Wednesday, March 30, 2011


This post is going to be about how much I love my kid and how wonderful I think she is and all that annoying stuff that drives other people crazy. Feel free to move along or to stick around and read it, knowing that I know that my child has flaws, but right now, at this very moment, I love her so stinking much I feel like I could burst!

Many people comment on how quiet my daughter is and how she doesn't like to be hugged and oh, how shy she is (I know people don't mean anything bad about the word shy, but it really is an annoying word, because so many people use it without really knowing if the person is actually shy or gasp - if they just don't want to talk to you!). I think Sophie is perfect - just the way she is.

She's a kid who observes...EVERYTHING. When she was in preschool we use to joke that she would be happier on the other side of the one-way mirror, where she could watch the children play. We use to pull up to playgrounds in the neighborhood and Soph would sigh and say, "Let's go somewhere else, there are kids here." Thought in my head? "Um yeah, kids and playgrounds usually go together." We now joke about this, because that was Soph at that age and later she became the kid who didn't want to go anywhere unless she could bring a friend or there were going to be kids at the event.

Soph did have a few good friends in Ann Arbor - the boys she played tornado with at preschool and a neighbor, Eun. When we moved to San Antonio Soph had a few more friends - the brothers in our neighborhood who liked to play with Soph on the big rocks down the road and a couple school friends. At the age of 6 Soph had to make another move (and just to take away any guessing, there's another one coming up...) to Logan, UT, where I was certain she would never make any friends, because everyone told us how the Mormons don't let their kids play with the non-Mormon kids. Well, those people were wrong!

Utah is where Soph really hit the friendship lottery. She had a friend over nearly every day - a variety, too. Kids from the neighborhood, kids from school and kids whose parents we knew - all great kids with very active imaginations, like Soph. They hunted for aliens, played in the tent in our yard, drew a spaceship in Soph's room and tried to sell their artwork on our street corner. Good times. A few friends were really good friends - these kids frequented our house more than the others and they were the kids we took with us on outings or who spent the night.

So when we told Soph we were moving, again, it was very hard and sad for our girl. She is quiet. She is deliberate in what she says in front of others. She is not the kid to walk into a room and announce, "Look at me! I'm here!" She did not want to be the new kid again, she did not want to leave her comfort zone, she did not want to say good-bye.

We had a going away party for Soph and her friends - a neat mix of kids who are important to our daughter and who didn't necessarily play with each other on a regular basis, but who all came out to bid adieu to our kid and to have one last hurrah! It was wonderful.

We've now been in Jackson 7 months and Soph told me the other day she's still sad not to have a best friend. (Darn it all, I'm crying as I write this...) Here's the thing I want Sophie to know - forever -

What you have done - being the new kid again, seeking out a person to hang out with at recess or strolling the playground alone - those are tough things. Some adults will never have to be in that situation, they'll always know someone wherever they go. What makes me so proud of you is that you put yourself out there and keep trying. I'm sorry you had to leave your very good friends behind and I'm so glad you stay in touch with them and have playdates using Skype - that is so cool! I still think you will meet a very good friend here, not someone who will replace your other very good friends, but someone who will be added to the wonderful bouquet of people you know and love. Hang in there, Soph and keep doing what you're doing.

On the selfish side, Soph, I'm enjoying this time I get with you - time after school and on weekends, when we go for walks, play games, work on homework or drive around Jackson. In about 7 years you'll be off on your greatest adventure and all these experiences you've had will make you stronger. My hope is that you know you can go anywhere and create your own happiness - it is not outside of you, it is within you, though the truth is, Sophie, that you bring so much happiness to my life - and although you are my child, you are outside of me. I feel sad that you had to leave behind your good friends, but I know of sadness and I know it doesn't last forever if you make the choice to keep trying and I see you making that choice every day. Soph, you rock.


I try to always ask Soph if it is ok to post about her - because her life is her life, not mine. She said it was ok.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

We're the Moms

My friend's mom passed away. I don't keep in touch with my friend much anymore, but since we were friends in middle school and high school, I had quite a bit of contact with her mom, who was fabulous. My heart aches for the family of Joan Ciliberti, who was a strong woman who did anything for her kin and who will sorely be missed.

