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


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




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

A notable excerpt as the dominoes fall

UnknownOver the past year, I haven’t done a blog post when a state’s same-sex marriage ban has fallen.  However, it has been an amazing thing to watch.  I try to concentrate on the positives of each victory.  Inevitably the subsequent photos of couples (often temporarily) marrying, so often older people who have been together for decades or couples with children or simply couples in love, moves me to tears.  Unless it’s been denied to you, I don’t think it’s possible to know, really know, the monumental emotion that comes with acknowledgement.

I say ‘try to concentrate on the positives’ because there is a part of me that realizes we haven’t had a ruling from an appellate court yet.  I anticipate the Tenth Circuit will be first, which has authority over my home state, because it was the first to hear oral arguments on the same.  Though the Fourth Circuit has now as well.  I am very cautiously optimistic on how those will turn out.  But even then, I’ll have the same gut-level dread I have now … at some point, the Supremes are going to be asked to weigh in and the LAST thing I want is this Supreme Court to rule on same-sex marriage.  We won the partial DOMA challenge but based on last summer’s arguments on California’s Prop 8, I don’t look forward to a ruling on marriage.  Until we have conflicting rulings from appellate courts, they may very well not elect to hear an appeal on these matters (though, I anticipate the Fifth Circuit will take care of that for us.  I have a little doubt any circuit court will uphold a ban, but I have no doubt the Fifth will).

But back to concentrating on the positives, I haven’t done a blog post referencing any of the truly eloquent opinions that have been issued in the last year that have struck down same-sex marriage bans. However, I wanted to share this excerpt from the Oregon opinion released today.  This isn’t actually the legal minutia portion of the opinion, though that’s certainly in there, but it is an excerpt I loved, especially the last sentence because I have always been a sucker for an inspirational message who calls us to be more.

I am aware that a large number of Oregonians, perhaps even a majority, have religious or moral objections to expanding the definition of civil marriage (and thereby expanding the benefits and rights that accompany marriage) to gay and lesbian families. It was these same objections that led to the passage of Measure 36 in 2004. Generations of Americans, my own included, were raised in a world in which homosexuality was believed to be a moral perversion, a mental disorder, or a mortal sin. I remember that one of the more popular playground games of my childhood was called “smear the queer” and it was played with great zeal and without a moment’s thought to today’ s political correctness. On a darker level, that same worldview led to an environment of cruelty, violence, and self-loathing. It was but when the United States Supreme Court justified, on the basis of a “millennia of moral teaching,” the imprisonment of gay men and lesbian women who engaged in consensual sexual acts. Even today I am reminded of the legacy that we have bequeathed today’ s generation when my son looks dismissively at the sweater I bought him for Christmas and, with a roll of his eyes, says “dad … that is so gay.”

It is not surprising then that many of us raised with such a world view would wish to protect our beliefs and our families by turning to the ballot box to enshrine in law those traditions we have come to value. But just as the Constitution protects the expression of these moral viewpoints, it equally protects the minority from being diminished by them.

It is at times difficult to see past the shrillness of the debate. Accusations of religious bigotry and banners reading “God Hates Fags” make for a messy democracy and, at times, test the First Amendment resolve of both sides. At the core of the Equal Protection Clause, however, there exists a foundational belief that certain rights should be shielded from the barking crowds; that certain rights are subject to ownership by all and not the stake hold of popular trend or shifting majorities.

My decision will not be the final word on this subject, but on this issue of marriage I am struck more by our similarities than our differences. I believe that if we can look for a moment past gender and sexuality, we can see in these plaintiffs nothing more or less than our own families. Families who we would expect our Constitution to protect, if not exalt, in equal measure. With discernment we see not shadows lurking in closets or the stereotypes of what was once believed; rather, we see families committed to the common purpose of love, devotion, and service to the greater community.

Where will this all lead? I know that many suggest we are going down a slippery slope that will have no moral boundaries. To those who truly harbor such fears, I can only say this: Let us look less to the sky to see what might fall; rather, let us look to each other… and rise.

Posted in Random thoughts, Rights and Legal Stuff, Us | Leave a comment

The Time I Lost it in Arkansas

I don’t like confrontation and take great pains to avoid it.  But even the least confrontational among us can be pushed too far … especially when it comes to protecting our children.

I was reminded of this when reading a blog post recently written by a mother whose teenage son had been the victim of an ambitious Amway-seller.  It seems Ms. Amway felt it necessary to point out this boy’s acne in an attempt to sell him products. The author/mother had to battle her mama bear instincts not to call the woman and tear into her.

July 2011, That Blonde and the Divine Miss M.  They seem so little now.

