Tuesday, January 12, 2021

I thought I'd share an update on how our little family is doing.  Laurie, her sister, and I are all living in a "new" 43 year old house in the Portland area.  Initially, after our wedding, Laurie and I were living in her old apartment with her sister while the house was being remodeled.

We are all living in the new house now. We shifted living/sleeping locations soon after the contractor finished remodeling, after a few other little changes were made, and then Laurie finished the huge job of emptying her old 3 bedroom apartment that she and her sister had occupied for a few decades. 

Our contractor had a plumber in for the bathroom work, who we asked to look at our low water flow problem. Throughout the entire house, we had a water flow problem. With no flow, the pressure was quite high, 80 PSI, but when any tap was opened the pressure dropped to something like 15-20 PSI, and the flow was maybe 2 gallons per minute. Running the kitchen faucet while someone was in the shower upstairs pretty much turned the shower into a dribble. This wasn’t really a livable situation yet.

We knew that the shutoff gate valve just outside the house didn’t fully close, and there was a fair chance that it had failed to fully open as well. The plumber replaced that, which let us finish the interior plumbing work with the water fully shut off. It didn’t improve the flow problem, though.

The plumber had mentioned that many homes had pressure regulator “bell valves” on the water line, often buried. If one of these had failed, essentially stuck slightly open, it could cause this problem. We started a hunt for the valve. It would be either by the shutoff at the house, or by the meter at the street. After a good bit of digging we found it at the meter, about 18” down, buried in the dirt.

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We had that replaced, but again, there was no improvement. By then the contractor was done with the remodel, so we thanked and paid him. Laurie decided to excavate the line herself to see if we could find some clue as to the problem. As she dug out from the house, she found the copper pipe transition to old PVC plastic line about 5’ out. Additional digging uncovered a 90 degree bend straight down, and about 3 feet down, another elbow and the line headed more or less toward the meter. With the mess of pipe elbows at the street, we had a pretty twisty water line, although not enough to explain the whole low flow problem. With another 30 feet of three foot trench to dig, we thought it was time to call in the pros.

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Cornel’s Plumbing agreed to come out and take a look. Alex, the plumber, suggested starting at the meter, opening up the line and checking the flow capacity, and then moving to the house and checking other points until the area with the restriction was found. He rigged a fitting onto the end of the meter, attaching a 50 foot hose. Opening up the meter valve, we had well over 10 gallons per minute out of the hose. Now we knew the problem was on our side of the meter, and not on the city side.

We knew at this point that the flow was poor at the connection to the house, and Alex the plumber had an idea. He took the other end of the hose up to the house, and screwed it onto the hose bib just past the house shutoff valve. Opening the hose valve and street shutoff valve, we had great water flow in the house’s plumbing. He said this lash up with the hose was how they normally supplied water while running a new water line in, but this was only the second time he had seen a home water line blocked in 7 years as a journeyman plumber. The hose lash up told us the water line from the street to the house was where the clog was.

The cost to dig up the old PVC line and find where it was plugged would be high, labor intensive as hand digging was needed to avoid destroying the pipe. It would be much cheaper to put in a new line, better materials, using modern boring technology. We concurred, and he gave us a quote that was much lower than I had expected from doing a little shopping around. So, we bought the replacement installation project.

The crew showed up on time, and went to work. They dove into the crawl space through the hatch in our pantry, scoped out what they needed to do, and started prep. The driller showed up around 11 AM, and set up by the water meter at the street. They started drilling into the gentle slope there, at about the depth of the water line, aiming to miss the other utility lines and tunnel under the house. The plan was to surface the drill head near the pantry crawl space hatch, and install the house shutoff and reducer there, rather than in a vault outside. This would be both more convenient, and avoid any possible frozen pipe issues in the winter. One worker walked along with a special instrument that read out the drill head position, and called out steering instructions to the drill operator. They ran the line over 3 feet deep, past the perimeter foundation, and hit their target. The plumbing crew attached a long length of extremely heavy-duty modern PEX line, and a grounding wire (per code), and this was pulled back through with the drill head. By noon the drill crew was packing up and leaving, and by 2 PM we had a completed new water line in service.

