Splitting the Holidays

At 4pm 3 days ago, Christmas Day, I walked my son down the stairs outside our apartment and toward the open arms of his father, who'd driven 40 minutes to pick him up. So went the fourth-in-a-row such Christmas day, the fourth since his father and I separated.

In the immediate moments leading up to the hour of exchange, and in all the underlying moments during the two days leading up to Christmas Day, I was torn by the desire to enjoy every second of the present, and the sadness accompanying the knowledge that my son would be away for 5 days.

I felt guilt for every moment I was shopping for gifts instead of playing with him. I dreaded the thought of cooking all morning on Christmas, wondering how many times I'd have to tell him I was busy and couldn't do whatever it was--any number of sweet and curious-minded little 4-year-old things--he'd try to pull me into. I was plagued by a series of questions that I know many parents, regardless of their marital status or custodial arrangements, are all too familiar with: am I a good mother? Do I give enough of my time to my son? Will I have any regrets later about what I did and didn't do?

I'm not going to try and answer any of those questions right now. Not here in this blog. I'll save further thoughts on those questions for the middle-of-the-night terrors when he's a teenager. Or when he's left the house for good and all I can do is ask myself again and again whether I've effectively prepared him for the world.

For the time being, I was dealing with Christmas.

The day was made doubly strange by the absence of my boyfriend Kevin's son, who (although his father and I aren't married), I consider my stepson. Though he'd spent every single night since mid-August with us, sleeping in his bedroom down the hall from ours, he was away that particular Christmas Eve and Christmas morning, with his mom. What an odd kind of quiet had settled over the place. How lonely his presents looked under the tree once Kevin's folks and my folks and my son had opened theirs.

How exceptional, to have these two boys apart on this day of all days.

My stepson returned home at about 8 that night and he wanted to wait until the next morning to open his presents. But because of my early departure for work, I missed even that. It was the most disjointed Christmas I'd ever experienced.

Kevin and I only yesterday finally got around to opening gifts from each other, and my son still has an untouched stocking hanging in the living room, awaiting his return.

Part of me wants to feel (again) sadness and guilt about this.

And then there's this other part of me.

The other part reminds me that this is the reality, and that nothing will change that in the time it takes me to come to terms with it; all that coming-to-terms-time is just wasted moments of the here and now. It reminds me that life is not all perfect plans and days that work out just like they do in your mind, or in the lives of others. Christmas Day does not have a rubric that we must aspire to follow. It just has this history in my mind, this vision of the way I celebrated it.

But my parents were together then as they are now. My brother was my blood brother and he was never further away than across the hall from me. Step-families were a thing of lore, and--as I got older--a something I encountered occasionally among friends; at that I never had a clue how complicated the schedules of these friends' families must have been.

What to do then but to take lessons (one each) from two of my favorite members of the male gender?

From my son: to follow his example and go with it, whatever the "it" is and to handle everything in stride as it comes to me, as it is explained to me; to never once pause long to complain, to be absolutely present in every moment and to enjoy the company of those around me.

From Kevin: to keep in mind his consolatory words to me that evening before Christmas (after all, he's been sharing holidays for years now), that "there is a certain amount of acceptance that has to accompany these choices we made." And yes. Yes! That's exactly what was in order and the only thing that stood to bring about peace-of-mind. What else is there to do, really?

What else but to keep in my mind that my son knows I love him, even when I'm not near. To remember that he is loved very much by the people who surround him when he's away, people who are very happy to have him there with them. To remember that mine and Kevin's sons' inability to be in the same house at the same time one Christmas is no tragedy. It's a chance to make the holiday whatever we want it to be. It removes the pressure of that ONE morning. It says well, if we can make two days of it why not 7? Why not stretch the festivities out over the course of a month, as my grandfather did with birthdays in his later years?

Why the hell not?

And while I'm at it, why not also remember that every single moment I do spend with my son is a gift I can not possibly over-appreciate.

That Christmas morning I spent cooking? The one I'd worried so much about? It turned out to be wonderful. My son played with his new Ninja Turtle and Lego toys nearby peacefully and contentedly. When he came around it was well-timed such that he had my complete and joyful attention. He was full of affection for me and I for him. It was one of my favorite mornings of all the mornings I've had the chance to spend with him.

My hope is that, with mindfulness and acceptance, I can truly enjoy all the these holidays exactly how they come, dis-jointed and funkily timed and oddly shaped and all.

Kevin's Sketch

In his words (further work on last week's piece)...

Inspired by my fascination with the eye candy of the Archimedean Solids, 13 of which were described by Johannes Kepler in 1619.  Their names are a mouthful—pictured at top, the Great Rhombocuboctahedron, middle, the Truncated Icosahedron, and bottom, the Great Rhombicosidodecahedron.


A Case for Loving Your Fellow Woman

A few months ago I came into contact with a lovely woman from Colombia who, at 50 and with grown children, was a picture of youthful beauty with a fit and shapely body to boot. Also, she was friendly and engaging and mellow. I liked her instantly.

How heartbroken I was on her behalf when she left the room and I heard two of the other women who'd met her at the same time begin to shower hate--as only women threatened by one of their own--can:

"Well I'd have a body like that too if my kids were gone and I could just spend two hours at the gym every day." (for example--and from a woman whose kids ARE grown and certainly self-sufficient enough that she could go to the gym, if that were how she wanted to spend her time...not that that's even the point.)

The display of jealousy was so unattractive, so thoroughly off-putting. And it made me really, really sad.

It made me feel like no matter what we women have to overcome in order to get to where we want to be, nothing will be more difficult than dealing with the enmity of other women who are unhappy with their own stations in life and seeking comfort through tearing down what others have built up.

I've made pit stops at a few difficult life stations myself. Hell I've stayed a night or two in some. And during those times I've certainly looked around at women who seemed to be having a better time at it than me, wanting too to be where they were. I know exactly where it comes from: this urge to question whether or not a woman deserves her good fortune, to cast doubt upon whether she's earned her place, to think of reasons why you could have/could have done the same, if only blah blah blah blah blah...

But these were child-like reflexes I was responding to, lacking not only in empathy and kindness, but in basic logic. I needed to ask myself this question: Will the negative thought or thing I have to say about that woman over there have even the slightest longshot chance of getting me any closer to where I want to be?

Of course the answer was no.

A couple of weeks ago I was seated comfortably in a warm dining room with my girlfriends Anne and Atiya, both dynamic and hard-working Mamas who are intelligent and funny and comfortable in their own skin--always uplifting people to spend time with. Atiya was talking about a former boss whom she'd always admired. She said, "when I see women with qualities like that, I feel like I wanna be like that. I ask 'how does she do that?' because I want to emulate it!" She mentioned this in mindful contrast to the common alternative, which would be to talk behind that woman's back, to make fun of her, to spread unseemly gossip, to betray.

That, I think, is one wonderful way to go about fostering happiness. You recognize that there is room for improvement in your own life, and you learn from the people you admire.

Simple, right?

If only.

In one interview I heard in advance of her book Lean In's publication, Sheryl Sandberg mentioned a widely read study that is now the inspiration for a hair commercial of much discussion. The study showed that men and women, after reading descriptions that were equal but for the gender of the name in question, labeled the men in favorable terms and the women in unfavorable terms, though they were doing the exact same things. (see commercial below)

Here's what I find most striking about that study: men AND women were guilty of judging the fictional woman of the study more harshly. (And I wouldn't be surprised if women did it even more often.)

The conclusion I'm left with is many women haven't yet discovered that there is not a limited amount of happiness and success and self-actualization out there that we must compete over; we don't have to go about life all Hunger Games-like.

My Mom gave me a book years ago that influenced my thinking on this subject quite a bit.

From Marianne Williamson's A Woman's Worth:
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn't serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We are born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us, it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
I was probably 19 when I first read this, and despite my qualms or questions about Williamson's use of "God," I understood the message clearly. I've so appreciated this idea that this very quote has been posted on the bottom of this blog since I first birthed it.

I love the idea that our decision to shine brightly gives others permission to do the same. The assumed second part to this deal is that those others are indeed recognizing their own potential and deciding to go out and start building upon their own dreams. That second part often gets lost in the shuffle.

In the interest of driving the point home, I'd like to do a little exercise. I'm imagining myself in the happiest state I can possibly fathom.  In this daydream, I am writing regularly and with purpose. I have the job of my dreams and enjoy going to work most days. I am happy in my relationship and on the homefront. I am financially comfortable. I have a decent amount of free time to do the things I enjoy. My children are happy and my house is clean.

Now I am imagining that all these things are true of me and I am constantly coming into contact with women who wish me ill, are envious of my good fortune or are otherwise unsupportive of my happiness. These women are waiting for joy to find them, and in the meantime they have decided to poo on mine. I find myself feeling guilty about my achievements  and constantly downplay my part in them.

Then I imagine this same scenario except that I'm surrounded by women who are equally committed to taking responsibility for their own lives and are doing what they can and must in order to find fulfillment. In this second scenario, we women are mutually supportive of each other and eager to help when we can. We cheer unreservedly for each others' successes and we KNOW those others will do the same for us when we ourselves have cause to celebrate. We look upon each others' mad skill, beauty, charm, magnetism, work ethic and success with deep and sincere reverence and esteem. We allow ourselves to be drawn to and enraptured by each others' bright flames. We bask in the glow.

Just as a woman can't honestly take credit for any natural physical beauty, she should not be expected to apologize for it. And as a woman has worked diligently to cultivate her admirable qualities, she should be able to show her pride in them and confidence in herself as a result.

And she shouldn't have to be extra nice in order to ward of the evil eye of other women.

I've known some extra nice women in my day (women seemingly in possession of every enviable (read: threatening) quality out there), and while I did find this eager outpouring disarming, I recognize and lament that they probably felt forced into offering it, just to avoid starting off on an otherwise inevitable wrong foot with so many fellow females.

I'm not claiming to never experience moments of jealousy. I do. And during those moments my fiercest judgment is directed at myself, as I find jealously to be a strikingly loathsome quality.  I read a meme just now that referred to jealousy as "the only vice that gives no pleasure." And how!

These days, when I feel threatened in the presence of another woman, I know the first thing I have to do is check myself. In what way do I feel inadequate at the moment? What is my fear? Do I have a legitimate reason not to like this woman, or am I being catty? Most check-worthy: How would I want other women to respond to me, if I were in this woman's situation? That last one tends to straighten me out quickly, makes me suck it up, reboot, come again.

Check thyselves, sisters! It's humbling and eye-opening.

The first time I reported for work at my current location, I was nervous upon entering. I didn't know what kind of staff worked there or if/how I would be welcomed. The first person I came into contact with was a woman named Yaz (now one of my favorite people of all). I told her I'd just transferred and that it was my first day.

To my relief--in lieu of looking me up and down or brushing me off only to huddle with another coworker and dissect the new girl--she greeted me warmly and sincerely. She gave me a tour and introduced me to every last person there. I thought, 'this feels good.' And I've thought of that moment every time a new woman was hired or came to help out from another location. I've thought that I wanted to make them feel like Yaz made me feel that day: like I was a welcomed and valued contributor, like I was with her, not against her (and I was!), like I was now an acquaintance who could one day be a friend.

What a lovely, powerful sisterhood we could create together if we all began viewing each other in this way.

Kevin's Sketch

In his words...

Kepler’s  Trio.
A portion of a piece in progress inspired by my fascination with the eye candy of the Archimedean Solids, 13 of which were described by Johannes Kepler in 1619.  Their names are a mouthful—pictured at bottom is the Great Rhombicosidodecahedron and above it, a Truncated Icosahedron.

The Door.  Inspired by a hand-carved wooden door from Sumba in Indonesia that lives in our home.  These doors are made in pairs, however, this one is mysteriously missing its chiral alter-ego.  I hope to find her other half one day.

Scenes from Manzanita Project Work Time, Week 5

I used to find it difficult-to-impossible to get any kind of work done when my son was awake. He wants my near-undivided attention (even when he's doing something else, like watching T.V.) and his questions seem to come at the average rate of 4 per minute. As he grows, however, I'm experimenting with insisting on some work time when he's around: it's not easy, but in small increments it can be very enjoyable. Here he's taking in a Christmas cartoon while I work on my draft.


"You've Joined the Miscarriage Club"

At the end of October, 2008, I was seated in my car outside a community center, waiting to take my polling place worker training in advance of the upcoming election. I was talking to my Ma on the phone, and as is often the case when I talk to her, I ended up disclosing something I didn't think I wanted to talk about yet; I just couldn't help myself.

"I'mpregnantbutdon'tgetexcitedyetbecausetheyaren'tsure" I blurted out.

Imagine these words landing on a Mom. She was, of course, overcome with excitement (jeez I told her not to get excited!)...and some confusion.

"What do you mean they aren't sure."

I explained that I'd taken a positive pregnancy test at home but that when I went to the doctor's the pregnancy test was inconclusive and they said it might just be too early (because when you're a certain age and *looking* to conceive--feel me ladies--you know the MOMENT it occurs). Still though, something didn't seem right.

I would be heading into a lab a few times in the following days to have blood drawn, which would measure my levels of hGC, a hormone produced in pregnancy. The levels rose as they should, but the doctor still seemed reluctant. She wanted me to come in in a few days for another ultrasound. She said if my date of conception was correct, by the time I came in again (what would be the 6-week mark) we should see a heartbeat.

Those were a long few days.

I steeled myself for the possibility of heartbreak, expecting the worst. See, my two best girlfriends had both had miscarriages in the past year. All of a sudden the reality of mis-carrying, as a thing that happens, was on my radar. I had the memories of the phone calls with these women fresh in my mind. I'd been in my friend's living room, helplessly watching her curled up on the couch, in pain--the physical pain that the doctor had sent Vicodin along to assuage, the emotional pain, about which there was nothing to be done.

These thoughts close at hand, I headed back to the doctor. During my ultrasound, she pointed to a teeny tiny, rapid flickering on the monitor and she smiled for the first time I'd seen. "This is good news," she said. "See this? This is the heartbeat. Once we see this there is a 98% chance the fetus will be viable."

I left the doctor's feeling overwhelmed with relief and happiness. I called my then-husband to share the news. Then I called my Mom: "What do you want to be called...Grandma or Nana?" I asked. I could hear the joy in her tears.

This was the free-and-clear, wherein women begin cruising the Babies R Us website and making big plans.

But this wasn't the free-and-clear. Everybody knows 12 weeks is the free-and-clear. (And if you're around this planet long enough, you learn that the free-and-clear is a myth; there is no such place or time or state of affairs.)

In the bathroom at the gym a few weeks later, I noticed I was bleeding a little. (Pregnant women don't get periods!) A feeling of dread took over and I called the doctor immediately, but since it was late on a Friday, I wouldn't be able to see the doctor's midwife for a couple of days.

In that meantime--the meantime that now takes the position of the very worst meantime I have ever lived through--I did the only thing I knew to do and the thing that many women between the ages of 30-45 who are trying to conceive (TTC) do: I took to the internet.

I spent 2 1/2 solid days surfing around every possible site I could get to. I Googled word combos like "spotting during pregnancy" and "symptoms of miscarriage" and "miscarriage after heartbeat" and "conception after miscarriage" and so very many variations of the theme. TTC was just one of a number of acronyms I learned: the secret language of a network of sisters trying to help each other propagate the species.

I read the tales of dozens of other women who had at one point been in my position. I joined a sad, sad club of frantic others grasping impossibly for some kind of control over a situation so entirely out of our control, the effort would have been comical, if it hadn't been so despairingly tragic. So thoroughly futile.

My husband accompanied me to the next appointment. He held my hand while a midwife performed the ultrasound, and I watched her face as she moved to deliver the news. I won't try to quote her because I'll never remember exactly what she said. The point that came across was that things were not developing normally--that my pregnancy was not progressing.

I remember throwing a Hail Mary pass of a question her way, mentioning that the doctor told me the ultrasound machine in this office wasn't as good as in the other. Was it possible this machine just wasn't accurately conveying the information?

The midwife looked at me with pity (my ignorance was so complete), yet no trace of condescension. "I'm sorry," she said, and then, very definitively: "there is no fetus present anymore."


The midwife told me I could expect bleeding and abdominal pain. I could either have a D & C (a procedure in which the uterine lining is scraped to remove the placenta, etc), take a medication that would cause the onset of the miscarriage, or wait for things to occur naturally.

I waited.

And despite the protests of my rational mind, I read more internet tales, instances of rare, mis-diagnosed miscarriages. They were the pleas of women imploring other women not to take their doctor's word for it. They were miraculous tales of babies that weren't supposed to be...but were! They were mostly to be found on religious websites with strong Pro Life undertones. It didn't matter to me where they were coming from. I held on to a small belief that I had some kind of beat-the-odds wonderchild brewing inside me--why NOT my baby, if it could happen to these women?

But I knew. Really, I knew.

When the pain began about a week and a half later, I was resolved and prepared. I spent that day--Thanksgiving Day--at the restaurant my husband and partners were working to launch, and I began to look forward--toward the possibility of conceiving again.

That part was probably at least as bad as the pain of losing a pregnancy, the part where I worried that I wasn't actually able to carry a child at all. I wondered how long it would be before I'd know for sure. Another friend of mine miscarried during her first pregnancy and another her first three. Both went on to have multiple children, but the anguish of those initial failures (because that's what it feels like: failure) is haunting and anxiety provoking. 

As with so many things in life, it's the not knowing that causes so much fear.

People say all sorts of things in an effort to comfort women who've suffered a miscarriage. All are well-meaning, and so they have no idea how entirely unhelpful their words can be. "At least you already have _________" or "You can always have another" are common. No matter that to the non-pregnant person, the mis-carrying mother's "baby" was just a cluster of cells that determined itself to be nonviable. To many of those mother's what was lost was a child. A person. An already-loved and often-dreamed-of world of possibility. It really doesn't matter which children may have come before and who will come after. That Mama wan't that baby to live.

Fetus at 10 Weeks
I was incredibly fortunate to conceive again two months after my miscarriage. I'd found a new doctor with a much warmer bedside manner than the first (the comfort and value of which cannot possibly be overstated), and I enjoyed a complication-free pregnancy.

Except that for the first few months I couldn't shake the fear that it would happen again. I kept checking the tenderness in my breasts (since this was the first symptom I experienced in both pregnancies and the one which I noticed had ceased when problems arose the first time around). Though I knew the gym had nothing to do with my miscarriage, I didn't go back to working out until I was at least 5 months along, and at that I mostly kept it to water aerobics.

I gave birth to a healthy boy 9 months later. 

But the pain of that initial loss took a long time to shake. I've never stopped wondering who that child would have been, if that child could have actually been. And  I can still, suddenly and shockingly, find an aching in my heart when I think about that child that wasn't.


These thoughts are with me right now because, as the 5th anniversary of my miscarriage passed, a good friend of mine--a mother of two beautiful girls--came to know that same pain. Which means that my three best friends from high school all had miscarriages. I know three other women who experienced them in the past couple of years (and these are just the ones I'm aware of). I can't believe this wasn't something I heard about growing up, or even through most of my 20's.

My good friend mentioned that it's the thing nobody talks about. She suggested most women have no idea how common it is until they themselves experience it and people come out of the woodwork to tell their own stories. Like suddenly, she said, "you've joined the miscarriage club."

