Monday, December 31, 2007

The Year's Departed

2007 Celebrity Roll Call

Dan Fogelberg
Singer and songwriter
Aug. 13, 1951 - Dec. 16, 2007

Joey Bishop
Comedian and Rat Pack member
Feb. 3, 1918 - Oct. 17, 2007

Lady Bird Johnson
Former first lady,
wife of President Lyndon Johnson
Dec. 22, 1912 - July 11, 2007

Evel Knievel
Motorcycle daredevil
Oct. 17, 1938 - Nov. 30, 2007

Anna Nicole Smith
Model, actress and TV personality
Nov. 28, 1967 - Feb. 8, 2007

Joel Siegel
Film critic
July 7, 1943 - June 29, 2007

Wally Schirra
March 12, 1923 - May 3, 2007

Sean Taylor
NFL player
April 1, 1983 - Nov. 27, 2007

Charles Nelson Reilly
Jan. 13, 1931 - May 27, 2007

Dick Wilson
Actor best known as Charmin's
'Mr. Whipple'
July 30, 1916 - Nov. 19, 2007

Porter Wagoner
Country music singer
Aug. 12, 1927 - Oct. 28, 2007

Julia Carson
July 8, 1938 - Dec. 15, 2007

Jack Valenti
Motion Picture Association of America president
Sept. 5, 1921 - April 26, 2007

Paul Tibbets
Enola Gay pilot
Feb. 23, 1915 - Nov. 1, 2007

Beverly Sills
Operatic soprano
May 25, 1929 - July 2, 2007

Deborah Kerr
Sept. 30,1921 - Oct. 16, 2007

Tom Poston
Oct. 17, 1921 - April 30, 2007

Sidney Sheldon
Feb. 11, 1917 - Jan. 30, 2007

Brooke Astor
Philanthropist and socialite
March 30, 1902 - Aug. 13, 2007

Norman Mailer
Jan. 31, 1923 - Nov. 10, 2007

The Fabulous Moolah
Professional wrestler
July 22, 1923 - Nov. 2, 2007

Ingmar Bergman
Film director
July 14, 1918 - July 30, 2007

Ike Turner
Nov. 5, 1931 - Dec. 12, 2007

Johnny Hart
'B.C.' cartoonist
Feb. 18, 1931 - April 7, 2007

Jerry Falwell
Televangelist and Moral Majority founder
Aug. 11, 1933 - May 15, 2007

Merv Griffin
TV host and Hollywood mogul
July 6, 1925 - Aug. 12, 2007

Marcel Marceau
Mime artist
March 22, 1923 - Sept. 22, 2007

Art Buchwald
Oct. 20, 1925 - Jan 17, 2007

Leona Helmsley
Hotel magnate
July 4, 1920 - Aug. 20, 2007

Brad Delp
Boston lead singer
June 12, 1951 - March 9, 2007

Robert Goulet
Singer and actor
Nov. 26, 1933 - Oct. 30, 2007

Henry Hyde
U.S. representative (Illinois)
April 18, 1924 - Nov. 29, 2007

Yvonne De Carlo
Sept. 1, 1922 - Jan. 8, 2007

David Halberstam
April 10, 1934 - April 23, 2007

Liz Claiborne
Fashion designer
March 31, 1929 - June 26, 2007

Don Ho
Musician and entertainer
Aug. 13, 1930 - April 14, 2007

Phil Rizzuto
Baseball great
Sept. 25, 1917 - Aug. 13, 2007

Bob Evans
Restauranteur and businessman
May 30, 1918 - June 21, 2007

Tammy Faye Messner
Televangelist and TV personality
March 7, 1942 - July 20, 2007

Tom Snyder
TV host
May 12, 1936 - July 29, 2007

Kurt Vonnegut
Nov. 11, 1922 - April 11, 2007

Arthur Schlesinger
Oct. 15, 1917 - Feb. 28, 2007

Jane Wyman
Actress and first wife of Ronald Reagan
Jan. 5, 1917 - Sept. 10, 2007

Luciano Pavarotti
Operatic tenor
Oct. 12, 1935 - Sept. 6, 2007

Richard Jeni
Stand-up comedian and actor
April 14, 1957 - March 10, 2007

Tommy Newsom
Musician and backup bandleader on 'The Tonight Show'
Feb. 25, 1929 - April 28, 2007

Thomas Eagleton
Sept. 4, 1929 - March 4, 2007

Chris Benoit
Professional wrestler
May 21, 1967 - June 2007

Donald Young
Trinity UCC Choir Director
Elementary School Teacher
April 5, 1960 - Dec. 23, 2007

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Auld Lang Syne

2007 is almost over! Needless to say this was a life changing year for Monica and me.
Things will never be the same. A year full of loss and learning and so much more.
A year I'd never want to repeat but never want to forget.

