Our dog, Piper

We said a heartbreaking good-bye to our sweet dog, Piper, yesterday.

One might think this wouldn’t hurt so much since we only had Piper since September 1, 2014.  But if so, one would be wrong.

We adopted her from a rescue organization.  She’d been found a month before wandering around a Home Depot parking lot – clearly she was destined to come to lesbians.  When we first met her, she was completely disinterested in anyone to the point that I even asked the adoption official whether Piper ever got excited about anything. A question that now seems humorous.  We met three dogs that day and came this close to leaving without one but at the last minute, we asked to see Piper again and I told Jodi I felt like we should give this sad dog a home.  Thank god.

Piper's Adoption Day

Piper’s Adoption Day

I don’t know what Piper’s life was like before she was with us but I know how skittish she was when she first got here.  Two days after we brought her home, I moved quickly to reach for something near her and she cowered back quickly and turned her head, clearly expecting to be hit.  It broke my heart.

The first time we gave her a chew treat, she acted like she wasn’t entirely sure what to do with it.  For several months when she got one, she’d run around to every person in the house so excited to have it and show it to them. I don’t think she’d had many treats.

We showered her with love and affection and it didn’t take long for her to become secure and trusting.  She accompanied me to and from the office every day, greeted everyone who came in. We dubbed her our office mascot.

At home, her favorite thing was chasing her bear.  We have mostly wooden floors except in our bedrooms.  We’d toss her bear down the hall and into our bedroom. She’d go get it and come running back full speed, hit the wood and slide right into us so we could “catch” her.

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If she was home without us, her little face would usually appear in the window after we pulled into the driveway.  When we walked in, she’d greet us at the top of the stairs with her signature snarl.  I think she was trying to mimic a person’s smile. Her tail would wag so fast and her mouth would draw up on the right side like she was snarling.  She looked like she wanted to bite our face off, but was wiggly happy about it!

Another favorite thing was to take walks along one of the many creeks in Boulder County so she could play in the water.  She seemed quite affronted, however, that we would not let her chase the ducks.

Playing in the snow with the Divine Miss M

Playing in the snow with Miss M

One rare thing about her, she hardly ever barked.  In fact, we never heard Piper bark at all until Christmas morning when she barked at the cat who was trying to share in Piper’s special holiday dinner.  A Christmas miracle, we joked at the time.  Three of her four barks we ever heard were actually directed at the cat.  Not surprisingly, our cat, the Mogwai, also adored her, which Piper tolerated by mostly ignoring her as much as possible.

The Mogwai was in heaven when Piper let her lay like this for a few minutes.

The Mogwai was in heaven when Piper let her lay like this for a few minutes.

Piper was the first Golden Retriever I ever had so maybe her mellow and loyal personality is common.  I’ve never known a dog so completely and totally interested in her people to the exclusion of everyone and everything else.  Perhaps all Goldens are as laid-back and sweet tempered as she and like to snuggle with their people like a teddy bear.  I don’t know. I’ve only ever had her.

It’s astounding to me that I only knew her 338 days.  On the 326th day, after ever-worsening digestive problems we couldn’t seem to figure out and lots of tests, they told us our sweet girl had cancer, GI lymphoma.  We tried some treatments but it only seemed to make her worse and her doctors were compassionately honest about her prognosis.  She was putting up a good fight but it just wasn’t fair to keep trying.  So, yesterday evening, we let her go, while we held her and petted her and told her that it was going to be okay now.

She wormed her way into my heart in a very short amount of time.  Her absence at our house is deafening, made louder by the cat who keeps pacing and meowing incessantly. I wonder if it’s normal to hurt this much after losing a pet.  There have been a couple of times today I’d swear for a second I heard her panting beside me, which sounds like something dramatic crazy people say. When I woke up this morning, there wasn’t a dog laying beside my bed or paws pushing on my mattress wanting to go out.  My ride to the office was quiet and the back seat was agonizingly empty.  There’s no head to reach down and absently stroke while I’m working, no-one that needs to be taken outside, no bear to throw, no-one to so easily make happy.

I know someday we’ll get another dog. We feel too strongly about giving rescue dogs a home and I know Piper would want us to do that.  My brother-in-law, who has a giant though occasionally well-hidden heart, told me once that every dog comes with their own personality and that you will love the next one, even if it feels like you won’t.  I know logically he is right but it will be a while before I can go down that road.  We don’t want “a dog” right now, we want Piper.

It didn’t seem as if her life before us was a good one.  Yet, even with that, as soon as we loved her, she loved us wholeheartedly right back. Dogs have an amazing capacity to give, as Jodi has reminded me.  I don’t know why we could only have her less than a year but even as awful as this feels, I wouldn’t change anything.  Without question, she deserved a better life than she had but I know her last year was happy.  That will have to be enough.

Piper and the Divine Miss M, November 2014

Piper and the Divine Miss M, November 2014

Posted in the Mogwai, Uncategorized, Us | 2 Comments

Dead Fish Stares and Eye-Rolling

MjAxMi1kOWVmMThhZDM2OWZhNzFhThere has never been, nor will there ever be, an experience in the universe more humbling or demoralizing than parenting a teenager.

In the interest of keeping it real and not just painting a pretty picture for the general public, as they say people do on social media and the like, let me say that today is July 28th. School starts in 23 days. I know the four years of high school are going to go faster than the other eight years preceding. I don’t want to rush what remains of the Divine Miss M’s childhood. But (and this seems key) I do want everyone in my house to survive.

Please God, Goddess, Allah, Buddha, any higher (or at this point lower) power anywhere, please oh please let school start soon.

There is no way to prepare yourself for teenagers, even on a daily basis. Asking a direct, and seemingly innocuous, question turns into accusations of ‘snooping’ into their business and there are no answers to anything that do not come with enough attitude to choke the recipient.

Honestly, at this point, I’d pay money to go 24 hours without being faced with what I long ago dubbed the ‘dead fish stare’ – they’re technically looking at you but their eyes are half-closed, just looking through you and the only possible activity going on behind those dead eyes is that of purposely not listening to you.

Or, there is always the look that comes with folded arms, head cocked to the side and eyebrows raised like you’ve just said either the stupidest or most offensive thing they’ve ever heard.

I have a hard time deciding between which I loathe more: dead fish, cocked head or eye-rolling.

I am consistently at a loss as to how one minute I can be having a normal conversation and without any warning whatsoever, I’m in the middle of an argument before I even know what happened, or why.

And then there are the reactions received when they’re told to do something. Anything.  Putting away their clean clothes (that someone else laundered) or loading/unloading the dishwasher (after someone else provided cooked meals). Perhaps, given the apparently unreasonable and inhumane nature of those tasks, a negative reaction is understandable?

I really don’t see how she’s ever going to hold down a job.

Two summers ago, Miss M went to a two-week sleepaway camp. Last year, she went to Oklahoma to visit family and friends for two and a half weeks. This year, she stayed home. Last night I concluded this was clearly a tactical error on our part.

Then I wondered what it says about us as parents when I question the wisdom of three months of uninterrupted time with our child.

I have begun to accept the fact we are basically just not very good at the parenting thing.  We seem to have succeeded only in creating a monster with a sense of entitlement so large, I can no longer traverse it to meet her.  Now I just want to survive and hope that we can, purely by accident, produce an even marginally productive adult.

Posted in Family, Growing Up, Parenting | 5 Comments

Ramblings and Wedding Planning

This has nothing to do with anything but in describing someone this morning I said, “She’s younger and would probably be a great choice.”  (No, it wasn’t about employment so don’t start throwing discrimination accusations at me —-  Oh, is that just me?  Well, that’s what 20 years of law practice will do to a person).  Anyway, my mind did freeze right after when I realized the person I was describing is in her early 30s, which I always considered the perfect age because you’re old enough to not be completely idiotic, but not too old for anything and all your skin still fits (unless you’ve recently given birth to a half-grown toddler as I had but still, everything is still mostly in the right place).  Now that age is a decade behind me, and I’m referencing those people as ‘younger.’  *sigh*  When exactly did I get old? And why don’t I have everything all figured out by now? And to add insult to injury, it’s an inexcusable paradox that I can simultaneously have grey hair AND pimples.

It doesn’t help that I’m older than Jodi.  Mind you, it’s one month and 29 days older. You’d think, though, that I was robbing the cradle with the way she and the Divine Miss M refer to me as the Senior Citizen of the house.

Neither of the individuals I live with are very helpful to my self-esteem.

Now, back to what I was saying, or was going to say, rather, before I got distracted by my elderly status:

Wedding planning.

We’re very excited of course but oh my gracious, the planning part can really suck the soul out of a person, can’t it?

My mom advised this, actually. Apparently, you're never too old for those "I should have listened to my mother" moments.

My mom advised this, actually. Apparently, you’re never too old for those “I should have listened to my mother” moments.

It’s a bizarre rite of passage, I think, because even though we’ve been together for years now, we’re learning a lot about each other.  Or, I’m learning a lot about Jodi. For example, she’s freakishly surprisingly traditional.  And this has made for some interesting developments in the course of planning the wedding.

I loathe doing anything in front of a crowd – large or small, friends/family or strangers – doesn’t matter, I don’t like it.  Jodi, on the other hand, is completely at ease in front of people.  This distinction is difficult to accommodate in a somewhat coordinated event for a ‘couple.’

For example, she wants us to be ‘announced’ when we walk into the reception.  I assume this will mean all eyes will turn to us.  Why, oh why, is this custom necessary?  Don’t people attending a wedding and reception already know who just got married?  And if they don’t and have instead just crashed it for the free food and drinks, then they’re not interested in us, anyway.

Also, she wants us to do the whole ‘first dance’ thing – so that we’re alone on the dance floor.  ‘Only for a minute or so’ she says, as if this is supposed to put me at ease.  Alone, in front of everyone, and dancing, which I won’t do under normal circumstances, even if Uptown Funk is playing, unless there is a sizable crowd already on the dance floor.

God, just kill me now.

The ONE area where she would like to buck tradition is the vows, which is of course the one area where I want to embrace it (minus ‘obey’ because yuck).  I want to say the traditional (minus obey) vows.  She wants us to write our own …. so that we can have MORE to do and say while standing in front of a crowd of people.

*whimper*

On the other hand, my only real concern is that the reception be like a party.  I really, really want everyone to have fun and dance, especially since most of them are traveling quite a distance to attend.  I am ridiculously anxious that it’s going to instead be stilted and awkward, like junior high dances, where music plays, the dance floor is empty and people are just sitting uncomfortable and stiff, trying to smile and embarrassed at how badly it’s going.

Or maybe just looking angry like these girls (this is, coincidentally, how I remember middle school).

Or maybe just looking angry like these girls (this is, coincidentally, how I remember middle school).

However, regardless of the tortuous traditions through which Jodi is going to insist on dragging me, I never lose sight of how lucky I am to marry this woman.  Especially when we have text conversations like this one while I was at Starbuck’s today:

Me:  There is a conversation happening at the next table about Jesus and this one is a little weird.

Jodi: As many Starbucks Jesus conversations tend to be.

Me: I just laughed out loud. They probably think the Holy Spirit is upon me … or that I’m possessed by a demon.  It could go either way, really.

Jodi: True on both counts.  That or they think you’re having your own Starbucks Jesus conversation, perhaps the Starbucks Jesus they cannot see …

Me: Oh, then they’ll be inflicted with that pesky sin of envy

Jodi: True. Just look at the trouble you have caused.

——

I would write more but we’ve yet to make final decisions on food for the reception so, I should be looking at those options; not to mention deciding what in the world we’re going to wear.

Until the big day gets here, I shall work on keeping this in mind.

I can keep this in mind though, and be fine.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Decision Day – As it Happened

We knew it was coming, one way or the other. The buzz (and the anxiety) had grown to a palpable level in our community, in our house, between friends and families, kids and adults. Like so many Junes before, opinion days found me at 8 a.m. with eyes glued to scotusblog, shoulders inevitably tense, remembered snippets of oral arguments running randomly through my head as my mind kept trying to predict an outcome, in spite of my futile efforts to stop. Unless you’re following a case this obsessively closely, unless nine people are literally deciding the worthiness of some aspect of you, I think it’s a difficult experience to really fathom. The Supreme Court’s Obergefell case was technically about marriage equality, but they’re always about so much more than the specific right at issue.

When last Thursday and Friday were added as opinion days to SCOTUS’s schedule, there was a lot of speculation the decision would come out on Friday, the anniversary of Lawrence and Windsor. I was skeptical … I couldn’t imagine SCOTUS giving that any thought plus I still saw the odds of the opinion going our way as completely 50/50. Still, by Thursday evening there were 5 cases and two opinion days left and though logically I knew Monday was more likely, I told Jodi on the way to dinner Thursday night, “I have a feeling about tomorrow.”

In spite of the fact Friday was the first day in a week the Divine Miss M could sleep in, I had strict instructions to wake her up at 10 minutes until 8. Aside from how this ruling would affect her family, she had some pretty personal stakes in this case. Over the past three years, she’s spoken at marriage rallies and to reporters and contributed to PFLAG National’s Amicus Brief to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in 2014 and then again this year in an Amicus Brief to the United States Supreme Court for this case.

I slept fitfully Thursday night, even when I managed to drift off I kept having vague dreams about the decision. On Friday morning, I woke M up as instructed. Jodi could stay for ten minutes before she had to leave for a meeting. The three of us were staring at scotusblog on my computer, my friend, Raga, who lives in India also watching and texting. At 7:58 a.m., our friend, Mardi Moore, text, “It’s today. I feel it.” At 8:01, the following came up on the live blog:

“Here’s Lyle with the first opinion.”

*15 or so seconds go by*

 “Marriage.”

*At this point, I grabbed M’s arm so hard she finally told me I was hurting her.*

“Kennedy has the opinion.”

*Jodi said, “Kennedy, that should be good.” But my anxiety has never been so easily assuaged. I’d long since concluded Kennedy would write it even if we lost. He had too much respect for the gay community to not do so. I know only 30 seconds or so went by but it felt like an eternity, and then   *

“The Fourteenth Amendment requires a state to license a marriage between two people of the same sex.”

*stunned silence (and honestly I still can’t read that sentence without getting choked up)*

I said, “Oh my God” about three times and then tears and laughter started all around. My little family, huddled around my laptop, watching the ruling and realizing we’d won – it’s a moment I will never, ever forget. Raga text asking if I was crying too and Jodi had to answer for me. I text Mardi and got to tell her we won and then everything seemed to happen quickly. Friends and family were sending us congratulations, I called the Hairdresser and we cried and cheered together.

Jodi had to leave for her meeting and Miss M and I finally sat down outside and read the full opinion together, crying, cheering and laughing some more, underlining our favorite parts. Admittedly, I haven’t done more so far than scan the dissents but I can say that Scalia’s, “Ask the nearest hippie” is the most hilarious thing I’ve ever read in a SCOTUS opinion (and the fact that Scalia only makes me laugh is a testament to my current level of jubilation).

The internet described this image the same as reading Scalia's dissent.  One of the reasons I love the internet.

The internet described this image the same as reading Scalia’s dissent. One of the reasons I love the internet.

We went to the Out Boulder Decision Day Celebration that evening on Pearl Street Mall, outside the old courthouse building. As we were walking toward the gathering, my Chosen Tribe were conversing in a group text about seeing ugly comments on Facebook and asking, “What is wrong with people?!” One had been un-friending select individuals. I’d been so lucky to be surrounded by nothing but positivity the entire day. My FB feed was the epitome of this:

I'm sure it helped I'd unfriended many an unsupportive family member ages ago.

I’m sure it helped I’d unfriended many an unsupportive family member ages ago.

When we arrived at the celebration, so many friends were there, both LGBT and allies, from all over the state. Jean Hodges, currently PFLAG National’s President, who has fought for equal rights for her son and all LGBT persons for decades, was one of the first people I saw.

Apparently jubilation means I also looking like I might be growling.

This is what jubilation looks like.

Everyone was so happy. There was joy, sheer joy, bubbling over throughout the crowd. I was gratified when we started the celebration by reading the names of the nine victims in Charleston. I’m all for celebrating, I’ve been reveling in this ruling for three days but I know there is so, so much work left to do for many communities, not just our own. Then Mardi read the last paragraph of the ruling and I began to cry again.

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Others spoke, including Jean Dubofsky, who had argued Romer v. Evans before SCOTUS in 1996, Hillary Hall, the Boulder County Clerk who defied Colorado’s AG last year and began issuing same-sex marriage licenses, community faith leaders and more. Congressman Polis arrived, fresh in from Washington, and shared his experience of being on the Supreme Court steps when the ruling was issued. He said the crowd was waiting with excitement, anxiousness, anticipation, wondering if today would be the day. After they found out the marriage decision was coming down, he described seeing the infamous running of the interns who had the opinion in their hand … and when he saw the huge smiles on their faces, he knew immediately we had won. He described the Gay Men’s Chorus breaking out in song and a party on the Supreme Court steps like had probably never occurred there before.

I wouldn’t trade being at home with my family for anything, but this would have been pretty awesome:

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We celebrated all evening with families and friends, several referencing how truly surreal this all felt. I have likened it to Christmas morning as a kid when you really, really don’t want the moment to end, but wow are you ever glad the wait is over. That day, I loved everyone, even the intolerant, though I hadn’t seen any. I am usually adamant about celebrating for a day and then rolling up our sleeves the next to get back to work, but I’ll admit, I’ve reveled in this one for a weekend.

The next morning I had to attend a working retreat with PFLAG Boulder County, everyone was chuckling a bit at my endless smile and ‘love everyone’ attitude – apparently I am normally crankier than even I realized. Still, I can’t recall feeling this much joy. We went to Longmont Pride that evening to celebrate with our community and our friends. Afterward, the three of us went to a nearby restaurant for dinner. Longmont is a more conservative town than Boulder and though I didn’t specifically give that a lot of thought, I still wouldn’t have anticipated the events at dinner.

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We were wearing All Love is Equal and One Love t-shirts. As we were waiting for a table, a woman came out of the restaurant, looked at our shirts and started an impromptu, raucous celebration outside. It turned out her daughter is gay and she told us she’d been celebrating for 24 hours. We assured her we’d been doing the same. You could feel the joy emanating from her, not unlike ourselves, I’m sure.

After we were seated, a conservative looking older gentleman passed our table. Suddenly he stopped to tell us that he really liked our t-shirts and then said, with seriousness, “Yesterday was a good day, wasn’t it?” We quickly agreed and then after he walked away, I promptly started crying again. How can one not be moved by unexpected affection and support from so many people, including strangers? Three years ago at this time, we were still mostly in the closet, out only to closest friends and family, hiding our own family from work so as to avoid termination, living in constant fear and getting ready to pack all our belongings and our life to head out in search of community.

And then Friday.

I’m still having a hard time wrapping my mind around it all.

This morning, the adrenaline of the weekend was starting to catch up with me but I thought it important for us to not skip church. Although we have always attended open and affirming churches, I still worry about the Divine Miss M associating religion with anti-LGBT sentiments. I thought she should see various churches celebrating today, as I knew they would be.  I am so glad we went.  Our pastor struck the perfect chord between celebrating and being vigilant. Focusing on Psalm 130, he discussed waiting – as we had waited so long for this moment. As is so true, he noted the strength of the support from straight allies in the LGBT movement. It is a rare, rare thing for any group to make progress without allies and my gratefulness to our allies is immeasurable. He compelled us to celebrate this hard fought victory but talked about the importance of continuing our own fight against discrimination and especially, of being allies to the African American community.

He also reminded us how to be an ally to any oppressed group – 1. Actively listen to their stories, 2. Let them set the agenda and 3. Ask what you can do.

I know that in addition to the inevitable backlash against the LGBT community, which had started before this particular ruling, there will be and already are states who attempt to resist this ruling altogether and my heart breaks for the additional delay those families will endure. After all, it’s not as if this lovely image is all that long ago in our history.

Attempting to stop integration at the University of Alabama, Governor of Alabama George Wallace stands at the door of the Foster Auditorium while being confronted by United States Deputy Attorney General Nicholas.

Attempting to stop integration, Governor of Alabama George Wallace stands at the door of the Foster Auditorium while being confronted by United States Deputy Attorney General Nicholas.

But progress moves forward, as do we.  I still love everyone today and this weekend will not soon be forgotten. I hope the adolescent youth out there who are afraid to come out can remember this weekend as well in order to gain strength for the future.

I’ll leave this with the exchange with which we always end our church service:

Do all the good you can.

By all the means you can.

In all the places you can.

At all the times you can.

With all the people you can.

As long as ever you can.

—–

Happiest of Prides, everyone!

Posted in Boulder, Chosen tribe, Evidence of humanity, Family, Rights and Legal Stuff, Uncategorized, Us | 3 Comments

30-year-old Friendships

I cannot for the life of me imagine a scenario in which I would consider living in the South again. But the one aspect occasionally tugging me backward is my friends. I miss having real friends, my Chosen Tribe.

The Dancer, the Bean Counter and the Labor Coach

The Dancer, the Bean Counter and the Labor Coach

I have made other friends since we moved to Boulder. Jodi and I are quite blessed with the depth of community we’ve managed to create in a relatively short amount of time. And I’m sincerely grateful, but it’s not the same. Here, I have what I’ve begun calling ‘appointment friends.’ There, I have people who are simply a part of my life, no appointment necessary.

The catch is I think the ‘part of my life’ friendship is one that can only be built in your 30s. A wise woman once told me, ‘you solidify in your 30s.’ I think it’s true, and maybe certain friendships made during that time solidify with you, become intrinsic and unshakable. By the time the four of us met each other, we all had some combination of relationships, marriage, kids and/or careers, but we were in the early stages of each.

The Bean Counter was an accountant, not yet a CPA, recently divorced (it was honestly years before I knew her ex-husband by any name except, “the Defendant,” and as I type this, I still can’t recall it) and blazing a trail of independence the Labor Coach would soon emulate.

When I met the Labor Coach, she was newly engaged to who is now her husband of almost fifteen years. Shortly thereafter, almost by happenstance really, we spent a particularly raucous New Year’s Eve together that resulted in her informing me, laughingly, “I have too much shit on you now for you to not be my friend.” She wasn’t entirely wrong, and I, newly out of law school where probity is in short supply, found her audacity refreshing. Later, she would be right beside me as the Divine Miss M came into the world. The very next year, she had two of her own, including That Blonde who was destined to become one of M’s best friends.

Last, we met the Dancer, who was at the time a dance instructor at a liberal arts college. We weren’t complete until she offered us the gift of her graceful dance steps, which the rest of us are sorely lacking, ironically combined with her Eeyore persona. Plus, when I figured out she was mostly a Democrat (a rarity in the South and in our group), I latched onto her. She’d just had Fat Baby and her older child, J-man, would eventually give M a run for her money in the areas of wit and candor.

We have – the four of us – seen each other at our highest highs and our lowest lows. We’ve been together to celebrate our greatest accomplishments and also dragged each other out of individual rock bottoms. Sounds trite, I know, but we have never, ever been perfect – not as individuals and not toward each other. We’ve laughed – oh, have we ever laughed – but we’ve also cried, fought for each other and with each other, loved each other’s children when they were decidedly unlovable, sat in recovery rooms and doctor’s offices waiting for medical pronouncements, taken advantage and taken for granted, lashed out and held on. And we don’t mind, we’re none of us going anywhere, except obviously geographically. That part wouldn’t matter so much, except that it does.

2015 has sent me reeling a couple of times and it has made the absence of my tribe striking. When I was struggling to hold my head above water through most of February and half of March, there was nowhere to turn. I have friends here but to talk to anyone I have to more or less make appointments for coffee, lunch or whatever. And as people with careers and teenagers, that’s nearly impossible – for them and for me.

Whereas, with my tribe, we don’t have to put our lives on hold in order to get together. We don’t have to stop what we’re doing, we’re not each other’s ‘company.’ Plus, we can read between each other’s lines, for better or worse.

If I had been there instead of here this year, I’d have called the Labor Coach many times and said, I need to come by after I pick up M. I’d go over and walk in without knocking on the damn door (such an odd privilege to miss), M would disappear upstairs or wherever with That Blonde, and I’d vomit out everything going on inside my head while the Labor Coach continued fixing dinner, or cleaning house, maybe even scrubbing toilets.

We don’t have to provide context for whatever we’re saying. They already know every part of me. I don’t have to start at the beginning, I can start in the middle or the present, and they can follow along. And we don’t have to filter. We can rattle off our most vile thoughts, irrational fears, heinous wishes, secret desires, the things that scare us about the world and about ourselves. I could say something horrendous about my wayward child – because teenagers! – and they wouldn’t even bat an eye because they know I love her more than breathing, even if occasionally she makes me want to hold my breath.

And we don’t always have to talk. One particularly difficult Christmas season, the Bean Counter came over while I had work scattered all over the dining room table furiously trying to meet a deadline. There was no fuss – she didn’t have to ask and I didn’t have to explain. She hung out in the living room with the Divine, doing I don’t even know what, possibly nothing. She needed somewhere to just be and I needed to continue working, and that’s what we did for the day.

None of that is available now, and the truth is, it probably never will be again. I’m past the stage in life when those friendships are created. I don’t even have that kind of space available anymore and I’m not particularly interested in making it, to be honest.

I love living here. Truly. I can’t imagine ever leaving. But a place isn’t a person, or in this case, people, and there is always a part of me that feels lonely.

I knew then, even when the Bean Counter was poking us in the eye with her honesty or I was choking on the Labor Coach’s obscene levels of optimism, how unbelievably fortunate we were, how all the planets had to have aligned juuuuust so for us to be created.  If you’re lucky – really lucky – you find those friendships that solidify with you at just the right time, and you won’t even realize it’s happening. It will become the mark against which you will compare every other subsequent friendship, and against which it will always pale.

Posted in Chosen tribe, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Whiplash

You are legal strangers to each other… Jodi is a legal stranger to her daughter … You can’t get married … You can’t get a civil union … You can get a civ… no, they shut down the government to prevent it …You can get a civil union …You are legal strangers to the federal government … Jodi can officially adopt her daughter … Courts say you have the right to get married … Courts say you must wait and see what the highest court says … You can get married – but only in Boulder … The highest court chooses to say nothing … You can get married … You’re planning a wedding for October … Another court says you shouldn’t be able to … The highest court says they want to say something now … The highest court will say something by June … The wedding in October may or may not mean anything – legally, anyway….

It’s exhausting sometimes.

Funny, we seem so harmless.

Funny, we seem so harmless.

I find it hard to believe that heterosexual people can relate to this feeling of having their lives, families and relationships jerked around to this degree. That other people can understand listening to debates where they scrutinize you like you’re not actually human, like they’re discussing a science project … or a criminal. What it’s like to listen to lawyers and politicians discuss whether you are in fact harmful to children – while you’re trying so hard to raise your own well. When you are a person riddled with self-doubt and occasionally self-loathing, these debates give power to the tiny little voice in the back of your mind that will ask you while you’re looking at your daughter, “Are you so sure you’re not harmful to her?”

Last year, we chose October 17, 2015 for our wedding because October 17th was the same day Jodi was finally able to officially adopt the Divine Miss M, after already being her mother for years (though according to Oklahoma, she’s still not a ‘mother,’ listing Jodi as her ‘father’ instead). Choosing that date for the wedding seemed like a good day to complete our family. Bringing it full circle, so to speak. Plus, we like the idea of a fall wedding, even if October is risky weather-wise for Colorado.

