Wedding bells

Wedding cakeWe had a party today at work to celebrate a very happy day: the marriage of one of our colleagues to her partner. They’ve been together for 16 years and have known each other for almost 40 years, and this day was less about white lace and frills than a legal binding of a love and commitment that were already rock solid. I’m so happy for them that they live in the only state in the country where they can legally get married. They’ve proven the depth of their relationship and believe me, it’s a lot stronger than many straight couples couples who marry in a big frothy ceremony only to divorce two years later.

Our governor has been busy flying around the country talking to the Red States that he is courting in his upcoming presidential bid, and a key issue is same-sex marriage. Everyone else outside of the state seems to be focused on stomping it out as though it’s some sort of infectious disease.  But here in Massachusetts, where same-sex marriage has been legal for two years, the world has not fallen apart.  Heterosexual marriages don’t seem to be failing any faster than they did before.  In fact, only the Catholic Church and some politicians are having problems.

Regular people, though, are doing just fine. Gay couples are getting married and the right to be by each other’s side going through their lives.  I don’t feel threatened by it at all, just relieved that so many people I care about can finally have the same legal rights as those who take those rights for granted.  Today I celebrated with two of them.

The Pea Green Church & the Jersey Shore

Imagine yourself inside Washington’s National Cathedral, or Notre Dame in Paris, with all the gorgeous stained glass and stone arms reaching up to heaven, and the aisles of stone worn smooth by centuries of worshipers and tourists. Most people would say, “How gorgeous, I’ve never seen anything like this place.” But my family would say, “This reminds me of the pea green church.”

Church steepleThe Pea Green Church has become an icon for us, representing home and normal and history and tradition, even though it stopped being painted pea green a long time ago. It was my father’s church growing up in a small town in eastern North Carolina, not particularly large and plain inside, as Presbyterian churches often are. No deep blues or reds of stained glass there! My strongest memory of it was almost 20 years ago when I was there for my grandmother’s funeral, in a church decorated for Christmas and filled with loving people.

Wherever we go we use that town, all of it, as a benchmark, a touchstone to real life. Sitting on a balcony on a little hotel along Lake Lucerne, drinking wine and eating cheese while looking out on the Swiss Alps at sunset, reminds us of sitting on the front porch of my grandmother’s house – even when clearly my grandmother’s house was just a liiitttle bit different. Same with shopping and dining and buildings.

My father moved away from his hometown over 50 years ago and we didn’t live close enough to visit often, though I was able to spend a bit more time with my grandmother in the years before she died. But by invoking “the pea green church,” I bring my history, my family into the present of wherever I am. It’s a way of honoring them and bringing some human scale to the unknown.  It’s also shorthand that means something to us but not to those listening to our conversaton, strengthening the bonds.

Manasquan BeachIn the same way, I also have Manasquan, the archetypal summer vacation place on the Jersey shore.  This was my mom’s family’s special place, where she grew up spending every summer from the time she was a little girl.  I spent every summer of my life there until I was 16, and even now, 35 years after moving away from New Jersey, we all think that summer holidays such as Memorial Day, July Fourth, and Labor Day should be spent at Manasquan.  It’s Tradition, and tradition should be honored – with cookouts and fireworks, and the surf and sand that are part of the shore.

It’s almost July 4th weekend and we should be at the beach, but not any beach — Manasquan beach, captured in memory in the summer of 1969.  This week I downloaded some music to the iPod in a new playlist called Manasquan Tunes that evoke that happy time. Let’s hit the beach!

Life without labels

One of Us on the Amazon blog posted yesterday about someone amazing in her yoga class, and wondering about where she was (on the way UP, or DOWN, or just who she is), wishing there were little labels to let her know. Naturally I jumped to the conclusion that she meant labels about weight status, but that’s not what she meant at all — what she wanted to know was, is this amazing woman new to this and still so greaName Badgest? or has she been doing yoga for years to develop this strength? Or is this just who she is?

It made me think about labels. We don’t have them for any reason unless we are at an event and walking around with “Hello My Name Is” nametags. It would be a lot easier to see a label or tag on someone and know, “Just Dumped and Devastated” or “Ask Me About My First Trip To Europe”, “Sexual Abuse Survivor” or “Looking For a New Job” or many other variations. It would give us clues and cues as to what to say.

When people who don’t know me see me, they see someone who is significantly overweight. What they don’t see is the invisible label that says “Have Already Lost 100 Pounds”. When people know that part, they treat me differently. I’m not just a fat person, I’m a Fat Person Doing Something About It. But really, I’m the same person whether I’m wearing a label or not.

