Inches to Miles: A Letter from 18 year old self.

About 5 years ago I wrote a letter for a Dr. Suess scholarship that was suppose to be inspired from the book “Oh The Place You’ll Go”. I entitled my letter: Inches to Miles. I just recently reread it and found that I really wrote that for myself, even though 5 years ago I wasn’t really thinking that way. It’s amazing how much I’ve conquered and grown. I thought I’d share it for those of you who haven’t read it or would like to reread it. Thanks.

INCHES TO MILES

Dear friend,

I’m not going to lie to you, because that’s not something I can easily do. I won’t tell you life is simple and kind, because the truth is I’d only make you blind. The moment I met you I knew you were meant for wondrous places. Nothing can stop you including the judgmental faces. I want you to know I’ve never given up on you, because that’s not something I can easily do. You’re not always going to have me by your side. I hope you know when to draw the line.

Jump off cliffs, stand up for yourself, take turns, be blunt, and enjoy the ride. This world will surprise you and the only thing certain is change. You were born to see the best part of the world come to life. You are meant to be an example with not only your worlds but your actions; no matter how tough the classes with all the vocabulary and fractions, you’re not done yet so don’t stop here.

My friend, mistakes have your name written all over them, but that’s okay. You’re courageous enough to learn from them. If only it were as easy to jump or crawl under your trials, but to be honest you must face them head on before they change from inches to miles. You will meet people you adore, and with some you’d rather just close the door. This part of life may be a blessing in disguise and yet another surprise.

My friend, I’d love to hold your hand today, but I know you’re already on your way. You may lose this battle, but I’m certain this is your war to win. If you find yourself crying please know it’s not a crime. We all fall down sometimes.

My friend, the beauty of it all is you have the strength inside to find the light. You’ll make the decision to get up and fight. Perfection is not in the books for you, my friend, but that’s not what’s going to get you through in the end. Your bold personality and endless curiosity will take you on paths of unknown. You’ll be thankful when you see how much you’ve conquered and grown.

Regardless of the struggles you are handed, I know you will handle them accordingly. You’ve got a talent; therefore, you must protect it ever so cautiously. People will want to bring you down. It’s only natural to want to frown. I see a sparkle in your eye though, and with great purpose you’ll find another tomorrow.

You’re only just beginning your journey. Take this letter as your road map and know I love you, because that is something I can easily do.

30 things to be thankful for.

From a distance the world seems to be falling apart. Bombings and shootings. Tsunami’s and earthquakes. People are dying. And it’s easy to get consumed in the darkness. And it’s hard to try and pick up the pieces. And start new. And move forward. But if I’ve learned anything at all in this life…it’s that the world keeps spinning madly on…even if you’re not ready to spin along with it.

I’ve been inspired to make a list. It helps to put things into perspective whenever I’m feeling lonely or like the weight of the world is on my shoulders. And it’s weighed heavy these past fews days. So here I go. Taking a minute to reflect on the light in my life.

1. I am thankful for the rare but life saving human connections I’ve made throughout my “almost” 23 years. If not for those handful of special souls I wouldn’t be here.

2. I am thankful for my dog. She has provided me with so much joy. She has taught me patience and has pushed my buttons to the point of such irritation at times, but I’ve learned how to love through it. And maybe someday I’ll understand the whole parenting thing because of her.

3. I am thankful for my beautifully unique family. For all our skeletons hanging out of our closets, our open minds, and our full hearts. I wouldn’t trade them for the world.

4. I am thankful for the 12 years I shared with my mother. She taught me more in a year about life than most learn in 60 years. I’m thankful she taught me to embrace our black sheep selves, root for the underdog, and serve others without asking or promising. By just doing. And showing up at someone’s door ready to cook them a meal, rub their feet, or listen to their worries.

5. I am thankful for school. As much as I’ve struggled to finally figure out exactly what I want to do, I’m thankful that I’ve had the opportunity to at least try and learn from my mistakes.

6. I am thankful for my freedoms provided mostly by brave men and women who protect my freedom to go to school, walk the streets, enter a store, post on social media, voice my opinion, vote, etc. Thank you.

7. I am thankful for my talents that I’ve grown to allow myself to share. It’s not easy for me to put myself out there with my musical and writing abilities, but I do it because I don’t want to lose it.

8. I am thankful for friends who accept me for all my weird moments of singing out loud, political opinions, and advice. I hope they know how much I enjoy simply being in their presence.