July 2011, That Blonde and the Divine Miss M. They seem so little now.

I suppose it was the mama bear in me that came out in Arkansas in the summer of 2011.  We were visiting Hot Springs and a few other places that week with the Divine Miss M and That Blonde, daughter of the Labor Coach and M’s best friend.  On July 4th, we had dinner at a restaurant with a patio/deck area on a lake.  It was lovely, picturesque even.  At some point before we finished our meal, a man and two women, one of whom was a little loud, walked up from the area of nearby docks and chose a table next to ours.  I didn’t think much of it really.  It was Fourth of July, people had probably been out on the lake all day drinking and it’s not like she was belligerent or anything…

After we were finished eating, Ms. M and That Blonde were walking back and forth between our table and the other side of the deck where they were feeding ducks.  They were heading back toward us, passing the loud woman’s table when M started explaining the difference between male and female mallards based on their coloring.  Unbeknownst to me, the loud woman had deduced Jodi and I were a couple and began making comments about how sick it was for children to be with us.  (Though not all that important, I have never figured out how she reached that conclusion.  Neither of us are prone to PDA, I can assure you we weren’t holding hands at a restaurant in the middle of Arkansas and had only even shared the same side of the table when the sun reached a point on its way down that it was shining in That Blonde’s eyes and I’d switched her places.)  In any event, I was oblivious and didn’t realize what the woman was saying. But Jodi did.

Jodi began gathering our things and the kids and directing our exit.  I finally started catching on when I heard the woman mocking Ms. M for her male/female mallard explanation.  I stopped for a second, confused and honestly trying to understand if I was hearing her correctly. I suppose a grown woman mocking a ten-year-old child isn’t the first place your mind goes.  Just as the girls rounded the corner and entered the restaurant door, Jodi leaned over their table and I heard her tell the woman, “We may be lesbians, just like you said, but at least we’re not in a public place, drunk and saying inappropriate things in front of children.” That’s when it all finally clicked in my dense head.  They’d been talking about us, they’d been mocking our children – who easily could have heard them – simply because those children were with us, a same-sex couple.

And then it was exactly as I’ve heard people describe moments of great anger. There was a definite rushing in my ears and the world shrunk down to that moment and place. I was overwhelmed with the misguided feeling that I had to DO something in response, like it was an obligation.  The only thing near me was the full cup of water I’d left on our table.  The loud woman was mid-sentence in her sarcastic response to Jodi and the next thing I knew, the cup was in my hand, my arm was shooting out and water was splashing across their table and their laps.  I slammed the cup down on their tabletop and walked away - quickly.

I’ve no idea who was more stunned, the people at that table or Jodi.

That scene replays in slow motion in my head, especially as the water flies through the air toward their table.  In the big scheme of things, it was a stupid thing to do.  If I’d thought logically for even a second, I would have realized the girls hadn’t heard her and there was no need to take further action.  Those people of course followed us as we were leaving the deck and that could have been a much uglier scene than it was.  We finally left and the girls’ only comments were M asking why we were talking to those people and That Blonde answering for me with, “I think our family had a disagreement with theirs.” Bless her innocent heart. Thankfully, they didn’t see or hear much.

I could should have simply walked away and held my head high. Been the bigger and better person rather than crawled around in the figurative gutter with those people.  And if it had been comments directed only at us, I would have been able to do that fairly easily.  My only defense is that it was my first experience with someone directing their intolerance at our children. Also, it caught me completely off guard and I felt a little blind-sided. We weren’t at some kind of political event or anywhere I anticipated that behavior.  We were simply eating dinner on a lake right before we went to watch a fireworks show.

I swore Jodi to absolute secrecy but I had to tell the Labor Coach on the off-chance That Blonde saw more than I thought.  Plus, I felt a little compelled to confess I’d done something that irresponsible while her daughter was in my care.  Though her response was something along the lines of, “That’s the coolest thing I’ve ever heard” and begged me to let her tell people.  I am torn between chagrin over my actions and laughing at the uncharacteristic nature of it all.

The real long-lasting effect, however, has been that anytime I get mad, Jodi now gets to make quips about hoping there isn’t any water nearby.

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Repost: Reflections on a Union May 1, 2013

One year ago this morning, it was snowing outside, the ground already covered with a few inches that had fallen overnight, and I was having breakfast at The Buff with my new spouse (technically, ‘party to a civil union’ but *eye-roll*)  and our daughter. As we, and many other couples across the state, celebrate our first anniversary, I thought it would be a good time to revisit one of my favorite posts.   I still don’t think I captured the magic of the night quite adequately enough, but it’s the closest I can get.  Happy Anniversary to our family, and to so many others.


