Thursday, March 26, 2009

Anna in Wonderland

So why did I become a teacher? That’s a question that has been asked many times, both by my friends and family and by my own mind when the days just don’t seem to work. There is an identified movement call GRUPS, or grown ups who refuse to grow up. You can find a pretty entertaining article here:

This article talks about people holding on to what was dear to them in childhood or adolescence and bringing it with them to their adulthood. The foregoing of penny loafers for their worn out Chuck Taylors, or the collecting of graphic novels (read = comics) and their love of collectible figurines (read = expensive toys). We have several friends who have decided to use this hobby and refusal to grow up as a way to decorate. It’s as if Tom Hank’s character in “BIG” actually got an apartment and never turned on HGTV.

So let’s get back to my decision to teach. I love the element of play. I love the element of fantasy, and I love to be able to share that on a regular basis. I have accepted growing up, and even though I didn’t own a suit until I was over 40, I can adapt and acculturate to the big scary adult world of responsibilities and mortgages. Teaching, especially teaching art allows me the chance to jump back into all that was wonderful about my childhood and adolescence. The world of art is an illusion, brought to our attention by the various artists we study and mimic, and it’s a wonderful world for sure. I tend to skip over the Realists when we reach that part of the text and instead focus on the advent of photography. Sure, the Realists have their place in the art canon, but it’s the stuff done by the early photographers that really blows me away.

One of first people to use photography as a way to tell stories and involve fantasy was Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, known to the world as Lewis Carroll, the author of “Alice in Wonderland” and the father of nonsensicle literature. Dodgson’s images, in some minds controversial in nature, all presented a world of enchantment and delight. A rocking horse becomes a gallant steed for a young knight with a paper hat and an animal skin rug becomes a ferocious dragon menacing a young princess.

Lewis’ book also inspired one of my most beloved piece of art, the Alice Sculpture in Central Park in New York City. I remember watching Sesame Street as a young child and recall seeing Big Bird and his minions frolocking around the artwork. I also remember being blown away by the fact that you could actually climb on the piece and not be yelled at by some grouchy guard or parent. As I grew up, and began taking yearly trips to NYC, the Alice sculpture was tops of my list for “must see” attractions. For most of my life, I had seen art that invited you to passively look at it and marvel in its arty-ness. The Toledo Museum of Art has a great Henry Moore sculpture made of bronze that looks like a giant, mis-shapen potatoe. The shape is open and hollow, a tube of sorts, with a few portholes dotting its surface. The piece used to be near the basement entrance, and I recall my brother diving into the piece to crawl around its interior. A guard came and tsk tsk’d us and sent us on our way. But the Alice sculpture is different. You can climb as high as you want, perching and resting against your favorite character to relax in the sun. The surface of the sculpture gleams in the sunlight, even though it is exposed to the elements 24/7. The countless number of visitors each day polish and buff the work and keep it looking brand new.

And just like my chosen career, there are those who question me as to why I became a parent. Why did you decide at 40 something to do this? Was it a mid life crisis? What are you trying to prove? So why did I become a parent? For the same reason I went into teaching. I have much to share in my life. My love, my humor, my abilitiy to cook, my flawless taste in music. So why not share it with my own child? I was already hooked on SpongeBob and other cartoons, why not watch them with someone who might not get all the jokes but still laughs anyway? Why not stop my cable news addiction for something that really matters like a good ol’ cat whooping on Tom and Jerry. Why not step away from Rachael Ray and mellow out with a simple Little Bear toon on Noggin.

Being a parent allows me the chance to play and to have fun with my child. I can run around the park with Anna and roll down the small hill and no one would bat an eye. Do it on my own, and 911 would be called. I can sled with her down the big hills at Ella Sharp Park and drive by the kids sledding down the REALLY big hills at the Cascades and I can tell her that next year we’ll be big enough to do that. I can reread my favorite books as a child with fresh eyes and ask the eternal toddler question of “Why?” with each passing page. I can get excited about Christmas again and rediscover the magic that had passed. I can tell silly stories and perpetuate truths that only a child would believe (the menace of the freeway monkeys, better lock your doors of they’ll climb in the car and tickle you) and stuff like that.

Am I trapped in childhood? Maybe, but only my therapist would know that for sure. I do know that I am happily imprisoned in a world of fantasy and silliness and that my daughter loves being there with me. As we head to NYC this week for spring break, I will hold my breath with anticipation as we enter the east side of Central Park off of 74th street and we head towards the most awesome tea party in the world.

Miss Alice, please meet Miss Anna.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The book is a year older than me, and I can’t wait for it to come to the big screen. I don’t remember this book as a kid, but I am certain that it was read to me. I remember totally falling for it in high school when a friend of mine brought it in as her favorite book.
It’s only ten paragraphs long, but it’s a powerhouse of a story.
Anna loves it, and doesn’t seem to be scared of the wild things as many children are. We will get to the part where Max decrees that the wild rumpus should start... Anna will say "rumpus, rumpus, rumpus!" as we look at the pages illustrating the beasts and Max doing just that.

I found this online while putting this entry together and it made me laugh out loud.
In the book The Art of Maurice Sendak the following is noted in a conversation between a mother and the author:
Mother: “Every time I read the book to my daughter, she screams.”
Sendak: “Then why did you continue reading it to her when she does not like it?”
Mother: “She ought to, it’s a Caldecott book.”
Sendak mentioned that he thought that was ridiculous and “if a child does not like a book, throw it in the trash.”

So, Spike Jonze, we can’t wait to see what you can do. October can’t come quick enough.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Detroit ART City, The Heidelberg Project

I mentioned this on Facebook a few weeks ago, and forgot to follow up. I was quite honored to be selected to present at a symposium with the creator of the Heidelberg Project in Detroit, MI. Tyree Guyton. Mr. Guyton was the keynote, and another artist/educator and I were also on the docket. Needless to say, this was a pretty big boost to my resume and will look great in my future portfolios. Tyree was an engaging and animated speaker; it was a tough act to follow. He is also VERY handsome by the way.

Some of you have made comments and wondered what my job was like. For the most part, my job is wonderful. I get to do some crazy fun stuff under the name of work. So without further ado, here is the pic of me in action.

A note about the tie: It was my Dad’s, he wore it with pride in the seventies. It’s funky and colorful, just like the Heidelberg Project, which by the way, Miss Anna and a friend are going to go and check out in person tomorrow.
For more info on the art, check out its site:

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

An Open Letter to Bristol Palin and Levi Johnston

An open letter to Bristol Palin and Levi Johnston,

After reading this:

As the poster children for the Republican Religious Right, I can’t believe that you have actually called your engagement and future wedding off. And, I can’t even imagine you going against what your Mom and her cronies in the Republican Party so adamantly defend: the sanctity of marriage and the belief that a kid needs a Mom and a Dad to flourish.
So let’s break this down:
1. You got pregnant outside of marriage. I love the fact that you have come out against abstinence only programs. Can you do us all a favor sit down with your Mom and have a big girl conversation with her about how kids are having sex? She needs to know. Alaska is a lot like the Upper Peninsula here in Michigan. There’s not much to do except drink, snow mobile and have sex. That would explain all the F.A.S. and closed head injuries. So the sooner your Mom realizes this, the sooner you can watch the underage pregnancy rate drop in Alaska.

2. You and Levi at least have the option to get married. So yeah, fuck you for breaking it off. We have gone to great lengths (both financially and emotionally) to make sure that our daughter is taken care of since we can’t legally get married. Oh sure we heard that you think Levi is nothing but “white trash” but you should have thought about that before you decided to spread your legs and have unprotected sex with him. Now poor Tripp is going to grow up knowing his Dad as nothing more than a sperm donor and “good time” that you had back in 08. You’ll probably remarry down the road and Tripp will be stuck seeing Levi on holidays.
And, as a side note: Levi is pretty hot. Do you honestly think you’re going to be able score that kind of man candy with a kid on your arm? Oh sure, they may come up and talk to you at the mall when you’re hanging outside Baby Gap with Tripp in the stroller, but they know you are used merchandise and come with baggage. The smart ones will move on.

3. And we hear that you aren’t letting Tripp see his Dad anymore. Levi, to his defense, wants to be a hands on Dad, kind of like he wanted to be a hands on boyfriend with you, but you’re being a baby block and not letting him do what he has to do. Be a father. So yeah, let us know when you all decide to go on Maury, it will be a hoot.

4. You aren’t going to school? Oooo, kids are hard. Between diapers, day time t.v. and your MySpace and Facebook accounts, you’re probably too busy to study. You should have thought about that before you decided to let Levi fuck you and make this little ACT-breaker. Perhaps if you would have paid attention in health class this might not be an issue.
5. And we hear that Levi quit his job that your Mom helped him score on the oil field too. Who is going to help pay for this kid? You’re not really employable right now. Your Mom is kind of a lame duck, and your Dad, even though he is smokin’ hot, he doesn’t seem to be the one who is actually bringing home the bacon if ya know what I mean. Snow machines are cool, but they don’t pay the bills. So it seems that you are going to have to rely on some kind of government assistance or a big allowance from the folks to keep this kid in diapers and food. After all, he doesn’t have the RNC around to buy him designer baby clothes like Grandma Sarah did.

So let me repeat. Fuck you.

Am I angry? You betcha.

Am I wrongly directing my anger at a child pawn on the Republican Publicity Machine?
No way baby.
Your Mom and the rest of her ilk trotted you out for the world to ogle over at the convention. You were almost as big as she was, but that was just lil’ Tripp growing inside of you. You were to be the Republican version of JFK Jr and Amy Carter rolled up with a heapin’ helpin’ of good old fashioned GOP values. At this point, the Bush Twins were pretty much D.O.A. and Meghan McCain? Don’t get me started. You had a chance to make a life and start a family with your son, but instead you decided to toss everything that I hold near and dear to my heart into the trash because Levi forgot to use a condom.

Why am I pissed? Because all the reasons your Mom’s party uses to defend marriage and keep LGBT folk from adopting you have embraced and made your own. Your Mom’s party is about defending the sanctity of marriage and here you are calling it off because the guy who fathered your child is now not good enough for you. Your Mom’s party also thinks that kids should have a stable, typical family unit of a Mom and a Dad in their defense for legislation against LGBT adoption. Tell me again how you are going to handle visitations with Tripp and Levi the sperm donor?

You have pretty much ruined any kind of normalcy for Tripp; you’ve botched what could have been a good family. Oh sure, things are hard when you’re young, but you should have known that, after all, the abstinence only programs that the GOP and your Mom are promoting tell you all the things that can go wrong when you fuck without protection. And let’s not forget, the school part: I hope you aren’t going to wait and try and come back to school when you’re a pseudo-MILF like your Mom. Let me tell ya, Cougars and Community Colleges can be a great match, but you better keep your figure and your Hot Topic charge card in shape until then.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Memo to Daddy & Papa

The poorly named Parents Magazine had a full page article called "Memo to Mommy."
We got a free subscription when Anna was born, and we stuck with it as it was cheap and every once in awhile they will provide some good information or recipes. The magazine is otherwise a joke as it tends to focus on MOMS only… men are dragged out in June for Father’s Day and then tucked away for the rest of the year. One issue had full bodied pics of the Moms, but the Dads were actually headless in the photo shoot.

The magazine should be renamed Female Parent, and not Parents.

The editorial board apparently thinks its okay to present Dads as an absent class as their articles and photos. I have discussed this on several parenting blogs and forums and everyone agrees with my observation. But, the article by Mary Mohler in the September 2008 issue hung on our fridge with Mommy crossed out and Daddy & Papa scribbled in over the gyno-focused title. Mohler’s article offered a few chestnuts of wisdom, much of what we already knew. Some of them took some readjustment:

1. Stop freaking out about the mess!
As I tend to be a pretty neat person and have a manic dislike for clutter. As I type, I am sitting in the attic surrounded by the three days worth of playtime with Anna. Puzzle pieces and doll clothes are tossed about, as well as several other ankle breaking toys.
I have learned to sigh, shake my head and walk on.

2. Let me do it!
I read this and a mental image of Stuart from Mad TV pops up in my head. Sure, it’s easy to try and enforce, but when you’re trying to get out the door in the morning, sometimes you just have to do it yourself. But, when you calm down and realize that much of a toddler’s life is a teachable moment, you have to let them do their will, even if it means you’ll be late.

Some of them were obvious:
3. Don’t let me think you’re perfect
Uh, that’s an easy one Mary, please, if a kid has eyes, they will know that their parents are far from perfect. We just need to remember that we are ALWAYS on stage and being studied intently by our little charged.
4. Love me, even when I am naughty. I will only be this age once.
It seems that just a few moments ago I woke up and was a father. Now I am enrolling her in preschool and fretting about how to pay for her schooling. I have to shake my head each day, as she grows and grows and is quickly becoming a young girl headed towards school. I recently found out that one of my former students killed herself this past weekend. Her Moms did a great job at her funeral, true heroes in my book. But they stressed that time is indeed a gift.

And the last one that I would like to focus on is:
5. Keep your promises. It’s about trust. When I am a teenager, you’ll understand why it is important.
Everything Tod and I say to Anna is a promise. She will hear much in her life, but the words from a parent are always the words that mean the most, especially when the child is her age. Tod and I endeavor to keep our promises, but sometimes we say things just to get out the door. As our daycare provider states “Whatever it takes!” is sometimes the route to go when your kid wants to wear their Princess outfit to the store, or is refusing to put on their boots, etc.
I will always stand behind my words, but sometimes life gets in the way. “Can we go to the park today?” “Oh sure honey… after work.” But then the day goes south, plans get derailed and the last thing you want to do is go to a park (or library, store, etc)… but how do you break a promise?

It’s not easy.

But one promise I made and I take very seriously. Some people are parents by accident, others, such as Tod and I had to go quite far to make parenthood a reality. I will always be Anna Laura’s parent, as I promised the court, and I will always do my best to work to that end and provide for her the best I can. I will be there to listen, I will be there to play, I will be there to talk, I will be there to read stories, I will be there to hold her hand when she’s scared, I will be there to kiss her goodnight, and most of all, I will be the bestest Papa she ever has.

Promises are for keeping.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Prop 8 hearings today

This past summer we flew to California to do what we couldn’t do here in Michigan. While some in our circle felt is was unnecessary, we decided to do it anyway. We got married, LEGALLY.
A lot of our family and friends view our commitment ceremony back in 2001 as our wedding, and indeed, that was a defining moment for us as a couple. However, it wasn’t legal. Oh sure, we can wax poetic about how marriage is just in your heart and if you want it to be then it is bullshit. But the fact of the matter is marriage has gone from a societal issue to a governmental issue. Many in the LGBT community are upset that all this time and attention is being tossed at Gay Marriage. They feel that there are bigger fish to fry (see the link at the top of this article).
But we have a child together, we have a home together, we have a family together, and we hope that the California Supreme Court will stand by our right to maintain all those together as a legally married couple.

Time will tell. Three hours of hearings today, and then they have 90 days to rule.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Mom Edit

From my Mom...

Tom,Reading through your blog ie: the section re your adoption, I think you should replace the picture taken of the judge, Monica, Tod, Anna & you c the picture I hopefully sent. Anna is looking @ the judge-"are we done yet??!!". MOM

So, here is the new pic, COMING SOON!