A Letter to the President, Signed by Three Million

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This isn’t the sort of thing I usually do. I’ve never gone to protests. And yet, here we are, boarding a charter bus on the Eastside with a group of total strangers, on our way to Judkins Park in Seattle, with no idea what to expect.


We only decided to attend the Seattle Women’s March the weekend before. Back during our Christmas visit to Missoula, our friends talked about their plans to go to the march in Helena and we brushed it off, skeptical it would do any good. And again — protests aren’t usually my thing.

Then the Sunday before the march, I read a brief item in the paper about it, and the crowd they expected. And a good friend from Missoula emailed us some information about the march (and transportation options) from her contacts in Puget Sound.

Something just clicked.

“You know, we should go to this march next Saturday,” I said to Renee. I expected her to initially say no. I started thinking of how to present the case.

“Yes,” she said, no hesitation. “How do we get there?”

I started investigating transportation options. I found a group chartering buses from the Eastside but they were already full with 850 people. But that organizer let me know when another bus opened up (a bit farther from home). I made reservations and spent the rest of the week alternating between excitement and apprehension.


We arrive at the park and ride for the bus with time to spare, despite a Siri mishap that sent us the wrong way. Women with pink hats are gathered waiting for city buses. We spot a small shuttle bus across the lot and (correctly) guess that it is our ride.

More people gather at the bus, including a group of seven that drove down from Monroe. They load signs in the back. They pass out extra pink “pussyhats”. I had somehow missed the whole hat project in the pre-march media, but I suppose it wouldn’t have mattered since I do not sew, knit, or crochet. I’m grateful to the woman who made extras, even if the hat is a little too tight on my head.

Pink isn’t really my thing. Silly hats with cat ears aren’t my thing. Protests aren’t my thing. But, here we are, on a bus to a protest, wearing a pink hat with cat ears.

It turns out the bus has two empty seats due to some last minute cancelations. One of the organizers rushes out to offer them to a woman on crutches who was about to board a city bus with her daughter. “You’re my new best friends,” she says as she settles in her seat. I remember walking on crutches after foot surgery in 2012 and admire her determination to participate in a 3+ mile march.

The bus driver is a young man, friendly, helpful. He offers to take pictures of our group with the bus. We finally get underway.

On a bus with people I just met five minutes ago, in mostly-matching homemade hats

On a bus with people I just met five minutes ago, in mostly-matching homemade hats


The Monday before the march (Martin Luther King day, actually), I started thinking that I really needed to figure out my thoughts on this march before it took place. Where exactly am I politically? What did I hope to accomplish? Were we going just as a form of catharsis? Did we hope to make a difference?

I imagined myself, for a moment, discussing this march with someone unsupportive, someone who would dismiss this as just the whining of sore losers. How would I answer that person?


The bus pulls up to Judkins park just a bit after 9. We have plenty of time. Our group on the bus attempts to organize a bit, swapping phone numbers so that the organizer Janice can text us with details about where to meet the bus at the end of the day.

The sky spits out a few sprinkles of rain as we wait in line at the port-a-potties and then wander across the field towards the stage. I start noticing all the different signs. Sort of like the pink hats, it didn’t occur to me to come up with a sign to carry.

It is early, so the park still has lots of empty space. We find good spots to wait, up relatively close to the stage. We wait, take pictures, dance to music pouring out of the speakers, and notice the park slowly filling with more and more people. I attempt to text a few photos to our friends in Montana on their way to the Helena march, but the texts won’t go through. Too much traffic.

Only a few people here so far

Only a few people here so far

The rain clears up. We entertain ourselves while we wait by looking for clever signs. I find myself amazed at all the different people, ranging from children to men and women older than my parents.

Never piss off the grannies!

Never piss off the grannies!

I love this one. Also, note the phone in the bottom of the frame...

I love this one. Also, note the phone in the bottom of the frame…

I love both of these quotes.

I love both of these quotes.

The park continues to fill. The crowd now stretches across the park and up the slope we walked down when we arrived. There are announcements about a missing child (ten years old, wearing a pink hat — not a terribly useful description here). The crowd quiets for a moment, then cheers when she is found.

I am amazed how comfortable and relaxed I feel in this crowd. I can’t quite pinpoint my own mood, or the mood of the crowd. “Joy” isn’t the right word, given why we are here. But people are smiling. I start to wonder if the pre-march estimates I read in that newspaper article — 50,000 or so expected — were perhaps a bit low.

At last, the program begins with a moment of silence, followed by a reading of Still I Rise by Maya Angelou. More short talks. Calls to action. References to the many organizations that need volunteers. Finally, instructions for exiting the park. Exhortations to be patient as we make our way out of the park and onto the street.

The crowd begins to slowly migrate to the park exits. It is agonizingly slow — take a few steps, stop, take a few, stop.

Just as we finally exit the park -- looking back down at the crowd behind us.

Just as we finally exit the park — looking back down at the crowd behind us.


As I thought through my reasons for going to the Women’s March, I kept hearing the chorus of people on the right yelling “he won, get over it, you’re just a sore loser!” I could picture these people reacting to the march with the same words. “Why are you marching? You lost, go home, get over it!”

There seems to be this strange idea that politics and the presidency is sort of like a football game. Someone wins, someone loses, and that’s it. The winner gets a trophy and everyone goes home until next time. You might be disappointed, but you lost, it’s over, now shut up and go away. You don’t have a say anymore.

But of course, that isn’t how it works. Trump’s win doesn’t mean I’m required to reverse all my positions on how this country should work. I’m not going to decide that health care for all is a bad idea. I’m not going to agree that my legal marriage to Renee should be invalidated, or decide I’ve been mistaken about women’s rights all this time. I’m not going to reverse my opinion on public land and wilderness and sign on to selling it off. I’m not going to finally agree that all those climate scientists really are part of a Chinese hoax.

In other words, my ideas for what makes a good government may have lost in the Electoral College, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to abandon those ideas.

The country elected a president, not a king. Those of us unhappy with this direction still have the freedom and the right to express our objections and advocate for what we believe is right. Doing so is not being a sore loser — it is being an American.

As this sign says, dissent is patriotic.

Yes, it is. And no, this is not from the Women's March. Rewind 8 years.

Yes, it is. And no, this is not from the Women’s March. Rewind 8 years.

Maybe this woman at a Tea Party protest in Nashville (February 27, 2009)  should remind the new president and the people running around in red caps that protesting has nothing to do with being a sore loser.


Eventually we are able to get into a more steady pace. I expect the crowd to thin out once we get up into the street, but that never happens. The people fill the street from curb to curb and spill out into the sidewalk for the entire march. I have no idea of the exact route, but trust we’ll be able to just follow the main crowd the whole way.