We were ready to move in. With some assistance from a medical supplier, we set up everything for Laurie’s sister, and got her room ready. We would be sleeping in the guest room with my furniture until we got Laurie’s stuff moved from her apartment. We spent a few weeks shifting accommodations, moving boxes and such, and settling in. We thought we had everything in great shape, what with the new roof, new floors, plumbing overhauled, lights working, and a new washer and dryer on the way. We would have a great Christmas in our new home.

Woman plans, Goddess laughs...

The 42 year old Jen-Aire cooktop had other plans. The grill and one burner control failed, and I had the choice of repair or replace in front of me. Replace? There are two downdraft 30” cooktops on the market, and both needed 40 Amp service. We had 30 Amp service installed, which meant that we would have to pull a larger line and install larger breakers. But, the power panel was a Fedeal Electric, which has it’s own issues. Local code would require us to replace the entire panel. The cost of replacing the cooktop was going to be well over $5,000, which wasn’t in the budget.

So, repair. Naturally, the original parts were discontinued about 35 years ago, but there was a suggested replacement. DIscontinued about 20 years ago... The parts are something called an “infinite switch”, the heat regulator for an electric range element. There are so-called “universal” replacements, but they didn’t consider the “unique” wiring of this old cooktop. The cooktop circuitry assumed that the switch internals worked in a certain way, which no modern switch actually does any more, for good reasons. They used their assumption to power up the vent fan whenever the grill was on, bypassing the fan switch. The new switches were wired differently, and resulted in the fan power momentarily being interrupted every few seconds while the grill was on. Even better, if the fan were switched on directly the grill ran at full power, with no temperature control!

Chasing down the internal design of the switches and the wiring of the grill I determined that I needed to disconnect one wire between the fan and the grill proper, and replace the fan switch with a proper double-pole single throw switch, along with the previous replacement of the “infinite switches.” It’s all working now, and the cooktop now largely uses standard parts I can get off the shelf. The fixed cost about $110. While Christmas dinner was cooked entirely in the oven, for New Years Eve we had our cooktop and grill, suitable for some T-bone steaks. Yay!

We’re still slowly unpacking and getting set up. I’m starting to work on proper radio antennas, and Laurie is weeding the backyard using a come-along and some rope rated to 5,600 lbs force (she broke one of her old ropes pulling blackberry vines). Life goes on, and we are enjoying our new home in the “woods.”

Friday, November 20, 2020

“Give me the roses while I live”



There’s an old bluegrass song that comes to mind today.

Wonderful things of folks are said

When they have passed away

Roses adorn their narrow bed

Over the sleeping clay


Yes, we often say wonderful things about the dead.  But, the song continues:


Give me the roses while I live

Trying to cheer me on

Useless are flowers that you give

After the soul is gone


Let us not wait to do good deeds

Till they have passed away

Now is the time to sow good seeds

While here on earth we stay


At least 37 transgender persons that we know of, mostly women of color, have died in violence in the past 12 months in the United States, and hundreds more around the world.  


These persons were killed by friends, partners, lovers, and strangers.  They died from anti-transgender violence, or when their transgender status put them at risk, such as forcing them into unemployment, poverty, homelessness and/or survival sex work.


These victims, like all of us, are loving partners, parents, family members, friends and community members. They worked, went to school and attended houses of worship. They were real people; people who did not deserve to have their lives taken from them.


These deaths weigh on the trans community every day.  Once a year, we ask you to notice.  We ask for change.  We ask that all lift up Black Trans lives, which will in turn lift up all. And yet we are here again this year.  Say their names...


Dustin Parker

Neulisa Luciano Ruiz

Yampa Méndez Arocho

Scott/Scottlyn Devore

Monika Diamond

Lexi

Johanna Metzger

Serena Angelique Velázquez Ramos

Layla Pelaez Sánchez

Penélope Diaz Ramirez

Nina Pop

Helle Jae O’Regan

Tony McDade

Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells

Riah Milton

Jayne Thompson

Selena Reyes-Hernandez

Brian “Egypt” Powers

Brayla Stone

Merci Mack

Shaki Peters

Bree Black

Summer Taylor

Marilyn Cazares

Dior H Ova

Queasha D Hardy

Aja Raquel Rhone-Spears

Lea Rayshon Daye

Kee Sam

Aerrion Burnett

Mia Green

Michelle Michellyn Ramos Vargas

Felycya Harris

Brooklyn Deshuna

Angel Unique

Yunieski Carey Herrera


Give me the roses while I live

Trying to cheer me on

Useless are flowers that you give

After the soul is gone


Lyrics from “Give me the roses while I live” - The Carter Family




Sunday, October 11, 2020

Me and We; Call to Worship for National Coming Out Day

 Me and We; National Coming Out Day

Call to Worship for the October 11, 2020 service at Mt. Diablo Unitarian Universalist Church




When we as individuals make choices, we each tend to consider what might be best for ourselves.  This is normal and natural, a way we act to keep ourselves safe.  Something I ask that we consider, though, is how our choices impact others who share our interconnected web of life.


Today we are faced with the consequences of choices made years ago.  As the President said last week; “Elections have consequences.”  Now, years ago, each of us may have been considering our tax situation, our own desires, or perhaps our frustration with The System when we cast our votes.  Those votes have had consequences, however, that have a much broader impact than ourselves.


These consequences are having a profound effect on me, my partner, and many others in my community.  


Today is National Coming Out Day, a day established by LGBTQ activists in order to maintain positivity and celebrate coming out.  Most people think they don't know anyone gay, lesbian, bi, queer, or trans, and in fact, everybody does. It is imperative that we come out, let people know who we are and disabuse them of their fears and stereotypes.


There are a few things each person considering coming out really needs to be aware of:

  • You may lose friends and family.
  • You’re going to be OK; You are not always going to feel OK, but you’re going to be OK.
  • If you want to make it, you’re going to have to learn to ask for help.
  • It’s worth it!


When coming out as a transgender person, there are a few additional things to know:

  • A gender transition may be too much to bear even for liberal family members.
  • Should you try hormone replacement therapy… It’s like being a teenager all over again, both good and bad!
  • Your sexuality may shift.

I’d like to disclose that I am a woman who is attracted to other women, and just last week I was honored to be married to Laurie, my life partner, in a ceremony held right here at Mt Diablo Unitarian Universalist Church, officiated by our own lead minister.


I am also a woman of transgender experience, forced to live part of my life pretending to be a man to try to avoid the abuse this culture heaps on anyone failing to meet narrow social standards.


Now, y’all know at least one LGBTQ person.


The consequences of the individual choices made by others have a profound impact on me.  In a 4 page opinion issued October 5, two Supreme Court justices referred to the Obergefell v. Hodges decision that allowed Laurie and I to be married; “The court has created a problem that only it can fix.”  They explicitly want to invalidate my marriage and are awaiting the appointment of a new justice who shares their opinion, an appointment made and to be approved by elected officials in our government.


Elections have consequences, indeed.


As military veterans, Laurie and I were were happy to learn that on June 30, 2016, Secretary Carter and the Obama administration approved a policy rescinding the decades-old ban on transgender persons serving in the military, after a study found no real reason, no real impact on readiness for maintaining the old ban. 


We were dismayed when the current elected Commander in Chief revoked our ability to serve with a midnight tweet.


Elections have consequences, indeed.


The Department of Housing and Urban Development, in a new ruling driven by elected officials, allows homeless shelters to assign individuals to housing based on their sex as assigned at birth.  If I am in a community where shelters operate under this rule, I would be assigned to a mens shelter.  I feel that I would rather sleep rough, on the street, than be placed at risk of violent abuse again.


Elections have consequences, indeed.


When we as individuals make choices, I ask that each of us consider not only our own wishes, but the impact of our choices on:

  • The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
  • Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
  • Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.


Let us consider this further today, as we worship together.



Saturday, October 3, 2020

The Marriage of Michelle Paquette & Laurie Wickwire


We were married on October 3, 2020 in a ceremony held in the Mt. Diablo Unitarian Universalist Church Sancturary, with a total of 8 people including ourselves present.  Marriage in the time of COVID-19 is a strange experience.  Everyone was masked, and maintaining social distancing.  Contact zones were established for each small social bubble, to ensure no physical contacts outside of very specific controlled items occurred.

