A Good Friday Tradition

There are times in my life when I feel like a complete ignoramus for having failed to get the significance, and/or meaning behind a phrase, statement or event. People who know me, have often heard me say, “I’m slow, but I get there!” It’s a line, I must admit that I find myself needing to repeat all too often and is generally after I’ve suddenly realized the meaning behind some minor event or comment that has been repeated numerous times.
For example: There are some movies I’ve watched repeatedly and “Waterworld” with Kevin Costner, and one of my all-time favorites Dennis Hopper, is one of those. There is a scene where Dennis’s character is riding through the rusted out hulk of his oil tanker throwing packs of cigarettes to his mob of followers. After seeing “Waterworld” 4 or 5 times I finally got the connection between the reward of “smokes” and the fact that the bad guys were called “Smokers”. Duh! Good Friday has come to be a consistent reminder of what that feels like.
From the time I was 9 years old until I left leave home for college, I spent every Sunday morning in Sunday school and church at a little Congregational/United Church of Christ church. That meant that every Sunday morning, without fail, I recited what’s known as “The Apostle’s Creed.” It was part of the standard liturgy of the church. Within that liturgy is a portion that reads, “was crucified, dead, and buried;” Crucified! Yeah he was killed. Lots of people are killed. Jesus of Nazareth was killed by means of crucifixion by the Romans! That was the extent of the discussion of the means of his execution. If the nature of crucifixion was ever discussed it somehow eluded me.
In another movie I’ve seen a number of times, “Apocalypse Now” Marlon Brando’s character, Colonel Kurtz, is describing the nature of that war and the enemy; in doing it he refers to “the horror.” There is something in the nature of the way he says, “the horror” that describes an unspeakable effect of man’s ability to make his fellow man suffer.
In 2004, Mel Gibson’s movie, “The Passion of The Christ” came out a month or so before Easter and the church I was attending at the time, went in a group to see it as soon as it came out. I didn’t go with them. I felt that it was far more appropriate to see it on Good Friday; so on that day, Good Friday of 2004 I went to the afternoon showing of “The Passion of The Christ.” I’d heard comments of the nature of what I was to see, but was totally unprepared for “the horror” of crucifixion. I was stunned to the point of being unable to move from my seat until the next round of movie goers began filling into the theater.
Crucifixion was a horribly cruel death and the Romans perfected it. Mel Gibson brought me face to face with “the horror” which no one in my Christian education had ever discussed. The thoughts that flooded my mind for the next few weeks were so filled with mixed emotions that I had difficulty sorting them out. Questions which had seemed so academic suddenly took on a completely new nature. Among those, were questions of the real nature of the Trinity and the exact nature of the relationship between God and Christ.
Could a perfect father actually ask or expect his only son to suffer like that; for billions of unappreciative humans? Maybe He couldn’t and that was proof of the fact that God and Christ were one in the same. It also seemed likely that a perfect son, for the sake of His father’s promise, would voluntarily submit himself to “the horror” of crucifixion. The description in the Gospel of Luke that in the Garden of Gethsemane, Christ was in such agony of spirit that sweat fell to the ground “like great drops of blood” suddenly had new meaning. God asking Abraham to sacrifice “his only son” now had real significance, especially when you realize that God didn’t make Abraham actually go through with what God Himself would do 2000 years later.
But, overshadowing all these thoughts was the reality of crucifixion itself, preceded by the beatings of the Roman soldiers. I never want to forget those realities, so as Easter 2005 approached I ordered the DVD and with one exception, every year since, on the afternoon Good Friday, I stop whatever I’m doing; shut off the phones, the computer and draw the blinds. Then I watch again, “The Passion of The Christ.” That way, I will always have a fresh reminder of what God’s love and the sacrifice it required, really is. And each time I see it, some new significance; some new insight; some new understanding of a specific act or scene shakes me once again.

Go to Abba’s List First

I was thinking recently about what goes on in the lives of many, if not all of
us, as we go from discovering the gender-variant part of our nature, to finally
feeling total comfort with who and what we are; then finding the best form of
expression for ourselves as individuals. I have spent much of my life in the
remodeling field; for the most part remodeling kitchens and baths. The
similarities in the lives of gender-variant people and a home are striking.

