Friday, March 29, 2013

Family Letter: 2nd Quarter, 2013

Preface: Every quarter, my family keeps up with each other by sending out a mass e-mail updating everyone about what has happened since the previous letter. Since I have several friends who are not on that e-mail list, I share my (slightly modified) family letter here for them to read.

Hello everyone!

A lot of things have kept us busy since I last wrote, but here's a quick update on what has been going on for us in Houston.

This past Christmas was my first to be away from family in San Angelo. While we certainly missed seeing family there, we really enjoyed being able to celebrate Christmas day with Brian's kids and his side of the family. 

Our big Christmas present was the new house, which we have been enjoying. I have spent several hours developing a green thumb by learning how to care for all of the plants in the backyard. We have a grapefruit tree that needed some serious pruning, and some palms that weren't taken very well care of by the previous owners. But so far, none of the plants have shown signs of dying, so I must be doing at least a decent job. Last month, Brian and his dad made a plan on how we would replace the backside of the fence, which was falling apart. With the help from friends, we spent most of this past weekend putting up the fence, and are very happy with the results. Now we are thinking about the projects we would like to do during the summer and we can't wait to make good use out of the pool.

After a year and a half of being engaged, Brian and I finally married in New York City on March 12th, so that's the biggest news we have! Although it doesn't mean much for us in Texas legally, we are still very happy to have made the commitment. We both have always loved New York, so that's why we chose to have it done there. We appreciate the support we have received from family and friends throughout this.

Since we would love to have something more than just a couple of friends attend a ceremony in a city clerk's office, we are planning for a wedding/reception here in Houston for October. We would love to see whatever friends and family can make it that day.

Outside of the wedding, we had a wonderful time visiting the city. Newsies on Broadway was incredible and I can't wait to see it again (I'm still singing the songs in my head). Instead of going up the Empire State Building, we opted to go to Top of the Rock, which was very cool. Despite the fact that neither of us have really seen the movies, we checked out the Harry Potter exhibit for the sake of being able to find a nice souvenir for Jordan. I had a photographer friend who happens to live there, so we were able to get him to take some nice pictures of us in Central Park, in an area called DUMBO (in Brooklyn), and along the Brooklyn Bridge. The pictures turned out very nicely!

Brian's ex-wife put the boys in a church basketball league in January, which they loved. Because of that, they now spend at least an hour or two every weekend we have them playing basketball in the driveway. Basketball finished and they recently started Little League again, which keeps them very busy. They both won their first games and are doing very well so far. Tim is breezing through the 2nd grade, and loves reading and science. We are looking forward to Jordan finishing the 4th grade (I seriously can't believe how much homework he gets every night!). Jordan loves science and math.

When he isn't playing sports or doing school work, Tim spends the majority of time reading and playing Wii U. He recently told me he wants to read all of the Hunger Games books, followed by the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, and then all of the Harry Potter books. I haven't read any of these, so my plan is to read them at the same time so we can discuss them as we go. Hopefully, we can make it through all of those books! Jordan has a fascination with both X-Men and Harry Potter right now. He loves watching the old X-Men cartoons on Netflix and has started collecting Harry Potter wands and other memorabilia. 

I think that's it! We have enjoyed reading other people's letters and catching up.

Much love,
Evan & Brian

Monday, March 25, 2013

Husband in New York (My "What's It Like to Be Married" Post)

Professional photos done by Michael Wiltbank.

Did you know that according to Hindu tradition, rain on a wedding day is a sign of good things to come? Outside of my lucky blue striped underwear, I am not a huge fan of that kind of superstition. But I suppose I will take the Hindu belief to heart and consider myself a lucky guy this time around.

I find it difficult to write this post because I am afraid I cannot adequately express how I feel after exchanging vows of commitment with Brian.

There was a time years ago when my future terrified me. It looked like a blank, empty canvas which seemed destined for emptiness forever. I felt as if I could not and did not deserve to share a life with the person I loved. That feeling of loneliness made me worry for my future and I would often find myself in regular deep depressions that I would try to cover up through school or work.

Now I see my life canvas full of vibrancy and there is a picture there of what the future could be if I keep pushing forward and continue painting. I actually started to notice the color before I ever met Brian because eventually, after making several necessary changes in my life, I allowed myself to be happy. I came to a realization that what others thought of me, even if they were my siblings or close "friends", did not really matter. I did not have to accept the crumbs of love with verbal "buts" attached to them. Fortunately, I found more friends, support, and examples in person and online to counter the ones I lost. These are the family and friends that accepted me completely and helped me climb over my own personal brick walls.

Brian and I both came from backgrounds full of adversity. We both grew up going to church regularly where people did not tend to look favorably towards gay people. I, Mormon. Brian, Assembly of God. We both were raised in families where money was hard to come by and budgets were tight. We both have dealt with depression and a lack of total support from some family members after coming out. Brian's coming out resulted into a divorce which caused him to have to juggle financing two households, school, and a solid relationship with his two very young boys. When I hear his stories, I feel like my trials paled in comparison to his.

But as Kelly Clarkson once said on the Top 40 radio way too often: "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger." Adversity can be a good thing.

One of the most frequent questions I have been asked since returning from New York is: "How does it feel to be married?"

I always find myself pondering the best way to answer this question. In reality, the service was quick and easy. After receiving our marriage license the previous day, we returned to the City Clerk's office with our witnesses on a cold, rainy morning. We were greeted warmly by the employees there, given a ticket, and waited on a long green bench until they called our ticket number, "C62." After our number was called, we were greeted by the justice of the peace who showed us to the chapel room where he gave us few minutes to prepare.

When the JP returned, he gave us a few instructions and asked how we would like to proceed with the ceremony: Do we want to look at each other or at him? Each other. Do we want to place our rings on the stand or have a witness give them to us? We'll just leave them on the podium.

We believe the JP may have been an aspiring Broadway star or a theater school dropout. As he went through the vows, I could not help but look at him sometimes because of how much he exaggerated each line like a soulful pastor in a Southern Baptist Church. It all went by so fast though. Before I could fully feel the emotions of what was happening, Brian and I had already said our "I do"s, exchanged the Tungsten rings, and kissed before the minister and our witnesses. The minister congratulated us and handed us our official marriage certificate.

Yes, I know. That all might sound underwhelming. In fact, the individual act of going to the City Clerk's office was honestly underwhelming. No one cried tears of joy. We did not spend an hour taking pictures afterwards. There was no massive reception to look forward to. But we did take a quick trip to a bakery called Bruno's for lunch and celebratory wedding cake, which was absolutely delightful and delicious.

Having said all of that, I cannot help but feel like we took a monumental step forward. I mean, we did it! Despite the fact that the legal eyes of Texas does not give an iota about our marriage certificate, several other states do see Brian as my husband. The certificate is something tangible and we have already proudly showed it off to the kids (honestly, they were far more interested in the souvenirs we bought them).

But the meaning of this commitment is deeper than just a piece of paper. I find our wedding special because of the work it took to get to that point and the significant moments Brian and I have shared that have allowed us to grow as a couple.

I remember the time when we had our first date at Star Pizza. Most of our conversation was centered around techie things and our backgrounds. Somewhere within those few hours together, I had a feeling Brian was someone I should continue to pursue. Luckily, he felt the same way about me.

Or the time when we had our first Valentine's Day dinner together, which also happened to be the first time I have been able to properly celebrate Valentine's Day with another person.

The time when we took a weekend trip to San Antonio and I accidentally tasted alcohol for the first time while in our hotel. I spat it out immediately, told Brian his Gatorade/Vodka (or whatever the heck was in it) was disgusting, and once again swore to never drink.

The time when we had a rooftop dinner on top of the town home I rented a room out of. This was also the time when I proved myself to not be a skillful cook.

The time when I first met his kids one summer Saturday and we spent the entire day together at a local water park.

The time during our first long vacation together in California when Brian proposed to me in the cool, quiet night out in the courtyard of our hotel in Carmel.

The time when I first took him home to meet my extended family during Thanksgiving. And the time soon after when our car broke down in Brady, TX on a Sunday while attempting to return to Houston.

The time when my grandmother passed away and he was there to help comfort me every step of the way.

All of the times when we have had deep discussions about religion, career plans, the kids, our families, and our life together.

The time when we first walked into our new home with his boys shortly after becoming new home owners.

The time just two weeks ago when we were sitting together on a plane going to New York, holding each other's hand, and thinking about what we would soon be doing in a few days. All of these past significant moments that built our relationship led to the single most significant moment in the chapel of the City Clerk's office.

Although not many of our friends and none of our family could be in New York for us, we certainly felt the love and support online and by phone. To my amazement, several of my siblings congratulated us and even publicly announced our commitment on their own Facebook walls. A comment my very-much-a-Mormon Dad wrote on Brian's wall was much appreciated and meant a lot to us:
"Congratulations Brian, I am proud to call you one of my sons."
We feel very lucky and blessed to receive the kind of support we do. Of course, we want people who have expressed support to witness our commitment in person, so we will soon be very busy planning a wedding ceremony and reception here in Houston this fall. Maybe by then, our piece of paper from New York will at least mean something in the eyes of the federal government. But if not, we still plan to always be stuck with each other! :-)

Friday, March 15, 2013

Senator Portman and the Golden Rule

I woke up to the news this morning that Ohio Republican Senator Rob Portman has reversed his views on same-sex marriage after his son, Will, came out to him as gay. Obviously, voicing such a controversial change does not come without it's critics. Some claim his morals are too malleable. Some say that he should support his constituents, even if these views affect the rights of minorities. Some welcome the change, but criticize him for only making the change since it affected his own son.

Personally, I can't help but smile over this, not because we now have yet another Republican on our side, but because of the story behind it. Imagine the pressure of being the gay son of a top ranking conservative senator. Now picture the pressure of being the only senator to break party lines on a controversial issue that will be hitting the Supreme Court in a few weeks. That's enough stress to make anybody go nuts!

But Will Portman overcame the fear and decided to be honest with his dad, who then handled the news like a champ. Despite the risk of losing his political career and being openly criticized by social conservative groups, other fellow politicians, and random online commentators, Sen. Portman provides his reasoning for supporting same-sex marriage in a way I could not have worded better myself:
"The overriding message of love and compassion that I take from the Bible, and certainly the Golden Rule, and the fact that I believe we are all created by our maker, that has all influenced me in terms of my change on this issue."
That's it. The Golden Rule. The number one thing (at least in my opinion) that Christians and other people of faith are losing sight of today. The rule that states: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." You can't get any more Christian than that!

It's unfortunate that some people will miss the lesson that can be learned from all of this due to not being able to see through the politics. What an awesome example of a good parent and what a wonderful family that must be. Thank you, Will and Rob Portman!