Category Archives: Inspiration

Be the flower in someone’s life

Be the flower in someone's life

Dawna Melene Brinley KirkToday would have been my mother’s 88th birthday, according to her.

She claimed she was born in 1931.

She wasn’t.

She was born in 1935.

But I didn’t find out about that until May 11, 2019.

I have copies of my dad’s high school yearbooks. His picture is in them. My mom’s is not. Now I know why.

However, at, one can find yearbooks for just about any school in the United States for any year. Presuming that my mom was born in 1935, I went searching for yearbooks for Kingsville, Texas, for 1950-1953, and found one with Dawna’s picture in it (right).

My mom—I’m going to call her Dawna from here on out that since that is her name, and mom just doesn’t sound right since I never had any mom relationship with her—died in 2012. It was all those death notices, burial notices, and memorial notices that I found online while doing genealogical research that got me to digging deeper. I wasn’t necessarily interested in the genealogy per sé; I was more interested in any medical information I could find concerning both sides of the family.

I have been estranged from both sides of my family since 1993-1994 so I could not answer the doctors’ questions about family medical history.

Dawna’s side of the family are Mormons ,and dad’s side are Catholics, so when I came out as gay to everyone during those two years, well, they came down on me hard, sending me some of the most despicable stuff I ever had read.

Finally, after reading Louise Hay’s book, You Can Heal Your Life, I quietly said goodbye to everyone and simply ceased communications with them. It was this sentence that convinced me of the way to move forward in my life:

You did not have a choice into which family you were born,
but you have a choice now as to who is in your famil

When I was in Ogden, Utah on May 11, I looked up my maternal grandfather since I knew he lived in the area. My favorite aunt & uncle (dad’s side, but Southern Baptists in 1993) came down on me the hardest.

Douglas E. BrinleyMy maternal grandfather—we’ll call him Dr. Brinley since that’s his name—was number two. Dr. Brinley is retired from Brigham Young University where he taught marriage courses, conducted marriage seminars, was a marriage counselor, and authored many books on marriage. Do a Google Images search on Dr. Douglas E. Brinley…. Yep, that’s my maternal grandfather and all his books on heterosexual marriage and families. Many of his books still are for sale at

While I was visiting with Dr. Brinley, he told me that Dawna was pregnant with my oldest brother when she & dad got married on January 27, 1951. (Interestingly, my wise old grandmother, dad’s mom, was born on January 26.) When they found out that Dawna was pregnant, they ran off to Mexico to get married. Back in the 1950s, though, Mexican marriage certificates were not recognized in Texas. With that discovery, they ran off to Comanche, Oklahoma, just across the Texas/Oklahoma border, and got married again. I’m thinking, if you’re going to get married, just get married already. Sheesh. Of course, times were a wee bit different then.

I had noticed in all the genealogy records that Dawna’s birth date was always shown as “about 1935.” Well, in my mind, “about 1935” for online records could, of course, be 1931. In several instances, I attempted to add the correct information for Dawna being born on September 30, 1931. That specific edit never stuck, although other edits I made did. In some instances, people unknown to me changed my edit back to “about 1935.” I found that interesting but not worth exploring further.

With my visit to Dr. Brinley, though, suddenly it made perfect sense why Dawna would lie (for 61 years) about her birth date and why it was always shown in the records as “about 1935.” Everyone knew exactly when she was born, but if we do the math, we find that my dad, born on January 15, 1930, was 21 years old. Dawna, born on September 30, 1935, was 15¼ years old. In other words, dad was a statutory rapist.

When I came home from Utah, my curiosity got the better of me, and I decided to do the DNA test. The results showed that I definitely was Dawna’s child, but who my dad was is not quite definitive. I’m definitely related to my living brother, but excepting him, it seems that I’m more closely related to my oldest uncle—I’ll call him Charles; you know why—on my dad’s side. Ancestry hints that one of his children likely is my sister. His other children are hinted at first cousins or siblings.

