Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Let It Be

Emotional night.

Kennedy Center Honors always gets me.  But Paul McCartney's tribute culminating in "Let It Be" = tears.

Love it.  Let it be.

I've decided I like messy better

I haven't shared much of my dating life in awhile.  And I decided it's probably time.

I spent a few months dating a great guy this fall.  Our time together was seriously fun, and then it started occurring to me that as wonderful as he is, we just weren't a good match.  Something wasn't sitting right, and I tried to chalk it up to my ENDLESS need to sabotage and run (see The Art of Overthinking).  But the gnawing feeling in my gut just kept saying, "Girl.  This isn't it."  I talked to him about it, decided not to waste any more time, and brought things to a close.

Since then I've had this freakishly strange peace about my life.  It's like I took a stand for what my gut was telling me even if the world around me didn't see it, and this is my reward for not forcing a fit.  Since any end of a relationship is sad, I worried the holidays would suck.  But it really was ok (see Ho Ho Ho).

Every relationship - EVERY relationship - is a learning experience.  Especially the romantic ones.  You learn what you want.  You learn what you don't want.  You learn what's important and what's unimportant.  You learn your dealbreakers.  You learn your requirements, both of yourself and of your partner.  You learn that focusing on minor insignificances is probably the sign of more urgent concerns.  You learn to decode those signs within yourself.

I learned with this particular relationship that the dealbreakers I knew existed for me were real and unwavering.  I learned that I personally cannot enter into something with the "OMG-I'm-32-and-single-and-have-to-find-someone" mentality.  That has NEVER been my style, but I tried it and realized why it doesn't work for me.  While a planner in life, I'm more of a go-with-the-flow kinda gal when it comes to guys - strange but true.  Men and women are different for many reasons, one being that I cannot read them.  And why should I have to, or try to?

So.  All that to say, I need to just be for a bit.  I don't want to NOT date.  And I definitely don't want to be single forever, but seeking out that "perfect one" in a world where I don't fully believe that exists is paradoxical and unproductive.  I like to flirt.  I enjoy "the game" to an extent.  I'm not "that" girl, so why try to fit into "that" mold?  While I need to remember how tough the game can be (see Random Thoughts on Dating), I also need to remember it's a game for a reason - there are often winners and sometimes you lose too.  I truly think in the midst of the game will come peace for me.

I hate when people ask "what are you looking for?" in the dating realm.  I like to see where dating leads.  That could be 1 horrific date that leads to amazing stories (i.e. Bagel Boy or Mermaids Patron).  Or it could be 4 terrific dates that lead to great memories and possibly a new friend.  Or that could be a long-term fella who I finally fall for.  So what am I looking for?  I'm looking to learn.  I'm looking to be.  And I may try this going with my gut thing for awhile and learn that I'm wrong.  But I'm open to that too.  I'm looking to ride the wave...

I've tried to play things safe.  I've tried to play the game I'm supposed to play.  I would say most of 2010, not just with the most recent guy.  I've tried fitting into the THAT girl mold.  It's just not who I am.  It's foreign and wrong to me.  I've decided I like messy better.  It's more realistic in my current place.  Not unnecessary drama, just a bit of the... off.  I said that to someone the other day who responded, "Ya know.  Off is often much less boring."  Yes.  Absolutely.  Boredom is my kryptonite.  Typical and traditional isn't my bag.  Send me a bit of a mess to work for...

Who knows, maybe I'm the mess the Universe is sending to me to work for...  Interesting thought...


The news promised a snowstorm for Saturday night, then Sunday morning, then kept pushing it back.  So when several friends/family called asking if the blizzard had hit, I just said I didn't think it was gonna hit NYC.  I was wrong.

Outside my apartment this morning...

Waiting for the train in 4 foot snow drifts...

Outside my office on 42nd Street... (wonder if they'll get this all cleared up by Friday for the NYE bash)

Sexy zippy boots as promised.

Trekked out in Astoria tonight to grab some pics.  Astoria Blvd near the bridge is below.  I did, however, fashion a fabulous wintry ensemble to wear, but I failed to get a picture of it.  It included my Razorback hoodie, black leggings, red legwarmers, a red hat, and my new black rubber boots purchased today sans zipper.

The streets have clearly not had much of a plowing, but the sidewalks had a skinny little walkway.

Snow! from White Christmas...