What brings this all to mind is a short passage from a small book of inspirational
thoughts by Max Lucado. This particular one was from his book “Just Like Jesus”.
In this passage he talks about the discomfort sometimes associated with
remodeling and I thought back to my first experiences in the business of remodeling.

I would spend many hours getting to know the homeowners. I needed to know how
they used their kitchen, who did the cooking, who cleaned up, what kind of
cooking did they do; were they serious chefs or Stouffers-out-of-the-package?
Occasionally all they really needed was a new sink and faucet, a few new
pictures on the wall or new wallpaper. But, most of the time it was far more

As Lucado writes in reference to the changes God can make in our lives when we let
him, “We don’t object when The Carpenter adds a few shelves, but He’s been
known to gut the entire west wing … (He) envisions a complete “restoration.” That’s what happened with many of my customers and that’s what happened in my life.

I, like the homeowner, thought at first that “a few shelves” would do or
“a new sink and faucet”. You know … a wig, a dress and maybe a pair
of heels; put them on every now and then when I could get away with it. The
problem with remodeling is, knowing how far to go, when to stop. One new room
in a home can tend to make the rest of home outdated or unsatisfactory.

Budget has a lot to do with it, but for the most part a vision of the end result and a
feeling of comfort in that vision is paramount. The most successful remodeling
projects are those where that vision of the finished product is crystal clear. Unfortunately in our gender-variant lives the vision is seldom that clear in the beginning. True it usually does eventually become crystal clear for most of us, but not before
we and our families have endured enormous upheaval in our lives. The greatest
upheaval occurs when a remodel project begins without a plan, agreement on that
plan, budget, time-frame for each phase, and most of all, someone in charge
with ultimate responsibility for the outcome.

There was a point in my gender remodeling project, which had begun without a plan,
agreement on the plan, budget or time-frame, when I realized I didn’t know what
was going to happen next. I thought I was in charge; I wasn’t. I needed a
project manager because, as I proceeded I found that even though I had a vision
of what I thought I wanted, I didn’t have a clue as to how each phase was going
affect the next phase. I needed an expert project manager who could make His
vision, my vision.

When I finally turned “my” project over to “The Project Manager” who I called Abba, I
found out almost immediately that there was far more to being a woman than “a new sink and faucet”. I needed to remove a couple of walls, new flooring, new cabinets, new countertops, windows, light fixtures, appliances, paint, wallpaper, dishes, linens, entertainment center, sound system and the list became nearly endless. In my case at least, I didn’t feel a need to re-do the “plumbing”. That can get really expensive and
create real havoc in the home, although at times it is necessary to achieve the

In even in the most carefully thought out projects, with people who are in
complete agreement on everything, there is often a problem. That problem is the
reality of the internal turmoil brought about by “strangers” disrupting your home, as you have known it, even though you wanted the changes. In many cases one of the couple
involved would have a vision and understanding and was eager to proceed, but
the other was not at all sure that they wanted to go ahead with the project. They
liked things the way they were. Sound familiar? Of course it does. That’s what
goes on in our gender-variant lives and the lives of our families.

When a home is purchased the new owner, or owners, always envision what it will be
like when all the personal touches are added, and they always expect it to stay
that way when they are done. None of us want to have someone else influence the
outcome of our own “vision”, not without at least consulting us first. The happiest people are those whose visions are the same. Wives for the most part and husbands too expect their vision of the spouse they met and fell in love with to remain virtually unchanged. A spouse who proceeds with a remodeling project on the home or themselves without approval of the other dooms the home and the relationship to a disastrous end. Before anyone starts any remodeling project they need to, in a paraphrase of a current television commercial, “Go to Abba’s List first.”