And so we started planning. We looked at venues and places, decided on outdoors, talked about wedding cakes. I started researching bakers, planning colors, considering wedding cake flavors, discussing vows, looking at pictures of wedding cakes, picturing a certain blonde and sassy cousin as our flower girl, thought about having cake toppings on the side, looking at fall flowers, choosing Save-the-Date cards, and have I mentioned the cake? Yes, yes, I do have an insatiable sweet tooth, why do you ask? Anyway, I was having loads of fun planning for all the things.

And then the Sixth Circuit happened. When they became the first (and so far only) Circuit Court to uphold marriage equality bans, I knew that SCOTUS would pretty much have to agree to hear the cases and therefore, our ability to get married might be quickly extinguished. Given the lateness of the Sixth Circuit’s ruling, I knew the case would be heard late in the Supreme Court’s term and therefore, we’d be facing another looooong month of June as we await the decision.   We all knew these things, we’ve been on this ride awhile now. Plus, you know, we are lawyers, after all.

When people are left feeling so completely powerless to control their own destiny, it’s funny how differently they will react.

After the Sixth Circuit’s ruling and then especially after SCOTUS granted cert, I started petitioning Jodi for an alternative. I proposed that we get legally married on May 1st, not a completely irrelevant date as it is the same day as our civil union, but have the ceremony in October. That way, we will be married regardless of what SCOTUS has in store for us at the end of June.   In my mind, this feels like gaining some sort of control over this situation and not leaving the fate of our family in the hands of the Roberts court, because no. In Jodi’s mind, however, “If you change your date and plans, then you’re letting them control it.” To which my response, delivered in a high-pitch voice just full of all kinds of neuroses, “Um, if they take the right away then they pretty much have controlled it!”

Well, we didn’t fall in love because we always think alike.

We are neither of us right nor wrong, of course, we just view it differently. We’ll have to find our compromise. (The never-ending joys of compromise – welcome to grown-up relationships.)

I give very little energy anymore to wondering and/or debating why people are opposed to gay marriage. Instead, at least right now, I keep thinking about how exhausting and discouraging it is at times to have our lives and rights so constantly in flux.

I should be focusing on planning our wedding. I know how lucky I am to have someone like Jodi who wants to marry me, build a life with me, raise a daughter who is equally amazing and gracious, so difficult. And I am still planning, of course. Just last night we decided who we wanted to ask to officiate. But now it’s all done in the shadow of uncertainty, which is the absolute worst thing for a control freak like myself. I have to shake that off and just focus on the commitment part of the ceremony, all the joyous aspects of sharing the day with friends and family, regardless of everything else.

Plus, Jodi’s family has a particular proclivity for fun wedding receptions. So, there’s that.

 

 

Posted in Family, Random thoughts, Rights and Legal Stuff, Uncategorized, Us | 2 Comments

High School Residue

Just … no.

Just … no.

In the past two days, I’ve toured three different high schools. By this evening’s end, it will be four. By the end of next week, we’ll have attended four more events at those schools. I am drowning in high school right now. I use the word drowning quite purposefully, because this immersion is not an altogether pleasant experience. And in that, it seems I’m not alone.

 The Divine Miss M starts high school next year, my efforts to halt time notwithstanding. Our school district has open enrollment, which means that regardless of where you live you can theoretically attend the high school of your choice. Luckily, unlike many places, there isn’t a bad school in the lot. In fact, the four we’re considering are all amazing. It’s a bit of a process but most people end up in the school of their choice. Which brings us momentarily to ‘choice.’ It’s a little like Dumbledore’s description of ‘truth’ – “a beautiful and terrible thing and therefore should be handled with great caution.” Having a choice between amazing schools is a marvelous problem to have. Making a choice between amazing schools is hell.

All of that aside, what has really stood out to me in the past week is my renewed skepticism that any of us ever get over high school. A few people, Jodi being one of them, left high school relatively unscathed. But many among us are like me and wouldn’t go back for all the money in the world. My stomach twists into knots just thinking about it. It must be a perverse joke that the time period in which we are the most sensitive, awkward and insecure is also the time period we are surrounded by the most concentrated number of vicious people, who are of course their most sensitive, awkward and insecure. As I recall, high school was many things but forgiving wasn’t one of them.

I’ve been in three in two days. Walking down hallways, through classrooms and labs, cafeterias and libraries and watching students do the same. All while trying to determine which school will be the best fit for Miss M. I’m indecisive about the most trivial of matters so choosing our daughter’s high school was inevitably going to be overwhelming. I expected that. What I didn’t expect was how this immersion into high school life was going to bring up memories of my own experience.

I’ve been trying to clamp down on those thoughts and avoid projecting my own anxieties about my four years onto my daughter. After all, she certainly has a much stronger idea of who she is and what she believes than I ever did at her age. And regardless, her experience will be her own. Not mine, nor anyone else’s. Still, this process has certainly brought old memories and insecurities right back up to the surface, as if twenty-plus years of education, travel, career, building a family and basically growing up into an entirely different person never happened.

And then at some point last night I realized, I’m not at all alone in this. I heard one dad make an off-hand comment, not once but twice and on two different nights, about how he’d spent most of high school getting his a** kicked. The Arist later admitted she was having a hard time and knew part of it was her “own shitty high school experience.” She indicated a mutual friend of ours had expressed similar thoughts.

Huh. I thought I was weird for struggling with that the past couple of days.  Obviously not (and thank goodness for those moments friends remind us we’re normal, right?). I looked around us at all the other parents who have been doing this forty-eight hour whirlwind and thought, bitterly, “God, we’re like the walking wounded.”

After all this time, how is this still possible?

