Category Archives: Family

The Long Road to Where I Am–Part 3

I tell you what: I can hold a grudge. And, not just the kind of grudge where you dislike someone, but can still be “friends.” I’m talkin’ ’bout the kind of grudge where it is impossible to even look at the person, much less, talk to them. For example, when I was in high school, I didn’t talk to my “best friend” Danny for over a year because of a fight we had over a piece of gum and a girl. Not my most mature moment, but come on, I was a teenager.

Forgiveness has not really ever been something that came naturally for me. I can hold a grudge for so long that I forget the most important part of a grudge–the why. I just know that I am mad at you, and that’s that. So there it is, just put on your big girl panties and deal with it. I will forget this, but I sure as hell won’t forgive it.

But, as difficult as it is for me to do, I just have to do it. Because as long as you don’t forgive, you hold onto all of that shit. And, my mind is crowded enough as is, so, I can’t afford to be a pack rat. I believe that a good mental spring cleaning begins with forgiveness.

For me, this process starts by not allowing silly situations to escalate to the point where they need forgiveness. My mantra these days really has become: be kind, be generous, be honest…be kind, be generous, be honest… And, I have been using it often. I tend to need a lot of reminders. So, when someone is acting like a real jackass I start chanting the mantra (…to myself, of course. I don’t want to come across as the head case I really am…) And, it really works! Instead of my usual gut reaction of holding a grudge and not talking, I press through and communicate. Nine times out of ten I discover that they are not a real jackass at all. They were just giving their gut reaction to the situation. One out of ten people really are jackasses, which is fine. I just don’t have room for them in my life.

I also have been working on cleaning out the dusty corners of my mental attic. This requires forgiving people that didn’t even know I was holding a grudge–including myself. Doing all of this has freed me up to simply live in the now. It makes it easier to revisit the past when I don’t have all of these pent up negative emotions still attached to everything. I can start to enjoy the humor in it all.

So, this is the last in this series of serious posts. They may not have been the most exciting articles to read, but, I had to write them. If you’re gonna read my blog, you’re gonna get the good, the bad, and the ugly… 😉

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The Long Road to Where I Am–Part 2

It’s been over a week since my last post. I have been working way too much. I am finding that these posts in my “The Long Road to Where I Am” series are both difficult and important for me to create. Meaning, they take a lot out of me, but I need to say these things. These “things” have been brewing for a long time and need to be expressed. I appreciate the response that I have received following my first post…keep those comments coming.

I want to clarify a few things, however. The last post dealt a lot with my journey through college. I would like to clarify where I am…now. First, I am no longer trying to de-gayify myself. It’s not possible. And, more importantly–even if it were possible–I have no desire to do that. I would even take it as far as saying that I was wrong for even trying to do that to myself in college. However, I do still believe the whole process of going through that made me stronger and more sure of myself. So, maybe I did need to go through it. Who knows…

Although I still consider my college days a struggle, I no longer consider being gay a sin. In fact, I no longer even think of my actions in those terms–sin vs. not a sin. My morality is not based on the Bible or any particular religious group. It is based on proven human experience. For example, murder is wrong because it has consistently been proven harmful to society (not to mention the individual being murdered). This is just one example. To avoid getting too philosophical, which may be too late at this point, I am going to move on. Which is where I am right now. The whole purpose of writing about my experiences is about moving on. I am mostly choosing to view that time of my life through humor. Because in life you have several choices: you can laugh, you can cry, or you can kick someone. And, right now, I am choosing to laugh.

My mantra has become “be honest, be honest, be honest.” And so, when I reflect on certain things in college, I have to say that I was a flaming queen. Very effeminate. At least that is what I was told my freshman year. And, when I watch the videos, I think I have to agree. You see, I was part of a touring music group called Impact Brass & Singers. We performed multi-media programs that consisted of a mixture of songs, skits, and slides (set to the music). Kind of like “Up With People.” It was during a rehearsal my first year, that one of the directors pulled me aside and said, “Brother, you are doing a good job, but can you tone it down a little. You are being a little too effeminate.” Whaaaaaat? (for the appropriate effect read that with a rising screech, a hand to your chest, a hand on your hip…get the picture??)

I worked really hard from that moment until the moment I began to come out at being masculine. (i.e.-lowering my voice, watching my hand gestures, trying not to purse my lips…) I am happy to say that I no longer edit myself like that. It does make for a much happier me. But, anyway, while we’re on the topic, I would like to discuss this a little further. It is interesting to me that although I hate the f-word, (no…not “fuck”… you dirty birdies. ;-)) there is a reason I was called the f-word a lot in high school. To those misguided homophobes, I was a fag. The interesting part is the denial of this on both sides of the fence. First, there was the my self-denial. Me trying not to be gay, “I can’t be gay,” etc. etc. And, then, there was the denial from my friends and family. Oh, Tyler….he’s just a special, sensitive, creative type…he couldn’t be a homosexual. Oh, but he could…and he is

This all supports my theory that people will believe what they want to believe. Despite all evidence to the contrary. And, you can’t really change that. They have to change it. Just like I had to change my beliefs about being gay. The perfect example of this is my family. When I came out to them, I told myself that it took me 24 years to come to terms with being gay; so, I would have to give them some time as well. And after almost ten years, they are in a much better place with it. I think most importantly, they actually believe it is true, finally.

Although, I am sensitive and creative, that’s not the only reason that I enjoy to watch Lifetime, television for women (and gay men), and I have a special affinity for musical theater…

The Long Road to Where I Am–Part 1

I have purposefully avoided blogging too much about my days at bible college. Or, about the process of my coming out. I know that a lot of people I went to school with read my blog. So, I’ve tried to avoid those subjects in order to make most everyone happy. But, I have to be honest, my college days not only were rife with personal strife; but also, they were rife with some seriously funny shit. Well, at least, it’s funny nowto me…anyway. And, I will get to that funny shit in future posts. I’m sorry to offend anyone. But, I’m writing these blogs more for myself than anyone else. 😉 I’m happy if you enjoy them, but this is therapeutic for me. And, I’ve got to tell ya that I love therapy. Sometimes…anyway.

Therapy for me is all about growth and self-improvement. And, I’ve always been a bit obsessed about self-improvement. I love the “idea” of becoming a “better me.” Despite all of my best intentions, though, I haven’t always been that good at actually seeing certain things through. For example, my bookshelves are full of self-help books. I especially love the “…for Dummies” series. I have “Nutrition for Dummies;” “Bartending for Dummies;” “MySpace for Dummies,” etc. etc. Most of them, as you might suspect, have been only partially read. I have ordered “life-changing” products from numerous infomercials. All of which, either have been thrown away, or are still in a corner waiting for that special day, when I will finally discover with great confidence that they do not solve my issues with working out. I haven’t truly succeeded in most of these attempts at improving myself–except for one. And, I feel like it’s the one that matters the most to me. I, with great effort, have come to terms with myself. Meaning…I love me for who I am.

It was several trips to a therapist during my fourth year of college that changed everything for me. I decided to go to a local pastor who was also a licensed therapist. You see, this was when I still believed that a person could change their sexual orientation. Let me clarify–I never have believed that being gay is a choice. Even while I was trying to change it, I didn’t believe that I chose it. Put the “nature vs. nurture” argument aside. Either way, I did not choose my sexual orientation. But, I used to believe that with enough prayer and counseling, it could be changed. Which is why I went to this particular therapist. I can’t say that I regret going; because, my few sessions with him really were a turning point for me. Obviously, this is not what he intended to do.

I don’t need to rehash my short stint in homosexual recovery. It should suffice to say that I have never felt worse about myself or about those around me than while I was with that therapist. Although, it did take me a little longer to officially come out, that was the last straw. It was after my second session with this pastor that I realized I wanted and needed to love myself. And, in order to do that, I had to be true to all of myself–which included being gay.

It’s also taken me a long time to admit it, but, I don’t regret going to bible college. I did for a long time, though. I’ve always thought that I would have been so much better off at a regular school–not having to “go through” all of that personal turmoil. I now believe that the experience of being a closeted gay man in that environment, although being tumultuous and painful, eventually made me stronger and more sure of myself. And, I should thank Ozark Christian College for that.

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4-H, 4-You! 4-America! 4-H!

Picture this. July, 1985. The height of the Reagan Era. “Like A Virgin” and “Careless Whisper” topped the pop music charts. The Marion County Fair was in its prime. And, it was the end of farming for yours truly.

I must say that as a gay kid growing up in rural Iowa, I did the best that I could. While I would have rather been in the house baking cookies and reorganizing my bedroom, I was out feeding the calves and “walking” the electric fence. (farming 101–the electric fence surrounded the pasture where the cattle grazed–we had to make sure no weeds were touching the fence…) I spent most of my chore time talking and singing to myself, unaware that anyone could possibly hear me. My point is, I would have rather been indoors.

Each summer me, my three siblings, and our “prize” heifers (farming 101a–heifers are young, female cows) would make the trip to the Marion County Fair. What a nightmare. I hated this time of year more than anything. It meant hours upon hours of washing, combing, training, feeding our “prize” heifers for the competition. And, I usually approached it with the excitement one usually reserves for root canals. That is, until the 1985 Marion County Fair.

I decided that for this year, I was done taking last place. I was a winner and the judges somehow continually misjudged me. Ok. I’m not fooling anybody. I was the least interested of my siblings in this bullshit (pun intended); and so, I always got the runt of the heifers. One year, I actually was given a deformed calf. Her name was Martha, and she was born with her head on sideways (seriously). Needless to say, Martha didn’t live long enough to even make it to the fair, but my point is clear.

However, there was one prize I could take: The Marion County Fair, Dairy Division, Livestock Showmanship Award. The title alone made me twirl and giggle with glee. And, the thought of that trophy in my bedroom simply made me gitty. I was already redecorating my bedroom around it. This award was given to the one individual who took the best care of their heifer during the week of the fair. I just had to do the best job of shoveling poop. It was as good as mine.

So, during the fair, when I would have normally been spending every waking moment on the carnival rides, allowing my heifer to starve; I went crazy shoveling poop. If my heifer even looked like she was going to poop, I was there waiting to catch it in my shovel. I was a farming rockstar.

It was no surprise that I took last place in the actual competition. But, my showmanship trophy would be given to me on Friday at the end of the fair. When I wasn’t hovering behind my heifer, waiting for her to defecate; I was practicing my surprised reactions for when I was announced as the winner. I also was taking note of my competition. There wasn’t any. Simply no one was spending nearly the amount of time with their heifer that I was. No one.

The moment finally arrived for me to accept my award. The 4-H Superintendant of the Dairy Barn gathered everyone together to make the big announcement. After making the standard announcements, she finally got to the point. “The Marion County Fair, Dairy Division, Livestock Showmanship Award” goes to… I could feel myself get light-headed. And, I think that I actually blacked-out for a few moments, because I didn’t hear her say my name. I didn’t hear her say anyone’s name. I just saw some dumb-ass loser kid walking up to take my trophy.

What happened next will go down in the Marion County 4-H program history books. It was also when I learned how to make a dramatic exit. I couldn’t control what happened next. It just happened. I wailed. Literally. This shriek of horror escaped my lungs as I turned and ran. Straight to our fold-down camper. I cried so hard and for so long that my parents actually had to get the Dairy Superintendant to come to the camper and console me. She gave me some lame reason why we are all winners…but, it didn’t matter, though, it was just confirmation of what I already knew…I was not a farmer.

I don’t know if it was from embarassment or pity, but, my parents never really pushed me to do anything 4-H-related again. And, when my parents sold our dairy operation several years later, I knew it was because I was secretly willing all of those cows to break out through the electric fence and never return.

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@$%#!

My entire family lives in Iowa. Mostly around Pleasantville. And you guessed it… the name says it all! I think that still is the town of 1,500’s motto. Go Trojans! Anyway, that’s what it was 15 years ago when I left.

As much as I like to poke fun at my hometown, it is an essential part of my story. You can’t really know me until you know that I grew up on a dairy farm in rural Iowa. And, really, it explains a lot. For instance, growing up on the farm explains why I can curse like a farmer. I heard words from my frustrated, farmer father that would shock sailors.

To take this a step further, I think that farmers are much more creative in their swearing. For instance, while your average cusser might say, “You fucking bastard,” which does have a nice punch to it; a farmer would say, “You pencil-dicked fuckwad.” Much more creative. Sometimes, a situation would require simply a list of all the curse words one could think of; for instance, when a cow would step on a farmer’s foot you might hear: “Fuck, you mother-fuckin’, son of a bitchin’, bastardless, chickenshit…shithead, damn it, shitfaced cow!” I’m not sure what some of that even means. I just knew to clear the area once the cursing list started.

My mother, on the other hand, was a patriotic swearer. Her favorite phrase was, “Shit! Blessed America!” or just “Blessed America!” Me, however–I have taken to using biblical references such as: “Son of a bitch, Zaccheus, and all the Apostles, too. Damn it.” I have been known to also give Jesus Christ several various middle initials. (i.e. H. F. T.) I guess the middle initial just takes it up a notch. Which initial I give just depends on how pissed off I am.

I have always been curious about cuss words. True story. When I was about 10, I was still a cussing virgin. So, I went into the bathroom, locked the door, stared into the mirror, and said, “fuck.” Scandalous. I had essentially popped my cursing cherry. And, it was all over. I was a closeted swearer from then on. I have always been well-behaved in public. It is the other side of growing up on a farm–learning manners. But, when alone, I practiced it intensely.

I do think that I have a thorough curse word vocabulary. However, I am always interested in adding new phrases to my repertoire. I also like the funny phrases that people have created to use as alternatives. Like saying, “Shut the front door!” instead of “Shut the fuck up!”

So, if you haven’t been too offended to read this far and are willing to share some of your most creative phrases… fuck it…let’s hear ’em. Come on, I know you want to share…leave a comment. Let’s see who has the most creative cursing vocabulary!

The Social Life of my Grandma

I adore my grandmother. (G-ma, as I call her) I really do. She was a huge influence on me while I was growing up. Strike that. She still is a huge influence on me. Because frankly, she has taught me that I still am growing up.

This is probably my favorite thing about G-ma. She doesn’t subscribe to the notion that one is growing until they reach the top of “the hill,” and then they preceed to start dying for the remaining 40+ years of their life. She always lives her life like she hasn’t reached the pinnicle yet.

Now, to paint a better picture of G-ma, I should mention that she isn’t one for sitting around her house waiting for her family to stop by so that she can impart her wisdom. No. She imparts her wisdom by living her life. After her first husband (my grandpa) died, she kept living. She went to hockey games with her friends. She took trips to Mexico with her friends. She just kept enjoying life. And, she was open to another relationship–even after 40+ years of marriage to the same man. When her second husband of 10 years passed away, she still believed that life wasn’t over just yet. She is currently dating another wonderful man.

I went down to South Texas last December to visit her where she stays for the winter. And let me just say, I was amazed by what I experienced. These people (mostly 60+) were living just like a bunch of 20 year olds. It was truly incredible. For the four days I was there, I went to 4 “jam sessions” where they “hang out” and dance and sing and eat and “goof off.” Yes, 80 year olds goofing off. I also went about town meeting all of G-ma’s friends. We ate. We shopped. We ate. We shopped. I was totally and completely worn out. Yet, it was a life-changing time for me.

I realized that life is not over ’til it’s over. A lot of things can go wrong in life. You can achieve your goals. You can survive your losses. But, most importantly you can choose to keep existing or you can choose to keep living. G-ma’s choice is clear.

I want to be just like G-ma when I get to my eighties. Well, with one qualification. I probably won’t wear any cute matching denim outfits set off by a nice shade of lipstick and a dark brown perm. But, then again, I just might.