Thursday, October 15, 2015

Why Coming Out Day Matters

5 years ago on National Coming Out Day I read a message posted in jest on an acquaintance's Facebook page by her long time girlfriend. It said: 

 "I have something to tell you. I want to be more than "just friends" because...I'm gay."

The conversation that followed was pretty incredible. People sharing experiences and telling folks that having these conversations with people they care about was a brave and courageous thing to do. The original poster wrote: 

"I really have had this conversation in the past, and it was hard and scary. It's great to be able to joke around now, but my heart goes out to everyone who is truly struggling to have this conversation. You can do it, and you are going to be ok!"

The thing is, I was struggling to have that exact conversation. I had developed an incredible friendship with a woman that for almost 6 months had felt more and more like a relationship. I didn't know if she was gay. I didn't really know if I was gay, though I had opened myself up to the possibility of being in a relationship with her. As far as I knew, she had no idea how I felt.  Which left the ball in my court. I had confided in a few friends, one who encouraged me to, in the words of the great Billy Joel, "Tell Her About It." 

After reading that Facebook conversation I decided to take the plunge. Late one night after a particularly lovely day with this friend I crafted a private Facebook message. (I'm an internal processor, that was all the bravery I could muster.) I typed and typed and sent the message late at night, after all reasonable people had gone to bed. I confessed to having a crush on her, to being scared about telling her, to being worried that it would ruin our friendship. Her response came the next day, it was honest and sweet, and basically said I need time. (She also rewarded me a bazillion "bravery points"). The following weekend she let me down. Two months later she admitted having feelings for me. Three months after that we really started dating. It took a while to get all of our ducks in a row, because this is hard work. Telling the world you are something other than straight is hard. Sometimes telling our families is really hard. Sometimes telling our employers or co-workers is hard. Sometimes telling our friends is hard. The list goes on and on. 

This is why we need to have Pride Days, and National Coming Out Days, and Spirit Days. We need to give people who feel safe and secure saying "I'm gay" or "I'm in love with this woman" to say it, and maybe it will give someone else the bravery to say it too. I'm so thankful for those few friends who encouraged me at the start to share my feelings, and extra grateful for the Facebook conversation that transpired between people I hardly knew, that gave me hope and courage. After Ali and I started dating (yes, it was Ali) and we made it "Facebook Official" I got several messages from women I knew confiding in me that they might have feelings for other woman. I was happy to be able to share my experience and tell them "you can do it, and you are going to be ok," and to pass on a few of my bravery points. 

Saturday, December 5, 2009

A Word of Thanks

Below is a letter I wrote to be incorporated into a quilt that some volunteers made earlier this year to show their love and appreciation for Camp Sunshine.

Camp Sunshine is a retreat in Casco, Maine where families who have critically ill children can go and have fun! The sessions are totally free for families, and is often the only respite any of them get while their children are ill. They also run two bereavement sessions each year for families whose children have lost their battle. Needless to say, everyone who goes to camp falls in love with camp.

Read my letter, and then read on to see how you can help!

I think too often it is the volunteers who get all the thanks around here,when in reality we should be thanking all of you for so many things.

We thank you for greeting us with giant hugs.

We thank you for letting us hear your stories.

We thank you for having the nerve to get on stage to sing and dance and let loose.

We thank you for running back to your rooms 100 times a day for bathing suits, towels and sneakers.

We thank you for unlimited text messaging plans so your children can be in contact with us year round.

We thank you for not getting upset when we let the kids “talk smack” on the volleyball court, when we feed them too many marshmallows, or keep them up all night during the camp out.

We thank you for giving us a run for our money in the prank call department.

We thank you for laughter, and we thank you for tears.

We thank you for giving us something to look forward to several times a year.

We thank you for sharing all of your children with us, the ones we have met, and the ones we only know in spirit.

We thank you for letting us hold your babies, and for letting us watch them grow up into wonderful young people.

Most importantly, we thank you for opening up your hearts, and your lives, and allowing us all to become family.

Camp Sunshine is truly an amazing place, but in order to keep offering award winning experiences year round we need YOUR help. My good friend Joey Cerato started a fundraiser 5 years ago (when we has just a tiny little boy). His idea was to get a few friends together, collect pledges and jump into the ocean on New Years Day. Sounds ridiculous, but his plunge alone has raised over $87,000 for Camp Sunshine, and it has inspired other people to do the same all over the country.

So what can you do? I'm not asking you to's seriously not fun at all. It's freezing and wet, and cold, and windy, and sandy, and just really gross in general. I do that part, because I know how important Camp Sunshine really is. All I need from you is a little money. I have set a goal of $500 this year, and think, with your help I can really do it. All you have to do is follow this link, type in your info and away you go. No donation is too small, or too big. Let me know if you have any questions! And THANK YOU all in advance!!
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Monday, September 21, 2009

A Letter from 12 Year-Old Erica

Recently I have acquired several rubber maid containers of old memorabilia that got left behind at my parents house. You know you are getting old when your parents drop off everything you had left at their house. (I suppose it could also be related to the divorce...but whatever.) ANYWAY, in these containers is everything I thought was important enough to save from middle school to my early college days. This has been nothing short of a hilarious adventure.

Some things in the bins include:
old birthday cards (including one were my dad wrote that I was 13, crossed it out and wrote 14)
the playbills to every show I've ever seen (there are lots)
my shot records (very handy)
many many many letters and postcards from friends
notes passed in church (did we EVER pay attention, or were we just good at multi-tasking?)
USM veiwbook, along with my acceptance letter
old photos
many pages of Japanese homework, and my full yearbook write up translated into Japanese (all of which I can read...but have NO IDEA what it means)

I've also found a stack of very special letters. You see, during youth group at the beginning of every year we all sat down and wrote letters to ourselves. The letters, as I remember were to reflect on the previous year, and look ahead to the next year. We were given some scripture verses to reflect on, and time to write these letters, which would be mailed to us at the beginning of the next year. The most interesting letter that I encountered (and the only one I would share with all of you) is written by 12 year-old me. Here it is, in it's entirety, without all the spelling mistakes, because I can't type like that.

