Category Archives: Life

Finding your tribe

I woke up early this morning with a nervous stomach, which shook loose this memory:

I’m in college.

I’m wearing a black sweater and a pair of black and hunter green checked pants that have one of those funny hook and button things like men’s dress slacks.

I’m sporting a pair of black penny loafers, a shiny penny looking out from the center of each like cooper eyes.

The campus is cold and dark and still at this time of the morning. A group of us are boarding a small yellow school bus that will take us to our student teaching assignments.

I don’t want to be a student teacher, but my parents are pushing for it. Besides, what else do you do with a degree in English?

I feel sick in my stomach those weeks that I teach. Sure, part of it is plain old nerves. But there’s something else. That feeling of not belonging that I can’t seem to shake.

This weekend, I’m attending a creative nonfiction conference. This weekend, I’m speaking at a creative nonfiction conference.

Along with the founder of my writing group, I’ll be presenting How to Find Your Tribe or How a Writing Group Saved My Life.

A little dramatic, I know. But we’re writers, folks.

So, that’s where the nervous stomach is coming from.

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Me and my magical mullet circa 1985. You know you want to run your fingers through it, ladies.

But I know I’ll be okay. Talking about my writing group is a passion of mine. And I’m no longer that 20-some-year-old mullet-headed kid in the penny loafers. Did I not mention that magical mullet of mine? Must have slipped my mind.

I’ve got a tribe. A tribe of writer friends who make me feel like a cross between Dorothy Allison and Alison Bechdel.

A tribe of blogging buddies who make me feel like a flannel-covered rock star. A little bit of Melissa Etheridge and a little bit of Joan Jett and a little bit of Xena Warrior Princess because she is a bad ass, too, and this is my blog so I can write what I want. And anyway, she could play a helluva lute, at least when she was inspired.

On my last post, my catsup-versus-mayo-on-fries post, Family Values Lesbian replied that “mayo on fries is as butch as glitter.”

downloadI laughed out loud then smiled real big on the inside, sorta like the Grinch when the corners of his smile almost touch the sky and his heart grows three sizes that day.

“What?” W asked.

“My peeps,” I said. “They get me.”

And that’s my hope for everyone–the writers I’ll be speaking to on Saturday at the conference, all the LGBTQ folks out there who might not have built-in support systems and the rest of the world, too. People who get you. A personal cheering section. Folks who support you like a really good bra and tell you to keep going, you got this, you can do it. Even if the road ahead is paved with glitter. Or whatever it is that’s your kryptonite.

Thanks, guys, for always being a part of my tribe.

 

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A condiment conundrum

imagesW and I have been fighting. Over condiments.

I spell the red stuff you dip your fries into this way:

c-a-t-s-u-p

and write it like that on the grocery list posted on the fridge.

“Who spells catsup that way?” W asks.

She says it with distaste. Like she has swallowed a pint of sour milk.

“What do you know?” I reply. ” You don’t even like catsup.”

“It’s just weird,” she says.

“I’ll tell you what’s weird,” I say. “Someone who dips their fries in mayo. You can’t trust someone who doesn’t believe in fries and catsup.”

“I think you can’t trust someone who spells ketchup c-at-s-u-p,” she says.

* * *

So, what is it folks? Catsup or ketchup? What do you dip your french fried potatoes in?  

 

 

Summer adventures

imagesW and I are headed to New York state next weekend.

We’ll be visiting Cooperstown and the Baseball Hall of Fame. This is another bucket list item for me.

First, an Olivia cruise to Alaska. Now, Cooperstown and the Hall of Fame.

I’m wondering if I should be worried. My bucket list isn’t very deep.

“Just add more things,” people tell me.

Um, that’s not how it work. I prefer a carefully culled bucket list.

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Say cheeze!

After Cooperstown, we’re headed to Animal Adventure Park outside of Binghamton, which is home to Internet sensations April the Giraffe and baby Taj. W is a huge fan.

Usually, I’d be stressed out about leaving town and heading to a new place (or vacation, as some call it). But our Alaskan adventure has me feeling like I can do a short road trip no problem.

So, we’re looking for things to do in the Cooperstown and Binghamton areas. Send your tips and suggestions my way.

Where are you headed these last few weeks of summer? Crossing anything off your bucket list?

 

Llama drama

W and I cleaned our bedroom a few weeks ago. We organized and dusted and vacuumed and purged ourselves of three garbage bags full of crap.

We had been having problems sleeping and felt that a clean, uncluttered room would help with our insomnia.

In the spirit of refreshing my side of the room, I decided to buy a new lamp for my beside table. I poked around at Target and then started looking on the web for something functional and whimsical.

IMG_1688Through a bizarre series of events, I ended up with a llama lamp.

“What’s a llama totem mean?” W asked.

“I didn’t think to check,” I replied.

From Spirit Animal Totems

Llama is here to remind you that only through hard work and perseverance will your dreams be realized. Know that you have the ability to adapt to any situation you find yourself in. Know that whatever loads you are carrying right now you will be able to manage and see them through. Alternatively Llama could also be reminding you that your biggest focus should be yourself and that personal growth and your connection to spirit should be your highest priority at all times. Insisting on following your heart rather than your ego will bring you all the rewards you are seeking.

These days, I am overscheduled and overworked and overwhelmed.

I have an upcoming speaking engagement. And commitments as president of a local book-related nonprofit.

I have committed to a January deadline for my new book, My Mother Says Drums Are for Boys: More Adventures in Gender.

It feels like there are a million things I need to do. And never enough time.

Plus, Wentworth. We have to finish Wentworth.

I will trust in my little gold llama that with hard work all things are possible. And will remember to take time out for myself when I need it.

* * *

What’s your animal totem these days?

 

 

Blue

IMG_1511Smack in the middle of the week, we cruise the Hubbard Glacier.

It’s a wall of ice approximately 75 miles long and 1,200 feet deep.

The glacier is the most beautiful shade of blue I’ve ever seen. The brilliant blue of a rare bird or a Van Gogh sky.

The blue color is an optical illusion. Something about the sun and the ice and refracted light. I don’t pay attention because I want to believe this shade of blue is real.

This blue, the color of a diamond or a lover’s eyes.

IMG_1480I drink a bottle of beer because I want to feel the chill of the ice inside me. W drinks a coffee with Kahlua.

As we get closer, we hear a noise that sounds like thunder and watch as a chunk of ice falls from the glacier and into the ocean, leaving behind a large puff of white.

We feel the repeated rumbles in our bones.

Ohh and ahh at the explosions of white.

Hubbard Glacier is an advancing glacier, which means it’s being replenished by precipitation faster than it’s melting.

The ocean is blue, too. A dark blue like a new pair of jeans.

IMG_1503Pieces of ice float in it as if it were a giant cocktail. I angle my ear to the water to better hear the crackle and pop.

I want to reach out and dip a finger in the cold blue water. Store the chill for those times I need to remind myself that I’m alive.

Today, I want to jump into the icy water.

And wait for the roar.

As pieces of me fall off, sending smoke signals to the universe.

Until nothing is left but the color blue.

Watch

Describe an object that describes you:

IMG_1192A vintage Timex wristwatch, circa 1970 with a stretchy metal band.

Dependable.

Consistent.

Comfortable.

Casual.

Plain face.

Stylish in its own way with a flash of silver like a crooked smile.

Always moving forward. Sometimes second by second, other times making bigger leaps until time is lost and I wonder how I ended up here.

At times, a know it all.

It’s 10:30 a.m.

It’s Tuesday.

It’s May 16.

The cold metal on my wrist reminding me I’m alive.

* * *

What about you? What object are you?

 

Mom stuff

My son turned 18 yesterday.

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Middle-age Butch and son back in the day

It was around 11:30 p.m. that the doctor said we would be celebrating his birthday on May 16.

I wasn’t have any of that next day stuff. After a few pushes, he entered the world on May 15, a few minutes before midnight. A month and a half before his due date.

He is stubborn like his mother.

From the beginning, he was setting his own schedule and interrupting any plans I had for a normal pregnancy and delivery.

When he finally came home from the hospital, he weighed a little over 5 pounds. I kept him tucked in the crook of my arm like a football.

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Do you speak sports?

I  assumed he would speak the same language that my dad, my brother and I speak: sports. He doesn’t.

He doesn’t speak books or movies or superheroes or any of my other languages.

He speaks his own, a mix of technology and disdain for everything I like.

He has always been a difficult child. Insisting on paving his own path and refusing to conform to the most basic of rules. He wears shorts in the winter. Says the sky is green. Eats soup from a plate.

I get frustrated. I use the word “normal” more than I want to and then hate myself for doing so. I often worry about what other people will think. When I step back, I can see I am recreating my own childhood.

W always tells me we are supposed to learn from our children. That we can find healing in the parent-child relationship.

I never really understood this.

IMG_1177I have a quote taped to the front of my printer. “Be who you needed when you were younger,” it says.

It reminds me to keep reaching out to young people to tell my story so they can be comfortable with their own.

I wonder if the answer has been there all along.

“Be who you needed when you were younger.”

Maybe I’m supposed to parent my son the way I needed to be parented. Accepting him as he is.

Maybe that’s what finally sets me free.

Butch’s best day ever!

Guys, yesterday might have been my best day ever. It was like seeing a rainbow, getting the perfect haircut and winning free flannel for a year all in one day.

IMG_1137It started off with a delivery of boxer briefs that I had ordered from Groupon a few weeks ago and then promptly forgot.

I mean, who doesn’t like new underwear, especially when it’s delivered right to your house.

Then we went to a bowling fundraiser for my nephew, who has cystic fibrosis. There was bowling and all the pizza a butch could eat.

And just when I thought the day couldn’t get any better, I won a bucket of booze in a raffle.

IMG_1132The big price was a bottle of Jagermeister Spice. I’ve never tried the spice version, but this butch runs on Jager.

