’s campus is 2382 feet. To get anywhere, you seem to have to go over or around mountains, so while a nearby town may only be 10 miles away, it takes roughly 20-30 minutes. That being said, I am not complaining. The scenery is absolutely gorgeous, I just have to get used to the very steep hills, especially when they are covered in ice and snow during the winter. Also, while other towns are 20-30 minutes away, I was already used to that where I lived in rural Alabama. The exception being that here I actually live in a small town which has some of the conveniences you’d expect in a small town. An added bonus is that I live less than a mile from work, whereas in Alabama, I lived 40 miles from work.
Similar to where I was in Alabama, the young guys still drive trucks that are far too loud, and they race up and down the streets in Vermont just like in Alabama. That is one of the things that struck me as very similar to back home. There are a lot of similarities between Alabama and Vermont, as both are rural states. There are churches everywhere, but the ones up here are more accepting of gay people. Sadly though, there are no churches of Christ that I can find. Yes, there are United Churches of Christ, but that’s a totally different animal. It looks like I might be going to a Lutheran church with my boss, at least they celebrate communion each Sunday.
Besides the churches, everyone seems to know everyone else. When I went in the pharmacy the first time and explained that I had out-of-state prescriptions, they knew exactly who I was and all about me by the time I returned that afternoon to pick my prescriptions up. It seems that the wife of the university president works there. I’ve lived here a month and already people in the stores and post office know me. That’s a nice feeling. Whereas the same could be said about Alabama, in Vermont the people are genuinely friendly, not the fake friendly that many people are in Alabama. When someone sees you, they are actually happy to see you, not just being nosy trying to figure out what you are doing and what gossip they can either get from you or make up about you. I am stereotyping badly here, but there is a certain truths in it.
As for food, there are a few differences, like “bombs,” which is a hot sandwich that comes on a roll that is halfway between a hot dog bun and a hoagie roll and is usually filled with a meat and a cheese. They are quite yummy. Also, when they say “greens,” in Alabama, it meant collards or turnips, here it means kale. They put kale on everything up here. I am surprised that I can find a lot of foods familiar to home in the grocery stores here. I don’t think I’ve seen grits, though they do have polenta, but I have seen corn meal. Surprisingly, though what is hard to find is self-rising flour. When I went to the grocery store last night, they had only one kind of self-rising flour, and they did not have self-rising cake flour. They also don’t sell PET milk, which didn’t matter since they did have Carnation evaporated milk and I had already planned on using heavy whipping cream in a recipe instead to give it a richer flavor. One other thing about food, you are much more likely to get local meats and cheeses and many restaurants try to use as many local ingredients as possible. Vermont cheese is phenomenal, by the way. Nearly every town seems to have their own beer brewery, and some places make hard cider, which I like better anyway. Citizen Cider’s Unified Press is delicious, but that stuff will sneak up on you.
Also, Vermont politics are odd, especially the fact that with my political beliefs I’m considered a liberal Democrat in Alabama and more of a moderate Republican in Vermont. I’ve always said that I was a moderate, but don’t expect me to start considering myself a Republican just because I live in a “hippy-dippy liberal” state now. The town meetings and how they conduct their primary will be quite interesting.
Now to what I suspect you all really want to know: how do I perceive the way they treat gay people up here? First of all, let me say that Vermont does not have a single gay bar. They do have at least one bar that has a monthly gay night. I’ve looked into this to kind of understand why, because Vermont is a very gay-friendly state, but what I have found, or have been told, is that there isn’t a need for a separate gay bar. As a gay man, and I think many of you will agree with this, you don’t always feel welcomed at hetero bars, but it’s different here. I’ve been in a few bars and such here and it always seemed like there was a good mix of gay and straight people. Everyone is treated the same. Sadly this means that there are no go-go boys dancing nearly naked on the bars or shirtless bartenders, but I can live with that, as I have found the waiters and bartenders tend to be cute and flirty jut the same. Also, there seems to be a wide array of gay groups in the state. I’m thinking of volunteering for Vermont Pride.
The thing is, sexuality seems to be a non-issue from anything I’ve seen. My boss went out of her way when I interviewed to let me know how open and accepting the university is and how supportive the president is of LGBT issues. I never mentioned I was gay, but I didn’t try to hide it. It’s part of who I am, but it’s not my defining characteristic. I have sort of mentioned things here and there but it was just in normal conversation. One of my coworkers was asking me yesterday how I was adapting and how I liked it up here, and I told her how much I really love it. I told her that “I had wanted out of Alabama, because it’s just not a good place to grow up as a gay boy.” I think she was happy that I confirmed it. I didn’t want my sexuality to be office gossip, but I figured that at some point it would come up. This particular co-worker confided in me after I’d actually said that I was gay, that when I’d had my phone interview and I’d said that the school had put me on charge of the drama club, even though I had no previous experience with the dramatic arts, she knew she wanted to get me out of Alabama and really pushed for me to get the job. They had really liked my cover letter and resume, so all I had to do was back it up and be a pleasant person. I’d already been told that it was a unanimous vote amongst the staff to hire me, but I had no idea that they’d basically decided to hire me after my telephone interview.
The important thing is that I am free to be me. I can be myself, and I don’t have to worry about hiding my politics to keep my job or hiding my sexuality to keep my job or hiding anything for that matter. I get to be the me that I’ve always wanted to be and do a job that really is a dream job because I am in a job where I am actually valued for my expertise and my work and opinion matters. Most of all, I am happy.
PS I realize that the winter will be harsh, but so far Mother Nature has been good to me. She is slowly easing me into winter. I’ve been told that Vermont is having its mildest November in a long time, and December is expected to slowly bring us into the brunt of the winter. I am sure that in a couple of months, I will be complaining about the weather and how cold it is, but right now I am looking forward to it.
By Henry David Thoreau, 1816 – 1861
Fountain-head and source of rivers,
And napkin spread by fays;
Drifting meadow of the air,
Where bloom the daisied banks and violets,
And in whose fenny labyrinth
The bittern booms and heron wades;
Spirit of lakes and seas and rivers,—
Bear only perfumes and the scent
Of healing herbs to just men’s fields.
Some of you who have followed this blog over he years, might know that I have a particular affinity for the Transcendentalists. They aren’t an easy group to wrap your head around, but once you do, it is well worth it. Transcendentalism is a very formal word that describes a very simple idea. People, men and women equally, have knowledge about themselves and the world around them that “transcends” or goes beyond what they can see, hear, taste, touch or feel. This knowledge comes through intuition and imagination not through logic or the senses. People can trust themselves to be their own authority on what is right. A transcendentalist is a person who accepts these ideas not as religious beliefs but as a way of understanding life relationships.
One of the transcendentalists’ core beliefs was in the inherent goodness of both people and nature, in opposition to ideas of man as inherently sinful, or “fallen,” and nature as something to be conquered. They believed that society and its institutions—particularly organized religion and political parties—ultimately corrupted the purity of the individual. They had faith that people are at their best when truly “self-reliant” and independent. Their concept of self-reliance differed from the traditional usage of the word, however, in that it referred primarily to a fierce intellectual independence or self-reliance. They believed that individuals were capable of generating completely original insights with as little attention and deference to past masters as possible.
At its heart, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and other Transcendentalists, believed that nature guided the universe. We should not try to tame nature just as we should not try to tame the mind of the individual. So what if you’re different from what the masses consider the norm. It doesn’t matter because we can transcend those mass marketed ideas. Sadly, Americans did not learn from the Transcendentalists. Instead of thinking for themselves, they tune into news broadcasts and talk radio to find out what they are supposed to think. They blindly follow religious teachers without trying to really understand God. If the Transcendentalists could see America today, they would believe that most Americans are mere lemmings who follow the crowds without paying attention to where they are going.
In the poem above, Thoreau uses a mist, or a fog, to give an example of nature. I think what draws me most to this poem is its lyrical quality. It doesn’t rhyme and it doesn’t follow a particular beat or poetic meter, but yet, the description is beautiful and melodic in its own self-reliant way. In its most basic form, “Mist” is a short poem that describes the different types of mist, but Thoreau also uses this poem to describe how nature is the only thing that can heal men’s spirits.
Headache and Sleep
I only got out of bed a few times yesterday. I had one of my bad headaches. It started Saturday night, so I took some medicine which relieved it for a while and let me sleep, but then I woke again in the very early hours of the morning and took some more medicine. Again that helped for a few hours but when I woke again, the headache was back, so I tried a different medicine. The other medicine did nothing, so I waited and then took the strongest medicine I had available. It wasn’t long before I was once again sound asleep. When I woke I was feeling better, but the feeling didn’t last long. I’m hoping that by the time this posts this morning, I will be feeling much better.