We were blessed to have Rev. Leslie Takahashi as our officiant, as well as our coordinator and author of much of our service.  We adapted a bit of the text for our needs, and in recognition of the pandemic denying many of our friends the ability to be present, we added a section to recognize those absent from physical presence.

We were honored to have our fellow UU and singer-songwriter Laura Zucker present to perform three of her songs that felt extraordinarily appropriate for Laurie and I.  Visit her website at laurazucker.com, and listen and purchase her songs from Band Camp, at laurazucker.bandcamp.com. 

We also very much appreciated the witnessing and support of our friends, Linda Russell, Elisabeth Andreason, and Melissa Allen in the service, and the expertise of our MDUUC Music Director Mark Tuning in taking on sound setup and running the A/V deck and live stream. 

    - Laurie & Michelle



Officiant: 
Rev. Leslie Takahashi

Witnesses: Linda Russell & Melissa Allen


Opening Music

“Life Wide Open”, from “Life Wide Open”, Laura Zucker


Unity Flowers

Laurie enters the ceremony with red flowers, Michelle with white.  The flowers are both placed in a single vase on a table, mixed together.

Michelle and Laurie place the rings on the table by the vase.


Opening Words

Good afternoon.  To all of you gathered here today, Laurie and Michelle extend a fond welcome and their sincere thanks for sharing this special time with them.  We have come together in spirit not to mark the start of a relationship, but to affirm a bond of love that has already proved its strengthThese pledges grow out of Michelle and Laurie’s love for one another, out of the merging of their lives this love has made possible, and out of their sense of joy in the expanding possibility this love creates.  We come to witness the creation of something about to come into being:  a mutual and true marriage.  


In this ceremonial moment, we are suspended between a beginning and a true unfolding.  And yet, this moment – this mere fragment of time – is filled with meaning and hope.  Laurie and Michelle come to pledge themselves to one another, and to life’s most rewarding and difficult adventure:  that of a life lived in partnership.

In the magic of this moment, warmed by love and lighted by hope, words are too fragile to carry all the meanings we would say...still we know that when this moment is but a memory, it will echo on in our hearts.


Chalice Lighting: Melissa Allen & Elisabeth Andreason

“When I first met her I knew in a moment I would have to spend the next few days rearranging my mind so there’d be room for her to stay.”

- Nick Carraway in  ‘The Great Gatsby”

Statement of Purpose

Michelle and Laurie, in presenting yourselves here today, you are formally announcing your desire to pledge your love to one another for life.  Each of you has chosen the other as your life’s partner and today you promise to make your love for each other your ongoing choice.  Your faith in this commitment should grow and mature and endure.  No other human ties are more tender, no other vows more sacred than those you now assume.  Do you now choose to enter this sacred union?


RESPONSE:  We do.


Invocation/Prayer

Be with us as we gather here today in a space made sacred by the presence of all assembled here, by the love professed here, by the hope burgeoning as the spring around us, and by the connecting and sacred nature of this occasion.  So may it be.


Remembering Those Present in Spirit - Linda Russell

A union of marriage is best created with loving purpose, maintained by abiding good will, and renewed by human intention and commitment.  These intentions and commitments are able to flower over time with the support of family and friends.  As we gather together here to share in the celebration of Laurie and  Michelle’s marriage, we would also like to remember those most dear to us who could not join us today:

Karen,

Jason,

Melissa and Jon,

Peggy and Jim,

Tia Anne and Deb, 

Beth, Saha, and Kendra

Jessica Rose and Susan,

Stephanie and Cassandra,

Liz,

and all of our dear friends scattered and sheltered around the globe.


The care of this community shared with Michelle and Laurie contributes and supports the love that shapes this ceremony.


Declaration of Intention

Michelle and Laurie, you have freely decided to commit yourselves to each other in a close and continuing relationship in which your lives will be intertwined.  In the presence of these witnesses you will exchange your pledge of that commitment, affirming your intention to strengthen and cherish the relationship you are building together, and to find through the sharing of your lives with each other a unity which expands the boundaries of self.