I knew exactly what she meant. And of course it's not a club that any woman wants to be part of. But it can be comforting, or normalizing at least, to know that so many other women have lived through this same trauma in their desires and efforts to help bring new life into the world.

In writing this, I read that as many as 15% of known pregnancies end in miscarriage (from WebMD). The rate is much higher (as high as 50%) when including those pregnancies that end before the mother even realizes she's pregnant. Those numbers are staggering.

But see, creating a whole new life is a complicated and incredible thing. Our bodies reject pregnancies for any number of reasons, all boiling down to this: that particular cluster of cells could not have been life, ultimately. Different people have different opinions about whether or not a cluster of cells attached to a uterine lining is already a life, but that doesn't change whether or not that life was viable to the extent that the mother's body could bring it to full term. Viewing it as a life cannot will the body to keep it alive.

And that might be the most difficult part of miscarriage: acceptance of the idea that no matter how badly we want to have a child, these things can't be measured in or outcomes predicted by our amounts of love and devotion. But we don't mindfully enter into relationships thinking about biological responses. We feel love, and we want to surround ourselves with more of it.

So a friend probably shouldn't bring up the science of miscarriage with a friend who has suffered one. She shouldn't remind her of the blessings she already has and those to come. She should hug her and tell her she is sorry for her loss and for her pain.

To my dear friend and to all women who are part of this club, this sisterhood of mourning: I wish you healed hearts and the knowledge that there is no correct amount of time to spend with the news, with the sadness.

Years after my miscarriage I was driving down the freeway when I was struck with the memory of that child that wasn't. I felt tears come on suddenly, warm in my eyes and on my cheeks. It was a reminder to me that my love for that child was real and was strong. And it didn't make me so sad anymore. It made me feel alive that I could have wanted so badly to know that person. And yes, it made me thankful for the lives and the blessings that I'd come to know since.

If you are so inclined, please feel free to share your story here...

Scenes from Manzanita Project Work Time, Week 4

I've been enjoying being indoor lately, taking in the sight of our totally over-populated-with-ornaments Christmas tree and welcoming the refuge from the cold. 40 degrees in California during the DAY?!

I just like the pachyderm background/pachyderm foreground thing going on here:


In the Event of A Ridiculously Unlikely Emergency...

Forgive me and hang tight for a moment while I discuss something I don't think we're meant to discuss. I only say that because I have never in my life heard anybody discuss it, save the times I myself brought it up.

So it may very well be the case that I'm alone in this, and it is not normal. It may also, perhaps, be the case that you (parents) know *exactly* what I'm talking about.

Here goes: when I became a parent, weird shit started to brew in the quiet moments of my brain.

No, I mean WEIRD shit.

At some times, weirder than others.

While there was a wide variety of scenes my mind's eye constructed, it all worked around this central theme: my child was in danger, at times Xtreme! danger, and I was mentally going through the steps to protect/rescue/resuscitate him.

These were not dreams. At least they were most often not dreams. They were vivid-as-all-hell waking fantasies of the oft-disturbing variety.

A scene would form in my brain, and then I would watch myself try out a variety of methods to solve the problem or change the terrible circumstances.

Sometimes the situations were plausible bordering on likely. For example, after working out the practice scenarios in my mind, I now know exactly how I would have reacted if my son had wandered into the middle of the street when he was just beginning to walk. I also worked out what I would do if he ever fell into a pool or waded too far into the lake.

However, when he was just two months old--based on one of these out-of-nowhere fantasies--I worked out a number of methods I would have employed to respond to the extremely unlikely possibility that Talibani fighters had abducted him. Like, in Afghanistan (a place I'd never been to nor had any plans to visit).

As my son grows and my living situation changes, the thoughts expand and shift to include my steppy son as well. I know how I would handle it, for example, should an intruder break in and Kevin were out of town and I alone were tasked with keeping the boys safe. I know what I would do first and second, and so on.

I also happen to know JUST what I will do should my 4-year-old somehow and for no reason whatsoever insert his head all the way into a blazing gas stove and catch his hair on fire.

There is no filter, see?

There is no part of my brain saying 'How stupid. When and how and why would that ever, ever happen?' Instead it says, 'Well this is a new variety of clusterfuck. How are we gonna handle THAT one?!'

I discussed this with my mom a few years ago because it had started bothering me, and she told me the same thing happened to her when she became a parent, and my dad, too. She always felt it was a biological response: sort of the brain's dress rehearsal for if/when an emergency situation should actually arise.

That made sense to me.

As parents we are suited for this type of thing. It is both our duty and our primal instinct to keep safe the life we have brought into the world.

So I suppose it makes sense that our minds would do what they could to prepare us for those moments when we may have to step in and save the day. And if all those imagined scenarios work to heighten our senses and awaken our instincts in normal life, that's all good, too.

What remains terrifying is the knowledge that, however many imagined crises I can work through in my head, there is no way I will ever be able to safeguard my children against all possible dangers or ward off all possible pains.

Have you ever seen the Planet Earth footage of the mama Grey Whale who tries in vain to protect her baby calf while a pod of Killer Whales stalk and drown the little one? Damn! (Do not watch it if you're sensitive.) I love the Planet Earth series, and I've watched plenty of predator/prey footage, but that particular segment makes me cry every time.

I just can't even imagine (well clearly, I can imagine--but not comfortably) having to endure even a moment of time during which my child were being harmed.

If I felt I could have turned off these wild imaginings, I think I would have. I think I would have. The hesitation in making a definitive call on that comes from knowing that when I feel my mind and body's immediate response to the thought of my child in danger, I know things are working as they should. I know my parental instincts are in-tact because on some whole other level that feels almost outside of me, a danger/response sense has been enlivened.

I hope I should never have to rescue him from the mundane OR the fabulously absurd threats created in my brain, but in the event that I'm called to, I would hope one of the fabulously absurd solutions I've created will come in handy.

Scenes From Manzanita Project Work Time, Week 3

It was to the library for us this week. As I suspected he might, Kevin has decided to work on his original sketch and add detail to it. Last week he was out backpacking with his son--very cool, but this week it was back to the Indonesian wooden door. I'll post it when he's satisfied with it :)


When You Walk into the Middle of a Dream That Came True

A few months back, my honey and I invited his folks out to the annual San Jose Jazz Festival, an event I've written about before. The festival itself was great, as always, but some time in the afternoon that Saturday we tore away from the stages in search of food.

