Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The dining room...OF DESTINY!

Sorry, It's just a regular dining room. Not at all a dining room of destiny. I just wanted to get your attention. Well, now that I have it, take a look at what we did to the dining room!

I hate wallpaper, it's no secret. And I think there is a special place in hell for those that voluntarily cover horsehair plaster in wallpaper (and I'm pretty sure those that put it from ceiling to floor in every room have their entire existence blotted from the record). Tearing the paper down was a nightmare - we had to mud and sand three different times to get the walls smooth from the holes the paper left behind. But it was worth it...

The other difficult part of this renovation was the built-in cabinet. We had to sand all the drawers to make sure they actually slide, sand everything else so it was smooth and ready for paint, buy new hardware, then actually paint and finish the damn thing. Again, I think it was worth it...

I got to pick out the painting. :) It's Gustav Klimt's "tree of life." I love the concept of a tree of life, Gustav Klimt, and that the colors matched our room. So there.

Then there was the ceiling and it's equally hideous light fixture. We fixed the ceiling tiles and painted them high-gloss white so the detail stands out more, then bought and installed a new chandelier that matches the one in the hallway. It's ok to tell me that you think it looks awesome.

We also did curtains. We had blinds before, which I actually prefer (and WILL have again whether Ammon likes it or not), but the room needed something. So, Ammon made these dark purple curtains that match the dark purple on the inside of the built-in hutch. Also, Ammon got to buy the decorations for the table.

There really is only one thing missing in the dining room and that is Ammon's tapa cloth. It's this thing Hawaiian families make out of bark and they paint intricate designs. Here's a link to a picture of one just so you know what I'm talking about. Anyway, all we have to do is get his family's tapa cloth framed and then hang it on the big empty wall above the serving table. Renovation complete after that.

Really, the best part of this whole process was the environment in which it happened. While working on it over the last few weeks we've had awesome friends stop by and help out or just chat while we worked. In particular, we became much closer with two people. The first is Forrest, pictured in what appears to be a knight-in-shining-armor pose (to be honest, I don't know what he was going for here...but I still love the picture). We watched A Christmas Story and had chinese food. He's great and I'm glad to know him. The second was our friend Leah. She got to help launch the new dining room by spending Christmas Eve and Christmas day with us. It was the first time we made intensely fancy meals, served on our plates, in our dining room, with our friends. A complete and welcome lack of drama. This year was tough for Ammon and I, but as awful as things got, that's how awesome they are now. I'm grateful for my friends, family, and of course this freaking amazing house. Now, what room should we do next? Hmmm......

Sunday, December 4, 2011

A Mormon Missionary Moment

Recently I've been thinking a lot about my Mormon mission. Mainly because of the debate about gay marriage and those in support of denying me equal rights. Don't worry, this entry is more about my Mormon mission than it is the diatribe about me being denied equal rights just because of who I love. Rest assured, that diatribe will sporadically pop up in this blog. While reading the first of three journals I wrote while serving my mission, I ran across a couple entries and thought I really needed to share them. They are as follows (everything in italics is my me interjecting from my perspective nowadays):

November 15, 2003

BYU and Notre Dame game day! A rich member of the church had bought all the missionary leaders in the area tickets. Sierra's birthday! We all scream for ice cream! They lost but was still really cool. To this day, my strongest memory of this game was the Notre Dame side screaming "I've got spirit, how bout you? I've got one wife, you've got two!" I laughed every time. I've lost my little voice from screaming so much. Here is the little ticket stub for memorabilia's sake. The ticket is, in fact, still taped to this page of the journal. It was a really fun day and I felt totally normal again. I felt like I was just one of the guys at a football game. I don't know why I wrote this. I do not, nor have I EVER, liked watching sports or joining in such things. Elder and Sister Kenley are moving Monday and this makes me sad. This older married couple held me together at points when I could not do it myself. I will go to my deathbed happy they were there to support me. Apparently this freaky neighbor came on to Sister Kenley while Elder Kenley was gone. Did I mention that the freaky neighbor was a woman? I was extremely critical and afraid of anything gay. I now know it was in an effort to be a "good boy." Elder Hawkes got a ticket for speeding. This was my companion. Companion refers to the other male Mormon missionary you have to travel with for a time. You are never to leave your companion's side. I laughed because, well, I don't like him all that much. He is a very heartless person so to see him treated heartless was a nice change.

January 7, 2004

Holy sadness, Batman. Today was a definite tear jerker. First I said goodbye to Elder Howell, who I really grew to like (this is completely untrue. He screamed at me, calling me a fagot, several times because I liked to knit and I liked Spongebob Squarepants. He wasn't wrong, but still, what a dick.) then said hello to Elder Papke. He is from Sacramento and seems very nice. A little quiet but I'll work with him. :) Elder Papke was my second favorite companion. A genuine person who was also kind of weird. Two things I love in a friend. Then we had departures tonight. This was a meeting where all the missionaries getting "killed," going home because there two-year tenure was up, gave a speech about what they learned. We sang army of Helaman and yes I cried. I also said my final goodbye to Elder Hawkes (the douche bag I said I didn't like in the entry I just wrote about). He is a good man and I'm ashamed I didn't take full advantage of what he had to teach me while I had the chance. I told him thanks for all he'd done for me and good luck. He is going to live in Cedar City so maybe I'll see him around. Probably not, but hey, it's the thought that counts.

January 9, 2004

The last day of this saga of journal entries! Believe me, the subsequent journals were much more of a saga. It's been a fun ride. So today we did all our hospital stuff for Elder Papke. We thought he had TAPE WORM...long story. We also went to the cancer center and found out what we'll be doing for our volunteer hours next week. After that we tried to see a media contact ("media contacts" were when the Mormon TV commercials play and people order the free bible, we would deliver it and try to squeeze in a message or two) but he wasn't home. We then had lunch at Taco Bell. Funny, I'm still addicted to the quasi-meat gelatinous goo that is Taco Bell. We visited Billy Duncan today and he says he is still going strong not smoking. The saddest part of reading these journals is that I have absolutely no recollection of who half these people are. They dominated my life for a short time, and now that I read their names I come up with fog in my mind. I don't for sure but let's try and be positive here, people. We then went and saw Mark and Corry and that was just as awesome as it was the first time. These people I do remember because I saw Janet Jackson's boob fall out at the Super Bowl at their house. They said they will try to come to church now so I hope they follow through. That would be the highlight of my time here. We also saw Sister Figuroa. Without even saying it, you know that was great, so enough said. "Sister Figuroa" is to this day a good friend of mine and very supportive of me as a human being. I will forever be grateful for my mission, because it introduced me to Sister Figuroa and other people that I consider family.

December 4, 2011

Reading this is weird. Being a Mormon missionary is a lifestyle that no one can fully understand unless they've lived it. I was always trying to be extremely positive, even about the douche bag companions, because I thought presenting otherwise to the world would make me seem like a bad person. I relied heavily on the strength of others to carry across parts that I, quite honestly, could not handle myself.

As I have been reading this first of three journals I have this to say about my Mormon mission: it made me a more functioning adult. I was put in situations that were incredibly uncomfortable and forced to deal with the outcome. Do you know what it's like to harass a college student running to class about their beliefs and try to convince them they are missing something? All the while making it seamless and not awkward? Me either. But I do know what it's like to have an incredibly awkward conversation about Jesus with someone I don't know while they are rushing to class. Without my mission, I wonder if I would never have attempted some of the things I have in my adult life including: graduate school, teaching at the university, or taking the job I have now.

I don't know what to call myself now. Mormon? Not any more, not after what I've experienced. Atheist? No. Agnostic? That seems to be the closest fit at this point. Don't get me wrong, I am not content at being agnostic. In the book "Life of Pi" the author explains his view on agnosticism: "To choose doubt as a philosophy of life is akin to choosing immobility as a means of transportation." I can somewhat agree with this but disagree at some level too. I am a spiritual person and I know there is something more to what I'm experiencing. But I absolutely refuse to accept what I was raised with just because it is easier than finding it on my own. To me, agnosticism is not a destination, but a designation of someone that is en route. I don't know what is true yet, I may never know, but I keep searching.

True, I don't believe the same things I did back then. Also true, I wish I could have learned the same lessons in a different way. That being said, all I can do now smile about the times I had and the lessons I learned. I'm an open gay man that also knows what it's like to be a Mormon missionary. These seemingly opposing worlds made me more open-minded. Although, I don't think they are that opposing - I have many of the same values as I did then: hard work, self sacrifice, self discipline, dedicating yourself to something larger, and I certainly endorse traveling through life with a male companion all the time... Trying to convince non-Mormons to believe something different did the opposite, it showed me THEIR perspective. I went out on my mission thinking that converting others would make me a better person. Instead, they showed me a life outside Mormonism. For the first time in my life, I realized with certainty that I may not know exactly what I'm talking about and that other people's opinions are just as valid as my own. This didn't teach me that Mormonism was wrong or bad, but that it wasn't the only way to think. It is eternally ironic that entering a world focused on teaching others that they should reconsider their beliefs, is the very thing that taught me to really examine mine and leave what didn't fit.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Ten Thankfuls

1. My little family. It's just Ammon, Geneva, and I. I know what you're thinking: I've become one of those people that believes their dog is their child. And you're right, I do feel that way. She has a Christmas stocking - you wanna fight about it. As for Ammon, you need only to read last week's post to see how well he treats me and how much I appreciate him in my life.

2. My original family. I have nine of the most uniquely weird and wonderful siblings I know.
  • We have Jean, the artsy troubled one. She could make art out of human feces and it's possible that actual scenario has actually played out at some point.
  • There's Sandy, the sweet one. If there is a heaven, Sandy will be there, probably in charge of us that were lesser mortals. She would give you the shirt off her back and then apologize for wearing perfume.
  • Next we have Jason, the funny one. Jason has the ability to light up the darkest of situations, including funerals (he pretended to be a traffic director at a family funeral - it lightened the mood without offending anyone).
  • Jake; the stalwart family man. He dedicates every moment of his life to his family and works harder than anyone I know.
  • Desiree, the example. Desi isn't perfect, but she tries so hard every day that it's sometimes annoying. Quit trying, it makes the rest of us look stupid.
  • Anna Jo; the peacemaker. She tries so hard to keep things positive among everyone, she brings up negative no one thought about just so we can fix it.
  • Next we have Dani, disagreement personified. Danielle is extremely opinionated and no matter what the topic or the voicer, she will disagree if she feels it necessary. It could be Jesus saying the end is near, and Dani would point out some evidence that we are no where near Armageddon. Every conversation with Dani is interesting.
  • Then there's me. You've read enough of my blogs by this point that explaining myself further would just be boring.
  • Soleil; the social butterfly. She has never been afraid of any social situation which at times made me jealous. Theatre? Sure, why not. Approaching some hot guy for a makeout? Been there, done that. She approaches everything as an exciting challenge and people love to be around her for it.
  • Sierra is the best of us. She takes our positive personality traits and amplifies them, leaving all the bad parts behind. She is social like Soleil, smart, unafraid of disagreement like Dani, peacemaking like Anna, has Desi's drive for perfection, Jake's hardworking attitude, humor to rival Jason's, loving like Sandy, and creative like Jean. The best part? She refuses to see any of this. She's humble to a fault.
  • My parents. They have been married for almost 40 years and, although even they admit they should have been divorced at times, they stuck it out. They can be crazier than a shithouse rat (a phrase I heard my dad say often) but they support each other in their crazy and we should all be so lucky.
3. My extended family. I spent Thanksgiving with some of my in-laws, missing the other in-laws that couldn't be there. Through Ammon, I've gained six other siblings and another gaggle of nieces and one nephew. I wonder how common it is to be so welcomed into a family, and because Ammon received the exact opposite from most of my family, I have to assume it's rare and I'm thankful for it.

4. Friends. I have many great friends and some great acquaintances. I've said a lot about family but as an adult living life without children (yet), friends are family. They are there when I need them and I hope they can say the same of me. Friends all have their own lives but I'm glad that, when we find the time, we get to share part of it. Certainly in no particular order, here are just some of the people I have that I share part of my current life with:
  • Dani and Andy: Dani is much with child and that kid is going to have an amazing life with them as parents.
  • Tabby, Leah & Josh, Jamie, Adrianna, and Matt. You make life in Bangor interesting and I feel cooler for being around you. Thanks for being so hip and funky fresh. Now come over and let's drink some wine.
  • Cami, Kikki, Sarah D. and Bethany. I don't get to see you because you are Utards, but I think of you every day and wish you were in the previous bullet point along with the other Bangorians.
  • Grad school friends. Sarah S., Lindsay, Zay, Ashley, Mandy. I love you all and you remain one of the only things I miss about grad school. You, and Christmas vacastions. One deserves honorable mention. Hollie is one of the only friends I have that knew me from my previous life, and seemlessly adjusted to the fact I'm gay. I'll always love her for that and I'm grateful she came to Maine.
  • The others. I know this sounds rude, to group every other friend into an "other" category. But there are so many to name here from Utah, Germany, Indiana, Maine and elsewhere. I love knowing you all are there and I wish you all lived closer but I'm grateful we got the time together that we did.
5. Peanut butter. It's effing delicious and if I wouldn't die from the attempt, I would have it pumped into my viens with an IV. I have two giant Sam's Club tubs of it in my cupboard.

6. Books on CD. Without them, my daily commute would lead me to make art with human feces. I just finished one (Tiger Tiger) that I highly recommend if you are in the mood for an extremely disturbing memoir. I wasn't, I had just picked it out of the library because it was new. It was hard to listen to, but taught me that we make it out of trials that seem irreparable.

7. The home. Within three weeks we will have finished the hallway and that week's blog entry will just be a video showing off all the work. I've become such a weirdo about how much I love the place, that I'll randomly go and check on all my plants, make sure none of the new paint is chipped, and plan out the next projects. I'm already tweaking out thinking about our gardens come spring time.

8. My job. Every single day is different and, as the nervous nerd I am, it suites me perfectly. I work with funny, competant people. I'm grateful that in this economy, I found a job that uses my talents and pays well enough that I can have my home.

9. The occupation. I agree with many that the Occupy (Anywhere) movement often appears disorganized and ineffective. I dislike the general protesting - if you are against everything, eventually people just stop taking you seriously. Pick one thing at a time, educate your masses on what that actually means and why they should want it. However, I love that it is making people think. I personally think they should demand taxing the rich and corporations first. It's offensive what these groups get away with and raising their taxes is a specific, reachable goal. I'm grateful that these protests are forcing people to take notice of the widening wealth gap, the obscene use of money by a few, and the lack of jobs these problems help influence.

10. Trials. It's no secret, I have bad days occasionally. Sometimes I apologize for them, but many times I feel no need to apologize. Life sucks sometimes, and refusing to admit that doesn't make someone an optimist, it makes them a fool. I have had moments where I wondered why I keep on going, and it is those moments that really make me appreciate what I have. This list would not be possible without all the shit involved with it. So, I'm grateful for the crap because without it, life would be like eating tapioca pudding for the rest of my life. Sure, I would know what to expect all the time, but I'd never really be wowed by the occasional prime rib that could have come my way.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Fate's Dead Kitten

This song is playing in the background as I write this. Hopefully it's playing in the background as you read it and that you love it as much as I do. I love the whole album. Go out and get it, mmmmkay.

This week was one for the books. It started as one of the most bizarrely bad weeks I've had in months and ended unexpectedly happy. First, let's delve into the crap. Monday: I find out some bad news at work and what's worse is that part of it was my fault. Tuesday: I start teaching and for some reason am strangely nervous. I struggled through the entire 8-hour class and by the end of it I was exhausted. I had never been this nervous teaching at the University. Wednesday: as I'm driving down to work I think to myself, "self, it was just a bad couple of days and you can finish out the week strong." At this moment, fate (a demon bitch) crossed the paths of my car and a kitty. When I realized I ran over a kitten, I looked for the nearest house and knocked on the door, crying. The gentleman informed me that there were about a hundred ferral cats in the area, and that it was not anyone's pet. Relieved that I had at least not killed a seven-year-old girls cherished pet, I got in my car and laughed hysterically for about 30 minutes. I think sometimes fate reminds us to keep a sense of humor. Things can always get worse and the moment you think otherwise fate throws you a dead kitten and all you can do is laugh because there's nothing else to do. The rest of my week went up from there.

We had our first poker night and it was intense. I was expecting between 8-10 and instead 20 people showed up. I met a lot of really nice people and one complete ass hat; again fate reminding me to keep a sense of humor. I met a British man named Ben (not the ass hat) and we had some interesting conversation (we discussed the British equivalent of Ebonics and I have decided to call this dialect "wanker"). Ashley spent the night in the guest bedroom and we got to enjoy a long overdue Saturday morning breakfast routine. Every day I remember how lucky I am to be in the place I am. I love my home, the people who visit, and the one I share it with. Speaking of which, Ammon and I both had two HUGE projects this weekend.

I had Friday off due to Veteran's Day so we decided to build the bench in the hallway. We started the hallway about a month ago (pictures to follow in next week's blog about the finished product) and as part of that we needed to cover the ugly radiator. One of the many awesome things I learned living in the last house is that you can build something to cover them up. This actually utilizes the space that would otherwise be wasted. So, I dove headfirst into the first woodworking project of my life. I thought, it can't the THAT hard to build something like that. Just think about it mathematically and you should be able to figure it out. Mathematics are great but they do not operate a drill and they certainly don't touch a table saw. It turns out woodworking is much more difficult than I thought. But, we worked together and came up with this finished product.

I effing love this bench. Were it legal, I would marry it. Ammon would not object because he loves it equally so. We left big open holes that we covered with grating so the heat can still escape the radiator. We did the top a dark stained wood so it would match the banister. You should also note that the pattern on the front mimics the stained glass window in the hallway which you will see next week. All in all, it looks great and really makes the room stand out.

Finally, to wrap up this week, Ammon and I took the day and decorated for Christmas. Don't judge me, it's my first one and I am going to celebrate this holiday season so hard there will only be a nub left come New Year's Day. I convinced Ammon to get a fake tree (not a big fan of real trees - again, don't rain on my Holiday Spirit Parade) and we bought all the decorations we wanted. This year we decided to just purchase the bare essentials; a tree, stockings, and one wreath. Start with the fundamentals and future Christmases will get a little more of the fluff.

We set it up out on our covered porch, in front of the giant living room window. That way we can see it from the living room but don't have to rearrange furniture and we can see it from outside all the time too. All our neighbors watched the whole time (and I'm sure thought: those bastards are putting up Christmas WAY too early). Geneva watched outside, guarding us the whole time, confused as hell to what we were doing out on the porch anyway. We left the lights to the tree on all evening and Hollie came over to say hi.

We all just laughed and talked about the significance of these moments. Fate had given me an awful week just to top it off with one of life's exciting firsts: the first family Christmas. Yes, I had a rough work week and ran over a homeless kitty, but I hung my husband's stocking for the first time next to mine in a house that's ours, in a city we both love, at a time in our lives that is filled with firsts. I'm loving it and I need to remember that the next time life throws a proverbial (or literal) dead kitty my way. Oh and Fate, sorry for calling you a demon bitch earlier. I know you're just doing your job.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

An Idiot's Guide to the Arbitrary Levels of Sin

"People take different roads to fulfillment and happiness, just because they are not on your road doesn't mean they've gotten lost."

A friend from high school, Lacy, posted this as a comment on one of my previous blog entries. I thought it would be appropriate to start this week's entry with it.

Last night I got in an argument for an hour and a half with my mom. I usually call my mom once a week to see how she is doing, tell her about my life, and get any updates on my siblings or their children. These conversations usually last a while as my family is big enough to justify a reality TV show. You know those conversations you have where you make it to the end and think: "how in the flying hell did we get on that topic?" This was most certainly one of those conversations. I called to chit chat and ended in a philosophical debate about my life. In talking with my mom about how I'm not going to heaven because I'm gay, I started to really analyze the concept of sin.

My mother (and I think we all know she is not alone in this) believes in a hierarchy of sin. Most of us do this. Even if you don't believe in sin, everyone has a belief that some things are worse than others. Robbing a convenience store at gunpoint is worse than stealing a pack of gum from the newwstand. This is, in part, a self-comforting tactic we develop: "at least I'm not as bad as that guy."

The problem with sin though is that it is not criminal activities being scaled. Robbing a store at gunpoint is worse than stealing a pack of gum because the gun could potentially kill people and the gum lost $.75 in revenue for that newsstand owner. Sin scaling often involves choices that do not affect other people, least of all those trying to mark our actions on the evil scale. These markings are completely arbitrary in my mind and stem from the need to comfort ourselves in our own actions. "Yeah well, I may drink coffee but you drink alcohol which is worse." Arguments can be made for alcohol being worse than coffee on many grounds (health, mental state, etc.), but if someone has a glass of red wine a day and someone has a cup of coffee a day, there is no real reason for one to be further down the evil scale than the other. We just want to feel better about the coffee, so we demonize something else to redeem our vice by negative comparison.

In speaking with my mother and others, as best as I can surmise, here is the scale of evil (starting at the top with innocent white lies and getting progressively worse):
1. White lies
2. Serious lies
3. Substance abuse
4. Theft
5. Premarital sex
6. Adultery
7. Rape
8. Murder
9. Molestation
10. Gayness/Serial murder (the two can often be used interchangeably, just in case you were wondering).
**I am starting to hear, "well I mean I'm not saying you're a child molester." So 9 and 10 can swap.

Now the reason I call this scaling of sin arbitrary is because, to me anyway, some of these make no sense. Why is it that being in a consensual gay relationship is more evil than harming a child? It could be that I'm so far down the evil scale my brain has ceased functioning, but I doubt it. Another reason for calling sin scaling arbitrary is that all of these can be altered to suite the comfort of the scaler. Being gay is the worst thing possible (obviously since in my mother's mind it is compared with serial murder) but being gay is not the worst thing as long as I keep it hidden, marry a woman, have children, and do my little thing in secret on the side.This moves gay up to the same level as adultery (whew, that was a close one. At least now I'm above a serial killer and a child molester). By lying and cheating on a wife and raising children in a loveless home, I would have successfully jumped three full redemption points.

This brings me back to my opening quote. "People take different roads to fulfillment and happiness, just because they are not on your road doesn't mean they've gotten lost." I'm not saying sin does not exist and that there are not spiritual consequences to some of our actions. I DO believe that having an absolute good to aspire to (Jesus, Buddha, etc.) and an absolute evil to avoid (Hitler, Satan, etc.) can help people move forward in their pursuit of perfection. A moral compass is good. Just, please people, stop using your own arbitrary compass to tell others they are off the map. Jesus Christ taught to first look at ourselves before we place another on our own evil/good scale. Before nailing down someone else on our own number line of sin, maybe we should look at our own placement. Better yet, maybe we should ask what purpose placing them on our scale serves. In the end, most of us are somewhere in the middle and arguing otherwise and that your particular number line is the most accurate does no one any good.

So, in closing, I guess I have this to say. Mom, I know you want the best for me. I know as a mother it must be hard to watch your children deviate from what made you happy. I am happy though. It may not be the way you found happiness, but it is happiness. You need to know that I am not going to change things just to help you feel that I'm increasing in value on your arbitrary scale. I'm glad where you are at on yours, please leave me alone on mine and let's just talk about something else the next time I call, mmmmmmkay.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Accidental Traditions?

(Ammon and I with our friend Ashley. We danced with her on a fake stripper pole. I don't want to talk about it...or show you pictures.)

I remember very few Halloween traditions as a child. We all watched "Lady in White," which to this day terrifies me. So much so that I haven't watched it in years. Part of me wonders if I watched it today, if I would be irrevocably underwhelmed. I'm ok with not watching because 1) If it does suck, I don't want to waste the hour and a half and 2) because it's one of my few Halloween traditions, I would prefer to keep the feeling in tact. Everything else surrounding Halloween was done at random. Sometimes, if there was time, we trick or treated. Sometimes, we just stayed home and watched movies. A couple times I don't think we did anything, or at least I don't remember it. There was no real method or ritual. For whatever reason, I still love Halloween even though it was a haphazard holiday.

(This was the hostess with the mostest. She went as bath salts, but don't worry she wasn't actually on bath salts.)

Now that I'm getting older, I am interested in creating some of those traditions. This process has got me thinking, were the rest of my holiday traditions put together accidentally. Did we open Christmas Eve pajamas because my parents wanted to build our sense of anticipation? Or did we open Christmas Eve pajamas because they wanted the ten children to shut up about opening gifts? Since I am towards the tail end of this child train, the idea that this tradition was enacted for either reason is quite possible. I should call and ask my parents. The point is, I don't think it really matters. If our tradition of sleeping in the same room on Christmas Eve arose out of convenience (I'm sure it's easier to make sure ten children are not watching you wrap gifts if they are sleeping in the same area), it doesn't lesson how much I loved that tradition.

(Us with Lindsay and Craig. We just really like them. The costumes help.)

At this point in my adult life I'm starting to make my own traditions. Focusing on Halloween (my second favorite holiday, Thanksgiving being the first), these traditions are purely created out of convenience and habit. Getting dressed in couples' duo costumes and going to a friends party: totally a tradition just because it's happened three years in a row and I had fun each time. It didn't come from some other family tradition of mine or Ammon's. It wasn't a conscious decision made to enliven the spirit of the holiday. But, like I said, it doesn't matter. I've been looking forward to my friend Melissa's Halloween party for weeks. It may have happened by accident, but the Halloween party attendance as a couple tradition has made me enjoy the day that much more.

(This is our friend, Liz. I was trying my hardest to be serious in this picture. But, well, she was a giant chicken. I laughed hysterically every time she spoke and human words came out of that bizarre mask.)

We went as Edward (me) and Jacob (Ammon) from Twilight. We thought it would be funny because teenage girls sport "Team Edward" or "Team Jacob" shirts. Looks like everyone on "Team Edward" AND "Team Jacob" will be disappointed because Edward and Jacob are looking at each other instead of Bella. We started the night with our friends, Linds and Craig, who were gender reversed Frankensteins. Then we headed to Melissa's party. We continued this accidental tradition for the third year running. Granted I was totally inebriated and only remember parts of the night. Don't judge me, I now know not to drink Jim Beam as part of my pre-gaming strategy. I'm sure some of our other holiday traditions will emerge more purposefully. As we head out of Halloween and into the more intensely ritualistic holidays (not going to lie, some Christmas traditions make me annoyed), I look forward to the birth of our traditions. On purpose or accident, the traditions made will be ours. Let's hope some of the new ones aren't as crazy as the Halloween party. My body is angry from last night.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Entrails and acceptance from "the dark farm"

Family has always been vital to me; it happens when you’re Mormon. When you can’t really get into heaven without a spouse, families become paramount. As a side note, you CAN get into Mormon heaven without having kids, but you have kids once you get there. Moving on. Being Mormon was not the glue that held me to my family. Believe or not, work filled that function. We grew up on a farm and ran a butcher shop. New England families have time “out at camp.” Hoosiers were big on family reunions. Mormon families have Monday night “Family Home Evening.” My family had deer season, where relationships were forged over a pile of deer carcasses.

We could be incredibly harsh towards each other; “You lazy asshole, I tenderized last time!” and at times distant; “Just grab that tray of roasts and don’t talk to me.” Most of the memories I have though, were of me and my nine siblings laughing while griping about how much we wanted to be anywhere but there. I have fond memories of, what I later started calling, “the dark farm.” I cherish my family and even though that sentiment was born out of barrels of beef remains, I daresay we are a stronger family than many.

For me, the biggest
challenge to these ties that bind was when I came out. Family members cried, a couple yelled, others avoided it. Some were hurt, and some were hurtful. But over the past two years (I can’t believe it’s only been two years) my family and I have made some amazing strides. I recently returned to Utah for my baby sister Sierra’s wedding. When I asked if Ammon was invited, Sierra replied: “Of course he is! Who do you think I am?!” We have made it to the point where we can joke about it and everyone has accepted my relationship with Ammon as a reality and not some adolescent phase.

I know my family was worth the fight, because during this process we have been able to meet halfway. Even if I could, I would not want to change how they feel about it. I don’t care that they think it’s RIGHT, I just care that they treat me equally. I concede that I don’t know the eternal nature of the universe or everyone living in it. I could be wrong and it could actually matter significantly that I’m gay. My family has seemed
to adopt the reverse of the same principle. Maybe it’s wrong, but I can’t say for sure that you’re a bad person or that you’re going to hell for being who you are.

Not everything is quite so amicable. Being Mormon, they have some serious ideological issues with me being gay. I can’t say as I blame them. When I started to realize what I was, I myself wanted to die to escape it. How can I hold it against them for not wanting to be around it either? I can’t and I won’t. This is not to say that I don’t stand up for myself. “Can I ask about your guys’ sex life?” Sure, if I can talk about how your husband uses his penis in your marital interactions. “Can you just marry a girl?” Can you just divorce your husband? “You can’t have babies.” You’re right, maybe we should also make it illegal for infertile people to marry.

This week, after Ammon and I satirically performed interpretive dance to Kelly Clarkson in our kitchen at random, I wanted to call my sister and laugh to her about it. I didn’t, worried that rather than a laugh on the other line, there would be tense silence and a change of subject. It’s hard not to be able to share some of my happy moments with family, because they don’t find them happy. The beauty of meeting in the halfway though, is that we are slowly finding those times to share. Later this same week, when talking to Sierra about married life, I told her that Ammon and I really bond over home improvement. We love the time together and function best when we have a project to complete. Even if she was just trying to be nice, hearing “that’s cute” on the other end of the line gave me hope that one day other things will get better.

Maybe, just maybe, my parents (pictured above, it’s ok to admit they’re cute) will one day be able to tolerate seeing Ammon. Even further, maybe one day we will be welcomed together for the holidays. In striving for the destination of a middle meeting space, we have remained close. I know my family loves me and they know the same of me. Growing up in the Miner household, “the dog” as we called it (our butcher shop was Bulldog Meats), has taught me that a shared experience in the middle of two hemispheres is possible. There is a nether region where I can think they’re wrong and they can think I’m wrong, but none of us care enough to be apart. Maybe to learn this lesson all it takes its growing up in pig guts and we just got lucky in that respect. If that is the case, I will thank God every day that I was blessed enough to be part of “the dark farm.”

Monday, October 17, 2011

First time loners

Ammon and I are entering another frontier; living alone together. We lived in our own separate places living in Cedar City, UT. I had my matchbox apartment and elephantine dog, he had his borderline-condemned dorm hole. I also lived in my sister's basement shortly before moving to Maine. Shortly after moving to Maine, Ammon moved into the same sister's basement. Thanks, Dani. We both owe you one.

When I moved to Maine, in an even smaller apartment (Geneva basically had to stand in one position), Ammon still lived in Utah. When he moved out to Maine we did live together in that tiny apartment for a few months. It was hell and Ammon would tell you the same thing. Nothing prepares you for suddenly splitting your life with someone else. “No, you can't spend that money, that's MY paycheck.” “What do you mean you're not going to clean up that mess?” We fought like hyenas on crack for those few months but learned a lot about what it meant to be in a partnership. Making it through those fights taught me that my paycheck is OUR paycheck, that trips need to be planned jointly, family time gets split, and chores are never fun even when there are two people doing them. Except for cooking meals; we LOVE cooking nice meals together and particularly when we are cooking for other people. But that is a different entry.

Then we moved into the Maple house. It was interesting trying to navigate our own relationship while at the same time living with (at one point) five other people. Fights were certainly more awkward because it's hard to say "you make me want to suffocate you" in front of roommates without dragging them into it. We had good times living there but like every living situation it was time to move on.

This brings us to our Grant Street home. We love this house like it was our own child. It is the first house either of us actually own and we did it together. We came into the house with big plans and have carried some of those out. Some of them are still in the works.

We moved into the house with our good friend Cami who was working for the Penobscot Theatre Company. Cami is one of our dearest friends and it was amazing that we got to share our first home owner experience with her and Ashley. Ashley, another close friend of ours moved in about a month after we did. Cami moved back to Utah in August and it was Ammon, Ashley, and I holding down the fort. All three of us are very particular about how we live and there were some tense negotiation moments during our time together. "Yes, Ashley I WILL wash the knife by hand." "Fine, Jeremiah, I will turn the fan off when I leave the room."
But in all those usual roommate moments, we never fought, we never grew apart, and we never lost respect for one another. It was the best thing that could have happened to our friendship and I'm sad to see Ashley go.

The day Ashley moved out, yesterday, was also a happy day though for two reasons. The first is that a friend from grad school called us out of the blue and made the drive up from Waterville just to hang out and catch up. Mandi is a high school English teacher down there and because she is so busy (and so are we) we haven't connected in several months. She made us an apple pandowdy (it was freaking delicious) and we went out to eat at UNO's so we could see Ashley who was waiting tables that day. We caught up on each other's lives and it felt like we hadn't skipped a beat, like the several months of no contact was just in our head and that we had actually been interacting this whole time.

The second reason it was a happy day is that we realized we will actually be living alone, having already learned the harsh lessons that living together brings. Granted there are still many more lessons to learn, but we have come
so far. We are excited to have the time to ourselves and experience life as a married couple without roommates. Our first order of business is to consider getting another pet. Geneva also got used to roommates, human and animal, and she is going to be STRESSED OUT living by herself all day.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Friendships born, sustained, and passed on...

I haven't blogged since I started graduate school. Now I'm no longer chained to a desk, I realize how much I've missed it. This blog, for the time being, will be dedicated to my marriage even though I'm not legally married. We may as well be; everything we have is jointly owned including our home. I'm going to be making posts as new and interesting situations come up surrounding our marriage. What is it like for a gay couple to deal with:

-in laws

Is it in any different from a typical heterosexual relationship? I can't answer that for sure. My experience so far (particularly dealing with in-laws as a gay couple...stories to follow later) is that there are some aspects very different from normal heterosexual couple life. Ammon and I are trying to make our way in the world but it is difficult when we don't have a role model couple that we can look at and say "now there is a great, happy gay couple we'd like to emulate!" Neil Patrick Harris and whatever his partner's name is don't count just because we know they exist. And so this blog will chronicle these arising questions and hopefully subsequent answers. However, today's entry is not about all that. Today is different because I have something pressing on my mind.

My good friend from high school, Kimmie, called me today as she was heading to the hospital giving birth to her first born, Savannah. It meant the world that she included me in this moment. I picture Kimmie and I at 16, hating the world around us because we were hormonal and grateful to have each other because that somehow helped. She moved back to Georgia and we have only reconnected in person a handful of times since then. Despite the distance, Kimmie let me know her life was morphing into motherhood, and she would be the one hearing of equally important news on my end.
**Side note: she may in fact kill me for posting this pregnant picture so don't get used to seeing it. Moving on. ** Today a new friendship was born between me and my adopted niece and my friendship with Kimmie is stronger in the process. Like life, friendships are not just born and sustained.

Some friendships die slowly and others quickly. Since January I have lost one friend inches at a time, and two others in an instant (all three were roommates). The quick death friendships are not mourned by me. Our relationship was terminal and we didn't know it, like a blod clot just waiting to be dislodged. At the first sign of disagreement, those relationships were quickly ended and not by Ammon or I; no discussion, no goodbyes, and no apologies on either end. For a while I was mad at so many of my other friends because no one sought my perspective on the situation. I wanted to be heard and felt betrayed that no one even thought to ask. I have since let that go. What does it matter if someone heard my side of the story? It wouldn't have helped anything, it was over no matter who was providing the narrative of how it happened. People choose the perspective and I'm too tired of actually dealing with the situation to try and convince someone of another one.

No, the last few months I have been in the mourning process of the one grad school friendship that died a slow painful death. I do not mourn the actual friend because the friend is still alive and well. I'm assuming of course. The interesting thing I've come to find out through this whole process is: what I actually mourn is the friendship it was, the person she was, and the person I was. Because, to be honest, it wasn’t all always bad. We became friends for a reason, at a time that it mattered, and when we enjoyed one another's company. Somewhere down the road it got to the point where, not only did we no longer hang out, but we certainly did not enjoy each other's company. Interactions were tense, awkward, charged, fake, forced, blaming, petty, or sad.

Eventually I let my feelings take control of my actions and I lashed out. I yelled and I hate yelling. I said things I shouldn't have. What's worse is that, even though I am truly embarrassed of the way I behaved, it doesn't change the things I felt about where our relationship had landed. I can apologize for my actions, which were mean at best, but I don't know how to apologize for the things I felt and still feel. I want not to feel the way I do, but refuse to do so by ignoring what I experienced. This is why I am fairly sure it's dead; not dying, not sick. I know of no way to improve the situation while still being honest. So I will go on missing the person I knew, her knowing me the way I was, and the way it just felt to be friends with her at that time in our lives.

Like the death of a person, life inches on in the shadow of a dead friendship. It took a few months to feel comfortable enough to make new friends. I'd stopped because, well, I lost at least three close friendships in the span of two months - that’s weird. Now that I realized what I did wrong in the slow-death friendship, I have to take that lesson to heart in interactions with others. No friendship dies in vain. I focus on friendships left intact and rekindle some that had atrophied from daily life and 2000 miles distance. Some new friendships form, filling part of the void the previous left. I've come to enjoy my new normal, but have to remember I had great times living in a different normal that was, at the time, also worthwhile. I may not miss how things ended, but I'm certainly going to miss how they began.