Thank you all again for the care and support. Thanks for the calls checking on us, the shared stories, shared tears and most of all for the laughter.

Now for Aretha and Billy's Auld Lang Syne. We going to church up in here. Sway with me yall!

Aretha Franklin and Billy Preston

Friday, December 28, 2007

Benazir Bhutto 1953-2007

I was saddened to hear that Benazir Bhutto, the only woman to ever run a Muslim nation, was gunned down, murdered, assassinated on Thursday. I am sad because since her return to Pakistan in October of this year, and her decision to run for Prime Minister again, I have learned of her history and seen many interviews and actually came to like this woman because of her obvious courage and the hope and stability that I hoped she could bring to that nation. A nation that by it's own culture is cut up into many sects, and has been politically cut up into many factions including military rule. A nation armed with nuclear weapons. This is a terrorist organization's dreamland. Al-Qaida thrives in Pakistan now. Chaos is their friend.

Benazir Bhutto was educated at Radcliffe and Harvard and spent much time in the U.S.
She said she wanted her nation to experience the freedom we take for granted. Freedom to criticize the president, to even take him down by impeachment. She wanted freedom for Pakistan. She said she wanted to bring political moderation, end the terrorist stronghold, and help the desperately poor in her nation.
So now on the morning of her funeral, grief stricken, angry Pakistani people are in the streets. Their liberal Pakistan Peoples Party candidate who wanted democracy is gone. We will never know if Benazir Bhutto would have been successful at the polls or in fulfilling her dream of bringing moderation and stability to her homeland.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas!

Jackie and Monica

Shopping in Chicago

The holiday season weather is always an adventure and you never know what to expect here. Saturday it was a balmy 50 degrees. All the snow and ice was melting making it a bit sloppy but sloshing around is OK as long as it's warm. But it was also very dreary, no sun all day.
Needless to say, Monica and I will have a hard Christmastime this year without our moms. Today is Monica's birthday. Happy Birthday Sweetie! Her mom always called her at 7:20 am (the time of her birth) with an overly dramatic happy birthday song. So many little hurdles to get through, but in time they will hopefully become fond remembrances.
While decorating the house, I pulled out the beautiful, intricate, lacy snowflakes hand crocheted by Jojo.
These are now of course little treasures and hopefully won't continue to cause a major meltdown in years to come.

Back to Chitown shopping conditions being weird, Sunday, it was 18 degrees and snowing and blowing something fierce. Of course some folks were still dressed for balmy and looking all shocked. Meteorologist love Chicago because unlike LA we have actual weather and folks really depend on them.

Wherever you are, I hope you're all toasty and comfy waiting for Santa tonight and I hope you all get your holiday wishes.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

We Three Queens

We all know about the Three Kings who followed a star that led them to the Christ child. Here are the men.

Well, here is some old Christmas humor but, it's new to me and very funny.

Wise Women
You know what would have happened if it had been three Wise WOMEN instead of Three Wise Men, don't you?

They would have asked for directions, arrived on time, helped deliver the baby, cleaned the stable made a casserole, and brought practical gifts.

Shepards pie pehaps?

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Please Come Home For Christmas

The Eagles released this record in 1978. It's my favorite non-traditional Christmas song. It's full of soul and warmth and blues and hope. I love the Eagles.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

With a Lot of Help From My Friends

When you are faced with circumstances in which you have no control and you can't even begin to explain your feelings, it helps when someone who has been there wraps their arms around you. It helps to know friends have you in their thoughts and prayers and check in on you. I am very lucky to have good friends. Believe me, it means so much.
My friend Alex lost her mom Mimi, unexpectantly. She had no time to prepare. Although I had that time, I was still not prepared. There probably is no such thing as being prepared. But Alex, having had more time to deal with the loss of her mom, has written a lovely post to help me understand what I'm feeling and give me hope. As she does so often Alex reminds us of our humanity and how much alike we all are. It's a lovely tribute to both our mom's, has some fun memories and a great perfomance of Jojo's favorite song.
Thanks Alex.