May 1, 2013 approximately 2:00 a.m.

May 1, 2013 approximately 2:00 a.m.

Colorado’s Civil Unions Act went into effect on May 1, 2013. Denver and Boulder County Clerks took the date quite literally and opened their offices to the public at 12:01 a.m. to begin issuing civil union licenses. Jodi is on the Board of Directors for OutBoulder, the local LGBT non-profit organization that coordinated with the Boulder County Clerk for the midnight celebration.  Thus, she was already going to be present and we took the Divine Miss M along to witness history.

We didn’t go that night intending to get our civil union, though Jodi and I had been engaged for over a year.  One night out of the blue, she presented me with a scrapbook, on every page a different theme and pictures from our life together. When I flipped to the last page, I saw the words, “Will you marry me?” I said yes, obviously, as I’m wise enough to know how rare a find she is.  We waited on a ceremony, hoping it would come with not only our own promises of faith and commitment but also legal recognition as well.  When that hope was realized with the passage of the Civil Unions Act in March, we began to talk about when and what kind of ceremony we wanted. We had strongly considered May 1st but we are blessed with family members who quickly informed us they wanted to be present. So, we decided we would wait until late summer or fall so others could attend.

As the midnight celebration came together, the beauty of this event began to unfold. Businesses and people donated items, including an anonymous ally who donated a long-stemmed red rose for every couple.  In what became known as the “Party Room,” there was a DJ and dancing.  PFLAG of Boulder County and other groups brought cake, food and sparkling cider.  There were gift bags for the couples. A local photographer, who was an absolute angel, set up in one corner and offered a free photo shoot to every couple. The generosity of the entire Boulder community was out in full force.  In one hallway, dubbed “Blessing Alley,” numerous faith leaders, pastors and laity decorated the area with small tables, flowers and candles and were present to bless unions and conduct ceremonies, including our own Pastor Bruns.

And then the couples themselves began to arrive, along with their children, families and friends!  Couples of every single age group, some in their 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s, many of whom had been waiting decades for a day like this. There were also people who weren’t there for any particular couple, but just wanted to be present for the moment it all began, who thought they’d never see the day and stood by into the wee hours to cheer and support and just experience.

The County Clerk’s office is on the second floor.  OutBoulder loosely organized couples in sequential order, calling for them in groups of five or ten, some in casual clothes, formal suits, tuxes, wedding gowns, one couple and their friends all in pajamas.  I watched from the crowd as the first five couples went up the stairs at 12:01 a.m. and into the office. The crowd below cheered and cheered and as each couple came back down those same stairs with their license, the crowd blew bubbles and cheered even more.  Miss M was assigned the task of official bubble blower, a role she relished and performed dutifully, when she wasn’t trying to sneak more cake.

In all, there were between 250-300 people, they filled the party room, the hallways and the stairs. The excitement in the air, the happiness and the celebratory nature was the closest to palpable I’ve ever experienced.  It was impossible to look around and not get choked up at the truly innocent nature of why everyone was so happy.  We were being recognized as valid, we were being offered rights and responsibilities.  That was all it was, and it was everything. Everyone was just happy.  Or, maybe the right word is joyful. Laughter and smiles and a pure, simple unadulterated joy I’ll likely never be able to replicate in my lifetime spilled through the crowd, shining on everyone’s faces and echoing off the walls.

I began weaving through the crowd in the hallways and Party Room, peaking down Blessing Alley to watch a few ceremonies, always finding my way back to Jodi, who was helping near the stairs, to watch the ascending and descending couples.  A woman next to me was smiling and clapping and said to her friends, “This is a lot different than when we were here protesting in 2004! Did you think we’d ever see this?!” I wasn’t here in 2004 so I don’t know that particular protest but I can certainly imagine.  Taking it all in, I had to reflect on the road to get there, the good and the bad.  How many hours of legislative committee hearings and endless floor debates had we listened to exactly?  30? 50? We’d met with legislators, trying to persuade them to recognize our family. One particular night we’d spent at the Capital sitting through a seven-hour Judicial Committee hearing. I’d squeezed Jodi’s hand until it surely hurt when they finally took the last vote, while also silently willing them to hurry because it was later than we’d told the sitter and we needed to get home. (Yes, it’s a radical gay agenda at our house, let me tell you.)  I’d known this was supposed to be the year but I tried not to let my hopes get too high.  Then, finally, the Act passed, the Governor enthusiastically signed and May 1st had arrived as the first official day.

