Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Nero at Daycare -- 05/31/11

Nero seems to be enjoying himself as usual at doggy daycare.  Check out today's link and see what the other (i.e., "sane") dogs are doing to stay cool on this muggy day:

Monday, May 30, 2011

Summer for Marriage Equality Tour Traveling through the USA this Summer

Last month, I wrote about how Louis Marinelli, a major supporter of NOM and organizer of last year's Summer for Marriage Tour across America, experienced a major change of heart and is now fully in favor of marriage equality for gay and lesbian couples.  Ironically, it was seeds planted during that bus tour that began to change Marinelli's heart.  He wrote that he began visiting with gay and lesbian people who want nothing more than to protect their families by obtaining marriage licenses.  He realized that we aren't out to destroy marriage.  We're seeking to join the institution.

Last week, Marinelli announced that he is planning a similar venture this summer: The Summer for Marriage Equality Tour.  It will begin on August 14th in San Diego, CA, and eventually wrap up on September 7th in Augusta, ME.

Here is why Marinelli is doing it:
Tour Objective: Last year, I helped organize the 2010 Summer for Marriage Tour with the National Organization for Marriage. Over the course of 30 days, we traveled more than 10,000 miles to spread a discriminatory message I once believed in to oppose same-sex marriage.

Ironically, it was that very summer tour that led me to change my mind and come to support marriage equality. This new tour will serve as a testimony to that change and will seek to spread two messages.

Firstly, that marriage equality is not an ideological issue. Too many see support for gay rights as strictly a liberal issue. That’s a mistake. Supporting the constitutional rights of all citizens is a conservative issue, too.

Secondly, the tour will seek to demonstrate to conservative legislators across the country that more and more people are coming to support marriage equality. Eventually, that truth will start reflecting changes among conservatives, too. If I, an opinionated conservative can change my mind, it won’t be long before many other conservatives do, too. Not to mention independents.

Marinelli is seeking to make amends.  Hopefully, he pulls in the same numbers with this new bus tour as they did last summer -- to clarify, hopefully he draws in the same numbers of bus tour supporters this summer as he pulled counter-protesters at last summer's bus tour.  Sometimes it's easier to show up to protest than it is to show up and support.  This is definitely one bus tour that needs to be supported by the GLBT community and our allies.  We need to keep sharing our stories and talking about why marriage equality is needed.  We need more changed hearts and minds like Marinelli's.  So follow the link and find out when and where he'll be closest to you and then show up and thank him for sticking his neck out for our collective protections.

Thoughts on "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides"

For the first time in what seems like a long time, the boys and I decided to go watch a movie this weekend.  The movie we chose to watch was Disney's "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides".  In it, Captain Jack Sparrow finds himself in a race between pirates, the British Royal Navy, and the Spanish Armada in a quest to discover the not-so-fabled Fountain of Youth.  Johnny Depp returns as Captain Sparrow, as does Kevin McNally as Joshamee Gibbs and Geoffrey Rush as Captain Hector Barbossa.  Otherwise, it's pretty much a brand new bunch of characters, including Penelope Cruz as former lover/current private Angelica, Ian McShane as Blackbeard the pirate, and Sam Clafin as Christian missionary/mermaid lover Philip Swift.  We saw the movie is 2D, which worked for us.

Here's what I came away with:

1. Who knew that mermaids were so vicious?  Or that they had web-attacks, like Spider-Man?  It was interesting to see them use a character device from the 80s comedy "Splash" (i.e., letting the mermaids switch from fish tails to flip flops when they get dry).  Then again, it rang pretty hollow when the captured mermaid Syrena grew legs and then grew all modest and demur about her breasts and private parts.  I can't imagine that a mermaid would worry about such things.  I was also impressed with her use of the English language.

2. Blackbeard was pretty cool.  But who knew that he was a major mystic with the ability to turn his officers into unstoppable zombies, or the ability to capture rival pirate ships and shrink them into little bottles, or the ability to animate ropes?  He empowered working voodoo dolls and could tell the future.  Nothing could stop him, except the prediction of his upcoming death.  I know that Blackbeard was one of the most famous and feared pirates in history and I know that scary stories of his ghostly antics have frightened seamen for generations.  But this was the first time I'd seen him portrayed as such a powerful magician.  It was interesting, though after a while it made you wonder why he kept around his mutinous crew when he could literally animate his ship using magic.  But that's just me.

3. I actually enjoyed this sequel.  I still haven't seen the third Pirates of the Caribbean movie, partly because it was so connected to the second movie.  It was hard for me to remember who's who and why they were all still working together.  On Stranger Tides did a good of remaining familiar with the source material while allowing newer viewers (or those of us with poor memories) to come to the theater and wonder what we missed out on during the earlier flicks.  Hopefully, the good folks at Disney -- should they decide to create Pirates 5 will keep that in mind.  Keep the essence of the franchise, but don't bog it down with cumbersome characters and continuity.

Best Trailer: Stephen Sondheim's COMPANY.  It stars such great actors as Neil Patrick Harris, Patti LuPone, Jon Cryer, and Christina Hendricks.  I've heard the music, but have never seen the play and I really want to.  I've talked Mark into seeing it with me.  It's not big or flashy or in 3D or anything like that, but it's something that really excites me.

Memorial Day Weekend // End of 2011 Graduation Season

It's been a long month.  In addition to my recent overnight trip to Chicago, I've attended graduation ceremonies for my three oldest nephews in three separate states.  They all border Iowa, but some of those rides are longer than others.  I've written before that I'm not always the most socially comfortable person.  I struggle with small talk, especially with those that I don't know very well.  I did okay at the graduation parties most of the time except for the final one and even that one wasn't terrible in retrospect.  The best takeaway is that Leslie will be graduating next year and I have a bunch of ideas about what to do for his own graduation celebration.

Given the timing of our final graduation outing, we got to spend time in my family hometown up north during Memorial Day weekend, which is always a great reminder to visit the family plots.  I drove out to see my maternal grandfather's grave site with my mom and maternal grandmother and D'Angelo.  It's difficult for Grandma to get around, so I know that she appreciated the drive.  But it was also really cool to see a family of buffaloes along the way.  We're not 100% certain, but we think that the baby buffalo had just recently been born that day.  On top of that, there was a nasty looking buffalo bull in that yard.  I don't know if you've seen a buffalo up close but they are ugly.  Their heads are huge and there are tufts of fur shooting off in one direction or another.  But it was really fun and unexpected to see them there.

Later that afternoon, D' and I got into my mom's utility ATV and navigated the dirt roads to visit the graveyard where my father, his parents, and my brother-in-law are all buried.  We spent a lot of time at that graveyard last summer chopping out this nasty bush.  It's starting to grow back.  Fortunately, it doesn't seem to be sprouting up super-fast.  But it was good to spend time reminiscing with D'Angelo about my dad and my brother-in-law Roger.  It was also good telling him stories about other family members who he never had the chance to meet, as well as those he doesn't remember too well because he was too young when they were still around.  I got to do a repeat visit to this particular cemetery later in the evening, that second time with Les.

