For President, I support…

So if you know me at all, you know how political I am. I do tend to lean towards one party over the other, but I often split my vote with each party, and have even been known to vote for the Libertarian candidate. As most of you know, I have met and listened to nine candidates for President this cycle.

In years past I have often written blogs supporting a candidate from each party. I am not crazy enough to believe that everyone votes on merit and not party, therefore I know many of my friends will always vote R or D. In 2010 I wrote a blog supporting Nikki Haley over the other Republicans in the race. That year I also was very vocal in my support for Vincent Sheheen in both the Democratic Primary and in the General Election.

I give you that background for two reasons. First, to prove I’m not someone who always sides with one party or always supports the “establishment”, “most liberal”, or insert any other line you would like, candidate.

This year is different though. Politics in 2016 is not the same as it was in 2008 or even 2010. This seems to be the year of “huuuggggggee” politics. The year of outlandish comments. The year of “crazy” politics.

Rather than a full blog on each of the two candidates I could see voting for, this year I am just doing this blog. This year I will just mention the runner up in this paragraph. If I were to vote in the Republican primary I think I would have to vote with Jeb! or Marco. We still have about a month, but for now those are a close tie. Marco has a leg up, but Jeb! isn’t totally out of the picture. In fact, if either of those two actually become the Republican nominee, I may infact vote for them in November. Assuming my real pick isn’t on the ballot.

Now.. for the good stuff.

In 2008, I was a very proud Hillary delegate. I adore Bill Clinton. I never really drank the Obama kool-aid so to speak. I admitted defeat once President Obama had the majority and have been proud some of his initiatives. At the same time though, several things during his Presidency has bothered me. Not all of those things have been his fault, such as the growing divide in the two parties.

Hillary Clinton has an outstanding resume. She is a true statesman and is very accomplished. Unfortunately for me, she has become too political.

Bernie Sanders on the other hand is someone outside of the “beltway” so to speak. While I do not agree with every position he has, and do still have a few questions about how some of his proposals would be funded, at the end of the day it is about something bigger than that. For me, Sanders represents a change from the everyday politican. Unlike Hillary, he has been reluctant to criticize her and has proposed to run ON his ideas, not AGAINST his opponent.

Bernie Sanders has filled large venues than Donald Trump and has raised far more money. Yet, for some reason, the media ignores him. In my opinion they ignore him largely because he has been viewed as a long shot, as well as the fact that he doesn’t make for good tv. If you truly look into his campaign though, he represents something different from all of the other candidates.

The truth is, our middle class now represents less than 1/2 of our population. This is the first time in modern history this has happened. While Secretary Clinton may not be directly responsible for this, her votes and actions as a Senator and First Lady have helped shrink the middle class.

In short, Bernie Sanders starts from a better position than Hillary Clinton is currently in. His campaign has been ahead of her on campaign positions all along and her campaign has been forced to follow behind. It is my belief, that if Bernie Sanders looked like Martin O’Malley, he would be a slam dunk to win. My hope is that more people truly research the candidates this year, looking into their past campaign positions, and make educated voting decisions.

Having done the above. I support Bernie Sanders as the Democratic nominee for President.

3nottrans

James in a dress.

“We are products of our past, but we don’t have to be prisoners of it.”
Rick Warren

     There are a few things I am very passionate about in my life.  All of those things are somehow shaped by my past.

     I am passionately loyal to my friends. I have a fear of abandonment that is arguably related to my childhood. As a result of my fear of abandonment, I have developed the ability to just totally cut people out of my life as soon as my mind raises a red flag that I am about to get hurt or abandoned. I say it is one of my greatest flaws. It is a form of protection where I avoid being hurt by isolating myself. Those who find themselves in my inner circle will tell you I can cling heavily but I can also totally shut and lock the door. I am so afraid of being alone that I often find myself alone because I push people away. Funny how that works.

     I am passionate about finding a cure for Alzheimers. I think about my grandmother daily. She had a huge impact on my life. Deeply religious, kind, and loving; she is a huge part of my life and who I am today. However, less than a month before she died she did not know who I was. I had always said I would lose it if that ever happened, and when it did I was in total shock.  Fortunately a few minutes later, once she started talking a bit, she was asked again if she knew who I was and she said “Jamie!” as if she was offended we thought she may not have known. I spent most weekends with her growing up. I remember telling her one day that I like apple butter, a comment I regretted later, after she decided every single day when I arrived home from school, she would have toast and apple butter waiting for me when the bus dropped me off at her house. Not having the heart to tell her I was tired of apple butter, I continued to eat it everyday, and I have not had it once since the last time I arrived at her house after school. So much of who I am, the want to help others, my ability to see both sides of all issues, my belief in God, comes from her. Alzheimers took her away from me. Now my other grandmother is staring to go through the same process. If Alzheimers is genetic… well… I don’t have much hope of avoiding it.

