Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Finding Jesus at the beach.


I haven't gone to church-church (aka mass) in about six months. Every Sunday that would roll around, I was either working my old retail job or visiting family or it just didn't seem right. 

My anxiety with large crowds is ever-present and even though mass itself is a welcoming, all-inclusive event, it can still be overwhelming to me. I feel worshiping God is a private, personal act. It can be hard focusing on Him when around so many others. 

I found the sermons to be lackluster and generic in their message. I'd be going through the motions of the mass but not connecting with what was being preached to me. And I got tired of going to church to pray for the same things. To finally meet someone, for something better in my life, etc, etc, blah, blah, blah. Certainly God knows what's in my heart by now. 

So over the summer, when my anxiety would get the better of me, and church wasn't an option, I'd go for a walk. I would walk along the lakefront path near where I live to the beach two neighborhoods north of me. I went once or twice a week, every weekend, usually as the sun would begin to set. 

It's about a forty-five minute trek and during that time I'd smile at the trees and tell the wildflowers along the path that they were beautiful. Cloud formations evolved overhead and cool breezes kissed my skin and I admired families being together in the distance. 

The destination always ended with me at the beach. I'd take my shoes off when I reached the sand and be born again once my feet touched the water. Mmmmmmm. A religious experience all its own. In the grandness of the lake and sky, there was a sense of something much bigger and more important than myself. 

If God made all of this, wouldn't it be logical that He'd be there too? 


Is this how the world was first formed? Wild waters rushing onto the land, waiting for life to begin. And when the waves would be especially rough and the sadness was with me, I'd think about the water pulling me in like Virginia Woolf, taking the never-ending lonely days with it. 

It was knowing His presence was there that kept me going. The colors changing in the evening sky, how the seagulls would perch on just one foot, the way sand formed plumes in the water when the waves hit the shore. 

Sometimes it would be too much and others not enough. Can you see why I kept going back week after week? It was calling to me. Sometimes I'd feel it so deeply during my walks, I'd yelp like an animal to try and get it out. 

Nature became my makeshift church, the birds and the cicadas and the children playing were the sermon, and I'd baptize myself in the healing lake again and again and again. 

As the weather continues to get cooler each month, I wonder what I'll do during the wintertime, when it'll be impossible to wade in the waters. When the snow and ice obscure the trails I walk along. Perhaps that's when I'll go back to church. You know...church-church.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Battle on, Auntie!!


Late last year our family found out my oldest aunt was diagnosed with uterine cancer. After having a hysterectomy to remove the tumor, my aunt started immunotherapy treatments in hopes of getting rid of the bit of cancer that remained. 

She started her treatments, in cycles, five months ago...and they've been working. 

Her doctor has been very pleased with the results and my aunt was even able to put some weight back on over time. 

"Those prayers are really working," my aunt said. 

My aunt's cancer markers (tests that show how much cancer remains) started out at 291, went down to 79 a couple months later, then dropped to 35. At the end of April (on my birthday), her marker levels were so low, the doctor said it's almost like being in remission. 

To celebrate these successes, I sent my aunt this Mail Art:

 Markers and ink on standard mailing envelope - 6 3/8" x 8 1/4"

The address side shows my aunt as Athena (the Greek goddess of warfare and wisdom) facing danger and heading off into battle. 


The back side of the envelope displays her Gorgon shield with her cancer markers ("battles") written in red. 

A tangible reminder of all that she's endured, survived, and overcome these past several months. 

When I saw her this past weekend, my aunt looked and acted like the clock had been set back five years, to her former self. 

My aunt starts her final immunotherapy cycle, three sessions each, this month. After that, the doctor will decide where to go from there (most likely a monthly maintenance treatment after that). 

I'm happy for her and proud of how far she's come. 

Victory is within reach.

Battle on, Auntie!!

Sunday, June 16, 2019

I hope you're happy.


When I arrived at the arts-and-crafts store late last month, the store manager unlocked the doors to let me in and said, "Today's my last day here." 

Turns out he was being transferred to another location that needed "fixing". He was told the news two days prior (naturally). 

Even though I gave a "soft" two-weeks notice before this and said I'd stay several weeks after that to help show him parts of my job, the store manager asked if I wanted to go ahead and make his last day my last too. I paused for a second and agreed. 

It wouldn't make sense for the new store manager to come on board only for me to introduce myself and tell her I'm leaving three weeks later. 

It was all a bit abrupt. I only got to say goodbye to those that were working that particular day but this way it's a clean break and there's no drawn-out goodbyes. 

I did tear up while gathering my things in my little office space. Nine years working in this place. It's the longest I've held a job and it'll be strange not being in that routine anymore. That's a long time to suddenly not be there, you know? 

It was a stressful, thankless job that I loathed (initially) but one I not only endured and survived but eventually mastered and excelled at. I saw old management who were nasty and downright mean to me, replaced with those that were much more appreciative and easier to work with. 

I outlasted three store managers, nine assistant store managers, and hundreds of staff that all came and went over the years. Only two coworkers remain that came before me. Everyone else started after me, eventually making me a senior member of the team. 

This song was recently playing on the overhead speakers. I felt it was the store singing goodbye to me but also me singing the song to myself:


Three part-time jobs becomes two once more and I now I have the weekends off. 

It took almost a decade, but I can finally say I'm free from retail!!

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Fourth time's a charm.


It was at my usual Sunday shift at the crafts store this past weekend. 

So much to do, so little time. And glitter. Lots of glitter. 

I walked up to my store manager and handed him a letter. 

"I think it's time, Brian," I said. 

"Is it?" he asked. Seeming to know what the note said before reading it, he added, "Awww man." 

It was my two-weeks' notice...again. 

Mind you, I gave the arts-and-crafts store my two weeks' notice four year ago and then two times more three years ago (here and here) but something or other always kept me there. *sigh* 

Fourth time's a charm, right? 

I cited the ever-increasing workload (online orders have recently boomed) as one of the reasons to finally call it quits. I've been working three jobs for the past four years and it'd be nice to have the weekends free once and for all and just take it easy. 

I've also turned 40 at the end of last month and I made a commitment to myself to start creating art again. The extra free time will help with that goal. 

And my aunt comes over to my mom's for lunch Sunday afternoons. Now I'll get to see her much more often (instead of just during holidays). With my aunt's recent health issues, extra time spent with her is more important than any dead-end job. 

I told the crafts store I'd stay until the end of next month so they'll have seven more Sundays with me should I need to show them how to do certain things and/or help train someone else. 

I feel a sense of relief mixed with sadness but at least it's official now. 

It took a few tries but I consider it two-weeks' notice several years in the making!

Thursday, February 14, 2019

(When you) love someone.


This blogpost is dedicated to all those you love! 

If you have someone special you get to be with on this day you are truly blessed. 

Happy (St.) Valentine's Day, everyone!!



"There are days 
I wake up and I pinch myself 
You're with me, not someone else 
And I am scared, yeah, I'm still scared 
That it's all a dream 

'Cause you still look perfect as days go by 
Even the worst ones, you make me smile 
I'd stop the world if it gave us time 

'Cause when you love someone 
You open up your heart 
When you love someone 
You make room 
If you love someone 
And you're not afraid to lose 'em 
You probably never loved someone like I do 
You probably never loved someone like I do 

When you say 
You love the way I make you feel 
Everything becomes so real 
Don't be scared, no, don't be scared 
'Cause you're all I need 

And you still look perfect as days go by 
Even the worst ones, you make me smile 
I'd stop the world if it gave us time 

'Cause when you love someone 
You open up your heart 
When you love someone 
You make room 
If you love someone 
And you're not afraid to lose 'em 
You probably never loved someone like I do 
You probably never loved someone like I do 

All I my life, I thought it'd be hard to find the one 'til I found you 
And I find it bittersweet 
'Cause you gave me something to lose 

But when you love someone 
You open up your heart 
When you love someone 
You make room 
If you love someone 
And you're not afraid to lose 'em 
You probably never loved someone like I do 
You probably never loved someone like I do 
You probably never loved someone like I do."

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Blue. Socks. Bed.


My aunt was released from the hospital on Christmas Eve.

She completed her physical therapy and got the okay to spend the holidays with family.

When we got her home, however, she was still quite weak and her mobility limited. She had trouble walking up steps, standing up from a chair, and even getting off the couch.

The realization she'd need assistance with the simplest of things--her independence compromised--was too much. My aunt broke down and started crying. "I feel like such a failure," she said.

I stayed with her for the next several days in case she felt unsteady or needed help getting around the house.

I reminded her that she just had surgery (a hysterectomy) less than two weeks prior and it will take time to get back to the way she was.

"You're only a failure if you stop trying," I told her.

Each day she became a bit stronger and more mobile.

She stood from the kitchen chair, was able to get up from the couch, and I even had her walk outside to the backyard each day to practice going up and down the steps. Little victories that added up.

When she was first admitted into the Physical Therapy wing (before being sent home), the nurse asked my aunt what her goal was.

"To be able to do things on my own. To be be independent."

As a reminder of that goal and of how far my aunt has come since the operation, I made this mail art for her...

Markers and ink on standard mailing envelope - 5" x 7"

What better message to send than the word "independent".

The backside!

To test her cognitive skills, the nurse gave my aunt three words to remember and then was asked what they were several minutes later. "Blue. Socks. Bed." I snuck those in on the envelope as well.

When I last saw my aunt (a couple weeks ago), she seemed in better spirits, had her old personality back, and appeared much stronger. "You look like how you were before the surgery," I told her.

Recovering from the surgery is just the first step though. Next will come treatment in the weeks ahead for the remaining cancer but I know my aunt can handle it.

I'm rooting for you, Auntie!!

Monday, December 31, 2018

Dreading the new year.


This is NOT how I wanted to return to blogging.

Late last month my oldest aunt had to go to the ER for severe abdominal pain. The doctors found a large mass in her uterus. Two weeks ago she had the surgery to remove the growth. It proved to be cancerous.

Thankfully the tumor hadn't spread. Most of it was removed except for a "thin skin" which doctors believe can be eradicated by a series of chemo treatments.

For right now we're focusing on her recovery. A hysterectomy is a major surgery for someone in their 70's. She needs to get her weight and strength back up first.

A dollar store trophy I jazzed up with paint for my aunt after her surgery

This will be one of the first times where I'm actually dreading the new year. Normally I'm happy to let go of the trials and tribulations of the current year for something better starting in January. Now it's the reverse.

What will the coming months bring for my aunt and our family? I do not think it will be easy. At all.

But all we can do is take it as it comes and pray for the best.

May 2019 be a year of hope, perseverance, and victory for us all!

Happy New Year, everyone!!

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Anywhere (away with you).


He drove 17 hours non-stop from his extended family in Orlando to see me.

How many men would do that? 

It was only seven days together but I miss him already. 

We bickered and differed on things but I think our connection grew even closer during his latest visit. Overall it was a loving, positive experience. 

He flew back to his home country over the weekend. What we’ve developed over the years always gets put on hold when he’s not here. Although I’m thankful for his friendship, it would be nice if we became more than this long-distance, on-and-off again friendship/more-than-friends thing. 

He talked about going back to school in Canada and starting a new life for himself there. How do I fit into that picture…if at all? 

Will all of this ever lead to something greater or am I ultimately wasting my time and consistently getting my hopes up? 

This song by Rita Ora was playing at Target the morning after he left:


“Time flies by when the night is young
 Daylight shines on an undisclosed location, location 
Bloodshot eyes lookin' for the sun 
Paradise we live it, and we called it a vacation, vacation 

You're painting me a dream that I 
Wanna belong in, wanna belong in

Over the hills and far away 
A million miles from L.A.
Just anywhere away with you 
I know we've got to get away 
Someplace where no one knows our name 
We'll find the start of something new 
Just take me anywhere, take me anywhere 
Anywhere away with you.” 

“I don’t know what the answer is,” I told him. “I just know I want you here with me.” 

His hairs were still in the shower after he was gone and I didn’t wash my bed sheets yet to keep the scent of him a bit longer. 

Sometimes I think I’m a fool and my heart is too open for its own good. 

*sigh*

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Forming a new family.


One leaf becomes two, then three. 

Another shoot appears, followed by another after that. 

Soon there’s a small cluster forming a new family.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Change is a thing you can count on.


Earlier in the month I learned the assistant store manager at the crafts store I work at was transferring to another location.

This week one of my coworkers at the call center job got another position in another department.

And in a few months, four of my student workers at my nighttime university job will be graduating and starting their careers in the real world.

It seems everyone is changing and moving on to other things...except me.

All I do is work and work and sleep and back at it again. It's a vicious cycle.

Will I ever draw and paint and write again? It's been years now.

I fear things aren't changing fast enough for me and in the way I want.

My mortgage still needs to be paid regardless of my dreams.

*sigh*

This Miley song has been playing a lot recently on the craft store's overhead speakers.

An appropriate way to sum up this post, I think.


"Feels like I just woke up

Like all this time I've been asleep 
Even though it's not who I am
 I'm not afraid of who I used to be 

No one stays the same (oh, oh) 
You know what goes up must come down (oh, oh) 
Change is a thing you can count on (oh, oh) 
I feel so much younger now (oh, oh) 

Feels like I've been living in a dream 
But never make it to the end 
My eyes open when they feel the light 
It's always right before I'm about to scream 

No one stays the same (oh, oh) 
You know what goes up must come down (oh, oh) 
Change is a thing you can count on (oh, oh) 
I feel so much younger now (oh, oh) 

What goes up must come down 
What goes up must come down 
What goes up must come down 
What goes up must come down (yeah) 

No one stays the same (oh, oh) 
You know what goes comes back around (oh, oh) 
Change is a thing you can count on (oh, oh) 
I feel so much younger now (oh, oh) 
I feel so much younger now (yeah) 
I feel so much younger now."

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Sharing my love.


I got a text this morning saying I had to come to my university job right away

At first I thought something happened but it all made sense when I got to work and saw what was waiting for me...

 *****These!!!*****

This is the first time someone has given me flowers for Valentine’s Day--from the same guy that has ever bought me flowers, well, ever! (Gracias chapin!) 
 
Whenever someone would comment on the bouquet today, I was one big blush. 

I decided to leave them at work at the front desk. This way all the students and staff entering our department would be greeted by beautiful red roses. 

“Don’t you want to take them home?” a coworker asked. 

“I think it’d be nice leaving them here for all to enjoy,” I replied. “This way I’m sharing my love.” 

And isn’t that what today is all about? 

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!!

Monday, January 22, 2018

Nine!


It's been a long day at both my university jobs but before the night is through, I just wanted to wish my blog a happy anniversary.

Exploding Doughnut turns nine today!!

 https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5653f933e4b026d39f780700/5957ca2359cc68a440ca341d/5958160003596e73b4faaf6e/1498945028991/9.gif?format=1000w 
This is only mildly distracting, right? 

It seems like a small thing to celebrate these days since I don't blog as often as I once did.

I'm still grateful to have this space exist though, even if for just an occasional post here and there.

And thank all of you for continuing to see my story unfold. I wouldn't be here this many years without everyone's support along the way. You ROCK!!

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Onto the next year!


The year is a couple hours from being over and that can only mean one thing...

It's time for the annual year-in-review blogpost!

I know I haven't blogged very much this year but here's every entry over the past twelve months organized just for you.

January:

(1-22-17) Eight and counting.

February:

(2-14-17) Love today!

April:

(4-15-17) I could be the one.

May:

(5-31-17) Purple couch!

June:

(6-10-17) It's time to celebrate!!!

July:

(7-25-17) Happy Halloween!!

August:

(8-26-17) Condo anniversary!!
(8-29-17) A crafty anniversary!

September:

(9-20-17) Six years going on seven.

October:

(10-30-17) Call me Mother (Plant).

November:

(11-23-17) "Don't lose your creative outlet!"

December:

(12-28-17) New beginnings.
(12-31-17) Onto the next year!

Most of 2017 was pretty uneventful for me, unless you consider buying a couch an "event". I spent the past twelve months working and being alone and lonely--I only went on three (unsuccessful) dates this year.

I really don't do New Year's resolutions anymore but I would like to incorporate creativity and art into my life again. I'd say it'd also be nice to go on more dates in 2018 but I can't control gay men's lack of interest so I won't get my hopes up.

We shall see what happens though.

May the coming year be AMAZING for all of us. 

***Happy New Year, everyone!!***