Oh No! The holidays again!


Here it is the middle of December already. I thought I just closed the pool for the season and there’s already snow on the ground! I’ve got the tree up and decorated, as well as the living room and dining room. The stockings are hung from the mantel and the manger is in place watching over everything. Kevin has the lights on the outside of the house and the reindeer and angels are prominently displayed with their brilliant white lights. The shopping is finished already and the gifts are waiting to be wrapped. There’s Christmas music emanating from Alexa and my favorite little ornamental village church filling the whole house with holiday spirit. So why do I have mixed feelings?
…I was terrified of Santa Claus and refused to go near him…
As a child I loved Christmas with all of the decorations, Christmas carols and of course waiting for Santa’s visit. I have fond memories of our Christmas tree with all its colorful decorations, many of which were handmade. We had two big evergreen trees growing in our yard that I couldn’t wait to decorate until they became way too tall to put lights extending to the top. Even though I was terrified of Santa Claus and refused to go near him when I visited a department store where he was greeting children, I wanted him to bring me presents. I especially loved Christmas Eve when all of my relatives came to visit and my father made his famous” Tom and Jerry” drinks. Instead of alcohol my brothers and my cousins had ginger ale in the mugs until we reached the drinking age.
We weren’t rich, but I didn’t know that.
I can remember waking early and scrambling downstairs Christmas morning to find that Santa had been there and left everybody beautifully wrapped gifts. Even though we didn’t have a fireplace I never questioned how Santa got into the house. I can still smell my mother’s pies and turkey cooking in the oven as I played with my new toys and got ready to attend mass. While we were waiting for Christmas dinner I would go visit my friends in the neighborhood and they would visit me. We were all very happy that Santa had been so nice to us. We weren’t rich, but I didn’t know that. To me, all was right with the world.
I knew Christmas was only for one day and soon it would be all over.
Then I grew up and things changed. I moved away from home and developed mixed feelings towards Christmas and the holidays. I was coming to terms with the fact I was gay and felt out of place when I went home for the holidays and was forced to endure questioning as to why I wasn’t married or when I would meet a nice girl. When I finally came out to my family I still felt as an outsider and tended to blend into the wall when I went home. After a while I gave up on making the holiday trip through the treacherous snow belt of upstate New York and buried myself in my work, only taking Christmas day off. Even though I was invited to spend Christmas with neighbors and friends I preferred to stay home and spend Christmas with my dog. I had a small tree and decorated the outside of the house mainly to prove to people I wasn’t a lonely hermit. I knew Christmas was only for one day and soon it would be all over.
This isn’t Christmas, it’s commerce!
What happened to me? I still enjoyed the Christmas decorations in the malls and the beautiful lights and displays of my then home, Boston. I loved to listen to the Christmas carols playing on the radio and blaring throughout the malls bustling with shoppers. It was odd though that I only liked the traditional religiously-themed carols because I am not a religious person. I still feel the same way towards the carols I hear today. It angered me when our beautiful traditional carols were used to hawk all kinds of merchandise as Christmas gifts! Even though I liked going to the malls I hated shopping. I felt and still do feel as though people now feel obligated to buy presents, for not only their family but just about everyone they know. To this day I abhor the television commercials where a husband and wife give each other a new Mercedes and think nothing of it. How many people can afford to do that? How many people can’t even afford an old used car? I would complain to myself “this isn’t Christmas, it’s commerce”! Christmas would be better without having to buy presents. After all, why should we have to prove our love to those we care for by giving them presents they really don’t need?
Christmas is about a Jewish couple and their infant child, living in the Middle East, seeking aid and shelter in their time of need!

The one aspect of the holiday season that I have always loved is that people (most people that is) are exceptionally kind to each other and go out of their way to greet others with joyfulness and concern. This year I feel especially confused and upset with what my country is doing to the poor people seeking asylum on our southern border and by our government demonizing immigrants and people of color. As far as I remember Christmas is about a Jewish couple and their infant child, living in the Middle East, seeking aid and shelter in their time of need! It saddens me also to realize that even though everyone is gushing with love and kindness during this season, things will be back to normal with the hateful, nasty and disrespectful language and behavior that pervades our society today. The poor, the homeless and the less fortunate among us will once again be forgotten until the holiday season next year.
“it’s only one day”
I am no longer alone and I now celebrate the Christmas holidays with my husband who really never celebrated before, as he is not a Christian and was born and raised in a predominantly Muslim country. His enthusiasm and desire to help others has sort of reinvigorated my interest in Christmas. He gets as excited about helping the less fortunate in our community as he does about decorating our house to the max. Although he’s also not religious I think he has developed the “feelings” about the holiday that I once had as a child. We look forward to celebrating with family, friends, and neighbors, as I did as a child, but we also cannot forget that for many people there isn’t much to celebrate. I’m no longer alone, but I can’t forget that there are many, many people who are alone, and lonely. The holidays only reinforce their sense of loneliness. Maybe they deal with it the way I used to and think, “it’s only one day”. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

The GOP Says Quid Pro Quo Isn’t Impeachable

It wasn’t that bad.

Image by Pascvii from Pixabay

For the third time in my lifetime, a President of the United States is being impeached. The first I remember was Nixon, for abuse of power, and obstruction of justice in covering up a crime. The second was Clinton, basically for getting a blowjob and lying about it. Now it’s Donald Trump’s turn, for obstruction of justice and abuse of power, and by the time this is over possibly one hell of a lot more.
With seemingly a mountain of irrefutable evidence against Trump, the Republicans have been unable to produce a reasonable defense of Trump, instead, they have attacked procedural issues. They have prevented some witnesses from testifying and threatened the whistleblower while attacking those witnesses who have testified. Trump followers and lowlifes at Fox News have even attacked an immigrant war hero Purple Heart holder, who gave testimony against Trump, by calling him a traitor and a spy.
As the Republicans have been unable to find any solid ground upon which they can defend Trump they are now saying Trump’s actions, soliciting help from Ukraine to find dirt on his political opponents is not an impeachable offense and are not that bad. They accuse the Democrats of trying to nullify the votes of the American people who elected this poor excuse of a human being.
First of all, Trump lost the popular vote “bigly”. Clinton won the popular vote. Trump was elected by the electoral college, not by a majority of Americans! As far as their view of this unconstitutional act being “not that bad” this is heading down a deep, dangerous and slippery slope. If Trump is not held accountable for these egregious actions and escapes being impeached we, as a democratic society, are doomed.
If this action is not “that bad” then we have a whole new set of standards and values. It won’t be that bad to publically mock handicapped people. It won’t be that bad to vilify people who are immigrants or people of a different races or different religions. It won’t be that bad to physically attack members of the LGBTQ community, solely because they are different. It won’t be that bad to incite violence against any member of our society who we perceive as being different. It’s now not that bad to cage little children because their skin is brown and their parents wanted a better life for them. What’s next?
Trump has been accused of sexually assaulting at least 25 women, including raping an underage teenager, but nothing has been done. Apparently, to the GOP and Trump supporters, this is “not that bad”. Will this type of behavior become commonplace? It seems so, at least for old white men. Trump is strongly supported by the religious right for his stance on abortion, even as they overlook his three wives and many admitted affairs with hookers. Does anyone want to venture a guess as to how many abortions he’s paid for? But I guess that wouldn’t be that bad. It would be bad for you and me, but not that bad for Trump. This does not bode well for women and the progress they have made in securing women’s rights.
The next time any of us receive a subpoena to appear in court we can simply ignore it. Right? The members of Trump’s administration do it, so it can’t be that bad. With Twitter and cable news our children can learn the new American values, as defined by Donald Trump. You can lie about anything and not be held accountable. You can bully anyone who happens to be different from you. You can laugh at and make fun of those who are less fortunate than you. You can blame others for your mistakes and take credit for what others have done. You don’t have to keep your promises and you don’t owe loyalty to your friends, even though they must remain loyal to you.
I do not have much confidence in the Republicans in Congress to do the right thing and keep their oath to uphold and defend the Constitution. They value loyalty to Trump, power, money, and white privilege over preserving our Democracy. They have no balls and are scared shitless that Trump will tweet something mean about them if they dare show an ounce of integrity. I also have lost confidence in my fellow countrymen to vote this psychopath out of office in 2020, thinking he’s “not that bad”. That WILL be bad.

Originally published in Medium

My Mind and My Body are in a Fight to the Death

And I am afraid of who’s going to win.

Image byReinhardi from Pixabay

I woke up this morning feeling racked with pain in every muscle, joint, and bone in my body. It was my day to go to the gym to exercise, so I had to ignore the pain, instead of giving in to it. I used my asthma/COPD inhaler, ate my breakfast, used my nebulizer, fed the fish and dogs and went off to the gym. This is my routine three times a week. There are days that I have little energy or desire to work out, but I do. I have to. I have no choice, as the alternative is unacceptable, at least at this time in life.
The gym I belong to is part of a physical therapy facility where there are a fully outfitted gym and an exercise room, for both patients and the general public. However, most non-patient members are retired people or those close to retirement whose Medicare supplement plans offer reduced membership fees. One of the perks I guess of getting old.
I enter the gym and greet the regulars I have gotten to know who have the same workout schedule as I do. Everyone is usually jokingly in agreement about winning half the battle by just showing up at the gym. At 71, I am one of the younger members, while a couple of people are in their mid-eighties. There was one gentleman who was 92, but I haven’t seen him in a very long time. I think I know why I haven’t seen him in a while! When any of the oldsters don’t show up I always wonder if they gave up on life or life gave up on them.
After a few minutes, the regulars leave and I am left to myself, my pain, my thoughts, and my hopes and dreams. Sitting at one of the machines waiting for the next set of pulldowns I unconsciously begin to focus on a series of inspirational posters lining the walls. I can’t help but see the irony in the posters of fit athletes running, mountain climbing, cycling, and skiing. I have not seen anyone working out in that room who could come near accomplishing anything close to those physical feats. Maybe 40 or 50 years ago. I suffered from asthma during my youth, so participating in strenuous physical activities has always been beyond my reach. The motivational purpose of those posters was lost on me and for that matter, most everyone exercising in that room.
I have always been a gym member, even after I retired I managed to find a gym to my liking. But now working out has become a serious battle. Over the past 10 or so years, my ability to breathe has slowly, but steadily become impaired. I have been diagnosed with chronic sinusitis, COPD, asthma, and chronic rhinitis, but no physician I’ve seen is completely sure which of these conditions causes my shortness of breath. I also have “stiff heart” syndrome, which can be a cause of shortness of breath and exercise-induced asthma. None of the COPD or asthma medications have any effect on my breathing. Inhalers and nasal sprays do nothing for my symptoms. I cannot depend on medical science to help me.
Taking a short rest from my exercise I sit and check out Facebook on my iPhone and let my mind wander yet again. Seeing photos of my friends and their children frolicking on the beach at Cape Cod and scrolling through photos of lakes and camping sites in the Adirondacks, I recall the times in my youth when I too enjoyed these beautiful areas. I begin to feel melancholic because I can no longer enjoy such adventures. It’s not just at the gym, in this particular moment in time, that I feel this deep sadness. Even at home, working in the yard, while struggling to breathe, I can’t help but think how much I enjoyed camping and hiking in the Adirondacks and traveling through Switzerland and Bavaria.
For a while I allow myself to enjoy the reminiscences of my earlier life, but I don’t allow myself to wallow in self-pity. I quickly change the frame of mind I have settled into and with a renewed sense of urgency and some newfound energy, I hit the weights and machines again. One aspect of my health condition that I know for sure can be reversed by aerobic exercise is my “stiff heart”. So in that situation, there is some hope and I am determined to continue working with the treadmill and stationary bike to return my heart to normal. Finally, my time in the gym comes at an end for this day and somewhat both tired and reenergized I head home. I’m not sure if I accomplished much, but hey, I’m still upright!
The next day I awaken to the same aches and pains and go through the same routines with my inhalers and nebulizer. I have to. While caring for my medical conditions, I also have to pay attention to my mental state. To be honest I have not accepted the fact that because of my respiratory problems I can longer do what I used to do. There are many people older than I who are extremely physically active, so why can’t I be? My own worst enemy is my own body. My mind says I can recover and become more active, regardless of what my body says. It’s like a constant battle between mind and body.
My days are filled with ups and downs, emotionally. Every time I watch a travel program showcasing the beauties of various countries of the world or I begin to follow reality shows centering on people who are living off the grid in Alaska, I want to take part. Sometimes I become depressed because I know my body wouldn’t allow me to do it, especially when I get winded going up and down the stairs in my own home! But I figure maybe I should be more realistic and aim for something simpler, like being able to ride a bicycle around the neighborhood or take a walk through the woods on a crisp fall day. Lowering my goals at least gives me some hope. Besides with my luck, I’d probably be attacked by a grizzly bear in Alaska.
I still want to go camping, and hiking through the Adirondacks. I still want to go back to Switzerland and Bavaria to breathe in the fresh air and once again marvel at the beauty of the Alps, so I can’t give up trying. I have to force myself into the battle that is constantly waging between my mind and my body. If I can work hard enough to strengthen my aging muscles and joints I can beat the defeatist attitude that engulfs the minds of people my age. I may not be able to perform physically like a twenty-year-old, but I’ll still be alive, with a youthful mind. I look around me and I see older people who have given up, because “it hurts” to lift weights or exercise, and they sit on the couch and wait for the inevitable, which oftentimes comes a little sooner than expected. I may be fooling myself, but I’m not going down without a fight.
Originally Published in Your Voice Counts on Medium.com

I’ve Never Had an Idol

Photo by Engin Akyurt from Pexels


Image by Henryk Niestrój from Pixabay

Some of you may have noticed that there are posts on this blog that were previously published on my Medium.com page, which can be found here.   In many instances, I re-post some of my Medium articles on this blog, as not everyone can read the article on Medium without being a member.

I have been writing this blog for quite a long time and monetized it with Adsense, but I have earned very little money; not enough to pay for the customized web address. I also wrote for Hubpages and did not earn enough money for their $50 payout threshold. After exploring Medium I decided to try writing and publishing with them in hopes of making some pocket change.  I have been writing on Medium for about a year and consistently earned money each month.

So what is Medium? Medium.com is an online publishing site where both professional and amateur writers can publish their work.  It is also a place where people can go to read articles on a wide variety of subjects, ranging from poetry to fiction.

Medium is free to join and publish your work, but there are some limitations.  With the free membership, you are limited to reading only 3 articles a month, but you can publish as many articles as you wish.  However, with the free membership, you will not be able to earn any money for your articles. For $5 a month or $50 a year you may become a Medium Partner Program member.  With the MPP membership, you can read as many articles as you wish and you can earn money from the articles you publish.  Many members make well over a hundred dollars a month, while a few more professional writers make thousands!  I have managed to make well over the $5 per month membership fee, with not a great deal of work invested.  The more you publish and interact with other writers and articles the more money you earn. 

I have noticed that many people who are not Medium Partner Program members read my articles, which is great for me, but it could be better.  That’s why I am writing this post. I earn money every time an MPP member reads my articles and claps or comments. If you enjoy reading my articles and you want to read more, from me, or the hundreds of other fellow writers, or if you want to write and get paid for it, why not join Medium and become a member of the Medium Partner Program. 

Please check out Medium.com  to learn more about how you can discover a world of reading and explore how you too can make some money.  I think you will enjoy Medium and you will be helping me out, as wells as many other writers.  Thanks for reading and I hope I see you on Medium.

Is America Really That Great?

Or have we become arrogant and complacent?

Public Domain Pictures
Earlier this year Andrew Cuomo, Governor of New York, stated in a speech that America “was never that great” . This comment drew the ire and the condemnation of many American “patriots”, but was he actually right in a way? We have always been taught, growing up that “America is the greatest country in the world”. We never questioned that assertion and we never had a reason to question it. But how was that determination made and by whom? It’s like believing in God, as all religious people do. We are told He exists, but we have no proof. It’s just a matter of faith.
“ America. Love it or leave it”
The same thinking applies to the belief that America is the greatest country in the world. If we don’t believe that America is the greatest country in the world, we’re labeled as unpatriotic, ungrateful, or even treasonous. We often are told “ America. Love it or leave it”. Just this week the President of the United States basically said those very words to 4 freshmen Democratic members of Congress, who were all women of color and harsh critics of him and his policies. If we don’t actually believe that America is the greatest, does that mean we don’t love America? I’m sure the citizens of most countries of the world view their country as the greatest, and love it as much as we love ours.