Thursday, December 06, 2007


Monday night Dec 3rd
I'm sitting here alone with my mama in this hospice suite. She is at the end of her life, her breathing is very shallow now. Today everyone in our immediate family was in this room all day. Now they have gone home to get food and clean clothes. I'm in my jammys and wearing mom's robe. She is so peaceful now.

I feel weirdly numb. I'm exhausted that's for sure but I never dreamed I could do this so calmy, so acceptingly...this is Jojo after all. My nephew Nolen, had questions and truly believed there must be something else we could do for his granny. He wanted no stone left unturned. So, he went over to the next building to see mom's doctor who has such a wonderful report with mom and our family. In the oncology office while waiting to discuss his 76 year old grandmother, Nolen talked with a young college student waiting to find out if he had cancer. After talking to the doctor about Jojo, he expressed concern for this young man fearfully waiting in the next room.
When Nolen returned to mom's room he seemed now satisfied that all possible had been done for Jojo.

It's funny how a simple statement from a doctor can change the world. When mom was first diagnosed, the oncologist said simply, without compassion, "you have about six months" period. No treatment options or anything. Oh, he did take time to remind her that well, you knew smoking was bad. Our family doc recommended Dr. Mark Kozloff. After examining mom, Dr. Kozloff said simply with a hand on her shoulder, "we're going to help you". This man never promised a cure but promised to give her time, maybe five years or more. More time to be with her family, do her crossword puzzles, watch her precious classic movies and Andy Griffith and Beaver and Lucy and something new she loved, reading blogs. Time enough to get to know her great-grandson Nolen jr. and to pick names for the new baby due in April.

After office hours, Dr. K came over to the hospice to talk with our family. He and Jojo were quite a pair. They loved to tease each other. He was very fond of her and he was her hero. He not only talked to us about what was happening but about what my mom and our family has meant to him. He showed us his new grandchild and shared with us his family battles with cancer. We could see how hard it was to talk about and that he knew first hand what we were going through. He loved the fact that mom had named the new baby. Before he left, Dr. Kozloff thanked Nolen for his concern and assured him the young man in his office would be just fine.

While waiting for the family to come back that night, I put on Wynona Judd's, I Want to Know What Love Is. Jojo loved that song. We all slept in snatches watching mom's breaths get farther apart until the next morning with us holding her hands they peacefully stopped. Sounds cliche, but it was a beautiful passing. We were with her for a while before calling the nurse. Bill came in and lead us in prayer. Other family members came and we had prayer again, had coffee and made calls-all with mom right there. Writing this, I can't believe that happened.

Marcellus is 9. He has had to grow up and step up a bit during his great-granny's illness. Having raised him from a toddler, she was his parent and his champion. He is the one she dreaded leaving the most. I walked into the room and found Marcellus talking intently to his granny stroking her hands. I gave him his privacy. We weren't sure about how to handle his being so close to a death. It was sad but it was so peaceful and seemed so natural, not scary at all. Can't explain it. He asked questions, cried and said his goodbyes. We all did and then as always for family gatherings, we went to Jojo's house.

Friday, November 30, 2007

World AIDS Day 2007

Tomorrow is the 19th annual World AIDS Day.
Nineteen years of celebrating this day and it continues to be so very important. Why?
Well, I cannot begin to say it better or more concise than Alexandra does.
Please check it out.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

November 27th

Best date of the year!
Well, in my most humble opinion it's special.
Today, I share my birthday with three cousins, Lavern, Kenneth and Suzan. Happy happy joy joy, yall!!!

We share this date with some other cool folks as well.

Sheila O'Malley

Francois d'Aubigne Maitenon - 1635
French writer and courtesan.
"The true way to soften one's troubles is to solace those of others."

Charles A Beard - 1874
US Historian

Gail Sheehy - 1937
"Creativity can be described as letting go of certainties."

James Agee - 1909

Bruce Lee - 1940
Martial Artist/actor

Jimi Hendrix -1942
"'Scuse me while I kiss the sky"

Bill Nye - 1955
Science guy

David Merrick - 1911
American stage producer

Buffalo Bob Smith - 1917
Television host Howdy Doody Show

Marshall Thompson - 1925

Eddie Rabbit - 1941

James L. Avery Sr. - 1948

Caroline Kennedy - 1957
Journalist, JFK's daughter

Robin Givens - 1967

Jaleel White - 1976

These people Died on 11-27
Eugene O'Neill - 1953
US playwright
"Obsessed by a fairy tale, we spend our lives searching for a magic door and a lost kingdom of peace."