I think of that role, the friend's mom, and what it means. Sometimes we're just the chauffeur, sometimes we're the annoying presence checking in - especially when it's too quiet, sometimes we're the audience when a play needs to be performed with just a cast of 2, sometimes we don't receive more than a few mumbled, awkward words before our child takes the friend off to the nether regions of the house.

Sometimes we get to be a bit more, because as important as our child is to us, so are these people our child has invited into their life. If your child has a best friend or a really close friend, you will get to know the friend as they frequent your house, and you will embrace them as an extended family member. They're important to your child, so they become important to you.

Here's a thank you to Mrs. Ciliberti, for putting up with my adolescent antics and making me feel at home every time I visited. I only hope I can give the kind of welcome to Soph's friends that she gave to me - the kind that said, "Leave your worries at the door. Those in this house accept you just as you are."

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Going With His Conscience

I was looking for information for a friend of mine who is also reading The Book of Mormon and I stumbled upon some videos under the "Hello, my name is...and I'm an ex-Mormon," similar to the campaign I've seen by the LDS Church. I was intrigued and so I watched a few. This one really stuck out:

I wonder how others in the LDS Church have dealt with the scientific research versus their religious teachings in the area of homosexuality. When I hear that people are committing suicide because they feel ashamed and wrong for their sexuality it bothers me. There has to be a change in this area.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Back to Thich Nhat Hanh

I'm reading Living Buddha, Living Christ, by Thich Nhat Hanh. I am still reading the Book of Mormon, but I just couldn't wait to delve into the book that came so highly recommended. This passage in the book resonated with me, "The miracle is not to walk on water. The miracle is to walk on the green earth in the present moment."

I've been thinking about the stories we are told through religious texts and wondering why we have to put faith in tales that go so far beyond our realm of reason. The world we live in is amazing and things happen every single day that, even with an explanation, are astounding. I look at the variety of species that surround me and I look at art work created by another human and I am in awe. The problem, as Thich Nhat Hanh points out, is living in the moment and realizing the splendor surrounding us.

I was raised on the stories from the Bible, but later looked at them as symbolism versus truth. I now see them as similar to the tales of Aesop, and we certainly don't take those literally, do we? Why do we believe the stories in the Bible and the Book of Mormon are actually true? Why do we need to believe in things that don't make sense to try to make sense of our world?

Saturday, March 12, 2011

And It Came to Pass That I Prayed

The Book of Mormon reading continues, slowly, but it continues. Unlike some people who are soaring through the BoM (no names shall be mentioned, oh bearded one), I am really trying to sit with the words and figure out their true intent. Alright, that's not totally accurate, I just get lost easily and I have to use Google a lot to figure out what exactly is going on and then I have to read all the opinions about what it is I'm reading.

One thing I was asked to do as I read the BoM was to pray about it and although I lack membership with a specific religion, I do love to pray. Most of the time I send out quick memos to God or Buddha or whoever is tuned in and a lot of them are requests from others. If I am praying about something in my own life, it is often when I feel desperate and very down. Sometimes I throw in a lot of 4-letter expletives - yes, the rated R prayer. During these prayers I have felt a sense of calm and the response of an inner voice, though I don't always equate it to God, I feel it is the answer that is already inside me, but needs stillness and focus to surface.

So, although I was doubtful about praying to determine if the BoM was true or not, I did it. I got a clear answer and it has helped me as I've continued reading. Again, I don't necessarily think prayer is answered by some being outside of oneself, I think we all contain all the knowledge we need in these areas, we just have to trust ourselves to listen to the voice below the noise.

Here's the thing: my answer through prayer seemed very real to me and although I admit that my prayers are not always thoughtful, I really tried with this one. Now I wonder this, if one person is told through prayer that the BoM is true and another is told it is not true, well, those are contradictory statements, so one must be wrong. Ok, I already know there are those of you reading this, rolling your eyes and mumbling, "Gol, just use reason and evidence, forget prayer." Part of me agrees, but for this argument's sake, we'll use prayer as the determining factor. Please know, I am not trying to invite an attack on a specific religion, what I am trying to invite is a thoughtful answer to this, something that will tell me how it can be that one person can pray about a specific truth, be told that yes, it is true and another person can pray about the same specific truth and be told that it is not true. How do those in the former group account for those in the latter group? (Note that the latter group is not part of the Latter Day Saints group...tricky.)

