Monthly Archives: November 2015

I Love My Job

  
I can’t say it enough that I love my job. I feel like I am doing good work. I am recording people’s stories and preserving them for generations to come. I think yesterday may have been one of my best days yet. First of all, I  felt so much better than I did on Tuesday. I woke still having a headache but by mid morning it was gone. Only three of us were at work today and after lunch we went up to the archives on the fifth floor to do some research for a new museum exhibit in the spring. Originally, I was just going to observe, and get more familiar with the archives. While my other coworkers were going through photographs for the exhibit, I was doing some spot research on different aspects of the photographs. Then my boss asked me to research a particular aspect of the exhibit using the student newspaper. I know reading old newspapers isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I was in heaven. It made me so happy, and it reiterated that I really love my job. I left work excited. I go to work each day excited. Not everyday is perfect. Tuesday was torture because of my headache, but only because of my headache. Each day though, I find new and fascinating aspects to my job, and I really enjoy my coworkers.


Waves 

  
I’ve talked about my cluster headaches before, and since I’ve been on my new medication, they have greatly improved. I’ve gone from chronic cluster headaches to more episodic ones. The way that I always describe them is that they feel like an ice pick driven in my eye and it comes out the lower back of my head. I titled this post waves because when I have one, it comes and goes in waves, like I am riding waves at the beach. When you are at the crest of the wave is when the headache is most intense and then it eases off as you go down into the trough of the wave until it is almost completely gone before building in intensity once again and the cycle begins again. Since I started on my new medicine, I get these headaches much less frequently but also the waves are like being out in the ocean, that point where your feet can touch the sand when the waves is in its trough and then it lifts you up as the wave rises. Before my new medicine, it was like I was caught in the breakers. Each wave came crashing down, sometimes knocking me down and just as I would get up, I was hit again and when there was relief it was ever so very slight but the pain never completely went away because I was constantly being hit by the waves and being pulled down.
  

None of this may make any sense, but yesterday I had a cluster headache all day. As I road the “waves” throughout the day, I kept thinking of this analogy. It’s the best way I can think to explain it. Also, I wrote this when o was in one of the low troughs, so the pain had eased, but I can tell that it’s not gone away completely. I’m hoping that I will feel better today.


In Flanders Field

In Flanders Fields
By John McCrae
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
      Between the crosses, row on row,
   That mark our place; and in the sky
   The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
   Loved and were loved, and now we lie
         In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
   The torch; be yours to hold it high.
   If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
         In Flanders fields.
McCrae’s “In Flanders Fields” remains to this day one of the most memorable war poems ever written. It is a lasting legacy of the terrible battle in the Ypres salient in the spring of 1915. Canadian physician Major John McCrae was inspired to write it on May 3, 1915, after presiding over the funeral of former student, friend, and fellow soldier Alexis Helmer, who died in the Second Battle of Ypres. According to legend, McCrae discarded the poem in a nearby trash can because he was not satisfied with it.  A fellow officer retrieved it and sent it to newspapers in England. The Spectator, in London, rejected it, but the London-based magazine Punch published “In Flanders Fields” on December 8, 1915.
McCrae was moved to the medical corps and stationed in Boulogne, France, in June 1915 where he was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel, and placed in charge of medicine at the Number 3 Canadian General Hospital. He was promoted to the acting rank of Colonel on January 13, 1918, and named Consulting Physician to the British Armies in France. The years of war had worn McCrae down, however. He contracted pneumonia that same day, and later came down with cerebral meningitis. On January 28, 1918, he died at the military hospital in Wimereux and was buried there with full military honors.
I chose this poem today because around the world tomorrow, November 11 is celebrated as Armistice Day or Remembrance Day and in the United States as Veterans Day.  World War I – known at the time as “The Great War” – officially ended when the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, five years after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria which had begun the war.  The Treaty was signed in the Hall of Mirrors at the Palace of Versailles outside the town of Versailles, France. However, fighting ceased seven months earlier when an armistice, or temporary cessation of hostilities, between the Allied nations and Germany went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. For that reason, November 11, 1918, is generally regarded as the end of “the war to end all wars.”
In November 1919, President Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day with the following words: “To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…”. The original concept for the celebration was for a day observed with parades and public meetings and a brief suspension of business beginning at 11:00 a.m.
A Congressional Act approved May 13, 1938, officially made the 11th of November in each year a legal holiday—a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as “Armistice Day.” Armistice Day was primarily a day set aside to honor veterans of World War I, but in 1954, after World War II had required the greatest mobilization of soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen in the Nation’s history; after American forces had fought aggression in Korea, the 83rd Congress, at the urging of the veterans service organizations, amended the Act of 1938 by striking out the word “Armistice” and inserting in its place the word “Veterans.” With the approval of this legislation on June 1, 1954, November 11th became a day to honor American veterans of all wars.
Though there has been a few attempts to move the holiday to a Monday or to celebrate it at other times, Veterans Day continues to be observed on November 11, regardless of what day of the week on which it falls. The restoration of the observance of Veterans Day to November 11 not only preserves the historical significance of the date, but helps focus attention on the important purpose of Veterans Day: A celebration to honor America’s veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good.
Note:
The photograph above is from Kristine Potter’s series of black and white photographs, The Grey Line, a collection of portraits made at The United States Military Academy at West Point.  I loved the mist in this picture.  To me, it was  a perfect symbol for a Veterans Day commemoration.

