Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Papa Brag-Time: D's No.1 Tae Kwon Do Performance!

I have written before that D'Angelo joined Tae Kwon Do at the beginning of this school year.  It was his first chosen sport.  He's done other things: camp, soccer, dog classes, etc., but those are usually instigated by me or Mark.  Tae Kwon Do was his and he his commitment to it has surpassed my wildest expectations.

Tonight was his first tournament.  It was a chance for his to show off his skills to his classmates, to other parents, and to other martial artists in the area.  D' was extremely focused tonight and it really showed.  He ended up winning first place for his age group(!!!!).  I know that there's some parental pride clouding my perspective, but he truly did outshine the other boys on the mat.

Congrats, D'Angelo!  You did great!  :)

Marriage Equality in Iowa Anniversary Quickly Approaching

April 3rd will be the one year anniversary of the Iowa Supreme Court decision striking down our state's DOMA law and permitting marriage equality for all couples, regardless of sexual orientation.  Yesterday, One Iowa presented a news conference at the Johnson County Administrative Building to recognize this historic moment.  I was fortunate enough to be in attendance and video taped most of it (though one of the speeches didn't turn out well).  My plan is to upload a couple different speeches every day up until April 3rd.  Check them out.  Most of the speeches last roughly six minutes.

The press conference was introduced by One Iowa's executive director, Carolyn Jenison.  She wrote me a really nice letter in response to the "Lobby Day" letter that I wrote and mailed out to our various state legislators last month.  She indicated in her letter that she and her partner plan to start the process of becoming parents this month (which given that it's now the 31st, they've presumably actually started that process by now).

The first actual speaker was Johnson County's newest supervisor, Janelle Rettig, who holds the title for the first politician to become Facebook friends with me.  Janelle unfortunately struggled with a bit of feedback throughout her speech.  However, she did a good job of providing a summary of Iowa's unique history of GLBT firsts.

Before I close this one out, I wanted to share some intersting Marriage Equality numbers that I found in the Gazette's online blog:

The Iowa Department of Public Health, the keeper of our state’s vital statistics, has a new report on marriage licenses issued between April and the end of December 2009. That includes same-sex marriages made legal by an April 3 Iowa Supreme Court ruling...
A few highlights:
1,783 — Number of same-gender licenses issued by Iowa counties
17,600 — Total marriage licenses issued.
901 — License issue where no gender was specified.
14,916Opposite-gender licenses issued.
1,138 — Female-female licences.
645 — Male-male licenses.
410 — Same-gender licenses issued in Polk County, the state’s highest total.
208 — Same-gender licenses issued in both Johnson and Scott counties.
94 — Same-gender licenses issued in Linn County
82 — The number of counties where no same-gender licenses were issued.
So, at a minimum, 3,500+ people, and maybe more among the “no-gender given” group, benefited from the court’s ruling and joined the ranks of we married folk. As a point of comparison, Sioux Center has 6,327 people. But in a stunning development, there were no gay marriages in Sioux County.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Neutering Nero

Our baby standard poodle Nero moved into our home a few days short of Christmas 2009. He was a six-pound fluff-ball. Over the past three months, he has his weight has increased nearly five-fold. He has graduated from puppy kindergarten. He has thankfully lost all of his really sharp baby teeth. He has for the most part become house-trained. And he's joined the dog park.

Now we're heading for our next puppy milestone: Nero's neurtering. Tomorrow morning, we will take that fateful trip to the vet. Barring any complications, he'll return home tomorrow morning minus his testicles.

I know that there are lots of people out there that hold reservations about neutering. They think dogs should have the opportunity to mate at least once. Or they fear that neutered dogs will get fat. Or they are afraid of prostate cancer. I personally believe those are all bogus reasons for putting this off. Neutering dogs are more likely to mark territory in the house. They're less likely to run away. They have less testosterone, so they have a bit less aggression in them. End of lecture.
So, Nero's now off his food for the next twelve hours and will need to stay away from the dog park for a few days. But within a few days, he'll be back to his own active self. Except I won't need to worry about him siring a bunch of unwanted little pups.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Leslie & Best Buddies Sing for the Shelter House

We spent much of this evening at the "Raising the Roof for Shelter House - A Musicial Extravaganza" tonight at the Johnson County Fairgrounds.  Shelter House is the local homeless shelter.  It's a pretty small building and it is chronically filled to capacity, so they purchased some land and are constructing a larger shelter.  That takes lots of money, hence tonight's fund-raiser.  There were plenty of performers there tonight including a men's singing group and various local acting groups putting on songs from musicals like "Nunsense", "You're a Good Man Charlie Brown", and "Annie".

It was a good hodge podge of performances and the cause was a good one, but the real reason I dragged D' to the show was to provide moral support to Leslie and his high school's Best Buddies club.  Best Buddies is a social organization that matches disabled and non-disabled students together to form friendships and social opportunities.  I was familiar with the group before Leslie entered high school, but didn't have a strong opinion about it either way.  Leslie was referred to the program by his teacher, but they were really struggling to find non-disabled students for the group -- particularly guys. 

Mark and I kind of dragged our feet before committing to having Les join unless he could be matched with a guy.  No offense to any women out there, but Les really needed guy friends.  Our hesitancy actually paid off pretty well.  Les got matched with a really nice football player and has been hanging with him and his friends for most of the past two years.  Matt and Leslie hang out on weekends.  They eat lunch together most days.  Matt has helped keep Les away from some of the less safe students at school.  In short, he's been an excellent influence in Leslie's life.

The Best Buddies somehow got recruited for the Shelter House fund-raiser.  They've been practicing every Tuesday afternoon for the past couple months and it really showed.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Moving to England

A few weeks ago, I was watching some British DVD (either Clatterford or Midsomer Murders) and got this weird thought in my head wondering how difficult or easy it would be to move to the UK.  I asked Mark and he commented that it probably wouldn't be that difficult for us.  End of conversation with Mark, but not internally.  Daydreams about getting settled at midlife with a new job and away from family and in a new similar-but-still-different culture kept bopping around my head.

Now I should preface this by assuring people that I'm not totally serious about moving to Great Britain.  I would love to do it and the UK would be where I'd go if I went, but I'm well past the point in my life where such a move would be feasible.

Much of this comes from a wistful point in my early twenties.  While in college, a semester-long internship opportunity fell in my lap that would've had me working as a Child and Family Services social work intern in Nottingham.  It would have been a wonderful professional achievement.  And it would have provided me with a unique international cultural experience.

But it didn't work out.  My father and I went round and round on the subject.  He was convinced that I was going there to get as far away from him as possible.  It became this big circular argument.  First, I was going to meet guys.  When I said that I was going there to work, I was told that I could work here.  Yada-yada-yada.  Anyway, long story cut short, I interned in Decorah with Habitat for Humanity instead, which for the most part ended up having little to do with my actual career.  But I digress...

