Thursday, December 30, 2010

Best wishes for 2011 and beyond

As 2010 draws to a close, I’d like to thank my faithful readers and offer you all the best for the upcoming year. It was two years ago that I began this blog, and so much has taken place since that first entry in January of 2009. The blog has almost 100 followers and over its lifetime the blog has had over 10,000 hits.

Not surprisingly, the most popular post was the post on Anna cutting her hair this fall. Over 200 people viewed the page. As the New Year progresses, and my schedule changes, I will have more time to reflect on our lives and what is going on with our family and beyond. It is my hope to look in to publishing some of the text with some of the images from the “Dangerous Lives of Children” exhibit. There are many options regarding publishing, we just need to find the right market and publisher.

I would ask that you help keep this blog going by supporting the sponsors and ads that are on this page. Please note that the ads are not chosen by me, but are rather generated by the blog content (which would explain Sarah Palin’s PAC a few months back.) Your continued readership and support can make a difference. If you would, please share this blog with a friend, or “like” us on Facebook (there’s a button on the top of the page) we can continue to share what it’s like to be LGBT adoptive parents. When Tod and I began the process of adoption six years ago we didn’t have much information to turn to in regards to Gay Dads, so we are happy to put the word out there for any potential LGBT or straight parents to discover.

From all of us here on Greenwood Ave, we wish you and yours a very happy and prosperous 2011.

Tom, Tod, Anna, and Eli.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Stuck: Another perspective

This is from my friend Bud on Live Journal. I read this, and it struck a chord with me. I asked him for permission to repost, he was more than happy to share. I edited some of the post for clarity and relevance for my readers. The main point of Bud’s post is still there.

From Bud:

I've been thinking a lot, big surprise, about this special time of the year. As I read the journals of my LJ buddies, I can see that many of them, like me, seem to attach bad memories to Christmas. I suppose, to paraphrase Good Will Hunting, this is only slightly less random than attaching them to, say, Arbor Day, or August the 11th, for that matter. But perhaps the real question is why attach them at all.

I recently bought a photograph from an artist LJ buddy (me, see picture at the top of the post). Actually, it took us months to complete the transaction, but the minute I saw the photo, it spoke to me. It's a shot of a little boy with his head stuck in an elaborate stone balustrade. It occurred to me that most of us can relate to that little boy, stuck somewhere but not quite sure how to get "unstuck"; a little comical when observed from the outside, but no less challenging for the little boy.

As Christmas approaches, I have a tendency to feel like that little boy; stuck in all the negative associations I attach to the season. This year seemed like the Perfect Storm to support that unhealthy response; my nephew's suicide, the death of my cousin, the loss of my car and a particularly trying semester as a grad student, all seemed tailor-made for an encore of all the worst memories I could dredge up for the season.

I am successful in my profession and my studies. I feel equally lucky for all the things with which I have been gifted as for those for which I have struggled, and I remain optimistic that, in so many ways, the best is yet to come. And if I have been relegated to my bed with flu for the past few days, so what? This too shall pass.

I may have been that little boy with his head stuck in the past, and I will undoubtedly be him again from time to time in the future. But I do have choices, and I choose to see the best in things, including myself.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Holiday greetings from our house to your house

Make it a good one, whatever you celebrate.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Musings on the big day

Soon it will be Christmas, so I am going to probably sign off for a few days to get ready for the big day and the visitors that it will bring. This will be the first year in a LONG time that I will not be attending any kind of religious service to mark the holiday. There was that one year that the Latino-who-shall-not-be-named and I went to Puerto Rico for winter break. We went in to A LOT of churches as we toured the island, but we didn’t really attend any formal holiday services. In talking with him about the traditions of his Spanish background, the holiday was more about partying and eating than gifts and church services so we spent most of the time on the island in the bars and discos and sneaking in to casinos to nibble of their lavish buffets. It was also the first Christmas that I had to deal with sunburn. Not fun.

So this year, instead of rushing to get dinner out of the way and worrying about crabby kids at the church, we’ll hang out at home, enjoy our company, and perhaps have a bit of bottled holiday cheer to ring in the holiday. I can’t say that I miss any of the religious aspects of the holiday, as the crèche that belonged to my paternal grandmother still graces our mantle, and I still listen to my classical Christmas songs on my IPod. They will always have a special place in my heart, but their meaning, not so much anymore.

We went to a local cabaret for their annual holiday show with my folks last weekend. It was a great night out and the music they provided was both religious and secular. I found myself howling with delight over their secular choices and fiddling with my drink during the more serious religious ones, even though I knew all the words. Their rendition of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” for Christmas was a true howler. Even my Dad laughed out loud at the ridiculousness of the song.

So now the big battle is what do we do with the kids? Eli has known nothing more than a few months in the nursery at our former church. Religious education, especially at that age was pretty non-existent. But with Anna, the fuse has been lit, and I don’t know what to do. Some of my clearest memories as a kid were the nights spent at my home church on Christmas Eve, however, they are right alongside the really bad memories of not fitting in and hearing that I was a sinner and not worthy of God’s love, so the bad may outweigh the good in this battle. We’ll provide Anna and Eli with much to remember each holiday, it just won’t involve a church, and I think Ho Ho is okay with that.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Hope and Change?

So let me get this straight (pardon the pun):

I can now legally fight and die for my country thanks to the repeal of DADT. However, I can’t love and live with my partner because of DOMA.

It doesn’t get better, it gets bitter.

Papa's wish list 2010 update

Last year, I penned my own Christmas wish list in response to the epic list Anna created last year.

I have a few updates for this year:

1. Something besides “Full House” reruns on Nick in the morning. Anything really. Anna thinks baby Michelle (Mary Kate and/or Ashley) is adorable. I want to kill myself. Bob Saget is not funny. However, I do get a kick out of watching the hideous "fashion" choices of the stars.

2. Quiet please… the noise level is insane at times. And the screaming, it’s got to stop.

3. The end of diapers. Eli, get on that potty training!

4. My clean and spotless car. I miss it. The pretzel crumbs and juice boxes are making for a messy ride. Thankfully the tagging that happened in Tod’s car has not happened in mine.

5. Good health for all in our family as we head into winter.

6. Students who actually give a shit in my classes this winter. Yes, I had some amazingly talented students this fall, but I also had a bunch of slackers who wasted my time.

7. Still waiting on that self cleaning house.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Christmas in the car

(the lush and fertile farmlands of Ohio, as seen from I-75)

Growing up in Toledo, we were a good hour or more to our grandparents in Lima, Ohio (home of GLEE!) and Greenville, Ohio (home of Annie Oakley!). For my brother and me, Christmas was spent in the back of the car zooming down I-75 to the grandparents. The flat and seemingly never-ending farmland of Ohio rushed by behind fogged up windows. At night, we'd stare out the windows and see how many Christmas decorations/lights we could see from the car. And then there was that one year with our Japanese exchange student Hiroshi and my brother Doug tossing up an entire can of undigested black olives in the jump seat of our station wagon. Good times, really.
Actually, neither one of us minded going to the grandparents, as some of my best memories are from family celebrations on Pierce St and Martin St. Each set of grandparents have a special memory for Christmas.However, since we are now parents, we decided to put our feet down and have made it known that we will NOT travel on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day with the kids. If you want to see us, we’ll be here at home… enjoying the holiday in our own beds (sometimes) and eating the big meal in our own dining room.
I spoke with some friends of mine, and they retold similar stories of holidays on the road. My one colleague bemoaned the fact that he would open up all his presents and then have to bundle up, pick just one toy and make the long drive to his grandparents. “What fun is that? You open up all this cool stuff and then you have to leave!” We agree. So, for me and my family, you’ll find us here in Jackson, and you are more than welcome to stop by.
Bring cookies.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Jackie Beat-Santa's Baby

Hide your wife, hide your kids.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Papa's wish list 2010.