9. I am thankful for water. The access of fresh drinking water and clean hot water to clean myself with.

10. I am thankful for a roof over my head. At the moment it’s not the great kind of place to be in, but it’s a roof. And it’s more than most have.

11. I am thankful for my car. It took me a lot of convincing and responsibility to make the decision to buy a car. And I haven’t regretted it. It gives me a sense of security. I know I could live without it, but I’m glad I don’t have to.

12. I am thankful for children. They are fascinating and easy to talk to. They  are so happy about the simplest things. Take me back to my childhood, where everything looks so big and beautiful.

13. I am thankful for my relationship with myself and God. I am thankful I have a sense of who I am, and who I am to my Heavenly Father. I am thankful I know I am loved. At the end of the day I have myself to be thankful for. And a God who had given me the strength to make decisions and live a purposeful life.

14. I am thankful for my trials. Gosh they’ve been hard. I’ve been at some very low lows where I didn’t believe I was going to move past it. I am thankful that I did. And that I know I have it in me to face the future trials of my life. I know they will only make me stronger and humble.

15. I am thankful for “things to look forward to”. If it weren’t for planned events, even if they don’t go the way we want them to, that they are at least there to motivate me and excite me.

16. I am thankful for travel. I’m glad I have the ability to visit other places with a variety of people and seek out the goodness in all the beautiful things in this life.

17. I am thankful for warm coats, hot chocolate and heaters. I tend to get cold to the point I feel my bones are ice. I like to be warm. I love it when the sun beats down on me. I’m glad I can bundle up. And yes, I’ll wear a sweatshirt at 80 degrees. Get over it 😉

18. I am thankful for music. It has healed me in ways only music can say.

19. I am thankful for technology. I’m glad I can keep in contact with those I love in such an instant way.

20. I am thankful for medicine and home remedies. Both helped my mother live longer. And both have helped the ones I love. I’m glad we have an understanding of how our bodies work and we can use what we know to live healthy happy lives.

21. I am thankful for movies books and other forms of entertainment. They are a great distraction sometimes, but I especially love the kind that don’t always end in the fairytale, but help us realize that we are all human.

22. I am thankful for animals. They are so innocent. And you can’t really ever be mad at them.

23. I am thankful for shoes. I used to hate wearing them. But life would be a lot harder without them.

24. I’m thankful for charities and organizations that support important causes that make the world a better place.

25. I am thankful for people who dedicate their time to spreading love and kindness.

26. I am thankful to be an American citizen. It has it’s perks. But so much more than anything, I have the ability to share my voice, be apart of a united community, and live in such a privileged world.

27. I am thankful for the piano. I’m pretty sure my piano has heard all my fears, madness, and sadness. Thanks for letting me pound away until I feel like I can breathe again.

28. I am thankful for lint rollers. I’d have so much hair on my clothes without them.

29. I am thankful for humor. It’s basically the best kind of high.

30. I am thankful for photography. It tells some of the greatest stories.

My Revoked LDS Memebership.

I have read and re-read the latest policy of the LDS-Mormon Church regarding same-sex couples and their children. And no matter how hard I try I cannot fathom it’s existence.jesus

Facebook has exploded with opinions in support and opposition of this policy from both members and non-members of the LDS religion. And what I have to say cannot easily fit into a status. So please bear with me.

I was raised in a LDS community. My mother and father were both baptized and raised in the church as well. It wasn’t until I was about 16 years old that I recognized this particular church was not meant for me. It wasn’t until I was in college that I realized that church just wasn’t for me. That doesn’t mean I don’t remember what I learned as a child/young adult. That doesn’t mean I disagree with every policy or teaching of the LDS religion. It just means I don’t find church/religion to be my spiritual up-lifter. I’ve found other profound ways of connecting and building a relationship with God.

I’ve been supportive of my friends and family who are active members of the LDS church. I find their dedication inspiring. I see people everyday who have testimonies that are beautiful and meaningful. I respect them regardless of their faith.

I know what the LDS church has done and will continue to do for people in need. It’s amazing how much they have accomplished by extending their arms and helping thy neighbor. I know what it’s like to have 25 casseroles, after my mother died, brought by the Relief Society so we wouldn’t forget to eat. I remember primary songs I would sing at the top of my lungs. I remember reverent prayers. I remember Fast Sundays in which I would bear my testimony about how much the Savior loves me. I remember girls camp where we once got lost on a hike and we were running out of water and low on energy…and we prayed and somebody found us and led us back to our campsite. I remember quiet still moments in which I could feel my Heavenly Father beside me in my darkest hours.