   And I am passionate about the Julie Valentine Center. 17% of all women in the US will find themselves the victim of a rapist. 17%. That is a huge number. 3% of all males in the US will also be a victim. A much smaller number but the impact it has on that 3% is huge. Rape victims are 3 times more likely to suffer from depression and 4 times as likely to comment suicide. 6 times as likely to suffer from PTSD. 13 times more likely to be alcoholics and 26, yes, 2-6, times more likely to abuse drugs. Those statistics are part of why I choose to support the Julie Valentine Center so passionately, formerly the Greenville Rape Crisis and Child Abuse Center, in the hopes that future victims, both male and female, will have the courage to seek help and report their perpetrators. If JVC can stop one victim from ending their life, or take one perpetrator off of the street, therefore saving future victims, then my time and energy is worth it. JVC offers multiple levels of support for sexual assault victims, young and old, male and female. Serving roughly 1,000 victims per year, the Julie Valentine Center depends on fundraising from the community to continue their mission. 1,000 victims per year. Imagine that number. Think about how many people you interact with per day and then realize that statistically, 1 in 5 of those people will be the victim of a sexual assault in their lifetime. Greenville County needs a well funded Julie Valentine Center, so that the children that show up there daily, can get the help they desperately need.

     My goal this year is to raise at least $2,000. While I would hope to raise more, I only have two weeks to hit my goal. And while I always try to have some fun with hitting my goal, the cause is very close to my heart.

     This year, if I hit my $2,000 goal in one week, so by Friday July 24th, I will run the 5k in a dress. If I hit $3,000 I will run the entire 5k in a dress AND heels. So… go to www.SupportJames.com and chip in. Help me help others, and know that you are helping make a difference. Let’s have a little fun but not forget this is a very serious subject. Give what you can… it all adds up! 🙂 If everyone who reads this only gives $20, I should hit my goal easily.

3nottrans

Charleston Massacre Truths

What is wrong with our country? What about our culture makes someone think it is somehow okay to kill innocent civilians inside of a house of worship? Why does this happen so much in the US? President Obama is right, he has addressed the country after mass shootings too many times: 14 times to be exact, 14.

I used to think it was all about guns. Limit access to guns and you limit these events. And while I still feel that is somewhat true, I think the issue is much, MUCH larger and needs to be addressed. The gun used in Charleston was a legally obtained gun. The gunman reloaded five times because he was not using a high capacity clip.  A clip that would have been illegal under the Bush era assault rifle bill. Even if Obama, who is softer on gun control than his predecessors, were as tough on guns as previous administrations.

What happened in Charleston was race related pure and simple. The gunman had a Confederate States of America tag on the front of his car, is wearing a pro-apartheid shirt in his Facebook profile picture, and picked Emanuel AME Church to carry out his attack.  The church is two hours from his home and is a church which has a longer history in the civil rights movement than most churches in America, certainly a longer history than any other church in the south.

Racism is not dead. Racism is a virus, a virus that has the ability to lay dormant for years. Racism, like many other viruses, is not talked about, but like those viruses, racism spreads far quicker when it is not spoken about – when it does not see the light of day. The KKK knew this which is why they had a secret coded way of speaking to each other and the way they hid their faces. Racism, while being allowed to quietly fester, has spread like an STD throughout our country.

Racism has been consistently used against President Obama. Racism has been covered over in our own state as “history”. Today, right now, the Confederate battle flag is flying, full-staff mind you, at the South Carolina capital building. Can you imagine a Nazi flag flying at the German capital because it is part of “history”? Supporters of the flag are right, it is part of history, a treasonous history, but the flag did nothing to hurt anyone, it just flew. The flag is a symbol: a symbol of racism in this country. The flag is a symbol of white supremacy, which is still fends off attempts to remove it from the state capital.  It is almost as if the old white men in our capital building think removing the flag somehow lets the black man win. That damn flag needs to be removed, and it needs to be removed now.

Is it any wonder people kill other people when even our politicians and media talking-heads act as if the President of the United States hates America? They act as if him having a law passed that gives everyone access to healthcare is somehow treasonous? They call him a dictator because Congress passed, by a majority, a bill they disagree with? A bill that when proposed by Republicans in the past had been supported?

Is it any wonder people kill each other when politicians put bulls-eyes on members of Congress in media images? When Donald Trump, a republican presidential candidate, says in his first speech as a candidate that Mexicans coming into the US are rapist and murderers – adding at the end that he is “sure some of them are good people”?