It won't be long before we'll all be there with snow
I want to wash my hands, my face and hair with snow

I long to clear a path and lift a spade of snow
Oh, to see a great big man entirely made of snow

Where it's snowing
All winter through
That's where I want to be
Snowball throwing
That's what I'll do
How I'm longing to ski
Through the snow-oh-oh-oh-oh

Those glist'ning houses that seem to be built of snow
Oh, to see a mountain covered with a quilt of snow

What is Christmas with no snow
No white Christmas with no snow

I'll soon be there with snow
I'll wash my hair with snow
And with a spade of snow
I'll build a man that's made of snow
I'd love to stay up with you but I recommend a little shuteye
Go to sleep
And dream
Of snow!!!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Ho Ho Ho - Christmas 2010.

I spent my first Christmas alone.  And as I mentioned in my last entry, I'm very happy about it.  Now that it's all said I'm done, I'm THRILLED about it.  Many of you have been curious what I did with myself during this time.  Here's a pictorial account...

This is my 10th Christmas season in NYC and 10th that I've wanted to see the NYC Ballet's "The Nutcracker".  Tickets ain't cheap though and NO ONE ever wants to go with me.  So Selby got me a ticket as my Christmas present.  I went on Christmas Eve, and it was FANTASTIC!!

Me at Lincoln Center post-ballet

My friend Sal sent me my horoscope for the Christmas weekend which said to indulge in food and not stress about the calories.  So I did just that.  My Christmas morning breakfast consisted of biscuits and Nesquik.

Although afterward I went for a run...

Much of the day was spent hearing from family and friends.  The ones of you who texted off and on made me realize how fortunate I am to have AMAZING friends.

Not to mention how lucky I am for this one (who DID NOT want her picture taken)

Funny how even opening presents by myself (via Skype with my mom and stepdad) creates a mess...

I met up with my friend Jeff and his boyfriend Stephen (who btdubs I COULD NOT love more).  I failed to take pics of that gathering... friend failure.

I scored a ticket to "Donny & Marie: A Broadway Christmas" for Christmas night and had a hilarious time.  They are such entertainers.  I mean, seriously, 48 years of entertaining must brainwash it into them.  While I did not exactly fit in with the rest of the crowd at the Marquis, it was definitely a good time.

Part of the reason I stayed here this year was because the past 3 years have presented massive travel difficulties either traveling to or from Arkansas... or both directions.  Super glad I went with that gut instinct this year as NYC is in the midst of a hardcore blizzard!!  Here's me as it was getting started... yes, this is the very front edge of the storm.  I can't wait to commute to work tomorrow.  I foresee jeans, a hoodie, and my super sexy zippy snow boots.  If you're lucky, I'll snag a pic for your enjoyment.

Altogether a nice, reflective weekend - much needed.  But when I went to Skype with my fabulous Mamaw and some of my family Christmas afternoon, my computer went kaput.  I went ahead and called telling her I was about to throw the computer out the window.  To which she informed me that that would do no good.  I suppose she's right.  RIP Dell Computer.  You were a good friend (sometimes)...

Before the blizzard got too bad, Suzanne nudged me over the edge to head to the Apple Store.  Thus, I am now a Mac owner.  I have a lot to learn, but I'm already excited about my new baby here in my lap!  It's sort of reminding me of the first morning after I had LASIK surgery - a bit unsure, a bit fuzzy, but instantly knowing the right decision was made!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Friends are friends forever...

Michael W. Smith said it so well - Friends are Friends Forever.  Sing it, Michael.  Sing it.  So in honor of some of my amazing friends, I'm dedicating this blog to those of you who know just what to say and do whenever I need it.  Sometimes before I even know myself.  Here's a smattering of vids that I've been sent by some of the greatest... Some are meaningful to me, most are funny, and a few just make no sense at all.

This is what for realz looks like in case you didn't know.

What I wouldn't give to have sparks shoot out of my chest - figuratively or literally.

Her daddy taught her gooooooood.

Wow.  All he wants for Christmas is you.

ALWAYS works on a bad day, without fail.  Just try to not feel calm after watching this'n.

Never fails to make me laugh maniacally.

What did Merna do to receive this punishment?

I have no excuse to not run, or workout, or achieve a new goal of any kind...

If ever I have a child, let this type of creativity flow...

Do you have any to add??