Making Friends

  

Last night was my family’s last night on Vermont. My dad said that it seemed like all he had done was eaten and didn’t want any dinner, so my mother and I went to dinner on our own. We walked a block or so from their hotel and found this little pizza place called Positive Pie that I had heard good things about. We both had the shrimp scampi because they don’t just serve pizza but Italian food in general. We had the cutest waiter (not the guy in the picture above), who I’m pretty sure was gay because he was very flirtatious toward me. First of all, let me say that it went nowhere because of three things: 1) my mother was there, 2) he was more than half my age, and 3) he was obviously flirting to get a good tip. I’ve always had a thing for guys in the service industry: waiters, bartenders, baristas, etc., and it is fun to get some positive attention, even if you know it won’t lead anywhere. That being said, this will not be my last visit to Positive Pie.

I was telling a friend of mine about my encounter with the waiter, and he encouraged me to try more to make friends up here and not just coworkers. It’s hard to make friends though. On gay.net’s Ask Adam (http://www.gay.net/dating/2015/10/28/ask-adam-how-can-gay-guys-find-friends), there was a question about how gay guys can find friends. “Isolated in Illinois” seems to have a similar situation to me, and I liked Adam’s answer, which you can read below. There are at least one or two gay men’s groups around here and I’ve been invited to attend a supper club that’s an our or so south of here, which would be lots of fun. I just need to find the courage to follow Adam’s advice. Read the column below, and I’d love to hear your thoughts on it.
ASK ADAM: HOW CAN GAY GUYS FIND FRIENDS?

Dear Adam,

I know how to talk to people, I’m reasonably smart and attractive, and yet I feel isolated a lot of the time. I knew how to make friends in college, but since graduating five years ago, I’ve yet to make a real friend. Is this normal?

Signed,

Isolated in Illinois
Dear Isolated in Illinois,

Modern life can be a lonely place.

Most people are struggling with this, but LGBT people can feel especially isolated. It comes with the territory of being different. And you’ve always been different.

As a teenager, you never could fully join the exciting conversations and social rituals around opposite-sex attraction. You may have faked it, but you never were really a part of it. 

While all your friends were crushing on the movie stars of the day, you silently longed for all the “wrong” ones. Even the nerdy, heterosexual outcasts in your school belonged in a way you didn’t. Because they were straight, they really didn’t have to question if they were a member of the human race. At an unconscious level, many LGBT people don’t feel like a member of the human race. We can feel like a different species.

And while you may have already worked hard to accept your differences, at some level, we all just want to fit in. This is wired into primates. So it isn’t surprising that we may struggle a little more with feelings of loneliness and isolation as grown ups. 

Like all worthwhile experiences, creating friendships takes work. There’s a myth that it should be easy, that it should just happen. In reality, building a network of friends requires the same kind of strategic activity that goes into finding a job or the love of your life.

Practical Advice

What follows is my best tip on building your friendship network.

There is something magic about seeing the same group of people each week for months and years. Just the consistent close proximity creates the safety that is needed to turn a stranger into a friend. This is why it is easier to make friends in college. Therefore, joining weekly groups is the number one best way to make a friend. 

Do you know who has the best social network in any city? It’s people who attend 12-step groups like Alcoholics Anonymous. This makes sense: they are a group of people who meet frequently to try and be authentic, supportive, and remove a piece of the social mask. 

Who else meets regularly? It’s the people in the LGBT sports league, the LGBT volunteer service organization, the LGBT spiritual or arts group, the LGBT meetup.comgroup. Google will lead you to them.

Yes, joining groups takes time and you are busy with work. But people who join groups tend to be people who can commit to people. And those are the people who make good friends.

It’s also a great way to find a committed partner. Personal disclosure moment: I found my husband, and all my previous boyfriends before him, through LGBT volunteer groups.

The Path From Acquaintance to Friend

You may know lots of people, but still feel isolated. The secret sauce that turns acquaintances into friends is personal disclosure. There’s a limit to how far you can get with a person if you aren’t willing to reveal something that feels vulnerable about yourself.

