Thoughts and Prayers… Again

16 02 2018

I am so sick of this conversation. Every American is, I’m sure. But not nearly as disgusted and ill as the parents in Florida right now, or all the THOUSANDS of other victims and survivors of annual U.S. gun violence.


It’s never the right time. Someone is always grieving. But “Thoughts and prayers” are not enough. WE NEED TO SERIOUSLY HAVE A TALK.



According to Gallup, in 2017 over 60% of Americans are dissatisfied with our federal gun laws, and believe they should be MORE strict. This is the highest it’s been since 2004. Yet our nation’s lawmakers are petrified of pissing off the deep pockets of the gun lobbyists, many of whom represent only the extreme minority of the otherwise rational, compassionate, law-abiding gun owners.


With two factions screaming at each other literally EVER time we have a massacre, nobody hears anything but the extreme rhetoric, refusing to listen to a calm conversation about how to improve our situation. This problem is not going away. In fact, it’s grown exponentially since 1966. 


One thing is for certain, unless you think it’s okay for children and innocent adults to be murdered, then you agree that SOMETHING has to change. This is such a basic fact, there really should be nobody who disagrees. The disagreement comes when we start assuming HOW different groups of people think that the change should happen.


Are there Americans who think guns should be outlawed, 2nd Amendment be damned? Sure. Are there Americans who think the government is trying to turn us all into slaves and we need an armed militia to protect our rights? Yup. There are extreme positions on both sides- can we agree on that? Awesome.

The number of Americans who were “against a law which would make it illegal to manufacture, sell, or possess semi-automatic guns known as assault rifles” dropped 11% from 2016 to 2017.


The reality is, most Americans are actually very moderate in their views. Over 70% of Americans agree that citizens should be allowed to own handguns. It’s the lobbyists and far-flung wings of media that spread fear and paranoia by making you think that everyone is out to get you, and any attempt at a rational compromise is just a sneak attack to further their own secret agenda. This is simply not true. In fact, even gun owners are starting to realize that something needs to change.


Think about it. As Americans, we all agree in our foundation of freedom to pursue happiness and liberty. So, as long as nobody else gets hurt by your individual actions, in most cases we agree, to each their own. It’s when others get hurt that we start realizing that we need rules in place to protect the masses. This is why seat belts and speed limits were invented. This is why we have rules about operating a vehicle, including licensure and insurance and alcohol limits. This is why we have to take off our shoes at the airport. Nobody said, “All shoes should be banned at all airports.” No, that would be an overreaction. Is taking off your shoes an inconvenience? Sure, but it’s worth it to provide an increased sense of safety and security to the masses.


So why is it so difficult to say, “Let’s just brainstorm some ways to improve how we handle guns and ammunition?” If 24,000 married couples can manage to find enough compromise to get a legal divorce every single day, I think we collectively have the ability to sit down like rational human beings and hammer out some compromises on guns. Is every husband and wife 100% satisfied with how their divorce turns out? Hell no. But they find a balance that is fair and equitable, and protects the children. We simply need to put our society’s children first. 


A staggering 86% of Americans in 2015 reported that they support “a law which would require universal background checks for all gun purchases in the U.S. using a centralized database across all 50 states.”


Are the root causes of gun violence simple? Absolutely not. There are so many factors that go into this, just as there’s no single reason a couple chooses to get divorced. It all piles up in a burdensome heap, and eventually becomes too much to bear. It’s simply easier to escape than to stay. So why do we focus on the weapons themselves? These solutions are cheaper and easier to implement.

Let’s not forget about the other factors that need to be included in the bigger discussions on continuous improvement:

  • Weapons- Mass shootings would be less likely to occur at all, and have significantly fewer victims if they were fist fights, or knife fights, or even pistol fights instead of weapons capable of killing dozens at once.
  • Mental Health- nobody who commits murder is perfectly healthy. Yet we live in a society that focuses on punishment instead of treatment.
  • Gender- Almost all gun violence is perpetrated by men, and mass shootings are no exception. What can our society do to encourage men to resolve their issues with tools other than violence? What are we teaching boys about dealing with their emotions?
  • Security- Instead of focusing on the cause, some have focused on the responses by implementing new security measures at schools, churches, etc. While this helps calm those shaken by tragedy, will we ever reach a point when every single place is safe from an attacker?
  • Rights- Our forefathers believed in a right to bear arms. They used guns to hunt and for personal protection.  These guns were never capable of the rapid fire slaughtering of today’s weapons. Today many enjoy guns for the fun of shooting them at firing ranges, and 60% of gun owners have them for “personal protection.” How do we protect our rights to collect and fire guns safely?
  • Restrictions- In the past 50 years, the majority of weapons used in mass shootings were obtained legally. How can we make it so that it’s harder for people with evil intentions to obtain weapons and ammunition? Are the background checks good enough? Are there mental health loopholes that need to be patched?


