For Growth’s Sake

Growing up in Alaska, I was surrounded by a number of people I recognized as family. Whether it was by blood or the amount of years and connection forged in close friendships, from a young age to present day I’ve had an example of what family “should” be.  I was lucky enough to grow up with a great set of cousins, two grandmothers, uncles, aunts, great aunts and uncles, and family friends that I can’t list here because I’d be typing for entirely too long. The traditional definition of family, according to Google, would be “all the descendants of a common ancestor.” While that definition stands scientifically, for the most part, we all should be aware of the concept of chosen family.

Family friends are a perfect example of chosen family. These people aren’t your relatives by blood, but you call them your “play cousins” or “sis” or “bro” because they’ve been there and you don’t intend on letting them go. This is a queer blog, so I’d be remiss in not sharing queer examples of chosen family. I know individuals who have been cut off completely or kicked out from their households after coming out as queer. Their chosen family from that point would be who they invited into their lives after that point. Now, chosen family have their faults too, hence why I bring the concept up for this post I’m scribbling down at the moment. Family to me is whoever you share your life with, whoever supports you unconditionally, through the good and bad, and shares the joy you give each other in life.

Now before we continue, read the following note aloud so it resonates with you: Relationships, regardless of the type, aren’t one-sided. It takes effort from all that are involved.

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In my experience with family, the good far outweighs the difficult periods that have occurred over the years. There were petty Christmases here and there – the battle of the aunties is what I called it, lol – divorces, and some tough times surrounding drug and alcohol abuse, but there were also celebrations, endless laughter, and plenty of love to go around. To this day, I think the pettiest tiff that lives on for my side of the family is who is supposed to call who. That’s right! Phone calls. But let’s dive into that some more, because as petty as it seems, I’ve found that this has been a real source of tension or frustration in other areas of these relationships.

My dad used to get on my siblings and I’s case for only calling when we needed something. I’d say this spanned from the years my parents were going through their divorce – the last half of high school for me – and the early years of undergrad. As we came up in age, he’d also get on our case about reaching out to family outside of Alaska; specifically my grandmother after she moved back to New Jersey. Naturally as people, we gravitate and are more comfortable with the people we know and that have been around our whole lives. Looking back at those moments I totally understand his perspective and respect it. If I had children, I’d want them to have a close relationship with my parents too, but what’s the use in forcing something that’s not there? I don’t mean that disrespectfully. It’s a hard fact and I take full ownership of my role in what I “should” have been doing. We’ll get back to the “should” of it all here in a bit.

As we aged, the fight of who should call who dissipated, but ended up resurfacing within the last year from other members of the family. I called my grandmother the day after her birthday and a sassy uncle of mine, immediately got on my case. “Why couldn’t you call yesterday?” was the question. I found myself explaining my day, and stating that I was “very busy.”  I didn’t owe anyone any explanations, so I was highly annoyed in the moment. Eventually I had to flip the script and remind, him in a medium tone of voice, that no one from the East coast calls me to ask how I’m doing. I can say the same thing about my family in Chicago, but guess what? I’m not calling either! There’s no shade or ill intention there at all. It all goes back to people are living their lives and have schedules. We’re going to prioritize those that are a little higher on the connection list, and that’s not to say we can’t make adjustments. Reaching out to more family and old friends more often, is something I’ve been doing my best to improve. I can’t speak for others on this front. It’s on each party to make the effort.

I'm a big fan of productively using your words in conflict.

Communication and effort are just a couple expectations that come to mind as I reflect on what I’ve shared thus far.  We should call to say hello, we should respect peoples’ time, we should check in on each other when we can, young people should respect their elders. There’s a lot that is expected of us at times, without the expectation being clearly set. The ego takes over and says “I feel this way, so they should respond or act this way, because ABC or XYZ.” That’s no way to grow, move forward, or to enhance the quality of relationships. Now, I’m no therapist. I can and will only speak on my experience. If you’re going through a major situation with your family and you’re at odds, please seek professional help or a trusted, neutral, party to help you work through the issues.

