Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Our network TV debut

(above) Anna's first acting contract and the filming at Tom and Dennis' house.

A post from my Live Journal from a while ago that I thought was worth sharing as the show we are in is now in repeats on FX.

Last fall, we were invited to a BBQ for LGBT parents hosted by our friends Tom and Dennis. They are the adoptive parents of five boys and were part of Morgan Spurlock’s “30 Days” show. They hosted a woman who was against LGBT adoption (and LGBT parenting in general) for the 30 days and this BBQ was put on by the show’s producers to expose her to as many families as possible. We were interviewed for the show, as the woman had a pretty strong feeling for girls being raised by men.
We talked for quite awhile, but in the end, we didn’t make the final cut of the show. There are however, two segments that show us as a family and an adorable moment with Anna playing on Tom and Dennis’ deck. You can also see Martin Contreras, one of the owners of the great aut/Bar in Ann Arbor as well as tons of other cute kids. We were bummed that Morgan wasn’t in attendance (he was on the Reservation during the filming) which is probably good, as many of you know that I think he’s pretty hot.


You can watch the episode here:

Monday, July 27, 2009

Artist and new Dad

While all this family stuff has been going on, I also managed to score a spot in a group show in Ann Arbor during the annual insanity known as Art Fair. This is my second showing at the Gallery Project and I am very happy with the response the piece has been getting from not only the owners and curators, but from the public as well.
Initially, I was going to submit a mixed media piece from my home for the show “Shrines and Altars” seeing as I have so much religious artwork around the house. I have a very small Marian Shrine and they were interested in showing it as part of the exhibit. But one of the owners told me that they already had too much personal stuff and challenged me to go beyond that with my submission. After some discussion with Tod and a tattoo artist, we came up with the idea to cover a model with cross tattoos.
I asked one of my students if he would model, and he agreed.

My artist’s statement is here:
Artist Statement for Corpus Christi

I am a closet Catholic; I will freely admit that fact. I grew up in a very plain and ordinary Congregational church with little decoration or art in the sanctuary. The artwork that the church did have was relegated to the narthex or the hallways of the building. The only time the church ever swayed from this blandness was during the Christmas season when two simple trees were put on the altar and adorned with plain white lights and ornaments.
My Catholic friends were lucky to go to church in spectacular buildings full or art and statuary with windows that resembled kaleidoscopes straight from the hand of God himself. I was jealous of the Hollywood nature of their churches and would sneak off to services with them on the holidays after my mandatory Protestant services were obliged.
We had a hand-me-down crèche from my family in our narthex, the cathedral’s crèche was life sized and they had a tree that soared to the frescoed ceiling. They had a cross with a carved and polychromed figure of Christ hanging from it; we had a simple wooden cross back lit with bad lighting.
I began collecting religious art and statuary after I received a print of Mary and the Christ child from my Mother. It was my grandmother’s print and I cherish it as I never had a chance to meet her as she died before I was born. The other pieces began to accumulate after we moved into our current home, right next to a church. People assume that we are the parsonage for the church due to our location and we have had many people stop by asking for help and wondering about services. I set up a Marian Shrine in the corner of our home’s foyer. It faces the church and is adjacent to a mural depicting the tree of life.

The photo “Corpus Christi” is a collaborative piece between myself and tattoo artist Adam Shrewsbury. The idea was to play with the concept of the body as a temple or shrine came to me in a conversation with him and my partner as he was being tattooed. The bible prohibits tattooing in the book of Leviticus. The Old Testament law commanded the Israelites, “Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the LORD” (Leviticus 19:28). But one has to wonder if God would approve of tattoos with a religious theme or image. The idea to cover the person with the images of the crosses came after much discussion and debate. Adam’s website has this to say about his philosophy and art:
AP Shrewsbury is a tattooer and a seeker. He has been tattooing professionally for 5 years and painting for several more. He enjoys tattooing in a traditional American style that is characterized by simple design, bold line work, a limited color palette and an appreciable amount of black. He is a seeker of the secrets of the universe. Working tirelessly to lift the veil from the great mystery that we all help to create. His paintings and tattoos are often unified with common themes that deal with non duality, death, transcendentalism, mysticism, esoteric wisdom and hermetics. Each creative endeavor is crafted and imbued with as much spirit as one is able to summon.

At best, tattooing is a medium for the indelible expression of deep personal truths. Although our perception and relationship to these truths may change over time, a well designed and applied mark will remain relatively consistent. We live in a world permeated by symbols, most accepting the culturally provided meaning associated with a given symbol. Tattooing is unique in that it offers each of us the opportunity to establish a personal symbolic vocabulary. The act of doing so is inherently self empowering.

You can read more and see examples of his work on his website at http://apshrewsbury.com/home.html
You can read about the Gallery Project here:

It was a pleasure and an honor to collaborate with him and our model Don in the creation of this piece.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Fatherhood Friday post: A different kind of delivery

My distinct lack of posting is due to the fact that Elijah is now living with us full time. Or, as Anna likes to say, “He’s here in his forever home!” It came rather quickly, and I will admit that I really wasn’t ready for the change. We had been told that this would take awhile, and we were estimating that it would be some time in August. But just as we were packing up the car to go camping, we got a call from the social worker asking us to come to Lansing STAT! to sign some papers for consent/placement the following week.


We threw everything in the Kia and headed north instead of west to camp. Anna and I sat in the parking lot of the agency and listened to music while Tod went in and signed for Elijah’s placement. We hadn’t really talked about when he would come, a definite benefit to adoption, as you can often pick when you child will arrive. “um, Tuesday’s just not good for us, can we make it Wednesday?”

We had some idea as to when the transition was to take place: either the following Tuesday or Wednesday, we just needed to finalize with the foster family to make sure. My mind was whirling as we finally headed west to drop Anna off at Tod’s folk’s house and then head off to camp. This is the final stretch of the spring/summer semester, and to leave now would be disaster for both me and the students. I also really wanted to be home when Elijah came to stay with us. I wasn’t going to pass out cigars or anything, but I felt that this was a pretty important milestone in his little life. Thankfully, he has had a lot of stability with his foster family, and I wanted to be there to present a strong face/strong family when he was “delivered” to our house for the last time.

And speaking of, I asked the foster Mom if we needed to come up to get him and she said, “No, I like to deliver my kids. They’ve had a rough start, and I want them to know that I didn’t just disappear, but I brought them to their new home to start anew.” This family is amazing, and we are blessed to have them as part of Eli’s life, in the past, the present, and we hope, in the future. Their refrigerator is covered with pictures of foster kids through the years. Class pictures, sports pictures, prom pictures, they’re all there. A patchwork of kids from all walks of life have transitioned with Lou Ann and Roger over the years, more than forty they estimate.

So on Wednesday morning, they showed up and brought Eli with a few shopping bags full of clothes, books, and toys. He lit up when he saw us and immediately grabbed for Tod. I could see that Lou Ann was fragile with her emotions, so I offered coffee and some donuts. She said no, and said that they had to get going. We snapped a few pictures and then the good byes started. Anna and I had gone to Cracker Barrel to get them a gift card earlier that morning as a small token of our appreciation for all they had done. They love that place, so we figured we’d get them something they would actually use. I slipped the card and a note into her hand and warned her that it was a pretty emotional note so they might want to wait. She wiped her eyes and agreed. Here’s a little snippet from the letter:

Dear Lou Ann and Roger,

Words can’t describe our feelings today; it’s a day much like the day we brought Anna home from the hospital in Toledo. With our joy comes some pain, and we can’t move on without acknowledging that. The day we stepped out of the lobby at St. Ann’s Hospital was a day we will never forget, a day that was wrapped in the joy of the family that we were about to start, and the sorrow of a young girl who was unable to raise the child she gave birth to. We are forever in your debt for getting Elijah off to a great start in his young life and will continue to nurture the relationship you all have with this great kid. We know that the past few months have been an exciting and emotional rollercoaster for us all, and we are glad to have worked with a couple so dedicated and concerned about the well being of these kids.
You two are an amazing couple, and do a job that is much needed in this crazy world of ours. We are honored to have you in our lives and are blessed knowing that Eli had you when he needed you most.

Much love,

We all got a little teary as she and Roger said their final good byes to Eli, but as we waved to them driving away, a sense of happiness came over the house. We were parents again. We weren’t in a delivery room, we weren’t at a hospital exhausted from sleeping on waiting room chairs, we were on our front porch and we were somewhat tan, rested and ready to go. I can regale folks with my tales of Anna’s birth and how I cut the cord and helped coach her birth mom during the delivery, but I can also talk about how nice it was to have Eli join our home on a muggy July morning, delivered not by a doctor or midwife, but by two of the nicest people you’ll ever meet.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Is this the little girl I carried?

Sunrise, sunset
Sunrise, sunset
Swiftly flow the days
Seedlings turn overnight to sunflowers
Blossoming even as we gaze

Sunrise, sunset
Sunrise, sunset
Swiftly fly the years
One season following another
Laden with happiness and tears

We have been going to Family Week in Saugatuck, MI since Anna was born (see previous post for details). This year we headed west with both Anna and Eli and took in what we could of the week with our limited time with Eli and my summer teaching schedule. We packed up and left on Sunday morning and met up with our friends Eric and Kent and their lovely daughter Lauren. We shared a house with them and did what we could with the week’s activities. I love Family Week and consider it our family vacation each year, but I will admit that they are rather older kid focused. Those of us with younger kids are kind of left standing by the sidelines watching it all take place between naps and meltdowns. But I am not one to bitch about stuff like this, so I won’t. We had a great few days there and did some great things with all the kids and the Family Week crew as well. Our annual tradition is to take a picture of Anna at the Dunes Resort each year. They have a rainbow assortment of Adirondack chairs on their massive front porch (that we love and hope that they will never remove). I snapped a picture of the chairs sans child the year before Anna was born (after an afternoon of sun and cocktails) and the MEA (Michigan Education Association) bought it for their annual purchase prize. Damn. I guess I need to hang out at the pool more! You'll notice that in the first picture, Anna is wearing a shirt with that image on the front thanks to Tod!

For those of you who aren’t our Flickr friends, I thought I would share the pictures of Anna as she has grown through the years, including this year with her new little brother Eli. I will admit, as I was downloading these images, I got a little choked up as each year showed up.
I am a big softy, I will admit it. And as my family grows, my soft spot for shit like this will only grow bigger.

Year two...
Year three

And this year...

Friday, July 10, 2009

Fatherhood Friday post: Getting ready to hit the road

The waiting continues both here and in Ohio. News from my brother is that the bio Dad is contesting paternity, so they have to wait until the end of August for a court date to settle all this. Until then, Olivia waits in foster care and they continue to drive to visit her until the final placement. This is all very strange considering the bio Mom has signed off already. While I am all for Father’s rights, this seems to be a lost cause as he is currently homeless and has several other issues that would send the child back to foster care should he attempt to parent in the first place. In the mean time, important bonding time is clicking by because this ass can’t get his shit together.
With us, the visits are getting longer and Elijah is getting into the rhythm of life with us and his new big sister. The baby gates are back up and we have his room set up and stocked with diapers/wipes and some of the goodies we saved from Anna’s early years. Anna’s first pair of black Chuck Taylor’s hung next to my desk after she outgrew them but now they are back in the drawer in Eli’s room ready for that first hipster Dad/Son moment.
We’re soon off to Rainbow Families Great Lakes annual Family Week in Saugatuck, MI. The first year we went, Anna was eight months old, and we felt a little lost, as we didn’t know then ins and outs of this event. We stayed in a hotel in Holland, MI and drove the 40 minute drive each day to the events, getting naps in for Anna when we could. Now that we are veterans, we’ve rented condos and homes and this year we are sharing a house with two Dads and their daughter for the short time we’ll be there. The week is full of activities and chances to get to know some other LGBT Families. Last year was the first year that both of our parents came in. There was a magical yet stressful 36 hour period when our house was brimming with eight adults and two kids.
Crazy but fun. The first year we went had Tod’s Kia packed to the brim with stuff just for one kid. We totally over packed, and I was beat before we even hit the highway. I called my parents and thanked them for all the great trips we took as kids. I now have a greater appreciation for their efforts and am very grateful.
Evenings at Family Week are spent on the beach drinking wine and watching the sun set into the west over Lake Michigan while the kids play in the sand. It’s usually too cold to swim, but there are some brave ones who will attempt the icy water at dusk. Most of us are content to sit and chill after a day playing in the sun. We’re excited to have Elijah joining us this year, and can’t wait to introduce him to all his new Family Week friends.
You can read more about Rainbow Families here:

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Tentative families

Tentative Families: starting a family through adoption.

As you can see by my distinct lack of posts, we have been pretty busy over the past few weeks. Since our first visit with Elijah, we have been spending more and more time with him and his foster parents while the wheels of bureaucracy slowly turn towards his permanent placement with us, or, as Anna likes to say, his “forever family.” And, to make life even more exciting, my brother and sister in law are doing the same thing with their adoptive child. They may actually have placement before we do, as their court date is this week, so Anna and Elijah will have a new cousin to play with soon. But in the mean time we wait.

Just as we are doing with Eli, my brother and sister in law have to do the same thing with Olivia. She is in foster care to the south of them in Ohio and they visit her regularly. This tentativeness that comes with adoption is something that scares a lot of prospective parents off of the process of family by adoption.

The not knowing, the uncertainty, or the devastating outcome of a birthparent changing their mind were all things that we discussed over a family dinner with my brother as we both began this journey around the same time a few years ago.

My sister in law was very worried about bonding with a child and then losing it after the birth mom changed their mind. And, indeed this did happen to them back in November. I was thrilled to have Obama as a president, but the passing of Proposition 8 in California (and our legal marriage brought into question) and the news that I was no longer an uncle cast a cloud of depression over our family.

There are many uncertainties associated with adoption, private or through foster care, and we were ready to face them. Anna was finally our child on June 6, 2006 (yes that would be 6/6/6 for those who weren’t paying attention), but Anna wasn’t officially mine for another three and half months. That muggy day in September when Tod and I (both) finally became her legal parents was a day that I will always remember. I cried, I sobbed, I gulped for air, and I finally felt like I couldbreathe and she was mine, and no one could change that. If you're in a non-opposite marriage (thanks Former Miss California!) you don't have to worry about this shit. But if you're in a same sex marriage,you better worry. You betcha.

But with Elijah, my level of concern isn’t as high, as we know that this will take some time and that we are dealing with multiple agencies at the state level. So we soldier on and deal with the late night deliveries to the foster parent’s home to the north, because we know that eventually he well be here with us forever.

And we can’t wait.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Thing one and Thing two

Our first mini road trip to Ann Arbor to drop off my artwork at the Gallery Project.
They got along fine in the back, no major problems to report.

This will make the trek to Saugatuck next week much more interesting.