Sunday, November 30, 2008

Holiday Prep

We got home from the Matriarch’s yesterday afternoon, then went right out again. Well, *I* didn’t go right back out. I took a nap first. Wifeness and the girls headed downcountry to accept a spontaneous dinner offer from Mark and Lisa, who kindly took Karla in on Friday night, when she was just DONE with her given family. I came down little later, refreshed as I needed to be from a light doze. What can I say? I have short battery life.

Today is a home day. We have shopping to do, house to keep and decorating for the holidays to undertake. More about that later. Right now, I need to get the morning up to speed. My batteries (currently fueled by this lovely cup of coffee I’m sipping) will not last for long.

Do you decorate for the holidays (whichever of them you honor)? If so, what do you do?

Saturday, November 29, 2008

It's time to choose...

All right, people. I need some help. I have an important decision to make.

Some of you know that I’ve been between celebrity crushes for a while, and it’s time to commit. I can only handle one at a time. Any more than one, and it’s just too distracting. I know, I know. Trust me on this, though. I don’t multitask well, and that includes celebrity crushes.

Kizz has gone to great effort to help me by making an amazing Hot People post. Please hop over to her place and consider the candidates. I welcome your feedback.

Karla and Kizz both said Lauren Ambrose tops the list, but that Brea Grant and Grace Park both have strong potential. I’m having a tough time choosing. What do you think?

PS: Thank you, Kizz! You rock!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Reach out, reach out and touch someone...

Today was about connecting with people.

Wayfarer House (minus Karla, who spent the holiday with her given family) spent the day with Chili and her house.

I wrote over 2,000 words worth of replies to graduated students of mine in response to their news:

— Joe and Dani are married a year and a half now (we were at the wedding), and they have an 8-month old son.

— Kimi is local to us, but she’s getting wanderlust and may be relocating to California. Right now, though, she’s in school for nursing.

— Jen traveled the world as a flight attendant for the last 3 years, but stepped away from that to move to Germany with her boyfriend.

— Jennie, Heather, Rebeccah, Jeff, Courtney, Lanie and McKayla are all back on the Wayfarer grid after extended absences. Welcome back, gang!

I also wrote long letters to a couple of friends of mine from college whom I haven’t talked to in many, many years. I’m still getting details on their lives of late, but I know this:

— Amy is back in Wisconsin now. She spent many years in both Japan and South America, and is teaching elementary school (alternatively Spanish and English). She’s also doing grad school.

— Tyra is married and living in Seattle. She’s working as an architect, and has a beautiful baby girl. I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting her husband, but I understand he’s a Vermonter.

I still need to get letters out to Heshan and his family, Diane and Maia, but that’ll have to wait for another day.

Oh, and I told Jinx I owed her some blog love. I’ll get to that, too.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Nothing says Thanksgiving like…

— A roaring fire in the wood stove to help wake your heart and soul.

— A 5k run on the beach in the early morning, just as the sun breaks through the ocean mist.

— Wifeness’ fresh backed cardamom bread and just the right amount of coffee.

— Piling into a big, comfy chair with my children to watch my students twirl batons in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

— Helping with someone else’s chores.

— The smells of good food on the stove.

— The happy sounds of family (given and chosen).

— The tastes of the aforementioned good food.

— The traditional nap in front of the afternoon football game.

— Special time with my children (so Wifeness gets a break).

— Sleeping (and chitting and chatting) in the same bed as Wifeness in anticipation of a whole morning together, just us.

May your Day of Giving Thanks be filled with all the wonderful blessings that are present in your world!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Big Ideas, and Fogbuster

We’re on location today from the local coffee shop. I’m listening to quiet music, coffee steaming invitingly next to me, and I am full of creative verve. I only have an hour to indulge it because I have stuff to do at home to get ready to leave for the Matriarch’s, but I’m looking forward to putting some of the big ideas that have been marinating in my brain down on paper. A quick sampling of some of these:

The institution of marriage has the properties of both a contract and a covenant. Is this part of why it’s so hard to talk about it? Some of us are talking about one thing and some of us another? Is common ground to be found in compartmentalizing the two parts, and exploring them separately? Should marriage have a fundamental purpose in society? It certainly used to, but does the state have a vested interest in continuing to sponsor the institution as it does? I have partial answers to all these questions, but not enough yet to share. If you have commentary you’d like to offer in advance of the discussion, by all means feel free to put it out there.

How does this concept of “chosen family” fit within our society? We all have something like it in our worlds, but no one seems to be talking about how it’s developing into something as formal and functional as traditional family. This concept is one I feel is at the core of how to effectively serve foster children (and others, like Karla, who never get put into the system, but who very much need support their traditional families simply cannot provide). I’m having some trouble putting my finger on how chosen family is actually viewed outside my world. Do other people have something that equates to my idea of chosen family, even if it’s not called that? What does it look like? How might a populace largely unaware of the importance of such a concept come to support such institutions? How can we refer to chosen family members in a way that is respectful, but not demeaning to traditional family? I’ll post more on this in time, but I’d love to get your feedback on this idea when/if you’re willing to share.

My school is wrestling with issues of identity, and I’ve been asked by students to take a leading role in helping everyone work this out. How to do that? What’s at the heart of the problem? I’ve had a number of discussions in the last year with faculty and students about this, and I think I’ve figured out that we need to do two things:

The first is to review how we as a community resolve our problems. We actually have a framework already in place to assist with this. The school community collaborated in its early days to establish a Code of Conduct, which all members are expected follow. It’s a small document. It’s purpose wasn’t to create a list of rules that everyone had to follow; rather, it allows everyone freedom to do view responsible membership in the community as they feel best and sets in stone a procedure for approaching conflict when it arises. The Code of Conduct is reviewed every year, but many of us have noticed how it lacks a certain vitality of late. New members of the school simply don’t recognize what it’s there to do, and many of the administration and board members don’t let it guide their work with the students. How can we revive this very valuable and timely document, so that we can encourage the members of the community to work together to solve problems and make decisions?

The second is to make a habit of getting to know people as people in our world. This is something our institution states it values, and we do a remarkable job of it, but much has changed in the last few years and we’ve lost touch with ourselves as individuals. We have certain traditions that promote this habit in our school, but how do we connect these special, but isolated moments to create an atmosphere of attachment and unity among the individuals in our school? I may have hit upon part of a solution in hearing about the National Day of Listening on NPR this morning. This project is an offshoot of StoryCorps, and I think it would serve to promote the kind of connections we need to make among each other that allow us to feel safe and valued as we have hard discussions about things like racism and equality in the classroom.

Many of you know that Wifeness and I are working to start a community and a school. I’ve allowed my brain to shift away from this for a couple of months so I could work on my speaking gig in Charlotte, and so I could focus on soccer. These things being done now, I’m back to thinking about how to actually make progress on some of the fundamentals:

One of my beliefs about this project is that, if it is to succeed, it will be because real people, with real problems, varied skills and limited means, are each involved according to their abilities, working together, to create it. Wifeness and I cannot do this by ourselves. We don’t want to do it by ourselves; it’s not about us. It’s about creating something others can run with. So, how do we do that? Accepting that what I’m contemplating is way outside the box even for a community, how do we take that concept and make an effective, successful school that serves foster children? This puzzle is, as you can imagine, really complex, and I regularly feel like I’m putting it together without the box top and the cat keeps taking the pieces. Thoughts?