HOMILY

(A brief expression from Rev. Leslie Takahashi)



Music

“You’re The One”, from “Step Ahead”, by Laura Zucker 



Preface to the Vows

The vows through which you accept each other as life partners have no hidden power within themselves.  Only your continued intention and commitment give them meaning.  In the days to come, your commitment to one another will need to be re-expressed in many different ways and reiterated through the coming years.  The expression in today’s vows is of your aspiration and will remain as a goal toward which you will continue to strive.


Vows

Laurie/Michelle, I take you to be my life partner from this time onwards;

To shape all that is to come; giving and receiving, speaking and listening, inspiring and responding, cherishing your family as my own.  In all circumstances of our life together, I will be loyal to you with all my being, until life shall end.


Statement on the Symbolism of the Rings

(The minister shall take the rings from the table and while holding them will say:)


These are the rings Michelle and Laurie have chosen.


The giving and receiving of rings has long been a symbolic gesture representing the joining of two lives in loyalty and enduring love.  It is fitting that this symbol, the ring, should be a physical object, which you wear in constant contact with your own body.  In the years to come, these rings will serve as a tangible reminder to you of the presence of your partner in your life.  May your love be as unending and as simply immediate as these two small circles.


Exchange of Rings

(One person will place the ring on the other’s finger and then repeat after the minister the following words.  Then this is repeated by the other person.)

I give you this ring and ask you to accept it and to wear it always as a symbol of our love and union.  



Unity Flowers

(Laurie entered the ceremony with red flowers, Michelle with white.  The flowers were both placed in a single vase.)

When the two of you entered into this ceremony, you did so as two separate individuals.  Symbolic of your uniqueness, each of you brought with her a separate handful of flowers, which were placed into this vase. 


Just as each of the stems in this vase remains its own, so each of you retain your blessed individuality. And still, the gathering of these flowers together in one vase create a strong and unified presence which represents you as a couple.  Just as the stems in this vase mingle to form a bouquet, you will combine your gifts and talents to meet the rewards and challenges of married life.


The Pronouncement of Marriage

With these vows and with this exchange of rings, you have affirmed what your hearts already know – that you two are partnered for life.  You leave this place both more fully all that you each are and also as a committed part of this union.  As life partners, you will journey forward together in love and in strength, Michelle and Laurie, now I ask you, do you recognize yourselves to be married?

Couple:  We do.

Now I ask you, Laurie and Michelle’s gathered family and friends, do you recognize them to be married?

RESPONSE:  We do.

Then I too recognize you to be married and I pronounce you life partners.


Words of Celebration

We rejoice this day in your marriage!  We celebrate the love that has brought you to this moment.  With joy that deepens through many years, may you know its meaning and its mystery – how we become truly one in sharing ourselves with one another and in caring for one another, and yet remain truly two in our uniqueness.


May your house be a place of happiness for all who enter it, a place where the old and the young are renewed in each other’s company, a place for growing, a place for music, a place for laughter.


May no person be alien to your compassion.  May your larger family be the family of all humankind.  And may those who are nearest to you and dearest to you be constantly enriched by the beauty and the bounty of your love for one another.



Closing Music

“Haven”, from “Say Yes”, by Laura Zucker




Music

“Life Wide Open”, from “Life Wide Open”, Laura Zucker

“You’re The One”, from “Step Ahead”, by Laura Zucker

“Haven”, from “Say Yes”, by Laura Zucker

laurazucker.com


Video of the Service: 

https://boxcast.tv/view/michelle-and-lauries-wedding-354539


Thursday, October 1, 2020

Michelle and Laurie's Wedding

Michelle and Laurie are getting married! After three years of teasing each other online, dating, and pretty much constantly being in each others company, we are tying the knot.

The big day is October 3, 2020, at 1 PM PDT. We will be married at a local Unitarian Universalist Church by the head minister, taking all the appropriate pandemic precautions.  Physical attendees are ourselves, our minister officiant, our witnesses, and our musician friend, with a tech support person to make sure the gadgets work, and our live stream wedding webcast goes out OK.

Yes, you are all invited to watch the wedding on a live video stream.

To watch, use your browser to go to:

https://boxcast.tv/view/michelle-and-lauries-wedding-354539


This link should work for the live broadcast and for replays after the event. (And thank you, Jen for working your technical magic!)

