Thursday, September 22, 2011

An Appeal to the Angels of our Better Nature - A blog on the Defense of Marriage Act

The planets have officially aligned.  Its Friday afternoon, work was light, Emerson requested a late afternoon nap, and we are having a very rare Salt Lake rain shower that is seriously whetting our whistle for the impending Autumn here in the Wasatch front.  What a truly magnificent start to the weekend... and I'm about to launch into something very ... uncomfortable.

This week, in particular, I've been thinking a lot about people.  And culture.  I've been extremely disturbed by recent political developments in my home state of North Carolina this week.  NC passed legislation that brings the state that much closer to passing the Defense of Marriage Act, which, as I'm sure you know, specifically defines marriage as an institution between exclusively one man and one woman.  As I'm sure you also know, this legislation aims to bar many of our neighbors, friends and loved ones from legally entering into the one of the most basic and true expressions of human love and partnership: Marriage - which  is ideally a loving partnership of two consenting adults who want to spend their lives together loving and growing in unity (and all of the institutional benefits (and drawbacks as the case may be)) that go along with it.  

While, I fear that my feelings on this issue are so impassioned that I will not be able to adequately articulate them on the page, I need to throw this out. I've struggled with whether or not this blog is a waste of time and breath but someone was kind enough to point out to me yesterday that even if it falls on deaf ears, we have a responsibility to check in and be present when we feel things are going off course.  So I write this if for no other reason then, I feel I have a responsibility as a mother, an advocate, and a member of the human race to do so.

The way I see this, the issue breaks down into three pieces - legality, religiosity, morality.  Let's ease into this:

In its most basic essence, a marriage certificate issued by the State, is binding legal contract between two individuals.  The contract is not signed or sanctioned by the church any more any other legal document -  a birth certificate, death certificate, or for that matter, a state tax return.  I find it interesting that the symbol of our justice system is a blind fold.  When it comes to basic contractual law, on which I am admittedly no expert, morality, religious doctrine, sex, or social status, play no roll.  I'd love to expound on this point but the truth is, from a purely technical perspective, its pretty simplistic.   Questions of personal religion and personal ethics have no place in a legal contract issued by a non-theocratic state and to introduce them corrupts the very necessary black and white (gasp!) protection and responsibility that a contract is designed to provide.

Now the hard stuff:
As much as we'd like to say the bible is clear on homosexuality, the truth is - its really not.  As I am so passionate about this issue, I've spent a lot of time researching this.  Yes, there are two Old Testament passages about homosexuality being unclean: one in Corinthians I 6: 9-10 and one in Leviticus.  The Corinthians passage simultaneously calls out idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, drunkards, slanderers, and swindlers in addition to homosexuals.  Last time I checked idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, drunkards, slanderers and swindlers can all still get married, bless their poor spouses... I'll be honest while I haven't encountered any male prostitutes, I can name pretty much someone in every other category that is legally married in the eyes of the state.  The Leviticus passage (20: 13) simply calls for a man who lies with a man to be put to death.  I ask with a mild attempt at hyperbole, "while we're at, it where do you draw the line at your literal interpretation of the scripture?" 

In the new testament, Paul also mentions the sin of homosexuality in his letter to the Romans.  I could go into the context of Paul's letter to the Romans and explain my understanding of how the politics, audience and circumstance of the time in which he was writing shaped his message, but that's another blog.  The real point is, Jesus Christ, in whom most of the people driving this legislation profess their faith, never mentions the issue of homosexuality in his teachings.  Ever.  Not one time.  He does, however, have quite a bit to say about loving one another, and about treating each other with fairness, and kindness, and humility.  In fact, he built his ministry on these teachings.  He talks about all of  humanity being equal in the eyes of God from the lowliest among us to the most fortunate - the lowliest, in fact, being more favorable in the eyes of God. He talks about forgiveness and not casting stones.  He gives us one of the most simple and one of the most challenging directives ever issued to human kind- Love thy neighbor.   

I understand that faith and religion are very personal things and there are probably no two people on the planet who have the exact same interpretation of their faith.  I understand that people believe what they believe and I respect that very much.  What I don't respect is when others try to force their personal interpretation of what is holy and what is not upon the general population.  What I view as an abomination is people who use faith and religion as a weapon to create hate, to create an "other", and to punish their fellow man. 

There's a fine line between religiosity and morality.  When I say morality I am specifically referring to the argument that homosexuality is a "choice" or that it can be "cured" like a disease.  To be honest, I don't really understand how this argument is the slightest bit relevant.  I quite frankly view it as a cop-out and a distraction that people hide behind so that they don't have to address more difficult questions.  I disagree with these perceptions of homosexuality (as does science) but I also always come back to the question of "does it matter?"  In a free society, whether an individual chooses to share their life and love with someone of the same sex or of a different sex should not make them more or less entitled to the same rights as every other citizen in the United States.

So there's my 2 cents, my soap box if you want to call it that.  I know that it might not line up with the ideals of 100% of my readership, but I hope you will respect my need to speak out on an issue that is incredibly important to me and I hope that you will take the time to consider a different perspective on this divisive issue that, in one way or another, effects our human conscience.  Whenever I think about this issue, I always hear the below quotation from one of history's most admirable leaders spoken in another time but a time also wrought with difficult questions of unity and freedom and equality:

"I am loth to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stre[t]ching from every battle-field, and patriot grave, to every living heart and hearthstone, all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature." 
~Abraham Lincoln

We've done it before and I hope as a nation we can again find the strength and courage to appeal to the better angels of our nature.

Thursday, September 8, 2011


I was fortunate enough to encounter this blessing/poem last night which, as I understand it, is an old Celtic blessing that has been revised by John O'Donohue (whom I had not heard of until this poem).  Regardless, I found it to be incredibly beautiful and was moved by its simple rhythm, emphasis on natural strength and beauty and the sense of stillness and peace that it seems to communicate.  I hope you enjoy!

On the day when
the weight deadens
on your shoulders
and you stumble,
may the clay dance
to balance you.
And when your eyes
freeze behind
the grey window
and the ghost of loss
gets in to you,
may a flock of colours,
indigo, red, green,
and azure blue
come to awaken in you
a meadow of delight.
When the canvas frays
in the currach of thought
and a stain of ocean
blackens beneath you,
may there come across the waters
a path of yellow moonlight
to bring you safely home.
May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
may the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours,
may the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow
wind work these words
of love around you,
an invisible cloak
to mind your life.

~ John O'Donohue ~
(Echoes of Memory)

Saturday, September 3, 2011

This life... so far... THE ESSENTAILS

So, I seriously wrote the best blog the other day.  It was my "come back blog" if you will.  It was an ode to Emerson's 15 month birthday (so it was several weeks ago), but it wasn't really about Emerson, it was a list of things I've learned about myself over the past 15 months.  I wrote it on a flight to somewhere.  I'm sure it was to the East Coast, as that's where I've spent most of my summer and it was a rather lengthy and well thought out blog, which requires several hours of uninterrupted focus which, lets face it, is only available when I'm encapsulated in a vessel with no child, vacuum (yeah I don't really spend that much time with the vacuum), or Internet connection (read: work email).  So I wrote it and then I wanted to spend some time editing it and then my hard drive crashed in an epic sort of way… and now its gone.  Frankly, I hadn't planned to recreate it but… look what I did:

1.  You are the sum of the parts that are formed when you're not paying attention
This parenting thing, man - seriously, its no joke.  I find myself saying, sometimes apologetically, the following words "I'm doing the best I can, there's really no instruction manual for this".  What I'm finding though, is that the most important aspect of parenting is not so much your cumulative approach to discipline, or what you allow your child to watch on TV, or whether you breastfeed for x number of month/years or whether or not you let your child "cry it out" or "co-sleep".  Its what you do on a lazy Saturday morning.  Its how you shape your family dinners.  Its bed time stories, lullabies and goodnight kisses. Its going for a walk around the block when you don't have the energy for the orchestrated play date (I'm so bad at play dates) .  Where am I going with this?  I have come to realize I can analyze and second guess those big picture parenting decisions and read all of the books that I want to, but where I am really driving home my hopes and expectations for my daughter and for my family is during the times when I'm not necessarily thinking about it.  It really is the little things, not the big things, that set the tone of this life - that define our value structure.  I'm not saying I have figured this out or that I have answers, in fact, I'm saying that I haven't and that I don't - BUT…. what I do know for a fact is that a 9 a.m. pajama dance party to the Allman Brothers and Van Morrison laced with maple syrup, black coffee, and bare feet is as important, if not more so than how we approach any of these other big picture parenting decisions.  Granted, it can't be all fun all the time - obviously.  Sometimes the little things are the things that you let go, its an argument with your partner or spouse that you pass on because in the scheme of life, it really doesn't matter.  Its making the decision to pass on that extra hour of work even though you really need to put it in.  Sometimes, its the decision to put in for the extra hour for the sake of sanity.  Its declaring, "today is going to be a movie day because I just don't have it in me for anything else".  It's dragging yourself out of bed to volunteer when you all you want to do is stay in pajamas and have breakfast.  The point is, for what its worth, there's truly not much in the life that can't be fixed by banana pancakes, good music, and fresh air.  The point is, this world can be overwhelming and can absolutely bleed you dry and if I can raise a loving human being who is grounded enough to value the simplicity of a Saturday morning, well then… its a small thing, but I'll count it as a win.

2.  Plugging In.
I mentioned volunteering.  Obviously, the week of Emerson's birth is burned into my brain.  One of the things that happened that week was the gulf oil spill and several coincidental subsequent local oil spills in local parks and wild life refuges.  It was a very emotional time for me as you might imagine, and bringing a new human into this world that seemed to be drowning in the residue of assault left me feeling this massive sense of responsibility.  Here I was, in my rocking chair, shielded by lullabies, warm and comfortable with more food and clothing for my healthy child than I knew what to do with.  For the first time in my life I felt the true meaning and frankly the true weight of being "blessed".  That feeling was heavy because it came with the weight of fortune in the face of the people around me who were hungry, cold, sick, suffering.  I felt a sense of obligation that I have never before felt in my life.  It was so overwhelming it was almost paralyzing.  Since then, I have become a regular volunteer at a local food pantry.  Its a very small thing (on my behalf - the pantry itself is a PHENOMENAL resource).  I try to volunteer every other Saturday morning for a few hours.  To be frank, I started volunteering here as a response to this new found sense of obligation.  Since then, the pantry has become a service to me.  The Saturday mornings that I drag myself out of bed and into the shower instead of lazing around and having breakfast with my family are painful… until I get there.  What I have found is that I get as much out of those Saturday mornings behind the line of the pantry as anyone on the other side of the counter.  I am a part of my community.  I am a part of this world.  I am better for it, my perspective changes, my world view is altered, I am grounded.  I am a better person and a better mother when I plug in to my community.  What's crazy is, it has very little to do with having or not having or volunteering and charity - its all about plugging in and experiencing the world around you in the best way that you can.  

3.  Be true to who you are, not who you think you should be
This is probably the most difficult.  It seems like the moment you announce that you are pregnant you become public property.  Suddenly strangers on the street feel perfectly justified in telling you what you should and should not do for the health of yourself and the health of your baby.  There is a never ending stream of spoken and unspoken judgement that doesn't appear to end once the child is born.  Example:  How much weight you gain, whether or not you advocate natural child birth, breast feeding, length of maternity leave, decisions about child care, baby food, discipline, potty training… it. is. un. believable.  I have decided the following: Almost every mother you will ever encounter is doing the absolute best that she can.  Support her.  I made the decisions that I felt were the best for me, my family, and my baby and I feel good about them.  I have to remind myself of that somewhat regularly though, not just for peace of mind, but to keep myself from slipping down the proverbial rabbit hole as it were.  For example, I chose to maintain a job that has me traveling away from home about 50% of the time.  This is can be incredibly difficult for me and for my family BUT - this job also allows me to work from home and keep a flexible schedule.  I also (yeah, I'm going to say it) enjoy travel.  That does not make me a bad mother (I say that more for me than for you).  The truth is, I need a change of scenery sometimes.  I need 4 hours on an airplane to read a book or write.  I need 3 hours in a car to listen to guilty pleasure music, get lost, and take pictures of fields of wild flowers or pretty barns… because this is who I am.  Its tough, because who I am doesn't always jive with what is ideal for my family but I feel like if I chip away at these things, I'm not jiving with my family anyway.  These things are difficult to balance and I'm still figuring it out myself but one thing I do know is that I'm a better mother, wife, and person when I'm being honest with myself… and that's the best I can do.

4.  Love Yourself -
 Sense a little conflict in #3?  Yeah, balance isn't easy or intuitive.  I'm a work in progress and I'm more ok with that now that I ever have been.  There are so many things I wish I was better about - I wish I did more exciting things with Emerson, I feel like we should spend more time going to parks and the pool and the zoo.  I wish I made more time for exercise.  I wish I had more self discipline.  I wish I could stay up later.  I wish I could for once in my freaking life beat Hunter and scrabble… The list… is… long…  The truth is, Emerson and I have fun dancing and walking around the block.  I'm exercising more now than I ever have in my life.  I've made a lot of progress with the self discipline thing and you know what, indulgence is a part of life.  I get up a 5 a.m. so that's something and, well, Hunter has it coming.  Its like the little voice in my head that is always nagging me has been given a megaphone.  I read this great book though called "My Stroke of Insight" which explains that voice in a very physiological way.  It also explains how that voice is controllable and that its presence is component of the left hemisphere of our brains and that we voluntarily let it into our thoughts or make the choice to quiet it.  Since reading this book, I've gotten much better and telling that little voice to stuff it and choosing to focus more on my progress and achievements instead.  Its a daily battle, but its at least its an active battle and not a passive assault.

5.  Frustration -
My hesitation in publishing this the first time was, I don't want to this to read "preachy".  Like I've got it all figured out.  I wish I could communicate how far from the truth that is.  I see, in an abstract way what seems to be workable for my family and what doesn't but implementing it and remembering it every day is another matter entirely.  I find myself more and more frustrated as this journey continues and I'm trying to figure out why.  Is it just because I'm tired?  Is it because its impossible to be all things to all people all the time?  Is it because I don't make enough time for myself?  Is it because I don't make enough time for my family?  Is it because I sleep too much?  Don't eat well enough?  Do we have too many pets (trust me, with 2 dogs and a cat, you think these things!).  Another dynamic is that I spend A LOT of time in my head, working from home tends to make you excessively introspective.  I was bouncing this off of an incredible friend who knows me inside and out earlier tonight and his response was simple.  "Write".  Duh.  This has always been my outlet, my forum, and my connection and without it… well… that's a big void.  So here I am.  I've recycled the lost blog as true to form as I can get it.  A "state of things" if you will.  So I hope this will be a jumping off point.  Winter is just around the corner here in Salt Lake City and a beach combing southerner trying to navigate 3 feet of snow is always good fodder if nothing else.   Thanks for your ear, for your time, and for your support.  That said…

6.  You -
if you're reading this, any sanity that I've found in the past 17 months is attributed in no small part to you… my friends, my family, and even my network of people who I haven't seen in years but have shared kindness, experience, and encouragement.  Its true, it takes a village and in this day in age, its a big, scattered, hodgepodge village, but a village all the same.  Thank you.