Holidays Shmolidays

I've always had a difficult time with the concept of holidays being such an amazing thing.  I primarily mean the end of the year ones, but really all of them.  It's tough for me to comprehend days that are specified to tell us how to behave.  Valentine's Day, Mother's Day, and Father's Day that tell us we have to show our love and appreciation.  St. Patty's, 4th of July, and New Year's Eve that ask us to party into oblivion.  Thanksgiving and Christmas that would like us to spend with our families.

For a single gal living in the city, these end of the year holidays are a mixed bag.  After my birthday in mid-November (which I've deemed a national holiday in and of itself), the city lights up.  It's beautiful and bright.  It's cold enough to wear winter attire but usually not so frigid to hurt.  We have the Rockefeller Center and Lincoln Center trees, the Macy's Parade, the Saks snowflakes, the Bryant Park shoppes & ice skating, the Charmin bathroom, and my favorite - The Rockettes at Radio City.  The flip side is the insane number of tourists, working long hours as an accountant at the end of the calendar year, exorbitant airfares to get out of town, Christmas shopping without a car, and friends who leave town to visit their own families.

Speaking of the Charmin Bathroom, Suzanne and I were able to make a video this year.  Being somewhat musically/choreographically inclined, we TOTALLY knew following the dance on the screen wouldn't be a problem for us.  After all, we're awesome like whoa.  We were quickly corrected.  Enjoy...

I made the choice this year to stay here for both holidays.  I could not be happier about my decision.  While there is the potential for loneliness, it's a piece of cake considering the much-needed reflection time after the entirety of 2010.  Also, I'm so blessed to have my own personal Christmas elf living in my house.

I've already started working on a post of what 2010 has taught me, but that'll come next week as the year draws to a close.  I still have a 8 days of learning to go!!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Catch Up

I've been on a blogging hiatus.  I could provide all the reasons, but the point is I'm back.

Quick catch-up... here's my past 6 weeks:

GOP takes over except in NYC; no promotion; winning a scavenger hunt; apple picking; Disney for my 32nd; Bday at Vintage; Thanksgiving (and Macy's balloons) in the best city on earth; 3am Black Friday fun; dealt with a bit of a break-up; 3rd Annual VOG Party; Suzanne gone for 2 weeks to ANTARCTICA; boy issues in the air... not just me; holiday blahs; office move to the 6th floor; frigid temps; trip to Kew Gardens; running resumed like a mad person...

Whew.  Here's some pics.

Excited for apple picking...

Gays and Dolls - the most amazing scavengers in NYC

Thanksgiving Balloon Inflation!!!

I danced with Woody.  A picture truly is worth 1000 words...

Disney Birthday...

New motto???

I'll expand on some of this soon.  I've missed you.  I'm finally coming back... in more ways than one.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A Night To Blog

I spend at least some time each day thinking about writing.  Writing novels, writing funny self-help books, writing curriculum, writing itineraries, and yes, writing blog entries.

Now tonight I have the time and the inclination... and writer's block has commenced.  Yuck.

Right now my unpublished blogs look like outlines complete with Roman numerals, letters, numbers and bullet points.  I guess too much is in my brain and I needed a night to watch DVR shows.  Sighs all around...

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Busy much?

So I have 3, no make that 4 unpublished blogs in my queue that need tweaking, pictures, editing...

I just need to do this one first as a stream of consciousness one about how busy I am.  I know we all are, but this is my space to vent and be cathartic.

5 weeks ago - Katie's trip!!  So fun.  So much to share.
4 weeks ago - worked 70 hours... yes, 70 hours in one week... culminating in a suburban fun-day (thoughts on that in a blog near you coming soon)
3 weeks ago - worked 55 hours... the DVR is getting full, the friends are going by the wayside - AHHH!!
2 weeks ago - spent 5 days in Arkansas.  Glorious.  Blog of it's own in the works.
1 week ago - had some medical junk done, went to Rochester for a Bachelorette Party... clearly topics at hand here

This week.  Back to the full time grind of work.  Started out excited about all the free time I had this week since it looks like every weekend from now until January is busy.  Seriously.  Now it's 1am between Wednesday and Thursday and the delicates still need wshing (these can't go to the laundrymat), the floor still needs mopping, the DVR still needs catching up (which is 67% full btdubs), and my hairstill desperately needs cutting.

