2014 Christmas letter

I suppose it is traditional to write a Christmas letter and enclose it with my Christmas cards.  I have failed to do that for the last several years. It feels presumptuous to me, I guess. I don’t really know. Maybe in the age of Facebook, I don’t feel like the Christmas update is as necessary.

There is some value in introspection though, so I’ll give it a shot.

Dear Friends and Family-

Well, can you believe it? We managed that annual trip around the sun once again.  I hope this season finds you all in good health and high spirits.  Just remember, winter is coming. 😉

This year has been a good one for me, I think.  A lot of things have come to completion, which is nice, and I have probably grown a lot too. Continue reading

Arts and Crafts

Last week was kind of arts and craftsy for me.  That makes me very happy, which isn’t too surprising. I do love creating.

Here are some of things I did.

#1 – Paper Marbling
A while back, I kind of got obsessed with paper marbling. I’m not even sure why. I probably saw a video on Youtube or something. It just looks like a lot of fun, and really cool.  So for my birthday(ish), I ordered a paper marbling kit.  I invited Katherine and Elizabeth, my two favorite artists and crafters, to come experiment and learn with me. Continue reading

Starting with Why: A Path to Authenticity as an LGBT Mormon

(This is the text of the TED-style talk I shared at  “This is the Place” Affirmation International Conference 2014. I don’t yet know if there is video of the event, and I haven’t rerecorded it yet.)

Like many of you, I enjoy cooking and baking.  As you learn to cook, you go through several stages of growth.  At first, you follow simple recipes, you lock onto the basics.  Over time you progress, learning new and different techniques.  At some point, you realize that the skills you have learned are all parts of a toolbox that you can pull out and use as the situation requires. You no longer have to slavishly follow a recipe, and you can begin to improvise and experiment with techniques, flavors and ingredients that fit your taste.  The day that I realized I knew enough to not be bound by a recipe, that I had a cooking toolbox available, was one of the most liberating of my life.

Today, I would like to introduce a framework that has been just as liberating for me in my experience as a gay Mormon as the day that I learned that I could adjust a recipe to my taste. Continue reading

Top 10 Books Meme

So there is a meme going around Facebook, asking you to list out 10 books that have had an impact on your life.  My cousin tagged me, and I think someone tagged me last year.  I honestly have struggled both times with this question, mostly because I read so many books that it is hard to choose 10.  Thinking about it, I came up with 5 books fairly easily.  I’m not sure about the other 5, so we’ll do this in phases.

Here are the five that I came up with quickly:

The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin:  The book helped me think about setting specific goals to be manage my own happiness and also to think about what happiness means.

Start with Why, by Simon Sinek: This book is one of my favorites and has greatly influenced the way I think about communication and leadership.  My Affirmation talk was largely based on this one.

Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card:  As a kid, this was probably one of my favorite books, and one of the books that got me into Sci-Fi.  I think it speaks to smart kids a lot.

The Dark is Rising series, by Susan Cooper: Another one of those series that I read as a kid, and I loved, and probably got me into epic fantasy.  It is Arthurian legend tied up with good vs evil. You should never ever ever watch the movie that was based on this book.

The Harry Potter series, by JK Rowling: I started reading the series in a three day jag, right after I came back from my mission, and it really defined the next 6-7 years of my life.  I was obsessed with theories and websites, and everything to do with Harry Potter.

Those were the 5 that I immediately thought of.

While I was writing up the list, I remembered one more.

The Oz series, by L. Frank Baum: My hometown library had a fantastic old set of the Oz series, and I read every single one of them. It was a great series for a kid.

I’m really struggling to pick others, so I think I’m just going to pick some of my favorite  books from the last several years.

Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline: I picked this one up after my local library sponsored a game based on the same concept.  Anyone who grew up in the 1980’s and 1990’s would absolutely love it. It is replete with references to the pop culture of the time, and it is a pretty snappy read.

Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang, by Kate Wilhelm: Have I raved about this book on my blog yet? Maybe? I don’t know. I picked it up at random while choosing audiobooks at the library. Didn’t know what I was getting into, but it wowed me. I made my book club read it the next month, to some degree of controversy. (It features some odd discussions of cloning and casual clone sex, so you are warned.)  It was one of the first sci-fi books to deal with manmade environmental disaster, and raised some really interesting moral questions.

Anathem by Neal Stephenson: A really strange, kind of dense, have to learn a new language kind of book, but it was oddly satisfying and gripping.  It’s gonna take some time to read, but in my opinion is worth the payout.

The Omnivore’s Dilemma, by Michael Pollan: A koala only has one choice for what it eats: bamboo leaves. But we humans are omnivores, so almost everything is open to us.  If we have all of that choice, how do we use it? What should we eat? Per Pollan: Eat Food. Not too much. Mostly plants.  Got me thinking about how the way eat interacts with the environment, our health, and etc.

So, fairly successful listing, I guess. The last 4 are good ones, but I could have listed 6 or 7 other unique sets of 4 too.  It’s hard to choose.

What books influence you?

Things that are making me happy right now

I thought I’d take a few moments to just list out some of the things that are making me happy these days.

1) My favorite blueberry farm opened up temporarily after having announced that the polar vortex cold of winter had damaged their crop. I picked my fill.

2) Audible.com + Bluetooth is allowing me to listen to books with reckless abandon.

3) My flowers are absolutely gorgeous. The gladiolas are blooming right now.

4) Ginger beer. Mmmm….

5) I was approved to give a TED style talk at the Affirmation conference. I’m going to apply the Start with Why principles to living an authentic life as an LGBT Mormon.

6) The 2014 Emmett Family Reunion went off without significant hitches.

7) This video from the reunion. (I love the soundtrack!)

8) Also, this video: (I feel like the soundtrack is perfect on this one too!)

9) The flavor of sun warmed cherry tomatoes.

10) The Ann Arbor District Library Summer Game. This library is awesome, and I have a good time playing along every summer.

11) My Primary class.

12) My new dehydrator, blender, and ice cream maker.  Funny how the right tool at the right time can improve your life so much.

I think things are going fairly well right now, but it always helps to stop and count the little things. What is making you happy?

Happy August!