Sunday, June 19, 2016

Where I Stand

Every month, the Capture Your 365 photo prompts include this one - "Where I Stand."  I have pictures of my bare feet, my sock covered feet, my feet in comfy shoes, funky shoes, and dressy shoes.  Throughtout these photos I can be seen with my feet curled around the base of my desk chair, propped up on the couch relaxing, standing side by side with the one I love, on rocks and mountains,  close to home, and faraway.  Each photo tells a story of where I was physically in that particular moment on that particular day.

This week I was prompted to focus on where I stand not through my camera, but through my heart.  I was faced with examining where I stand emotionally, spiritually, theologically, and morally, not though pictures, but through my actions..  It is much more diffucult to create an image of where the inner me stands than it is to show where the physical me has planted my feet.

The week began with awakening last Sunday morning to the devestating news of the attack on the Pulse Night Club in Orlando.  Such an attack is horrifying in its own right, but when I learned that the attacker specifically targeted  the LGBT community, it felt like salt being poured into wounds that were already quite deep and painful.  The LGBT community is my friends, my family, my church.  If such an incident were to occur here in Dallas, I have no doubt that someone I know would have been among the dead or injured.

I actually went to two different church services last Sunday morning, the Episcopal church, the church in which I grew up, the church in which my children were baptized, and the church in which I was married...twice. :-)  Sadly, the events in Orlando were not mentioned during that Sunday morning service.  I then went to Cathedral of Hope United Church of Christ, the largest LGBT church in the world.  There the events in Orlando were on the hearts and minds of everyone.  The response, however, was not one of hate, but of sadness for the great loss of life and a need to extend our love to a commuity that is grieving and in pain.  There was an outpouring of love for the victims and families in Orlando and for the LGBT community here in Dallas.  Yes, there was anxiety and some outright fear, but when we came together as a community a faith, that fear was lessesned a bit during that time when we all stood together in prayer and praise.

On Monday, I received emails from both churches.  The one from the Episcopal church sadi that the regularly scheduled Wednesday night Eucharist would be a Requiem offered for those who lost their lives in Orlando, but because the sanctuary was being used for another event during that time, they did not know yet where that service would be held.  Interestingly, I never recieved any further information about that particular service.  

From Cathedral of Hope came an anouncement that The Turtle Creek Chorale, a premier men's chorus here in Dallas, and the Cathedral of Hope Sanctuary Choir were going to offer a concert entitled "Songs of Healing" on Tuesday evening.  I was honored to be asked to sing as part of that concert.  In a time when I felt helpless, music was something that I had to offer.  

That Tuesday night concert was attended by 1600 people and watched by 500,000 more via live streaming broadcasts.  In addition to the gift of music offered by the collective musicians, those who attended the concert, through generous hearts, gave $18,000 to be sent to agencies Orlando who are helping the families of the victims with final expenses.  The people of Dallas showed their love for the people of Orlando.

This event was engineered and executed in forty-eight hours thanks to the hard work and commitment to the cause by many, many people, not the least of whom was the Dallas Police Department who sent sixty officers to keep us all safe that night.  For that ninety minutes, fear subsided.

I have no idea how many attended the service at the Episcopal church that I assume ocurred Wednesday evening in some undisclosed location.  

It should come as no surprise that because of Cathedral of Hope's position in the Chritian church and the LGBT faith community,  our head pastor was sought out by reporters for his thoughts and commentary on the week's events.  As ones who are proud of the work of our church and its leaders, we shared many of those articles and videos through social media.  I was no exception.

I was surprised yesterday when my Facebook feed included a "rant" against our pastor's words by someone I consider to be a good friend.  At first I was hurt.  Then I was sad.  I then felt God's hand on my shoulder and words in me ear telling me that this was my chance to show where I stand.  When I am hurt or upset, I generally have one of two responses - withdraw completely from the situation, or fire back in "unpleasant" discourse.  I knew that neither of these responses was acceptable this time.  The person who wrote the post in question is someone who I believe God intentionally brought into my life.  We have had several different, all positive, encounters prior to this.  And as I said, this is someone I consider to be a good friend, so withdrawing would be a personal loss to me.  And now more than ever, as is evidenced by the political climate in this country, I know that angry discourse is a coward's response.  It is a response from the head, not the heart.  The heart responds with love as its guiding force.  With God's help, I did my best to respond in love - balancing my love for my church, my pastor, my faith, myself, and my friend.  I received a gentle response saying that we could agree to disagree.  Indeed we could and that was ok.  I honestly believe that responding to the initial post was God calling me to articulate in a respectable way, where I stand not for my friend, but for me.

