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: