Monday, December 22, 2008
There is a reason the military has a high divorce rate. Of course, a variety of things can take place to destroy a marriage (or even an engagement, which was us). Deployments often change the soldier and hit them deeply...the other half at home even changes along the way. All this change happens as the couple lives apart...on opposite sides of the world. When that person comes home, both parties believe everything will just go back to the way it was before, now that you have that previous environment again. The soldier returns to familiar territory and the partner at home returns to the home with the soldier. Maybe for some military couples it happens so blissfully...but it didn't happen for us.
The scenario described above could happen to any type of couple...opposite-sex or same-sex. But, the same-sex aspect of it added more obstacles. For one, me, her, and the kids weren't officially recognized as a family. Therefore, the army didn't necessarily send her back to me. She didn't get the reacclimation time with us that her straight, married colleagues get. She had to use leave time. Then, of course, you have that her family lives many states away. While they know and understand she is gay, I always felt in competition with them. I shouldn't have to. I mean, of course, she needs to have time to go see them...but they wanted her to stay longer, rather than coming back to GA with me (also, where she is stationed...something she chose so she could be with me). So...between employer and family not recognizing us the same way they would a married or soon-to-be-married straight couple, it made things more difficult.
I guess we just weren't strong enough to make it through all the obstacles. After all...if it were meant to be, wouldn't those barriers been overcome?
Add the kids to the mix now. She's been a huge part of our life for two years...I know that isn't all that long, but she's the only person I've shared the children with. She treated them as hers, and even though my 11 year-old didn't always appreciate the extra authority (on top of not expecting the changes), both kids looked to her as a parent as well. She did way more for them than their father. You know...in our many deep discussions, I told her that anyone who made their place in the kids' lives should never disappear from them. I said that in the event we split apart, I wanted her to remain in their lives. I've also expressed fear at the fact that if I had an untimely death (God, I hope not.), that it would be terrible, because the kids would go to their Dad, even though she was the one helping me raise them. Anyway...I am concerned about the children. I know they are resilient, though.
They say relationships are all experiences we shouldn't regret. I guess I just wish I wouldn't have gotten so involved for it to end like this. The hardest part is not the memories...it's all the dreams we share that have been shattered.
So...I'm toughing it out this Christmas, trying my best to have a "merry, gay" holiday. I've lost my partner, and I just lost my Nana (the mother in my life) in October. I don't want to be a grinch, but a large part of me wants the holidays to just fly by so I can return to business as usual. All I can think about right now is how I was supposed to go to NY with her and the kids for our first white Christmas...but she left us at home. And, then there's my family, who is being very loving toward me...but that's where I went every year to see my Nana...and I won't get to do that anymore. So, I'm thinking a low-key holiday is in order. I'll hang out with friends whenever they aren't busy with their own families.
Sunday, November 16, 2008
At that point, I envisioned a militia of stereotypical gay males, uniforms decorated with neat flower arrangements and fancy hairdos, fighting alongside stereotypical lesbians, all gruff and taking charge. I couldn't help but laugh to myself with these thoughts. I knew better than whatever the man was describing about "gays taking over." He was apparently full of fears...fear of the unknown whenever you let less popular groups have the same rights as the majority.
Yesterday, I had the privilege of attending both the rally at the Capitol as well as the candlelight vigil in Midtown. Kristin and the kids were right there with me, of course. We cheered, listened to the speakers, and enjoyed small conversations with the strangers (but allies) surrounding us. It was great to see a crowd, but I really thought it could have been larger. I attribute some of the absences to the short notice. But, other fellow gays told me they wouldn't be in attendance for fears that the media might capture their image and they'd be outed. I definitely respect their reasons. It's just a shame, though, that so much negativity could be imposed on a person because of his or her sexual orientation.
So, while in attendance, and thinking about things, a few thoughts crossed my mind. Morghan, my 11 year-old, expressed concerns about her and her brother being taken away from me. I told her that yes, it was a concern for a lot of same-sex couples, but not for us and our circumstances. In our case, it would only be an issue if the dad brought me to court, but there's a larger chance of him winning the lottery than taking me to court. At this point, he wouldn't have a leg to stand on. I've raised them on my own since they were born, and he has yet to prove that he can take care of himself, let alone two children. It made me realize how lucky I was in that department.
That spurred me to think about all the older children and teens who have been left in Nebraska, a state whose "safe haven" laws were written too vaguely. I wondered if any of those people who chose to leave their kids behind are gay. OR...was it "those straight people." There those straighties go again...pro-creating with their natural abilities and then leaving their kids to be raised by someone else.
Here's another thought that crossed my mind (Yeah, I was thinking again)...
I thought about the evolution of civil rights in the United States. When European males decided to "come in and take over the place," it was only THEM who had rights. In fact, the initial reason for our Electoral College system of presidential voting was because the powers to be didn't feel an average citizen was informed enough to decide who gets into office. So...the first major step was allowing "average Joes" the chance to vote. After all...there was fear that folks outside their "clique" would ruin things for the current system, most comfortable for them.
We all know, of course, it was a long time before Americans came to terms with the fact that blacks were people, too...not property. It was an even longer time before they could vote, and it was a bit after that before women could vote. Later down the road, Americans had to come to terms with the idea of us all being able to attend the same schools and get the same service in the same location, all at the same time. Many feared what would happen to America if those without equal rights were actually treated like real citizens and given the same respect. Oh my!
I wasn't around during the 50s-60s civil rights movements (nor do I have any past life memories of such). I really have nothing to say in defense of the fears going around. As I teach in a diverse environment, one being recognized as an official "No Place for Hate" school, I must say I really like this integration thing. Get this...one day in class with my 7th graders...it was at the beginning of the year when there were only 4 kids in the group...I asked them about their ethnicities (first explaining the difference between race and ethnicity). Would you believe that in a group of just 5 people, every last one of us had a different ethnic origin? We all traced back to different countries and most of the kids were multi-racial as well. How neat. Would you believe that just 50 years ago, my classroom would have been empty?
Anyway, my slight...and very slight...defense of those who were against desegregation is that they had no experience with people unlike them, and therefore, they were uncomfortable with the idea. This meant allowing their kids to attend school alongside different kids, they'd have to possibly work with people of other races, and most of all, they'd have to go about life alongside others (That seat at the front of the bus wouldn't be so "safe" anymore). It was a major step outside their comfort zone. Although their comfort zone was unfair and ignorant, it was something they had to make mental adjustments for.
This brings me to today...the civil rights we are currently asking quite nicely for (Yes, us gays who are "taking over" are being quite kind about it.)...don't actually require the concessions of the majority as the civil rights reforms of the past. Think about it...we want sexual orientation to be included in EOE statements right alongside race, sex, religion, disability, etc. We want to have our unions formally recognized...our partners given the same legal privileges as opposite-sex spouses inherently claim upon marriage...and we want to be able to raise a family...give it the love, guidance, and responsible upbringing that opposite-sex couples can legally do...not only without obstacles, but also with the encouragement of others. In fact, opposite-sex couples who choose NOT to have children often catch slack about it. So anyway...these rights I speak of (or type of)...these require no adjustment on the part of others who do not agree with same-sex relations.
Sure...people say that gay relationships aren't good for kids, aren't good for the public, etc. They refer to their beliefs about God (though my beliefs about God tell me I'm okay with Him), and why this should not be allowed. However...all they really gain from our lack of civil rights is their mental comfort of knowing it's not formally recognized. I'm certainly not going to leave Kristin to find me a husband. I don't know of any gays who are planning to drop their partners and marry opposite-sex. In reality, we just have more hoops to jump through with paperwork. But the essence in what they are trying to stop...gay relationships altogether...won't happen. When people see me and Kristin in public, they know we are a lesbian couple (except for the few who think she's my oldest child...hahaha....and I only have 3 years on her!). Thus, we are visible, like many others. The rights we don't have at this point in our life don't change the things that Proposition H8ers want to see changed. We are still here. We are still gay. Our lives haven't changed, but most of all, neither have theirs.
