Monday, October 14, 2013

Another step forward in this journey we call life.

Tomorrow I turn 30. It's a big milestone in my life, but why? It's a marker that I pass and go and get my license renewed at the DMV. Nothing really changes too drastically. I have the same job. I'm still engaged to my fiancee; she doesn't love me any less. My dog still waits for me when I get home and doesn't care that I am older. Friends come and go, but at this age you usually have a few that aren't going anywhere for the rest of your life. So why does everyone fret over a number? For me it's just another step forward in this journey we call life.

Days come and go... weeks, months, years... We create relationships. We create memories. We bask in days of joy and cry in the days of sorrow. We share these experiences with those we love and sometimes with those we want to strangle. We gain new friends. We create families, but not always by blood. Friends can become your siblings or a pet becomes a furry child or nephew/niece.

Sometimes we move on when we don't want to, but realize later on in life it was for the best. As we get older we learn and grow. Each day we usually become wiser, but there are those days where we digress and eventually learn from. Those are the most important. That is what brings the strongest wisdom. We learn to be empathic to others. We learn how to be there for others in those times. It really is just one big circle. We fall; someone helps us up and then we turn around and help the next one who has fallen. We push and pull each other through this journey we call life. Every day is a struggle for someone in our lives and each day we trade off the title of hero in others' lives.

Each day we do our best to live our  lives the best we know how. A lot of times we get stuck in the mundane, but each day someone out there is looking up to you. Even just a little smile or a thank you is more than enough to brighten the person's day that thinks you are their hero.

Our lives are measured by the little gestures. It is measured by those we lift we up and at times carry when they can't get up on their own feet. I like to think in aging we don't have to regret anything we have done as long as we have grown taller on the inside and to others. We all make mistakes, but only looking back drags us down. I'm not saying we shouldn't ever look back, but we should do so to learn. Look up, take the next step, pass the milestones in your own journey. Forge paths for you and those behind you. We will see paths join, twist, cross, and at times depart from each other. When we get to the end we will see what a marvelous journey we created with our different achievements, relationships, and milestones.We then have a journey we can be proud of.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Courage to move forward

Thanks to the strength I got from 1) my fiancee, 2) my sister-in-law, and 3) from an Ex-Mormon group on Reddit at I was finally able to write a letter to my parents about how I feel about them treating me differently since I left the faith. I sent my parents this letter yesterday:

"Dear Mom and Dad,

I've been wanting to tell you this for a very long time, but it seems every time the discussion of religion comes up, I feel like you don't listen to me and won't acknowledge how I really feel. You come across as if you ignore the issue, it will go away. This is not something that you can ignore. What I have chosen for my life is not a "phase." I need you to understand that.

My decision was not easy. It was not something I did out of spite or to purposefully hurt my family. It was an entirely personal decision and was not intended as an attack on anyone else's beliefs. I do my best to respect others' beliefs as I would want my own to be respected. Still, I have had a lot of difficulty with my decision, mainly with my family and LDS friends. I feel that I am treated differently because of my choices, when I am really a much happier person. I may have lost every single LDS friend because I no longer believe in God, but I have made some lifetime friends that have really been there for me and for who I am. The reason I don't come around as much to be with the family is because I feel I am looked down upon and I am treated that I need to come back to the faith to be fully recognized by the family. It becomes very difficult to want to spend time with the family when I feel devalued and disrespected. Please, I don't want to argue I just want to let you know how I feel. I don't want an explanation, I don't necessarily need an apology. I just want you to recognize how you have come across to me and why I no longer feel like a full member of the family.

The reason I left the faith is in and of itself a complex experience. It boils down to the fact that in all my research of the faith I found too many things that are contradictory to the core beliefs of the faith. I felt that too many points in the history of the church that were hidden or sugar coated. I was confused and began to doubt myself as well as the faith. After a long time of being confused, questioning my own beliefs, and research, I made the only choice I felt was right for me. I am still a person who strives to be good, kind, honest, and trustworthy but I no longer choose to associate these actions with a faith. Again, this is how I feel. Religion has it's place and I am not saying anyone who lives in said religion is wrong or evil. Each person has to come to their own decision on what and how they want to believe or worship. The LDS Faith even teaches this in Article of Faith 11.

I just want you to know where I stand and I want to be treated as an equal, to return as a full member of the family. If you want to discuss any specific issues I have as to why I left the faith I am open for honest discussion- as long as this discussion can be civil, respectful, and without condemnation. I only wish to improve my relationship with my family, not to place blame or be hurt.


Your Son"

I then waited for a response. I did not get one until the next morning, today, when my mother texted me. At first she was accusing me. Saying that they didn't treat me differently than my other siblings that are still within the faith. It seemed like my letter was written to them in vain. Then I started to show her where they did and something clicked.

I told her that just asking me to pray when she knows I no longer believe in God is offensive to me. I told her it would be the same as if I asked her to read "The God Delusion" because I thought it could help with something in her life.

I told her life does not have to revolve completely around church and we can connect just as family. After about an hour she came back and said, "in my management courses we were told people can't change unless they know something is wrong. It's time for me to realize I have some changes to make. I love you. I hope we can connect more because of this conversation. I sure want to."

I couldn't believe the change. I wasn't really expecting much from the letter. I just had to let them know. It was freeing. It lifted a huge weight of my shoulders and I couldn't contain my smile. I was thinking, "wow, there might actually be some progress with my mom." I really doubt my father will ever come out and say anything to me. I am pretty sure he will ignore the letter and never speak of religion to me again. Which, if even that is all he can do, is better than them condemning me.

With this happening the way it did, I finally feel I am ready to remove my name from the LDS Faith records. Thank you to all of those who have been there for that I have and have not mentioned. I have some amazing friends!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The "So-called" Debt Crisis

Why do we take our politicians seriously, especially The Grand Old Party? Earlier this week both Boehner and Ryan came out and admitted the debt crisis is not as they say. So why are we voting on a tax cuts? Why are we working to give the rich even more money instead of putting America back to work?

I ask you how did we get out of The Great Depression? By putting America back to work. We built freeways and highways to connect America. We built the school system that became the envy of the world. We progressed for the next 40 years. We became one of the greatest countries in the world. People could live off wages they made in construction, in the factories. People could live the real American dream, but that is now dead.

Everyone protects the "Job Creators." Saying we can't take their money just because they're rich. They made their way to top so we can't punish them by taxing them. How much have they helped out America and created jobs by giving them the tax cats? How much have they really paid in the past? America during it's most prosperous time taxed the wealthiest people in America over 60%. And what did we get it for it? Everything I have already mentioned. We were the envy of the world people believed they could make something of themselves in America, but we can't today. We struggle from paycheck to paycheck. Health care costs are continually rising. The middle class is suffocating. And the chasm between the wealthy and everyone else is getting bigger and deeper by the day.

These corporate CEO's have convinced America through the money they give to our politicians that they are the ones struggling while they laugh all the way to bank. They don't care about anyone, but themselves and one's country can only be as strong as the weakest link.

How can we fix America? We create real jobs. We put Americans back to work. We create The New New Deal. We fix our dilapidated roads and bridges. We create clean energy. We build an electrical grid connecting all of America to share electricity making it possible to build wind, solar, and geothermal energy and make it practical. When we do this we won't need coal and the need for oil will also drop making the cost of utilities go down. We build a high speed train system connecting America just like we did with the highways. The trains will compete with the airline companies making prices for traveling go down making things more affordable for Americans to travel again and put even more money back into the economy.

We put money back into education. We raise the salary for teachers and higher more. We build more schools and more specialized schools. We teach our children and the rising generation in a way that is better suited for their learning styles and strengths. Standardized testing does not work and we can see that is the case when we compare ourselves to other countries. We bring back the arts to school. We teach music, theater, art, pottery, etc. Studies time and again show kids who take the arts do better in school and are happier. They create with their hands and minds giving them a sense of accomplishment. This creates more critical thinking skills.

Time has proven tax cuts for the wealthy don't work. Tell your politicians what you really want. Tell them what will fix America. Flood their voicemails and their emails. Do not give up and if they don't listen don't vote for them. We need an America for the people not for the corporations.

Monday, March 18, 2013

A life lived for art is never a life wasted

In this day and age art is looked at as a bastard, an orphan, and almost the unwanted; at least here in America. So many people in America look at art as a worthless profession. That people choose art because they want to be lazy and sit in a studio all day. When this is the opposite.

Art enriches life. It makes life fulfilling, but unfortunately art and American culture with it, is degrading and almost going away. When you think of American culture now what comes to mind? I think of hip-hop and pop music that only sing about the hoes, the alcohol, and drugs. I think of blockbuster movies. Music and movies have become our culture, which isn't necessarily bad, but in the way it has progressed and ruled out most other art forms and even infiltrated other art forms is detrimental to our culture. Even Broadway lost its way thinking that the spectacle was more important than the words or message.

Don't get me wrong we still have some great artists out there that put out some great music, but they are often overlooked. Recently, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis have produced an album called The Heist. We have all heard the song "Thrift Shop," but what about the rest? Most, if not all, of this album has some great social commentary. They have created art that inspires and makes us think. We have the song "Same Love" that promotes acceptance of the LGBT community. We have the song "10,000 hours," that gives light about the struggles of becoming an artist and how it isn't easy, but how they do it for the art and not for the money.

Every day we hear how the arts are degraded that you can't make money in the arts. That you can't live a life and be an artist. We hear of states, like Kansas, who have completely cut all funding for the arts from their budget saying it isn't necessary. We hear talk of the arts being cut from schools. We hear theater and music being taken away, but what does that leave us? Kids are left to the books, to the tests. Creativity is being leeched out of them every day. Kids are losing part of their culture and their history and most detrimental of all, the ability to critically think.

Art does much more than just create critical thinkers or problem solvers. It makes life enjoyable. It gives a sense of imagination that something can be outside of the norms of life, and everything doesn't have to fit inside of a bubble or a square on piece of paper. Where would life be without music? Without theater? Without Shakespeare? Without Picasso? Without tall tales? Without dragons or unicorns?

