Post #551 NCOD, A National Day of Courage

October 12, 2017 at 2:50 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Yesterday was National Coming Out Day (NCOD).  I meant to write this yesterday, but events conspired against it.  So bear with me.

I knew from a very very young age that I was different.  I didn’t know the term to put to it until I was a teenager, but because of personal circumstances, I couldn’t accept it of myself.  I spent most of my life despising myself.  I was hugely unhappy, felt reviled and unloved, struggled daily with depression, and at one time came perilously close to ending my life.

My story isn’t so different from most others of my generation.  It was a different time, a different place.  But this post isn’t about my story, which I’ve shared here before.  I came out about twelve years ago, and I’ve been largely comfortable with myself ever since.  This post is about someone else.  Someone I was lucky enough to meet early in my coming out process who was considerate enough to be my friend and stay my friend.

There are a lot of unsavory people “out there” and dating is difficult at the best of times.  My job didn’t leave me with a lot of free time and I traveled a lot.  I considered very carefully and decided to create a profile on a gay dating site.  Back then, things like Facebook and MySpace were in their infancy, and Grindr didn’t even exist yet.  So the site I went to was like a personals column dedicated to gay men.  Your profiles could allow you to narrow the scope of your search, and it had email capability so no one had to have access to your personal account information.  You could even add up to five pictures!  Woo Hoo!  Chuckle if you want, but that pretty amazing then.

I emailed a few guys and started conversations, but nothing ever really clicked well.  Either I wasn’t in town often enough, or we had differing goals.  A lot of the guys were looking for one night stands while I was after the elusive LTR, whether it was friendship or something more.  Then a guy contacted me.  He seemed pretty interested in me.  He lived close by.  We liked the same kinds of things.  He didn’t seem to mind that since I was newly out I was still shaping my life.  He also didn’t mind that my travel schedule kept me out of the country so much.

Over several weeks, emailing only, we got to know each other better.  He’s a teacher (retired now), and taught 6th grade history.  So he was very focused on using current technology to enhance his syllabus.  We finally decided to meet at a local diner to talk in person.  In all the novels, that would have been that “magic moment” where everything fell into place and we walked into the sunset together for the rest of our lives.  What really happened is that I spilled ketchup on a white polo shirt, and he uttered the famous line about his standard relationships “Usually, we meet, we do it, we’re done.  We never see each other again.”

I’ve never been like that, my whole life.  Hell, Partner/Spouse and I didn’t “do it” until we were practically living together.  I can’t give up the physical side of things until I’m certain of the emotional side of things.  But he was okay with that.  He didn’t mind taking things slow.  I almost decided not to waste his time after he made his history clear, but he said he wanted to build a friendship first.

So we did the date things.  We walked our dogs in the nearby National Park which we both knew inside and out.  We went to local plays and productions.  He went shopping, hung out, watched television.  My first night back in town, we’d get together over dinner at a restaurant so I could regale him with all the stories of where I’d been.  Once, I even flew him to where I was so we could experience it together.

We were sitting at a hamburger place in our town one Saturday afternoon.  His burger had so much stuff on it, it was dripping out one end.  Mine was the same as I always order.  Once I find a combo I like, I generally stick to it.

“What’s on that?” he asked.

“It’s a double with extra cheese, mustard, and dill pickle.”

“How is it you’ve never eaten a Cuban sandwich?”  It was something we’d discussed before.  I’d never heard of it until he brought it up.  “Those are most of the ingredients for one.”

“What’s missing?” I asked.

“Pork roast, mostly.  And it needs to be grilled.”

“Hmm, I have some left over pork roast at home.  Wanna make me one?”

His eyes lit up.  “Sure!  Come over tomorrow with it, and I’ll have the rest of the stuff.”

I nodded.  “Okay.  I’ll bring a salad too.  What time?”

“Let’s do this at 3 and we can walk the dogs after.”