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Great Conversion

Dr. Richard Sherlock of the Utah State University Philosophy Department was one of my favorite professors. His Philosophy of Religion course was the first philosophy class I took and within the first week I was hooked! I'd walk up the stairs of the old agricultural building on the Logan campus with my cup of coffee and sit right up front. Dr. Sherlock's lectures were thought-provoking, passionate and well, fun. THIS is what college is about, I thought.

I knew Dr. Sherlock was raised in the LDS religion and I assumed he was still LDS when I saw him a year or so ago. So I was surprised when I read a letter to the editor of the local paper chastising Dr. Sherlock for giving a talk on his conversion to Catholicism from Mormonism. The whole talk is really worth listening to, but what especially grabbed me is the final bit:

I have not gone over to the dark side. I am a truer, deeper Christian than I have ever been. I still regard unbelief, represented by recent writers like Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett or seminal minds like Nietzsche, as wrong but well worth deep study. The experience of Holy Spirit does, sometimes, have an emotional component. But it is more than just emotion. The Holy Spirit is one person of the triune God who is wisdom itself. One of God’s greatest gifts to us is reason. Thus we cannot remain content with emotional moments or warm feelings. If we are to remain true to the gift God gave us we must use this gift, like the man in scripture who expanded his talents, to deepen and enrich our faith with the gift of reason. For those of you who are doubting or unsure, even for those on a different path: come on in. The water is fine and neither God nor those of us already on the journey will let you sink.

I often felt like a few of my Mormon friends were on the verge of leaving the religion of their youth - something that should not be taken lightly. I never encouraged this of anyone, feeling it was not my place. I do, however, agree with Dr. Sherlock - that if you are questioning and are scared, there are people who are there for you and with you - who will not let you sink.

I also like the introduction to Dr. Sherlock's talk:

One should never leave the religion in which one was born or raised for anything but the most serious of reasons. Warm feelings, family, friends, a social ethos, should never be the reason for joining or leaving a religion.

Words to ponder.

*If you'd like a copy of Dr. Sherlock's complete talk, send me an email and I'll happily pass it along:

or you can listen to it:

Saturday, March 5, 2011

The Good and the Bad Part II

I believe I left off at the point in which we returned to Logan in 2006 after living in Ann Arbor for 6 years and San Antonio for 1 year.

Our move back to Logan turned out to be necessary for Steve's work, but I worried my sanity was hanging on by a thread. I had so much anger over my previous experiences in Logan and so much worry about the influences of which my child was about to be exposed. However, it became apparent, quite quickly, that my perspective in the 7 years we'd been gone had been altered and in the next 4 years Logan became my home.

I think a lot of the difference the second time around was the fact that I am a mom and so my involvement in Sophie's life helped me make friends that had the same parental interests. I also served on a non-profit board for a multicultural center and I became active in the community, which gave me a cause outside of myself. Steve loved his job teaching high school and though we never made a lot of money, we had a home in a neighborhood which we loved, 5 minutes from the mountains, and a walk away from the downtown and the university. (Ok, why did we leave? :) )

As I felt more comfortable with myself in Logan, I was able to reach out to people who were part of the dominant culture (politically correct speak for Mormon) and ask them the questions I'd been wondering. These questions turned into thoughtful exchanges and I felt my anger turn into understanding. The Mormons were not bad people - the Mormons were like the rest of us, they believed in something and they felt it was good and they wanted to share it with others. True, the religion tells them to share it, but still.... I saw my previous role in my prejudices against Mormons: I made a lot of blanket assumptions. How does one work toward understanding? By engaging in dialogues that are honest, respectful and continual and by really trying to see things from another's point of view based on that person's experiences, not your own.

A lot of the nasty rumors I'd been told were also disproven: 1) Mormons will not attend a church other than their own. We invited friends to attend First Presbyterian with us (I'm not Presbyterian, but it was a great church for those interested in community service and thoughtful dialogues) and they did! 2) When people find out you're not Mormon, they will not let their children play with Sophie. Not only not true, but quite the opposite: Sophie had friends over nearly every day, Mormon and non-Mormon and some of the kindest people toward my daughter were devout Mormons. 3) When the Mormons find out they cannot convert you, they will ostracize you. Who knows, maybe I'm delusional, but it seemed pretty clear to me that our Mormon friends knew where we stood on the issue of religion, but they still hung out with us and yes, invited us to church functions - some of which we happily attended. When it came time to move from Logan it was many of our Mormon friends who prepared meals for us and helped with the packing and hauling - without an agenda.

