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Friday, October 30, 2009

Halloween


Been a rough few weeks as mentioned in the last posting. Life is coming around and we’re moving forward. Expect an update on aforementioned stuff, but in the meantime, enjoy this seasonal posting. I took this from my old and dear (although he is NOT old, but is indeed a dear) friend Michael at Spo Reflections.

Please to enjoy and add your own responses. And yes, that is me as the witch.

1. What is your favorite written work of horror fiction?
It would have to be “Salem’s Lot” by Stephen King. It caused me to carry a crucifix with me whereever I went when I was in 8th grade. I remember reading that book in full day light and still being freaked the fuck out by what I read.
2. What is your favorite work of science fiction/fantasy?
Again, a Stephen King. “The Stand.” The trip through the Holland Tunnel is some of the best writing ever. The whole story is amazing and should be studied by the children of the future.
3. Who is your favorite monster?
It would have to be Frankenstien. I remember seeing several movies as a kid and loving them more than any others. Watching the Bride of Frankenstien when I was in Cub Scouts is a vivid memory. They brought in an old projector and showed it on a sheet with no sound. Blew my little mind.
4. What is your favorite Horror movie? House of a Thousand Corpses. Rob, you win with this one. BEST EVER! The shout out to Sir Graves Ghastly is great. But, An American Werewolf in London (the one from the 80’s with David Naughton) is a close second.5. What horror movie gives you the most chills?
Silence of the Lambs as an adult. The final scene with the night vision goggles is the stuff of nightmares. The Exorcist as a kid. I snuck downstairs to watch it one night when I was in junior high, much to my parent’s warning. I haven’t been right since. And then there was the screening of Night of the Living Dead in my 7th grade. We decided as a class to have a movie instead of a dance for Valentine’s Day. This was our choice. I remember being scared out of my little mind back then sitting in the auditorium of Jefferson Junior High in 1978.
6. What character from any horror film would you most like to play?
The dad in The Shinning.
7. Freddy or Jason?
Jason, natch. My friend Ed and I saw the first Friday the 13th in the theater when it first came out. That last moment of the film is forever etched in my head. You know what I mean. The reason why I hate going out on lakes in boats. You know…
8. What is your favorite Halloween treat?
Smarties.
9. Ghosts or goblins?
Ghosts for sure. Our house is full of them.
10. Friendly-faced jack-o’-lantern or scary one?
Both, we did one of each this year. One scary and one as a tribute to Lola.
11. What is your scariest encounter with the paranormal?
Pick a day, any day. They are strong here.
12. Do you believe in ghosts? Why or why not?
Hells yeah. They are, as mentioned above, very strong in this house. We had the house blessed when we bought it, but apparently it didn’t stick.
13. Would you rather be a zombie, alien, or psycho?
Tough call. I have great respect for Zombies after Shawn of the Dead. However, they are brutish and easily taken down. Aliens, too slimy. Psycho? I am an artist. Make your own call. I do, however, have a pretty good relationship with my Mom. FYI.
14. Favorite Halloween costume?
So hard… I went as a witch when I was a kid, good times. As an adult, I went as Medusa. However, the only time I have won as prize is when Tod and I went as Britney and K-Fed. Christ, I hope there are no pics of that lingering on the Internets.
15. Best thing about Halloween?
1. You don’t have to dust for a month. Nor do you have to remove spider webs.
2. You can let your Freak Flag fly proudly.
3. Creep out your friends and neighbors with your decorations.
4. Scare the shit out of your kids with said decorations.
5. Steal your kid’s candy.
16. Person in your family who most likes Halloween (not counting yourself)?
Doug, my brother. He and the wife got married very close to Halloween, and had a lovely Jack O’ Lantern at their reception.
17. Are you superstitious? Yes, to a fault. My rational brain says. NO! But, my other side says…
18. Share an unusual Halloween story.
I am tired of people dying around this time. I have had my fair share of people pass this time of year and it bothers me.
19. What did you do for Halloween as a kid?
Loved it. Got into it with my folks. Went to Haunted Houses with my Dad and decorated the yard. This is what I want for MY kids.
20. What’s the best Halloween party that you’ve attended?
Tough call. Been to many. Some remembered, some, not so much.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Blogger enuii




For now at least…

So much to say, so little time, energy or will left to do so. The past few weeks have been rough here in Jackson. There has been some illness, some loss, and a whole lot of craziness. Once we get our feet back on the ground, the postings will start again.

Until then, why not check out the archives?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Blog Action Day 09: Climate Change


Climate change, for the better. Today is Blog Action Day 09, what is Blog Action Day you ask?

Blog Action Day is an annual event held every October 15 that unites the world’s bloggers in posting about the same issue on the same day with the aim of sparking discussion around an issue of global importance. Blog Action Day 2009 will be one of the largest-ever social change events on the web. You can read more here: http://www.blogactionday.org/

I would like to talk about a different kind of Climate Change, a change in the Climate regarding LGBT Issues here in the USA and beyond. In the 30 years that I have been out, things have indeed changed, some for the good, some for the bad. I came out in the mid-80’s, a somewhat goofy and happy time in our collective history. We were coming off the big hangover of the 70’s and moving into the blossoming tech-savvy world of the 90’s. As a young Gay man, I had a lot on my plate, college, finding a boyfriend, surviving AIDS. I shared this in an email to a former student, a bright young woman who is now in California chasing her dream to be an actress. She had talked about how going to see the Names Project AIDS Quilt during a class field trip had changed her life and made her more socially aware:
I will tell you that when I graduated from high school in 82, the future was indeed bright for me. I had been told by some family members, community folks and the church that as a gay person, I would lead a miserable, lonely life. I rebelled against that notion, and led a life that was robust, full of friends and people who loved me. Things were going great, and then this big disease with a little name showed up. For a long time, that cast a shadow on me as well. I viewed my life as terminal (which it is, but I thought I would die early as a gay man) and held little hope for living beyond 30. When AIDS first came out, it was pretty much a death sentence. No one felt safe, and there was little we could do to avoid it. I am blessed that I have avoided it, but I have friends who were not so lucky. Chris, Ed, Steve, Tam, all were lost at the beginning of the disease. They had lives full of promise, but this took them out early. My friend Reed couldn’t handle this at all, and he shot himself so he didn’t have to worry about getting sick and dying. To him, it was easier and not as scary to take his own life instead of waiting around. We never really knew why he did that back in 84. We don’t know if he was positive or if he just couldn’t deal. I was told that I would never have kids, that I would never find love, and that I would die early. So far that hasn’t come true. I have a family, I have a soul mate in Tod, and I am doing pretty good for a forty something.

While Amber has a great deal of respect for me (and me for her) it wasn’t always so. My position as a high school teacher kept me in the closet for much of my career. Oh sure, there were rumors that flew around like wild fire, but it was never actually talked about. Some students knew, especially towards the end of my tenure. I lead the school’s diversity group. We weren’t bold enough to call it a GSA, but that’s pretty much what it was. We were a rag tag group of students and staff. We were the misfits and outcasts, but we found strength and support in each other. It wasn’t until I went to the college and officially came out that things began to change in regards to my own personal worth and self esteem.
It wasn’t until I “graduated” and began working at the college that I finally came out in all aspects of my life. I was worried, as I was on the tenure track, and I didn’t want rumors or questions of my sexuality to detract from my tenure review. I had a very frank and open conversation with my former Dean and shared with him the need for a GSA on campus. We had gone to Chicago on the train as a departmental trip, and on the way home, a student came out to the entire group. It was an interesting and enlightening ride home for sure. With the Dean’s approval, the student and I moved forward with the creation of the college’s first ever GSA. I was having lunch with the director of Human Resources and she was talking about my work on campus with the group. I asked her if anything had been done in the past, and she shrugged her shoulders and remarked that she had been there for over 30 years, and that I was the first person on faculty to be out and in the open. Certainly there had to be others before me, but none were as out as I had become. In the past, I worked to hide my sexuality, but now, it was front page news.
Literally.
I got a phone call from the newspaper here in town and they did a story on the student and my efforts to create the group. It ran front page on National Coming Out Day. In the past, this would have been a reason to panic, but now, I was finally feeling like I was being true to myself and my identity. A high school teacher coming out is a big deal, and possibly a career killer, but a college professor, that’s a different story. I was concerned more about the student, who was a little shocked at the article’s placement, and its featuring of his story so prominently, but to him, it was a big step towards becoming who he was as a young Gay male. The issues that plagued my high school friends didn’t seem to be as big of an issue with this young man. It’s amazing what a difference several decades can make. When I was in high school, the only Gay characters were Billy Crystal’s on Soap and, in a strange way, Klinger on MASH. Oh sure there was Jack on Three’s Company, but he was just playing Gay.
But now we have a more open society, with entire television networks devoted to LGBT programming. Now we have the internet, a way to connect and find out who you are in a somewhat safe environment. I remember going to the card catalog in the library and looking up Homosexuality. I didn’t bother writing anything down, as I didn’t want to get caught checking out “those books” so I memorized the general call number and headed to the stacks, turning a cautious eye as I came towards the dozen or so books that this particular branch had in its collection. I remember my mouth drying out as I reached for the titles; books that are now probably out of print or out of touch with modern LGBT mores and views.
If I touched them, would an alarm go off?
Would the librarian with the lunch lady arms come and beat me with the ruler sitting on her desk?
Would my parents find out?
It turned out that I didn’t have to worry, as I ended up working at the library and was befriended by one of the male librarians. This man was probably one of the first Gay men I ever met. My folks were friends with a guy and I remember going to his house for parties, but that’s about it for my exposure as a kid. The librarian became my mentor and never failed to blow my mind with the stuff he would send my way. I remember checking out my mail box one afternoon and there was a paperback book with my name clipped to the cover with this note: “See me if you have any questions.” The book was Armistead Maupin’s “Tales of the City” and I could hardly wait for work to be over so I could go home and begin poring over this new book. As a junior in high school, there was much I didn’t understand, but I took this man’s advice and asked away. He moved out of our small branch and took residency at the main branch downtown, a treasure trove of bigger, better, and more up to date books on what it’s like to be Gay. Vitto Russo’s “Celluloid Closet” was one of the first books I ever checked out proudly and openly as a young high school student.
I tore through Russo’s book at a furious pace, mentally replaying the scenes in the many movies he discussed in the book in my head. Mind you, this was 1981, way before the advent of Video Stores, Netflix, and You Tube, so I had to scan my young brain for snippets of what I had seen. As elated as I may have been to find this new freedom of the press, the words of doom that I had heard from my early critics came back to haunt me as I finished out the book, which ends with a chapter that outlines how all the LGBT characters die in their various films. It was a who’s who of who’s dead and broke my heart when I read it.
Was this my future?
Was I to die a tragic death as well because of my sexuality like these movie characters in Russo’s cinematic morgue?
Finding self esteem and self respect wasn’t easy back then, and for the generation before me, it was probably next to impossible. But things have changed for the better, and thankfully, the black cloud of what I had been told as a young Gay man when I first came out has since been lifted. We’re in a better place now here in the US. There have been many contentious ballot initiatives regarding LGBT issues, especially Proposition 8 in California, but with my rose-colored glasses, I see a not too distant future where these issues will be moot. Our President campaigned on changing the climate here in the United States for us, and I think we’ll get there. But in the mean time, I am happy to report that I am now legally married and have kids, something that I thought would never happen in my life time.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