Somewhere in all this, there’s also a desire to keep GMing the fantasy adventure that our house has been running for several years. We’re nearing the climactic moment of this current chapter, but there’s a lot going on. I want to be able to see the end (with the characters safe) but I also want the players to determine their own fates. I wonder if George RR Martin has this same tension playing in his head?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Monday In-Box (on Tuesday, because the 10 Things post went out already)

[On an upcoming post]

You do know, don't you, that I'm totally gearing up for this conversation about marriage....

I’m really looking forward to a public discussion on this. I only beg your patience while I work to put my thoughts in order. I’m trying to put together a couple of big ideas (marriage, chosen family) into something I think makes sense, and it’s taking more time than I’d like. I promise, though, that once I’m ready, I’ll put it out there.

[On this year’s goals]

I did the 108 in 2008 list …though I doubt I'll do a 109 in '09 list for next year.

That just seems like such an ambitious list to me. Too much so for me to view it as achievable. I applaud you for even feeling like you came close! I prefer my list to be smaller, and filled with goals that have built into them long-term habits that can I can carry forward. One-time-only goals are wonderful, and really give a sense of accomplishment, but I find that they change in priority so fast that it’s hard to stay focused on more than a couple in a given year. Of the three my list, I only actually accomplished one. The other two just got pushed down in favor of other things that were just as important.

Who's Karla? Have I not been paying attention?

It was my only post during the entire month of August, but <[HERE] is the skinny on Karla up to that point.

UPDATE: Karla headed off to college, but shortly after the semester started she developed what we think is a recurrence of complications stemming from a strep infection that attacked her brain stem a couple of years ago. She came home in late September, and has been house bound since.

The first time, she was essentially bedridden for 6 months. We’re cautiously optimistic this attack will be shorter. There are lots of physical and mental complications with this condition, though, and Wifeness and I are approaching her recovery with great care and caution. Karla sleeps with my wife at night, to make sure that, if she has a seizure (or a panic attack), someone is there to help her get through it. Bedtime has been when we often download to each other and do planning for the next day, and not having that has made a lot of what we do more challenging.

Weight loss tops this list for me with a huge lofty goal I think I might announce to the internet simply so that my friends inside the computer can hold me to it.

I was so happy to see 179 lbs. after such a long time of being so much heavier. I felt stronger, better looking and totally empowered to keep the weight off** (even during the winter, which will be hard for me). I would love for everyone to feel that same way, and if I can help—in any way—I would be honored if you would ask.

**In the interest of full disclosure, I should say that I have put on 7 lbs since soccer season went into high gear in late September, but I expected this and I’ve already begun to take it back off again. I will be happy to be back to 180 when spring hits.

[On “hot people” posts]

Dear Kizz, I’d love a post with any of my past or current celebrity crushes (see a short list below)!. I’m still trying to figure out what these ladies all have in common, though. Any ideas?

Jessica Alba
Lauren Ambrose
Jennifer Aniston
Paula Creamer
Brea Grant
Anna Kournikova
Poppy Montgomery
Grace Park (from BSG)
Tara Reid
Catherine Zeta-Jones

I didn't mean that to sound like you are lazy, caffeine addicted, or stupid. You knew that, right?

(smiles) I do, and you’re very kind! I really appreciate those same kinds of connections.

Monday, November 24, 2008

10 Things Monday (because I have 10 things today, and I may not tomorrow)

1. If it is Jewish tradition to close businesses on Saturday and Christian tradition to close them on Sunday, whose tradition is it to close business on Monday? Apparently, there is a cult of these followers where I live and they all own businesses here or work for in municipal government. To those of us who don’t have any such traditions, it sure is a pain in the ass.

2. My car is once again a car, and not a locker room. It took over an hour to clean all the soccer clothing, gear and detritus out of it, but I can once again see the floorboards. Great! Just in time to travel to the Matriarch for Thanksgiving.

3. Two of my students will be twirling batons in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. I don’t watch parades normally, but I’m going to be glued to the set between 10:00 and 10:30 (they’re on right after the smurfs). If you watch the parade, tell me if you see them. They’re awesome, they’ve worked really hard and this is an incredible experience for them!

4. The snowblower is being tended to, in expectation of a cold, brutal winter season. I take it to a small shop near where Wifeness works. They are not the most personable of people (the dog is the friendliest one there), but they’ll fix it up for less than a Benjamin and not try to sell me shit I don’t need.

5. Pushing Daisies has been cancelled. This saddens us at Wayfarer House. My Own Worst Enemy has also been cancelled. This does not.

6. The Great Clothes Switch has been completed for the winter. I now have all my comfy wool sweaters and long sleeve mock turtlenecks available. This is good, except that they’re all just a little big now. I may have to work in some wardrobe shopping over the holidays.

7. I ran 5k on Sunday and did pretty well on the time. I went swimming this morning, and my arms are sore. I wonder how tomorrow’s biking will go.

7b. I do not bike outside after mid-October. I have my road bike set up on a trainer in my attic office. It’s cold up there (the room isn’t heated), but once I warm up it’s nice. I bring my laptop up and watch instant Netflix movies on them while I pedal. It breaks up the monotony of the routine, so I can ride a lot longer.

8. Karla makes really good bread! It’s been a while since she’s made it because she’s been nursing a wrist injury and couldn’t knead the dough (rugby is a dangerous sport). Several of her loaves are cooling on the island in the kitchen now. They smell heavenly!

9. It is refreshing when a DSS case review shows that a child is doing well, despite paperwork that suggests a long history rife with conflict and abuse. They do not always go so well.

10. I have laundry to do before we leave for the Matriarch. I cannot believe how much of it there is, considering I was caught up on it on Saturday. Who’s wearing all these damned clothes, anyway?!?

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The other half of blogging...

Since I started PloBoNoMo, I’ve done a passable job of posting regularly. Certainly, it’s an improvement over my regular habit! But I’ve only done half the job, and I know it.

In any relationship, there is give and there is take. In blogging it is no different. So, today I will make a point of going out into the blogosphere to visit and comment on the efforts of others. Some of them are regulars (whose support I am incredibly grateful for), some of them are occasional visitors to my own blog (and who might be regulars if I do my part and reciprocate), but I made a point of reaching out to two blogs I’ve explored by have yet to contribute to. Here they are:

The Blue Door is one of Chili’s blogs (she has a bunch, and they seem to be multiplying like rabbits over there). Chili and I have known each other for a long time. It was she who actually inspired me to start blogging. She continues to inspire me by doing it every day, and by coming up with great ideas for posting themes like 10 Things Tuesday. I love that she uses her space to support frank and open discussions about important topics free from censure or ridicule.