We headed for home, and then I ran out to celebrate Independent Bookstore Day at my local bookstore, which was hosting a release of a fiction anthology created by local authors. I bought a copy of the anthology that all of the authors so kindly signed and got to pick out a free book courtesy of the store.

When I got home, high from an evening of talking about books and smelling fresh ink on the page, I found another delivery waiting for me.

IMG_1138Two pair of new sneakers.

I’ve never owned a pair of Brooks before, but they seem super comfortable and good for walking.

And a butch can never have too many pairs of Chucks.

So, to recap.

One. New underwear.

Two. Booze.

Three. Books.

Four. Sneakers.

* * *

What four things would be included in your perfect day?

 

March madness

March was a crazy month.

I turned 50. Which means I’m vintage.

I got my AARP card, which I thought would make me super-sexy in W’s eyes. “She’ll have the Grand Slam,” I imagined me ordering for her at Denny’s and scoring points, as well as a sweet 15 percent discount. She just looked at me weird when I flashed the shiny red card at her.

I had a fun party that W put together with all of my friends and a top-of-the-line party bus that only played 80s music (including that Georgia Satellites song I love) and made stops at a local concert AND Victory Brewing.

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No real flannel shirts were harmed in the making of this cake.

W had a custom cake made for me in the shape of a flannel shirt.

I got tons of loot. Notebooks and pens and wine and beer and gift cards for books. All of my favorite things.

I wore my new sneakers. Puma classics, black suede. So sweeeeet.

There’s more. On the night of my birthday, W gave me a bunch of little presents. We aren’t big gift givers, and I knew she was throwing me a birthday bash, so I wasn’t expecting much. Maybe a new necktie, a book, something emblazoned with the Wonder Woman logo.

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I misspelled Seattle during the recreation.

She had created a handmade Scrabble board. Each box contained a set of Scrabble tiles. The tiles spelled out: TICKETS, SEATTLE, ALASKA, OLIVIA.

I don’t have a big bucket list. Just a few things I want to do, a few places I want to see. I’ve always wanted to spend a few days in Seattle. Take a cruise to Alaska. And go on an Olivia Cruise.

W had started planning all of this last summer without me suspecting a thing.

At the end of June, we are flying to Seattle for a few days. We’ll be there for Seattle Pride, and we already have reservations for brunch in the Space Needle. In Seattle, we’ll be boarding an Olivia cruise ship and setting sail for Alaska.

“It’s too much,” I said for much of March with a giant grin on my face.

There’s a part of me that still thinks it’s too much. Too expensive. Too extravagant. And that I’m not worthy.

I’ve been trying to silence those voices and be grateful. Grateful for being able to cross things off my bucket list. Grateful for an adventure, something to look forward to. Grateful for a cruise on a luxury liner filled with lesbians.

But mostly grateful for a wife who so carefully planned a special birthday and a trip of a lifetime for me.

It’s hard to be on this side of love. The receiving side.

But I’m trying.

So far, 50 is like a new pair of sneakers. Pretty sweet.

Today I’m a 50-year-old boy

I turn 50 today.

It’s weird because most days I feel like a kid. A young boy somewhere in the age range of 12 to 17.

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Sir, I’ve been reading this great blog called The Flannel Files.

Most people I know say they don’t feel like adults either. Which means we’re all living in a giant Peanuts cartoon. No adults for miles–just an occasional wah wa-wah in the distance. You can call me Peppermint Patty. Or sir. Take your pick. Even though this lesbian doesn’t rock sandals.

 

W is throwing me a big party on Saturday complete with a party bus. I don’t know the details, so the rest is a surprise.

But today we’ll spend a quiet evening at home with the kids.

We’ll get pizza or some other takeout. I’ll open presents.

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Super sweet.

I already bought myself these cool black Puma throwbacks as a happy-birthday-to-me gift.

I’m thinking of treating myself to another pair in baby blue.

“Like my eyes,” I told W.

“Yes,” she said.

“My eyes are green,” I said.

“I meant they would compliment your eyes,” she said.

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Super sweet, too.

She doesn’t understand how sneakers work.

I’ll wait for next weekend to see The Lego Batman Movie. Maybe as a reward for getting our taxes ready.

“No thank you,” W said when I first asked her if she wanted to see the movie. She has since agreed to see it with me. Because pity, I guess. But whatever. It’s The Lego fucking Batman Movie.

And I’ll save some birthday money for comic books. To spend at that new store in Philly W said we could visit the weekend we see Cabaret.

I suppose 50 means I’m wise. At least wiser than I was at 49. If I’ve learned anything these past five decades, it’s be true to yourself. Live your authentic life.

Even if you’re a 50-year-old boy/woman and that means sneakers and comic books and The Lego fucking Batman Movie.

Life is too short, folks.

* * *

What Peanuts character are you? What’s your favorite type of sneaker? Put them together and make some kind of drag king/queen name. You know you want to. C’mon, it’s my birthday. Humor me.

Love,

Pat Puma