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Mother’s Day: Blessings Remembered and Celebrated

So today, we celebrate all things mom…from the good that she does for us to the values that she’s instilled in us to the shape and direction that she’s given our lives.  The contributions that women make to the lives of the ones that they love are just incredible, and for that reason, we earmark one day in the early May every year to thank these incredible people for all they’ve done for us.  I have been blessed with a beautiful mother and a wonderful mother-in-law…and amazing older women throughout my lifetime who have illuminated my path and given my heart wings.  To each and every one of you, but to my birth mother and lifelong best friend above all, thank you.

My mother is in her middle-sixties and lives with my father in Indianapolis.  She was born fourth of five children in a small town in Iowa.  She played basketball as a child, worked in radio and medicine briefly as a young woman, was romanced by my father when he was a soldier heading to Vietnam, and married and left her home to begin an incredible adventure and life of her own.  In my 38 years of life, she’s held many roles in my life – guardian, teacher, protector, disciplinarian, lamp post, and role model.  Most importantly, she’s been and remains my dearest friend.  The one I turn to when I need counsel and the one whose favor I seek with the most fervor.  The one who makes me see difficulties with a different view and who inspires me to face challenges head on.  She was my first blessing and is today, the woman I most wish I could mirror – in spirit, in purity, in soul.  Mom, for every beautiful gift that you’ve given me and for every heartbeat and every laugh, every hug and every direction, I thank you.

I am a mother as well.  Sometimes, the sheer power of that sentiment is almost overwhelming.  Today, my amazing husband and our beautiful daughter showered me with love and gifts and it, as well, was overwhelming (I cried!).  Erin made me a beautiful hand-fired and glazed coaster…


…and a beautiful accordion card…

Curtis purchased this domain name for me, knowing that blogging and writing were pastimes that I dearly loved, but had somehow abandoned in the hectic-ness and insanity of life.  He thought that having my own domain name would help me personally (in reinvigorating my love of the written word) and professionally (in my pursuit to become Kansas’ most successful Scentsy consultant), and my gratitude for this gift will be shown in keystrokes and shared emotion.  We shared a wonderful dinner with his parents at K&M Barbecue, and came back to a fun afternoon of shared laughter and conversation.  It was truly a wonderful day.  My heart is full and I feel blessed beyond measure.

If you are a mother, grandmother, or woman of influence in the life of another, God bless you today and always.  Thank you for the joys and blessings you bring into the lives of those you love.  To my family, I thank you for a wonderful day.  To my mother, thank you for…everything.  I am forever in your debt and will always love you with all that I am.

Conflicted

So today, the topics of gay rights and illegal immigration came up in casual conversation.  A female friend about whose sexuality I’d had suspicions for quite some time approached me this evening and asked for my assistance.  (Because I know she’s not a blogger or much of a net geek, I feel safe blogging about this.  If you know who I’m speaking of, I respectfully ask that you please keep both this blog and its contents to yourself.)  She wanted to talk to me today because she knows about my professional life in the human resources field.  Long story short, she and her domestic partner of several years (didn’t know she existed ’til today!) were at a crossroads in their relationship.  Her partner, an illegal immigrant from another country, just completed her undergraduate degree.  Her student visa just expired, and she is now facing possible deportation.  My friend doesn’t know what to do.  She was hoping that perhaps I’d have some insight about human resources law as it pertains to her partner, who is working part-time in the industry in which she is now degreed.  Their story breaks my heart for so many reasons.  Because Kansas (where they live) does not recognize formal gay marriage, the best they’ve been able to do formally is to have a civil service with their pastor (yet another thing I didn’t know about my friend!)  If her partner (let’s call her “Julie,” shall we?  It gets complicated saying “her partner” over and over)…if Julie should get a speeding ticket, what happens?  Will she be deported?  If When Julie’s employer finds out that her student visa has expired and that she is here illegally, will they call the INS and have her deported?  Julie and my friend (let’s call her “Melanie”)…Julie and Melanie just want to live their lives and be normal, happy people.  They want to work, contribute to society, enjoy their friends and families and their lives, and not live in continual fear.  I suggested to Melanie that perhaps Julie consider returning to school.  Certainly, I surmised, the INS would have to give Julie a new student visa.  After all, she’d be a student.  Not so, said Melanie.  Apparently the INS’ rules are such that you are supposed to notify them within several (six?) months of your visa’s expiration before attempting to renew it.  Kansas doesn’t recognize gay marriage, but it wouldn’t matter if they did.  The United States as a federal entity, according to Melanie, does not give formal recognition to same-sex spouses.  Even if Melanie could marry Julie, it wouldn’t enable her to stay here.  So now they live in fear as they consult immigration attorneys and worry and pray and hope for a change.

