2016 Top 5: My Favorite Flower Pictures

You didn’t think a 2016 recap from this guy wouldn’t include flower pictures, did you?

#1 – Doubled Daffodil. This is my absolute favorite picture from my flower garden year.

#sorrynotsorry more daffodil pictures. Isn’t this doubled daff a beauty?

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#2 – Peach Iris – I added Iris bulbs to my garden last fall, and this was my favorite by far.

Guys guys guys guys, we have iris bloom!

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#3 – Peonies – I stopped by the Peony gardens at the Nichols Arboretum.  Their collection is astounding.

#4 – Dahlia – I tried my hand (and was moderately unsuccessful) at growing Dinnerplate Dahlias. I did manage to get this really good shot when I was clearing out the garden for winter.

#5 – Aladdin’s Carpet – I got this really fantastic mix of wild tulips and baby daffodils and hyacinths and stuff.

Some top down tulip shots

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Bonus #1 –  My friend Kate made this rainbow flower collage and sent it to me after the Pulse Nightclub Tragedy. It has warmed my heart all year.

Bonus #2 – I had too much fun making flower mandalas with Structure.  Here’s one from flowers at Greenfield Village.

More flower mandalas. #cantstopwontstop

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2016 Top 5: Things I Watched

I will freely admit that I spend too much time watching television. I should probably figure out something better to do with my time, but since I watched it, I’m going to review it.  Here are the Top 5 things I watched this year, including both movies and television shows.

#1 – The Expanse

Have I gushed about The Expanse yet?  Oh, that’s right, I have.  I watched the first season twice this year, once on my own, and once with friends. I absolutely love it. The characters, the visuals, and above all, the story are wonderful in their own rights.

I will often gush about this absolutely gorgeous scene from the middle of the season with Chrisjen Avasarala walking through snow in Montana in her sari that is just so visually stunning and so in character than it blows me away every time I see it.

Not what you would expect from a space opera, is it? But there you have it.

#2 – Stranger Things

Did you see it yet? Because you totally should. This quirky startling Netflix show draws heavily on ’80s nostalgia, but also weaves a spooky scary story that comes together with a satisfying conclusion. #TeamBarbForever


#3 – Arrival

I honestly heard almost nothing about Arrival before it was released, but then I started seeing reviews saying it was the best sci-fi movie of the year, and strongly implying that I would be a fool to miss it. And I am not a fool.

Arrival is a wonderful first encounter story with a lot of twists and turns (and strangely also set in Montana…) and I really don’t want to give away anything that might spoil it. If you have seen it, I’d love to discuss. If you loved Interstellar, Arrival should be at the top of your list.

#4 – Supergirl / The Flash

You didn’t think I wouldn’t try to sneak in something extra to my top 5 list, did you? But look at these two cinnamon rolls who are too good, too pure for this world.

It is no secret that I have a secret crush on The Flash is my favorite superhero. I didn’t know what to make of Supergirl, until they did a crossover episode last season. I loved it, and as soon as I had access to the full season, I crushed it. Supergirl is a wonderful story about finding one’s place in the world, and making a difference. I love the scenes when Callista Flockhart’s character, Cat Grant, takes either Supergirl or her alter-ego Kara Danvers under her wing to mentor and explain how things work in a woman’s world.  There has been a coming-out story in this season that has been absolutely heart wrenching and heartwarming at the same time.

And, I mean, the Flash. Just look at him. 😀  Both of these shows are on my “can’t miss it” list.

#5 – The Great British Bake Off

It should come as no surprise that The Great British Bake Off makes my list. The show is just so British, and baking. My heart breaks that it is leaving the BBC, and losing 3 of its 4 hosts. If you aren’t in the know, it is a baking competition that happens in a tent in the English countryside. There are no contrivances, no voting off your enemies and saving your friends. You continue onward only on the basis of your skill baking. It is heartwarming and hilarious and very very British.

I’ve been looking for a picture for the last 10 minutes, and I just can’t stop looking. 😀 Here’s one from the No Context Bake Off twitter feed, and it is just perfect.  I can’t really describe the show any better.

Bonus! – Kubo and the Two Strings

I just watched this one last week, and I’m not sure I’m ready to add it officially to my top 5 for the year. But you should watch it. It didn’t really stay around in the theaters long enough, but this stop-motion animation was strikingly gorgeous and told a fantastic story of love, loss, and redemption.  Check it out.


So those are my favs for the year.  What did you watch and love this year?  What did I miss?

2016 Top 5: Charities doing important work

Continuing my Top 5 recap of 2016, I will highlight 5 of my favorite charities doing awesome work. I donate to them, and hope you will too!

#1 – Affirmation – LGBT Mormons, Families, and Friends

Affirmation is literally a life saver. It has literally saved my life. In my darkest times as I have struggled with the complexities and disappointments of being a gay Mormon, Affirmation has been a shining star. Knowing that there are others like me who have come through the dark times has gone a long way towards keeping me moving forward.

Recently, Affirmation has been expanding its work in Central and South America, where the need is even greater than it is here in the USA. Donating to Affirmation will help move forward this important work.

#2 – Liahona Children’s Foundation

Liahona Children’s Foundation focuses on alleviating malnutrition in LDS families in third-world countries. Most recently, the foundation is serving in 17 countries around the world, helping ensure that the most vulnerable children and familes receive the nutrition and education that will enable them to thrive.

#3 – Oxfam

Oxfam is a global organization focusing on alleviating poverty and injustice.  Oxfam is often on the ground after natural disasters and has been fighting for refugees and other displaced persons. After the horrific images coming out of Syria and Turkey over the last few years, I have been motivated to do something to help. Oxfam has been my charity of choice for disaster relief and immediate relief of poverty on a global scale.

#4 – Growing Hope

On the opposite end of the scale from Oxfam, Growing Hope is a local charity focusing on food security in Ypsilanti and neighboring areas. They help food-insecure families learn about gardening by building out raised bed gardens and providing seedlings. They also run several farmers markets in the Ypsilanti area, making fresh vegetables and fruits more accessible to local residents.

#5 – Equality Michigan / Equality Wyoming

Again, I’m really bad at keeping to only five on my list.  I donate to local organizations fighting for equality for LGBT people. The Great Trans Bathroom Panic of 2016 only highlighted for me the need for more people on the ground advocating for compassion and equality on a local level.


Those are my top 5 charitable organizations. Looking over them for patterns, it seems I support organizations that focus on food security, poverty relief, and advocacy for marginalized and LGBT people.

What causes do you support?  I’ve got an extra $100 that I will split between the first 5 charities you mention here or on my Facebook page.

2016 Top 5: Books I read

I just finished sending out my Christmas cards, and I feel the need to do some 2016 recap posts.  I haven’t done those in a while…

As of last count, per Goodreads, I have read 62 books this year, and I can probably knock a few more out before December 31. Here are my favorites for the year.

#1 – The Expanse

My absolute favorite for the year is The Expanse series by James SA Corey (who is actually two people, neither named James. The more you know…)  The first book is Leviathan Wakes.

If I’ve talked to you about books this year, I have gushed about The Expanse. At last count, there are 6 novels and something like 3 novellas. (The novellas aren’t particularly worth it, in my opinion, but do add something to the background of the series.) There is a fantastic show on SyFy adapted from the novels, season 2 starts in February.

The Expanse is a fantastic addition to the Space Opera subgenre. The characters are real and believable, and the series delves deep into the moral quandaries of otherness and belonging, of created families, of the consequences (often unintentional) of telling what one believes to be the truth.

It has been a long while since I have found a series where I have to pick up the next book as soon as I am finished with the last. After  I finish Babylon’s Ashes, I am going to be in a sad place while I wait for the next book.

#2 – Locke and Key

From this point on, I’m not ranking the books, because there is foolishness in that, but these are my favorites.

Locke and Key by Joe Hill is actually a series of graphic novels, but I listened to the Audible adaptation, and ZOMG was it amazing.  Not only was it a full cast reading, the sound effects and music were amazing too.  I ended up checking out some of the books from the library to just look at the art and see how it was translated to audio.

Locke and Key tells a spooky coming of age story of a family that moves into a family mansion filled with keys that don’t just unlock doors.  An evil spirit wants to be released and will do anything to manipulate the kids in the family to discover the keys that will enable it to escape the underworld.

Both the graphic novels and the Audible adaptation are top notch.  You will not be disappointed.

#3 – Ancillary Justice, Ancillary Sword,  and Ancillary Mercy (The Imperial Radch series)

The Imperial Radch series by Ann Leckie was another favorite this year.  I ended up re-reading Ancillary Justice with my SpecFic bookclub because I enjoyed it so much, and I purchased both hard copies and Audible versions.

Ancillary Justice and its sequels could almost be classified as Space Opera, but they are far more human than just space battles and such (and when you read the books you’ll understand the irony of that statement). In fact, they have elements of first contact, classism, and a strong undercurrent of what it means to be human. Also, lots and lots of discussions about tea.

4 – The Wright Brothers

Lest you think I only enjoyed SciFi, and dark fantasy this year, I also really enjoyed David McCullough’s The Wright Brothers. I thought I knew something about the story of the first flights, but I realized my (admittedly basic) understanding more or less ended at Kitty Hawk in 1903.

There is a whole lot more to it than that, as it turns out. From the absolutely critical involvement of their sister, to the time spent trying to convince governments at home and abroad that their flying machine was not some crackpot inventor’s fever dream, there was a lot of the story I was missing. And McCullough masterfully pulls it together, as he always does.

I was doubly lucky that The Henry Ford museum has two replicas of the Wright Flyer and I was able to stop by after work one day while I was listening to the book to more closely examine the genius work of those two bicycle builders from Ohio.

#5 – The Boys in the Boat

I didn’t know going into the year that I needed to read the story of a crew team from Washington working towards a gold medal in the 1936 Berlin Olympics.  And yet somehow I did need exactly that.  In The Boys in the Boat, Daniel James Brown tells a fascinating story of everything that came together to bring home the gold medals, from a very talented boat builder, the dedication of both the crew and its coaches, to its  rivals, to the production of the Berlin Olympics themselves.

I think there is no more quintessentially American story than this one.

Bonus!: All the Birds in the Sky

Because my top 5 list already has 12 books in it, why don’t I just throw in a 13th for good measure (Although technically, Locke and Key is collected in 5 or 6 volumes, so, you know, I’m really bad at top 5 lists.)

I just finished All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders, and if it isn’t in all of the year end round ups of best SciFi and Fantasy novels of 2016, someone is doing it wrong. Simply put, this book should win all of the awards next year. It tells the story of two people whose lives keep intersecting at critical and sometimes awkward points. One is a modern witch, the other a techno wunderkind. They are best friends, enemies, lovers, and more, but more than anything they are, they are there for each other when no one else is. Also, their middle school guidance councilor is a trained assassin. So there’s that.

These were some of my favorites this year. What did you read this year that you loved? Couldn’t put down? Kept you thinking?

Angels to bear me up


was walking through a building on my way to the business school for a class, when I noticed a sign for a “National Coming Out Day” workshop. I was surprised when the thought “I should go to that” popped into my head. How could my brain betray me like that? I knew I wasn’t gay.

That was 2005. Here I am, ten years later. And yeah, turns out, I’m gay.

have an amazing capacity for compartmentalization. When I first suspected I was maybe not like the other guys, I was in high school. I remember talking to my bishop and he asked me if I was struggling with same-sex attraction, and I cried and said that I was. We were supposed to meet again to talk about it, but I never set up another appointment. At the time, I thought it was controllable and changeable, and I could do it myself. So I put the episode in a box and set it on a shelf.

Another time, I was harassed in the halls by my classmates. I still don’t know what they knew that I didn’t, or if it was just plain old teenage cruelty. The episode shook me, so I wrote a letter to my seminary teacher, asking for help. I don’t really remember what I said, nor do I recall his response, but I was comforted by it. I knew I wasn’t gay. I knew I’d be ok. And my shelf got another box.

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