…always strive to do our best or to do better.
As we were always told that America was the greatest country in the world, we were also being taught about life. In athletics we were told to always strive to do our best or to do better. In school we were always taught that we can do better. We learned the importance of corrective criticism . We were encouraged, and are still being encouraged, that we must not be complacent about anything in our lives. If that is true for the citizens of this country, shouldn’t it be true of our country? Shouldn’t we all strive to correct the shortcomings of America and strive to make her better for all of her people?
…do they just don’t care?
I have traveled quite a great deal and lived in Malaysia for seven years and was always astounded by the ignorance of many Americans I spoke with concerning my foreign travel experiences. Some people actually thought that most of China had no electricity and Malaysia had no air conditioning! They were surprised to hear that Thailand and Malaysia had thriving health tourism industries and that their healthcare systems are not only top rated, but also extremely inexpensive! I have even had people ask me if children in Asia go to school like American children! Many Americans still believe that China and India are economically very far behind that of the United States. I really do not understand how, in this interconnected world, with the Internet and 24/7 cable news and social media, so many Americans can be so ignorant! Is it because they don’t want to be educated about another country of the world or do they just don’t care? I believe that the majority of these people believe that America is the greatest, regardless of what anyone says.
in the United States, students graduate saddled by staggering amounts of student loan debt.
So why is America so great? Let’s look at education. According to US News and World Report “Despite being home to some of the best universities in the world, the US is not considered to have one of the most educated populations. The U.S. ranks №18 in perceptions of an educated population, just above South Korea and behind Italy.” Every country in Europe and most in Asia offer completely free college tuition or substantially reduced tuition for their citizens, whereas in the United States, students graduate saddled by staggering amounts of student loan debt. Also in the US the quality of public education is dependent upon the wealth of a particular school district, with those from predominantly white, more affluent school districts faring much better than poorer non-white school districts. Children of more wealthy parents also have the luxury of sending their children to elite private schools.
This doesn’t make us so great.
Now we turn to healthcare.And we all know where we stand on this! According to Business Insider the United States does not even rank among the top 16 countries with the best healthcare. The Patient Factor has published a chart by The World Health Organization that ranks the United States number 37 out of 190 countries! Of the developed countries, the United States is the only country that does not offer its citizens free healthcare. According to Snopes , 643,000 Americans become bankrupt due to medical costs every year. In developing countries this is zero! Americans also pay much more money for prescription drugs than most other countries in the world. Because of this fact many Americans are “illegally importing drugs from other countries of the world” according to Drug Watch. This doesn’t make us so great.
We cannot be proud of the declining attitudes in this country towards minorities and the treatment of minorities in our judicial system.
Some of the saddest statistics which I see to be inexcusable are those statistics on infant mortality rate. Amazingly the United States scores much higher than comparable countries of the developing world. The Peter Kaiser Health System Tracker breaks down the ranking of the US as compared to other countries, as well as other demographics including minorities. Viewing some of these statistics is very depressing , but they also show that the US is improving slowly in some areas. We all know that the US has a high rate of drug abuse and we also have the highest prison population rates of any country in the world, without referring to statistics. It’s a national embarrassment to lead the world in these two categories! We also have no reason to be proud of the number of school shootings, which have become almost common in this country. We cannot be proud of the declining attitudes in this country towards minorities and the treatment of minorities in our judicial system. We cannot even be proud of our President and Congress!
…the rise of “religious liberty” laws that are nothing but blatant attempts to legalize discrimination…
During the last three years we have seen the progress made in this country in regards to civil rights, women’s rights, gay rights and other minority rights slowly being diminished. People of color have learned to fear for their lives in dealing with the police in situations as benign as a traffic stop. We see incidents where a suspect of color was shot and killed reaching for a cell phone, while a violent white criminal was apprehended alive, without a shot being fired. We have seen some police forces being infiltrated by the KKK or other white supremacist groups. We have seen transgendered people being demonized along with the rise of “religious liberty” laws that are nothing but blatant attempts to legalize discrimination against the LGBTQ community.
Does this make America great?
Perhaps the saddest and most disgusting trend in this country since Trump took office is the treatment of immigrants, both legal and illegal. Children are being ripped from the arms of their parents and put in cages in detention centers, where they are denied basic medical care, as well as the fundamentals of daily proper hygiene. What’s even worse is that these conditions are not only accepted by GOP politicians, but are encouraged by them at the heed of the President and his administration. While the majority of us condemn these situations, loyal Trump supporters and even some in the ranks of the Homeland Security mock and defile the children and their families. Does this make America great?
…America , for the time being, is the richest country in the world…
So why might we say that America is the greatest country of the world? America has the strongest and best equipped military in the world. America , for the time being, is the richest country in the world with the world’s largest economy. China is very close behind. America has some of the best universities in the world, including MIT, Harvard, Yale and Stanford, and many others. Students from all over the world come here to attend these and numerous other fine institutions of higher learning. The same can be said for our world class hospitals, such as Massachusetts General Hospital, The Mayo Clinic, MD Anderson and many more fine healthcare facilities, which count among their patients people from the world over, including numerous world leaders.
The United States possesses an abundance of invaluable natural resources second to none.
The United States leads the world in the number of entrepreneurs such as Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates, who have positively impacted world technology and society in general. Silicon Valley is the envy of the technology world, but is only one area of our country leading the world in technological innovation. The United States possesses an abundance of invaluable natural resources second to none in the world as well as having some of the world’s most scenic wonders, such as the Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls and Yellowstone National Park. Unbeknownst to most Americans the United States leads the world in production of oil, even though we also are the world’s biggest oil importer.

America is more than a country . It is a feeling.