“The Second Time Around, First Time”

There was a time in the not too distant past when I found myself remembering an old movie made in 1961 starring Debbie Reynolds. The recording of the tune “The Second Time Around” is what I remember most and on this particular day I found myself humming the melody. The next thing I know I’m thinking of all the things George had done for the first time, that I was now doing the “second time around” … as Georgia.
Do you remember the first time you drove a car on the street, in the traffic, actually going somewhere to do something ordinary, but you were out there alone. You were actually by yourself, no Mom, no Dad, nobody but you in the car. You were a real person, a real adult, finally arrived at going someplace … in the car alone. As a teenager taking that first drive and subsequent drives at that stage of life I wanted everybody to notice me; to notice that handsome young brute behind the wheel of that white ’59 Ford station wagon; window down, left elbow out the window, steering wheel casually held between thumb and forefinger of the left hand and right arm over the back of the seat as I imagined a tender beauty snuggled up next to me. I was sure they were thinking “What a stud!” I don’t actually remember specifics of that first time alone as a teenager other than those emotions. However, I can tell you that I do remember that first time as Georgia. My heart was pounding and racing so that among all the other fears of being “out there” I feared I would have a heart attack….”dressed”!!!
My “second time around ‘first time out’ ” as Georgia I just knew that everybody noticed that “wierdo guy in the wig” behind the wheel of that red pickup. I had a death grip on the steering wheel that was so tight I popped half of my stick on nails off. I was sure that in every car that passed me, the people were pointing and laughing. Each little sound from my truck seemed to be a harbinger of disaster that would find me on the side of the freeway with a fleet of patrol cars surrounding me and a helicopter over head shining a spotlight on me while the 10:00 news highlighted my predicament for all to see.
With all these differences in “first time” emotions there were two common threads. The first was the overwhelming thrill and exhilaration of a kind of freedom; a sense of having finally “arrived” that can hardly be expressed in words. The second common thread was the later realization that not one person, nobody at all, paid the slightest bit of attention to me. It had never occurred to me that with the acceptance I desired also comes ignorance of my existence. In other words, if George pays a visit to the mall the only people that are going to be aware of his existence are the clerks at the stores he visits and their awareness only lasts as long as he’s a potential sales commission. The minute he walks out the door of their store he ceases to exist in their world. He becomes just another one of the people walking the mall. That is the world most people feel as part of their normal everyday lives.
These are experiences which don’t rate a “first time experience” thrill for the average person, but they are times to be cherished by people who are moving out of the cloistered world that the average trans- or dual-gendered individual exists in for so much of their lives. It’s a world commonly called “the closet”, and for us it usually is just exactly that … a closet.
Another “Second time around ‘first time’ ” experience was my first road trip. George’s first solo road trip as a teenage driver was to our parents cabin in Montana. He was a real adult now. He was out there on his own free to do as he wished (within limits). As a teenager he had arrived. My first road trip as Georgia was from Phoenix to Ely Nevada not long after our bride passed away. What a fright that first one hundred miles were. I had barely had time to get used to driving to the meetings dressed and there I was, miles from the security of my “closet”. Was it exciting? Oh I should say so. Georgia was experiencing one of the things that George enjoyed the most. I was driving cross-country alone, in a way that I had only dreamed of doing.
Of course there were those tense moments, like asking if I needed a key to the restroom at a service station and having the attendant hand me the key to the “Ladies” restroom without hesitation. I thought I was going to fall apart at the seams when it came time for me to check into the motel that first night, but other than a brief look of curiosity from the clerk there was no problem. The common first-time thread for Georgia and George was the desire for the trip to never end.
The list of “Second time around ‘first time’ ” experiences grows longer with each passing year and with each one comes an overwhelming sense of gratitude for the opportunity to live life over. There was the first time getting gas, the first time grocery shopping, the first time washing the car, the first time getting mail addressed to just me and the one first time that is Georgia’s alone; just being called by my name.
The blessings that have come from accepting this “second self”, which too few in our society embrace, are too numerous to mention. One Sunday after Easter was another “Second time around ‘first time’ ” and for me the most important one. I was baptized again, this time as Georgia, to give my life the complete sense of balance that my Christian beliefs require. I’m sure that there will be other “Second time around ‘first times’ ” but for now I will leave you with the knowledge that you know a little more of the blessings that come from accepting oneself as God intended.