Clearly, this is not a problem that can be fixed in a day. We need a multi-pronged approach to truly solve this ongoing catastrophe. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t start SOMEWHERE.


Here’s just one idea of a basic compromise that could help:

How to save shooting victims


Remember, our country is strongest when it is UNITED in an effort to help society. Don’t immediately think you know what someone on the opposite side of an issue is going to say. Even if you disagree, respect their opinion enough to ask them “5 Whys.” This is a common part of root cause analysis. If you reserve your opinion long enough to genuinely be curious about how someone came to take their position, you might find a common core belief that you both share, and a true conversation can begin.


For those affected in this weeks massacre, I am so sorry for your loss. Nothing can bring them back. I only hope we can prevent others from suffering as you are now.



“Master of Your Universe”

14 02 2018

Your energy shines bright,

lighting the path to your future

and illuminating those around you

so they can find their own way too.

Your wisdom is ancient,

like the light waves that traveled

from an unfamiliar reality

in a corner of the galaxy.

Your future is certain,

barreling into the unknown

with unstoppable force

that I gladly cling to.


April 2014

two blackholes

New Year Traditions… Let’s Break 2018

1 01 2018

I am a fan of tradition. Traditions are the ways that we tell stories, share history, and impart morals with our community’s next generation. This is why we celebrate the arbitrary day of the year- not Winter Equinox or anything physically significant- but New Year’s Day. Long ago, our great-great-great-great-to-the-nth-degree-ancestors decided that this was the beginning of a new year and the end of the old. Similar to Loi Krathong in Thailand, and other cultural celebrations, we bid adieu to all the horrible BS that was the year past, and welcome in the promise of something better.



As part of my tradition, I like to end the year with a clean slate. Literally. I take a hot shower and scrub every square inch of my body to be rid of the filth of the year. I even trim my hairs to have fresh, clean ends. I also like my house to have a fresh start. So I tidy, wipe, scrub, sweep, and deep clean as much as I can. This year was particularly satisfying because I am pre-menstrual, and cleaning is extraordinarily satisfying this time of the lunar cycle.



On New Year’s Day, our tradition is to have a few friends over for a casual, day-long gettogether. Folks bring food and drink to share, we sit around, talking, laughing, eating, playing games. We have REAL conversations about how to make our lives and the world better in the new year. We set our intentions. There’s no drumming or chanting, but our non-ceremony is still very serious in that we believe that the first day of the new year should be focused and intentional about where our priorities set.


During my cleaning frenzy, no dust was left untouched this year. I actually MOVED objects to wipe with my almond-scented cleaner. For realz. Chopper dog thought we were playing a game, I was moving so fast. He scurried around my feet, excited at the prospect of whatever was clearly coming next! MORE CLEANING!!



I was so efficient, that I had our trusty robot vacuum working simultaneously. Merf (we named him after a Dirty MERF that was being proposed for our city when we adopted him) was working away, humming in the next room, while I kept Chopper out of his path. I was thrown from my frenzy when I heard his needy beeping start up. Merf acts like he is dessicated of attention. “Clear my path!” he shouts, like he’s the only one doing anything worthwhile. I rolled my eyes and stopped what I was doing to walk over, knowing what I would find. This happened no less than 5 times, before I gave up and took him to recharge in his bedroom (aka docking station).


At one point, I was moving so fast, that the carved wooden statue of weeping Buddha slipped from my grasp and leapt off the shelf, down onto the stoic IKEA shelving unit. You know, the one that my sister-in-law, the interior designer, said, “If you ever decide to get rid of that, I want it. They don’t make them like that anymore.” Yeah… that one.


Buddha crashed into the top surface, then disappeared into the abyss between the bookcase and the wall. It all happened to fast, but when I looked down to find him, all I saw was this massive dent in my faux wood shelf. Buddha broke it. Buddha BROKE it. It’s like Buddha was saying, “Fuck 2017! We are not going to just sit around and whine about this shit anymore! 2018 is for making a move and letting our resistance be known!”


IMG_5154Well, I may not be religious, but my wife is. And clearly her Buddha was speaking to me. So, just in case I was getting exhausted, burned out, weary, or frayed at all ends… let it be known. I will NOT sit quietly and let the world crumble around me. I will NOT accept things that I cannot change, because I know that TOGETHER, WE can change things. I may not be able to move a mountain on my own, but when we move together, we can make anything happen. 2018 is going to be a year to remember. Let us restore ourselves, and then let us rise up in resistance. 2018 will be ours. 24796699_1858683254214290_8876786741059340184_n




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.


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.



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.

dc pride

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.







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. 


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.


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???”


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.


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