The truth is that, like many Americans, I have carried a romantic view of England in my mind for most of my life.  It's not rational and I know that much of it is media-driven, but I would love to live there, either permanently or temporarily.

That's my heart speaking.  My mind's reminding me that the dogs would have to spend six months in quarantine and it's doubtful whether Leslie would even be able to move there and would it even be fair to move him overseas away from his family and what happens when the "real UK" and the "fantasy UK" don't mesh....

All this has been jumping around my head for a couple weeks.  The only way to get rid of it is to humor it.  I did some google searches, came across the UK Border Agency, and began looking at immigration details.  To my dismay, it looks like both Mark and I have careers that would place us on the UK government-approved shortage occupation list.  In other words, the UK is looking for good social workers and biologists. 

I went to Mark later in the day and told him about this discovery.  He bluntly told me that we are not moving to Great Britain.  At the very least, he suggested that a British holiday might be a more realistic step for us to take to experience the British culture that I respect so much. 

So, all things told, we're staying in Iowa.

All this got me wondering about people making the plunge to cut ties with their native countries and migrating elsewhere.  I get those who are seeking financial stability or asylum based on safety.  But I know folks who've moved here permanently from Canada and various parts of Europe.  I also know of folks who've left the US for different parts of the world, including the UK. 

Maybe you're one of them.  What prompted you to move?  Was it just employment opportunities?  Was it a college-inspired move?  Did you move for love?  I would love to hear your stories and I'm sure that others would, too.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Looking for Christ in our Opponents

I read a sad yet heartening article today about a man overcome by mob hysteria one day and later overcome by embarrassment and shame for his actions. 

Chris Reichert participated in an anti-health care reform rally last week.  He got caught up in the anger and the excitement of the moment.  He and several others came across a counter-protester, a 60-year-old man with Parkinson's disease who was sitting nearby.  The crowd began mocking the man with Parkinson's Disease, tossing dollar bills at him and laughing at his disability.  Video of this exchange went viral and Reichert found himself with the opportunity to see a very ugly moment of his life aired over and over and over.

He could have justified his anger and moved on.  Instead, he looked inward and felt sick.  He could have slunk into anonymity and moved on.  Instead, he went public and made a very candid public apology.
"He's got every right to do what he did and some may say I did too, but what I did was shameful. I haven't slept since that day. I made a donation (to a local Parkinson's disease group) and that starts the healing process. I wanted this to go away, but it won't and I'm paying the consequences."
I understand that people are frightened about the whole health care reform issue.  But the way that people have struck out against others has been atrocious.  This wasn't the first chronically ill individual to be attacked or mocked at one of these rallies.  Every time I've seen one of these incident, I've thought about whether or not these offenders would treat Jesus like this.  My guess is that they would say they wouldn't.  So why can't they see the inner Christ in these disabled individuals?
They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?'
"He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'
As Christians, we need to remember these words from Matthew 25 every day.  It doesn't matter if we disagree on certain political issues.  We need to learn how to disagree properly and respectfully.  Today's hot-button issue will cool down eventually.  They way we treat our fellow men and women will carry on throughout our lifetime. 

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Yes I Can!

... Stay away from downtown Iowa City, the University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics, and the UI Fieldhouse tomorrow, that is. It's gonna be a zoo here because of a passing stranger.

President Barack Obama will be speaking tomorrow at 1:00 PM at the UI Fieldhouse about the recently passed healthcare reform bill. A counter-event hosted by the Iowa GOP has already happened tonight and I'm sure there will be plenty of protesters in addition to hoardes of supporters, politicians, and media folks.

Personally, I don't have a strong opinion on this. I don't think that HCR will save or destroy this country. It needs to be done. I'm just not sure that it was done all the way right. But I do grow tired of hearing about how the government can't do anything right from people who are scared of having their Medicare and Medicaid coverage messed with.

Trust me. I hear that one at least once a week at work...

Anyway, there's no way you will catch me trying to navigate that mess. My co-worker Jen scheduled an intake for late tomorrow morning at the UIHC. I asked her if she was crazy. She'd totally forgotten about the President's visit, but doesn't think that it'll slow her down much. I chuckled to myself and shook my head, secretly hoping that she makes it back to the office before I leave for the day so I can hear about her traffic grief.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

By the Numbers

7 -- Chickens confiscated during a local traffic stop yesterday. No word on their numbers, but apparently there were squirrels lose in the vehicle, too.

14 - States so far who have filed suit against the federal government's newly passed Health Care Reform bill.

24 - The percentage of Republicans who believe that President Obama is the Anti-Christ.

25 - US states that allow first cousins the right to legally marry (compared to 5 states -- and Washington DC -- that allow gay couples to legally marry).

== And, most importantly... ==

184 - Dollars that D'Angelo managed to raise for the Jump Rope For Heart program, which made him the largest individual fund-raiser this year for his particular elementary school! Good job, D'!

United States of Tara

You can tell that I haven't been watching much Showtime recently. I totally missed last night's second season premier of United States of Tara. For those unfamiliar with the program, it's a dramedy about a woman with multiple personalities who is seeking to integrate those personalities by investigating their origins. Fortunately, she has her various family members on hand to help corral her various alters -- that is when they're not being overwhelmed by their own difficulties.

Anyway, I caught the second season's first episode on demand this afternoon. The new season finds Tara's various alters pretty much absent after a months of new medications. Unfortunately, a neighborhood suicide introduces enough stress that her alters begin to resurface along with a brand new alter named Shoshanna.

Check out this excellent program if you get the chance. You won't regret it.

An Alternative to Panhandling

The papers are reporting this morning that the Iowa City City Council is considering a new alternative to panhandling: old parking meters. Under this proposal, a half dozen or so parking meters would be available for contributions towards local social service agencies that assist the poor and homeless, like Shelter House, the Salvation Army, or the Free Lunch Program. It's an interesting idea, though not an original one. Apparently, Denver, CO, has a similar project and it was responsible for nearly $100,000 in direct and indirect donations to involved social service agencies.

The council decided to stay away from the issue of requiring panhandlers from registering with the city. They were concerned that musicians wouldn't be able to set up spontaneous performances in the downtown area, which I guess is a valid point.

Assuming that this project becomes real, it will be interesting to see how the public responds to these meters. Will they show preference to giving money to meters instead of actual panhandlers? Will the meters be subject to vandalism or theft? But at least the council appears to be looking at addressing this issue.

