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Courage in women is often mistaken for insanity

This post has nothing to do about my greeting cards, but I feel this subject is so impotant that I want to share it here.

I recently received this information from a very dear friend of mine via a mail note. She and I have been friends for many years, through thick and thin, through the highs and the lows, and still we are of like minds. I am so glad she sent me this and is allowing me to share it. Election day is Nov. 2! Get out there and vote! And think about what is at stake in this election. Do the right thing.

This is the story of those mothers, grandmothers, and greatgrandmothers who lived 90 years ago. Remember, it was not until 1920 that women were granted the right to go to the polls and vote.

The women were innocent and defenseless, but they were jailed nonetheless for picketing the White House, carrying signs asking for the vote. And by the end of the night, they were barely alive. Forty prison guards wielding clubs and their warden's blessing went on a rampage against the 33 women wrongly convicted of 'obstructing sidewalk traffic.'

(Lucy Burns)
They beat Lucy Burns, chained her hands to the cell bars above her head and left her hanging for the night, bleeding and gasping for air.

(Dora Lewis)
They hurled Dora Lewis into a dark cell, smashed her head against an iron bed and knocked her out cold. Her cellmate, Alice Cosu, thought Lewis was dead and suffered a heart attack. Additional affidavits describe the guards grabbing, dragging, beating, choking, slamming, pinching, twisting and kicking the women.

Thus unfolded the 'Night of Terror' on Nov. 15, 1917, when the warden at the Occoquan Workhouse in Virginia ordered his guards to teach a lesson to the suffragists imprisoned there because they dared to picket Woodrow Wilson's White House for the right to vote.

For weeks, the women's only water came from an open pail. Their food--all of it colorless slop--was infested with worms.

(Alice Paul)
When one of the leaders, Alice Paul, embarked on a hunger strike, they tied her to a chair, forced a tube down her throat and poured liquid into her until she vomited. She was tortured like this for weeks until word was smuggled out to the press.

So, refresh my memory. Some women won't vote this year because- -why, exactly? We have carpool duties? We have to get to work? Our vote doesn't matter? It's raining?

(Mrs. Pauline Adams in the prison garb she wore while serving a sixty-day sentence.)
Last week, I went to a sparsely attended screening of HBO's new movie 'Iron Jawed Angels.' It is a graphic depiction of the battle these women waged so that I could pull the curtain at the polling booth and have my say. I am ashamed to say I needed the reminder.

(Miss Edith Ainge, of Jamestown , New York )
All these years later, voter registration is still my passion. But the actual act of voting had become less personal for me, more rote. Frankly, voting often felt more like an obligation than a privilege. Sometimes it was inconvenient.

(Berthe Arnold, CSU graduate)
My friend Wendy, who is my age and studied women's history, saw the HBO movie, too. When she stopped by my desk to talk about it, she looked angry. She was--with herself. 'One thought kept coming back to me as I watched that movie,' she said. 'What would those women think of the way I use, or don't use, my right to vote? All of us take it for granted now, not just younger women, but those of us who did seek to learn.' The right to vote, she said, had become valuable to her 'all over again.'

HBO released the movie on video and DVD . I wish all history, social studies and government teachers would include the movie in their curriculum I want it shown on Bunco night, too, and anywhere else women gather. I realize this isn't our usual idea of socializing, but we are not voting in the numbers that we should be, and I think a little shock therapy is in order.

(Conferring over ratification [of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution] at [National Woman's Party] headquarters, Jackson Place , Washington , D.C. . L-R Mrs. Lawrence Lewis, Mrs. Abby Scott Baker, Anita Pollitzer, Alice Paul, Florence Boeckel, Mabel Vernon (standing, right))
It is jarring to watch Woodrow Wilson and his cronies try to persuade a psychiatrist to declare Alice Paul insane so that she could be permanently institutionalized. And it is inspiring to watch the doctor refuse. Alice Paul was strong, he said, and brave. That didn't make her crazy.

The doctor admonished the men: 'Courage in women is often mistaken for insanity.'

Please, if you are so inclined, pass this on to all the women you know. We need to get out and vote and use this right that was fought so hard for by these very courageous women. Whether you vote democratic, republican or independent party - remember to vote.

(Helena Hill Weed, Norwalk, Conn. Serving 3 day sentence in D.C. prison for carrying banner, 'Governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed.')

Thank You, Greeting Card Association, For Your Support!

Anyone who has been following my blog entries knows that most of my posts are politically oriented toward Marriage Equality and Equal Rights for ALL American citizens. Everyone who knows me, knows that I am passionate on these subjects and that is why I decided to create the cards you find in this site to begin with.

But today I want to share a little about the greeting card industry itself and specifically the Greeting Card Association. Last year, I joined this group and had the opportunity to attend their convention in Scottsdale, AZ in October. It was a wonderful experience for me to attend that event.