I haven’t forgotten all the good things that have come from being a member of the LDS religion. I technically still am a member. However, with this new policy, my membership is revoked. Because I have been a long time supportive for gay rights/marriage. And Because I cannot be expected to deny my father’s “lifestyle” in order to continue being a member. Which doesn’t really both me all that much at this point. But it may have bothered my mother and my grandmother. And quite possibly my father, who still believes in the teachings of the LDS church, regardless of his sexuality. But I cannot speak for other families who did not fit into a traditional family box. So you see, it hurts. It hurts tremendously to feel like an outcast. For a church who has so diligently sent it’s missionaries out to spread the word of God and convert people…it’s strange to see it “banning” children from membership until they turn 18. But by that time I’m almost certain that growing up with same-sex couples will make it extremely difficult for them to continue in the church. And so the only thing this policy really does is create tension and push people away.

Yes, other religions have had these kind of policies put into place for decades, but that’s what I thought was different for the LDS religion. This clearly excludes people. Maybe not intentionally, but it’s pushing people away every time they more backward instead of forward. And although I do not expect the church to ever change their stance on homosexuality, I do not understand why innocent children need to be humiliated because of who their parents are. This only teaches children that there are limits to love. That only certain people are allowed to join this membership. Only certain people can find peace and happiness in this church. This is a political move. It is not a move I can ever imagine God doing. And Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

I’ve never understood how a book or “doctrine” could mean so much more to a person than another human being. We don’t know everything. But in my own faith I believe that I’m a good person who may not have a “traditional family” but I love my dad and his husband. I love my mother. I love my sister. I love my family. And I’d choose them over anything any day.

And no amount of sugar coating or clarification from the LDS church is going to make this pain go away for the families directly affected by it.

And all I can do is try and remember the most important thing I ever learned from religion. “Love one another. As I have loved you.” -John 13:34

And hopefully that will be enough.

Thanks for hearing me out.

the life of shame.

It’s so unbearably sad that we spend most of our lives trying to cater to other people’s needs. Trying to force people to accept us. Caring what others think. Instead of listening to ourselves for a change.

We are all guilty of sitting in a room or walking down a hall trying to read the minds of strangers. Trying to know what they’re thinking of us. Our clothes. Our hair. The way we walk. The way we talk.

But will we see them again? Will it matter 5 days from now? 5 years?

We are insecure.

And I think that’s why when we see someone who is so outrageously different we think to ourselves, “Wow, they are brave to dare and walk out looking and acting like that.” We can become jealous. Or curious.

Some of us embrace the weird. And become the weird.

Others try to tame the weird. And hate the weird.

It’s a never ending battle. And it’s eating us alive.

The last thing I ever want to do is tell someone what they can and cannot do. I’m a hippie-loving -pro choice -save the elephants -respect your peers/elders -support the troops/veterans -jump in the pool with all your clothes on -try to be spontaneous -loud laughing kind of person. And I’ve battled family, friends and strangers on the matter. Because I don’t fit into a box or have a certain label. And at the end of the day I learned I cannot and will not lead a life of shame.

I know so many who hide away. Who pretend to themselves and others that they lead an oh-so-perfect life. Who are ashamed of their past. And by doing so they are constantly paranoid and awaiting the next breakdown in their future.

But if I’ve learned anything in this life, it’s that when we go through something that we consider to be shameful, we come out of it stronger and far more humble than we could ever have imagined. So I encourage you to air out your dirty laundry. To release your skeletons. To leave your shame at the door. Because we are all imperfect. And luckily in this world we can find people who still love us regardless. So please, don’t spend so much time on the hateful and hurtful side of life. Spend more time on the loving and supportive side. There’s no real time to wallow in self pity. It’s easier said than done.

But start today.

The box we don’t fit in.

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Conformity is a disease. It’s a viral explosion of social depravity. If you ever find yourself on social media or in public and notice familiar things and ideas that don’t shock you…you have encountered conformity. We like to use the world “majority” and tell ourselves it’s okay. That’s it’s popular. But it’s something that has attached itself into our society and is a living breathing thing that is constantly changing its mind.