Spending all this time with family and at family grave sites, it's hard not to think about what will happen when I eventually pass away.  I have no clue where I'll be buried or even if I'll be buried.  My hometown doesn't really feel like my town most of the time, but it's certainly more home to me than Mark's hometown.  And I don't imagine that I'll have family tending to my grave here in Iowa City outside of D'Angelo.  Don't get me wrong, I've done much of my end of life planning (will, life insurance, etc.).  I just don't know what to do about my actual body once I go.  Any suggestions?

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Nero at Daycare -- 05/28/11

Nero enjoyed another fun experience yesterday at doggy daycare.  Check it out:

Friday, May 27, 2011

Nero at Daycare -- 05/27/11

Nero got to show off his new hairdo today at daycare.  Check it out:

My Recent Trip to Chicago

I went out of my comfort zone this week and spent a couple days away from Mark and the kids to participate in the creation of a new "Love is an Orientation' DVD Curriculum in Chicago with my friend Andrew Marin and his evangelical/GLBT bridge-building organization, the Marin Foundation.  To be honest, I didn't know if he wanted me writing anything yet about my involvement in the DVD curriculum, but he's tweeted about it a couple times so it's all good.  That said, I'll keep the details of my involvement under wraps for now.

Chicago was pretty exciting, but the traffic was intimidating.  Especially once you get on the freeway.  I'm a small town guy at heart.  But I managed and it turned out not to be quite as worrisome as I feared.

My segment was filmed later on Wednesday, but I pulled into town early Tuesday afternoon.  As a result, I got to hang with old friends like Brenda Marin and Kevin and Nathan Albert, but I also got to meet some new friends like Karen Bowlby and Ginny Olson and Adam McLane.  I found it fascinating to watch the different segments being filmed.  It's amazing how much time and planning goes into film production.  All of those mismatched filming sessions will be unjumbled and pieced together into an organized puzzle board.  Really cool!  Plus, it was just fun to joke around and laugh with everyone between segments and after wrapping for the day.

I did my first walk through Chicago's Boystown, though I didn't do too much there.  I got to park right next to Chicago Male, which was featured on an episode of Bravo's Tabatha's Salon Takeover.  I didn't get a 30-minute haircut, but I did peek through the windows.

I look forward to talking more about the Love is an Orientation DVD Curriculum at a later date.  But I do want to thank Andrew and Brenda for taking me in for a couple stressful days and treating me to a really fun and unique experience!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

NOM Unhappy with "What Would You Do" Segment on Gay Parenting

I shared my reaction a couple days back to a segment on "What Would You Do?".  That segment wanted to see how people react to the obnoxious behavior of a waitress towards gay families at one Texas-based diner.  Unpredictably, more people in this Texas diner stepped up to defend the couples in this clip than in a previous, yet similar, segment shot in New York City.  Most customers in the latter restaurant ignored the berated gay couple and minded their business.

Predictably, the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) is now accusing ABC of creating a piece of pro-marriage equality propaganda:
Let's note first of all that the behavior of the "waitress" in this setup up is outrageous. No boss, and no customers would tolerate it. Not even in the "conservative" towns of Texas. Good news for American common sense.

The insidious propaganda point from ABC News is the suggestion that millions of good Americans who believe marriage means a man and a woman because children ought to have moms and dads, would or are behaving like this. Shame on ABC.
I understand that NOM has its own agenda to promote, but it's clear that people -- and even businesses -- are willing to tolerate prejudicial behavior towards customers.  One set of adoptive parents that I know, for example, found themselves passively refused service at a restaurant a couple years back because of their dark-skinned son.  A gay couple was kicked out of Chico's Tacos in El Paso, TX, for kissing.  Another gay couple was asked to leave La Fiesta Azteca near Chicago, IL, for kissing.  A child was kicked out of a Catholic School near Boston because he has two moms.  A Baptist Softball League kicked out an entire team from its league because its coach is a lesbian.  A child was kicked out a Catholic School in Colorado because she has two moms.  Catholic Charities has shut down entire chapters so that it wouldn't find itself unable to refuse services for gay couples.  Heck, my own state of Iowa just fought off an effort legally refuse services to gay couples.  So, NOM is being disingenuous when they say that no business would refuse services to customers, much less gay customers.

Equality Matters has a wonderful summary of the WWYD? waitresses statements compared to NOM's own statements.  Readers are left wondering why NOM is upset by the waitresses statements to the gay couples in this segment:
WWYD Waitress:
It’s bad enough that you’re lesbians but that they don’t have a father, I think that’s kind of bad… I mean isn’t it bad for the kids?

Maggie Gallagher, NOM’s chairwoman:
Marriage is our most basic social institution for protecting children. Same-sex marriage amounts to a vast social experiment on children. Rewriting the basic rules of marriage puts all children, not just the children in unisex unions, at risk.

I just think it’s terrible. I think they need a dad.

Gallagher, again:
Same-Sex Marriage sends a terrible message to the next generation: alternative family forms are just as good as traditional families, children don't need a mother and a father, and marriage is about adult desires for affirmation or benefits, not about the well-being of children.

You don’t think it’s bad for the kids not to have a dad?... They need dads.

NOM “talking points” on same-sex marriage:
Two men might each be a good father, but neither can be a mom. The ideal for children is the love of their own mom and dad. No same-sex couple can provide that.

She’s going to turn out gay just like you because you have no dad in this family.

More from NOM’s marriage talking points:
Do we want to teach the next generation that one-half of humanity—either mothers or fathers—are dispensable, unimportant? Children are confused enough right now with sexual messages. Let’s not confuse them further.
Which makes you wonder why NOM thinks it is propaganda to show people demonstrating their own talking points in a real life situation.  "Talking points" are drafted to offer people suggestions about what to say when discussing or debating a specific topics.  NOM should be pleased that people get to see someone (fictional or not) demonstrating the use of their talking points.  Then again, talking points are words on a screen or a piece of paper; not words used to attack people in real life situations.

Read the comments following the NOM article and you will find many people complaining that these types of exchanges never really happen in real life or if they do, they were instigated by the highly inappropriate behavior of GLBT activists.  They are upset not by the waitresses expressed beliefs, but because her beliefs are expressed in a rude manner. 