We hear a roar that, for a second, sounds like a jet engine. Then we realize it is the roar of the crowd in a “wave” coming from the front all the way to the back. This continues to happen during the entire route.

The landscape of people constantly changes. New signs, new people. All races, all ages. Many men, unafraid to join us with the pink hats. For a few minutes, we walk alongside a couple of women carrying Canadian flags. They confirm that they came to Seattle to show their support for the march.

About thirty minutes after escaping the park, two bald eagles circle overhead. Everyone around us stares and points cameras to the sky. Renee says, “I bet the eagles are wondering what we are all doing down here!”

We hold hands for most of the march, both for affection and so we won’t lose each other in the crowd.

Absolutely! If I wasn't here today, I might be at home reading a book...

Absolutely! If I wasn’t here today, I might be at home reading a book…


I admit I didn’t always see the point of protest, especially the ones that broke out right after the election. I wondered if the protesters had actually voted, and whether they had voted for the only candidate who had a chance to defeat Trump. What is the point of protest, anyway?

But then I reflected on my own life and what I value. My marriage to Renee, finally legal. My right as a woman to vote. The idea that all humans are, in fact, people. Including women.

So many changes in our world did not come about from polite political conversations. They came about because people stood up and said “this is what’s right,” even when those ideas were deeply unpopular, even when those ideas were not winning at the ballot box and were not championed by congress or the white house.

It didn’t happen overnight, and it didn’t happen just because people protested in the streets. But the protests did matter.


Somewhere on Jackson street we realize we are not as near the front of the march as we thought. The road slopes very gently downhill towards Puget Sound. The street is a wide ribbon of shimmering color, as far down as I can see, and I realize it is a solid block of marchers. It looks almost as though they will reach the water, and I wonder how close we will get. I wish I had brought a better camera that could do this scene justice.

Couldn't get a great shot, but all you can see are people all the way down Jackson

Couldn’t get a great shot, but all you can see are people all the way down Jackson

People bump into each other, but no one gets upset. I step on someone’s heels, someone else brushes by — we all shrug and smile and keep on walking.

The endless sea of people behind us

The endless sea of people behind us

It is hard to find the right words to describe the mood of the crowd. Many of the signs are blunt and angry. But the people themselves — the women and men that surround us — don’t really seem angry. Defiant, yes. Unhappy with the new administration, definitely. But also exuberant to be here, together, flowing down the street as one. Some of the signs attempt to mix anger and frustration with humor: “I’m not usually a sign guy, but geez!” Or, “I can’t believe we still have to protest this shit!”

I grab pictures of these when I can, but they are a constant moving target, often bobbing out of view before I can pull out my phone.

It is uplifting to be here. Empowering. I keep thinking, over and over, I’m so glad we came. I’m so glad we get to be part of this.

Beautiful

Beautiful

Are we? I hope so.

Are we? I hope so.

We finally reach Fourth avenue and turn North. Tall downtown buildings come into view.

Heading north.

Heading north.

Yes, we are!

Yes, we are!

Then Westlake park, where women beat on metal drums and the crowd can spread out a bit. We’re finally in territory I know. Soon we pass the Cinerama. Their marquee shows signs and logos for the march instead of upcoming movies.

Now playing: Women's March!

Now playing: Women’s March!

At last we approach the Space Needle and pause for a selfie.

Almost done!

Then the Seattle Center, where we finally can sit down and rest until it is time to track down our bus home. We sit on the ledge of fountain and chat with another marcher resting from the walk. We speculate on the size — it sure seems larger than the anticipated 50,000. She tells us that marchers were arriving at the Seattle Center before everyone had left Judkins Park. The people filled the entire 3.5 mile route.

“It was astonishing,” she says.

Text messaging is still spotty. By some miracle we manage to find our shuttle bus and the same group we started with.

We compare notes; someone looks up news about all the other marches in other cities. We learn that the Seattle march was probably around 150,000, far more than expected. I begin to realize that we have been a part of something much bigger than we ever expected. And I feel more hope for the future of this country than I have since November.


When we decided to go to the march, I had no idea that we would be part of an enormous global event. After we got home, we watched the news and scrolled websites full of photos from around the world as the estimated numbers kept rising. We heard from our Montana friends, who marched in Helena where the turnout (estimated at 10,000) far exceeded expectations.

In the days since Saturday, there has been no shortage of articles and commentary about the marches. Some call it inspiring; some call it pointless. It was likely the largest protest in U.S history — how that can be “pointless” is beyond me.

I am well aware that spending one Saturday in January in a crowd of pink-hatted people won’t, on its own, change much in our world. It won’t magically undo the election that happened on November 8. It won’t make Trump release his tax returns, get rid of his advisor with white nationalist ties, or choose a less anti-LGBT cabinet. It won’t make him reconsider a health care law that saves lives. I know all this.

But it did send a message to the president (and his cabinet, his advisors, the GOP congress, all of their supporters) that we are not onboard with him or his agenda. It was a massive letter to the president, signed by three million angry, inspired, and energized women and men who are not going to shut up anytime soon.

In the days since the march, I’ve done more things I’ve never done before. The phone numbers for my members of congress are now in my phone. I’ve made a few calls (and I hate talking on the phone, so this is not nothing). These are small things, but still, they matter. And, more to come.

In other words, I guess I never really expected the march to change Donald Trump.

What I found is that it changed me.

Thirty-One Books

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Since it is the start of a new year, I wanted to do a quick post about all the books I read during 2016. The total number — 31 — seemed fewer than I expected, but actually more than I’ve read in a year during the last few years.

Writing about the books is also kind of fun because I get to revisit them — and most of the books I read this year were really good, so it is a good revisit!

Most of the books were fiction, with an emphasis on fantasy and science fiction. I did manage to squeeze in a few non-fiction works here and there. I also ended up immersed in multiple different series this year, so I’ve been left hanging, waiting for the next volumes to be published. This is a little unusual for me — in the past, I’ve managed to wait to start a series until most of the volumes were available, so I could just go from one to the next. Not so this time — I’m waiting on the sequels to Binti, The Book of the Unnamed Midwife, The Obelisk Gate, and Oddfits. This wasn’t intentional; it is just how things happened with the books I picked up to read in 2016.

Alas, the sequel to The Obelisk Gate (The Stone Sky) is not coming out until August, so I have a long wait. The two books I read in that series were my absolute favorites of the year.

A few of these books were re-reads, but I still count them because the first time I read them was so long ago that I didn’t remember much.

Fiction

Twenty-five of the books this year were fiction. Ordered by title:

2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke. I think I read this way back in eighth grade, but I barely remembered anything. Wanted to revisit a classic.

2010: Odyssey Two by Arthur C. Clarke. This one I had never read before. Entertaining, but I wasn’t inspired to continue with the series.

Binti by Nnedi Okorafor. This one was short and fairly quick to read. I picked it up because it won the Best Novella Hugo award this year, and I was not disappointed. I’ve already pre-ordered the sequel (Binti: Home), due out at the end of January.

The Book of the Unnamed Midwife by Meg Elison. A novel taking place in post-apocalyptic world that is especially harsh towards women. The author wrote a post explaining the big idea behind the book, and in this case, her big idea was: women are people. If that seems obvious or not that impressive, I suggest you read her words here and think hard about how women are often portrayed in science fiction. This was a terrific book. I started it right at the beginning of November and finished sometime after the election, so its description of a post-apocalyptic world seemed particularly apt in the moment. The sequel, The Book of Etta, is due out in February…again, another pre-order for me.

The Broken Earth series by N. K. Jemisin — I read the first two books of this series:

These were incredible, and without a doubt my favorite books of the entire year. I picked up The Fifth Season because it won the Best Novel Hugo award this year. The way Jemisin tells the story is highly unusual — alternating between second person narration (“You are…“) and more typical narration, but somehow it works. The story takes place in a post-apocalyptic world roiled by earthquakes and volcanoes. A certain class of people are able to control these seismic events with their minds (“orogenes”), but instead of revering them, the “normal” people (the “stills”) fear, hate, and enslave them. Somehow the author managed to tell a story about oppression in an entirely unexpected and new way.

I finished the second volume (The Obelisk Gate) in late October. There is a passage in the book that has haunted me since I read it, especially given the real-life political climate. Without reading the full story it may be a little hard to fully understand the context. Essun is an orogene who has spent much of her life either enslaved or in hiding, but is currently living in a community (“comm”) where she is a full citizen and mostly considered to be human. Her comm must decide whether to join with another comm (“Rennanis”) at a high cost — Rennanis does not want the comm’s orogenes, so a significant segment of the comm would be cast out. There has already been some violence (some directed at children), as the comm members revive their hatred and fear of those who are different. The decision is supposed to be made by vote. There is a ballot box, and the community members are dropping in their ballots:


You walk into the center of the circle, and the man holding the ballot box scrambles back from you, leaving it there. Ykka frowns and steps forward and says, “Essun—” But you ignore her. You lunge forward and it is suddenly instinctual, easy, natural, to grip the hilt of the pink longknife with both hands and turn and swivel your hips and swing. The instant the sword touches the wooden box, the box is obliterated. It isn’t cut, it isn’t smashed; it disintegrates into its component microscopic particles. The eye processes this as dust, which scatters and glitters in the light before vanishing. Turned to stone. A lot of people are gasping or crying out, which means they’re inhaling their votes. Probably won’t hurt them. Much.

Then you turn and lift the longknife, pivoting slowly to point it at each face.

“No vote,” you say. It’s so quiet that you can hear water trickling out of the pipes in the communal pool, hundreds of feet below. “Leave. Go join Rennanis if they’ll have you. But if you stay, no part of this comm gets to decide that any other part of this comm is expendable. No voting on who gets to be people.”

That last bit just got me. “No voting on who gets to be people.”

Anyway, I very much recommend these books and I can’t wait for the third volume due out in August!

Deceptions: A Connor Hawthorne Mystery by Lauren Maddison. This was an older lesbian murder mystery, originally published back in 1999. It started out quite good, but then went a bit downhill when it introduced a villain that was pure caricature. I imagined him twirling his mustache and plotting world domination, like a cartoon character. I liked the main two characters, so I was a bit bummed that it just veered off into this weird, unsatisfying place. There are sequels with the same characters, but I’m not planning on reading them at the moment.

Gift of the Winter King by Naomi Kritzer. This was a collection of short stories that I picked up after reading Kritzer’s Hugo-winning short story Cat Pictures Please. Several really good stories, including some set in the same fantasy world as her novels, which are now on my “to read” list. I think my favorite story was St. Ailbe’s Hall, which effectively used dogs (talking dogs, even!) to show just how brutally awful humans can be.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – Parts One and Two by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, Jack Thorne. So this one was a little odd, as it is the script for a play, not an actual novel. I like the overall story about Harry’s young son, but I wish Rowling had written this as a normal novel. Reading a script felt strange. It did go much faster than I imagine a novel-version of the story would have. I believe I finished it in just a few days during our camping trip in the Beartooth mountains.

His Dark Materials series by Philip Pullman:

  • The Golden Compass
  • The Subtle Knife
  • The Amber Spyglass

The first two (The Golden Compass and The Subtle Knife) were technically re-reads. I read them both back in 2008, but got sidetracked before moving on to book three. So since it had been so long, I started over and read the whole series.

After I finished the books, a vague memory prompted me to hunt around find some old book-journal type notes I had written when I read these books the first time. Apparently, the first time I wasn’t crazy about The Subtle Knife — I felt bogged down and it didn’t grab me as the first book. This second time, I really enjoyed the book. So, I guess reading tastes and perspectives can change quite a bit in eight years? I’ve become much more disciplined about journaling, particularly about the books I read, so it may be interesting to revisit some of this year’s books in, say, 2026 or so.

I was a little bummed when I finished these, as I really wanted to spend more time in Lyra’s world, where your soul takes the form of an animal “daemon” that is always by your side.

The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. Le Guin. This one was technically a re-read, as I listened to the audio version many years ago (before moving to Montana, when I had a driving commute).

Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich. Also a re-read — I had read this one back in college, but I had forgotten most of it. This book is not really a true novel — it works more as a collection of short pieces that center around two Native American families and a huge collection of characters.

The Oddfits by Tiffany Tsao. The title of this one is quite appropriate — the book was odd, the story was odd, the characters were odd. I stumbled across this one because I get one free “kindle first” book a month through Amazon Prime. This was a sort of fantasy taking place in the “real world” in Singapore. Although it wasn’t as compelling as some of the other series I read this year, I’m still planning on picking up the sequel once it comes out (The More Known World, due out in August).

Slow River, by Nicola Griffith. Another one with an interesting story structure. The story centers on one main character, but uses three different points of view to tell her story (the author writes about how she came to this story structure here).

This is the second novel by Griffith that I’ve read (I read and loved Ammonite several years ago). She also was an editor for the anthology Bending the Landscape: Gay and Lesbian Science Fiction, which I bought in Chicago probably in the early 2000s and still go back to re-read from time to time.

The full Tales of the City series (9 books) by Armistead Maupin:

I wanted to read the last two novels in this series, but figured it has been a long time since I read the others, so I should catch up first. So I re-read them all over a few weeks in the middle of summer. These are also a very quick read, very entertaining, although I do have to say, the early volumes feel pretty dated now. I’m sure I miss a lot of the San Francisco in-jokes as well, but they were still fun to re-read.

Non-fiction

I read just six non-fiction books this year, but they were all good:

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. Enlightening and heartbreaking.

The Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik. This is another one I read during our camping vacation in the summer. In particular, I really liked the portions where they presented parts of her court opinions and dissents with analysis. Reading this book in the summer, I did expect a different election outcome and the idea that perhaps she would retire. Now I’m wondering if RBG can stick it out another four years…

Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman by Lindy West. Another in the handful of non-fiction I read this year. Lindy West can be hysterical, so there was a lot of humor in this one, although at the same time, reading about the abuse and harassment imposed on women online was infuriating. Interestingly, just in the last week, Lindy West has left Twitter:

”Twitter, for the past five years, has been a machine where I put in unpaid work and tension headaches come out. I write jokes there for free. I post political commentary for free. I answer questions for free. I teach feminism 101 for free. Off Twitter, these are all things by which I make my living – in fact, they comprise the totality of my income. But on Twitter, I do them pro bono and, in return, I am micromanaged in real time by strangers; neo-Nazis mine my personal life for vulnerabilities to exploit; and men enjoy unfettered, direct access to my brain so they can inform me, for the thousandth time, that they would gladly rape me if I weren’t so fat.”

The Way Of The Heathen: Practicing Atheism In Everyday Life by Greta Cristina. Another fairly quickly read. This book consisted of several essays, some of which I had previously read on the author’s blog, but it was nice to have them collected together in one volume.

Writing A Novel with Ulysses by David Hewson. Ulysses is the app I currently use for all sorts of personal writing on both my Mac and iPhone/iPad. I picked up this book even though I don’t have any immediate plans to attempt a novel right now. I do have a terrible, not-fully-finished draft of a novel I wrote during NaNoWriMo back in 2011 that I occasionally consider revisiting, so this seemed like it might be useful.

Writing: A User Manual: A practical guide to planning, starting and finishing a novel by David Hewson. What can I say? I like reading advice about writing. It is probably a bad habit — should spend more time actually writing and less time reading about writing. Maybe I’ll do better in 2017.

2017

I’d like to increase the number of books I read in a year, so I’m aiming to hit about 45 in 2017. This may be a bit ambitious. I can’t remember a year in which I read that many books, but I’m looking forward to trying!

I’ve already checked my first of 2017 off my list: The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead. I started reading it during the holidays, and then it nearly made me miss by bus stop a couple times once I went back to work.

My kindle is currently full of books and samples for books that I’ve been adding to my list — there are more “I want to read this” books on my list than I’m ever going to finish, so maybe this is an achievable goal. Some that come to mind that I’ve been wanting to read:

  • Hild by Nicola Griffith
  • The Book of Etta by Meg Elison
  • Binti: Home by Nnedi Okorafor
  • The Stone Sky by N. K. Jemisin
  • Dawn, Adulthood Rites, and Imago by Octavia Butler (I started on Dawn before the holidays, then got sidetracked with Between the World and Me. I do want to get back to this series at some point.)
  • Emperor of the Eight Islands: Book 1 in the Tale of Shikanoko by Lian Hearn. (I’m curious about this one — years ago I read the Tales of the Otori series by this author and loved it, so I added this to my list.)
  • Fires of the Faithful by Naomi Kritzer
  • Lock In: A Novel of the Near Future by John Scalzi (I’ve read several of his science fiction books, and I love his blog. I read a short story based in the world of Lock In and found it interesting)

There are a ton more — this is just a start. We’ll see what I have to write about in January 2018!

My 2016 in Six Minutes

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For the third year in a row, I’ve made a “One Second Every Day” video. The concept is simple (and easy to do with an app on my phone) — record video or take photos every day of the year. For each day, select a single second of video (or pick a still photo). Then, “mash” them all together into a continuous video. The 1SE app handles all of this part. I add the music separately using iMovie.

Here is my video for 2016:

Music

Other than remembering to record video every day, choosing the music is the hardest part about creating these. I always feel like I’m picking a soundtrack for the year.

This year was especially difficult. We lost Xena, our 18-year old Siamese cat, back in January. Then we lost Cricket, our rat terrier mix, in October. Finally, the presidential election was in November, with a result that I did not expect and am not at all happy about.

October and November is when I usually start playing around with the seconds I’ve saved so far and experimenting with songs that might work with the video. So my initial song candidates were quite a bit less positive and sadder than the two I did finally choose. I had to remind myself that the year was bigger than our losses.

Renee actually helped find the second song — “Sing On,” by Jewel. I felt it fit well because it is optimistic, while at the same time suggesting that some things might be a struggle.

Past Years

The first year I did this, I was sort of sneaky and did not tell Renee about it. I started about a week into 2014, so the early parts of that video showed some of her brain surgery recovery. That video also reflected huge life changes for us — a new job, moving, a new house, adjusting to commuting by bus, and so on.

Last year I did another video, but just posted it to YouTube and Facebook without doing a blog post. That year seemed uneventful compared to 2014.

Here are those past videos:

2015:

2014

2017

I am hoping that my 2017 in Six Minutes video will document a good year for us. Renee should be finishing school and getting into more interesting work at her new job. I’ll continue doing work I enjoy in my current job. We have plans to visit Glacier National Park this summer with friends. We will keep making progress with the formerly-feral kitten Canyon — maybe she’ll even be willing to get in a lap someday! The dogs and cats (and us!) will (hopefully) stay healthy.

But when I started this project back in 2014, I had no idea I would be documenting a move to a new house in a new state with a completely different sort of job. When I started recording last January first (the shot of Canyon checking out the bedroom dresser), I didn’t know we’d be saying good bye to both Xena and Cricket by the end of the year.

Which is just another way of acknowledging that no one knows what the future — and specifically 2017 — will look like.

Voting

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When I was in high school, I was about two months to young to vote in the 1988 presidential election. I vaguely remember being annoyed by this.

So, the first time I voted for president was in 1992, when I was in college. I voted absentee since I was still technically a resident of my parents’ county. I must have done this by mail because I remember discussing the election with my roommates before sending the ballot off.

In 1996, I lived in an apartment in Chicago’s Edgewater neighborhood. My polling place was a little white church right across the street. I remember being amused by all the political signs that popped up like weeds right before elections. Looking at google maps, it looks like the church is still there.

