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.

 

 

 

 

 

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Finding Joy, Despite Doubling Losses

7 03 2017

This weekend, no less than 5 times, I got to ruin an otherwise perfectly lovely conversation with a stranger.

It went like this:

Them: It was so nice to get to meet you! So what brings you to Dallas anyway?

Me: Actually… a funeral.

Them: (Frowny face) I’m sorry for your loss. 

Me: It’s okay- it was my aunt, and she lived an amazing life for 75 years, but fell ill and was praying to go, so we are truly celebrating her life. She was a joyful inspiration to me. 

Them: (perplexed) O-ohh… okay. 

 

17103530_1503487709733848_1723492595264449756_nFor the most part, it was entirely accurate. My Aunt Suzanne’s service was filled with stories of adolescent debauchery, laughter, incredibly fond memories, and… more tears came from laughing than crying. Which is exactly how I hope my own life celebration will go (after I hurl myself from a plane at age 85 and slyly ‘forget’ to open my parachute).

 

I barely shed a tear, knowing how much Suzanne inspired myself-  and clearly many others- to live each day to the fullest, to be joyful, and- most of all- to be grateful for every chance we are given to experience our lives. From my earliest memories, Suzanne was a bastion of joy. She taught me to love, laugh, & forgive. She was literally THE MOST grateful person I have ever met to this day. I love her, and will miss her, but I know that she has made her mark on this world, and fulfilled her destiny.

 

Today, 2 days after we buried the vessel Suzanne’s soul was born into, we flew back home to Indianapolis. I ended up sitting apart from my wife, due to the last minute booking. So, after the pre-flight chatter had subsided, I pulled out my journal, plugged in my earbuds, and listened to music while I wrote.

 

At first, I wrote about what had happened. Then, I wrote about what I thought. Finally I wrote about what I FELT. If you’ve never done free-writing, you should. It’s very liberating to just keep writing without editing. You’ll be amazed at what comes out.

 

What did I learn?

17098194_1503487736400512_6181040724228158408_nMy father was the baby of his family- the youngest of three- before his father remarried and my aunt Tina was born. But in his early days, it was just him and two older sisters. Both of his older sisters have now passed, and he chose not to come to the funeral this weekend. Many family members and close friends of Suzanne’s asked me, “Is Mike coming?” I had to sheepishly shrug my shoulders and admit, “I don’t know.”

 

You see, my father cut all contact with my family 4 years ago, and stopped returning my calls. So I had no idea if I would see him this past weekend or not. I had a hunch the answer would be NO. My dad is a Narcissist, and 71 years old. So, I had a feeling that, despite being the ‘baby,’ seeing his 2nd sister be buried would be extra tough on him. Narcissists don’t like to feel tough emotions. Physical pain is okay, but emotional pain should just not exist.

Composed 6.March.2017:

Hovering in a soft, billowing sea of white,

blanketed in the familial love I left behind,

I imagine the loved ones waiting ahead

to welcome me home with open arms.

Somewhere in the vast middle

I fly over a strange, misty land,

an abstract place I’m unable to pinpoint,

where my genetic roots have migrated,

settling into shaky, water-logged soil.

I feel the gravitational pull, downward,

heavy on my iron heart.

I fear this entire vessel may go down,

crashing into an ocean of uncertainty.

But I refuse to lose myself to this dark, chromosome abyss. 

I leave behind only a dozen drops of salt water

hovering softly, in a sea of white. 

-KRW

On the plane today, leaving Durant, OK, leaving Dallas, TX, I quickly realized that I did not just bury my aunt Suzanne this weekend. I buried my father too. This was my last chance to see him in person, to forgive him, and to say goodbye, because in my heart I know that- had he come- it would have been the last time I would see my father.

 

I worked hard to prepare for this encounter. In my mind, I knew exactly how it would play out:

He would see me, and pretend nothing had ever happened. Like he didn’t just pick up and move his new family to another state without telling us, or giving us a forwarding address, or his new phone number. He would embrace me, and I would let him. My residual anger would well up inside me, but I would quell it silently. He would ask something simple like, “how are you?” And I would respond, despite my consternation. Despite the fact that he RSVP’d “No” to his own son’s wedding last fall.

I would remind myself that his condition, being a narcissist, is not dissimilar from his condition as an alcoholic, and  I must pity him instead of loathe him. I would miss his smile, and notice how much he has aged since I saw him last. I would grow sad, seeing that the sparkle in his eyes has become dull and bleary, and I would register that his once optimistic glow had been replaced by a din of drudgery. I wouldn’t ask him how his wife is, since she was partly to blame for our estrangement, but I would secretly wish love and joy back into his life. I would remember to hold him a few extra seconds as we hugged goodbye, squeezing him tightly, so he knew how much I loved him, knowing that it wold be our last hug ever.

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That never happened, sadly. Instead, I will remember burying my father’s sister, and thinking more about my own dad. I stood by the burial plots of my family, and pondered whether or not my dad had reserved a plot for himself next to his own father and sister. I would not expect him to plan far enough ahead to be buried with his own wife or children. He would just buy enough space for himself- if anything. As we lifted off and flew away from my ancestors’ burial sites, it really hit home. I may not even know when I lose my father. He may pass from liver disease this week, or this year, or next, but his estrangement leaves us out in the cold.

 

So, I remind myself- and you- to be mindful. Be grateful. Be joyful!! Know that every day is a gift, and every day could be your last. Don’t waste them being petty or holding grudges, or judging others for their actions. Their motives may be confusing, but we each walk our own path. Just do what you can to make this world a little bit kinder, and don’t hesitate to say, “I love you.”

 

 





Success & an Adult Coloring Contest

21 02 2017

article-2572641-1c05879800000578-969_634x832We live in a society with wildly mixed messages about success. On the one hand, we read about unique and amazing individuals who defied all odds, followed their passions, broke the mold, and became wildly successful billionaires.

 

On the other hand, we are raised in a culture that teaches us to color inside the lines. Do as you’re told. Follow instructions. March down a well-worn career path, check the right boxes, get the right promotions, and you’ll be made in the shade. If you work hard and focus on retirement, you will live a long and healthy life, and be well-prepared for retirement.

 

That’s seriously the goal. Spend your life preparing to die with enough money to avoid going into a cheap retirement home. Sounds fulfilling, right?0bfe9d4c-f4b2-4f7b-8a38-aa2d53a4f479_560_420

 

Even though Millenials are now the largest portion of our workforce, the antiquated mantra still holds true.  While management positions are largely held by GenXers, who are the ones making the rules now, we are repeating the same messages we were taught when we were young. Play it safe. Color inside the lines. 

 

rainbow-cake-web-300x300Ah-HAH! You almost got us! But we are not so easily fooled. I’ve seen another future, and I refuse to ignore it. I want it all, just like my parents got their slice of the pie… but my pie is more like a multi-layer rainbow cake! Every delectable bite is well-balanced with a myriad of flavors, so I don’t have to wait until the end to enjoy each flavor!

 

I don’t want to wait until I retire to see the world. And you know what? I am a better employee because of it. I’ve experienced numerous other cultures, and have perspective, which allows me to truly appreciate the quality of life that I have here in the Unites States. I’ve learned from other cultures too, and developed aspirations and guidance on ways to improve my own life.

 
On my honeymoon in Thailand, I met an older American couple, Jan and Bill. They were taking the same 2-day slow boat down the Mekong river as us, and we had hours to get to know each other. We were proud of being able to take a full ‘honey-moon,’ 28 days to relish in our newfound status as a married couple. All the Europeans, of course, looked at us in pity and said, “why so short??” as they shared their travel plans for the next 2 months. Bill and Jan, however, took the cake. a10956943346a8006ac6b45e696e528fEvery 5 years, this couple sets sail for international waters, docks their boat someplace foreign, and begins a year-long journey of exploration. I call this a ‘mini-retirement.’ After a year is up, they return back to the U.S. and resume their normal lives, saving up enough money to resume their mini-retirement 5 years later. Jan & Bill are my new heroes.

 

This fervor for life, for experiences instead of things, is deep in my DNA. It is also shaped by my own life experiences.

 

I was always an artistic child. I still have some of my childhood drawings, including an annual colored pencil portrait of a fictional girl every year from the age of 7. I drew these just because I loved to, as any artist does. Ironically, I never liked coloring books, choosing a blank sheet of paper every time, and turning my nose up at the glossy wrapped books that my family liked to buy me.

 

seaway_food_town_plusOne March afternoon, I was at the Food Town grocery store with my mom, in Oxford, Michigan. As we were checking out, there was a large table decorated with St. Patrick’s Day decor, and a banner. It was for a Food Town Coloring Contest. Sitting atop the table was a stack of grey colored sheets with identical scenes a pot of gold sitting on the ground, with a stiflingly stereotypical leprechaun. I read through the contest instructions, and the list of exciting prizes, and decided that I was IN!

 

st-patricks-coloring-pages-23285-for-st-patricks-day-coloring-pages-high-resolutionI knew that I could color the best darn St. Patty’s day drawing in the world, and I immediately sat down to devote my life to this endeavor. I started with a black pen. Without hesitation, I started changing the drawing, to improve upon the outline I was given! I added rolling hills in the background, with mischievous leprechauns hiding in the background. And, of course, a giant rainbow! I gave it everything I had, and then some. When I got to coloring, I used 3 shades of green, to depict shadows on the hills, for depth. I was SO proud, and made my mom drive me back to the FoodTown store the very next day so that I could submit my award-destined-entry.

 

Agonizing weeks went by. I began to wonder what other kids might have drawn, and if I had missed something big. My mom reminded me that the odds were that other kids might win, and not to get my hopes up. Then, the phone rang. I rushed to answer it.

“Yes, this is Kelly.”

“Yes, I entered the coloring contest.”

“What??? I DID???”

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I not only won something… I won the GRAND PRIZE!! A brand new bike!!! I still remember the sense of pride and accomplishment on that day, and every day after when I rode that bike down my dirt road. You know what this taught me? Not only is it okay to color outside the lines, but sometimes your own lines can be EVEN BETTER. 

 

So, I challenge you.

I challenge you to an adult coloring contest.

Go find a blank piece of paper, grab something to mark with, and draw. Draw your heart out! Don’t lift the tip off the page for at least 60 seconds- just GO! Sketch a loose picture of your hopes, your dreams, your wildest version of reality!! Don’t hold back, and find that inner child without limitations to express what you really desire in life! Send me a photo of your artwork and I’ll share in a future post to celebrate the courage of you and all our peers.