I miss my blogging.  I have things to share.  I have things to get out of my brain and onto the worldwide web.  I have political things happening all around that NEED to be discussed.  I have pictures to show.  I have inside jokes to be decoded (OMG THE AMISH!!!)

Oh dear blogosphere, I have not forgotten you.  I simply have not had time.  How lame and shameful is that??  Soon, my true love writing.  Soon we shall be reunited...

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Wooooooo!! Pig Sooie!

Arkansas.  Here I come.  I have missed you.  I missed your southern fried deliciousness, your intense hospitality, your cheap meals and clothing and shoes, and your "traffic" that's not really traffic.

I've been homesick for a few weeks, so this trip has been on the brain for awhile.  I'm going for my amazing great grandmother's 100th birthday.  I'm so blessed to not only still have such an amazing woman present, with it, and awesome.  But I'm also incredibly lucky to be able to go to back home, sit on her porch, eat her peanut butter cookies, and have her tell me how she prays for each of her children, grandchildren, great granchildren, and now great great grandchildren by name every day.  Then she'll also tell me something hilarious and unexpected like the fact that she's figured out that when the house across the street has the ficus tree on their porch, the drugs are available for sale.  She's awesome.

In addition to the family funness that I will no doubt share here upon my return next week, here are some things I plan to accomplish whilst in The Natural State:
  1. Eat fried pickles from Dixie Cafe
  2. Drink at least 2 strawberry limeades from Sonic
  3. Purchase some cheap black flats
  4. Check out Vera Wang's daily clothing line and hope for a fall find
  5. Purchase a new hoodie (or 2)
  6. Go to Wal-Mart
  7. Cheer on a football team - Cabot High School Panthers at Homecoming and/or Arkansas Razorbacks
  8. If #7 involves Razorbacks, CALL THEM HOGS with Arkansans!!
  9. Purchase Razorback goodies for my Yankee friends
  10. Stay up too late talking to my mother
  11. Sit around my grandmother's house laughing at nothing at all... just being
  12. River Market.
  13. Purchase some good black pumps for less than $100
  14. Eat too many carbs (and hate myself for it later... but that's not part of the trip)
  15. Eat Senor Tequila's cheese dip
I could SERIOUSLY go on and on and on... but those are the top 15 things to accomplish in the next 5 days... in addition to the family awesomeness.  Now I have to pack.

Friday, October 1, 2010

RIP Tyler Clementi... My broken and rageful heart wishes you all the peace this world refused to afford you.

As many of you know my platform for life is to fight against intolerance, injustice, and bigotry.  Tyler Clementi is a prime reason I feel such passion for the subject.

Tyler's tragic events of this week

My genuine and sincere prayer:  Please, please, please allow me to help make a difference.  Let me reach out to even one person if not a thousand to help them see there are so many options other than taking their own lives.

Not all straight people are hateful and bigoted.  To all the Tyler Clementis, Seth Walshes, Justin Aabergs, and too many others, you are loved.  You are supported.  You are normal.  You are NOT innately wrong simply for being who God created you.

Click here for more on recent stories including Tyler's

Click here for one of the best anti-bigotry campaigns

Click here to learn about Broadway Impact and contact me if you'd like to contribute to this WONDERFUL organization.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Hoping for Hopeful

I've spent 4 years hoping for hopeful. And it's funny how the Universe puts things in your life to show you the patience will pay off in the end.

As a single gal in NYC, I sometimes battle with loneliness, Sunday blahs, and less often but still there occasionally hopelessness. I tend to be pretty positive and surround myself with the most amazing friends ever to walk the planet, so the hopelessness fades quickly. And I believe that it is filled with hope for hopefulness - deep huh?

Weekends like the one I just finished help in the hope for hopeful plight. Nothing dramatic or ecstatic or overwhelming or outrageous happened. It just... was. And I like to just be.

Enjoy life. Let the Universe bring you what you need as you need it. Hope for hopeful...

Monday, September 20, 2010

Not-So-Subtle Hint to ABC

Powers that be at ABC, listen up. NBC has a 4th hour of the Today show starring Hoda and Kathie Lee, and they are obnoxious. If you want a fresh new look at trends, fashion, politics, parenting, as well as a whole heckuva lotta fun, let this picture be the platform off of which to jump.
Hire Katie Mohr and Joy Sims to follow Robin and George. You won't regret it. We're already friends with all the peeps there...

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

An idea of the weekend to come... in pictures mostly

Tomorrow will be the beginning of a fun and exciting few days... here's some predictions of real pictures to come...

All those to say...



Get ready NYC...

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Art of Overthinking

Hello. My name is Joy. And I am an overthinker.

I love overanalyzing things to death. Somehow I don't always let these millions of thoughts out and burden everyone around me with them... only a select few (you KNOW who you are). I overthink which outfit I'm going to wear, what I'm going to eat, how I'm going to exercise, what music to listen to, what plans to make with friends, which room to clean, which eye shadow to apply, where to go on vacation, how to cut/color my hair, which project at work to tackle first, when to clip my dog's nails, which color should I put on my own nails... the list of trivialities goes on and on. But once all the possibilities have played out in my head and the decision is made, I never have regrets.

Here's where I get caught up on the bigger issues. The overthinking is still there. When I picked my apartment, it was like I was choosing the place I would be required to live in until the end of all time. When I buy plane tickets, I fret over getting the best price and picking the right dates as though I'm locked into selling my firstborn based on the decision. And when I date, I get to a point where I scruntinize everything about the date, myself, and the man himself as if one more date solidifies my future to the point of being set in stone with no turning back.

Whew. The realistic side of me KNOWS to stop, do some square breathing, and just go with the flow. Once I do, all is right with the world.

The Art of Overthinking. Embrace your overactive brain. Don't let it get the best of you. Just be. Overthinker and all. That's my lesson to myself...

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Fashion Police - The ?-1-1

9-1-1 is for emergencies. 4-1-1 is for information. 3-1-1 is for non-emergency information or complaints. So what's the ?-1-1 for fashion dilemmas??

I've always enjoyed eccentric fashions. Ridiculous tights, hats and scarves, handbags of all shapes and sizes, various items with a bit of sparkle and/or pink, legwarmers, "thumbykins" (which are simply gloves with the fingers cut out), and mostly a good ballet skirt or 2 are all part of my wardrobe. These are also items I won't part with at the present time.

HOWEVER, the rest of the dreck in my closet is free to go. When I moved to Astoria, I got rid of a ton of clothes. And then at the end of last winter, I did it again. What's left? See below...

It's safe to say that I loathe about 68% of what you see here. Some of it is outdated. Some of it is well-worn. Some of it includes bridesmaid's dresses. And some of it is a lot cute separates without a suitable partner (i.e. a cute high-waisted black/white skirt with no suitable top as noted above). The note on the pic says "Cute Skirt. No Tops. :("
My budget is limited thanks to a number of trips and events I have planned before the end of the year. But the fashion police need to intervene. AGGGHHHH!!! What to do, what to do. Sighs all around.
So the questions are these... is it possible to piece together enough of my existing rubbish to make new fashion-forward outfits? Do I need to throw it all out and spend a little each paycheck to replace? Or should I purchase a few (say 5) new VITAL pieces and compensate the rest with what I have? Can I be the poor man's Carrie Bradshaw that is bursting beneath the surface? Can this real-life Cosmo girl use some creativity to burst onto the Fall scene in recycled separates??

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Oh, NYC...

Pictures are worth thousands of words...

Yep. That says "Beiquen" (read: Bacon)

Friendly Neighborhood Alligator (found a block from my place)

Russell Brand filming the remake of "Arthur" down the street from my place.
"Smurfs" was filmed there before "Arthur"... RIP Papa Smurf (credit: Suzie Q who has requested to be removed from all Google searches and thus, will not have her full name listed)
Post-work, pre-weekend Subway Music...

No words...

All more reasons to love living here...

Thursday, September 2, 2010

An Anniversary - mine and NYC's

9 years ago today I moved to the concrete jungle and have never once looked back with regret.

I found it appropo to write this in the middle of night, since it is after all the city that never sleeps and I am one of its minions who abides that rule without fail.

I will never forget making the trek halfway across the country with my dad driving the Uhaul, Selbs in the passenger seat, and me holding Indy in the middle for a two day adventure to our new home and new life. Excitement was all that filled me. Seeing the Twin Towers as we left New Jersey and entered the city was breath-taking. Driving through midtown wasn't scary, it was home. At 22 there's not a care in the world. What I wouldn't give sometimes to go back to the early-20s naivety... nostalgic sighs all around.

My two-bedroom, $1100 a month apartment in Kew Gardens was my mecca for my first 5 years of adulthood. To this day I have such fond memories of that neighborhood (though it now seems so suburban), the apartment (which I remember thinking was so small... not so), the restaurants (Dani's Pizza anyone?), and the local 7-11 (helllloooooo Naahdim).

I moved here with one friend, a dog, and dreams of changing the world. And as the song very correctly says, "If I can make it there, I'll make it anywhere." NYC is a beast. It either quickly becomes your worst enemy and swallows you whole, or it becomes the true love of your life. I can thankfully say I fall into the latter of those.

I have met so many people and have had so many opportunities. Yes, this may have come at the expense of the savings account most people my age have. Yes, this may have meant that homesickness becomes a regular part of life in the back of your mind. And, yes, the list below are just a few of the things that I've "picked up" and are now just part of my every day life.
  1. Sighing heavily as tourists in Times Square stop for no apparent reason to take pictures.
  2. Rolling my eyes when a suburban mom gets on the subway with her larger-than-life stroller.
  3. Shouting "C'MON" when a cab tries to mow you over.
  4. Learning that part of life is dealing with the MTA and its delays even when they raise the subway/bus fare.
  5. Loving the droll Pat Kiernan on NY1. (And the innane banter with Roger Clark)
  6. Refusing to drive within the marked lanes when I get a zipcar... sorry Mother, this is the New York way.
  7. Forgetting to acknowledge that walking 2 miles is actually a big deal to out-of-town guests... it's just old hat to us.
  8. Taking only one earphone out and simply slowing down to give someone directions rather than stopping to chit chat.
  9. Finding absurdity and plain old confusion in the non-New Yorkers who protest things like the proposed downtown mosque and gay marriage.
  10. And finally calling NYC "the city" because to a true New Yorker, it is indeed THE only one.

Those (and I'm sure many more) are things that make me a non-native New Yorker. But here are some things I hope I never lose:

  1. Tearing up every time I fly into LGA and see the skyline.
  2. Getting giddy whenever I look up at the Empire State Building from any vantage point in the city and see camera flashes go off.
  3. Proudly showing off my city to guests and never growing weary of the tourist hotspots.
  4. Never taking for granted the art, history, sports, and constant energy here.
  5. Loving all the many diversities of friends, acquaintances, coworkers, and even just the people I sit next to every day on the train.

9 years, New York. I still have that one friend from the beginning. I still have that awesome dog. And I've never given up that hope of changing the world. I've lived. I've loved. I've lost. But mostly... I've found.

Here's to us, NYC. And may we have many, many more to come...

Friday, August 27, 2010

To ink or not to ink?

I've been toying with the idea of getting a tattoo for about 5 years. The permanence both scares and thrills me. So tell me your thoughts...

Behind my right ear in brown ink similar to this (pic courtesy of my gorgeous cousin Jessica)
OR... On the inside of my left wrist in white ink similar to this (pic courtesy of my beautiful friend Beth)

The tat will be a very small version of this...

Friday, August 20, 2010

Real Reason For Being Here?

(WARNING: This delves into my personal life and some of my views. It isn't for the faint of heart or the close-minded, and it isn't willing an argument. Love, peace, and honesty to you all. Namaste.)

We've all been put on this earth. Many believe its to serve God. Many believe its to make the world a better place through religious or political means. Many believe its to help those less fortunate. Some even believe its to provide entertainment or make money. And there are also those who believe there is no reason at all.

Funnily enough I've been known to make the statement, "I'm not in the business of teaching lessons," but I'm starting to wonder if that same statement is coming back to bite my tush. I've been a long-time fighter for the underdog. If there's a person or group being bullied or discriminated against, I run to their defense. We can chalk some of that up to my wish for a true utopian society (those of you who REALLY know me, Lauren, can insert another adjective in place of "utopian"... haha). Mostly though I have my wonderful family to thank. My grandparents were my first examples of standing up for what's right, for opening your heart and home to those less fortunate, and for treating everyone as equals. Even being from Arkansas I never once experienced my parents or grandparents or aunts/uncles of any sort of stereotypical southern bigotry.

