Meghann had worked in our Holistic Healthcare Center for the summer and Zack and I were driving her back to Texas Tech University in Lubbock. Zack was driving his F250 and we had a new washer and dryer for Meggie in the cargo bed. The path from San Diego to Lubbock is one of the most visually boring trips in the country. Lubbock is in West Texas, in the middle of nowhere.
Now, I cannot pee outside. When I have tried, I have had it running down my legs and into my shoes. It’s just gross.
But then there is the issue of finding a bathroom that doesn’t make me gag. Unfortunately, sometimes gagging is involved with urinating in a public toilet.
We stopped at the smallest gas station on earth to fill up and let Meghann and I go to the bathroom. When we walked inside the tiny building, the man behind the glass counter…. Yeah, the man behind the counter.
He had no teeth and was holding a half-cooked greasy hamburger (without the bun) in his hand. The grease was dripping down his arm. Lots of grease. A river of grease. Dripping off his elbow onto the newspaper he seemed to be perusing.
It was revolting.
We knew the bathroom was not going to be pristine.
Meggie and I took turns in the bathroom, one guarding the other because there was no lock on the door. And what if that man wanted to wash his hands. (As if.)
Walking out, we took one last look behind the counter as the man took a gummy bite into his burger, the grease oozing down his arm.
When we got in the truck, we laughed hysterically, partially from fear release. We kept asking each other if what we saw was real and validated each other over and over. That remains one of the most surreal experiences in my life.
BBQ in Lubbock
Once we delivered the washer and dryer to Meghann’s new apartment, we headed out for some Texas BBQ.
Walking in and sitting down became an adventure in staring; them, not us. Zack is transgender, but had not come out yet so people saw him as a very butch lesbian. I’m guessing that LGBTQ people are not a big part of Lubbock or Texas Tech. The whole walking in experience seemed to be in slow motion, every step taking 5 minutes before taking the next. I swear the place went silent.
We were seated at a large table against a wrought iron room separator. Zack sat next to the fence thing and cooed a hello to a baby hanging over a mother’s shoulder. The mother shot up out of her seat and tromped to the other side of the table and sat down for the duration of her meal. I’ve always wondered if she thought the baby would catch The Gay from Zack.
We could not miss the hushed volume compared to when we first walked in, and the stares continued. Looking around, we saw many men in cowboy hats and Zack made the comment that if we were in San Diego, they would be the ones being stared at. True, true!
The next morning, Zack and I hightailed it out of Lubbock. I was never so happy to leave somewhere, barring leaving my daughter behind, even though there was the greasy hamburger man a few hundred miles ahead.
I’ve written since I was about 8-years old, journaled since I got my first diary on my 8th birthday. You know, the kind with the tiny lock on it?
When I was 11, I let Suzette read my diary. Stupidest thing I ever did. In there, I wrote that I’d tried smoking and she went and told my mom who let me know if she ever caught me, I would be eating a pack in front of the family.
I stopped writing in a journal for a couple of years, but when I was 15, an older friend said I had a lot to say and gave me a lovely hard and cloth-covered journal with no lines in it and an amazing Japanese-inspired cover.
I wrote in it a lot, wrote about my boyfriends, my gay boyfriend (when I was 16-years old), going to the gay bar (when I was 17-years old) and sleeping with my first girlfriend Kelly (at 18-years old). By then, that one book had turned into 2 and then into 3.
My dad had a new girlfriend and, when I was 17-years old, I came home from school one day and my Japanese journal was laying on the dining room table. I was horrified. She had gone into my room, snooped to find my journal and then read it aloud to my dad. Their excuse was they were worried about my going out all the time and didn’t like my friends.
I felt incredibly violated.
I hysterically called my mom who came and got me. I gathered all my journals and put them in a box and carried them with me, getting into mom’s car and going to see La Cage aux Folles with her and her boyfriend. It is one of the funniest movies ever, but I sobbed through the whole thing, my mom wrapping an arm protectively around my shoulder as she laughed and laughed.
I grew up in a house where words were sacred. Privacy was maintained. None of us would have considered reading another’s words/letters/journals without being given specific permission. To have my father be a party to that betrayal was horrific. It was the first moment I hated the woman he eventually married. (She betrayed me and my siblings many more times after that.)
