Saturday, September 29, 2012

I Know I Shouldn't Feel Guilty, But...

These last few months, my siblings and I feel that my mom's dementia has taken a turn for the worse (although, ironically, the last couple of days she has seemed almost like her old self (to me, at least).  In addition to my mom's condition worsening, my niece and nephew-in-law are considering moving out in December.  It's not a for sure thing, and they are still giving it serious thought, but if they do leave, the question remains of what to do about Mom.

She can't live alone anymore.  We just don't feel it's safe.  She's already gotten lost several times in a neighborhood she has lived in for 50 years now and which was once so familiar to her.  Her confusion and unawareness have increased.  Her memory is pretty bad, and if someone isn't there to remind her to take her pills or to check her sugar or to eat or to pay her bills or to handle solicitors and repairmen or help her deal with her day-to-day affairs, I just don't think she can manage on her own.

For the first time in a long time, I am going back home to Jonah for an indefinite period of time, and so I won't be here, either, and Mom does seem to depend on me a lot, so I know it's going to be hard for her.

I'm not sure what the next step for Mom is if my niece and nephew move out.  My brother and sister-in-law both work full-time and can't take care of Mom.  My youngest sister has two infant children to care for.  My older sister has offered to move in, but I don't think her husband is sold on the idea, plus her daughter tends to drain Mom.  But that may be the only option if it's feasible.

Jonah and I would take her, but I don't think moving Mom from a more familiar environment to another state away from her family, friends, and grandchildren is in her best interest, either.

Ideally, I would like Mom to be able to stay in her home for as long as she can, and she is still aware and alert enough that I don't think an assisted-living situation will be beneficial for her and might even make her feel resentful.

Also, her current insurance doesn't cover non-medical custodial home or long-term care, so as she worsens, we will also have to consider how to pay for her care. 

These are the questions, though, that my siblings and I are facing.

As to the title of my post, I've started the process of transferring most of Mom's bills and important correspondence to "paperless" rather than her receiving them by snail mail.  I'm doing it without her consent.  I tried talking to her about it, but it just seemed to confuse her and the fact is, she won't remember having the discussion anyway.

My reasons for doing it are, admittedly, for her protection.  This will make it possible for me to just pay all of her bills for her, and since she has been prone to forget to pay them (or accidentally double-pay them) in the past, this will ensure that that doesn't happen.

Also, like her mind, her mail has become more scattered and disorganized.  She used to have a very organized filing system (and still does when I'm there to make sure it stays that way), but now she is prone to just putting mail wherever, and this sometimes causes important things to get overlooked.

I, frankly, wish I could take over all of her mail for her, so I know that anything important she receives is not misplaced or overlooked.  And I really wish I could get all these charitable organizations to stop sending her so much mail.  It's gotten ridiculous, and Mom has such a generous heart that she'd probably give beyond her means were she to donate to all of them.  As it is, I often throw most of her junk mail out when she isn't looking (and, of course, she forgets all about it anyway).

But I guess that's what makes me feel guilty.  I do all these things behind my mom's back.  And I know I shouldn't feel guilty about it.  After all, it's for her own safety, security, and protection.  But it still makes me feel dishonest.  I had to go through my mom's purse today to get some information to change over some of her bills (which it turns out I didn't get enough of, so I have to do it again tomorrow), and I just felt like I was invading her personal property without her permission, which is something I never would have done when she is well.

But I have to do it because Mom will fight against it, whereas this way, I don't even think she'll notice she doesn't get paper bills anymore.  I'm also likely going to cancel her cell phone without her permission.  Whereas she used to use it all the time when she was well, now she is flummoxed by it.  She can't figure out how to use it unless someone shows her; she never remembers to charge it; and she never answers it when one of us try to call it.  I frankly don't even think she'll be cognizant that it is missing, but I do know that if I try to convince her to cancel it, she will fight me and claim that she uses it all the time, so I think it's better to take care of it surreptitiously.

If she used it, that would be one thing because we'd love for her to do so when she gets lost or when we're trying to find her.  But she doesn't, so it doesn't seem worth the cost.  We may try to replace the cost of it with a GPS tracking service instead.  Then we could find her more easily.

I just don't want to feel that I'm taking away my mom's independence or taking any joy out of her life (she loves checking the mail and getting mail, even if it's a bill), and I feel bad that this seems to be exactly what I am doing.

Yet these are the realities we are facing, and it will only get worse from here on out.  The leash will only get tighter as the dementia takes more away from my sweet mom.  I wish it didn't have to feel this way.  :-(

Saturday, September 22, 2012

"You Didn't Build That" ...or Who I'd Like To Thank For Helping Me Get Where I Am

Much has been made by President Obama's critics of the phrase he spoke in a campaign speech given in Virginia in July of this year.  The phrase, of course, is "You didn't build that."  Critics contend that President Obama was denigrating small business owners and entrepreneurs or marginalizing them by insinuating that without the help of governmental programs, those business owners wouldn't have been able to create their businesses. 

Defendants of President Obama insist the quote was taken out of context and that what he's been accused of is not what he meant.

This is what he said:

"If you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. You didn’t get there on your own. I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something — there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there. If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet."

My personal opinion was that he was essentially saying that you don't get anywhere in life or in business completely on your own, which is an idea with which I very much agree.  I do agree that the one phrase for which he is most criticized, "If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that" would anger me if I was a small business owner if I felt that President Obama was basically saying that I didn't build my business myself.  Small business owners and entrepreneurs are very hard working and probably take great pride in the businesses they have created and worked hard to make successful, and were someone to negate or minimize their contributions to their own businesses, I can see why that would cause them to be upset or angry.

However, I don't believe that was the point of what President Obama was saying.  I agree he may have used perhaps a poor choice of words.  Maybe he could have said it better, but based on the surrounding context, my personal feelings was that it was not his intention to negate or diminish the hard work business owners and entrepreneurs have put into their own businesses.  That being said, I can also understand why people feel that is exactly what he was doing.

Why do I even bring this up nearly three months later?

As I've thought a lot about the principle that no one gets where they get entirely on their own merits (even if it feels that way), I've considered my own life and the influence other people have had on my career and on my personal life.

For example, although I've never owned to created a business other than representing myself as an actor, I have had a very successful career as an actor thus far,  and while I have worked very hard to get where I am, I certainly did not where I am by myself.

So without further ado, I have some people to thank for helping shape who I am as a performer and want to give them the credit they are due.

My high school choir teacher taught me valuable skills such as blending, listening, sight reading, confidence while singing, and how to stay in tune and on pitch no matter what others are singing around you.  My mission president also reinforced my sight reading skills when he suggested I sing all four parts (one for each verse) when I'd sing hymns.  These skills have proved invaluable to my musical theatre career, which is often my bread and butter.  Because of much of what my choir teacher taught and instilled in me, I am able to learn music easily and sing challenging harmonies.  I'm not sure I would have been cast in such shows as Forever Plaid (my first professional job) or Sweeney Todd (a show I had always wanted to do and my second gig as a union actor) or been able to hold my own in a show like Sunset Boulevard.

A director at a small theatre wanted to hire me to be in one of his shows, and I got him to convince the theatre company to give me my Equity card which allowed me to become a member of the actors' union, which has enabled me to earn more money, get better health benefits, save money towards retirement, and work at more prestigious and professional companies.

I owe a lot to a cadre of teachers who have instructed me over the years.  My high school drama teacher and a community theatre teacher helped me develop the confidence and basic acting skills needed to get where I am.  The latter teacher also gave me my first experiences acting in full-scale productions.  My college professor was very instrumental in teaching me the skills and experience necessary to actually seriously make a living in this profession.  Another college professor gave me confidence with Shakespeare and taught me some basic tools for doing Shakespeare.  Still another gave me my first professional acting gig.  Another took a chance on me after college and hired me to play two very dramatic roles in two different plays after a long string of comic roles.  I always appreciated that he could see I was capable of playing more complex roles than I had previously been cast in and also helped me to know that I really could play dramatic roles.  Several professors helped me become a better dancer and singer and helped me learn more complex tools which have allowed me to land auditions (leading, of course, to jobs).

I owe much to a friend who helped me with the connections that got me into a terrific graduate school that helped me hone my acting, singing, and dancing skills, and I think that training has helped me become a better actor and obtain more work.

I am thankful to a theatre company I worked for that taught me better improvisational skills.  I know that the experience I gained there helped me get at least two other gigs that have led to continuous employment.

I am thankful for a guest director who took a chance on me and cast me in a show at a theater I had auditioned for numerous time with no success.  Because of this man, I was able to break into that theater, and I have worked there off and on for several years now, and it has provided me with some of my most lucrative and steady work in several genres of theatre, and I have been able to grow as an artist there and achieve pay raises and better roles.  As of today, I have done 12 shows there and am about to do my 13th.  I have also been directed by that same man in 6 shows now (and one with his partner).

I am thankful for the my friend who hooked me up with the photographer who took my last headshot.  I have received many compliments on that headshot, and I think it has helped me get a lot of work as well.  I noticed after I had it taken, my job opportunities increased.  Coincidence?  Perhaps, but I am grateful for it nonetheless.

I am grateful to the two choreographers that worked one-on-one with me on some of the most challenging dancing I ever did in a show.  Learning those dances helped increase my confidence in my dancing abilities.

I am thankful for my agent who has helped me get film and TV work.  I am thankful for the referrals other have given on my behalf that have convinced people to hire me

I am thankful for the support my parents gave me regarding my career aspirations when other parents might have tried to steer their child away from a potentially unstable career.  My mom, in particular, did all she could to help me learn about the ins and outs of an acting career and has remained one of my most ardent fans.  I'm thankful for the financial support my parents gave me while I was in my first years of college.  I am grateful for the money management skills they taught me that have allowed me to handle my earnings wisely.

And especially in the theatre world, I am thankful for all the people I've worked with who have helped me network into further career opportunities.

I am thankful for the scholarships, assistantships, and loans I received throughout my college career that allowed me to study what I needed to study to get where I am.  Without that financial aid I wouldn't have been able to afford to pay for school and wouldn't have been able to make a living at what I'm doing now.

And that's just my career.  In my personal life, I am thankful for my parents and teachers who helped teach me discipline and integrity.  Again, I am thankful to my friend who helped connect me with grad school, for without it, I likely never would have met Jonah, without whom my life would be very empty.

I am thankful for two friends in particular who inadvertently helped me to come out of the closet and pursue my relationship with Jonah.  Those choices have brought me so much happiness.

My point is this: I think anybody who thinks they got where they are in life entirely on their own is deluded.  No man is an island.  I've said that many times.  We are all connected.  We are all dependent on each other one way or another.  We don't get where we are, either for good or bad, entirely on our own.  Certainly we must work hard and pay our dues, but whether it is a teacher, a mentor, a parent, financial assistance, an opportunity, whatever - I don't believe we can be successful without some help or guidance or knowledge or advice or assistance or education or values from someone else.  To believe otherwise seems arrogant to me.  Even in a business, you need clients to succeed.  Without customers, to whom would you sell your wares or services?  You need others to succeed in life.  You can't do it alone.

And that, I believe, is the essence of what Barack Obama was saying that day in July.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Some Old Photos That Caught My Eye

I posted a few months ago about how much I love looking at old photographs.  Here are four I found in an antique store in Utah the other day that intrigued me:

I just thought this lad quite was quite striking and handsome, and I just find his face rather beautiful.  It's like I said in the post linked up above: I'm always amazed at how photos can almost literally capture a moment in time.  This young man is dead and gone, but here his youth and vitality is preserved forever.

 This lady fascinated me.  I like how mannish she looks and her outfit.

 She looks like a linebacker.  And so serious.

 The hairstyles on these two sisters(?) kill me.  I love it!  I'll bet they were quite stylish and vogue for their time.  I also like their expressions (particularly the one on the right).
 This is a group of school children taken in a classroom, it would seem.

The boy in front with the glasses particularly caught my eye.  Not sure why.

Anyway, I just thought I'd share some of my finds.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Why I'm Voting For Barack Obama

 Ah.  Election season. 

Not my favorite time of year, mostly because it brings out a lot of tension in people.  Facebook has been so full of political talk by friends both conservative and liberal.  I think the old adage "Never talk politics or religion" is apropos.  I've seen a lot of heated talk from both sides, and to be honest, I'm getting weary of it (although I do admit to taking part in it from time to time).

I'm home with Jonah for the week (yea!) before my next gig, and one thing that's been nice about being home is that I haven't been on Facebook as much nor have I watched the news or read the newspaper as often as I regularly do.  As a rule, I very much like to keep informed about news and politics, and for once, I'm a bit behind the curve because I am concentrating on other things.  Quite's been nice.

But next week when I am back in Utah for my next show, I intend to get back on the news and politics bandwagon, as is my normal custom.  But this mini-vacation from politics has been kind of nice.

Don't get me wrong.  I'm still somewhat informed on political issues.  I have been following the story about Mitt Romney and the leaked video where he essentially calls 47% of Americans a bunch of entitled freeloaders (my word, not his) playing the victim card who aren't going to vote for him anyway, so he's not worrying about them.

I actually get his point, and like everything else, context is important.  My guess is what Romney meant was that there are 47% of Americans who aren't going to vote for him anyway because his policies don't appeal to them, so he's only worried about those undecided voters that will help him win this election.

And yet...

I think the real test of a man's character is what he says or does when he thinks no one is listening or watching.  In his own words, Romney says that those 47 per cent of Americans who don't pay income tax will automatically support President Obama because they "believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it".

He goes on to say, "My job is is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives." 

"There are 47 percent who are with [President Obama], who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it.  And they will vote for this president no matter what."

You can read the full story here and here.

First off, I think Romney is making assumptions that may not even be correct.  Second, this just kind of reiterates something that I have thought about Mitt Romney for a long time: I just don't feel he even really understands what it is like to be lower- or middle-class.  It's not his fault.  He was born into wealth and became wealthier, and so that is the only life he knows.  But as his critics espouse, I do think that makes him somewhat out-of-touch with the average American, and statements like the ones said in this recent video don't do much to allay that perception.

My biggest problem with Mitt Romney, however, is that I just don't really know what he stands for.  In my view, he seems like someone who will say whatever needs to be said to get elected.  I feel like he says whatever he feels the group he is speaking to wants to hear.  Certainly all politicians do that to an extent, but I feel like Romney isn't terribly honest.  Ambitious, yes.  Honest, no. 

I don't even necessarily think Mitt Romney is a bad person; I just think he really wants something (in this case, the presidency), and will go after it at the expense of actually stating up front what he actually believes.  Again, I suppose all politicians do this to some extent, but Romney just seems more interested in winning the presidency than in the people who will elect him.

I consider myself a social liberal, but a fiscal moderate.  I actually think both parties have done a lousy job at handling the country's money.  I don't believe the government is the answer to all problems, and government bureaucracy often creates more problems than good.  On the other hand, government does some things very well, and I certainly think it has an important place in our society. 

While it's been slow going, I do believe the economy is getting better, and I feel like if Obama is able to implement more of his measures, the country will recover eventually, but it will take time.  I think a lot of the policies that were in play during the Bush administration got us into this mess in the first place, and I think a Romney administration will only bring more of the same policies that caused a lot of our economic troubles.

That being said, I think both parties have been irresponsible stewards of our country's finances, and both parties have borrowed from funds that were not really theirs to borrow.  No matter who is our next president, we have a long economic road ahead of us - one from which we may never fully recover.

I think a lot of people voted for Barack Obama with the illusion that he was going to wave a magic wand and get us out of the messes we found ourselves in after the Bush administration left office.  I was never under that illusion.  If it took at least eight years to make the mess, one can't expect it to get all cleaned up in just four.

I think one of the biggest problems to our country's progress is the constant gridlock in Congress.  It seems that if one party proposes an idea, the other party will shoot it down simply because it came from the opposite party.  There is too much polarization and partisanship and not enough working together.  I'm not sure how to solve that problem, but it seems that the parties are much more interested in power than in helping the people they supposedly represent.  The biggest factor that prevents us from progress is that I think both parties want similar things, but don't agree on the methods for how to accomplish those goals. 

Certainly I would assume that both parties want the economy to recover, for example, but neither can agree on the way to accomplish that.  And one of the reasons I voted for Barack Obama the first time around was his diplomacy and willingness to work with both sides, but that has also turned out to be a weakness in that sometimes that diplomacy prevents him from finding ways to unite the parties to a common cause.

I believe there are good people in both of the major political parties, and I believe there are a lot of good people in some of the parties that, unfortunately, are less viable choices.There are things about Mitt Romney that I find disappointing. Likewise, there are things about Barack Obama that have disappointed me. 

The political leaders of this country are flawed individuals. Some are good flawed men, and some, unfortunately, are self-serving flawed men. I have many conservative friends and many liberal friends, and I love them both. Granted, I do not always agree with some of my friends' opinions, but I respect their right to believe what they believe and their right to voice their opinions even when I disagree with those opinions and when those opinions frustrate me.

As far as the two major parties are concerned, I think there are many instances when they actually want the same thing, but disagree greatly on what it takes to get there. I certainly don't think either party is perfect, and there are times when both parties do things the greatly frustrate me. Nor do I think any president is perfect, nor do I expect them to be.

We all have different perspectives on the issues that face our country, and we all have different assumptions on what needs to happen to solve (or at least lessen) our problems, and we will often disagree on what is required. I don't think the election of either of the two major candidates is going to destroy our country. Our country has weathered many challenges and difficulties; we have had hard times and trials that may have even seemed insurmountable at the time; but we have always come through. We have always prevailed. Some roads have been far rougher than others, but neither of these candidates will destroy this country no matter how much the fear mongering hyperbole would have you believe it.

Certainly these two candidates have very different visions of what is best for this country, and depending on your perspective, one candidate will lead you on a more desirable path that adheres to your point of view.

As for me, there is no question that the vision of Barack Obama and the Democratic Party most closely aligns with my own vision and point-of-view. Perfect? No. Without challenges? No. But the way I see life and this country and how I view my fellow citizens, my own perspective and way of thinking convinces me that re-electing Barack Obama is the choice that most aligns with my personal beliefs.

And I know that many of my conservative friends think that's crazy and that President Obama will take us in an undesirable or even disastrous direction, just as I feel a Mitt Romney presidency would take us in a direction that I don't wish to go. And that's fine if people disagree with me or can't comprehend why I feel the way I do. But is IS how I feel. When I look at Barack Obama and the Democratic Party's policies and belief system (with some exceptions, of course), they align much more closely to my own than Mitt Romney's and the Republican Party's as they currently stand.

But I think one of the great things about this country is that we do have so many great people with different opinions about how to succeed and make this country better. I would never cut off friendship with anyone just for having a different opinion than I have, and actually I enjoy hearing opinions that are diametrically opposed to my own (even if they sometimes drive me crazy) just because it gives me another point-of-view to consider and keeps me more well-rounded. I love and respect so many of my friends, whether we share the same opinions or not, and I am glad they have the same privilege I have of casting their vote in whatever way they deem fit to help make this country better according to their own perspectives and beliefs. As for me, I'm voting to re-elect Barack Obama, and here is why:
I actually think Obama understands me better than Mitt Romney does.  Obama is rich, too, but he didn't come from that, and I don't think he has forgotten his hardscrabble days or struggles, and I find him more relatable than Mitt Romney.
I think Obama has a genuine desire to help all Americans, not just the ones who are like him.  I don't sense that from Mitt.  Again, it's not necessarily Mitt Romney's fault, but I do feel like he's in his own bubble and doesn't fully understand the plight of the average American.  He seems more interested in helping corporations and rich people than in helping people like me.
I, frankly, don't relate to a lot of the stances of the Republican party, in general.  While I do relate to their need to be fiscally responsible, it's hard to take them seriously when they spent trillions of dollars on a war that I always felt was unnecessary and which we rushed into without exploring all diplomatic channels.  It's hard to take the extremists of the party seriously with all their "pro-life" talk when they seem to be most apt to go to war or are unwilling to compromise on gun control at all.  It's hard to take their cries of "keep the government out of my life" when they are so willing to use the government to prevent people like Jonah and me from marrying or control a woman's decision regarding unwanted pregnancies.  I feel like some Republicans feel they have the market on religion and patriotism, and I don't think that's true, and it only makes them look like hypocrites.  I feel (and this is just my perception) that the most extreme elements of Republicanism (which, unfortunately, seems to be the face of the Republican party lately) are more interested in money than they are in helping people.

Certainly, I think the Democratic party sometimes helps people too much, and thus enables the abusers of the system to take advantage of welfare and the like.  And, yes, Democrats do too often throw money at problems to try and fix them, and that's not good either.

But I am more interested in people than in financial wealth, and in spite of all the lambasting of Barack Obama's "You didn't build this" speech, I do believe that none of us gets where we are on our own.  We had great teachers or mentors that educated us or we borrowed money from a bank to start a business or someone helped us get an opportunity.  Obama often uses the mantra, "We're all in this together," and I agree with that philosophy, and that is not something that resonates with me when I listen to Mitt Romney or the Republican party, who, by the way, don't seem all that excited by their candidate in the first place, so that's not a real booming endorsement, either.

I don't see that Mitt Romney has many solutions, either.  I feel like his only talking point is whatever it takes to repeal "Obamacare" or that Obama's policies regarding the economy aren't working, and even though he says he has a plan to fix things like health care and the economy, he never seems to share it with us other than to say Obama's policies aren't working.  I at least feel like Obama has a plan, whether you believe it's working or not.  Romney's only plan seems to be to get Obama out of office without any concrete solutions.

I don't think either party believes abortion is the best solution, but I don't think the government has any right to tell a woman what she can and can't do with her body.  I also believe that comprehensive sex education is key to educating young people so that unwanted pregnancies don't happen in the first place, yet Republicans in my own state of Utah are certainly against that.

I believe in marriage equality, and I am grateful Barack Obama is the first standing president to come out in favor of same-sex marriage.  
I believe in the strength and power of unions, and I belong to a union myself - one that has helped me achieve better pay, better working conditions, greater opportunities, and good health insurance and retirement benefits.  The Democratic Party and Barack Obama seem to be on my side with protecting unions.  Certainly unions have their problems and weaknesses, too, but I support them overall.

I believe in protecting the environment and that as stewards of this planet we all share, we should do our best to protect it and find ways to become less dependent on oil and gas.  I also believe in climate change and believe that we as humans do affect our atmosphere by what we pollute it with.
I do believe in universal health care and applaud Barack Obama's efforts to help give the citizens of this country better and more affordable health care.  If anything, I don't feel the Affordable Health Care Act goes far enough, but much of that is due to Republican obstructionism and compromise.  
Having lived in a country with government-run health care, I can say that while there were challenges and problems as well, there were many great benefits to universal health care.  And I think if health care is affordable, more people will be willing to go to the doctor for preventative health measures and thus avoid the financial headaches that come with diseases that could have been prevented in the first place.  Again, I believe in the adage, "We're in this together."  I am perfectly willing to pay higher taxes if it means my fellow man can be treated medically without worrying if they are going to lose their home due to astronomical medical bills.  I find it absurd that we are one of the greatest industrial nations with the most expensive health care.
I believe in programs like Social Security and Medicare.  Without them, my own mother would be up a creek without a paddle.  
I am grateful for unemployment benefits, especially in my field of work, where jobs can be sporadic.  I am grateful that the taxes I pay provide me with such benefits as firemen and policemen to protect me.  Government does do some things well.

Defense is understandable, but I also believe in greater gun control, and think that some of these assault weapons that are so easy to come by are ridiculous.

And, yes, I believe grants and loans to help those who can't afford college.  I think a good education for today's youth is good for all of us in the long run.  After all, these are the people who will be running the country when I'm old and decrepit.

I believe in equal pay for women.  I believe in amnesty for illegal immigrants born in this country and believe that if an immigrant works with the government to be legal and pays taxes and contributes to our society, we should consider giving them citizenship.  After all, so many of these people do some of the jobs no one else wants to do just to give themselves and their families a better life.  

I believe the wealthy get too many tax breaks while the middle- and lower-classes struggle.  I don't believe in "trickle-down" economics.
I think Barack Obama is more concerned with diplomatic relations with our foreign neighbors than Mitt Romney is and is more liable to keep us out of unnecessary wars.  I also think Mitt Romney hasn't always shown very good judgment.  I have more confidence in Obama than I do Romney.

It's clear to me that as far as my core values and beliefs are concerned, Barack Obama most closely aligns with them than Mitt Romney does.
And finally, Barack Obama is just a cool, compelling, charismatic guy.  Mitt Romney is stiff, stodgy, and kind of boring.

Vote for who you believe will lead the country in a direction you desire, but as for me, "Barack, I've got your back."

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Past Me And Present Me

We had the missionaries over the other day.  My niece and nephew had invited them over and invited mom and me to join them for dinner.  I wondered if my sexuality or excommunication would come up.  I was prepared to be completely honest about my standing in the church if they brought it up.

I needn't have worried.  First off, both missionaries were at the end of their missions, so they didn't have that same eager fire to convert every person in their path as they might have had at the beginning of their missions.  Secondly, they were pretty much in and out.  Some dinner, some light conversation, and a little spiel about missionary work, and they were gone.

They were both nice kids.  One was from Hawaii.  The other was from Kansas.  When it got to the point of asking us to share the gospel with our friends, I thought about how most of my friends are either active Mormons, are no longer practicing and don't wish to, or are anti-Mormon.  In any case, none are particularly good candidates for joining the LDS Church.  But before they could extend a personal invitation to me, my sister-in-law and brother showed up and caused enough of a distraction to allow me to excuse myself, and I let my niece and nephew talk to the missionaries.

I did think about where I am now and where I was when I was these kids' ages.  I remember when I was a missionary myself teaching an investigator (or maybe he was even an inactive member - I don't remember now) named Joey, who was openly gay and had great difficulty reconciling his sexuality with Mormonism.  It was clear which path he wanted to be on, and it wasn't Mormonism; not if he couldn't be gay.

I remember feeling sad for him that he couldn't overcome his sexual attractions and find the truth like I had (ha ha) and I worried about the welfare of his soul.  But there was also a part of me that was kind of jealous that he was able to choose a path that I had once wanted to take myself (and that I would later still want to take).

And now that I'm in Joey's shoes myself, it's interesting to see the world in much the same way as he might have, and it made me think how different life's perspectives are when we're in different shoes.  Certainly if I have the opportunity to deal with missionaries or home teachers or church leaders or other members, I am respectful and welcoming, but I also know where I stand regarding my sexuality and the choices I have made regarding it.  Having been in the missionaries' place, I know people probably feel sorry for me or worried about my eternal salvation or secretly yearn for me to "choose the right" and be rebaptized.  It's not going to happen, and I hope people know that I am very happy with where I am in life and that my relationship with my Heavenly Father is terrific.

Even if the LDS Church accepted gay unions, I'm not sure if I would choose to be rebaptized or not.  I would have to see.  I have learned more and more as I have been out of the Church that I am quite happy where I am, and I'm not sure I see the need to change that.  The point is moot right now, anyway.  I'll cross that bridge when and if I ever get to it.

Monday, September 03, 2012

A Great Day And A Confirmation

I went to the most beautiful and love-filled wedding ceremony on Saturday.  My friend Rick and his partner Doug invited me about a month ago to attend their ceremony.  They've been together for seven years and recently were legally wed in New York, and this ceremony in Utah was to commemorate that.

The ceremony was actually in a part of Salt Lake City on the east side that I don't typically frequent.  It was gorgeous over there.  There were beautiful homes, and the area felt kind of secluded.

While I don't know Doug very well, I've known Rick for about five years now.  We've done several shows together, and he is someone I connect with well.  We've become good friends over the years, and I was so touched and honored to be invited to his wedding.

I found it ironic that parking for the wedding was in a nearby LDS Church parking lot.  I'm not sure who, if anyone, approved that, but I liked it.  From the parking lot to the wedding venue was a trail of red and white pine cones to helps guests find the property where the wedding was being held.

The wedding itself was on the property of one of Doug's relatives (who, as far as I know, are actively LDS).  It was a huge, forested area and was decorated so nicely.  There was a trail leading to the wedding area.  At the head of the trail was a harpist playing music. and the trail itself was lined with banners containing photos of Doug and Rick as well as mementos from their relationship such as love letters and inspiring quotes.

The yard where the wedding was held was massive.  The chairs were all nicely lined up in a wooded area decorated with Chinese lanterns, and there was a nearby area where tables were set up for dinner, and there was also a covered area where the caterers were set up and where desserts and beverages were laid out.  There was also a nearby creek and a couple of Port-o-Potties.

A few of my friend showed up about the same time I did, and we chatted before the ceremony started.  The weather was overcast, and it looked like it might rain.  I hope it wouldn't.  I didn't want my friends' day tarnished in any way.

Soon a Reverend showed up (I think he was from an Episcopalian domination) and welcomed us.  Then he rang a gong to signal the beginning of the ceremony.  Rick and Doug walked hand in hand together while a bagpiper played behind them.  I was crying immediately.  After their trek to the wedding area, they greeted their parents, all of whom are active Mormons as far as I know.  It was so sweet how Doug and Rick were with each other's parents as well as their own.  I know Rick's parents are going through similar things as my Mom, and he is so sweet with them.

After the Reverend introduced the grooms, Rick and his siblings sang a jazz version of "When I Fall in Love," which was quite nice.  Then there was a prayer, and the Reverend talked about why Rick and Doug had chosen to marry.  Rick's dad read some beautiful thoughts about love by Martin Luther King Jr.  I wish I could find the specific quote because it was so lovely.

Then one of Doug's relatives (I think) read some thoughts on love from the Bible.  Two of my friend sang "The Power of Two" by the Indigo Girls.  Then the Reverend gave my friends a charge and my friend recited their vows.  I so wish I had copies of their vows because they were beautiful.

Rick and Doug absolutely beamed, and it is so abundantly clear that they are deeply, deeply in love, and I thought to myself, "Anyone who thinks that a same-sex relationship between two individuals who truly love another is wrong has never witnessed this kind of wedding."  I felt God's spirit and his blessing upon my two friends, and I am witness to the great love that was present there, and where love is, God is there, also.

Rick's sibling and two of Doug's relatives offered words of support and love.  Then my two friends exchanged rings, after which two other friends say "For Good" from Wicked.  And then there was a beautiful benediction.  It was so lovely and touching, and I was so moved.  But even more, I was reminded of my own deep love for Jonah and how much I miss and love him.

As I said in my last post, after my next show I am going back home to Jonah.  The rational, practical part of me is worried about the financial ramifications of unemployment and worried that I am compromising my career at a time when it seems important to stay connected with the theater where I often work when I am in Utah.  But Rick and Doug's wedding only reaffirmed that going back home is the right thing to do, and that I have to trust God to take care of us.

Dinner and dessert was great.  The food was catered Mediterranean cuisine, and desserts were all sorts of baked goods from a gourmet bakery.  It was quite a nice (and delicious) spread.

 Rick and Doug couldn't have looked happier.  Like I said, they've been together seven years now and have made it through some trying times, but it's clear that this event meant a lot to them, and I anticipate they will be together until one of them dies.

I loved a dedication in their program: "Thank you to our amazing parents...for teaching us just how wide hearts can open, the transcendent power of radical acceptance, and that love, while a pleasant emotion, is more so an action."


Sunday, September 02, 2012

A Very Sad Day And A Big Decision

I was so, so intensely sad on Friday.  Not a normal feeling for me.  I'm generally a very optimistic, positive person.  But I guess we all have blue days from time to time.  I guess what was so different about this was how so badly I felt like crying and how intense the sadness was.  I've not felt anything like that for years, and I thought to myself, "Oh, my gosh, this is how people who suffer from depression must feel all the time," and it really made me feel empathy.  Certainly, my momentary fit of sadness, which has now subsided, is nothing compared to true depression, but it was such a deep feeling, it actually scared me a bit.  It was the kind of sadness that were I to feel it all the time, I would seriously consider seeking therapy.  Fortunately for me, I don't feel such intense sadness very often.

I actually have few reasons to have even felt so sad.  My relationship with Jonah is great, I'm actively employed in a career I love, I've been able to spend time with my family, I have some great opportunities coming up.  Things are good.

I actually think my sadness was a combination of many things.  I've been away from Jonah for a while now because of my job, and we miss one another terribly.  I've been helping care for my mom, who has dementia, and that can get stressful at times.  And even though I am acting, I'm ready to close the show I'm currently doing and spend a couple of weeks with Jonah before my next gig. 

I think Mom's dementia is the real culprit.  She's actually not doing terribly, although she's certainly not at her best, either.  And, really, nothing specific happened on Friday to plummet me into this deep sadness.  But I am aware that when it comes to my mom's illness, I am generally a pretty stoic rock who's able to handle her issues with grace and humor.  I was bound to have a mini-breakdown some time, and I guess Friday was the day.

My siblings and their families are great in dealing with Mom.  We all try to take part in caring for her so that one person isn't burdened with the load.  But I am kind of her primary caretaker when I am here working, and for some reason she seems to respond best to me.  My siblings jokingly (or not-so-jokingly) call me the "golden child."  As such, Mom has grown quite dependent on me and has actually become a bit needy, and there are days when it overwhelms me. 

Because I am with her probably the most often, I see first-hand how bad she is becoming, and I guess I am mourning the loss of who my mom once was.  Of course, I love her and still enjoy spending time with her, but I do miss the person she was before dementia took hold of her.  I miss the deep talks we no longer seem to be able to have.  I miss how sharp she once was. And I mourn the loss of independence she is losing day by day.  Like me, Mom has always been very independent, and it saddens me that probably within a year or two, she will probably lose some of the ability to manage her own life and affairs.

I am thankful she no longer drives because I think she would be a danger to both herself and others if she did still drive, and I know she would get lost.  She sometimes has gotten lost even on foot in areas that were once familiar to her.

Her short term memory is shot.  She repeats the same questions and stories over and over, often within seconds of when she last asked or told them.  She gets disoriented or confused by things, and he awareness and judgment are often questionable.  Even her long-term memory has been compromised.  She mis-remembers events or creates events that never happened at all.  In the last year, she's told me stories of how she's been skydiving or on trips to India, Japan, China, Australia, New Zealand, and Africa (none of which is true).  She's told me that her mother died in a cemetery and that her ashes are scattered there or that her dad died when she was a teenager (neither of which are true) or how she lived in an apartment with a friend after my dad died (not true) and she thought my father died when I was a little kid (I was 21).  Her memory, in general, has become unreliable.

Without my constant watching out for her, she would likely forget to take her pills, measure her blood sugar level, pay some of her bills, eat, and she would likely go out and about on adventures and get lost and eat all sorts of unhealthy things and send money to every charity on the planet.

I worry about her.  And maybe that's what's part of what was making me sad.  I assume that eventually she will be unable to care for herself.  Maybe that will be in ten years.  Maybe five.  Maybe one.  But eventually she will be unable to manage her affairs without help.  As it stands, I don't think Mom can ever live alone again.  In any case, I don't relish the idea that one day Mom will probably have to leave her home and live in some assisted-care facility.  It may be a ways off, but unless she dies unexpectedly, I think it is in her future, and she will not understand why we think she can't take care of herself, and I do not relish that day or that conversation.

And I worry about how Mom will manage when I am gone.  As I said, my siblings are great, but Mom has become very dependent on me and gets very pouty and  sullen when I leave (even if it's just to go to work; but when I go back home to Jonah, it's even harder).  I am also not good at delegating, and even though I know my siblings will take care of her, there is always this feeling that if I'm not here to do it, it won't get done or get done right.  That isn't true, but it's how I think, and so I feel guilty when I leave Mom.  But I also feel guilty for leaving Jonah months on end as well.  And, again, that's probably where a lot of this sadness I was feeling came from.

I guess there's this very selfish feeling of "Who will take care of her when I'm gone?  Who will watch out for her?  How will she manage without me?, etc."  The fact is, my siblings and nephew and niece can help her, and if the time comes, some facility can help her.  But I do have these weird feelings that no one can take care of her quite the way I can or that she won't respond to others the way she responds to me.  That sounds so self-centered.  I don't mean it to sound that way, but that's what I've conditioned myself to believe because of how she behaves around me.

And then there's the other part of me: the worn-out, frustrated, exhausted, overwhelmed part of me that feels like he's caring for an overgrown child - a child he loves, but a child nonetheless.  Mom gets so distracted and she's so slow and unaware at times.  Sometimes it really feels like I'm taking care of a kid or a drunk person.  It's hard sometimes and emotionally draining.  There are times when I retreat to my room like some hermit to get away from it, and there are times, too, when I admit I have wished my mother an early death just so she and her family don't have to go through the pain of watching her mentally deteriorate or lose her independence. 

And I know these are natural thoughts for a caretaker.  I've read lots of literature about it.  I'm certainly not the first to feel that way, and I won't be the least.  But of course, it still makes me feel guilty.  Anybody who knows me knows I love and adore my mother, and it's because I do love her so deeply that caring for her and watching her "disappear" is so incredibly trying at times.

And maybe that's why I had my mini-breakdown on Friday.  At my show, a close actress friend could tell I was having a difficult die, and when she asked me about it, I just started crying, and later when I talked to Jonah on the phone about the feelings I was experiencing, I was sobbing.  I'm not the most emotional person, but I guess it all just came to a head.

But, really, what can I do?  I love my mom and will continue to help and care for her as long as I can and as long as it is possible to do so.  And, really, she's not much trouble.  She's grown needy and dependent, but she's still able to do so much on her own still, and as long as she can, I will let her.

I followed her to Sam's Club the other day to give her the illusion of independence, but also to make sure she didn't get lost.  She had no idea I had been following her.  She doesn't know that I throw away all her junk mail so she won't donate more money to charities than she is able.  She doesn't know that I go through her pill box and fix it when she puts in the wrong doses of medicines.  She doesn't know how stringently I keep track of her fiances to make sure she isn't overspending and that she is paying her bills.  In her mind, everything is hunky-dory, and I guess it's nice that she thinks that.

But thinks aren't hunky-dory.  She is extremely forgetful and her judgment and awareness are impaired.  I'm glad my siblings and I are so honest because it would be so easy to take advantage of her if we weren't, and I think about the other senior citizens out there suffering from health issues who maybe have children that aren't so honest or truly looking out for their parents' well-being, and it makes me sad.

I have made a huge decision.  Jonah and I have been apart more during our relationship than we have been together.  I have worked successfully as an actor out-of-state for some time now, and I have finally decided to come home for a while even if it means putting my acting career on hold for a bit (although ideally, I hope to have both Jonah and a good career at the same time).  After my next gig ends the first week of November, I will go back home to Jonah for a while, and this will be the first Thanksgiving we have spent together in quite some time. 

I do not know what will happen career-wise, and there is also a chance Jonah and I will both be unemployed at the same time, so it will be a little scary (although we have enough in savings to last us a few months), and leaving Mom will be hard, too.  But I have prayed a lot about it, and I need to go home for a while.  It feels like the right thing to do.  I hope my siblings and niece and nephew can keep my mom safe and happy while I am gone.  It's a hard thing to leave her, and maybe that, too, is why I was so, so sad.  But my husband needs me, and I need him, and this is the right time to go home for a while.