How America is great cannot be easily described with statistics or with words. America is great for what she stands for. America is great because she offers opportunities and hope for those who don’t have either. In America you can become who you want to be, regardless of economic status, religion or race and even disability. America is so diverse that no matter how different you may be you can find your niche here. America is one part of the world where you can experience the food and culture of every country in the world without leaving the country. You can hear every language of the world and have the opportunity to learn that language and culture from the sons and daughters of immigrants from those countries. You can live a lifestyle in America for which you would be jailed or even executed in some countries of the world. I believe it’s called freedom. Our Constitution makes America great because of all of the rights and freedoms it grants to all people in this country.  America is more than a country . It is a feeling. A feeling of pride and a desire to help others, who are less fortunate, regardless of who or what they are. America is a willingness to give someone a chance that they thought they would never have. America is the Statue of Liberty and all she stands for. America is what we her citizens want her to be.
We should never lose sight of the future.
All of those shortcomings discussed above can be fixed, if we try. But first we have to admit they exist. We should never be complacent in feeling or saying that America is the greatest country in the world. We all must not accept mediocrity for ourselves and our country. We must not accept the failings of our country as normal or irreparable. We can’t just say “America, right or wrong”. We have to help America be right and just. We must strive every day to make ourselves, our town, our country better. We must resist those in this country who wish to denigrate our system of government, our Constitution and our citizens. We must denounce extreme nationalism and white supremacy, while embracing diversity. To paraphrase the US Army, “America should be all she can be”. We should never lose sight of the future.
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Originally published in Medium.com

My Bucket List Challenge, So close yet so far!

Image by Stefan Keller from Pixabay
I love to watch travel and nature programs, especially those about animals and people living in far away places. I was recently thinking of the places I have been and those I would still like to visit. I guess it could be called my bucket list. Thanks to Ryan Justin and his challenge to share our dreams or our own bucket lists I am now able to put my experiences and dreams of the future into words.
Now I reminisce about my travels and experiences.
When I was younger I often thought of the many far away places I would like to visit and the many things I would love to do. I never compiled a list and I never heard of a bucket list until I was much older. Now I reminisce about my travels and experiences, both good and bad, and feel happy that I had the chance to do them. I also think about the things I didn’t do or haven’t done yet. I admire Ryan for formulating a list of lively and enthusiastic adventures and implore him to do his best to make them all happen.
Don’t ask me why, but I did it.
I have experienced living on a tropical island in Malaysia for 7 years, a dream many people have shared. It was an unforgettable experience, for the food, the weather, the people and culture, but most importantly, that’s where I met my husband. I have held a tiger cub in my arms and fed a baby panda bear an apple while holding him in my lap. I sat on the ground and played with a baby elephant, one of my most cherished accomplishments. I’ve had scorpions crawl all over my shirt while in Thailand. Don’t ask me why, but I did it. I’ve chased a huge monitor lizard and almost caught it while in the countryside of Thailand. I have hiked in the rain forests of Malaysia and loved it, even though I had trouble breathing in the thick humidity.
I spent a good deal of time eating my favorite type of food, in the country of its origin, Thailand.
I’ve traveled throughout Switzerland, Austria, France and Italy while experiencing my dream of getting to know Europe and drinking beer in the Alps. I toured China and sampled the hot spicy food of Sichuan province while visiting the panda reserve there. I spent a good deal of time eating my favorite type of food, in the country of its origin, Thailand. I taught cytology in a rural jungle hospital in Vietnam, using a microscope powered by a mirror and the sun.
These are money, time and health.
So I guess I’ve done a lot, but there is still much more that I would love to do. In my opinion, in order for anyone to accomplish the items on their bucket list you need 3 very important things. These are money, time and health. For most young people time and health are usually on their side, but money isn’t. When I was younger I did what I could on my income and as my income grew my ability to travel and do more also grew. I am retired now and I have both the time and money to cross off the remaining items on my list, but the one thing I can’t buy is starting to fail me, my health.
I don’t feel sad about it and I don’t have any regrets

I’ve always wanted to go to Machu Picchu in Peru, but I don’t think I’ll make it. Other adventures I have waiting include climbing the Great Wall of China, living in the Alps of Switzerland and trekking through the Amazon rain forest. Unfortunately I have asthma, COPD and arthritis, which precludes my participation in any activities involving high altitudes and extreme humidity. I don’t feel sad about it and I don’t have any regrets about missing out in not experiencing those adventures. I can still partake in the adventures on National Geographic.
If I could do it all over again, I would do it in a heartbeat.
I feel extremely lucky that I have done what I have done, especially when I find out that people I grew up with or went to school with never left the community where the were born and grew up. I am happy to have had the opportunities to expand my horizons as much as I have. If I could do it all over again, I would do it in a heartbeat.
You won’t regret it.
My advice to Ryan and the younger people reading this is to start checking off the items on your bucket list now, while you’re young and healthy. Take advantage of any opportunity you have to travel and experience life, before life and old age robs you of your health and motivation. You won’t regret it.

