Saturday, August 25, 2012

Mr. Gilmore

When I was a young girl, there was a very eccentric, older gentleman who lived in my neighborhood. His name was Mr. Gilmore. The trip to his house was a bit of a hike from mine. He had a lovely little cottage surrounded by woods on all sides.  It was rather secluded and I think he quite preferred it that way. Mr. Gilmore was English and had loveliest, most sophisticated accent. All the kids in my neighborhood loved to visit him and we would spend hours exploring his yard.  Mr. Gilmore was a gardener.  He grew vegetables and herbs and flowers.  He also had his very own working windmill. He taught us about gardening and the names and the wonderful uses of all the different herbs. He taught us to lovingly speak to the plants and flowers to make them grow. He said that was the secret to successful gardening.  He made us pick up the soil with our bare hands so we could experience the feel and the aroma of God's good earth.  He would send us home with bouquets of fresh picked flowers to deliver to our mothers.

Our parents didn't mind that we spent so much time with him. This was the 1960's. Times were different and people weren't as consumed with fear over single gentlemen entertaining young children. No adult ever spoke unkindly about Mr. Gilmore. In fact, they thought very highly of him. If they were suspicious, we never heard about it. We were just warned not to wear out our welcome with him.  In other words, respect his privacy and don't spend every hour of every day with him. It was impossible not to spend every day with Mr. Gilmore; especially for me.  He was just so fascinating.

My friends enjoyed spending time with Mr. Gilmore during the spring and summer more than in colder months. I preferred the winter because that meant we could go inside his home. My brother and I would traipse through the snow to his house. We could see the fire blazing from the tiny windows of his little cottage and when we knocked on his wooden door, his face would light up at the sight of us.  He would usher us inside and insist we warm up by the fire. He would take our gloves, hats and wet socks and hang them over a string stretched across the fireplace mantel to dry. Mr. Gilmore's cottage was even more delightful than his gardens. It reminded me of a Hobbit's house; warm and cozy. He had overstuffed, chintz covered chairs and sofas. You would sink into them when you sat and they swallowed you up; making it almost impossible to get out of them.  I always thought it was odd that a gentleman would have this type of furniture. It was not manly at all. I figured this was the English way and Mr. Gilmore was the only Englishman I knew.

The walls of Mr. Gilmore's home were lined with bookshelves overflowing with books.  In every corner of his living room he had stacks and stacks of more books. His collection was larger and greater than our local library. I was in heaven surrounded by all those old hard-covered and leather-bound books with the gold leaf pages. I would sit for hours in an overstuffed chair leafing through all of them. He would play classical music on his old record player and as I read, he would set up an easel for himself and my brother and they would paint. Mr. Gilmore was an accomplished artist. I had no idea at the time just how accomplished he was. They would paint portraits of me as I sat absorbed in a book.  He taught my brother how to mix colors together to create the perfect shade of green.  He taught him to paint lovely landscapes and how to draw the perfect face with charcoal pencils. Mr.Gilmore was a kind and patient teacher. He was simply amazing.

Mr. Gilmore was the epitome of a true gentleman. The only time he was not dressed in a suit and bow tie was when he was outdoors gardening.  Even then, he was meticulous in his starched, spotless white shirts and perfectly pressed pants neatly tucked in to his gardening boots . I was such a tom-boy back then, but when I was in his company, Mr Gilmore insisted that I act and speak like a lady.  And walk like one.  He would place a heavy, hard-covered old book on my head and instruct me walk around his cottage; keeping the book perfectly balanced.  "That is how a lady walks," he would say in his perfect English accent. "Head high, neck stretched, shoulders back, small, deliberate steps."  To this day, I still walk that way.

Mr. Gilmore taught me how to brew and serve the perfect cup of tea. He also taught me how to sit and sip a cup of tea. Like a lady. I would sit perched at edge of one his overstuffed chairs; back straight and legs crossed, balancing a delicate tea cup and matching saucer in one hand.  Slowly, I would lift the china cup to my lips, pinkie extended, and sip- not gulp- the sweet milky tea.