So the next day, I loaded up my jeep with my dog, a bowl of salad made from baby spinach, walnuts, mandarin orange slices, shaved parmesan cheese, croutons, and a light thin dressing made from plain yogurt and juice from the oranges, and the left over pork roast, and drove over to his house.

I watched as he made the sandwiches.  I’d never watched him cook before.  He had a small kitchen, smaller than a walk in closet.  He told me he had plans to renovate some day, but for the moment, he could do whatever he wanted.

Cuban sandwiches aren’t really from Cuba, and I used to know why they were called that, but I don’t remember right off just why.  Essentially, they are a grilled cheese sandwich on a sub roll stuffed with provolone, yellow mustard, thinly sliced ham, thinly sliced pork roast, and thinly sliced dill pickles.  Usually they are made in a sandwich press of some kind.

He didn’t have one, so he heated a large skillet so he could make two at a time.  Inside the skillet were two bricks wrapped in clean aluminum foil heating up too.  I watched as he sliced the buns, slathered on the mustard, layered the cheese, meats, and pickle, then put them in the pan.

“Now comes the fun part,” he said.  “You need to keep pressing on them.  Most of the time you’d use a panini press, or something like that.  Since I don’t have room for one, I make do with bricks wrapped in foil.”

“Oh, right, that makes sense.  I suppose that’s what they did before machines were invented.”

“Who?” he asked with a grin and a twinkle.

At a loss, I replied, “Whoever was making these sandwiches.  I guess it wasn’t Cubans, then?”

He laughed and finished up the sandwiches which were amazing and delicious.  Along with the salad and wine, it was great.  So he taught me not only to make the Cuban sandwich, but also how to make do when you don’t have “the right” equipment.

Later, as we were waking the dogs, I was mildly complaining about life in general.  “I never thought that at 47 years old, I’d be reinventing my entire life.  And certainly not as a single gay man.”

He said, in a quiet voice, “I admire you tremendously.  It’s not everyone who has the courage to leave everything they know and do something new.”

I was surprised.  “What are you nuts?  You’re the one with the courage!  You came out when you were 20, back when coming meant everyone would disown you.  Back when you could be killed for it and no one would care.  Back when you could lose your job, your home, everything.  You were the one who paved the way for people like me.”

We were both silent for a moment, then the dogs barked wanting to be on the move again.  We never shared those sentiments again, so if he’s reading this I hope he knows that I still admire him for that.

And for teaching me about Cuban sandwiches.

And a lot of other food things, too.

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Post #550 What Another Week!

October 4, 2017 at 11:57 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

So, there are some big changes coming up in my life at the end of the month, and I want to tell you about them because it’s going to impact the blog.  But first let me say that I have no plans to stop blogging, so don’t let that trouble you at all.  So, back in 2009, I stopped working the M-F 9-5 type job.  With the incredible support of my partner/spouse, I dove headlong into the world of writing as a full time career.  Only trouble was, I made no money at it.  I wrote the blog; I wrote a novel; I published a book based on the blog; I started three more novels which are in various stages of completion; I assisted my father in law in recovering from a stroke; as a couple we assisted my father through his final illness; and I ventured back into the workaday world on a semi-part-time basis.  I found that I missed the daily grind and since we’ve moved to the New England area, I’ve been actively searching for a full time job that paid well enough to consider it.  I finally managed to find one, and boy, did I have to jump through a few hoops to get it.

SIDE NOTE:  PLEASE, IF YOU’RE ONE OF THE FEW WHO KNOW WHICH COMPANY I WILL BE WORKING FOR, DO NOT MENTION IT BY NAME.  I DON’T KNOW IF YOU’VE NOTICED, BUT I NEVER MENTION ANYTHING OR ANYONE BY NAME WITHOUT PRIOR APPROVAL.  I KEEP MY PRIVATE LIFE, MY FAMILY LIFE, AND MY WORK LIFE SEPARATE AND ANONYMOUS ONLINE.  IT’S TO PROTECT THEM AND ME.  THANK YOU.

