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.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Girls. Gone. Camping. 2010!!!!

Time out of the city was needed. The 2010 heatwave was getting to us. So my lovelies Suzanne and Juleen decided a camping trip somewhere near water and kayaking would be happening.

Suzanne booked the location. Minisink Campground on the Delaware River. A mere 2.5 hours outside of the city. I reserved the zipcar. Juleen secured the camping equipment. We were good to go and counted down the days.

Friday afternoon we set out. We were perfectly on time. Suzanne and I picked up the car 14 minutes early as zipcar allows without penalty. Speaking of which... if you're in NYC, GET A ZIPCAR ACCOUNT!! We hit the Triboro Bridge, or should I correctly call it the RFK Bridge which it's been renamed?? About halfway over it hit traffic. The following hour and half we crawled the 3 miles to pick up Juleen. We would not be deterred though!! We were troopers and would not let the rest of the New Yorkers fleeing the city for the weekend upset us!

We reached Juleen and set off crossing the Tappan Zee (thanks, Juleen for that suggestion). Getting hungry and needing gas, we stopped at Monroe (I think??) which is apparently a solely Hassidic Jewish village slightly upstate. Even the signs at the gas station were in Hebrew. Interesting. We went to the Burger King in town to find the nicest people ever, grabbed Whopper Jrs for the road, stole some ketchup packets, and set off again.

Next stop: Middletown for the Mother Ship - WalMart Supercenter!! Suzanne had never been to a Supercenter, and as much as I hate the way Wally World treats their employees and puts mom-and-pop business out, I am an Arkansas girl at heart. Seeing those concrete floors, uber cheap prices, and everything under one warehouse roof just took me right on home.

And off again with more food than we could ever need for a 2-day trip. We arrived at the campsite in the pitch dark right as the workers were about to leave. But being awesome like we are, we set out to pitch our tent (thanks, Juleen), start a campfire (thanks, Suzanne), and stand around taking pictures (thanks to me). We made some s'mores and chatted while sitting around the fire until late into the night.

Saturday we awoke to a gorgeous view, a beautiful river, and a perfect day! But first... we realized we had set up in the wrong campsite. Oops!! I went to the office to see if we needed to move. Of course we did because some seasoned campers had specifically requested Site #8 - which we couldn't blame them as it was definitely the best Minisink had... just lovely. I asked the lady what time we needed to venture out for our day of floating the Delaware, and she said there was no rush since we needed to move our whole campsite. We took our time, set up appropriately, and even breaked for PB&J sandwiches.

Around 2pm we went to check in for our float trip. The gal informed us that we had waited too long. Unfortunately she didn't know who she was messing with... she.didn't.know. This poor backward woman with no cell phone service just didn't know that "you're too late" was not a sufficient answer. After letting her know that we would indeed be floating the river like we had paid for, she sort of pushed us off to the boat launch location. Unawares to me(Juleen can attest) I was somewhat direct with the girl behind the counter and informed her she was speaking Greek and needed to be clearer. Sometimes I'm a bit rude when I don't mean to be... maybe I should work on that. At the boat launch spot, the lady behind that counter was irritated that we would be, in fact, floating like we had paid and planned for. Then the shuttle driver to take us to the river had clearly been told about the NY girls who were bucking the system. AND THEN the lady who issued our life jackets and intertubes ALSO was frustrated. It seems they thought this float would take 5 or so hours. They just didn't know us.

We got out onto the river, bungeed our tubes together (which wound up being the BEST idea of the weekend), and off we went! After our first round of rapids, I decided popping into the water would be a great idea. The water wasn't too deep, I had water shoes on, and I just jumped in... where it was around 10 feet deep. I went completely under the water and when I popped back up shouted "MY SHOE!!" One shoe had gone the way of all men. And even though I'm a pretty awesome swimmer, I couldn't see it and simply had to resign to the fact that I was down a shoe. After that the water returned to a normal depth, and we had a fabulous 3.5 hour float... not 5 hours...

That night we had hotdogs and s'mores like one should do when camping. Juleen was tuckered out having been up the earliest that day. And a bit after that Suzanne retired as well. And then there was me. Those 2 hours by the fire bundled up (it was a brisk 50-something degrees out btdubs) were some of the most peaceful I've had in a long time. Sometimes my own thoughts freak me out. Sometimes they give me panic attacks. But this time... it was just peace. I reflected on me. I reflected on my friends and how much I love the girls who were in the woods with me as well as the wonderful friends I left in the city and have around the country. I reflected on 2010. And I realized how incredibly blessed I am.

Sunday we awoke, packed up, and headed over for our kayaking adventure. And adventure is exactly what it turned out to be. The river was insanely shallow which seemed a bit troublesome, but no one advised against going out and they are the experts, right? It started out with me slipping, falling, and yes, losing a shoe before I even made it into the kayak. This should have been a sign to us, but no. We chalked it up to Joy being clumsy. Don't worry, I retrieved this shoe. I got myself sorted and off we went.