Dear Baby Jesus,

Please make this meeting happen in my living room on Christmas morning.

If it doesn’t happen, the kids get nothing, and I blame you.


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Bring it Ho Ho!

The recent post on my moving away from religion has generated a great deal of responses, and some introspection on my part. It’s been a crazy week for us here; it always is this time of year. The commitments, finals week at the college, the endless “to do” lists, it all adds up to the perfect storm of stress. However, there are those moments of magic that take your breath away, and those are the ones that we need to savor.

(This photo is real. No tricks, they are actually not trying to kill each other.)

Example: There is a great website that delivers a personalized message to your child, or your spouse (thanks Tod!) and they are A W E S O M E! The site, does a great job of making the message from Santa (or “Ho Ho” as Eli calls him) personable and very addictive. The kids have watched their own videos dozens of times now, to the point where I can almost do the script on my own verbatim. Anna screamed with delight as Tod told her that she had just received an email from Santa. We all gathered around the computer screen and watched as the scripted/personalized message played out. I began to tear up as I watched Anna react to Santa and all he had to say, and was visibly crying at the end as she whispered “I love you!” to him as he left the screen. Tod was mocking me, but it was probably because I was mocking him earlier for tearing up watching the Drake and Josh Christmas Special on Nick that afternoon (really?)

But what made me so sad and tear up was that she believed so hard in him, and that her belief isn’t spoiled by the jadedness of growing up. To her, Santa is real, and is a very big presence in her life right now. In watching her react to him, I felt sad that I didn’t have anything to believe in anymore. My faith in the church is gone, and I am struggling to find what I actually believe in (religion-wise) at this point. I do know that I believe in my family, my wonderful kids, and my great husband Tod. And I believe in the magic of Santa dammit. Santa hasn’t caused any wars, Santa hasn’t caused people to kill each other (okay, there was that one time at Target that one Black Friday) and Santa, even though he has that Naughty/Nice list, never once said NO! to a Gay kid. So for me and my family, right now we are rocking out with the Big Guy, the man in red, or Ho Ho as he is known in these parts.

He brings the magic we all need this time of year, even if it is delivered by a 5 year old watching a video.

My War on Christmas continues. Dispatches from afar

Two more letters from friends regarding the “War on Christmas” post, from Sue:

Hear me, friend, Ed is exactly right.

You are not an atheist as far as I know ... by definition, an atheist has disbelief in God. What I read in your blog is a justified disbelief in the honesty of the so called believers who do not practice what Christ preached. Not the same thing. (That they go to church, and don't walk the walk and call themselves Christian is like me sitting in the garage and saying I'm a car ...)

God is. Simple. When I walk my dog in the black of early morning and can see millions of stars in the open of my country world, the sheer magnitude of it humbles me. There is order in the world. Life cycles, seasons. If that order doesn't come from something you can call God, it comes from some higher power. Call it what you will. Name it and believe in it ... but you are not an atheist.

That people of many religions who say they follow their higher power do hurtful and awful things does not diminish that Higher Power, but instead speaks volumes about them. Not the same thing.

That Christmas has become so commercialized has been a story for decades. It may change this year as people have less money to spend, and have to get back to basics. We, here, will still help the local economy by getting our loved ones things they want/need as a show of our love for them ... and a reminder of God's love as He sent Christ to die for our sins.

Remember the love you have for your children, even if/when they behave badly. Pretty much how God sees us ... that is the same thing. We can be angry, but He is still there. And He doesn't stop loving us.

Believe in that Love. Express it in ways that are meaningful for you and your family. Putting away the Nativity scene is so sad ... it would be better to put out of your mind the people who hurt you (I know that is hard) ... remember the ones who make your life meaningful and warm your heart. Believe in the positives ... break the cycle.

And then, from Bonnie (not my mother in law, mind you):

Hope you have been well. So anyway, it is with great interest I have been reading your blog about your disenchantment with Christmas and all things Christian. I'd really like to have a conversation with you about it since I had a lot of similar issues and feelings when I decided to go pagan. It's hard to go from believing in a certain faith or tradition to go to nothing at all, even if you have slowly become increasingly unhappy with it - albeit the unhappiness stems more from those that preach and practice it rather than what you take away from it on your own. Since I was raised Catholic and was made to go to church with my family until I left home, I certainly had my fill of hypocritical teachings and decrees aimed at keeping the sinners in line along with a number of inane degrees from the pope. Yet on the other hand I also knew a lot of members of the clergy who had their own views on how things should be and made it one of their missions to change the church from within as much as they could. I can't say they made a lot of progress since there seems to be a return to more rigid rules, and some of them even left the church although they managed to keep their faith intact, but some of them are still trying.

While my god is no longer a Christian god I find I have to believe in something greater than me. Whether that is a collective power or just elemental energy, I may never know, but I do know that I'm driven to believe in something. Where you end up finding yourself and your system of beliefs as you continue on this particular journey of faith/faithlessness may or may not surprise you, but do know that it is indeed a journey. (sorry, I don't mean to start sounding like Confucius or that I even really know what the hell I'm talking about) Please don't think I'm trying to push paganism on you either, I just find the whole subject interesting and I think it would make for a good chat. The other thing I'm curious about and you didn't mention in any of your blogs, is what is Tod's take on your feelings and revelations about religion. Is he in agreement with you, or is this the cause of a bit of tension at home?

Edit: that’s a good question, I will ask him!

Monday, December 13, 2010

A little respect: Andy Bell brings it

I have known for a long time that I am Gay, and I have been “out” for a very long time (I put it at 1980 or so). However, it wasn’t until the early 90’s that I really started diving into LGBT culture with gusto. I have never denied that I am Gay, but for a long time I was very hesitant to show it outwardly. That all changed the night that the Latino-who-shall-not-be-named and I headed to Detroit to see Erasure in all their glory for their “Chorus” tour back in 92 or 93. I had all their CDs and loved the vibe that came from lead singer Andy Bell. In watching their early videos, you’d have to be in a coma to not realize that he is Gay. He drips Gayness from every pore in his body. He is unabashedly Gay and quite fabulous to boot. So when the Latino-who-shall-not-be-named and I got to Detroit to see the show, there were Gay folk everywhere. It was something to see. Many came in costumes, many in drag. Many just came as themselves, a spectacle for some, for others, like me, it was the start of coming out publicly. There were a few vendors there selling everything from T shirts to posters as well as then new to the scene Freedom (or Pride) Rings. They are a rainbow assortment of anodized metal rings that hung around your neck on a chain and were the “must have” accessory for every junior ‘Mo and Club Kid that year. The Latino-who-shall-not-be-named scoffed at my purchase of these rings, and wondered out loud why I would want to advertise the fact that I was Gay. This coming from a man who never once said to me that he himself was Gay and hid his sexuality from his family and his work and was in fact at an Erasure concert with his boyfriend. Go figure.