January 8th, 1995
12 years old

Dear Erica,
1) Be Kind, treat others as I want to be treated
2) Love those who hate
3) Be nice to everyone (don't fight with family)
4) Keep room clean
5) Do all homework first
6) Be more patient
7) Don't always want (greedy) don't put myself first. Not that I really do.

This year I was confirmed into this church. I really like this church and the people too. My mom was pleased but my dad never was very religious, come to think of it I don't know if I even ever told him. We had a little luncheon with Aunt Sharon, Nana, and Aunt Nancy. I think I'm a good person, I try. I've gotten better over the years.

See (read) ya next year "96"
Erica around here it's Caca, Kuck or just Ka (will I have a new name?) 96=?+Answers

The back was the best part- I wrote only a few words, but they were the best words of all it said:

"Cool" Words as of January "95"
Anus (which I spelled Anis)

Was I the most awesome 12-year-old or WHAT?? I really just needed to share that with all of you, even if you don't laugh as hard as I have for the last 2 hours. Seriously though, why did I think it was a good idea to write anus on my church letter. WOW!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Cab Driver

Last weekend I went to Augusta to spend the weekend with my family and (most importantly) to see my nephews. I'd been planning on this trip for a few weeks since nephew #2 was born. I had been buying clothes and books to bring up for nephew #1's first birthday. At the beginning of September, I found a great deal on a snowsuit for nephew #1 and I was really excited to finally get to deliver it to him. (Even though 1 year old babies don't really care about snow suits).

On Friday afternoon I was, as usual, running behind schedule, and packing in a hurry. I was taking the new bus (only $13 to Augusta, and WAY less sketchy than Greyhound), and wanted to be sure to get there a bit early in case I misread the schedule or anything. I ended up taking the metro bus to the station, and half way there I realized that I had left the snowsuit hanging in my bedroom. I considered forgetting it and mailing it to them at a later time, but I REALLY was stuck on making sure they had it. (Besides what good was the red and brown hat without the snowsuit to match?) So I decided to go home and get it. Good thing I had left early! I could not take the metro bus to the apartment and get back in time, so I decided just to take a taxi home.

Generally, if I were to call a cab I would call ABC Taxi because the cabs are bright orange and easy to spot coming down the road. But as I went out of the station there were a line of taxis waiting to pick people up as they got off their bus, so I just got into the next available cab. I asked if the driver if he would take me to my apartment, wait outside for me to get something, and then bring me back to the bus station. (Do cab drivers usually do this?) He said yes, and off we went.

For some reason I sat in the front seat of the van, I don't ever do that, and I'm not sure why I did that day. As we started to drive I explained to the driver (Harry) my predicament, and we chatted about all sorts of things. (I also generally don't talk to cab drivers either). Harry was an older man, probably in his 60's, with grey hair, a plaid shirt, jeans, suspenders, and no teeth.

Eventually, he asked me where I worked and I told him about working in the day shelter, and he replied:"Oh, you might be seeing me over there soon." I said, "I hope not." He confessed that driving a taxi no longer paid the oil bill and he didn't know what to do. He said that he has been going to the food pantry in South Portland but that they only give out food once a month. I told him about our food pantry, and how we serve three meals a day for anyone who needs it. He asked tons of questions about where we were located and which entrance to use, and what to expect when he got there. At that moment I felt like I was exactly where I was supposed to be, and that maybe forgetting the snow suit wasn't much of a coincidence at all.

Conversation drifted to other things, but as I was gathering my things he seemed genuinely grateful for the information that I had given him. Before I left he gave me his business card and I gave him all the cash (about 3 times the cab fare) that I had and told him to have a good day.

I told this story to my dad and he insisted that I am too nice, and that Harry was probably telling those "sob stories" to everyone in hopes for a large tip, a thought that NEVER ONCE entered my mind. Either way I'm sure he needed that money more than I did.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Identity Crisis

I think I'm going nuts.

I was at the farmers market today during my lunch break and I heard someone yell "Amanda!" and I turned to respond. I am now answering to the name Amanda.

There's this really sweet older man at the shelter who thinks my name is Amanda. I don't know why, and I'm sure at some point I told him otherwise. However, sometimes things get really busy and you don't pay 100% attention to what is going on, and I think, on one of these occasions I must have responded to him calling me Amanda.

The thing is, he when he talks he uses people's names way too frequently. For example:

Erica: Hey Bob, How's it going today? (I changed his name to protect the innocent)
Bob: Hi Amanda, I'm great, Amanda. How are you, Amanda?
Erica: Pretty good, can I help you?
Bob: Yeah, Amanda, do you mind letting me into my locker?
Erica: Sure let me grab the keys.
Bob: Thanks a lot Amanda, I really appreciate that Amanda.

And on and on and on...

The thing is, he's so nice, and it's gone on for a few weeks now (maybe longer) so I don't know what to do about it. I'm sure he would be cool with it if I told him otherwise, but I'd feel silly because I've been answering to it for so long. (Apparently long enough that I'm responding to it in other places).

So, what do I do? What would you do? Part of me has no problem letting him call me Amanda, but sooner or later someone else might notice, and it could become awkward.

Either that or I'm going to start signing checks with "Amanda."

Never a dull moment!

Later Days Friends,

Erica (Unless you want to call me something else)

Repay the Gift