You asked, she told ya.

The responses are in from the blog's first ever "Ask Anna" posting.


How is Preschool going?
It’s good, doing the computer is my favorite part.

Are you being a great Big Sister?
Yes, I give Eli hugs and kisses every day.

Do you enjoy being the only girl in the house?
Yes, because I am the BIG SISTER!

Patrick, Squidward, or Mr. Crabs?
SpongeBob (yes, I know, he wasn’t a choice) then Squidward.

What's your favorite trick to play on your dads?
When I put a spell on them with my magic wand and put us in jail.

My brother is about to have his first child, a little girl. This is the first girl in my family in 3 generations - I don't know anything about little girls!
What do little girls want/need from their uncles (she will have several).

They need big hugs and kisses, um, and, um, presents for their birthdays! Yes, and they should dance with us too.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Art Prize, what you need to know

So the first ever Art Prize is one for the record books. I will say that I was mildly interested in the concept and was thrilled that art was being produced en masse here in Michigan. However, the stain of the DeVos family and their influence on trying to kill public education and working against LGBT equality here in Michigan made me stay away. I will go on record as saying that Rick DeVos (one of the creators of the contest) is smoking hot. But that does not excuse him from his family’s rather icky political doings.
So, if you didn’t get to Grand Rapids for the event, I thought I would summarize some of what you missed so you could talk about it over the water cooler and appear hip and with it with your artsy-fartsy friends. The winning piece, Open Water no.24 by Ran Ortner. If you grew up in the 70’s like I did, you probably marveled at one of these in Spencer Gifts on your trip to the mall for your Member’s Only jacket. Yup, Ortner’s piece is pretty much the static version of that.

3rd place, Portraits by Eric Daigh. Any horror buff will immediately be able to see the similarities. The portraits are made with thumbtacks and push pins. Oooo, office supplies as art.



5th place, Moose by Bill Secunda. Look out Mr. Moose, you never know when Sarah Palin will be in Grand Rapids for some helicopter huntin’.

7th place, Field of Reeds by John Douglas Powers. Okay, I will admit that this one is probably the coolest out of all the winners, but I can’t help but think it looks like a big dog brush.

9th place, Ecstasy of ... by Jason Hackenwerth. Balloons? Really? Is this (and the silly paper airplanes) what the art world has become? Jeff Koons needs to be taken out NOW.

10th place, winddancer 2 by Michael Westra. Nuff said.
Before I hear any calls of sour grapes, please note that all these references were made by my artsy fartsy friends when discussing the artwork. You can thank me later for saving you the trip north to Grand Rapids. : )

Friday, October 9, 2009

Fatherhood Friday post: Telling our folks


Once again, the Two Dads page on Facebook offered fodder for their Question of the Day. This was actually written back in January in preparation for THE BOOK that I am writing on this whole experience. This was the first chapter I wrote, and remains (at least to me) one of the most powerful pieces written in my creation of the book. While the plans to publish remain in line, the pages aren’t flying off like they were when I was on sabbatical and had only one kid to deal with.
This is an excerpt from the chapter on telling our friends and family:

When we first began talking about starting a family, our intentions were kept under wraps for a few months. I will admit that both Tod and I are pretty focused on what we do and what we want. And as teachers, we tend to over think most everything we do. Not that doing that is necessarily a bad thing. We decided to keep our desire for a family in the closet for a few months, as we wanted to test the water and see how things would float with our immediate circle of friends. We also wanted to make sure we could actually do this and make it happen before we got everyone excited and involved.
We also felt it was necessary to tell our parents together, as we didn’t want either one to know before the others. You know how grandparents get. We purposely put off telling our parents because we wanted to tell them in person, and we wanted to make sure that they both found out at the same time. The logistics were a little daunting at first, but we finally found a weekend when both of them could make the trip to Jackson for the weekend. We couched the weekend as a chance to relax and visit and nothing more. Tod and I hadn’t really discussed the actual telling; we just got busy with getting them settled and getting started with dinner. It was early spring, so it was right in the middle of Lent. My folks had given up alcohol for the season and were happy chatting away with water and soda as we nibbled on appetizers and snacks. The time came for another bottle of wine to be opened (it was a family visit after all), and as the classes were filled my Dad proposed a toast to family, and I blurted out, “And to extending ours!”
If you remember any sketch comedy from the seventies, often times there would be a sound effect of a needle being pulled off of a record to simulate a break in concentration/conversation/etc. In my mental soundtrack that night, after I said that, my sound effects team supplied that sound bite in my head. The room became quiet, and I glanced at Tod who was staring at me with wide open eyes. As mentioned, we hadn’t really discussed HOW we were going to tell them, but this seemed like as good of time as any.
The questions started a second later as glasses were raised to drink. When the parents realized that they would not be grandparents to yet another dog or cat and that this was an actual human child, hoots, hollers, and tears started to flow from all of us as this revelation was processed. The wine flowed as well, as my Dad mentioned that God probably wouldn’t mind he poured two glasses for him and my mom breaking their Lenten vow to abstain. As you can imagine, there were thousands of questions to be asked and answered and as we settled in to eat, we did our best to get them caught up on our plans. They were a little upset that we had not told them earlier, but were pleased that we had provided such a family centered forum for the disclosure. We told them that once this started, we were implementing our own “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, and it was one that served our sanity well. We told them that we would keep them posted with any news, and that we didn’t want a constant stream of emails and phone calls asking how we were doing, and what we were doing to start the family. All of the advice books had told us to set boundaries with our friends and families, as the questions can get overwhelming at times, especially if there isn’t any movement towards a child.

As the night unfolded, there were many sidebar conversations throughout the house. Photo albums and memories were brought out and dusted off as the news of this new chapter in our lives sank in. We began calling our parents Grandma and Grandpa, and they all seemed pretty pleased with that title. My mom retreated to the kitchen to do some unnecessary cleaning, but I think it was actually a chance for her to process the information and how she was going to deal with my brother and his wife who were adopting as well. As I came in to the kitchen to check on her, she came over with tears in her eyes and gave me a big hug, the kind of soul grabbing hug that is given at funerals, births, or weddings. She looked up at me and told me that I would be an excellent Dad and said that our yet born child would be damn lucky to have me as a parent. She held back some tears and quickly asked me if I had told my brother yet. I told her that I had not, as we wanted to tell them first. She steeled her jaw and said used her best sotto voce to say “you need to tell him.” As with much of Anna’s birth and adoption, there was good and bad to be dealt with. The issue of my brother was one that would haunt this entire process and remains an issue to this day.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Ask Anna



Okay folks... bring your questions to Miss Anna, and just like Fraiser Crane,
she's listening.

What do you want to know about having two dads?