John Carradine - 1988

Baby Face Nelson - 1934
American gangster

Harvey Milk - 1978
American politician (assassinated)

Emperor Xiaozong of China was born Nov 27, 1127
How 'bout that.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Transgender Awareness

Alexandra Billings has posted a wonderfully informative and fun series of videos and pictures. The info includes a Transgender history timeline. However, I did notice there was an item missing from the timeline.
In 2003, Alexandra Billings in the ABC TV movie, Romy and Michelle-A New Beginning, became the first Transgender female to play a Transgender female on television. And now with subsequent roles she is the most seen Transgender female on TV.

Along with the pictures and videos, Alex's personal comments are gems. She speaks of something I remember her saying to me many years ago - that she does not feel that she was born in the wrong body. At first that confused me. I'd never heard that attitude before. But she explained that she feels she was born Transgender, and there's nothing wrong about it. I got it.
I love that, I understand it, and I believe it.

So please, go learn and enjoy those faces and the diversity, from the brilliant Lynn Conway to the amazing strut of Chili Pepper. Thanks Alex!
Here are just a few of my favorite pics and peeps.

Alexandra and the Grey's Anatomy cast accept GLAAD Award for an outstanding GLBT relevant episode.

Trans rapper Katastrophe

Singer Josh Klipp with dancer and girlfriend Sarah, on the Tyra Banks show.

One of the nicest people I know, Honey West.

Transgender Day Of Remembrance November 20, 2007

In November of 1998, Rita Hester, a Transgender woman in Boston, Massachusetts, answered a knock at her door. Instead of a friend, however, the person at the door was an assailant who forced entry into her apartment and stabbed her over twenty times. Rita's death that night proved to be the event that focused the attention of transgender people everywhere on the terrible violence often inflicted on trans people.

Beginning in 1999, a day in November has been set aside as a day to remember our brothers and sisters killed during the past year and honor those like Rita who died in previous years because of gender identity/expression ignorance and hatred. The annual Transgender Day of Remembrance also serves to raise public awareness about hate crimes against trans people. Many cities worldwide hold vigils and memorial services. Whether standing up at a vigil or just raising your own awareness, we all need to stand with this community against this violence.

We should remember that hatred kills in many ways.

Ronnie Antonio Paris was only three years old when he died in January 2005. Ronnie Antonio was beaten to death by his father, Ronnie Paris, who felt the child was behaving "like a sissy" and was terrified the child would grow up to be less than a "real man." Ronnie Antonio Paris died of brain injury from repeated head trauma.

Tyra Hunter died in 1995 after a car accident due to the insensitive non-treatment of emergency techs who discovered she was transexual.

Maribelle Reyes
Location: Houston, Texas
Cause of Death: AIDS; Reyes was turned away from
several treatment centers due to her transgender status.
Date of Death: August 30, 2007

The TransGriot, and she truly is, has a series of excellent posts for this 9th annual Day of Remembrance:
There's Something About "Deception"
HRC, Keep Your Moneygrubbing Hands Off Our TDOR
Transgender Children FAQ (excellent post)
Making Change: The Cost of Being Transgender
Disposable People
Transgender Day of Remembrance- Peeps We've Lost
(There are very few that make the media and so very many that do not. In the Remembering our Dead series, we learn some of their faces and stories.)

Saturday, November 17, 2007


This is a gift to women in poetic form, by Maya Angelou. (Thanks Dustin)


A set of screwdrivers, a cordless drill, and a black lace bra...

One friend who always makes her laugh...
And one who lets her cry...

A good piece of furniture not previously owned by anyone else in her

Eight matching plates, wine glasses with stems, and a recipe for a
meal that will make her guests feel honored...

A feeling of control over Her destiny...

How to fall in love without losing herself...

How to quit a job,
Break up with a lover,
And confront a friend without ruining the friendship...

When to try harder and when to walk away...

That she can't change the length of her calves, the width of her
hips, or the nature of her parents...

That her childhood may not have been perfect...but it's over..

What she would and wouldn't do for love or more...

How to live alone...even if she doesn't like it...

Whom she can trust, whom she can't, and why she shouldn't take it

Where to it to her best friend's kitchen table, or a charming
inn in the woods...when her soul needs soothing...

What she can and can't accomplish
In a day...
A month...
And a year...

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Dr. Donda West

Donda West 58, mother of hip-hop star Kanye West died Saturday in Los Angeles. Dr. West was a retired professor and former chairwoman at (Monica's and my Alma Mata), Chicago State University English department. Our thoughts and prayers go out to our Chicago homeboy and his family.