117 Hudson is the land of Kizz. We’ve met each other in person, what, twice? Three times? We would have been buds in high school, though! She is an artist who acts, sings, writes does awesome photography and generally lives a life that I might have chosen, had I not been compelled to this path. She inspires my creative muse in all kinds of ways, and I love that she is able to pursue art while managing to live in the real world. The two, when they can exist in harmony, make for a satisfying, stimulating life, in my view.

The Grammar Snob and I seem to lead strangely similar lives. We have a lot of experiences in common (though not always in the same flavor): Grad school, recovery from major surgery, interesting adventures in the world of parenting, goals met and (as yet) unmet. Many of her victories and challenges have been my own, and I read her blog because it helps to see these things from a different--and enlightening—perspective.

Notes from the North Woods is Auntie Fran’s space. Wayfarer House has been blessed to have Fran in our world almost since we arrived in the Pioneer Valley, and I, particularly, am continually inspired to see her living what she would undoubtedly call her version of “right livelihood”. She’s come back home (sort of) and, although I still don’t get to see or talk to her as much as I’d like, I gain an incredible amount of comfort from reading that she is able to do her work and live her life, and they are pretty close to the same thing. Her experiences validate to me that the vision I have for a school is possible.

Then, of course, there’s my wife’s blog. I don’t actually need to read her blog to know what’s going on in her world, but it is interesting to see (as an insider) what she puts out there for public consumption. I have a vision of us collaborating on a blog next year as part of our work for the school we’re building. We both have stuff to do before that can happen: I have to get a real habit established, and we both need to slow the fuck down (pfft!).

I came across Dan’s blog Other People’s Kids and Yondalla’s blog Thoughts from a Foster Family while doing a search for blogs about the foster care experience earlier this year. I’ve read them off and on for a while, but I haven’t introduced myself yet. I’m going to do that today. Their work has really opened my eyes to the importance of what we’re working on here at Wayfarer House.

ADDENDUM: I forgot to mention My Life in a Foster Care Space Warp among those foster care sites I've started reading again. Sorry Susan!

In writing this blog, I realized that my blogroll was horrifically out-of-date! Several of the blogs that I used to read have since died (insert moment of silence here). I’m also taking time today to tidy up that part of my space.

Happy Saturday!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Is this where Parcheesi came from?

SiSi asked me if I wanted to play a game after supper yesterday.

“Sure,” I said, “Would you like to play Uno?”

“Nope,” she replied, “I have a special game. Come on!”

I go into the living room and sit down, and she explains the game to me. It doesn’t have a name, from what I can gather. The rules, as far as I understand them, are below:

MATERIALS: The game involves the board from the game Sorry!©™®, 5 wine corks, 16 pennies, 2 nickles, 2 quarters (dimes may be included as well, but we didn’t have any), two tiny toy clothes pins and one die.

SETUP: Two corks for each person go in the START space on the board. The clothes pins go 5 spaces back. Divide the change equally among the two players. The fifth cork is in case your little sister wants to play, but isn’t really paying attention to the game.

PLAY: Take turns rolling the die. You may advance any one of your corks around the board that number of spaces. If you land anywhere on a slide, slide to the end. When you finish your turn, you may ask the other person for some money. You may ask for any piece of money you like, and they have to give it to you. In turn, however, you must trade a piece of money back. It need not be of the same value.

As you go around the board, if you should end your turn on a space occupied by your opponent’s cork, you may return it to their START space. When you get all the way around the board to where the clothes pins sits, you try to land on that space by exact roll of the die. If you do, the clothes pin bounces (you have to actually bounce it) all the way to the end spot. The game ends at this point.

TO WIN: There are two victory conditions:

1. You are the first one to bounce your clothes pin to the end spot.
2. You have more money than the other person.

If you do only one, the game is a tie.

NOTE: If your little sister wants some of the money, give her only the pennies unless she snivels. If that happens, each person has to give her one of the shiny coins. The little sister can cause the game to be a tie if she has more money than the person who met the first victory condition.

We played two games of this. Both ended in a tie. The little sister may or may not have actually given the money back.

I’m thinking we can market this! We’ll make a boxed set of this and the marble soccer game she’s been developing, available in time for the holidays. Order the deluxe edition now!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

"So, let's dish about your kid!"

Despite the fact that Wednesday is normally my light and easy day, I had no time at school to do anything, got home late and fell asleep on my laptop before I could post a blog entry.

That kind of day is exactly what I’m trying to avoid now that soccer is done.

Yesterday’s schedule was unavoidable, though, because it was parent/teacher conference day at my school. We have classes until noon, then meet with parents at short intervals until 5pm. Whenever I have meetings like this, the first thing I need to do is put my classroom back into some semblance of order (my space gets used for several different things during the day, and often looks like a train wreck, even after the custodians have made their passes). Once I’ve found the floor, I need to review grades for the students I’m talking about (I do grade book updating on a 4 week cycle, and these meetings hit a tad early) and check my notes to make sure my mental impressions of things like class participation and extra are accurate to what they’re doing now (that might sound like overkill, but it is a bad thing to find out during a conference that you’ve been thinking of the wrong kid’s work). Finally, I print out their tracking sheets (in essence, their grades as far as I have them) so parents can actually see what the kids are doing and where they are in the continuum of the course.

I know a lot of teachers have high stress about this time because of the number of parents they meet, but I rather enjoy it. I always like to share with parents the awesome job their kids are doing! Even if they’re not doing very well, the chance to collaborate together with students and parents about what can be done to encourage success often yields a lot of positive strategies. The thing I appreciate most about these meetings, as they take place in my school, is they are not adversarial. Parents don’t come to my school to complain about how their kids are being treated, to argue grades or challenge the competency of the teachers. They come out of a sincere interest to support their children in a school that is heavily invested in seeing them succeed well.

Yesterday’s meetings went well. The vast majority of my students are in good shape at this point in the semester, and the parents I saw confirmed that their kids are excited and interested in the class. Most of them are doing their daily practice of the language, they’re taking the chances to speak and play with the language when they have them, and the 8th graders I have this year are meeting very well the challenges of the high school curriculum. It’s been a really good year so far! I’m excited to ride the wave for as long as it runs!

I’ll be honest, though. I’m looking forward to a week off. I need a couple of days to breathe.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

10 Things Tuesday: Check-in on 2008 Goals

I've made a concerted effort the last couple of years to document things I want to accomplish. I overhaul the list in January, and check on them every so often. I find that a periodic review of my goals helps to keep them fresh in my mind. I should have done this in September, but I neglected to take the time (an oversight that has resulted in several of them not yet being met, as you’ll see). I am taking it as a gentle reproach to do that work on time from now on. When my goals are in my thoughts, I’m more likely to stay focused on them. I made them to do them, after all.

I started this year with 11 specific goals (#4, below, is actually a combination of two separate goals), though other items have since been added to the list. The most notable of these is the work related to my speaking gig in Charlotte this month. All of the added goals have been checked off, so I’m only going to review the original batch below.

1. Commit to regular meetings and a focused process of restoration, to regain control of the unruly elements of life at Wayfarer House:

We’re holding our own at Wayfarer House right now, but this goal is a loooong way from feeling met. To be fair, we’ve had a lot that has needed our attention (especially these lasts couple of months), but there is rather a lot in our world that needs to be reigned in as the year comes to a close. I’ll talk to Wifeness about this.

2. Renew “teapot time” with Wifeness:

I’m not even sleeping in the same bed with my wife right now, which makes this time ever more important (the fact that we’re not making time to communicate well and work together is a large part of why we’re only treading water). As Karla’s health continues to be a necessary focus for us, we are going to have to strategize creatively on how to meet our needs as a married couple, as well as those of the rest of our family. It’s part of the #1 discussion.

3. Creating and reviewing each month a clear and definable list of goals for the Community School project.

This got put off, but Wifeness and I have talked recently about the need to put it back into the mix. I’ll be content to see this carried over to next year’s list, with an practical, achievable plan in place. It’s time for this to be a focus of my out-of-school professional time.

4. Become active in the foster care community:

I became a Volunteer Case Reviewer earlier this year, and have taken part in nearly two dozen reviews so far. I’ve had to step back from it these last couple of months because of soccer, but I’m excited to be able to do them again! Volunteering for DSS is only a starting point, though. I want to investigate other ways to meet this goal for next year.

5. Get down to 180 lbs:

YES! The goal for next year is to keep going!

6. Develop a routine of daily exercise:

I did it. I let it go for soccer season. I’m gonna do it again. I’m confident of this.

7. Compete in the Greenfield Triathlon:

Boo-YAH! It kicked my ass, but I did it. I’m determined do it next year, but without the “kick my ass” part.

8. Go on one overnight camping trip:

SiSi and I kayaked about 4½ miles and camped overnight at the convergence of the Ashuelot and Connecticut rivers. We had a great time! She paddled all the way back, too! OK, it was downstream, so we’d have made it home eventually, but she really worked it!

9. Go on one multi-day bicycle trip:

This got pushed off to ’09, which was better for everyone. We decided on Nova Scotia, possibly via my hometown in Maine. Details to follow.

10. Complete (a list of) woodworking projects:

Sigh. None of the four things I had on that list have been done yet. Worse, I don’t know if I’ll be able to do any of them between now and the end of the year. I’ll have to think about this one. Even to get one of them done would feel good at this point.

Overall, I’m quite happy with what has actually been accomplished here. I have stuff to work on as the holiday season approaches, but I am pleased and empowered that I can tangibly see progress on at least some of the things I have said were important to me. How is the end of 2008 looking for you? Are you feeling positive or apprehensive? Has it been a successful year for you (even if it wasn’t in quite the way you imagined it would be)?

Monday, November 17, 2008

The potato is getting back in the saddle (to mix a metaphor)...

This is my last week of inactivity.

I have done no running, biking, swimming or other heavy physical activity (save for soccer) since mid-September. It’s simply impossible to fit in such work during this time of year. Coaching takes up too much of my life, and to try to keep up any level of training is simply unhealthy. So, I let it go. This carries a cost when the time comes to start up again, but it’s one I am content to pay so that I can do something else I love very much.

Now, soccer is done. My life will resume its normal level of frenzy in a few days.

Next week, I will start training for a long-distance ride (Nova Scotia, here I come!) and for the triathlons I want to do. I have planned to start next week because my school takes the entire week of Thanksgiving off, and it will be easier to work into the habit of getting up earlier to hit the pool, as well as give my body time to recover after runs and rides. It is my full intention to enter the spring ready to push ahead of last year’s limits.

I made a commitment to myself last year and saw it rewarded in a fitter, healthier body and a long-delayed goal realized. I accomplished a lot this year. I’m excited to see how far I can go in 2009!

This has started me thinking about all the goals I had when I started the year. I'll post progress tomorrow in a 10 Things post. How're you doing with yours? Have you experienced success with any? Please share!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

"You Sunk My Battleship, Biatch!"

As an intellectual entertainment after dinner with friends, some of us played around with the rules to the classic game Battleship®©™. We think they'll speed the game up, and provide a certain level of complexity to an otherwise mind-numbingly simple rule set. We didn’t actually test them out, however. If you know the game, try these out and share what you think! There’s a paper-and-pencil grid to play with [HERE].

Battleship: Wayfarer House Variant

Players launch 1 salvo per turn at each other, with a total number of shots equal to their ships in play. Damage is announced in turns, but it is assessed simultaneously so that no player has an advantage during a turn. After the salvo, players may move any undamaged ships according to the rules for each ship. A pivot costs 1 move, and may be centered on any slot. Damaged ships may not move (except the battleship). Damaged subs cannot submerge.

The five ships have these properties:

Can move 1 every even turn.
Contributes 5 shots to each turn’s salvo.
Can hit a submerged submarine.

Can move 1 per turn.
Can move while hit.
Contributes 3 shots to each turn’s salvo.

Can move 2 per turn.
Contributes 2 shots to each turn’s salvo.
Can hit a submerged submarine.
Cannot damage a battleship.

Can move 2 per turn.
Normally submerged. Must surface every 3rd turn.
Contributes 1 shot to each turn’s salvo. This is automatically the last shot.
Can hit a submerged submarine.
A single hit by a submarine destroys the ship (An additional hit from any ship is required to sink a carrier).

PT Boat:
Can move 3 per turn.
Contributes 1 shot to each turn’s salvo.
If this ship is in play, the opposing player must announce which ship has been hit.

This is just some of what we do at our dinner parties! Geeky, n’est-ce pas?

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Truly, A Wonderful Day It Was

Yesterday was an exhausting day emotionally. I’ll say it again. Rain and dark really put me in a funk. However, I think it’s more than fair to say that there were several parts of the day that made up for the weather. In a continual effort to recognize the glass as half full (especially after a day during which I found myself constantly battling the onset of gloom and depression), I thought I’d share with you some of the special moments that took place in my world yesterday.

1. I received the following email:

Dear Wayfarer,

Congratulations on a great season and an incredible final game! I'm sorry you missed the final as it was undoubtably the best game I've witnessed since we starting playing several years ago. Both teams played hard, fair and with incredible desire. Your team displayed unity and compassion for each other, they supported one another both physically and verbally and represented themselves and their school in a manner which would should make them extremely proud. Most of all they exhibited humility while celebrating which I believe is paramount.

Well done!

Hartsbrook Soccer Coach

PS: Please share my email with your players and your other coach.

I’m so very proud of my crew! Have I told you that? This is not the first email of its kind I’ve received over the years from other schools, and it speaks volumes about the quality of the kids at my school. They really are amazing!

2. One of my students brought me a muffin that she made herself. We’ve had this dialog going for a while about good food (she’s experimenting as a cuisinière), and she wanted to share her most recent creation. It was a raspberry muffin with a cinnamon streusel topping, and it was awesome! The fact that she chose to share this triumph with me makes me feel honored. I look forward to returning the feeling. It could have been last night but, sadly, the stars weren’t aligned well for an excursion an hour from home. This girl is a baton twirler, and her troupe gave a benefit event at the local high school where she lives. I’d told her I wanted to go, and my kids expressed interest in seeing it (NiNi would have liked it, I’m sure), but the distance and the late start time would have made it hard to do under all but ideal circumstances. Sorry, Lise!

3. My students have a project due that requires a visual representation of objects in a classroom (2 or 3 dimensions) with labels, so that people can use them to study the words for what they see. Many of these came in yesterday, and I was truly impressed at what I saw. Recognize, now, that I am not easily impressed by projects. I work at a performing arts focused high school, where the students are highly creative. They often show up with wonderfully imaginative, artistic work to share, but when you look beyond the glitz, you can see immediately that it doesn’t really show what they should know and be able to do relative to my class. There were a number of projects that came in yesterday, however, that really met the intent of the assignment well. One student built a book out of cardboard that, when it was opened, revealed a classroom with 3d paper models of desks, pencils and other things, and all the items were labeled with tiny, but readable tags. I’ll see if I can get a pic to share at some point, but take my word for it that it was spectacular! Another came in the form of a game, where you flip up a picture of an object to reveal what it’s called in Spanish. Yet another came in digital form. She created a PowerPoint slide show with pics and labels, but also added phonetic transcriptions of the words because she knows that’s what she needs to help her when she’s learning new words. She’s developed a whole phonetic transcription system in just 2½ months! It’s not perfect yet (the slide show needs to be revised to correct some transcription mistakes), but the effort showed clearly that she takes her learning seriously and that’s the greatest thing any of my students can do.

4. I finally figured out how to complete the current chapter of the roleplaying campaign that Wifeness, Caleb, Maeve and I have been playing. It’s been a very long time, and I’ve had to take extended breaks from it over the last year, but I’m convinced now that I can guide everyone through the toughest part of the adventure. They’ll still have to survive it, but I’m confident they have what they need to do that.

5. I got two letters on Facebook: One from a friend from college I haven’t talked to in, like, a million years, and one from a student who is in her freshman year at a college in S. Florida. Both say life is well for them, and this brings me peace. I really do feel better knowing that the people in my world are well, overall, even considering all the challenges they’re facing.

6. Bessie reached out to me to say that she’s starting work as a hairdresser next week. For those of you who don’t know, Bessie is a single parent who had been struggling through a several-years-long rough patch after her divorce. She decided a year ago that she’d had enough, and that it was time to realize her dream of being a hairdresser. This meant going on food stamps, that she and her 10 year-old daughter were going back to live with her mom, and that she’d have to go to school and work full time in order to stay on top of the car payment. She knuckled down, kept her nose to the stone for a full year and finished school at the top of her class. Then came the license tests, which she also conquered with style (I make this sound matter-of-fact, but the amount of conviction and effort required to do this is beyond considerable). Finally, the search for employment. To hear that she’s going to be cutting hair next week for money is cause for rejoicing. The woman followed her dream, sacrificed like you wouldn’t believe, and came out on top. She has inspired all of us!

I want to say that I feel so much better for having shared all this? It's making today seem so much brighter, and I haven't even gotten out of my comfy clothes yet.

What’s making your glass half full today?

Friday, November 14, 2008

On a wet, raw evening in late fall...

...there is no contentment such as comes from spiced rum.

Thanks Captain Morgan!

To entertain you this day, and to tide you over while I work on an answer for Kizz on the greater purpose of marriage, I offer you a poem from Georg Trakl to match the day from my view of it. Trakl, an Austrian poet from the early 20th century, took much of his inspiration from French impressionist movements in art and literature but his single published work of poetry, Gedichte (1913), was filled with dark and sorrowful references in which the imagery of autumn figure prominently. I am often filled with a sense of melancholy and foreboding this time of year, and this poem captures that for me.

In the evening, when the bells ring peace,
I follow the wonderful flights of birds,
That in long rows, like devout pilgrim-processions,
Disappear into the clear autumn vastness.

Wandering through the dusk-filled garden
I dream after their brighter destinies
And hardly feel the motion of the hour hands.
Thus I follow their journeys over the clouds.

Then a whiff of decay makes me tremble.
The blackbird complains in defoliated branches.
The red wine sways on rusty trellises.

Meanwhile like the death-dances of pale children
Around dark fountain edges that weather,
Shivering blue asters bend in the wind.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Taking time to slow down well...

Like boats, we tend to get caught in our own wake when we slow down. This has happened to me, so I’m taking the day off from school. I will relax my brain by working on a response to Kizz’ question about my views on marriage, then I’ll catch up on some TV watching and, after savoring my quiet lunch and coffee, I fully intend to enjoy a nice, long nap.

I do not wish to avoid life today, only to center myself once again within it. All the things on my list will still be there when I wake up; I’ll just be a lot more positively inclined toward them for having stepped away for a bit.

Do you ever need to do that?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

In-Box: Replies to Comments

I like being able to reply to the comments left on my posts, but it sometimes takes me a while and, by then, I think the discussions often wither. To remedy that, I’m instituting a new weekly blog post: The In-Box. Here is the first of these.

[On my post about Proposition 8]

…I might print [the post on Prop 8] to give to my students, who are currently tasked with writing an analysis paper that keeps their own opinions out of the mix…

I would be honored! I hope serves as a good example. I really tried to keep balanced in writing it.

I think it’s important to teach my students that, however we might try, it’s truly impossible to be perfectly objective. All we can do is attempt to understand all the sides. Maybe your students might find value in just understanding (he says, thinking out loud)? My students often get a lot by deeply exploring a view or experience that they are not familiar with initially. If they’re pro-abortion, for example, I wonder if they’d get an appreciation for how to write objectively by trying to understand and defend a pro-choice decision. Again, just thinking out loud.

[On the greater purpose of marriage]

I question whether someone ELSE'S marriage has ANY bearing on anyone else's.

If we accept marriage as an institution that is firmly grounded in personal choice, without social obligation, then perhaps it doesn’t, although the many deleterious psychological effects of divorce on children would suggest it has at least some effect on society as a whole. If we explore marriage as a contract that holds a sacred place in the fabric of society (and carries with it a level of social responsibility commensurate with its recognition by the state), then my marriage becomes part of a larger effort to foster those values, routines and traditions that the institution is supposed to uphold. In that sense, when viewed in the context of community, my marriage most definitely does have bearing on everyone else’s. Is that the way marriage actually works in our society now? Yes, and no.

What greater purpose might that be? How does limiting unions to one man and one woman figure into that greater purpose?

This is exactly the conversation that we, as a society, should be having! Right now, we have a lot of people getting married (and 60% getting divorced again), and no one really understands why we do it. We get married because we think we’re supposed to. Should we? Why? What’s the point? Why is marriage even worth recognizing by the state? The answers to these questions help us come to two important things. First, it puts everyone on the same page. We’ll all be talking about the same concept, instead of about myriad (often muddled) personal ideas of what marriage is or should be. Second, it creates a sense of value to the institution that everyone can see and understand. People can then make sense of what marriage does, and can make informed choices about whether or not to enter into it.

[On poems on the whiteboard]

I love the idea...