I still have anger over issues in which the Mormon Church has stances differing from my own, but I voiced my opinion while we lived in Logan and I found friends who are Mormon who offered their support - this does not mean they agreed with me, but they could see my side. I tried to reciprocate in the areas in which I did not agree. I think this mutual attempt to understand is what made the difference.

So now here I am in Jackson, Michigan and I miss Logan so much sometimes it physically hurts - but life is about change, about stretching oneself, about living in the moment and who knows, maybe we'll end up back in Logan someday for round 3!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Guest Writer: Tom McMillen-Oakley

When Prop 8 passed we lived in Logan, Utah and it was difficult to have conversations with neighbors and friends about this heated topic. I do not understand why any person does not support marriage between 2 loving, consenting adults, regardless of their sex. I think it is important, when looking at an issue, to think of the humanity: How does Prop 8 affect a family? Thank you Tom, for sharing your story.

In August of 2008, we flew our small family to California to get legally hitched in San Francisco. We knew that our marriage would not mean much for us back here in Michigan, due to Prop 2’s passage a few years earlier. However, we decided it was important to us to make this happen for us and for our growing family. The trip out was shrouded in secrecy since we didn’t want our family to know what we were up to and try and talk us out of it. For our parents, and for many of our friends, our commitment ceremony in 2001, done in our humble backyard, was good enough for them.

However, it wasn’t good enough for us. We wanted to be legally married somewhere.

We both grew up in two-parent households, and to this day, our parents are still together and are both approaching their 50th anniversaries. So no one can blame us, as we had great role models for our decision to do this. It wasn’t until I was in junior high that I knew a kid that actually came from a divorced household, the thought terrified me as a kid. We were able to secure a time in San Francisco’s Beaux Arts City Hall on the same day we had our commitment ceremony in 2001, seven years earlier on August 4th. But this time, instead of 200 plus guests, we had a small gathering of friends, some family, a former student and Jeb, the man who married us. His partner Thomas wrangled the two kids in attendance and took pictures for us as Jeb preformed the ceremony on the balcony of the 4th floor of City Hall. Anna was our ring bearer and flower girl and stole the show from Jeb, who is also an international DJ as well as minister. A tough task, but Anna was up for it.

So we got married and that night we called our parents to let them in on our secret. Needless to say, they were thrilled and a bit confused (to their defense, it was late and they’re old). There were many questions to be asked, but we had a night of celebrating in front of us as Tod’s cousin took Anna for us so we could have the night to ourselves in the amazing city of San Francisco. Thomas and Jeb took us out for dinner and we celebrated over tapas and sangria.

When we returned there was life as usual waiting for us in Michigan as a recently married couple. We were busy getting back to school for the year and doing our best to help Obama get elected. We jumped into the campaign and did what we could to help. While all this was taking place, there was much campaigning going on in California for Proposition 8, reversing the ability for Lesbians and Gays to marry in California. We knew that this was happening when we made the decision to go out there, and that was one of the reasons why we didn’t tell our parents. We knew that there was a chance that Prop 8 would pass, but all the polls said we were safe, or so we thought.

We were overjoyed when Obama won, but then the news started coming in that Prop 8 might pass. As it became clear that it did indeed pass, a roar of opposition came from around the county. It was unheard of that we could elect our first Black President in 2008, but we were still in the Dark Ages when it came to LGBT rights. As we got used to the fact that it did indeed pass, our hearts sank. Suddenly, our status as a legally married couple was in jeopardy. It was infuriating for sure, and a bit sad. It didn’t help matters when the donor lists became available and it became clear that there were several religious groups behind the massive amount of funding needed to make it pass. One of the chief groups was the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, or Mormons.

Suddenly we were thrown into a state of confusion and internal conflict because as soon as the votes were counted, the appeals started. We took part in many different protests around the area and lent our voice to the chorus of disapproval to those who funded this contentious bill.