As if all these things weren't enough to make one question the goodness of life, on our way to Cathedral of Hope this morning we received a text from a friend saying that the building had been evacuated because of "suspicious packages" left on the premises.  The worship service was moved to a safe spot outdoors, away from the packages.  Amidst the Dallas bomb squad and a number of other police officers, worship went on.

I have written here many times that I am not a risk taker; yet despite all that was going on, it never crossed my mind that I should not attend the worship service at Cathedral of Hope this morning.  Another opportunity to show where I stand.  This morning I stood with my closest friends, surrounded by lots of love and police officers.  And it was good.

As it turned out, the "suspicious bags" were harmless, clothes and a cell phone.  We were able to return to the building, and the air conditioning,   There was an amazing sense of community as we all held hands and sang, "How great is our God" after breaking bread together.   Love will conquer hate. It may take awhile, but love will win.

As is the case with our "village" of friends, we headed to brunch after church.  On the way, I checked my Facebook feed.  There were lots of posts about the morning's events at church.  Hidden amidst all of that was a notice that my friend, with whom I'd had the exchange yesterday, had tagged me in a post.  In it, she said that she had misinterpreted the article that was posted, responded without fully processing what was said, and after some time to let it settle, now understands what was really being presented and what I was trying to say in my response.  Wow!  The Spirit is at work!

There was a huge lesson in this for me.  First of all, I neither retreated or responded from the wrong place when faced with, what was for me, a challenging situation.  Nor did I judge my friend, because I have done the very same thing...replied to someone or something without taking time, without listening to God guide me through to the place where I should be.  I also learned from my friend how to admit when I have made a mistake.  I hope that I have the courage to do as she did the next time I find myself having jumped to a conclusion too quickly.

So as a new week dawns, where do I stand...
  • Still deeply saddened by the loss of life in Orlando
  • Grateful for the healing power of music
  • Proud to be part of a community of faith that not only talks the talk, but walks the walk
  • Thankful for the support of the Dallas police department throughout this week
  • Truly blessed by friends both far and near
  • Certain that love conquers hate
  • Confident that God is good.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

A Magical Day at the Norfolk Botanical Gardens

A week ago today I spent an amazing Saturday with four awesome photography friends, and several supportive family members, on a photowalk at the Norfolk Botanical Gardens.  Most of us had never met before that day, yet from the moment that we all gathered at the front entrance to the gardens, it felt like we had been lifelong friends.  The excitement with which we all met that day was like a bunch of teenagers at a sleepover.

With cameras around our necks and camera bags on our shoulders we set out to photograph the beauty before us.  At least that was the premise of our day.

I don't know about any of the others, but once we started walking and talking and smiling and laughing, the photos that I was taking were really of little consequence.  I was more interested in talking to and enjoying these woman, completely being in each and every moment.  Most of what I know about photography seemed to escape me on that day.  I didn't pay nearly enough attention to camera settings and light angles and composition as I normally do.  I realized that although we were on a a "photowalk," the time with new friends was way more important than the photos that I may or may not "get."

I'm not sure how many photos I actually took.  What I am sure of is that the ratio of good ones to bad ones was far less than it usually is.  I am perfectly OK with that.  As the day went on,  it became patently obvious to me that this day was about the journey, not the destination.

Even behind the cameras, the pure joy on everyone's face is evident!

And even just behind there is excitement over what is being photographed!

Here is the star of the above shot!

 Some serious shooting...

Our tour guides, photo op spotters, bench testers, and most importantly, loving supporters...

The fun lasted all day long!

I managed to get a few decent shots.

The Norfolk Botanical Gardens were full of beautiful blooming flowers...

...and lush green...

