Tuesday, March 31, 2009

On a Happy Note

Long day but... like I said. This site always makes me smile.

funny pictures of cats with captions
see more Lolcats and funny pictures


I’m in that anxious, want to make changes place again. Usually, it’s a very uncomfortable place that I get to, and feel I have to do something about it.

Not this time.

Yes, there are some changes I want to make. I am slowly backing off a number of commitments I have made. Not dropping them like hot stones, rather easing my way out. I signed up; I need to finish what I promised.

Part of that is my mother’s voice in me- she did believe in following through. But at the same time, she let me quit things I had an intense distaste for- like girl scouts. I hated girl scouts. I hated glue, I hated crafts and none of the girls wanted to go hunt for toads in window wells.

I mean, what was better than finding a big, fat toad?

She let me quit, maybe because she hated to deal with the long drive to the weekly meetings. She let me try other things- different musical instruments, every sport except football, overnight camps, long weekends away with other families.

I loved that. I actually loved most of the things I tried. Some, I had no patience for, like the musical instruments. Some, I credit for my ability to try new things without a tremendous amount of trepidation.

If I didn’t like it, I didn’t have to do it.

That may sound like I was allowed to wander and not follow through- nothing could be further from the truth. She hammered home, over and over, the need to be responsible to everyone else.

I didn’t have to be responsible for myself.

Which leaves me here, today, realizing I follow through with things that take care of other people. It might take me a while, but I always do what I said I would do. Even if it is a miserable experience.

But I don’t follow through when it comes to me.

I don’t honestly think my mother ever really took care of herself, either. She did so many things that made her miserable because she felt she had to, or it was the “right” thing to do. Even with great friends, a rich life, she was miserable most of the time. I know part of it was the alcoholism, part of it a life long depression, and she did not have the tools to conquer those things.

When she laughed, though, her deep, throaty laugh, her belly would giggle and you knew it came from a very real place. It’s a sound I miss very much.
This anxious place, the need to move, change, I can’t help but think comes from a place inside that is uncomfortable with getting close to being responsible to myself. It’s like watching a fire from the distance, wanting to get closer, but afraid to be burned.

There is a spot where I can be warm, though. Safe. I can hold my hands up to it and not catch fire.

As I clear my plate to work on my book, I feel the anxiety grow. Can I do it? Will it be stupid? I’ve written a book before- it took a long time, and intense discipline. Do I have that in me anymore or am I destined to write 800 word essays forever?

I’m not sure. I won’t know until I stick with it for a while, till I’m done with the first fifty pages. I do know one thing, though; my mother wanted to laugh more. I know it touched a place that gave her some peace, even if just for a moment.

I need to go sit by the fire. Sit with the anxiety. It’s not going to kill me. (Right?)

It’s about being responsible to myself.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Honda Commercial

I'm sacked out, watching Villanova and Pitt go head to head.

Commerical comes on for a Honda.

Briefly, but certainly, they show two dads and a son. No question, as they have panned from a straight couple with their kid.

Jake says to me, MOM! you gotta blog about that.

Mostly, my heart is warm that he sees the two dads. He sees their son. So many people will miss it.

He saw it all on his own.

So big kudos to Honda for an inclusive commercial.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Call Out Blue Cross Blue Shield's Ridiculous Policy Change

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan recently removed the coverage of gender reassignment surgery from their "covered" list. "Michigan Messenger reported Tuesday that BCBS of Michigan had received permission from state regulators to change insurance coverage offerings, and elimination of gender reassignment surgery was one of those approved changes."

The reason? It was "simply a matter of aligning their product with what is currently offered in the market." After the company posted a 133 million dollar loss, they needed to make changes.

Um... call me crazy, but I can't imagine there was a line out the door at hospitals with people looking to have the surgery. When asked, by Todd Heywood, Helen Stojic, spokesperson for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, said she could not provide how much of the loss was due to gender reassignment surgery.

Then how do they know it's a good business decision? Since health care is no longer about health, at least be a good business person. Why not address the number of unnecessary Cesarean sections performed? Or use of emergency rooms for minor patient care?

Nope. Gender reassignment makes the best fiscal sense. Even though they have no idea how much it has cost the company.

It is bad enough that our health care system is now based on a for profit business model. But when they blow it on a common sense level, it's hard to not see it for what it is- discrimination.

I suggest it might be time for Ms. Stojic to hear from the community. Please feel free to contact her at 313 549 9884. The more the merrier. Because the reality of this decision and their "reasoning" is total bullshit.

You can quote me on that.

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Wednesday, March 25, 2009


I thought I'd give you a little Mini-Hoover update. (We call Walter, his dad, "the hoover" for his ability to finish everything on every one's plate.)

Mainly because it simply stuns me how much he eats and how skinny he is. Of course, I was like that once... long long ago.

He walked in the door, ate about 6 pieces of sushi, finished a box of crackers, drank a big glass of Kool-Aid, half a sleeve of girl scout cookies.

And then, when I told him I was going to the store? Asked for a fried chicken sandwich, popcorn chicken (large, please).

Where's the fruit?

I mean, that's an entire day of eating for me. All in fifteen minutes.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Reality versus Fantasy

Las Vegas... I don't love the place. Sorry for those of you who live out there, and probably experience a whole different world. For me? It was a symbol the excess of our society. Too much, too loud.

Sure, I had fun at the black jack table when we went to the Bellagio. And the Chihuly- well, you all know I love my Chihuly. It was stunning. We met a lovely group of folks from Alabama that night. We all laughed and joked as we lost our money.

I think I'd rather play with chips that are worth nothing. I do like the game.

The image of the Hoover Dam, versus the faux pyramid and Eiffel tower struck me. On one hand, there is effort that took a tremendous amount of brainpower and will, and on the other, I kept wondering... why?

I did not have a lap dance. The reality versus the fantasy... let's just say I prefer the fantasy. My sister was right. It's kinda gross.

I guess that's what Vegas is- a big giant fantasy. A place to escape, let any of your inhibitions go. I can appreciate that but it's not for me. I guess I've been a mom for too long.

Don't take me too seriously this morning. I'm out of sorts, bad time zone adjustment, and sad my wife is gone for the week. It was great to spend some alone time with her. But now I'm back to life and have to grocery shop, do piles of laundry and catch up on the news.

Friday, March 20, 2009

The Hoover Dam

We went and saw the Hoover dam yesterday. It's really quite amazing- built in four years during the Great Depression. It was about pulling together, brilliance of engineering, and a national agenda that pushed forward such mind blowing projects.

Here's my question- if we, as a country, could do it then, why can't we do it now?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Day One in Which Doris Gets Her Oats...

It's gorgeous, sunny and we are headed today out to the Hoover Dam. And the casinos. And and and...

Did I mention a curiosity about what a lap dance would be like? Ok, I don't know if I will or not but, I have to be honest. I am curious.

The "conference" starts tonight. We will, of course, be on our best behavior for that.

I have to be honest- I'm thrilled to be in a pair of shorts, feeling the warm sun on my face. It completely washes away the experience of being in the middle seat on a six hour flight on a plane completely packed with men.

I mean, there were about six women on the flight and that included the stewardesses. I guess this is a 'boy' destination.

I'm surprised that there are slots pretty much everywhere you turn. I have yet to give one a whirl but I will before the day is over.

(for those young folks, the title is part of a Beatles song)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Leaving FOR Las Vegas

I'm on my way today to go to a conference out in Las Vegas.

Really, it's a conference!

I know I've been bad lately about posting and it's only going to get worse as I head out there for a few days with the lovely wife.

I can't post from there because you know... what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Trans 101

This is an amazing video put together by my organization, Mass Equality, with GLAD and Mass Transgender Political Coalition.

Watch. Please.

And then go call your state legislator, regardless of where you live, and demand protections for Transgender people.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

More Food for Thought

Food for thought on this beautiful Sunday morning:

One teenage boy can consume copious amounts of food. Soon, I'll have three teenage boys. The question really is, where do we put another refrigerator?

Madoff goes to jail, finally. Will he actually spend serious time in jail, or get the fluff treatment most white collar criminals get? And, do you get to wear Armani in jail?

Why is March such a tease?

How is it that executives who have brought a company to the brink of total collapse, as in AIG's case, get 100 million in bonuses? And more importantly, how do I get a job there?

How do you get an eleven year old to use soap?

How do you convince an eight year old an entire roll of toilet paper is not necessary after one bowel movement?

When will someone go to jail for approving torture? Read today's "Tales from Torture's Dark World" in the NYTimes. How did we let this go on? Will we ever own up to the horrors of the Bush administration? Will anyone ever go on trial?

The sun is out, the dog is eyeing me for a walk. I'm going to go think about these things, hold the silly and the serious, trying to stay balanced in my understanding of the world.

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Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Coleman Cooler

Jeanine reminded me of the funniest story this morning... if you work at Berklee, you cannot read this.

I was taking her to work and we passed the Fenway building. Fenway Community Health is a fabulous organization that serves the LGBT community. When we first decided to get pregnant, we went there for an informational meeting. We learned all about temperature taking, speculum using, and timing for pregnancy.

According to my mother, it's was easy as sitting on a toilet seat. Not so.

We went there to pour through catalogues of sperm donors. It was hard to imagine we could pick the traits we wanted, but we did. After many months of charting, we were ready. We ordered through the Fenway and went to pick up our sperm.

Very expensive sperm, mind you. For two hundred dollars a vial, we were ready to go. They suggested using two, so we bought our two and waited for the right time. When we thought we had a green light, we were to go to the Fenway and pick it up.

Now, sperm comes frozen, at least the kind that's been 'washed' and tested and is available to purchase. We had to bring a cooler to add some dry ice to, that they would supply, and take our lovely little specimen home to make a baby.

All good, right? Well, no one told us how big of a cooler to bring. And I'm thinking, for four hundred bucks, it's gotta be a whole helluva lot of sperm. Buckets full. So I grabbed our big ol' coleman picnic cooler.

Big cooler.

We walk into the Fenway, with our enormous cooler and the staff starts to crack up. Yes, they are professionals but the sight of these two lesbians, with terror in our eyes about what we are about to embark on, with a cooler ten times the size needed must have been quite a sight.

They composed themselves and showed us to where the dry ice was- of course there wasn't enough there to fill even a quarter of our cooler. We took some and then got the two vials of sperm.

They were about an inch long and an eighth of an inch wide. Half full, I might add.

Now we knew why they were laughing.

We took our two little baby hopes home and the next day Jeanine purchased a much smaller cooler for the next trip. As we became pro's at this, we had the tank itself delivered straight to the house- which is another long story about the FedEx guy and dropping off the goods, which will be for another day.

Today, as I was driving Jeanine in, she said she'd been thinking about it because Berklee is buying the building, our sperm building, and putting offices, classrooms in it.

I don't know if I'll ever be able to keep a straight face, she said.

Of course, we still have the enormous cooler. It's gone to Maine and back for years.

Ready to carry anything.

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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

It's Time

It's time to make some serious changes in my life. I've been torn for the last few weeks, knowing what I need to do, unable to actually do it.

I came across something I wrote last year in Maine:

All I can hear is the rain lightly dropping on the leaves and the gulls on the water caw caw cawing at each other over some issue important to gulls.

I don’t understand their argument so it’s simply a sweet sound bouncing across the water, telling me I’m in Maine. Downeast Maine.

I love my family. I love my kids beyond anything in this world. And I love Walter and Allan, the kids’ dads, and the world we have created. Not easy, never simple but always beautiful.

I love my wife. I can’t believe, after all the trouble we’ve had in the last few years, I can say that now. I love her. Deeply. It’s not about how beautiful her eyes are- although she is still stunningly beautiful to me and was even when I didn’t like her very much- it’s about the connection we have.

The last few years, we did a total remodel of our relationship. Gutted the house, ripped out the foundation, and started over. Some have accused me of being restless, always restless, never happy with what I have. That may be true. I am easily bored and often move on.

I’m a control freak. I spent so much of my life not trusting anyone; I pack everything on my back and assume the captain’s chair.

Just like my mother, some might say. Not exactly like her, but similar. I don’t think my mother ever consciously thought, well, now, I am in control of this situation and I’m going to work it for all it’s worth. She simply wasn’t that aware of her surroundings and her emotional state.

You do what you have to do, she said all the time. As if life was a miserable trek to the dump to spend a day shoveling other people’s crap. And you were expected to smile about it, and say thank you.

I’m not very good at that. I’m not sure I ever want to be good at that.

And yet it is what I've continued to do. Why am I so clear when I'm next to the water, listening to the gulls? What gets lost when I come home, and sit at my desk?

I go pick up the shovel again.

Why does the rain feel like a treat there, an opportunity to build a fire, drink hot coffee and listen to all the thoughts running through my head?

Instead I'm pulled in so many directions, I can't see the forest for the trees. I don't make enough effort with friends who love me, spending time on connections that are hopeless.

Why? Why do I need love from people who do not love me? Is it because being pushed away is more familiar? Safer?

There are many people who only want my time. Why can't I make it all work?

The answer, I believe, lies in making the changes I know I need to make. Ending commitments that only drain me. Letting go of relationships that cannot and will not work.

I need to drop the shovel. It's my mother's shovel and she hated it, too. I cannot expect my kids to move through life without it if I continue to do it.

It's not going to be easy. But it's time.

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Monday, March 09, 2009

Soup, Salad and Bread

I feel like I've been running through the poppy fields with Dorothy and Toto. I'm so tired.

It's the snow, again, and it's making me crazy. I've abandoned my office to sit next to the fire. I wish I could blink my eyes, have a fabulous soup on the stove for dinner, with a winter salad of walnuts, cranberries, mixed greens and a nice balsamic vinaigrette. Loaf of freshly baked sourdough bread and a nice, thick Irish butter.

That would require going outside in the cold and snow. Blah.

Lately, I've been panicked about money, panicked about the economy, panicked about whether or not my son will manage to bring his grades up enough to get a new cell phone or if we'll have to have yet another battle.

Watching the snow fall, again, I realize that my community is broke and more snow means more broke. I'm glad the plow guys and gals made their money this year but in a year of empty local coffers, it's hard to take. More programs will be cut from the school. More teachers let go. It's hitting hard in my affluent suburb- the effects on urban and rural schools will be devastating.

Jobless numbers have soared to record highs and a friend in the investment field told me today to look at the chart- the Dow's next resting level will be 4,000. That's a long way down still to go. My dream of soup and salad seem frivolous. "Nearly one in seven homeowners is underwater, owing more on their mortgages than their homes are worth."

And my son wants a new iPhone even if he gets C's and D's.

I read an article this weekend that discussed how kids of this generation will grow up, how the economic turmoil will effect them. I'm looking at my own and so far, they seem to not notice a great deal of the changes. I'm careful to talk about the economy in serious but not scary terms.

An eight year old does not need to worry yet about the debt being piled onto his head by his government.

I point out empty stores, places that have closed recently. They nod their heads but I'm not sure any of it gets in. I am reminded that my mother grew up in the Great Depression and often told stories about the poverty, the difficulties. Later in life, she admitted that her father, a candy salesman, actually did very well. Her family never went hungry. She was, however, at a friend's house once where they served squirrel stew. She took one bite and threw up all over the table.

Still, the stories and the reality seared into her being. The article spoke of children of that era wanting simple jobs, with life long guarantees. Gold watches and 40 years service at the same company. She never understood when I would leave a job to take another.

I'm a contractor, I'd explain. I'm not suppose to stay in one place long.

Seriously, I never thought I would work for a single company nor do I want my children to do that- I want them to experience several different careers. I want them to explore.

Will that be what they want? Will this economy turn around in time for them to remember little of the shuttered businesses and people losing their homes? Or will we sink lower, to the point where even if they get through unscathed, as their grandmother did, the stories will carve out their reality?

Nothing a little soup, salad and bread wouldn't help. It's about comfort, controlling what I can, finding a peace in simple things. A fire. The daily newspaper delivered- at least for now.

And trying to not move too far forward because the unknown ends up like the poppy field- overwhelming and exhausting.

Even with a thin veil of snow.

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Thursday, March 05, 2009

To be Grateful

My sister just gave me a lecture on being grateful. I've been struggling with what is the right thing to be doing, where I should put my time, my energy not to mention if I have to go to the grocery store and buy the same five apples, six bananas and box of crackers I'm going to lose my mind.

People are losing everything, she reminded me. You have so much.

I know. It does not mean I do not crash into a serious funk about my life.

I don't feel like I do enough. It leads to an inability to say no to anything.

But that's not the point today- today it is about listing five things I am grateful for. I could take the easy way out and list family, friends, health, financial security, and a great dog.

She really is a great dog.

I am grateful for those things. Deeply.

It's about looking deeper than that without letting the negative voice in my head overrule the positives. Not really my strong point, but I'm going to try...

I am grateful I have a loving wife who listens to me until midnight struggle with my identity, even though she's listened to the same words for 18 years. She is compassionate when she has every right to be annoyed.

I am grateful I get to choose every day what my life will be, even though I don't always make good choices. It is a blessing I struggle with because I know those to much is given, much is expected.

I am grateful I have had the time and ability to work on my issues so I can hear and see my children for who they are, not my own projections of what I want them to be, or need them to be. My damage is a deep scar that has no business being the lens I see them through.

I am grateful for all the kind words my mother said to me. Over time, I am able to erase the negatives, the shame, and connect the beauty and love. I'm not sure the picture will ever be completely clear, but there were golden nuggets along the line that I believe came from her truest self.

I am grateful for my ability to write. While I am not always respectful of it, as it has come naturally without much effort to me my whole life, somewhere inside I know it's a gift. It takes having someone look me in the eyes and say thank you. Those moments are hard to take in because they are words I longed to hear from my mother-the nugget does not exist in the string I hold dear.

My sister also reminded me that success in life is not always measured by six figure salaries and fancy homes. It is about being a good person, every day. Saying something kind.

You can't fix everything, she said. Stop beating yourself up because you can't. It takes away from the beauty of what you do.

Beauty? I'm not sure about that. Folded laundry and a car with new oil doesn't feel beautiful.

I am humbled, though, by her reminder to be grateful.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

A Bright, Shining Light

Today, the Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD) filed a suit in federal court in Boston, MA to challenge the denial of critical federal benefits to same-sex couples.

Yes. It's time for the Supreme Court.

Years ago, when GLAD was pulling together a group of plaintiffs to challenge the marriage laws in Massachusetts, many said it was not time. Many said, we are still lacking in basic rights- how can we go for marriage? It'll put us behind by decades.

Today, we are approaching the fifth anniversary of marriage equality in our state. We have recently had an unprecedented majority of House and Senate co-signers for a Transgender equality bill and look to celebrate it's passage later this year. We have secured dollars in a difficult state budget for LGBT youth, AIDS funding, and money to address issues facing LGBT seniors.

We have pushed the envelope, no question. And we will continue to.

The lawsuit addresses Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act- and only section three. It targets the rights and protections denied in Social Security, federal income tax, federal employees' and retirees' benefits, and in the issuance of passports.

Only in MA and CT, where marriage is recognized by the state. For over 200 years, the federal government has not interfered with state's rights around marriage- until DOMA.

I find in my travels, that people assume that being married in MA means married on a federal level. It does not.

This action does not effect any other state. It will not repeal DOMA or every state's right to have some ridiculous anti-equality law on their books, as many do. It does, however, put a bright, shining light on the inequalities our families face even in the state where we have so much.

Shining that light, as Mary Bonauto said, should generate support in all the states. When the country gets to know the plaintiff couples, when they meet the State Trooper, Mary Ritchie who puts her life on the line every day for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Her wife is not eligible for the full line-of-duty benefits for surviving spouses should she die in the line of duty. Or Herbert Burtis, 78 years old who lost his partner of 60 years last fall. He is denied the additional money his husband's social security would pay him if he was a recognized spouse.

After 60 years together, sharing lives, income, a home... nothing. But the married heterosexual couple in MA or CT- no questions asked.

These stories, this case, is about that bright, shining light. It is about understanding why we fight for equality every day. It's about why we need to continue the fight on all levels, in every state.

Years ago, people thought the marriage fight was wrong. Today, we have two states with marriage equality, and are fast approaching many more to have the same decency and fairness for all their citizen. Some states are still fighting to have civil rights bills.

The movement forward is never easy. As we enjoy these debates in this country, people are hung in others for the suspicion of being homosexual. Should we stop our rights to further theirs first?

Or do we all keep moving, the best we can, with the resources we have, to tell the stories that will ultimately make the difference for all.

I say, move forward.

And with Mary Bonauto in charge? We're not going to lose.

No one will lose.

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Monday, March 02, 2009

More Snow


More snow.

I am beginning to really hate snow.

After a marathon conference call today, I went out to clear the sidewalk. The boys had done the walk to the house, walk to the garage, the back deck... they did good. My lovely amazing neighbor had done the driveway with our shared snow blower.

He is a good man.

But the sidewalk is how the kids get to school. My younger two walk and so, I clear ours, and our other neighbors because they don't have kids and don't really care if it's impassable.

I do.

Now, Ulla, I know you're going to say, be grateful you have a snow blower. I am. But the snow had started to freeze up, not to mention the piles of heavy road blech left from the street plows.

I could barely get the thing to go through it. And yes, I'm still very sore from the other day. Ever try pushing a blower with one hand?

Halfway through, I run out of gas. Great.

While I'm standing at the pump, Ben calls.

Mom, where are you?

I told you I was getting gas.

Can you go to Tango Mango and get me a burrito?

I didn't yell. I laughed. You have got to be kidding.


No. There is plenty in the refrigerator.

What about fried chicken?


And I hung up. I didn't want to be asked for a pack of gum from the gas station.

So while I am out of the doghouse, and don't think I actually broke anything, I am sick of snow.

No more. Please.

And no burrito runs either.