We often see conformity as a way to “keep the peace”. But what we don’t want to see is how it’s slowly and surely destroying our sense of creativity and imagination. The fear to reach outside of conformity is literally killing mankind.

The idea of paving a new path is terrifying. The unknown is an ugly abyss of rejection. We don’t want to speak up about a new idea, propose a new direction or create a new color for the fear of being completely and utterly outcast.

We also don’t like to voice our opinion. We don’t vote. We don’t burst into song in the middle of the street. We suppress our emotions. God forbid we be genuinely excited or unfortunately sad about something.

We don’t color outside of the lines.

There is this box. It’s an extremely tiny box. And for the majority of the world. Our society. Our community. Our friends. Our family. We live inside of it. It is our zone. It’s the place where there is little to no room to make a mistake. Where we fit in. (barely) Where we can somewhat control our emotions. Where we can live “peacefully” but dangerously dull.

We are all guilty of conformity. And for most of us, we call ourselves “content” by doing so. But in all reality, we are limiting ourselves by what society tells us is acceptable. We are society. We are telling each other daily by our actions that we can and cannot do certain things. What we can and cannot wear. What we can and cannot eat. Who we can and cannot talk to. Where we can live. Who we love. Who we vote for. Who we judge. Who we praise. Who we shun. And what we are capable of. Can you imagine the kind of people we could be if we would allow ourselves to be different. To be disobedient. To laugh a little louder. To cry a little harder. To breathe and little longer. To support each other by not limiting one another.

I know I am not alone in this idea of rejecting society. It’s no much easier said than done. But the box we don’t fit in is getting smaller and smaller. And I’d love nothing more than to break the box and be apart of a world where I’m not afraid of myself.

I Am from You

-My sister and I wrote a poem in memory of our grandmother.-

I am from Christmas stockings made just for me.

From zucchini bread to pecan sandies.
I am from veggie trays and butter horn rolls.

From gathering around the piano singing Christmas carols.

I am from cross-stitching and card games.
From water babies and Barbie dolls.

I am from mismatched board games and secret closets.
From purses filled with “everything but the kitchen sink”.

I am from countless birthday cards written in familiar cursive writing.
From a perfectly made bed with a photo of Tom Selleck smiling back at me.

I am from shared hotel rooms with useless earplugs to drown out the snoring.
From carefully selected scriptures with my name engraved in gold.

I am from heartfelt prayers that always ran a little too long,
From knowing my Heavenly Father loves me by singing it in a song.

I am from strength and perseverance.
From kindness and acceptance.

I am from wise words of wisdom to humble acts of service.

I am from unconditional love that has no end.

I am from knowing your sweet spirit lives on.
God be with you ‘til we meet again.

Keep Your Speed: In Memory of My Grandma

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I remember several road trips & back and forth drives to my parents’ cruising with my grandma, always wearing my seatbelt, singing at the top of our lungs to Roger Miller songs. We knew every song by heart and she sang with such happiness and silliness in her voice. I used to love singing with my mother, but after she passed something changed. I took a break from choir in junior high to try new things thinking I didn’t want to sing again. But my grandmother pushed me out of my comfort zone and constantly reminded me that I need to share my talent of singing. We would often gather around the piano and sing church hymns and a variety of other songs. That will forever be a solid memory of my grandma. She sure knew how to play the piano and sing in her beautiful alto voice. If you ask most anyone, I have a hard time accepting compliments about my voice. But my grandma encouraged me to be proud and confident about singing and to always find a place to share with others. In her honor, I hope to always be able to uplift others with my voice and stay confident about what I have to offer.

I remember multiple times in which my sister and I would have conversations about how having “1 Grandma Diana was better than having 4 mediocre grandparents.” We lucked out with her, because our luck with grandparents didn’t pan out so well. We will forever be thankful for her ability to fill all the roles we need in our lives. From bossy grandma, to loving nurturer, an incredible cook, to a taxi driver, & a beautiful pianist, a provider, our protector, the nosy shopper, to a badass fighter, to a reverant church goer. The list goes on. We couldn’t be prouder to be granddaughters of Mary Diana Nation.

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I remember several times in which I would call my grandma up and just by the tone of my voice she knew something was wrong. And of course I would be a blubbering mess by the time I was done, but she was always the person I could cry to, and laugh with, and say whatever was on my mind whether it be 2 PM or 2 AM. She was there. Always. And I can’t say that about very many people. And so maybe that’s what I’ll miss the most. Just knowing she was always a phone call away.