So, with my newly purchased Freedom Rings dangling from neck, I danced my fool ass off at one of the best concerts I have ever attended. The staging and costuming for the tour was over the top at all levels. The opening song had Andy driving around the stage in a swan/motorcycle contraption while singing “Siren Song.” Pure drama, pure theatrics, and possibly the Gayest thing I have ever seen in my life. You can see a bit of it here:
I have considered Andy to be one of my personal heroes for a long time. His voice, his talent, and his support of LGBT issues have endeared him to me as well as his many fans from all over the world. I was a little skeptical when I heard that they were redoing "A Little Respect," with all proceeds from downloading it going to the Hetrick-Martin Institute, the home of the Harvey Milk High School in New York, and to the True Colors Fund. I am usually not a fan of remakes as they often stray so far from the original that the original essence is lost. I am happy to say that the new song is great. I watched the video for it last week and found myself clutching a tissue wiping away tears as I saw the next generation of LGBT youth frolicking and dancing with my hero Andy. The glow paint is a bit off-setting, but the message of respect still rings true.

You can download the song here:
I highly recommend that you do.


Sunday, December 12, 2010

Saturday, December 11, 2010

War on Christmas update

Some comments from elsewhere that I thought were worth sharing:

First off, from my friend Randy in Grand Rapids:

Oy. Your post re: Christmas was insanely resonant with me. I've given up trying to affix some sort of meaning to the holiday this year. It's real hard when it used to mean so much and now you're struggling to see the point at all. I think I'm just reiterating what you said much better in your blog, but I just wanted to say "Word".

From Ed in New England:

My friend, you are not an atheist, you are disenfranchised. My father, one of the smartest and most christian of men I know, professed to being an atheist all his life. Yet, he would stand in the forest, or on the banks of a great river, or on a mountain top and proclaim the glory and wonder that He had created. His lack of faith was in the hypocritical followers of all faiths. His quote was "As soon as three or more people gather to form a church it stops being about the word and starts being about politics"

I struggle with your same issues as well. Keep the spirit of Christ's teachings in your heart and home and know that you need no church, no deacons, no pastor, no bishop, and no church councils to practise your faith. I suspect there are thousands if not millions of folks just like you and I, who have turned away from their churches because they cannot reconcile the ideals of their faith with the way it is practiced.

The discussion, both on and off the blog have been very interesting. People are respectful of my choices and how I chose to share them. This was not an easy thing to write or share, but I felt it necessary.

Blessed be whatever you do.

P.S. the photo is from the Catholic Church in Greektown. I found the caution tape rather telling.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

My own personal war on Christmas

As some of you know from reading this blog, or seeing my rants on Facebook, I have given up on religion this past year. This was unfortunately a pretty easy thing to do for me as I was sick of the hypocrisy and general bigotry that most religious institutions offer. Even though we had found an accepting church, actions and comments by the minister left me feeling disenfranchised and wondering why I even bother. An interim minister at the church next door did a spiritual gifts inventory during her time at the church a few years back and I scored highest on Faith. This has been tough to reconcile lately, especially with Christmas coming. In the past, I got swept up in the whole religious aspect of it, lighting advent wreath candles and studying Isaiah for clues to the mystery of the coming Messiah.

Now, not so much. For me, it’s become Christ-meh.

I am usually the first one in the attic each year to bust open the storage area and haul out the holly, but this year, our poor tree sat lit but undecorated for over a week. Even my inner-Martha Stewart couldn’t budge my Grinch-like heart. I was wrestling with the notion of why I would even want to celebrate the birth of a man who has brought so much pain, death, and suffering to the world by the actions of His followers. I see the images of Him in the manger and hear the sweet songs sung by choirs, but all of that is over-shadowed by an institution that promotes hatred, bigotry, and selective salvation to LGBT people all over the world. Now don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against Jesus, it’s just His followers I can’t stand.

If Christians just followed the words of Jesus, this world would be such a great place. The archaic laws of the Old Testament, so selectively tossed around and followed would be ignored and His message of hope and salvation could be the true focus of the church. Alas, this is not going to happen, and as we roast chestnuts, sing carols, and celebrate His birthday, a young man or woman is being told by their family and their church that they are going to hell for who they are and who they love and shunned by those that they call family. They are being told that they are less than perfect and have no place in society. Many will struggle with the issue of family during this warm and fuzzy Hallmark nightmare and will seek out other ways to fill the void created by their isolation. Some will even commit suicide.

So what is a newly minted Atheist supposed to do, especially with a bubbly five year old that is fully aware of all the trappings of the holiday? The answer is, he bucks up, puts up the tree and focuses on the secular side of the celebration. In the past, I have decorated our long foyer with a rather large nativity set being the focus. This year, it’s a snowman and snowflakes, (as a bonus, I can leave it up through January). In the past, we would gather as a family and read passages from the bible as we lit our advent wreath. This year, we’ll count down the days until Santa comes and focus on sharing and being good. One thing will remain though, and that is the spirit of giving. Each year we pick a family to help and we do so with the kids in tow. We buy toys and donate them to the Toys for Tots or the Angel Tree. Anna is beginning to understand the spirit of giving, and her desire for the toys is going away as she realizes that there are kids who go without on a daily basis.

But now, for me, it’s now easier to believe in Santa Claus than it is a Messiah. At least Santa delivers on his promises.

Christmas memories

Snapped this picture of the dearly departed Lola at our old house a LONG TIME AGO.
We used to set up our Christmas village around the tree (before kids natch) and Lola enjoyed hanging out in the back, basking in the glow of the light and the heat vent.
Edwin is a great kitty, but no one can replace Lola.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Bumble love: We're a couple of misfits

Ever since I can remember, I have loved the Christmas special “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.” Never mind the fact that we both dropped in 1964 and it features a burly red head with a St. Bernard, the show is a classic on many levels. I have noticed that a lot of my LGBT friends are into the show as well, and I think it’s because of its endearing story and great characters. But there is more than that. It tells the tale of a group of outsiders, misfits as they’re known in the show, and for many of us; it paralleled our own lives as LGBT men and women, especially growing up. I remember hating gym in school, and the coach reindeer at the beginning of the show mirrored exactly what I endured with all my misguided gym teachers through elementary school.
Hermey, the fey and dentally fixated elf pines for a better life as a dentist somewhere other than the North Pole while Yukon (the inspiration for our dog’s name) lives life as an outsider in the great white north. And then there is the Island of Misfit Toys. So much of that whole concept connects with me, because when AIDS first came out in the 80’s, there was talk from the ultra-conservatives to round up and isolate the Gays so that the disease wouldn’t spread. For a long time, as a young man, I worried that I might end up on my own little island due to who I loved and my misconceived status as a misfit just because I was gay.

But just like in the show, the misfits band together and make their own family, a family born out of rejection and hatred but ultimately joined in love. Our friend Michelle once sent us a Christmas card that read: Friends are the family you chose. I couldn’t agree more! With all this talk of bullying and harassment lately, this show has a great message of acceptance and unconditional love. I may be a misfit in some people’s eyes, but I am a happy misfit.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Art Professor does artsy (and dirty!) stuff

I entered this piece in the annual "Dirty Show" in Detroit. I didn't post it on Facebook as it's, well, dirty. I call him "Oh Face." He's about 14" inches tall and is unglazed terra cotta clay with iron oxide stain.
I am working on two other photo pieces for the show, you'll have to come and see it in person, as I won't post those on here. Thanks to Kim, my student at JCC for hooking me up with this great venue!
More on the Dirty Show here:

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Fuck the Bucket: Boycott The Salvation Army

Watch the video and make your own decision. Our family will not donate, but instead will help the local HIV/AIDS resource center. There better causes that do not discriminate.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Two things

A very special post on Sarah Palin

My friend Brad posted this the other day, I asked him if I could share. He was more than happy to spread this message. Warning, strong language. Thanks Brad, I appreciate your sharing of this piece. Keep up the good work!