I remember my 8th Grade English teacher saying something once about how middle and high school really make up such a small amount of time in our lives overall and isn’t all that relevant. It was a fairly trivial statement then. Odd how it stayed with me. And technically, it’s accurate. Yet, here I sit, literally decades later, wondering if we ever get over high school. Or, is it always going to be lurking somewhere right beneath the surface?

It isn’t all gloom and doom, of course. In learning about these schools, I’m reminded how fortunate we are to live in this district and the unbelievable resources and opportunities available to Miss M and her friends. The next four years will truly be something to watch. And it’s hard to worry too much about a child who when faced with the possibility of choosing a school not many of her current friends will attend responds with, “Eh, I’ve never had any problem making more friends.”

Maybe she’ll be one of the lucky few like Jodi who come out unscathed. Or perhaps she’ll have the same scars the rest of us have. Obviously, she won’t be alone.

Posted in Boulder, Family, Growing Up, Parenting, Random thoughts, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

The Real New Year

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The obligatory first day of school pic, with attitude. I believe the quote was, “If you’re going to put me through this routine again, I’m at least going to have fun with it.”

As a parent, the first day of school is ‘the new year’ to me.  January 1st seems almost trivial in comparison.  It’s August that holds the promise and excitement of starting over as you help them assemble school supplies, notebooks, sharpened pencils.  I think they feel it, too.  As much as she grumbled about the end of summer, it was an excited, animated kid I dropped off this morning.

First day of school – Eighth Grade.  Eighth!  I’m barely going to have time for that to sink in before we have to start attending high school open houses in order to make decisions for next year.  Her childhood is flying by, and it seems to be gaining speed.

The Divine Miss M has officially been a teenager for barely more than half a year but the changes in her are striking, pronounced. It’s not just the physical changes, though those are drastic as she has surpassed me in height and definitely shoe size.  It’s more intangible than that, though.  I know every child matures in differing stages, but seventh grade felt like a turning point for her.  The precipice on which she stands now between the little girl she’s been and the young lady she’s becoming is much more real than it has been in the past.  As it takes shape, I try to see it more as a starting line, rather than the cliff it sometimes feels like as she edges closer to it.

A few months from now, when I’m slogging through the daily grind and handing off the big projects to Jodi, I’ll chuckle at the sentimental nature of today’s post. When April and May arrive and M is stressed at the 500 things suddenly due and I’m becoming skeptical that summer will ever arrive ….

But for now, it’s the new year for all of us, parents and children alike.  For some, the new year is the first day of pre-school and the very beginning of mornings where they force themselves to let go of a little hand.  For others, it’s the last year of elementary school or the first day of middle school.  Still others, it’s the first time their kiddo didn’t want mom or dad to walk them all the way to the door.  For each of those times, it’s equal parts gut-wrenching and exciting. Goodness knows, I don’t want M to grow up so fast but I do love her independent nature.

I think the one thing to hold onto during every one of these moments when we have to let go a little bit more is how amazing life can be for them when we do.  As Miss M told me this morning about this new year, “The possibilities are limitless.”  When we can leave them with that mind set, we’ve done our job as parents … even if we cry a little as we’re letting go.

Posted in Family, Growing Up, Parenting, Starting Over | Leave a comment

That Far Into Life

DSCF0151-1024x768Occasionally the Divine Miss M will say something simple yet profound and I am reminded at how complicated we adults make life.

I don’t fixate on the life of celebrities, at least in comparison to our culture as a whole. Granted, I am obsessed with anything written by Aaron Sorkin because he’s nothing short of brilliant and easily the best writer of our time.  Also, even a lesbian can recognize that George Clooney is preternaturally handsome. I mean, seriously, is he even real?  I am in awe of Meryl Streep as an actress and watch every movie she’s in, but I don’t pretend to know anything about her personally. I recall thinking it really weird when I got up to get ready for school one morning in 3rd grade and found my mom crying because someone named John Lennon died.

However, I have to admit, the news of Robin Williams’ death totally threw me. I didn’t start sobbing or anything but I can’t quite wrap my mind around it. I know everyone my age has probably been saying this but I watched him as Mork when I was a little kid (LOVED that show) … and then in everything else as I grew up. Good Morning Vietnam, Dead Poet’s Society (Oh Captain, my Captain), Mrs. Doubtfire, Good Will Hunting – “I gotta go see about a girl.” Man, that’s a great movie.

So maybe it’s given me such pause just because this was a celebrity I grew up with, more or less? I mean he was a freakishly rare talent but still, it’s not like I knew him.  Yet, this feels a little like grieving.

M and I were discussing Mr. Williams – she knows him only as Genie in Aladdin and Peter Pan in Hook. She noted that you don’t hear of that many celebrities committing suicide. I pointed out there are more who overdose, accidental and possibly otherwise, and even if it’s the former, “maybe it’s a little like suicide because if you’re that far into drugs …” I couldn’t think of a way to finish that sentence but she responded, “You’re not that far into life?”

I was speechless for a moment. She was probably just being literal, as she tends to be, but there was something deeper there. It’s an apt metaphor for both addictions and depression. They lie to you, they cut you, they cloud you and the world around you, mar your perceptions, chain you down and they hold everything out of reach. They darken every corner so that you can’t see any hope, can’t even imagine it. They leave you forlorn and despairing, it’s so much worse than merely hurting. They make sure “you’re not that far into life.”

I have an uncle who committed suicide several years ago. He had been the most severe alcoholic for decades, on and off the wagon. When he was sober, he was handsome, charming, witty as hell and extremely caring. When he wasn’t sober, he was … none of those things. When I received the phone call about his death, I was saddened and hurt of course and looking back over parts of his life, couldn’t help but think about all the wasted potential. The fact was though, he was never going to slay his demons, temporarily maybe but they were always going to be there. I suppose some people were probably angry with him, people who were going to miss him terribly and I don’t think that’s unjustified on their part. But all I could think was how tired he must have been. How tired he had probably been for a long time. I felt such an overwhelming compassion for him, for his decision. His demons ensured that he was never going to be that far into life. That has to be somewhere beyond exhausting.