I don't think they realized quite the beast they were creating though. As a child I recall standing in line at Knight's grocery store (the old one of course... you Cabotians know what I'm talking about) with my mother while some fool guys blasted every attractive male on the cover of Tiger Beat for being gay. My 10-year-old self spoke up telling them that NKOTB was not, in fact, gay... but more importantly even if they were why did they care? My mother had to hush me up as my ears turned red and my eyes filled with angry tears. It was the first time I felt an inclination to fight for gay rights in some strange way... and so it began.

As a teenager in a sometimes elitist southern suburb I began noticing the closeted gays and sexually confused befriending me. As a 16-year-old this often perplexed me. I wasn't struggling with my own sexuality in the least! I was giggly over boys. I liked to go on dates and get dressed/made up for a boy to take me to the Olive Garden. I liked getting first kisses, passing notes between classes, and cheering for the football-playing boyfriend from the stands on Friday nights. And it always made me incredibly sad when my closeted friends couldn't experience the wonderful joys of teenage crushes. I wished it for them so much. And in my hastiness I would sometimes be that first kiss or that person passing notes just because I felt that it was something no one should have to miss out on.

In that I started losing myself. My own experiences fell by the wayside. I knew in my heart of hearts that being gay wasn't an abomination or a perversion, but in my small mind I also didn't want to see any of them hurting or being made fun of... or even disowned, which was the case with some of friends who subsequently came out of the closet. To me it was more important to be able to look back having been an aide to the underdog than living my own life. So often I have met girls/women who hang with the gays to live vicariously through them or cling to them as a means to have a male influence without putting themselves out there in the dating world. That was not my story. Mine is much more complex and many hours and dollars in therapy have helped me out in this arena :)

Back then I even started somehow believing that everyone could be with anyone depending on his/her situation, circumstances, location, and current state of mind - sexual identity was a complete myth in my mind. Still, I personally was completely straight, but I just thought I was a girly girl and my own thoughts didn't apply to me.

I married a wonderful man. The details don't matter as they are between me and him. All I'll say in this very public forum is that we didn't love each other the way married people should. He is gay. It obviously could not work. And not because he cheated or any of the other many reasons people try to assume. It didn't work because we didn't work. We weren't in love. We needed each other as best friends do, but we couldn't be what the other needed in a partner.

Thus began my journey to find the girl I left back in Cabot, Arkansas. The girl who left herself to help the gay rights plight as she thought in her twisted way she was doing. The girl who was now an adult with the same inclinations to help the underdog and fight the fights of those who can't always fight their own. Now I don't mean that to say that gays can't fight their own fight. I'm speaking of a very specific group of gays and lesbians in the world in I which I grew up. The ones who think they have to be celibate for God to love them. Or worse, the ones who think they have to be untrue to themselves, their families, and their friends just to be "normal" in a world where people lie to them out of fear of the unknown.

For the past 5 years I have toyed with writing a book, or starting a lecture circuit for southern gays and the people who love them, or even just a support group for girls like my 16-year-old self. Outspoken girls who hate bigotry more than anything but don't have to lose their own girliness and experiences in the process of speaking out for what is right. I know this is my reason for being here.

Life gets in the way. Bills, dating, adventure-seeking, family, friends, work... AHHHH!! The list goes on and on. And then someone half-jokingly (thank you, Shawn) sends you a link like this dribble. I sat at my desk for nearly a half hour reading through this. And I have to say, some of it I can't disagree with. But most of it is garbage and needs to be put back where it belongs. The first sentence is how I would start my book/lecture/support group: "Right now in America there are over 2 million couples secretly struggling with homosexuality in their marriages." And that is where Stephen Billings and I end our agreement. I could dissect every word this vile man has to say, but I won't waste your time. If I have enough requests for it, I'll email it out separately or even possibly do another blog on it!

My point at this juncture is simple... if you think your spouse is gay, talk to him about it. Don't go through a trite list by a so-called Christian man checking off what he says makes someone gay. And if your spouse is gay, he has been all along. The truth will set you both free. Freedom from false lives. Freedom from wondering what's wrong with you (I'm speaking to the straight half of the couple here, believe it or not). Freedom from confusion. Freedom to just be.

This is my purpose - my reason for being here. Everything happens for a reason even if that reason isn't evident right away. The happiness and sadness from my experiences should be used to help others learn. "I'm not in the business of teaching lessons?" Oh, yes, Joy. Yes, you are...

Here's the 16-year-old girl I had to go retrieve...

And here's the girl she has become.