Well, I did have plans you know …

I had some great plans this week, especially for today. I was going to have lunch with an old and dear friend I hadn’t seen she moved to Toledo more than 2 years ago. After that I was going to put fingers to keyboard and craft a significant addition to this blog. When that was finished I intended to just blob since I’d just spent two days spit shinning my home. But, so much for plans; at least for my plans at any rate. I found it necessary to resort to repeated reminders of Proverbs 3:6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.” It all happened this way.
At roughly 2:30 yesterday morning all was well. A trip to the little girls room and I was soon sleeping soundly once more. 7:00 A.M. and my usual internal alarm signaled that 8 hours was enough sleep. It seemed to be raining and I lay there a bit thinking how pleasant it was to awaken to the sound of rain outside my window.
I would like to say that then I jumped out of bed, but “jumped” would be a bit of a stretch so let’s just say that I “got” out of bed and headed for the little girls room. The clear sky outside my bedroom window should have alerted me at that point. But, no it took soaking wet carpet to get my full attention. So much for my plans; it wasn’t rain after all. The supply line to the toilet had broken.
All else was forgotten. I shut the valve off, grabbed some clothes and dashed down the stairs headed for the storage shed to retrieve my wet-dry vac. Now it was raining for sure. Water was pouring from the recessed light fixture in the kitchen, the cabinets over the range and dishwasher were dripping profusely, the fixture globe in the laundry was full of water and a full third of the downstairs was awash. I placed a panicked call to the leasing agent and then began the process of soaking up the upstairs water and intermittently trying several times to contact the leasing agent. When she did answer she seemed not the least bit alarmed and told me a plumber would be there directly. I told her she was going to need more than a plumber. Now she seemed perturbed. Was it my fault that the owner just had to pump a couple of thousand into a major termite treatment? She seemed to think so.
I finally managed to get the worst of the water mopped up off the tile floors, downstairs and upstairs and began hauling stuff out to the patio in preparation for the clean-up crew I expected shortly. Then I had one of those ideas which should have been thought out a little better. I felt it was a good time to send the agent a text asking how many months free rent I would get as a result. Her response was less than polite. She actually suggested that it was my fault. The nerve! I thought my reply was most appropriate. I haven’t heard anything since except a text inquiring about the whereabouts of the broken parts. I suggested she check with the plumber. That’s when the second little disaster occurred.
When I bent down to place something on the concrete patio pad my phone popped out of my pocket and came apart when it hit the concrete. Just peachy! Just what I needed today. I picked up the pieces and put it back together so I could resume normal communications … Not! After the cleanup guys got their blowers etc. going I headed for at&t. (yes I meant to make it all lower case letters. It expresses my opinion exactly) There, I was informed that I had no insurance on the phone (thought for sure I did) and that a new one would run me $170. Would they at least attempt to repair it? Nope! Would some dainty damsel in disrtess tears help! Nope! They gave me a card for a company with the hopeful sounding name of “YOUBREAKIFIX.com”. Really? On the bright side they will check it out free of charge and tell you if they can fix it. So what have I got to lose, right? I’ll find out next Tuesday.
So much for Thursday; on to Friday … I actually was able to sleep some in spite of the gale like noises coming from the dryer 10 feet from my bed. (earplugs must have worked). Almost immediately, upon removing the earplugs I hear “rain”. I was in the grip of terror at the thought of what next. But this time it was actually real, falling from the clouds … rain. And, all that stuff I’d left on the patio was just like the carpet in the house.
Phone chirps! My friend who was going to cheer me up over lunch and help me forget all my woes was sick in bed and unable to make it. Now wasn’t that just a hunky dory end to a less than spiffy week.
So I ask Abba, “Did I do something to rub you the wrong way?” Is my new name “Job-alina”? The silence was deafening so I read Proverbs 3:6 once more.
You were expecting a moving and inspirational blog message today were you? And of course you don’t think this quite measures up. Next week! Nowhere to go but up, folks. Nowhere to go but up!

