Sunday, April 28, 2019

Vol 2 Issue 6

Pic of the week 

You probably saw this already, but in case you didn't - my bike was stolen.  Yup.  My brand new bike that I've ridden a total of about 4 times.  It was locked up securely in my apartment's parking garage.  Which you can't see from the street.  And as you can see in the photo, my top-of-the-line lock was entirely insufficient.  Things I learned: 1 - Don't leave your bike locked up outside for an extended period of time.  2 - Write down the serial number and register your bike immediately.  3 - The company that makes my lock has a guarantee for certain of their locks that if your bike is stolen while using one of those locks they'll replace your bike.  But you have to register the lock and the bike - which I didn't do.  So next time, I will be doing that.  I filed a police report and we do have security cameras around, so my bike might turn up, but I am not hopeful.  Just gonna have to bite the bullet and buy another bike.  *sigh*

What's going on?

It's always a bit of a downer to come home from a Story Pirates tour.  I was able to spend a couple of extra days in Salt Lake visiting with family and friends before coming back to LA and that was really nice.  Andrew took me and my friend Clark on a tour of the tunnels etc. in and around Temple Square.  We got to see all of the cool places where he works (because the floral department of the church is sort of spread to the far reaches of the temple square complex) and where they store all of the silk flowers they use for various and sundry things.  It's an impressive sight - the flowers, and the complex.

I finished another puzzle this week.  2,000 pieces!  Though one went missing.  However, it's a huge puzzle, with a lot of pieces, and it's been sitting out on my desk for weeks, so I'm honestly a little surprised to have only lost one.  Still, kind of annoying.

What I'm reading

Jumped into this gem.  It feels a bit like "The Secret" or other books of that ilk, but I think it has some good things to say.  It's been on my list for a while, and I got a copy for Christmas, so I decided it was time to give it a go.
What I'm watching

Crazy documentary on Netflix about an Idaho girl who was kidnapped by her neighbor - twice!  Definitely worth a watch.  I think it speaks a lot to the double-edged sword of the trusting nature of members of the church, and also to some of the dangerous myths that still surround child abuse.  Fun fact - I sort of know the woman who it happened to!  We performed in the Neil Simon Festival in Cedar City the same summer.

What I'm listening to

RadioWest and A Thoughtful Faith both did followup episodes about this story that add some more context to the situation than what is possible in a 90 minute film covering 7 years.  It really is such a fascinating story that I think can teach us a lot about human nature, forgiveness, and compassion.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Vol 2 Issue 5

Pic(s) of the week 

A picture is worth a thousand words, and this week was honestly beyond words, so I thought some pictures might be better.  What an incredible week it's been.  Years of hard work and planning came to fruition when the Story Pirates performed with the Utah Symphony! (finally!!!) We had two shows with the symphony - one on Tuesday in Ogden and one on Saturday at Abravanel Hall in Salt Lake.  In between we filled our time out with an elementary school show in Ogden and a public show at Weller Books in Trolley Square.  The Nephew and Niece got to come hang out in the hotel pool for a while. I also took my Story Pirate friends around Salt Lake and gave them a real experience.  We ate at Ruby Snap, Crumbl, The Pie, Ruth's Diner, Eva's, Blue Lemon, Squatters, The Beerhive, Sodalicious, dim sum with the whole family and more!  We got to go to the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square Easter concert, hike Ensign Peak, tour the capitol building, see a play at the Hale Theater, wander temple square, and drive up the canyon to see the night sky out of the city.  It was truly an unforgettable week.  And a week scarce in vegetables. đŸ˜³

What I'm reading

Regardless of whether you agree with her politics, Michelle Obama is one classy lady.  She's also a a fierce individual, a great writer, and has a unique and interesting story to share.  I'm loving this book so far.  Highly recommended.

What I'm listening to

BrenĂ© Brown is a personal hero of mine.  If you haven't seen her TED talks, I cannot recommend them enough.  The Power of Vulnerability is basically a 6-hour version of her TED talks and it is life-changing stuff.  She talks about how combating shame and leaning into vulnerability help you live a more whole-hearted life.  I listen to this at least once a year and learn something new every time.  

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Vol 2 Issue 4

Pic of the week 

I somehow lost the key to my scooter.  I mean, I know that I'm a little scatter-brained sometimes, but I've had that key for 8 years, and it was attached to my other keys - which I did not lose.  Anyway, turns out you can't just cut a new key for my brand of scooter.  You have to replace the entire ignition switch.  So, I did a little YouTube searching and it looked like I could do it myself - which would save me about $200 in towing and labor costs.  So I ordered the part online (which was less than $100, surprisingly), and aside from having to disassemble more of my scooter than I thought I'd have to (which wasn't hard, just involved keeping track of a lot of screws and where to put them back in), it was a really easy process.  And my scooter is back in action and works like a charm!

What's going on?

I'm 36, y'all! This birthday was honestly one of the best I've had.  I did my annual beach bonfire at the beginning of the week and it was as delightful as always.  Plus, look at this cool log!

I got a few gifts from people and without exception they were thoughtful and perfect.  I spent most of the day rehearsing for our Story Pirates symphony show and honestly, Story Pirates is the thing I love doing best, and my SP friends are among my favorite people in all the world, so I don't know that there's really anywhere I'd rather be or anything I'd rather be doing (Except, perhaps, Disneyland, cuz I'd always rather be at Disneyland).  I started the day with a KILLER breakfast and ended with dessert and friends and the whole day was filled with laughter and light and love and good news, and I honestly don't know how I got to be so incredibly, unbelievably lucky.

What I'm drinking
I saw that they'd made this and wanted to try it out.  The grocery store only had a 12-pack, so I said, "What the heck! It's my birthday!" So I've had a lot of orange vanilla Coke this week.  It's good.  I still prefer regular, or vanilla, or cherry, but this is good.  Mostly I'm looking forward to introducing my Story Pirate friends to the joys of Fiiz.

What I'm listening to

These four songs on repeat, cuz they're the ones we're doing for the symphony show:

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Vol 2 Issue 3

Pic of the week 

This week we had our big benefit shows for Story Pirates.  They're our one big fundraiser for the year, so we go all out.  As much as a non-profit arts/education can go all-out. This year I - and my friend Mia - played pizza agents who are out to take revenge on the hot dogs. We win. Here's the song!  It's super fun - though I don't sing on the recording.

What's going on?

Story Pirates!  Tutoring!  Reading!  Napping! Trying to eat more healthy foods!  Not always succeeding and eating more healthy foods! Jogging!  Look at this view from my jog!:

In the top picture you can see Downtown Los Angeles there in the distance.  In the bottom picture, that thin blue line along the horizon is the ocean.  It was such a beautiful day.  Though it's honestly been that nice all week.  I also spent some time building this:

My roommate thinks it's a little creepy, but I love it.  Plus, I learned how to rewire a lamp! How cool!  It's now hanging on my wall.  I had intended for it to be my bedside lamp, but it kind of overpowers the little cart I use as a bedside table, so it's now a wall sconce.

We are officially one week out from our Story Pirates Utah tour!!! I'm ridiculously excited for it.  We're performing twice with the symphony, and also once at an elementary school, and once at a bookstore.  And other than that, we'll probably do a bunch of exploring, and eating desserts, and generally enjoying springtime in Utah!

What I'm reading

Responses to The Church's announcement this week that they're reversing their policy from 2015 that labels people in gay relationships as apostate and bars children of LGBT couples from priesthood ordinances.  I'll pause right here to say that this is gonna be long, and I'm about to say some things you might find uncomfortable, but I think I might be done with avoiding uncomfortable topics.  You're my family - by blood relation or otherwise - and I think you deserve to know how I feel about these kinds of things.  Happy to have discussions about it.  Now, if you're not in the loop about LGBT topics and the church, I might first admonish you to get in the loop, and then I'll tell you that the response to the policy reversal has been mixed.  My personal feeling is that it never should have been a policy in the first place.  I don't believe it was a revelation from God, and so I'm quite happy it's been relegated to the annals of history.  I do think the fact that church leadership is apparently listening to the membership and decided - relatively quickly - to end the policy is worth celebrating.  However, the policy also caused a lot of pain and heartache.  It split families and caused some people to take their own lives - which is an utter tragedy.  The leadership's lack of acknowledgment of that pain and loss is at best callous, and at worst abusive.  Their lack of apology for it is unsurprising, but ultimately insulting.  I am more willing than most to let the leaders of the church be fallible.  I don't expect them to be perfect.  I am willing to grant that they will make mistakes.  But when I make mistakes, I am expected to acknowledge them, apologize for them, seek to make restitution where necessary, and move forward striving to be better (Which I honestly try to do - with varying degrees of success).  I don't think it's unreasonable to expect the same of men who ultimately ought to lead by example.

I found this to be interesting and representative of many feelings in the LGBT community (someone in the Mormon LGBT community wrote this.  I saw it a couple of times, but couldn't trace it back to the originator):
I’m so happy for the LGBTQ community!” This is verbatim of what has flashed across my screen on multiple social media platforms from multiple people today in response to the LDS policy change. What’s fascinating is that the greatest outcry of happiness I’ve seen has been from straight/cis people. So that brings the question, is this really for LGBTQ people? And the answer, in my opinion, is no. This is actually a change for the benefit of straight/cis individuals. A change to absolve the guilt faithful members may feel in participating in the LDS church and a change to keep fringe members from leaving. Let’s be clear that a policy change for the benefit of the LGBTQ community would not only rescind the previous policy in full, but it would go further AND, most importantly, would acknowledge personal wrong doing, fault, and the hurt that the church actively caused. So, to my straight Mormon friends, it’s understandable to feel good and relieved by this. But recognize that this is for you, not for us. In fact, what I see is an abuser trying to maintain control and draw back in recipients of the abuse in a fashion that is fairly universal of abusers. Because that’s what the LDS church has been to many of us. An abuser. I know that can be really hard to hear about something you care deeply about. It’s possible for something to be abusive to some and helpful to others. That’s the reality of the world. And unfortunately, the LDS church has been abusive to many queer people. So I’m not going applaud this, because it’s the work of my abuser. It’s the work of the abuser of my friends. There’s no apology. No recognition of wrong doing. This isn’t a step forward, it’s just backtracking and you'll have to excuse me if I'm not keeping my eye out for when the other shoe drops... again.
And to me, this is what Christlike leadership looks and feels and sounds like (from a gay member named John Bonner):
What They Could Have Said:   "Three and a half years ago we implemented a policy regarding the LGBTQ members of our church and their children. In our Handbook of Instructions for ecclesiastical leaders, we stated that same sex couples are to be considered “apostate.” Historically, apostasy was defined as being “an enemy to God.” In the modern church, apostasy has been defined as “open, public, and repeated opposition to the church and its leaders.” In the policy, we recommended that disciplinary councils be convened for church members living in same sex relationships, with the potential outcome being excommunication from the church. We went on to specify that children living with a parent who was in a same sex partnership would not be able to be baptized or confirmed, receive other church ordinances, attend the temple, or serve full-time missions until they reached the age of 18. We further imposed the condition that upon turning 18 they would be required to “specifically disavow the practice of same gender cohabitation and marriage” in order to become members of the church and enjoy the blessings inherent in church membership. At that time, Elder Christofferson said of the policy change, “This is about family; this is about love and especially the love of the Savior and how He wants people to be helped and fed and lifted, and that’s the whole motivation that underlies our effort.” On January 10, 2016, President Nelson declared: “Filled with compassion for all, and especially for the children, we wrestled at length to understand the Lord’s will in this matter. Ever mindful of God’s plan of salvation and of His hope for eternal life for each of His children, we considered countless permutations and combinations of possible scenarios that could arise. We met repeatedly in the temple in fasting and prayer and sought further direction and inspiration. “And then, when the Lord inspired His prophet, President Thomas S. Monson, to declare the mind of the Lord and the will of the Lord, each of us during that sacred moment felt a spiritual confirmation. It was our privilege as Apostles to sustain what had been revealed to President Monson.” Over the course of the subsequent three and a half years, we have witnessed the effects of this policy in the lives of our LGBTQ members, their families, and loved ones. We have read the accounts of the despair it has caused -- even contributing in some tragic cases, to the devastating decision by some LGBTQ Latter-day Saints to end their lives. We recognize that myriad factors are involved when it comes to suicide, including underlying depression and anxiety, possible alcohol or substance use, physical ailments, strained or distant family relationships, pervasive feelings of loneliness, rejection, and hopelessness. We also recognize, because we have been listening, that a deep sense of shame and unworthiness stemmed from this policy and the majority of the church’s rhetoric which preceded it on the subjects of sexuality and gender identity. We now know that such feelings of shame and unworthiness can become the treacherous underpinnings of life-threatening despair. We can no longer, in good conscience, continue to perpetuate the sense of shame and despair created and reinforced by our past policies, practices, and teachings. Effective immediately, the policy change which first came to light on November 5th, 2015, has been revoked. No part of this policy will continue to be implemented. We wish to express, unequivocally, that we were wrong and we are sorry. We realize how woefully inadequate those words are in the wake of the unfathomable pain, grief, and loss which arose out of this policy, but we hope they can offer a meaningful place to start. Our hearts go out, above all, to the parents, partners, siblings, and friends of the beloved LGBTQ Latter-day Saints whose lives were cut tragically short. We are aware that nothing we could say would ever fully assuage your pain or atone for our past ignorance and misunderstanding.. If you will allow us to, we would welcome the opportunity to sit down across from you, face-to-face, to hear your stories and bear witness to your pain. Our doors will remain open to you for as long as it takes to find some healing amidst the heartache. We hope you will continue to share your stories with us until we can begin to forge some way forward, together. We are learning as we go. We implore your patience as we seek to do so. You are our teachers. Our hearts have been changed and will continue to change. We believe a brighter, more inclusive tomorrow is in store for our church and its diverse membership across the globe. We are invested in never returning to the limited understanding, bias, and faulty assumptions of the past. We will be offering counseling services at no charge through available mental health professionals in your area to any who may benefit from having professional assistance in working through the pain behind by this policy. We will be donating a considerable amount of our time, financial means, and other resources to help create safe spaces for LGBTQ individuals throughout the world who have been made to feel unwelcome in their homes, places of worship, and communities. We invite other religious institutions to join us in seeking to create welcoming spaces for all. To our LGBTQ brothers and sisters, please forgive us. We have hurt you. We have wronged you. We recognize that any process of reconciliation and restitution will take time. There are not words sufficient to address the anguish you have experienced. But we wish to express again, to each one of you, that we are sorry. We hope we will have the opportunity to tell you that in person. The halls of our meetinghouses and pews of our chapels have been less vibrant without you in them. We have missed your vital voices, your presence, your unique and varied perspectives. We welcome you to come back and worship with us. And we will understand if you don’t, or can’t. But we want you to know you have a place here. You are beautiful children of Heavenly Parents who love you unconditionally. We failed to see that before. We see you now. You are worthy. You are loved. You are enough, exactly as you are. As we strive to entreat you in building beauty from ashes. We promise to never forget that.
Sorry this is so long, but it's been on my mind for the last few days, and I wanted to say something about it, but it's complex and layered and nuanced and hard to distill into a few words.  It seems like this whole experience is just another example of how the leadership of the church is quite terrible at knowing how to communicate and interact with the LGBT community in general, and especially inside of the church.  I know they can't please everyone, nor should they try to, but it seems they could and perhaps should be much better at it. Again, happy to have a conversation about it.  Feel free to email, text, call, snail mail, messenger pigeon, Facebook, etc. etc. etc.

Anyway, I don't really want to end on such a downer.  So.  Here's a GIF of a baby giraffe meeting a peacock.