But having compassion for how someone reached that point doesn’t mean suicide is the answer. I hope for those who have already chosen it that they found the peace so eluding them in life. For those of us still here, I hope we can help each other more, find the help we need more, understand more about depression and addiction, and for God’s sake make the help more available because mental health treatment in this country is grossly, inhumanely lacking. Yes, it will cost us money but right now it’s costing us lives.

I hope we cast light on the darkest corners so the people we love who are in them can see flickers of hope. I hope we can be that far into life, at least enough to not want to leave it.

Posted in Evidence of humanity, Grim Reaper, Random thoughts | Leave a comment

The Ultimate F Word

 

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And I told you to be patient
And told you to be fine
And I told you to be balanced
And I told you to be kind
… Ed Sheeran

 When the Divine Miss M was in second grade, she told me that her best little friend had whispered in her ear ‘the ultimate F word,’ and “I’m not going to repeat it to you but it rhymes with duck.”  I was caught between humor and dismay, chuckling at the description but also thinking ‘Really?  Already?’ It turned out M wasn’t really all that interested in the scandalous art of cursing, she wanted grown-up confirmation that it really was ‘the ultimate F word.’  (That child has lived in a black and white, need to know world from day one, let me tell you).

More recently, I was having a conversation with her and she ended up referencing, very matter-of-factly that the opposite of love is hate.  She continued talking but my thoughts paused with that statement, as they often do when I hear that basic sentiment expressed.  It’s so easily accepted – hate is the opposite of love.

It’s not, of course, except in a child’s world.  The opposite of love isn’t hate, it’s indifference, which coincidentally is far more painful.  She’ll probably learn that some day, which as a parent I’d do anything to prevent but I can’t, of course.

I wonder if she’ll also learn ‘the word that rhymes with duck’ isn’t actually the ultimate F word.

Cursing is used in many ways – sometimes in jest, but often to express incredulity, shock, anger.  In any event, it’s used for emphasis of one sort or another.  Fierce anger, incredulity, shock, dismay.   All emotions or reactions that may drive people back, away from us.  Logic would dictate then that the ultimate curse word would be the most effective at that.  It’s not, of course.  Because the ultimate F word isn’t a curse word at all, it’s Fine.  I’m Fine.

I don’t mean the fine that comes in an argument with your spouse or partner.  I feel confident Jodi is not the only person aware that when their spouse says fine at the end of an argument, usually in a short, clipped manner with possibly gritted teeth, things are anything but fine.

I’m talking about the “I’m fine” that stands as a common response to “How are you?” or “Are you okay?” or “Is something wrong?” So many times, no matter who is asking, we respond to those inquiries about our well-being with the words, “I’m fine” or “Everything is Fine.”  Even when we are so not fine we might well be crumbling inside, when it’s an effort to take the breath necessary to even say the words, we still manage “I’m fine.”

Why is it so important to be fine?  When exactly did that become the image to which we all aspire?   It doesn’t make us stronger to be ‘fine,’ to be unaffected or emotionless. If anything, it makes us stronger when we can admit to weaknesses, hurts, outrage, indignation.  But there’s no question that “I’m fine” usually ends the conversation – drives people back a little and puts up a wall.  Occasionally it’s understandable – maybe it’s not someone with whom you’d want to discuss it, maybe it’s someone who’s asking more out of obligation than true caring, maybe it’s just not a good time.

The truth is though that many times it’s someone who loves us that’s asking. It’s our spouse, our best friend, a member of our chosen tribe and they’re asking because they want to know. And many times we still answer their inquiry with “I’m fine” or “Everything’s fine.”

I’m not sure about other people, but I know my messed up reasons for answering that way.  At some point along the way, I adopted the thinking that if I can’t change something, then it’s a failing on my part to not be able to accept it and move on.  To be bothered by it is nonsensical and therefore a fault.  (A healthier person might recognize the demands I make on myself, and others, are a tad high …). 

 When I hear the lyrics from Ed Sheeran that I quoted above, I always picture that as talking to myself.  I tell myself to be patient, kind, balanced and fine, dammit.  (Ironically, I get very IMpatient and UNkind with myself when I can’t manage the other two.)  I say a lot of “I’m fines” on Father’s Day.  I could probably have a relationship with my father if I never openly acknowledged my family when we spoke and I was only ever around him without my partner.  But I find that unacceptable for several obvious reasons. Thus, to an extent, that’s my choice, I suppose.  As a result, it seems ridiculous on my part to not be fine, especially since I am fortunate enough to have other father figures in my life.   I should be fine.

We tell ourselves that a lot, that we should be fine, that to not be fine we have to know we’re justified in not being so.

And yet, I find myself very accepting of the fact that we all have a little crazy. We all have irrational things that trigger bizarre, extreme reactions and that even if we know what those are, we can’t always stop ourselves.  And that’s okay.  Just like it’s okay to not be fine.  If someone asks you if you’re alright, it’s not a failing to say, “No, not really.”  Putting up the wall of I’m fine isn’t something to aspire to, it isn’t helpful, it isn’t honest and occasionally it sells short the very people who are asking.  If we’re lucky enough to have people in our lives who care enough to ask, then let’s refrain from throwing up the wall of the ultimate F word.  Let’s practice occasionally answering with “no, I’m not okay, and here’s why.”

Posted in Chosen tribe, Lessons, Random thoughts | Leave a comment