Crossing the Light Rail tracks on 1st street, we headed straight toward a shop we hadn't seen before, full of San Jose merchandise. On the storefront window were about 500 flyers, but the one that caught my eye was advertising a tribute to Rahsaan Roland Kirk, a jazz musician my father-in-law-ish Dan (hereafter referred to as "Catfish") introduced us to a few months previous. Just lookit him...

Kirk was long dead, but this was his birthday weekend, so a local club was celebrating with a musical memorial. As it was also Catfish's birthday weekend and he was a big Kirk fan (he'd seen him play decades ago in Philadelphia), so stopping in on that seemed a no-brainer.

We made mental note of the event but made no definite plans to go, and nobody mentioned it again until the four of us were seated in the hotel's restaurant, resting after a long day and pretty much fixin' to head up to bed.

Catfish mentioned the tribute and we collected enough wherewithal between us to go check it out.

The only problem was nobody remembered the name of the club, and though I'd lived a decade in downtown San Jose, I didn't recognize the name when I'd read it earlier. A Google search brought up Cafe Stritch, a new club that, as luck would have it, was located less than a full block's walk from our hotel.

Approaching, Catfish mentioned that the "stritch" of the club's name is a rare Buescher alto sax that Rahsaan Roland Kirk used to play. What? How incredibly random, or else....how incredibly intentional (?). We'd learn soon enough.

A man who turned out to be the club's owner was standing outside when we walked up, and he implored us to come in. He said nothing we could possibly find to do that night would be cooler. He didn't need to convince us; we'd sought it out. And beyond that, the place was already packed. But I sure did like his enthusiasm. He said there was one set left and offered us half off the cover. (Nothing sweeter than the sweetening of a deal.)

Before that night, I new little about Kirk except that he was 1) some kind of musical mad scientist savant and 2) he was blind. Here is one of the original videos Catfish had shown us (do me [yourself] the favor of hanging in there until 1:44):

What the HELL, right?

In a good way.

You and me--we all should know a little bit more about this man. Like this, from the website all.about.jazz:

"His playing was generally rooted in soul jazz or hard bop, but Kirk's knowledge of jazz history allowed him to draw on many elements of the music's history, from ragtime to swing and free jazz. Kirk also regularly explored classical and pop music.

Kirk played and collected a number of musical instruments, mainly various saxophones, clarinets and flutes. His main instruments were a tenor saxophone and two obscure saxophones: the manzello (similar to a soprano sax) and the stritch (a straight alto sax lacking the instrument's characteristic upturned bell). Kirk modified these instruments himself to accommodate his simultaneous playing technique. He typically appeared on stage with all three horns hanging around his neck, as well as a variety of other instruments, including flutes and whistles, and often kept a gong within reach. Kirk also played harmonica, english horn, recorders and was a competent trumpeter. He often had unique approaches, using a saxophone mouthpiece on a trumpet or playing nose flute. He additionally used many extramusical sounds in his art, such as alarm clocks, whistles, sirens, a section of common garden hose (”the black mystery pipes”) and even primitive electronic sounds (before such things became commonplace).

Kirk was also an influential flautist, employing several techniques that he developed himself. One technique was to sing or hum into the flute at the same time as playing. Another was to play the standard transverse flute at the same time as a nose flute.

Some observers thought that Kirk's bizarre onstage appearance and simultaneous multi-instrumentalism were just gimmicks, especially when coming from a blind man, but these opinions usually vanished when Kirk actually started playing. He used the multiple horns to play true chords, essentially functioning as a one-man saxophone section. Kirk insisted that he was only trying to emulate the sounds he heard in his mind.
Kirk was also a major exponent and practitioner of circular breathing. Using this technique, Kirk was not only able to sustain a single note for virtually any length of time; he could also play 16th-note runs of almost unlimited length, and at high speeds. His circular breathing ability enabled him to record Concerto For Saxophone on the Prepare Thyself To Deal With A Miracle LP in one continuous take of about 20 minutes' playing with no discernible “break” for inhaling. His long-time producer at Atlantic Jazz, Joel Dorn, believes he should have received credit in The Guinness Book of World Records for such feats (he was capable of playing continuously “without taking a breath” for far longer than exhibited on that LP), but this never happened."

Anyway, that is all stuff I've since learned. Really, I would have been happy to be out anywhere listening to jazz in order that the party continue, but this seemed especially promising.

We walked in and surveyed the exposed brick, the black and white mural and photographs, the chalkboard menu. It was oozing cool.

Then we leaned in and waited:
  • for the storm to break
  • for the reckoning
  • for the promised land
  • for the envelopment
  • for the freakshow
  • for the smile-wide-open-bop-your-head-feel-it-feel-it-feel-it-frenzy of jazz done right(eously).

And we stood huddled in our foursome while all was delivered.

Kevin watched me taking it in and moving and digging it, and he whispered in my ear that he enjoyed glimpsing what seemed like a younger version of me, how he imagined I was in my 20's. He was right. I was right there again: filled with my 20-something wonder and big vision and full-and-complete appreciation for all that was good. Even all that was not good. Just all that was.

And they hadn't even brought out the heavy artillery yet.

The weightiest, most spectacular woman in the room that night was a slight-of-frame, short-haired octogenarian who'd been seated off to the side of the stage with a wisdom-of-ages smile on her face, taking it all in. Toward the end of the set she was introduced to the crowd as Betty Neals, the woman who'd performed spoken word on one of Kirk's albums in the 1970's. She'd come all the way from wherever goddesses like her now reside to be present for this evening.

She stood up, took a microphone in hand and her place center stage and brought the fucking house down. Imagine this cadence, only coming from a beautifully aged, regal looking woman who simply OWNED the space surrounding her:

It was a striking literary experience.

Her performance was followed by that of a genius female vocalist (I wish I'd made note of her name so I could seek her out again) who brought the place onto its feet in one of the best climaxes to a jazz sets I've attended.


With the crowd spent and the tribute come to a close, the club's owner and son stood up front and addressed us. The owner mentioned how his former restaurant, Eulipia (named after a Kirk album--they had some kind of family tie to the artist. Kirk's widow was also in attendance that night) had occupied that retail space for upwards of 30 years (some kind of near-record for downtown San Jose, for sure), until one day when the family decided it was time to honor their REAL passions and open a jazz club.

My heart sang and sank simultaneously. For the decade I'd lived in San Jose, I'd wished somebody would open a jazz club, and now here it was. And here it was in so much STYLE. And with so much energy. And launched with such joy.

But I'd moved away. Too far away to just drop in on a weekly or even bi-weekly or even monthly basis.

No matter.

I was here now.

This is what I realized as I listened to that club owner and his son talk about what went into the renovation, what I thought about when I heard the owner say "thank you for joining me on this evening, which I consider to be the apex of my career": I realized that the electrical energy we were all feeling in that room was the good vibin' fallout of a dream coming true. It was the witnessing of one person's thing-they-never-believed-would-actually-happen, happening.

So *that's* what that looks/feels/sounds like.

God, what an honor. What a true honor, though.

I thought that I need to walk in on some more dreams coming true. Really. Your album launch, your exhibit opening, your IPO, your retirement or housewarming or graduation or even your 12-36 hours of labor: count me in! Invite me along! Please. I'll take pictures of it and everything.

I will cry for sure, too.

I was watching a Louis C.K. clip this morning wherein he talked about how people need to let themselves wallow a bit in moments of sadness because it is only in so doing that they can fully feel moments of happiness. Giving way--all the way--to the one is what makes room for the other (Kahlil Gibran said this about 100 years ago too "...when you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth, you are weeping for that which has been your delight," but I appreciated Louis C.K.'s updated vernacular). Anyway, I was thinking that, similarly, the sweetness of dreams coming true is tasted in direct relation to the hours spent dreaming, the blood/sweat/tears spilled in the achieving, the thoroughness of one's stubborn and wisdom-filled refusal to let the dream go.

Thirty years doing the dirty, dirty and difficult work of running a successful restaurant when that man REALLY wanted to own a jazz club is a lot of time put in. That's a lot of steeping, as I like to call it. But boy oh boy must he feel it was worth it, now.

In more than a decade attending the San Jose Jazz Festival, that has taken up space as one of my richest, juiciest memories.


Going Rate: $125/Hour

I don't make heaps of money in my current position.

I'm working on improving the outlook in that area, but for now: there's that.

Recently, on occasional days off, I've been picking up supplemental income here and there in the form of market research participation.

"Here and there" is a very literal term in this case. About six months ago I answered a Craigslist ad and drove to a Kohl's half an hour away to try on blouses in the presence of an employee from Zulu.com. Her job is to listen to people talk about the way clothes fit them and why they would or wouldn't buy certain garments.

It was a strange and interesting experience to share a fitting room with a perfect stranger and talk in depth about my body issues and how each blouse exacerbated or alleviated them (Don't worry; this wasn't recorded. I wasn't accidentally starring in fitting room fetish videos for a fitting room fetish website).

Not because it was her job but just out of niceness, the employee would explain to me the garments that I couldn't make sense of, and she offered occasional advice for my future clothes shopping moments of turmoil. A few times, women from the neighboring fitting room asked what was happening and if they could get somebody to sit in THEIR fitting rooms and help THEM!

At the end of that hour, I was handed 50 bucks.

Then, a while ago, a customer came into the branch depositing a payroll check from a market research firm, and she referred me to their website to create a profile. Four months ago this landed me in a room with four other folks where, in front of a two-way mirror, we offered our opinions about a number of Asian grab-and-go snacks a grocery chain is considering developing. An hour later I left with a check for $100 and $25 cash (bonus for arriving on-time--What? I can be early if you like).

Here's what I really like about doing this kind of thing: these market researchers are paying me to give my opinion. I mean I freely give my opinion (sometimes unsolicited) on a daily basis, but it is so, so much better to get paid for it. And it's not like the people are just smiling and politely nodding with that look that kids get when they want the lecture to just be over already(!). They are rapt. They are writing down everything I SAY! As if I were the last word on Asian grab-and-go snacks.

As if I know shit about...



So. That brings me to last week. Some way, somehow, I opened my front door last Wednesday and allowed four (four!) people to come in for the purpose of watching me clean.

And here's the real beauty of it. Within 10 minutes of their arrival, I let it fly out of my mouth that I hate (hate hate hate) cleaning. And they don't care! They didn't come to watch an expert cleaner. They want to know what and how people think about cleaning. They WANT to know what sucks about it and why people avoid doing it, because they are there on behalf of a company developing products to make cleaning easier...things people would find worth their money--strange devices for lazy cleaners like me.

So for about an hour we just sat at my kitchen table and talked about one of my least favorite subjects.

Also, they played with the cat, because these were normal, friendly people. No lab coats or clipboards or rigid directives. (In fact I was struck by the casual nature of the thing and I could have done my own market research on their choices of note-taking methods—two on smartphones, one taking notes right on the in-development product spec sheets (which would have been my choice), and one taking notes in black sharpie pen on dozens of 3x3 Post-It notes, in what has to be the least efficient note-taking method in the history of taking notes.

I told them how watching cleaning commercials featuring women get excited about cleaning products makes me feel like I'm missing a gene...because I never ever never get excited about cleaning products (though there was this one little pump windex-y dispenser thing I got from my parents that gave me a mild twinge of "this is not so bad").

I told them that I always feel like my place isn't clean enough and said I end up feeling bad because I think the boys deserve a really clean place to live. "Why?" one of them asked. "Why does anybody deserve clean?"

I loved that. A philosophic quandary. I don't have an answer that would hold up to any serious scrutiny, but it simply doesn't seem right that a bathroom should have grime in it, does it? And somehow I've absorbed the message that I am the person who is supposed to be most concerned about this issue.

And, despite my abhorrence for cleaning…I am (concerned about it).

I talked about how in my mind, every woman in the world is cleaner than me and that they are all judging me when they come into my house.

This led to a very enlightening moment for me because, through their questioning, I realized that I only know a handful of extremely clean people. That I-am-gross-and-my-house-is-gross feeling I have is a result of one those people happening to be my Mom. My Mom has always been neater, cleaner, and more organized than I will ever be. And knowing I won’t (by nature) ever stack up has left me with an ever-present sense of semi-failure.

The feeling isn't strong enough to send me cleaning all the time; it's just on the list of things I can choose to feel bad about at any given moment, if I suddenly want to feel bad about something.

At one point, about an hour and 15 minutes into the researchers’ visit, the below pictured was produced from under my bathroom sink.

Bucket O' Evil

Simple, I said: It's got 409 and Windex--the tools my Mom uses for the job. Comet would usually be found in there as well. No gimmicks. No magic tools. Just a crude collection of terrible smelling blue and clear liquids.

They asked me to clean a bathtub, my mirror and basin, and then the kitchen floor and to explain what I was doing and why. That portion lasted a merciful 30 minutes or so. 

Then, more questions about my relationship with de-nastification.

The more they questioned me, the closer I got to identifying the sources of my cleaning aversions.

1) I am not opposed to getting things clean. I LOVE when things are clean. And I love to do laundry--or, that is, I love folding clean laundry and the feeling when all the laundry is done. I also don't mind washing dishes or vacuuming. What I hate about cleaning bathrooms and dusting (for example) is the toxic smell of cleaners (or else the latex glove smell) left on my hands when it's all done. I don't like cleaning something and feeling like I've become dirty as a result.

2) In a few different ways, one of the researchers was trying to get to the bottom of whether it is the energy or the time that I don't have for cleaning. I told her that I could make a case for neither. What I don't have, I said, is the desire. With the limited free time being a working mother leaves me, the last thing I want to do is get on my hands and knees and fucking scrub a floor. I called this the "Cinderella Factor." I don't think I'm above cleaning...as though there is a type of person in the world better suited for life's Cinderella moments. I think we all have better and more interesting, less Sisyphean things to do with our time.

In the end, they showed me the concept cleaner ideas and asked the likelihood of my purchasing them, were they available.

And then they left.  But not before telling me that, for somebody who hates cleaning, my house was pretty darned clean. That was surprisingly good to hear.

And I will receive $250 for this.

Two hundred and fifty smackaroos for spending two hours detailing all the ways in which I would rather be doing anything else.

Not bad.

I don't exactly plan to make a career out of this sort of thing; I don’t see it as a viable alternative to landing the well-paying job of my dreams. But for the meantime--and for the supplemental aspect of it--the market research thing is great. If I can manage to score a project in which I get to taste yummy things or borrow and test cutting-edge technological gadgets, so much the better.

Kevin's Sketch

As I mentioned before, Kevin is going to be doing sketches rather than the kind of painstakingly intricate drawings with crazy shading and all that jazz he puts many, many hours into. The below is a sketch of a door from Indonesia which sits in our bedroom. It's a solid black carved wooden thing that weighs about 600 pounds. It was given to him by a friend. I think of her as a protector of sorts.

Scenes from Manzanita Project Work Time, Week 1

I thought it would be fun, even just for our own memory, to capture scenes from the time we put aside to work together during the week. May not get that special time every week, but when possible...

Speisekammer is a German restaurant a few blocks from our house. It has a nice little outdoor beer garden and a convenient electrical outlet, meant for a string of outdoor lights that lines the patio.


On Co-Creation: The Birth of The Manzanita Project

The first time I spoke to my boyfriend Kevin on the phone (we met on eHarmony...there were emails and "guided communication" that preceded our first phone contact), he confessed he'd already heard my voice. He said he'd Googled my name and followed the link to listen to a short essay I'd read for a talk radio station.

Upon hearing this, I was initially a little embarrassed. I mean, it's not like I put it out there so people WOULDN'T access it, but I hadn't considered that a potential date might do this before we'd had the chance to meet.

My secondary reactions, after I'd gotten over the initial surprise, were more favorable. First of all, he was interested enough to check me out. Cool. Second, he heard my essay and was still interested. This boded well because a man of a certain kind of traditional ilk would have probably been turned off by the content of that particular essay. Cool again. Thirdly, he now knew that writing was at least a part of what I did with my life, and it would seem he didn't take issue with that. Zing!

I would shortly discover that Kevin was not only a supporter of creative endeavors, he was himself a very talented artist; he emailed me these drawings the first time I asked to see some of his work.

Wowee, I thought. That's (he's) the real deal.

When we moved in together with our children this summer, one of the things Kevin and I both looked forward to was creating a space in which we could mutually support and give space to one another's crafts--the practice and honing and labor of that.

We had both arrived at stuck places--he because he hadn't finished a major drawing he'd been working on for years, me because I had an ever-present worry playing lo-fi and constant in the back of my brain which didn't leave a lot of room for creativity. So far, we hadn't been itching to do a lot that either of us needed to support or make space for.

My omni-present worry has worked itself out, however, and Kevin has decided to work on other things until whatever it is that needs to happen for him to finish the major drawing (his personal Chinese Democracy, I like to call it) happens.

With these turns of events, I turned to him with an idea.

I thought it would be cool to embark on a project together. For a year, I would agree to produce a piece of writing and he would create at least one drawing per week. He was game.

The moment we hatched this plan I felt a surge of creative energy like I haven't felt for some time. My mind had been so tired I just couldn't even fathom the kind of late night writing sessions that used to fill me with adrenaline. All I could really think of was getting through the daily stuff, the chores, the work, the planning. It's not that I wasn't having any fun--I'd just stopped processing the days' events in terms of how I might write about them, which is what I'd always done when I was writing regularly. There'd been a voice in the back of my head very deliberately generating sentences to describe things as they unfolded, but I'd let that voice go quiet.

I've invited her back, though. I want to hear what she has to say again; I want to hear how she has to say it. And I am beyond excited to be setting out on a project like this with a loved one. I mean, I have never created something with another person before, save my son. And since Kevin and I almost surely won't be making any of those together, isn't this a great alternative? I find the thought of it somehow romantic.

And though we aren't focusing a themed piece (I will be writing about who-knows-what-all-manner-of-thing and he will be drawing who-knows-what-probably-related-to-the-natural world), I'm interested to see how our creative processes intertwine and interplay.

I'm also really excited to see what he ends up being inspired by. Kevin's drawn one significant nature illustration in the time we've been together (depicting three different predatory habits of the California Kingsnake), and a bunch of little cartoons, but beyond that I haven't much seen him in action. He said he will likely be doing sketches to get him back into the groove--not necessarily in-depth pieces, but whatever it is I'm interested. Hmmmm...

It took us a while to come up with a name for our project (I promptly voted down his loopy, post-sick nap suggestions of "Project Fuck Ass" and "Project Bloody Dolphin"). He thought it would be nice to focus on a flower that blooms in the winter months, since in effect that is what we'd be doing, and we'd been talking about the concept of becoming "open"...to the muse, to the flow, whatever you may call it. Because he studies these things for a living, Kevin wanted a plant that was native to California. And so I present to you:

The Manzanita Project.

Isn't the Manzanita a super bad ass?!

So...I will be posting all my pieces here on this blog, and I will share some or all of his here as well. I hope you enjoy.


On the Sordid Tale of Lot in Sodom, or Why I Want the Supreme Court to Strike Down DOMA, Part 1

In case you were ever curious, this is a short summary of one of the parts of the Bible (Genesis, chapter 19) that our Christian friends and neighbors are citing in order to continue to pass judgment about homosexuality: 

The apparently sex-crazed men of Sodom try to break down Lot's door to get access to the new-in-town male visitors Lot is putting up for the night. I'm quoting here. Lot says, "I beg you my brothers, not to do this wicked thing. I have two daughters who have never had intercourse with men. Let me bring them out to you, and you may do to them as you please. But don't do anything to these men, for you know they have come under the shelter of my roof."