I’m a big fan of productively using your words in conflict. It’s easy to avoid the people in your family when problems arise, but it takes more guts and honor to face them directly. Not letting the drama go beyond what it’s worth is the best thing you can do for your mental health. Why create drama that isn’t present, especially when the other party has no idea a problem exists? Pouring gasoline on a fire that isn’t there doesn’t make any sense to me, unless you fully plan on throwing a lit match upon it. This sets the scene for more confusion, concern for loved ones involved, and does absolutely nothing in the problem-solving department. As mentioned earlier, relationships aren’t one-sided, and it takes all parties involved to work through any rough patches. No one should expect their asses to be kissed or egos constantly stroked for any reason if you fully intend on repairing connections. Assumptions and perceptions have a tendency to run rampant the longer avoidance is ruling your decision making in conflict. Face the issues. Stop the smoke before the fire ignites.

I’d like to route us back to the “should” of it all as we near the end of this piece. Our egos and very human emotions would have us all believe that we know what is best for someone in a situation; or even what’s best for a tougher situation we may be in ourselves. It’s easy for me to stand up proudly in conflict and say “well he should know, or she should not be putting up with, or they should understand this because…” It’s easy for any of us to say what others should do, or how they should act when we’re only seeing things from our perspective. Being open to others’ views or asking them why they may be perceiving a scenario a certain way will save you a great deal of energy and encourage growth in connection. On the flip-side, however, people need and should be open to receiving the feedback. This particular “should” is one I fully believe in and stand by. If you’re only interested in selling your points or winning your case, and not being open to the other side’s view of an issue, no progress will be made.

At the end of the day, people are going to do what they want and act how they want to act. As a family member, you want to be open and present when family needs you (and if they deserve it). What I learned a long time ago was that you can only share the same piece of advice so many times, you can only hear the same story so many times, you can only let yourself be disrespected so many times. If you’re in the position of providing guidance or giving advice of any kind, don’t take it personally if the advice isn’t followed. Some people need to go through whatever they’re going through on their own. If that involves some form of rock-bottom or keeping themselves distant from those trying to have a healthy relationship with them, then so be it. No one should be in the “I told you so” business. Be a support system for yourself – i.e. not being taken advantage of emotionally, financially, or otherwise – and be a support system for who needs it to your best ability. I like to believe that people come around, learn lessons, or grow into better human beings, but I’ve also learned not to wait around for that to happen.

Gays in the Life started as a blog focused on my marriage and romantic relationships in general. This is the first of many more relationship themed posts to come on the blog. Thank you all for reading and remember to be kind to yourselves and have faith that all will be well. If you’re going through something with close friends or family, please feel free to use this post as a talking point, and to help shed light on some of the darkness you may be working through at the moment. 

Who Doesn’t Love Baby Horses?

Happy Easter, everyone!

Is everyone enjoying their families and friends? Cool. S and I were able to make it down south this weekend to visit the parents and spend some time with other members of the family. Weekends go by entirely too fast, but even a day or two with family – whether that be blood or chosen – is a treat.

We’d all had pretty busy days prior to this weekend, so the bunch of us found ourselves going to bed at 10pm – struggling to get through the Villanova and Kanas final four game. Just before we put our phones down for the final time that night and the lights went out, mom informed us that a new baby horse had been born.

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I’ve always found it so fascinating how newborn animals are up and walking mere moments after they’ve entered the world. This calve is the mother’s first and all is going well. She wasn’t sure at first when it came to letting the baby nurse. She kept circling the newborn, not letting him get close enough to nurse. Dad was able to hold the mother still until she fell into the role of mother. Cool, right!?

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And look at this one. What a face!

I hate to get back to the regular work week, but alas… I hope you’ve all had a gorgeous weekend.

The Horses of Burr Oak Farm

We got the chance to help the family shoot some footage of the horses for prospective buyers this Thanksgiving weekend. The buyers are way out in Oregon, so they’re unable to check out the horses in person.

It was my pleasure to step out of my comfort zone and help them with this.

The more I work on creative projects that allow me to explore new realms, the more inspired I become. Now… those of you who know me may be REALLY shocked to see me anywhere near a horse – let alone in my forces, hello! – but I had a blast.

We plan on getting down more often to help mom and dad elevate their customer experience and show off the beautiful horses of Burr Oak Farm.

 

Zen Managed.

Every now and then I need to step away from a project to let the creativity breathe. A couple of things happened during my little WordPress hiatus: (1) Work became a bit busy for S and I – duh –  and (2) we decided not to let that bog us down.

In older GITL posts, I’ve discussed how work had a huge tendency to impact our spirits and motivation. Maybe it’s the effects of our vacation just now catching up to us, but we are completely unbothered these days and I think it feels pretty damned awesome.

