Abortion and a Woman’s Prerogative

May 19, 2019

Culture and Society / Intention

First, I want to make a clear disclaimer. Biologically speaking, I was born a male, and since then, I have identified as such. This is largely the lens through which I see the world. I have no idea what it feels like to be pregnant and give birth to a child. I have never experienced the discrimination that women face on a daily basis.

I am making this disclaimer because this post outlines my feelings about abortion. My opinion should matter significantly less than those of women. Nonetheless, this blog is my personal forum to share my views. In light of the recent developments in Alabama and other states, it is a good time to outline my thoughts on this issue.

Here are my main points:

  • The decision to have an abortion should be a woman’s prerogative. It is her body and her life that will be impacted the most. She should also get to decide whose concerns she will consider, whether they are from the father of the fetus, her family, her faith community, or none of the above. The woman steers this ship. Everyone else follows her lead and respects whatever decision she makes.
  • A pregnant woman should have a right to choose whether or not to have an abortion. This means that it should be legal to the fullest extent of the law.
  • An abortion should be an opportunity to support a woman’s well-being, instead of demonizing her with judgment, bible-thumping, and opportunistic propaganda.

I am well aware of the concerns people raise about advocating for the unborn child and the finer details of what constitutes a living being somewhere amidst the moment of conception and a full-term birth. However, above all of this, I still believe the decision must be made by the woman, and we as a society need to be supportive of her whether she chooses abortion or not.

People also seem to forget that the right to choose an abortion does not negate the right to give birth. There are now numerous cases in which a woman decided to go through with the pregnancy and either keep the child or pursue adoption. The right to choose offers some degree of balance between what stands at opposite ends of this divide. It does not have to be an all-or-nothing proposition.

For that matter, if a woman chooses to have the baby, we need to be able to offer the resources and support (financial and otherwise) for her to raise the child if she chooses. This means full support from the father, the families involved, the community at large, and our government. After birth, this is not always the case, and this is a big part of the problem. Deadbeat dads, poverty, sufficient healthcare, and lack of family support are among the many issues that arise when a woman decides to give birth.

Lastly, the male policymakers in government need to understand that this is a woman’s rights issue. Why are men deciding what is best for women and their bodies? How can men offer better support for women and their reproductive rights? Severely limiting their options is not a solution.

I cannot imagine the emotional toll that this decision has on a woman. She has to weigh her personal feelings against a society that has already judged her and expects too much.

Let the woman decide is what I say. If she chooses abortion, that is her right. If she chooses to give birth, then the rest of us need to come up with the goods to make sure that both momma and baby will be okay.


PS: Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.

Observations of Light, Part 2

January 30, 2019

Culture and Society

Date of Observance: August 31, 2018
Time of Day: 4:15 PM
Location: Front Deck of Home in Liberty, TN
Conditions: Mostly Cloudy with Patches of Blue

 Up in the sky, there is a huge grayish-white cloud that is slowly meandering north and only small patches of blue surrounding it. I look around me for the sun, but I cannot find it. I suspect that it is hidden behind the small mountain behind us. The light everywhere is diffused. There are no distinct shadows to be seen. As I sit on my front deck, the typically well-defined shadow that my two-story house casts on the ground is nowhere to be found.

The colors everywhere also seem to be a bit muted. The green trees in the tall hills around my house look darker and duller than usual. The flowers in our garden and in the potted plants on our deck do not look as vibrant as they usually are. We have flowers in all kinds of colors this time of year in various shades of reds, yellows, purples, and burgundy, but they do not pop out like they usually do right now.

I look up in the sky again to see that the big grayish-white cloud has moved further north and has allowed a little more blue to be seen overhead. I notice that more sunlight has hit the ground. The yellow flowers in particular have gained back some of their natural shine. In the distance, I can suddenly see two yellow butterflies fluttering side by side among small trees along our driveway. It is surprising that I did not notice their delicate dance before. The other colors in our garden have not changed that much, but the yellow is clearly more luminous now.

Overhead, other smaller clouds along with patches of blue take center stage above my home. The colors and the light around me change very little as everything else stays calm and still. The air feels dry, and it is neither hot nor cold as I face this quiet and tempered wilderness.

Observations of Light, Part 1

January 10, 2019

Creative Writing

There is a light breeze in the air as rain falls at a steady pace from the sky. It is not a torrential downpour but more like a slightly frenzied drizzle. I can see the raindrops, like tiny flashes of dampened light, as they plummet down. Clouds completely blanket the sky overhead, vanquishing any hope of blue being seen. I look out into the distant hills. Layers of fog gently thicken around them, similar to the way condensation saturates a window and blurs the colors behind it. The hills are more grey than green, and with each passing second, I see the fog stretching closer toward me, each tree and hillside succumbing to the graceful slumber that it gives.

Despite the cover of clouds above the land, the trees and gardens surrounding my home are surprisingly vivid and bright in color. Perhaps there is only a thin layer of heavy clouds that cannot keep the late golden hour light from seeping through, or maybe the drops of rain across every surface give off a reflective translucence.  I would like to think that a combination of these factors is at play. Seeing such luminosity on a cloudy and rainy afternoon seems like an impossible gift. This gift is a soft glow of light that seems to bounce off of the approaching fog and every leaf and flower soaking up the rain. This is something I would not have noticed if I had not taken the moment and the stillness to see it.

A somber day encroaches upon a hungry wilderness that is feasting on much needed rain and coming alive. With the saturation of rain comes the saturation of color. The rich lushness of it all, fending off the dwindling end-of-day light and the ambitious fog, is so beautiful.

Trust Yourself

December 16, 2018

Culture and Society / Intention

Do you often second guess a thought or feeling that you have only to find out that your initial deduction was spot on? I have done this many times, and I am not sure why. The more I think about it, the more I feel that I am often generally inclined to be accommodating toward others even if it is at the expense of my own well being and desires. As a result, I tend to discount my own genuine feelings of discomfort, doubt, and being hurt. 

What’s up with that?

Well, I do not like being selfish or to be perceived as such, but maybe I need to adjust my thinking. Advocating for my own feelings is not selfishness. If anything, it is an act of self-preservation and protection. Nonetheless, I acquiesce far more often than I need to.  In the end, I may wind up unhappy and feeling that my own needs and desires were not met.

Okay, so how do I change this? How do I trust my own instincts better and not default to discounting them? Here are some steps I am willing to try out as often as possible:

  1. Observe the situation carefully and with minimal hesitation.
  2. Discern and acknowledge my own immediate impressions and feelings.
  3. State my impressions clearly in my head.
  4. Figure out the best course of action that advocates for my needs without infringing unnecessarily on the needs of others.

There is an old adage (or cliché as some might see it) that says, “To thine own self be true.”

This statement speaks to the value and active practice of trusting your own instincts and intuition. This is possibly the best way to develop and build the wisdom upon which you can build your life.

Perhaps in my case, there is a deeper underlying factor that prevents me from trusting myself more. I have no idea what that is, but my intuition tells me that I need to change this regardless of whatever that reason may be.

I will follow that internal directive from now on as much as possible. I do not want to constantly sacrifice and compromise my own needs in favor of others. This is not fair to me, and my needs have immense value.

 Maybe part of this lack of trust in myself stems from a need to be kind and generous to others. This is all well and good, but by the same token, I need to be kind and generous to myself as much as possible.

If you struggle with trusting your instincts, you are not alone. It is tricky to hone something as intangible as this in which your frame of mind and feelings need to be assessed as objectively and lovingly as possible.

Nonetheless, this is a practice worth exercising. If you cannot advocate for your own feelings and well being, no one else truly will. You are your own best defense.

Trust yourself. The kindness, comfort, and peace of mind you receive as a result will be yours for the taking.


Learning How to Relax

December 11, 2018

Culture and Society / Intention

As it turns out, I am not good at relaxing. It’s taken me a long time to come to terms with this reality, but it is true. I am the kind of person who has an endless curiosity to try new things, a lot of fulfilling projects, and no shortage of responsibilities. My life has been even more hectic now that I am currently a college student. My mind defaults to the next assignment due or the looming exam. This is a challenging way to live, but it is what I have chosen.

So then, how in the world do I get better at relaxing? Here are the facts:

  • I do not like watching a lot of tv.
  • I am an introvert.
  • My mind is constantly thinking about school and/or creative projects.

In this modern day and age, watching a tv show or movie for hours on end is the mode of relaxation for many people. I get it. It is escapism in its easiest and most accessible form. We are currently in a new golden age of television due to the wealth of quality programming being produced. My problem with this form of media consumption is not only how sedentary it is but ultimately how disempowering it is as well. If the vast majority of your daily life is spent sitting down and watching something in front of a screen, what have you actually done with your life? If you add up all of the hours spent watching other people do something with their lives, what could you have done with yours? Write a book? Spend more time with friends and family? Exercise and take care of yourself? Meditation? Ride a bike out in the world? Learn a new language? Learn to play a new instrument? The possibilities are staggeringly endless.

This is why I cannot fathom watching tv as a form of relaxation. It is inactive consumption that is highly addictive.  I watch some shows once in a while, but there is too much to watch for someone who has a lot he wants to do.

Going out with friends is often a challenge for me. Don’t get me wrong.         I love hanging out with friends, but it stands at the opposite end of the spectrum from television. I like to be fully present with people and have engaging conversations. After a while, this is over-stimulation that leaves me a bit exhausted. As an introvert, being by myself always feels better overall.

Well then, obviously relaxation for me does not mean watching television and hanging out with friends.  So now what? Maybe I need to think about simplifying and scaling down what I do to relax. What are activities that require little thought and effort but make me feel good?

  • Playing piano.
  • Napping.
  • Cuddling with my cat.
  • Going for a walk.
  • Riding my bicycle.

Honestly, I started to write “drawing”, “photography”, “writing”, and “reading books”. These activities are certainly  fun and enjoyable, but they require a degree of focus and intention that is not exactly relaxing.  In any case, I need to equate relaxing with simplicity and minimal engagement.

This is a start anyway, but I’ll keep you all updated on my journey of relaxation. I am doing this because I am wary of burnout both as a student and as a creative person. Moments of disengagement, absolute stillness, and rest for the mind have immense value.

As I type this, I am in Sarasota, Florida for some time to visit family and to relax. The beach is calling my name. I need to get on that.

More soon.


Give Compassion to Difficult People

December 2, 2018

Culture and Society / Intention

What I am writing about this week is not the easiest practice to exercise, but incrementally, I have found it to be a practice in personal wellness with long-term benefits that far exceed the discomfort it creates.

When you are dealing with a difficult person, see and do first through a lens and intention of compassion.

I have come across numerous instances in my life in which people have given me a hard time. Whether it was intentional on their part or not, they became a source of frustration, anger, and resentment. I have led projects in which someone would constantly challenge my authority and speak up about every little thing I said. Other times, people with volatile emotional struggles have derailed plans or made a gathering unbearable. Sometimes, there are just people who are difficult because it is partly in their nature.

This has been a struggle for me, but I have been practicing being compassionate when I come across someone like that. Maybe they are having a bad day or week. Perhaps they may be dealing with a difficult physical condition or did not get enough sleep.  Maybe they’re constipated?

Whatever the reason, compassion starts with a place of empathy and grows from there. If we could try to understand where they are coming from, we can not only gain insight toward a better way to proceed, but we can also start to unload feelings of anger or frustration in a more productive way.

There is, however, one caveat I must throw in. Being compassionate will not necessarily solve anything. The person may continue to be difficult, and there may not be a workable solution whatsoever. In those instances, you have to maintain your own sense of self-respect and uphold your end of the deal regardless of whatever drama may ensue. It may even be helpful to just be honest about your feelings after a good dose of compassion is doled out.

Either way, at some point it becomes clear that the person in question does not have the wherewithal to understand how their actions and words affect others no matter what you do. In those instances, project yourself, keep lines of communication clear and open, and try as best as you can to minimize the fallout. If he/she crashes and burns, they do not have to take the whole ship down with them.

If you color all of your actions with compassion, you give yourself the opportunity to consider the perspective of the difficult person. Being human, we may sometimes be blind to the struggles and circumstances of others, and compassion allows us to account for this.

What I have found as a result of being more compassionate toward others is a significant amount of reduced stress and anxiety. Instead of being reactionary and on the angry offensive, I exercise more patience to let others work themselves and their personal dramas out.  This also allows me to free myself of constantly taking on responsibility for the actions and mistakes of others. If I take the time to understand the source of someone’s behavior, it helps me see when undesirable outcomes have nothing to do with me. After the twelfth time that someone fails to keep up with their responsibility and several attempts at trying to help that person, you can let yourself and your compassion off the hook. The rest is on them.

So, just think about it. If there is someone in school or at your workplace who rubs you the wrong way or antagonizes you, approach them with compassion and a solid dose of your own self-respect. Maybe you will find your own epiphany from the interactions.

Whatever happens, compassion is a true act of kindness, and we can use a whole lot more kindness in the world today.



My Misgivings about the Thanksgiving Holiday

November 25, 2018

Culture and Society / Intention

This past Thanksgiving holiday was far from a traditional one for me. On Wednesday, Nov. 22, I started to feel sick. The upper part of my mouth and my throat started to feel tender. This is a feeling I generally get when something is coming over me. A failed attempt at heading to Nashville on Wednesday due to the strange behavior of our van threw me over the edge. I was to be bedridden for the following 24 hours. This effectively eliminated my Thanksgiving plans with my family.

While drinking plenty of fluids and floating in and out of a Nyquil-induced sleep, I could not help but contemplate the meaning of Thanksgiving. For me, the best parts include spending time with family that I do not get to see as often now that I live an hour away and am a full-time college student, as well as  the waves of gratitude and the glorious bounty of delicious food. This is where my warm and fuzzy feelings toward this holiday ends. They are far outweighed by my misgivings. I have a few of those.

Ok, bring out the bullet points:

  • We cannot forget the slaughtering of MILLIONS of Native Americans. In the history books I read growing up, Thanksgiving represented the cooperation and friendliness between European settlers/colonialists and indigenous tribes of the continental US. They all came together to share a large meal. What history books fail to mention is that all of America was savagely taken from Native American tribes with brute force and inhumane cruelty. I cannot resolve this in my head.
  • The blatant commercialism of the holiday promotes greed and materialism. Not only do people spend a ton of money buying turkey and food for a huge meal, but there is immense pressure to spend money on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. America has figured out a way to monetize what is supposed to be a time of sharing and togetherness. This world is bullshit.
  • The strains of salmonella found in turkeys, not to mention the chemicals used to fatten them up, are dangerous to your health. Here is an enlightening article from the Organic Consumers Association:  What Turkey Producers Don’t Want You To Know

More than any other American holiday, Thanksgiving has become increasingly cringe-worthy with each passing year. It is difficult to resolve these serious misgivings that I have.

Nonetheless, the holiday creates a time for me to commune with family and to give thanks for the many joys and gifts we have in our lives. There is still immense value in this.

I want to figure out a way to balance out and acknowledge the truths behind this annual occasion. Perhaps next year, without being sick, I will do something different.



Authenticity In the Age of Social Media

November 18, 2018


I do it. Lots of people do it. When you are scrolling through your gallery of photos, you decide to post the most flattering photo or the one that lets you show off a little on Facebook or Instagram.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with this, but what if we did the reverse? What does that mean? What if we posted the most unflattering photo? Or what if we were not so selective about what we chose to share?

What would that look like?

Perhaps its not so much about the image itself and more about our perceptions of the ways it would be received.  Perhaps it is our reluctance against being so vulnerable on such a public forum.

There are many valid reasons for only showing the good and beautiful stuff on social media. Maybe you have a brand for an online business that you are cultivating.  On some level, maybe it is a way to maintain a sense of privacy and personal safety–where the edge of what is presentable becomes the border at which you need to feel more protected and contained.

That is okay.

What I am suggesting is a willingness to be more real. Amid all of the fun vacation photos taken in exotic locales, the food and party pics, adorable baby pictures, and the scenic vistas of our hometowns, what if we could think about how we can be more honest and authentic about presenting who we are?

In the greatest likelihood, this would not be easy for the bulk of us who are not independently wealthy or do not look like a statuesque supermodel or live in a spacious, camera-ready mansion. Why should we only do things because they are easy? Sometimes, exploring our own discomfort can expand the possibilities of what we can do in our lives.

The benefit of authenticity is the personal strength you gain in your willingness to be vulnerable.

Vulnerability is power, even though it may not feel that way. That’s exactly what it is. When you are willing to be honest about your life, you are demanding that the world accept you for who you are and not for who they want you to be. There is immense power in this.

Yesterday, my post on social media was a step toward being more authentic to everyone who sees my feed. This is what it said:

“I’ve always been short and almost always in the minority in a group or a crowd. I’ve had problems with acne and the scars to prove it. I have an underbite and a slightly lazy eye (if you look closely). My left leg is slightly longer than my right. I have compared the color of my eyes and skin to the color of poop. (Not my shining moment.) I have many excuses for thinking that I’m not wholesome, beautiful, or good enough for anything, but I’m getting to a place in which I don’t believe any of it. I’m just going to focus on being actively kind to myself and to as many people as possible. I’m going to focus on doing creative work that is meaningful to me. I’m going to let the inside out because therein lies the true value of what I have to give. As for what’s on the outside? Well, I understand that I have no control over the way people judge me based on how I look. I will let go of that as much as my insecurities will let me, and I’ll be just fine.”


After I published this, nothing terrible happened. In fact, I received some lovely and affirming responses.  My world did not implode. My arm did not acquire leprosy and fall off.  I feel fine.

Maybe that’s the point. Quite possibly, the greatest challenge involved in being more authentic and vulnerable is the fear we harbor inside ourselves.

So, just think about it. You can still post all that is beautiful and sweet and blissful about your life, but don’t be afraid to share the less wholesome or less acceptable parts too–at least once in a while. There may be tremendous value in what you learn by doing so.

I move forward now with being more authentic on social media in the ways that I am authentic when people see me as I am in real life and in real time.

Ultimately, the truth of who I am is the most beautiful part of it all.


Living a Life of Curiosity

November 11, 2018


Sometimes, I find myself asking the darnedest questions, such as .  .  .

Why in the world did I go back to college?

Why in tarnation did I decide to major in video and film production when I already have a strong set of writing and musical skills to build upon?

Why in the world did I leave a cute apartment in a great location in Nashville to live in a cold hollow in the middle of the Tennessee woods?


Well generally, there are no simple answers to these queries, but they all point to one word.


I have always been an incredibly curious person. This is the reason and circumstance behind why and how I became an active musician and pianist. Originally, I did not know that I could develop my skills to the extent that I have. One night, I was sitting in my apartment writing a poem, as one does, and the thought occurred to me that this particular poem would sound great as a song. So, I dusted off my old keyboard synthesizer, and with the poem written on a sheet of paper in front of me, I started fiddling around with a melody.

About an hour later, I had the basic musical framework of a song. Each step along this process was lead by the words “What if .  .  .” 

What if I tried this chord?

What if I added a line to the end of each verse?

What if I sustained this note or that vocal phrase?

Each “What if” led to another one. This flowing stream of curiosity led me to discover skills that I never used in tandem. I integrated my singing experience (of having sung harmonies in numerous church choirs growing up), my writing ability (that involved a love of writing poems, short stories, and essays), and my musical ability of being able to remember anything that I play and to play by ear. Fast forward to many years later, and I have enjoyed the life of an active musician. There is a certain satisfaction in trying out a new skill only to find out that you can actually be good at it, but you never know until you try.

What if there is something more I want to learn?

What if I find opportunities I never knew existed?

What if I found true love?

In my life, pursuing my curiosity has meant having the willingness to take a chance at an opportunity even if you are uncertain about the outcome. It has also meant having the willingness to be vulnerable.


I will not stop being curious any time soon. Here are some of the more recent darnedest questions I’ve asked myself lately .  .  .

What if I directed a documentary about a topic I feel strongly about?

What if I stopped being so meek and started to speak out much more?

What if I dared to pursue some of my biggest dreams and ideas?

Cultivating your curiosity allows you to cultivate a sense of possibility.

Every accomplishment in life had to start somewhere, right?

What are you curious about?


My Perspective on the Politics of Elections

November 4, 2018

Culture and Society

Over the last two weeks, President Trump made two very big revelations related to his domestic agenda.

  1. A White House memo was supposedly leaked to clearly define male and female genders in a way that effectively eliminates considerations for transgender people.
  2. He wants to revoke citizenship from children born in the US whose parents are illegal aliens.

I do not think it is a coincidence that these intentions were revealed during the early voting time frame just before the midterm elections on Nov. 6. He’s rallying his base of conservative voters. This is what he does. He makes a few inflammatory claims that tip the balance in the minds of voters whose biases are easily impressionable.

This is the model for political rhetoric in the age of Trump. It has nothing to do with civil discourse, or civility for that matter. Divisiveness is now the name of the game. Trump’s modus operandi is to be so extreme that he’ll capture enough of the conservative vote to make a difference. It seems like a crazy strategy, but this is exactly what won Trump the presidency in the first place.

To make matters worse, this is the kind of behavior that gets higher ratings on tv and radio and more attention overall. News channels eat this up to gain  stronger viewership numbers, but this magnified coverage only serves to spread Trump’s agenda and grant him the attention he wants.

The media is ultimately playing into his hands, and millions of their viewers get exposed to Trump’s agenda.

I’ll be the first to admit that perhaps I might be oversimplifying all of this, but needless to say, the state of American politics feels like it is steadily sinking into a murky, smelly, and precarious place.

I know that there is no use in complaining, and so, I have some suggestions on how we can proceed during any and all highly contentious election periods.

  1. Understand how Trump operates. He makes divisive claims to help Republicans gain votes in order to retain his power in the US House of Representatives and the Senate.
  2. Claim responsibility. We all did this. Maybe we did not vote or pay attention enough. Maybe we did not speak as loud as we could. If we can recognize what we could have done in the past, we have a better idea of what more we can do moving forward.
  3. Modify how we consume news. The news media and its 24-hour news cycles have become part of the problem. There is so much commentary and propaganda going around that it is harder to make sense of it all. I propose that we all become more intentional about taking breaks from our news consumption. On a regular basis and for brief periods, turn off the radio or tv if the name Trump is mentioned. Take a mental break to gain some perspective. You have to quiet all of the other voices in order to truly hear your own.
  4. I have said this before, and I will say it again. Diversify your news sources. Between NPR, The New York Times, Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, CBS, and a whole slew of others, do not rely on only one perspective to get your news. Expose yourself to opposing viewpoints. Do the work to find multiple perspectives.
  5. Register to vote, and then vote AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE. If you are dissatisfied with the state of your municipality and community, it is important to note that it may be the result of years of electing ineffective leaders and politicians who are out of touch. Keep your registration current and plan on voting regularly and often. One election cycle with your preferred leadership winning may not be enough to start making significant changes. Think about electing a team of local and state leaders who share your sensibilities and priorities over the long haul. There can be numerous elected positions to vote for in your area such as city council members, sheriff, mayor, governor, and a whole slew of others. This is not easy to do, but there is no harm in trying.

More than anything, do everything you can to think for yourself and to cultivate your own opinions and viewpoints. Find your own voice among all of the grandstanding and hype and use it.

Do this with an awareness of the political climate we have evolved into.

If you know where you stand and you have actively educated yourself, no amount of intimidation, extremism, and propaganda can lead you astray.