What's it like living with these two handsome men and your new brother?

What's it like being a Princess with these two queens?


Ask away. We'll ask her and post her responses.

No really, we will.

And don’t worry, as soon as he is done with his Caveman stage of grunting for everything, we’ll do the same with Elijah.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Fatherhood Friday: White lies (Don't Don't Do It!)


A recent poll on a Gay Parenting website asked if it was ever acceptable to lie to your children. Oy. This opened a massive discussion about what was ethical and what was not. Let me draw my line in the sand first. Lies are okay, in fact, I encourage it. Kids are pretty much stupid and gullible.

• Christmas and Santa? LIES!
• Easter and the Easter Bunny? LIES!
• The tooth fairy? More lies!

Parents have been doing this for years and it works. Just when you need a motivator to keep the kids in line behavior-wise, Santa or the Bunny can’t be too far behind and can be that much needed carrot on the stick that you need to keep the peace. This is one of the reasons why I love fall, it’s the season of manipulation for both the parents and the kids. Every commercial that Anna sees on TV is punctuated with a “I WANT THAT!” We fire back that she’ll have to be good, Santa’s watching, etc. She made the connection last year that Santa = gifts so I think we’re good to go this year as well, or at least until someone at daycare or school spills the beans. I’m not worried about daycare, as Cheri will have the child who blows the secret publicly flogged. School however, we don’t have as much control over what she hears.

However, there have been a few lies that I have put out there to Anna that have back-fired and caused more harm than good. She is really good about opening up car doors and windows and demands that her window be down while we are driving. This is both noisy and annoying, and she uses it to dump whatever she has in her hands out on to the street. So I decided to make it more in her interest to keep the windows up. I told her about the dreaded Freeway Monkeys. You can’t always see them, but they’re out there, and they’ll jump in the car if you leave your windows down or doors unlocked. This was accepted without question and her proclivity for unlocking the door and opening the windows stopped. However, she is now afraid of monkeys and needs to be dragged kicking and screaming to see them at the zoo. A local car wash had a person dressed as a gorilla standing out front waving a sign. She saw the person and screamed “IT’S A FREEWAY MONKEY!” and began doing her fake sobbing in the back seat. Nice. Now her love of all mammals is tainted by this lie. However, she is now safe and won’t be rolling out onto the pavement because she’s messing around with the door. By the way, we do have the parental controls on, but she INSISTS that she be able to control the doors and locks.


Lies aren’t limited to parents. Grandparents can get in on it as well. Last weekend had a set of grandparents (who shall remain unnamed) to watch the kids while we went off for a weekend of camping. Anna and Grandma headed out to buy school supplies and Grandpa was at home with Eli. Eli had a full diaper and Grandpa had to call Grandma to come home to change it. When Anna talked to Grandpa about this, he said to her that he didn’t know how to change poopy diapers and that only Grandma knew how to do it right. Good one Grandpa. We’ll remember that. I also remember a phone call that took place between my Uncle Tom and my young cousin Abby. Tom was calling (around Christmas) to talk to my cousin Janet, Abby’s mom. Abby answered the phone, and as instructed, asked who was calling. Tom, with his deep voice, said “It’s Santa” and waited for a response. Abby didn’t say anything so Tom asked if she had been good. Apparently, enhanced interrogation techniques are not needed for toddlers, as young Abby started chirping like a bird and began voluntarily confessing to a variety of sins: she had stole her Mom’s lipstick and put it on, she had hit her brother, etc, etc.


Most recently, it’s been Anna’s new teacher, Mrs. B. She is everywhere, and she is more omniscient than St. Nick. She sees all, and is VERY disappointed when Anna misbehaves. Oh yes, we’re working that angle and it works. “Oh honey, what would Mrs. B say about all this? Mmmm, I think she’d be sad.” It’s all we need to say and it’s back on line. I couldn’t find pants that would fit Anna this morning, so I grabbed a skirt off the rack and handed it to her as we were getting ready for the day. Thank Jesus the school has a uniform policy, so the drama around clothing choices is non-existent. “I don’t want to wear this!” I shook my head and started lying, “honey, remember that note you brought home? Mrs. B said you HAD to wear this dress today.” That’s all it took and peace was once again restored.

I will however draw my line in the sand about what you can’t lie about. Don’t ever lie about how much you love your kids. Never say that you don’t love them, instead talk about how you don’t like their behavior. Separate them from what is bad and let them know that they are still loved. Love is precious, and it’s something that you can’t ever deny or use as a ploy for good behavior. However, from now until December 24th, Santa is your bitch, and you can use and abuse him all you want.