Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Peace and Protection

I am feeling wonderfully peaceful, as well as protected. Even if it is only temporary - even if it's all just an illusion - I am fully embracing the feeling and being as wholly grateful as I can be.

I am turning 44 this weekend, and I'm feeling pretty darn good about it.

I am taking Friday off from work, so tomorrow will be kind of like Christmas Eve in a way, in the joyful anticipation of it all. It will be a busy and fun weekend.

What do I want to do? I want to see the new, re-imagined version of Nightmare on Elm Street. Seriously! We'll see if there's time.

Going to see all of the Freddy Krueger movies is a tradition for BFF Kathy and me. But this was before her children, ages 7 and 5, were born. I'll be spending Friday with the three of them, so I probably shouldn't count on seeing this latest Freddy movie with Kathy, at least, not during the day. I'm sure we'll all have fun, as usual, no matter what we end up doing.

On Saturday, I get to see two shows! As an early Mother's Day present Domestic Partner and I will be taking my mom to see a live concert matinee of Miss Saigon. In the evening, Kathy will join me to see a dear friend perform the lead in a national touring production of Chicago. This will be my third time seeing her perform the role of Velma Kelly - and I'm looking forward to it!

Tonight, I took the dogs out to the front yard and driveway, as part of our normal evening routine before bedtime. Post-rain winds were blowing tufts of clouds across a clear sky glowing with the last of the twilight. I saw the exceptionally bright star again, the one that seems to hover above our front yard's tall hibiscus bush and near the bare branches of the trees in the DMV parking lot next door (maybe it's a planet?).

The star makes me think of Caesar the pug, as if he is an angel watching me, as if he is the reason my life is so peaceful and protected because my love for him continues, even though he's been gone more than four years now.

I know that the good times don't always last, just as the bad times never do. But I am happy to relish all the good things while they are here: a great partner, cozy and cuddly pets, a good job, a stable home, reliable transportation, good friends, family, and good health.

For my birthday, I want YOU to enjoy the feelings of peace and protection in your own life, too, as much as can be expected.

Thank you for reading.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Plans and Expectations

I don't know why I remember some of the things that I do. Domestic Partner and other people seem a little amazed that I can recall things that happened in my little life, even before the age of three.

Nothing too astounding though, such as repeating "Milk" over and over in the darkness of my bedroom until my mother brought me a small serving in a Tupperware cup. I can still picture our first family dog, Nagako, calmly watching me from the hallway before my mother heeded my late night plea (late to me, then), her friendly and reassuring canine presence visible in the light coming from the living room.

It was a very small house, that first home my parents lived in when I was born. I slept in the only bedroom and then shared it with my brother when he was born. My parents would unfold the futon mattresses every night and sleep in the living room. Their bedding had been a wedding gift from my Hii-obaachan, my great-grandmother in Japan.

After they had gotten married, and my father had first brought my mother from Japan, they lived in the Japanese-American community of Gardena, in the suburbs of Los Angeles. When I started kindergarten there were not only white children in my class, but also Japanese children, and Mexican kids and African American kids. I didn't realize until later how much I took this for granted, having friends and classmates of different races and cultures.

Our family attended a church in Gardena that was walking distance from our house. I wanted to invite Mark from school to go to Sunday School with me. Of course, I didn't plan it ahead of time. It probably occurred to my 5-year-old mind at the last minute, on a random Sunday morning.

Mark was also Japanese, like me, but full-blooded, with both a Japanese mother and a Japanese father. But I didn't think of that back then. He was just my friend, Mark, from kindergarten. He lived right by the school, too. I walked all the way to his house, on a day when there was no school, happy about bringing him to church and introducing him to my Sunday School teacher.

Mark's big brother answered the door. "Oh, Mark is still sleeping. He can't go to church with you. I'm sorry."

My eyes must have started welling up with tears right away.

"Don't cry, okay?"

I knew I couldn't help it. I was already crying, even before I turned right around and headed back home.

Like so many of my memories, I'm not sure why that has remained in my mind (and for almost forty years, now). But I have thought of that Sunday morning many times, probably because it's a natural part of growing up: making plans and the joyful anticipation of fulfilling youthful ideas, and then having to learn to get over disappointment when your plans fall through.

I know my parents had their own plans for me, expecting that I would finish college by the age of 22 and perhaps go to graduate school so that I could go into a professional career before the age of 30. Then I would be able to successfully and securely get married, buy a house, and raise children without any financial or emotional stress. I would be able to avoid the hardships that defined their marriage and their lives.

But I had to go and ruin their plans by wanting to dance and sing and perform. Thanks to me, they had much disappointment to get over when I dropped out of college at age 19 and started working at Disneyland.

I had many disappointments to get over, repeatedly. Audition after audition gave me plenty of practice to survive the heartache of unfulfilled plans.

It's funny how distant that all seems, now. I still make plans, but I'm not as easily disappointed anymore if things go wrong or fall through. I don't set myself up, I guess.

Maybe I'm not taking enough risk nowadays? Maybe reaching my forties is too old to take risks?

I make financial plans. Pay off the scooter, then tackle the car loan, then the student loans. After that, there's the mortgage to pay off.

And then retirement.

Domestic Partner and I are talking about retiring in Hawaii. That's about twenty years away for us, but I know that the next two decades will go by much more quickly than the last two.

And if it doesn't happen? If we don't ever move to Hawaii? I'll be okay. I won't cry - not too much.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Labels So Useless

At first I thought Chris was gay, even before I met him. It was his husband, Marc, after all, who had told me that he and Chris had been married for four years. Marc is one of the students attending the school at which I work. After telling me that he had a "friend" that also wanted to enroll as a student, he closed my office door and quietly confided that he and Chris have a legally recognized marriage, Prop 8 be damned.

Then I met Chris, with his purple punk-esque hair and baggy cut-off shorts. I liked him immediately. Where Marc is tall and gangly, Chris is short and rotund. Both wear corrective lenses. Marc had some more information to confess. Chris, despite appearances, is still physically and legally a female. Marc uses male pronouns when speaking about and referring to Chris.

I was happy to do the same. I've had two years of Gender Studies as a major, at a major university - I'm well-informed and hip for a middle-aged guy. I'm open-minded and flexible (I like to think).

Still, it was a bit of an adjustment. Chris's financial aid officer explained that for legal purposes, we need to refer to Chris by his birth name, and even change the name in our electronic files to his original female name. I found myself struggling with pronouns, bouncing between the words 'she' and 'he,' 'her' and 'his,' during our weekly meeting with the Director of Financial Aid, sometimes in a single sentence even.

My level of discomfort is minimal, and it's not even with Chris or with his marriage to Marc. It's more with his financial aid officer who is not from here, originally, not from Southern California. When discussing Chris with this coworker, I found myself tripping over pronouns more than when casually chatting with Chris, himself, or even just with Marc.

It's a learning experience for me, to meet Chris and adjust to how he would like the world to perceive the way he presents himself - the way he "constructs his gender," as we had learned about in school. I have comfortably called biological males 'her' for years, now, and have referred to male friends as "she" in a light teasing way, even in the spirit of gay camaraderie ("Get a load of her. Who the hell does she think she is?").

If men have the freedom (to a degree) to act and behave as women in our society, then why can't the reverse be allowed? Sure, even someone as "hip and open-minded" as me - someone as gay as me - needs to confess to feeling some discomfort when interacting with individuals such as Chris.

Perhaps it's because I take little risk when constructing my own gender in the "socially acceptable" way that I do.

I know several men who act as masculine as they want or as feminine as they want, depending on the individual. Masculine and feminine traits are even interchangeable among some of my friends, given the situation.

Chris should be allowed to be as boyish as he wants and as feminine as he doesn't want to be, no matter what's underneath those baggy cut-off shorts . . . 'should' being the key word here. I'd also like to think that Chris may be typical of a more open-minded younger generation, at least here in the Los Angeles area. I'd like to think that this punkish, purple-haired individual is a sign of progress.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Tightening the Belt

Domestic Partner had to go on furlough for his job a few months ago. It meant a ten percent cut in pay, but it also means three day weekends for him, every other week. The trade off seems to be worth it, so far. Even I appreciate it, two Mondays out of the month, when I go into work knowing that the pugs and the kitty will have extra hours of human company on those days. It sort of makes me think how nice it would be to have a traditional 50's housewife at home every day (that is, if I earned enough to be a traditional breadwinner).

When I came home from work today, Domestic Partner told me that further budget cuts at his workplace may force up to a forty percent cut in pay. It isn't confirmed yet, but he asked me to start thinking about where spending could be cut.

My first thought was that we could get rid of HBO and all of the extra channels we get on our Verizon satellite T.V. box. I waste too much time watching T.V. as it is. Sometimes I miss the days when we lived in Domestic Partner's condo and we didn't even have cable. I still watched too much T.V. back then, but having limited choices to only local channels made a difference in the amount that I watched.

We could also get rid of the land line for our phone service. We never use it anymore, only our mobile phones. We keep reasoning that we need to keep the land line in case of an emergency. Everything is bundled together though, with our Internet service, and I wonder how much of a difference it would make to remove those two items from our service package.

I donate a small, modest amount to charity every month. I would prefer not to cut that as one of my monthly expenses, but it seems to be an obvious choice to sacrifice.

What else? I told Domestic Partner that we could eat out less. He pointed out that we already go to the cheap places as it is, such as Pick Up Stix and Chipotle, and also to Sizzler for the Ultimate Value menu of an entree and Endless Salad Bar for only $9.99 (such a deal!). I told him that we could still afford to stay in and eat more frugally - and not just to decrease our spending output but to decrease our calorie input as well.

As I was jogging tonight I thought about what I could do to make extra income, take a part time job, perhaps. I could teach dance. Maybe I could audition and get cast in a paid gig, locally. I have been losing weight (again) recently. Maybe I could go-go dance in gay bars again . . . at the age of almost-44.

Maybe not.

But there ain't no one who knows how to survive on a tight budget better than a former starving artist/struggling dancer-singer-actor-performer type! In that department Domestic Partner got himself an expert.

I can easily access endorphins while exercising. It's a wonderful addiction because it helps me to organically manufacture 'the possible' in my life. Instead of feeling worried or discouraged about adjusting any monthly expenses, I felt up to the challenge, even when I thought to myself, What if lose my own job?

That takes me into precarious territory because my mind immediately goes into old thought patterns about finding a way to go away on contract to perform. I have a friend who works in casting at the Universal Studios theme park in Japan. What if he was able to help me get hired for one of their shows?

I had told Domestic Partner that I would not go away on contract anymore, as long as we are still together. Not after the last two times . . .

Besides, I think BFF Kathy would kill me if I went away again.

So, what else can I do to cut costs? I'm still clipping coupons from the Sunday paper.

What have you done to adjust your finances? How have you been able to survive hard times?