Young flamingos for Obama

Thank you to my Family!

I livew in my own little world

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Seahorse at Birch AquariumPlease, sit down. Let me tell you a story. It’s a story about discrimination, hatred, and prejudice. It’s a story about me.

I grew up as the product of a large Mormon family (mom) and a large Catholic family (dad). Both religions taught me about discrimination, hatred, and prejudice at a very early age. They are the main reason why I am not affiliated with any religion 57 years later.

I was born in Kingsville, Texas, in 1955, and lived there until 1960, best I can tell. We lived in Palestine, Texas, from 1960 to 1961. After my dad killed himself with a handgun, my mom moved us to northern Utah (Logan, Brigham City, Wellsville, Hyrum) to be closer to her Mormon side of the family.

Union Pacific 844 steam engine in Southern California, November 2011I was a juvenile delinquent, and eventually either my mom and stepdad decided to get rid of me, or the State of Utah took me away from them. Either way, in September 1965 I wound up as a ward of the Thomas D. Dee Memorial Hospital in Ogden, Utah.

At “The Dee,” I met Barbara Hunt, an 18-year-old womanย from Bakersfield, California. She also was a ward of the hospital. Barbara befriended me and helped me write a letter to my wise old grandmother (MWOG), my dad’s mom. We couldn’t send it because I had no idea where MWOG lived. However, that night an address came to me in a dream: “Mary Agnes Kirk, Kingsville, Texas.” That was it. We sent the letter. It arrived. By Christmas 1965 I was living in Kingsville, Texas, having been adopted by MWOG.

Barn owlWithout that adoption, I’m convinced that this juvenile delinquent would either be dead at the hands of a Utah law enforcement officer or spending life in prison. MWOG gave me what all children need, regardless of who they get it from (mom & dad, mom & mom, dad & dad, mom & friends, dad & friends): love AND discipline.

MWOG laid down the rules, and she told me what the punishment was if I broke the rules. After I broke a rule and was punished, MWOG would let me cry for five or ten minutes, then take me to the bathroom where she washed the tears from my face with a warm wash cloth, dried my face, gave me a kiss, and then told me that the same thing would happen if I broke the rules again. It only took twice to understand that she meant what she said โ€” I wasn’t exactly stupid.

Women and dogs at the beachDuring my formative years in Utah I was exposed to the N word; blacks were not welcome in our
all-white Mormon neighborhood and school. When I got back to Texas in 1965, the Catholic side of the family continued with the N word but also introduced me to other disparaging words for Mexicans, Spanish descendents, Chinese, women who worked (i.e., were more than just a person to cook meals and provide sex to the man of the house), etc.

When I went off to college at Texas A&M University, one of my ramp mates in Puryear Hall was a black guy from Nigeria (I’m pretty sure he has nothing to do with all the email scams coming out of Nigeria). I acquired a newfound respect for people of different colors, nationalities, and ethnicities.

Blacks Beach in San Diego, CaliforniaI arrived in San Diego in April 1993 and camped out on the beaches for eleven months studying the world’s great and not-so-great religions to see if there was a place for a coming-out-of-the-closet gay person. I determined that there wasn’t. At best, there were a few tolerant religions, such as Church of Christ and, to a much lesser extent, Episcopalians and Presbyterians. The latter two have taken a few steps backward since 1993. I remain unreligioned.

In March 1994, I put myself back into the work force. Eleven months doing nothing but laying out on the beach isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
I hired on with a temp agency, and the first job they sent me to was a
foul-mouthed old man. I stayed for the morning but did not go back after lunch. For my next job I was supposed to report to a person named Alana Infantino. Being a naive country boy, I had no idea what kind of a name Alana Infantino was, but since the job paid exceedingly well, I went.

Unknown flowerAlana was a woman. Ack! A working woman! Ack!

Alana and I hit it off, and eventually I took a full-time permanent position with her company. I was to be the legal word processor/project database manager/network engineer in Detroit, Michigan (Farmington Hills, actually). Alana took me out to eat and gave me a verbal introduction to the Detroit office. I found out that in the Detroit office there were working women, working blacks, and even working black women! Ack!

I made friends with everyone. Learned a lot about the world, too.

That was 1994. Here in 2012 I have a new family. None of them are related to me by blood. That family has been summarily dismissed. I don’t need that kind of negativity in my life. My new family comprises Americans, Mexicans, Chinese, Japanese, Russians, Turks, Poles…..well, take a look at my WordPress flags from yesterday:

Flags

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

My new family also comprises women, men, gays, lesbians, straightees, married, divorced, single, old, young…. It’s a wonderful family and to my current way of thinking, much better than my old family. So here’s a “Thank you!” to my new family for keeping me involved in the world, and learning.

Young flamingos for Obama

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

This post approved by Zoey the Cool Cat

Looking for real estate services in San Diego County?
I can highly recommend
James Frimmer, Realtor
Century 21 Award, DRE #01458572

If you’re looking for a home inspector,
I recommend Russel Ray โ€” that’s me!Real Estate Solutions

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

54 thoughts on “Thank you to my Family!

  1. crystalwayward

    Thank you for being so open and sharing your life with us. I instantly loved your style from my first visit to your blog. Learning more about you helps me understand why. You’re a gem, Russel.

    Like

    Reply
  2. Mag (Chancy's Mumsy)

    Great post Russell, loved every word of it and so enjoyed reading it. Glad to be a part of your family here on the internet. Hugs

    Like

    Reply
  3. Momma E.

    My husband (The Viking ) has a similar story. So glad we discovered each other and camp out on each others blogs! I have found this community to be incredibly supportive, diverse and amazingly respectful of all views (so far) Sending Big Hugs your way! Donna

    Like

    Reply
  4. patinaandcompany

    Wow,Russel, that is an amazing and inspiring story.You really pulled it together out of some pretty shattered pieces. For something so popular, it is a bit of a paradox that religion surely doesn’t have a respectful place for a whole lot of people.
    Impressive list of flags, btw!

    Like

    Reply
  5. LuAnn

    It takes courage to tell our story and you have told it beautifully Russel. Thanks for sharing and so glad that you had a grandmother to love and protect you. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Like

    Reply
  6. Bashar A.

    Very nice way to say thanks to your fans ๐Ÿ™‚ I also love looking at all the visitors from around the world… sometimes I try to cover the name of the country to see if I know all the flags… the internet made the world a much smaller place and sometimes I like it ๐Ÿ™‚

    Like

    Reply
  7. mandyevebarnett

    My search for religion was in my mid teens – my father was a non-practicing Catholic and my mother a Christian but we didn’t DO church. I was christened in the Free Church in South Africa. That church welcomed ALL religions to sit beside each other & pray…much better way of thinking. I’m with you Ray – it is the person not their skin color that is important. Anyone can be foul no matter what skin color they have but luckily most people are decent, loving and sharing…
    It always puzzles me that as a species we need to separate ourselves.

    Like

    Reply
    1. Russel Ray Photos Post author

      And label ourselves. Some of my more religious friends don’t understand me unless I label myself “irreligious”…………lol

      Like

      Reply
  8. kdkh

    Isn’t great that, as acorns, we can roll a long ways from the tree? Love the way you’ve sprouted into a different kind of tree all together – one that’s tolerant and open-minded. Be proud! And it sounds like you have a book hovering in there that needs to be written!

    Like

    Reply
    1. Russel Ray Photos Post author

      I have about 50 books in the process of being written. Chapter 1 is completed for all of them. Takes too much time to do Chapter 2’s………lol

      Like

      Reply
  9. petit4chocolatier

    This post was absolutely authentically beautiful! It is amazing how many people (including me) consider many people outside their biological family their true family. It is a lot like that phrase, sometimes a real father is not biological but is the father who stands by you each day. Thank you for this genuine post!

    Like

    Reply
  10. lizziejoy10

    I am enjoying being part of your internet family, Russell. Thank you for finding me. Thank you also for the lovely story you’ve shared. You have come so far on your life’s journey and are now shining the light for others. Bless you, my friend.

    Like

    Reply
  11. changeforbetterme

    well now you can count a Native American in your family! Well, part anyway ๐Ÿ˜‰ I also am not from a organized religion, just could’t cope with 1) people telling me what and how to believe 2) hypocrites 3) ones who talked down to me because I’m part Indian.
    I believe more the ways of my ancestors did. With just a mix of Wiccan in for interest. Glad to have a new brother!

    Like

    Reply
  12. Pink Ninjabi

    an amazing post. And glad to know you have an extensive family such as us Chinese straightees ๐Ÿ˜€ Which, really, according to Kinsey scale, we are all a spectrum ๐Ÿ˜€

    Pink.

    Like

    Reply
  13. Halim

    I tend to love all your posts because you’re such a wonderful writer and photographer. And you have such a beautiful heart and open mind. But this one is special.

    Thank YOU for your lovely blog!

    Like

    Reply
  14. valeriedavies

    Such a warm and inspiring story Russell,
    It’s easier to divorce one’s family than have them on your back for being so different, and the joy of finding a new family that accepts and encourages you is more than compensation, I know myself. The blogging family is a wonderful new creation!

    Like

    Reply
  15. artclubblog

    What an incredibly challenging journey. So glad you managed to get to where you are now. It must have taken a lot of strength and perseverance, and thank goodness for your inquisitive mind.

    Like

    Reply
  16. yomicfit

    Thank you for sharing.
    It sounds like you now have a great family.
    As one of your readers,
    I hope you consider that not all Catholics are bad.
    I have learned much love and respect for other cultures…from my family and my faith.
    After all, Jesus spoke of love the most.
    I say this with the understanding that you have experienced much hate,
    I just hope some of us can be a good voice. A voice of love.
    Mainly I say this,
    It doesn’t matter your faith or appearance, you and I are people who need love and I always hope I can show that to people.

    Like

    Reply
    1. Russel Ray Photos Post author

      I believe each person has to find his place in the world, and if religion helps some people do that, I think that’s great. Unfortunately, there are some people whom religion doesn’t want. I am one of those people.

      Like

      Reply
  17. clinock

    Thank you for sharing the joys and pains of your life – sounds like you have come through it all with flying colours and a strong creative impulse. Keep on truckin’…

    Like

    Reply
  18. Naomi Baltuck

    Hi Russel, this is an amazing post, and you have a remarkable story. It is something people out there need to hear again and again and again before they ‘get it.’ Thank you so much for sharing it.

    I am fortunate enough to still have members of my family that are also my friends, but I also consider the family we choose as important in many ways as the one we are born to, and in some cases, even more so.

    Like

    Reply
  19. Alison

    Hello Russel Ray. Nice to meet you. I’ve been camping out in your blog for a while. Very interesting and lots to like.
    Thanks for following our blog. I hope you enjoy our stories. While we are not remotely religious ( and like you find little to recommend them), we are spiritual and do believe in an infinite and eternal creative force that runs through all of us. I suppose life itself is our God.
    Photoshop is my friend ๐Ÿ™‚
    Cheers
    Alison
    ps curious to know how you found us.

    Like

    Reply

Let your words flow

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.