It really seems to help people feel like they’re part of Wayfarer House. It’s not the only way this happens, but it’s a whole lot less effort than emptying the dishwasher or helping put the kids to bed.

To everyone: I’d love to know what things happen in your house to make people feel at home and part of your family! Will you share?

[On the voting and elections post]

The English teacher in me is questioning whether you really KNEW all that stuff. Do you owe a works cited page?

You’re a good teacher to question where my information actually came from. Certainly, if this were an actual research paper and I were defending a point I would want to produce a selected bibliography, but since the vast majority of this is what we would term “common knowledge”, and since I’m not really defending a point but dispensing knowledge, I would argue citing my work is overkill. Still, if you like, I’ll offer something like what I see in the paper all the time:

NOTICE: AP sources were used in the preparation of this blog entry.

[On BloMoNaPo perfection]

Dude, you dropped the ball. You know you can schedule posts, right?

I do know I can schedule posts, but there was no way in hell that I was going to get ahead of posting in advance of the conference. NO. WAY. I had hoped to do it while I was there, but I just couldn’t justify the expense. I am struggling to come to terms with a goal unrealized. [whimper]

…I'm still interested in trying to get underneath your thinking on those points (about which we disagree philosophically).

I really value these discussions! How can we make them happen? Can we open them up to others? What makes sense as an achievable next step?

[On my 10 Things Tuesday post, which posted on Monday]

Um, Babe? Check your calendar.

Yeah, about that... See, I had a post for Monday, and it exploded. Can I get it to you next week?

Monday, November 10, 2008

10 Things Tuesday: Charlotte

Lessons learned during my trip to Charlotte:

1. Artichoke dip does not mix well with wine when dropped directly into the glass.

2. “Truth or Dare” should not be played by adults. Ever.

3. Toblerone have mysteriously from airport concession stands. An investigation is underway.

4. The guys who drive those golf carts around the airport can, in fact, be bought—with a smile and a song.

5. When a group of teachers does headstands in the airport waiting area, it gets noticed.

6. So, too, does the presenter who, in a Freudian slip, uses the word “blowjob”. No it wasn’t me. I’ll bet he wishes it wasn’t him, too.

7. When a young vendor of testing software wears a shirt that says “Assess This!” across the chest, every man will.

8. Obama’s recent ascendancy to power has apparently done little to dissuade TSA officials from stopping and searching the luggage of the one black woman in a line full of white people.

9. It may have emboldened several people to criticize on such an affront publicly, however.

10. Sleeping on the futon couch at home is still preferable to a luxurious double bed in an upscale downtown hotel. Sure, it’s quieter and the cable’s better in the hotel, but it lacks all the sounds and smells of a place where I am loved.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Does this mean I can't achieve NaMoBloPo perfection?

I’m sorry I haven’t posted since Friday. I left Friday morning for Charlotte, NC, and only returned early this morning. My hotel, as nice as it was, wanted to nickel-and-dime me for everything and $20 per day for Internet access just seemed over the top. The Internet is supposed to be FREE people! Put it into the room charge, if you must. I’m not paying for the damned room!

I was in Charlotte to speak at the Coalition for Essential Schools’ annual Fall Forum event. I wrote an entry some time ago about this. It’s a national conference at which teachers, administrators, specialists and others from all over the country listen and share from their own practice. I went to speak about how to create a state of high focus and energy in the classroom using a unique spiraling approach, but I got to attend a number of extraordinary workshops, discussion groups and lectures while I was there. It really was an enriching experience, and I walked away from it with a full brain and an eagerness to share a lot of valuable information.

The highlight of the conference for me was getting to converse with some of the people who inspired and validated me as I worked to develop my rather unique teaching style. Particularly, it was special to share some time with Ted Sizer, the founder of CES. I was first introduced to his work when I was in college and, even then when I was just beginning to explore what kind of teacher I wanted to be, I remember feeling a deep and abiding connection to his work. I actually got to meet him once before, at a charter school conference a few years ago, but I didn’t get to actually sit and chat. I did on Friday, and it was wonderful! He’s in ailing health now, so it was hard not to feel a sense of poignancy while I was there, but I was grateful for the chance to at least say, “Thank you.”

I also had the privilege to hear Carol Ann Tomlinson speak, and to work with Deborah Meier. I was first introduced to Ms. Tomlinson’s work about 10 years ago, but really dove into her books during graduate school. I wanted to truly understand differentiation as a concept so I could see it work in my own classes. It’s taken some time to properly integrate it, and I was excited to see just how well, from an objective point of view, this work is progressing. Ms. Meier was known to me only peripherally through my exposure to CES, but I recently read her book “In Schools We Trust” and was excited to have the chance to work and share stories with her. I was honored when she asked to be invited to my school, so she could continue the discussion we started during our little discussion group.

During the entire day on Friday my heart was with my soccer team. They were piling into cars to go to the game site (the finals game is held at a neutral field) as I was setting up to speak. They were supposed to be finished at about 4:30, when I was in a workgroup, and I prepared myself to make a silent, unobtrusive exit so I could take the call. 4:30 came, and went, with no call. So did 4:40. At 4:50 I was feeling all manner of emotions. Why hadn’t anyone called? What happened, anyway? At 4:55, my phone finally went off and I scrambled out to answer it. What I heard was the most beautiful cacophony I could have imagined. There was screaming and shouting and laughing, and when I tried to get someone, anyone on the other end of the line to tell me what was going on, all I got was, “You wouldn’t believe it!” and “You would have died!” and “It was awesome!” Eventually a parent managed to wrest control of the phone from the teenagers to pass along the details while the trophy presentation was going on: The game was 0 – 0 at the half. It was 0 – 0 at the end of full time. It was 0 – 0 after the first overtime, and 0 – 0 after the second. During the first set of 5 penalty kicks, we were down 2 – 1 with our last kick to go, and Rose, the anchor of the team, made the clutch shot to extend the game. During the second set of 5 penalty kicks, it was a freshman and first-year player, Raffi, who took what proved to be the winning kick. His shot, hit solidly to just off center, was deflected by the goalie, but hit the post and spun in. He was the ninth player to kick. Even as I’m writing it, I can’t believe it! A scoreless game that goes past double overtime and 9 penalties to get a winner? I would have exploded had I been there. I would simply have combusted. I am so very proud of my crew! I’m still waiting for the rest of the story but from what I have been told, there was some special honor placed on one of my players by the other team, among other special moments. I hope they were able to videotape everything!

Apropos of nothing discussed so far, we had a celebrity sighting in Charlotte. One of my colleagues and I were taking the elevator down Friday morning when it stopped to allow a tall African-American gentleman to get on. I didn’t think much about it at the time, but Lewis recognized him instantly. It wasn’t until after he started nudging me to take closer notice that I realized who was standing next to us. We didn’t say anything to him (what do you say to Michael Jordan, anyway?), and he seemed quite content to be left alone, so the encounter was quite benign. Still, I can add MJ to my list of celebrities encountered. We actually saw him again the next day as he was rushing out to his trademark yellow Ferrari, leading a wake of excited and curious spectators behind him. I can’t imagine how he doesn’t go crazy.

Further apropos of nothing, we heard about this place on public radio (I’m still looking for the link) and decided to eat there Friday night. The place is not fine dining. It’s local food, with plastic forks and cheesy restaurant booths. It’s soul food, and that means comfort food when you’re on the road. I had the homemade meatloaf, with beans and rice and peach cobbler for dessert. It was enough food to last me most of Saturday, and it was lip-smacking good! Plus, Abdullah is a riot! He played “alive or dead” with us while we were waiting for our food, and shared stories about all the famous people who’ve eaten at the restaurant (there are tons of photos on the walls of all the notables). A wonderful experience, and a great way to end a very full day.

Speaking of a very full day, this one has exhausted me. I’m going to bed. It’s nice to be home!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Here's why I don't blog much during the fall...

Observe, please, this year’s standings for soccer.

Give my crew some love! They deserve the bragging rights that come from being top of the pile. It was no small achievement. They finished first in what was a very tight group of teams this year. None of the eight games we played were runaways, and every single member of the team had their work cut out for them this year.

We play in our semi-final game today vs. Valley View. Valley View upset us last year to reach the finals, and we split our series with them during this regular season. They are not a team we will get past easily. It will be a challenging game, and everyone is working hard to see we win it to advance to this year’s final game.

This is a bittersweet game for me, since it is my last of the year, whether we win or lose. If we win it and advance to the finals, I won’t be there to coach them. I’ll be in Charlotte, NC, speaking at a national convention (a gig that was set long before the league schedule was finalized). I have a colleague who has been working to take my place in that game, but I’m really bummed I won’t actually be there to see it.

I guess you’d have to know what’s going on out there to truly understand why it’s important to me. In August, I picked a team that I thought could work together and have serious fun, regardless of anyone’s age, sex or experience with the sport. They all came to tryouts and made the commitment to practice late, cut back on their dramatic commitments (many are in fall productions or are members of community dance troupes), do extra classwork and take care of each other, all so we could build a team together that was close like family, supportive and dedicated, whatever happens on the field. This group has really come together, but this is not unusual. I am proud of the fact that my teams bond the way they do. That they win consistently from year to year, even though we play several schools that are larger, better and stronger than we are is simply proof that our philosophy of the sport has value, and that the effort to create this kind of experience gets results. It is my hope that traditional schools will someday see this, and be brave enough to reinvent their programs to actually make the experience of competitive sport a nurturing and supportive one, instead of an outlet for anger, aggression and dishonor.

Our game today is the culmination of two months worth of time away from home, of running around picking up students, vans and equipment, of battling with administration to give my kids what they need, and of actually being on the field helping them to reach the end on top. That makes it sound like it’s about me, but it’s really not. They’ve shown that they respect what not just I, but lots of people, have done to provide them an opportunity to embark on a two-month journey of personal, emotional and physical growth. They’ve made good use of the sacrifices that were made for them. I am very proud of these kids! I want my crew to win today because I think they deserve it. More importantly, though, I want them to walk off the field at the end of the game believing they are awesome, not because they won, but because they walked the road to get there in style.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

10 Things Tuesday: Voting and Elections

1. If you are a citizen of the United States and eighteen years of age or older, you have the right to vote in local, state and national elections. The largest restriction on this right is relative to those who have been convicted of felonious crimes. With the exceptions of Maine, Vermont and Massachusetts, all states and the District of Columbia prohibit inmates serving felony convictions from voting in any public elections. While a majority of states restore voting rights to convicted felons after they complete their prison sentences or probation periods, several, including Virginia, Delaware and New Mexico permanently prohibit former felons from voting.

2. Before the Civil War, the U.S. Constitution did not provide specific qualifications for voting. These were matters under the jurisdiction of the states themselves. At that time, although a few northern states permitted free black men to register and vote, slavery and restrictive state laws left the practice to be exercised almost exclusively by white males. The 15th Amendment gave black men the right to vote in 1870, but even after this amendment was passed, a number of states sought to keep blacks from the polls. One common strategy used by states required blacks to pass literacy tests before voting, something not required of already-registered white voters. These tests had been used earlier in Connecticut and Massachusetts to discriminate against Irish-Catholic immigrants. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 eliminated these barriers, but it was not until Oregon v. Mitchell, in 1975, that the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the ban on such practices.

3. The first serious proposal for women’s suffrage in the United States was announced in July, 1848, at the Seneca Falls Woman's Rights Convention organized by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott. It was not until 1920--72 years later--that the nineteenth amendment was passed granting women the right to vote.

4. There have been three instances when a presidential candidate has won election through the electoral college, but lost in the popular vote:

In 1876, Republican Rutherford B. Hayes finished with 4,036,298 popular votes and won 185 electoral votes. His opponent, Democrat Samuel J. Tilden, won the popular vote with 4,300,590 votes, but won only 184 electoral votes.

In 1888, Republican Benjamin Harrison finished with 5,439,853 popular votes and won 233 electoral votes. His opponent, Democrat Grover Cleveland, won the popular vote with 5,540,309 votes, but won only 168 electoral votes.

In 2000, Republican George W. Bush finished with 50,456,002 popular votes and won 271 electoral votes. His opponent, Al Gore, won the popular vote with 50,999,897 votes, but won only 266 electoral votes.

5. It is possible for a candidate to not get a single person's vote in 39 states or the District of Columbia, yet be elected president by wining the popular vote in 11 of these 12 states: California, New York, Texas, Florida, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Ohio, Michigan, New Jersey, North Carolina, Georgia, Virginia.

6. There were no organized national political parties in the earliest days of our country, and there was no structure by which to choose from among the candidates for president and vice-president. The founders of our country feared the direct popular election option because travel and communication were slow and difficult at that time, and that meant a strong likelihood that a candidate could be popular regionally, but remain unknown to the rest of the country. A large number of regionally popular candidates would thus divide the vote and no one individual would stand out as indicating the wishes of the nation as a whole. On the other hand, election by Congress would require the members to accurately assess the desires of their constituencies and vote accordingly. This could lead to elections that better reflected the opinions and political agendas of the members of Congress than the actual will of the people. Our electoral college system was created to address these concerns.

7. A direct election system is subject to types of fraud that are impossible under our electoral college system. With direct elections, for example, there is an incentive for states to run up the popular vote for a particular candidate. Such majority fraud would be difficult to combat, because the majority party would also be responsible for counting the votes. Our electoral college system, however, eliminates any reason to run up the vote. Any fraud in the system exists in swing states, where the parties are more likely to keep each other in check.

8. It is possible for there to be a tie in the electoral college votes. When this happens, the House of Representatives is called upon to choose the president, with lawmakers voting by state delegations.

9. There is a single scenario in which the steps after election day are uncertain. Though it has never been tested, there are no guidelines for what happens if the winner of the election dies before the Electoral College meets in mid-December. The rules only make clear that, once the Electoral College meets, if anything were to happen to the president-elect before the January inauguration, the vice-president elect would take the Oath of Office.

10. I will be among the 64 percent of eligible voters who are expected to cast ballots today. I am excited to live in a state where the race is not contested, and so I have the freedom to cast my vote for a third party candidate in an effort to promote my support for a multiparty system of government. I’ll be perfectly content to see Barack Obama in the Oval Office in the short term, however.

Monday, November 3, 2008

A long time between poems...

Uncle Bubba came to visit not long ago. It had been an age since we'd seen him (not unusual). He and Ethel showed up out of the blue (perfectly acceptable) and stayed the night (a wonderful treat). We talked a little, enjoying the cool autumn air of the porch, trying to catch up on each other's lives. He seems to be holding his own. They even were able to take time off from work to enjoy a vacation to Pennsylvania!

By tradition, when Bubba visits the house he leaves us some poetry on the dry erase board. Having just come from Gettysburg, the image of that awful (and "aweful")moment of history was fresh in his mind, and so his gift to us on this visit was of a somewhat somber tone compared to the norm. I include it here to share, and to tell the world that my chosen brother, my friend of many years is very important to me. The years, the distance, the changes, mean only that it takes us a little longer to reconnect than it should. They do not lessen my love for him, or my desire to see him healthy and happy in his world.

Just don't take so damn long to get back here next time, alright?

The Sea of Carnage

Wave after wave of blue and grey
Have fallen.
The froth has turned the fruit
Blood red.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

History and Perspective on Proposition 8

There is a lot of discussion and commentary about California Proposition 8 in my world of late, with the vast majority of it coming from outside the state, and nearly all of it in opposition to the legislation. In the interest of putting some moderation into this decidedly liberal commentary, I did a little bit of digging to understand both sides of the argument. Here is what I’ve discovered:

In 1977, the California legislature defined marriage to be “...a civil contract between a man and a woman, to which the consent of the parties capable of making that contract is necessary.” This definition made explicit the traditional and commonly held view in the state that marriage is a legally recognized union of one man and one woman, and dismissed as specious an alternative view of marriage, with roots in the civil rights movement and the political activism of the 1960s, which took the position that marriage is a body of rights which should be extended, as a matter of equality, to couples who do not fit the one man/one woman definition.

California established a domestic partnership registry in 1999, allowing registered domestic partners to receive hospital visitation privileges equal to those of spouses and other immediate family members, and providing health benefits to domestic partners of state employees. Despite recognizing domestic partnership, however, California voters affirmed the traditional view of the definition of marriage in the year 2000 when they passed by a solid margin Proposition 22, an initiative statute which stated, "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.".

California's domestic partnership system was strengthened in 2003 with the passage of the Domestic Partners Rights and Responsibilities Act, which extended to registered domestic partners practically all of the civil rights and responsibilities granted to married couples, though both domestic partnership laws were vigorously opposed as blatant attempts to lead the state toward the legalization of gay marriage. In 2004, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom pushed back on the issue, proclaiming that same-sex marriage would be permitted in his city, and instructed officials to modify marriage license forms to make them gender neutral. The California Supreme Court put a stop to the practice, ruling that San Francisco could not act outside the law by refusing to enforce the marriage provisions of state law.

Since that time, a plethora of legislation has been introduced. The most notable of the lot have been Assembly Bill 19 and 849 (2005). The latter was approved by the legislature, but Governor Schwarzenegger vetoed the bill, stating that Proposition 22had already been approved by the voters, and further commented that the issue of same-sex marriage, if divisive, should be settled by the courts or another vote by the people, not by legislation. The governor reiterated these views in his veto of Assembly Bill 43 (2007). First District Court of Appeal, in its review of six of the San Francisco same-sex marriage cases from 2004, stated in essence that they wanted no part in the discussion, emphasizing that, "…change must come from democratic processes, however, not by judicial fiat."

The Supreme Court of the State of California, however, did not hold to this view. In a 4-3 decision, the court struck down existing statutes limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples, overturning both the one-man, one-woman marriage law which the California legislature had passed in 1977 and Proposition 22. In an effort to override this ruling by amending the state constitution to state explicitly that, “[o]nly marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California,” proponents of Proposition 8 collected over 1.1 million signatures and fought off several legal challenges to ensure the question was included on the November ballot.

Proposition 8 is at its heart a simple initiative, but it is integrally tied to one’s view of marriage and its role in society. Those who see same-sex marriage as a civil rights issue take the view that its legalization is an extension of an inevitable process to provide rights to disadvantaged groups. Proposition 8, though simply a clarification of the definition of marriage, is said to imply that, by creating a marked difference between marriage and domestic partnership, same-sex couples would be treated unfairly. Those who hold to the traditional definition of marriage see the issue as deeply embedded in moral and religious beliefs, and resent the usurpation of the institution and its unique character by a minority of the state’s populace, however vocal they may be.

I tried to be centrist in writing this post because I appreciate both sides of this issue. On the one hand, I very much value equality. I see no reason why anyone who chooses to take on the responsibilities of joint union (whatever it is called) should not have every right and privilege afforded such a responsibility. However, I very much respect the view of marriage as a particular kind of union, one with longstanding religious and common law associations which give it an important feeling of reverence and propriety. I appreciate how it is threatening, but also unfair, to those who undertook marriage based on a perfectly valid set of cultural assumptions to have those assumptions overruled and, with them, the exclusive and distinct nature of their oaths.

My own thoughts on the definition of marriage, however, are supplanted by two greater concerns. The first is that, if marriage--or any form of civil union--is to be have real value, it must retain a sense of sanctity that comes from having a greater purpose. I worry that, in all this discussion about the meaning of marriage for individuals, that we have not yet begun to explore the degree to which such institutions have lost significance in a society clearly in need of some review of its greater moral fiber.

The second is that Proposition 8 is a California initiative and, although the discussion of same-sex marriage is taking place nationally, no one but the voters of the state of California gets to have a say about how they choose to define the institution of marriage for their own use. We are a nation of states, and it is important that we respect that California is not Massachusetts or Florida or anyplace else. They have a right to choose their own way.

You may now commence the roasting.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Of course I am.

I keep my politics to myself, generally. I eschew discussions about it and I do not often impart my views to others unless I'm specifically asked. That said, it might be helpful for people to know that I pride myself as a middle-of-the-road, neutral-good, wholly independent person. Wifeness has a politics test on her blog that I took (I always find such things entertaining, if only just to see where they put me). This one said it much like every other one I've ever taken:

You are a

Social Liberal
(66% permissive)

and an...

Economic Moderate
(55% permissive)

You are best described as a:


The Politics Test on Ok Cupid
Also : The OkCupid Dating Persona Test

NaBloPoMo? OK.

In my continuing quest to make writing and blogging a habit, I'm going to try to post every day this month. No, really. I'm going to give it solid effort to post something every, single day.

It's not like I don't write. Sweet Mary, I do an incredible amount of it! It just never gets posted here. So, maybe some of that will make it here. I'm sure I'll have time for original stuff, too (soccer is over for me on Wednesday next), but I'm not going to focus on exactly what makes it to this space. I'm just going to focus on putting something here. Baby steps, is what I'm saying.