Thursday, December 31, 2009

Last Day of the Year and of the Decade: 'Bye 2009!

It's 10 PM on January 31st and I'm sitting at my computer while keeping baby Nero from peeing on the floor and wondering which boy will crash first. Mark's working an overnight shift at the group home and Ms. Lion's feeling under the weather. Just a typical New Year's Celebration in the home of one of the most boring gay couples in America.

I was thinking about New Year's Eve 2008. We traveled to Massachusettes to spend the holiday with Mark's parents. Last January 31st, the group of us rode a train into Boston and ended up checking out ice sculptures in the middle of the coldest blizzard in recent history. The train was fun, as was this family arts event in the middle of Boston. Trudging through ice and sludge with very wet shoes was not. But we survived and the blizzard certainly helped make for a memorable vacation.

I was thinking about the wedding tonight. One week and one day until the big event. We finally picked out our outfits and the food and we have a general idea of how the music will happen. I'm trying to figure out how much to plan out the reception. Script it or let it flow. Both seem like nightmare ideas. I was supposed to rent a hotel suite for the boys, Mark's sister, and us so that we can hang out with my family, but I can take care of that tomorrow.

The biggest thing that I need to do by the end of the weekend is come up with a draft wedding ceremony. I've got the hymn picked out and the scripture readings. I need to come up with a responsive reading and I told Pastor Bruce that he needs to come up with a homily or sermon of sorts. I worked on bulletins for nearly two years as church secretary. It won't be a big deal to do it, but it will be a big deal if I don't get it done soon.

Mark's been working on these reception centerpieces involving candles, sand-or-plastic-snow (I'm not really sure which and I'm staying out of it), and plastic snow flakes and all I can think of was this one scene from WE's Bridezillas when one of the brides was assembling similar centerpieces with her mother and future mother-in-law. Needless to say, I'm leaving this aspect of the planning to Mark and his sister.

There is one last part of planning that I totally blew off and I'm not really sure I can do anything about it and that's wedding gifts to my family and Mark's sister for coming. I just can't think of anything. The one thing that I might try rushing is some sort of personalized beer cozy. I might have to do some online research tonight.

Anyway, we're a half hour away from midnight in New York. Happy New Year's everyone! Here's hoping for a fun, safe, and drama-free 2010!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Update on the Jenkins/Miller Child Custody Mess

I shared my thoughts last month on the ongoing Lisa Miller/Janet Jenkins child custody battle that's been going on for years. Here's the case in a nutshell: The two women were in a relationship. One of the women got pregnant. The women were in a civil union. They raised the child together for a year or so. The women broke up, but maintained joint custody and the non-biological mother (Jenkins) was financially supporting their child. Eventually, the bio mom (Miller) moved from Vermont (one of the more gay-friendly states in the nation) to Virginia (one of the most gay-unfriendly states in the nation). She renounced her lesbianism, joined an extremely theologically conservative Christian church, sought the legal support of Christian law firm Liberty Counsel, and attempted to write out non-bio mom.

Last month, after the courts had enough of Lisa Miller's obstruction, Janet Jenkins was awarded primary custody of 7-year-old Isabella, with Lisa maintaining regular visitation and Isabella being allowed to continue practicing her faith. The custody switch is scheduled to occur on Friday. Except...

It appears that my third thought from my previous blog entry has happened. Word began circulating yesterday that Lisa and Isabella have disappeared. Miller's attorney's were fighting to stall or overturn last month's order. The judge dismissed these efforts, citing Miller's lack of contact with the courts or her attorneys. The questions began circulating. Was she just making the most of her time with Isabella? Had she essentially kidnapped Isabella and gone into hiding? It was a big question mark.

Today, Miller's friend and ex-gay activist Debbie Thurman seemed to answer this question:

So, the blogosphere and the mainstream media are now abuzz with the news that — gasp! — Lisa and Isabella Miller are nowhere to be found, just days before the court-mandated transfer of custody of 7-year-old Isabella to Janet Jenkins. Ya reckon?

Were I in Lisa’s shoes, I could only hope to have the faith and courage she has displayed for the past six years. First, the faith to place your future and the future of your child in the hands of a group of attorneys whose task it has been to forge a path through the wilderness of gay civil union divorce litigation. The People’s Republic of Massachusetts, for Pete’s sake, didn’t even allow gay marriages to be dissolved there at first, as if they thought gay marriage had some magic resistance to that fallout. In Vermont, where same-sex civil unions were birthed, clerks had to offer disenchanted, divorcing gay partners inadequate paperwork. So, Lisa filled out the requisite form, such as it was, writing in between the lines that she desired only supervised visitation between her ex and her daughter. That’s not what she got, however. Jenkins had no compromise in her. It was going to be her way or the highway. Well, now it’s the highway.

Then, Lisa had to find the courage to make some tough decisions. She prayed continually, even asking God to soften the heart of Janet Jenkins, hoping against hope that she might come to her senses and cease her selfish pursuit of a child she surely had no love for and had not helped to raise. What has driven her custody petitions, other than the hope of a legal-activist coup for the gay rights agenda? God answered those prayers by affirming over and over that Lisa was to take measures to protect her daughter...

I cannot answer the burning question on everyone’s lips: Where are Lisa and Isabella? Somewhere safe, I pray. How and when did they get there? Only God knows.

What happens now? A lot of frustration, recrimination and more lies on one side and a collective sigh of relief on the other. The courts still have a huge task set before them, meanwhile. Lisa and Isabella represent only one of many similar cases waiting to be resolved. We need precedents that honor the prevailing states’ rights, laws and constitutions. The majority of Americans overwhelmingly support traditional marriage. If the tyrannical minority wants to push against that, it can and will be met with civil disobedience. There is no other way.

Lisa Miller is a mother who would give up her life to save her child. Of that there is no doubt. She apparently has chosen to forfeit a large measure of her liberty, personal property and pursuit of happiness in assuring that child her God-ordained future, much as a group of patriots pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor more than two centuries ago to establish this nation.

I say God bless and long live Lisa and Isabella Miller. All who have known them are the better for it.

I wrote before that this case has always stunk of jurisdiction-shopping. Create a family. Break up. Move somewhere where you can deprive your child of his/her other parent and use the courts to do your dirty work.

I also wrote before that people were going to use the Manhattan Declaration to justify defying this court order. That's already happened and I'm sure that Miller and her friends (like Manhattan Declaration supporter, Debbie Thurman) feel more than justified defying the court system to serve their own purposes under the cloak of "religious liberties".

I wrote it before and I'll write it again: If you bring a child into the world and/or into your life with another parent and then you break up, suck it up. It's no longer about you. You owe it to your child to do everything in your power to minimize the harm of your break-up on him/her.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

No H1N1 Vaccine for Jon?

Early this month, I wrote about my inability to obtain a vaccination for the H1N1 vaccine. That's no longer a concern. Mark, the boys, and I were offered the vaccine this morning through work and decided to take up my employer on their generous offer. So, I'm either safe from the disease or now infected with some government-concocted bio-engineered menace, depending on your point of view.

I will say that the nurse was very good. I didn't even feel the injection. Apparently, Mark didn't either. He questions whether we were actually vaccinated.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Post-Christmas Meanderings

video

I've been away since Wednesday morning visiting my mother and various siblings. The trip started off on shakey ground. I didn't know if we'd actually make it up to Minnesota because of the snow and ice storms. To make things more complicated, both Mark and Les needed to be back to this area by Friday afternoon or Saturday morning at the ultimate latest because of work and a home visit with his mother, respectively. Ultimately, we decided to have D'Angelo, Ms. Lion, and I travel north on our own. It seemed the simplest solution, even if we ended up being split up for the holidays.

Needless to say, D' and I survived the trip north. There was lots of drama between D' and the younger batch of nephews. He's the youngest, so they often treat him badly. Especially when they're all gathered together. It's usually best when it's one family-on-one. I then spend the entire vacation debating internally on whether to intervene versus whether to let D' fight his battles.

My biggest mistake of the extended weekend was allowing D' to bring his new nerf guns and his new rubber band gun to my mom's farm. I'm still wondering what prompted me to buy the stupid rubber band gun. It actually broke on Day Two, but they managed to patch it together with wood-glue. Needless to say, D' nearly took out my one nephew's eye on Christmas evening, which prompted a gun ban for the rest of the vacation.

My one big present was a Flip Video Camera. I'm still figuring out how exactly I'm going to use it, but it's still a pretty neat toy. I made a brief film of my mom's aging border collie, Lady. She's a really sweet dog who's been with my parents since the early 90's. Unfortunately, she's not doing too well these days. She most likely won't survive the winter. Anyway, I wanted to see how my new camera's videos will translate onto this blog.

I got dragged off to my deceased brother-in-law's old gas station last night by my brother, sisters, and sister-in-law. Roger's friends wanted to hold one last "happy hour" in his memory before the station got sold. I wasn't too keen on the idea. I'm not a drinker and that was pretty much the agenda. Plus, I'm a pretty linear guy. I like to know when things are scheduled to begin, when they're to end, and what's gonna happen. These get-togethers tend to be more "show-up-when-you-get-there-and-hang-out-until...-whenever" types of events.

So I got there and I had no way to leave so I just forced myself to relax and make the most of it. It turned out to be a lot of fun. I soaked up a little liquid courage (but not too much) and allowed things to flow around me. Soon I was chatting with my sister's friends and having some nice heart-to-hearts with my different siblings. It was a nice bonding moment that I'm glad in retrospect I didn't pass up on.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Awesome Tweet

Behold the power of praying away the gay!:


Yes, it's petty. But it's also too good to pass up. :P

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

On the Radio

I was on the radio this afternoon. I was given a heads-up by Matt Fender of Lambda Legal about an hour-long segment called "Gay Fathers" on Iowa Public Radio's "The Exchange". He knows our story and thought that Mark or I might be able to offer a bit of our story during the show's caller segment. You can listen to the program on the IPR website and I noticed that it's already ready for download on iTunes.

I ended up sitting on hold for most of the program, though they did finally get to me about 5-10 minutes before the end of the program. Nothing too exciting that I haven't already shared on this blog. I started out talking about how it's weird being engaged to my husband. I then talked about us becoming foster parents in 2001 and about eventually adopting D' and becoming guardians for Les. I touched briefly about our history of partnershipping with our boys' birth families and how that nurtured unexpected allies in 2002/'03 when the state of Iowa contemplated a bill that would have prohibitted gay people from foster parenting or adopting. There was a little bit more that I talked about, but frankly the whole call was a blur. I think I said all that in about 1.5-2 minutes.

Mark ended up missing my call (he got distracted at home by D' and our new puppy). My co-worker Steve popped his head in my office after my call (the program airs during my lunch hour) and said I did a good job. Check out the show online and judge for yourself whether or not I did okay.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

2009 Remembrances

I know that hundreds -- if not thousands -- of people die worldwide every day, but Death has seems to be touching my life and the life of those around me way too often this year. Some were family. Others might as well have been. Others were folks I've never met in real life, but who touched me deeply for one reason or another. And others were family of friends or co-workers.

*My father, Ronald Trouten
*My brother-in-law, Roger Hanson
*My brother-in-law Roger's mother, Geraldine Hanson
*My great aunt, Inez Trouten
*My beloved pet, Moogie
*My friend/co-worker Deb W's mother
*Outstanding Brittish actress, Mollie Sugden

I know there were several others who passed away this year. I pray for each of these individuals who have moved onto their next journey and I pray for those who have been left behind. And I pray that 2010 be kinder, gentler year for those in my life.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Scrooge


Les' school put on a modern day version of "A Christmas Carol" this week. This particular group is a mix of disabled and non-disabled students, which always makes for interesting productions. This particular production jumped back and forth between a dyspotic 2020 America, filled with masses of nameless poverty-stricken folks who are too poor to do anything but stand in a never-ending line and Scrooge's familiar life in Victorian England. The scenes were interspersed with various familiar and not-so-familiar Christmas songs.

The themes of both overwhelming poverty and class warfare crossed over between the two eras. Unfortunately, those same themes came off as terribly forced and preachy. And while the production attempted to create empathy and understanding for those overwhelmed by poverty and need, it failed to portray the single-most important message contained within "A Christmas Carol": that of redemption. Sure, Scrooge turned the corner at the end of the production following his three ghostly journeys, but where was the redemptive resolution in 2020? Where was the humanity? It was muted to such a degree that it couldn't be recognized.

To be honest, I'm not a huge fan of "A Christmas Carol". Everyone's done a version of it. I've seen it on stage, on the big screen, in cartoons, in sitcoms, and in comic books. It's not that it's a bad story. It's just not anything new.

The one version of "A Christmas Carol" that I absolutely adore and can re-watch anytime is the 1970 musical called "Scrooge", starring Albert Finney and Alec Guiness. The scenery and the costuming is beautiful and the soundtrack is out of this world. Maybe that's the problem. This version was my entrance to the Scrooge & Marley Mythos and every other version pales in comparison.







Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Road to Nora Springs

Most of my work day today was devoted to traveling to the town of Nora Springs, IA, to visit a new client at the town's local RCF. I had never heard of the community before being assigned to this client. Nora Springs is roughly two and a half hours from Iowa City, which gave me lots of time to observe and ponder. Here are some of the things I noticed:

*There are tons of wind turbines lined along Interstate 218 about 30 miles southeast of Nora Springs. At least a dozen of them and I couldn't not stare at them. My parents have a farm and I've often thought that it would be a good thing for us to dot the land with wind turbines to help power our community and line my parents' wallet. After seeing this batched of turbines, I can't help but wonder whether or not we'd be able to have more than 2 or 3 turbines fit onto their property. They're huge.

*There's a Grout Museum in Waterloo, IA. I read the signs and assumed that it was a museum devoted to the evolution of grout, but I was mistaken. Turns out that the museum is just named after its founder, Henry Grout. Makes me wonder if they ever deal with confused contractors experiencing aborted pilgrimages.

*I saw an interesting billboard somewhere south of Waterloo. The left half screamed out against METH! and the right half encouraged Adoption: A Good Choice. I still haven't decided if they were placed together accidentally or on purpose.

*Nora Springs might be a lovely place to live, but it's a tricky place to visit. I got stopped by a passing train on the outskirts of town. The train then stopped. I assumed that it would shift tracks and begin moving one way or the other eventually. I waited nearly ten minutes with no movement. I finally backed out and ended up finding a dirt road that eventually directed me around the train track and into town from another direction. The train was still parked in front of the Interstate entrance when I eventually pulled into town. An hour or so later, I almost got stuck in town when another train slowly trudged into placed just after I passed over the tracks towards the Interstate.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

D's Tae Kan Do Attitude


Early this semester, D'Angelo brought home a pamphlet for a Tae Kwon Do class here in town. We'd gone down this road before with soccer and with Cub Scouts. It's a really cool idea until the time comes to actually participate in programming and then it becomes an obstacle from television and video game time.

But I told him that we would give it a try for a few weeks so he could see (1.) if he liked it and (2.) if he was willing to participate in practices regularly.

Turns out he (very pleasantly) surprised me. D' took to classes right away. He liked the other kids and was extremely respectful towards and motivated by his multiple instructors. I agreed to put down the cash for the semester-long session with the agreement that he would go to classes at least once weekly and not complain.

D' has done wonderfully all semester. What he lacked in form, he made up with enthusiasm, respect, and a willingness to keep at it. Most weeks, we were at practice every Monday and Friday. Towards the end of the semester, we added Wednesday to the mix.


Last Friday, D'Angelo went through his first set of tests to progress from his white belt to a yellow belt. This progression was not automatically assured. It was very possible that he could mess up in some fashion and be expected to continue for another semester as a white belt. It was good timing to have the testing done last week as Mark's parents were in town for a rare visit. So he had his own little cheering session, what with his dads, his brother, and his grandparents.

He stumbled a bit here and there, but apparently did well enough to earn his yellow. He found out about the yellow belt tonight at the end of practice. I was fairly certain that he did it, because one of the instructors quickly checked out his belt size when we first got to class.

The belt ceremony was pretty cool. I think that everyone who tested managed to move up a level. D'Angelo was beaming the entire way home. I told him that he had every reason to be proud of himself. He practiced, practiced, practiced all semester long and it paid off.



Should Homosexuals Face Execution?

The BBC wants to know, yes or no. There still might be time for your vote to matter.




(Source: The Guardian)

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Man with No Legs

Church was interesting last week. Les was to be one of the week's ushers and I was to be the lay reader. Mark's parents came to church, but we were unsure if they'd actually make it with D'Angelo from their hotel due to the slick roads. Unfortunately, the church's current secretary was/is ill so I never received any of the reading or bulletin information before arriving at church. Additionally, something happened with the Advent family, so there was nobody there to read the Advent material. So Mark, D'Angelo, and I got drafted into that task. Honestly, it probably worked out better that way. I had no time to stress out about how well or how poorly I'd do.

Everything went well. I didn't stutter (much) and D'Angelo didn't burn down the church while lighting the candles. Though, I forgot to tell Leslie to change out of his snow boots before church, so everyone kind of giggled as he *tromped*, *tromped*, *tromped* through the sanctuary to light to alter candles at the beginning of the service.

Our children's messager relayed the message of sharing to the kids, pulling from Luke 3: 7-18. She pulled out an old manger set as a tool to demonstrate Jesus' wider family (not just his mom and stepdad, but also the magi, the shepherd, and even the animals) and encourged the kids to think of all of our neighbors as our wider family.

D'Angelo and the other boy Mo Mo were pulling out the manger pieces and identifying each piece. He look at one of the smaller pieces and (loudly) observed, "It's a man with no legs!"

As you can (kind of) tell from the accompanying pic, that man without legs was the Baby Jesus. Everyone laughed and the message went on, but what a wonderful and prophetic image of Jesus and what he would become in thirtysome years.

He started his life with nothing. Sleeping in a trough surrounded by livestock, feed, and waste. He would eventually end his life, broken & bloodied, with thick nails shattering hands and feet. He would die accused, abandoned, and virtually friendless. A man without feet. But not without promise for our future.

He started out a simple baby and died a broken man, but that brokenness paved way for his Rebirth as the Christ.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Princess and the Frog

Mark's parents are here for the week visiting from Massachusettes. It's been a nice opportunity to see their grandparents. Plus, it's given Mark a chance to do some Christmas shopping with his parents and for us to open up a few gifts before Christmas actually begins.

This afternoon, we decided to go see Disney's newest animated movie, The Princess and the Frog. It was a good fit for our family. Mark's parents love Disney movies and products. The animation was sharp and the story was evenly paced and humorous.

The story follows the exploits of young Tiana and Prince Naveen as they run afoul of the evil voodoo trickster and Shadow Man, Dr. Facilier, and race against the clock to undo a curse that transformed them both into frogs. We quickly learn that their shared mission isn't truly about becoming human again, but instead about learning the difference between the things that we want versus the things that we need. Very good message indeed.

There was one really neat connection for me between this movie and our shared lives. Mark, the boys, and I were treated by Mark's parents to a week at Disney World in Orlando, FL, last May where we stayed at Disney's Port Orleans Resort. I'm sure that it was entirely intentional on Disney's part, but the streets and architecture of Port Orleans matched almost identically the streets and buildings featured in The Princess and the Frog, which was set in a 1930's New Orleans French Quarter. According the Leslie and Grandma, even the plastic alligators located at the Port Orleans Resort match the movie's 'gators. My own memory isn't as clear on that point.

Unfortunately, I have few pics of the actual resort that we stayed at. But I did manage to pull up at least one momento from my time at Port Orleans...:

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Thoughts on Bruno and Chuck/Larry

We've had a little more downtime than normal around here because of the recent snowstorm, so the boys and I decided to run over to Blockbuster to rent a couple video games. While we were there, I decided to finally check out Sacha Baron Cohen's recent mockumentary film, Bruno. It's the story of a flamboyant gay film journalist from Austria who sets out to become an American superstar. What followed was an hour and a half or so of over-the-top stunts, such as when Bruno crashed the Milan Fashion Week catwalk with his stylish outfit made entirely of Velcro or when he tried initiating a sex tape with the man he believed to be RuPaul (but was actually American politician Ron Paul.

Bruno was humorous in spots and certainly pornographic in others. It appeared to be lampooning homophobic responses to gay people, but I fear that it merely invited the very responses that it sought to make fun of at the expense of gay people. For example, Sasha's team orchestrated what could only be a riot towards the end of the movie when they hosted a Cage Fighting event in Fort Smith, Arkansas. Bruno posed as a man named "Straight Dave" and got the already intoxicate audience pumped up on heterocentric rhetoric before initiating a fight with one of his fellow performers that quickly devolved into a make-out session, strip tease, and simulated sexual act. The audience went nuts, pelting to two men with beer and even a folding chair.




Speaking of Bruno, I was perusing one of my favorite websites the other day, People of Wal-Mart(.com), and came across this image of someone doing his best to pull a Bruno (and to get a good deal of living room furniture while he was at it!). It occurred to me later that this guy was likely photographed during the Halloween season on his way to or from a costume party. Either way, I think he did a good job of designing his Bruno outfit.
















Anyway, I went to the gym today for my morning workout and finally began watching the 2007 comedy, I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry. I really only saw the middle hour of the show, but it seemed to be the story of two het firefighters who decide to pretend to be a gay couple in order for one of the guys to access a pension plan of some sort for his kids. The City of New York begins investigating them to make sure that they're really a gay couple and so the two guys begin camping it up in order to prove that they're really gay men, even though they aren't. According the wikipedia, they're eventually found out and sent to prison for fraud, but it works out for everyone in the end and they presumably both come out of this with a stronger empathy for their fellow gay citizens and the struggles that they encounter in their day-to-day lives.


Chuck & Larry reminded me a lot of Johnny Knoxville's 2005 movie, The Ringer, in which a down-on-his-luck schmuck infiltrates and attempts to rig a Special Olympics competition in order to settle some financial debts. Both movies relied on insulting gutter humor and featured redemptive endings, but Chuck & Larry's premise never seemed right for me.

I mean, what exactly was the fraud committed in this movie? The two guys married people that they aren't attracted to in order to access pension benefits. They're legally married or they're not. It doesn't matter if they're gay. Would the city of New York investigate this couple if they were a gay man and lesbian couple pretending to be straight or if this was an gay man marrying a straight woman? I seriously can't believe that the city of New York would actually waste time and energy investigating this so-called fraud, which then makes the movies main source of conflict come off as fake and contrived.

Additionally, as indicated above, the humor wallows in the gutters. Lots of jokes about anal sex, cross-dressing, and stereotypical gay behaviors and interests. But at least it was redemptive at the end, right?

I can't help but believe that both of these film sought out to promote films about equality and respect, but I don't believe that either film succeeded in their mutual efforts.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Surviving the Snowpocalypse, Day Two

Last night (AKA Day One of the Snowpocalypse of December 2009) pretty much set the tone for today. Mark came down with some overnight viral thing that knocked him out for a good chunk of the day. And then shortly afterwards, I received an automated message from the school canceling all classes this morning. So I went to bed secure in the knowledge that everyone was getting the day off today... except me.

The radio informed me during my morning commute that pretty much everything was closed. The courthouses. The malls. The schools. The University and all of the community colleges. The churches. The crisis center and the mental health center. Everyone, but my department.

Well, not quite. But I ended up being one of a half-dozen or so folks who ended up making to the office. The phones were dead. Nobody attempted to stop by our office for an emergency intake. Nobody called for general information or even to troubleshoot on emergency information. I was able to finish all of my funding pre-auths and to prepare a few notices of decision.

And then I decided to take off the second half of the day as a vacation day. Mark was exhausted from cold medication and really needed the break. And, like I said before, nothing was happening at work. So it all worked out.

The afternoon was spent shoveling out the driveway and the other pathways, as well as a small chunk of the yard so that Ms. Lion could take care of her elimination needs.

I then followed through with last night's promise that we'd go sledding. The trip itself ended up being a major adventure. D's school yard as a pretty decent hill, so we usually go there for our sledding needs. So we slid our way to the school and proceded to get stuck in the unplowed parking lot. I was able to back out, but then couldn't go forward anymore because there was a slight upward slope to the road and I just couldn't get any traction!

So Leslie hops out of the car and begins shoving against the vehicle's back end. And shoves, and shoves with little results. Meanwhile, the road was piling up behind us with cars. So they had to stop because of us and now they couldn't get enough traction to travel up the road. It was a mess.

It finally occurred to me to have Les nudge me towards someone's driveway. Once we got that accomplished, we were able to wait for the other cars to back up down the road and for us to get turned around. We decided to give up on D's school and traveled to another elemetary school with a good sledding hill. Les had to push at my car one more time, but we were finally able to get where we needed to go.

D' and Les did a good job of taking turns with the good sled and the not-so-good sled. I was actually shocked that they didn't argue at all. It then occurred to me that we could spend some time shopping for a new sled so that they could both sled with style.

So we piled into the car and (with another shove from Leslie) managed to make it to K-Mart. Unfortunately, our choices were pretty limited. It was either a baby sled or a $40 family-sized sled. So we got nothin', but left with the promise that we'd keep looking for a new sled. But we did score some hot chocolate mix.

We finallly made it home. Mark was up from his nap, so I decided it was a good time to do my workout. It was a great day to work out. Hardly anyone was there and there were new (to me) episodes of Judge Judy to watch while on the Arc Trainer. I haven't written too much yet about Judge Judy on this particular blog, but suffice it to say she's a judicial diva. If I could, I'd have her officiate at our wedding. Plus the plaintiff in one of these cases had the absolute best names: Dynatashia. If I had another child and she was a girl, I would absolutely love to name her Dynatashia. That or Lena. Mark disagrees, but this is my hypothetical girl's name and it's an awesome name. But I digress...

So an hour later, I found myself slipping and sliding back home sans Leslie, so I needed to make sure that I didn't get stuck again. Fortunately, that didn't happen. The rest of the night has centered on talking with my mom on the phone (turns out everyone's coming to the wedding -- they were just slow with the RSVP) and making hot cocoa with the boys. Then will come the fall finale of Glee and then bedtime. And then I assume that we'll be back to something passing for a normal work day.



Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Chicago, Twin Cities, & Omaha, but Nowhere in Iowa???


This sucks. I'm a big Tyler Perry fan. I've seen pretty much all of his stage productions on DVD and I love them. I love his movies. I love his sitcoms. I love him and I love his alter ego, Madea. I just found out about his latest production: Madea's Big Happy Family. It's going to be playing all over the country.

Except Iowa.

Which demonstrates once again that life ain't fair...

Surviving the Snowpocalypse, Day One

Pretty much all of the American midwest has been bracing for the first major snowstorm of the 2009-10 winter season. We had a dusting of snow yesterday, but nothing too serious. And then we woke up and found that we'd been overwhelmed by winter weather overnight.

D'Angelo wasn't too pleased with me this morning when I told him that pretty much every school was canceled today except our school district, which meant that he got to learn. I received a growl for my humor. Turns out that he missed out on two hours of learning as school got closed early.

Work was pretty slow. There were few calls and most of them were folks seeking to re-schedule appointments scheduled for tomorrow. I got a lot of paperwork updated and I got about half of my funding authorizations entered for January onward.

I found a package on my porch when I got home mid-afternoon. I'd ordered Ms. Lion a Snuggie for Dog... or I should say that I screwed up my order and ended up receiving six Dog Snuggies. She looks pretty cute in her pink Snuggie and I've already found a home for one of the blue Snuggies. I think I would've done better to order a size small, but the XXS Snuggie seems to fit her well enough.

Les' been inside playing video games pretty much all afternoon. D' was too for a while, but eventually went outside to do some shoveling and to begin a snow-fort. He wanted to go sledding, but by the time he asked me about it, it was a little after 4:30 PM and it was going to get dark. Assuming that school is canceled all day tomorrow, I'm sure we'll find time to get a little sledding in.

It was actually kind of nice getting pulled out of my normal job for a while. I have some contract work that I've been putting off between work, family, and wedding planning and I've been needing a kick in the butt to get to it. I've already put in a couple hours there and got one of my invoices mailed out for some previous work.

According to the news, we're slated to receive roughly a half-foot or so of snow overnight. Malls are closing. Libraries are closing. Some schools have already canceled for tomorrow. Various evening meetings are canceled. People are being told to get off the streets. In short, the entire state of Iowa seems to be closed right now.

I took a snapshot outside our window. Everything's snowy and the streets are pretty empty. The Snowpocalypse is here and it's growing. Here's hoping for a Day Two update...

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Davey & Goliath's Snowboard Christmas

Back in the 70's when I was a young boy, I would watch old "Davey & Goliath" stop-animation shows as part of a program called FCO ("For Children Only) every Sunday morning. For those who don't know, "Davey & Goliath" was a show about a young boy Davey Hanson and his dog Goliath. Each show taught Davey a life lesson, usually taught to him through his misadventures. The show was produced through the Lutheran Church. Go onto Youtube and you should be able to find lots of old "Davey & Goliath" episodes. Most of them lasted about 15 minutes.

Anyway, back in 2005 the ELCA and the family involved with the original program came up with a new D&G special called "Davey and Goliath's Snowboard Christmas". I remember trying to watch it several times back when it originally aired, but kept getting confused with the time zones. As a result, it wasn't until today that I actually watched the special. Davey spent most of the episode training for a snowboarding contest with a couple new friends. He became jealous over their superior skill and urges them to race him down a dangerous mountain against their better judgement. An avalanche occurs and they eventually make it out of their place of refuge seconds before being smashed to a bloody pulp by rocks, snow, and ice.

Oh, Davey's new friends are a Muslim girl and a Jewish boy. So some of the story deals with them talking about how they celebrate their winter holidays (Christmas, Ramadan, and Hanukkah, respectively).

All in all, it was good to see the Hanson family again. The animation style was both consistent with the old shows, while being updated with today's current animation technology. It wasn't a bad message (basically that the different messages have a lot of similarities).

But jeez-louize! Check out some of the reviews from Amazon:

Political correct poison: I grew up on Davey and Goliath and still enjoy the old episodes. I was looking forward to a new installment to the series but was greatly disappointed once I began watching.

I am no fan of political correctness (leftist propaganda/indoctrination) and it was a great letdown that the Clokey family and the Lutheran Church succumbed to this poison to society.

Why can't Christians have their own holiday? Muslims and Jews have theirs, and I can't remember the last time a Muslim or Jew made me, a Christian feel inclusive of Ramadan or Hannuka.

Anyway, the animation is topnotch, but the message is garbage. Pass this one by if you're looking for a good ol D&G Christmas message. If that is what you are looking for, then watch "Christmas Lost and Found". All your kids will get out of a "Snowboard Christmas" is feeling guilty for being a Christian....and maybe that is the intent.

or

Multiculturalism Nonsense: Snowboard Christmas could have been wonderful, given the theme, but the message is pure liberal propaganda. The plot and dialog are unnaturally subservient to political correctness. All beliefs and genders are equal. The predetermined ending becomes obvious about ten minutes into the story. Remakes are generally bland, and this one sure is. A big disappointment is the voice of Goliath. Oh well, we live in Orwellian times.

or

Politically Correct and Snowboard Stupid: Although the style of this new addition to Davey & Goliath has the proper nostalgia, the strained and unnatural politically correct dialog is distracting, and seems even inappropriate in what was once considered Christian storytelling. The original purpose of this series was to teach proper behaviour to children as Davey takes his hard knocks. In this episode, the old lesson of being tolerant is revisited with a vengence -- almost as if the new writers decided to cram in 40 years of missed opportunity.

One faux pas that is absolutely unforgivable and which had us all laughing out loud in disbelief at the ignorance of the writing: two bullies (male) are shown to be able boarders, but when they spot the girl with Davey and friends they shout something to the effect of, "Get off the mountain -- girls can't snowboard!"

Seriously, this would never happen. Girls ROCK at snowboarding and everyone who has spent any time at all in the sport knows it.

or

"All religions are equal" message: If you are not a Christian parent, this review is not for you.

I know there are many out there who would be pleased with the "all religions are equal" message of this DVD. However, I also know that many Christian parents (like me) will not want this message conveyed to their children.

As a Christian, I believe that, yes, God loves all people, but not that all religions lead to the true God.

Aside from that, the look of the production is excellent -- much better than the old ones.

Maybe my POV is slanted, but the show didn't promote an "all religions are equal" message. Maybe an "all religions have similar values" or "not everybody does things the same", but neither the Jewish nor the Muslim religions were called "equal" with Christianity. This is what angers me about people. We can't learn about what people of other religions do or why they do it without because that appears to imply that everything is equal or the same. Which is B.S.

Everybody has to be so dogmatic all the time. We're at war because of religious idolotry. We have Protestants hating Catholics and both of them hating Mormons and Muslims blowing up Jews and it all becomes pointless. We're going to kill ourselves and our planet if people don't take time to recognize and acknowledge our commonalities.

I would love to see more D&G episodes in the future. With or without his new friends. But I hope that Davey continues to learn new messages as he ages, including that it's okay to stay true to his faith while respecting the faith of others who are different around him.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Mind Your Manners

Miss Manners recently responded to a letter from a pair of gay dads on how to respond to some pretty rude folks:

Dear Miss Manners:

My partner and I adopted a child three years ago. He has become a happy, silly, active, loving child.

When we were going through the adoption process, the topic of being a "conspicuous family" was discussed. As two men with a child, we fall into that category.

Several times over the last couple of years, we have been verbally attacked. Twice we have been in a grocery store when someone informed us that we were not a "real family." On one of these situations, we were even told that we were condemned to hell!

Another time, when I was having breakfast out with our son, I was discussing children with a woman who was there with two of her own. The conversation was casual and amiable. When I mentioned "my partner" in the conversation, she started shouting at me, "You're evil! You are doing that child a great injustice!"

Our son's birth mother was a heroin and cocaine user during her pregnancy. She had the presence of mind to realize she couldn't take care of him and chose us as his adoptive parents. We didn't decide to adopt to "save" a child, but the fact is, we will probably be able to give our son a much better life than if he had stayed with
his birth mother.

How do we react to these people?


This was her response:

A gentleman of Miss Manners's acquaintance was once subjected to a barrage of unwarranted insults. Outraged on his behalf, she asked why he did not trouble to defend himself.

His reply (and please forgive the inelegance for the sake of vividness) was: "If someone is throwing up on you, you get out of the way. You do not stay around to examine what is coming up."

There is nothing you can say to people who, whatever they may think, see fit to hurl crude insults at you, even in front of your son.

A stiff "I'm sorry you feel that way" is all you can utter before turning your back.

All in all, it was pretty good advice. I used a similar response with my father when he flipped out on me a few months back after being told that Mark and I were getting legally married. Because, when it comes down to it, what can you say? “You’re hurting my feelings”? They don’t care, or they wouldn’t have attacked you in the first place.

The question that keeps going through my brain is what gets in people’s heads that it’s perfectly acceptable for them to go off on gay people like this? Especially in front of the kids? Maybe that’s the point. Maybe they want (or need?) the kids to know that they believe that their parents are evil.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Is Your Store is Chrismassy Enough For Your Bucks?

I learned a few weeks back of a website called Stand for Christmas, which allows customers to rank their favorite stores on how Christmas-friendly (or -unfriendly) they are. People rate different chain stores and are offered the ability to make comments about why they voted one way or the other. It was created and managed by Focus on the Family.

I decided to check out how the stores that I've shopped at are ranking. I noticed that Walgreen's isn't on the list, so I guess I'll be left hanging on that one. Here are the other nationwide chains that I've purchased from during the current shopping season:

Target
Customer Ratings Summary
Number of Ratings187
Christmas-Friendly76%
Christmas-Negligent13%
Christmas-Offensive11%

Customer Ratings
Comment Date: Dec 3 2009 8:34 AM
Rating: Christmas-Friendly
Comment: It was heartening to approach the local Target store and see,in big letters, on the front glass next to the door "MERRY CHRISTMAS." Thanks, TARGET.

Comment Date: Dec 3 2009 1:47 AM
Rating: Christmas-Offensive
Comment: I didn't see the word Christmas anywhere. It was 'artificial trees on sale','Holiday Stockings' and 'Holiday ornaments'....

Comment Date: Dec 2 2009 9:51 AM
Rating: Christmas-Negligent
Comment: I visited a Target in Sierra Vista, AZ yesterday and was glad to see many Christmas items on the shelves. However, I was sorely disapointed to recieve a "Happy Holiday" greeting from one of the cashiers. The vast majority of those shopping during December are buying Christmas gifts, not "holiday" gifts. Retailers should bear in mind who there target audiences are, and direct their employees to issue everyone a Merry Christmas, not a generic Happy Holiday.

Comment Date: Nov 28 2009 2:42 PM
Rating: Christmas-Negligent
Comment: No music was playing at all.


GAP
Customer Ratings Summary
Number of Ratings77
Christmas-Friendly3%
Christmas-Negligent14%
Christmas-Offensive83%

Customer Ratings
Comment Date: Dec 3 2009 12:50 PM
Rating: Christmas-Offensive
Comment: Gap's in-store display was conspicuously in light blue with the words "It's up to us to have a happy holiday", with other silly words following this, that had nothing to do with Christmas or the season, at all.

Comment Date: Dec 2 2009 3:54 PM
Rating: Christmas-Offensive
Comment: Time to liberate? Only Jesus can set us free. Jesus is THE way. You cannot "86" that rule. I will not be shopping at Gap or affiliated stores. This commercial reflects an anti-Christ heart attitude. Oh Lord, send us your revival ...keep us "One Nation Under God!"

Comment Date: Dec 1 2009 4:13 PM
Rating: Christmas-Offensive
Comment: I just watched the commercial for GAP, I was truly repulsed when they mentioned that we should liberate and how they put Christmas next to solstice. Pretty much what they said was we need to break free and do what we feel is right which goes against everything for this Christmas season. Please go to youtube and watch the commercial if you haven't already seen it. I will NEVER step foot into one of their stores or any store affiliated with them. They have completely lost my business and my families too.

Comment Date: Dec 1 2009 9:47 AM
Rating: Christmas-Offensive
Comment: I was completely disgusted by the commercial on tv for the GAP. Not only was Christmas so casually mentioned, but to push the idea that it's ok to do whatever feels right is so obviously against God and His Word. I for one will no longer shop at any company affiliated with the GAP. I pray that others choose to join as well. I also encourage others to pray for the people involved that God could reach them in some way and change their hearts and minds.

Comment Date: Dec 1 2009 11:41 AM
Rating: Christmas-Offensive
Comment: First thing I notice is that they are only playing non-Christian Christmas songs (Jingle Bells, etc.). Unacceptable. I ask a clerk, "What is the reason for the season?" and I get back "What?". I buy a shirt and when they ask me what kind of wrapping paper, I reply that I want nativity paper or something showing the baby Jesus. They say they only have snowflakes and snowmen and green/red paper. What does green and red have to do with JESUS?


(Actually, this got pretty tedious after a few stores. I checked out Wal-Mart, too. Their customers are upset that they don't seem to have Nativity Scenes in stock, though I was able to find such items on their website. 'Just saying...)

Jon's question: What does Gap or Target or Wal-Mart or any of the stores, their decorations, their sales, or their merchandise have to do with JESUS? It used to be that the uber-Christians around me avoided the malls and the stores and the over-commercialization of Christmas because of the idolatry inherent in that scene. The whole "Reason for the Season" was to help us focus more on Christ's birth, not to determine if a store said Christmas enough to warrent our money.

And read through these comments and many of the others that I didn't clip out for this blog entry. How many of them were negative reviews because they weren't Christmassy enough? There were too few "Merry Christmas" signs or the wrapping paper wasn't religious enough. Or one cashier said "Happy Holiday".

Why don't we go gaga for Easter? Why aren't there FotF websites called Stand for Easter, which is arguably the more defining holiday for Christians?

To be honest, I don't care if a store is all decorated or not. Maybe it's a guy thing, but I hate the store crowds. I know what I want. I know how to snag it up quickly and move onto the next item on my list. And I know how to pick quick check-out lines. I don't usually notice if the cashier says "Happy Holiday" or "Merry Christmas". Heck, the one Christmas season that I worked at Wal-Mart, I noticed that most customers didn't care one whit if I said "Merry Christmas", "Happy Holiday", "Have a Good Night", or whatever. They just wanted to get away from the crowd, too.

Even though I think the Stand for Christmas rating system is flawed from a couple different perspectives, I encourage others to use it to influence their shopping patterns if they find that helpful.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

No H1N1 Vaccine for Jon

I was finishing up for the day this afternoon when my co-worker Jen rushed in and told me about Public Health offering vaccinations for the H1N1 flu virus. She was able to somehow wrangle up a shot or nose-puff or whatever and told me that I needed to do so also. "Remember to tell them that you spend time with patients at the hospital 2-3 times each week." I called and was told that I don't qualify for the vaccination because I don't fit in any of the high risk groupings. Which is pretty much what I'd understood up until Jen came bursting into my office.

To be honest, I'm not terribly concerned. Lots of folks have struggled with the flu so far this year, but it doesn't seem to be the scarefest that everyone was predicting. I read recently that 27 Iowans have died from the disease, which is pretty good odds considering how many people seemed to have it in October and November. I got my regular flu shot last month and will get vaccinated for H1N1 if it ever becomes available. Otherwise, I'll hope for the best and not stress out about it.

This brief H1N1 development in conjuction with World AIDS Day made me wonder about fatality levels in my own state from AIDS-related complication. I couldn't find any statistics yet for 2009, but 2008's numbers weren't that much different than our current H1N1 stats: 33 fatalities. It's a smaller number than I expected, even if it was a 57% increase from 2007. We had about 1,616 people living with AIDS in Iowa by the end of 2008. Slightly more than half of all new infections were men having sex with other men.

It seems like everyone and their dog is blogging about World AIDS Day today. Here's my advise: Treat all potential sexual partners like they have AIDS and protect yourself as if they all have AIDS. Limit your risk, by limiting your number of sexual partners. Better yet, -- and this is sage advice for all folks: het or gay -- wait for marriage. If your state won't allow you to marry, save yourself for your commitment ceremony. Stay monogamous. Don't abuse drugs or alcohol. Don't have sex after abusing drugs and/or alcohol as it might affect your ability to make safer decisions.

Stay safe.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Fantastic Mr. Fox = Wonderful; Planet 51 = Not So Much

I like having time away from work, but these four-day weekends tend to drag. With that in mind, I had the opportunity to check out a couple different movies over the long weekend.



D' and I went to see "Fantastic Mr. Fox" on Thursday night, which was based on a book written by Roald Dahl. Filmed with stop-motion animation and featuring creative dialogue and musical soundtracks, it was a joy to experience. I have absolutely no experience with the original book so I have no idea how good an adaptation it was, but the movie was a peach. They did such a wonderful job of portraying Mr. Fox and the other animals as equally civilized and wild. D' enjoyed the movie, but got upset with the little girl who kept kicking at the back of his seat -- which led to him yelling at her about 3/4's of the way through. It didn't stop her for long from kicking his seat, but it made me chuckle. I strongly recommend this flick.










Yesterday afternoon, we decided to pass the time by going to see "Planet 51", an animated film about an astronaut who lands on an alien planet. The planet resembles 1950's-era mid-America, complete with bopper music, white picket fences, and societal paranoia about those who are different. The best thing this movie had going for it was Ripley, the dog-like creature that strongly resembled the creature from the "Alien" movies. As cartoons go, it wasn't terrible. I didn't fall asleep through it, but I don't see myself ever renting it in the future. D'Angelo had pretty much the same reaction. But the popcorn was pretty good.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Be Careful What You Wish For

I mentioned earlier that I attended Around the Table: Iowa's First Annual Summit of LGBT Families & Allies last weekend with Mark and the boys. One of the workshops that I attended was titled "Transracial Adoption in LGBTQ Families: The Challenges of Traversing Boundaries". I was hoping for more practical tips and ideas, but it ended up being more of a historical and sociological review of data. So not really what I was looking for, but it's not like I could slink out subtley to attend one of the other workshops.

One of the presenters was Pauline Park of the New York Association for Gender Rights Advocacy. She and her twin brother were adopted in the 60s from Korea and she has since studied and written about international adoption trends and identity issues, among other topics.

One of the more interesting things that she spoke about was the experience of Korean-American adoptees who've sought out their birth families, sometimes out of curiosity about their birth origins and sometimes out of rejection for their usually Caucasian-American adoptive parents (or sometimes both). One interesting trend occurs after the initial joys & tears of reunification: the expectations of the reunited adoptee vs. the expectations of the reunited birth parents.

Many of these adoptees have found themselves in the position of hooking up with birth parents who now see them as wealthy and capable of supporting them through their old age. Female Korean-American women who aren't yet married are now being pressured to marry and bear children and then take in their aging birth mother. This is particularly humorous (dark humor, that is) for lesbian adoptees who have no intention of marrying men, but whose birth culture has even less respect for their sexual identity issues than most of America. In retrospect, one only need sit through a marathon of Margaret Cho's old ABC sitcom, All-American Girl, to anticipate that type of cultural expectation.

I guess the thing I walked away from most from that workshop was the idea of being careful about what you wish for. Life might be far from ideal now, but nothing barring God is perfect. It's good to dream about how life might be different if you reconnect with your birth family or if you left your current job to learn a new trade or if you decided to leave your spouse for your neighbor. And it's certainly possible that your birth family might be more nurturing that your adoptive parents, your new career might provide you with better income growth, and your new wife might be better than your first wife. But it's also possible that your fantasies will turn out just as checkered with hardship and doubt as your current reality.

I'm not saying that people should be afraid to learn about their birth families or to make other big changes in their lives. Just that they should keep those peepers open when they make the jump. Be aware that things could end up many different ways, not just how you hope they'll turn out.

Friday, November 27, 2009

What's Up With Wal-Mart?

D' and I decided to do a bit of shopping this afternoon for a special order Christmas present for someone else in the family. Afterwards, we decided to stop by briefly at Wal-Mart for a few odds & ends and for me to do a bit of price-shopping. Nothing too big.

So after we bought my Coke Zero and socks, we found ourselves standing in a line waiting to leave the building. They had a couple customer service workers combing through each departing customer's bag and comparing the contents to our corresponding receipts. They then put a big "X" over the receipts before giving back our receipts and letting us leave.

I couldn't help being both insulted, as well as curious about the legality of that act. I mean, we all just purchased that merchandise. They were sifting through our personal property. Why stop with our recent purchases? Why not go through customers' purses, pockets, and man bags?

It seems to me like Wal-Mart was going forward with a universal accusation of theft towards all of its customers today. Was this happening across the country or just here in Iowa City? Why on Black Friday, but not other days? Not cool...

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Around the Table: Memories from Iowa's GLBT Family Summit

Mark, the boys, and I participated in Around the Table: Iowa's First Annual Summit of LGBT Families & Allies, sponsored by Lambda Legal, One Iowa, COLAGE, and a couple other organizations. The first half of the day focused on advocacy training and the second half of the day was filled with a variety of workshops focusing on a variety of topics, such as transracial adoption issues, working with our kids' educators, protecting your family legally, second-parent adoption issues, learning options for creating/expanding one's family, etc.

The boys spent the day with other kids doing social programming with COLAGE staff. Les enjoyed hanging with the older teens, but otherwise didn't have much to say about the day (which isn't that unusally). D' seemed to have a good time with the younger tweens and told us about a movie they watched about LGBTQ families. Otherwise, he really liked the hotel, but wished they had a pool. LOL!

I think a big part of the COLAGE programming was about helping kids of gay families connect with other kids of gay families and to realize that there are others like them. It is an important message for these kids, many of whom don't know any other kids outside of their family like them. Fortunately, the Iowa City area's a little unique has a fairly active play group for lesbian and gay families that's been active since the very early 00's. Also, our church and the other UCC church in town have other kids with gay parents in them, so the message wasn't as clear for D'.

A few weeks before the conference, Mark and I were contacted by the group's organizer to see if we could help out with one of the panels. Apparently, there aren't a lot of families out there in Iowa headed by gay dads who have experience with adoption, foster care, and who have kids affected by varied disabilities.

The panel was interesting. There was us. There was a lesbian mom who was raising her child from a previous heterosexual marriage with another woman. There was a black lesbian raising her biracial child with a caucasian wife. And there was a woman (and former neighbor) who was apparently the first lesbian in Iowa to go through the second-parent adoption process with her former partner (their daughter is now an early 20-something college student and seems to be doing well).

We each introduced ourselves and discussed challenges that we've experienced as GLBT families and how we've overcome those challenges. I kind of felt out-of-place talking about our issues, especially since they and our challenges were so much different than most of the others' and really dealt more with challenges dealing with the foster care systems -- not gay-specific challenges most of the time. But our story apparently resonated with the audience, or sparked questions related to the foster care system and how they could be involved with it.

I'll probably post thoughts related to some of the workshops that I participated in at the summit later this week as there were some interesting anecdotes that I learned, particularly related to transracial adoptions from Asian countries.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving Day Thoughts

I feel like I should be posting, but the biggest stuff on my mind is stuff I can't really get into online with too much depth. I guess I'll just ask prayers for the following areas of my life:

1. Family: I still haven't heard anything from anyone in my family about whether or not they're coming to the wedding. Heck, I haven't heard from more than half on our invite list. I'm trying to not let it stress my out too much, but it's on my mind. A lot. I'm sure much of it has to do with people putting things off, but I still can't stop wondering... Well, I can't stop wondering.

2. Pastoral Changes: I recently learned that our pastor is leaving. It seems like he just began worshipping with us and now we have to start searching for a new pastor for our little church. I hate the whole introspective process on interim pastoring. We did it for two years last time and that was just 2-3 years ago. I'm not sure I'm up to it again. But I can't really see myself leaving the people and place I've been in community with over the past decade plus.

Anyway, that's the big stuff right now.

I hope everyone has a Happy Thanksgiving tomorrow. Leslie is away visiting his family for a few days, so we already did Turkey Day on Monday evening. It was nice to work all day and then come home to a huge spread of turkey, potatoes, veggies, and pie, but we had some nice friends over. The plan is to cook a ham tomorrow on the True Turkey Day, preceded by a morning workout at the gym, and an afternoon home viewing of "Fired Up".

In the meantime, check out this Youtube clip of Super Friends, featuring one of my childhood favorites, Apache Chief. When I wasn't playing the part of the Wonder Twins during our gym-yard fun, I was stopping on bad guys as this super-sized superhero.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

My Thoughts on the Latest Miller/Jenkins Rulling

I've put off writing about the latest news in the ongoing court custody battle over 7-year-old Isabella Miller between her biological mother Lisa Miller and her non-biological mother Janet Jenkins. Here is the court case in a nutshell: Two women were in a relationship. One of the women got pregnant. The women were in a civil union. They raised the child together for a year or so. The women broke up, but maintained joint custody and the non-biological mother was financially supporting their child. Eventually, the bio mom moved from Vermont (one of the more gay-friendly states in the nation) to Virginia (one of the most gay-unfriendly states in the nation). She renounced her lesbianism, joined an extremely theologically conservative Christian church, sought the legal support of Christian law firm Liberty Counsel, and attempted to write out non-bio mom.

This case has gone back and forth, but the Vermont courts have been pretty consistent with supporting the rights of both parents in this case and Virginia, surprisingly and for the most part, have referred the case back to Vermont. The latest ruling came out late last week in which a Vermont family court judge apparently got fed up with this ongoing and contentious battle and switch the primary custody of Isabella from Miller (the bio mom) to Jenkins (the non-bio mom), with Miller having ongoing visitation and Isabella still being allowed to practice her faith.

Here are a few links to other sites to offer more detail and some varied reactions:

Beyond (Straight And Gay) Marriage

Box Turtle Bulletin

The Formers Blog

Mombian

So here is my opinion:

1. This decision was a sad one, but a needed one. Notice which parent has been obstructing the other parent. Notice which parent is willing to help Isabella maintain relationship with both parents. Notice which parent has been repeatedly held in contempt and who has ignored unfavorable court rulings.

2. This case has always stunk of jurisdiction shopping (i.e., shopping for the county or state that will do its best to screw over one parent over the other in a custody case). I have a friend with two sons who is divorcing her husband (an Armenian citizen). She's terrified that he will travel with the kids to Armenia, a country where she has no real legal rights over the father. I know of other cases of divorced fathers who've been jacked for huge child and spousal support payments with minimal visitation arrangements, mostly because of the preferences of the local judiciary. It's terrible when it's done against fathers, and it's just as terrible when it's done against mothers.

3. Check out DaveT's comments on the Beyond (Straight And Gay) Marriage blog entry and note the reference to the Manhattan Declaration. This Manhattan Declaration will be used against GLBT people and our families at every turn. Don't like a law or a court ruling? Cite the Declaration and use it to drum up support and disobey the law. It's going to continue happening. Mark my words.

4. This goes for anyone having kids with someone else. Remember, once you bring in a kid to a family, you both have an obligation to that kid. That connection is forever, even if the parents decide to break-up. I don't care if you are no longer a lesbian or if you change your religious beliefs or if you find someone that you like better, it's not fair to your child to deny them both of their parents. Suck it up and be civil to each other for the sake of the child that you once lovingly planned and brought into this world.

I have no illusions that this case is over. But one can pray that this broken family will eventually settle this sad situation and do the best they can to raise Isabella.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

New Day, New Moon


The boys and I took a break from our pre-Thanksgiving Day cleanathon to watch the film adaptation of New Moon. I kind of fell into the whole Twilight thing. I'm one of those parents who'd never heard of the book series and then started hearing snippets of buzz when the first movie adaptation came out and got dragged into the theater by my teen. The movie sucked me in and my hubbie sucked me in further by buying me copies of the first two books for either Christmas or my birthday.

The first book was pretty good and it gave more padding to the movie's plot, but the second book dragged on and on and on, what with Bella's obsession with abandoner Edward Cullen, her passive-aggressive flirtation with good guy Jacob Black, and her ongoing death wish and self-fixation. Some co-workers and Facebook friends assure me that I just don't understand what it's like to be a girl in her teens -- which is true --, but it was only assurances that the series would be better come books 3 & 4 that allowed me to slog my way through New Moon. Fortunately, New Moon's director did a good job of trimming off much of the obnoxious fat, so I was happy and pleasantly surprised to learn the Eclipse (the third book in the series) will be released as a movie in June 2010.

Mark asked me the other day if I was on Team Edward or Team Jacob. I hadn't heard of it, but apparently I fall in the narrow minority of folks who support Team Jacob. Then again, I tend to believe that Jacob is way better without Bella in his life.

I've always been disinterested in vampires. I just don't see the draw. I mean, I was a fan of Angel and Buffy, but I never fantasized about waking from the dead and feeding off the blood of innocents. A friend of Mark's has a theory that all girls go through at least one of three fixation phases in their lives: horses, huge solitary trees, and/or vampires. So maybe it's a female thing.

But I am fixated with werewolves. Actually, shape-shifting (lycanthropes, mermaids, Jekyll/Hyde, etc.). I think it has to do with the transformational aspect of it all. Give me a werewolf story and I'm all over it.

Anyway, check out New Moon if you get a chance. Moderate levels of romancing, slightly more action than in the first movie, and lots of Indian eye candy to get you through to the ending credits.

Friday, November 20, 2009

ECOTs United Against GLBTs, Part 2

I'd blogger earlier about the various evangelical, catholic, and orthodox Christian leaders who have banded together behind the Manhattan Manifest and vowed public disobedience against laws protecting gay people and our families from discrimination. Jeremy Hooper over at Good As You has published the complete text of the Manhattan Manifest. Go there to read it in its entirety. Here are some snippets:

The "threat" to ECOT Christianity:


We are Christians who have joined together across historic lines of ecclesial differences to affirm our right—and, more importantly, to embrace our obligation—to speak and act in defense of these truths. We pledge to each other, and to our fellow believers, that no power on earth, be it cultural or political, will intimidate us into silence or acquiescence. It is our duty to proclaim the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in its fullness, both in season and out of season. May God help us not to fail in that duty.

Gays marrying will lead to incest and plural marriages:


The assumption that the legal status of one set of marriage relationships affects no other would not only argue for same sex partnerships; it could be asserted with equal validity for polyamorous partnerships, polygamous households, even adult brothers, sisters, or brothers and sisters living in incestuous relationships. Should these, as a matter of equality or civil rights, be recognized as lawful marriages, and would they have no effects on other relationships? No.

Gays love abortion and euthanasia:


It is ironic that those who today assert a right to kill the unborn, aged and disabled and also a right to engage in immoral sexual practices, and even a right to have relationships integrated around these practices be recognized and blessed by law—such persons claiming these “rights” are very often in the vanguard of those who would trample upon the freedom of others to express their religious and moral commitments to the sanctity of life and to the dignity of marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife.

Oh, there are huge chunks of the text devoted to religious liberty. Never mind that these groups routinely trample over and ignore the religious liberties of those of us that believe in the sanctity of all marriage (whether het or gay).

Anyway, check it out over at goodasyou.org.

Review: "Bulletproof Faith"


I found a copy of Candace Chellew-Hodge’s book, “Bulletproof Faith: A Spiritual Survival Guide for Gay and Lesbian Christians”, at the bookstore this past weekend. I’d heard some good buzz about the book through various sources, including the UCC’s Coalition for GLBT Concerns’ website. Ms. Chellew-Hodge is a UCC pastor and is the creator of the website Whosoever.org.

According to the blurb on the book, “Bulletproof Faith” “shows readers a way through the minefield of condemnation and persecution faced by gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Christians and helps foster a faith that is bulletproof – impervious to attacks, yet loving and savvy in its approach. (It) is filled with useful insights and proven spiritual practices that deflect attacks and enhance and strengthen faith by turning attacks into opportunities for spiritual growth.”

I’m only a couple chapters into the book, but I’m getting a lot out of it so far. From the first few paragraphs, pastor Chellew-Hodge’s message resonated greatly with my own perspective. For example:

Religion is not the “other side” of the “homosexual issue” any more than people who believe in a flat earth are the “other side” of the global warming issue or any more than the Ku Klux Klan is the “other side” of the black civil rights movement. Despite the media’s relentless search for the “other side”, for some issues, there isn’t a viable “other side”. This issue is one of them…

That’s not so say, of course, that being born (GLBT) automatically confers morality. Heterosexuality is presumed to be an inborn trait, yet that, in and of itself, does not make a person moral. Some inborn traits are certainly harmful, such as a biological leaning toward addiction, disease, or mental illness. Sexual orientation itself, however… is neither a moral issue nor harmful in and of itself. A person’s innate sexual orientation is irrelevant to concepts of morality.“The question of morality intersects with sexual orientation only in consideration of how we use our sexuality. The scriptures can be a valid guide here, but arguments regarding morality must apply to persons of all sexual orientations. The scriptures address sexual orientation in three main categories: adultery, prostitution, and rape. Adultery breaks a covenant of commitment between partners, prostitution is the practice of using another person for sexual gratification, and rape is the abuse of another in a sexual manner….

Once we understand that there is no valid “other side” to the “homosexual issue”, our faith can grow and become bulletproof. When we hear arguments against us based on Scripture, we know they hold no water—they have no power over us.”
(pages x-xii)
“Bulletproof Faith” does a good job of teaching people to recognize those who routinely seek to destroy the faith and lives of GLBT people by helping us to solidifying our understanding of the Bible and its messages and by helping us learn to step backwards a bit from those who seek to be our enemies to minimize their attempted harm.

Basically, it teaches that they have no power over us. We know the truth of our lives. We know the truth of how we live our lives. We hear their lies and recognize that those lies don’t match our reality. The times that I’m most miserable when I'm online are when I allow myself to internalize the nasty words posted by anonymous strangers who are out to cause harm. I’m most at peace when I project my truth and reflect my reality. I don’t have to necessarily hide from religiously-motivated falsehoods about my faith or my family, but my positive response to their words has not only a calming effect on my own mood, but also on many of the others in those discussions.

ECOTs Unite Against GLBTs

Good news for those seeking ecumenical unity amongst Catholics, Evangelicals, and Orthodox Christians. They have called on the name of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr, and taken a stand against gay families (oh, and abortions):


Citing the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s call to civil disobedience, 145 evangelical, Roman Catholic and Orthodox Christian leaders have signed a declaration saying they will not cooperate with laws that they say could be used to compel their institutions to participate in abortions, or to bless or in any way recognize same-sex couples.
"We pledge to each other, and to our fellow believers, that no power on earth, be it cultural or political, will intimidate us into silence or acquiescence," it says.

The manifesto, to be released on Friday at the National Press Club in Washington, is an effort to rejuvenate the political alliance of conservative Catholics and evangelicals that dominated the religious debate during the administration of President George W. Bush. The signers include nine Roman Catholic archbishops and the primate of the Orthodox Church in America.

This issue came to a head recently when the Catholic Diocese in Washington DC threatened to pull out of all charitable services if they were required to follow the city's non-discrimination laws for gay people (something that's been around for a couple decades), but they've framed it as an anti-marriage equality challenge. They don't like ENDA, even though religious organizations are exempt from that.

There's no end to the evils that the Christian church needs to protect itself, according to this article:
Imagine, a religious-based, tax-supported organization actually providing services for gay people in need. How tragic.
The most likely points of controversy, (Ira C. Lupu, a law professor at George Washington University Law School) said, could involve religious groups that provide social services to the public. Such organizations could be obligated to provide social services to gay people or provide spousal benefits to married gay employees.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

National Adoption Day: November 21st

I'm not sure if I will have time to write Friday or Saturday this week and wanted to make sure to draw people's attention to National Adoption Day on Saturday, November 21st. National Adoption Day is celebrating its 10th year of existence: a special day when court offices open the doors and finalize the adoptions of many of foster kids whose adoptions are currently backlogged. Besides finalizing these adoptions, National Adoption Day also serves as an opportunity for communities to talk about and promote adoption.

I think I've written before that Mark and I adopted our youngest son from foster care. It was an exciting (and exhausting) day as we drove to nearby Cedar Rapids to meet with the judge and to answer questions about what we had to offer D'Angelo as his parents. We then rushed back to Iowa City and hosted a huge party at one of the community's recreational centers. We hoped to host a dozen or so friends and family. Instead, we ended up with dozens of well-wishers.

I remember a few years back (I believe in 2002) when a bill was bopping around in the Iowa legislature that would specifically ban gay individuals and couples from foster parenting and adopting. We were finishing our first year with Leslie and the entire process was frustrating, insulting, and terrifying. I remember spending months writing to pretty much any Iowa legislator asking them to prevent this bill from coming to a vote. I even called rightwing radio host Jan Michaelson on WHO in Des Moines one morning to talk about why this proposed bill was a bad idea. He asked me about statistics of gay men's sexual patterns and I questioned how many of these guys were actually seeking to become parents. I also pointed out real life stories of gay folks who've taken in older, disabled kids in Iowa who would have otherwise ended up in residential care for 10 times the cost to the taxpayers.

I wrote to one of the bills sponsors and questioned the need for this bill. Why, I asked, involuntarily splice out an entire and significant group of existing foster and pre-adoptive parents from the state of Iowa? If people are concerned about gays foster parenting, why not recruit more potential foster parents who share similar values to them instead of eliminating those who've already stepped up to the plate?

Fortunately, this bill never made it to vote and it's never come up since.

Periodically, I like to check the Iowa KidsNet website to see the kids who are currently awaiting adoptive homes. These aren't newborns and toddlers. Most of these kids are in their teens and tweens. Some of them have mental disabilities and others have behavioral disabilities. Some don't, but are old enough that they're difficult to place. But all of them need permanent families. I'm sure if you google-searched your state and adoption information, you could find similar website filled with waiting foster kids.