I might not have found myself in that same exact situation with my family, but I have been abused by those same talking points -- both online and in real life, including from at least one member of my family.  I get that people support NOM's message.  But NOM and their supporters need to understand that their message -- while not always promoted so passionately -- is directed towards couples and our families and their message is hurtful for us to witness.  That is what it is, y'know?  They really shouldn't get upset when they have the opportunity to step back and witness their talking points in action.  And if they do get upset by watching that waitress in action, they maybe should sit back for a sec and figure out why exactly that waitress' interaction with those families is so frustrating to them.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Nero at Daycare -- 05/24/11

I just got back from an overnight trip to Chicago to visit my friends Andrew, Brenda, Kevin, and Nathan.  Fortunately, Mark got Nero to and from doggy daycare yesterday, despite the local downpour.  Check it out:

Monday, May 23, 2011

What Would You Do?: Gay Families in Restaurants

ABC's "What Would You Do?" posed the question of how people react when a waitress confronts gay families and ultimately refuses to serve them.  This particular episode was filmed in Texas and most customers defended the gay families from the nasty waitress -- though one blotted out customer high-fived the waitress after kicking out a pair of dads and their kids.  Check it out:

I can honestly say that our family has never been refused service at a restaurant or store.  It's been interesting on more than one occasion to watch other customers realize that there's a gay family in their midst, but we've never had a bad experience with waiters or waitresses.  Most often, I suspect, they are clueless about us or they really want their tips.  But mostly, I don't think most of them really care.

But the show made me wonder, "What Would I Do?" if confronted by somebody about our boys having two dads.  I certainly wouldn't debate the rightness or wrongness of my family.  I probably would complain to a manager and, barring that, would complain to the corporate office.  And I would definitely walk out if the waitress began harping on us about depriving our kids of their moms or whatever.

But I certainly would not debate my family with some stranger while out for supper.  I hate it when people say, "You don't know me".  But the truth is that the waitress in this situation has no need to understand where our kids came from or their relationship to us as adoptive parents as well as their connection to their birth parents.  And it's not her business to try to understand us as a family.  It's her business to sell and serve us food.

So back to the question: What Would I Do?  I would instruct the waitress that our family's story is private and none of her business.  If she persisted, I would ask for the manager and demand to switch to another waitress/waiter.  If the situation persisted, I would tell them that we're leaving and that we're telling all of our friends, family, and co-workers about our experience at that restaurant and discourage them from ever stepping foot in that restaurant.  And then I'd go to any of the multiple other restaurants out there that really don't care about the family lives of their customers.

But fortunately, we've never experienced such blatantly bad customer service ever.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Rapture Wrap-Up

Did you hear the one about the highly publicized Rapture event that Harold Camping, Family Radio, and many others publicized nationwide with hundreds of thousands of dollars?  If you've heard that joke, then you also know that the Rapture didn't occur yesterday, despite hard prophetic proof that a wave of earthquakes were slated to spread their way across the time zones at 6:00 PM yesterday and herald in six months of despair and torment for those of us unfortunate enough to find our bodies whisked away to Heaven.

I've been busy this weekend with another family graduation, so I was only passively observant of approaching end of the world.  But I did some web-searching this afternoon and thought I would share some of the aftershocks from yesterday's no-show Rapture event:

*Harold Camping hasn't been heard from since yesterday.  There's a note posted outside Family Radio's Oakland, CA, office that reads "THIS OFFICE IS CLOSED: SORRY WE MISSED YOU!".  Reporters have tried reaching Camping at his home, but no one has answered.  My favorite friendly Atheist posted an indirect statement from Camping's daughter, but it really amounts to nothing:

His daughter Sue Espinoza received a call from him Saturday morning, according to the Times.
“He just said, ‘I’m a little bewildered that it didn’t happen, but it’s still May 21 [in the United States],’” Espinoza said, standing in the doorway of her Alameda home. “It’s going to be May 21 from now until midnight.”
*Because of Camping's silence, the media is turning to his followers -- many who've spent hundreds, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars, advertising this false prediction -- to find out what happened.

One of those surrounded by the press and hecklers was NYC resident Robert Fitzpatrick, a retiree who spent the bulk of his savings -- $140,000(!!!) --spreading Camping's prediction of the Rapture:
“I don’t understand why nothing has happened.”
According to the video included with this blog article, Fitzpatrick repeated Camping's math and concurred with his May 21, 2011, Rapture prediction. The video took place almost immediately after 6:00 PM yesterday. He still thought the money was well-spent even if the Rapture didn't occur. It's unclear 24 hours later if he still feels that way.

The Iowa City couple featured in my last blog article, John and Barb O'Leary, were contacted almost immediately by the Iowa City Press-Citizen last evening for their reaction:
John O'Leary said he believes that the unfulfilled prophecy possibly could have been a test for the true believers similar to the story in the book of Exodus of the ancient Hebrews fashioning a golden idol during the 40 days that Moses was on Mount Sinai meeting with God. "That was testing the people," O'Leary said. "They gave up on what they fervently believed..."

O'Leary said he still has faith that Judgment Day will occur at some point in the future. "The longer we wait, the more mercy we're being given," O'Leary said. "I'm not giving up faith on it happening today or tomorrow, a borderline date. We'll pray and read the Bible and not give up on our faith because of our confusion. We're praying for God's will to be done."
Then there's this article about parents who've quit their jobs and quit helping their children plan for their future. :
My mom has told me directly that I’m not going to get into heaven,” Grace Haddad, 16, said. “At first it was really upsetting, but it’s what she honestly believes...”

“People look at my family and think I’m like that,” said Joseph, their 14-year-old, as his parents walked through the street fair on Ninth Avenue, giving out Bibles. “I keep my friends as far away from them as possible. I don’t really have any motivation to try to figure out what I want to do anymore,” he said, “because my main support line, my parents, don’t care.”

His mother said she accepted that believers “lose friends and you lose family members in the process. I have mixed feelings,” Ms. Haddad Carson said. “I’m very excited about the Lord’s return, but I’m fearful that my children might get left behind. But you have to accept God’s will.”
I have no clue where you go in a relationship when your parents give up on the future and openly tell you (and the media) that you're not good enough to be saved.

*That's pretty much the theme to Mercedes Allen's blog article about how Radical Christianity destroyed her traditional family.  She talks about how her Catholic mom became obsessed with Pentecostalism back in 1976.  Since then, her mother has become increasingly obsessed with the Rapture and end-of-time predictions.  I strongly recommend that you check it out when you get a moment.

*I guess I'm left feeling bad for the folks who have found themselves sucked into this goofy prediction.  I'm not saying that the Rapture won't happen someday.  I am saying that you owe it to yourself and your family to go through life with the idea that it might happen tomorrow, but that you need to be prepared if it doesn't.  It sounds like millions of dollars were spent preparing for this faux apocalypse.  Can you imagine how much good could have been done with that much money instead of spending it on silly billboards or media advertisements?  And how much will be expected of the rest of us to step up and help out these (literally) poor folks who've just given away everything (from home to jobs to retirement savings) because they believed that they would be Raptured on the twenty-first?

Lastly, what happens to your faith when you dump so much into believing someone and their adamant assertions about something so dire as the end of the world and then find out that it's all bogus?  I have a feeling that Camping's followers will fall into two camps: those who will continue to hold out hope for the Rapture and those who totally give up all faith in Christ's sacrifice and resurrection.