A few weeks ago my fiancee told me about how she was telling her students about America's Tall Tales. Telling them about Paul Bunyan, John Henry, Johnny Appleseed, etc and none of them had heard of these stories before. It made me sad to know that just 12 years ago when I was in school we read these stories. That it was taught in our American History classes. It's as if imagination has been replaced with tests, with the right answer, with Halo or Max Payne (Let's get this straight, I'm not against video games at all. I own a Wii myself, but it seems that is all kids do.) When I was young the back yard was my arena, my stadium, my forest, the tundra, the desert, etc. Without this all the knowledge is lost. Without being able to imagine or critically think where are we going? Why is a test so much more important that the arts?

Now other countries have not lost this idea of the arts. Even countries that may be failing otherwise still realize the importance of art and how culture influences the future and the youth. If someone in business wants sometime to be innovative they won't be without the arts in their life. You can't expect a child who has done nothing in school except fill in bubbles and regurgitate answers to know what is going to make them competitive in the market. They won't be able to come up the next big idea.

Art is necessary. Art invigorates life. Art gives people a purpose. Art lets kids think outside that bubble. Art opens doors that cannot be seen with the eye, but with the mind and then seen, tasted, or heard, through music, through theater, through cooking, etc.

I show appreciation to those who fight against what "makes money." To all of you who want to make my and others' day brighter continue to do so. You are the unsung hero. You give light where there is none. You give color where there is only black and white. You make music where there is only silence. You are what makes this world a better place. Without art we are all lost and hopefully one day soon America will realize this. That without art there are no individuals.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Looking Back

Today I was reading a lot of my old posts. And it got me thinking about who I am as a person. A lot of it mainly is about my grandpa that I lost a bit over a year ago. I still miss him a lot and sometimes songs or movies or even browsing Reddit reminds me of him. It hits you when you least expect. Some days really are still harder than they were before, but I don't feel there is anything wrong with that. In my own way I am still grieving and that makes me look back over who I have become over the last year.

In many ways I hope that I am continuing his legacy. Have I really tried to be a better person and be more like him or have I digressed? Although, that is something we all struggle with or at least should. We can't always be perfect. We can't always understand where others are coming from and even though we have good intentions we may cause more harm than actual good.

This week I was watching a tv series I watch pretty regularly and the character seemed to be having a similar struggle I am having with myself right now. He went to the Waterfall of Truth and confronted his inner self he had hid away and tried to forget. In the show his inner self was full of hate and disgust, and he couldn't believe this was who he was deep down. He had thought that part of him had disappeared.

At times I believe I have gotten rid of a lot of the hate I have had for certain things or people, but I feel as of lately I have let hate control me too much. So as I continue letting things fester I become more and more angry. Some say that is because Christ or God is no longer in my life, but I don't believe so. It really is just a personal choice. No one forced me to be angry. No one took something away from me to make me angry. I made the choice to let it get under my skin.

It's like my old self was waiting for the chance to be fed again. And it's not something I can bottle up again. I can't hide him. I have found that if all I do is bottle things up or hide it when that part of me receives the fuel it needs it consumes who I really want to become.

So as I continue with my own self progression I will learn to be one with myself that I have hidden. Learn to love him to turn away the anger that is inside me. I know it is much easier said than done and it may never fully happen, but as I look more into who I am and who I want to become I see more and more of my Grandpa than I can ever imagine. Somehow he figured it out within his 88 year life span and that is what I will strive to be like. I will strive to once again work on continuing his legacy that he left for me.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Beyond Marriage Equality

I listened to a song tonight that got me thinking. The title of that song is Same Love. I know that I wrote a blog about Marriage Equality about a year or so ago and that is really all we ever talk about. Why does it have to stop there? Marriage Equality is a great start and the momentum of that is growing, but we as a community, as a country, as a world need to keep going Beyond Marriage Equality.

We need to start treating people like people. Just because someone is different that does not make them a bad person. That does not give you the right to discriminate against them. I am happy that I have the right to be me and I don't have to face discrimination and that is why I take my place beside those who are not treated the same as me. I do not have to fear that someone will treat me differently because I am straight. I can't imagine how hard that is for those of the LGBT Community.

It doesn't always have to be something big. It can be as little as asking someone to not use those words in a negative context. Lesbian is not wrong. Gay is not wrong. Queer is not wrong. Trans is not wrong. Being attracted to the same sex does not make you a smaller person. Being attracted to who you love is all that matters. The sooner we can change ourselves the sooner we can be examples for others around us and most importantly the young that look up to us.

Until everyone can live without fear we cannot truly be free. Everyone should be able to be who they are inside not who others think they should be on the outside. There are too many wonderful people that are lost because they feel they are not wanted in this world. Too many children who are kicked out of their homes or leave their homes because of who they really are. This is the human rights movement of our day. Stand on the right side of history. Stand on the side of love and turn your back on hate and lift those up that have been harmed and hurt. Make a new friend; be an ally. You will find more love and gratification in your life than you can ever imagine.