Thursday, September 30, 2010

It Gets Better: More Christian Responses

I've been talking about the "It Gets Better" campaign a lot recently.  It's an anti-suicide/anti-bullying outreach effort by GLBT adults to GLBT teens.  I posted a couple Christian responses to "It Gets Better" yesterday.  Here are a couple more:

Emergent Christian leader/writer Tony Jones shared the following video message by a group of his GLBT Christian friends:



Tony Jones gadfly, Darius, then shared the following year-old ex-gay message in response:


Wednesday, September 29, 2010

It Gets Better: Two Christian Responses

Last week, Dan Savage launched the "It Gets Better" YouTube channel.  It was created in response to several more recent suicides across this nation by GLBT teens.  The premise?  GLBT adults create short messages of hope for GLBT teens.  That message?  It will get better.  Don't kill yourself.  Don't succumb to your bullies' taunts.  Get through your teen years and know that it will get better once you are out of school and away from your tormentors.

So here are some of the Christian responses I am hearing to this (and frankly, I'm not looking -- these are just the obvious ones that are appearing in online places that I frequent):

Emergent Christian leader and writer Tony Jones wrote about "It Gets Better" and asked the following question: "How will the Christian church rally to save the lives of GLBT teens?"  What followed was a series of comments, including some sympathetic responses.  But it eventually (and pretty quickly) devolved into a discussion about sexual immorality and the evils of homosexuality.  One commenter in particular felt that suicide attempts by and bullying against GLBT teens didn't really warrant any greater attention than any other group.  I guess, that's a point.  Except when you consider that 9 out of 10 GLBT teens experience bullying by peers and that these same teens are four times more likely to attempt suicide.  I finally got fed up and offered the following answer to Tony's question:
How will the Christian church rally to save the lives of GLBT teens?” It won’t and it doesn’t. Instead, Christian churches and groups like Focus on the Family rally to oppose anti-bullying efforts in the name of fighting the “gay agenda”. In this, the Church is a large part of the problem.

I applaud Dan Savage and every person who has contributed to the “It Gets Better” campaign. Help GLBT teens (or even those who are perceived as GLB or T by their tormentors) through their school years by giving them the message that they just need to get past these bad years and then get the heck out of town (and don’t look back).
Then this morning on Dan's Stranger blog, I learned about a guy who launched something called the Lot Project.  My initial take on this website -- that it teaches Christians how to offer up their daughters to gang-raping mobs and then promotes drunken father/daughter incestuous relationship -- was apparently way off-base.  Instead, it's yet another online resource of anti-gay Bible clobber verses.  The website's creator recently launched his own YouTube ministry and specifically responded to "It Gets Better" and its purpose:



Here's part of his message:
Billy Lucus, who hanged himself, obviously because he was gay, and unable to endure the guilt that the words of others prompted in him. This was indeed a tragedy, but not anywhere near the tragedy that Billy will discover in eternity when he faces the wrath of God upon rebellious and unrepentant sinners. Then, he will realize that his sin could not be atoned for by his own death, and he will realize that people like Dan Savage who encourage sin are deceivers. He will see them for what they are, the blind leading the blind. And he will realize that he has fallen into that ditch that the blind leading the blind inevitably fall into: that's eternal destruction and misery. Sadly, it's too late for Billy. For those who are viewing this video, however, their remains the opportunity of turning from sin to the obedience of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Otherwise, I really haven't seen many Christian responses to "It Gets Better". Lots of stuff in gay blogs, plus some media reactions. But not much else. Nothing obvious on the MCC website, or the UCC website, or the Fellowship website, or the NOM website. Then again, I haven't looked too hard. Any other interesting Christian responses?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Jesse Haworth Benefit Pancake Breakfast Happens this Weekend

Last month, I wrote about my co-worker Christine's adult son Jesse Haworth who was recently diagnosed with a rare form of brain cancer called astrocytoma.  His friends and family are attempting to raise $3,000-4,000 to help cover his medical treatment.  To accomplish this, a fund-raising benefit/raffle has been scheduled from 8:00 AM to noon this coming Saturday, October 2nd, at Meredith Drive Reformed Church, located at 5128 Meredith Drive in Des Moines, Iowa. Tickets for this event cost $5.00. There will be a pancake breakfast.  A silent auction has been planned for the event and many wonderful auction items have been posted on the Jesse Haworth website, including...

1) Jewelry - Diamond and Ruby Necklace
2) “Kansas City Package” – One night stay at Marriot on Plaza, $75 gift certificate to Southmoreland Inn B&B, 4 KC Royals Tickets, $50 Gas Card from QT
3) “Branson Package” – 1 roundtrip air ticket to Branson on Branson Air Express, 2 night stay at Residence Inn, 2 tickets to Baldknobbers show, 2 tickets to Silver Dollar City Theme Park,
4) “Omaha Package” – One night stay at Harrah’s Casino, $100 in food at Harrah’s Eatery, 4 tickets to Omaha Zoo, $50 Gas Card from QT
5) Staycation Package #1 – One night stay at Drury Inn, $50 gift card to Gino’s, 2 free passes to Funny Bone
6) Staycation Package #2 – One night stay at Suites of 800 Locust (fireplace king suite)(includes breakfast), $50 gift card to Dos Rios, 4 tickets to Iowa Cubs game
7) Staycation Package #3 – One night stay at Holiday Inn Jordan Creek, Dinner for 2 at Johnny’s Italian Steakhouse, 2 tickets to Funny Bone
8) Staycation Package #4 – One night stay at Country Inn and Suites, 2 free 1 hour massages at Massage Envy, $50 Gift Card to one of 5 restaurants (Karma)
9) Staycation Package #5 ¬ One night stay at Hilton Garden Inn, $30 gift card to Texas Roadhouse, 1 hour free facial at All Body Basics Spa,
10) Iowa City Golf Staycation Package - Free round of golf for 2some at Finkbine Golf Course (Iowa City) plus a $50 gift card to Share Wine Bistro Restaurant (Iowa City, plus $50 gas card from BP
11) Airline Tickets – 2 roundtrip air tickets to anywhere in continental US on Air Tran Airlines
12) Artwork by Marilyn Tews Middleton– 2 pieces of artwork
13) Autographed Kyle Orton Football
14) Granite Vanity w/ sink
15) Drake Package – 2 tickets to football game, 2 tickets to women’s basketball game, autographed football by head coach, autographed basketball by head coach, Drake Wellness gear and items
16) UNI Package – 2 tickets to football game, 2 tickets to men’s basketball game, autographed football by head coach, autographed basketball by head coach
17) ISU Package – Autographed football by head coach, Autographed basketball by women’s head coach, Autographed basketball by men’s head coach, 1 year free subscription to cyclonereport.com
18) Iowa Package – Autographed football by head coach, Autographed basketball by men’s head coach
19) La Vida Loca Package – Wine Tasting Party
20) Wine Styles Package – Wine Tasting Party
21) I-Cubs Package - 6 premium tickets to Iowa Cubs game, 2 tickets to Iowa Barnstormers game, $25 gift card for Spaghetti works, autographed picture of Marlon Byrd (Chicago Cubs player)
22) I-Cubs Package - 6 premium tickets to Iowa Cubs game, 4 tickets to Iowa Energy Game, $25 Fong’s Gift Card
23) I-Cubs Package - 6 Premium tickets to Iowa Cubs game, 4 Tickets to Blank Park Zoo, Applebee’s Gift Card
24) I-Cubs Package - 6 Premium tickets to Iowa Cubs game, $50 gift card to Legends
25) Fitness Membership - 10 week membership to Kosama in Clive (need to get in hand still)
26) Fitness Membership - (2 drawings) – 3 month membership to Anytime Fitness
27) Fitness Membership - 4 month membership to Clive YMCA
28) Fitness Membership - 6 month membership to Aspen Athletic
29) Autographed Books - Entire set of autographed books by Patrick Lencioni
30) Autographed Books - A few autographed books by Bill Bryson
31) Basket – Proctor and Gamble Products Basket (x 2)
32) Basket – Longaberger Basket (Limited Edition) w/ Wine
33) Pool Que w/ case
34) Homemade basket with wine

It looks like there also will be several raffle prizes given out this weekend.

Even if you cannot attend, cash donations are welcomed. They can be forwarded to:

Jesse Haworth Benefit
Hills Bank
1401 S. Gilbert St
Iowa City, IA 52240


Please make checks payable to "Jesse Haworth Benefit"

Once again, here is Jesse's story:
Jesse is 28 year's old. He is currently engaged to Andrea, and has a 7 year old son named Kalen. He is employed at Proctor and Gamble in Iowa City.

In the fall of 2009, Jesse was hit with a line drive while playing softball. Upon getting a CAT scan for a concussion, doctors saw a spot on his brain. After a couple months of deliberation, Jesse decided to have surgery to remove the tumor. Jesse went through surgery in the winter. Doctors were confident that they removed "most all" of the tumor. Once biopsied, the doctors found the tumor was cancerous (mostly stage 1 but some cells were stage 3). The doctors decided to start Jesse on a fairly stringent radiation and chemotherapy regimen. After 6 weeks of radiation, Jesse is set to start 6 months of chemo treatments in June 2010. Upon completion of chemo treatments, Jesse will have to undergo monthly MRI's.

Jesse is an amazing guy, and has held a great attitude this entire time. The family is asking for all the prayers they can get. In addition to prayers, the family would also accept any donations to help with medical bills. Being a young family, this bump in the road is taxing for them financially. My goal is to help them raise around $3,000 - $4,000 for medical bills. Any money raised above and beyond that would be donated by the family to the American Cancer Society. Stay tuned to the blog for updates on Jesse, and where and how you can help this family out in their time of need.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

My Thoughts on "Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole"

"Legend of the Guardians" wasn't actually a movie that I was planning to see.  D'Angelo hadn't expressed much interest and I wasn't initially captured by the trailer.  But the afternoon was dragging on, the boys were bored, and it seemed like a good idea to nudge D' to the movie to avoid a bit of spotty behavior at home.  Legend of the Guardians happened to be the only appropriate movie playing for a 10-year-old, so that's what we saw.  All in all, it was a good movie and much better than last weekend's Alpha and Omega.

The nutshell: two young owl brothers, Soren and Kludd, and countless other owlets are kidnapped by the evil Pure Ones, led by the evil Metalbeak and Nyra.  Metalbeak has two uses for the owlets: recruitment for his powerful army or enslavement.  Kludd succumbs to the promise of power and purity and joins the Pure Ones body and soul, while Soren manages to escape and seek out the legendary protectors of all Owl-kind, the Guardians.  The movie follows both owls as their familial bonds are tested and ultimately shattered as they fight to prove themselves worthy to each of their new masters.  Chances are, you can pretty much guess how things will end and which brother will come out on top.  Fortunately, the animation is beautiful and the battle scenes are stunning, which makes this two hour movie fairly easy to tolerate especially if you experience the film in 3D.

D'Angelo said that the movie was a good one and didn't particularly find anything to dislike.  I was impressed that he knew what owl pellets are.  Apparently, he got to dissect one a year or two ago in science class.  (For the uninitiated, owl pellets are the indigestible bits of food -- like fur and bone -- that are regurgitated by owls.  I'd never heard of such things before today.  *ewww...*)

A bonus to Legend of the Guardians is a Road Runner/Wile E. Coyote short-story called "Fur of Flying".  It's a classic storyline.  Coyote is hungry and acquires a new gadget to assist with his plan to capture and consume the ever-elusive Road Runner.  I don't think that it's really a spoiler to reveal that the Coyote fails yet again.  That said, the story was fresh and fun and enjoyable to watch, as always.

Christian, Jews, & Muslims: What Similarities do they Share?

This was something D'Angelo worked on last week at Sunday School and then shared during the "Time with the Youth" portion of today's worship.  Apparently, they worked some on comparative religions last weekend and examined some of the basic differences and similarities between Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.  D' was asked to share what he learned.
He learned that all three religions worship one God.  All three consider Jerusalem to be very special and all three religions think that Abraham is a very good and wise man.  And all three religions possess holy books and use important symbols.  D' did a good job of clearly presenting his information to the congregation and he was well-received.  Obviously, there are many more differences the further separate the three religions, but I thought he did a good job communicating some basic elements of the three.  I'm very proud of my boy.

Spiritual Creative Writing Group: Week 1

I wrote yesterday about the Spiritual Creative Writing Group that was starting this weekend as part of my church's adult education program.  Here's the description again:
Set your creative side free! Join us in exploring and experimenting with all kinds of writing as a spiritual practice. We agree with Brenda Ueland who said: "Everybody is talented, original, and has something important to say." Each person who participates will be proof of this fact. Plus, everyone will be invited (but not expected) to share their writing with the group. The hope is that we’ll grow as much from our own writing as from each other’s writing. These sessions will be relaxing, encouraging, and fun.
It ended up being much less of a spiritual creative writing class than a creative writing class.  At least, it was less of an intentionally spiritual spiritual creative writing class.  If that makes sense.  That's not said in a bad way.  Sara was spent this class focusing on the process of surrendering, not worrying about proofreading, and letting the pen take us where it takes us.

The first writing exercise started with the following phrase: "An out of this world party".  I won't share what I wrote in class, but it's clear that I spend too much time reading comic books.  I kept wanting to write something about Franz Radzik and I couldn't really relax enough to either go with that or skip to something else.  That said, it was really interesting to see where others went with that same phrase.

The second and final writing exercise came under the following theme: "Mindfulness of the Ordinary".  I pulled an index card with an ordinary household task and was asked to write a short short, poem, or prayer about that topic.  I came up with two pieces.  I prefer the second.

Sweeping
I.
Swish, Swish, Swish.  The water continues to pour into the basement from some unknown leak.  We each attempt to redirect the hidden flow towards the drain, but we're just fooling ourselves.  The water is up to our ankles and no amount of sweeping does any lasting good.

II.
I know I should sweep the kitchen floor.
I see the crumbs under the table.
I wish that someone else would notice or at least the dog might try a light snack.
Why do I procrastinate like this?
Wait, is "Real Housewives" on?...

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Pastor Brian's Installation is in the News

Pastor Brian and Faith United Church of Christ are both in the news today with an important announcement:
The Rev. Brian Brandsmeier will be installed as pastor of Faith United Church of Christ during a celebratory worship service at 4 p.m. Oct. 3.

A light meal will be served immediately after the service at the church. All are welcome to attend the event at Faith UCC, 1609 DeForest Ave. in Iowa City.

Faith UCC is handicapped accessible and has an open and affirming congregation. For more information, call the church at 338-5238.
Speaking of Faith UCC, come check us out tomorrow morning at 9:30 AM for worship.  Tomorrow's sermon topic?  Parables Gone Wild:
This Sunday we're going to look at his teaching in Luke 16:19-31. It's about the rich man and Lazarus - and what happens to them later in their lives. Apparently the Gospel of Luke isn't a fan of rich people who ignore the poor. So, this Sunday, we're going to explore this text. Does God have a special care for the poor? Does God have a special plan for the rich? Is the Gospel of Luke pro-poor, pro-rich, or pro-everyone? What does this say about Jesus? What does this say about us? As we explore this parable, we might find some surprises as we go along. Plus, there will be live music, authentic prayers, and a refreshing worship experience.
Also tomorrow, the church kicks off its Fall Adult Education Hour at around 10:40 AM with a Spiritual Creative Writing Group series:
Set your creative side free! Join us in exploring and experimenting with all kinds of writing as a spiritual practice. We agree with Brenda Ueland who said: "Everybody is talented, original, and has something important to say." Each person who participates will be proof of this fact. Plus, everyone will be invited (but not expected) to share their writing with the group. The hope is that we’ll grow as much from our own writing as from each other’s writing. These sessions will be relaxing, encouraging, and fun. Come for all the sessions - or come for just one.

It Gets Better

Yesterday, I posted about Dan Savage's new YouTube channel called "It Gets Better".  It was inspired by the recent suicide of a 15-year-old teen named Billy Lucas who was bullied mercilessly with anti-gay taunts, as well as reports that 9 out of 10 GLBT teens experience some level of bullying and that they are four times more likely to attempt suicide.  Here's the basic goal: GLBT adults are posting to GLBT teens with messages of hope.  It will get better.  You will move on from school.  You will move away.  You will have so many opportunities beyond high school and junior high school as a gay man or woman that you just can't imagine right now.  It gets better.

I haven't done my video, but I thought I would post my story here.

I was bullied through most of my school years.  I was teased about my weight, about my clothes, about my glasses, about my family's perceived wealth, about my family's perceived poverty, about my clumsy social attempts.  But I actually wasn't ever teased about being gay or perceived as gay back then.  It was bad in elementary school, but I had a few friends to even things out.  It was horrible in junior high.  I was so alone back then.  Even my friends teased me.  I moved to a new community in high school and things actually improved even though I was the new kid in a small town.  Unfortunately, I was so battle-shy from my junior high experiences to acknowledge this for a very long time.  My earlier experiences also made it very difficult to recognize the difference between friendly teasing and abusive comments.  I wouldn't really break that barrier until college.

I recognized that I was attracted to other boys in my early teen years.  I know many people who believe that 12 and 13 are too young for people to know this.  On the other hand, they send their kids to junior high dances and start negotiating rules for dating with these early teens and 'tweens.  For better or for worse (probably for better), I didn't come out to anyone until college.  My school experiences taught me not to trust my friends with this secret.  I only dated one girl during high school.  I wanted to go to my junior prom, so I asked a girl from 4-H to join me.  It wasn't a horrible experience, but it wasn't comfortable either.  I opted to go stag to my senior prom the next year and had a lot more fun.  But I crushed (and crushed hard) on several of my high school friends.  There was no inner doubt about what I was.  The only doubt was about what I was going to do about it.

Keep in mind, I grew under in small town Nebraska and later Minnesota during the 70s and 80s.  There was no Internet.  There were very few media images outside of afternoon talk shows of gay people.  There were very few openly gay people anywhere near me and the couple I knew in my high school years were not approachable for me.  I mean, they might have been very nice guys, but there's no way I could let myself approach them or tell them about myself.  This is the future I envisioned for myself.  I would find a woman.  I would marry her.  And I would find guys for secret trysts.  Either that, or I would live a secret life by myself and occasionally seek out guys for secret trysts.  That's what I envisioned for my future.

Fortunately, I went to college and I gradually reached out to a counselor and then to a GLBT support group.  The best thing I ever did was hanging out with that small group of young men and women.  I was the youngest in that group and it was a very secretive bunch at that time.  But I finally had someone to openly express my fears and doubts about coming out.  Gradually, I met more gay and lesbian students and then I started coming out to a few straight friends.  I quickly learned that most people really don't care.  I had no negative coming out experiences (except for my father).  Pretty soon, I was out to pretty much everyone at college and none of the awful things that I had feared growing up (except for a distanced parental relationship) came true.

I have graduated from college.  I worked a few low-paying jobs, but gradually became more secure with my career and income.  I met Mark and I allowed myself to dream of a good life with a good husband.  I found a church that loves and supports us.  I have gradually mended my family relationships.  I have kids.  We are the very proud dads of two handsome and funny and talented boys.  This is something I never dreamed of while growing up. 

Life isn't perfect and it's not always happy.  Bad things will happen in your life.  That's true as an adult as much as it was as a teen.  But things almost always improve, or they have the potential to get better given enough effort.  Just be patient and give it some time.

My message for gay teens and young adult out there: Don't limit yourself and don't let others limit you.  Go to college and learn the skills needed to earn a good living.  Don't let people tell you that gay people can't commit to each other.  Conversely, don't forget that relationships aren't always fun and excitement.  Don't let anyone convince you that you can't be a parent if that's what you want from life.  Mostly, be confident with the choices you do make.  People might not always agree with you in life, but most will respect you if they sense that you are confident with what you are doing and why you are doing it.

Friday, September 24, 2010

It Gets Better: What's It About?

Earlier this week, sex advice columnist Dan Savage launched a Youtube-based series of messages from adult GLBT folks to GLBT teens with a pretty simple concept: It Gets BetterThere was a reason behind the new Youtube channel:
I just read about a gay teenager in Indiana—Billy Lucas—who killed himself after being taunted by his classmates. Now his Facebook memorial page is being defaced by people posting homophobic comments. It's just heartbreaking and sickening. What the hell can we do?
-Gay Bullying Victim Who Survived

Dan replied: Another gay teenager in another small town has killed himself—hope you're pleased with yourselves, Tony Perkins and all the other "Christians" out there who oppose anti-bullying programs (and give actual Christians a bad name).

Billy Lucas was just 15 when he hanged himself in a barn on his grandmother's property. He reportedly endured intense bullying at the hands of his classmates—classmates who called him a fag and told him to kill himself. His mother found his body.

Nine out of 10 gay teenagers experience bullying and harassment at school, and gay teens are four times likelier to attempt suicide. Many LGBT kids who do kill themselves live in rural areas, exurbs, and suburban areas, places with no gay organizations or services for queer kids.

"My heart breaks for the pain and torment you went through, Billy Lucas," a reader wrote after I posted about Billy Lucas to my blog. "I wish I could have told you that things get better."

I had the same reaction: I wish I could have talked to this kid for five minutes. I wish I could have told Billy that it gets better. I wish I could have told him that, however bad things were, however isolated and alone he was, it gets better.

But gay adults aren't allowed to talk to these kids. Schools and churches don't bring us in to talk to teenagers who are being bullied. Many of these kids have homophobic parents who believe that they can prevent their gay children from growing up to be gay—or from ever coming out—by depriving them of information, resources, and positive role models.

Why are we waiting for permission to talk to these kids? We have the ability to talk directly to them right now. We don't have to wait for permission to let them know that it gets better. We can reach these kids.

So here's what you can do, GBVWS: Make a video. Tell them it gets better.

I've launched a channel on YouTube—www ­.youtube.com/itgetsbetterproject—to host these videos. My normally camera-shy husband and I already posted one. We both went to Christian schools and we were both bullied—he had it a lot worse than I did—and we are living proof that it gets better. We don't dwell too much on the past. Instead, we talk mostly about all the meaningful things in our lives now—our families, our friends (gay and straight), the places we've gone and things we've experienced—that we would've missed out on if we'd killed ourselves then.

"You gotta give 'em hope," Harvey Milk said.
Today we have the power to give these kids hope. We have the tools to reach out to them and tell our stories and let them know that it does get better. Online support groups are great, GLSEN does amazing work, the Trevor Project is invaluable. But many LGBT youth can't picture what their lives might be like as openly gay adults. They can't imagine a future for themselves. So let's show them what our lives are like, let's show them what the future may hold in store for them.

The video my husband and I made is up now—all by itself. I'd like to add submissions from other gay and lesbian adults—singles and couples, with kids or without, established in careers or just starting out, urban and rural, of all races and religious backgrounds. (Go to www.youtube.com/itgetsbetterproject to find instructions for submitting your video.) If you're gay or lesbian or bi or trans and you've ever read about a kid like Billy Lucas and thought, "Fuck, I wish I could've told him that it gets better," this is your chance. We can't help Billy, but there are lots of other Billys out there—other despairing LGBT kids who are being bullied and harassed, kids who don't think they have a future—and we can help them.

They need to know that it gets better. Submit a video. Give them hope.

Here is Dan and Terry's "It Gets Better" message:



Check out the channel. There are tons of contributions up right now.  Hopefully, I will get myself together and add my own video to the collection.  I'll share that video here and/or write up something for a follow-up blog entry here in this space.  I also plan to do a post related to a discussion going on over at Tony Jones' blog.  Mainly, I wanted to get out the message tonight about Dan's "It Gets Better" effort tonight and to put some extra effort into explaining WHY it was created.

More on this tomorrow or Sunday.

Manna with a Message

I recently read Exodus 16 about Moses and the whole 40-year exile thing. You know how it goes.  The Israelites were complaining and complaining about being hungry until God brought down the manna from the sky.  The story got me thinking about "manna", the bread that rained from the sky. Have you ever wondered what manna tastes like? I read somewhere that manna was kind of like angel food cake dipped in honey, which sounds pretty gross -- especially if that's all you got to eat for 40 years. I would guess that the ancient Israelites must have had bad teeth given the lack of dentistry back then. Imagine what it must feel like to eat nothing but super-sweet bread with a bunch of exposed nerves!

When I was a kid, I used to imagine these giant Amana-brand refrigerators falling down from the sky in the middle of the desert filled with food for the people of Israel. I'd hate to be under one of those when it hit the ground!

Actually, I think it'd be cool if manna was like a fortune cookie. Nourishing food from Heaven with a little note from God. What might God tell you in a fortune cookie? "Stop violating the fifth commandment, Joe!" or "You will meet your perfect Messiah soon"?  Maybe.  It's an interesting thought.

Speaking of fortune cookies, I came across a box of Norwegian fortune cookies this weekend. Instead of Chinese proverbs and admonitions, each cookie contains an "Ole and Lena" joke. (It's a Minnesota thing...) They're pretty cute. Here are a couple joke offerings:
For his birthday Ole got a $50 tie. "You'll never know what I went through to get you this gift!" "What?" asked Ole. "Your pockets."
or
Sven asked Ole, "Why do you suppose the Indians got here before the Vikings?" "Well," Ole said, "Probably 'cause they had reservations."
Don't forget to count your blessings and try to limit the complaining. You never know when God might stop offering us manna and instead decide that we can ignore the rules against eating bugs.

Iowa City's Shelter House Infested by Bed Bugs

It was reported this morning that the Shelter House, our local temporary housing program for homeless people, is infested with bed bugs.  It's easy for some -- in fact, it's already been done in the comments section of that article -- to point fingers at the homeless and mock their current problem.  The reality is that bed bugs are equal opportunity pests.  In fact, they are the number one household pest in Iowa right now.  Most likely, the bed bugs were introduced to the Shelter House via a donated couch and they managed to spread out from there:
The bed bugs were spread from the donated couch to the basement, where many of the shelter's 29 residents sleep, after one resident slept on the couch, which tends to happen because of a lack of bed space, Canganelli said. Since then, residents have been dealing with bed bug bites while staff work to remedy the issue, she said.

In August, staff started using a hospital-grade cleaner to clean all furniture and spaces while taking the donated couch and other infested couches to the landfill, Canganelli said. An exterminator also was called in...

Despite the weeks of cleaning, the bed bugs remain. "It's becoming that much more difficult," Canganelli said. "The bed bugs bite. It's not a good situation all the way around."

Another result of the bed bug infestation, which has become a growing problem nationwide, Canganelli said, is that no donations of furniture will be accepted. "We can't afford it," she said. "It's an expense we can't afford to open ourselves to."

The Shelter House has been at its current location since 1983, with no infestations reported until now, Canganelli said. The shelter will be moving to a new facility on Southgate Avenue in early November, and staff members plan to do a fumigation trick known as super heating, where the ceiling of the house is sealed and the temperature is raised high enough to kill the bugs. Residents will have to leave their belongings behind for a while to be de-bugged as well when the shelter moves, Canganelli said.
I don't talk here a lot about my job, but it's fair to say more than a few Shelter House residents come to my office to determine whether or not they qualify for my services.  Since reading this article, my skin has been literally crawling.  It's the same irrational response I had when I learned many years ago that a woman that I barely knew came down with a case of lice.  I didn't itch before reading the article.  What the chances that I got bit by a swarm of bed bugs immediately after reading it?  Also, if bed bugs have infected Shelter House and other chunks of Iowa, most likely I've been exposed to homes and people who have the little buggers.

I decided to search out more information about bed bugs and how easy (or difficult) it is for them to spread.  It was supposed to be an educational and reassuring effort for me and one of my co-workers.  It actually made things worse.  Basically, the bugs can crawl onto clothing and into bags and then crawl off in new settings.  It's not likely, but it can happen.

I did find one interesting website during my searches.  There's a website you can visit to see if certain hotels have reports of bed bugs.  It's not perfect.  The bugs can be there and not have been reported.  But it can be used to help consumers with their choices.  Iowa City's hotels are on the list, as are Coralville's.  I'm pleased to report that the hotel that my family and I stayed at following my wedding is reportedly bed bug-free.  Unfortunately, the hotel I sometimes stay at when visiting my mother isn't listed on the website (it's a pretty small town).

Basically, it seems like bed bugs are everywhere.  You can be rich, poor, or somewhere in between and they can get accidentally brought into your home.  So keep an eye out for suspicious bug-bites and rashes and set aside a couple grand in case you have to do a bed bug purge just in case.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Comic News and Previews

Comic Book Resources had a neat preview of Marvel's upcoming Avengers vs. Pet Avengers mini-series on its site yesterday.  It has six or seven unscripted art previews for the series' first issue.  I'm pleased that Marvel is putting so much into promoting this book.  Check it out:
Marvel is pleased to present your first look at Avengers vs. Pet Avengers #1 (of 4), from the creative team of fan favorite writer Chris Eliopoulos and artist Ig Guara! Earth’s Mightiest Heroes are downsizing. Literally. With Thor, Iron Man and Captain America mysteriously transformed into amphibians, can they possibly defeat a legion of dragons led by none other than Fing Fang Foom? Not without the help of Earth’s Mightiest Pets, Lockjaw and the Pet Avengers! Worlds collide this October in Avengers vs. Pet Avengers #1 (of 4)!
Meanwhile, Archie Comics disappointed me with news that two of my least favorite politicians, Barack Obama the "Fierce GLBT Advocate" and Sarah Palin the folksy gubernatorial quitter, will be appearing in Archie #616 & 617:
The two-parter starts with late December’s Archie #616, and continues in the next issue of the flagship title in January. It’s clear from the images that the theme of the story is partisan unity, as symbolized by the most sacred of all Archie gestures: sharing a malted at Pop Tate’s Chok’lit Shoppe. Sounds like Archie and the gang are perfect candidates to show up at next month’s Rally to Restore Sanity alongside The Daily Show host Jon Stewart.

Timing-wise, if the goal is to teach young readers a fun civic lesson, it’s a bit surprising that they didn’t put this out a month earlier to coincide with the midterm elections. No word on if a Scarlet Witch/Christine O’Donnell team-up is coming from Marvel.

The Obama and Palin appearances were first announced by Archie at this year’s Comic-Con International: San Diego. Archie’s official solicitation info follows:

ARCHIE #616
“Campaign Pain” Part 1.
President Barack Obama and famed politician Sarah Palin get involved as Student Government campaigns spiral out of control at Riverdale High! The race between Archie and Reggie gets hot as campaign chaos reaches to the top, forcing an impromptu visit from these big-name politicos, who get pulled into the fray!

ARCHIE # 617
“Campaign Pains,” Part 2
When President Obama and famed politician Sarah Palin arrive, Riverdale becomes the center of a national crisis! Archie and Reggie have each claimed support from one of these political powerhouses, but they don’t! Now Riverdale is in chaos and when the Secret Service gets involved it only gets worse!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

D' and his Birth Family

D' and Joe.
Back in May, D'Angelo and I traveled to the Newton Correctional Facility to meet D's birth dad Joe, his paternal grandparents, and one of Joe's cousins.  The visit went better than anticipated and we've since returned to Newton one other time to visit Joe.  D'Angelo recently celebrated his 10th birthday.  He received a nice card from his grandparents and several pictures of that first visit.  His grandmother called this evening to make sure that we received the card and ended up visiting with D'Angelo for a few minutes.

The call was a good reminder for me that Joe's work release should be happening fairly soon, likely within a month or two.  It's unclear whether Joe will be sent to Cedar Rapids or if the state will approve release to nearby Coralville.  Either way, his presence in D'Angelo's life will greatly increase.

A couple Sundays ago during our annual Rally Day, Pastor Brian asked me how I felt about Joe's presence in D's life.  I'd be lying if I said that I'm totally comfortable with Joe's reintroduction to D's life.  But I'm also not freaking out about it.  Joe complicates our family, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.  We're already used to having Leslie's birth family involved in his life.  Sometimes I feel closer to his family than I do to my own family.  The biggest difference between the two is that Les' family has been a constant presence in our life since he moved in with us.  Joe's relationship with us is just beginning.  So it'll take time to get to know each other and establish rules and trust.

D', his grandparents, and me.
I think it's good for D' to know where he came from.  Since meeting his dad, he's learned how he got certain scars.  We got to hear the story of his birth.  He's learning about bits of cultural heritage that we never knew existed.  Most importantly, he's being given a second chance with a significant relative who was removed from his life many years ago for reasons that were out of his control. 

All this doesn't negate our branch of the family.  We still are his dads.  We're still there every day helping him get to school and basketball and tae kwon do and making him go to the dog park and nagging at him for playing his video games too much and everything else that parents do for their kids.  He knows that we love him and worry about his safety and dream about his future.  Joe doesn't change that.  But he can offer additional love, and support, and guidance to D'.  Hopefully he can help D' avoid mistakes as he grows older.  And maybe D's relationship can provide Joe with the motivation and hope that he needs to continue doing well in life.  All of this is good stuff.  Which helps me stay hopeful about this evolving relationship.

Real Life Chapter of "Monsters Inside Me" Here in Iowa

Ewww....  An Iowa man has found himself reenacting an episode of Animal Planet's "Monsters Inside Me" after doctors found a tiny worm crawling around his eyeball and surviving off his retinal fluid.  We're talking about one of my biggest nightmares here:
John Matthews loves to hunt turkeys and travel to foreign places like Mexico. During one of those adventures, something crawled inside his body. “It’s so small, you couldn’t even see it, feel it,” Matthews said.

When two dark spots appeared in his vision and his eyesight became a little hazy, he headed to the doctor. “It was kind of like looking through a muddy lens,” he said.

Doctors struggled to diagnose what was wrong with John’s left eye. Then, Dr. James Folk at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics found the problem. “Just by luck, the first picture we looked at, we saw the worm, right in the middle of the retina,” Folk said. A microscopic worm was swimming around inside John’s eye. “It actually lives underneath the retina of the eye and crawls around and eats the retina,” Folk said. “The worm goes into the gut, digests in the gut, and actually doesn’t crawl through the blood vessels, but crawls through the tissue all the way to the eyes and the brain.”

There are only about fifteen known cases like this in the world.

Matthews still remembers that day back in January when he got the news. He said, “I was never freaked out by it when they said, ‘You’ve got a worm in your eye.’ I was like, ‘Get it out. What do we do now?’”

Soon after making the diagnosis, Dr. Folk armed himself with a laser and put the worm in the cross-hairs. John was awake the whole time and said he was thinking, “Hurry up and kill the thing. Good luck shootin’, doc…I saw something wiggling and I asked if the worm was wiggling. The doc said, ‘Yes.’ I said, ‘I can see it.’” Dr. Folk said, “When you hit it with the laser, it got very upset. As upset as a worm can get, I suppose…The thing was just thrashing around violently. It would be like one of those titan movies or something.”

The worm is dead. It will decompose over time. Now, John must do computer exercises to strengthen his eye. His vision has improved, but may never return to normal.

Although this condition is rare, Dr. Folk says, in one day, an adult raccoon can shed 60 million eggs that contain these kinds of worms. Folk says Matthews could have somehow ingested raccoon dander. However, John will probably never know exactly how or when the worm got inside him.

Monday, September 20, 2010

New Pet Avengers Promo

Marvel.com has an exciting new interview posted today with Pet Avengers writer Chris Eliopoulos about the Avengers vs. Pet Avengers mini-series that will be coming out next month.  The interview doesn't reveal too much new information about the upcoming limited series, but Eliopoulos does reveal a little bit more about the story and its antagonists:
Earth's Mightiest Pets come heed the call when the Avengers find themselves transformed into helpless frogs and an army of dragons descends upon the city. Who has marshaled such a fearsome force to oppose our heroes?

"Fin Fang Foom is the leader," reveals Eliopoulos. "The dragons have been underground for centuries and now it's time for them to return to he skies. But they are after something under ground that's still there. I can't say what because it would kind of ruin the story, but getting to that thing is causing destruction all over the globe. They are in a race against time and those humans and pets are getting in the way..."

"When the Avengers Prime (Captain America, Thor, and Iron Man) went to investigate the destruction Foom was causing, he turned them into frogs," Eliopoulos explains. "A logical response, I think."

So with the super hero first line of defense having frog legs, it falls to their animal counterparts to save the day. However, the Pet Avengers do have a dragon on their own, Lockheed, on the team, and allegiances could be questioned as his kind invades Earth.

"That will be the big question [of the series]," Eliopoulos says. "In a lot of ways, this is Lockheed's story. He has a big decision to make. Stand with his teammates or those who are like him. The Pet Avengers may not like his choice."
Most interesting to me, Eliopoulos reveals which Pet Avenger he wishes he was more like.  On the other hand, he also admits which Pet Avenger he actually most resembles:
"I wish I could say I had the nobility and leadership and webbed feet of Throg, but mostly I'm like Hairball," Eliopoulos confesses. "I moan about everything. I complain and always figure everything is a mess."
Check out the rest of this cool interview.  You can read it here.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Zombies Invade Iowa City

King Zombie leads undead mob towards downtown Iowa City
The dead became undead late yesterday afternoon here in Iowa City.  King Zombie (FKA Shawn Beatty) used some of his voodoo mojo to raise roughly 200 zombies from their graves.  The mob of creatures then lumbered from Happy Hollow Park to the Iowa City Ped Mall.  Iowa City's defenders from the undead eventually managed to contain the zombies at the Deadwood Tavern, where they were presumably defeated and their contaminated bodies permanently disposed of before they could spread their infection.

The Zombie King was spinning lies and attempting to convince the people of Iowa City that this all occurred in the spirit of philanthropy, but we know better:
They weren’t in search of blood or to terrorize neighborhoods. These zombies are described as “pro-human” zombies, raising funds for local charities in the Iowa City area.

“Even if they can’t contribute a donation of a non perishable good or donate for a shirt or sticker, just them being here to help raise awareness for the charities is kind of exciting,” said Zombie Consultant and Organizer Shawn Beatty.

The march also raised funds for the Red Cross directly aimed at flood relief in Iowa by selling T-shirts, stickers and asking for donations.
It sickens me that King Zombie managed to fool KCRG with his zombie propaganda.  This eye-witness account, as reported by the Press-Citizen, speaks volumes about the true intentions of this march:
Brent Schank of Iowa City happened across the event last year when he was at Old Capitol Mall downtown.

"I was walking and saw all the zombies coming and was like, 'What the heck?'" Brent Schank said.
A photographer from the Press-Citizen managed to secure photographic evidence of yesterday's rampage.  I can only hope that he or she survived the attack without suffering any bites:

The zombies lurch down Iowa Avenue past the UI Community Credit Union.
Ravenous Zombies attack passing travelers.
The undead swarm one of the Ped Mall's numerous taverns.
God rest the soul of any poor sod who found himself trapped in this building after the zombies broke in.

My Thoughts on "Alpha and Omega"

It's been a few weeks, but D'Angelo and I finally made it back to the movie theater this weekend.  All it took was a weekend of intermittent rain to make it happen.  Frankly, there hasn't been a lot of new releases that were appropriate for the two of us lately.  This week's movie choice?  "Alpha and Omega".

Here's the thing.  You can read the synopsis on the top right corner of this blog entry and watch the linked trailer in the preceding paragraph to learn the premise and to view most of the obstacles standing in Kate and Humphrey's way on their journey back to Canada from Idaho.  There's a sub-plot involving the safety of their pack that adds some urgency to their return home, but mostly the film's about getting back home.  Oh, and overcoming class role distinctions.  Wolf packs apparently have two classes: Alphas = hunters and Omegas = comedians.  There doesn't seem to be any Betas, Gammas, Deltas, or any other Greek alphabetical designations or else the Alphas and the Omegas have overwhelmed their packs through sheer numbers.  The Alphas and the Omegas like each other.  They just can't "like" each other.  It's just not done.  So, of course the movie suffers from ongoing sexual tension between two different sets of Alphas and Omegas as they fight their collective urges to satisfy the pack's social mores and their individual urges to tap their preferred partner's derrieres.

It wasn't a great movie, but it wasn't awful.  The sad part is that this was also D's reaction.  He couldn't think of anything that excited him or greatly disappointed him about the movie.  He wouldn't go out of his way to watch Alpha and Omega again, but it also wouldn't disappoint him if some friend insisted on watching it with him.  In other words, it was a largely forgetable film with little to set it apart from the legion of other children's movies floating around this planet.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Forgotten Gorilla-Man (Franz Radzik)

I recently finished a three issue mini-series by Marvel Comics called Gorilla-Man.  It featured Agent of Atlas Ken Hale on a solo mission to take out an African smuggler with ties to his past.  It was an okay limited series, but what really got me excited were the back-up reprint stories featuring other Gorilla-Men who'd had their stories told by Atlas Comics, Marvel's predecessor.  The first issue of Gorilla-Man told the tale of Dr. Arthur Nagan, a crazy scientist who managed to get his head surgically transplanted on a gorilla's body.  Nagan re-appeared in the 70s as a member of the Headmen and has made a handful of appearances since then.

However, I'd never heard of mad scientist Franz Radzik before reading his two reprint adventures in Gorilla-Man #2-3.  Pretty wacky stuff:

Radzik's second appearance had a pretty excellent summary, both of his story and of his mission.  However, continuity back then wasn't what it came to be.  Franz Radzik was depicted as a younger blond-haired stud.  Maybe the synopsis was viewed through Radzik's fantasy mind.  What he wished he was instead of what he actually was.  The original Gorilla-Man story depicted Radzik as an middle-aged guy with graying black bushy hair, a sinister mustache & beard, and an evil more sinister monocle.

Gorilla-Man endured the endless monotony of zoo-living, until one day an obnoxious child tossed a box of crayons at him.  This was the time before Koko the Signing Gorilla.  Society hadn't yet considered teaching its gorilla how to speak through sign language and, brilliant though he claimed to be, it never occurred to Radzik to sign for help.  But, he did use the boy's crayons to attract the attention of the zoo's the security guard with a simple message.

Redzik tricked the guard and escaped from his captivity.  Instead of confronting the gorilla who'd stolen his body and using his resources and intelligence to recreate his brain-transfer devise, Gorilla-Man decided instead to confront another scientist and somehow convince him to help him create his own brain-transfer devise.

After a shakey introduction, Gorilla-Man convinced Professor Stuvvesant that he was something special.  The scientific society of America was notified of Radzik's presence and help was on the way.

Radzik spent the next few days demonstrating his intelligence (and ping pong skills) to the various scientists.  It took a while, but they finally figured out that Gorilla-Man was pretty smart.  Of course, he could've saved a lot of time by writing another note and explaining his dilemma, but who am I to judge?

Finally, the scientists fully recognize Radzik's super-primate intelligence and determine the best way to tap into that intelligence.  Radzik is positively certain that they plan to help him regain his human body for some reason.  Somehow, I don't think it'll be quite that simple..
Instead, Radzik was trucked down to Florida and shot into space in an experimental rocket.  He was certain that the scientific community would help him become human again.  Instead, they saw in him a new source of animal experimentation.

I would love to see this Gorilla-Man return to Marvel Comics at some point.  He's certainly not the only ape to have been shot into space.  Red Ghost and his Russian apes went up in their own rockets and mutated into a trio of cosmic-powered Super Apes.  The same could certainly have happened with Razdik and I have a really fun story in the back of my mind about what became of him during his space-flight and about his interactions with a certain "coolest super team that I never knew I needed until Marvel created them".

Even if we never see Radzik again, his version of Gorilla-Man had one of the coolest origins that I've read in a long time.  I can't help but wonder what I'd do differently if I found my consciousness trapped in the body of a Gorilla.  Hint: I'd learn sign language and remember to carry a pencil and pad of paper with me, for one thing.

Friday, September 17, 2010

My Aging Knees/Memories of my Youth

It's funny where your mind wanders when given have a chance.

I'm 38; nearly 39.  I'm been experiencing more and more discomfort in my left knee for a while now.  Mark keeps telling me that I should have it checked out by my doctor.  I've been resistant.  I mean, if they have to do something to my knee, that means that there's something wrong with it.  I mean, obviously something's up with it, but I've been passing it off as general stiffness and the result of poor stretching.  But what if they have to give me cortisone shots or do surgery on it?  I'm not mentally ready for either of those possibilities.  Not yet, anyway.

I did bring it up this morning with my chiropractor.  He wasn't terribly concerned, especially when he learned that my knee isn't locking up or losing control.  Nor is the discomfort so bad that I can't sleep or move about or whatever.  He noted that lots of guys my age start developing a bit of arthritis and it could be just that.  He told me that he could refer me to someone when I'm ready.  Most likely, he thinks I just might need to do some physical therapy-related exercises.

All this focus on my knee got me thinking back to my one knee injury from years past, which was kind of a funny story about my not-so-rowdy teen years.  Before I get into the story, let me clarify something.  I was the kid who stayed home watching new episodes of Facts of Life or working on my 4-H photography project while my friends were running wild, drinking, and exploring their teenage bodies.  Don't get me wrong, I don't begrudge them their youthful antics.  I've certainly had more than a few reflective moments where I've regretted not joining in more often.  I just had different interests and priorities than many of my friends back then.

My teen years were spent in a rural Minnesota community.  My class was the largest in my now-defunct high school.  There were 34 of us.  Everyone (but me and a couple other hold-outs) played on the football team in the fall and then played on either the basketball or the wrestling team in the winter.  A group of us did drama and there was 4-H.  Otherwise, there wasn't a lot out there for kids to do.

So they planned beer parties out in the middle of nowhere.  Don't ask me how (I was hanging with Nat and Tootie, remember?), but most every weekend my class-mates managed to purchased large quantities of beer and everclear and then organize large gatherings in one tree-clustered field or another.  Most of the time they'd get away with it.  Some weekends, they chose the wrong spot and some fed-up farmer would summon the sheriffs, who would break up the fun and gather up as many under aged kids as they could manage.

There came a period during my senior year in high school when my friends experienced several weekends of party raids.  The cops and the farmers were pleased, but my friends were upset that they kept getting busted.  They finally decided that they needed to teach the cops a lesson.  We decided to host an alcohol-free party and call the cops on ourselves.  Yes, "we" decided.  Looking back, I have no clue how I got mixed up in all this, but somehow I got involved in this foolish practical joke.  I'm sure I just heard rumblings about it and thought it clever.

A location was chosen and word spread.  Everyone was to come to this field (let's call it "Green Acres") this one Friday night.  No other parties were planned for that evening.  No one, absolutely no one, was to drink or bring any alcohol of any sort to Green Acres that night.  Surprisingly, everyone stuck to the "no alcohol" edict. Mountain Dew was the drink of choice. I swear, I had never drank that much 'Dew before that night and certainly never since. I was literally vibrating from the caffeine and sugar buzz.

After a while, a couple of the guys went over to a neighboring farm and made the call "Goddamn kids are throwing a goddamn party over near by Johnson property.  We need some goddamn cops over here to get them the goddamn away from here!"  Something like that.  And then we waited and drank more Mountain 'Dew.

We didn't have to be too terribly long for the cops to arrive.  About a half-hour or so after the call was made, several cop cars raced onto the scene and the officers began piling out.  In unison, we teens swarmed towards the trees like we'd been caught doing something bad (which in retrospect, we kind of had, but...).  We then all stopped mid-gallops and began laughing and clapping and meandered back to our bonfire and 'Dew.

The cops laughed it off and nobody got in trouble.  I learned later from a cousin who worked for the county dispatcher's office that more than a few of the officers were actually pretty pissed off.  Fortunately, most of the officers got the joke and nothing bad came of it.

Getting back to my knee, I ran into a spot of trouble during the swarm that I fear might be causing me problems right now.  Like everyone else, I turned tail and began running from the cops when they pulled up.  At least, I attempted to run from the cops like everyone else.  Instead, I was standing next to a pick-up truck when they arrived and the truck's bed was open.  I turned to run and smacked the slide of my knee right into the open gate.  My knee buckled to the side and then snapped back to normal.  The pain was awful.  I felt like I was going to empty my guts as a result of it.  Luckily, the pain subsided and I was gradually able to walk on it that evening with some discomfort.  I didn't tell my parents and the memory of the injury faded away with the aches.  Except that it hurts now and I'm pretty sure that my current pain is a residual pain from the night 20 years ago.  After all, I don't have any pain or discomfort in my right knee.

In some perverse way, it kind of makes me feel better about my dodgy knee thinking that it might have been caused by an act of youthful foolishness rather than being the results of age.  It offers me the illusion that I'm not growing old.  Plus, it gives me a story to go along with the bad knee.  Maybe a story is what I need to get around the mental block that prevents me from finally biting the bullet and getting my knee x-rayed.  Something to think about, anyway.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Adult Son Loves his Married Lesbian Moms

The Daily Iowan posted a wonderful editorial yesterday written by Zach Wahls, a college aged man with two mothers.  It was written in response to this article by IowaWatch.org.  Wahls' story is an important one to be shared.  It's one thing for me to speak out as a gay parent and tell my story.  But Wahls is the product of gay parenting and presumably a success story.  Thanks for sharing your story, Zach, and for speaking out on your moms' behalf!
A recent study on same-sex marriage confirmed my already strident pro-equality view on the issue.

The nonprofit Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism, led by University of Iowa journalism Associate Professor Stephen Berry, found that nearly a year and a half after the unanimous Iowa Supreme Court ruling — surprise! — marriage in Iowa remains strong. In fact, since the Varnum v. Brien decision, divorces have declined to their lowest per capita level since 1968, at 7,286.

I'm just going to take a moment to revel in that.

One more second.

Swanky.

The Varnum decision directly affected my family. My mothers were married for the second and third times last year. (The first time was a commitment ceremony in 1996, the second time was the legit marriage in early October 2009 — so Mom 2 could get on Mom 1's health insurance after she lost her job — and the third time included the whole ceremony, with family and friends, later in October.)

And 14/one year(s) later, they're still going strong, despite having to deal with a debilitating disease (multiple sclerosis), a brief period of unemployment, and raising my younger sister and me. And, believe me, that last one is the real testament to the strength of their marriage.

Still, all is not well and good in the heartland. Since Bob Vander Plaats, a candidate for GOP nomination for governor, was defeated, he has turned his focus to the retention votes of three members of the Iowa Supreme Court.

Now, Vander Plaats is a good guy. He worked as a high-school principal, managed a nonprofit, and has been endorsed by Chuck Norris. I really wish I could sit down with him and talk to him about why he is so vehemently opposed to same-sex marriage.

On the campaign trail, he said that were he elected governor, he'd issue an executive order to halt gay marriage, even if it meant he'd be impeached. Do social conservatives really feel like their own marriages are under assault? Are they trying to protect us, the kids produced by these relationships?

Last fall, I had the opportunity, courtesy of Iowa Public Radio's "The Exchange," to talk with a Tea Partier about this very topic. When I mentioned that two lesbian women raised me, her face turned to shock and then concern. She asked if I ever had yearning to meet my father — an anonymous sperm donor.

My answer was — and remains — "no." And no, I don't feel damaged or that my childhood was somehow scarred. Maybe I have, in some way undetectable to me, been permanently harmed by having two moms. I guess I can't be sure.

The truth is though — and this is something that the aforementioned study also reported — we live pretty boring lives.

We do chores. We play board games. We get bored. We celebrate Christmas. We mow our lawns and sweep our garages. We have fights, and we have catharsis. We have faith. And, as I pointed out to my mom (the biological one) the other day, the addition of a marriage certificate to our family doesn't really feel a whole lot different. (She agreed.)

Like our fellow Iowans, we want only to live and let live. At the point that 92 percent of Iowans say that same-sex marriage hasn't affected their lives (as a Des Moines Register poll found last fall), when Iowa divorce rates have reached a 42-year low, and social conservatives have yet to produce a single argument that demonstrates why civil marriage isn't a civil right, you have to wonder what's motivating these people.

Beats me.

Poll Result #2: And the Winner is... Tippy-Toe!

Earlier this month, I started this blog's second poll seeking your input on the following important question: Who Should be the Next Pet Avenger? Six people ended up voting in the poll and we ended up with a two-way tie for the lead. As established in the earlier post, my boy D'Angelo was chosen to cast the winning vote for this poll in the case of a tie.  His poll-winning choice...?

Tippy-Toe!!!!  That's correct, Squirrel Girl's ever-faithful, ever-ready super-squirrel has been chosen as the best candidate for membership in the coolest super-team I never knew I needed until Marvel created it!  Tippy-Toe would be a great addition to this already great group.  She could help them defeat their enemies during the daytime and then treat the team to acorn-smoothies and super-hero gossip at night.  Great choice, readers!

Here's how the voting (minus D'Angelo's final vote) played out:

Who Should be the Next Pet Avenger?
Tippy-Toe 3
Brightwind 3
Dogpool 1

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Love the Gays, Hate the Homosex

The American Family Association's Bryan Fischer has been doing his best to keep the AFA's message going theses days.  In recent weeks, he's been doing his best to slam both gays and Muslims.  Fischer has said gays should be banned from serving in public office and that gays are no different from murderers, liars, thieves and slave traders. Most recently, he’s said Muslims could be guilty of treason, should be treated the same way neo-Nazis are treated in Germany and may be inferior due to years of inbreeding.  Today, he's clarifying that he's really not anti-gay or anti-Muslim.  He loves both groups too much to hate any of them.  Instead, he wants us all to know that he is just anti-homosexuality and anti-Islam:
I am pro-gay; I am anti-homosexuality. I am pro-Muslim; I am anti-Islam.

I am for homosexuals because I want them to be delivered from the bondage and the death sentence of homosexual conduct. So I am against homosexual behavior, I am against homosexual expression, I am against homosexual conduct because I want to see the people that are trapped in that lifestyle, I want to see them set free.

And the same is true when it comes to Islam: I am for Muslims; I am against-Islam. And, as I mentioned before, the primary victims of Islam are Muslims. I mean, it’s got to break your heart when you visualize the life that these people lead in Muslim-dominated countries.
To further his point and his agenda, his group recently spent $60,000 here in Iowa on thrice-failed gubernatorial candidate Bob Vander Plaats' campaign to oust three Iowa Supreme Court justices this November during their retention votes.  Those three justices voted along with the other Supreme Court justices to trap gay couples in the bondage of marriage and for that they need to be taught a lesson

Incidentally, I forwarded the article about that $60,000 to husband Mark and he wondered whether their money is being spent wisely, particularly their nearly $25,000 in "research". Mark is a Republican and frequently receives all sorts of "research" calls. He noted that he has received three research calls from the NRA, two calls on health care reform, two calls on banking/credit cards, two on abortion, and countless call about energy taxes. However, he hasn't received one single survey call on same-sex marriage since the primary.

Fortunately for Fischer and the AFA, the National Organization for Marriage has also been directly its money from New Jersey to Vander Plaats' anti-judge campaign here in Iowa.  So far, NOM has spent $235,000 on television advertisements that have been airing across Iowa.  I haven't seen the ads on any channels I watch, but maybe fans of "Judge Judy", "Being Human", "Masterpiece Mystery", and "Real Housewives of {insert city-name}" aren't considered choice audiences for such ads.



I guess the thing we all need to remember from Fischer's statements is that he and the AFA aren't content with preventing gay couples from marrying and punishing judges for overturning unconstitutional DOMA laws.  AFA doesn't want gay people in public positions.  They believe that we are akin to criminals and presumably should be treated as such.  With that in mind, what do you think they think of our parenting abilities?

Bryan Fischer, Maggie Gallagher, and Bob Vander Plaats need to learn their own lesson.  We all need to vote "Yes" to retain these three Supreme Court justices.  Make their $295,000 a big old waste of money, just like NOM's earlier wasted $100,000 in campaign spending.  Instead of blaming these judges for hearing the Varnum case and ruling against the DOMA law based on the case's merits, maybe AFA and NOM should spend some time and reflect on why the state's efforts to defend DOMA failed and why they feel the need to spend so much money to punish judges for making one court decision that they don't agree with.

Vote "YES" to retain Supreme Court Justices Ternus, Baker and Streit this November.