My brother was also required to act like a perfect gentleman. He was taught to bow, how to take a lady's arm and escort her in and out of a room, to pull out chairs and open doors, and most of all to always, always respect a woman.  Our reward for a job well done was a small square of Cadbury chocolate. It was the most delicious treat I had ever tasted; nothing like the cheap, artificially flavored chocolates to which I was accustomed.  There was nothing else like it in the world.  Even as an adult, I can never refuse a piece of Cadbury chocolate. It immediately transports me back to my childhood and all those wonderful days with most interesting man I ever knew.

Ah.... Mr. Gilmore. How very precious he was.  He never spoke of family, or a wife or children. I always thought it rather sad that he was alone. I did not want him to be alone and that's part of the reason why I spent so much time with him. He never said no. He never turned any of us kids away.  He was never too busy to share a cup of tea or show off his gardens or his latest work of art.  He always seemed genuinely delighted that we were there. It was always with a bit sadness, when the sun began to set behind the trees, that he would say, "Off with you now. Best to get home before Mum begins to worry."

How sad when things change and we have to grow up.  Our thoughts and our time eventually became consumed with school work, college prep, sports and dating. As we got older, our trips to Mr. Gilmore's became less and less frequent until eventually our time spent with him became a thing of the past. He died alone in his magical little cottage, surrounded by all his books and portraits.  I wept bitterly over the news. I felt so guilty that I preferred to spend my time with silly boys or playing with makeup rather than in the company of such a distinguished gentleman who had so much to teach me about life.

What I did not realize as a young and innocent child was that Mr. Gilmore was gay. The truth about that came out after he passed away. A handsome college professor took up residence in Mr. Gilmore's home to settle his affairs and sift through all his belongings. The whole neighborhood was talking about it. They'd seen this man discreetly come and go over the years. It was then I realized the secret our friend had kept hidden from us all this time. He never said a word about it and the thought never crossed my mind. I wouldn't have understood what it meant anyway.  He was just a wonderful, interesting man who lived alone. A man who loved children, but never had any of his own. My parents and all the other adults in the neighborhood had their suspicions, but they never stopped us from visiting him. Of course, when all those suspicions were confirmed, we were all asked if Mr. Gilmore had ever "tried anything." Of course not. NEVER.  I wonder, if we were growing up now instead of back then;  if trips to Mr.Gilmore's house would be forbidden. I wonder if our parents would have been consumed with fear. Mr. Gilmore might be viewed as a predator. Gay or not; why else would he want to spend time with children?  His carefully guarded secret about his personal life and sexual preference would have been the talk of the town. All of us kids would've been robbed of the joy of knowing this man and learning from him just because he was different. Mr. Gilmore would've been robbed of the pleasure of investing in us and watching us grow up to become fine young ladies and gentlemen. Isn't that sad?

I don't care if he was gay. What difference does that make? He was wonderful man who touched my life and the lives of so many others in so many ways. He gave us culture, a love for books, art and gardening.  He taught us manners and how to be gracious and kind. My brother and I often speak of him fondly and with great respect. That lovely, distinguished gentleman took the time to reproduce himself in us and we carry a part of him with us as adults. I am forever thankful I grew up when I did and was never robbed of such a treasure, otherwise known as Mr. Gilmore.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Why I Love the Rain............

I used to curse the rain.  I hated it.  It wrecked my hair. Ruined my clothes. Destroyed my shoes. I always managed to forget my umbrella.  Rain was major inconvenience. It made commuting a nightmare.  Train delays. Floods in Penn Station.  When I was working in the city, there were times it rained so hard that the LIRR would cancel all eastbound trains.  I would be stranded, with no way home, and had to sleep in hotels.   I also had to go to work the next morning in the same clothes I'd worn the day before. That was almost a fate worse than death for me. Keep reading and you will understand why.......