Monday, March 22, 2010

DADT in the UCC

Looks like one of the latest casualties of the US Military's Don't Ask/Don't Tell policy is UCC chaplain, Rev. Aris Fokas of the Army National Guard. This man served our country in Iraq for 18 months, providing spiritual aid and comfort to our military soldiers and officers. Now, in a case of "he said/he said", because of one officer's accusation that Fokas told him that he's gay (something Fokas denies), everything he has done for this country is deemed worthless and his character is viewed as suspect.

DADT is one of the biggest failures of the Clinton Administration and its (lack of) repeal may be the Obama Administration's biggest mistake towards the GLBT community. Obama and Congress could have easily repealed it in the early months of 2009. Sure, there would've been some grousing by conservative pundits, but that would've quickly died down and people would've moved on because Don't Ask/Don't Tell is a bad law that doesn't serve this country well.

Poll most anyone. Democrats, Republicans, Independents, active soldiers, reserve soldiers, pretty much anyone on the streets. Americans are overwhelmingly against DADT. Our military can barely recruit or keep new soldiers or officers, and yet we have the luxury of kicking out otherwise skilled soldiers, officers, linguists, and chaplains? It really makes no sense.

Now, Congress is too worried to actually act on repealing DADT for fear of scuttling its November 2010 election results and Obama is doing nothing for fear of messing up its November 2012 election results. Meanwhile, GLBT voters have long since realized that the Democrats love us when he fund-raise, campaign for, and vote for them, but otherwise dismiss us for political expediency. I mean, where else will we go? The GOP?

More likely, we'll succumb to bitterness and apathy, close up our wallets, and stay home on election day.

We need to stop the anti-gay witchhunts towards soldiers like Rev. Fokas. These men and women are stepping up for our country. They're not criminals. They're not addicts. They're not disgraces. They are all heroes whose commitment to our protections deserve to be rewarded. Not condemed.

DADT needs to be repealed.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Spring Break in Iowa City

Spring Break's wrapping up here and I thought I'd share a few thoughts and observances:

*Spring Break started on a sour note this year. D' was scheduled to participate in an overnight spring camp experience over at Pilgrim Heights in Montour, IA. Pilgrim Heights is a small Bible camp formerly associated with the United Church of Christ, but now spun out into its own non-profit. Unfortunately, only three boys signed up for the spring camping experience so it was canceled. We're still planning on doing Pilgrim Heights' summer programming, but it was disappointing to not have it last weekend. If you live in Iowa and are looking for a fun summer camp experience for your kids, grandkids, or others in your church or community, check out this little jewel.

*Over the course of the week, I discovered Kate Nash. She's a wonderful singer from the UK. Do yourself a favor and check out some of her music here and here.

*I visited family up north this past weekend. We tried out a relatively new restaurant in Harmony, MN, called QUARTER/quarter. Pretty good food. Locally grown vegetables and interestingly prepared meats and salads. I had an excellent BLT with barbecued bacon and organically grown greens. I'm not a big potato salad fan, but everyone around me enjoyed this combination of potatoes and yams.

Later in the day, we traveled over to Decorah, IA, to tour the Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum. It sports an amazing collection of Norwegian art and immigrant folk stories, as well as tools, household items, clothing, and religious icons that were used by early Norwegian immigrants to America. I later purchased some Rommegrot mix (kind of a pudding) and plan to eventually make up a batch. It'll be a first for me. Fortunately, I've had the stuff so infrequently, that I won't notice if it ends up tasting a bit off.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Update on the Lesbians' Kid Who was Expelled from Catholic School in Colorado

I wanted to give a quick update on the situation involving the child who has been expelled by Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic School in Boulder, CO, because her parents are lesbians. I wrote a bit about this subject here and here. The principal priest involved in making this decision has been making his point at church and on his blog. Now the moms involved in this situation have made a statement about their daugther's expulsion. I have included it below.

Before I do that, I thought I would offer up the following observation that strikes me as odd. The Catholic Church baptized these children, but cannot educate them? I wonder if they're allowed to get married in the church or receive communion or go through confirmation? Or will their lesbian moms be an ongoing deal-breaker for them?

Anyway, here's their press statement:


We are normal people. We have two children, a nice house, and a dog. We both hold professional jobs in the community. You would likely pass us on the street and not take much notice. We work hard, and enjoy spending time with our family, traveling, and being outdoors. What makes us different is that we are a lesbian couple. We are not activists by nature. You have never seen us at protests or marching in parades. Up until this point, we have taken the typical passive approach of voting for candidates that represent our viewpoints and directing our charitable donations to organizations whose missions we support. We live in a liberal community, where we have always felt safe, comfortable, and accepted.

Certainly over the years there have been times when our sexuality has been an issue, but they have been relatively minor. We had to hire a lawyer to ensure both of our names were on our children’s birth certificates, to protect our rights to inherit each others assets, and establish medical durable power of attorney. Luckily, we had the financial means to pay the thousands of dollars to do all of this. In the years that we have been in Colorado, laws have since been changed to protect some of these basic rights. We file our taxes as single. We filled out our census as ‘unmarried partners living together’ since we are not able to legally marry. Upon returning from vacation, US Customs would not process us together because we ‘did not qualify as a family’. These are things that gay and lesbian people deal with every day.

Recently, we found ourselves in the middle of a political firestorm. We went to enroll our oldest child in kindergarten at Sacred Heart of Jesus School, and were told that our children would not be welcome to continue their education there long term because of our sexual orientation. This came as a shock to us because our children had been attending preschool at Sacred Heart for three years. We had been open about our family situation from the start, and had always felt welcomed by parents and teachers. The past weeks have been very difficult for our family. We were initially very hurt and angry. We met with school and church administrators to discuss the situation. We were told that families and students need to uphold church doctrine in order for children to be admitted. We were also told that our children would feel uncomfortable when taught about the “family unit”, and teachers might feel too intimidated by their presence to teach church beliefs. Our answer to this is that there are many families that do not live their lives according to church doctrine. There are divorced parents, children of parents born out of wedlock, non-Catholics, and non-practicing Catholics. Their eligibility has not been questioned. There seems to be a subjective rating system of which sins are more unacceptable.

Regarding the school’s teaching about the ‘family unit’, we are unconcerned. Our children know that their family is different than most. They are well aware that many families have a mom and a dad, and we discuss different family models openly. We have a good understanding of the church’s position on gay and lesbian people. We have never sought approval from the church of our relationship and we would never ask that the school modify its teachings to accommodate our family. We are not threatened by our children hearing different points of view on any issues. Perhaps our biggest objection to the School’s decision is that we think that it is wrong to punish a child for who the child’s parents are. We do not think that this reflects what Jesus would have done. Jesus said, “bring the children to me.”

Our initial thought was that it would be least disruptive for our children to deal with this privately, and focus our energy on securing other educational options for them. However, word of our situation got out to the Sacred Heart community at a teacher staff meeting and quickly spread. Many people at Sacred Heart were outraged with the decision. A teacher reported it to the local news outlets. We found our story on the front page of the paper and in the headlines of the local news. It quickly spread nationally and has been the subject of many online blogs. We have chosen to speak up at this time to clarify many misconceptions.

Some have suggested that we enrolled our children at Sacred Heart to make a political point. This could not be further from the truth. We were both born and raised in the Catholic faith. One of us went to Catholic school from preschool through high school, and the other attended a prestigious Catholic University. Our children’s grandmother and aunt were catholic school teachers for many years. Furthermore, our children are Catholics. They have both been baptized, and we take them to church regularly at Sacred Heart. When we were allowed to have our children baptized (as recommended by the 2006 document ‘Ministry to Persons with a Homosexual Inclination: Guidelines for Pastoral Care’), we made a promise to raise our children in the Catholic faith. We now feel like our attempts at fulfilling this promise are being undermined by the Church itself. Although we do not see eye to eye with the Catholic Church on the issue of gay and lesbian relationships, we value what a Catholic education can offer our children from an academic, religious, and moral standpoint. As parents, our number one priority is and always has been the well-being of our children. We would never intentionally seek to further our own political beliefs at their expense.

Clearly this is an issue that strikes a nerve for many people. If any good can come out of all of this, perhaps it is getting people thinking and discussing issues of faith and sexual orientation. Our case is not unique. There are many other gay couples who have families and are struggling to reconcile their sexual orientation with their religious beliefs. We do not believe that homosexuality and organized religion need to be mutually exclusive. We have been touched by the outpouring of support from the Sacred Heart community and the community at large. Many of the people who stood up for us publicly did so at some risk to themselves and their families. We are humbled by their courage. We hope that in the future when we witness an injustice, we are brave enough to stand up to it like so many people did for us.

Our family will persevere. We have well-adjusted, intelligent, beautiful children who are deeply loved. We have chosen to move forward with our lives, not with hearts filled with hate and bitterness, but with hope that in part due to this controversy there might be some positive changes in the hearts and minds of others. It is easy to have ideas and opinions when they are abstract. When you meet the real people you are judging, you sometimes see things differently. We never intended consciously for our family to be active gay rights advocates, but by living happy, successful lives it appears that is what we have become. We will continue to raise our children with strong Catholic values and hold faith that through our actions, we are doing our part to create a more loving, inclusive world.

Being a Good Neighbor

I received a call today from someone with a noise complaint about her apartment building. She wanted my opinion on how to respond to her building manager’s inadequate response. Here’s the situation: there are families in her apartment building. The couple below her speaks loudly and entertains guests occasionally. Not “throwing a kegger” entertainment, but more like “let’s get together and talk” entertainment. Another household has kids who play in the yard and who tromp up and down the stairs and slam the door. Plus, they sometimes have friends over to play. I asked about the kids’ ages. They’re 2nd, 3rd, and 4th graders.

She’s spoken with the neighbors and the noises continue. She has spoken with the building manager several times. The building manager, judging from my friend’s words, sounds fed up. I guess she questioned whether this is the right place for the woman to live and asked if she might be better suited to an apartment building with older tenants.

My friend got upset when I pointed out that her building manager has a point. She lives in an apartment building. There are going to be noises and it seems unrealistic to expect otherwise. She’s upset that the parents of those three kids can’t control their kids better. I pointed out that I have a 3rd grader in my home. They tromp and slam. You, as a parent, can remind them to not tromp and slam, but realistically kids make noise. I asked her when her lease opens up. She gave me the date, but said that she has no plans to move.

Ultimately, I decided to keep the rest of my thoughts to myself and gave her different phone numbers for various local agencies that might be able to assist her.

But I really wonder what gets in people’s minds. It’s an apartment building with several living units. I’ve lived in apartment buildings in the past and know what they’re like. There’s going to be noise when you live among that many people. Mind you, we’re not talking about overtly disrespectful kids or vandalizing kids. We’re not talking about drug use or threatening behavior or meth cooking or criminal behavior. We’re talking about time limited, everyday noises. If you are easily bothered by noises, you should look at moving to a house or a duplex or something similar. Something that minimizes the number of direct interactions with other people on your property or in your building.

This whole conversation reminded me of a similar, yet different incident that occurred in my current neighborhood a couple years back. Most of the neighbors have dogs. Most of us walk our dogs. A couple household let their dogs out in the backyard to do their business. One of those latter households was interrupted from their morning routine by a police officer who was responding to a noise complaint regarding her barking dogs that had been called in by one of our neighbors.

She ended up writing a letter to every household in the neighborhood describing the situation and asking people to speak to her next time about complaints before contacting the police. While delivering the letters, she ran into me and point blank asked me if we were the ones who called the police on her. I laughed and honestly replied, “I have two boys and two dogs. I’m the last one to file a noise complaint!”

It might have been a joking response, but it was an honest one. And her letter conveyed a good message. We’re all neighbors of one sort or another. Sometimes we do things to get on others’ nerves and we don’t know it. With this in mind, talk to us. Treat others like you want to be treated. And don’t forget to offer some grace if there are elements of their situation (like a stair-stamping 9-year-old or a barking dog) that they can’t control all of the time.

If nothing else, it might prevent others from calling the cops on you the next time or stomp snow off your boots or sing to yourself in the shower.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Family Weekend

It's been a busy weekend so far. Originally, D'Angelo was supposed to go to an overnight Bible camp for elementary school-aged kids, but they ended up canceling due to low enrollment. I think he was one of three scheduled to attend. So we sabotaged my diet and went to Red Lobster instead.

Then Saturday morning, we decided that we could no longer put off one particularly large pooch-related purchase: Nero's new crate. Up until now, he's been using Ms. Lion's old crate. We were spending so much on vet bills, kindergarten tuition, and other puppy start-up expenses, that it made sense to put off getting a large crate for our growing moose... er, standard poodle. But what's been good for our 8-pound peke isn't really good for our nearly 20-pound poodle. I mean, he fits in there, but there's not really room in there for Nero to stretch out while sleeping. So we plunked down $115 for the new crate, plus an additional $50 for a new cushion to go inside. Now he's got so much room in his crate that he doesn't know what to do with himself!

The crate was actually much easier to put together than I had imagined. It was essentially all connected. We just had to unfold it into a three-dimensional configuration and snap together a few clasps. The main problem is that it's huge and we really don't have anywhere to put it, so it's sitting in our master bedroom and blocking the closet and likely will be in our way until Nero is mature enough to live alongside us without a crate.
The rest of my Saturday was spent supervising an overnight adventure with Les and his friend Jake. We started off our time together watching "Alice in Wonderland 3D". It was a good, if dark movie and the special effects were neat, though would've been a bit neater if we'd shown up about 5-10 minutes earlier. As it was, we got split up (which suited the teens) and forced to sit in the second and third rows.

The boys entertained themselves pretty well for the rest of the night, playing video games and watching movies that I'm sure I wouldn't have approved of. I have no clue what time they went to bed. I prompted them around 1 AM, but they were still goofing around long after that.

Anyway, the morning shot by pretty quickly. I finally got the teens up and fed in time for Jake's mom to come pick him up. Now we're wasting time waiting for D's afternoon play date, which will fortunately occur away from our home 'cuz I really need to get some sleep...

Saturday, March 13, 2010

So You Won The Powerball...

I tried this elsewhere recently. I'm curious what response I might get here. I see that the Powerball prize is up around $200 million. Hypothetical: You splurge on a ticket and you win!!!!


Now, I don't want to hear arguments against gambling or the lottery or anything negative like that. And I don't want to hear about charities or giving it all away or anything like that. Don't forget, you caved in to lotto-hype and spent your buck and we'll even assume that you will give away a portion of the winnings to your church and/or the charities of your choosing.

I want to know about your indulgences. What will you get or do now that you couldn't afford with your current income. Have fun. Go all out. Be creative. Be greedy. But let the world know!!!!

Here are my initial splurges:

I'd vacation at Disney World.

I'd take an Alaskan cruise.

I'd plan an extended vacation to the UK and (maybe) other parts of Europe.

I'd buy a new car.

I'd purchase a bit of land in the country and build/renovate my dream-house.

I'd purchase a Wii for the boys.


I think I'd set up my own curling league!

More later...

Friday, March 12, 2010

Lombardo Accepts Town Manager Position in Massachusettes

Good news for my friend, Michael Lombardo! I wrote a few days ago about former Iowa City city manager Michael Lombardo interviewing for two separate city manager positions. I also wrote how he was unfairly and inexplicably fired after 11 months on the job by Iowa City's City Council despite doing a good job for our community.

The Gazette and the Press-Citizen both report that Lombardo was offered the town manager position in Hamilton, MA, and that he has accepted that position, pending compensation negotiations:

The Salem News reported Friday that Lombardo was offered a three-year contract to become the first town manager of Hamilton. Lombardo and town officials still must agree to a deal, the paper reported.

Another publication, the Hamilton-Wenham Chronicle, reported that Lombardo accepted the job pending contract negotiations.

Lombardo told a Salem News reporter that he was “very thankful to be offered the opportunity.”

Lombardo was fired as city manager of Iowa City in April after less than a year on the job. The City Council has never explained its reasons for firing him, saying it was a personnel matter.

The Salem News reported that one of the Hamilton’s selectman said she “talked to a number of people in Iowa City who were shocked by his firing and lauded his ability to form community partnerships.”

“Municipal government is a buzz saw,” David Carey, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, told the Salem News. “You’ll always have somebody you’re butting heads with.”

Another selectman, Bill Bowler, told the Hamilton paper: “Michael Lombardo, of the three candidates, he’s got the broadest skill set. He’s got all of the bases covered.”

Lombardo also was a candidate for a city manager job in Albert Lea, Minn

I wish Michael and his family well in this new life adventure!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Banning Panhandling?

I read an online article in the Gazette about the desire by Iowa City's association of downtown business owners to ban smoking and panhandling on the Ped Mall.

The proposed anti-smoking effort -- to ban all smoking around the downtown business hours during daytime hours -- is total bunk, IMHO. It's an outside pedestrian mall. Let the people hang out with their sandwiches, drinks, and magazines that they purchased at your stores and have a smoke, for crying out loud.

On the other hand, the proposed anti-panhandling effort -- which would widen the current no-panhandling zone around businesses and which would require panhandlers to register with the city -- is another matter. The city really needs to seriously address the issue of panhandling in our city. But not downtown. I'm more concerned about the streets.

On any given day, you can spot people begging for money outside Wal-Mart. On the center divide of Highway 1 & 6. Outside the entrance to Hy-Vee. Next to Blockbuster. Next to K-Mart. Frankly, there are lots of places where you can find panhandlers asking for money along extremely busy roads.

It's not safe. It's not safe for the panhandlers and it's not safe for drivers. I'm seriously waiting for the day that someone stumbles into oncoming traffic while approaching vehicles stopped by the traffic lights. I've already seen frustrated drivers lob paper cups at panhandlers and I've seen panhandlers bang on car windows and mess with windshield wipers in an effort to elicit cash.

For various reasons, the City Council seems disinterested in cracking down on streetside panhandling. But it needs to be addressed sooner than later. Frankly, I believe that it needs to be criminally banned and actively policed as a deterrant.

If you want to help the homeless, give money to Shelter House or Free Lunch or Table to Table. Those programs have the staff and programming available to help those who are homeless or struggling to get food. But please don't encourage unsafe streetside panhandling by giving cash to folks from your car.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Tuesday Night Toss-Ups

Here's how my day went today. I got called over to the UIHC to do a couple intakes. I prepare my intake packets and then head off to lunch before my appointments. I drive over to the UIHC parking ramp. Immediately upon entering the ramp, my "low fuel" light pops on. So I drive around and around searching for a spot and hoping against hope that I don't run out of gas in the middle of the ramp. I find my spot and go into the hospital. I decide to check out my first folder to confirm in my head which psych ward I was to visit. It was then that I realized that I totally forgot my intake packets at my office. So I run back to my car, have a mild heart attack when my car skipped a beat while starting because of the low fuel, and then run off to get my paperwork (following a brief stop at the gas station). That set a tone for the rest of the work day.

Anyway, here are a few headlines that've grabbed my attention today:

*Good news for former Iowa City city manager, Michael Lombardo, is in the running for a couple different city management positions (one in Hamilton, MA, and the other one in Albert Lea, MN). Last spring, the Iowa City city council fired Lombardo shortly before the end of his first year as city manager. It was a surprising action by the council and one that they declined to explain well to the public or (according to this news article) to Lombardo. I have to admit that I like Michael. His son is on D'Angelo's soccer team and they did Cub Scouts together. Mark and I enjoy visiting with Michael and his wife. Michael also catered for our wedding this past January.

Iowa City is not without its faults and I always believed that Michael had a good grasp of its more serious problems and a plan for addressing those problems. Unfortunately, I don't believe his priorities were the council's priorities. It ended up being easier for the council to let him go without comment than to deviate from their goal of wiping out the downtown bars and fining drunk college students. But that's just my opinion.

I wish Michael well and really hope that he gets one of these positions. Either city will be very, very lucky to claim him.

*In other news, gay couples began getting legally married today in Washington DC. Check on this link to watch video footage of three of the initial civil ceremonies held on this exciting day. I think that I read that 150 couples have filed licenses so far. I'm sure that there are plenty others who, like Mark and me, decided to wait a bit in order to plan. In a perfect world, the religious communities would be content to let these couples enjoy their new marital statuses. Nobody in favor of marriage equality is naive enough to believe that the church will practice a "live and let live" response. But one can hope.

*Lastly, I read some of the coolest news this afternoon: Marvel Comics will be publishing a new team series called Young Allies this summer featuring one of the coolest team-ups in recent memory: Nomad, Arana, Gravity, Firestar, and Toro. In some ways, Young Allies sounds like a junior version of Marvel's Old Defenders team (or un-team). In other words, this is more of an incidental gathering of super-powered folks as opposed to a formal team of seasoned heroes with the matching uniforms, hi-tech HQ, and secret handshakes.

I'm actually quite hooked into Marvel's hype these days. Their comics have been quite dark and pessimistic since the early '00s. Now they're gearing up for the newly minted "Heroic Age of Comics", with a brand new teams of Avengers, freshly washed Fantastic Four members, etc. I'm excitied to see what Marvel's gonna do with their main titles, but this new book is different enough in comparison and with a broad enough spectrum of personalities and powers that I definitely won't be able to refuse it.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Matthew 25:31-46, the Church, and Gays

I wrote late Saturday night about a Catholic school that has elected to kick out the child of a lesbian couple. This news follows the story of the Washington DC's Archdiocese's decision to stop providing family medical coverage for its employees instead of risking the possibility that it might someday be placed in the position of providing health benefits to a gay employee's same-sex spouse. And don't forget that they stopped providing foster care and adoption services because they might end up working with gay parents.

My initial inclination was to shake my head and shrug my shoulders and then move on. The Catholic Church is free to do what it wants and who am I to criticize them for standing firm on social issus. But they're not really, are they? Read the blog entries on this subject from the man responsible for giving the heave-ho to that poor pre-schooler, Father Bill Breslin. He not only defends the decision to cast out this child, but he rationalizes why it's not necessary to cast out the children whose parents violate other Catholic no-no's like divorce, re-marriage, living together out of wedlock, or those who pretty obviously use birth control. There's no sense of grace towards this child. Just a priest justifying his hypocracy. And read the comments. The readers love him all the more for protecting the children of this school from the kid with the pariah parents.

I've never worked for Catholic Charities, but I did once work for Lutheran Social Services. I wasn't hired because of my Lutheran faith (or despite my lack of Lutheran faith), but because of my job qualifications. My guess is the same for Catholic Charities. How many remarried spouses has the Catholic Church provided health coverage to over the years? How many people who pray to other gods receive health coverage through Catholic Charities? How awful and dispicable must gay spouses be that this business feels comfortably cozy with cutting off all families from health coverage. Makes you wonder how far this cut-off goes? Is it just health insurance? Does this cover FMLA-leave requests? Sick time to care for ill family members? It'll be interesting to see how low the Church will sink in its efforts to distance itself from gay families.

Matthew 25:31-46 (New International Version)

The Sheep and the Goats
31"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. 32All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
34"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'

37"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'

40"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'

41"Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.'

44"They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?'

45"He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'

46"Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."
Which brings me to Matthew 25. Are the Church, its leadership, and its membership acting as a herd of goats in these situations -- particularly in the Boulder, CO, scenario -- or are they sheep? Where is their sense of grace? Their compassion? They're sense of service? I don't see it. If it's there (and I'm quite serious with this request), please point it out to me. I don't see the exception to gay families and their kids in Matthew 25, but maybe there's another translation out there that they're working with.

I'm sorry for ragging on the Catholic Church for stuff like this, as there have been other private Christian schools that have chosen to expel kids for being gay or for having gay parents, but the Catholic Church is the one that seems to be in the forefront these days. It seems like the institutional church has become more about proving that its increasingly anti-gay and less about practicing Christ's principles.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

'Cuz I've Got No Nite Life...

The day started out promisingly enough. I was a real gunner. Prescriptions were refilled. Laundry was put away. Work outs were accomplished. DVDs were returned to the library. The dogs were walked. The checks were deposited. And the dog licences and dog park memberships were renewed. And all before 11:30 AM.

And then it kind of stumbled to a halt. D' and I were scheduled to watch "Alice in Wonderland" in 3D today. We waited in line for a while before watching the last four tickets get purchased by the people directly in front of us. We then decided to try our luck at the dog park, not considering that the nice, warm weather that invited us to trek out, also cause the vast amount of snow and ice there to melt into a watery, muddy mess. Nero got a good run, but our new shoes got soaked and Ms. Lion ended up needing a bath. After that, we just kind of gave up and opted to hang out at home watching TV.

Now that things are settling down a bit for the evening, I decided to check in on the various headlines and other subjects that have recently grabbed my atttention:

*This was a sad story. Apparently, the Denver Archdiocese has forced a Boulder-based Catholic school to refuse to re-enroll a young boy to the school next fall because he has two moms. I'm sure the Church will try to convince us again that it is the victim once again of homosexual oppression. Then again, I don't understand why these mothers chose this school over other area schools. I mean, it's not unprecedented for Christian private schools to give kids the boot because they have gay parents. Then again, I don't know the Boulder school district. Maybe this was one of the better schools and they were attempting to rise above their own issues for the sake of their kid, much like Mark and I did when we allowed D' to join the Scouts. Either way, it's a sucky situation for the kid.

*Several months ago, something interesting opened up near Washington DC: a pro-Catholic/pro-life pharmacy. Its business modeled intentionally set out to honor pro-Catholic principles: namely no birth control (and apparently no soda or candy -- didn't know that these were Catholic no-no's). It was a good alternative for DC Catholics who are seeking family-friendly businesses to invest their money in. Apparently, the venture failed. Unless there was some last minute intervention that I don't know about, Save DMC Pharmacy closed shop this past Thursday. I find it sad that Catholics have time to rally against gay families in Washington DC, but don't have the time or inclination to support businesses in their community that clearly represent Catholic values. Very sad indeed.

*Speaking of closed down institutions, I was glad to read this week that the state of Iowa chose to not close down one of our state's Mental Health Institutes due to budget concerns. MHIs are not fun places, but they're necessary places for extremely symptomatic individuals who can't be treated safely in the community or in local hospitals. And, no, they're not cheap, but they're needed, as evidenced by their never-ceasing wait lists. They provide vital services for our state. We're better off with them than without them.

*This was pretty funny local news. A guy's drunk driving. He crashes into the Salvation Army. He stumbles out of his car and wanders off -- with can o' beer firmly in hand. The police intercept him a few blocks away. He's clearly drunk. His blood alcohol content measures at .101. His excuse? He hit the building not because he's drunk, but because he doesn't know how to drive. Yeah, that's gonna do it...

*One last thing. After the movie fell through, D' and I decided to run over of to Target to purchase a new blanket to replace the one that had been destroyed recently by Mr. Chewalot (AKA Nero). I walked past Target's wine selection and found several bottles of "Monogamy" brand wine on the shelf. I looked around, but apparently their "Playing the Field" selection has all sold out.

Have a good night folks!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Who Owns the Rainbow?

A few years ago, I was given a Christian rainbow fish bumper sticker by my now former pastor, Dee. Kind of a mix of Christian and gay imagery, y'know? I have a long-standing policy of not putting any bumper stickers on my vehicles, but I wanted to come up with some way of using this gift. So I took it to work and fitted it onto one of my bulletin boards.

It's been there so long that I rarely even remember that it's there. Occasionally someone will notice it. Usually that person's a gay person or the family member of a gay person who thinks it's cool that I have it there. Otherwise no one ever mentions it.

Today, someone else noticed it. She said that she wished she could have a rainbow fish bumper sticker, but she wouldn't because she didn't want people to mistake her for a lesbian. She then expressed dismay that gay people had stolen and ruined an otherwise Christian symbol (the rainbow).

I shrugged sympathetically and moved on to other sources of conversation. Inside, I wondered why she thought that anyone could own or steal the rainbow. The rainbow is colored light. It's not something you can touch or possess. It just exists.

It's not really the rainbow that she's upset about, but a symbol of her faith. The sad part is, there's no real reason why the rainbow can't possess important meaning to both Christians and gay people. Christians believe that the rainbow is a symbol of the promise God made with humanity that he wouldn't bring back worldwide floods. Gays use the rainbow as a sign of diversity and pride. There's no reason that both communities cannot recognize both symbols. The gays no more stole the rainbow from the Christians than grieving pet owners have stolen the symbol of the Rainbow Bridge from ancient Norwegians.

My thought is that if this person really wants a rainbow fish bumper sticker, then she should get a rainbow fish bumper sticker. Life's too short. Don't let others' questioning thoughts chase you from it. Give it your own meaning.

If nothing else, she may start a new trend months from now where gay people start harping that the Christians have stolen their rainbow fish bumper stickers. And that might make it all worth it.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Biblical Law in the Modern Day

Who do you think should be put to death?

Miss Beverly Hills USA 2010 Lauren Ashley: "Gay People". Why do you think that?: Leviticus 20:13: "If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads."

National Organization for Marriage (NOM) president Maggie Gallagher: "We agree 100% with Ashley."

Anyone else?

American Family Association radio host Bryan Fischer: "Sea World's staff and trainers". Why do you think that?: Exodus 21: 28-29: "If a bull gores a man or a woman to death, the bull must be stoned to death, and its meat must not be eaten. But the owner of the bull will not be held responsible. If, however, the bull has had the habit of goring and the owner has been warned but has not kept it penned up and it kills a man or woman, the bull must be stoned and the owner also must be put to death."

Downsized Cities and Services

There was an interesting story on NPR about an desire to transplant residents of otherwise empty neighborhoods and to get rid of abandoned buildings in Detroit. Basically, they found that roughly one-third of the community meets this definition and that the city is wasting lots and lots of money on civic services such as trash collection or bus routes. It's an interesting proposal for a cash-strapped community, as well as a scary and uncertain proposal for those currently living in those sections of the city.

In some ways, Detroit's ideas are a much more humane and optimistic solution to these economic times than other areas of the country, such as the State of South Carolina, which is considering a plan to eliminate all services for nearly 26,000 of its disabled citizens.

Sometimes I find it amazing that we have more people around today to help fund the tax coffers than we did a couple decades ago, and yet we're struggling to maintain basic services like city street lights or road repairs in major American cities.

I sometimes think we need to go through every city, county, state, and federal line item and point by point prioritize and eliminate spending items so that we can make sure that basic needs such as pot-hole repairs and trash collection and police officers and cost-effective military weaponry are properly funded and gradually we can weed out those all those oddball spending items that get hidden away in the various budgets. I also think we need to get rid of a lot of those voter referendums that impose all sorts of extra services and spending with no actual mechanism for funding all of those extra services and spending.

These are scary times. I definitely think we can make things less scary, but I think we need to do that through regrouping and reorganizing like Detroit as opposed to uncaring slashings like South Carolina.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Jan Mickelson

One Iowa just published a piece about right-leaning radio talk show host Jan Mickelson and some disparaging comments he recently made at a fund-raiser for the Family Policy Center towards a group of Iowan religious leaders who had issued a proclamation of sorts supporting marriage equality. The One Iowa piece didn't really succeed in informing me what he exactly said about those clergy.

The main quote of his that I read was this: "Personally, I think two guys pretending to be sexual mates are making a mistake... More than that, they are violating the design of their bodies. More than that, they are sinning against their maker. More than that, they are likely to shorten their lives in this world and impair their destinies in the next."

I used to listen to his program semi-regularly during the mid/late 90s and into the early 00's. My blood would boil and my stomach would churn as he would pontificate about gay people like me and speak out on the various conservative issues of the day.

I eventually called his program in early winter 2002 when Iowa was initiating a study bill that would, if passed as law, ban gay individuals or couples from foster parenting or adopting. I would hear Mickelson speak out in favor of this bill and have his words parroted by his listeners with no real understanding of or compassion towards those of us who were actually foster parents and would have our lives turned upside down for no reason by this unjust bill.

So I decided that he and his listeners needed to hear from an actual real gay foster dad. To his credit, he gave me lots of time to discuss my points. I kept to three points:

1. I told our story. I talked about how Mark and I had gone through the licensing process and had foster parented two boys. One had returned home and the other was with us, probably forever due to his disabilities and his parent's disability. I talked about how we were succeeding after years of services within his birth home. We weren't seeing the multiple problems that led to his removal and he was actually showing advances. Additionally, his relationship with his birth family was now better as they learned to better respond to his disability from us. I also talked about how his grandparents didn't want this bill to become a law, because they didn't want a successful relationship terminated.

2. Building on the first point, I pointed out that almost every gay or lesbian foster parent that I know has taken in disabled foster children. Not that I didn't know het foster parents doing the same thing, but the percentages weren't the same, for multiple reasons that I won't go into here. But, from a cost-savings point of view, there was no comparison. Those disabled children being placed in foster care versus those disabled children being placed in juvenile group homes? It's a huge cost difference.

3. I understand that many people believe that traditional two-parent-married-mom-&-dad homes should take preference when kids are being placed in foster care. But it made no sense then (or now) to solve that issue to voiding the licenses of those who've stepped up to the plate. If you think traditional married couples should be preferred foster parents, then go through the licensing process with your spouse. Recruit others like you from your church, from your neighborhood, from work, from wherever. Give the placement workers at DHS other foster care options. But don't just eliminate a significant chunk of the existing foster parents in the state overnight. How does that serve the state?

Anyway, he typed away at his computer while I chatted and brought up some stats about the low percentage of gay men who are actually in relationships and that the rest were out sleeping around with hordes of random strangers, or something to that effect. I told him that I didn't know anything about that. I told him that I just have control over myself and my life. I also suggested that even if his stats are true, few of the wild swinger types are actually going to have the inclination or ability to become licensed as foster parents. I also pointed out that most of the gay foster and adoptive parents that I know are lesbians, so those stats really didn't affect them, assuming that they're not terribly skewed.

The call ended shortly afterwards. I think I did a good job of avoiding his various traps and I like to believe that I educated a group of otherwise undereducated listeners about the foster care system. Fortunately, the bill died in committee and has not reared its ugly head since.

The funny thing about Mickelson's show was the time that his audience started getting away from him and his message. Much of his appeal can be summarized in two sentences from the One Iowa article: "Mickelson spews the most idiotic 'arguments' and his audience laps it up because it's what they want to hear. They want an 'other' to blame and hate, and Mickelson is there to start a ruckus, preying on their fear of uncertain times ahead."

A few years back, a professional straight-laced mother forgot about her baby on the way to work. She blew off the daycare stop and ran off to the office. She returned to her car several hours later and discovered that her young baby had died from exposure on that hot summer day. A few weeks earlier, a welfare-class Latina woman had done the same thing and Mickelson had led the charge against her. This time around -- for whatever reason -- he felt that this mother had been punished enough and that she should just have to live with the guilt of indirectly killing her child.

His audience wouldn't have it. They wanted blood. They wanted the mother locked up for life. They wanted her to lose her job and the rest of her family. He was flabbergasted. Where was his audience's compassion? I chuckled to myself and shook my head. Mickelson's audience was behaving no differently towards this woman. They were the same legalistic, reactionary mob that he had nurtured for years. Why would they show her compassion?

These days I've decided that I really don't need to stress myself out by listening to Mickelson's program. There are better things to listen to and my blood pressure's probably better for it.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Iowa City's Longfellow Neighborhood Honored by "This Old House"

This was an interesting discovery: PBS' This Old House magazine picked Iowa City's Longfellow neighborhood as one of this year's "Best Old House Neighborhoods 2010". It's one of 51 American neighborhoods known for their "promising futures, people that care, and homes that truly deserve a long-term commitment". According to the Iowa City Press-Citizen, the neighborhood won't be actually featured in the magazine, but is being featured on This Old House's website.

The magazine's looked for the following traits when considering impressive old-house neighborhoods: "architectural diversity, craftsmanship of homes, a preservation momentum in the area, and neighborhood amenities that include walkability, safety, and community".

You can read about the Longfellow neighborhood at this link. I personally know this neighborhood and agree that it's a wonderful area!

The Longfellow Neighborhood, Iowa City, Iowa
Twenty years ago, many of the houses in the neighborhood were rundown and on the brink of being converted into apartments. But with designation of the last of its three sections as a local and national historic district in 2002, the community
solidified its passion for preservation and began rebuilding, renovating, and repairing anew. Today, its collection of about 900 unique homes near the University of Iowa attracts families and professionals alike. The house prices are reasonable, the schools superb, and the emphasis on local art and culture refreshing. Recently, residents started a massive public art project, putting up sculptures and historical markers throughout the neighborhood.

The Houses
From Queen Annes to Craftsman bungalows, the houses span a century of building and start in the mid-$100,000s. But the neighborhood's real gems are its smattering of tiny stone-clad, thatched-roof cottages along the east side of Ralston Creek, known for their use of salvaged material and built by local architect Howard Moffitt from 1920 to 1940.

Why Buy Now?
If the charming homes and friendly folks aren't enough to draw you to Longfellow, there are always the state tax credits (from funds allocated by the Iowa State Legislature) on historically appropriate exterior, interior, and site renovations.

According to the Press-Citizen, "The Longfellow Neighborhood, which is anchored in the center by Henry Longfellow Elementary School, includes two locally designated historic districts, Summit Street and Longfellow, that are also listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Three other neighborhood districts, Clark, Dearborn, and Governor-Lucas, are listed as conservation zoning districts".

Monday, March 1, 2010

Monday Night Thoughts

It's been a long day. I'm dealing with a cold. My nose is alternately stuffed up and/or runny. My throat's kind of sore. I'm groggy with cold medicine. No fun. So I went downstairs to get ready for bed with Nero, but Mark told me that it's his night. I'm still not sure how that works since I slept upstairs last night, but I'm not going to argue the point. So I thought I'd post a few headlines before the Hy-Vee brand nyquil sweeps me away into sleepyville.

*Good news for job seekers. Apparently, different states are looking to limit employers ability to check the credit of potential employees. I understand why many employers do this. They're largely concerned that people who struggle with managing their own household incomes might be theft risks. The problem is that these types of credit checks hamper the ability of folks to actually get employed and rebuild their income. I've worked with a few kids whose parents could never obtain employment because of their bad credit histories. It drove them and me nuts that it was so difficult to financially support their families and to get off of welfare. Here's hoping that these bills become laws.

*In an effort to make sure that no gay spouses get health benefits, Catholic Charities of Washington DC will stop providing health benefits to all spouses effective tomorrow, except for those spouses currently covered under the plan. It'll be interesting to see what kind of resentments will develop amongst employees of this organization. (BTW, Check out the comments section of the linked article. It made me almost as nauseated as the comments in the following headline.)

*I don't know how I missed this one before. Apparently, a woman was arrested for attempted feticide and jailed for two days in Burlington, IA, after falling down the steps. A nurse and doctor at Great River Medical Center spoke with her and then told police that she didn't want her unborn baby and thought about abortion earlier in the pregnancy. The police then came and interviewed her. After it was established that she and the baby were fine, the police arrested her. Charges were dropped when it was discovered that she was in the last week of her second trimester as opposed to the first week of her third trimester. Isn't it amazing the difference one week can make?

Of course, now everyone thinks that she's an attempted baby-killer. She's a trained CNA. What's the likelihood that any nursing home or assisted living facility will hire her after googling her name and reading the scores of articles written about her and this case?

And with that thought, the nyquil's starting to take effect. G'night!