The wicked men refuse Lot's (c'mon, VERY generous) offer, and God's spokesmen reveal that the town will be smote in short order.

God offers to save Lot, his wife and daughters. Lot's wife looks back toward the town as it is being destroyed, and in what appears to be punishment for this action, she is turned into a pillar of salt. Reasonable.

Lot's daughters realize there are no men left to reproduce with (not that the men of Sodom seemed all that interested in the first place), so in turn and over the course of two nights, they get Lot drunk--SO drunk in fact, he doesn't even notice when his own daughters "lie with him" (ahem, *rape* him), causing them each to become pregnant with their father's child.

What the hell?! I read this in my Grandmother's Bible (Nelson's New American Version, 1971), not some goofy Jon Stewart version of the Bible meant to poke fun at the idea that this is the family at the center of much of our nation's stance on a very prominent and controversial question on morality. (And please, don't anybody bother to tell me it's a translation problem or that Catholic publishers have it all wrong. I read two other versions as well.)

I am aghast. 

I can't believe it's taken me this long to go directly to the source to read just EXACTLY HOW INSANE this story is. I must have read it back when I was a teenager...back when I was trying to figure out just how I felt about the religion in which I was raised. But somehow the details were lost.

In my memories of those sorting-out times, this is what stuck:

When I was in high school I had two close friends who were gay (two that I knew of anyway--I've since learned I had a number of other gay friends whose sexual preferences were unknown to me at the time). Both of my gay friends were out of the proverbial closet with close friends, but not necessarily at large. This was the 1990's in Arizona, after all; they weren't naming too many monuments after Harvey Milk in those parts.

At the same time, I was getting very involved in my church in advance of my Confirmation. I was studying and being lectured to and confessing and asking and preaching and wearing a big-ass crucifix around my neck to school because some woman who ministered to the youth at my church told me if I was too embarrassed to do so, I was a bad Christian.

I kept trying to reconcile the church's stance on homosexuality with my own love for my gay friends, my knowledge of and belief in their good characters, and just the absolute unfairness of life, if God created them only to suffer in guilt and in shame.

I decided I didn't believe it. I didn't believe that homosexuality was a sin, or that, excuse me, *acting on homosexual desires* was a sin. And then I thought, 'well I can't just pick and choose. If I don't believe that part of the doctrine, I can't believe that Christianity is the One Truth and Way. Who am I, this 17-year-old, to take a red pen to the WORD OF GOD?!'

Gone: baby, bathwater.

I never looked back. I will never ever believe that God judges unfavorably those who are attracted to members of their same sex. I will never believe that God thinks less of love or even just sexual attraction between two consenting men or women.

And I'll go further than that. With every part of my being, I think if you still believe homosexuals should be denied rights to an institution central to most Americans' idea of the pursuit of happiness? You are wrong.

You are wrong.
You are wrong.
You are wrong.

You are especially wrong if you are basing this belief upon the ridiculous story of Lot in Sodom. Really. With a straight face?

An overwhelming majority of people one generation younger than mine already agree that you are wrong, and soon we will scarcely remember a time when people were so close-minded and singularly exclusive.

We will think of our country's former policies on the matter as novel and quaint, the way we think of elderly people who continue to use the word "colored."

We will wonder what the big deal was, what the fuss was about, who cared? We will think of the authors of DOMA like we now think of the producers of Reefer Madness: fear mongers who don't seem to have ever met a human involved in the activities being railed against.

You don't have to take my word for it, though. Time will certainly tell.

Out of curiosity, I opened the Bible to the Old Testament again to see what else I could glean (from Leviticus):
"This is the ritual for guilt offerings, which are most sacred: At the place where holocausts are slaughtered, there also, before the Lord, shall the guilt offering be slaughtered. Its blood shall be splashed on the sides of the altar. All of its fat shall be taken from it and offered up: the fatty tail, the fatty membrane over the inner organs, as well as the two kidneys with the fat on them near the loins, and the lobe of the liver, which must be severed above the kidneys. All this the priest shall burn on the altar as an oblation to the Lord."
I know a lot is made of this. People ask: who is to say what from the Old Testament was just for the time, and what was meant to be observed from then on? I've never heard a satisfactory response, which is why I'm bringing it up again.

Perhaps the Lord was disgusted by Sodom because EVERY LAST SEX-CRAZED MAN OF THE TOWN was ready to beat down Lot's door to get to the fresh meat. It sounds like a scene from The Wicker Man. Yes, I'd be disgusted by a mob of rapists as well. But what do we make of Lot's offer to give up his own daughters to this crazed mob in order to protect a few men he just met?  (Let's not even touch on the irony of Christians criticizing Islam's approach toward women, given this action on Lot's part and so many other sexist Biblical scenes). These were no ordinary homosexuals and this was no ordinary father.

I can't be convinced there's a widely relate-able, healthy life message to be learned there.

And I want to say this to all the Christians I've surely offended: I understand that the vast majority of you are not disgusted by, hurtling insults at, wishing ill upon, or deliberately trying to trample upon the rights of homosexuals. Most of you know some homosexuals by now and you understand that they are just normal humans, walking around, doing their thing.

Because of your belief in the Christian God and the book that accompanies that belief, you feel compelled to stand up for a "traditional" version of marriage; it would be going against your moral code to do otherwise. I really do understand that.

But I do want to say this: it is offensive to the logic and the humanity of the rest of us to base any part of a stance against homosexuality upon this tale. It is insulting, and now that I've actually read the story, I'm appalled that it would ever be cited. Yes, I realize that the book of Leviticus also quotes God as saying that two men lying together are an abomination. It also says they "shall surely be put to death." Are we really going to continue with these guidelines while ignoring so much of the rest of what the Bible has to say about what people should and should not be doing?!

If we must base our morals upon the Bible, why not look to the loving messages of Jesus in the New Testament? Love your neighbor as yourself. He that is without sin among you...let him first cast a stone. These are messages worthy of holding onto. These are the peaceful messages that will bring us together as brothers and sisters. THIS is what our shared humanity calls us to do.

But again, don't take my word for it. We have the Supreme Court to take care of the legal aspect. My hope is that the rulings to come this week will start us on the right path. Maybe change will come through the back door; change the laws and eventually the hearts and minds will follow.

I have absolute confidence the day will come.