As Obama was inaugurated, and the distinctly anti-Gay pastor Rick Warren led the prayer, I began to wonder if my efforts were worth it. I felt betrayed and out of sorts. I retreated inward and became emotionally and socially isolated. It didn’t help matters that I was also on sabbatical during a rather vicious Michigan winter and spent most of the time indoors alone. I checked dozens of LGBT focused blogs religiously each day in hopes that there might be a tidbit of information on the appeal. Then in March it began…

From across the country I watched a tiny video feed on my computer screen as the court case began in the same building where we were married. There were many impassioned voices from both sides, but the voice of reason seemed to be with our side. How is it ever right to allow a majority to vote on minorities’ rights? How can you repeal this when over 18,000 couples have already gotten married under the law? The questions kept coming to Judge Walker and he listened to each side, never once hinting at his stance. There were bloggers who chose to out him as a Gay Man, and the right demanded that he step down as his own sexuality might somehow affect his ability to rule justly and fairly.

But then there was a whole lot of nothing after the initial case in March. From March until August not much happened. We were still waiting in this morbid limbo of uncertainty as Judge Walker mulled his decision. Meanwhile, we were busy as ever welcoming Elijah into our house. We found out about him in May and by the end of July, he was living with us full time. This change brought up a whole host of questions for us regarding our marriage and our kids, questions that heterosexual couples NEVER have to ask or worry over.

1. We’re both legal parents to Anna (due to second parent adoption) and we’re married. Shouldn’t Eli be considered both our child as well? Unfortunately, no.
2. What if something were to happen to Tod, who is the legal parent to Eli? If we were a heterosexual couple, this wouldn’t even be a question. Eli would remain with the surviving spouse, no questions asked. With us, this isn’t as certain.

As the summer wrapped up and we began to settle into life with a new 1 and a half year old, the news that Judge Walker had ruled Prop 8 unconstitutional came on our anniversary. More on that here:

So what now? We’re still legally married, the passing of Prop 8 didn’t change that as they allowed the marriages to stay, but there are many couples who, for whatever reason, didn’t get married in time and are now wanting to do so in California, and until all this is cleared up, they can’t. And across the USA, small amounts of Gay and Lesbian couples are legally marrying in states that allow it and returning home to their state that may or may not allow for full legal rights under marriage.

Is this fair? Is this equal? No and no.

How are states going to deal with this? Do you have to remarry as a heterosexual couple when you move to a new state? NO. I for one am a little nervous and a little happy that there are pockets of us out there in the US demanding that we have full and equal access to the legal rights of marriage. Obama, once the apparent enemy of LGBT rights is coming around and is doing some great things for us. Time will tell, as will countless more trials and appeals are certainly on the docket. Both sides of this argument are well-funded and apparently doing nothing else but messing with my rights as an American citizen. But our family is now part of this fight for equality and we take the notion of marriage and family seriously.

It’s a fight I wish we didn’t have to do, but it’s one I am ready for.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

A Prequel - Already

I have to interject here - I forgot to write about my experience with the LDS missionaries within my first few months in Utah, back in 1991 - when I was a feisty 18-year old:

First, I was very excited about living in an area with a lot of Mormons, because from the commercials I saw before leaving Pennsylvania and from what I read, I thought we'd have a lot in common. At that time I did not drink (unlike a lot of my peers) and I loved doing volunteer work. I thought for sure the Mormons and I would live it up together, drinking our sparkling, non-alcoholic beverages and playing really cool card games (didn't know about the face card bit..). I was also a bit of a punk rocker, had my head partially shaved, wore a lot of tank tops and realized later that my appearance wasn't going to get me invited to a lot of home evenings (those of you in Utah know what I mean...). Bummer. It seemed in 1991 there really weren't a lot of punk rock Mormons hanging out in Logan, Utah.

In 1991 I really didn't know much about the Mormon Church, so when the missionaries came knocking on my door, I was so excited to learn more! I had already made a few friends and one in particular warned me about having the missionaries come, saying he felt he should be there when he did, but no, I wanted to meet with them all on my own...and I did.

Short version: I spent only 3 or 4 weeks with the missionaries, but felt discouraged when I kept asking the missionaries questions starting with, "What do you think about..." and their response was, "Let me check with my bishop." I would say, "No, no, just tell me what you think about..." and they wouldn't answer. Again, I really had very little knowledge of the religion at the time, so I wasn't trying to stump them, I was just 18 and trying to think through my own religious upbringing and asking them to do the same. When they wouldn't answer off the cuff, I got discouraged. I didn't want scripted answers, I wanted their gut reactions!

So that's first visit with the LDS missionaries. I know now I shouldn't judge the whole church based on that experience, but I do become skeptical when people have not thought through - for themselves - the tough issues.