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
By 1pm on election day I was exhausted from the intense excitement I was feeling. I needed a nap, but when you have a 3 year old anti-napping daughter, it was out of the question. So I dragged myself through the day. Working here and there, and checking the television periodically to see if there were any election problems, etc.
By 4pm, I am 100% convinced Obama is going to win the election. Not an ounce of uncertainty. I think this was some type of election mania, because I felt as if God had told me Himself that this would happen and I didn't need to worry anymore. It was such a relief, and I passed this information on to others, but they did not share my certainty.
By 6pm, I have decided this is an official holiday in our household, so we are going to celebrate with pizza, cupcakes, etc. (this is how we celebrate now). I give my daughter her special Princess Soup that she had picked out days before, and decide to call my mom to pass some time because I know my mom and dad are bouncing off the walls waiting for the election results, too. They live in Florida and have had an election or two stolen from them. My retired mom spent so many hours working for Obama--making phone calls, knocking on doors, handing out food to people waiting in line to vote (she rocks!).
It is 6:30pm, my daughter's gigantic bowl of soup is eaten and I look down and she is passed out in the Lazy Boy chair. At first, a little disappointed we didn't get to share more excitement about Obama's impending election, but then I realize, YES!, we get to have more time to watch the election results!!!
It is 7pm, the wife and I are sitting down in front of the tv with our delicious celebratory pizza and beer (a luxury in the Kelly household these days!!) with CNN on. Not enough is happening. I am flipping the channels between news shows, but nothing really exciting. The hologram on CNN was kind of cool, and I like they waited until election night to launch it. But, this night is about our Presidential win, so away with the holograms.
By 9pm, we are so exhausted, but the win seems apparent. My prediction coming true. Thank you, God. The wife passes out for a nap. I wake her for the official decision and to see Obama. We both agree John McCain showed his best side in his concession speech. We are grateful for the way he handled the loss ( I think that is the liberal in us).
The evening is so incredibly powerful. For so many of us, this election was critical for our existence. Could we go on without this win? I am not sure, and certainly so grateful to not test it.
The wife and I are an oppressed people. We are gay moms who want a world that respects our family with the same equality and dignity shown the heterosexual world. This want has grown so much stronger now that we are parents. Wouldn't it be so great for our daughter to grow up in a world where her parents were treated equally? If it weren't for our daughter, I could live with being discriminated against. I would still fight the fight, but it means so much more knowing there is a little life coming behind us that will one day experience the unpleasantness our world has to offer.
As an oppressed people, the wife and I hold hands as we watch Obama give his election night speech. We are so moved. It is such a powerful moment, and it causes us to feel so much more hopeful about our future as Americans, and as Gay Americans. The future couldn't look brighter.
It is 1AM, I go to my computer to check the election results for the anti-gay ballot measures in Florida, Arkansas, Arizona, and California. I am devastated by the results. The spiritual fulfillment I had moments before knocked completely out of me.
Arkansas votes to stop gay people from adopting or foster parenting. Jesus, how could this happen. 57% voted for the ban.
Florida, where they have worked so hard on their marriage amendment, loses its battle by a small margin. They needed 60% to pass the amendment, and they got 62%.
Arizona, which has been beating back marriage amendments in the past, loses its marriage amendment with 56% voting to approve the anti-gay measure.
And the most devastating loss of the evening: California, where marriage had just become legal earlier in the year. Now, the election has not been finalized, so I pray I have to eat this post, but it looks as though the anti-gay marriage amendment passed by 52%. I am so bummed. How could people vote on our lives that way as if we were property taxes or something. My God, we are human beings, and our rights are being voted on by the people. What kind of country is this?
Lots of lies were told by conservatives in these campaigns, so can I blame straight people for believing them? When the Catholic and Mormon churches tell the people lies about the marriage laws and about us as parents, can I blame people for believing them? If you can't believe your church, who can you believe?
I am sickened today by both the election outcomes and the fact that people think they have the right to vote on our lives in this way in the first place. I am reminded of the African American journey in this country, and how we proudly elected a Black man president tonight.
I probably have 20+ years to win my civil rights, but my daughter only has one childhood to experience and it is now. So, forgive me for my impatience, but my daughter is everything to me. I just want the best life for her, and people voting on our family is not part of my plan.
Tonight, you anti-gay voters suck. Tomorrow, hopefully, I will feel called to continue the work of educating you better.
God Bless President-Elect Obama.
Monday, November 03, 2008
We must keep our eyes on what happens in California with the efforts to overturn the right for same-sex couples to marry. It is critical to the civil rights of all our families that the marriage amendment, Proposition 8, lose tomorrow. It would be devastating and wrong to grant gay people the right to marry and then take it away again. Let's pray the people of California vote for equality for all families.
Keep an eye on Florida also. Thanks to the great work of Equality Florida, they have a good shot at defeating the proposed anti-gay marriage amendment.
So pray, cross your fingers, or do whatever moves you so we have a good outcome tomorrow. And please, DON"T FORGET TO VOTE!
Thursday, October 30, 2008
The lines outside the building have increased considerably. At least it isn't cold now.
I still say we can do better to lessen lines and make voting available to more people by extending the voting hours and days.
MEGA Family Project
Sent from my iPhone
They started allowing people with very small babies to come inside. They won't let them vote, but are allowing them to wait inside. Obviously the election officials don't realize how hard it is to vote with a child in tow. It was the citizens in line who asked to bring the babies inside.
People seem to be in fairly good spirits even with the long wait. There is much talk about being excited to vote and a belief that this is our civic duty.
This election is good for the nation. High turnout feels good and right.
We are voting here in the fire department's headquarters. You have to wonder if this double line in the halls meets the fire code.
The AJC said it was a 90 minute wait here yesterday. The people here say it was really two hours. It looks like we are definitely looking at two hours or more here. And the Secretary of State doesn't want to do better. I wonder when she is up for re-election?
I had the pleasure to hear the Ohio Secretary of State speak this past summer. She was truly an inspiration as to someone who wanted to make sure all the people of her state could vote this election. The last presidential election many in her state did not get to vote and she knew that was wrong.
We need someone in Georgia who has a passion for making sure every person gets a chance to vote and that we have a paper trail to verify the votes.
I still have a long way in front of me as I can't see any room that we might be voting in. Only a sea of people ahead.
MEGA Family Project
Sent from my iPhone
One has to wonder why on earth the Republican Secretary of State is not doing more to help people vote in a more expeditious manner.
In Florida, the Republican governor extended voting hours 4 hours each day. Can you imagine the people who will get to vote there who would not otherwise because they have jobs that don't allow them to stand in line for hours?
We are America, damn it. We have the technology and resources to make it easy for every person to vote.
I call on the Georgia Secretary of State and Governor Perdue to extend advanced voting hours and to put more voting machines in each location.
This is absurd that people are unable to vote in a country as great as America. This process seems closer to what I would expect in a less developed nation.
I sure hope politics aren't playing into these ridiculous decisions about voting in Georgia.
We deserve better, so we must demand better. Please join me in calling the Secretary of State's and Governor's offices to demand they do better.
MEGA Family Project
Sent from my iPhone
Saturday, August 23, 2008
This year, my daughter, Morghan began 6th grade...middle school...that age where peers start to become more of a factor. The worst thing a kid wants is to be embarrassed or in the spotlight for something controversial. My son began 4th grade, but his friends don't seem to ask questions. I think they are more interested in their skateboards, trick bikes, and "wrasslers."
As far as the kids' feelings on having a lesbian mom, they've accepted it from the start (from the time I used the analogy with the Barbie dolls and the superheroes). As for their feelings toward Kristin, they love her and refer to her as their other mom, without my prompting. She, in turn, has forced me to rescind on the notion that nobody can love the kids like I do. This feeling of family I have with them is more than what is apparent in our words and actions...it's an indescribable feeling of harmonious balance. This has NEVER come close anywhere else-not with ex-girlfriends, not even with their biological father. It's a sense that everything is perfect, even when it's not.
So, entering the school year (which started 3 weeks ago), I felt it was a major breakthrough when Morghan and Chandler both allowed me to list Kristin as the other parent on their school forms. No, it isn't the first time she's been listed, but last year, I listed her simply as a "family friend." Though it may seem trivial, I feel that given circumstances, this is a huge step. The kids did explain to me, however, that it was okay for the adults to know about it, but not the other kids. I reassured them it was fine.
The school year then began, and the kids are at a different school than before, and so far, it's been pleasant. We had moved to a part of the county that has seen an immense growth in population. Even though I'd prefer to live closer to the big city, I'm impressed with the diversity of this area. Many people, of different ethnicities, are like us...still relatively new to the area. Thus, we get much reprieve from the intolerant, right-wing thinking that we have dealt with as Southerners. And as far as the middle school goes, there was a strong presence of gays. Ranging from teachers, other parents, and even the bus driver...there are more gays than we've ever had in a school. Add to this, Morghan told me one day after school about her friend's sister in high school...she's a lesbian, Morghan told me, adding that"everyone thinks she's so cool!" I feel like this helps, too...for her to know of other gays she does NOT know through me.
So, life will continue to unfold one day at a time. The kids are doing incredibly well, and I feel fortunate.
Monday, August 18, 2008
As a member of the GLBT community I'd like to say that "community" rings loud and clear but sometimes I wonder. Community should mean that we are working together. I constantly am hearing and seeing that there is constant disagreement in the GLBT arena. Some of that is expected but sometimes its just about sucking it up and making a concession. Sometimes its about supporting something even if your ideas didn't get the full attention. It constantly amazes me that in all my years of working in the mainstream "world" with many different groups that there seemed to be a lot more give than "take".
Whether its parenting, working on a committee, or office politics I think its time we all should take a long hard look with out mouths closed and our ears open, decide if we are part of the solution or part of the problem and then be proactive and do something about it. I want to be a decent example for my children and I want to make some positive changes for the young GLBT community that will follow in my footsteps. Is anyone else interested in doing the same thing? I hope so.
Sunday, July 13, 2008
For me, the easiest way seemed to bring up Heaven and God, which led to discussions of Christmas, Baby Jesus, and so on. We did not realize a few weeks back that we would be tackling tough questions about religion for our daughter. Though I am sure many parents have this figured out before they even have a child, we must admit we didn't give it any thought.
So, me and the wife had several serious conversations about religion and what we wanted for our daughter. We both decided that though we both felt scarred from our own religious upbringings (mine Far Right Wing Presbyterian; hers United Methodist), we both felt we had good values that came from our religious upbringings that we would want for our daughter.
So, we have embarked on a journey to find a church we could call ours, where both moms feel comfortable, and preferably one with a good children's program that has other families like ours. Seems to be a much harder task than we would like. Can't we just join a church and be done with the search?
I should begin this discussion with saying that our daughter has liked every church program we have been to so far. But, at this age, her vote doesn't count since she is basing it on how much fun she is having or what kind of toys the churches have.
Let me run down some of the comments me and the wife have made after visiting the prospective churches:
-not Jesusy enough
-not spiritual enough
-too new age
-the organs were way too loud, they shook our bones
-you can't hear yourself sing or think over the organs
-they won't marry us here; what would we tell our daughter
-the organ is too loud (I have no idea why so many of you like your organs sooo loud)
-the sanctuary smells moldy
-the childcare situation seemed very confusing
-the congregation is mostly old people
-the rituals are so different than what I am used to
-the minister is in transition, who knows who the next one will be
-this church seems like it wants it members to become full-time members--is that what we want?
-I couldn't figure out what they were singing--the lyrics seemed horrible
I can go on-and-on about all our comments. Suffice it to say we haven't decided on a church yet. Maybe we are making too much of a big deal about it. But, on the other hand, it does seem like a marriage we are looking for (this is our daughter's future, right).
Maybe her moms are just making excuses, or maybe we need to continue our quest to find a church that feels right. Perhaps this is similar to the idea of finding the perfect mate, which often leads people on a lonely path. Both moms definitely agree we have issues from our religious histories that are impeding our decision.
Would other people dismiss a church over the organs being too loud? I don't know, but by the time we left there you would have thought we had been in Iraq experiencing PTSD. Clearly, both moms have some version of church PTSD. Our mission is to either work through that, or find some place that doesn't trigger those feelings for us.
The journey continues....
Mr. McCain, who with his wife, Cindy, has an adopted daughter, said flatly that he opposed allowing gay couples to adopt. “I think that we’ve proven that both parents are important in the success of a family so, no, I don’t believe in gay adoption,” he said.
Saturday, June 21, 2008
After a week of reflection and happenings in my life, I want to stress to people how life-changing bringing a child into your life is. Now for me, I would say even with all the sacrifices, poop, and vomit, it is the most beautiful thing that has happened to me. I wouldn't trade it for anything even though I miss taking naps and sleeping in something terrible.
It is an awesome charge to be responsible for the development of a little being. There are so many decisions. So much of my brain energy is occupied by my daughter, whether she is with me or not. It is so easy to lose your existence when a child comes along. Though, I like being my daughter's mother way better than my previous life when it was so much more about me.
Recently, I have talked with a number of individuals and couples who have worried me about their decisions to become parents. Please, let me premise this with I do not think I am some supreme authority on child-rearing, but I have had 3 years of it to know a few things.
1. if you have problems in your relationship, adding a child will not improve it. It will likely make it worse, and then leave the child with the possible loss of one of those parents.
2. if one person in the relationship is not really interested in having a child, you are probably setting yourself up for some difficult crap in your relationship and as parents. I can't imagine if my wife did not equally love our daughter in those tough moments of parenting (which can be everyday for a while). I know we all have our roles, but we really need to equally want it.
3. when thinking of having children, remember they are what is most important. Not you, not your partner, or anyone else. Every decision you make affects them. Don't have a child with someone you are unsure of and then leave them, leaving your child without one of its original parents, or at best, in a difficult child-sharing arrangement. As a parent, I totally get why people stay together for the good of the children (granted, there are some situations that this is clearly not good for the children). I didn't get why people did that when I was younger.
4. parenting is about being selfless much of the time. I don't now that you can ever prepare for how far you go with being selfless, but just know it should be a big part of your identity.
5. I know many of you probably think I am being ridiculous with my above statements, but I have to say I expect more from us as parents, and I absolutely want the best for our children no matter the sacrifices we have to make.
We don't have a nice little legal system that is going to adequately help our children when our relationships fail, so we need to be better than our crazy-acting-out heterosexual peers and do right by our children no matter what. That said, don't have children if you are not prepared to do right by your children. Don't have children if your relationship is broken--fix it first, even if the clock is ticking.
Parenting is one of the most rewarding roles we will have on this earth. We are helping create little beings. It is an awesome responsibility that shouldn't be taken lightly.
So many of us are GREAT parents. Our kids deserve us being great for them with all the other shit in the world we can't control for them. We can control the love we show them, the decisions we make for them, and whether we are doing right by them.
Yell at me if you want, but do right by your children always.
Monday, June 16, 2008
So, June is Pride Month (though our Pride is in July this year). This is the time of year that gay rights tend to be at the apex of their promotion. Pride is especially important to me. No, it isn't only because women in sports bras tend to wrestle with me on the grass (well, there may be none of that this year anyway), but it's because I truly support the cause. There was a time in my life, not even a decade ago, that I didn't have the courage to have pride. Looking back, I'm not sure what was so frightening...I'm just glad I finally came to terms with it all. Better late than never.
One of the neat things about embracing my sexual orientation is that I realized that many key apspects of my life haven't changed from my "straight-wannabe" years. I'm still a mother, and I still value the time with my kids, raising them, etc. Though the person I am terribly in love with is a woman, I have values similar to those women who love men. I want to raise healthy, happy children. I work hard for the roof over our heads, and I enjoy life similarly as many heterosexuals. There's nothing to be ashamed of, but much to be proud of.
This is where I get to the part where I imagine we are all celebrities, being cheered for on the streets...folks, I strongly encourage you to not only attend Pride this year and support the cause (We won't achieve equality by sitting out.), but also to show your spirit in the parade!!!! Bring your kids! We can decorate bikes, wagons, scooters, etc! If nothing else, consider it your exercise for the day. MEGA is more than just the people who give out the cool yellow bumper stickers!! We are an organization working hard for equal treatment for ALL families. Don't you want to come out and show America that we are normal families with values that promote a strong society?
Monday, May 26, 2008
I do realize, at times, that it happens. Perhaps it has even been unavoidable. I don't claim to be a history buff, but I know the U.S. tried very hard to stay out of World Wars I and II, only to be sucked in after an attack. If I recall correctly, it was the sinking of the Lusitania that drew us into the first world war, and the bombing of Pearl Harbor that dragged us into the second. After offenses like those, what else could we do but fight? Opinions differ about our present war, but that's beside the point.
I just LOVE me some military women! I don't know what it is about the uniform, which makes a hot woman even hotter! In fact, I've done all branches except for the Air Force and the Coast Guard. Hahaha! I guess this makes me military by association. But, these days, and for the past nearly two years, there's a certain sergeant who's had my attention...and eventually became the woman I know I was meant to live my life with.
I always support the troops whether I agree with war or not. Though some troops volunteer to go to war, most are sent there. It's part of what they agreed to when they signed up for the armed forces. Sure, many join for the college fund, for the experience, or like Kristin, because they were in a "I don't know what to do with myself and I'm going to show myself I can do this" phase, and were searching for something. Very rarely does one sign up because they love fighting wars. However, the probability of being sent to war is rather high these days.
For those readers who have been in the military, or like me, are a "military spouse," you know that these soldiers are owned by the government. They go where the military sends them. Yeah, you can have some say in the matter, from time to time. For example, Kristin volunteered to go to Korea (as our friendship was budding, before we got together...gosh, I remember feeling crushed when she told me she did this), because it allowed her to choose to return to the post she was stationed before leaving (meaning she will be near me again). Also, it allowed her to avoid the nearly inevitable...an involuntary deployment to Iraq. So, sometimes, there is a choice, but overall there is not. For example, they took her leave from her (because they said they were short-staffed), and she cannot come home for Pride. She also found out there is the possibility of being extended in Korea, and there's also a chance they won't follow through with her choice of returning to her previous post. So, she has very little control until she gets out in 2009. However, should they determine they can't afford to lose her, OR if within 3 or so years they decide they need her back, she will have no choice but to drop what she's doing and return. So...ultimately, the Army has her life for quite a while.
Alright, so ANY soldier makes a sacrifice for our country, even if they aren't at war. There is a personal sacrifice on the soldier and the soldier's loved ones. Now, let's take it a step further. I read with interest, some interviews on some older African-American gentlemen. They spoke of how Memorial Day is personal for them...something they celebrate in their own heads...but nothing they care to partake in. These men were from the segregation generation, and they spoke of how their units were not afforded the same "luxuries" as the white units. Though I don't recall specifically what the differences were, I remember thinking, "Gosh, that's not fair at all!" I remembered thinking how dare the government expect these men to fight for our freedom only to be denied civil liberties and equal rights back home.
And then I thought some more...we currently have many gays in the military. Some are fine with their lack of rights. They have no problem living in the closet, keeping it all to themselves. For those with families, though, it's been quite an issue. For others, though, like Kristin, this IS a problem. And, I'll tell you why it didn't really hit her until she had a family.
When she first joined the Army, she actually ended a relationship over "Don't ask, don't tell." Fast forward to a couple of years later, and then I came into the picture. This is when her lack of equal rights really hit her and she determined she'd no longer be swayed by them. She even came out to her commander while stationed in GA, but he said he didn't care. Upon arriving in Korea, and going to briefing after briefing where they've discussed allowing families to accompany their soldiers, it bothered her. She would ask in her mind, "What about my family?"
Aside from the fact that she's underpaid at the single rate, that it's on me to furnish all the medical coverage for myself and the kids...aside from all the financial aspects, which is okay, because I'm I-N-D-E-P-E-N-D-E-N-T, do ya know what I mean? (Haha, does anybody actually know this song?) Anyway, aside from all this, we've come across other complications along the way. First of all, should the Army decide to change her post (after Korea), it will mean nothing to them that they are taking her away from me and the kids. If we were straight, though, they would just move us as well. Also, when I visited her in Korea, I had to go through a comprehensive check-in and check-out process everytime we came on and off post. Had I been a straight military spouse, though, I'd have my own ID card. In fact, I could have rode the shuttle directly in from the airport...for free! Of course, the former issue is much larger than the latter...but it's just things that we encounter day-by-day. It has really put our relationship to a major test. We both have tendencies to run from relationships (actually, she runs and I just push them to leave me...great combo, right?), so even with the complications, the fact that we still talk numerous times everyday and intend to have a life together says a lot. We know we have something that we only share with each other...and though this is conceited, we feel we have something unexplainable a lot of couples don't. That might just be our bias, but it's how we feel.
So...it's been nearly 8 months, and on some days, I still cry just as hard as I did the day she left. Yeah, I'm one of those pitiful emotional types. Haha. You know, I even had the privilege of visiting her, and it didn't seem to make the distance any easier. This wasn't one of those "love and lose" relationships...this is the real deal. So...yeah, I have to admit, everything feels incomplete without her. No, I don't sit and mope. I can't just stop living. I get out, have fun, and spend time with the kids and with friends. Yet, there's nothing I do that wouldn't be better if she were here with us. Sometimes, we call and text while I'm out and about to help her stay engaged. Yeah...that's been our version of spending time together for the past 8 months.
As I get pitiful about my personal experience as a military "spouse," I have to scold myself, too. I know how bad it feels today, thinking we have over 4 months left...thinking about the missed birthdays, doing Pride without her, etc. But, here on Memorial Day, I think, "Gosh Brandi, you are such a loser. Some people will never get to see their soldier again."
I guess that really puts it in perspective for me.
Friday, May 16, 2008
On this truly historic decision, I can't help but get excited for all my friends and fellow activists who have been working for years to legalize marriage in California. I think of how happy they were in 2004 when Mayor Gavin Newsom opened the doors of marriage to them, and the tears they shed when their marriages were overturned and tossed aside as if their families didn't matter. It is wonderful to turn on CNN and see so many of those same people celebrating their love as if it were 2004 again.
It is not 2004 though, and since then, many Americans have had the opportunity to see that the marriages of same-sex couples in Massachusetts have had no dooms-day affect on the country or their own marriages for that matter.
Those of us in the activist world expect right-wing groups like the Family Research Council and others to take on a MAJOR offensive in California to try to change the state's Constitution to ban marriage by same-sex couples. We will see money pour into this campaign like no anti-marriage campaign in the past because the right-wing realizes if they lose this battle, the game is over. Already, they realize they are losing the battle, and this really is their last stand.
Meanwhile, gay and lesbian couples will marry in California to celebrate their love and gain the protections and responsibilities that go with marriage. Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi have said they will marry. I imagine we will see a host of other celebrities walk down the isle, but more importantly, we will see everyday people marry and gain the legal protections and respect their relationships deserve. It is the everyday people who are neighbors, co-workers, PTA members, etc. who will win over the support of Californians when it gets to the ballot box.
Thankfully, this time Governor Schwarzenegger has said he will not support a Constitutional ban on gay marriage. Let's hope many others will follow suit and do the right thing for our families in California.
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
The divorce came seven and a half years after the marriage. In that time, I grew a lot in my mind and spirit, and pretty much overcame any "hang-ups" about going to hell, being sinful, etc. Oddly enough, I learned a lot about myself while getting my degrees in psychology (which, oddly enough, was intended to serve as training to help others). At any rate, upon divorce, I felt free to roll with nature, and to make decisions based on how I feel. Ever since then, in 2002, I can say my intuition has grown exponentially, and so many other doors to my existence opened.
At the time, my children were ages 3 and 5. It wasn't long before I found my first girlfriend, and we were definitely not meant to live our lives together. So...I'd see her at school, work, and on my "grown-up weekends." In the event she came around the kids, they had no idea we were more than friends. Thus, I didn't approach the issue with them. I still wasn't totally sure what to make of my new relationship let alone what to tell the kids about it.
The first girlfriend saga didn't even last a whole year. Yet, I was certain I was gay and not bisexual, and I knew that I'd continue to date women. I thought, for a while, about how I'd approach the issue with the children. I contemplated between two extremes. I figured on one hand, I could wait until I had a meaningful relationship, with partner-potential, to even bother discussing the issue. On the other hand, I thought the younger they are, the better.
After another relationship failed a year or so later, I knew it may be years (or never) before I actually settled with a partner. I thought about how the kids could actually be grown and moved away before I find this in my life. That would be absolutely terrible, to come out with something that late in life. And besides, I was out of the closet with all the adults in my life and I had grown comfortable with being a lesbian. So...one day, when the kids (ages 6 and 4 at the time) were playing with their Barbies and super heroes, they paired them up with each other and said they were "getting married." I noticed all "couples" were opposite sex, so I took the opportunity to say the following:
"You know kids...most boys have girlfriends and most girls have boyfriends, but some boys have boyfriends and some girls have girlfriends."
"Really?" they both responded.
"Yes," I confirmed.
And to that, they went on with their play session. They weren't so shocked by my statement. So, about a week or two later, I had another opening, and I asked the kids what they would think if Mommy had a girlfriend. Morghan's response was, "You do! It's (the name of ex-girlfriend #2)." My jaw dropped at the realization that Morghan already knew.
Fast-forwarding to the present day...Morghan is nearly 11 and begins middle school in August. Chandler will turn 9 over the summer and become a big bad 4th grader. Both have known for years that I'm a lesbian, and as the time progresses, my appearance "looks more gay." Haha! I'm completely open about this with everyone except for my students. Of course, most have picked up on it (Come on, most are street-wise alternative school students), and it's no big deal (even though sexual orientation is not included in the school system's EOE statement...different topic, different blog).
So, what's the problem? The kids very rarely feel comfortable being open with their friends about my "lesbionic ways." I mean, I know at their age, they probably won't. I've never encouraged them either way, I've only said it is completely up to them what they say to their friends. Before Kristin was shipped off overseas, they'd just say she was my friend. Some kids even mistook her for a guy. I don't know how, though. She's way too pretty (no offense to men, of course). In fact, she was in the top ten for Miss New York after being crowned the winner in two different beauty pageants. Anyway...some of the kids back in Augusta would ask my children if she was their dad. Hahahahaha!
Kristin has been away most of this school year, and I'm not totally sure if she's ever coming back to be with us, the way we were before. This actually saddens the kids as much as it does me. But, that's beside the point. The point is that the kids haven't seen me behave romantically with a woman since then, but they seem to have grown more sensitive to what their peers think...especially my soon-to-be 6th grader! At an informational meeting at her future middle school, I jokingly whispered something about admitting I'm gay, and she looked horrified, as if it would be the worst thing ever. I just looked at her and said, "You have to know I won't do that."
Later that evening, I had a discussion with Morghan. I told her my position on my "gayness" and hoped it helped:
It's still up to you what you say to your friends or what you don't say to them. I will never go out of my way to embarrass you. I will not walk into your school, announcing anyone is my partner or holding hands or kissing them. You never have to worry about that. At the same time, though, I'm not going to pretend that I'm someone I'm not. I will not grow my hair longer or try to be girly just to make myself look less gay. I already tried that, and I wasn't myself. You know I've always encouraged you and your brother to be yourselves and all I can be is myself.
So, that was it, and the topic hasn't come up since then. I feel very much loved by my children, and I know they feel loved and safe with me. My intentions were to relieve Morghan of any worries of embarrassment (because that is probably the worst thing that can happen to a middle schooler...to be embarrassed...like OMG or something...TOTALLY!). I also wanted her to realize she had control in what information she gave her friends...it's nobody's business anyway, and she doesn't owe them an explanation. At the same time, though, I feel the need to give her something I didn't have: an example of self-comfort. I was never encouraged to be myself, and looking back, I can see where my Nana (the woman whose home I grew up in) had ideas about how I was supposed to be...her ideas and my reality are very far apart.
I hope I have not compromised the gay rights movement by telling her it was okay not to acknowledge my sexual orientation. At the same time, I feel it's a comfort she must come to naturally. She's a very loving, tolerant person, who finds any type of discrimination appalling. I think right now, though, her need to avoid any potential teasing (because middle schoolers can be meaner than ex-girlfriends...haha) wins out over her belief in justice for all.
Saturday, May 03, 2008
My wife and I became WNBA fans back when we lived in Washington, DC. There, a new team had just started and there was a lot of buzz in the gay community about it. I was never before a big basketball fan, but somehow my wife and I were suddenly season ticket holders and die-hard WNBA fans.
Clearly a big part of the draw for us was that the stands were filled with lesbians (not so many gay men, but probably a handful), and families. We all got along wonderfully and had a great time at the games.
It has been no secret in the WNBA that many, if not all of the league teams are supported largely by the lesbian community. Without us, they would probably not survive.
So tonight, looking around Philip's Arena, it was so nice to see all the lesbians in the stands, the quick bond, smiles and nods between strangers. We who attend the games know we are part of a club. It's a great club to be in for many reasons, but the one that stood out to me tonight was our power.
I think one of the reasons so many of us come together and enjoy ourselves in this welcoming environment is because we have power. We are safe in our numbers at the game, so even though we may be sitting near someone with views that are non-accepting of us, we know they will not speak to us in that way because we are not the minority at these games. It is safe. It is fun. And it's great to follow the drama and stories that accompany women's basketball.
As a leader in this community who often struggles with the idea that we as a community don't try to grasp real power to help ourselves, I thought about how we may have unconsciously done so through the WNBA.
In Atlanta, the stands are clearly filled with lesbians (and at least two gay male couples), and we have the power to make or break this team. It also gives us a sense of empowerment that we can be who we are at these games.
With all this rambling, what I am trying to say is we need more of you to come out. Grab the power, join the club, and have some fun at this gay affirming venue. Let's make it really obvious who supports this team so it will be our team. Could you ever dream of us having the power to control the fate of a national sports team? We do. And this actually will help us in our drive for acceptance in this country.
Not only will straight people have the opportunity to meet gay people and realize were not so scary or bad, but we will gain tremendous respect from the business leaders in the community who need us to make this team survive and ultimately thrive. These are both important wins for us.
So, all that being said, I say come out to as many games as you can. Become a season ticket holder if you can. Buy your tickets for the home opener May 23rd through MEGA so we can show them our economic power. Folks, I may not have done the best job explaining this, but it matters.
Click here to purchase tickets for the MEGA block on May 23rd!
If you want to learn more about the Atlanta Dream, you can click here to go to their website!
**And on a side note to the LA Sparks and their fans--your team was rude and arrogant tonight! Though Candace Parker is probably one of the best players in the league, her arrogant, show-boating behavior was a disgrace. How disappointing to see her head down this path. I hope someone stops her and brings her back down to earth. With minutes left to a strangely close game, Candace, Lisa Leslie, and several other teammates were not even watching the game--they were dancing and watching various fans in the stands dance. They literally had their backs to the game, which is something I have never seen before in a team. How disrespectful to your teammates who WERE playing and to the Atlanta Dream who actually almost beat your team!
Still, it is a lot of fun, so come on out to the games!
Saturday, April 19, 2008
I've spent a lot of time worrying about how my being gay affects my children who live in a very small town where I was very well known. I've worried about how their morals, values, and religious views are being formed living in an area where it is really NOT ok for your Dad to be gay. Luckily for me, I've been very well accepted or tolerated depending on the person. I still worry about them.
Friday afternoon I realized that with all my worries about being gay and how it affects my children, I let a hard week affect both of us more. How crazy is it that being gay has been a GOOD "status symbol" with her friends. She's doing a play right now where there are two of her high school buddies who are gay. How wonderful is that? What I sometimes forget is that being a Dad to my children is LEAST about my being gay and more about showing them the right way to handle bad days and weeks. Its about loving them no matter what. Friday reminded me that its also about how to correct the bad end to a bad week and showing my daughter that I'm human. At the end of the day, she sent me a text message that read: "Daddy, I don't tell you this enough but I love you more than you will ever know. "
All I know is that after I dried my tears, I thanked God for reminding me that sometimes you even have to tell your children you're sorry. What a great start to a weekend and a new week!
Thursday, March 20, 2008
I know this "idea" was stolen from someone so I'm not taking the credit but....
The value of something should not be determined by what you get out of it until you think about what you are putting in to it.
I learned this lesson this year. I know now that if I really want to get something out of an organization or event that I need to put something back into it. Thats why I volunteered to serve on the board of Mega Family and recently added myself to the list of Mega Family Champions. My 2 cents in time and money may not mean much by itself, but combine that with everyone else and we both gain from it. I've never believed that as much in my life as I do now. I hope that the readers of this blog will feel the same. Get out there and contribute whether it be your money or your time. JUST DO IT :).
Monday, March 17, 2008
Saturday, March 15, 2008
Morghan said, "Well, people litter and leave their trash everywhere. People kill each other, there's wars, etc."
"Wow, those are some problems right now," I acknowledged.
"And just think what he must have been thinking back when we had slavery! He must have really been disappointed," she wondered.
I validated her sentiments once again. As we drove on, I had a few ideas and I felt quite good about the thoughts running through my mind.
First of all, I was proud that homosexuality was NOT on her list of problems God would be upset about. Most of all, though, I was proud that the things she does feel are a problem are obvious injustices, which cause harm to others (i.e., pollution, violence, exploitation, etc.). As parents, I know we want to protect our kids from the ills of the world, but since they nevertheless exist, I'm glad my daughter recognizes them and knows these are the real problems (well, in my opinion, at least).
Sunday, March 09, 2008
Wednesday, March 05, 2008
Okay, so my partner is in Korea, and I have this unbelievable opportunity to go visit her. One of my colleagues is married to someone who generously hooked me up with a buddy pass...making the flight affordable. My kids have also reached the ages where they can spend a week with someone else. So, I started thinking about ideas for where they could go. After all, I wanted them to have a good time wherever they are. I would feel guilty if I went off to Korea, having the time of my life and then found out the kids were not having a good time on their spring break. So...I knew their father was not an option. He has never opted to have them for more than his alternating weekends. And besides, he works that week. Then, I thought about all the times the kids have asked to spend more time with my mother. When I told them I had the chance to go see Kristin in Korea, they were incredibly supportive and asked me to see if Grandma would have them over.
First, let me explain that my mother and I aren't close at all. Our relationship has been strained since my teen years, when she started a new life that really had no room for me. Don't get me wrong, I tried. But, she doesn't like that I'm gay. Prior to that, she didn't like that I was divorced. Prior to that, she didn't like the man I had been married to. Prior to that, she didn't like that I was not a practicing Catholic, the way she thought I ought to worship. Prior to that, she didn't like my job as a client relations representative at a sperm bank, because she said it was against God's will. And prior to that...I was just a bad teenager who disappointed her. Prior to that, she claimed she was subjected to vicious gossip, because she was 15 and pregnant with me, and that I should be grateful that she gave me life, rather than aborted me. I feel very fortunate that my Nana (her mother, who is still alive, yet "gone" as a result of dementia) actually raised me and loves me no matter what.
Anyway, that was the "nutshell version." But, in the past few years, I thought about extending myself somewhat to my mother. People always tell me it's better to try and have a relationship, rather than carry animosity. I've long gotten over the fact that we'd never be the mother-daughter pair you see hanging out, telling each other intimate stories, etc. But, I had hoped we could just "agree to disagree" about issues...that she could be happy that I found happiness, and I could accept that she has her beliefs and that it's okay we don't see eye-to-eye. I had also hoped we'd have some sort of interaction outside of bumping into each other at the family Christmas dinner. Most of all, I'd hoped she could have a relationship with the kids...they hear all their friends speak fondly of times with their grandparents...and they wish they could have the same thing.
So...I thought this might be a chance. The kids requested that I ask her before anyone else about them spending their spring break with her. They wanted to go, because on the rare occasions we are in her home (usually an extended family gathering), they have such a great time with their aunts and uncles, who aren't much older than them. Plus, she works from home, home-schooling her kids, and helping manage my step-father's business. I was nervous about asking, but I figured the worst she could say is "no." I definitely trust her to look out for the kids, and I knew they'd be happy. Boy, "the worst" was a lot worse than I expected.
My mother not only said "no," which is okay, because it's her prerogative to have visitors or not, but she fired back with a negative preaching. She treated me as if I didn't understand the difference between love and platonic friendship. Among other things, she explained how she was closer to some of her female friends than she was her husband, but that her friends could never serve the role of her spouse. She also told me God didn't intend it this way, and reminded me that I "chose" to enter into an unhappy marriage years ago. She wouldn't refer to my partner by name, only stating "I hope you friend makes it home safely."
In the email exchange, I tried to be very tactful, but I did respond by stating I accepted her position on the matter. However, I asked her to consider that I'm nearly 33 years old, that I'm very self-aware and have no confusion between platonic close friendships and romance, and that even though she didn't approve, my relationship with Kristin is very real. I also mentioned "feeling gay" before attempting marriage, but that I didn't always have the confidence to come out with it. My mother then responded to it with two more emails, stating she will only accept that I chose to be a lesbian. She also took the opportunity to vaguely refer to the past, stating I made choices that strained our relationship. In addition, she referred to my failed marriage as a reason to support her belief that my current partnership could not be taken seriously (though I was 20 years old and way too young when I got married).
So...to that, I told her how I felt, and that I could have done without the assault-by-email, and reminded her I was only trying to reach out (because I have trustworthy friends who are having the friends over that week), and left the door open. I stated I was okay with our differences, but that I couldn't be disrespected. I said if she ever decided she could have a relationship with ME, to let me know. To that, I got no response, and I'm at peace with the fact that we may never have much of a relationship.
I think about my mother, and I think about the random people (i.e., picketers at Pride who waste perfectly good weekends expressing messages of hate), and then I think about extreme hate crimes. Of all the issues people debate, why is there so much drama about gays? This is one issue where, people could honestly agree to disagree and not be impacted. Who do we hurt by being gay? Which non-gays are inconvenienced by gays? Again, this is not to say others should feel obligated to change whatever beliefs or opinions about homosexuality...but how are others honestly hurt by us, and why is there such a strong of a need to either suppress us, harm us, or merely dissociate themselves from us?
Personally, I've been very fortunate. I haven't lost straight friends after coming out of the closet. Most everybody I've worked with or otherwise associated with professionally seems to accept me. At this point, nobody has harmed me because of it. Really and truly, the person most hateful toward me has been my very own mother...who really just needed a reason to be against me. But, these stories others tell me of being the victim of hate...I'll never understand the purpose of it.
Monday, March 03, 2008
Saturday, February 23, 2008
I wasn't quite ready to navigate a 3 year old through the throngs of people sure to attend Ringling Brothers at Philips Arena. And I didn't know much about the Universoul Circus at Turner Stadium. However, I had previously attended the Big Apple Circus and we agreed that because it offered a smaller, more intimate setting at Stone Mountain, we would make this circus Connor's first circus experience.
For days before the event, we built excitement and talked about what we might see under the big top. Connor's eyes would light up every time we talked about clowns, or horses, or acrobats performing aerial feats unlike anything he had ever seen. He was genuinely excited and eagerly anticipated our upcoming family outing.
At last, circus night arrived. Because it was a Friday, the plan was for Vincent to come home from work a little earlier than normal so we wouldn't have to rush making our way to Stone Mountain. I let Connor take a longer-than-normal nap knowing that he would be up late that evening. If there is one thing I have learned as a parent, it's that some kids need more sleep than others. If Connor is tired, he is cranky. And if he is cranky, you can expect a meltdown of monumental proportions wherever you might be: the grocery store, the mall, at a playgroup...anywhere there is a large audience to observe his performance.
I suppose I've become somewhat immune to his meltdowns. Maybe not immune, but I've learned to pretend I don't care how he is acting. For example, the first time I witnessed his foot-stomping, throw-yourself-down-on-the-ground-screaming-for-attention act, I picked him up and hurriedly ran out of the store, leaving a half-full basket of melting ice cream and other assorted items for someone else to deal with. Of course, I knew my parental skills were on trial at that moment and that I was going to be voted as the grocery store's worst parent/customer of the month for his display of uncontrolled fits. As time has passed, however, I have learned that his tantrums are not out of the ordinary for a 3 year old and have seen some of his peers have tantrums that put his to shame. I have also learned that the best thing for me to do is to pretend that I am in a Valium-induced haze and ignore his fits while I make a quick exit from his stage. This, fortunately, seems to do the trick.
The other day, I helped serve lunch at our church following a mid-day Lenten worship service. Connor happens to attend school at the church, so when his day was over, his teacher brought him to me where we were serving. There were also a number of church members and guests who were enjoying lunch. Peacefully, that is, until I told Connor it was time for us to go home. He stomped his feet several times and with all the drama he could muster, threw himself on the floor and proceeded to scream "I don't want to go home." Had there been a bottle of tequila nearby, I would have started downing shots with abandon. However, using all the restraint I could muster, I stood up and headed for the exit. At one point, I glanced over my shoulder to see if Connor was behind me but all I saw were 60 pairs of eyes watching us as we left.
After we got home and he went down for his nap, I polished off the remaining tequila in the liquor cabinet.
We had a wonderful time at the circus. Connor was on his best behavior and he watched the show with spellbound intensity. When it was over, we asked him what he enjoyed the most. "Hmm, I think I liked it all. But my very favorite part was the horses." As we left the big top and made our way to the exit, he noticed that the concession stand was open and had not sold out all of their cotton candy. Blue cotton candy, that is.
"Daddy Larry," he asked, "Can I have some cotton candy."
Uh oh, I thought, I know how this is going to go. "No, you've had plenty to eat tonight and it's much too late to eat anything else."
"But I'm hungry," he whined.
"Well," I said, "there won't be any cotton candy tonight."
And with that he stomped his feet.
And then he wailed, "I want some cotton candy." And the tears streamed down his face.
"Please, please, please..."
We quickly made our way to the car which, fortunately was parked nearby. But his pleas only got louder.
As we made our way out of the parking lot a few minutes later, I realized Connor had gotten quiet.
I looked at my son through the rear view mirror. Connor had fallen fast asleep.
Monday, February 18, 2008
Sure enough, within 30 seconds of being in the classroom, I hear one of her classmates ask a teacher, "which one is her real mom." The question echoed inside me like I was in some movie. I couldn't hear what the teacher said, but I imagine and hope she said they both are. Whatever she said the conversation ended and the little girl seemed satisfied.
Busted by a child once again. I imagine we will experience MANY years of dealing with the inquisitive minds of babes.
What I did take away from the situation is the lack of work we have been doing around my daughter's family structure. I really just want to believe my daughter is going to a progressive school, so we wouldn't have to do much.
We are active participants at my daughter's school. We talk with the other parents and the kids, so we have been overly optimistic about how it will all shake out. The truth is, I wonder what the other parents have told their kids about our family. I really should find out for the benefit of my daughter, but somehow it is sort of like putting off that dental cleaning.
Can you believe what a bad example I am setting for other parents? Just goes to show it is hard for all of us, even those of us living in fairly progressive areas.
Thursday, January 31, 2008
I am left wondering, can we do anything as parents, or is this predetermined programing?
I ask if it is predetermined because my daughter's extremely social, wannabe everyone's best friend is not from anything we are aware of doing. She seemed this way from about 5 1/2 months on. Just as happy as can be, wanting to play with everyone (I didn't say she always wants to share her toys).
Some days I think we are blessed to have such a social, easy-going child who quickly develops new friends. Other days I cringe as I watch her get devastated time after time by kids who won't play with her for their own reasons ranging from my daughters too young for them, she's not a part of the little play ground clique of the day, or I surmise they simply think she is weird because she is so social.
This is definitely the stuff you don't think about before you become a parent. It's really hard. Figuring our when to intervene, when to let it play out. I know she needs to learn social rules, so I usually let it play out, but the look on her face crushes my heart every time I see it. It's enough to make you want to drop kick a mean child across a play ground.
Thankfully, a lot of parents try to stop antisocial behavior from their kids. Whether it makes any difference in the end is questionable. Maybe kids are just wired to be who they are socially. Maybe how they are at 2,3,4, or 5 will be nothing like who they will become (note: I am thinking of the dreaded high school popularity years).
But, for those of you who are new to the game, be prepared for the parents who could care less if their child is as mean as can be to your child. Interestingly, my anecdotal McDonald's Play Land experience proves that almost exclusively the kids who are allowed to be the meanest have the most affluent looking parents.
What does that say? Don't know. Would love to hear your comments on the subject.
Sunday, January 20, 2008
Here are Obama's words from his speech at Ebeneezer Baptist Church in Atlanta today:
The Scripture tells us that when Joshua and the Israelites arrived at the gates of Jericho, they could not enter. The walls of the city were too steep for any one person to climb; too strong to be taken down with brute force. And so they sat for days, unable to pass on through.
But God had a plan for his people. He told them to stand together and march together around the city, and on the seventh day he told them that when they heard the sound of the ram’s horn, they should speak with one voice. And at the chosen hour, when the horn sounded and a chorus of voices cried out together, the mighty walls of Jericho came tumbling down.
There are many lessons to take from this passage, just as there are many lessons to take from this day, just as there are many memories that fill the space of this church. As I was thinking about which ones we need to remember at this hour, my mind went back to the very beginning of the modern Civil Rights Era.
Because before Memphis and the mountaintop; before the bridge in Selma and the march on Washington; before Birmingham and the beatings; the fire hoses and the loss of those four little girls; before there was King the icon and his magnificent dream, there was King the young preacher and a people who found themselves suffering under the yolk of oppression.
And on the eve of the bus boycotts in Montgomery, at a time when many were still doubtful about the possibilities of change, a time when those in the black community mistrusted themselves, and at times mistrusted each other, King inspired with words not of anger, but of an urgency that still speaks to us today:
“Unity is the great need of the hour” is what King said. Unity is how we shall overcome.
What Dr. King understood is that if just one person chose to walk instead of ride the bus, those walls of oppression would not be moved. But maybe if a few more walked, the foundation might start to shake. If a few more women were willing to do what Rosa Parks had done, maybe the cracks would start to show. If teenagers took freedom rides from North to South, maybe a few bricks would come loose. Maybe if white folks marched because they had come to understand that their freedom too was at stake in the impending battle, the wall would begin to sway. And if enough Americans were awakened to the injustice; if they joined together, North and South, rich and poor, Christian and Jew, then perhaps that wall would come tumbling down, and justice would flow like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream.
Unity is the great need of the hour – the great need of this hour. Not because it sounds pleasant or because it makes us feel good, but because it’s the only way we can overcome the essential deficit that exists in this country.
I’m not talking about a budget deficit. I’m not talking about a trade deficit. I’m not talking about a deficit of good ideas or new plans.
I’m talking about a moral deficit. I’m talking about an empathy deficit. I’m talking about an inability to recognize ourselves in one another; to understand that we are our brother’s keeper; we are our sister’s keeper; that, in the words of Dr. King, we are all tied together in a single garment of destiny.
We have an empathy deficit when we’re still sending our children down corridors of shame – schools in the forgotten corners of America where the color of your skin still affects the content of your education.
We have a deficit when CEOs are making more in ten minutes than some workers make in ten months; when families lose their homes so that lenders make a profit; when mothers can’t afford a doctor when their children get sick.
We have a deficit in this country when there is Scooter Libby justice for some and Jena justice for others; when our children see nooses hanging from a schoolyard tree today, in the present, in the twenty-first century.
We have a deficit when homeless veterans sleep on the streets of our cities; when innocents are slaughtered in the deserts of Darfur; when young Americans serve tour after tour of duty in a war that should’ve never been authorized and never been waged.
And we have a deficit when it takes a breach in our levees to reveal a breach in our compassion; when it takes a terrible storm to reveal the hungry that God calls on us to feed; the sick He calls on us to care for; the least of these He commands that we treat as our own.
So we have a deficit to close. We have walls – barriers to justice and equality – that must come down. And to do this, we know that unity is the great need of this hour.
Unfortunately, all too often when we talk about unity in this country, we’ve come to believe that it can be purchased on the cheap. We’ve come to believe that racial reconciliation can come easily – that it’s just a matter of a few ignorant people trapped in the prejudices of the past, and that if the demagogues and those who exploit our racial divisions will simply go away, then all our problems would be solved.
All too often, we seek to ignore the profound institutional barriers that stand in the way of ensuring opportunity for all children, or decent jobs for all people, or health care for those who are sick. We long for unity, but are unwilling to pay the price.
But of course, true unity cannot be so easily won. It starts with a change in attitudes – a broadening of our minds, and a broadening of our hearts.
It’s not easy to stand in somebody else’s shoes. It’s not easy to see past our differences. We’ve all encountered this in our own lives. But what makes it even more difficult is that we have a politics in this country that seeks to drive us apart – that puts up walls between us.
We are told that those who differ from us on a few things are different from us on all things; that our problems are the fault of those who don’t think like us or look like us or come from where we do. The welfare queen is taking our tax money. The immigrant is taking our jobs. The believer condemns the non-believer as immoral, and the non-believer chides the believer as intolerant.
For most of this country’s history, we in the African-American community have been at the receiving end of man’s inhumanity to man. And all of us understand intimately the insidious role that race still sometimes plays – on the job, in the schools, in our health care system, and in our criminal justice system.
And yet, if we are honest with ourselves, we must admit that none of our hands are entirely clean. If we’re honest with ourselves, we’ll acknowledge that our own community has not always been true to King’s vision of a beloved community.
We have scorned our gay brothers and sisters instead of embracing them. The scourge of anti-Semitism has, at times, revealed itself in our community. For too long, some of us have seen immigrants as competitors for jobs instead of companions in the fight for opportunity.
Every day, our politics fuels and exploits this kind of division across all races and regions; across gender and party. It is played out on television. It is sensationalized by the media. And last week, it even crept into the campaign for President, with charges and counter-charges that served to obscure the issues instead of illuminating the critical choices we face as a nation.
So let us say that on this day of all days, each of us carries with us the task of changing our hearts and minds. The division, the stereotypes, the scape-goating, the ease with which we blame our plight on others – all of this distracts us from the common challenges we face – war and poverty; injustice and inequality. We can no longer afford to build ourselves up by tearing someone else down. We can no longer afford to traffic in lies or fear or hate. It is the poison that we must purge from our politics; the wall that we must tear down before the hour grows too late.
Because if Dr. King could love his jailor; if he could call on the faithful who once sat where you do to forgive those who set dogs and fire hoses upon them, then surely we can look past what divides us in our time, and bind up our wounds, and erase the empathy deficit that exists in our hearts.
But if changing our hearts and minds is the first critical step, we cannot stop there. It is not enough to bemoan the plight of poor children in this country and remain unwilling to push our elected officials to provide the resources to fix our schools. It is not enough to decry the disparities of health care and yet allow the insurance companies and the drug companies to block much-needed reforms. It is not enough for us to abhor the costs of a misguided war, and yet allow ourselves to be driven by a politics of fear that sees the threat of attack as way to scare up votes instead of a call to come together around a common effort.
The Scripture tells us that we are judged not just by word, but by deed. And if we are to truly bring about the unity that is so crucial in this time, we must find it within ourselves to act on what we know; to understand that living up to this country’s ideals and its possibilities will require great effort and resources; sacrifice and stamina.
And that is what is at stake in the great political debate we are having today. The changes that are needed are not just a matter of tinkering at the edges, and they will not come if politicians simply tell us what we want to hear. All of us will be called upon to make some sacrifice. None of us will be exempt from responsibility. We will have to fight to fix our schools, but we will also have to challenge ourselves to be better parents. We will have to confront the biases in our criminal justice system, but we will also have to acknowledge the deep-seated violence that still resides in our own communities and marshal the will to break its grip.
That is how we will bring about the change we seek. That is how Dr. King led this country through the wilderness. He did it with words – words that he spoke not just to the children of slaves, but the children of slave owners. Words that inspired not just black but also white; not just the Christian but the Jew; not just the Southerner but also the Northerner.
He led with words, but he also led with deeds. He also led by example. He led by marching and going to jail and suffering threats and being away from his family. He led by taking a stand against a war, knowing full well that it would diminish his popularity. He led by challenging our economic structures, understanding that it would cause discomfort. Dr. King understood that unity cannot be won on the cheap; that we would have to earn it through great effort and determination.
That is the unity – the hard-earned unity – that we need right now. It is that effort, and that determination, that can transform blind optimism into hope – the hope to imagine, and work for, and fight for what seemed impossible before.
The stories that give me such hope don’t happen in the spotlight. They don’t happen on the presidential stage. They happen in the quiet corners of our lives. They happen in the moments we least expect. Let me give you an example of one of those stories.
There is a young, twenty-three year old white woman named Ashley Baia who organizes for our campaign in Florence, South Carolina. She’s been working to organize a mostly African-American community since the beginning of this campaign, and the other day she was at a roundtable discussion where everyone went around telling their story and why they were there.
And Ashley said that when she was nine years old, her mother got cancer. And because she had to miss days of work, she was let go and lost her health care. They had to file for bankruptcy, and that’s when Ashley decided that she had to do something to help her mom.
She knew that food was one of their most expensive costs, and so Ashley convinced her mother that what she really liked and really wanted to eat more than anything else was mustard and relish sandwiches. Because that was the cheapest way to eat.
She did this for a year until her mom got better, and she told everyone at the roundtable that the reason she joined our campaign was so that she could help the millions of other children in the country who want and need to help their parents too.
So Ashley finishes her story and then goes around the room and asks everyone else why they’re supporting the campaign. They all have different stories and reasons. Many bring up a specific issue. And finally they come to this elderly black man who’s been sitting there quietly the entire time. And Ashley asks him why he’s there. And he does not bring up a specific issue. He does not say health care or the economy. He does not say education or the war. He does not say that he was there because of Barack Obama. He simply says to everyone in the room, “I am here because of Ashley.”
By itself, that single moment of recognition between that young white girl and that old black man is not enough. It is not enough to give health care to the sick, or jobs to the jobless, or education to our children.
But it is where we begin. It is why the walls in that room began to crack and shake.
And if they can shake in that room, they can shake in Atlanta.
And if they can shake in Atlanta, they can shake in Georgia.
And if they can shake in Georgia, they can shake all across America. And if enough of our voices join together; we can bring those walls tumbling down. The walls of Jericho can finally come tumbling down. That is our hope – but only if we pray together, and work together, and march together.
Brothers and sisters, we cannot walk alone.
In the struggle for peace and justice, we cannot walk alone.
In the struggle for opportunity and equality, we cannot walk alone
In the struggle to heal this nation and repair this world, we cannot walk alone.
So I ask you to walk with me, and march with me, and join your voice with mine, and together we will sing the song that tears down the walls that divide us, and lift up an America that is truly indivisible, with liberty, and justice, for all. May God bless the memory of the great pastor of this church, and may God bless the United States of America.