Friday, May 20, 2011

More on this Weekend's Rapture Event

A bunch of us were discussing the Rapture that's scheduled to occur tomorrow evening at 6:00 PM.  One of my Catholic co-workers hadn't yet heard about the Rapture and became upset when she learned that her Catholic beliefs most likely precluded her from being Raptured away before the fire and brimstone.  She apparently spent time during her lunch hour researching the Rapture and passed on a flow chart to assist others with deciding whether or not they will be Raptured.  In other words, it allows you to chill out if you decide that you will become one of the Raptured or it will offer you the opportunity to prepare yourself for six months of hell on earth (assuming you survive the initial earthquake):

You'll probably need to click on the flow chart to figure out your chances of being whisked away or left behind.

Also, I came across a local angle to this apocalyptic tale.  An Iowa City couple has come out in the Iowa City Press-Citizen as firm believers in Harold Camping, Family Radio, and his warnings of the Rapture.  They throw into doubt my contention that people will have the opportunity to repent and get rapture before it turns 6:00 PM in their time zones.  But I hold out hope that they're wrong.  Ever the optimist, y'know?:
John and Barb O'Leary have heard the doubters and naysayers, but the rural Iowa City couple still maintains the world will end about 6 p.m. Saturday with a massive worldwide earthquake.

"Once the earthquake starts over there," said Barb O'Leary, referring to where the first earthquake will strike near the International Dateline in the Pacific Ocean, "there are no more chances for salvation..."

The O'Learys... press on, saying the teaching that no one knows when the rapture will occur is taken out of context from Bible verses. They also said there is no way they can be wrong. "I'm convinced because I believe it's God's doing," John O'Leary said. "For me to doubt that, it's for me to say the Bible isn't true."
You can read the full article here.

CDC Helps America Plan for Zombie Apocalypse

I sometimes feel like I'm typing in vain when it comes to the ever present zombie menace.  You find references to the undead in the newspaper and on blogs, but you never really hear anything about how they're repelled (except this one time) or what happened to the attacking zombies or what the government plans to do to prevent future assaults.  I really feel like this serious threat is treated like a joke.  Nobody takes it seriously until they find themselves cornered by hungry rotten corpses.

That's why I was extremely relieved to find an article on the official Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website that addresses this very subject.  The goal of this article is to help people figure out how to better prepare for zombie apocalypses and minimize their chances for getting munched on:
So what do you need to do before zombies…or hurricanes or pandemics for example, actually happen? First of all, you should have an emergency kit in your house. This includes things like water, food, and other supplies to get you through the first couple of days before you can locate a zombie-free refugee camp (or in the event of a natural disaster, it will buy you some time until you are able to make your way to an evacuation shelter or utility lines are restored). Below are a few items you should include in your kit, for a full list visit the CDC Emergency page.

•Water (1 gallon per person per day)
•Food (stock up on non-perishable items that you eat regularly)
•Medications (this includes prescription and non-prescription meds)
•Tools and Supplies (utility knife, duct tape, battery powered radio, etc.)
•Sanitation and Hygiene (household bleach, soap, towels, etc.)
•Clothing and Bedding (a change of clothes for each family member and blankets)
•Important documents (copies of your driver’s license, passport, and birth certificate to name a few)
•First Aid supplies (although you’re a goner if a zombie bites you, you can use these supplies to treat basic cuts and lacerations that you might get during a tornado or hurricane)
Personally, I would encourage people to keep weapons nearby to fight back against the undead. If not guns, then something like an axe or a spear that can quickly destroy the brains of approaching ghouls. But that's just me.

The CDC also recommends additional planning:
Once you’ve made your emergency kit, you should sit down with your family and come up with an emergency plan. This includes where you would go and who you would call if zombies started appearing outside your door step. You can also implement this plan if there is a flood, earthquake, or other emergency.

1.Identify the types of emergencies that are possible in your area. Besides a zombie apocalypse, this may include floods, tornadoes, or earthquakes. If you are unsure contact your local Red Cross chapter for more information.
2.Pick a meeting place for your family to regroup in case zombies invade your home…or your town evacuates because of a hurricane. Pick one place right outside your home for sudden emergencies and one place outside of your neighborhood in case you are unable to return home right away.
3.Identify your emergency contacts. Make a list of local contacts like the police, fire department, and your local zombie response team. Also identify an out-of-state contact that you can call during an emergency to let the rest of your family know you are okay.
4.Plan your evacuation route. When zombies are hungry they won’t stop until they get food (i.e., brains), which means you need to get out of town fast! Plan where you would go and multiple routes you would take ahead of time so that the flesh eaters don’t have a chance! This is also helpful when natural disasters strike and you have to take shelter fast.
All of this just reinforces what I've been saying all this time: the undead are here and they're coming to eat you.  Prepare yourself.  Prepare your family.  And prepare your home.  Stockpile food, water, medical supplies, and weapons.  Figure out a fall-back location in case your home becomes compromised.  This is the CDC making these recommendations.  Not some lone blogger from Iowa.  This is serious.  This is real.  Be prepared... before they're clawing at your front door.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Rapture Scheduled for May 21, 2011 -- Gays and Lesbians are to Blame

By now, you have surely heard that the Rapture is scheduled for 6:00 PM PST this coming Saturday, May 21st.  That is the assertion being made by Christian broadcaster and Family Radio president Harold Camping.  Camping's prediction is really taking off despite an earlier failed prediction back in September 1994.  I've heard of people giving away all their possessions in preparation for the Rapture.  I've learned of an atheist-run business called Eternal Earth-Bound Pets that will -- for a fee -- care for the pets of Raptured Christians.  Even better -- according to that web page -- they recently began serving the state of Iowa.  I've been invited two more than one post-Rapture looting party, which kind of makes me sad because it shows that more than a couple of my friends don't believe I'll be Raptured away...

Anywho, I bet you're wondering why the Rapture will happen on May 21.  I found a really good Rapture FAQ sheet on the San Francisco Chronicle with a couple different reasons:
Camping calculates May 21 is exactly 7,000 years from the date of the Noah's Ark flood. In his book "Time Has an End," Camping writes. "The year 391 B.C. is the year when the Old Testament was finished, and 2,011 + 391 - 1 = 2,401, or 7 x 7 x 7 x 7." There you have it.
Oh, it's also about the gays.  Gays and lesbians and our marriages are so wicked that we are causing the entire planet to be punished with lots of fire and brimstone:

According to Camping, roughly 200 million Christians will disappear on Saturday, leaving nearly seven billion people to experience torturous events like earthquakes and fires and exploding watermelons -- that is until the planet eventually blows up on October 21.

Going back to the gays, you would think that Christians would be "thanking" us for initiating the Rapture instead of "blaming" us.  Because of our sodomizing ways, 200 million Christians will instantly go to Jesus and billions more have the opportunity to see the error of our wicked ways and try for one last "Hail Mary" before everything falls apart.  Heck, the Chronicle FAQ even describes a sort of "time zone progression" of the Rapture event, so people in the USA can see what's happening in Australia and repent in time for the local Rapture event.  And it's all because gays like me got married.

