Curitiba by Night

25 10 2017

I’m worried about the place you are staying,” Sandra told us as we loaded our backpacks from the airport into her SUV. It’s not a safe part of downtown, and there is lots of drugs and crime.

Well, that wasn’t exactly what I wanted to hear as I arrived in a foreign city for the first time, ready to check into our AirBnB. Our friend, Sandra, was a well-dressed, 50-something Principal of an architecture firm, whom I had met a couple years earlier at a GreenBuild Conference in Philadelphia, and stayed in touch with via Facebook. Our host was much younger, in her late twenties, and renting out a room in her 2 bedroom flat in downtown Curitiba. She had good reviews, and I felt like she was honest that there might be some sketchier neighbors nearby, which did not surprise me for a downtown location in a major metropolis.

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When I found out that I had been accepted to be an international speaker at GreenBuild Brasil, I immediately reached out to Sandra to let her know that I would be visiting her country for the first time. She offered to pick us up from the airport and show us around for the afternoon, as well as giving us a tour of her Architecture firm. She, too, would be speaking at the conference, but was thrilled that we were able to take a few extra days to come visit Curitiba before heading to Sao Paulo for the event itself. As a grad student, I had studied Curitiba for its groundbreaking push towards sustainable mass transit and green spaces nearly 40 years ago. I wanted to see how it had held up over time, and to experience the city first hand. Sandra was the perfect person to share the city’s history and Architectural highlights with us on our short stay.

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After our tour by car, with several stops and recommendations on what we should come back to see on our own, we drove back downtown. Up a narrow alley with nothing seeming to be open, there were four or five ‘street kids’ sitting on the sidewalk with nothing to do. They reminded me of some of my stoner friends in high school. Although it was daylight, we could see that this might get a little sketchy after dark. Sandra dropped us at the curb of the 16 story apartment building, and waited to be sure that we could get in through the locked gate. Our code worked, we waved goodbye and “See you in Sao Paulo!” before heading through the courtyard to find our way to our AirBnB.

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We let ourselves into the flat where we were staying, greeted by a sweet guard kitty. We got settled, and started developing a plan for our remaining 2 1/2 days. Shortly after 6, our host came home from work and greeted us. Her English was stunning, which made sense once she told us that she is an editor. Her walls were lined with books, mostly in English, and stacks of classic albums. We hit is off right away, and she rattled off some places she thought we might enjoy. She had plans that night, but offered to have us join her for a party Saturday night, which we gleefully accepted.

 

At night, the streets came alive. What appeared to be abandoned storefronts opened up, twinkling with fervor, as locals lazily strolled in for a late afternoon capereina. Narrow alleys were laced with strings of lights, and echoed with laughter and the primal drumming of a street artist. We explored just a few blocks from our place, nervous about being targeted as tourists. Every place we stopped in was unique and atmospheric. Our Portuguese was not great, but it was hard to find people who spoke English, so we made due with simple phrases, crude translations, and gestures.

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When our host confirmed her plans to meet some friends out later, we were so happy to be able to join her. There was an afro-beats dance party at an arts collective about a mile away. It was just past the more populated areas we had already explored, and definitely not an area we felt comfortable walking to by ourselves- especially at night.

 

We all got dressed up and ready for a night out. Brazilians seemed to take going out fairly seriously, and dressing up was absolutely expected. I did the best I could with the few travel-friendly dressier items that I had packed. I was more concerned about being dressed comfortably so I could dance all night. Together, the three of us set off into the night to walk a little over a mile to our destination.

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With our host’s confidence, we were able to really take in the night time experience. I peered into dark alleys, keeping my party in my peripheral vision. I stared into illuminated dive bars, traced the architectural details with my eyes, and inhaled the sundry scents of Curitiba. The event was apparently quite popular, with a line around the block of an ambiguous building. I would have never guessed what was inside.

 

The large hall was filled with beautiful, exotic Brazilians of every size, color, and style. Never have I seen a culture so truly varied and integrated! We almost fit in, except for our American dancing style. We samba’d and shimmied, and broke out into full on singing when Michael Jackson songs blasted through the crowds. We stayed up dancing until the wee hours of the morning, and walked home in comfortable exhaustion. It was exactly the kind of local experience that I seek out, and made Curitiba truly memorable.

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Healthruptcy

14 09 2017

healthruptcy

noun   /   health-rupt-cy    /    \ ˈhelth-(ˌ)rəp(t)-sē \

1the quality or state of being forced into bankruptcy due to one catastrophic healthcare incident places a large financial burden on a person or family without the actual capability of paying off the debt. 
2utter failure or impoverishment
 

Example: I literally live in fear of healthruptcy, and am losing sleep over the very real risk of this happening to me. And I actually have health insurance. 

health care bill

American Health Care is Broken

Today Bernie Sanders proposed an aggressively pro-access health care bill, that would expand medicaid to younger age brackets, utilizing a multi-year phase in of expanded coverage. Democrats who opposed similar bills just 8 years ago are now in support. This bill has as much a chance of being approved as Sperry Glacier has of surviving climate change past 2030.

 

What’s changed?

I’m not going to get into all the politics of why the new administration has failed to repeal the Affordable Care Act, or how the original passing of ACA was a massive compromise by Democrats to appease Republicans, or how- like most brand new programs- there were huge failures in the rolling out of the ACA. Regardless of all that history, the facts are clear. Americans are suffering from skyrocketing rates of Healthruptcy. And most of the rest of us are now stricken with Healthruptcyphobia. 

 

The American Dream…

The fact is, our insurance markets are out of control, which is slaughtering the American Dream. Health care costs, partly because of onerous reporting requirements, have skyrocketed higher than Space X. Most Americans are considered lucky to have ‘catastrophic’ coverage that requires them to pay the first $5,000-20,000 out of pocket before insurance even kicks in, and now, what used to be commonly covered by your employer, is now a new living expense for American families. Six percent of your gross income, on average, goes toward this. (Check back later this week for a separate post on how this has personally affected my family after a tragic car accident).

Or, in my case, I take 16% of my gross monthly income and set it aside for health care costs.

SIXTEEN PERCENT! That’s as much as I pay for housing!

 

The New Normal?

We are the only developed country in the world that does not provide universal health care. And you know what? It’s hard to be healthy, happy, or productive in life when you are constantly living in fear of healthruptcy. Every major study on happiness clearly shows that developed countries where people don’t live in fear of a healthruptcy have the happiest people in the world. (We could have another discussion on why poorer countries are also happier than developed countries, but that’s outside this scope of conversation). 

 

All the countries shown below in green provide free access to health care for all citizens, as a shared cost that all citizens contribute to through taxes:

map insuranceAnd you know what? Happy people also live longer! Win-win!!

 

…But it’s a flawed system!!

Will taxes go up? Absolutely. But will my taxes go up by more than that 16% of my gross income that I’m already paying? Doubtful. Especially once the market adjusts to reflect cost benefits of buying in bulk.

brexit-lemmingsAre there problems with universal health care? Sure! But they are nowhere near as dire as the healthruptcy cliff Americans are heading towards if we don’t move towards a better solution.

And, P.S., here’s the underlying reason why every other developed country already does this:

WE ARE ALL HUMAN.

Would you walk past a child crying with a bloody knee? Would you not help a wounded soldier limp to safety? If you recognize that it’s for the betterment of society to pay taxes to educate our next generation, even when you don’t have kids yourself, then you understand what it means to be part of a community. To deny another living creature the basic ability to be free from pain and stay healthy is just not the right thing to do.

 

As Bernie said:

“Health care must be recognized as a right, not a privilege. Every man, woman and child in our country should be able to access the health care they need regardless of their income. The only long-term solution to America’s health care crisis is a single-payer national health care program.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders

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The Introvert-Extrovert Relationship Dynamic

17 07 2017

You already have some sense of what it means to be an introvert or an extrovert. If someone appears outgoing, loquacious, and charming, they are clearly an extrovert, right? While the quiet, thoughtful, reserved person in the corner is the introvert, who prefers one-on-one encounters, of course. If you are making assumptions based on this outward appearance, you may be getting it all wrong. This is why I often get mislabeled an extrovert.

My definition is quite simple. When you go out in a large crowd of people for an hour or two, or entertain a small group of friends for an evening, how do you feel afterward? I’m not asking if you enjoyed yourself- hopefully that answer is always yes! But do you feel satiated, maybe a little drained, and ready for some alone time to recover from being “on”? This makes you an introvert.

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If you’re like my wife, however, you come home invigorated, excited, and pulsing with

energy! “What’s next?!?” is likely running through your brain, and you need time to let your brain finish mapping all the new connections you made in the evening’s many conversations. That makes you an extrovert! (Bethany is an extrovert times 10.)

Being in a relationship with a large discrepancy in your introvert/extrovert status can be challenging. Believe it or not, it is doable, and can be quite enjoyable! The key is recognizing that it’s difficult for BOTH people, at first. You will need to do a little legwork if you want this to be enjoyable.

You need to first understand your own emotional and physical needs, and learn how to effectively communicate your needs, while also listening to the other person’s (sometimes foreign-sounding) perspective. Living a happy life requires balancing the energy. After all, you likely love the person you’re with BECAUSE they balance you out. So in order to preserve this complimentary relationship, you must learn how to respect the Yin to your Yang.

Be aware that, like almost everything in life, there is a broad spectrum between introversion and extroversion. It’s not one or the other. You may find that some of these feel more or less relevant to you individually, because your personality is defined by far more than this one aspect.

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The Extrovert

For the extrovert, she may feel like she has to compromise to stay in with her partner when she’d rather go out. She may feel torn between fulfilling her own needs for social interaction, and allowing the introvert to have enough down time. She might also feel like it is her role, as the extrovert, to be the social planner, to enrich the introvert’s life with as much fun as possible!

What you need to know about yourself

You’re often the life of the party, telling stories that make people laugh, and planning the next get-together at the end of the evening. People often assume that you have thousands of friends, and are way too busy to hang out with them one-on-one, so they never ask. You may spend so much time in group settings that you don’t feel like you have many really close friends, even though any one of your circle would jump at a chance to help you.

Even though you crave that social interaction, it is also important to allow yourself time to sit quietly and reflect internally. It doesn’t take much down time for you to balance out all your social time. Force your monkey mind to slow down, and instead of thinking about “what’s next?” relive the great experiences you recently had. What part of your week was your favorite? Why? It may feel forced at first, but doing this for just 30-60 minutes at the end of your week will help you to appreciate all the wonderful things you experienced even more, and enable you to recognize what truly makes you the happiest, so you can be more selective in the future.

Going out may be critical to your mental health. Even though you might feel guilty about indulging in too many activities, these are an important part of feeding your soul. That doesn’t mean that you can’t make adjustments. Tight budget? Invite friends to meet you for a picnic instead of dropping $20 on dinner out. It’s the social aspect you crave, and that can take many different forms. You need other people because they elevate your own energy level, allowing you to feel happier and be more productive.

When my wife and I went through a tight financial period, we slashed our budget for dining out. She worked from home, so she lost her only lifeline to the rest of the world. We quickly realized that this was affecting her mental state significantly, and came up with a compromise. Instead of us both going out with friends for dinner twice a week, she became a regular at the local coffee shop, allowing her to fulfill her social needs by herself, on a much smaller budget. I don’t drink coffee, and I don’t usually have time to go there on weekdays, so I’m not missing out either. And coffee is cheaper than a therapist. Win-win!

Let your partner know what your needs are, and don’t be afraid to take care of yourself independently. Find group activities that you know they have no interest in, and make connections that allow you to interact with others, without taking away from activities you enjoy doing together.

What you need to know about your beloved introvert

Your introverted partner would do anything to make you happy. Your energetic personality gives them joy, and elevates them, much in the same way you feel energized by larger groups of friends. They may push their own limits, going out frequently, choosing to spend what little down time they do have with you, instead of spending much-needed time alone. When they do this for too long, they become run-down, exhausted (and maybe cranky).

introvert timeEncourage them to have their alone time. It may mean that they go for a walk by themselves, or work in the yard, or simply lay down on the couch while you’re in the other room working on something else. Their need to be alone is not a rejection of you. You need to have a clear conversation and tell them (repeatedly) that it’s okay for them to ask to stay home while you go out and take care of your own social needs.

While you may want to verbalize everything, introverts often enjoy silence. At some point, your chatter (directed at no one but yourself) becomes mental clutter. Every time you say something, their brain wants to be attentive and alert, and it take mental energy for them to listen to you, even when you’re just muttering to yourself, “Was that David who just walked past? Nope, nope, just someone who looks similar.” If you can cut back on verbalizing things that are not intended for them to respond to, it helps them to relax.

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The Introvert

Sometimes people mistakenly think that you don’t value their friendship, or don’t want to spend time with them. You frequently don’t respond to invites for events until the day of, because you never know if you’ll have enough energy to go out. You usually have a good time when you do venture out, but you know that you need to be in the right mindset to enjoy yourself.

You feel pressure by others to join them. “Come on, it’ll be fun!” they try to persuade you. It probably will be, but, much like going out and over indulging on drinks, you don’t want to regret it the next day. When you’re already at your threshold for social interaction, if you push yourself further, you will feel utterly exhausted and unproductive the next day. You sometimes feel like a bad friend for skipping out on so many things, and fear that eventually you might stop getting invited.

14322695_1256787684403853_1054437703607303099_nYou need to understand the physical way that social interactions affect you. Listen to your body. It’s perfectly okay to take your down time. You need significantly more down time than extroverts. This doesn’t mean you must be anti-social, but you can learn to create a safe space for interacting on your own terms. While a party where you only know one person might make you cringe, you can focus on spending quality time with the friends you already have. Did you skip out on your friend’s birthday party? Follow up the next day and invite them to join you for a nice walk to catch up! Instead of waiting for group invitations you don’t want, be proactive at inviting one or two friends for something more your speed.

While it’s important to know what your body needs, you can choose to strengthen and train your social skills. If you know that your introversion may be limiting you- from either making new friends, or learning something new, or networking and advancing your career- it’s up to you to decide whether its worth it to sacrifice a little bit of your down time, temporarily, for the sake of reaching that goal. I’m not going to say that it’s easy to learn to feign extroversion, but over 10 years, I have reached a point where I’m commonly mistaken for an extrovert. It’s helped me to grow professionally and personally, and it was worth the small sacrifice, in my case.

You don’t have to play by extrovert rules, just observe what they do and put your own twist on it. I loathe small talk, so when I had to network in my mid-twenties, I came up with lists of quirky, interesting facts, about either myself or the world, that empowered me to steer conversations into an area where I felt more control. And it worked.

What you need to know about your beloved extrovert

You admire them for their ability to be effortlessly charming and outgoing. Their confidence may boost your own, allowing you to be a bit more comfortable putting yourself out there. You should be careful not to become reliant on them for that, or risk falling into a dependent relationship.

13507146_10210053131315044_8251726965732768012_nJust because they like to go out and talk to everybody, does not mean that they think less of you. They need this social interaction just as much as you need your alone time. Don’t take it personally, and do not use their extroversion against them in disagreements. Most importantly, you need to have trust in your relationship. If you find yourself getting nervous that they are going out because you’re not good enough, then you need to turn your focus inward. Until you see and appreciate your inherent value as a person, and love yourself independently, you will continue to struggle to give your extrovert the trust and freedom they need to go out without you.

While you spend much more time structuring thoughts in side your head, extroverts often verbalize way more, and it is often more for themselves than for you. You want to be a good listener, which can make it hard to tune them out when they are not talking with/at you. This will be hard for extroverts to understand, since they may not even realize they are talking out loud. Let them know why this can be mentally exhausting for you, or remove yourself from the situation if you find it too stressful to filter them out.

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The Sweet Spot

YinYang

At its best, you will find that there is a delightful balance between the two of you, where the introvert feels more confident and enjoys more social interactions, and the extrovert learns to find peace in stillness, to reflect and grow individually. We all need a balance of this yin and yang, even if the balance is heavier on one side or the other for different people.

Find the things about your partner that you admire because they are things you aren’t so good at. Ask them to help teach you how to enjoy those things, so that you can grow as an individual. Allow them the freedom and trust to take care of themselves, without jealousy or resentment.

Always, ALWAYS put yourself first. You cannot be a good partner if you are not balanced internally. Your own well being is key to a successful relationship.

 





D.C. Pride

22 06 2017

Back in November, my wife and I were shocked by the results of the U.S. election. We felt numbed and despaired over what would happen in this alternate reality that we must now call our future. When the plans for the Womens March on Washington emerged, we had a brief discussion and decided that, one way or another, we had to be there. ww3

 

Flash forward to January. Shortly after our new POTUS was officially sworn in, there were 7 busloads of invigorated women (and a handful of wonderfully feminist men) departing from a parking lot in Indianapolis Friday evening, . We road through the night, marched with a million other women, then got back on those buses Saturday night to ride home, too energized to sleep. 16143153_10212060536858928_8363833951619441822_n

 

The ensuing response from the 45th administration was comical. Clearly, we had made an impression. Our numbers, as well as our voices, were heard around the world. It felt empowering, in a time of great despair, to know that I WAS THERE. I felt like I was part of history, and no matter how much hot air he blew trying to claim we weren’t, the new president clearly saw us as a powerful force.

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Upon our return to home, I worked hard to maintain a balance of vigilant activism, and healing self-care. It wasn’t easy. This president proceeded to launch a relentless twitterstorm of daily lies, distractions, smoke and mirrors to overwhelm and obfuscate the barrage of controversial bills he pursued. It quickly became clear to me, that we needed to do more to make our voices heard.

 

In this new era of so-called ‘fake news,’ ‘alternate facts’, and a shocking roll back of transparency in our federal administration, we are scared about what secret dealings may be underway. If #45 is good at anything, it’s being secretive, lacking loyalty, and flip-flopping to appease whomever he wants something from. So, despite some supporters’ claims that he was ‘pro-LGBT,’ our community is appalled by the horribly anti-LGBT people he has put into powerful positions.

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Our very own governor of Indiana (aka VP Pence), made headlines in 2015 with his rushed decision to try to institutionalize a religious freedom to discriminate (RFRA), before the business communities outcry forced him to repeal the anti-LGBT law. Our state lost over $60Million in business due to Pence’s irresponsible insistence on pushing his own personal anti-LGBT religious agenda onto our state. No matter what this POTUS thinks personally, he is clearly willing to throw us under the bus if it helps him get something else that he wants. He has no moral scruples.

 

So, I checked my balance of airline miles, and booked us a flight back to D.C., to march with our LGBTA brothers and sisters.

If ever there was a year to celebrate LGBT Pride in our nation’s capitol, this is it.

While Indianapolis has a (surprisingly) amazing pride celebration every year, I expected D.C. Pride would be bigger, especially this year. Not surprisingly, everywhere we went, we met other people who had the same idea we did. Seattle, Mexico City, Detroit, Toronto- we flew in from everywhere to show our strength!! We all showed up in force, flooding and overwhelming the city over several days of festivities, so that #45 could not deny our numbers. Everywhere you walk in D.C., rainbow flags outnumber even American flags, as an otherwise very proud community made itself even more visible. Allies, like our friends who put us up in their guest room for free, also proudly displayed their freshly purchased rainbow gear.

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Thank you.

Thank you to all our allies, who proudly celebrate with us every Pride, every day, every year; who shed tears and shared hugs when our community suffered the most deadly mass shooting in history; who walk us home when we don’t feel safe; who refuse to ignore overheard homophobic comments; and who stand up to strangers to tell them that it’s not okay to use ‘gay’ as a derogatory adverb.

Thank you to Washington D.C. Your community warms my heart. It makes me feel good knowing that #45 is literally surrounded by LGBT pride, and that our former homophobic governor has to dodge rainbows on every street corner!

Thank you to my LGBTQA brothers and sisters, who were brave enough to out yourselves, to normalize our existence by simply being unapologetically you, to defy the estimations of how many of us there truly are, and who, above all else, demonstrate on a daily basis that we are simply human, just like anyone else. We are still a minority facing intensive legal and personal discrimination, though it’s getting easier, especially in large cities like Indianapolis or Washington D.C. Our visibility is key to our acceptance.

Especially, a huge thank you to my beloved trans folks, for whom the fight is ten times harder; who need our support more than anyone; who teach me constantly how I can improve, to be more aware, to be more considerate, to keep adjusting my language, to be a better ally, and a better human.

Thank you to the rest of you, especially in smaller towns and communities, who don’t personally know any LGBTQA people (that you are aware of), who might be uncomfortable and have questions, but who are willing to learn how to be, what to say (or not), and how to embrace & support people who are different than you in some ways, but just like you in even more ways.

 

Together, we are winning.

If you build LGBT inclusion, we will come out.

 

 

 

 

 





The Year of the Woman-2017

8 03 2017

17191117_1512593198823299_2500333079812462773_nToday is International Women’s Day, and I am wearing my red in solidarity, to raise awareness for all the fights that we are continually fighting. Last year, I remember reading about the massive walk-outs in other countries, how services were disrupted and some places had to shut down because the women of that country refused to be silent, and were determined to demonstrate the importance and power of women in our global economy. I, however, did nothing. 

 

This year, I am doing something about it. And there is one person to thank…

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Our battle has only just begun, but the backlash against our new President (aka #45) is already yielding incredible growth in anti-apathy activism. The momentum of the Women’s March on Washington started with a roar, and is still growing.

 

Lots of people were confused about the goals of the Women’s March on Washington. I know that when you gather 3 million people together, each individual goal will vary. Let’s clarify, at least one perspective.

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I traveled 12 hours on an overnight bus to Washington D.C., not because I wanted to have a rough night of sleep and protest the next president. I came to D.C. to make it clear to the new administration that women are NOT going to sit back and let them ignore us. The president can NOT call us ‘nasty’ or ‘pussy’ or ‘bitch.’ There is no undo button. There is no ‘Back.’

 

I march because I am not willing to let our children live in a society where women are STILL less than. I don’t have kids. But I live in a village, so I (kind of) have dozens of kids. The march in DC only affirmed my faith in humanity. When I boarded the bus (1 of 6) from Indy, I was surprised to see several men. After just a few minutes of conversation, I could see that these people were allies, and self-proclaimed feminists.

 

At 4am, our bus stopped at a rest area in the middle of nowhere, and we filed off of the bus, bleary-eyed and sore. I stood in line waiting for the women’s room for 15 minutes, then realized there was no line for the men’s. Along with a half dozen other ladies, and a couple of men, we relieved ourselves and discussed how silly it is that people worry about who’s in which bathroom. I just had to pee. And no one was arrested.

 

My wife disappeared, and came back telling me about how she randomly ran into 4 women we know who were traveling from northern Indiana, and just happened to be stopping at the same rest stop, for the same 20 minutes in the middle of the night. What a coincidence! On my way back to the bus, I ended up somehow leading an impromptu yoga session for strangers waiting in the queue. They were stretching, and I stopped- as a joke- to share an exaggerated stretch with them… and then a group of 6 of us moved through my regular yoga poses together, before I left to get back on my own bus. It was an unexpectedly beautiful experience!

 

16143153_10212060536858928_8363833951619441822_nWhen we arrived in DC, we were sorely missing our Metro cards, which we ordered weeks in advance, but never received in time. We got to RFK stadium at 7am, but our group decided to enjoy the unseasonably warm (thank you climate change) walk to the national mall. We were lucky for warm, dry weather, and we were grateful. At the mall, things got crazy real fast. I’m not a fan of crowds, but was prepared for the worst. We ended up with a group of 13, all linking hands to try to not be separated. It took at least 30 minutes of pushing through a crushing crowd of hundreds of thousands, but we did end up getting separated.

Once we got into the thick of things, there was really no turning back. We could not move. We could barely turn around. We could not hear or see the presenters. After not too long, the three of us who remained together had to escape to the fringes of the national mall to get a breather, and find some nourishment.

 

The day was intense, amazing, AWESOME! I was inspired by all the people I met along the way. The 80 year old woman who showed up with her 3 adult sons willing to march for women’s rights! The young, early 20s women who marched for their future. I’m proud for this diversity! There were over a million marchers. And no one was arrested.

 

16194931_1438807779535175_1141294287900534876_nFunny coincidences? There were several. The night before the march, our friend, Christine, told us that she decided last minute to also go to DC, from Michigan. She wanted to make plans to meet up, which we weren’t sure about, logistically. We made semi-vague plans for a time but no place, knowing that cell service in the massive crowds would be challenging. As we were marching down Independence, listening to women’s voices chanting, distant drums booming, I heard a squealing sound rapidly growing in intensity. All of the sudden, I saw my friend’s face come crashing into me! Literally- she smashed her forehead into mine as she tripped to hug me, and we almost fell over together, perched on the curb. She had recognized my sign from an earlier Facebook post, and didn’t want to lose sight of us, so she launched into action. I could not believe that she found us. It was LITERALLY a 1 in a million chance. 

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My heart lacks for nothing. In one tiny weekend, I was filled with so many rich experiences. A woman searching for direction? Done. A woman wanting to document our pride flags? Done. A woman who lacked anything to carry, liked my planet poster, and wanted to carry it? Done. Lifelong memories of being a part of something far bigger than myself? You betcha. The fire has been stoked, and I am raring to go! Each and every person I encountered at that march has reaffirmed my passion and commitment.

I hereby declare 2017 the Year of the Woman!

 





Why I March

20 01 2017

dcrainAs I type this, many are weeping at the end of an era. Many others are cheering at a new chapter in American history. The clouds are crying into dark & heavy atmosphere, which feels fitting.

 

But, I’m done crying. I’m done being shocked. I’m done being distracted by another stupid tweet or another mindless meme. I’m done sitting on the sidelines. I’m ready to fight.

 

582b7d491800002c0030e402Let me be clear- I hate politics. I hate filling space in my brain with lists of people I’ve never met and the reasons why I should or should not like them. I hate wondering what a company’s values are every time I lay my plastic card down at the cash register. I’ve never marched in a protest. I’ve never spent hours making poignant and powerful signs. I hate everything to do with politics.

 

This is how I know that we are entering an era that is unprecedented.  People who never before felt compelled to get involved, suddenly feel like they have no choice. And I am one of them. 

 

10436160_891482897601002_2027435962132802493_nTo clarify, I have taken some actions before. I’ve signed countless online petitions to protect rights for my fellow citizens. I’ve worked to educate others on issues of the environment. And I did attend a few rallies to fight for marriage equality, just as we reached the crescendo, from 2013-2015. But I don’t like crowds. I don’t like to be noticed. I don’t like to be the center of attention. So I mostly just looked on quietly, while I proudly watched other people be my voice, carry that sign, shout our chants.

 

tsunami-2I feel like I am a relaxed tourist, sitting on a beach, ignoring reality, and enjoying the sunshine, when all of the sudden I look up to see an enormous tsunami of change preparing to crash down upon me. I can either give up, sit in my chair, and dig my feet into the sand fruitlessly. Or, I can fight. I can stand up, grab that inflatable tube, put my swim goggles on, and take a deep breath in. I’m not going down without a fight. I refuse to drown, no matter how massive the wave may be before me. I’m choosing to go in, and it’s gonna be a wild ride.

 

Tonight, I am getting on that bus. I’m heading to Washington D.C., to our nation’s capitol, and I am going to carry that sign, I’m gonna march in that march, I’m gonna sing every song I know the words to, and I am going to make my voice heard.

 


We ARE what makes this nation great.
And we want to make the next administration damn sure, that we are watching, we are listening, and we are keeping track. We will NOT let this nation get sunk beneath the tsunami. We will fight to survive! No matter how many waves crash down upon us, we will not drown! Instead, we will find more ways to float, we will bring our sisters and brothers up onto our rafts, and we will keep going!

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Parapet PhotographyThis morning, I went to Calvin Fletcher’s Coffee, to see some of my favorite people before we go to D.C. They gave me hugs, and love, and support, and gratitude. As I was sitting there, a man sitting alone at a nearby table was listening to our conversation, and said to me, “Hey, I’d like to show you something,” motioning to his laptop. I walked over and looked over his shoulder as he said, “THIS is why I march,” with tears in his eyes. On the screen was a picture of a 4 year old girl in a Rosie the Riveter shirt.


I am marching because
I cannot let one president set us back 40 years. I march because, although I have no children of my own, I worry for the future of my village’s children. I march for Dean’s daughter. I march because I believe in community, and love, and acceptance. I believe that we ALL must be invested in our shared future, which means caring about not only your neighbors, but those around you that you do not know, may not understand, may not recognize, or may not even like. No matter what, a rising tide raises ALL ships, and I refuse to sit by and watch someone else drown.

 

I am marching because:

Climate change IS REAL.

Love is LOVE.

Women’s rights ARE HUMAN rights.

Black Lives MATTER. 

No lives are ILLEGAL.

And Kindness is FREE. 

 

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Grieving: How the Pulse Massacre Affects All of Us

14 06 2016


Grief is a fickle thing. It’s hard to define. It’s hard to defend. Some people get it. Some people don’t. I’ve been asking myself a lot of questions about my own grieving lately, as I was struggling to understand just why the loss of 49 beautiful souls I never knew, in a state I don’t live in, has hit me so fucking hard.

 

ss-160612-pulse-vigil-jsw-09_4c70cbb1faf2b866f969c050aa30e728.nbcnews-fp-1200-800Yes, of course, I think that ALL Americans should be grieving this loss right now. It’s a national tragedy. It’s the deadliest mass shooting in history. Our trend line is moving in the wrong direction. But I think that most Americans haven’t been waking up crying.

 

Some people are just more empathetic and feel emotions harder. Some people shed tears when celebrities die, whom they’ve never met before, just because the person’s art inspired them. But that’s not me.

 

Some of us are heartbroken because you are parents, and so many of the lives taken were just babes in the woods. Akyra Monet Murray was only 18 years old, and never even had a 2016-06-14_9-22-27chance to vote for president before being murdered. Many were barely in their twenties, and couldn’t even buy a drink- they just came out to dance and be with friends. Brenda Lee Marquez McCool was a mother to 12 children, and was there dancing with her gay son, who survived, and will have to deal with her loss and all the ‘what ifs’. Christopher Andrew Leinonen and Juan Ramon Guerrero were planning their wedding, and now will have a joint funeral instead. The individual stories are heart breaking.

 

A lot of us are crying because we are gay, and this was a hate crime by a homophobic man targeted at a gay night club. This is me. But it goes alot deeper than this.

 

13407150_1160339034048719_5298806267185347464_nIt feels selfish to say, “It could have been me,” but it’s what’s going through all of our minds right now. Earlier that same day, I was walking in the Indy Pride parade. I was dancing to Bigfoot Yancey play music at our pride celebration. I could have been out at Metro that night, celebrating our love and our freedom, as we approach the historic 1-year anniversary of being granted the right to equal marriage. It really could have been me.

 

I’ve seen a lot of Facebook posts from my friends, struggling to understand, walking in a cloud of numb achiness, unable to cope with this tragedy. Yet we knew nobody personally affected. Many of my LGBT friends are my age or younger, and seem to be struggling the most with the Pulse massacre. I am starting to figure out why we are hurting so badly.

 

This Saturday, June 18th, I will turn 36 years old. I didn’t come out until I was 29, when I met my soulmate, who happened to be a woman. I have experienced several personal tragedies in my life, and I am no stranger to grief. Which is why it feels so odd to be so distraught by this attack. I’m scared that next time I want to go dancing at a gay club, or marching in a pride parade, or even just living my life as an out and proud gay person, I too could be the target of such an awful attack. I tried to explain this fear to my mom, and, trying to console me, she said, “It’s not going to happen to you, but it’s a reminder to be careful out there, showing affection in public.”

 

For my wife, who has been out of the closet for nearly 30 years, this is nothing new. She HAS been shot at. She HAS been spat on by strangers. She HAS had to fight back against people who simply didn’t like the way she cuts her hair, and felt the need to verbalize their internal hatred towards a person who, while different from them, is a beautiful, loving, kind person.

 

29115c4e67ff92e95626b75fffaa1e95When we were considering moving to Indianapolis in 2013, we came here for a weekend to check out the city. While walking downtown, we stopped at a crosswalk to wait for the light. I reached for my wife’s hand by her side, and she jerked it away. I looked at her, upset that she didn’t want to clasp hands after we were just having such a nice conversation. She said, “I don’t know if it’s safe here.” My response was, “Well if it’s not safe, I want to know now, before we decide to move here.” She nervously agreed, and we walked hand in hand, met by nothing but smiles and loving looks from strangers who can see how in love we are.

 

I’ve never faced the same level of discrimination and hatred that my wife, and many older LGBT folks, have had to face in their lives. I know that things were different 20, 30 years ago, and I have always been proud and relieved to be alive in a time where we have come so far. Until now.

 

candlesFor the first time in my life, I truly understand what it feels like to be a second class citizen. I know what fear tastes like. It’s different than being forced to travel hundreds of miles to another state to get married. It’s far worse. I now know that I may never feel safe or secure again. Even after years have passed without incident, this moment in history will remain like a shard of glass lodged into my brain. THAT is why I am grieving. For not only the lives of the people who have died, and the lives of those who survived, and who will have to learn to go on with a giant gaping hole in their hearts where a loved one once lived, but also for a generation of young LGBT people who should never have to know this level of deeply entrenched fear. I thought we were past this. I had hopes that young people would find all the love and acceptance that the generations before them fought so hard to earn. And instead, I feel like we have just been set back to 1969.
So, please, don’t tell me it’s not a big deal. Don’t tell me it’s not technically a hate crime yet. Don’t tell me to feel better. Don’t talk to me about guns. Don’t tell me that it was one crazy guy and I’m perfectly safe. I’m not. My heart is not safe. My mind is not safe. My soul is deeply battered and bruised. I am lucky to be alive, but I feel like a survivor as well. I’ll grieve as damn long as I need to, because some wounds never heal.

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