It start out innocuously enough.  Driving by the building in which they’re housed, we saw the Help Wanted sign.  I looked them up online and created a profile and searched the job board.  I applied for two or three positions that I thought would be interesting.  One by one, I heard back negatively.  Either I wasn’t qualified or they’d filled the position.  I had joined a job search board online and saw a position with the company and applied almost out of habit.

Two weeks later, I got an email for a phone interview.  We set it up and it went well.  The recruiter and I hit it off as though we’d known each other our whole lives and by the end of the conversation we had each other laughing like old drinking buddies.  Two days later, I heard from the next level up.  She asked more pointed questions but overall liked my responses so we set up an in person interview for two days later.  It happened that partner/spouse already had that day off, so we canceled whatever plans we had for that day, and waited around for my interview.

Which went incredibly well.  As they were escorting me out of the building, I asked when they were planning to make a decision about the opening.  The one lady looked surprised, as though it wasn’t completely obvious that she’d made up her mind, but they both quickly regrouped and said I’d hear within two business days.  Since it was already Friday afternoon, that meant I would hear by Tuesday.

By Tuesday morning, I’d already convinced myself that the job had gone to someone else.  In this economy, and given my age, nothing new there.  It was a higher level position I was applying for, and although I have an impressive resume and skill set, it’s been 8 years since I’ve actually worked in a professional office environment.  And it didn’t help when the online job service sent me an email with the exact job I’d applied for again!

Except Tuesday afternoon, I got the email to call the recruiter to discuss the steps going forward.  As Homer Simpson always says, “Woo Hoo!”

So I made chocolate chip cookies to celebrate.  I must not have been paying close attention because they came out oddly.  They were still soft and doughy the way we like them, but instead of having nooks and crannies with chips sticking out all over the place, they were smoothly domed and the chips sank to the bottom.  I have no clue what happened.  But we ate them all.

The steps I’d taken up to that point were standard, and the steps going forward were standard.  Background check paperwork, check.  All filled out within minutes of receiving, despite the panicked texts to partner/spouse about old addresses, etc.  They only wanted info back seven years but in my head I did the math wrong and filled out the info for only five years.  Don’t ask me how I subtracted 7 from 17 and got 12.

Once that was submitted, they must have liked what they saw because about an hour later I got the email outlining the procedure for the drug test.  Again, standard stuff, and I had 72 hours to get it done.  Just to figure out where it was, I looked online and the place was open until 8:30pm.  I texted partner/spouse and we decided to go that night as soon as he got home from work.  That way, I wouldn’t have to get up way early to get the car.  He gets home between 5:30 and 6.  It was only going to take about an hour to do the drug screening and get back home.  What to make for dinner that late that would be easily digested?

We had breakfast for dinner!  I made fresh biscuits during the afternoon and wrapped them in aluminum foil then set them in the microwave to stay warm.  When we got back, he started frying bacon while I took the dogs out.  Then, I took over, warmed the biscuits in the oven (still wrapped) and made sunnyside up eggs.  I meant to do fried potatoes, but forgot.  So within a few minutes of arriving home, we were chowing down on good stuff.

The next day, I received several emails detailing the next steps, web sites to go to take care of paperwork, forms to print out and fill out.  But it was the weekend again, and the major think, the fingerprinting, I couldn’t take care of for a couple of days.  I was very methodical, and as I read through the emails, I made a list of everything that needed to be done, and checked them all off as I did them.  By Sunday, all of them were checked but the fingerprints, and I had 30 days from my start date to get them done.  But I didn’t want to wait.

So I made a cake that afternoon to celebrate a new bundt cake pan we’d just got.  Again, I probably wasn’t paying as much attention as I should have, and it came out weird.  It was a cake, but it wobbled like a jello mold.  Even after it cooled, it was strange.  It was a chocolate cake, and I made an orange glaze with powdered sugar, orange extract, and orange zest.  I made way too much, of course, but that just meant there were puddles to lick up.  Despite it’s wonderful flavor, we each only had one piece then tossed the rest.  Couldn’t get past the wobble.

But while I was making the cake, I checked out the fingerprinting place to see when I could set up an appointment.  Yeah, it was very easy.  I got one for Monday, two days ago.  So, up early, take partner/spouse to work, come home, wait for the place to open, go get my fingerprints taken electronically by the friendliest and chattiest woman I’ve met since we’ve been here, then home.  I wanted to make some sandwich rolls.

We don’t have a bread machine anymore, but I figured I could get these made by hand.  I followed the same process I would if I was using a bread machine, but the dough seemed sticky.  I added flour until it seemed normal, and followed the standard process.  It didn’t really rise the way it was supposed to, but I used the dough anyway.  When I was shaping the rolls, I noticed some brown crunchy bits but couldn’t figure out what they were.  It looked like bran, but I didn’t put any in the mix.  Just as I was putting them in the oven to bake, I figured it out.  It was bits of raw yeast that hadn’t dissolved for some reason.   And there were lots of them.  The rolls didn’t turn out exactly as they were supposed to.  After they cooled, I ate one with some cheese, but it didn’t taste very good.  A few hours later, as I was driving to pick up partner/spouse, my stomach felt like something dead was in it.  He told me the yeast bits were dying in my stomach and expelling gas.  Once home, a bit of baking soda and some time, all would be well.  I’ll never sneer at Paul Hollywood for not eating raw bread dough ever again.

So yesterday, I get up and I’m feeling a little doughy.  I still want some sandwich rolls, and I know I can do this.  So this time, instead of putting the ingredients together as I would for the bread machine, I dissolved the yeast in the water and sugar mixed together.  I let it work for ten minutes, then added the rest of the ingredients, putting the salt in last on top of the flour.  Salt kills yeast and I wanted a fairly good rise so I wanted it to mix at the very last.

Then got an email that one of the background check entities didn’t have a record of the ssn # I provided and could I scan my card and send it back?  Yes, I could, thankfully.  And did so within minutes, also offering to scan my driver’s license and passport if needed for verification.

The result was wonderful sandwich rolls just like I used to make.  We’ve both eaten a couple and no distended abdomens from the yeast.

Then, after dinner (which was leftover chili made into chili mac) just to prove I could do it, I made another cake with wonderful chocolate frosting.  Oh, and I made chocolate chip cookies over the weekend, too, that turned out great.  So whatever happened to my baking skills while I was concentrating on the new job did not repeat themselves.

And the upshot?  Got the email this morning that all hoops thoroughly jumped and everything cleared.  I’m an official employee now with an Oct 23rd start date.

So what the heck was this post all about?

When I start working again, there’s a three month training period, then I’ll be assigned a shift.  It’s M-F 8:30 – 5 during the training period, then M-F 8am-7pm in 8 hour shifts.  Initially, I’ll be taking partner/spouse to work at 5am, then picking him up when I get off.  As soon as I can, I’m getting my own vehicle, but I’m not certain when that will be.  I’m also working on my newest novel, and working at the general household stuff.

When I started this blog, I wasn’t working.  I had large blocks of time during the day to write and research, even to cook as I chose.  That’s going to change.  And the blog will change with it.  The first change is I will be posting only on the weekends now.  I will post at least once a weekend, but possibly twice.  I will also start focusing on the logistical challenges facing my family, and how we overcome them.  I don’t want to spend hours on the weekend making meals to freeze, although I’m probably going to end doing that.  But there are other ways to face these challenges and still eat fresh and healthy.

So there she is, folks!  A fun and exciting new era for me, my family, and my blog and friends.  Wish me luck!

And, as always,

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