If I had a magic wand …

If I had a magic wand that actually worked I would wave it and my bank account would suddenly be imbued with an ability to automatically cover whatever expenditure I chose to make. Then, with that handy tool at my disposal I would acquire the following things.
The first would be a gorgeous bright yellow conversion van with graphic appliqué in shades of brown and blue. Behind that I would tow a trailer for a tricycle motor cycle painted to match the van. The second thing I would invest in would be a reasonably sized helicopter; same color scheme as the van and motorcycle, which I would use to commute to and from the next item on my list. That item would be an adobe and glass home in the northern portion of Monument Valley in northeastern Arizona.
During the winter months I would spend Sunday afternoon through Friday morning at home. Friday afternoon through Saturday evening would be spent with friends in Phoenix and Sunday Morning with my New Foundation family and Sunday afternoon at the Flowing Fellowship of the Society of Sipping Saints. These would be the norm of my existence. However, the abnorm of my existence would be something entirely different. The late spring, summer and early fall months would be spent pursuing my other passion.
People who know me well are aware of my love of driving. The above mentioned desire for a helicopter would be a matter of expedience to accommodate the enjoyment of my two most important life facets; my church family and my love of the deserts of the American Southwest. Driving back and forth between those every week would become boring and tiresome. However, there are other places I would love to see and experience, most of which are between the Arctic Circle and the Rio Grande and between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
Flying from point A to point B just doesn’t cut it. There’s no life up there; interesting view maybe, but no life. On the rare occasion that I happen to be seated next to someone who appears to love conversation and new people as much as I do, flying isn’t so bad. On one such occasion the conversation has lasted long past the flight, and although we haven’t actually seen each other since, Elise and I talk frequently and have shared many joys and fears. Those experiences are rare indeed and I believe it’s because of the hurried and tightly scheduled nature of air travel. But I’m getting sidetracked.
Due to the effects of a stroke, which I detail in Dear Mom and Dad, the summer of 1973 was the first time since childhood that I, read that “George”, had not spent working long hours spanning into long weeks. During a trip to the family cabin in Montana upon my release from the hospital, I found Steinbeck’s Travels with Charlie, in Search of America. It was one of the very last things he wrote and describes a trip he undertook to reacquaint himself with America. He made the trip with Charlie his French Poodle, in a large self contained camper, which he christened Rocinante after Don Quixote’s horse, in Cervantes famous novel about the misadventures of an aging knight in search of glory. The trip takes Steinbeck from upper Maine across the northern tier of states to the Pacific and thence down the coast to southern California, east across the southwest and southern states to the Atlantic and back north to his home on the Chesapeake Bay.
It sounds as if it would be a typical travelogue but it isn’t, because there is a minimum of geographical descriptions; instead there are descriptions of the people he meets along the way; their mannerisms, their regional accents and their outlook on life. He drove, with few exceptions, along the less traveled highways away from the freeways which had the same hurried atmosphere of air travel. After all, that’s what freeways were meant to do; speed things up. I have been longing to make the same trip ever since. I miss the highways of my youth; the highways like Route 66 that passed through the center of every small town in its path; the small towns with a water tower proclaiming the name of the town, and if appropriate, that it was the hometown some famous person or event in history. There always seemed to be at least one traffic light which managed to turn red just as we approached the intersection, affording one the opportunity to gaze about the town at the various business of the town and often some of the people. Even at that young age I always wondered what it would be like to know those people, to see what was behind the glass windows of the stores. As an adult the curiosity has grown proportionally.
The difference for me though, would be that after that trip I would make another, diagonally from Maine to Southern California, and then from Puget Sound in Washington to Florida. After that I think it would be to drive up the Alaskan Highway to Alaska and then across Canada to Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. After all that I might, maybe, slightly possibly think about other countries. The only other two places I’ve ever had a desire to see are Norway and Mongolia and what lies between; odd choices I know but the reasons for that are a whole ‘nother story. Naturally, I would be writing wherever I happened to be.
Of course, I would prefer a traveling companion or two; preferably an adult female with the same passion and then a dog which would be a Boxer. Sorry Charlie … we only want dogs with good taste … no poodles.