Mom kept all my old journals (I knew she would never even take a peek inside any of them) and I carried my Japanese one and the one I was writing in with me everywhere. I never left anything home for them to see or read.
Once I moved out, I felt relief in having my words back with me.
Many years later, after I married and had 3 kids, I came out as a lesbian with my (now) former partner of 28 years. My first husband was crazy mad (as one might expect) and went into our storage unit and found all my old journals and those funly-folded notes from junior high school and tossed them in the Dumpster by our house. It wasn’t until I was packing to move that I learned he had stolen my words and threw them away as trash.
That time, I was heartbroken.
And when the Love of My Life, my partner of 28 years, sent me from Germany to San Diego to live with his mom (me and the 4 kidlets), I wrote him every day. He, someone who has never written a letter he wasn’t forced to, wrote me about once a week or so. I cherished those letters, knowing how rare they were. I kept them neatly in a shoebox under my bed.
When he broke up with me a couple of months later, I took the beloved shoebox and put it on the headboard of my bed, touching it and crying often. All those words of love and honoring our commitment to each other… all just memories.
A year later, I finally got up the nerve to read the precious words he’d written to me. I’d mourned the entire year, face on the carpet listening to Melissa Etheridge sing her pain-filled songs directly to me, endless tears soaking the fibers on the floor as well as throughout my body.
I took the shoebox one night after the kids were asleep, sat on the floor and began opening the envelopes.
Inside the first one was a blank piece of paper. Confused, I opened the next one. Two pieces of paper, folded exactly how my love’s letters had been. Realization began to set in as I began opening more and more of the envelopes, finding blank pages inside. Every single letter, gone… replaced with blank sheets of papers.
I called the person I still loved so very much and asked who would do such a thing?! He said he would call me right back.
It was his mother.
She told him she did it because she thought I might publish the letters one day and they would ruin his life if people knew he was gay (he was presenting as a woman then).
As badly as my heart was broken when he left the kids and I, I was 1000 times more hurt with his words being burned in the fireplace. He knew how important words were to me, having held me as I recounted the stories of others reading and then stealing and dumping my words. Regarding his mother, he apologized dozens of times, but there was no fixing it. (Tears are falling even as I write this.)
When we got back together a few years after that, the first thing I insisted on was his mother apologizing to me. She did. It did not remove one iota of the pain that still lived inside of me.
When I have told this story, people point out: but you blog! I have considered this truth and even worked on it in therapy.
I am thinking that I blog because I get to choose what comes out to the world. I get to share my thoughts. I have control over the experience of who reads my journals.
I do not censor much, my thoughts fall out of my fingers without much planning. So it isn’t like I am not sharing deep, intimate details with you all; I am. But, I feel empowered that it is me who hits the Publish button and not someone who has no right to my thoughts, feelings or words.
“45” is what I call POTUS, the 45th president of the United States, that horrid man who squats in the White House tweeting (LYING) about random topics to divert our attention from the fucked up bullshit he does that will, PLEASE GODDESS, get him impeached.
I was talking to my cub tonight about The Election (groan) and we were sharing what news we had read during the day, what people talked about and our feelings about it all. Note that I do not watch or read the news (my therapist and Psychiatrist have forbidden it), but get information from Tumblr and Facebook. My cublet, on the other hand, is a CNN junkie. Between us, we can usually cover all the bases.
Is this for real? Or is this a statement of protest.
When the protests at colleges began the night of the Election and now that they have continued, including the #NotMyPresident hashtag, I started with “People are PISSED! They need an outlet.” The protests will mean zero to Trump’s White House. However, they are an incredible show of force of just how angry we are that this animal has become the President. I also believe they are laying the foundation for the election in 2020. (I am sure I’m not the only one watching to see who The Leaders will be as things unfold.)
Then the Calexit stuff… will they really try to secede or are they making a loud statement of distaste and anger. I believe it is the latter.