I know that DNA inheritance is only partially inherited and can even skip complete generations, but still….

If we do the mathematics for human pregnancies, I was born on March 11, 1955. Nine months previous to that would seem to indicate that I probably was a June 14 Flag Day conception. That would be super since my dad was in the Air Force! Patriotism! Gotta love it! However, dad was stationed in Korea at the time, as well as six months previous to my conception and six months after. Maybe patriotism isn’t all it’s cracked up to be….

If we take this a little further, we find that Dawna was living with my dad’s parents at the time. Guess who else was living with my dad’s parents? Yep. My dad’s three younger brothers, all still in K-12 school. I’m thinking that Dawna got lonely and Charles comforted her, so to speak.

John Ancel Kirk, Jr.My (supposed) dad (right) committed suicide on January 15, 1961. He was working for Missouri Pacific Railroad in Palestine, Texas. They found his body in a box car on January 18. Interestingly, January 15, is my second oldest brother’s birthday. So here’s how I am picturing this going down:

We’re having a birthday party for my brother. Dawna and dad get into a fight (Dawna already was a great drinker at that time, according to hearsay), and Dawna blurts out:

Ha! Russel’s not even your son! He is Charles’s.

I think hearing from your wife that she and your younger brother were sexually intimate, that said sexual intimacy resulted in a child, and then doing the math to confirm that Russel could not possibly be your child, could be quite disturbing. How would one live with that? Obviously, my dad decided that he couldn’t.Charles, Rodney, & Doug Kirk

DNA evidence, as well as a lot of circumstantial evidence, seems to indicate that Charles is my dad. The picture at right is of my supposed dad’s three brothers; Charles is at the left.

Charles is the only uncle on my dad’s side who still is alive.

I’m thinking about sending him a Father’s Day card in 2020.

If I do, should I sign it?

“Love, Your Son, Russel.”

Maybe I’ll leave out “Love,”….


Happy birthday!

SNIPPETS (8-20-18)



A short video starring the furry felines at the Friends of Cats from my 2½ hours volunteering on August 19, 2018.


I will be volunteering at Friends of Cats for 2½ hours each day, Sunday through Thursday. Yesterday I spent most of my time letting the FIV cats know that they have not been forgotten. They really enjoyed having me with them. Except this one. I wasn’t fooled. I saw him watching me.

Cat eye


I have a Bachelor of Science in Forest Management from Texas A&M University. So I do, uh, kinda like trees. However, treeless mountains also can be quite beautiful, like these over near Death Valley National Monument in California.

Treeless mountains


Now, along with alternative facts and fake news, we have Rudy Giuliani telling us that “Truth isn’t truth.” Zoey the Cool Cat agrees, I think. Maybe not. Maybe she’s just being sarcastic.

Truth isn't truth!


While volunteering at Friends of Cats for National Clear the Shelters Day on Saturday, I met my first heterochromia cat. Previously all I had seen were pictures. Now I have my own picture.

White cat with heterochromia

Heterochromia can occur in humans and dogs as well as cats. With cats, it occurs mostly in white cats. One eye almost always is blue in humans, dogs, and cats.


When I came home Saturday after 8 hours volunteering for Friends of Cats, I went to hug Zoey the Cool Cat. She smelled me and gave me a look that said, “Dude! You’ve been cheating on me!” A video of many of the little furry ones that I had the pleasure to cheat with on my first day of volunteering


While I was roaming the country a few weeks ago, I made it a point to visit all the great railroad spots, such as the historic California railroad yards in Barstow and Yermo. Here’s a video of a Union Pacific freight train heading west into the Barstow yard. From there it will go either to San Francisco, Los Angeles, or San Diego.


This little guy’s name is Chuckie. He lives at the Friends of Cats shelter in El Cajon, California. He is a finicky eater, preferring only whole chicken from Costco.



Got the official diagnosis Saturday on Zoey the Cool Cat’s blood, poop, and pee analysis. She’s diabetic, although not severe enough to require daily insulin shots. The vet wants to give her a significant change of diet.