First, it put me in an arena where I was able to get to know and exchange ideas with so many people who are involved in the business of greeting cards, from Hallmark and American Greetings to other small companies like mine and every sized company in between. Also, the trade magazines were there; paper and finishing vendors were there; Xerox Corporation was there to talk about digital printing; people from the trade show company were there; and others who had information on licensing, etc. were there too. A wealth of information to be had, and everyone was very generous in sharing it. I was asked to video my remarks about my experience at the convention. Here is my video debut!

Second, the support I felt I got from that meeting. This is the nicest group of people you will ever meet. Go figure! They are all in the business of being nice to people - by creating the greeting cards you are looking for to send to your friends and loved ones on their birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, illnesses, vacations, new homes, you name it. In fact, we even refer to this business as the "appreciation business". We create a vehicle for you to show your love, support and appreciation for the people you care about.

Third, the venue was great. We stayed in a lovely Kimpton Hotel called. It was a great place to have a meeting as well as to relax and enjoy oneself at the same time. The hotel was beautiful, the food was good, the staff was friendly and efficient, the grounds were welcoming and pretty and the location was close to downtown Scottsdale proper - walking distance. Of course, not many of us walked as the temperature outdoors was in the 100's, but we could have walked if we wanted to. The hotel did provide transportation to the downtown area and the nearby mall, however. I like the Kimpton Hotels. They are gay friendly, pet friendly and just - well, you know - friendly.

By attending this event, I finally felt that I was part of this industry as a valid entity. That was very valuable since I had been moving ahead on my own until then, just learning by experience and by what I could teach myself from internet sources and reading materials. It was so nice to talk to other small businesses like mine and find that they felt the same as I did. It was wonderful to talk with the owners of much larger companies and get real advice on so many things. And it was comforting to be treated as a peer to all the folks there.

During this event, I learned about the Greeting Association's LOUIE Award. This is their equivalent to Hollywood's Oscars. We are allowed to submit our designs for consideration under a number of categories. The process for adjudicating the entries is arduous and stringent. And to be a finalist is an honor in itself. To win is - well, like the Oscars - fantastic!

I just learned that one of my submissions has been chosen as a finalist in the "Rising Star" category. I am so happy about this. I now feel even more legitimized by this respected organization. And I think that the subject matter and intent of my cards is recognized as important and meeting a real need. Remeber, it is estimated that 10% of the American population is a member of the LGBT community. That is about 31 million people! And every one of those people must have at least one person who cares enough to send them a card for their wedding, commitment ceremony, anniversary, Valentine's Day, Mother's Day, Christmas, etc. I am just trying to meet that need in a way that is tasteful, subtle and elegant.

So I want to say "Thank you, Greeting Card Association, for your support and encouragement!" It means more to me than you can imagine.

Happy Valentine's Day to You!

Valentine's Day will soon be here. How will you celebrate it this year? Will you send a Valentine's Day card to someone? Or maybe you'll send flowers. The traditional box of candy is always a nice touch. Maybe you'll plan a nice evening that includes dinner in a nice restaurant and soft music in the background. Or will you be the Valentine's Day equivalent of Ebenezer Scrooge and avoid the entire day?

Me? Although there is no “sweetheart” in my life to send me a “Will You Be Mine?” card on that day, I get a kick out of the whole thing. I love to decorate my house with touches of red heart shaped “thingies”, red napkins on the dining room table, and a big red heart attached to my front door to take the place of the Christmas wreath. I might even buy some nice red roses for myself, just because I want to.

But I love to see people send each other sentiments of love, even if it is only for one day. It makes me smile to think about the days when my son was just a little guy and I would get the darling home made Valentine's Day card from him. We would always get the obligatory box of cards for him to sign and hand out to his classmates in school. Of course, I made sure that he got his own little heart shaped box of chocolates from his mom with lots of X's and O's in the card. It was such as sweet and fun time for us.

I know that there are a lot of people out there who complain that Valentine's Day is just the greeting card industry's way to get us to spend money on their products. But I have to say, if you would like to give someone a little token of your affection on that day, what gift can you possibly get for less than the cost of a greeting card? And many times, that is all it takes to put a smile on someone's face.

That's where A Little To The Left jumps in. We offer tasteful Valentine's Day cards for gay and lesbian couples to send to each other on this very special day.

Did you know that 188 million greeting cards are exchanged on Valentine's Day and that 50% of those cards are bought just 6 six days prior to the actual holiday? Do you know who Saint Valentine was? Here is a really fun site about Valentine's Day, I hope you enjoy it.

So from me to you, I wish you a very Happy Valentine's Day, this year and every year .

XOXOXOXO

Sandi Timberlake

Happy Holidays from A Little To The Left

This is another time of year when one should take time to appreciate one's family, friends and all the other blessings we have in our lives. I, for one, feel so very lucky to have the love and support from my family and my dearest friends.

And in this year, I found many others - strangers to me - who have visited this site and written me personal notes telling me how much they appreciate what I am doing. Those notes are the greatest gifts I can possibly get. To hear from you that you understand why I decided to create these cards and what they mean to me and to hear your stories and your notes of thanks gives me the strength and the courage to press on.

As the end of 2009 approaches, I look back at the very beginning of this year and where the company was. We had only a few stores in San Diego and San Francisco carrying our cards. We now have 20 stores in 8 states and will soon be showing up in 1 more store. We went from being something only our friends and family members heard of to being a known entity to PFLAG, the GSDBA in San Diego, the NGLCC and the Greeting Card Association. We went from no online traffic to a respectable level of online orders.
I call that growth!

So, as I go off to spend the Christmas holiday with my son and son-in-law, I want to wish you all my warmest wishes for a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. And I want to thank all of you who have visited this site whether to place an order or to read my bog. Your comments have been "the wind beneath my wings".

I promise you all that 2010 will bring new ideas, new designs, and new sentiments for you to choose from. But the core of A Little To The Left will always be our support for marriage equality for all and offering tasteful greeting cards for LGBT couples, their family members and friends.

I am not from the deep south, but what I want to say is...
Thanks for visiting and y'all come back now, here?

A Thanksgiving Message For You

Once again the LGBT community suffered a great loss at the hands of the American voters.  On November 2, 2009 the voters in Maine chose to take away civil rights from the LGBT community by voting Yes on Prop 1.  This is reminiscent of California's Prop 8  fiasco of 2008.  As you may know, I take this affront to civil rights very seriously.  I am the mother of a gay son who, luckily, got married last year here in California during that short time when it was legally possible to do so.  Also, luckily, the state of California Supreme Court saw fit to uphold all those 18,000 same-sex marriages that took place during that time.  Notice I specified that the SAME-SEX marriages were upheld.  There was never any question for the straight couples as to whether or not their marriages were threatened.

This business of taking civil rights away from an entire class of people scares me, and it should scare you as well.  Although you may feel very safe in your social standing right now, how do you know that your particular class of people won't be on the list of groups to be affected some day?

On election day, I wrote a post for my blog appealing to the voters of Maine who were planning to vote Yes on 1 to reconsider. Of course, I didn't think that my little blog post was going to sway the voters much if at all, but I just felt I had to DO SOMETHING!  And now I am writing this article in an effort to do something more.  For those of you who feel as I do, I am preaching to the choir.  For those of you who are not quite convinced yet, please allow me to offer some information for you to think about.

First, do you really KNOW what you are taking away from those same-sex couples in terms of the rights they would have that straight couples take for advantage?  There are 1,138 rights that are afforded to legally married couples.  Take a look at this site "An Overview of Federal Rights and Protections Granted to Married Couples" .  And after you read this material and really think about it, what does it take away from the straight married couples if these rights are granted to gay couples?
 
Second, if your objection to gay marriage is based on your religious beliefs, why should you be able to force YOUR religious tenets on those of us who believe differently?  And wasn't this country literally established by people who fled religious persecution from their country?  Whatever happened to separation of church and state?  What would you do if the tenets of a different religion than yours took over the way our laws are governed under the auspices of just practicing their freedom of religion?  Pretty scary, huh?

Third, whatever happened to "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."?   Do we really want to re-write that element of our government to read "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness - except for those who are gay."?

As we celebrate Thanksgiving with our friends and loved ones this year, think about how lucky you all were not to have lost any of YOUR civil rights this year.  And then think about the ones who have.  Please think about how YOU can contribute to equal rights for all American citizens under the law in the year ahead.

No on 1

I sit here in San Diego, CA watching for news on the election in Maine today. Once again, a protected class of people were finally given the civil right to marry and once again the bigots are working hard at taking that right away from them.

To all of you who are voting Yes on 1, I have to ask you - what will you really lose by letting 2 people who love each other get married to one another? Are you aware that what you are really doing is telling the gay and lesbian community that they are not entitled to all the same civil rights that you are? If your son, daughter, sister, brother, aunt, uncle, niece, nephew, mother, father, grandmother, grandfather or neighbor was gay, would you as readily look them in the face and tell them "You are inferior to me and do not deserve the same civil rights as I have."?

Please remember that our country was founded by people who were fleeing from religous persecution, seeking to be free to make their own choices without the church dictating to them what they were and were not allowed to do. How can you tell 10% of our population that they cannot be married based on your religious beliefs? If your argument is based on your religious beliefs, then I ask you to consider that religion should not be dictating law. If it does, then we are stepping back to the 1600's. We become the very government the pilgrims escaped to this country to avoid.

What would really happen to you and your family if gay and lesbian couple are allowed to be married? Will your marriage fall apart? Will you lose money because of it? Will the world crumble beneath your feet? Massachusetts passed a law legalizing same sex marriage years ago and the world did not end. Iowa did the same this year and the world did not end. Connecticutt took the same approach to marriage and the world did not end. New Hampshire and Vermont did the same and the world did not end.

What if, every state legalized same sex marriage? What if every American citizen had the same civil and human rights as every other American citizen? Do you find that offensive? Because that is what this is all about. It is about giving people civil rights, or worse, taking them away. Are you really comfortable with that?

What if the next thing we get to vote on is that ONLY people of the same religion can get married. Marriages of mixed religions will no longer be legal. Would THAT be OK with you?

