Category Archives: SAGE

Communities of One?


Photo Credit: Free Digital Photo’s

Roads that appear smooth can turn bumpy on a moment’s notice.  That happened to us this weekend as ‘The Little One’ experienced some ‘bumps in the road’ with his esophagus.  There has been so much smooth sailing over the past month or so that the events of this weekend took us by surprise.  We take so much for granted in life, and expect our systems to run without a problem.  Since the diagnosis of esophageal   cancer in August, we have learned that food can be a funny thing.  There is no rhyme or reason why one form of food has more difficulty passing the ‘bump in the road’ in his esophagus more so than another does.  It just happens.

While the three instances this weekend were alarming, they reminded us that no matter how good we might feel, there is  always an issue lurking around the corner.  I am happy to report that as of Sunday night and moving into Monday, ‘The Little One’ is doing well and there has been no problems with the esophagus. These episodes take quite a bit out of us simply because of the unknown.  While the food pass ‘the bump in the road’…when is the right time to call 911?  It is a delicate balance and sometimes you just have to hope and pray the you make the right decision.

As I write about our weekend, I started to think about a man who I met through my work at SunServe Social Services.   This gentleman lives independently at Continuing Care Retirement facility and while there appears to be loads of activities,  he feels “on the outside looking in’ because as an LGBT Senior, his living environment is not sensitive to the needs of LGBT Seniors.

Some people might ask…Just what are the needs of an LGBT Seniors?

If you have to ask that question, then I think the best reference for you would be The LGBT Aging Center report on Language and LGBT Housing: Making Models that Fits all Housing. 

Aging in America is difficult enough; LGBT Aging is two-fold.   Think of it this way…As a kid every one of us had that awkward moment where we felt like we did not belong, we stood out in a crowd, or felt  left our by a group.  Today, across America, LGBT Seniors have those  same feelings and emotions we had as kids when they are thrust in facilities that are not sensitive to their needs.  Imagine trusting your care to someone who dislikes you for who you are…Remember Nurse Rachett?

Thinking about this gentleman  lead me to think…”what could be possibly be worse”… Living alone or living in a community where you are alone?

 [polldaddy poll=6145755]

While society is changing, we have a long way to go before there is acceptance. Overtime…with proper training, logical conversation, while using  active listening skills, change does happen!

Photo Credit: Free Digital Photos (he should be wearing a bow-tie)

I am happy to be associated with an organization like SunServe Social Services   who provides ongoing organizational consultation to help companies, organizations and service providers  in becoming more LGBT competent through policy and procedures alignment with best practices for LGBT care.  It is through awareness and sensitivity training where we step outside our comfort zone and learn that there are other ways at looking at life is making a difference in our community. 

Sure, my plans for this past weekend took a major detour as I had to make some adjustments in my life to care for the one that I love.  But isn’t that what life is all about?  What I was supposed to do this weekend was important, but as a caregiver, I am on call 24-7 and sometimes you have to weigh what actually is  important in life.

While we are secure in our relationship and know that these ‘bumps in the road’ are going to happen from time to time, I am left to  wonder about all those other ‘little-ones’ out there who have to fend for themselves in a system that is not accepting of them: I wonder about all those frail seniors who live alone just looking for someone to have a conversation with on a daily basis.   I wonder about all those seniors who live in a community, yet feel like they are alone.   Being alone in a community has to be the worst feeling anyone could ever experience in life.

 Let it be our goal that there will never be a community of one!

You, see…We might have cancer, but cancer does not have us!

   

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LGBT Seniors, Invisible No More


LGBT Seniors, Invisible No More

Discrimination and legal inequalities take toll on health and health care

05.25.2012By Barbara Moran
LGBT Senior Citizens, social policy, social work, Robert B Hudson, Boston University School of Social WorkRobert B. Hudson says that some members of the health care community “have treated LGBT people with condescension, and that in turn has often led people to put off preventive services.” Photo courtesy of the Boston University School of Social Work

In 2009, according to the U.S. Administration on Aging, about one in eight Americans was over age 65. That adds up to 39.6 million people, or almost 13 percent of the U.S population. By 2030, there will be about 72.1 million in that age group, or about 19 percent of the population.

While many studies have been done on America’s aging population, little research has focused on a group facing special issues as they age: the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community. Today’s LGBT elders have lived through decades of discrimination, which, it turns out, has huge repercussions as they age. Yet LGBT seniors have been largely ignored in policy on aging.

To help address this oversight, Robert B. Hudson, a School of Social Work professor of social policy and managing editor of the journal Public Policy and Aging Report, devoted an issue to the topic of LGBT seniors, with articles written by a range of researchers, service providers, and advocates involved with LGBT policy concerns. According to Hudson, the issue received more positive feedback “than just about anything else we’ve done.” In his introduction, he writes, “These individuals have remained nearly invisible to the community of advocates, researchers, practitioners, administrators, and politicians who associate themselves with the modern aging enterprise.”

BU Today recently spoke with Hudson about the insights gained from the project and what steps need to be taken to help aging members of the LGBT community.

Public Policy & Aging Report, Integrating Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Older Adults into Aging Policy and Practice

BU Today: Why did you focus an issue of Public Policy and Aging Report on the LGBT community?

Hudson: One thing we’re always trying to do is highlight under recognized issues, and this is one that really has to be near the top of the list. There is simply not much of a literature devoted to older LGBT people. There is a whole world of aging research and aging agencies that provide a range of benefits to older people, and there is a separate series of agencies and research that address the LGBT population. But they often don’t come together.

Why do you think that is?

Well, as a political scientist, I see it centrally rooted in bureaucratic behavior. The aging agencies are organized around classic aging-related issues like nutrition, social services, and legal services. The LGBT community has never had the same level of attention.

So what’s been the result of that gap?

Massive under service. When you look at the literature, LGBT access to health care is suboptimal. And that’s for two reasons: one is that some members of the health care community have treated LGBT people with condescension, and that in turn has often led people to put off preventive services. More broadly, LGBT individuals are often denied protections such as survivorship, visitation rights, and living wills, because the legal system does not recognize their living arrangements.

What health issues other than access to health care are specific to LGBT seniors? The Report notes higher levels of smoking, drinking, and rates of depression.

The mental health issues are the ones that stand out, and I think it’s something that the larger population does not appreciate. The stressors around discrimination in those communities have been so high for so long that substance abuse issues are much more widespread than the larger public thinks. People ought to know that discrimination has consequences.

The other issue to be mentioned is HIV-AIDS. And again, something that is underrecognized is that people who are HIV-positive are getting older, thanks to drugs that are turning HIV-AIDS into a chronic illness rather than a death sentence. But it is also true that people are contracting AIDS over age 55 at somewhat higher rates than before.

That’s the group you’d think has been the most indoctrinated about safe sex practices.

Indoctrinated, yes, but on the other hand, I think it’s something about aging. I think some people may say, “We’re old, we probably can’t get it.” But in fact, as you get older, the body becomes more fragile, and it may make transmission more likely.

Is there also a lack of safe-sex education, most of which seems targeted at young people, for older adults?

I think that has been the case. A lot of the public health initiatives within the LGBT community are aimed implicitly—if not explicitly—at younger people. The classic imagery we’ve had of older people in general is relevant here; they’re frail and alone or cut off in nursing homes, so they tend to get forgotten and excluded from all sorts of helpful interventions. And then members of the aging community, either through lack of interest—or in some cases, discrimination—may not want to engage with the older gay population. And so older LGBT folks really do fall between the cracks.

LGBT seniors lived through decades of discrimination, with homosexuality a crime or deemed a mental illness. The Report says 82 percent have been victimized at least once. With homosexuality so much more accepted now, it’s hard to realize what they went through.

Well, for somebody my age it’s not hard to remember. I mean, you could get in all sorts of serious trouble by identifying as gay or being seen as gay—bullying, violence, employment discrimination, health care, the whole gamut. I think most people now don’t recognize how tough it was for LGBT people to grow up in the world they did. And if you listen to today’s political debate, there are candidates out there who are inferring things about certain populations—including this one—that are pretty nasty.

What are the major impacts on seniors of coming of age with that level of hostility?

Certainly there are impacts in mental health issues, but also in economic issues. If you were discriminated against at age 20, 30, and 40, trying to get a decent job, trying to get promoted, trying not to get fired, hoping to be invited to the company family picnic, needing to go out on the golf course with the guys where the deals are being made, and they shun you because they suspect you’re not one of them—there are huge career ramifications.

So it really is a lifelong thing. In aging we talk about “cumulative advantage” and “cumulative disadvantage.” If you went to Andover and Harvard when you were younger, you have a better train ride than somebody who didn’t. And in this case, to have been knocked off career and health care and other rails early on by reason of discrimination, a trajectory that might have gone quite high will instead be flat. And in some ways it gets worse in old age. The passage of time amplifies the discriminations you’ve encountered over the course of 30 to 40 years.

The Report says LGBT seniors are twice as likely to live alone as heterosexual seniors, and four times more likely to have no children. How does this affect their support network?

It’s a huge issue. In the case of chronic illness, something like 80 percent of all care is provided by so-called informal supports—mainly family, notably wives, daughters, and daughters-in-law. This is a population that has much lower marriage rates and somewhat higher levels of disaffection from their biological families due to their orientation. There are fewer children, fewer spouses, and the extended family of aunts, uncles, nieces, and nephews may also be thinner. That is compensated for in part by friends, but the lack of family-based informal supports is a concern in this community.

The LGBT community seems to have exceptionally strong social networks, for just those reasons. But in this regard that doesn’t seem to compensate enough. Do you think this will change for the next generation of seniors?

I think over time, with greater acceptance of these communities, yes it will get better. But it’s going to be a long process. It’s interesting the extent to which same-sex marriage has taken hold in many parts of the country, which certainly wasn’t the case 20 years ago. But it’s going to be a very long process.

With gay marriage gaining acceptance and many more gay couples having or adopting children, is it likely their support networks will be strengthened?

I think that’s right, but I think it will vary a lot geographically. There are still a number of states where gays and lesbians cannot adopt children.

Do you think we’ll see gay- and lesbian-specific nursing homes at some point?

Interesting question. There are retirement communities—I don’t know their legal status—that certainly have attracted LGBT people. There are at least two or three dozen retirement areas in various parts of the country that are known to be attractive to members of the LGBT community. It wouldn’t be possible in most nursing homes because it would violate Medicaid reimbursement laws.

So what should be the top priority for the LGBT senior agenda? What should researchers and policymakers be thinking about to best serve this group?

On the policy level, I always think first of Social Security benefits. If you don’t have legally recognized dependents, you can’t get a dependent benefit. If you die and you had a partner, but you were not legally married—and to the federal government you can’t be legally married if you’re gay or lesbian—then there’s no survivor benefit.

In the health care world, prohibitions tied to visitation and to proxies and living wills are big things that have to be overcome.

But I think the biggest issue is in some ways the hardest issue to tackle, and that is acculturation and acceptance: being fully accepted as part of the range of American citizenry. LGBT elders may not be exactly like you, but there are lots of people who aren’t exactly like you, so let’s get over it, old and young alike.

View a copy of the Public Policy & Aging Report issue “Integrating Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Older Adults into Aging Policy and Practice” here.

Barbara Moran (COM’96) is a science writer in Brookline, Mass. She can be reached through her website. Permission to post this article on ‘The Purple Jacket’ was granted by Barbara Moran.

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LGBT Caregiving Blog Series


 

I was privileged to have been had one of my blog post published recently  in the  American Society of Aging; LGBTcaregiving section. ASA’s Aging Issues Network (LAIN) is a great source for LGBT Caregiving and Caregivers.

‘Two Relationships in One’  

To be entrusted with the care of another human being is one of the greatest honors that can be bestowed on you.  It takes on meaning that is beyond approach.  New parents have nine months to prepare for the responsibility. Doctors and nurses undergo years of rigorous training for the work that they do.  But caregivers can find themselves thrust suddenly into roles that they do not choose when called to care for a partner, spouse or loved one after a diagnosis or an accident.

At a moment’s notice you become a caregiver, without any warning or time to think things through. You feel like you have no idea of what you are supposed to do, so you do your best, as you follow your instincts and common sense. You embrace the new reality. You simply care for the one you love.

When you become a caregiver for your life partner, a new and uncharted realm opens up.  Two distinct relationships must now be blended into one. The familiar partner from the past remains and is always present.  But now there is someone different on the scene – someone with a significant illness.

Suddenly, two people sharing a life together will need to face challenges that cannot be left unattended.  A whole set of new and hard-core emotions are likely to intrude on the relationship. Worry, detachment, mortality, anger, fear of abandonment and having to live life alone, to name just a few, begin to intertwine with the idiosyncrasies of your personal dynamics. They can lurk in a caregiver’s mind when faced with a life-and-relationship-altering illness in your partner.

Care giving is an intense experience that asks you to surrender yourself for the needs of someone else.   Often times you have to give up the things you love in order to care for the one you love.  Even though it may feel like a hardship, you make the choice because you know that it is what love and commitment is all about.  Yet it is not that simple, because care giving can be an emotional, physical, and interpersonal roller coaster that is both tremendously rewarding and frustrating. These emotions can surely test even the best communication and trust in a relationship.  The common denominator in the blending of these two relationships is communication.

Communication is a funny thing; just like relationships.  It is funny how the two go hand in hand.  Successful relationships are built on strong communication and trust.    It is through honest communication that the true essence of a partnership is revealed.  This does not change when you add the role of caregiver to the mix.  Communication has to be the focal point for conveying the wants and needs of the one who is ill, and this must be accomplished without losing the identity of either the partnership or the caregiver.  The term “delicate balance” takes on a whole new meaning.

Frequently reviewing and maintaining clarity in your roles becomes crucial so that your judgment and decision-making skills are based on sound facts instead of raw emotions. How much can the mind and body take when faced with so many changes in such a short period?  I think that really depends on the couple’s ability to safely, clearly, and honestly communicate their wants, needs, and desires as indicated by the partner’s health needs first and the personal relationship second.

While I have no doubt that caring for my partner (who has been diagnosed with esophageal cancer) has strengthened our relationship, it has changed our relationship at times, too.  I have seen someone who was firmly independent become dependent in certain areas of life that have been difficult for him to accept.   Stepping outside one’s comfort zone and asking for assistance with mundane everyday chores adds stress to both parties.  That is undeniable!

Caregivers often become the voice for the one who is ill. As caregivers, we have to be mindful that we are in a supporting role;   caregivers are the advocates, not the “deciders”!  In this supporting role, we must remember that what we want for our loved one may not necessarily be what the loved one wants.  What a slippery slope this becomes when the person you are caring for is your life partner!

As part of an LGBT intergenerational couple, I have, on occasion, observed discrimination in our health care system. Here again, personal political preferences may need to be deferred in favor of pragmatism because I am in the role of caregiver.  Successfully addressing and focusing solely on the needs of my partner is paramount.  There will be plenty of time to step up and do what is politically right once I have insured his proper care.

Life’s journeys are not often driven on smooth roads, but we can always hope for a gentle wind at our backs.  That gentle wind is always fortified by love, trust, and commitment.  Come to think about it, aren’t all relationships manifested in this way?

We might have cancer, but cancer does not have us!” 

Below are links to other LGBT Caregiving articles which are worth your read.  I am honored to be a small part of this wonderful group.  I encourage you to bookmark American Society on Aging, especially their LGBT Caregiving Blog Series.  (The ASA logo above will take you to the ASA website)

Finding Pride in Caring: LGBT Caregivers Answer the Call from the Community
By Holly Deni

Sharing Care an Energizing Experience
By Nancy Bereano

Transcending Business as Usual
By Paul R. Blom

Complications of Transgender Caregiving
By Julie Ellingson

 

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Filed under caregiver, Caregiving, Gay Caregiving, Gay Seniors, Inter-generational Relationships, Intergenerational, LGBT, LGBT Caregiving, LGBT Seniors, SAGE, Senior Health

‘In These Shoes Part II’


Photo credit: Wikipedia

Today we picked up “The Little One’s”  new shoes today  Hanger Prosthetic and Orthotics.    Unfortunately, the first choice of shoes ‘The Little One’ selected, somehow was not available in a therapeutic model!  These Stilettos would make Bette Midler proud as she would be singing…”In These Shoes” once she laid eyes on these shoes!   

Photo credit: ‘The Purple Jacket’

As we arrived in the office of  Hanger Prosthetic and Orthotics we were greeted by Shelley who assisted us last week with the fitting.  Shelley is great to work with, she pulls no punches, knows what she is talking about and has a care for all her clients.  It was a pleasure to work with her.

Within moments of sitting in the waiting room, the new shoes arrived and the Imelda Marcos of South Florida was back in his element.  Mindful of what Shelley mentioned last week that “these shoes” would feel a little ‘loose’ at first, ‘The Little One’ was quick to comment about just that!  “When I get a blister on the back of my foot from ‘These Shoes’ being loose, I will be back next week to show you!”   Of course, my laughing at this statement was is not the polite thing to do!

Shelley handled the comment with grace; by the time we were ready to leave, the Imelda Marcos of  South Florida had already had is eye out on another pair of shoes.  Should I have really have been surprised?   

The good folks at  Hanger really treated us well today.  There was a complete mix up with the co-pay, they admitted their error and allowed us to send in payment as we were under the impression that there was no funds due upon pick up of ‘These Shoes.’  Customer Service goes a long way in leaving a lasting impression on consumers.  I knew from my previous experience with Hanger that they were a model company whose mission is to help people lead a better life.   They proved it again today!  It goes without saying that when you are in the people business, you need to be about the people!  Hanger proved that again today.  And with that,  had one happy customer leaving their office today!

‘The Purple Jacket’

You see…we might have cancer, but cancer does not have us! 

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‘IN THESE SHOES?’


If you are a fan of Bette Midler you are probably aware of one of her (many) popular songs, one in particular is a favorite of mine…‘In These Shoes’. The lyrics are wonderful, funny and maybe a tad over the top for some. This favorite song of mine popped up yesterday while ‘The Little One’ was being fitted for diabetic shoes at Hanger Prosthetic and Orthotics. (You might be familiar with the movie Dolphin Tail, the good folks at Hanger worked on this project, their work is quite moving as is this movie) They are a great company!

Having  experience in this procedure with Fr. Orlando a number of years ago, I have been gently bugging ‘The Little One’ to obtain a referral from his PCP for a pair of these diabetic and therapeutic shoes. Finally, our day for our custom fitting was Wednesday!

You might ask…’Why these shoes? It’s no secret that diabetics have an increased risk of developing foot problems. These custom-made therapeutic shoes offer support, relieve stress and strain on the foot and back while providing a better ‘walk’.  Watching “The Little One” walk over the past few months, I have grown concern with his balance and his foot ware. Asking him to change shoes, well…uh…hmm…change can be difficult, even with shoes.  (While the closet is full of shoes, some of them should really stay in the closet!)   Having these custom fitted shoes will only enhance his walking, while aiding him with better balance. Better balance means less chance of a fall.  I think you get the picture…

photo credit: Chris MacLellan

When the attendant noticed the shoes ‘The Little One’ was wearing…she said out loud…’You’re walking IN THESE SHOES’.  ———————————————————>

It was a jolt to the ‘Imelda Marcos‘ of South Florida; I mean these shoes are at least 20 years old!  Twenty years ago, ‘The Little One’ was stronger and could manage shoes like this which offered little or no support…but ohhhhh…forget safety, they do look marvelous!

Since we’ve been back in Florida, ‘The Little One’ has surprised me from time to time with ‘treasures’ like these shoes, which he has had in his possession for a long period of time.  Many of these ‘surprises’ have a story to them, or are connected to his partner Herman of 43 years.    It’s hard to just walk away from these treasures…. no matter how mundane I might think they might be.

 As the conversation with orthopedic professional continued, it was easier for ‘The Little One’ to hear and accept what he needed in foot wear for his own safety from a professional.  Always mindful of his safety and what is best for him, I also have to be careful not to over step my boundaries and ‘demand’ that he do something that he may not want to do.    You know the phrase…’you pick your battles.’ I knew that this  was one battle that would be won by the professional. (When it comes to personal safety, sometimes you do have to take a stand.)

As a caregiver, it is important for me to know as many resources as possible, yet we can’t know them all.  Having previous experience to build on, I was able to tell ‘The Little One’ that diabetic/therapeutic shoes are the only foot-ware covered by medicare   (You will need a referral from your PCP)  That opened the door for the referral and hence, he will have new shoes next week.  (To show his need, the orthopedic professional moved up his second appointment to next week because of his critical need for these shoes!)

The lesson of this story for me has to do more with how we see things that are important to us.  Shoes, trinkets, all of the collectibles, have a particular meaning to them.  We all have something in our possession that we can identify that has meaning to it.    We get attached to items for different reasons that are very personal, yet until you are IN THESE SHOES, who is it for us to tell someone to give up something that has meaning to it?

 One of the lyrics in Bette’s song is…”In these shoes? Oh, I doubt you’d survive.”  Bette is so right…In these shoes,  I doubt “The Little One” would he would have survived.  We can all survive and prosper when we are mindful of each other needs, react accordingly to those needs and care for those who cannot care for themselves.

When we care like that…we  can care in ‘ANY SHOES’

You see…we might have cancer; but cancer does not have us! 

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It’s More Than a Tree…


Never one to be a horticulturist, I am always intrigued by the variety of beautiful trees we have in this diverse country of ours.  Now that we are back in Florida, I am reminded about the beautiful foliage that Florida has to offer, especially the Palm Trees.  You really don’t get to see many Palm trees in St. Louis.

In Missouri, just like here in Florida, there is an abundance of pine trees.  In fact, we have a pine tree  in our yard where I am constantly picking up the pine cones that fall from the branches.
While picking one of the zillion or so pine cone, I noticed something at the base of the tree that caught my attention…

Intrigued by the green plastic sprouting out of the ground, I asked ‘The Little One’ to explain this phenomenon.  ( I did not know we could grow plastic in the ground and first thought that we might have come across the next great invention and I wanted to be sure we got the Patton on this discovery!)

“Herman planted that tree in 1976, that is the plastic bucket that the tree came in that is coming out of the ground.  Every time I see that tree, I think of Herman!”

WOW…talk about some powerful symbolism!   While Herman has been gone now for over 13 years, Herman’s tree grows tall and strong as a reminder to ‘The Little One” of a long and beautiful relationship.

Richard (a.k.a. ‘The Little One”) and Herman were together for 44 years and moved to Florida in 1976 before it was in vogue to move south.  Like us, there was an age difference between Herman and Richard.  And like us, Richard became Herman’s care giver:  funny how roles change in life when we age?

When Richard  cared for Herman, many of their friends came to help them with their daily task.  Herman often asked Richard…’What would I do without you?”

While caring for your love one or partner should be assumed, that is not always the case; especially for LGBT seniors.  According to SAGE USA  LGBT Seniors are:

  • Twice as Likely to Age as a Single Person
  • Twice as Likely to Live Alone
  • Three to four times less likely to have children to support them
The care giving needs for the LGBT senior community are enormous.  While society norms are (slowly) changing, many LGBT senior today are still living in fear, living in solitude, or afraid to reach out for help because of the fear and discrimination that they experienced when they grew up. However with programs like SAGE USA, The National Research Center on LGBT Aging : SunServe Social Service’s Noble A. McArtor Adult Day Care Center just to name a few,  heighten the awareness of this critical issue in our society which will help foster change.
Often times, the LGBT community is portrayed in a negative light which only heightens our fear.  Richard and Herman were together 44  years…YES, 44 YEARS!  
As a former staff member at The Sunshine Cathedral, I had the pleasure to watching life partners celebrate 30, 40, 50 years together.  There are thousands upon thousands of LGBT couples across the world who celebrate long lasting relationships that often go unnoticed. Many of these couples prefer to go unnoticed and that is OK as personal privacy is important and should always be upheld.
While those positive  stories of love and commitment often go left unnoticed in the main stream media,  many  LGBT Seniors who live alone, or as a couple often times have to fend for themselves as they age because of society ‘norms’ because of their fears that they experienced in their youth.     Bullying just does not happen in High School.  How can we break this cycle,  when will we break this cycle of hate and fear?
Being 81 and growing up in Brooklyn and living in Manhattan, “The Little One”  knows a few things about society norms, hate, fear and the such.   He lived through Stonewall and beginning of the AIDS epidemic; he has  experienced discrimination;  he experienced the draft board and the gay issue in the 50’s.  All in all, he would tell you that the LGBT issues today are no different than they were in the 50’s; equality, marriage, children, the whole package.  For him, what is different today is that these issues are now out in the open and people are talking about them.
Now that people are talking about these issues, the next key ingredient is to have the policy makers listen so that we can foster change in our communities and in our society. Communication will foster change, change will foster opportunities for service and care for everyone.      We have to do a better job in getting the word and the need out in a calm and pragmatic way.  Unfortunately,   listening is often an overlooked  communication skill.
As partners we don’t need a piece of paper to secure  our love or commitment for each other; but as a LGBT couple, we  need that piece of paper to get into hospitals to visit our loved one, we need that piece of paper to get access to so many common, taken for granted services  that have a direct effect on our health and well-being.  This list is endless, yet the need is there, especially for those  seniors, (no matter what side of the fence your on) who have no one to care for them.   Could this really be right in America today?
Come to think about it, we do have that piece of paper…it’s in its natural  form as a tree!  

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“Because They Are Nice”


As we continue to recover from the chemo and radiation therapy, we often reflect on ‘how things used to be’.  Always willing to be on the go, ‘The Little One’ has taken a wait and see attitude on many of the things he used to like to do.   While there has been steady progress in his overall health these past few weeks, we are really on a ‘day-to-day event planner schedule.

Crowds has never been his thing, even when feeling good.  So approaching his 81st birthday, I was puzzled at what might we do?  And…if we would be able to do it!  With a small gathering in Brentwood, ‘The Little One” was greeted by ‘The Sisters’ and a couple of friends from our Tuesday night group at Pietro’s.   (of course, one sister forgot to make it)

What struck me about the evening was not so much about the significance of the day, but rather the engagement in conversation of “The Little One.”    I will be the first one to admit that I can be a little worry wort and always have one eye out for him, yet on this night I glad that I did because I saw a person return to life in a way that was good to see.

You see, cancer can take the root out of your being. Cancer drains your energy, it drains your confidence and it drains your piece of mind.  It is easy to understand why so many people give up, that is why outside support is so important in the healing process.  What I saw on Saturday was a man who enjoyed talking about topics that were important to him, all removed from the thought of having cancer.  When the topic turned to the Virgin Islands, well…he was off and running. You can’t go through 81 years of life without having special memories of people, places and things.   It was a joy to watch him revel in the conversation.

When we talked about his ‘engagement’ at the gathering, I mentioned to him that it was great to see him involved in conversation that was important to him and completely outside to scope of health, cancer and the rest.  He too, acknowledged that it was a great experience, with lots of fun  and easy to talk to ‘because they are so nice.’

What “The Little One” learned on this evening is that its good for him to be in conversation on topics that he enjoys as it takes his mind of the health concerns.  What I learned is that I cannot be mother hen, worried about every step in the road.   We live day by day.   Often times we go through life with so many misunderstandings, so many unresolved conflicts and so many worries that seem unbearable.

Yet when you think about it, it is easier to get through the day simply when people are nice!

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A Night with Opera St. Louis


Wednesday night we had the pleasure of listening to a couple of performers from Opera St. Louis. With ‘The Little One’ being a big fan of Opera, I knew we were in for quite an enjoyable evening.

As we were preparing for the festivities, I heard the ‘The Little One’ say in the distance…”well, this should be interesting”. Curious, I peaked in to the bedroom to see what he was he was talking about; his dress pants!

Once I saw him holding up the pair of pants, I knew exactly his concern. With a weight loss of over 35 lbs, we both knew these dress pants were not going to hug the hips.

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Thank goodness for suspenders!

When he put the pants on, we were both amazed at how much weight he has lost. He has easily lost four pants sizes! (I now need to do the same)

While his weight loss is good for his overall health, they way it has happen is certainly not one of those fad diets you see on TV!

The second PET scan has now been scheduled for December 12 in Fort Lauderdale; we will be heading south in just a little more than a week. We are anxious to see where we stand with the tumor and the only way for that to happen is to conduct the follow-up PET scan.

While the PET scan might give us the physical facts of the tumor; we will not be held back by the results. We are moving ahead with our heads held high.

You see, we might have cancer… But cancer does not have us! We are putting money away for a trip to Paris in Spring of 2012. I have never been, ‘The Little One’ has been three times!

Live each day like it is your last; care for those who are always by your side!

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November – National Care Givers Month


November is National Care Givers Month!

 We all know some one who is a caregiver, whether we find ourselves taking care of a loved one, know someone who takes care of a loved one, or even if we have heard an inspritational story on the news.

 In today’s busy world it can be easy to forget to show our appreciation to those who make a difference in our lives and the lives of others everyday. As we prepare to celebrate another Thanksgiving, let us give thanks to those who choose to spend their days serving others.

“Appreciation is the highest form of prayer, for it acknowledges the presence of good wherever you shine the light of your thankful thoughts.”
Alan Cohen

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Downsizing


While we know that the tumor has been downsized by the radiation and chemotherapy treatments, we have taken a long look at our personal belongings and have started the process of downsizing in this area too.  So far, the experience has been quite cathartic.

How much ‘stuff’ does one really need to be comfortable in life?  China that has never been used, kitchen gadgets (well, except for the Tumor Extractor!), glasses, roasting pans; yikes where did all this stuff come from?   And better yet… what really is the need?

Funny as it seems, when I was in the seminary those little rooms we lived in seemed so small…now as I look back at that experience, living austerely has its benefits.  Thomas Merton does know what he is talking about!

Cancer is a life changing experience for all who are involved in it.  We have grown closer because of the disease and have I have come to a reality check with my life.   You see, what is important is not how many items you collect, rather what is important is how many lives you touch.   The last few years I have lost touch with my own reality; cancer does have its peculiar benefits.

As the green leaves transition to beautiful autumn colors, we are in a transition mode as well.  What we do for ourselves dies with us.  What we do for others will ever be immortal.  I am honored and proud to be a caregiver, it is one of the most remarkable experiences in life.  I am also grateful for the reality check that our downsizing has provided to us.  May the ‘Little One’s’  health continue to improve; let the downsizing begin!

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