...and other awesome things to look at!

Though many of my photos are poorly exposed, composed, and focused, my memories of this day are perfect in every way...clear,  exactly what I had hoped for, and will forever fill my heart with light and joy!

Thank you to everyone who helped create this magical day - Garnett, Amy, Kay, Sherri, Andrea, Sarah, Weber, Ray, and most of all Katrina Kennedy and Capture Your 365!

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Who Do You Say That I Am?

just watched a story on the news about former Olympian and six-time gold medalist Amy Van Dyken-Rouen, now paralyzed from the waist down after an ATV accident in 2014, who is upset because a lock Dallas hotel employee referred to her as "a cripple."  Cripple is apparently an offensive term.  Interestingly, nowhere in any of the reports that I have read on the incident does she ever say how she prefers to be called.

This argument over how one refers to a person’s “differences” is a hot topic in the albinism community as well.  Many people find being called an albino offensive, preferring rather to be called a “person with albinism.”  For those that prefer the latter, it is the statement that they are a person first and their albinism is of lesser consequence, that they find appealing.  In short they preferred to not be defined solely by their albinism.

Albino is a scientific term defined as “an organism exhibiting deficient pigmentation; especially a human being that  is congenitally deficient  in pigment and usually has a milky translucent skin, while or colorless hair, and eyes with pink or blue iris and deep red pupil."  We'll leave the "colorless hair part of that definition alone since I don't really know what that means.  I am fairly certain that if I put "colorless" in the blank for hair color on my DMV ID or my passport application, it would be rejected!  Colorless as a hair color option may be more appropriate for my bald husband.  If he were to shave his facial hair, his head would be bald, colorless with regard to hair.  FYI, my hair color is listed as "blonde" on all of my government documents.

Back to the original discussion...

I am an albino.  That is a non-negotiable fact.  Am I offended when someone calls me an albino?  No.  It is what it is.  Being called an albino is no different than being called a wife, a mother, a professor, or even a  Like albino, all of those other words describe only a part of who the complete person that I call me.  Yep...I am part  I don't get upset when my girls call me mom, or my husband calls me his wife, or my students call me professor, so why would I get upset because someone calls me an albino?  My albinism is much more obvious than my marital status or my level of education; therefore, it seems perfectly logical to me that that aspect of who I am will be the first thing noticed by a stranger.

And what does "person with albinism" mean anyway?  "A person in the state or condition of being an albino."  Really?  So people prefer to be thought of as a person in the state of being an albino rather than just being thought of as an albino.  The seems to me like splitting those colorless hairs!  If I am going to be referred to as a person "in a state," I want to be in the state of sleep, or happiness, or serious caffeination, or relaxation, or joy, or excitement, or maybe Alaska...not the state of being an albino!  I prefer to be just an albino in some other state/

I actually find being called handicapped or disables much more jarring than being called an albino.  A disability  "places restrictions on an individual' stability to participate in what is considered 'normal' in their everyday society."  Any definition that relies on the word "normal" is problematic from their get-go.  Who is qualified to define normal?  No one that I know.  I can't drive.  Is that abnormal?  No person without a state-issued driver's license can drive.  Does that make all such persons disabled?  I can knit.  I can take photos.  I can write.  I can analyze music.  I can read and write cursive handwriting.  Those are all normal things in my environment.  Does that mean that all persons who can' too those things should be considered disabled?  If we agree that all persons have unique abilities, then I think that we must also agree that all persons have unique "un-abilities," things that we have no inclination or ability to do, but that do not render us "disabled."  My abilities and un-abilities may or may not be related to me being an albino.  Why does it matter one way or the other?

And then there is handicapped..."having a condition that markedly restrict's one's ability to function physically, mentally, or socially."  Socially?  My abilities to function socially may be restricted, but that has nothing to do with me being an albino.  It is to do with the fact that some people just get on my nerves.  That would happen regardless of my pale skin, colorless hair, and eyes with pink or blue iris and deep red pupils.  Perhaps this is due to the part of me.  I may navigate the world differently than those of you who are not albinos, and probably those of you who are too, but I do navigate it...perhaps even more efficiently than some with green or brown eyes and colored hair.  To do things differently should not be what earns me, or anyone else, the label of handicapped.  I prefer to think of myself as a problem solver or creative thinker, not as a handicapped individual.

