Tuesday, November 26, 2013

YOU WON'T BELIEVE WHERE I WAS LAST WEDNESDAY...


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The Miracle of Life.

Last week was exhausting.  Just two weeks after hosting a very fun baby shower, one of my best friends, A, gave birth to an incredible baby girl, Isabella Cristiana, right in front of me.

Yup.  I was so special that I got to be in the delivery room.  Why was in the room you may be asking?  Let’s just say that this was not a traditional pregnancy and, circumstances being as they were, I was the pseudo-father for the first five months of A’s pregnancy.  I was ever-ready to take her to the hospital.  We spent so much cherished time together -- we had breakfasts, lunches, and dinners together multiple times per week.  In the beginning she was all alone, and it felt remarkably rewarding to help her out in any way possible.  Lots of great memories!  I even knew the gender of the baby three months before anyone else.

At some point, I think A mentioned in passing that it might be cool if I were in the delivery room.  The seed was then planted.  It became more and more real as the months progressed.  Finally, a few weeks ago, she asked me with her husband, S’s, permission, of course.  I was overcome with joy and accepted the invitation right away.  She figured it would be one of the only experiences in my life that she could give me as a gift.

Monday.  After going for a routine 35-week check up, A was advised to go to the hospital straight away, as her blood pressure was extremely high.  A took her time getting there.  She went home, had lunch, told me what was going on, and then went to the hospital.  In her defense, she had no idea of just how serious her preeclampsia situation was.    Remember, Sybil, in “Downton Abbey?” It is a very serious and dangerous issue for the mother more than the baby inside.  They proceeded to monitor her blood pressure every fifteen minutes for the next couple of days.  That cannot be fun.  It was indeed no joke.

Tuesday. 4:10am, her water broke.  Yikes!  Let’s just say it was a very long day.  When I finally arrived at the hospital on Tuesday late afternoon (after an intense work day myself), I stayed for a few hours, kept A and S calm and collected.  I know it was NO fun for either of them, but it was one of the most exciting nights of my life.  I assured them various times that they could have the baby without me and I would be okay with it, but neither of them would have it.  (Tear!)

Intuitively, I knew that she would most likely start labor in the middle of the night.  Therefore, after I left the hospital, I went straight to bed at 10pm.  I cannot even remember the last time I went to bed that early.  I slept with the phone right next to my ear just in case they called.

Wednesday.  6:42am.  The call.  S telephoned and said, “You might want to get here soon!”  Oh my god.  Was it time?  Yup, it was going to happen that morning.  I could faintly hear A, from the back, saying something about my conference call at 9:30am that morning.  I said tell her not to concern herself with my conference call.  Um, once in a lifetime event vs. a conference call that could be postponed by a few days.  Not even a consideration in my mind.

The Birth.  8:18am.  I arrived at the hospital at 7:47am.  The details of pregnancy are sacred, private, and hidden -- with good reason.  I will keep them just that.  Let’s just say it was eye opening especially considering, as a gay man, I am not frequently around vaginas.  Good times!

Once the doctor pulled the premature baby out, she immediately began to cry.  That was reassuring because, for a couple of seconds, based on the raisin-esque shape of the head during the birthing process, I was concerned for her life.  He immediately handed her to the incredible pediatric team. 

She was so tiny at eighteen inches long and four pounds twelve ounces.  They were poking her, prodding her, cleaning her, and I was in complete awe.  So much so, that I was completely not paying attention when S asked me to cut the umbilical cord for the second time.  What an honor!

Talk about imprinting.  I have never loved anyone so much that I had never met, except for my adorable nephew and newly born niece (who, I finally get to meet in the next few days).  I was immediately in love.  See, love at first sight does exist, despite my bitter feelings toward love at the current moment.

I checked on “mom” every few minutes, after capturing incredible photos and video.  At one point, still groggy, she said, well, now you can make your conference call.  I just laughed.

The baby was a little premature, but thank god, she just went under special observation in the nursery for a few days.



Wednesday. 9:02am. 45 minutes after the actual birth, I was holding the baby (after “dad” of course) while “dad” was making the mandatory phone calls to the fam.  What came next, I would have ever expected.  It was time for “mom” to hold the baby.  I had the absolute honor and privilege of handing Isabella Cristiana to her mother for the very first time.  It was one of the biggest and most magical moments of my life.  It still brings goose bumps to my skin and tears to my eyes.

(By the way, I made my conference call at 9:30am.)

It was truly one of the most special moments in my life.  Thank you, A and S, for allowing me to have that special moment that I will never ever ever forget.

Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.  I visited the family at the hospital after work all three nights.  Each night when I came home, I was beyond exhausted.  I can only imagine how they felt.

Saturday.  They came home.  A friend suggested I buy them dinner, after all, it was a super long day and week for all.  We had sushi, at A’s request, of course, with lots of spicy tuna.  Yum!

Sunday.  They left Isabella Cristiana with me for a few hours while they ran some errands.  It was awesome.  I look forward to sharing many more evenings with this precious being.  She is amazing and beautiful, but then again I might be a wee bit partial. (Wink!)

As a single gay man, my options are limited for children.  I kept thinking, in the delivery room, is this the closest I’ll be ever to a newborn child?  In that moment, I wholeheartedly decided that I wanted to have at least one baby the “normal” way.  I cannot imagine the absolute elation mixed with paranoid feelings that come along with knowing that this baby is now “mine” and completely under my care.  It is not a dog.  It is not a chicken or a goat.  It’s a baby.  Wow.  I absolutely cannot wait.

I’m happy to report that everyone is doing healthy and well.  A still needs to take it easy for a few weeks, given her severe condition.

As you can tell, I’m a very proud Guncle (gay uncle).


The End.

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A Smile From The Inside Production :)

Monday, November 18, 2013

THE FIVE SECRETS TO FINDING LOVE...A GUEST BLOG


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What is the key to finding love?  I asked a client of mine, "Ray", a native to Colombia, to write a blog about FINDING LOVE.  The below is the beautiful thoughts and blog that he wrote for me.  It is extremely cute, to the point, and poignant.  He is definitely on to something here.  I hope you enjoy!

Finding Love 

A couple of months ago, after my boyfriend and I split up, I started questioning if I would ever find true love and a life partner ever again.  I loved him initially but the love disappeared with time.  I was feeling lonely, having doubts about my ability to love.  I had fears about the future and felt disappointed in myself.  I gave room in my mind to many negative thoughts.  My life coach suggested I remain open about my feelings with close friends.  I have kept things to myself, perhaps because I did not want to feel weak and I thought I could overcome the issues on my own.

Two conversations had a special impact on me.  The first conversation that impacted me was from a friend who had problems in her marriage. She arrived at a point where she asked her husband to move out.  Her issues where similar to mine. After a final ultimatum, her husband apologized, started to change, and they are now enjoying a better relationship.  It seems that that what was needed -- the expression of her boundaries, i.e.  how much are we willing to tolerate.  I hope it lasts.  

The second one came from a confident and expressive female friend.  After complaining about the things I did not like about my boyfriend, she told me "the problem is you".  I was shocked!  I was not expecting that!  I wanted to hear that I was right. She explained that I let things build up, that I did not set up boundaries, and that I had given permission for him to "abuse" my space.  She said I needed to love myself first before I could have a successful relationship.  I never thought I had to confront those words.  How do I love myself?  Where do I even start?  Is it was easy as a trip to the mall to purchase some amazing gifts for myself or as easy as the wonderful distraction of spending time with friends?  I felt there had to be something deeper.  She suggested me a couple books to read, and, as it turns out, they worked for me and I hope they are valuable to someone else.

Those books are the following two books by Walter Riso, "Enamorate de ti" (Fall in Love with Yourself) and "CuestiĆ³n de dignidad" (The Question of Dignity).  In these books, Riso explains that there are five key concepts to falling in love with yourself.  I explore them below.

1.      Self-awareness.  This is the first key element to loving yourself.  I value myself because we are / I am a creation of God.  My strengths and weakness make me who I am.  I will love my uniqueness and never consider that I am less valuable than any other person.  I deserve respect as much as I give respect to others.  I avoid comparisons and general critical statements about myself (ex. I am boring! but instead replacing them with, I do not like this situation or this behavior).  I need to avoid the too many rules in life.  

2.      Self- image.  Beauty is an attitude.  If you feel pretty, then you are, and you will transmit that to others.  If we accept the external models of beauty, we will never be happy.  We need to forget about perfection and define our own criteria of beauty.  Find the things that we like about ourselves and do not magnify what you do not like.  Most people do not even care!  Finally, beauty is not just physical, it is as well who we are inside.  (AMEN!)

3.      Reinforcement.  It is important to be conscious about our internal dialog.  Think about how much we praise ourselves.  Perhaps we do not say anything?  Maybe it is punitive?  Do not wait for external approval, praise yourself and treat yourself to only the best!  This is where pampering ourselves come into place.  It is one of the most important aspects of loving ourselves.

4.      Confidence.  To build confidence, it is important to set up goals. As long as we keep fighting, there will be always hope.  If you lose, at least you know, you have tried your very best.  Let's recognize that our goals are the result of our own efforts. Let's not punish ourselves unnecessarily for the mistakes we make, instead let's use them as learnings.  The only way to learn how to overcome fear... is to face it!  Expose yourself!  Take risks and put your misconceptions to the test!

5.      Respect.  It is about being assertive to demand and defend our rights.  It is about saying "no", expressing disagreement, and expressing an opinion (especially a contrary one).  To expressing your feelings is transformative and gives all of us emotional health.  Respect strengthens self-esteem.  However, one should be sensitive, because the pain of others is not necessarily compatible with defending our rights.  We need to learn to recognize our rights to be able to defend them. Respect yourself and speak up! One way to do this is to recognize your internal anger/compass when something is not right.  If there is more sense of dignity than fear, assertiveness wins.  

I was working on all these themes and, with a little help and support of others, I felt transformed.  I discovered that first I have to search for the love inside of me.  I could not fully love and be loved because I had not fully embraced the essence of me as a unique and valuable person.

I started to express out loud that I am a great catch and worthy of the best person.  I treated myself to better things because I deserve the best, of course, as I can afford them.  I repurposed negative thoughts for a can-do attitude.  I set up new and lasting goals!

After these aforementioned subtle changes, I ended up telling my boyfriend in a letter what was not working for me in the relationship, what parts of his behaviors upset me, and those behaviors that I needed to change myself.  By his response, he demonstrated to me that he cared deeply about us by recognizing the problem and therefore, likewise, started changing some of his attitudes.  We mutually agreed to try the relationship again, this time with an intelligent awareness of what had not worked the last time.

My self-esteem has increased and I have become more confident.  I am able me to express my feelings and as a result I have a much healthier relationship now.  I also removed some of my barriers or rules, those of which were not core to my essence.  We are back together and hope for better times to come.  

Remember, loving yourself first is the most important.  Good luck to all of you.  Love, R.

The End.

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A Smile From The Inside Production :)

Monday, November 4, 2013

YOU'LL NEVER BELIEVE WHAT THIS FATHER WROTE WHEN HIS SON CAME OUT TO HIM...


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I recently met an incredible guy, in North Carolina, of all places.  He's 28, very good looking and gay. He was raised as a Pentecostal and within the confines of a very religious household.  Last year, he made the move from his parents house in rural North Carolina to Wilmington, a beautiful and quaint city where apparently loads of TV shows are being filmed now.  He had left his old life because he found an incredible job working as a Musical Director at a great church (or so he thought) in Wilmington.  Unfortunately, all went well, until he came out to the pastor.  Then, he lost his job -- because he was gay.  (That's a completely separate topic, the politics of which, we won't get into right now.)

Since this blog is not really about me, and I'm still not ready to "come out" as an intuitive or psychic officially, let's just say that Bryan and I had a life-changing conversation in which his deceased aunt, Darlene, gave him the strong message of "It's Time To Tell Your Family!"  She repeated it over and over again.  She was relentless.  I had no idea how quickly this 28-year-old would turn his life around, but he heard his Aunt Darlene loud and clear.

First, a couple days later, he told his mother.  For the entirety of what exactly Bryan read to his mother and her reaction, click here.  It is a pretty incredible and touching letter AND, her reaction, given her religious limitations, was precious and beautiful.

But this blog is about a boy coming out to his very religious dad.  The following is a final cut draft of what he actually texted to his father:

"Dear dad, I'm struggling deeply to write you this. Holding back tears is very hard when you know you have something huge to say to someone. I had a conversation with mama about this yesterday and she has, so far, taken it far better than what I figured she would. A mother's love is unconditional and I'm hoping that a father's love is exactly the same. I may it say it very often but I love you very much. Besides my grandpa Luther, no man other than you, has shown me the importance of a hard days work, the importance of creating a loving family, and the importance of being there for one another at any time we've needed you. You prove yourself to us over and over again without getting much in return (all the days growing up playing catch, trying to teach me karate on your own, taking me fishing, etc). 

This is me taking time to tell you thank you for all you do. Thank you for all you have done. Thank you for what you will do in the future. Growing up, you and I never had a completely close relationship with each other. I feel like that fell onto Brandon, while I was always more of a mothers boy and still am. But I have not regretted these things one bit. They happened for a reason. And lately you have started to soften up and we've been building up a decent father-son relationship with each other. I'm glad this happening at this point of my life because I have taken a big step forward lately. 

Yesterday mom and I had a very real conversation about me. We discussed something about me that I feel you both already know deep down in your hearts but are either too afraid to talk about it or just don't want to hear it period. But It needs to be said. No matter what the outcome from you after I let this out, I want you to know that I will always love you. You are my only father and I love you to the moon and back. You mean so much to me and you need to know this about me. I am gay. Before you quickly respond, I have some other things I need to say. For years and years I have know. Ever since I was a kid I knew I was different. I was never attracted to girls the way that you are attracted to mom. That's not me. 

I've hidden this part of who I am from you for over 20 years and I can't let it go by one more day with you knowing. Because of the fact that I hid this. You've missed out on some great things that have happened to me. Great relationships that I've been in, amazing friends and support from different people that you don't even know. But you also don't know about the many heartaches I've had to suffer through. The many times I've want to call you, my daddy, to come pick me up and go fight the person who hurt me so bad but I couldn't do that. All I could do was smile at you and talk to you and say everything is just fine. I'm tired of the charade and I'm going to be more open and upfront with you and mom about my life now that you know who I am, your gay son. 

I'm very relieved that I can finally tell you these things, and though it's not face to face, it is still all the same. I know that you love me as your son and I pray that that love will only begin to grow stronger. I know you will go through some pretty strong emotions and you will need time to process your feelings and emotions, but I want you to know this: no matter what you think of me now, no matter how you feel about me now--you are my dad and I will always respect you and love you until the day you die."

It's quite a long text, but that was the most comfortable way.  Bryan really feared his father's reaction and was extremely unsure what would transpire.  A few hours later, this is the "text" response that Bryan received from his father:

"You have managed to do to me what you will do for the remainder of my life, and nothing but the shear will, power, and Devine mercy/grace of God can fix the torn heart, and deep pain I have. MY HEART is bleeding, not for me but for your destiny. This is not the path you have been taught by your mother or me. God gave you to us 28 years ago, and we gave you back to him soon after. Which makes this all the more serious. All through the Bible it is written many times, FEAR THE LORD! To him that knowth to do good but doth evil, IT IS SIN. 

There is coming a time when God will judge and I pray that you will never hear Him say DEPART FROM ME I NEVER KNEW YOU. You are in the grasp of satan and only God Knows the ending for you. Only I can pray for your return into God's abode. While this is the most pain I've ever experienced I have to follow God's teachings and wisdom. I will forever love and miss you, and while I am to love you I have to HATE the sin you desire. YOU HAVE NO IDEA of the pain, emptiness, and broken heart your father has for you. This is like a death of a family member. I will always love you son and keep what memories I have of you. May God have mercy on your soul before it's too late!!!!!!!!!!! I plead for your return and offer my life instead!!!!!!!" 

Wow, right?  Isn't that... sad?  I, as have other of Bryan's friends, have encouraged him to give his father time.  I truly believe that his father (as well as his mother) are about to embark on an incredibly eye-opening journey.  It will be journey of love, of sacrifice, of anger, of hatred, of God, etc...

At the end of the day, they will discover that they cannot simply love their son partially; they will need to love their son wholly.  They will understand that if they want their "favorite" son to remain in their lives, they will need to not only make peace with this, but make peace with their own foundation of religiosity.  I'm sure this has shaken them to the core already, but I keep insisting Bryan document their adventure because it will be a fantastic and awe-inspiring ride for all of them.  As an aside, I think it might also be a great idea for them to read my book, "How I Learned To Smile From The Inside".  

This text exchange was a few days ago.  Apparently, since the above email, his father has continuously expressed his undying and eternal love for Bryan via telephone, messages, texts, and emails.  For this reason alone, I remain completely optimistic that his parents will indeed need time to process, but tin order to have their son in their lives, intimately close to them, they will do whatever it takes.  I'm sure of it!  

Remember this story when you go to sleep tonight.  Remember to love everyone in your life for who they are.  Be grateful.  Be compassionate.  Be forgiving.  Be inspired.  AND Inspire others to do the same.


FINAL THOUGHTS:
1)  My apologies about the blogging every other week over the past two months.  I have been busy writing and crafting my draft proposal for my third book.
2) The draft proposal will be done by this Friday.  Wish me luck!
3)  With the above story, I am excited to hear updates and will update you periodically, when updates are available or given to me.

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A Smile From The Inside Production :)