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Originally published in Medium.com

I Came Out of the Closet,( But didn’t get very far)

Image by Paul Sprengers from Pixabay
When I was growing up I felt different and I knew I was different. I played baseball and football with my friends and had the same interests as they did, but I knew something was not the same. The term gay wasn’t used back then, the term was homosexual and it was a word that caused both laughter and revulsion.
I even made believe I was interested in girls!
There weren’t many people who admitted to being homosexual, because doing so was akin to a death sentence, if not for your life, for your job, your career and your reputation. The most famous person whom most thought was gay, was Liberace. He was extremely talented and extremely flamboyant, but he never admitted he was gay. Most celebrities back then had to hide their sexuality in order to maintain their careers. They had sham marriages and sham girlfriends to fend off the gossip mongers and tabloids. But many noncelebrities did the same. I even made believe I was interested in girls!
…I was terrified and wanted no part of that life.
The only openly gay person I knew was a person who lived in my neighborhood, Norman. He was a hairdresser, who was also very flamboyant, as he was commonly seen sporting makeup pastel-colored wigs and carrying his dyed pink miniature poodle. He was constantly the subject of laughter, ridicule and harassment. I can still remember my uncle, a city cop, relating stories where he and his fellow police officers raided parties where Norman and his friends were just having fun, only to harass them. I knew I was different, but I wasn’t like Norman and I didn’t want to be. If Norman was what it was like to be a homosexual, a gay, I was terrified and wanted no part of that life.
It was still quite risky to let anyone even entertain the thought that I might be gay.
Once I went to college and away from my hometown I began to allow myself to at least explore my sexual feelings. It was still quite risky to let anyone even entertain the thought that I might be gay. When I started to think I might be gay, my mind always forced the image of Norman into my consciousness. In my thirties and having lived away from home for a number of years, I was ready to admit to those closest to me, and myself, that I was gay. I came out to my family after my father had passed away from a long bout with cancer. My siblings and my nephews took the news okay, but my mother didn’t. She constantly accused me of being a pedophile, a drug addict, an alcoholic and referred to me as a faggot with faggot friends. She was more concerned with what her friends would think about her, than she was about my welfare and happiness. She was never without her St. Jude prayer card, praying for a miracle.
I was ready to step out of the closet.
When I moved to Boston to work in a well-known hospital I found freedom, freedom to be gay. I think almost half of my department was gay and the entire hospital was generously staffed with gays in every department. I was not alone. I was ready to step out of the closet. I did not hide the fact I was gay from my staff, my coworkers and my neighbors. Did you notice that I didn’t say friends? That’s because outside of my coworkers and my neighbors I didn’t have any friends! No gay friends outside of work.
I laughed it off, even though it really hurt.
I went to gay bars and to gay functions, but I couldn’t make friends. I was in my thirties and overweight, a combination that did not sit too well with most gays I came into contact with. Even when I attended events for gays, sponsored by the medical community, where one received his education and the position you held, was more important than what kind of person you were. I could lose weight, but I couldn’t change my age or where I went to college. I was who I was. I laughed it off, even though it really hurt. I still had no real gay friends and I eventually gave up trying to find any.
“I wasn’t gay enough”.
All of my friends were straight and were either neighbors or people I worked with. They knew I didn’t have any gay friends, as I didn’t hide the fact. One of my gay coworkers told me that the reason I didn’t make friends in the gay community was because “I wasn’t gay enough”. Apparently, he had received this feedback from some of his friends he had introduced me to. According to him, “I didn’t dress gay or even talk gay” and I “always hang around with straight people at straight places”. I had always thought being gay was a matter of sexual attraction. I didn’t know there was a particular way to talk or dress, or that I could only patronize gay gyms or restaurants.
I was gay and I was going to be gay in my own way!
I have always been told, by straight friends, that I was too sloppy to be gay, as my office and desk were in constant disarray and I dressed in a way that made me feel comfortable and not in a way to impress anyone or dress the way a gay person is supposed to dress. I did try to dress in clothes from Banana Republic or A&F, like good gays are supposed to dress and I did join a gay gym. I hated every minute of being that person. That wasn’t me. I wasn’t going to change just to fit into someone else’s criteria for being gay. I was gay and I was going to be gay in my own way!
Maybe it was her dementia or maybe it was St. Jude,…
I gave up trying to fit in and accepted the fact that I probably would spend the rest of my life alone, without any gay friends. My decision eliminated a lot of stress in my life and I felt comfortable with it. At the same time my mother finally accepted the fact that I was gay and even encouraged me to find “someone”. Maybe it was her dementia or maybe it was St. Jude, but anyway I was relieved. Not long after I gave up trying to fit in I met Kevin, my now husband. I didn’t meet him here, but in Malaysia, where he was forced to live in the closet, as I once did. Before moving here to live together, he too came out to his family and friends, and has never looked back.
No more closets and no more pretending…
I am happy now and I don’t regret “coming out of the closet”, even though I didn’t get very far. I see that I didn’t have to get very far, because I only had to be myself and by doing that I was able to meet Kevin. I still have only straight friends, mainly because we are new to this small town,and there is no gay community here or gay-oriented groups, and no one really cares about sexual orientation, as was the case when I was growing up. No more closets and no more pretending for the both of us. If only all LGBTQ people could enjoy what we have. We are truly lucky and truly blessed.

Originally Posted in Medium.com

Do Prayers Really Work?