I am still left with the question of how Amy Van Dyken-Rouer would like the world to recognize the fact that she is confined to a wheelchair.  She find cripple...a person who is unable to use one or more limbs, offensive.  Is paraplegic...a person whose lower limbs are paralyzed due to disease or spinal injury...more acceptable?  Since her devastating incident at the Texas hotel in which she was called "a cripple" occurred while a hotel employee was assisting her to her room, is she comfortable with being called disabled or handicapped?  How are strangers supposed to know what an individual's personal "hot button" may be?

There are always going to be people in the world who say things just to be mean and insulting.  Such persons can call me an albino or a person with albinism and their tone and the context of the words can be equally insulting and painful.  I firmly believe, however, that the majority of people who use a word or description that may be construed as offensive by some, do so unknowingly and unintentionally.  They simply just don't know what to say.  For those of us that are wheelchair bound, or deaf, or blind, or autistic, or albinos ( and our family and friends), the one thing that we can do to help the world grow in understanding, respect, and compassion for us us to use what could be negative circumstances, such as the one in which Amy Van Dyken-Rouen found herself, to educate those with whom our paths cross.  Is this always easy?  No!  Is it always effective?  Most certainly not!  Is it worth the effort to try?  Most certainly, yes!  If we can change the perception of one or two people, that is one or two people who will show compassion towards others and that will lead to a better world for all of us.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Friends With Faces

I wrote this post on Friday June 3.  I was writing on my phone and on a plane.  I intended to post it here, bust somehow managed to post it to Facebook only.  The Blogger phone apps are not the greatest.  So, many of you may have already read this.

Since I first heard about online dating, I was a skeptic.  How could you possibly get to know, really know, someone online?  How do you know they are who and what they say they are?  I've always relied heavily on vocal inflection and body language to help me really understand what a person says and what they mean when we are speaking.  Somehow emoticons and LMAOs are just not the same thing.  I admit that I had a less than favorable opinion of those who "gave in" to online dating rather than engaging in real interactions with real people.

We all know that there are those who will say ANYTHING online because, in their heads, they have diminished, or even totally ignored, the fact that their is another human being on the other end of their Internet fiction and/or garbage.  The fact that someone may be seriously hurt by words posted online does not cross the minds of some.  And then there is the opposite game those who seem to be sweet as sugar, easily winning over the trust of the person on the receiving end of their words, making that person vulnerable.  In either case someone often gets hurt.

Yet dating sites abound.  I know many who have disappointed and taken advantage of;however, I also know of a significant number of people who have indeed met their one true love online.  I am trying to be open minded, knowing that this manner of "dating" may not be my cup of tea, but that for others it has been the path that has led them to s cup that runneth over.

Why bring this up now?

I find myself feeling a bit like a hypocrite.  No!  I have not signed up for  But I realized that a person that I consider to be a very close friend, perhaps my closest female friend, I met online.  And despite the fact that we have never met face to face, or even talked on the phone, yet we have trusted one another with our fears, failures, hopes, and dreams as well as the simple triumphs and irritations of everyday life.  Is this not kind of how things work on those dating sites?  The thing is, I have never questioned whether our friendship is anything different than what I perceive it to be.  I fully believe that when Tracey and I do meet one another "for real," that she will be exactly the same person that I have communicated with via email and text messages for over a year.

And as I write this, I am 32,000 feet up in the air flying from Dallas to Virginia to spend tomorrow  with four women and their families.  Again, we met online.  Our communication has been through Facebook messages and, as is the case with Tracey, through sharing photographs, specifically a photo a day for a couple of years.  I do feel like I know all of these women...and their spouses, children, dogs and cats.  Again, when we actually gather tomorrow to share a day of talking and taking photos, I don't expect that it will feel the anxiety of being in a group of people that I don't know.  Again, how much different is this scenario than that couple who meets on

I am grateful for these object lessons that knock my judgmental self on my rear and show me the beauty and joy of friendship.

And should I ever need,,