When people meet me for the first time, they often get the wrong impression.  I am a bit of a perfectionist about myself and my appearance. Perfect hair, perfect makeup perfect clothes. Never a run in my stockings. Shoes polished and a matching handbag. Nails well manicured. Excellent posture. Shoulders back. Head held high. This makes some folks uncomfortable and I am often perceived as a snobby, high maintenance bitch until people really get to know me. It's really just a cover to hide the fact that I am really awkward and clumsy and even a little insecure at times.  I've relaxed a whole lot over the years, but I still maintain some level of impeccable sophistication; especially when I go out.  I just don't freak out over a chip in my nail polish or a hair out place anymore.

A few years ago, I had just started dating a new guy.  He was not my usual type.  I dated white collar business men: bankers and such.  Guys with money who could seriously wine and dine me. That was the field I was in at the time so I usually dated men I met through the job.  This new guy was in construction. Hard-working, rough hands, loud mouth. Very tough, but on the inside; very sweet. He didn't have much money either. His idea of a fancy restaurant was The Olive Garden. Perish the thought!  There was still something so attractive about him, so I figured, why the hell not? I'll play with him for a little while and move on.

He had his doubts concerning me, as well. I most certainly was not his type, either. I was his first brunette ever and he usually didn't go for the successful, independent business woman.  He liked a more down-to-earth girl and I didn't appear to fit that bill at all. We really had nothing in common. I was a Martini drinker. He drank beer. I was spoiled and privileged.  His life story was heartbreaking. We both hated the rain. We had that. It was a major inconvenience to me and it usually meant a day without pay for him.

Anyway, the new guy and I would meet at the local bar every Friday night.  I would arrive right off the train straight from work, dressed to the nines in my business suit and heels. Everyone else there was casual, including him. I always stuck out like a sore thumb and he and I looked so mismatched. As we sat there one night, enjoying our drinks, it began to pour outside. A torrential rain storm that came out of nowhere. He looked at me and said "Hey. Wanna go outside and kiss in the rain?" Without missing a beat, I jumped to it and said, "Let's go!"

My friends all tried to stop me. "Oh my God. It's pouring out there! Your hair! Your clothes! Are you crazy?"

I ignored them all. What I did not realize was that he was only joking and was certain I would decline. He didn't think I would dare stand out in the rain and mess up all my perfection. Honestly, he was banking on the fact that I would say no. He really didn't want to go out there and he admitted that to me later. I totally shocked him by dragging him outside into the rain with me. I pressed him against the side of the building beside the window and kissed him. Passionately. Best kiss I ever had. We kissed out there in the pouring rain for about twenty minutes until we noticed that everyone in the bar was crowded around the window inside watching us. Clapping and cheering.

When we got inside, he offered to drive me straight home. "Why would I want to go home now?" I asked.
"Well, you are bit of mess," he said.
"I don't care," I replied. "Do you?"

He didn't mind one bit. He said I never looked more beautiful. He meant it.............

I stayed there with him for hours, completely soaked to the skin, makeup smeared, wrinkled and messy, hair drenched and dripping. I didn't care. The whole bar was buzzing about the passion between the career girl and construction worker. We both drank free for the rest of the night.

We fell in love that night. Every doubt we had about each other washed away with the rain.  Love caught us completely off guard and our affair lasted for more than two years. He was never able to wine and dine me in the ways I was accustomed, but we had more fun together coming up with things to do that didn't cost money. Eventually, we went our separate ways, but it ended amicably and with great respect. He was one of the sweetest guys I'd ever been with and I have nothing but fond memories of my time with him.  And that night outside in the rain? That went down on record as the best kiss ever between two people. A moment made for the movies. Everyone at the bar still talks about it and they always remind me each time I'm there. It's bittersweet because I know I will never experience anything quite like that again.

Every time it rains, I get a text message. From him. The kiss guy. "I will never forget that kiss. I love the rain now. I love you and I always will."

I no longer curse the rain. I love it. I am thankful for it because it reminds me of how sweet love can be when we forget about ourselves and take chances.  Love makes us look beyond our differences, our looks, our jobs, and our phony perfection.  Love often comes in the most unusual packages. Packages we often overlook.  I am so grateful for love. Even when it doesn't work out as planned. Love is the greatest gift we can give ourselves and to others.  Never say no to love.............