And we all would need to be covered with labels because we are complex individuals whose lives include families, jobs, political opinions, religious beliefs, food issues, choices of entertainment, etc. There are things we are passionate about and things that have left scars, memories of the past and places lived or visited that overlap in weird ways with other people once we start to delve into them.

All we have to do is talk to someone else to find out something about them. Yes, if there were labels, we would know to steer clear of “Serial Killer Hunting For Next Victim” but really, most people are just people. We all make snap judgments based on appearance, on behavior, on smells (such as the smoke that clings to clothing) – even before the other person opens their mouth.

Just for today, as an experiment, instead of trying to label someone else or jump down their throat for not seeing and honoring my own invisible label, I will take the time to listen and ask some questions and have them tell me things I didn’t know. I think I’ll learn a lot.

Bagpipes for breakfast

Living next door to a golf course is a mixed blessing.  It’s lovely to be able to have all that green space nearby, rolling fairways and well kept trees in soft greens with deep brown trunks.  Now, of course, after 23 inches of rain in the last 2 months, everything is very intensely green and the water feature sometimes overruns the course and turns into a mini-lake.  But mostly it’s lovely.  My complex runs right up to the little service road into the golf course and I can see into the clubhouse from our backdoor.  At night the bright blue glow of the Pepsi machine serves as a nightlight.

BagpipesOf course, it’s not always quiet.  The golfers have this crazy desire to actually play, not just look at the pretty green of the course.  I can’t see the course from inside my apartment but I can hear some distinctive sounds and picture what they’re doing – the clicking of golf spikes along the driveway as they walk from their cars, the putt-putt-putt sound of the golfcarts being lined up in a little row of go-carts, ready to be picked up by players who’d rather drive than walk.  The “thwack” of the club against the ball, and occasionally “Fore!” yelled in the background.  The chatter of golfers as they mill around the clubhouse, waiting to tee off or comparing scores when they get back.

Today though there was an unusual sound.  At 7:10 a.m., while in the kitchen making breakfast, I heard the distinctive sound of a bagpiper playing “Scotland the Brave” – loudly, followed by other bagpipe classics.  I like the sound of a bagpipe as much as the next person, okay, probably more, but not at 7 in the morning!  It seems there was a charity golf tournament next door and the piper was there to entertain and inspire while they gathered.  I didn’t stick around for an encore.

Ahhhh, massage

It’s been a week of very long days hunched over a computer, doing a website conversion. I love working with the data and managing the information part, but the actual dumping of content into new templates is a rather repetitive process. By the end of Friday I was noticing very tight muscles in my butt (from sitting), my shoulder and neck (which felt as though they were burning) and from mousing all day every day, my forearm muscles felt like little strung beads. Not happy-making.

Ahhh, massageWhat I needed was a massage, for body, mind and spirit, but they can be hard to get on short notice. I was thrilled to discover that my favorite massage therapist had an opening for today and signed up quick like a bunny before someone else got there. While I was on the gym’s website, I also signed up for an eyebrow wax and decided I’d spend time on the treadmill in between.

I hadn’t been to the gym in a while and it was hopping today, since it was raining AGAIN and people were doing their workouts indoors instead of doing outside things. I got my eyebrows tidied up, then spent 35 minutes on the treadmill – which proved to be more uncomfortable than I expected. When I walk, I listen to the ipod (today was an eclectic mix of 70’s rock) and read – today I also held on, because my knee was hurting a lot.

I’ve learned that I get more out of a massage if I work out first to warm up the muscles, then sit in the whirlpool for a bit. That is not exactly a hardship because I adore the whirlpool, sitting in the hot water in front of the jets and feeling some of the muscle tension melt away. I didn’t use it for ages when I first joined the gym because I didn’t want to be naked in front of all the cute normal people. Then I hit on the idea that taking my glasses off would mean I couldn’t see anyone else, therefore they couldn’t see me. Well, it doesn’t quite work that way. But it does mean I’m not very self-conscious, and the whirlpool is worth it.

The massage therapist concentrated on my sore places while doing a complete body massage. I’m usually quiet, concentrating on listening to my body’s response to the pressure and breathing into it through some mild pain. As usual, Brenda found lots of very tender spots that I didn’t even know I had, including inflammation in my legs and in both knees – well, those I expected. We decided that doing future treadmill and extensive walking was not a good idea for me before my surgery, and that I should concentrate on upper body work instead.

It was good to be back there, to remind myself why I joined, that there are things I can do to feel feminine and healthy and more comfortable – and part of a community. Even with my sore knee, it’s a place that I can’t afford to ignore.