In case you haven't heard about it yet, Sarah Palin's 16 year old daughter Willow went on a friend's Facebook page (screenshots here) and began retaliating on the boy for making a status update about Caribou Barbie's 'reality' TV show that read "Sarah Palin's Alaska is failing soo hard right now" by telling the boy who made the status update (and another boy who agreed with him) that he was a faggot, that he was fat as hell, and a low-life-loser. Big sister Bristol, of Dancing With Mommy's Puritannical Little Slut/going raw dog with Levi Johnston fame initiated the fray by insisting that the boy was only talking shit - because of course the show couldn't possibly be a giant nut-filled turd on merit and worthy of criticism and/or mockery, now could it.

Both girls are old enough to know that this kind of nonsense is stupid, but I for one am glad it happened. Not because they ripped on another kid, but because it's just another brand new example of what a total lack of parenting is happening between Sarah Palin and her children. That's pretty fucking important when you consider what a hypocritical opportunistic shetbag Sarah Palin is for just a moment. She's not had a single word to say in any sort of press release or interview on this matter, not one fucking syllable. She won't, either - because in the extreme right-wing teabagger world these people live in, you're impervious to criticism and nothing you do is ever wrong. You're only ever surrounded by people who agree with you so you're never challenged on anything and no one holds you accountable for your bullshit, and the bullshit is LEGION.

It's pretty amazing how you can operate consistently on two completely different standards and yet not a single one of your beloved fans ever gets hip to this hypocrisy, which to me can only mean that those who adore this walking bag of hair must be more stupid than she is. Nothing else makes sense, and no one with a fully functioning brain can extol the greatness of anyone this phony without an arsenal of sarcasm fueling them.

Let's not make this about Bristol and/or Willow Palin's choice of words and behavior in employing them because that's only an issue if you're comparing it to the current climate of awareness that has been drawn over the string of bullying and suicide incidents that have become such a common reality in this country - and rightly so - because it's clear that once again a lack of parenting has lead to something stupid and unnecessary. Bristol and Willow Palin are assholes to be sure, but they're no real threat to anyone. Before you try to give me shit for calling these young girls assholes, one is 20 and has a child - the other is old enough to secure employment and operate a 2,000 lb. carcass maker on wheels, so FUCK OFF. The real problem here is their mother's complete lack of public response on her offspring's behavior when a considerable response would be expected of someone who wishes to play word police for others. Case in point, Rahm Emanuel and the "R" word. If you recall back to February of this year, the then Obama Administration Chief of Staff was overheard ranting angrily about Democrats (in a strategy session over budget issues I believe) being "fucking retarded". This deeply offended Bible Spice to the point that she took to her Facebook notes page and put out this gem:

" Just as we’d be appalled if any public figure of Rahm’s stature ever used the “N-word” or other such inappropriate language, Rahm’s slur on all God’s children with cognitive and developmental disabilities – and the people who love them – is unacceptable, and it’s heartbreaking. [...]

As my friend in North Andover says, “This isn’t about politics; it’s about decency. I am not speaking as a political figure but as a parent and as an everyday American wanting my child to grow up in a country free from mindless prejudice and discrimination, free from gratuitous insults of people who are ostensibly smart enough to know better..."

It seems that her delicate sensibilities (funny how a self professed 'Mama Grizzly/Pit Bull Hockey Mom/Barracuda' even HAS those, but I digress) were offended because her youngest child, Trig, was born with Down's Syndrome and Rahm's use of the word was hitting below the belt. Before I wrap this part of this post up, let me be clear on something here. Trig Palin is cognitively disabled - Sarah Palin is fucking retarded.

She laments her family's lack of privacy and makes a stink about leaving her kids out of the spotlight, yet she's whoring the entire clan on one reality show while the oldest daughter is cha-cha-ing on another. She goes to great pains to bust Levi Johnston's balls at every opportunity for having the nerve to upstage her in exploiting the fuck out of 15 minutes of fame, taking -0- responsibility for the fact that she's the one who threw him on that stage and into that spotlight to begin with. You're not exactly the shining pinnacle of Christian virtue you want people to think you are when EVERY SINGLE THING YOU DO is out of self interest.

But it gets worse. Much, much worse.

Enter GOProud, the newest organization of self professed conservative homosexuals who wish to align themselves with mainstream right wing groups and politicians that couldn't give a shit less about them or their agenda.

I don't mean to imply here that people shouldn't be allowed to have their own views that may cut against the grain some. That's fine. While I personally don't know that I have any genuine conservative positions, I can understand where some would and I raise no objection to that. What I DO have an objection to is any group or organization stupid enough to defend someone who, like Sarah Palin, would deny them any and all of their civil rights if it were in her power to do so. Yet that's what they've done in jumping into the Palin girls' fray by dismissing any issue taken with Bristol & Willow's brand of response as simply a cheap shot at their mother in an effort " destroy her by an angry, misogynistic Left":

GOProud on the Willow Palin “Controversy”

Statement of Tammy Bruce – Chair of the GOProud Advisory Council

(Los Angeles, CA) – “Willow Palin is a 16 year old girl who, like all 16 year olds is going to make mistakes and say things she shouldn’t have. This, however, has nothing to do with Willow Palin or the substance of what she said on Facebook. The ‘slur’ used here is one you could hear on the streets of West Hollywood or Chelsea every day of the week. Apparently, it’s only a ‘homophobic slur’ when it comes from the daughter of a conservative female leader. Make no mistake; this is all about destroying Sarah Palin by any means necessary.

“The angry misogynistic left and their accomplices in the main stream media have been unable to take down Governor Palin – no matter how hard they have tried. Unable to take her down directly they now have decided to try to hurt her by attacking the most important thing in her life – her family.

“Any person, gay or straight, who participates in this cheap political smear should be ashamed of themselves.”

Oh, you motherfuckers...

Yes, it's the people calling Palin on her bullshit that should be ashamed of themselves. This coming from the very people who love the hand that beats them, even when that hand is attached to those who will exploit them for a vote but wouldn't take a wet shit in their mouths if they were seconds away from death by dehydration.

Yeah, I just fucking said that.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Bullies never win

Spoiler Alert! Don’t read if you haven’t watched the finale!

I didn’t set the DVR for Top Chef: Just Desserts, as I thought the show might be a little much to take. But, after hearing about some of the contestants and the epic, sugar-fueled meltdowns, I set the DVR to catch the goodness.

Boy, am I ever glad. The premise is the same as Top Chef, but in this version, they focus on, well, Just Desserts. Boring you ask? Hell no. From the get-go, many of the contestants (I refuse to use the word Cheftestant btw) came out as openly Gay. The kitchen culture on the regular Top Chef follows that of the restaurant world, it’s okay to be LBGT, just don’t flaunt it. To this date, no openly Gay person has won Top Chef. I remember my time in the kitchen in Toledo at both the Westgate Dinner Theater and at Lightening Louie’s at Portside. It was like a locker room in the kitchen, and you best not be Gay. Oh sure there were some of us who were, but we just didn’t say anything and kept it quiet in the kitchen when we picked up our food. There is a definite hierarchy in a food establishment, with the chefs/cooks at the top of the pyramid of power.

So when Team Diva formed on Just Desserts, the Gay Factor when up to 11. Morgan, the token hetero on the show never hid his disgust with the team and would openly bitch about them on the confession cams. Yes, the team members were Gay, and Zac, god love him, took every opportunity to flaunt his sexuality. Morgan steamed each time Zac said something remotely Gay and often would roll his eyes or worse yet, threatening to do bodily harm. Zac called Morgan out at the Judge’s Table one episode, and Morgan didn’t react well, calling Zac a variety of disrespectful names, including the ever so classy “annoying little fairy.” Really Morgan? That’s soooo junior high. And as annoying as Zac may have been, he never threatened you with bodily harm or called you a name or used a slur against you. And, I can’t wait for “Disco Dust” to be added to our collective lexicon this year.