Donald Trump is not to blame. Barack Obama is not to blame.  Politicians are not to blame. That stupid ass flag is not to blame. Grand Theft Auto is not to blame. Together, however, they all own a bit of blame. We ALL have a bit of blame. If you have ever called a white person a cracker, a black person a nigger, or a gay person a fag, you have a bit of blame because you have perpetrated hate: even if you it under the cover of a joke or the lyrics of a song.

The shooter said he felt he had to do kill these people, while reloading his gun, and said of black people: they “rape our people and are taking over our country and have to go”. Where did he hear that? In South Carolina it is fairly easy to find radio show talking heads who quietly spread this falsehood.  They further claim Obama and the democrats are taking over, and that they are evil; that blacks are thugs who shoot, rape, and kill people and are to be feared. These thoughts are so carefully and subtly woven into the cloth of their shows as to be unnoticed and the view is spread around.

We need to start talking about the race issue and call out racism where we see it. Call out politicians for using inflammatory rhetoric. Call out friends for quietly helping the virus of racism spread. We need to stop being afraid to talk about issues, stop hiding things, and for God’s sake, stop flying that damn flag. We do need to have a discussion on guns; however, one that doesn’t involve the NRA or any other group of lobbyist that have a million dollar slush fund to threaten law makers.

We need to speak the truth. This thug was a racist and a terrorist. This person was evil. This person is not an anomaly though, he may be the exception to the rule, but he is not the only one. He is part of the virus that is spreading though our state like the kudzu that spreads across our fields.

I chose the image connected to this blog for a reason.  It was taken June 18th, 2015 in front the South Carolina Capital. It shows the American and South Carolina flag flying at half-staff, in mourning.  It also shows a symbol of racism flying high on it’s staff, proud, as if it knows one if it’s racist children has carried out a horrible crime against the Union, as if it is proud to see the Star Spangled Banner’s spirit broken.

3nottrans

Dean Smith Was My Grandfather

Growing up I loved my grandfather.  He could do no wrong in my eyes my mom once said.  I remember on more than one occasion him asking me, in front of others, “Who is your favorite basketball team?”, to which I always replied, “Carolina”.  The follow up question was always, “NC State or UNC?” and I would always replied with “The TarHeels!”. Then that January morning came when my mom came to get me out of school. She was picking me up about 20 minutes early, something she never did.  My mom very rarely took me to school or picked me up, so when the teacher received a call in the room saying my mom would be there in just a second, I should have known something was wrong.  We drove home, quiet I remember.  I couldn’t tell she had been crying but when we got home and my grandmother was there, then I knew something was wrong.  I remember sitting on the couch and her hugging me and my grandmother hugging me and both crying, saying “your grandfather died”.  The gravity of those words did not hit me.  Mostly because at that point I did not ever remember my grandfather, at least not my moms dad. So I was sad for them, but wasn’t sad for his loss, I didn’t know him.  It wasn’t until another minute or two passed, my mother possibly realized I hadn’t reacted the way she thought I would, that she said, “do you want to go to your Memow’s and be with her?”  Then it hit me.  She meant my Pawpaw!, the man who referred to me as his “Red Headed Woodpecker” and his “Jackrabbit”. The grandfather who just two days before I had said bye to after staying for the weekend like I often did.  An unexpected and sudden loss.  My world was crushed.

From that point forward, I was essentially grand-fatherless.  No adult male, senior my father, in my life.  No grandfather to teach me lessons or spoil me.  No one to try and emulate.

Shortly after that January, I started actually paying attention to college basketball. My aunt was a diehard TarHeel, as was my new step mother. March Madness become something I knew about.. and Dean Smith the hero. In 1993, my step mom actually let me stay home from school to watch the first days of the ACC Tournament. She loved Dean Smith like he was her father, and I began to love him as a grandfather.  We would watch anything on tv about him, we read magazines, newspaper articles… if it were about Coach Smith, we knew it.

It was then I started learning about the man, Dean Smith, not the coach.  I learned that Smith was a social activist, someone who was very much against the death penalty, someone who staged his own sit-in of sorts in Chapel Hill, but bring two black diners into a segregated place to dine, knowing they would not ask the Coach to leave.  He was a diehard Democrat, because he believed in social equality and the higher road, and felt the Democratic Party best represented those values. He was someone who put everyone before himself, someone who would sit a player for not respecting the team and trying to steal the glory.  He taught his team to point the passer when scoring, a tradition he called “Thank The Passer”.  A tradition he had started in the 60s, John Wooden had picked up and something that is commonly scene on the court today.  The punishment for not thanking the passer was not pointed at the scorer, but the entire team, and Vince Carter was once quoted as saying anytime someone forgot to “thank the passer”, the entire team would be forced to run sprints in the next practice.

I remember when Coach Smith won his 877th game, and how he basically ran out of the area after the game in order to avoid having to talk to the media about it.  He hated “being the star”.  He hated it some much that when UNC decided to name their new arena, The Dean Smith Center, he begged them not to name the arena after him, suggested naming it after Michael Jordan or someone else, just not him.

In his later years, once he retired, we found out Smith had dementia and eventually Alzheimers. Even then, he was still surrounded by old friends and fans.  For years, and until fairly recently, Smith was still driven to his office on campus, on Mondays, Tuesdays, & Wednesdays, where he would sit and read or look at pictures, most of the time not knowing who was in those pictures. His closes assistant, Bill Guthridge, also would come in on those days.  Guthridge and Smith had been friends for years, Guthridge took over after Smith retired and once Guthridge was replaced, he choose to stay on as an administrator, and kept and office next to Smith.

My memow was diagnosed with dementia, then Alzheimers, and five years and a weeks ago my grandmother left us.  Seeing first hand the toll Alzheimers takes on a family, on a person, I have been able to relate to the Smith families fight the last few years, and though I may not live in NC anymore, when I say “Carolina”, I am still referring to UNC, unlike my friends and neighbors here in South Carolina.

Looking back now, I realize that Dean Smith was sort of a fill in grandfather for me.  Someone I looked up too, someone I wanted and want to emulate, someone who worried more about the people around him than himself.

Thursday, for some unknown reason, I decided to hang my TarHeel flag outside where my American Flag normally flies.  Last night I finished up a project, string art, outlining the state of North Carolina in Carolina Blue and white string. At one point I had grown tired and stressed and decided to finish it this morning, but about midnight I couldn’t sleep and decided to finish it so I could hang it first thing this morning.  When I awoke this morning the first thing I did was look at my phone, and see the alert that Smith had died late last night.  I jumped up and hung my TarHeel colored project.  Dean Smith will always live on… but know every time I see my TarHeel blue art in the living room, I’ll remember the day I finished it, the day we lost our father and grandfather, the day we lost Coach Smith.

3nottrans

Everyone you hate is going to win tomorrow.

Initially I was going to write a blog about who I would vote for tomorrow (and hope you will vote for as well).  Then, after the last few weeks, I realized… it probably doesn’t matter.  Why?  You’re probably not going to vote, that’s why.  So, everything you hate about government, everything you hate locally, and every tax you pay is now your fault.  Don’t like Woodruff Road? Tough… you aren’t voting for County Council members who will fix that nightmare of a road.  Don’t like our roads in general? Tough… there is a ballot initiative that would fix the roads in Greenville County, but if you don’t vote for it you shouldn’t complain about that pot hole in the center lane.  Think Congress all need to be voted out of office?  GREAT!!! except EVERY SINGLE HOUSE MEMBER AND SENATOR in SC is up for election tomorrow.. and guess what… EVERY SINGLE ONE of them is expected to win! Think we need a transparent Governor who won’t veto funding for rape crisis and child abuse centers and then deny it? or a Governor who thinks violent criminal domestic convicts shouldn’t carry a gun? You should vote for Sheheen… but being you likely won’t vote… you have no room to complain when your Governor hides the truth from you…

So… VOTE!!!!! I don’t care who or what you vote for… just VOTE!!!!! I would prefer you be an informed voter but at this point I would just settle for you voting… we have to start somewhere.  Oh and don’t think your vote doesn’t count.  IT DOES!! Jil Littlejohn won her City Council seat by just a few… literally.. a few… votes!! Every single person should go vote! Think you can’t because your address is wrong on your ID?  Wrong… go to County Square and vote… vote…. vote… VOTE!!!!!

So if you plan to vote… keep reading… if you don’t… well… don’t complain about failing infrastructure, ebola, homelessness, taxes, or anything else for that matter…

Over the last few years I have learned that the overwhelming majority of voters do not actually do any research.  They listen to what attack ads in the media say and pay attention to whichever lie is said the most, which is why whoever has the most money typically wins. A good example of a lie becoming part of our psychic is the famous “I can see Russia from my yard” line attributed to Sarah Palin.. except Sarah Palin never said this… Tina Fey playing Sarah Palin said this. So, doing my due diligence as a voter I have always tried to give my opinions of races and issues after looking at the facts.  With that in mind… here are my endorsements (queue Law & Order gavel).