The waters were rough and shallow for sure. The first set of rapids we went through were brutal and Juleen nearly tipped. But being an athletic genius, she made it without incident. The next few sets were not as bad but very rocky. Then came some of the roughest waters we had been through. My kayak tipped, water rushed in, but I managed to employ every muscle in my body and upright it!! Woohoo!! Yay for kayaking experience on the East River!! The 3 of us regrouped and Juleen and I decided we were done with the rapids, but Suzanne thought we were just silly... Hmm... maybe that's why what happened next happened.

We rounded a bend and headed for more rapids. We braced ourselves. Juleen went first and Suzanne and I were side-by-side right behind her. The was a rock sticking up right in the middle of the river. Suzanne tried to dodge it, but alas could not miss it. She went up on it, slid back down it, and was stuck.

Already having made it through the rapids, Juleen and I paddled in place to see if Suzanne could dislodge herself. She could not. She was SERIOUSLY stuck. Juleen paddled to the side and parked her kayak. She got out to go back upstream along the bank to see what we could do. In the meantime, I decided (in my brilliance) to paddle upstream through the rapids to go save my best girl!! I couldn't leave her stranded!! This turned out to be a much more daunting task than I was cut out for. So I went as far as I could and parked my kayak thinking I could maybe swim out to her (remember: good swimmer here) and save her. Again - not a possible task. Kayakers and rafters sped past Suzanne. She determined that being in the stuck kayak in the middle of the river was not helping anything. She got out of her boat, crouched on the enemy rock, and waited. The kayak dislodged and took off down the river. I hopped back in mine and sped toward the errant boat. I reached it and through some miraculous force of adrenaline, dragged it with one hand while paddling against the current with the other hand, and parked it up on the bank.
I paddled back up where the Kayak Rescue Unit had come out to save Suzanne. The red canoe circled around her several times determining the best way to get her in these rocky waters. Dramatic Alert: If she slipped off the rock and went head first down the rapids, she would reach me with a gash to the head. If she slipped off the rock and went feet first, she would surely break a foot or ankle. Luckily, the guy in the canoe was able to get her freed and back down to us after no small effort.
We were reunited, on an adrenaline high, several minutes later and continued our kayak trip. When that adrenaline wore off, we were physically exhausted and emotionally spent... and still had 3 miles to go through more rapids and rocky shallowness. Sighs. We eventually made it and land had never looked so good. We dried off, changed clothes, and went to have ice cream for dinner. Who cares about healthy eating at that point, right?!
Whew... that was a healthy post. But I couldn't leave a second out of it. Suzanne and Juleen, I adore the 2 of you, and wouldn't want to have an adventure like that weekend with anyone else!

What? I'm 31 and might have a tonsillectomy??

Say it ain't so, Dr!! Over my 31 years I've had a number of bouts of tonsillitis. In college there were a few times the ole Student Health Center at ASU recommended removal. I ignored. My roommate Gina and I went back and forth with who-has-tonsil-issues-worse in our time at Kays Hall. I still maintain that she wins the battle given that one morning when she awoke and with her back to me said "Joy, do you think my tonsils are swollen?" At which point she turned around with two of the most bulbous pockets on either side of her throat. I promptly screeched, covered my face, and shouted "OH MY GOD". Gina, being prone to some hypochondria as it is, made her already large, beautiful eyes EVEN BIGGER. I pulled it together quickly to act like it wasn't that bad, called Selby and told him that Gina's tonsils needed to be removed IMMEDIATELY.

Here's Gina and my lovely niece(ish) Eva... Aren't they lovely? I miss you, Gina!!

But I digress!! After too many issues with tonsillitis and some of my closest friends offering various "home remedies" including removal of the tonsils with a can opener on the changing table at the Dallas BBQ men's room on 42nd Street... you read that correctly - it looks like I'll be joining the ranks of the tonsil-less before the end of the year.

There's still a small chance it won't happen.

1. I'm terrified.
2. It hurts and has a long recovery for old folks like myself. I have found a website for all the information I could want - Adult Tonsillectomy - why there's a website and this guy is begging for funds I don't know, but there are some good tips nonetheless
3. My doctor, a tonsil specialist (who knew that existed), said it's not medically necessary. Which in my mind screams DON'T DO IT!!!
4. I've been given an antiseptic gargle of sorts to help keep these nasty divots (or tonsillar crypts) free from pain-causing bacteria. Maybe this will be my cure with no surgery!!

Ok, Ok... I'm over my tonsils hurting and swelling, so I'm sure I'll have it done. But ugh. I tried to get a pic of my swollen blobs but the open-mouthed, saliva-y tongue shot just looked weird... so you get this instead. Me being sad and feeling sorry for my self for having surgery.