We spent Memorial Day weekend with friends and family in Southern Indiana. The Flecks showed us around Evansville and introduced us to a couple breweries and a new restaurant. Carson’s Brewery had this amazing banana beer and The Dapper Pig’s crab cakes were SO good.

 

Beer is the one item I miss being a low-carber, but like I’ve said in past, “If I want some? I’ll have some.” The trick was ordering flights – each flight being four, 5 oz servings –  instead of multiple 16 oz glasses of IPAs. The 5 oz flight-size remained an option to consume more, so we stuck to this and didn’t feel like absolute trash the next day for dipping in the carb pool.

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The campsite on the family farm is where we spend most of our time together during a long weekend like Memorial Day. S’s parents have the area set up so two campers can park and be used comfortably, along with any tents or big toys for the kids. The edge of the camp is rounded out by wire fence, giving the horses access to the occasional snack from the family and to say hello.

Time spent with the family down south is always a good time and a great way for us to calm down. The strong sense of calm that lingers after coming home to Indy is undeniable and gives us a good boost for the days ahead. The forecast is showing clear skies and being unbothered for a good while. Now! Back to side hustles and creativity.

 

Cheers,

All Work. Hopefully Some Play.

I’m frustrated. Frustrated because most of my family lives outside of Indiana. Frustrated because my brother is coming to visit the first week of May, and I’m not sure if S will be able to get any time off. As a CPA (Certified Public Accountant) at a corporate establishment, it’s hard for S to get off during their month-end-close weeks – the last week of the month were all deadlines and balances are due. This visit was originally planned as a surprise and falls during the week of my brother’s birthday. Unfortunately, the first week of May happens to be one of these ridiculous weeks where S will probably be working late and won’t have much free time.

 

That’s the business I suppose. My corporate gig is much more lax and doesn’t run on any tight deadlines; making it much easier to say “Hey, I’m going to be out for a week. Cool? Thanks.” I know this isn’t anything S can control. He’s an extremely hard worker, and by the sounds of most post-work download moments at home, he’s always helping team members with their tasks and keeping productivity stay at a decent level.  

 

Sure, some notice before flights were purchased would have been nice, but it was a surprise. My brother had no idea until after the flights were scheduled. Blame is not what I’m looking to place. I’m more just hoping that S’s job can find a way to survive without him for a couple to a few days that week, or at least let him leave at a decent time since his brother-in-law is coming to visit from 3,800 miles away.

 

As soon as we found out my brother would be visiting, I thought “let your job know, if that’s your busy week, so they can plan for your absence, be flexible, or plan to step it up that week.” From what I understand about the accounting world, you can only plan so much and a lot of how smoothly the gig is executed depends on your team. Currently I’m a supervisor in corporate customer service, so sacrifice and hard work is something I know a thing or two about… Accounting versus Customer Service – they both have their pros and cons as they relate to each other. From a leadership point of view, I’m thinking “Why aren’t your other team members as good a S? Can no one dig as deep as he does, Monday through Friday, and get the job done?”

 

That’s the gift and curse of leadership – having to carry others, even when you don’t really want to at times, but then you’re reminded why you’re a leader – you know deep down why you’re a leader – with that amazing feeling of accomplishment.

 

In the end I’m more aggravated because S always deserves a break and rarely takes one for himself. If there was any way he could get at least two days off the week of the visit, I’d be happy, but we’ll have a great time no matter what ends up happening with his work schedule. I’m annoyed at the timing of things, BUT I’m beyond stoked to spend my brother’s twenty-eighth birthday with him. The last time my siblings and I were all together was Summer 2014. With sis now living just down the road in Bloomington, we’ll be sure to have a great week together.

 

Last night I received a text from one of our great family friends, asking/letting me know that he’d be joining my brother on this trip – he’s basically a brother to us. He’s coming up from Florida, so we’ll have visitors from opposite corners of the country! Schweeeeet.

 

End vent/ramble/whatever-this-post-was…

5 Reasons Pam De Beaufort and I Could be Family

Anyone else a fan of HBO’s True Blood? I’ve been rewatching the series and have come to the conclusion that Pam De Beaufort and I are long lost family members. Take a few minutes to get to know Pam before you continue:

 

Are some of you starting to see the similarities? If you’ve seen my uncensored side, you can’t deny that this would be me if I were a cold, golden, Pharrell-Williams-like Vampire. Let’s get into it…

*ONE* We’re not here for the bullshit. If you say something sideways to us or challenge us without enough ammo to survive the verbal lashing you’ll receive a swift few seconds after you’re finished speaking your last word? Just watch out and don’t expect us to feel any type of way about it.

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*TWO* We keep it classy but bring the slayage when necessary. Let’s face it… we always slay. It’s a requirement in both our lives and spirits and deep down I know she’s a Beyonce fan.

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*THREE* We really only cry when we’re pissed off or full of rage and frustration. Deep down inside we’re big softies, but we can’t let anyone know that – unless you’re in our inner circle, but still, tread lightly.

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*FOUR* We’re team players even when we don’t want to be.  Pam and I both share many experiences in stepping up for the betterment of whatever grand scheme or mission we’re executing. It’s nice to worry about me, myself, and I – when we get the chance – and will never turn down a good mani-pedi session.

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*FIVE* We’re natural born leaders. No matter how annoyed we may become in a moment, we get the job done and get it done right. And come on… If I had a throne on a stage? My fierce levels would be out of control; much like Pam’s.

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I love me some Pam and True Blood. If you are familiar with the show, let me know in the comments which character you’re most like or could possibly share blood with. I see Pam as a snippy older sister I never had, lol.

Vacay Decay

The first day back after a long week (and a day) off are so terribly slow and painful. On the struggle bus is but an understatement, let me tell you, because homeboy was dying at his desk on Tuesday of last week. Christmas fell on a Sunday, so around this time last year, I planned to have the week of Christmas 2016 to myself. I wasn’t worried about the time being gone because I’m generally smart with my time off at work and S always has extra time to spare.

The holidays are always a great time – largely in part to the amount of Crown Royal we consume. “Ho Ho Ho!” scream our livers. S’s dad definitely makes sure the bar is properly stocked when we’re down home. We’re never hurting in the wine and spirits department. The thing we were most looking forward to  was chilling at home with each other; to completely decompress.

We did a whole lot of nothing and it was absolutely fabulous. S played a lifetime’s worth of video games while I just zenned out with a plethora of self care treatments. Another huge plus of our time off was familiarizing ourselves with our new home deep fryer. We can’t say enough good things about how the fryer has stepped up our kitchen game.

2017 brings in the new grind. I’ve been drifting away from new year resolutions because there’s always so much I want to accomplish. S and I both vowed a couple years ago that working on our health, fitness, and overall well-being would always be a big focus. Your health shouldn’t have to be a resolution – I get it, I do –  but instead, a commitment that is lasting and honest.

I foresee pretty big changes on the job front for me this year. My freelance public relations projects are picking back up and I’ve been working on ideas to pitch for writing opportunities. S is doing really well at his job and can now breathe with his Master of Accounting degree being complete. There are still some late nights, but Reynold and I don’t mind too much. We understand.  

Eat Slay Love. We survived an extremely (and unpredictably) busy 2016 and we’re both entering 2017 a little sluggish; if we’re being truthful. Never fear, though! I think this is just part of being an adult. We enjoyed the hell out of our time off and time with each other, so sure, we’re wishing we could go back to that week (lol). So with that being said…

Goodnight. And don’t let the trap queens bite,

30

A great work friend of mine asked me if I had any anxiety about turning thirty. The answer is no. I’ve always been okay with aging – look forward to it most of the time – but I’m sure there will be moments when I’m not. Today is my thirtieth birthday.

I see making it to thirty as a cue to begin the next phase of my evolution. My student loans are almost completely gone – my closest friends know how much of a nightmare that has been over the years – I have a solid life and marriage with S, my work life and creative projects are going extremely well, and my closet is growing into the GQ dream I’ve always wanted.

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I foresee a good amount of travel for S and I. We’ve earned some vacations beyond just a week off at home. Through my twenties I’ve learned a great deal about finances. Because we’ve been so smart and plan realistically, I know travel around the world is something we could easily do; sooner rather than later and before kids enter the picture.  

<ponder> We never did have a reception for our marriage and plan on having a big anniversary party at this point. I will have a french bulldog, named Biscuit Habanero. I will find a way to become my own boss and escape the corporate world, but in the meantime, I’ll gladly collect the experience. I will add a Burberry blanket to my list of favorite personal items and brew my own kombucha. </ponder>

All of those facts, wants, and wishes? I believe them to be possible because I’ve grown into someone who puts in the work and gets what they want. Earlier this week, I was journaling in my notes app when this life breakdown came to mind:

  • I always did really well in school – K through 12, taking advanced placement classes early in high school and performing with an award-winning band (shoutout to BARTLETT HIGH SCHOOL!)
  • In college I realized I didn’t know how to study and began to learn – the hard way – about hardship and the struggle to pay out-of-state tuition for college. I also made some of the best friends I could ever ask for and traveled with some of the best groups and people I share the honor of being called an Indiana University Alumni with.
  • Living a low-carb, ketogenic lifestyle has helped me feel what living a healthy life should be. I’m sharp, never sluggish, and want to be active most days – lifting or yoga. I was over 300 lbs at one point. Battling weight-loss has without a doubt conditioned my perseverance in life.
  • As I leave my twenties, I’ve discovered balance. All of my past experiences have pushed me and helped me flourish as a human being. So thank you all for helping me get here.

I’m excited to be thirty and ready to see what levels I can reach before forty. Now, back to listening to Beyonce, watching S play video games, and chilling with my friend Mary Jane. I have a birthday to get ready for!

Have fabulously zen day, everyone.

Swirl in the City

I’d really like for this to be my last time writing about Black Lives Matter. With that being said, however, I understand that right now my voice is one of the most important. A couple weeks ago, a friend of mine asked me how I was feeling in lieu of the tragedies affecting the Black Community. I answered honestly, stating that I was drained and was at a loss for words most of the time, and explained how important it was to share my perspective without forcing it onto others. Comments I hear in passing – at work, mind you – like “why isn’t there a White Entertainment Television channel?!” are microaggressions that fuel the smallest of fires that burn behind the bullets killing our melanin-kissed brothers and sisters.  

 

Black Lives Matter does not mean anti-white. I would know this because my husband is white. Not only is he white, but he’s from Southern Indiana, grew up raising horses, and hops around randomly and calls it dancing; especially to a fierce Lady Gaga track. All jokes aside, I have an interesting perspective and more to consider when it comes to my life in relation to everything that’s going on currently. S and I live in a pretty quiet area on the west side of Indianapolis. There’s not much traffic in our neighborhood, and the presence of other people of color is sparse. Lately I’ve been haunted by thoughts of me getting taken out by some uneducated, neighborhood watch tool or a policeman, while I’m peacefully walking our dog. I know this seems extreme, but I find it sad that I’m unsure of my safety anymore. Not only for myself, but for our tiny family we’ve created.

 

I’m always on high alert now when I see a police car behind me. I try not to run errands at night at the risk of being profiled and pulled over – although we’ve seen that time of day really isn’t a factor. The fact that all police officers aren’t evil, racist assholes isn’t a lost realization floating around in the darkest parts of my brain, BUT at the same time, it’s something I’m forced to consider. Take S and I visiting his parents for example. He’s from a very small town where I’m convinced – whenever I’m visiting – that I’m the only black person present, and that everyone there will throw a tantrum if you bring up gun control. I’m going to separate the next few lines because they’re important…

 

Even with those thoughts in my head and the fact that I am, most likely, the only black person around those parts, I would never jump the gun and be hyper-protective and reactive. I remain open and try to look at more than just the book’s cover. Inside of me there’s still a voice that says “go with the flow and be your best self…” If any of these murderous officers – not all, but the ones with blood on their hands – had any ounce of humanity, they’d be able to consider the fact that a person’s skin color doesn’t make them a threat. They’d be open. How I’m able to think like this in times like these is beyond me, but I’ll take it as a sign of hope; A sign that hope still exists.

 

I’ve never played the race card in all of my twenty-nine years and don’t plan on doing so for any reason. What I will do is stand up for what’s right. Preaching on Facebook, Twitter, or any other social media platform has never been my style. If ever there are comments made that I disagree with, I simply bring up facts, significant points, and anything that will get the opposition to think past themselves. Consider my Indiana family for example. I know they love me and that they’d do anything for S, myself, and my family. I’m wondering how having a gay, black man in the family has caused their thinking to shift. “Racism isn’t going anywhere. It’s just changing its face.” I have a feeling things will get way worse before they improve. Educating and providing views into life as a minority is key if the receiving subjects are willing to listen. Stay woke, everyone! And if you don’t know what “woke” means (as it relates to Black Lives Matter)? Chances are you aren’t.
Let love breathe,