Greenville County Special Sales Tax Referendum

First, here in Greenville we will be voting on increasing our sales tax by 1%.  You may have seen the “Fix Our Roads” signs or the “Vote “YES”” signs.  The referendum would allow for Greenville County to collect a special 1% sales tax that would be applied to fixing our roads.  The tax increase is NOT open ended, it is capped at 8 years or $673,193,630 and must be spend on 4 projects in Greenville County.

When I ran for office in 2008 one of the biggest issues I saw in Greenville County was our falling apart infrastructure. If you would like to see the special projects to be covered you can find them here (click here). Our roads are falling apart and our government leaders cannot agree on anything, much less a budget that would fix the situation.  In my opinion this is a must do.  I will be voting YES on the referendum.

Lt. Governor

The Lt. Governors race is a race I had planned to stay out of with this blog.  I know Henry McMaster and think he is a genuinely good guy. He is a true South Carolinian down to the core and one word out of his mouth and you know he’s from the low country.  Bakari Sellers on the other hand is a Legislator in Columbia who many believe will use this office as a stepping stone.  I felt the same way a bit.  It is true, I did agree to be on a host list for Sellers a few weeks ago but privately I had reservations about his candidacy.  That was before the two candidates took the stage together and I was able to see Bakari shine.  He genuinely wants this position. The Lt. Governor in this state is largely ceremonial with the exception of presiding over the Senate and heading the Department of Aging for South Carolina.  Under Nikki Haley two Lt. Governors have resigned and we now have a third in four years.  The Department of Aging has suffered by not having a leader with any plans.  Bakari Sellers has a plan.. a six point plan that he laid out in the only debate.  Sellers knows his stuff… he knows what he wants to do and has a plan to do it.  One of his six points is to make South Carolina the leader in funding for Alzheimer’s research… this is a cause very close to my heart and I was surprised McMaster did not bring up the subject even once.  McMaster seems to be running on name id without a plan… Sellers has retired from his seat in the Legislator so he is focus on winning this race…  While I have enormous respect of McMaster, Bakari Sellers is the candidate with the plan and experience to get the job done.

Governor

I will make this short and sweet.  We need a Governor who tells the truth… a Governor we can trust.  We cannot trust Haley… from the Savannah Port issue, to the TB issue, to the hacking of State computers and beyond, Nikki Haley’s administration lies. In 2010, Nikki Haley vetoed funding for The Julie Valentine Center along with a whole host of other non-profits.  When the citizens of this state spoke up Haley was quoted as saying she would not bow to the special interest group to overturn this veto. Rape victims are special interest groups??  She now denies she vetoed the funding and says “in the end it was funded”… she is correct, the veto of JVCs funding was overturned by the Legislator on a 111-0, bi-partisan vote with not a single Legislature voting to uphold her veto. The biggest lie is her touting of how many jobs she has brought to South Carolina.  The numbers are actually about 1/2 of what she claims.  To Nikki Haley, if a company like Amazon promises 1,000 jobs in 5 years as long as Haley supports a tax loop hole for said company, Nikki Haley counts those numbers as “jobs”.. even if Amazon has only hired 10 people and may never actually hire the other 990.  Her numbers are smoke in mirrors. Vincent Sheheen will restore honesty and integrity to the office and more than anything Vincent Sheheen can work WITH both Houses in Columbia in order to get Bills passed, rather than put out failing report cards on Legislators who do not fund-raise for him. Tuesday I will vote for Vincent Sheheen because I believe South Carolina can do better.

US Senate

I will start by saying we need term limits in Congress.. though I doubt we will ever see them.  However, the current system is what we are stuck with and I think it would be foolish of South Carolina to “fire” Lindsey Graham or Tim Scott.  Lindsey Graham has shown himself to be a mostly moderate Republican.  I do not always agree with Graham but he is better than the alternative.  The same can be said for Tim Scott and his opponents.  So while not a ringing endorsement, I will be voting for Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott Tuesday.

Attorney General

The Attorney General should represent ALL citizens.  Alan Wilson does not. For that reason I will vote for a candidate whom is less likely to use taxpayer money to continue to fight a lawsuit the Supreme Court has already made a decision on.  I will vote for Parnell Diggs.

SC House District 20

Jon Eames will appear on the ballot twice… but that still doesn’t make him half the statesman Dan Hamilton is.  If you live in SC House 20, vote for Hamilton.  He and I may not agree on everything but I truly believe he looks at all sides of the issue before casting a vote.

For what it’s worth…

3nottrans

Playground

We’ve all heard the “everything I need to know I learned in _______ ” sayings.  I’ve never actually read any of them but today I was thinking… while I didn’t learn everything I need to know on the playground… I sure learned a lot.  Here are a few of the things I thought of.