Public Domain Pictures      
All my life I’ve been told to pray. I was educated in Catholic schools and there we prayed several times during the day. As students we were usually told what to pray for and I admit most, if not all of us, paid no attention to how or why we were praying. We were simply repeating words that we had memorized. Through this upbringing I learned that we had to pray to God, mainly for forgiveness for all the dastardly sins we evil children committed! I learned that there was a patron saint for just about everything and was told to pray to that saint for favors pertaining to his/her expertise. There was St. Anthony for lost items, St. Francis for animals, St. Jude for travelers and the list goes on and on. Even our sports teams prayed together before a game for God’s help in winning. I often was puzzled as how this works as the opposing teams also prayed! I don’t believe I ever got an answer.
As I grew older I fell away from the Catholic Church, as I became disenchanted with it’s teachings and the hypocrisy of not only Catholicism, but all religions. I still prayed though even though I wasn’t convinced it worked. Throughout my long life I have prayed for many things, although I believe very few of my prayers have been answered. Those few that have been answered I am not sure if they were really answered or if it was just coincidence that what I prayed for came to fruition. Yet still I pray.
We have overwhelming evidence that people pray and they pray often and for everything. Just about everybody prays,especially when they buy a lottery ticket. They pray that they will win the jackpot. People pray at casinos to win big. People pray for their favorite sports teams to win and also their favorite politicians.People tend to pray for their own self interests probably most often. On Facebook we can see people asking for prayers for sick relatives and quite often for children they don’t even know. Whenever someone asks for prayers for relatives we can see all of their friends sending prayers and prayer emojis. Personally I feel these are meaningless and don’t believe all of the friends and followers are actually praying. Times when we see many people praying are those all too often incidences where there have been mass school shootings. Instead of actually offering concrete actions to stop these mass murders, all we see is “offering thoughts and prayers” from politicians and citizens alike. Why aren’t all of these prayers being answered? Why do the shootings continue? I have never heard a sensible answer from clergymen and clergywomen as to why these prayers fall on deaf ears. Yet still I pray.
I believe that millions of people all over the world have been praying for world peace, as I have been doing my whole life, but we still don’t have world peace. I have been praying daily to end violence, killings and terrorism all over the world and I’m sure millions of others are joining me in my pleas. It still continues though. I pray every day to end the suffering of the sick, the poor, and the starving children of the world, yet it continues. I’ve actually asked members of the clergy about this and have been told “it’s part of God’s plan”. What kind of God has a plan that allows such disastrous hardships. Hitler had a “plan” and he’s considered one of the most evil and hated men who has ever lived! Yet still I pray.
I often think about why some prayers are supposedly answered and some are not, and think that maybe some of the petitions are just too complicated, even for God. After all God gave us all free will and if we chose to do evil, God will allow it, even thought it will hurt innocent people. I figured maybe God answered those prayers that were simple and would not change the course of human history. This idea was shattered recently when the beloved pet dog of my neighbor’s three young children (seven year old triplets)became seriously ill and was taken to the vet. The vet kept him overnight for a 24 hour observation to see if medication could improve his situation. If not he would have to be put to sleep. I knew the kids would be devastated if they lost their precious Griffin and he would be sorely missed by all of the neighbors. I prayed hard that night thinking that this would be a simple request for a benevolent God. After all keeping one dog alive would have no ill effect in the scheme of nature and it would save three children from losing their best friend and faithful companion. I was wrong. Griffin was put to sleep the next day! Yet still I pray!     
One phenomenon of modern society that I find to be disgusting and unbelievable is what I call “mass demonstration of prayer”. I am referring to demonstrations of prayer emanating from the golden halls of today’s “megachurches” which are broadcasting to their gullible followers over our airways. These gigantic spiritual edifices are filled to capacity every Sunday preaching their own version of Christianity heavily laden with, not the love of Christ, but the love of money. I think it would be safe for me to say that the majority of the followers of the popular megachurches are lower middle class, the poor and the lonely and poor elderly. As we all have witnessed, the flamboyant and charismatic leaders of these megachurches, more often than not, live in multi million dollar bejeweled mansions with a fleet of expensive foreign luxury cars and even jet plans waiting at their beck and call. Who’s paying for these extravagances? Their followers! Inevitably the religious services conducted at these megachurches end up with the congregation being asked for prayers and money to assure that their prayers will be answered. Like lemmings, the members of the congregation loudly pray in unison for their souls, while opening their wallets and pocketbooks to ensure their salvation. In moving spiritual performances, which would be the envy of any Oscar nominee, preachers tearfully beg for money to be able to continue their ministry “the way Jesus would want” them to. And of course the congregation succumbs to their pleadings. Anybody want to bet that even if these preachers pray , it is to keep their followers gullible and generous? I firmly believe that prayer can be valuable for some people, but ministers and churches such as those mentioned above make a mockery of prayer and those who profess to pray.
I’m still debating with myself whether or not prayers are ever answered. Are some prayers answered, while some are not. Do the prayers of some get answered, while prayers of others are ignored. Of those prayers that some people say were answered, was it just coincidence that what was prayed for became reality? Would the events have happened anyway? I don’t know. I guess I’ll never find out. But, just in case, I’ll keep praying to be on the safe side!
This article was originally published in Publishous on Medium.com

I Guess I’m Really a Bigot

Add capImage by Сергей Корчанов from Pixabaytion
                                                                 I’m not sure if I should feel bad!
I published this in my own publication, “Your Voice Counts”, as I was quite sure it wouldn’t be accepted into any another publication, after I initially tried and was rejected. Even though this article is about my own personal feelings I thought it would be too controversial for some publications. After I published it my own publication it went nowhere. I am republishing this in my publication to see if it will pick up any traction or will be forever ignored. So much for my personal feelings.
I’ve always thought of myself as being quite tolerant towards different lifestyles, people of different races, creeds and sexual orientation and people with different beliefs. Being gay I have always been sensitive to the feelings of other people, even though I may disagree with them. However, I must admit that at times throughout my life I have harbored some less than endearing thoughts about a certain group of people. The events of the past few weeks in Alabama have forced me to realize that I may not be as tolerant as I thought I was. I have to admit that I have always disliked or mistrusted people from the South.
…not only the vile hatred, but the thick Southern accent stuck in my head.
When I was growing up I had neighbors who were from Mississippi and they were the nicest people, but they only lived in my neighborhood for a couple of years before the Army transferred the husband overseas. In my teen years I observed the events of the Civil Rights Movement unfolding on the nightly news. I can remember the Southern accents of people like Alabama governor George Wallace or Arkansas governor Orville Faubus ,who actively fought racial discrimination. On television I remember seeing the Klu Klux Klan marching against the enactment of civil rights legislation. Watching interviews with angry White Southerners condemning the federal government for trying to give equal rights to African Americans, not only the vile hatred, but the thick Southern accent stuck in my head.
I’ll never forget George Wallace standing in front of the door of the University of Alabama…
I could never forget the pictures of lynchings, or acts of tar and feathering, as well as signs reading “Whites only”. I’ll never forget George Wallace standing in front of the door of the University of Alabama trying to prevent three Black students from entering. Under orders from President Kennedy, the Alabama National Guard made Wallace step aside to let the students enter. Once again that accent stood out. Throughout the Civil Rights Movement hatred and violence towards Blacks and anyone who supported them seemed to be tied to that Southern accent.
I guess I tolerated them because they shared my values.
As the once solidly Democratic South turned Republican over President Lyndon Johnson’s Civil Rights Act of 1964, to me the Southern accent began to be associated with Republican politicians. I was confused however by Johnson, Clinton and Carter. They had Southern accents, but they were Democrats and not racists, in my view! I guess I tolerated them because they shared my values.
…but I was still terrified of ever traveling through the South.
As I was growing older I watched movies where the plots often centered around the mistreatment of Blacks in the South as a matter of every day life. I can remember many movies where even White people form Northern States were singled out and terrorized simply for being from a Northern state. I realized they were just Hollywood movies, but I was still terrified of ever traveling through the South. When I was in high school a teacher of mine who happened to be a Catholic priest was driving to Florida to play golf on vacation and was arrested in one of the infamous speed traps that Southern states were and are still known for. He was thrown in jail for the night because he wasn’t wearing his Roman collar, and most likely because he was Catholic and from New York, a Northern state.
I cringe every time I hear Senator John Kennedy from Louisiana speak…
As an adult I was and still am leery about traveling to or through the South. I have been to New Orleans a couple of times and absolutely loved the city, the food, the people and the atmosphere, but visiting there I’m sure is not like living there, even though it is probably much more liberal than the rest of the state. I cringe every time I hear Senator John Kennedy from Louisiana speak out in his thick Southern accent against immigrants and LGBTQ rights, while at the same time fighting for enactment of religious liberty legislation to allow discrimination against anyone who is not a white right wing Christian.
 I was dumbfounded…
I realize at times that I am generalizing in my attitude towards the South and Southern accents and I have truly tried to be more accepting, like the time in Boston when I befriended a young doctor from Mississippi who was attending the same pathology conference as I was attending. We had dinner together and I showed him around Boston Common and the Public Gardens. We stopped in a bar for a nightcap and I asked him how he liked Boston. He replied “ I didn’t realize you had so many n*****s here! I was dumbfounded and very angry. Surrounded by all the historical sites and monuments to the founding of our country the only thing he noticed was the color of people’s skin! Needless to say I ended the evening with a nasty comment about his racism and left.
…but the Southern voices seem the strongest.
People say that as we grow older we become more tolerant, but I’m not sure that’s true, at least in my case. As an adult I saw the likes of Mike Huckabee, from Arkansas, Southern Baptist preacher, Pat Robertson, Senator Mitch McConnell, Senators Graham and Cruz, all Republican Southerners vehemently oppose gay marriage and anything resembling the granting of a civil right to the LGBTQ community. Just hearing that Southern accent was like an attack on my being! Every current Republican in Congress has opposed gay rights, as well as women’s rights and minority rights, but the Southern voices seem the strongest. It seems like they are pushing to return to the 1950’s, the glory days of the White, Christian, straight male!
I guess I have wrongfully learned to associate the Southern accent with racism and bigotry.
I realize that not all Southerners are like those I mentioned above, but unfortunately I don’t hear them. I know there are gays living in the deep South and I admire them for living there, but I don’t hear them. I know I shouldn’t paint Southerners as racists and bigots, but maybe I should paint Republicans, regardless of where they live, as racists and bigots. There are also many people who oppose civil rights, gay rights and immigrant rights who are Yankees, but I don’t hear them in the same way. I guess I have wrongfully learned to associate the Southern accent with racism and bigotry.
…I associate the sound with an attack on me and everything I stand for.
I have learned that when I hear Christmas carols I associate the sound to joy and good will. When I hear Dean Martin singing “Amore”, I associate the sound with eating in Italian restaurants, when I hear the sounds of children laughing and playing I associate the sounds with happiness and innocence. But when I hear a Southern accent I am put on guard, as I associate the sound with an attack on me and everything I stand for. I know this is wrong and I honestly try to fight the feelings, but lately I have not been successful.
How do I destroy my own bigotry towards those who wish to destroy me?
With the Trump administration this country has become more divided than I can ever remember. We are not only divided by politics, but by race, gender, sexual orientation,religion and even where we live. It seems as though we have abandoned tolerance towards those who are different and are now choosing our camps and fighting to defend them, regardless of what it is doing to our country. I sadly have become involved in this abhorrent behavior and I don’t like it. Yet at the same time, the attacks on the values I hold strongly continue. My sexual orientation, my marriage, my immigrant husband and even my safety are being attacked daily, but I am going to fight back for my rights and those of others. How do I do this and remain tolerant? How do I destroy my own bigotry towards those who wish to destroy me? Is it really possible?
…I know Southerners are caring people…
Deep inside my being I know the South is a beautiful part of our country and I know Southerners are caring people, and I would really like to spend time there. I want to get over my mistrust and fear of those with a Southern accent. After all it is just a manner of speech. I feel badly that I have allowed myself to stereotype all Southerners by the actions of a loud bigoted few. To those from the South who may be reading this, I apologize for my feelings. If there was only a way to fight ideas instead of fighting the people who espouse them!