So, here is your final warning.  If there's something you've always wanted to do and put off, do it over the next couple days.  If you haven't yet welcomed Jesus into your heart, this would be the time to do it.  And if you have a beloved dog or cat and you want someone to check in on them while fire and brimstone fall from the sky, check out that Eternal Earth-Bound Pet website and sign up today.  And then turn to your nearest GLBT friend and thank them for hastening your journey to Christ's warm embrace.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Alpha Flight: Who Will Betray Them?

That's the question being posed by Marvel in anticipation of the new Alpha Flight comic book series coming out this June:

Just a little something to wet your whistle.  Also, don't forget to buy Alpha Flight #.1, coming out tomorrow!

NOM's Maggie Gallagher: Gays Want Christians to Lose their Jobs

I'm really tired of the rhetoric coming out of the National Organization for Marriage's leadership these days.  Maggie Gallagher cited some blog as proof that marriage equality advocates want nothing more to shame, belittle, and impoverish people who don't believe that gay couples should be allowed the legal rights and responsibilities that come with a marriage license.  Check it out:
But surrendering on the legal definition of "civil marriage" is not a prelude to winning any of those other deeper battles. It is a prelude to an ever deeper surrender to the main idea now being propagated: if you believe in the message of Genesis, as repeated by Jesus—that marriage from the beginning has been the union of male and female, husbands and wives called to give themselves to each other and to their children—then you are a bad person. You are like a racist. You should be ashamed and shamed in public. You should, ideally, lose your job.
I've got a newsflash for Ms. Gallagher: the vast majority of gay people and other marriage equality supporters don't care about your beliefs.  If you don't support gays marrying, so be it.  If you don't want your kids gay marrying, tell them that.  If your church wants to advocate certain standards of marital values for its members, we're cool with that.

We don't want to continue fighting this culture war.  We want to live our individual lives and do our own jobs and raise our own kids in peace and without constantly fighting back against hordes of busybodies that don't have anything better to do than lead constant political fights to legally annihilate our marriages.

My marriage must die so that someone doesn't think that Maggie's a bigot.  That's pretty much the basis of NOM's arguments these days.  And frankly, that's pretty sad.

So, no.  Gays do not want conservative Christians to lose their jobs.  Unless they work for NOM.  Then I'm fine with them losing those particular jobs and finding new jobs.

U of IA Graduation Disrupted by Toilet Paper and I Missed It (Plus the 'Biggest Loser' Earns his College Degree)

I wrote on Sunday about my weekend graduation experience.  Turns out that I missed one of the greatest graduation experiences in recent history right here in Iowa City.

First of all, I learned that Matt Hoover, winner of "The Biggest Loser" Season 2, earned his college degree this weekend at the University of Iowa.  Since shedding over 150 pounds on the NBC reality show back in 2005, Hoover has become an author and a life coach and works with people on improving their self-image.  Now he has a degree in psychology and plans to use his degree to enhance his career.

But the best part of this weekend's UI graduation ceremony was an attempt by UI student Robert F. Koehler to "lighten up" the commencement ceremony by running around and tossing rolls of toilet paper into the crowd.  I've been to enough graduation ceremonies and witnessed enough endless bits of pomp and circumstance to appreciate any attempt at levity at these things.  Check this out:
Reached by phone Monday, Koehler, who was not graduating Saturday, explained that he chose to throw toilet paper because of its resemblance to streamers, which he thought would bring a celebratory feel to the ceremony. Also, he said the toilet paper represented students wiping their backsides on "all of the misconstrued requirements of institutionalized education in our country..."

Koehler said he pulled the stunt to show support for his best friend, who was receiving his degree, and to "lighten up the erroneously long graduation ceremony and stimulate a unified celebration for all the graduates at the commencement."

"I did know I would get caught and it was simply a silly and nonsensical thing to do." he said.
Even better was UI President Sally Mason's immediate response to the toilet paper incident:
After the scene had calmed, UI President Sally Mason went to the microphone and was quoted as saying “At least he wasn’t naked” before resuming the ceremony.
You can't make this stuff up.  The UI police tackled Koehler before he got too far and he's since been charged with disorderly conduct.  According to the PC article, he's plead not guilty. 

Check out this wonderful footage of the incident and tell me that Koehler didn't succeed in his mission to lighten things up:

Nero at Daycare -- 05/17/11

Nero was super-excited to go to daycare this afternoon.  Check it out:

Nero and the others attacking a tennis ball

Monday, May 16, 2011

Comic to Get: Alpha Flight #.1

It's late Monday night and that means we're roughly 36 hours from having tons of new comic books delivered to shops around this country.  It looks like there will be several good choices this Wednesday.  That said, there's one specific comic coming out this Wednesday that you absolutely need to get: Alpha Flight #.1!  Here's how Comic Book Resources describes this issue:
Because YOU demanded it: Exploding out of FEAR ITSELF with an all-new series is the ORIGINAL Alpha Flight by the superstar creative team of writers Greg Pak & Fred Van Lente and artist Dale Eaglesham --- with covers by the incomparable Phil Jimenez! Get in on the ground floor of this highly anticipated maxi-series with this standalone adventure...: Who are Guardian, Vindicator, Sasquatch, Snowbird, Shaman, Northstar, Aurora, and Marrina? How did they become their nation's most beloved heroes? And are they strong enough to withstand their greatest challenge yet? DO YOU FEAR...YOUR COUNTRY TURNING ON YOU?
Here are some fun take-aways from the preview art:

1. I love that Snowbird is a meter maid in her civilian life.  Snowbird is a demi-god.  Imagine Hercules, except that his father is the human who mated with a goddess and her birth took place within the past couples decades as opposed to ancient Greece.  Now imagine that Hercules was running around today, except he works as a librarian or a fire fighter when not righting wrongs.  It makes sense that holding a job pays better than playing a super-hero.  Then again, I assume that Canada's super-team Alpha Flight gets paid for fighting terrorists and criminals.  Then again again, there are super-villains spilling out onto the street in Canada like there are in New York City so maybe Alpha Flight is on their own except for during emergencies.  It still makes me chuckle a bit.

2. As noted in my last Alpha Flight-themed blog article, it really looks like Alpha Flight leaders Guardian and Vindicator are fighting against somebody to regain custody of their little girl.  I haven't heard too many details about this child custody case outside of it existing, but I still think that their girl got adopted after their death.  Adoption's forever, even if your dead birth parents get resurrected.  What a quandary if this is true.  This isn't the first time that it's sucked to be resurrected in the pages of Alpha Flight.  Back in the late 80s, Sasquatch got killed.  He was later resurrected in the body of then deceased Alpha Flight member Snowbird -- don't ask.  Since she's a shape-changer, he was able to transform into a Sasquatch form and remain with Alpha Flight.  However, he was still resurrected in the body of his dead team-mate.  His dead female team-mate.  Hence, Walter became Wanda.  Wanda found it impossible to reclaim Walter's old life or wealth.  After all, Wanda looked nothing like Walter and he had previously been declared dead.  Eventually, Wanda became Walter again and things were made right, but it was an original sub-plot for quite a while.  This child custody promises to be equally complicated, assuming that it's based on the premise that I'm assuming it is.

3. I'm not sure what I think of Shaman performing open heart surgery on auto-pilot while his astral form runs around fighting super-terrorists.  I like (and appreciate) the nurse's reaction: "Don't think I'm not reporting this to the union."  You'd like to think that your surgeon is completely focused on you while messing around with your most important muscle.  If Alpha Flight really needs a mystic, you'd think they could persuade his daughter Talisman into filling in while he's operating.  Or they could insist that he take on some other type of professional role.  Maybe he could be a surgical consultant or hospital administrator or something.  Letting him flit away in the middle of heart surgery just seems like a bad idea.

Regardless, check out Alpha Flight #.1 this Wednesday.  It had top-notch writers and artists and features one of the coolest and diverse teams out there.  On top of that, it will be a great starting point for those who are curious about the team, but a little bit intimidated by their collective history.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Weekend Journey to Graduation #1

The boys traveled out west this weekend for the first in a series of graduation ceremonies for my various nephews.  This weekend's ceremony and reception were fun, especially for my boys.  Both met some friends and got to mess around while the adults chatted and sipped assorted beverages.  My one nephew attends a very small school.  His graduating class boasts just over 20 kids, so the ceremony was pretty intimate compared to larger school graduations.  In cities, the kids have a small limit for graduation tickets.  In my nephew's town, pretty much anyone can and does show up.  Outside of the speeches, they had time for a video of the kids' time at school and everyone seemed to be represented in the video pretty consistently.  There were lots of in-jokes between the students and the teachers.  Everyone appreciated the laughs and the tears.

This particular ceremony was nearly seven hours from our home.  Here are some of the things that we experienced along the way:

Wind Turbines in Adair County, IA
1. You can tell I haven't visited my sister's home out west in a few years.  There are now huge chunks of land in Adair County, Iowa, that are covered with wind turbines.  I'd seen the bunch up near Waterloo and I've been told there are a few more new ones along the northern border of the state, but I had no clue that there were so many out west.  I counted at least a dozen and I'm pretty sure that there are many more.  The legislature keeps investigating nuclear power options here in Iowa.  Makes me glad that we're also looking into greener energy resources at the same time.

2. We stayed in a hotel our first night out.  They had one of the funniest "No Smoking" signs that I've ever seen.  Fortunately, none of us smoke so we managed to stay without getting fined.  It still made me chuckle.

3. I never realized how much teens and parents text to each other every day.  Husband Mark refuses to get a cell and we believe that D's too young for one, which leaves Leslie and me.  Les doesn't text due to his disabilities and I usually don't.  I got to hang around a lot of 13-19-year-olds and their parents this weekend and they're constantly tapping away at their phones.  Anything from "where are you?" to "have you eaten yet?" to "can you pick up ___?" to some random goofy text.  I imagine that D' will eventually receive a cell phone in a year or so.  Something tells me that there will be a lot more texting in my life once he gets his own phone, plus a little more freedom.

D's Crown
4. Traveling in a car for seven hours is boring.  I downloaded a bunch of new podcasts and music, but we all quickly got a bit stir-crazy.  Check out D's new total pillow crown.  Doesn't he look regal?

5. Lastly, I met a young man who's a dead ringer for Chet from The Real World last night.  I know (well, I assume) there's no relationship between the two, but they totally look a like.  It took me way too long to make the connection, which speaks to my age and decreasing awareness of popular culture.

And that's pretty much it.  Thankfully, Blogger seems to be up and working again.  Everything was down for a couple days and I even temporarily lost my most recent blog article.  Thankfully, everything now seems fixed.  Have a good week, folks!

New "Alpha Flight" Series Spoilers

I was reading one of my favorite blogs -- The Flight -- and learned about the latest Mighty Marvel Podcast, which features Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente talking about the new "Alpha Flight" series that's coming out next month.  Actually, Alpha Flight #.1 will be coming out next Wednesday, but the first official issue of Alpha Flight will get released on June 8th.  Quick reminder, Alpha Flight is Canada's recently resurrected and uber-cool team of super-heroes.

So here are a few interesting spoilers about the new Alpha Flight series that I learned from the Mighty Marvel Podcast:

1. Openly gay Alphan and occasional member of the X-Men Northstar is revealed as potentially "the main character" in this series.  In fact, some preview materials released just today reveal that Northstar has refused to re-join the newly returned Alpha Flight.  His boyfriend Kyle will be somehow mind-controlled into a giant mass of mind-controlled people, presumably to strike out against Alpha Flight by former Alpha Flight member, Kara Killgrave FKA Purple Girl FKA Persuasion (more on that later).  It's not entirely out of character for Northstar to fall out from the team.  He's always been a bit of an outsider and connected to the team mainly due to his relationship with his twin sister Aurora.  Then again, he's become much more of a team player in recent years since hooking up with the X-Men.  Maybe there's something about the all-new, all-old Alpha Flight team that rubs him the wrong way...

2. Alpha Flight leaders Guardian and Vindicator had a baby girl shortly before being killed by the Collective.  The couple will find themselves in the midst of a child custody fight over their young daughter.  And apparently, Mac and Heather have different ideas about how this should be accomplished, which will cause quite a lot of stress for Canada's premier super-couple.  It makes me wonder if she was adopted by somebody following their deaths.  What a sucky situation for all of these parents if that's the case.

3. Canada's going to go through an election and -- due to something sinister -- elects some fascist party into power.  It's a total coincidence, but I find it humorous that the real Canada just had a national election and ended up shaking up its political landscape by bringing the Conservative Party into power.  Now don't get me wrong.  I don't believe that Canada's Conservative Party is fascist.  It's just a major shift for both the real Canada and the Marvel Canada politically, which is really interesting.  I've learned through other sources that former Alpha Flight political foil Gary Cody was brought out of a mind-numbing coma and will now be Marvel Canada's new prime minister.

4. Canada will turn against Alpha Flight for some reason -- presumably due to nasty smearing by the Cody administration.  The government will launch a new team and it's first mission will be to take out Alpha Flight.  The Flight revealed that the team is called Alpha Strike.  He suggests that former Canadian black ops hero/Weapon P.R.I.M.E. leader Tigerstryke is a good candidate for this team and I think that Dredd is totally on the ball with that idea.  Tigerstryke wore a costume with electro-magnetic abilities, just like Guardian and Vindicator.  If those two were going to be replaced, Tigerstryke would be the one to replace them in theory.

5. I'm really curious about Marrina.  She is an amphibian alien who was a member of the team in its early years.  Outside of the recent "Chaos War" Alpha Flight special, I've never seen her on the team.  I've read her in Avengers as Namor the Sub-Mariner's meek-but-later-monstrous bride.  More recently, I've seen her manipulated into attacking Namor and the X-Men by the evil Norman Osborn and eventually killed by her husband.  But I've never seen her on the team.  Visually, she's always appeared fairly gentle-like (except when she's mutated into a giant sea beast, of course).  In the new series, Marrina appears to be going through some sort of "alien pride" phase.  She's all gothed out or something.  She's much less straight-laced, if nothing else.  She's the Alphan I know the least about and the one I really want to meet this time around.  Also, I've always pronounced her name as "Ma-ree-na".  They pronounced her name as "Mar-ih-na".  I guess you learn something new every day.

6. Lastly, and this isn't something I learned from the podcast, the before-mentioned Kara Killgrave has assumed a new code-name.  Kara is a purple girl with mind-control powers.  She's the illegitimate daughter of the Marvel villain Purple Man.  She joined the team under the code-name Purple Girl and I really like that name.  She later left the book for a while and returned with a new code-name, presumably changed to be less sexist: Persuasion.  I've always hated that code-name.  I've long advocated that Kara reclaim her old code-name.  They've kind of done both in this new series.  She's still not Purple Girl, but she's no longer Persuasion.  Kara is now Purple Woman.  Retro and yet new.  I really like this new code-name.

Anyway, check out the podcast when you get a chance and don't forget to purchase issue #.1 of Alpha Flight next week.  It promises to be a really fun and exciting title.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

I'm a Joke, Apparently

There's this blogger named Rob Turner who I've visited with by e-mail a few times in the past and whose blog I check in with every week or so.  He's a gay guy who married a woman and who struggles with Internet porn and with male underwear models from the JC Penny's catalog and with his masculinity and with his inability to connect socially with other guys.  I'm pretty sure that I first met him over on Andrew Marin's blog.  We chatted a bit by e-mail a few times.  He told me his story and then began trying to figure me out.  Eventually, he told me that he wanted to move to the next level and asked if I skype.  I told him that e-mail was my limit -- maybe Facebook.  That was the end of our interactions.

Tonight he posted a blog article titled "Vomit Duty", which connected his night of tending to his sick daughter with his unfulfilled desire to look at Internet porn.  He then flipped to two different gay male couples.  One couple is a pair of neighbors, the other is me and my husband Mark.  I guess we're jokes to this man and -- judging from the title of this article -- make him want to vomit:

Rob wasn't terribly rude about his neighbors in his blog article:
A month or so ago, I met two young gay men who are living in our 'hood at a picnic. I'd suspected that the homeowner might be gay, but seeing him with his partner on this day served to confirm. I took the opportunity to introduce myself to his lover in hopes of getting to know him better. I can't say that I'm a friend of the homeowner, but he and I have known each other for quite some time. Needless to say, his partner seemed skittish and uncomfortable at answering my queries. I wanted to lean in to him and whisper "It's okay. I'm gay too.", but I didn't.
No, he saved that for us. At least, I assume he saved that for us. He didn't mention us by name, but he wrote the following statement and linked it to the Daily Iowan article about gay parents, which featured us and a couple lesbian families:
Gay couples are a ridiculous sight. The older I get and the more entrenched I become in raising a family only serves to bolster this in me. I don't mind being polite. In fact, I am amazed at their courage to be seen out in public. Wow. What a joke. I mean, please.
Needless to say, I don't find Rob's behavior to be very polite.  Judging from his past interactions with me and the stuff that he writes about on his blog, it would not surprise me if the skittish gay neighbor was uncomfortable with Rob because of overly intrusive interactions.

I'm more than a little disgruntled right now as I've generally been polite towards Rob in the past and have always treated him respectfully even when he was trying to push my buttons.  Turns out, I'm just a joke to him.  Which is fine, I guess.  At least I know where I stand with him.

How Gay is a Sweet Smelling Jockstrap?

While sentencing a former school bus driver for four counts of fourth-degree sexual assault, Wisconsin judge Philip Kirk went into a rant about Delton Gorges' professed heterosexuality.  According to Kirk: "I think you were born gayer than a sweet smelling jock strap."

To his credit, I think Kirk meant well.  He noted that it was unlikely that the 71-year-old Gorges woke up one day a decade or so ago with a sudden interest in gay sex or young boys.  He told Gorges that he's a victim of homophobic societal norms from the 1940s and 50s, which prevented him from developing a healthy sexual ethic.  On the other hand, it seems odd that he would try to psychoanalyze this guy from the bench. Plus, he pretty much equated homosexuality with child molestation.

Which brings me back to my question, how gay is a sweet smelling jockstrap?

The world may never truly know...

Nero at Daycare -- 05/10/11

Looks like Nero's having a fun day.  The weather is getting warmer, which means that Lucky Pawz is pulling out the swimming pool to keep the dogs cool.  Which is fortunate for Nero, given that I was very late with getting his hair cut scheduled.  He'll have to deal the heat with his fuzzy face for another couple weeks.  Check it out:

Monday, May 9, 2011

Sojourners Rejects Pro-GLBT Ad; Angers Progressive Christians

Lesbian Moms & Son Seeking Church
Will the Church welcome them or turn them away?
I learned this morning of a Christian/pro-GLBT equality group called Believe Out Loud.  It created an advertisement encouraging Christian churches to welcome all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.  According to this article, this new ad campaign was to be launched this past Mother's Day weekend.  The reason?  Mother's Day heralds a renewed interest in motherhood and family and church attendance.  With this in mind, it's important to remember that it's not easy to try out new churches:
The video features that fateful, frightful walk down the church’s center aisle by a visiting family. How many of us can remember such a walk? This family unit, however, happens to include a young boy with two moms. After inhospitable stares and gestures from pew-sitters, the family is welcomed by the pastor. A familiar music track enhances the emotional impact. The video is a sweetly stated reminder that all should be welcomed in our churches. Its target audience is clergy and lay leaders who silently believe in LGBT equality but have yet to take steps to express this welcome publicly. Hence, the campaign calls on church leaders to “Believe Out Loud.”
Which, leads to the controversy. You knew there had to be a controversy, right?  Believe Out Loud intended to buy ad space for this new video (shown below) on the Sojourners website and newsletter.  Assuming you don't know, Sojourners prides itself on being one of the biggest progressive Christian groups out there.  They speak out about issues of corporate abuse and poverty and racial equality and religious equality and gender equality.  They take sides on pretty much any issue possible.  That is, they take sides on anything unless it has to do with GLBT equality.

Strangely, Rev. Jim Wallis of Sojourners seems to be channeling Network TV in his written explanation for rejecting the Believe Out Loud advertisement.  CBS and most other network channels refused to air similar ads back in 2004.  The United Church of Christ launched its "God is Still Speaking" campaign.  Its "Bouncer" ad featured church bouncers who refused to allow a gay couple and a few other undesirables past the velvet rope and into the church.  CBS claimed that it didn't allow "advocacy advertising" and refused to air anything that promoted gay marriage.  After all, President Bush didn't like it so the networks wouldn't allow it.  Ironically, the "Bouncer" ad failed to feature any gay weddings or rings or wedding vows or anything else that actually hinted at marriage outside of two guys coming to church together.  They were just coming to church and getting the cold shoulder.  Which was kind of the same plot as the Believe Out Loud ad:

Ironically, Sojourners Wallis makes the following statement in his explanation: "We have taken this opportunity to affirm our commitment to civil rights for gay and lesbian people, and to the call of churches to be loving and welcoming to all people, and promote good and healthy dialogue."  Which was kind of the purpose of the Believe Out Loud ad.

Despite its progressive reputation, Sojourners also sports a tepid reputation when it comes to GLBT issues.  It speaks out against bullying and killing gay people -- which really should be a no-brainer for any Christian organization -- but it refuses to take a stand on some of the more meatier issues affecting us.  Sojourners officially has no opinion when it comes to gay families.  It officially has no opinion when it comes to queer people being ordained.  So while SoJo thinks that churches should love and welcome GLBT people, it also apparently believes that churches should love and welcome GLBT people except when they actually enter the church.

Anyway, it is really interesting to read the comments on both the "Religion Dispatch" article that relayed the ad rejection, as well as (and especially) Wallis' letter of explanation on the SoJo website.  Almost nobody agrees with SoJo's rejection of the ad or with its explanation.  Especially on the SoJo page.  And we're not talking about no-name commenters and bloggers like me.  We are talking about people like Jay Bakker and Susan Thistlethwaite.  Most find the ad's rejection and the resulting explanation disappointing and contrary to Sojourners' mission.

Wallis sought dialogue and he received it.  I'm just not sure if it was the type of dialogue that he was seeking.  Hopefully, he will listen to his readers' responses and prayerfully consider Sojourners' potential future response to similar ad buys.

Michigan House Approves Penalty for State Colleges that Offer Domestic Partnership Benefits

Assuming the following Michigan House-approved bill becomes law, any state college or university that offers domestic partnership benefits will have their state funding cut by 5%.  According to the Michigan Messenger, GOP House Rep. Dave Agema successfully introduced the amendment to the pending education bill:
Shortly after 8 p.m. Thursday night, State Rep. Dave Agema (R-Greenville) posted the following status update to his Facebook page announcing the amendment: "I had an amendment put into the education budget that takes 5% away from colleges that give same sex/unmarried benefits and places up to $60 million of that into the MPSRS K-12 budget if colleges do not stop skirting the law and the will of the people. Colleges can’t say they are short of money when they skirt the law and give such benefits. The Dems didn’t like this – it passed."
The bill needs to go to a conference committee to have this bill and the Senate's bill consolidated before receiving up and down votes in both chambers and heading to Michigan's governor to get signed into law.

Equality Michigan director Emily Dievendorf issued the following reaction:
"Representative Agema has used creative accounting to force Michigan’s colleges and universities to deny their employees’ families access to good health. Our institutions of higher learning could now suffer a five percent penalty for operating in a responsible and forward thinking way toward the very individuals that work hard to make our students successful and prepared for the world economy... Rep. Agema’s amendment is a thinly veiled expression of personal ideology and not a reflection of what is best for the families he represents. This is exactly why no Michigander should lose interest when their legislator starts talking dollars. We are reminded today that budget negotiations can result in less food on the table and basic and essential rights being stripped away.”
Michigan's legislature has been working hard since 2004 to prevent gay state employees from offering health benefits to their domestic partners.  The benefits were originally struck down by the Michigan Supreme Court since they were not being offered to the unmarried partners of heterosexual state employees.  As a result, new DP recipient criteria were established to broaden eligibility.

Personally, I'm all in favor of eliminating domestic partnership relationship.  Then again, I believe this because I am a firm supporter of marriage for both hetero- and homosexual couples.  Michigan is one of those states that outlaws married gay families, so domestic partnerships are the only way to provide similar (yet unequally taxed) family health benefits to gay families in that state.  It's just another spiteful and partisan effort by conservatives to strike out against our families.  I'll be curious what becomes of this malicious piece of legislation.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Repost: Mother's Day When You Have No Mother

Last May, I wrote this blog article about D'Angelo, his first post-TPR Mother's Day, and why we kind of keep to ourselves on this day.  I thought I'd repost it today for Mother's Day 2011:


Mark and I exercised a lapse in judgement a few years ago this weekend when we decided to go to church with our boy. The parental rights had recently been terminated between D'Angelo and his birth parents. He was still our foster child and we were gradually working towards adopting him. It didn't occur to either of us that we should avoid church on Mother's Day weekend. In retrospect, that should have been a big "Duh".

The kids were all called to the front of the sanctuary for the weekly "time with the children" moment. The children messager started out by reading a sappy Mother's Day story for kids and relaying fond memories of her life with her mother. She then asked each of the kids to share their Mother's Day plans for that day. It wasn't until she asked a shell-shocked D'Angelo to start off the discussion that she remembered what was going on in his life. To be honest, if I were in her shoes, I don't know how I would've reacted if I'd realized that I'd asked a freshly TPR'ed kid about what special things he was going to do with his mom. What happened was the woman panicked a bit. She began to babble and awkwardly shifted the discussion to past Mother's Day experiences, which didn't help. D' just shut down. She could tell. We could tell. Everyone in the room could tell. It was very sad and uncomfortable. Mark ended up leaving in the middle of church service with D' so that he could more privately grieve.

Later in the day, Mark and I decided that we would stay away from church every Mother's Day weekend from that day forward. It is unrealistic to ask our church family to refrain from acknowledging the role that motherhood has played in their lives, but it's also not fair to D'Angelo to force him to celebrate something that still reminds him of loss and grief.

Adoption can be a marvelous thing. It creates families for those who have none. But most adoptive parents intuitively realize that our gain comes from others' loss. We couldn't adopt our boys without them first losing their birth parents. We can never erase their past, nor should we want to, of their birth family. D' will always wonder about his birth parents. Are they safe? Are they alive? Do they think about him? What would life be like if he had stayed with them?

Mark and I have often told D' that we cannot (and will not) ever replace his birth parents. They will always be with him, in one form or another. We are his parents, but so are they. He want him to be able to talk about them, to remember them, and to keep them alive in his memories. We will not force him to make them into his dirty secret.

Anyway, we decided three years ago that we will create our own Mother's Day ritual. We sleep in. We call the grandmothers. We go to IHOP for brunch. We see a movie. And we invite D' to share stories of his mom if and when the moment strikes him. And those moments will come at his beckoning and on his terms. And that's a good thing.

2011 POST-NOTE: Since this piece was originally written, D' has been reunited with both of his birth parents.  He's seen his birth dad a few times during the past year and he's spoken to his mom a couple times on the phone, which has been good for answering some of the questions listed in Paragraph #4 -- even if D' doesn't always like the answers.  At least, he has had the opportunity to ask those questions now.  We still plan on skipping church this morning and we still plan on waiting in line for brunch at the IHOP.