The Slide

You know.  That big metal stand alone slide.  The one that felt 20 ft high and was the shiniest thing on the playground.  The lesson here was sometimes the easiest things cause the greatest pain.  Climbing the stairs was the hard part.  Sliding down the slide was the fun and easy part.. but after baking in the sun all day, the slide would burn what little hair you had on your legs off! So some days it was smart to skip the slide and go for the monkey bars.

The Monkey Bars

We all had those classmates who could fly across the monkey bars… who did tricks on the monkey bars… and the friends who were terrified of them.  I liked the monkey bars… and they taught me something valuable.  No matter how high they felt (stories high!) There was no way to move forward without letting go of the bar you were currently on.  Sometimes hanging around on a bar meant you didn’t make it to the end. Just as going to fast didn’t guarantee you’d make it to the end.

The Swing

I loved to swing.  I still love to swing.  One thing I do not have that I REALLY want is a swing at my home.  When I was a kid my grandparents had a wooden one on their front porch.  We would sit and calming swing for hours.  The park down the block from where I lived for a bit had a very large metal swing with a rubber seat and metal chain.  I used to swing so high I felt like I could flip the bar.  I loved that split second of weightlessness you feel when you reached the top.  The swing taught me something though…. what goes up… must come down.  The higher you would get, the faster you would fall.  I also learned that friends can only take you so far… a really good friend can give you a big boost, but you have to use your own weight to reach the highest potential.

The SeeSaw

I rarely see these anymore but the seesaw was on of my favorite things on the playground.  The thing about seesaws is you can’t do it alone.  You had to have a friend.  You had to trust someone and you needed to be trusted.  If you had a reputation for causing your friends to go to high or not high enough, people learned not to play with you. And if you were stupid enough to get back on a seesaw with someone who had just caused you to fall, it was your fault.

Dodgeball

Trust no one.  If someone does take a shot at you, surprise them by catching the ball and turning the tables on them!

The Merry-Go-Round

When things start spinning too fast.. hold on.. you may get dizzy, you may even feel like you are going to throw up… just hold on… eventually the ride will stop… eventually things will level out… eventually it will all slow down.

People

You also learn about people… some kids (now adults) are never happy…. they are just assholes.  Some kids will stop playing with you and go play with someone else in a heartbeat… and then move on to someone else…. they are the users.. the ones who get what they want for the moment and move on… those people never change.  Then there are the good guys (and girls) that are always fun, are always willing to play, & never throw the dodgeball too hard. Oh.. and that one guy that thinks he is so good and everyone else is flawed… the guy who talks about everyone and no one really likes.. though he doesn’t really know that… none the less he always runs his mouth about people, thinking no one can see through him, though everyone does.

So yeah, I learned a lot about life on the playground.. even if I didn’t learn all of the lessons, I at least acknowledge they were there.

3nottrans

 

City of Greenville Municipal Elections Commission

As you probably already know… I am very involved and interested in politics, both at local, state, and national levels. With that in mind, I am incredibly excited to announce that I have been recommended for appointment to the City of Greenville Municipal Elections Commission! The Municipal Election Commission is comprised of three individuals appointed by City Council who are residents and registered voters of the city of Greenville. Each Commissioner serves a six year term. The Municipal Election Commission is responsible for conducting all elections of the city of Greenville.

The appointment becomes official at the next City Council meeting which will be held on July 28th. 

I firmly believe everyone should exercise their right to vote and I look forward to working to increase turnout in and around Greenville! 

3nottrans

Layers

Layers.  Everything has them.  The vintage metal glider I am refinishing with the help of two friends, covered in three layers of paint is a good example.  The outer, white paint, the middle hunter green, and the original olive green cover up the bare metal.  Layers cover things up, hide things, keep things in & out.  Layers can be good in some cases, such as Band-Aids, but layers can also be bad, and confusing.  Social media for example, can paint pictures that are confusing.

I have a tendency to layer things.  My friends for example.  I have a very few “close personal friends”, then several more “good friends”, so on and so forth.  I very rarely let people get too close, for multiple reasons, most of which remain private.

If you have read previous blogs, you know some of my friends have been critical in the past of the “two James'” There is James Akers, Jr., and then james. The former being the public James that most people see.  The latter being the person very few get a chance to see.  The person who lets his guard down. I don’t think that is unique to me.  I think most people are like that. That is not to say I am not genuine, I still tend to be a little too genuine with people I am really close to.  I guess I just hide the flaws as much as I can to everyone outside of that initial layer of friends.

A few years ago a friend most of you knew committed suicide here in Greenville.  Instantly people started saying they would have never guessed he was depressed or had anything going on that would have given them any clues. We are partially lying to ourselves, there were signs of a cracking facade. We may not have realized how deep those were, but publicly stating you’re depressed or have issues going on isn’t something smiled upon. Especially by someone known and respected in the community.  Depression in general is not talked about, much like sexual abuse, rape, or mental issues.