I remember the first time my grandma ever showed me the hole in her chest. She did it without any hesitation. She just asked, “do you want to see my fake boob?” It was so fascinating to me as a kid. She said, “don’t be afraid, you can touch it.” And normally it may sound weird, but it wasn’t for me…because first of all…I have an incredible bond with my grandma. And second of all, her scar came from beating cancer. And I thought that was the coolest thing ever. She came so close to death before I was born. And I can’t say it enough how much it means to me that she was strong enough to fight and be alive in my lifetime. Every time I see a pink ribbon. I’ll think of her.

I remember on quite a few occasions when I was a little low on money, or food, or love…and she would fill me up like a gas station. She hardly skipped a beat. She would ask me what I needed and to always be honest about my needs. And she would buy me new clothes, groceries, etc. I always had a hard time asking, because that’s just how I am, but she never had a hard time giving. She had my back for most everything and anything. But it wasn’t just me I saw her help. It was others, too. Strangers even. And it’s rare to come by people these days who give more than they take. And at times I thought maybe I was taking advantage of her, but she didn’t let me think that for too long—because she looked me in the eye one day and said,  something along the lines of, “Sam, don’t you ever hesitate to call me. Even if I can’t give you money or things…I can always give you love and advice. I may be bossy and think I know everything all the time, but you just come to me and we’ll figure it out. Whatever it is.”
So I know she didn’t mind. She always helped financially when she could, but it was the emotional help that will forever remain in my heart.

I remember when I used to help clean my grandma’s work weekly. She worked at a law firm and we would dump garbages and vacuum even though the carpets always looked brand new. One day we were dumping all the trash outside and just before we left my grandma noticed a lady shivering beside the building. She offered her a ride, no questions asked. As a kid it didn’t take me long to look at this woman and see that she did not have much. She wasn’t wearing a coat and it had just freshly snowed. We ended up driving her down Main Street to a local bar. I remember thinking that that was quite possibly the worse thing you could do. I was a kid. I didn’t know hardly anything. I still don’t know much. But I do know bars are not of the devil. And I guess I was under the impression that they were where “bad things” happened. I remember turning to my grandma and whispering as we said goodbye to the stranger, “Grandma, she just went into a bar.” My grandma turned to me and said, “And? There’s nothing wrong with helping people to where they need to go. Sometimes you just have to take people to the bars.” And that has stuck with me in most every situation I have thought of in my life where I come across someone doing something or saying something I don’t agree with. It’s opened my mind a great deal. It’s not up to us to judge and decide what’s good and bad for people. It’s just up to us to support people and help them on their way, regardless of where that takes them…because ultimately we do not have control over people’s choices. My grandmother gave me many things, but staying open minded, full of love with no judgements and forgiving others are by far the most important things she ever gave me.

I also remember a time in which I first got my driver’s permit and I was invited to go on a road trip with my great grandma Betty and grandma Diana to Montana. On the way back from Glacier, Montana grandma Diana let me drive while grandma Betty slept in the back. We were going around about six hundred curves through the mountains. And all of a sudden a dark cloud hovered over us and started pouring cats and dogs. It was raining so hard my vision was clearly impaired and I was struggling to turn on the windshield wipers. While doing so I slowed down from about 80 to almost 45 mph. I was freaking out. But grandma remained surprisingly calm and asked me why I was slowing down. I responded in a panic, “I can’t see!” And she responded, “you don’t slow down under a rain cloud; you keep your speed and get through it. And you use your windshield wipers!” During this whole process, grandma Betty woke up and asked, “Are we dying?” And grandma Diana laughed and said, “No…we’re just learning.”

And over the years I’ve come to understand that that experience was just another metaphor my grandma inserted into my life whenever there was an opportunity to learn something. She was always teaching me. Always encouraging me. Always supporting me. Always accepting me. Always making me laugh. Always being present when I needed her the most. Giving me advice through the chaos, and hugging me through the silent tears. And always loving me without a doubt.
I am going to miss being able to call her up on the phone and just talk about my day. Although she is not here physically, I will draw comfort knowing that if I start to panic to just “keep my speed and use my windshield wipers”. Thank you grandma for fighting to be in my life. I’m so happy you’re in peace. I love you, and I’ll see you again.

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