Being yourself is not illegal.

I’ve been the person who has gone home for the holidays and unwillingly listened to my extremely nosy relatives nag me about if I have a boyfriend, when I’m getting married, or when I’m having kids?

The assumptions are all there. And there’s little to no room to refute these social norms.

First of all, whose business is it when I’m having children? I still don’t consider myself to have completely transitioned into adulthood. How am I supposed to raise a child with a $600 paycheck every two weeks? I’m not. So if you’d like me to be an irresponsible parent, then by all means, please…continue.

Anyway, If I attempt to change the subject to something else it now becomes a discussion about my studies and what I plan to do with my life. As if I’ve got it all figured out down to the outfit I plan to wear to my first big kid job or the kind of 401 K plan I want to adopt.

I know what I’d like to do. And I know the steps I need to take to get there. But of course, if I don’t have a solid response they’ll think I’m just wasting my time. That I’m not capable. That I should have a practical job. Or butt in about exactly what I should do. This all coming from the people who never stepped foot on a college campus.

Secretly I laugh. Because I know who I am. I know my goals. And I know I’ll achieve them. Maybe not in the way that “they” deem right. But I’ll do it.

So this brings me to my Minor in Sociology that I’m finishing up this Fall. I’ve been fascinated by the way society interacts for some time now, and every sociology class I attend makes me understand a little more about why our “families” pressure us so much.

Because I’m not doing life the way they think I should, I am labeled “deviant”. It’s funny. Because to me and most of the sociological world, being deviant isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It can be anything from dying your hair blue to walking in a gay pride parade. And what I believe to be perfectly okay, isn’t always the case for redneck conservative family members. And that’s completely okay. Because they don’t run my show. They don’t walk in my shoes. They sit comfortably in their worlds that they’ve created for their families. And that’s fine. More power to them. But just as I don’t try to control their lives, I guess I’d like a little of that in return.

I try to understand, as a sociology minor, why people related to us have the need to intervene in such a nosy way.

I took some time off of school for about a year. Because of that, I was treated differently by some of my relatives. Relatives that I don’t frequently talk to thought it was somehow their business to tell me where I should be living and what I should be doing. They stated their disappointment, as if that actually mattered to me. But I’m the kind of person who tries to keep the peace, for the most part. Especially about things that don’t really matter to me. And their opinions certainly do not. But of course, the second I returned to school…after feeling refreshed and motivated to finish my degree, they expressed their approval. And of course, I didn’t need it…but I found it strange.

When the lights go out, when the shit hits the fan, when you fall down a steep hill. The people that are still standing are the people you know you can count on. And I can tell you, the people who went out of their way to insert their social norms into my life, they weren’t left standing. So to me, their disapproval or approval is not validated. It doesn’t matter. It cannot matter. It’s just another opinion floating around.

I’m not deviant because I choose to do things my way. I’m certainly not a bad person for choosing to go to college over having a husband and children right now. I’m not going to hell for wanting to focus on myself. I’d rather buy a bottle of wine than a case of diapers. So I figured if my priorities are not about putting other people before myself right now. I have no business having a husband or children. My dog is enough responsibility for me right now.

Who knows, someday I might want to settle down and have children. If and when that day comes, I’m sure those nosy people will want to insert themselves back into my life. But just because we share a last name or blood. It doesn’t mean I want to share with them those milestones. You don’t have to invite everyone to your wedding. You don’t have to send announcements out that you had a kid. You don’t have to wish people Happy Birthday when you don’t mean it. You don’t have to surround yourself with people who only make you feel like crap. And you don’t have to live a lie just to keep the peace. Because lying to others does not actually provide your soul with peace. It hurts you more than it helps you.

I guess this post is directed to those of us who feel like we need to suppress or hide our beliefs just to make others comfortable. We don’t have to do anything that we don’t want to do. Being our true authentic selves is not illegal. And I think so many of us forget that. We make it harder on ourselves by trying to please those around us. We nod our head in agreement just to not start any conflict. You don’t have to agree with others. You can be an adult and get your message across without being nasty. I think we forget that, too.

It’s okay to be yourself. And I think we forget that the most.

#beyourself.

 

 

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45.

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She would have been 45 today.

To adolescents, maybe 45 seems so far away. It feels like a lifetime. But to the rest, 45 is not even halfway. It’s not even a glimpse of enough time. And she didn’t even make it that far. And I tell myself she would be pulling out little white hairs now and cursing her “old” age as she looked unsatisfyingly into the mirror tracing yet another unwanted wrinkle that she could clearly point out, but that most others would barely even notice. Because as humans we take our age for granted. It’s a reminder that we’re not as young as we used to be. As if that’s a reason to limit ourselves. As if that’s an excuse not to celebrate another year, because we’re not as young as we’d like to be.

But today I celebrate her life. Her life is in each leaf I see blooming as the newly awoken trees stretch their branches for another Spring. Her life is in a stranger’s smile as I pass them by, catching their infectious grin. Her life is in the laughter of children sliding down a slide. Her life is in the voices of friends and family, reminding me of the kind spirited woman she was. Her life is in the rays of sunshine that warm my toes and kiss my skin. Her life is in the beat of my heart as I steadfastly move on, day to day, living a life she only dreamed of for me.

Death is inevitable. It’s something we can’t escape. It’s something we are taught to prepare for and live life to the fullest. But when that life is cut short, something about the nature of this world shifts. We fall down. We collapse. It feels unbearable. It feels impossible. My mother was young. She was healthy, despite the cancer that lived in her blood. And she was taken too soon. That’s something I will never understand. I don’t think I’m suppose to. But from her death, there have come harsh lessons and great rewards. My trials are a never-ending reminder that I’m still alive. Even if she couldn’t make it to forty five.

Sometimes I have days where I feel like I’m falling from Cloud 9. Or that I’m climbing a ladder going nowhere. It almost seems pointless. But then I reminded about the simple joys of life. And I remember the quiet lessons my mother taught me by example.

– my mother was the kind of person who rooted for the underdog. because of her I never put myself above anyone else.
-my mother was able to forgive those who wronged her in her dying days. she showed me a kind of strength i never thought possible. because of her I’ve learned to let go of my grudges.
– my mother had the greatest sense of humor. because of her, I try to bring a little more laughter into this world.
– my mother graduated from college. she may have done it later on in her life, but she did it — and because of her I value my education and the power that comes with it.
– my mother was a nurse. she cared about people, genuinely. and she served others without asking for anything in return. because of her, I know the importance of serving others and cherishing the simple moments in life.
– my mother didn’t play by the rules. we ate out on sundays. we were friends with every kind of person. we talked about pooping and farting. we talked in accents. we watched R rated movies. we ate ice cream cake with our hands (burr). we sang karaoke and didn’t bleep out the swear words. we peed with the door open. we lived life the way we wanted to, not by how everyone else thought we should, how society or our church expected us to, but how we felt was good for us. because of her, I don’t panic about making mistakes. I learn from them and I don’t sweat the small stuff.
– my mother tried to bring her family together. she tried to make others feel included. because of her, I want to surround myself with family and friends who make me feel good, and who can laugh at my jokes, and listen to me on a bad day.
– my mother was a beautiful, strong, hard working, silly, amazing woman. and I will always remember her for the things she did for me.

I am so fortunate for the short time I shared with my mom. She taught me more in 12 years than most learn in a lifetime.

Thank you mom. I love you so much. Happy Birthday. 

Three little birds.

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Why did you get a tattoo?

The question of the month. For me.

I was the person four years ago shouting at the top of my lungs that I would NEVER get a tattoo.

I think I was simply scared. Scared of what others might think. But I’ve done a lot of changing over the years.

I have three birds flying high on my right ankle. My first tattoo, and I decided to put it on a bone. It hurt like I suppose 5 million bee stings would. But I managed. I just needed to remind myself to breathe deep.

There are three birds; therefore, there are three reasons I endured the pain of permanently inking my body.

#1: Strength.

There is a saying that goes a little something like this:
“Anyone can give up, it’s the easiest thing in the world to do. But to hold it together when everyone else would understand if you fell apart, that’s true strength.” This is honestly the best way I can describe how I’ve lived most of my life. I believe I’ve been faced with challenges that most people never even catch a glimpse of. And that’s ok. I’ve learned to deal. I’ve also realized that my trials don’t even come close to some of the pain others have to bare. But I’m not trying to compete. I’m just trying to get perspective, that life is only as hard and easy as you make it to be. I make choices everyday that place me in situations that I get to decide how I react. And with my strength, that only gets stronger, I face each trial a little differently. And a little better. And in the end, I’m only stronger from it.
One bird belongs to my mother. It reminds me each day that she would want me to keep flying, even if she can’t.

#2: Freedom. 

There have been physical and mental restrictions in my life. There are things that I cannot control. And sometimes I feel as if I am behind bars. And there have been people in my life who I care truly and deeply about who have had to face the trial of actually being behind thick bars locking them out from the rest of the world. And it’s cold and dark. And color is limited. And life is poor. And I cannot do anything about it. But in recent events God has given meaning behind this particular trial. And I have gained a new perspective on how important and fragile our freedom is. I don’t ever want to take it for granted. And each day I will be brave and live freely.
One bird belongs to my father. It reminds me each day of the sacrifices he has made for my sister and I.

#3. Champion.

In my opinion, being a champion sometimes means doing things you don’t want to do, but you do them anyway. I have had to endure this kind of pressure before and I’ve struggled to accomplish the things asked of me sometimes. But my sister, is  the true definition of a champion. She is someone who stepped up to the plate even though she didn’t have to. And especially when she didn’t want to. But she has been my champion. She has rooted for me. And she has had to be the bad cop sometimes. And she’s been a support that has lifted me to places I never thought possible. I love her dearly. And I hope to be half of what she is someday. I could die happy.
One bird belongs to my sister. It reminds me each day that she always has my back, and will remain loyal and true. And will defend me until the end. She is my champion through and through.

The three birds represent my family and their greatest lessons they have taught me. I am forever in their debt. And that is why this tattoo will forever remain with these meanings. And I will never regret those lessons, no matter the pain I had to endure. It was the least I could do to endure the 20 minutes of torture on my skin to remind me of the pain I’ve been through in my life and surely will continue to. But with strength, freedom, and my champion — I will be just fine.

 

 

The Last Thanksgiving.

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This past Thanksgiving (2013) I was uncertain of where I would go. My immediate family lives hours away from me. And so I was very blessed to be invited to the Parrish Clubhouse for Thanksgiving dinner by my dear friend Janae.

A week before that, I had attended Sunday dinner at the Clubhouse. It is a weekly event that brings the Parrish and Curtis family together on Parrish Lane.

In the back of my mind, I couldn’t help but picture my future family…and I wanted something like the Clubhouse Sunday dinners. It was real. And it was full of family. And love. Everyone got together to play with their cousins, and chat about their lives, and update everyone about their children on missions.

It was such a blessing to be surrounded by such love on Thanksgiving.

There was plenty of Turkey. And tons of laughter. And sweetness that I never knew before.

After all the chaos of cooking, we finally sat down to eat. And Bill Parrish said a prayer that made me feel like a blanket of protection was over us. And I felt such peace and sincerity come from his kind words.

And then we took the time to go around and say what we were Thankful for. It took us about an hour, but I know we were all glad we did it, because I believe it brought everyone closer.

I felt such peace and love come from each member of the family. Everyone was so open and eager to share how thankful they were for their family. Even the littlest of kids expressed their love for each other. For their trials. For God. And for the blessings of the Gospel.

And then it was my turn. And I wasn’t hesitant to speak, because I felt so welcomed and loved. And even though I am not biologically apart of that family, I felt connected in a way I have never felt with my own relatives. It was such a magical feeling. And I cried, because I was overjoyed and thankful to no end.

And throughout the day, Ross Parrish made a special effort to talk with me and was genuinely interested in what I was doing and how my family was doing. She always welcomed me with a bright smile.

Of all the kids that were at the get-together, Keegan Parrish was the first to greet me and chat with me. He had such an awesome spirit and funny sense of humor. He was so mature from what I gathered. And he had such love for his family.

( http://www.ktvb.com/news/Four-members-of-Pocatello-family-found-dead-in-home-246903901.html )
^media link to story.

And so to learn about Bill & Ross Parrish’s family tragedy, makes me feel broken inside. Their lives ended too short and so sudden. I want to reach out to everyone and hug them. I want to go back to that Last Thanksgiving and pause time. Because my heart aches for their families, knowing they will never be in their presence again on this earth. And I am confused. And I question WHY? Like so many do when death creeps in the middle of the night.

I never thought last Thanksgiving would be the last time I would see them.

I am overwhelmed.

And I know how it feels to lose somebody so close.

My heart goes out to Jensen and Ian Parrish. They are what is left and I wish them strength to get through these next unbearable days until they reach home to say their goodbyes. And pray for them to understand and to grieve and to continue on their journey. And to stay close to God.

I want to be able to offer words of wisdom or strength. But all I feel I can do is offer silence and prayer. And hope for peace.

God bless everyone effected by this sudden misfortune. Always remember to say ‘I Love You’ because you never know what tomorrow brings.

And God be with Us ‘Til We Meet Again.

The ninth year.

It was 9 years ago today that my mother died. (Feb. 20)

I find it difficult to picture life nine years ago.

I was a stubborn bossy drama queen. That is, until the universe threw me a curve ball, and I was 10 years older with a mind of worry and panic attacks every hour on the hour watching time slip away from my just as stubborn mother.

I became humbled. I counted every second. I made each moment count. And I lived like I was dying. Because I thought I was.

I never thought possible that this part of my life would ever come. There was a time where I honestly believed I wouldn’t make it this far. I remember begging my mother to stay on this earth, as if she had magical powers that could erase the toxic blood cells from her veins and triple her platelet count, but alas…she had no control. And I was convinced I couldn’t survive without her.

But here I am, doing much more than just surviving, I’m…living.

I’m experiencing life the way I think she would have wanted me to. With pain and heartache. With joy and laughter. With moments of loneliness and moments with genuine company. With loudness and softness. With sadness and happiness. With tears and smiles. With surprises. And with the lessons I’ve learned a few times over because the third time is a charm. With incredible life changing moments that humble me. And moments where I feel so proud I could burst. With life. And with death. And with knowledge to make good choices. And knowledge to realize the bad. To experience it all. To crash and fall. To get back up and try try try again. To love. To serve. And to make people laugh, because I get that from her. And she’d be horrified if I didn’t share my sense of humor. To remember who I am and where I come from. And to start again, when I’ve made a mess bigger than Everest. To forgive. And to let go. And to live much more than the day before.

If the loss of my mother has taught me anything, it is: To not take life for granted.

I’ve come to understand things a little differently with a new perspective over the past 9 years because of this loss.

Death does not have to define us. But it certainly shapes us. And I’m thankful for the path it has taken me on. I wouldn’t want to be anyone else.

 

Thanks mom, for hanging in there for as long as you could.

 

Two dads is better than none.

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Can we all please take a step back and realize that the definition of “family” no longer fits the perfect Dad, Mom, Brother, Sister, Dog, Cat model anymore? I mean, did it really ever?

Using the argument that a child needs a mom AND a dad or vise versa is getting old to say the least.

Yes. Biologically it takes a penis and a vagina to create a child.

But I think that we can all agree that it takes much more than that to build a FAMILY.

It takes shelter, and food, and clothes…

But above all. It takes unconditional LOVE.

Coming from my perspective and insider on having a gay parent, I think I’m a little more than qualified to state that I was raised by a single parent and I turned out just fine. Or I’d like to believe I did. I mean, the research that is being thrown around about kids who aren’t raised by a MOTHER and a FATHER become more troubled than not is just a load of crap. For the most part.

I was far more stable after my mother died. Being tossed around every other weekend back and forth to my parents did more damage to me than staying in one home with one parent. I’d rather argue that divorce is worse than anything else out there when it comes to the stability of a child.

Stability. That’s all I needed. And that’s what I got with my dad. I may have viewed him as a single parent, simply because he couldn’t marry his boyfriend – but he wasn’t single. He had the help of many. He had the help from his boyfriend. From his siblings. From his mother. You name it. The support of others around him helped raise me. We weren’t alone. I no longer had the influence from my mother any longer. It was out of our control after she died. But we made the best of our situation. And my father raised me. I don’t remember my childhood with my mother as vividly as I remember the lessons my father taught me. So I owe it mainly to my father for raising me and teaching me things about life.

Like many families in this world, they aren’t the cookie cutter kinds. Mothers leave their new babies in dumpsters. Teenagers have babies themselves and give them up for adoption. Husbands beat their wives and molest their children.

THAT’S the problem.

It can take seconds for a girl to get pregnant and yet many take that job for granted.

But it takes months, even years for couples to adopt. Couples who have thought long and hard about having a child. Couples who plan to have a child unlike so many woman who have a one night stand and the condom broke. So that’s where adoption comes it. But why make it so complicated? So many couples, and sometimes even singles people want children. And this includes gay couples. And they are prepared. And ready to have children. So what is the big freaking deal? If the best interest is for the child, than why ever deny them a happy, healthy, loving home? Whether that includes a grandmother ready to step up to the plate, or an uncle and aunt, or two men, or two women?

That child will be loved. Because I highly doubt somebody would spend thousands of dollars and invest so much time in adopting a child if their intentions weren’t anything but good.

So for those of you who believe that gay couples are flawed and aren’t fit to be parents or can’t provide everything a child needs, than think again. They aren’t going to be perfect. But  they have to go through hell to even get qualified. Same goes for straight couples. It’s a battle. So I applaud all the people who adopt or attempt to do so. That takes a big heart and a ton of patience.

There are plenty of straight couples who provide a happy, healthy and loving home. And that’s wonderful. But not everyone is as fortunate to be raised by their biological mother and father.

But every couple, or person raising a child is going to have their ups and downs. Especially for a brand new parent. They are going to find the best ways to do certain things for their child. Because that’s what people do when they take on such a big responsibility. Or at least that’s what we’d like to see.

And I’m not one who believes it has to be ONE way or the highway. I believe that a family is what you make it to be. It’s a mom. Or it’s a dad. Or it’s both. Or it’s daddy 1 and daddy 2. Or mommy 1 and mommy 2. Or it’s grandma and grandpa. Or it’s uncle and aunt. Or it’s brother or sister.

So just because you were raised by your awesome mother and father. Doesn’t mean you should deny any other definition of a family for others.

My father had to step up to both roles at times. He taught me about sex, drugs and alcohol. He taught me about the menstrual cycle. He taught me about hygiene. He taught me about self respect. He talked to me about boys. He taught me about how to change the oil. How to change a tire. How to build a fence. How to serve others. How to respect others. How to love unconditionally.

So no. I wouldn’t trade my life for anything. I don’t ever wish my life went differently. Sure. Sometimes I think about what it would be like to have a mother physically with me. But then I wouldn’t have the outstanding gay father that I do have.

And I think that children grow up to be thankful for what they do have. Eventually we all see the bigger picture and are truly thankful for the love and support we have in our lives. I don’t think we are going to care one way or the other if that support comes from MOM & DAD or if it comes from MOM & MOM/ DAD & DAD etc.

Thanks for hearing me out.

My Grown Up Christmas List.

Another year passes and I’m another year older, and I realize that the things I want for Christmas cannot be bought.

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This year I thought I’d put into words, like I often do when I can’t seem to do anything else, and write my grown up Christmas list.

#1. To eliminate hate. 

If I could spend a day with a stranger who is filled with such hate toward the things he does not know, I feel the world would be a better place. Because I could listen to his reasons, and he could listen to mine. And maybe, just maybe, we’d come out of our conversation with a new perspective. A more balanced and accepting perspective. A perspective where we come to an understanding, that I believe the things I believe–and he believes the things he believes. And we can coexist. And live in harmony. Because harmony is such a beautiful sound. And it makes things a little less boring, a little more bright, and things go a little smoother.

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#2. To end this battle between right and wrong.

This idea of right or wrong is older than Jesus himself. Since the beginning of civilization, whenever that began, the “I’m right and you’re wrong.” battle started. It’s just within us to fight against others who don’t believe what we believe. And for some reason we are too stubborn to stop talking and start listening. Maybe if we could start listening to our neighbors, we’d have a better understanding as to why they do the things they do. Instead of putting up a wall between those we disagree with, maybe we could embrace them and thank them for their opinions. After all, life without opinions would be as dull as everyone having the same hairstyle or the same shoes or the same clothes or the same smile or the same…you get my point.

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#3. To teach unconditional love by example.

I’ve always believed that if hate can be taught, then so can love. I believe that as human beings it is our job to spend more energy loving others instead of hating them. I would love it if we could find the good things about every person we meet in life and love them for those things, rather than stubbornly hate them for the things we don’t understand. Surprise people. Do something they wouldn’t expect from you. Show up at their house and give them a hug just because it’s a Wednesday. Send a quick text telling them that you miss them. Accept them for the people they are. And never doubt them, especially when they doubt themselves.

#4. To give and expect nothing in return. 

So often I see people ready to do just about anything to serve. But other times I see people who will only give their time when there is something in it for them. Incentive is wonderful. It gets people motivated to do something. But I think they best ways to serve and get the full experience is when we do it, simply because we are willing and able to give. Even if it’s as simple as smiling at a homeless person, or as big as donating to a family in need. There is almost nothing better than giving simply just to give.

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#5. To have everyone home for the holidays. 

Sometimes we take for granted the many Christmas’ we’ve spent in the perfect atmosphere with the people we love ready to rip open the gifts under the tree. I think we forget that not everyone can be together for the holidays. Some people have a family member over seas serving this great country, and others have family members who are spending Christmas behind bars. Others can’t travel because the weather is bad, or they don’t have gas, or it’s simply just too far away. So although this one may be nearly impossible, just be thankful to be surrounded by those who join you on Christmas day. Because that’s the greatest Christmas gift. Flat screen TV’s and iPhones can be replaced. People can’t be.

Cherish this year with the things you do have and everything else is a bonus. That’s my grown up Christmas list.

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