The truth is about 14.8 million American adults, or about 6.7 percent of the U.S. population age 18 and older are diagnosed as having a major depression. 11 percent of Americans aged 12 and older report taking antidepressants. Last year, antidepressants were the second most commonly prescribed medications, right after drugs to lower cholesterol.  Not quite Prozac Nation, but close.

So, you can see where I am going.  For the last several months I have been dealing with issues going on in my life.  Most date back to my childhood and things I should have dealt with earlier. Regardless they all seemed to intersect recently and at times I have felt like things have been in a bit of a tailspin recently.  Last month I was diagnosed as having “severe clinical depression” and I am working on that. It has impacted every single aspect of my life in some way or another. It has caused me to overreact to certain situations, be hyper sensitive to the words of the people I care about the most (which is strange — I generally couldn’t care less what people think), & as one friend noted, even made me post on Facebook less recently. It has made me way more reluctant to be around people outside of my immediate circle, but on a positive note has helped me do a few things around the house I had put off.. like empty the basement and turn the office into a den.

I guess the point of writing the blog is two things.. 1.) You truly never know what someone else is dealing with, so be kind… go the extra mile to be nice… and stay in touch with the people you care about and the people who care about you.  2.) Depression is real. It affects people in ways you might not even realize and it should be talked about. Not everything should be covered up and hidden.

I’m thankful that I have a couple of great friends who have been resilient in checking in on me and making sure I’m at least partially okay.  I don’t think a single day has gone by, or too many hours, that they have not checked in on me.

Love your friends.  Listen to your friends.  Help you friends.

-james

Julie Valentine Center

The first race I ever ran was a 5k almost four years ago.  That started a bit of an addiction, not so much to running, as to the bibs.  My number was “1” which I loved.  That race was the Julie Valentine Center Run2Overcome, which is now in it’s sixth year.  Named the Run2Overcome by the runners who initially ran the race, it was first started after a jogger in Greenville was raped.  The run was Greenville’s way to help raise money for her recovery and awareness that though they aren’t spoke of often, rapes do happen in Greenville.  The run was handed off to The Julie Valentine Center, formerly The Greenville Rape Crisis & Child Abuse Center, and has found it’s stride with the center as one of two major fundraisers put on each year.  Each year, with the help of my friends, I have been able to raise over $2,000 for the center in pledges for my run. This year I have two new goals.

First, I would like to have a team this year.  You don’t need to be a runner to join.  I would say a majority of the people who do the Run2Overcome do not run, they walk or jog.  I would love to have a good little team of people “running” with me this year.  Registration opened yesterday and this month is reduced to just $20.  You can register at http://www.SupportJames.com or at http://www.Run2Overcome.org.  Click the join team button and join “Running with Friends”.

Second, I would like to raise $3,000 as a team.  Everyone who signs up to “run” is provided with a fundraising page.  I would LOVE to increase my pledge amount for the $2,500 it was last year to $3,000 this year.  You can go make a pledge right now at http://www.SupportJames.com

JVC is a cause very close to my heart.  The staff at the center are simply amazing and the services provided there are priceless, but they do have a cost. In a still recovering economy, JVC has faced budget cuts and funding vetos in the past few years and without private funding/sponsorship would be forced to make tough decisions about the support, care, & treatment provided.

So if you live in Greenville, consider signing up for the Run2Overcome.  Either to run by yourself or as a group and either way, consider making a pledge on my page and help reach the $3,000. goal I’ve set this year. 🙂

 

3nottrans

My memaw.

Over the last few weeks or so I have been working on a project… putting together thoughts… and memories from my childhood. For a long time people have been intrigued at hearing stories of my childhood, though it is rare.. sometimes I ltalk about things from then… things that made me the way I am today.  Normally they are not the best of stories though… when your family break out into a fist fight at your grandfathers funeral and the like… you kind of end up telling those stories.  No one wants to hear about the good things.  It’s really more of a venting of thoughts.. not specifically typed in any specific format… it’s my thoughts.. as they come.. for what they are worth.

This little blog is not a “let me tell you about my childhood and how bad it was” type of stories… this one is about the good things… specifically the most honest person I have ever met in my life.  Sarah Catherine Blount Akers.  My grandmother. My memaw.

Four years ago tomorrow, the 25th, we lost her after a year or so of rapid decline due to Alzheimer’s. Oh how I hate the disease.