Friday, November 09, 2007

ENDA Passes the House

The United States House of Representatives, in a 235 -184 vote in the early evening of November 7, passed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which provides federal protection barring workplace bias against gays and lesbians.

32 years after the first gay civil rights measure was introduce by NY Rep. Bella Abzug, ENDA became the first GLB bill approved by a house of Congress. Openly gay Representative Barney Frank can celebrate this victory. He worked hard for it. Frank is joined by Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi and GLBT organization, the Human Rights Campaign, in declaring this a victory.

Not celebrating is ENDA co-sponsor Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin, the only other openly LGBT House member. She is not celebrating because the version of ENDA that passed, excluded provisions barring discrimination based on gender identity and expression that were originally in the bill when introduced. The protections for Transgender Americans were extracted from the bill pretty much for expediency. Because according to Frank, it would be easier to get it through.
Rep. Baldwin fought for a Transgender inclusive bill. Perhaps she doesn't believe in using the time and money and talents and numbers and shoulders of Trans people to climb up, then leave them dangling by their fingertips with your foot in their face, with only some lame promise about going to get a ladder. "We'll be back for you. Be patient. Hang on. Oops, sorry, watch your fingers".

Representative Baldwin knows that Transgender people have been there from the beginning,(hell, they were the beginning) standing with GLB Americans and that they actually need these protections more. They are now left to struggle alone. And now thanks to this betrayal from their supposedly own community, fuel is added to the fire of those who believe gender identity is a false issue and doesn't need addressing at all by law.
If your own kicks you to the curb.....

In a floor debate before the bill went to a vote, Congressman Frank said.
"There are people who are your fellow citizens who are being discriminated against. Please don’t turn your back on them."
How did he get the balls to say that?

What was accomplished by rushing to pass a watered down (even in it's GLB protections) Trans exclusive bill that caused a hurtful, divisive riff in the GLBT community? This law still has a mountain to climb in the Senate and no chance to be signed by Bush in any form. The best hope for ENDA is in 2009 with a hopefully more liberal Senate and a Democratic president. So why turn your back on your own for such a shallow gain?? This was a lose/lose endeavor.

For a Transgender point of view check the Transgriot's excellent post and be sure to read the thoughtful responses.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Ahhh Sweet Mystery of Life

I've been thinking a lot about the beauty of life in all it's phases, even the one that sucks. My mom, Jojo, is now in hospice care. I had to learn what that meant and it scared the hooey out of me at first. But now I understand that it is as much about living as well as possible, for as long as possible, as it is about dying a peaceful dignified death. It's about family coming together to enable her to leave this world feeling peace and love. I've learned about the physical part and the emotional-spiritual release part, but you are never prepared and it still scares the hooey outta me.

Jojo, who has always been the boss of this clan from the great-grands to her husband, (who will be just pitiful), are all trying to carry on as normal as if this is not hanging over us.
My mother is feisty and smart as all hell and thinks she's a comedian and never lets us forget she's still the mom. She decided for her third go around with cancer, that she wanted no more chemo and was inexplicably calm and brave. "Let whatever's going to happen, happen", she said. Now, she is doing so well, it's confused her, made her anxious and fearful. We and the hospice social worker determined when talking to her that she may have been ready but now she doesn't feel like she's going anywhere. After being assured that it was perfectly OK to feel fine, and normal to have anxieties, she is better. She still gets anxious more quickly than usual and we still have to assure her that it's OK that she's not in pain or feel like she's dying. Of course she doesn't know what that feels like. Is it agony or warm and comfortable? Confusion. She said she woke up feeling so "warm and comfortable" she thought something was "sneaking up on her". To which my sister Marcia, quickly replied, "yeah that was me". This got her some rolled eyes. Mom had been uncomfortable and in pain, so now with the pain patch and other adjustments, she is feeling pretty good. But with all her calm bravery in deciding to enter hospice, she is scared. We are too.
Monica's mom had a stroke in February and died in May. But, she was not awake and communicating. So, I tell you friends, I've never gone through anything like this before and I know it will get more intense to say the least.

It's remarkable how in these situations everyone does (or does not) do their part, how wounds heal or are opened. My sister has been wonderful. I can feel an old closeness returning in our working together for our mom. We are quite different people and have many issues. We are working through some and around some, but feeling an old, or is it a new appreciation for each other. That's a gift. So, I am trying to count the gifts in this here situation and it gets hard sometimes. Thank goodness my family is so full of tricksters and comics. Jojo being the main one.