You may also watch through the church’s web page:
    https://mduuc.org

Near the top of the page, there's a button labelled WATCH LIVESTREAM.  Click it.  This will take you to the BoxCast MDUUC live stream, which, if nothing else is going on, promos the time til the next Sunday service. 

At about 1PM Pacific Daylight Savings Time, Saturday, October 3, the live stream should... um... go live with our wedding, which should be about 30 minutes long.  Afterwards, we will be doing a reception event in person, but distanced in the church parking area, and later that day will be uploading a video to YouTube.

For our meet cute story of how we first met, take a look here: How Michelle & Laurie Met

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Finding the Joy We Can, Opening to New Sources of Joy


Welcome!  I am Michelle Paquette, and my pronouns are She/Her/Hers.


The whole world seems to be afire with tensions and strife.  TV, the Web, and my E-mail box are full of conflicting things demanding my urgent attention.  How can I juggle so many different things and find my own path? How can I find joy in the middle of all this?


Joy.  It’s something I would like to find.  Now, happiness is an emotion that brings bursts of intense pleasure, excitement, and satisfaction, but joyfulness…. Ah!  That’s a stronger, longer-term state that results in feelings of inner peace and contentment.


I’ve experienced many moments of happiness in my life, but relatively few moments of joy.  I spent too much time distracted, the “squirrels” in my mind restless, driving me to constantly worry about what might be, what might have been, all that two-in-the-morning sleepless night stuff.


I really did think that joy was something talked about, but not experienced.  Then I learned better.  I was so busy fretting over things that I missed the moments of joy in life, skipped right over them while I kept asking myself “What next?” as my mind spun in little circles.


Well, I discovered that asking “What next?” over and over quickly reaches the point where the answer is “I just don’t know.” Circling back and repeating this over and over really doesn’t accomplish anything useful! Silly squirrels!


“Whereas happiness can be easily manufactured, joy comes through setting up the right conditions for it to suddenly appear," says Forrest Talley, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist in California. "Happiness can be brought about by a good cup of coffee in the morning or a funny movie. Joy, on the other hand, is more difficult to cultivate." 


The cultivation of joy is an ongoing process that takes time.  I had to develop some new habits, new practices, so I wouldn’t miss the joy I encounter on my journey through life.


Joy really isn’t in achieving some distant goal.  Oh, that may bring well-earned happiness, but we soon adjust, make this goal our new normal, and will find ourselves creating some new distant goal to be unhappy over not attaining at once.  This behavior of reaching, adjusting to, and seeking a new goal even has a name, the “hedonic treadmill.”  That doesn’t sound very joyous, does it?


Those goals provide us with a sense of achievement, a feeling of certainty when we can reach them.  But between these goals, we spend far more time on the journey.  


“I got so focused on the difficulty of the climb that I lost sight of being grateful for simply having a mountain to climb.”

 — Oprah Winfrey


I’ve learned some things in my search for joy that I’d like to share.


We can find joy every day, as part of our journey, if we only take a little time to notice it.  When we set up the right conditions, we can notice joy, and we can embrace and extend these bits of inner peace and contentment as they arise.


Mindfulness practice, a way to settle the mind, calm ourselves, and focus on the present, where we are.  The “squirrels” running around in our minds often distract us from the present, overwhelm us, and lead us to miss moments of joy.  Taking a few minutes to calm ourselves, just breathe, and focus on the act of breathing, letting go of the “squirrels” and simply being aware of ourselves, our breath in our body, and nothing more can be very calming.  Consider joining our Friday 10 AM meditation, or our Vespers service Wednesdays at 6:30.


If we don’t mind the triteness of it, a gratitude diary might help.  At the end of each day, we just jot down a few things that we are grateful for, or that brought us joy, perhaps a few places or activities where we felt calm or at peace.  This both encourages us to notice these moments, and can give us ideas of other, similar experiences we might deliberately incorporate in our lives.


It’s a wonderful thing, finding these moments of calm, noticing that which brings us joy and taking a moment to embrace it.  Let’s open ourselves to discovering and embracing a little joy this morning, as we worship together.