Maybe we will even slip back to being able to vote as to whether or not people of mixed race will be able to get married. Is THAT OK with you?

Maybe we should not allow the disabled to be married. Is That OK with you?

How much are you willing to take away and from whom are you willing to do that? What if it finally reaches YOUR home? What if your children are told, "I am sorry, but you cannot get married in this state because of who you are."? Would you sit back and say, OK?

Please reconsider your vote today in Maine when it comes to this issue and vote NO on 1. Please be the kind of American that values equal rights for all citizens. Step up and take a stand for civil rights. Tell the voters of your state that it is NOT OK to take rights away from any citizen of the great state of Maine. You won't regret it.

Thank you.

PRIDE

Here it is September and for 2 months I have been wanting to write about my experience having participated in the San Diego Pride parade in July. Where does the time go?

The word pride means so much more to me lately than ever before.

There is Personal Pride – Do I look presentable? Can I carry on an intelligent conversation with others? Am I a good mom? I own my own home and like to keep in relatively clean and neat. I am an adequate cook; certainly not on the same level as my son, but I can hold my own against some folks. I have always been one to give 100% to the companies I have worked for and now I am giving everything I have to my own greeting card business. Did I do something worthwhile today? Do I treat others well? Can I look myself in the mirror and feel that I am an OK person?

There is Parental Pride – I love my son. He is very intelligent, accomplished, kind, generous, loving, responsible, fun, witty, and handsome. Did I have anything to do with all of that? He has been in a committed relationship with his husband for over 16 years; one year going together, 15 years as domestic partners and 1 year married on the 27th of this month! I don't know that I was much of a role model for him in the area of marriage, so I am especially proud that he has found a way to engage in a marriage that has lasted all this time and is still going strong. How did he ever find out how to do it? Maybe he can teach me.

There is Family or Ethnic Pride – I come from a family of Italian descent and am proud of it. I love my family, sister and brother-in-law, brother and sister-in-law, nephews, niece, great-nephew and great-nieces, aunts and uncles, cousins – you name it. I love our family traditions. I also have 2 sisters-in-law with their own gang of sons and daughters whom I also love and respect. Family has always been important to me and always will be.

There is National Pride – I am an American and proud of it. Do I think our country is perfect? No. We certainly have a lot of things we can do better. Our economy is suffering. We are in a war that we never should have engaged in and lives are being lost. We need to reach out and help our fellow American citizens in these tough times in areas of providing health care, sheltering the homeless, feeding the hungry, educating our children, helping people find employment and keeping their homes that they worked so hard to get in the first place. And we need to assure that all American citizens have equal civil rights – like the right to be legally married to the one you love.

But, that being said, it's still a great country and I wouldn't really want to live anywhere else. We have so much here. The abundance is staggering. Many of us who are working or at least have an income have the funds to go out to dinner in lovely places to the degree that we actually get BORED with what is there for us to choose from. Imagine that. Go to any third world country and see how bored they are with their choices. We throw away food, toys, electronics, furniture, clothes, cars, books, shoes – whatever we are bored with or just no longer want. We have that luxury. OK, many of us don't actually THROW that stuff away. Maybe we will donate it to a good cause. I hope so. But still, we are so fortunate to be living in these United States.

But after my experience in July, I now feel I better understand Gay Pride!

Never before have I experienced anything like what I felt as I marched with my fellow members of the San Diego PFLAG Chapter. This was the first time I actually participated in Gay Pride festivities. In the past I happened to be in San Francisco visiting my son and son-in-law during Pride weekend and had the opportunity to see the Lesbian Parade that took place in front if their apartment and to see the big parade on TV the next day. I found it interesting and enjoyable. But certainly had no idea how it would feel to be a part of it all.

First of all, it was HOT. I mean the weather was hot, hot, hot and really humid. This is not typical for San Diego (the humidity I mean). And yet, there were hundreds of people marching in that parade and having a great time doing it. Second, the joy and excitement was electric! So many people celebrating and partying. People got to dress any way they wanted, they got to dance in the streets and just BE themselves having fun. It was extraordinary. It was estimated that there were 160,000 people lining the streets to watch the parade. They cheered and clapped and waved.

Every time it was announced that the San Diego Chapter of PFLAG was passing by the crowd gave a huge cheer and shouted out things like “Thank you PFLAG!” and “We love you PFLAG”, “Yay PFLAG!”. It brought a lump to my throat and tears to my eyes. As a matter of fact I feel that way right now as I write this remembering that time. It just showed me how much the LGBT community appreciates that we are in their corner; that we support them and will stand up for them. I felt that I was among thousands of people who are so used to being rejected, hated, shunned, neglected, abused and discriminated against. And here we come - PFLAG – maybe 40 people among us marching in the parade and the LGBT folks are thrilled to see us. They are praising us and cheering for us. They know that most of us are straight moms and dads, friends and family members, some of us are gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender, but all of us are here for them, working toward understanding and educating the public. We support them. We love them. We are proud of our LGBT friends and family members.

I am very proud to be a member of PFLAG. I am proud of my son and son-in-law. I want to be proud of the state of California some day when they finally legalize same-sex marriage for good! I will be an even more proud American when more and more states see that marriage equality is a matter of civil rights and will legalize same-sex marriage. And any time I can help to make that happen, I will be proud of myself for being an agent of change in our society on a matter that is so sorely in need of change.

So, I create and sell gay friendly greeting cards. I want to offer cards that a mom would feel comfortable buying for her son & son-in-law or daughter & daughter-in-law. I want to offer cards to the LGBT community that are tasteful, subtle and elegant. I would love to see my cards in mainstream shops and card stores so that a grandmother could easily find a card for her gay or lesbian grandchild and just buy it without having to go through all kinds of hoops of fire just to FIND one. I see it as a small way of leveling the playing ground. Why should 10% of the American population be so discriminated against that you can't even get a simple greeting card to send them?

San Francisco - The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

This weekend is Pride in San Francisco. This caused me to think back to my recent visit there to doggie-sit my "granddog", Reese. Sean and DPaul went to Kentucky for a week to visit DPaul's family there. I was thrilled to take care of Reese and to also take advantage of being in San Francisco to visit potential customers for my Gay Friendly Greeting Cards.

Here are my thoughts on San Francisco:

The Good – What a magnificent city!

The architecture! Those Victorian houses are beautiful. And as you walk through the neighborhoods, you see that one house is more beautiful and more interesting than the last. They are large and beautiful with three stories of gorgeous windows and color and gingerbread to gape at. The owners take great pride in their property and take the time to landscape them beautifully as well.

The culture! They have opera, museums, symphony, ballet, theater, beaches and parks – what more can anyone ask?

The public transit system – San Francisco boasts an incredibly sophisticated and efficient public transit system that includes buses, trolleys, the Muni, BART and even a couple of cool car share programs so that you don't HAVE to own a car in the city. And every San Franciscan can advise you – a tourist or newcomer to the city – as to exactly how to get where you want to go via public transit.

The diversity! “Like many larger U.S. cities, San Francisco is a minority-majority city, as non-Hispanic whites comprise less than half of the population. As of 2007, the Census Bureau estimated that 45.0 percent of the population was non-Hispanic white. Asian Americans make up 33.1% of the population; Chinese Americans constitute the largest single ethnic group in San Francisco at about a fifth of the population. Hispanics of any race make up 14.0% of the population. San Francisco's African American population has declined in recent decades, from 13.4 percent of the city in 1970 to 7.3 percent of the population in 2007. The current percentage of African Americans in San Francisco is similar to that of the state of California; conversely, the city's percentage of Hispanic residents is less than half of that of the state. According to the 2005 American Community Survey, San Francisco has the highest percentage of gay and lesbian individuals of any of the 50 largest U.S cities, at 15.4%.”

The restaurants! “It's almost unfair. With world-class wineries, artisinal cheese makers and small farms just a short drive away, San Francisco is awash in culinary riches. The quality and quantity of the restaurants here make San Francisco an unparalleled food city. The city is best known for its farm fresh, ingredient-driven food showcased at restaurants like the Foreign Cinema, Greens and Boulevard. Trendy neighborhoods like the Mission District and Noe Valley have come on strong with inventive but down-to-earth restaurants such as Range, Delfina and Incanto while top-of-the-line newcomers Coi and Ame wow locals and visitors alike with their eclectic, technically precise cuisine rooted in western and Asian traditions. With so many choices, the only downside in this city of plenty is deciding where to eat.” As it happens, my son Sean is an avid food blogger and has had occasion to east or drink in some of the best and less than best places in the city and then write about them. To learn what he has learned visit Hedonia.

The shopping! “San Francisco offers some of the best shopping in the world, so it is no wonder that tourists and serious shopaholics alike want to spend some time and money in San Francisco's varied shopping centers, districts and malls. Union Square, Hayes Valley, upper Fillmore, the Mission, Sacramento Street, Chinatown and downtown's San Francisco Shopping Center offer a unique style with one-of-a-kind shops, each mall and neighborhood with a distinctive feel suited to any shopper's mood, from urban sophisticate to funk fantastic.” This is where I feel like I am in a really big time city. It's cool that the Levi Strauss flagship store is right on Post Street downtown. And favorite locations for the tourist are Fisherman's Wharf and Pier 39. Lot's of shopping for San Francisco trinkets there. And the famous City Lights Bookstore is there: “This little piece of history was founded by Lawrence Ferlinghetti as an outgrowth of his small-press imprint, which introduced us to Allen Ginsburg, Jack Kerouac and most gloriously, Frank O'Hara. Now a North Beach tradition, this well-worn haunt blends right in with the neighboring trattorias and strip clubs. You'll find a vast assortment of poetry and fiction here.” (San Francisco Citysearch).

This is truly a cosmopolitan city. It's civilized. It has a very European feel to it. It's hard to visit San Francisco without falling in love with it – at least a little.

The Bad – OK. Nobody's perfect.