Next up was the Change.Org Petition to ask/beg/demand the Electoral College to not vote Trump in in December. My love was NOT happy about it at all, saying that we can not like what happened and be as loud as we want about it, but that asking that the Electoral College to do this is not the way our American System of Government works. I offered that it was yet another “statement” of anger and frustration and surely people will know that an online Petition wasn’t going to make one iota of a difference with what happens in December. He said that even some college educated people he knows who do know how the government works were demanding their friends go and sign the Petition, acting like if there were enough “signatures,” it would, in fact, sway the Electoral College. (At the time of this writing, there were already over 2 million signatures.)
Whatever Means Necessary
I made the comment that I felt people were grasping for control in an uncontrollable situation because they are terrified for their lives.They are using any means accessible to them… the streets, the press, social media and even as out-of-the-ordinary as Calexit, people are going to find a way to shout their sheer terror so someone will hear them.
I commented that many of the Protesters/Protectors have been plunged from the top of the Pyramid (Self-Actualization) to the bottom two levels (Safety and Physiological) in the time it took to hold one Election Night. Even the most oppressed have fallen down the rungs.
Women (including me), the LGBTQIA+ community (including me), Muslims (including my cub), immigrants, the disabled (including me) and so many more are, quite literally, scared of violence against themselves and their families… violence that can lead to death. As we know, it has started already. This would be the second level in Maslow’s Hierarchy.
Desperate people, especially our trans brothers and sisters, are killing themselves, bypassing the bottom level and removing themselves from life altogether. I hardly have words to express my incredible sadness that this man has terrorized our country so intensely it seems hopeless to even try and fight with The System.
It’s Up to Us
Within the span of days, I, along with millions of other, are galvanized to fix things… do away with the Electoral College, take Trump/Congress/the government to court if they attempt to stomp all over our Constitution & Amendments (thank you ACLU!)… and to reach out, speaking for and taking care of others who do not (and have not) had a voice for far, far too long because of the oppression this country has harbored since taking the land belonging to the Native Americans.
For the first time since the night of November 8th, I am feeling hopeful that we can begin to reverse the tragedy that’s taking over our White House in January 2017.
I initially wrote this on my Navelgazing Midwife blog, but it needed to be shifted over to here. It was written on July 4, 2016. I remain endlessly in awe of those that responded to the call for help in saving lives on June 12 and 13, 2016.
I have wanted to write this since 3am on June 12, and every day since, but it took awhile to even begin to formulate the right words; there was simply emotion and incredible sadness hindering my fingers.
I was a midwife and doula for 32 years, holding lives in my hands many times, resuscitating babies and stemming the tide of postpartum hemorrhage in mothers. Yet I have but a whiff of what our First Responders (and others named below) experienced the night of June 12 and all these days since. I have tried to think of a way to thank these people, have an intense urge to seek each one out and hold them close to my heart while whispering, “Thank you,” over and over again.
The scope of actions from those that were there… are there… for my gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans, queer and straight family, Latinx or Anglo, (for they are family to all of us) is enormous. The incredible amount of love, care, detail, sweat, tears and even shock must be acknowledged. As a care provider myself, I listened to the incredible unfolding of the hospital staff’s descriptions of their work as the waves of dying and injured flooded through their doors. I sat through their first press conference with survivor Angel Colon front and center, enraptured, yet sobbing with gratitude and awe at their choreographed and executed dance to save lives.
I know I could never begin to thank every agency that pulled together those first 24 hours, but I need to try. Each profession or organization I list is a thread in the whole, beautiful tapestry that is #OrlandoStrong.
Please feel my overwhelming love and gratitude… and know there are thousands and thousands of others who feel the same. You people, my Superheroes, are a gift to humanity. Never, never let the finger pointing touch you. Do not claim that bureaucratic static that will certainly grow to a cacophony before too long. Stay true to your knowledge that you did everything right, you saved so many. You did the very best any of us could ever have done. No, you did far, far better than most of us.
Thank you a hundred million times plus 102 to those mentioned below. If I have forgotten you, just add yourself to the list; it was merely an ignorant oversight. You, too, belong here.
Thank you to:
– The entire Orlando Police Department who risked their lives, over and over again, to save as many people as possible. I am filled with so much gratitude, my heart overflows with tears streaming down my cheeks.
– Everyone at the Orlando Sheriff’s Department who also risked their lives multiple times and kept communications between the different agencies running smoothly. I also weep with gratitude for your agency.
– Orlando’s amazing SWAT Team who found ways to get into the building to save people and then removed that evil animal from this earth. You all are incredible.
– All the tireless Paramedics who used their minds and skills, even when the solutions were unorthodox, to help save lives.
– All the Ambulance agencies that responded and tended to the wounded while getting them to the hospital as fast as possible.
– All the EMS personnel who had many roles to fulfill in saving lives.
– All 911 Dispatch Operators… my heart aches for you wondrous folks who comforted the injured and dying throughout the several-hour ordeal. You gave genuine love to those that died while you were on the line with them and helped keep others alive until help arrived. Your professionalism and note-taking will not be forgotten as the information continues being disclosed. I send you special wishes for emotional and spiritual healing from this horrific experience.
– Orlando Regional Medical Center Hospital, especially for their readiness drills that helped set them up for success with extreme situations such as this. No words can possibly express my pride in your response, care, and skill when you were least expecting it.
– The ORMC Trauma Team, all those years of study, school and thousands of hours working in the hospital and learning specialized skills culminated on June 12, 2016, saving untold lives.
– The Emergency Room Team, thank you for always being ready for anything. You were there. You were there for all of us that night.
– The dozens and dozens of Doctors – ER, OR & ICU – for utilizing everything you’ve ever learned (and things you surely had only heard about) to save so many. There really are not enough words to offer my gratitude and love for you all.
– The Orthopedics teams… your amazing skills working with the back and muscles was most assuredly crucial that night. I am sure you saved so many from being paralyzed with your gift during surgeries. Thank you so very much.
– The Microsurgeons, your extremely specialized skills surely saved so many from bodies that would be unable to feel or move properly once healed.
– The Cardiovascular & Thoracic Surgeons, your specialization was crucial with the horrific injuries to the chests of too many. Thank you for keeping so many hearts pumping.
– The beloved Nurses – Trauma, ER, Triage, OR, ICU & Surgical Recovery… it is beginning to sound trite, but I promise, I am absolutely speechless with gratitude for your gifts of kindness and skilled caring. Nothing that night (and since) could have been done without you incredible human beings. You are the Angels of Mercy.
– All the Surgeons of an endless variety, thank you for specializing in your individual areas and to the General Surgeons, thank you for attending to the multiple types of injuries that night. Thank you all for remaining strong and focused during the assembly line of cases that surely seemed never-ending at times. Your hands, in the most direct way, saved so many lives that night. Thank you.
– Residents – who used every moment of training to step in wherever you could.
– OneBlood blood bank personnel including Blood Collection sites, thank you for assuring there was ample blood at the hospitals for all the cases that needed it. Thank you, too, for opening up sites on Sunday to collect blood and organize getting that blood back to those whose lives depended on it.
– The Phlebotomy team, your job had to have been incredibly challenging that chaotic night of terror, finding veins and arteries, keeping the vials organized and then running the thousands of stat samples to the lab, over and over again… thank you for your skills and dedication.
– The Radiology team – your job was infinitely complicated by the sheer numbers of people working on each person, yet crucial to examining the patient in a life-saving manner. Thank you for knowing how to peek inside the bodies that needed so much help.
– The Respiratory Services team who were called into action to keep massively injured people breathing, either from the assault or the incredible shock and fear they were experiencing. You all are wondrous healers for those who cannot breathe.
– To Environmental Services, who were said to have cleaned and set up a room in 30-45 seconds; miraculous! It is challenging enough to keep things pristine and safe from cross-contamination under normal circumstances, but that you worked with all that blood, tissue, drapes, gauze, tubes, gloves, and then cleaning beds, rails, the floor and emptying the contaminated trash while patients were waiting for a place to lay… doing all of this in mere seconds, really is worthy of immense gratitude.
– To you amazingAnesthesiologists and Nurse Anesthetists… while I know you are highly-trained for emergencies and working with people in dire pain or unable to communicate their medical history, I am sure this night multiplied the need for your skills and knowledge dozens-fold. That you were able to anesthetize our precious friends and family so they might be saved under such circumstances is a miracle to behold. Immense gratitude.