As for dating; I no longer have a particular type. I've learned to look beyond all that superficial stuff and judge a man by his heart and not his job or his wallet.  I love and thank the rain for that, as well.........

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Traditional Marriage and Family Values

First, read this: The Top 8 Ways to be Traditionally Married According to The Bible

Now, a little background on me : 

I was born and raised in a Conservative Christian home. My father is a retired minister and I grew up in church.  I studied Biblical Theology and The Foundations of Christian Principles and Doctrine in college.  I also had a career in Contemporary Christian music.  I traveled around preaching and singing to the masses. Imagine that? As I grew and evolved, I began to question and examine some of the teachings I learned in church.  They just weren't working for me anymore. Someone very close to me was gay and I just couldn't accept the Christian perspective on that kind of lifestyle.  I went back to school to study nutrition and met new and different people from all walks of life.  My political views changed. I discarded most of my beliefs and ideas about religion.  My opinions about Family Values and Marriage Equality changed, as well.  As a result of my new views and lifestyle;  I became the black sheep of my family. My brother is a black sheep too, but he left home years ago to follow his heart and ideas about God, religion, and sexuality. I am also no longer permitted to sing in the "Christian" arena. This is heart breaking because my love for God has not changed.  I just believe in Him a little differently now.  In fact, my devotion and appreciation is stronger than ever and I would love to sing about it.  It's a bit tragic, but the greater tragedy would be to forsake my personal beliefs and deny my heart. So, the song bird has been silenced.  I don't have any axes to grind and I am not bitter. I am at peace. The only reason I am sharing this is so you will understand that I am not an ignorant novice. I've seen and lived both sides. 

What really sticks in my craw are those who keep using the Bible as their foundation for Traditional Marriage and Family Values. I am in the thick of this day in and day out.  I often wonder how many of these people have actually read and understand their Bibles? 

The Bible doesn't say all that much about marriage. The Old Testament has some rules and regulations. The majority of those rules and regulations concerning marriage- NO ONE follows any more.  If you really want to get all biblical about it;  the New Testament actually discourages against marriage and tells us it's better not to get married at all.  Marriage in the New Testament is more of a spiritual union between Man and God; not a ceremony between a man and woman. 
I do not believe one can argue Traditional Marriage/ Family Values from a biblical stand point because the Bible really does not address the topic clearly and consistently. You can't use the Bible as your defense if you are not following the rules yourself.  This means if your wife was not a virgin when you married her; you were supposed to drag her out into the street and stone her. (Deuteronomy 22:13-21).  Ridiculous, right? But..... this is what the Bible says! 

The Apostle Paul wrote: Love never finds an end. Why can't we just go with that? People who love one another should be allowed to marry regardless of gender or sexual preference.  Who are we to try to put limits on love and the desire to be a family? Just because we don't understand something or would never consider it for ourselves does not necessarily make it WRONG!  And who are we to say we know God's heart or mind about anything? Other than loving one another. He told us to LOVE.  That's it! 

I believe REAL Family Values are caring for the poor, the sick, and the homeless.  Protecting victims of domestic violence.  Women's Rights.  Equal Rights. Protecting and healing broken children and preventing abuse.  Putting an end to drug addiction among our young people.  Protecting the environment and our precious resources. Curing epidemics like heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and obesity.  YEAH.  Fighting for these causes is hard. It takes sacrifice. This stuff is ripping families apart.  Our focus is just grossly distorted.  Remember all that drama and fighting over Fast Food chicken? People gorging themselves on that crap because the establishment support their beliefs?  There are probably hungry families right in our own neighborhoods who would just love a chicken sandwich and they don't care where it comes from.  Are you kidding me? 

I apologize for offending anyone and their personal beliefs, but this is my heart.  I must be true to my heart. 

"If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town." - Jesus Christ

Monday, August 6, 2012

Happy and Settled.............