Zoey the Cool Cat book


It is often said that you don’t choose a cat, a cat chooses you. I saw that on Saturday while volunteering all day at Friends of Cats shelter in El Cajon, California. It was very moving.

A teen boy came in with his mom. They sat on the floor and were petting cats. A black cat (yeah black cats!) named Ace, a “problem cat” that had been in the shelter for several years, came up to him, flopped on the floor, and proceeded to let the boy rub his tummy and head, and even pick him up. Ace wanted to snuggle and generally told this boy that he was the one. The boy took him home.

Staff was astounded because Ace had never done such before.

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Out & About—This church, that church, and God’s Garage

Out & About San Diego

Back in 1966 or so my great grandfather died. He was buried in the Catholic Church in San Antonio in which he had been born, baptized, first communionized, married, and attended for 50 years. All was well.

Three years later, my great grandmother died. The family thought that she would be buried in the same church as her husband.


During those ensuing three years, the Catholic Church had redrawn its dioceses, and it turned out that my great grandmother now lived in a different diocese. Interestingly, the new church for the new diocese had been built right across the street. So even though my great grandmother probably knew that she had been placed in a new diocese, she kept attending the same church she had been going to for 50+ years. All was not well.

I think that’s when I realized that manmade religions really weren’t for me.

Back in 1994 I was working in Detroit and decided one day to walk Grand River Avenue from Washington Boulevard to West Eight Mile Road, which was close to the office. I had been told that it was called Eight Mile Road because it was eight miles from downtown. That was an alternative fact spouted well before alternative facts became popular. On almost every intersection, four corners, were four churches. Usually they were different denominations but occasionally they were the same—two Catholic churches, or two Presbyterian churches. I understood because of what had happened to my great grandmother 25+ years earlier.

While I will always question whether or not an all-powerful, all-knowing god requires these monstrous cathedrals be built to worship him (or her), I do appreciate their architecture. When I was in Pacific Beach a while back looking for the library, I came across two huge churches right next to each other: St. Brigid Parish Catholic Church and Christ Lutheran Church.

St. Brigid Parish Catholic ChurchSt. Brigid Parish Catholic Church

St. Brigid Parish Catholic Church, Pacific Beach, San Diego, California

St. Brigid Parish Catholic Church, Pacific Beach, San Diego, California

Even though I grew up in the Catholic Church, did the CYO thing, went to Catholic School and Sunday School, I have never heard of St. Brigid. Wikipedia to the rescue!

Saint Brigid of Kildare or Brigid of Ireland (c. 451 – 525) is one of Ireland’s patron saints. Irish hagiography makes her an early Irish Christian nun, abbess, and foundress of several monasteries of nuns, including that of Kildare in Ireland. Her feast day is February 1, which was originally a pagan festival called Imbolc, marking the beginning of spring.

The saint shares her name with an important Celtic goddess, and there are many legends and folk customs associated with her. Some scholars suggest that the saint is merely a Christianization of the goddess. Others suggest that she was a real person who took on the goddess’s attributes. Medieval Art Historian Pamela Berger argues that Christian “monks took the ancient figure of the mother goddess and grafted her name and functions onto her Christian counterpart.” Professor Dáithí Ó hÓgáin and others suggest that the saint had been chief druidess at the temple of the goddess Brigid, and was responsible for converting it into a Christian monastery. After her death, the name and characteristics of the goddess became attached to the saint.

Well, there ya go. Once again I learned absolutely nothing that could make my life better. So let’s move on to Christ Lutheran Church, founded in 1954 as Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church.

Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church
Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church, Pacific Beach, San Diego

Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church, Pacific Beach, San Diego

I’m familiar with Lutherans and Christ but I wondered why Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church seems to have dropped the Evangelical from its name. So I went to Wikipedia again to see just who these Evangelicals are and why they had been banished from their own church.

Evangelicalism, Evangelical Christianity, or Evangelical Protestantism is a worldwide, transdenominational movement within Protestant Christianity which maintains the belief that the essence of the gospel consists of the doctrine of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ’s atonement. Evangelicals believe in the centrality of the conversion or the “born again” experience in receiving salvation, in the authority of the Bible as God’s revelation to humanity, and in spreading the Christian message.

Its origins are usually traced back to English Methodism, the Moravian Church (in particular theology of its bishop Nicolaus Zinzendorf and his community at Herrnhut), and German Lutheran Pietism. While all these phenomena contributed greatly, John Wesley and other early Methodists were at the root of sparking this new movement during the First Great Awakening. Today, Evangelicals are found across many Protestant branches, as well as in various denominations not subsumed to a specific branch. The movement gained great momentum during the 18th and 19th centuries with the Great Awakenings in the United Kingdom and North America.

The Americas, Africa, and Asia are home to the majority of Evangelicals. United States has the largest concentration of Evangelicals in the world; its community forms a quarter of the population, is politically important and based mostly in the Bible Belt. In the United Kingdom, Evangelicals are mostly represented in the Methodist Church, Baptist communities and among low church Anglicans.

Alas, I’m not having much success on this last Sunday in February for again I have learned absolutely nothing that could make my life better.

My wise old grandmother taught me to add laughter to each day, so I shall end with some laughter. Just north of these two churches was God’s Garage:

God's Garage, Pacific Beach, San Diego, California

Now that’s funny.

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The Clothesline Project

Did you know?

My wise old grandmother taught me not to air my dirty clothes in public. So imagine my surprise when I’m walking around the campus of the University of San Diego, a Catholic university, and see two clotheslines full of laundry in front of the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice. Here’s one of them:

The Clothesline Project

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

The Clothesline ProjectI noticed writing on the shirts so I went over to have a closer look and discovered that it was “The Clothesline Project,” a program started in Massachusetts in 1990 to address the issue of violence against women.

According to sources, “The Clothesline Project is a vehicle for women affected by violence and those that love them to express their emotions by decorating a shirt.”

“The shirts on the clotheslines give testimony to the problem of violence against women and serve as a call to put an end to the silence around sexual assault.”

The Clothesline Project

The Clothesline Project

The Clothesline Project

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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I’m rich! I’m rich!


It doesn’t take much for me to get inspired each day, usually a catnap here and there, a hot shower, the news report, and my Excel spreadsheet detailing my goals and tasks for each day.

Occasionally, though, my level of inspiration jumps a few notches, as it did two days ago when I got this email:


Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Notice that payment is in Pounds. I thought Great Britain was part of the Eurozone and was using the Euro. Not so. I guess the citizens voted down membership in the Eurozone. Good for me, though. When I initially read the email, I thought the sales price was in Euros, which were trading at $1.14 to a U.S. dollar. When I went to my PayPal account, the amount was much more than what I thought it should be. That’s when I realized that payment was in Pounds Sterling, which were trading at $1.499 to a U.S. dollar. Yahooooo! More money for me!

Here is the video that sold:

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

A mere 13 seconds. However, the event itself started at 10:00 a.m. and ended at 5:00 p.m. Knowing that parking in the area would be bad, I arrived at 7:00 a.m., got a great parking spot, and proceeded to take pictures of the trains passing by every 30 minutes:

Amtrak Pacific Surfliner in Del Mar, California

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

So if I divide the sales price, $1,124.25, by 12 hours, I get an hourly rate of $93.69. Hmmm. Still not bad………..LOL

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Little Free Libraries in San Diego County

Out & About

Little Free Libraries are a community movement that offers free books housed in small containers to members of the local community. They are also referred to as community book exchanges, book trading posts, pop-up libraries, and Noox (Neighbourhood bOOk eXchange).

The Little Free Library phenomenon, according to Wikipedia, started in 2009 in Hudson, Wisconsin.

“Todd Bol mounted a wooden container designed to look like a school house on a post on his lawn as a tribute to his mother, who was a book lover and school teacher.”