Growing up, my memaw watched me a lot… once school started I stayed with her on the weekends… for a while I would even ride the bus to her house and stay with her until my dad was off of work. I remember watching HeeHaw on Saturday nights after taking a hot bath in her claw foot tub, something that I still do when I am down, sad, irritated, depressed, or sick. I remember sitting on her front porch in the summer, she didn’t have air and it was often much cooler outside.  We would sit in the swing and watch the heat lightning. I remember her home on Arington Drive when I was oh so small, no more than 2 or 3, where there was a piano… and where she would give me a bath in her sink (maybe I was smaller than I even know). I remember Easter Egg hunts in her yard.  Her dog Sam which she loved.. and long after he died had a little memorial for… complete with fresh picked flowers often.  I remember Saturday cooking…. she would always have lunch after church for the family… a very large family.. different uncles and aunts would come from week to week.. but her, my grandfather when he was alive, and my uncle — the reverend would come every week. She would often bake pies, and prepare the potato salad on Saturdays.  Oh how I loved her cooking.  I remember Christmas, when it was at her house.. always on Christmas Eve.. and always at 6pm so that everyone could make it.

I remember all of the happy times.  Almost nothing but happy memories there.  Sitting in the living room while she “put on her face” on Sundays before church.  The constant use of Oil of Olay.. and even her Tube Rose snuff when I was younger. — When I was 7 or so I would walk to the store, not a block away, and buy her a can of snuff and me a candy bar.  I remember her taking me to the library and pulling JFK books for me to read and look at while she went to do whatever it was she was there to do.

I remember her coming home from work before she retired, often with cotton in her hair from the mill… and I remember how much grace and poise she had when my grandfather died.  How proud she was of him… and our entire family.  How she looked after the nine kids and what was then thirteen or so grandchildren.  How she attended to my grandfathers grave so much so it recently had to be re-glazed.  She would go every few days and pour baby oil on the stone to keep it shining… slowly wearing off the gold that adorned the lettering.

And I remember that every single time the doors opened to the church.. we were there… always in the same row… always with a pack of gum in hand for me…. WinterMint or SpearMint… and her worn out Bible.. taking notes as my uncle read from the pulpit. She was the most Godly women I have ever met.  I never heard her curse… but once… and I remember hearing her pray a few times afterwards for forgiveness.

She was so religious… so sweet… and so loving.  When my dad told her I was gay, something I never actually talked to her about, she did not judge me.. she prayed for me… and for my partner of a few years at the time.  She started asking about him and accepted him into the family, so much so that his name was added to the family directory and only recently removed.  She didn’t treat me any different and loved me just the same.

I can still hear her voice.. and I’m thankful for that.  I can still even smell what she smelled like…

The night before she died I posted:  “Life is pleasant. Death is peaceful. It’s the transition that’s troublesome.”  I didn’t realize how true that was when I posted it.. but it is.  She had a pleasant life.  A great life she would say.  She wasn’t rich, by any means… but I never heard her complain about money.  She always took pride in how she looked (red hair until she got really sick… straight out of the bottle but red none the less… and a perm). The transition took a while… and it was oh so troublesome.. I’m glad I was there for it all.. I literally stayed in Lexington, at my uncles, in the room with her and slept in the room next to her for two weeks straight. Once she was gone… it was so peaceful in the house.  I remember holding her hand and praying… for hours and hours those two weeks… and then for a while after she had left us.. along with Jonathan who had been there most of the time as well. I remember how peaceful it was when they finally took her away.  How quiet…. deathly quiet in fact… even with two dozen people, at least, in the house.

I miss her so much. I miss being able to go visit her with a hot-dog or hamburger.  I miss being able to call her and get her advice on things. I miss not feeling judge and feeling nothing but 100%, undiluted love.  I just miss her.  My mother was referred to her as the brightest star in my sky… and she was right.  She was my biggest fan.

I now have a picture of her and my grandfather hanging in my hallway so that I see it daily.  It’s the original.. from the last 70’s and early 80’s… stained orange from her constant wiping with a Pledge covered rag.  One of my prize possessions.  I have a smaller (thumbnail sized print) of the same picture on my desk at work.. it’s taped to my monitor and is the only personal picture I have in my office. I think about her often, him too… and have them somewhat strategically in my life to remind me that they are always watching down on me… and reminding me that one day I’ll get to see them again daily.

Photo Jan 11, 9 02 04 AM

In the end.. the very last day I saw her before getting the “come home” call.. for a split second, she didn’t know me.. she couldn’t remember me… that killed me a little.. a few minutes later she quickly said “Jamie”… letting me know she knew who I was.

I’ll never forget my memaw.  Even if I do end up with that horrible disease… I hope to God I never forget how amazing my memaw was and how much of a force in my life she was and still is… and how much I love her.. and how much she loves me.

Image