Again, this can be a little more challenging for LGBT people. We’ve been trained since we were 6 years old to hide what we feel. What we liked wasn’t good. It was disgusting. Or so we were told.

So it takes practice. Begin revealing something only a little uncomfortable and see how that goes. If your acquaintance handles that well then you can test out the next level of disclosure.

Ultimately, the most powerful way to deepen a connection with someone is to dare to admit your friendly affection for them. 

If you have butterflies in your stomach when talking about yourself, then you’ll know you are doing something right. There is no personal growth without butterflies.

Don’t think friends are all that important to happiness?

According to Bronnie Ware, a palliative nurse who wrote The Top Five Regrets of the Dying, one of the top regrets of people who are dying are: “I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends”.

Too busy for friends? Another one of the top five regrets of the dying is “I wished I didn’t work so hard.”

Your relationships truly matter.

ADAM D. BLUM, MFT is a licensed psychotherapist and the founder of the Gay Therapy Center, which specializes in relationship and self-esteem issues for LGBT people. The Center offers services in their San Francisco offices, or by Skype and phone worldwide. Visit their website to subscribe to their e-newsletter and free guide on building gay relationships. Follow them on Facebook and read their blog. Email Adam your questions for possible publication. Questions may be edited.


A Beautiful Life

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Let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faithGalatians 6:10

A Beautiful Life

Each day I’ll do a golden deed,
By helping those who are in need;
My life on earth is but a span,
And so I’ll do the best I can.

Life’s evening sun is sinking low,
A few more days and I must go.
To meet the deeds that I have done.
Where there will be no setting sun.

To be a child of God each day,
My light must shine a-long the way;
I’ll sing His praise while ages roll
And strive to help some troubled soul.

Life’s evening sun is sinking low,
A few more days and I must go.
To meet the deeds that I have done.
Where there will be no setting sun.

The only life that will endure,
Is the one that’s kind and good and pure;
And so for God I’ll take my stand,
Each day I’ll lend a helping hand.

Life’s evening sun is sinking low,
A few more days and I must go.
To meet the deeds that I have done.
Where there will be no setting sun.

“A Beautiful Life” is a song which encourages us to do good unto others in order that we might be an influence for righteousness in this world. The text was written and the tune (Life’s Evening Sun) was composed both by William M. Golden (1878-1934). The song is dated 1918, but little information about its background is available. Perhaps Golden’s best known song is “Where the Soul Never Dies,” beginning, “To Canaan’s land I’m on my way.”

While I have sung this song many times in church, my most vivid memories are of my mother playing it on the piano. It was one of the songs that she loved to use to proactive playing the piano. I knew the tune long before I knew the words; however, this is one of the most beautiful songs when sung A Capella. When it is sung, the base begins “Each day I’ll do,” followed by the higher voices singing “A golden deed.” Each line alternates between the two and when done right it’s an amazingly beautiful song.

The song suggests several things that we can do to be a good influence on others. According to stanza 1, we must do our work for the Lord every day. Christianity is a religion that must be practiced daily and affect our daily lives. Therefore, daily we should be concerned about those who are in need. The reason that this is so important is that our lives are limited so we must do good while we have the time.

According to stanza 2, we must let our lights shine. God wants us to be His spiritual children. However, as His children, He wants us to let our lights so shine that men may see our good works and glorify Him. One way to do this is to sing His praise that we might teach and admonish others.

According to stanza 3, we must be kind to others. Our lives are more than just our physical existence, and to have an enduring quality they must be influenced by Christ. A life that is truly influenced by Christ will be characterized by kindness. Such a life will also not be ashamed to take a stand for God so that it can be a help to others.

The chorus re-emphasizes the need to be doing these things because of the brevity of life. God has eternal life planned for His people in heaven. However, to be made fit for such a wonderful dwelling place, we must strive while we journey here on this earth to have “A Beautiful Life.”


Moment of Zen: Ice Cream 

  
I’m taking my family to tour the Ben & Jerry’s Factory today. I’ve never been either but it should be lot of fun.


The Family Is Coming!

  
I am dreading this weekend. My parents and my aunt is coming up for a visit. I love my family and while I do look forward to seeing them, thankfully they will be here only for the weekend. They drive me crazy and there is a lot about this weekend I’m not looking forward to. They’ve been driving up to bring me the rest of my belongings, but they have been pushing it to get up here. They drove late into the night Wednesday, and all day and evening yesterday, and last I talked to them, they are about six hours away. I tried to get them to take it easy on the way up, mainly because I didn’t want them cranky and in a bad mood when they get here because they haven’t rested enough. They will do the opposite of what I suggest they do anyway, and they are taking what looks like to me to be the most aggravating route, so I can’t imagine them being in a great mood when they get here. Hopefully, I can just keep them busy all weekend and they won’t drive me too crazy.