Recently I found a Little Free Library at Chollas Lake, but it also has nice chairs to sit in!

Little Free Library

Little Free Library

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Quoting Wikipedia again:

Little Free Library owners can create their own library box, usually about the size of a doll house, or purchase one from the [Little Free Library website]. Libraries may be registered for a fee and assigned a number at the organization’s website. Libraries can be found through their GPS coordinates. Owners receive a sign that reads “Little Free Library”. They often have the phrase, “Take a Book. Leave a Book.”

As of February 2013, all 50 states and 40 countries worldwide have been involved in the literary program.[6

The original goal was the creation of 2,150 Little Libraries, which would surpass the number of libraries founded by Andrew Carnegie. As of January 2014, there are over 15,000 Little Libraries worldwide, including all 50 states and 40 countries.

Here is a list of Little Free Libraries that I know of as of January 25, 2015:

2727 Southampton Road, Carlsbad
2357 Summerwind Place, Carlsbad
4190 Sunnyhill Drive, Carlsbad
2605 Unicornio Street, Carlsbad
911 Rutgers Avenue, Chula Vista
601 Crescent Drive, Chula Vista
200 Stratford Court, Del Mar
1902 Quidort Court, El Cajon
1332 Whitsett Drive, El Cajon
1650 Sunburst Drive, El Cajon
107 Woodshadow Lane, Encinitas
744 Quiet Hills Farm Road, Escondido
2356 Heather Point, Escondido
660 East Grand Avenue, Escondido
1263 Canter Road, Escondido
611 El Norte Hills Place, Escondido
1683 Calle Candela, La Jolla
Little Free Library4622 Grandview Terrace, La Mesa
10733 Itzamna Road, La Mesa
4424 Nabal Drive, La Mesa
4351 Parks Avenue, La Mesa
4630 Palm Avenue, La Mesa (picture ►)
10615 Snyder Road, La Mesa
317 Hoover Street, Oceanside
16285 Oak Creek Trail, Poway
13130 Woodmont Street, Poway
12133 Sage View Road, Poway
13423 Cricket Hill, Poway
3412 Quince St, San Diego
2611 Grandview St, San Diego
3343 Harbor View Drive, San Diego
2263 Pentuckett Avenue, San Diego
4963 Canterbury Drive, San Diego
1079 Cypress Avenue, San Diego
3314 Karok Avenue, San Diego
2153 Pine Street, San Diego
2731 Amulet Street, San Diego
12655 Pacato Circle South, San Diego
4523 Cather Avenue, San Diego
815 Avalon Court, San Diego
10444 Cheviot Court, San Diego
4567 East Talmadge Drive, San Diego
5854 Malvern Court, San Diego
3530 Cooper Street, San Diego
2341 Whitman Street, San Diego
4649 Biona Drive, San Diego
9505 East Harland Circle, Santee

If you have a Little Free Library, you can register it to make it official.

Little Free Library

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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Zoey the Cool (Book) CatZoey the Cool Cat exploring the books

Some things should be shared


When I’m depressed and suicidal, I often resort to reading and listening to lots of music—since October 16 I’ve been averaging over eleven hours a day of music.

My reading in these situations often is stuff that makes me laugh, think, cry, love, wish, share….

My first circumstance with such thoughts came when I was in high school in 1971. Just a lad of 16, I fell in love with two people, one female and one male. I didn’t know what was happening to me. That was when I discovered Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations. Coupled with anything and everything Beatles, I worked my way out of depression. Nowadays, of course, they have meds for that, but one has to be able to afford getting to a doctor to get a prescription for such meds, or have very good health insurance.

So that leaves me, still, with music and books.

The book that I am reading through right now is “If Ignorance Is Bliss, Why Aren’t There More Happy People” with the subtitle “Smart Quotes For Dumb Times,” by John Lloyd and John Mitchinson. The authors previously graced humanity with their book, “The Book of General Ignorance.”

Here’s a thought for today that I got from “If Ignorance Is Bliss….”:

Happiness shared

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