I kid, I kid... it'll all be fine. And I think my mother is gonna come up and baby me for the surgery... which means I'll have sweet tea in my fridge!!!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Weekend Adventures

NYC weekends can be filled with fun and merriment. This was one of those. Enjoy...

Friday. Grab Suzanne. Make a trek on the G train. Make it to Brooklyn Bowl. Love Brooklyn Bowl and vow to go back. Drink Shirley Temples because we're awesome like that (why didn't we take pics of those?!). Watch ridiculously good band - Wakey Wakey. Check them out. I wouldn't steer you wrong.

The opening band never intelligibly gave their name. We didn't love them and the lead singer oddly used 2 mics. But his guitar was glittery!!

Wakey Wakey!!

Michael Grubbs - the brains behind Wakey Wakey - and Suzanne's future husband.

Saturday. Grab Suzanne again. Make her join me to kayak over to the Brooklyn Bridge. 9 miles roundtrip. Be the best. Done and done.

My kayaking partner in crime and professionalism.

Do NOT park in the water.

Look at that city. "2nd only to heav'n"
Our boat. The Chessie.
Just chillin' on the water by the Brooklyn Bridge. A regular ole Saturday night.
Sunday. Blah. Moving on...

Monday. Grab favorite peeps. Head to Astoria Park for the Monday night movie on the lawn. Get there only to be told the movie is cancelled. Stay and chill on the lawn anyway, eat, drink, be merry, and laugh.

In my favorite park in the best neighborhood on the planet.

Selby and Sal eating some Flav-Or-Ices some random girl passed out.

My 2 best buds.

Astorians For Life!!!

Just Call Me Bobby

Bobby. Bobby Baby. Bobby Bubbi. Robby. Robert Darling.

To my fellow musical theatre nerds this is familiar. To the rest of you, these are the opening lyrics to my favorite musical "Company" by Stephen Sondheim and George Furth. Mr. Sondheim has always gotten me (or gotten to me as it were). When I went through my life drama of 2006, this show was revived on Broadway. It starred someone who I had been put in touch with because he was going through a similar situation. It was as if the Universe had placed it there just for me.
Back in 2006 it spoke to me with songs like "Sorry-Grateful" it was as if the words about marriage were coming straight out of my mouth. Marriage is the most paradoxical institution in the world to me...

You're always sorry.
You're always grateful.
Good things get better, bad get worse
Wait I think I meant that in reverse.

Brilliant lyrics (I cut them down to 4 lines that mean a great deal to me). And another song "Little Things You Do Together" discuss what actually makes marital relationships work. It's completely tongue-in-cheek and thoroughly me and my sarcastic sense of humor. Here's the final stanza:

It's the people that you hate together,
Bait together,
Date together,
That make marriage a joy.
It's things like using force together,
Shouting til you're hoarse together,
Getting a divorce together,
That make perfect relationships.

Then in 2008 when I started dating this show reared it's lovely head again. It's when I started seeing traces of Bobby (the main character) written all over my life. "Barcelona" where Bobby tries to get his latest date to stay in town even though she's leaving for Barcelona, only to freak and change his mind when she actually considers it. Or the scene where he encounters an ex who tells him she's getting married and moving out of the city, and he responds to her with "You want so little, and that's the hardest thing in the world to get." Wow. If you knew me then (and even now sometimes), you know that's my biggest struggle... oddly wanting too little. Also "Another Hundred People" - the song the personifies my city like nothing else.

It's a city of strangers
Some come to work, some to play
A city of strangers
Some come to stare, some to stay
And every day
Some go away

Now 2010. I've been leaning toward finding a way to get myself more settled. Dating to find a potential mate. Looking at the future and my career. All the things single, early 30-somethings should be doing. And in pops "Company" again. The uncanny similarities to myself and Bobby are almost frightening. As if in 1970 Stephen Sondheim knew some old gal in 2010 would need to connect with an artform. In "Marry Me A Little" Bobby realizes the absurdities in his wishes for a committed relationship without any of the bad stuff. When looking at these lyrics, it's nearly impossible for me to narrow (I suggest checking the entire song here)

Marry me a little, Love me just enough. Warm and sweet and easy, Just the simple
stuff. Keep a tender distance So we'll both be free. That's the way it ought to
be. I'm ready!

And then of course finally... the one I can't live without. The song that speaks to me more than probably any ever written... "Being Alive". See a video of the talented Raul Esparza as he nails this song. The first 0:25 are exactly what my life feels like sometimes. Exactly how I occasionally end up screaming "STTTTTTOOOOOPPPP!!!!" like he does. Note how at the beginning he lists all the reasons to be alone. Then he flips. And those exact same reasons are the reasons not to be alone. Brilliance. Tears and love for this song unlike any other. Alone is alone, not alive.

Being Alive. Enjoy. WANT something. Want SOMEthing. This is my wish for you. I'll let you all know once I fully achieve it myself...