In the end, it appeared that Morgan may indeed win, as Yigit and Danielle, the other two finalists had their own Waterloos leading up to the finale. After the loathsome Gretchen’s win on Project Runway over the hyper-talented Mondo, I feared that this may be a win for Morgan and would break my heart once again. But Yigit, the skinniest pastry chef I have ever seen, pulled it together and using dating as a metaphor for his courses won the contest.

So, what have we learned from this? Bullies don’t win, they never do.

Congrats to Yigit and the rest of Team Diva, Morgan, you can suck it.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Opposites Attract

Yesterday afternoon Anna’s Daisy Scouts came into my studio at the college to earn their pottery badges. It was thrilling to have that many young, eager minds ready to work and have fun in the studio. They were generally excited and oooo’d and aaahh’d over every little thing we presented them. They gleefully made their projects without whining and did a great job in cleaning up. I tell ya, it’s enough to make me want to go back to teaching K 12. Yes college students, I am talking about YOU!

One of Anna’s fellow students is the daughter of my oral surgeon. We’ve had some pretty interesting conversations (when I am not sedated in her chair) and we both have a love of the arts at our core being and do what we can to promote and share the arts in our community. She showed up yesterday in her scrubs, looking completely out of place in my dusty, dirty, and NOT sterile studio. We both got a good laugh over the fact that for her to do her job well, she needs to remain as clean as possible and work in a sterile environment. Sure she gets dirty (and often times, bloody) while she does her work, but her goal is to remain as clean as possible. For that, us patients are very glad.

Me, on the other hand, I am just the opposite. We make no guarantees of cleanliness, as a matter of fact, we openly warn people to watch where they sit, and to expect to get dirty while in the room. I once had a Dean come in for a quick meeting in the studio and she left with a white dust ring on her butt. Yeah, that was an awkward conversation to have.

But back to the dirt… if I am doing my job well, I will leave the college covered in dust and with clay in my hair and on my clothes. I stopped by the grocery on the way home one night and one of my former students looked at me as I was checking out and asked me if I had a busy day in the studio. I gave her a funny look, said “Yes” and then asked her how she knew I was in the studio. She pointed at my forehead and the giant streak of clay running across it.

Yup, it was a good day indeed.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Where were you five years ago?

Five years ago this weekend, our collectively lives changed forever.

Tomorrow marks Anna’s 5th birthday, a big milestone for sure for our oldest charge.

As some of you know, prior to starting the blog, I had thought (and still do) about writing a book about the whole adoption process. This is from one of the initial chapters that shares what was going on before this young girl moved into our home and our hearts.

It has a rather abrupt ending, as there is a rather long couple of paragraphs that follow that don’t really deal with preparing, so hold on and wait for part two next week.

We thought we knew what we were getting in to when we started the whole adoption process. As teachers, we had worked with our share of kids of all ages so nothing really seemed to be an issue to us. God were we ever wrong.

Right after we met with Anna’s Mom and knew it was a match, we decided to ramp up our efforts and start getting stuff for our newest family member. We had heeded the adoption book’s advice and kept the hoarding and nesting down to a minimum. We had felt the pain of a birth mom changing her mind, so we didn’t want to set up shop and then have to take down everything if things changed. We decided to support our local toy store, the Toy House, a place that has been in Jackson for many years. Their signature wrapping paper of multi-colored balloons has delighted generations of young Jacksonians. We knew that they had a baby department, and unlike some of the big box places in town, their staff actually know what they are doing. So we had dinner, a few drinks to steel our nerves, and headed to the store. It was a Friday night and we were a few weeks away from Anna’s birth. Our former church had decided to have a shower for us, so they recommended that we set up a baby registry at the Toy house so we didn’t end up with 20 copies of “Goodnight Moon” or worse yet, a Raffi CD. We walked around the baby area with a glazed look on our face and finally a woman came up and asked if we needed help. We told her what we were doing, and she asked us what we actually had at home for the baby. As mentioned, we kept our purchases to a minimum, so we only had a few things:

• An MSU teddy bear

• A collection of baby tattoos

• A flannel shirt from Baby Gap

We shared our pathetic list with the woman, and the look on her face said: you are sooooo fucked. We knew we were in trouble. She sighed a heavy sigh and showed us how to use the bar code zapper/registry thingie. She asked us if we had any bottles.


Any bibs?


Any diaper containers?


She shook her head and started zapping things like she was at a shooting range. We reminded her that we only had the bear, tattoos and flannel shirt several times and she mentally sized us up each time. Who were these two clueless idiots? Why were they having a kid? WHO ALLOWED THIS?

More later!

Enjoy your week and send birthday wishes to Anna on Saturday.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Adam Carolla's kids respond

Adam Carolla’s two children, twins Natalia and Santino have recently gone on record as saying that they would have preferred to be raised by a Gay couple instead of their father, the formerly relevant “comedian” Carolla.

“He just sits at home all day doing nothing,” remarked Natalia as she played with her Dora doll. “Maybe we’d have better toys if Uncle Jimmy was our dad,” Santino said, kicking away a broken G.I.Joe from a pile of marked down “Man Show” DVDs piled in the children’s play area. “I’m just glad that Sarah (Silverman) isn’t our mom,” said a visibly shaken Natalia, “that bitch ain’t right.” The children are seem to be happy and well taken care of, but by the way they talk and pine out loud for a better life, it makes one wonder if comedians should even be allowed to have children in the first place.

“What if Justin Bieber was our dad,” wondered Natalia,” that would be awesome! I bet Justin wouldn’t spend all night watching reruns and yelling at Uncle Jimmy’s picture.” “Or making crank phone calls to people when he should be out looking for a job” added Santino.

Carolla’s children decided to break the silence after their father made the following comments on his podcast. Apparently podcasts are what you do when your career is over and you are trying to remain in the spotlight.

Said Carolla: Look, if something happens to me, I'd rather my kids were raised by a heterosexual couple rather than a gay couple, all things being equal. I just believe a mom and dad is better than two dads or two moms. I don't believe this, I just know this.

And Adam, for the record, we just know that you are a complete asshole.

And, don't you be an asshole. If you're going to comment on this, have the balls or ovaries to comment with an identity.  Anonymous comments will no longer be allowed.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Fatherhood Friday: Walking in my shoes part 2

As a parent, I am reminded daily that my task is a great one. I am under a microscope each day at work, as my students watch and study (when they’re not on their damn phones texting) everything I do. The same is true with Anna and Eli. Now that school is in full swing, our time with them is limited each day. From the frantic rushing around in the morning to the meltdown hour at 4, we have just a few hours with them to interact and make a positive difference. But with life and all the other responsibilities in the world, it’s easy to forget that fact. I will admit that it was easier with one child, and we’re slowly finding a groove with two, but this is something that we are working on each day. Anna and I have about 30 minutes each morning to sit and read, talk, do art, or just stare out the door together as we wait for her bus to come. I enjoy that time, as I can’t do anything else; it’s my daily moment of Anna Zen.

Eli is now quickly moving into the Terrible Twos, something that we avoided with Anna. His personality has always been strong, but now it’s coming out big time (as well as his wicked sense of humor). Each request to do something is greeted with a “NO!” or an exasperated “okaaaaaaay” as he begrudgingly does what was asked. He’s slowly picking up more and more words and communication is becoming easier as his vocabulary grows. It’s fun to observe the differences between the male and female toddler. I can’t say yet which is easier, but I do know that I will be glad when this phase is done.

But back to the whole parenting thing… I hope that someday Eli will follow in my footsteps and not in the footsteps of his biological parents. I know that I am not perfect, but I want to be the best role model for this young man each and every day. Some kids don’t get a second chance with their influences or their parents, Eli has, and I am honored to be part of that.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Fatherhood Friday: The Queen will see you now

Ready to rock the Halloween Parade tomorrow. Still working on getting Eli in his costume, going to be a tough one. Anna, however, would wear this 24/7 if she could.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Rachael Ray: A tribute

Love her, or hate her, and to be fully honest, I do both on a regular basis. Maybe it’s her obnoxious use of E.V.O.O. for extra virgin olive oil, which doesn’t really shorten anything, as she has to repeat “extra virgin olive oil” after she says it each time on the show. Or maybe it’s how each time she goes to her cupboards or fridge she tries to balance all the staples in her arms and makes a big show of how handy she is carrying the stuff to the counter. Look, I can get an entire load of laundry to the bed for sorting and folding when I unload the dryer, but you don’t see me doing it on a show. Stop it. Get a tray and stop with the theatrics. And then there are her Rachaelized vocabulary words which grate my nerves like a hunk of cheese on a micro-plane: sammies for sandwiches, and stoup for stew/soup hybrids. Stop it Rachael, stop it NOW!

But I have found my new hero in her, and it’s not a hero Sammie, it’s her new show, A Week in a Day.

God bless you Rachael, you have done what some have tried, and I think, by golly, you did it. I recorded two of her shows on the Cooking Channel and sat down pen and note pad in hand to watch and take notes. I was home sick with some kind of seasonal ick, so doing anything food related was a rather dicey situation, but this show made me perk right up and take notice. She delivers on her promise of five meals in an afternoon of prep time for reheating later in the week. All of the dishes are hearty in makeup, as they have to sit in the fridge for a few days before service, which is fine. They are also pretty kid-friendly, which is great.

With the two kids, our work schedule, the kid’s schedules, and our apparent rock star lifestyle, a show like this is a big win on all accounts. Our cholesterol levels (it seems that both Tod and I have pudding for blood) as well as our waist lines will attest to the fact that we are eating processed and convenience food on a regular basis. Well, thanks to St. Rachael, we can hopefully get back on track and get healthy again. Here is a link to the show’s website:

My only suggestion would be to have a readymade grocery list for each week on the website that could be printed out. Yes, I said it. Make it REALLY easy for us Rachael. Certainly one of your many minions could do this for you each week. Thanks for all you do, you’ve made getting a healthy dinner on the table easy-peasy.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Fatherhood Friday: Halloween thoughts

From my friend Michael at Spo-Reflections, thanks for the inspiration this busy week!
1 – What was the scariest movie you have ever seen? It would have to be the Exorcist. I snuck down to our basement when I was a kid and watched it. Freaked my shit right out. To this day, the final scenes in that film give me the creeps.

2- What was your favorite Hallowe’en costume as a child? When I went as a witch.

3- Given enough money what would be your fantasy Hallowe’en costume? Edgar A. Poe with a bunch of ravens on him. Think a Goth version of the Birds.

4- When was the last time you went trick or treating? With the kids at the various family events. It never gets old. They are usually asleep when we get home so Tod and I can “edit” their candy collections.

5- What is your favorite Hallowe’en candy? Smarties.

6- Tell us about a scary nightmare you once had. Since the kids have come into my life, the really scary ones involve them in perilous situations. I find it hard to go back to sleep after that.

7 – What is your supernatural fear? That the three different dead people that are now in my mouth (from the bone grafts) will come back to life some day. I have instructed all my friends and students to just chop off my head in the case of a zombie uprising.

8-What is your ‘creepy-crawlie’ fear? Maggots, hands down.

9- Tell us a time you saw a ghost or heard something go bump in the night. This happens with alarming frequency in our house. It would be easier to find a day that it DIDN’T happen.

10- Would you stay overnight in a real Haunted House? Have you seen our house? We have babysitters and house sitters who will not return.

11-Are you a traditionalist or a creative carver of you Jack-o-Lantern? Bitch please…

12- How much do you decorate the house at Hallowe’en? Bitch please…

13- What do you want on your Tombstone? Bitch please…

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Art Prize 2010: A recap

Art Prize 2010 is now in the history books, and this year, I actually went and saw the works displayed. I shelved my distaste for the DeVos family and drove north to see the works the day after the winning piece was announced. Chris LaPorte’s piece, an epic pencil drawing bigger than some homes here in Jackson is truly something to behold. But should it have won? I may be quickly treading into Gretchen (from this season’s Project Runway) territory here with the following comments, but I think that they need to be shared. I am not intending to toss shade on this man and his efforts, or his win, but I have a few points to make. Yes, the piece is great. It’s huge, it’s superbly executed, and it strikes at the heart of many who have had family serving in the military. But for all those positives, I think there are some glaring negatives that were either over-looked or simply ignored by the voters/judges.

For example: in my twenty years of teaching, each year, some bright-eyed student will show up with a portfolio of drawings copied from magazine photos. They can’t wait to show me their immaculate rendering of Heath Ledger as the Joker or have me marvel at the detail they put in to Megan Fox’s lips. Their pieces show great artisanship, but aside from that one quality, that’s it. When those same students are put in front of the simplest of still life set ups, they crumble.

From LaPorte’s own mouth comes the fact that he projected and then traced out the many figures in the massive composition. I think that the piece may have been more interesting had he just started laying the picture plane out without the aid of a projector and let the fun start. That’s a challenge.

Yes, he spent 800 hours on the piece, that’s 20 weeks, or about 6 months to fill in all the value on the men’s faces. In my opinion, LaPorte’s work is nothing more than what those students share with me each year, but on a grander level. I didn’t see much innovation, nor did I see much creativity. He was simply filling in the value/matching texture and that’s about it. I am concerned that the voting for Art Prize will go to a safe piece each year, hotel art if you would.

I shared my photos from my trip with my beginning drawing students today and when I mentioned that he traced this picture out from a projection, a voice came out of the dark and said, “Hey, that’s cheating!” After this student clarified her point, a few murmurs of agreement came from the rest of the class, acknowledging that his piece was good, but…

There were so many other pieces that showed much more innovation and creativity that it just made me sad to walk around the city’s many venues and see these pieces that didn’t win. My personal favorite, and an “ooooo” invoking piece with my students was David Sprigg’s “Vision” an amazing piece done with layers of clear plastic, creating an amazing 3D image.

Beili Liu’s piece “Lure/Wave” is an amazing installation that I regret not seeing at night. During the day, when my buddy Randy and I strolled by, it was difficult to see, let alone photograph the images in the space. However, it remains embedded in my memory.

And then there’s Steam Pig. What can I say here that will do that piece justice? It was just fucking amazing. Here is the link to the collective’s proposal to Art Prize.

So yeah, I am now a fan of Art Prize, and god help me, I may even enter a piece next year and see what floats. Until then, something to think about for the DeVos clan… I am certain that the economic impact of this event on the city is astounding. After listening to a story on NPR this morning, it seems that Detroit is about ready to fall into ruins financially. Why not host Art Prize in Detroit every other year? Grand Rapids has a stronger economy, so why not share the wealth around the state? Just something to consider.

Until next year, stay hot Rick.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Me, at the show.