I left my conversation with Melanie feeling so heartsick and conflicted.  Above all else, I am honored that she talked to me about this…that she felt safe enough with me to trust me with these intimate details of her life, while also respecting my professional knowledge and believing in my ability to help her.  However honored, I’m also torn.  Torn because I felt the heartbreak in her voice and saw it in her eyes.  The potential loss of her lifemate is breaking her heart.  (I probably should have explained this earlier – moving back to Julie’s country of origin, which isn’t Mexico, is not a possibility).  Melanie contends that Julie has the right to live.  To drive and work and be out amongst their friends and families and to do so without fear of repercussion.  The friend and human being in me feel the same…wanting Melanie and Julie to live together and to be happy and not lose the life together that they’ve built.  That same part of my heart believes that Julie shouldn’t be relegated to a life of hiding, and that no marriage should be predicated on lies.  But then the staunchly Republican Catholic  part of me emerges…the one who firmly believes that illegal immigration is a significant financial and emotional burden on this country…and the one who remains conflicted about gay marriage and rights.  Amidst the heartbreak I felt as I watched Melanie drive away this evening were mixed feelings of conflict and confusion.  At what point do “gay rights” and “immigrant rights” become “human rights?”  Isn’t the WAY you love more important than WHO you love?  And if so, why does this concept resonate so harshly inside the hearts of so many people, me included?  In college, a dear friend of mine who was a lesbian tried to explain the continual fear and shame that she and her partner faced.  She explained that when my boyfriend and I were together publicly, people celebrated us.  They thought we were normal…healthy…cute college kids in love.  When she and her partner ventured out together, however, the playing field was completely different.  Insults, violence, rape, discrimination, and a plethora of other ignorance-based horrors were continually potential realities for them.  As an 18-year old young woman, that stung and confused me.  As Melanie’s car faded into the early evening distance tonight, I was reminded of that same conversation, and the horrible pit I felt in my stomach so many years ago returned.  How blessed and fortunate I am to be in a marriage that is celebrated…by friends, family, colleagues, the Church, the world in general.  Where it’s perfectly acceptable, expected if you will, for me to speak lovingly about my marriage and daughter and for photographic evidence of the same to adorn my desk at the office.  How is it fair that someone else could feel that exact same love…same joy…same commitment…and yet be punished and persecuted for it?  Why would God lead someone to love if that love were inherently wrong?

So my friends, I’m torn.  How do I balance my conservative Catholicism against the way I am feeling about Julie and Melanie?  How do I honor my friend while honoring my God as well?

The Journey Of Love

Today, I was an accidental witness to a very outward display of a very beautiful and private emotion. As I stood outside Two Pershing Square this afternoon, waiting for the “L” bus to bring me back to Johnson County, the most interesting little love story played out right before my eyes. There, on the snow-covered and icy strip of Main Street in front of my office building, a young couple held hands and walked down the center of the road, laughing affectionately and snuggling close in the cold. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, the young man swept the beautiful young woman in his arms, their walk fading into a music-less dance. They laughed and twirled around and around, and as the cars sped by on this busy, late Friday afternoon, the young man dipped his lady love backward, just as you might expect him to do were they on an elegant ballroom floor. It was evident that the man photographing them was their wedding photographer, perhaps capturing them taking a metaphorical walk of love down life’s road. I felt honored to have been a witness to this moment in their lives, wondering what these photographs might look like in their beautiful wedding album, inevitably nestled among pictures of candlelit kisses and intertwined hands and loving relatives and joy captured on film. Just as the young lovers and their photographer were making their way back to their car, I boarded my bus and began my hour-long return to Gardner, and it all hit me with crystal clarity. Love’s journey is long and often icy and cold, but taken together, it can weather the storm.

As the days of 2007 came to an end, I told everyone within earshot that one of my New Year’s resolutions would be to blog daily. I love writing, and often find such joy and peace in sharing my experiences and emotions. Even in the absence of a regular readership, manually crafting my stories and sharing them brings me tremendous happiness, as do the emotions I experience whenever I find myself in a “blog worthy situation,” and I think excitedly about just how I’ll share the experience with those few of you who actually read my stories. For weeks now, I’ve wanted to write about something deeply personal…I’ve needed to write about this “something deeply personal,” but I felt unable to do so. The story was heartbreaking and sad, and wasn’t entirely mine to tell. However, after seeing this afternoon’s public display of warmth and tenderness, I felt no longer able to keep this inside.

A marriage within my family was nearing its end for a very long time. These two beautiful people who mean the very world to me were struggling, and the story played out right before me. Unable to do anything to help them, but aching as I saw a part of my family fall apart, I was forced to keep quiet. Discretion, of course, beckoned to me, but my relative specifically as well asked that I not share the intimacies of this story. I felt trapped…unable to share the ever-developing, unendingly sad story that was unfolding all around me. Today, I learned that my relative will not file for divorce after all, not at this time anyway, and that healing and strength are returning to their marriage. And this afternoon as I watched that beautiful young couple enjoy their dance of love in the Kansas City cold, it all made clear sense to me. Love is a journey…an often cold and slippery one, but one worthy of every step and every struggle.