The traffic – I mean OMG! I once took a bus tour through San Francisco when Sean and DPaul got “married” for the first time (Domestic Partnership, September 1993). The tour guide kept pointing out the drivers who were obvious tourist since they never knew where they were going and consequently did a lot of sudden turns and cutting off other drivers.

The parking – God help you if you have to park your car in San Francisco. OK. Sometimes you can get lucky parking on the street, especially if you are in your own neighborhood and you know the best time and places to look. Otherwise, may the force be with you. You spend a lot of time and gas driving around in circles trying to find a spot to park. And, I hope you are an expert at parallel parking. I have seen people parallel park their car into areas that measure exactly the dimension of their car. Makes you wish that you could just turn your wheels perpendicular to the sidewalk and just slide in; because as hard as it is to squeeze your way into those spots, it's just as hard to work your way out. And don't forget the traffic whizzing by you as you try to maneuver in and out of the spot. During my last visit, I had a hard time even parking in a grocery store parking lot.

The hills – The benefit of the hills of San Francisco is that they offer magnificent vistas of the city. If you're driving up and down those hill, you may catch a glimpse of them. If you are driving a standard shift car up and down those hills, you may have a nervous breakdown and the hell with the vistas! I mean, You are going up a hill that has a more than 45 degree angle and you have to stop because the car in front of you is stopped for a stop sign and the car behind you is 6” from your back bumper. Again, expertise is required here. Even automatic shifts require a little finesse. And if you are walking your sweet little “granddog” 3 times a day, you look at those hills with terror in your heart. You'd think I would lose some weight going up and down those hills, but noooo.

The litter – It breaks my heart to see a city as beautiful as San Francisco with such littered streets and sidewalks. Of course, it is no easy task to keep that city clean. Considering how many tourist visit San Francisco all year and how many come from areas where litter is just a way of life, it is no surprise that litter happens. Still, I wish there was a way to manage that. Because San Francisco is truly one of the jewels of our country.

The climate – Well, it's not that the climate is BAD. It's that it is not user-friendly. Some people cite Mark Twain as saying “ The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.” But it turns out that he really never did say that (Snopes). But anyone who has visited San Francisco in summer can understand the need for SOMEONE to say this. It's the fog. It rolls in and stays there. With no sun and the bay right there, it can get darn chilly and you will often find yourself in a rather windy spot as well. Luckily it is not always like that. In fact in any one day the climate can change radically – chilly in the morning, warm in the afternoon, cold in the evening. Bring sweaters, T-shirts and coats if you visit in summer.

Those Victorians – They are beautiful. Did I mention the 3 stories? Do you know what it is like to walk up one of those San Francisco hills to your house so that you can then climb the 3 stories to your condo or apartment? Great for your health! Exhausting too. And they have really high ceilings – like 10 to 12 feet high. In the kitchen, the upper cabinets go all the way up to that ceiling height as well. Works out great for storage, and if you're tall there is no problem.

The Ugly – Me.

Let's start with the streets of San Francisco. I haven't driven in the city for years, and I haven't driven a standard shift for years either. During my visit I had the occasion to deal with both at once. Luckily, the standard shift skill came back to me rather quickly. Even driving on the highways was relatively easy for me. But the city traffic was a trial. This is not all the fault of the city itself. I have absolutely no sense of direction whatsoever. And, I am not familiar with the streets of San Francisco as a whole. There are these little added lanes that allow you to make a turn and somehow avoid crashing with a cable car or bus. You need to know that ahead of time. You may not be able to take a left or a right when you want to. Good to know ahead of time as well. Be prepared to drive up a hill so steep that when you reach the top all you can see is the front of your car. No street. Just the front of your car – like a roller coaster ride – not for the faint of heart.

The parking would be comical to anyone observing me trying to park in San Francisco. I was never an expert at parallel parking. I would circle the blocks for 30 minutes just trying to find a space large enough that I could comfortably park and not be up or down a steep hill. Many times it would take me several tried to squeeze the car into a spot. And I would handle it with my usual aplomb – cursing, sweating, screaming – you know.

Have I mentioned the hills? Driving up and down the hills in standard shift car, not sure if I was on the right street or not was nerve-wracking. I reverted back to my religion on those hills. “Please, God, PLEEEEASE don't let me stall on this hill!!” Walking the hills was no better. Hey! I am an old lady and not in any shape to take on those hills! Should have gone to boot camp first to prepare for it. Unfortunately, Reese can sprint up them effortlessly. We managed to work out a pace that allowed her to get some amount of exercise with out killing me in the process. But then we got to the house (the Victorian that was converted into condos) and – damn! - now we have to climb the very steep stairs up to the third floor. All I can say is, I was worn out at the end of every day.

The climate – I was actually prepared for the climate. I had sweaters, a sweatshirt, sweatpants, socks, sneaks, shorts, T-shirts, dress slacks, a jacket, heels, sandals, you name it – I brought it with me. I wore the sweatpants and sweatshirt for the morning walks, dressier clothes and heels for the business sales calls, jeans and T-shirt for the late afternoon walks, and back to the sweatshirt for the evening walks. My hair, on the other hand, was NOT prepared for the climate. Along with the fog comes an element of humidity in the air. That equates to frizzy hair that borders on the more retro Afro do I once sported in the 80's. OK. No problem. I can manage that with a blow dryer and a flat iron. So what if it takes an hour to beat my hair into submission? It's worth it. But the wind is an entirely different matter. Wherever I was or which way I was facing, the wind was always blowing my hair in the exact opposite direction from which I so delicately styled it. It gave me Divy-divy hair. (In Aruba, they have trees that bend with the wind. The natives call them Divy-divy trees - “Our topography and vegetation are unusual for a Caribbean island. Divi-divi trees, easily recognized by their distinctive wind-sculpted shape, dot a landscape defined by miles of pristine white beaches and a rugged northeast coast.")

And no matter what time of day it was and what my corresponding outfit was for the weather at that time, by the time I finished walking the hills and climbing the stairs I was all sweaty. This gave birth to the aforementioned Afro look. Every day was a bad hair day.

The Victorians – You now, those 10 - 12 foot ceilings are really nice. The ample cabinets are nice. But I am only 4” 10” tall (ish). I found that while visiting my son and son-in-law's house, everything that I needed was at least 2 feet over my head. A cup for tea in the morning, plates for dinner, the pots and pans, paper for the printer, the laundry detergent, eco-friendly bags for grocery shopping. I decided to open up the 3-step step stool and just leave it open in the kitchen for the duration. I felt like I should somehow attach it to my neck and carry it around the condo with me.

What is my conclusion? It's HARDER to live in San Francisco than it is to live in San Diego. We San Diegans have it easy. Our hills are so manageable! The traffic on the highways can be bad but driving in the city is sooooo much easier than in San Francisco. Parking is available. Sure, you may have to pay to park in a lot or feed the meters, but at least you can PARK! Of course we do not have the elegant public transit system San Francisco has, but we do have a trolley system and buses. The climate is – well, you know, PERFECT. Even in winter we rarely have to bundle up. Sometimes it gets down to 60 degrees. We are FREEZING and light our fireplaces for warmth. But the real San Diegans are wearing shorts with those sweaters or sweatshirts. In July or August we get a little heat wave that offers a little humidity that lasts about 2 or 3 weeks. We whimper over it. “Oh, this HUMIDITY!!” Many of our homes have vaulted ceiling, but they are in the living room not the kitchen. I am really short, so I do occasionally need my step stool in my kitchen – but not for the every day things. I can reach them all by myself. And lousy haircut aside, my hair looks relatively normal every day – no Afro, no Divy-divy hair. So I plan to stay here in San Diego where the condition agree with my wimpy constitution.

But I will visit San Francisco any chance I get, to see my son and son-in-law, my granddog and that fabulous city with all the beauty, food, culture, architecture, and diversity it has to offer. Happy Pride San Francisco! You have so much to be proud about.

My Way of Showing Support For Marriage Equality

If you have looked at my site, you know my story.  I am the proud mother of a gay son who has been in a committed relationship for over 15 years.  And for all those years I have been frustrated when looking for a greeting card for my son and son-in-law.  Guess what?  They didn't exist.

Oh sure, I could find cards that were blank inside and had 2 turtles looking at each other on the front, or 2 giraffes, or whatever.  And then there are always the ones with the cartoon images on the front, but I am not a "cutesy" kind of mom.  There are also the cards you can find on the web with more - um - suggestive images on the front as well.  But then, I am not so much a "gutsy" kind of mom either.

I am just a middle-class, middle-aged mom who loves her son and who wants to be able to send him and my son-in-law a nice greeting card once in a while for their anniversaries, or the holidays, or (as was the case last September), their wedding.

So, I decided to just go for it and started my own greeting card business called A Little to the Left.  I call it that because my intent is that everything I do will be considered to be a "little to the left" of that which is considered to be "normal".  My first line of cards is my Gay Friendly cards wherein I offer Wedding/Commitment Ceremony cards and Anniversary cards.  As the year progressed, I offered Christmas cards, then Valentine's Day cards and now I have Mother's Day cards available to for the LGBT community as well as their friends and family.

Realizing that I could not possible be the only mother out there who had this problem, I joined PFLAG (Parents and Families of Lesbians and Gays) so that I could interact with others like me.  It was not so much that I was looking for support for myself.  It finally occurred to me that I might be able to offer support to others.  Joining this organization has been a real eye-opener for me.  It is so interesting to me to hear the stories of the other moms and dads and know so clearly what they are saying and feeling.  I find it amazingly comforting to belong to a group of like-minded people who are all seeking to reach out to each other.  The cool part of it all is that all of us there love our gay son, daughter, sister, brother, etc. 

We are now involved in a number of debates about marriage equality in several states. Massachusetts has legalized same-sex marriages for some time now.  Here in California, it was legalized for a short time last year.  Connecticut came next.  Then Iowa legalized same sex marriages and soon after was followed by Vermont.  Maine joined in shortly after that. Now New Hampshire is considering the issue.  And of course New York, Rhode Island and Washington, D.C. at least recognize those marriages.  But none of this comes easily for the LGBT communities in those states. Last year California gave the civil right to same-sex couples and in the same year took it away.  And then last week the state further added insult to injury when the state supreme court upheld Prop 8 denying same sex couples the right to be legally married. The folks in Iowa are now very concerned that the same thing will happen there.