A cool and fun group of folks stopped out for the reception this weekend. Before the show, Tod snapped this picture of me. He said I looked like a librarian with the vest and bowtie. I was honored.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Fatherhood Friday: showing off

If you are not in the Jackson area and would like to see the images in "The Dangerous Lives of Children" collection, please follow this link:

If you ARE in Jackson, get your ass over to the Bon Ton Room to check out the installation before October 11th.

If you would like a print of any of the images, please let me know. I'd love to help you with the printing and framing.

Remember: Support Local Artists. We support you!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Fatherhood Friday: Randomness

"Shout!" a new pic on display here in Jackson!
Today seems to be a day for randomness, so here goes:

1. A week after my dental implant surgery, I am slowly moving to more solid food.

2. Speaking of, I now have the bones of three cadavers in my mouth. HOT.

3. The new tooth will not go in until June. Can’t wait.

4. Vicodin is a bitch. The Versed they gave me made it almost impossible to function on Friday. It took me over an hour to make a grocery list. The feeling you get around the spring time change when you lose an hour is the feeling I have been battling all week. Ugh.

5. Great day, albeit long, at the college today. My students were busy at work so I was able to glaze 8 pieces and create 12 on the wheel. WOOT.

6. Speaking of, I have nothing to complain about at all this semester. My classes are wonderful. I am blessed.

7. Tod’s parents are here, as we are heading west to Campit on Friday, can’t wait. It’s Bears in the Woods. You do the math.

8. No, we’re not tenting; we’re borrowing a pop up camper from one of Tod’s coworkers. So much easier. Not as butch for sure, but hey.

9. Yukon will join us. He’s the bear magnet when we go. “My St. Bernard brings all the Bears to the yard, and they’re like, it’s better than yours…”

10. Anna fell asleep on the bus ride home and was more than an hour late coming home. Thankfully, I was at work and wasn’t dialing 911 to find out where she was. Oy.

11. Eli is a punk. We dodged the bullet with Anna and the terrible twos. He is paying us back big time.

12. My show, The Dangerous Lives of Children, is now here in Jackson. We’ll see how many folks actually come to see it now that it is in town.

13. The show, The Politics of Fear, which features a picture of our wedding, is waiting to be reviewed by the Ann Arbor News and the Ann Arbor Observer, both big names in critical art review. I am eager to hear what they say about the show and about my piece in particular. In looking at the curatorial statement for the show, I think my piece is one that fits the bill to the tee.

14. And, I will have a piece, although not my first choice of work, in the next show, “What’s so funny.” My original idea was to do a piece related to the very sick joke: What’s funnier than a dead baby… a dead clown!!! I wanted to make a clown hanging from a noose with a tipped chair and nothing else. The curators felt that the noose was too powerful of an image and asked me to reconsider. I did.

15. I am reading “The Lonely Polygamist” by Brady Udall and I can’t wait to pick it up each night. It’s a great read. Really.

16. Our new kitty, Edwin, is growing by leaps and bounds. I think he’s going to be a monster. His striping is amazing.

17. We’re coming up on the year anniversary of Lola’s death. I miss her.

18. I am the Humanities Scholar for our county’s Prime Time Family Reading Program. It’s what took us to NOLA this summer for training. The trial event is this Tuesday, eager to see how it goes with our test audience.

19. The maples are changing color, I love it.

20. That’s it. What’s going on in your neck of the woods?

Monday, September 20, 2010

A reader in the UK?

At a recent protest of Pope Benedict. I think she reads my blog.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Fatherhood Friday: Ch ch ch changes

Forgive my lack of originality here today. I went under yesterday for implant surgery in my mouth. The tooth I lost last summer will finally be in sometime around May. Until then, there is a lovely post in my gum calcifying around some more cadaver bone. I swear to God, at some point there is going to be more dead people’s bone in my head than my own (no snarky comments please!)

However, I did get this email from Sue S, an amazing woman that I am honored to know. Back in the day, she was my cooperating teacher for when I did the high school part of my student teaching at Libbey High School in Toledo, Ohio. Even though several decades (Yikes!) have passed since that time, we still remain in contact, and for that, I am thrilled.

She sent this email the other day and I found it quite interesting:

ABC just aired a spot about the changing American family and I thought of you and yours. ABC also aired a story awhile back that was interesting.

You know the riddle: father and son are in a horrible car accident. Father dies instantly. Son is rushed to the hospital where the emergency surgeon says "I can't operate on him, he's my son" and the question then is: how is this possible?

In the 70's, the expected answer was "the surgeon is the boy's mother" as an argument about stereotypes and expectations.

ABC wanted to see if things have changed, and ran that riddle past adults on the street, and many had no answer ... but the best part was when they ran the riddle past kids. Some of the kids came up with Boy's Mother ... but the one I really liked was the boy who said "It's because the surgeon is his other Dad"

.... time out for cheers and applause.


Sunday, September 12, 2010

Hop on Pop

My right arm sleeve is a mix of NW Coast Indian art and Children's Literature creatures. I have the Pop and the two kids bouncing on him from Dr. Suess' "Hop on Pop" around my wrist. Why? Whenever I lay down on the couch or on the floor, the kids pile on.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Fatherhood Friday: Scissor Sister

We dodged the bullet for the past few years.
We wondered if we should even cut our own hair at home, worrying that Anna would see it and take tonsorial matters into her own hands, and for the past few years, she’s done well listening to our admonishment to only let Teresa (her stylist) cut her hair. We have grown her hair out since birth, since she has rock star curls and her hair is amazing. But in the immortal words of VH1’s Behind the Music “that all changed” as of last night. As an art teacher, I have tried to instill in Anna respect for materials and media. She has had art supplies at her will since she was able and has done well. Sure, we’ve had a few incidental tagging of various furniture pieces, but for the most part, she’s done okay with her supplies, including the scary scissors. We cringed when her well-meaning preschool teacher gave her a pair of scissors that actually cut shit up, but she (Anna) promised that she would only do good with the new tool.

Until last night.

The first day of kindergarten went well, even though the bus was late and I ended up taking her to school on my way to work, but things seemed to be okay. However, this morning (day two) we woke up to a pile of hair in her bedroom and denial of any wrong-doing on her part. Apparently a “friend” came in and cut her hair for her, so she remains blameless of any wrong-doing with this event. The “friend” gave her a rather un-styled mullet, the kind you see at county fairs or in a Die Antwoord video (just Google it okay? Thank me later).

Thankfully, my former student Teresa is one of the owners of a great salon downtown and we put up the signal this morning, and her amazing team went to work this afternoon and un-styled the mullet and in the timeless words of Tim Gunn, “made it work.” It’s short, it’s sassy, it’s kind of Meg Ryan, but it looks nice. Someone asked me if we kept the hair for Locks of Love, the short answer is NO. The hair was so crazily cut by Anna, sorry, the "friend" that none of the hairs were the same length. I don’t know too many punk preschoolers on chemo, so the hair went into the trash instead of a wig.

A young girl who came to Family Week this summer had done a similar deed and ended up needing a VERY short do that made her look like a boy. She spent most of the week yelling “I’M A GIRL!” at the top of her lungs to the boys that tried to engage her in play. Anna still looks like a very cute girl and is rockin’ the look. Tod hates it, but I think he missed out on having the giant Barbie head as a kid to style and play with and Is using Anna as his own surrogate Barbie head. I am thrilled that I don’t have to mess with the screaming and the yelling as I comb her hair each morning. And yes, I am the ONLY one who makes her scream when I do her hair. Perhaps my many years of teasing out manikin wigs at Jacobson’s made me deaf to their silent screams. I followed all the rules for dealing with kid’s hair, but each day that I came at her with the brush, the screams started, many times even before I touched her.

So now her golden locks are gone, but she is still amazing, and even if she was bald, I’d still love her to death. And, for the record, I did NOT sneak into her room last night and cut her hair.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Fatherhood Friday: Musings on my Muses... or what inspires me

My kids are my muses, and I find a great deal of wonder and fun in their daily lives. As an artist, and as a parent, I document our lives by taking photos, creating a trail of images and memories from birth right on up to yesterday. While some of the photos I take are staged, many of the images in our collections are spontaneous and a reaction to the current situation and environment. How my kids respond is what makes these images so much fun to view. My daughter is a genuine ham and knows how to make the most of her time in front of the camera; she makes my job as the photographer easy. My son, upon seeing the camera will smile and say “cheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeese” until his photo is snapped.

The ancient muses were believed to inspire all artists, especially poets, philosophers, and musicians, I wonder if my kids can also un-inspire me and become a hindrance. While they physically are the body of most of my work, they can also work very quickly to suck any innovation and energy out of my projects. It’s tough to balance being a parent, working full time, and trying to develop my secondary career as a working artist. As much as I love em, they can bring me to a state of total artistic chaos with one dinner or outing paired with their toddler/preschool antics.

I need to work on that balance, finding inspiration in the mundane and the moments that I want to pull my hair out as well. So dear readers, what inspires you?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

I hate excuses

But yeah, I have a good one. Fall semester started up again on Monday, and I have been neck deep in getting the department ready for the semester. Eager to go back, it's my 10th year at the college, hard to believe I have been there that long. So much has changed in my life, I hardly know where to begin!
Speaking of changes, we have a new addtiion to the small but mightly McMillen-Oakley clan. His name is Edwin, and he's a 10 week old Maine Coon cat. Edwin, as you know is Olivia's cat, hence the name.
We are all adjusting well... even Yukon.
Your moment of kitteh:

Friday, August 13, 2010

Fatherhood Friday: Teach your children well, Sunday School edition

As teachers, Tod and I agonize about our kid’s education. We have spent countless hours over the past year deciding what to do with Anna this year in kindergarten, as we want to follow her year of pre-school with a strong year of kindergarten. We weren’t sure that was going to happen with some changes in the Jackson Public Schools, but after some letter writing and meeting with the principal of the school, we feel confident that she will get the best possible experience next year. Call us Papa Grizzlies, but we want what’s best for our kids.

However, we have not done so well with her Sunday Schooling. We left our church this past spring for a variety of reasons and Anna keeps asking when she can go to Sunday school. It’s hard to hear her complain about NOT going to church (as I know in a few years, it would be much different). I honestly think she misses dressing up “fancy” and eating the donuts after church and is not necessarily missing the educational aspect (even though her teacher was great). We were tired of the United Methodist’s stance on LGBT members, tired of the politics of the UCC/Congregational church, and basically sick of most religious institution’s involvement in politics and elections (Mormons and Catholics, I’m pointing at YOU!). We wanted a religion that took to heart the tenets of our Constitution of kept their business out of our business. Call us Religious Tea-baggers, but we want what’s best for our kids.

So, after some discussion, we decided that we would take charge of our kid’s religious education and do it at home. I did a quick search on line to discover the pros and cons of home schooling your kid, as I knew that teaching Sunday school couldn’t be that hard. I came up with a few sites and this article by Jeanette Steiner an Expert Author. She is a single homeschooling mother of seven who lives on acreage in beautiful north Idaho (via her bio on the site). Her article, “Ten Great Reasons to Home school Your Child” provided me with the talking points that I am certain we’ll have to use to defend our decision to tackle this on our own. Her points are first, my responses follow.
1. You will be the number one influence on your child and his formation.
This is a great reason! We’d hate to have a church preach to our kids that we are incompatible with Christ’s teachings, or belong to a church that uses its coffers to fund elections or policies, that would be bad.

2. It will allow you the chance to get to know your child better because you will be with him most of the day. Okay, so it’s only one day a week, but at least we’ll know what they are being taught. And since we won’t have to bother with actually taking part in the church service, we can put all of our focus on them and their religious education.

3. You can allow your child to learn at her own pace, whether she is ahead or behind. Teaching in a traditional school is "one-size-fits-all." I agree with this. I just wish the public schools would do more to help out with the kids who have special needs. And I am certain that this woman’s credentials allow her to adequately assess the various learning styles and issues that her seven kids have. So, with that said, Tod and I will be just the right people to custom tailor our Sunday school curriculum to Anna and Eli’s evolving needs. Oh sure, our graduate degrees are in Education and Administration, and not Divinity, but that doesn’t seem to stop the thousands of homeschooling parents who don’t have a degree in education. We’ll be just fine.

4. The ability to teach your religious faith and pray during your school day. This is very important. It is a proven fact that many children will lose their faith when faced with the day in and day out assault on their beliefs. I agree with this as well! I am certain that if we allow ALL the religion in all the classrooms, the kids will have a great time! By the time we get done with all the different prayers and rituals for all the different faiths represented, I am positive that we’ll have plenty of time to teach the four R’s. Okay, maybe just three of them. And, I am certain that Anna and Eli will blossom in an environment that doesn’t present them with a day in and day out assault on their family and their Daddy and Papa.

5. The ability to have a say in who your child's friends are. This is great! I wish all of society was like this! We could have marriages arranged and we could totally tell people who they can and cannot talk to each day. Maybe we can put different people towards the rear of the bus as well, and what about clubs and restaurants? It would be so nice if I could just hang out with people like me. And don’t get me started on water fountains! And hey, what if we all wore cool costumes/uniforms that set us apart? I think a basic grey uniform with some snazzy armbands with our logo on it would be great! And then, when we see people we don’t know or like to hang out with, we could put stars on them. Perfect.

6. Nicer, more pleasant children. I hate to say it, but it is true. I have strangers tell me all of the time how "well behaved" my children are. It is not that I am such a great mother or am constantly nagging them about their manners (though I do believe in teaching them), but it is because of the removal of what I call the "Lord of the Flies influence." When children of the same age spend 6-7 hours a day together, five days a week for nine months of the year, unless they have adults constantly monitoring and correcting them, their behaviour can be somewhat barbaric and out-of-control. I left her whole bullet point here, as I think she has a good point. I have seen first hands the terrors of public education. The kids are bused to school and completely ignored by the bus driver. When they arrive at the school, they sit in the gym completely ignored by the teacher’s assistants getting them ready for the day. And then when they get to the classroom, the teacher(s) that were hired by the district to educate them just sit there IN THE CLASSROOM the whole day. The poor dears are even ignored when they are walked to the bathroom by the teacher or the para-pro. It’s just so sad. So yeah, we’ll totally be in there for them when we put in our Veggie Tales DVD and give them a page to color.

7. No worries about bullies. This is great! Anna is so passive that this shouldn’t be an issue with her or Eli!

8. No worries about sexual abuse. This is true! I am glad we are staying away from all those religious people who take advantage of kids in their care.

9. More freedom to express creativity and be themselves. If Anna wants to reenact the Last Supper with her dolls, I say why not? And if Eli wants to do his interpretation of the story of Elijah and the prophets of Baal in interpretive dance, go for it dude!

10. The ability to embark on a learning adventure with your children. This is great too! I am so excited to do this and can’t wait to get started.

So we are totally stoked and ready to begin with our grand experiment. We’re going to contact our former churches and see if they can send us some money to help us with this; after all, it’s their responsibility to help us make this happen, even though we have taken our kids out of their program. I am certain that they will help us with some kind of funding, if not, maybe we can push for a ballot initiative to make this happen.