A few days ago, my ex-husband stopped by the house to drop off a few of my precious possessions. He stayed for awhile and after exchanging pleasantries and bringing each other up to speed on what was going on in our lives, he went home. It was actually a nice visit and a small miracle that he and I were actually able stay in the same room together for more than five minutes without fighting, screaming and insulting each other.  Time has a way of healing all wounds.  We made peace with each other awhile ago. We're over it.  Over the hurt. The pain. The cruelty. And...... we're over each other.

What really surprised me were the reactions of the people closest to me.  My folks were there when my ex came by and they joined in some of our conversation.  The moment he left, my mother grabbed me by the arm and asked, "Do you still love him?" Without hesitation, I quickly responded. "No!" My dad shook his head. "That's a shame. I really wish it could work out between the two of you." My heart sank, but I didn't say a word. My father: the eternal optimist who believes with all his heart that people can change. I am not so easily convinced when it comes to the man I lived with for nineteen years.

Later on, my sister came over. Just a few short years ago, she had nothing but pure venom rushing through her veins concerning my ex-husband. She really shocked me as we all sat down to dinner. She wanted to know if my ex had asked me out on a date or anything.

"Uh...why would he do that?" I asked.

She shrugged.  "I don't know. Maybe you two will get back together!"

At that point, I lost it and starting yelling at my whole family. "Oh. My. God! What is wrong with you people?"

I will spare you the gory details of my marriage. Let's just say, it was unhealthy. We either flourish in relationships or our passion and reason for living is choked right out of us.  In my situation; it was the latter.

I proceeded to tell my family how crazy they were to even suggest such a thing. Don't they remember anything? Finally my dad spoke up. "We just hate to see you alone. We want you to be happy and settled."

Happy?  Honestly, I can't remember any point in my marriage when I was really, truly happy.  Most of the time, I was miserable. Depressed. Suicidal. Do they all really want me to go back to being that person? I was certainly much easier to get along with back then, so perhaps on some level; they do.  As for being settled; I am settled. Perhaps not in the traditional sense of the word.  I don't have a husband. I don't even have a steady boyfriend.  I date from time to time, but I haven't found anyone worth the investment of my time, effort or love. This drives my family crazy.

I don't have things all wrapped up in a nice, neat package. Honestly, who does? Most people automatically assume I am unhappy and unsettled because I still have a few loose ends. My life is far from perfect, but I am happy. I am settled.  I have peace. I sleep well at night.  Peace and the ability to get a good night's sleep are two things I did not have when I was married.  I have love. I was so broken back then it was not possible for me to give or receive love. My heart is opened now and I know who I am. It took me along time to get here. I am not lonely, either. I have family. I have friends. I have a life. It just doesn't include a man. I am not about to choose any man just for the sake having one or to make my family happy.  I'd really rather be alone than to do that!

Why do some people believe that my only source of happiness can come from being in a love relationship? Since when does settled mean a life built around the needs, desires and demands of a man? Been there. Done that.  I really don't have a burning passion for a repeat performance. Maybe there's something wrong with me or perhaps I am only one with her head on straight about all this.  Who cares if I am the only one at family gatherings without a partner?  Evidently, my family cares. They want to see a man beside me. Holding my hand.  Giving me jewelry for Christmas.  Kicking me under the table when I start arguing about family values and politics. I am not uncomfortable because I don't have all this.  They are.  Isn't that funny?  They're so uncomfortable and so uncomfortable with me that they even want me to reconsider my ex-husband!  The one man capable of beating me back into the person they all want me to be. I don't know if I should cry about all this is or give them a swift kick in the pants with my cowboy boot!


It's not that I don't want a man in my life. I just don't sit around whining because I don't have one. It's not my life's mission to go out and get one. I am really much too busy doing other things: enjoying life, building my business, preparing for my future. The idea of sharing all that with the right partner sounds nice. My ex-husband was the wrong partner. I've suffered heartache and disappointment with a few wrong partners since my divorce. I want the right man.  I don't think I have to go out there and hunt him down or consider going back to someone who once caused me such misery and pain. Maybe he's changed. Maybe he hasn't.  I am not willing to take that risk. Besides, I've changed.  I am not the same girl my ex-husband fell in love with decades ago.

I believe that if I continue being true to myself and work at becoming the best person I can be;  the right man will find me. The one who accepts me exactly as I am and doesn't want me to change a thing.  Someone willing to overlook my fears, faults and failures. Someone who inspires me to love more.  Be more. Do more.  Not because he wants me to satisfy his own selfish desires, but for my benefit and to benefit the world around us. I would love the opportunity to pour that kind of love and inspiration into someone else. I  refuse to buy into the lie that I will never be happy or settled until I find that person. I am happily willing to wait.  I am also willing to accept the fact that the right man for me might not exist. So what do I do? Settle for just anybody?  Go backwards? Change who I am now to make everyone else happy?  I don't think so. Talk about about being unhappy and unsettled. Quite honestly, the only times I've ever felt unhappy or unsettled was when I had a man sitting right beside me.

My happiness is my responsibility!  That's what I work on every day.  If someone wonderful happens to come along; great.  If he doesn't; that's okay, too.  As long as I have truth, peace and love in my heart; I am happy and settled. That's good enough for me. Everyone else is just going to have to learn to deal with it.......

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Does This Serve Me?

Yesterday, I had a lovely lunch with an old friend.  As I happily munched away on Seaweed Salad and Vegetarian Sushi rolls; she proceeded to fill me in on all the details of her life since I'd seen her last.  She is in a committed relationship and not happy. In fact, she is so unhappy that she does everything possible to stay out of the house. She purposely works long hours, gets involved in projects out in the yard and everywhere else; anything to avoid being stuck indoors for any long periods of time with him.  This is one of the saddest things I've ever heard. I really didn't know how to respond. I just hated the thought of my friend being miserable. She deserves better than that.

I told her I couldn't really offer any real advice other than this: she is the most important person in this situation.  Her happiness is paramount.  If her relationship is no longer serving her;  it's time to seriously evaluate and make some important decisions. She saw this as being selfish until I explained further. Finally, she began to view things a bit more clearly.

It really is this simple.  If we are not happy; it is impossible to make anyone else happy.  If something is no longer serving us; it might be time to move on. This is not selfish.  In fact, I think it's more selfish to keep trying to exist in something that is clearly not working.

We often get trapped in situations and have no idea how to begin to get out of them: relationships, jobs, commitments that have become aggravating, irritating obligations. I am not saying we should shirk our responsibilities and commitments. We shouldn't walk out of our marriages simply because we are unhappy. We definitely can't just up and leave our jobs without some sort of back up plan.  However, if we find ourselves miserable more often than not and if something is no longer serving us in some way, it's time to evaluate and make some important decisions.

I am a huge fan of The Pros and Cons List. When I am faced with challenges or need to make decisions, I draw a line down the middle of a sheet of paper and write down the good and bad aspects of the situation in each respective column.  This process can take a few days, but I don't stop until I am unable come up with anything else.  I make my decisions based whichever column is the longest.  My little system has never failed me yet.

Let's face it. If you show up on the job every day miserable and grouchy, don't you think your work will eventually suffer? And what about the people around you? They can't help but pick up on your vibes and in turn, they will make you even more miserable. It might be time to make some serious changes. Same with relationships.  If you are not happy; chances are your partner isn't either. And now you have an endless cycle of unhappiness breeding more unhappiness. Unless you can come up with a few really good reasons to stay and make the best of it- TOGETHER- it might make more sense to walk away.

If something is no longer serving you; slip on your hip waders and start sifting through the muck and the mire.   Look for the diamonds in the midst of the stones.  If you come up with a fistful of diamonds; you have your answer and something worth fighting for and keeping. If not; make your decisions accordingly. Your happiness is more important than anything else.  This is not selfishness. This is a gift- the greatest gift you can give to yourself and others.