You can see a bit of the red brick of my apartment building in this Google street view

You can see a bit of the red brick of my apartment building in this Google street view

In 2000, I still lived in an apartment, but now in Berwyn, and I was anxiously waiting for my new house to be finished. I can’t remember where our polling place was that year, but I know that I voted. On election night, we were out at a diner with friends and I still remember seeing Florida called for Gore on the news.

In 2004 I lived in that house that had been under construction during the previous election. I voted at a fire station not far away, early in the morning on my way to work.

In 2008 I was living in a different house, now across the country in Missoula, Montana. We voted at a school not far away.

In 2012, I was still in Missoula but now living in a different house, with Renee. We had exchanged rings in our “first” wedding the previous spring, but were still a couple years away from being allowed to make it legal. Montana let everyone vote absentee by mail. I was glad we had done that. People were still in line at polling places that night at 8 PM.

This year we are living in Washington state, where voting is primarily done by mail. We filled out our ballots at the kitchen table and dropped them off in a ballot drop box. Even at our own kitchen table, filling in the ovals about two weeks before Election Day, it did feel momentous to vote for a woman for president for the first time in my life.

I don’t miss waiting in line or having to plan for time to stop by the polls, but I do kind of wish I had an “I voted” sticker today.

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Verifying my ballot was received and counted!

Verifying my ballot was received and counted!

As I was reminiscing about all the times I’ve voted for president, a few random thoughts occurred to me.

My Job has Never Made Voting Difficult

For nearly my entire adult life, I’ve worked at jobs with flexibility around time. I don’t punch a clock. I don’t lose out on pay if I miss an hour. There is no such thing as “being late to work” unless I have an early morning meeting. And I have some control over that — if I had to plan for time to go to the polls, I’d just block that off on my calendar and decline any meetings that interfered. It is highly unlikely that this would be a problem.

It seems like such a little thing, but not everyone has such a situation. Hourly workers lose pay while waiting in line. Someone working a particular shift can’t just show up late.

I have to admire the perseverance of people in other places waiting in line for hours. Voting should not take a big time commitment. It should not be hard.

My Votes

So if you add up all the election years above, I have voted in six presidential elections, not counting today. (And numerous midterms and local elections of course).

This makes me feel a little old.

Anyway, I managed to vote for the winner in four of those and the loser in just two. Not a bad track record! And if you remember all the presidential races since 1992, I’m sure you could probably figure out my politics pretty easily.

Really hoping to add another victory tonight, bringing it to five out of seven!

Favorite Cricket Memories

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We had to say goodbye to Cricket on October 8. Ever since then, some of my favorite memories of that little dog have been percolating through my mind and I found I just had to write them down.

Back when I started this blog, I remember trying to define what it was supposed to be about, and why I wanted a blog in the first place. Why not just keep friends and family updated on my life with Facebook, after all? And I know, I know, I hardly ever post here (I have great intentions…alas). But as I put it then, sometimes a Facebook status is just not enough. This is one of those times.

Roughly in order of oldest to newest, but no guarantees. Memory can be a fragile thing.


Her Name was Not Babette

The humane society where we adopted her had named her “Babette”, which was a terrible name and did not fit at all. She had only been there a few days and didn’t know that name. I had thought of the name “Cricket” as a dog name years before and had never had the opportunity to use it.

The name fit her perfectly. It was a sign that this was meant to be.

Water is Wet, Who Knew?

Fox river trail in Illinois. Not sure when — maybe soon after we adopted her in 2002? Out on a walk with just me, Cricket, and Bailey. Bailey distracted me for a moment and her leash slipped out of my hand. She ran — full throttle — down the river bank, chasing away an entire flock of ducks and Canadian geese. The birds squawked as they rushed into the water. Cricket didn’t know about rivers and water. She dashed right in with them and was shocked when she got wet. I caught up with her as she was emerging out of the water, shaking herself off and looking both extremely proud that she had taken care of those pesky geese, and a bit surprised to discover that water is wet.

I took her back to the same spot the next week. This time, she stopped right at the river’s edge. I guess she remembered the lesson of the previous week.

“I’m Sorry, Cricket”

I still lived in Illinois and my very young nieces were visiting at my parents’ house. I think the youngest, Caity, was a toddler, maybe two or three? Cricket raced back and forth in my parents’ living room. This apparently frightened Caity — I remember her saying “she’s too fast!” As she raced by, Caity reached out and just barely touched her tail. My sister (her mom) immediately told her that “you don’t pull dogs’ tails!” and insisted that she apologize to Cricket. And she did. I had to hold Cricket still for a moment so that Caity could say, “I’m sorry Cricket.”

I’m not sure that Cricket really cared but I found it hilarious.

I can’t remember if it was the same visit or not, but at one such visit, she curled up in the girls’ doll bed.

Cricket made herself comfortable on the doll bed

Cricket made herself comfortable on the doll bed

Little Dogs CAN Hike!

Sometime in 2006, not long after moving to Montana, I hiked with Cricket up Crazy Canyon all the way to the top. Near the top, people heading back down with their big dogs saw her and expressed such surprise that a little dog could hike up the mountain. Their surprise amused and puzzled me. She was young then, she had perfectly good legs, of course she could do the hike! It never occurred to me that this was unusual.

The next day we were both a bit sore and stiff, since we were not really used to that kind of a hike.

Yes, a little dog hiked all the way up here!

Yes, a little dog hiked all the way up here!

…But that Meadow is Like a Jungle for a Little

In 2010, at the end of a camping trip in the Sapphire mountains, we went on a long, somewhat spontaneous hike. We crossed a beautiful meadow full of tall grass. Cricket began stalking some tiny butterflies fluttering among the grasses.

I also remember on that hike — the grass was taller than she was, and wet with morning dew. The ground through the meadow was soft and marshy. All the big dogs (and people) could stride through the grass unhindered and just get our ankles wet. Cricket had to plow right through it. She hopped along, popping her head above the sea of grass to see. She eventually wore herself out since she had to work ten-times (maybe more) harder than everyone else. Renee finally gave her a ride on the top of her backpack.

Hunting butterflies

Hunting butterflies

Finally needed a little ride

Finally needed a little ride

The Little Dog on Big Dog Duty

In 2011, Renee and I went backpacking in the Pintlers with all the dogs (Abby, Sirus, Myka, Darwin, and Cricket). We saw horse trailers at the trailhead, so we leashed the big dogs as a precaution, as they would bark at horses, which can be dangerous for all involved. So Cricket was the only off-leash dog.

She quickly realized this and she took over all the “big dog duties” as we hiked in. She scouted up ahead on the trail, she ran in the direction of squirrels and chipmunks, she scampered up big boulders along the edge of the trail for a better view. By the time we got to our campsite (I think it was around 9 or 10 miles in), she was completely exhausted. But so proud of herself!

Doing big dog duty on the backpack to Oreamnos Lake

Doing big dog duty on the backpack to Oreamnos Lake

She loved climbing boulders!

She loved climbing boulders!

She was still exhausted the next day!

She was still exhausted the next day!

Sun Worshipper

She loved the sun. She loved it a little too much — her nose used to get sunburned in the summer. At our house in Missoula, she loved the big patio that got too hot in the summer. We had to keep an eye on her to make sure she didn’t overheat!

She was really good at finding good spots to lay out there as well. She got into the planting boxes (at times when we didn’t have plants in them yet). We used to have a small pot with a wooly thyme plant that she loved to curl up on. Fortunately, wooly thyme is a ground cover that can handle people walking on it, so she didn’t hurt the plant at all. Alas, I can’t find any pictures of that. We left that plant behind when we moved to Washington, so Cricket lost that particular seat.

Sunbathing on the patio with Darwin

Sunbathing on the patio with Darwin

That's sort of an odd herb in our herb box...

That’s sort of an odd herb in our herb box…

Your nose is burning! Get out of the sun, you silly dog!

Your nose is burning! Get out of the sun, you silly dog!

Water May be Wet, but that Isn’t so Bad!

Even though Cricket didn’t much like the water (see the “Water is Wet” story above!), Renee started working with getting her to do better crossing creeks and even occasionally swimming. She got much better — she started crossing on her own, although she had great balance and was always on the lookout for a nice, dry log.

I remember on a camping trip in the Skalkaho area, all the big dogs leapt across the creek while running around. Cricket was running with them, and she didn’t even hesitate — just plunged right in and swam to the other side! Then she realized she couldn’t easily climb out on the other side, so she had to swim back to get out.

Wading in a creek on a camping trip

Wading in a creek on a camping trip

Expert Backpack Rider

As Cricket got older, she couldn’t always walk or hike as long as everyone else, so she learned to ride in a backpack. For a long time, we only needed this on longer hikes, or walks in cold weather. Her feet used to get cold and she hated wearing those little doggie booties (she was really good at getting them off!)

She relaxed easily in the backpack. sometimes looking like she might even fall asleep.

Totally comfortable in backpacks. This was a Montana hike several years ago

Totally comfortable in backpacks. This was a Montana hike several years ago

Just last April on a neighborhood walk.

Just last April on a neighborhood walk.

Completely comfortable

Completely comfortable

This Old Dog is Not Ready to be Old

Eventually we had to bring the backpack even on short neighborhood walks. We would go her pace for a bit, letting her stretch her legs and sniff, then pack her up so that the rest of the family could walk a little quicker and get some exercise

On a Saturday in late September, just a couple weeks before she died, we took all the big dogs on bike rides to let them run, then we took Cricket on a walk by herself, for some one-on-one time. We didn’t bring the backpack since we could go her pace and just as far as she could go.

She came out of the house spunky and full of energy and wanted to run. I momentarily dropped her leash and she took off, so I ran alongside her all the way down our street. And she ran! Not as fast as when she was young, but she ran.

It was a brief walk since she burned her energy right at the start, but so worth it for her to be like a young dog again, even if only for a few minutes.

We had no idea we’d being saying good-bye to Cricket so soon after this moment. I’m grateful that the day worked out the way it did, giving her (and us) this brief moment of exuberance.

From Dog Grooming to…People Grooming?

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I’ve never liked getting my haircut. I like the result — my hair no longer falling in my eyes, not feeling to shaggy, that sort of thing — but I’ve never liked the process of getting it done.

As a kid, I didn’t want to sit still in the chair for that long. As an awkward teenager, my hair become my enemy — I left the hairdresser with a cut that looked ok, but styling it to keep it looking decent every day took more time and effort than I was willing to invest. When I finally went with short hair, some of that difficulty went away but with another trade-off — more frequent haircuts to keep it in line. I still don’t like sitting still. And — no offense to hairdressers — not a big fan of making small talk while staring at myself in an enormous mirror. And I hate trying to explain what I want them to do…I never seem to have the right words.

Anyway, Renee has been bugging me about getting a haircut for a few days now, as it has been about 8 weeks since the last one. I was putting it off, until this morning when she said, “I think I can cut your hair!” She then proceeded to watch YouTube videos for tips. I know you can learn a lot from YouTube videos, but wasn’t sure if hair-cutting is one of them. Still, she was confident. Renee is a dog groomer with years of experience giving haircuts…to dogs. I accepted that there might be some “transferable skills” from dog grooming to people groomer, but still. Dogs.

She was determined, so I (somewhat reluctantly) agreed. The prospect of getting this annoying chore (sorry, hairdressers) done and over with at home, with no small talk or explanations of what I wanted, was appealing. We set up in the kitchen, using one of our counter bar-stools. She draped me in an old sheet. Glacier, the troublemaker cat, decided that the long sheet made a great tent fort and spent the first few minutes trying to play underneath it before he got bored and curled up in his cat tree.

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Getting Set Up

I was a little nervous as she started.

Some observations during the haircut:

  • She started very slow and hesitant, taking a long time to decide where to make the cuts. She sped up as she got more and more comfortable.
  • Her grooming scissors were way too long for people haircuts and made it a bit awkward.
  • She used her big metal grooming comb…I’m sure it works great on dogs but it was a little rough on my head (yes, it was very clean before she started. You’d never know it had been used on dogs).
  • I had to remind her a few times that, unlike her normal clients, I will listen to direction and tip my head this way or that — no need to just move it without asking first!
  • I did sort of miss having the big mirror so that I could see the progress. It was disconcerting to have no idea how things were going.

She made a few comments as she worked, mostly expressing how well things were going. This was reassuring. Until she said, “Well, I might have made this part too thin.” Then she continued cutting in the same general area, I guess to “fix” it. Which seemed a bit non-intuitive — how do you fix “too short” by more cutting? “I’m just blending it to make it look better,” she said. OK. Yikes.

Also, the smocks they use at the hairdresser are way more effective at keeping hair out than a sheet. As the haircut continued, the itching became more and more unbearable. I had to take a shower as soon as she was done (another benefit of doing this at home).

She finally finished and I got to look at it in a mirror:

It actually turned really good, especially for her first attempt! I’ve had professional cuts that didn’t turn out that good before.

And none of the things that usually bug me about haircuts…in fact, it was actually fun. I’ve never laughed so much during a haircut before!

I don’t think Renee is ready for a career change to “people grooming” right now (she’s actually in school to get out of the dog grooming business), but I’d be happy to have her cut my hair again.

afterhaircut

Not bad!

Distant College Memories and “Dead White Dudes”

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Books I’ve been carting around since the 90s

In this morning’s Sunday paper, I read this article by Danny Westneat: Dead white dudes don’t corner the market on words of wisdom. He was writing about Seattle University students complaining about the overwhelming emphasis on studying work by “dead white dudes” and the fact that they took action by actually compiling an alternate reading list of diverse works. He talks about the influence unconscious bias in forming reading lists and curricula, using his own participation in a book club as an example.

The list of books the students suggested is interesting as well. I consider myself to be fairly well-read and open to many different authors and writing, so I was a bit surprised to realize that I’ve only read two of the books. I read both of them in college, way back in the early 1990s. Coincidentally, I started re-reading one of them (Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich) about a week ago.

This got me thinking about college, and the fact that this “dead white male” complaint has been around for a long time and is nothing new. And I guess I’m just a little surprised that this is still a matter of debate and controversy.

Why is there such resistance to including alternate perspectives in what is supposed to be higher education? What bad could possibly come from including more voices, more ideas, more perspectives on life and history?

It makes me think of the type of people who want to ban books, as though exposure to ideas they disagree with is somehow dangerous. This is another impulse I’ve never been able to understand. You can read books containing ideas you disagree with. You will either change your ideas based on what you’ve read, or you’ll keep your ideas, but have more understanding of the opposing view. Either way, you come out ahead, a bit closer to truth. Where is the downside?

Anyway, this column sent me back through my memories of my own college years. I earned my degree at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. I was a “Rhetoric” major, which was their way of referring to “Creative Writing” major (I think they have since renamed this major, which is a good thing). This was offered by the English department and was essentially like an English degree with several additional writing classes. We had to fulfill many of the same requirements that English majors did, which meant that I took a lot of literature courses. There was plenty of emphasis on the “western canon” and “dead white males.” One requirement I remember was an entire class on Shakespeare, for instance. (As a side note, I looked up the current degree requirements, and it appears that Shakespeare is still required).

But when I think back to the books and stories that were the most memorable for me in those college years, it is not the dead white male works. I spent years in high school reading western literature. It was nothing new. No, the books that stick out in my mind, the ones that I’ve kept all these years and have even re-read a few times would probably be right at home on that list from the Seattle University students.

In either my junior or senior year, I took a newly-offered elective class on Native American Literature. The class initially focused on oral literature that had been written down. Given the vast history of these tales, and the perhaps rough translation from oral tradition to written work, it was a bit like working through Chaucer or Shakespeare. It took effort. The effort wasn’t always fun, but it was certainly rewarding.

Then the class moved into more modern literature and we read books by Leslie Marmon Silko, Louise Erdrich, D’Arcy McNickle, and many others. Again, I was in a world I did not recognize, a world defined by poverty and reservations and about as far from my own middle-class upbringing as you could get.

And if you were to ask me today to name some of my favorite books, you’ll find a few books from that class on the list: Love Medicine by Louse Erdrich, The Surrounded by D’Arcy McNickle, Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko.

The trade paperback copies of those books that I bought in a college bookstore sometime around 1991 or 1992 are still on my bookshelf. I’ve hauled them with me from apartment to apartment, house to house, from Illinois to Montana and finally Washington. Never once in over twenty years have I even briefly considered relinquishing those titles to the “book donation pile.” I’ve re-read Ceremony at least once since college; one of these days I’ll re-read The Surrounded, and I expect it will have even more meaning than the first time, after living in Montana and visiting places mentioned in the book.

Any college class that can put books on my lifetime list of favorite books is worthwhile!

Storm

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Yesterday, a bit before noon, a flicker of movement outside my office window caught my eye. A bird? No, it was a yellow-gold leaf, spinning and dancing in the wind.

A leaf in the air in November isn’t unusual, of course, but my office is on the eleventh floor. Leaves normally fall down, not up eleven stories!

From my office window, evidence of the massive windstorm sweeping through our area was pretty small – the leaves fluttering up from far below, the tarps strapped to the building under construction across the street, flapping in the wind. You just can’t see much of nature happening from high up in a building, in an urban landscape. I’m sure the skyscrapers do sway a bit in the wind, but I couldn’t see it. Not the way you see trees bending and dipping in the wind from the ground.

Renee texted me around 1:30 that power had gone out at our house.

By the time I left work, the storm had mostly cleared from downtown Seattle. I could see a few streaks of blue sky. The commute home seemed normal at first, with congestion in few typical spots. Then my bus began slowing down, even though we were in the express lanes that normally zip right along. That’s when I guessed that the stoplights in the area were out, so the various exit ramps were backing up. We slowly inched up our exit ramp, I got off the bus with a herd of other commuters, and we wove our way through the dark Park and Ride lot to our cars, the only light coming from headlights.

We hunkered in at the house, running our new gas fireplace for heat (the kittens stretched in front of it, trying to hog all the heat). We had spaghetti with sauce from a jar because we could cook it in the dark on the gas stove and we didn’t need to open the refrigerator too many times. We used a battery powered table-top lantern from the camping gear and candles up on the mantle. I helped Renee finish editing a paper for school…but without Internet, we had no way to submit it. Hopefully her teachers will be understanding.

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When I stepped out on the back deck to convince the dogs to do their last visit outside before bed, I was surprised at the mostly clear sky and the abundance of stars.

I pulled a solar battery pack out of the camper and recharged my phone with power drawn from the Montana sun back in July, when we camped in the Rocky Mountain Front.

This morning, I brewed coffee with a single-cup filter and hot water, and ate breakfast in front of the gas fireplace before getting dressed with the help of a headlamp. That camping gear can really come in handy.

It was a bit surreal driving out of our dark neighborhood and into an area with power…and then on the bus into Seattle, which looked as though nothing had happened.

Our power came back on around noon.

During an early afternoon meeting, I looked out the conference room windows at Puget Sound. A sailboat drifted by. Two ferries passed by each other.

No signs of the storm that knocked out power to 200,000 people.

I did not notice any high-flying leaves outside my office today.

A Garden Story

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Many years ago, when I still lived in Illinois and owned a house in Aurora, Cricket found a nest of baby bunnies in the back yard. They were in a little hole, under a small picnic table. Cricket was much younger then (probably around 4 or 5 or so) and very much wanted to chase and eat the rabbits.

Newly Born Bunnies

Newly Born Bunnies

Laura (my partner at the time) and I had to go to a bit of effort to supervise Cricket and keep her from tearing up the nest. Later, as they became more mobile, I remember her chasing one across the yard. The bunny made it across the yard and hid behind the fence post. It squeaked while it ran, which for some reason surprised me.

Baby bunny hiding behind a fence post

Baby bunny hiding behind a fence post

Recently, I have been thinking about those baby rabbits. Back in May, we planted some pepper seedlings in several big pots (I’m a big fan of container gardening). Anaheim, banana peppers, and one variety of bell peppers. The pots all congregated in a sunny corner by the deck stairs.

Freshly-planted peppers!

Freshly-planted peppers!

A few days later, I was in the kitchen when Renee went down the deck steps and I heard her gasp. I followed her down the steps and discovered that some of the new plants were chopped down to just stems! All the leaves and most of the stem, completely gone!

This is one of the pots that was especially hard hit:

Pepper plants have been decimated!

Pepper plants have been decimated!

After some research, we decided that the pepper plant eating fiend was most likely a rabbit. Which made me think of those baby bunnies whose lives I saved back in 2005.

You’d think I earned some good bunny karma. But apparently not.

Anyway, we moved the pots up onto a table and out of reach of marauding rabbits. The untouched peppers continued to thrive, and, much to my surprise, the stubby stems of the eaten peppers began to grow back. After a few weeks, they looked like seedlings again, full of new leaves. By today, they had tiny buds just waiting to open up. They are pretty far behind the plants that were spared (we already harvested a couple small anaheims), but hopefully the growing season is long enough that we might get a few peppers out of them.

Today, Renee built a nice new garden bed, replacing some shaggy bushes that used to live along the garage. We used cool decorative brackets for the ends, and Renee stained the wood a nice red color. We had a minor glitch when the boards holding up the upper level bowed a bit; had to fix that with an emergency cross-brace. But otherwise it turned out great.

We went ahead and transplanted the recovered plants. Hopefully, having more room to spread their roots will help them catch up! Supposedly bunnies are less interested in more mature pepper plants, but we will be keeping an eye on these…if the thieving rabbit returns, we’ll put up some sort of fencing around the new bed.

Some of the peppers, nearly two months after being a meal for rabbits:

These peppers grew back from bare little stems

These peppers grew back from bare little stems

The new planting bed

The new planting bed

I love our new planting bed – and I love the fact that this garden story may have a happy ending after all.

Questions for Opponents of Marriage Equality

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This past Friday was an exciting day. My Facebook timeline exploded in rainbows. Sunday we attended the Seattle Pride parade, which was as exuberant and celebratory as you would expect.

But the celebration is of course tempered because I know there are people who are angry and upset, people who are somehow convinced that something has been taken away from them. I do find this baffling. Are marriage licenses a finite resource? Can only so many be printed a year, so now straight couples will be turned away by the county clerk? Will they run out of paper and ink?

How can allowing more people to marry possibly take anything away from anyone?

I don’t really want to rehash all the arguments again. I’m tired of reminding people that there is a distinction between civil marriage and religious marriage. I’m tired of pointing out that your church may enforce any rules or requirements it wishes on those it will marry, but it cannot and should not insist that the state enforce those rules when issuing civil marriage licenses to people who are not members of your church. Or noting that there are millions of heterosexual couples that don’t meet your church’s standard for marriage and yet are still legitimately, legally married, and somehow this never seems to bother you the way gay couples do (previously divorced couples, couples with no children, mixed faith couples, atheist couples. Heck, even mixed race couples probably violate some religions, sadly).

And I’m tired of the strange idea that somehow your religious freedom is abridged by my mere existence, that I am supposed to hide my life out of sight so that you can be comfortable.

The hell with that. I live my life like every other human. I will not pretend to be something I am not.

I keep hearing about people of “good will” who oppose same sex marriage due to their “deeply held beliefs.” And to those people, I have a few questions.

Back in December of 2013, Renee was diagnosed with what turned out to be a benign brain tumor, about an inch in diameter. It had grown slowly, probably for at least half a decade, but had finally reached a size that it caused symptoms that sent us to the ER on an otherwise normal Tuesday morning in December. Then an appointment with her primary care doctor. Then the appointment with the neurosurgeon. Then brain surgery. Try, for just a moment, to imagine the fear and anxiety around someone cutting into a loved one’s skull.

In the days leading up to that surgery, we did what we could to ensure that there would be no legal issues with the hospital. Made sure they had copies of our paperwork giving me the right to make medical decisions if she could not. Filed paperwork with the county to ensure that, should the worst happen, ownership of our house would pass directly to me. Pesky legal things that were a hassle to do and added plenty of anxiety to an already anxious time. Pesky things that perhaps would not be necessary if we were legally married. Thank goodness we had already created wills – we would not have had time to do that in those few days before surgery.

How would you, and your “deeply held beliefs” have been harmed if we had not needed to leap through all those legal hoops? How would it have changed your life? Would you have even noticed?

In the days after the surgery, I slept on a cot in Renee’s hospital room every night until she was released, and our amazing friends rallied around to help out. I don’t know or care what the nurses and aides might have thought – did my presence and my obvious love for my partner harm them in any way? How were they harmed? How would it have benefited their faith if I had been barred from the hospital room?

How do you benefit by making my life even more difficult and stressful during an already difficult time?

Renee and I got legally married nearly a year ago, in Spokane, WA since we still lived in Montana where it wasn’t quite legal yet. It made life easier while selling our houses and buying our new home. We probably saved a little money in taxes. And again I ask, how were you harmed? How did our real estate transactions violate your deeply held beliefs? Was the tax advisor at H&R Block who helped us file our joint tax return harmed in some way? (she probably made a good chunk of money from it, given the complexity of our taxes this year).

If you truly are a person of “good will” and you have no animosity towards me, and yet you want to make my life more difficult in these ways…well, I think I may question just how much good will you really have. Remembering again here, I am only talking about what the government recognizes, not your church.

Of course, marriage is much more than a collection of legal benefits like hospital visitation. taxes, and inheritance. Those are merely the most practical, obvious benefits that flow from legal recognition. If we are talking about the spiritual and emotional aspects of marriage, well, we’ve been married since 2012, when we held a ceremony while camping in Utah with our close friends.

On that day, we took vows promising to love and care for one another.

How did those vows harm you? How did those promises take away your freedom? You are free to believe that those promises are meaningless according to the rules of your church, of course.

If you can’t articulate a concrete way the events I’ve just described harmed you, then how does this recent supreme court ruling harm you?

Joy

Legal at last -- July 2014