– ToORMC Laboratory Services, the tasks thrown at you June 12 and the days immediately after had to have been enormous, yet you were there as the backbone for the entire health and safety of the injured, getting blood to whomever needed it, organizing the lab results so all providers could coordinate proper care, the list surely continues endlessly. Thank you for your amazing skill and meticulous attention to detail under extreme duress.
– To the Orlando Medical Examiners, especiallyJoshua Stephany for your immense sensitivity in keeping that madman separate from our lost souls. The unbelievable task you all gently and respectfully undertook is appreciated beyond words.
– To the Physical Therapists who began working with the survivors almost immediately so they could have as full a life as possible once they are recovered, thank you for your skills and knowledge of the body and its nuanced possibilities through movement and touch.
– To theChaplains of the Orlando Police Departmentand the others around Orlando, thank you for rushing to the spiritual aid of our First Responders, the families of the injured and dying and praying with the mass of disbelieving friends and relatives in their moments of spiritual questioning and anger towards God. Thank you for your love and patience with so much inner pain.
– To our Mental Health Therapists & Psychiatrists who flooded the different locations where families waited for news of their loved ones, knowing crisis counseling was an immediate need and you provided it, with zero regard for payment of any kind except knowing you were helping someone in emotional pain. Mental health needs will reverberate for years and years for so many of us, so thank you in advance for all you will do for everyone as time unfolds the mental and emotional anguish of this horrific night.
– To the Pharmacists at ORMC, your enormous task of providing the correct medications for scores of critically injured patients has not been overlooked. Filling order after order in the middle of the night had to have been daunting, yet when you, too, called for help, it came in in droves. Thank you for your education and extreme attention to detail.
– To the LGBTQ Center of Orlando, who immediately opened their doors to anyone who needed a place to talk, be held, cry or mourn. No words can express my gratitude for all you have done, are doing and will continue to do for our incredibly awesome and diverse community. May our Center grow as much as our hearts have for you after this disaster.
– To the Cell Phone companies for keeping those injured and dying in touch with loved ones and 911 operators.
– To those inside Pulse that struggled to save lives as the horror unfolded, who shielded others with your bodies, who comforted the injured and dying as you hid anywhere you could, who held friends as they bled to death in your arms… no amount of tears and thanks can explain how full my heart is for you beautiful people. Your unspeakable pain will never be forgotten or taken for granted. You are incredible human beings who were in a horrible situation, but your soaring kindnesses outshone any evil that man tried to snuff out. Bless all of you.
– To those who work at Pulse for your belief in human rights and dignity – you will never be forgotten… especially Barbara Poma – you are so loved.
– To the civilians who just happened to be in the area and helped the injured, comforted the dying and transported anyone they could to the hospital, thank you. Clearly, we needed you there that night.
– Special note to the Religious Community… Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, and many denominations of Christians… who pulled together to pray and offer support to all who needed it. In the days afterwards, church services were held to assist the mourners who found solace in religious healing.
One national speaker, Victoria Kirby York of the National LGBTQ Task Force, spoke at a local church service and she must be held aloft and applauded. In a sea of religions not understanding the LGBTQ community, Ms. York stunned everyone with her ability to use Scripture to affirm the LGBTQ experience and right to love who we choose. Her words were a spiritual salve for so many who have been alienated by the religions in our neighborhoods and the policy-makers’ pens.
To the hypocrites among the religious folks (you know who you are), I hope you are able to rectify the doublespeak you drooled off your tongues after our tragedy because our LGBTQ family keeps dying because of your hate and damning judgment. It needs to stop. Now.
Ongoing Love & Support
While the above list, surely not complete, reflects the care and love from only the first day or two post-massacre, I could continue for another three days thanking the multitudes of restaurants, airlines, hotels, businesses, those that brought Comfort Dogs to love on those that needed a tender doggie hug, and then the ongoing monetary donations to the Pulse GoFundMe Page.
I must also thank the rest of the United States and the World for their endless support through vigils and moments of silence for our 49 beloved murdered friends and 53 recovering victims.
Please take a moment to offer thanks to everyone I’ve mentioned and those I have forgotten to name.
And lastly, please remember the families of those who have died and been injured. Their lives are forever changed. May they find at least a moment of peace through all of our love.
To our most precious doves, we will never forget your names or who you are: