Posts Tagged With: Progressive

Meet the ASS in TomASS

Only In Vegas

YES, that is a photo of my legal license plate when I lived in Las Vegas. And YES, I that is my nickname. AND YES again, I am proud to put the ass in TomASS. Now… just so you understand, the ass part of my nickname does not refer to any anatomic feature of my body, my Gluteus Maximus is actually quite MINImus! My nickname was given because I am rather honest and direct and this is often confused for being an ass. Add that to the fact my real name is Thomas – we get Tomass.

DivergentA couple years ago, I read “Divergent”, now also a movie. It is set in a dystopian future that has society divided into 5 factions dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue. One of the factions is Candor and their virtue is “truth” and they value honesty above all else. They understand that the truth can sometime be sharp and there is a need for transparency, so their “Choosing Ceremony” item is glass. My sister read the book also and said as she read about the Candor faction, she visualized me, even though I feel I am more Divergent (lol).

I should have a warning label that reads, “Don’t ask me ANY questions without being prepared for Honestyan honest answer.” Most that know me know the dangers of even simple questions like, “How do you like my new hairstyle?” or “How do I look in these jeans?” I do see value in honesty. Do not think it is a one-way street, I expect people to be honest with me as well. If my breath is bad, tell me so I can do something about it. If and outfit looks bad, tell me so I don’t priss out wearing it again thinking I am so cute (lol)! 

Now we also need to establish that just as I will call someone out on their political, religious or social views; I do not mind being called out on mine. I grew up in a small town where the VAST majority all think the same: Jesus, conservatives, and conformist are all good traits; while being nonreligious, progressive thinking, and Sophiarebellious are bad traits. I never knew any different until I moved and people began to challenge me on my views and I not only learned, I grew as a person. I feel I am better member society because the opinions I have now were formed by experiencing a variety of life experiences and people that were honest enough with me to take the time to talk and share – even when we did not agree.

Many feel agreement is how a conversation or debate should end. That is FAR from what I seek when having conversations, discussions, or even debates. For many, a debate is seen as argument. But here is where I venture a little from a simple ass to being an asshole – if you can not defend and support your opinions… don’t expect to be taken seriously. If you have opinions and are frightened of those with different opinions, face the fear of learning Karenand ask questions, challenge others and one day you could be like me an opinionated ass that is proud to share and learn.

A LOT of people like or even love the characters Sophia on “The Golden Girls” and Karen on “Will & Grace” because they were so bluntly honest. It is kind of how I hope others see me, although I have learned some are not brave enough for a friendship with the likes of me (Sophia or Karen), their opinions and views may be too weak or undeveloped to be challenged. But it is one more reason for me to love the friends I do have because even if they are a different faction and do not value the truth above all else, they have decided I am not a lost cause. After all this I have shared, I hope others see the ass in Tomass simple means I am a human in training like all of us should be! I would much rather be an ass man than a yes man! 

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Finding THAT Connection

Sometimes most all of us would benefit from a good whack in the head to be reminded that we need more perspective in our lives! Lazaro 8The whack that just caught me upside my head was Lazaro Arbos and his American Idol audition. Lazaro, a 21 year-old ice cream scooper from Florida, has had a stutter since age 6 that has deeply impacted his life. I cannot imagine the courage it took for this brave young man, with a pretty severe stutter, to sit in front of television cameras and share his story. By the end of the audition he had tears of joy dripping from his chin – and so did I.

What an indomitable spirit he must have! His family immigrated to Florida from Cuba when he was 10 years-old Lazaro 16and his parents still speak Spanish. This would make me guess that he learned English well after the stuttering began and is now bilingual. Reared all of my live in the United States, at 40 I immigrated to Colombia, South America, and have had GREAT difficulty learning the local language of Spanish and I do not have a stutter to overcome. This young man has whacked me in the head reminding me I have to stop making excuses and learn Spanish or this inspirational moment will have been wasted.

At one point he says – things that “normal” people would think are so easy becomes so hard for him. I do not doubt that a lot of things are more Lazaro 7difficult for him, but I hope he misspoke using the term “normal” people in a way that could exclude him from being “normal”. My brief moment of sympathy was quickly followed by shock. This guy that just inspired not only me but thousands, does he feel he is not “normal”? Watching it the first time, I just wanted to give him a big hug. Watching it again, I wanted to shake him and say, “NEVER feel you are not ‘normal’!” But the confidence, courage, strength and intelligence he must posses to be bilingual while having a stutter and giving such a heartfelt performance convinces me, and I hope, he just misspoke.

I am such an easy target for a story like his because I have a real empathy for his situation. I had hearing difficulties as a lazaro 14child and out of a necessity created my own language. It was actually the official language of the little world I lived in – within my own little head. Lazaro’s mother Gisela says she often had to speak for him. My little world also had a translator, my older sister Darlene. People would listen to me jabber on and on (one thing that has not changed about me), not understanding a word, then ask Darlene, “What did he say?” Then she would relay my message perfectly in English. She was really the only one that truly understood me, having to also translate for Mom and Dad at times! At age five, I began to learn to speak English, the language of the people in my new world. I no longer had to live in my isolated world and began to FEEL more and more connected to this much bigger world outside my little head.

My translator Darlene & Me

My translator Darlene & Me

Acting as my translator, Darlene and I built a unique bond. Now we are adults, we often argue and fight. In thinking about this I have come to a realization why – I struggle wanting her to understand me to help translate who I am to a part of the world that does not understand me – my family! Our rifts are about religion, politics, as well as lifestyle. While she and my family remain very religious, conservative, and content; I, on the other hand lost my religion, tend to be liberal (I really think I am what they now call a Progressive), I am openly gay and live what I have convinced myself is an adventurous life given the constraints of a life dealing with limitations because of Multiple Sclerosis. So I try and hope for her to understand me so that she can translate so I can feel a connection with my family again. We do make real effort, but for now… I am still jabbering on and on in my own language and feel I NEED that ONE person that understands me to help the world (outside of my little head) understand me!

Seeing this video surprised me because I felt I was witnessing Lazaro’s moment, the moment he found “MUSIC” was his translator and people beyond his Lazarofamily could understand and connect with the world he has been isolated in for so long.  He found his Darlene!  I think he FEELS he has connected; others see, feel, and understand his world a little more. Not only is music his translator – he sees that it is an APPRECIATED talent. He has found some of the respect he has craved and deserves.  Feeling this connection has to be incredible! He has been actualized as a member of the bigger world. The talent that until now has been comfort in his isolated world can now be shared – WORLD, MEET LAZARO!

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/18/american-idol-lazaro-arbo-stutter-video_n_2501225.html?ncid=webmail19

Categories: Life | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Viva Colombia

I am often asked why I like Colombia, South America so much.  My response is, “Colombia and I share something – we are both misunderstood and quite often misrepresented!”  I am quite happy when people realize that in spite of my progressive politics, unique views about religion, and gay activism – I am still quite a nice guy.  The same is true of Colombia – in spite of the exaggerations of Colombian life portrayed in Hollywood movies, Colombia is quite a nice country!  Seeing beyond stereotypes opens the mind to so many new possibilities!  Also please notice… the country Colombia is spelled with an “o” not an “u” (Columbia).

Like me, Colombia is much more progressive than many realize – sorry, I mean Colombia is more progressive… anyone that reads my blog already knows I am Progressive!    Colombia’s government is a Republic with Democratic elections and three branches of government including Executive, Legislative and Judicial (that should sound familiar to Americans).  The FARC have basically been neutered and the days of drug cartels controlling the country are now mythology.  The drug lords, guerrillas, and kidnappings are great for the movies, but not a part of the typical Colombians daily life.  

I have lived in both of Colombia’s largest cities, Bogota and Medellin.  My opinion is that Bogota is more of a

Medellin, Colombia, South America

metropolitan lifestyle similar to living in New York or San Francisco and Medellin a little more like living in Los Angeles with San Diego weather.  Bogota has the larger population with just over 8 million to Medellin’s 3.75 million.  Medellin’s climate is more ideal with a very pleasant 65 – 80 degrees Fahrenheit (18 – 27 Celsius)  year round, compared to the cooler climate of Bogota ranging from 50-75 Fahrenheit (10 – 24 Celsius).  I have great friends in both cities but I feel the weather in Medellin is more conducive for Multiple Sclerosis, so now Medellin is home!

Colombia’s tourism campaign is: “Colombia, the only risk is wanting to stay”.  This proved to be very true for me!  With an American Passport, 60 day tourist visits and there are other options for longer stays.  I wanted to stay longer and found the way for me to get a resident visa called a pensionado visa ( basically a retiree’s visa to encourage people to retire in Colombia) .  I do have to renew my visa annually, but that is ok with me.  Colombia could be an option for many more, especially for the benefits of the climate for people with illnesses like Multiple Sclerosis.  I invite people outside Colombia to come experience the reality of this beautiful country with beautiful, warm, welcoming people and forget what television and movies portray about Colombia!  This is a country you should experience for yourself!

*** I will be posting weekly (maybe more) about life in Colombia – follow this blog and let’s share the experiences of this wonderful culture!

Categories: Bogota, Colombia, Life, Medellin, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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