It didn’t take long that night for us to realize we didn’t want to leave the County Clerk’s office without our own civil union. May 1st had been the day at the forefront of our minds since that final vote in the House in March.  This was what we fought for, this was the culmination of talking, persuading, debating, getting knocked down but showing back up. It was historical and well, magical.

We talked with M who nearly bowled us over in the crowd with her enthusiasm.  We spoke with our Pastor and asked that he bless our union and sign our license, and that we would do our full exchange of vows later with family present. He readily agreed. I told our friend, Aubree, who was organizing the couples, to add us to the end and about an hour later, at 2:15 a.m., we became the official “last couple up the stairs.”

And then unexpectedly, the County Clerk employees added a whole other layer of memories. When we ascended the stairs and went into the office, there were around 10-15 employees present who were utterly thrilled to be there – in the middle of the night – and made it clear they’d been looking forward to this night/morning for years.  I read later that some even worked in different departments and had volunteered because they wanted to be a part of it all. There was as much joy upstairs as downstairs. Molly, the clerk who did our paperwork, was actually disappointed when we told her we were the last couple. Aside from what it felt like personally, when you have a 12-year-old child who has watched and experienced a government refusing to recognize your family, it was a marvelous, beautiful thing for Molly to sit across from all three of us and make us feel like it was her privilege and honor to usher in our recognition.  I will never, ever forget her.

We filled out our paperwork and were given our license, then we descended the stairs to be greeted with cheers and shouts from the still present crowd.   When we got to the end of the hallway with our pastor, I realized it was snowing outside, a perfect addition. I took Jodi’s hand and Pastor Bruns said a beautiful blessing over our union.  Then he took our hands in his and said a prayer.  And yes, for those that know me, I may have shed a tear or two and maybe even had our pastor choked up.  There was much hugging and laughing and the Divine Miss M was beside herself with excitement. Then we signed our license, along with our Pastor and our friends, who acted as witnesses. We headed back into the Clerk’s office and it was official.

I’ve certainly tried but I don’t think I’ll ever be able to describe the evening in a way that feels adequate.  We are going to start the adoption proceedings now and soon we won’t be Jodi, Jen and M, anymore, we’ll just be the Martins, a regular family.

Posted in Boulder, Colorado, Family, Rights and Legal Stuff, Us | 1 Comment

The Shoe of Society

The Divine Miss M and her dear friend, the Non-Conformist*, made this Shoe of Society collage this weekend.

The product of intelligent and independent Seventh Graders.

The product of intelligent and independent 7th grade girls.

In their words, the left side represents societal views of women, dominated by pink. The right side represents more independent thinking, accomplishments, “some pink but less pink” (I personally loved the Title Nine inclusion).  The ballerina in the center is dancing her way over to the right side, while breaking out of the final Shoe of Society clamped firmly on her foot.

They declared that from now on whenever they see aspects of society that try to pigeonhole women or hold them back, they’ll recognize that as a “Shoe of Society.”

Wow … that’s so much more than I was doing at 7th grade sleepovers.

I would LOVE to take full credit for Miss M’s feministic views and no doubt we encourage independent thinking, individuality, choices and the idea that there isn’t anything she can’t accomplish.  But in reality, the biggest seed for this aspect of her personality was unwittingly planted by the world, not us.

When she was in First Grade, I was reading The Magic Tree House series to her. The books feature two children who go back in time to historical places and events. In one particular book, they went to Greece during the first Olympics. While there, they met a girl about their age who was being educated in secret.  M asked why it would need to be in secret and I explained that during that time period and in some places today, girls were/are not allowed to receive an education.  Her sweet little face looked at me so quickly and she snapped, with incredulity, “What?!”  To a child who had never known anything but a family that placed priority on school and learning, this was utterly foreign but even I hadn’t anticipated the depth of her reaction.  From that moment forward, without any prodding from us, she was extremely cognizant of any distinctions made by people, books, society in general between boys and girls, men and women.  It was actually quite fascinating and as you can see from above, still is.

*Moniker chosen by her personally. ;)

Posted in Growing Up, Parenting, Shoe of Society | 1 Comment

The Voices in My Head – My Messy Beautiful

Jen's Blog

We are not careful with each other, or with ourselves.

On paper, my life is impressive. Or maybe it’s more that the paper in my life is impressive. On my walls hang diplomas – Bachelor of Arts, Juris Doctorate (With Honors, no less, emblazoned right there on the degree), license to practice law from two states. Newspaper articles, newsletters referencing my involvement in the community – advocating for justice, volunteering my time on boards and committees and for various social work. Ever more importantly, a Civil Union license meaning someone chose to build a life with me. Lots of paper evidencing a sassy and brilliant 13-year-old daughter. Photographs and cards from friends and family who all seem to consider me important.

Looking at all this paper documenting my life, it appears I’ve turned out alright. Words abound reflecting a multitude of people who love me, intelligence, success, priorities mostly in order.

Here’s the thing, I don’t think the voices in my head can read.

If they could, they’d surely cut me some slack.

Instead, they constantly berate me for my shortcomings, failings, mistakes. They whisper, which is worse than shouting: you’re worthless and unwanted; you’re careless with your partner’s feelings; you screw up parenting all the time; your daughter’s anger issues are because of your own; you throw snarky comments at your best friends; you’re selfish and mean-spirited; you’re petty and vengeful; you hate easily; it’s your fault; you’re demanding and impossible to please; you’re never happy; you’re life hasn’t made any difference, doesn’t mean anything. You are a failure.

And every shortcoming they point out is prefaced with if you were a better lawyer, a better litigator, a better spouse, a better daughter, a better in-law, a better parent, a better friend, a better communicator … always if I were just BETTER.

While I’ve written before about struggles with depression, this isn’t that. This is just my normal.

I’d like to go a day, get through a social event, or worse, a family gathering, without the voices analyzing how everything played out. If I might have said anything wrong, if anyone mistook my words, if I inadvertently hurt someone’s feelings. It can’t possibly be normal to go through a mental and masochistic debriefing every time I have contact with people.

The anxiety doesn’t even wait until afterward, it’s during. In my head, while I’m talking to others, it’s like live action commentary of a football game, followed by hours upon hours of replay analysis. Trust me, ESPN has nothing on my brain and family gatherings are like the Super Bowl.

And these worries, they smack of narcissism. People are not obsessed with my every word, for God’s sake. To be this concerned indicates I think they are. … Maybe if you were less self-absorbed …

It. Is. Exhausting. And limiting. It makes me fearful, cowardly. Afraid to try new things because what if you fail, what if it doesn’t go well …. Visiting with friends or family … you’re saying that wrong; they’d rather you go; are you sure they want to know you that well? Every single time I post something on my blog … no-one reads anything you write, you’re not saying anything worthwhile, no-one’s going to look at this.

I’m not alone in this. The voices may take different forms but when I dig deeper with people, I find being self-abusive in our thinking is almost universal. Why is that? I have said that people are not careful with each other, but at times it’s even truer for how we treat ourselves. One of my favorite quotes is, “If someone treated your best friend like you treat yourself, you’d kick their a**.” Oh, how very amen. After all, the voices in our heads are really just our own.

When someone comes to me about how they have fumbled parenting, let their spouse or best friend catch the brunt of their bad mood, let old resentments interfere in relationships, ruminated on revenge instead of forgiveness – words of compassion come quickly and easily. I remind them that life is indescribably amazing and impossibly hard, we can try our best and yet we have so little control, we experience resounding successes and spectacular failures and sometimes, well, we just flat screw it up, don’t we? We make the wrong call, say the wrong thing, we even fail, god forbid. But failing is not the same as failure – something the voices will never acknowledge. There are no perfect parents, no perfect spouses, no perfect daughters, friends, family and no-one who says the right thing all the time.

Yes, I can offer that so easily and sincerely to others. I can wrap people in words of compassion. But the voices don’t listen any better than they read.

Still, in spite of those ever-present mutterings, I can’t logically look at my life and conclude I’m a coward or failure. Two years ago, my partner and I gathered our daughter, our pets, our belongings, our careers and left Oklahoma. We moved to Colorado to start a new life in search of community and friendship. We started a new business in a town where we knew no-one and had no connections. It was equal shades bravery and insanity, and deliriously freeing. No matter how hard it has been and is, I am endlessly proud we had the nerve to do it. We are happy on some substantive level I’d not previously known, our daughter is thriving and our business is growing, slowly yes but growing.

Every day I wake up in a place I never thought to live, with a partner I never thought to find. I make myself do the things that scare me, in defiance of the whispers telling me all the reasons to do otherwise. I know how much effort it takes to overcome myself. I have to see that part as an additional accomplishment when I try new things, interact with people, post something on a blog …

We are none perfect.  We are all messy and beautiful. It is our individuality, our nuances, faults, quirks and sometimes just plain weirdness that make us who we are. We should strive to love that person, embrace her, offer her the compassion you offer your best friend – that is the definition of being careful with ourselves. And achieving it might quiet the voices.

This essay and I are part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project — To learn more, CLICK HERE! And to learn about the New York Times Bestselling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback, CLICK HERE!



Posted in Random thoughts, Uncategorized | 5 Comments