Movember 

  

Movember (a portmanteau of the Australian-English diminutive word for moustache, “mo”, and “November”) is an annual event involving the growing of moustaches during the month of November to raise awareness of men’s health issues, such as depression in men, prostate cancer and other male cancers, and associated charities. The Movember Foundation runs the Movember charity event, housed at movember.com. The goal of Movember is to “change the face of men’s health.”

By encouraging men (whom the charity refers to as “Mo Bros”) to get involved, Movember aims to increase early cancer detection, diagnosis and effective treatments, and ultimately reduce the number of preventable deaths. Besides annual check-ups, the Movember Foundation encourages men to be aware of family history of cancer and to adopt a healthier lifestyle.

Since 2004, the Movember Foundation charity has run Movember events to raise awareness and funds for men’s health issues, such as prostate and testicular cancer and depression, in Australia and New Zealand . In 2007, events were launched in Ireland, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, El Salvador, Spain, the United Kingdom, Israel, South Africa, Taiwan and the United States. As of 2011, Canadians were the largest contributors to the Movember charities of any nation. In 2010, Movember merged with the testicular cancer event Touchback.

While I wont be growing a moustache for November, as I’ve always found them to be fairly unattractive on men (facial hair is something I can take or leave, though some men are very attractive with a bit of scruff or a well groomed beard and moustache), this charity seems to be very worthwhile. In 2012, the Global Journal listed Movember as one of the world’s top 100 NGOs (non-government organization). Remember, that testicular exams are best administered when the scrotum is loosest, preferably after a hot shower, and if you can have a buddy help you, it can be quite fun and possibly lead to other activities.

  


Early to Bed

  

I went to bed early last night, right after I got home from attending a lecture given by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. I was honored to have the chance to meet her earlier in the day.


Ode to an Encyclopedia

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Ode to an Encyclopedia
By James Arthur

O hefty hardcover on the built-in shelf in my parents’ living
room,
O authority stamped on linen paper, molted from your dust
jacket ,
Questing Beast of blue and gold, you were my companion

on beige afternoons that came slanting through the curtains
behind the rough upholstered chair. You knew how to trim a
sail
and how the hornet builds a hive. You had a topographical map

of the mountain ranges on the far side of the moon
and could name the man who shot down the man
who murdered Jesse James. At forty, I tell myself

that boyhood was all enchantment: hanging around the railway,
getting plastered on cartoons; I see my best friend’s father
marinating in a lawn chair, smiling benignly at his son and me

from above a gin and tonic, or sitting astride his roof
with carpentry nails and hammer, going at some problem
that kept resisting all his mending. O my tome, my paper
brother,

my narrative without an ending, you had a diagram of a cow
broken down into the major cuts of beef, and an image
of the Trevi Fountain. The boarding house,

the church on the corner: all that stuff is gone.
In winter in Toronto, people say, a man goes outside
and shovels snow mostly so that his neighbors know

just how much snow he is displacing. I’m writing this
in Baltimore. For such a long time, the boy wants
to grow up and be at large, but posture becomes bearing;

bearing becomes shape. A man can make a choice
between two countries, believing all the while
that he will never have to choose.

 

About This Poem

When discussing this poem, poet James Arthur said, “It’s now almost unimaginable to me that for the first half of my life, I had no access to the Internet. What I did have is my parents’ hardbound, single-volume encyclopedia: a book that seemed to contain a scrap of information on almost every subject. For me ‘Ode to an Encyclopedia’ is about the openness of the open field; when we’re children, we can still believe that we’ll have time to go everywhere, see everything, and do it all.” I can remember the set of blue World Book Encyclopedias my parents had. We used them for many school projects, but what I temper most is that they spawned my love of knowledge. I’ll be turning 38 at the end of this month, so just like Arthur, the first half of my life I had no access to the Internet and it seemed like all the knowledge in the world were contained in those blue volumes. Now if something interests me and I want to know more, I Google it, but back then, I’d pulled down the appropriate encyclopedia and begin flipping through. The problem was, there were always things I’d see on the way to finding my main article that had drawn me to the books. With those other articles, I’d hold its place with a finger and continue on. By the time I had turned to the article I wanted, I usually had four or five fingers holding different things I wanted to read about next. One or more of them would lead me to putti that volume back up and getting down another and the process began again. Now with the Internet it is so much easier because you just right clicks, and open up a new tab. There’s an almost infinite number of tabs you can open though, but I only had so many fingers. I will get immersed in article after article, each one taking me to a new piece of knowledge.
James Arthur is the author of Charms Against Lightning (Copper Canyon Press, 2012). He teaches at Johns Hopkins University and lives in Baltimore, Maryland.