For all you people out there who are so opposed to giving our gay and lesbian family members and friends the same civil right as any other American citizen, I have to ask - Why?  What does it cost you to have 2 people of the same sex who love each other and are committed to each other be legally married to each other?  Does it so threaten the strength of your own marriage that you fear it will fall apart altogether?  Do you love your husband or wife less now that same-sex couples are married?  Does it cost you money out of your pocket for them to have this civil right?  What exactly does it take away from you?

I constantly hear people argue that it's because that is the way it has always been.  Marriage is between a man and a woman.  But it hasn't always been just that way.  There was a time in our country when it could only between a man and a woman of the same race or religion.  But our society has evolved and those things changed.  And we all know that certain religious organizations condoned polygamy involving 1 man and many women.  If you want to talk about the history of marriage and its impact on society, I recommend you get a hold of the documentary called Tying the Knot to get some real perspective.

So what is the issue?  Some people say that marriage is designed for purposes of procreation.  OK.  So does that mean that if a straight couple gets married but cannot have children their marriage should be invalidated?  But if it is a physical problem as to why they cannot procreate, doesn't that put them in the same category as a same-sex couple?  What about a senior citizen couple?  Are you telling me that two 70-year olds who want to get married have to be able to procreate in order for their marriage to be sanctioned by the state?  What if a couple wants to get married but just don't want to have children?  How do we condone that kind of behavior?

Some people say they are concerned about the concept of redefining marriage.  Excuse me, but every time a couple gets divorced, they have by definition redefined marriage.  If marriage is to be defined as being between one man and one woman, should that mean that you get only one chance?   And if you get divorced and marry another, doesn't that add up to one man - two women, or one woman - two men?  My ex-husband got married four times and divorced three.  He fathered and left behind one child with each of his first three marriages.  But he was not gay, so I guess that's OK.

I was talking with a neighbor of mine recently about the whole same-sex marriage thing and he said.  "Well, you know what those people aren't considering is that if they get legally married, when they split up they have to get legally divorced!"  My response was, "Yes!  Just like everybody else!"

Of course, there are also the more ridiculous arguments.  I have heard people say that if we allow same sex couples to marry, then fathers will be able to marry their daughters and people will be able to marry farm animals and trees.  Trees?  Goats?  Well, I say if you can get a goat or a tree to sign the marriage certificate - then go for it.  And as for father's marrying their daughters, I hate to tell you this but that kind of thing is already going on in many parts of this country.  And if you only define marriage to be between one unmarried man and one unmarried woman, then a divorced father can marry his unmarried daughter, or niece or cousin, heck maybe even his goat depending on the family lineage.

Then there is the infamous Defense of Marriage Act approved by President Clinton.  Bill Clinton?  Defending marriage?  Wasn't he the guy who so notoriously violated the vows of his marriage all over the place including the White House?  So what are we defending marriage from?  Infidelity?  No.  Abandonment? No. Spousal abuse? No. Divorce? No.  Gays and lesbians? Yup!

I am sorry but I take this all very personally.  My son is gay.  I love him.  He is a great guy and so is his husband.  They are a wonderful couple.  They are kind, loving, generous, intelligent, hard-working, law-abiding, fun-loving and socially conscious.  They love and support each other.  They understand each other.  They share their goals and values.  They have been together for over 15 years and counting.  They have done a much better job of it than his father or I have done.  I was married only the one time - to the above mentioned serial marrying ex-husband who married four times.  As a matter of fact, when my and son-in-law celebrated their 14th anniversary, I called him to congratulate him mentioning that he had done a better job than his father or I had.  His response was, "Cumulatively!”

So I want someone to explain to me why they think my son should not have the same civil rights as any other American citizen.  I want you to explain to me why my son (or anyone else's son, daughter, sister, brother, father, mother, aunt, uncle, grandmother, grandfather or friend) should not have the same civil rights as anyone else just because they are gay or lesbian.

To put some perspective on this issue, let us consider that in the state of California Scott Peterson - a man who cheated on his pregnant wife, who murdered his wife and unborn child, who is sitting on death row right now - can be married, as long as he is not gay.  Charles Manson can be married in this state as well, as long as he is not gay.  On this issue alone, these two monsters have more civil rights than most gay and lesbian couples in California.

In my own small way I am trying to make a political statement with my Gay Friendly Greeting cards.  I am creating cards that a mother would be happy to buy, or a grandmother or any member of the straight community that wants to share in celebrating a significant event with their LGBT friend or family member.  My goal is to create a product that does not separate the LGBT community from the straight community, but rather to draw us together into one community of just PEOPLE.  We are all just people.  Our sexual orientation should have nothing whatsoever to do with it!

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Affiliations

PFLAG – Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays



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