Two women seeking equality in a state where some couples are more equal than others.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Reflections on Suffering: #carrythatweight

A while back, not sure how long, I read about a performance art piece entitled Mattress Performance or #carrythatweight. I won't go into great detail explaining it, but I encourage you to visit the link above to learn more. For purposes of this post, here is what you need to know:

The artist, Emma Sulkowicz, suffered a horrible trauma. Her case wasn't handled well, and she was left to pick up the pieces of her life and make meaning. As a senior at Columbia University, she decided to make her thesis an outward representation of her journey through her pain. Thus, Mattress Performance (Carry that Weight) began.

Essentially, Emma carried a mattress like the one at the site of the original trauma, as a physical representation of her inward burden. She committed to carrying it under specific parameters until there was justice for her. While she had to carry it,

She didn't have to carry it by herself. 

If someone came along and offered assistance or support, she accepted it. The mattress weighed the same amount, but her burden was shared.

So it is in life. 

Our pain, our trauma, our suffering exists, and it has its corresponding weight. I wish there were a magic way to make it disappear, but I don't think there is this side of heaven.

There is little magic in sharing the burden. But there is comfort. There is fellowship.

There is hope

within the darkest winter of the soul.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Confessions on A 4-Year Anniversary: I never meant my wedding to be a revolution

Today, Rebecca and I celebrate four years since our spiritual wedding ceremony.

I can't say that I meant to my wedding to be a revolution. I can't say that at the time it was intended to push back against cultural norms, or to be a feminist revelation, or to be an example of every gay wedding.

And yet, I think it was those things. At least for some people. Two of my friends who identify as members of the LGBT community commented that it was the first gay wedding they had been to. In fact, one of them who is now in a serious relationship sometimes calls me for relationship advice. Another fills me in on his escapades, while lamenting the fact that he has not yet found his helpmate.

Others commented that they had attended in part to see what a lesbian wedding was like. I'm pretty sure our lesbian wedding was not a great model of other weddings, as we dispensed with many, many of the trappings that others have upheld - centerpieces, favors, white dresses, traditional bridal party, alcohol, fine china. We had bundt cakes instead of tiered cake, in part to stay on budget (in part as a nod to My Big Fat Greek Wedding).
How I loved this tiny raspberry chocolate bundt from Nanna's Sweet Treats in Mason, MI! 

Deviled eggs . . . so good. We had a lot left over after this, and the venue let us take them home. I'm not sure that was good for our cholesterol levels . . .

This was a beautiful fruit salad. We tried to have lots of options because so many of our guests had dietary restrictions. A buffet line of simple foods meant everyone could have a full, happy tummy.
We called it a commitment ceremony for months ahead of time. The minister (who was not the minister at our own church because our church might have fired him for performing the ceremony)  insisted upon calling it a wedding. That meant something.

Maybe it meant everything.

After four years, I am feeling as though we have become the old married couple, although part of me feels that it was just yesterday, perhaps because my marriage has been recognized in the state of Michigan for less than a year still.

Maybe because I know so few gay couples who have been married longer than we have.

Or maybe it feels like it was yesterday because my marriage is still not considered sufficient to many of the foster/adoption agencies across the state, and the state thinks that's fine, even if it means that vulnerable children don't find forever homes.

I didn't mean for my wedding to be a revolution, but the world made it one. The political reality made it one. The refusal of a marriage certificate made it one. The refusal of the rights associated with that marriage certificate, like spousal insurance, increased student loan cap, and tax advantages made it one. I didn't mean for it to be a revolution, but in some ways it had to be one, if I wanted the marriage to mean something.

And it doesn't just mean something.

After four years, it still means everything.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Confessions: Today I Hate this House

I'm grateful for #fixerupperdetroit. She's a beauty, or will be, when she's done. Our neighborhood is amazing, and I know that when our home is done, everything will seem better. We're making progress - we passed our insulation inspection, which means that a lot of new steps start, since we can close up the walls. The team working on our house has been positive, encouraging, and diligent.

But currently, #owneroccupieDetroit is a struggle.

I'm a hot breakfast person; I make huevos rancheros for myself every morning to get my day off to the right start. I can't do that until our kitchen is ready. It's not that I can't eat something else. I can, I do, and I'm grateful for the full belly. I didn't even realize how soothing I found the ritual of heating oil, frying a tortilla, cracking eggs, measuring salsa verde to be - a form of art, of creation, nourishment of my soul in addition to my body. I miss the process.

I'm not a great housekeeper. Many of you know. Many of you tease me. But even I find the plaster and paint dust overwhelming. My cats are constantly coated in dust. My clothes have dust clinging to them, my linens are filmed in particulates. It's hard to feel settled.

Of course, Rebecca has been working 6pm-7am shifts for the last week, and I'm always grumpy when we're ships passing in the night. A week more of that and she'll mostly be on day shift for the rest of the month. Between the progress we'll have made by then and the fact that we're actually seeing each other, I trust and believe that it won't stay like this. 

But today, I hate this house.

Monday, May 2, 2016

#owneroccupieDetroit: The Joy of Sweat Equity

When I woke up today, everything hurt. In fact, that's been true for several days now.

I've been sanding plaster, scraping trim, priming, painting, etc for days, and my body definitely isn't used to this kind of work. My scalp isn't used to plaster dust. My arms aren't used to being above my head for long periods, my legs aren't used to ascending and descending step ladders constantly, my knees aren't used to squatting and kneeling to cut in base boards. A lot of the tasks are tedious.

And yet there's a deep joy in all of it. With every brush stroke, I make meaning out of the months of struggle we had to purchase this house. I think back on the years of pain, when I couldn't have imagined living in a home like this. I pray over the rooms, that they will be places of peace and joy not only for us, but for the guests who come to us.

I can't feel that I own this house. Perhaps because I don't feel worthy, perhaps I'm still in shock, but I think it's more than that.

I'm not sure I believe that people can own houses, or at least, I don't believe that it's possible for me to own this one. It has too much history behind it. It's giant, not only physically, but socially. The deed, the mortgage - they're big deals, but it feels like I'm borrowing a part of history, or stewarding it for a period, so that it remains for the future to find love and joy in it too.

And that makes it easier to work through our lack of a kitchen, the dust everywhere, the missing electrical and plumbing. We are blessed to have been approved for enough funds to redo or restore a lot of things the house really needs after so many years of neglect. We know what's in the walls, and we will know that the parts that have been repaired have been done right this time. It meant leaving some projects for later, but at this point, we're so used to delaying gratification that the anticipation itself is gratifying.

After all, leaving things until later means that there's a later. Here. In this amazing house.

2 Years Later: Straight Privilege in Wedding Season

About two years ago, I published a post about straight privilege during wedding season. A lot has happened, but a lot hasn't, so I've published an updated list for your consideration during the next few months, as weddings kick into high gear. Although same-sex couples can now be married in all 50 states, you may be surprised at the number of challenges many still face.

Same disclaimer applies: This list is compiled from a number of comments I have heard from straight people about upcoming weddings or things that I have seen at straight weddings in the past. They are NOT a reference to all straight weddings NOR are they taken from one specific straight wedding. Certainly, straight weddings are not without their difficulties, and to straight couples getting married, there are real issues. I do not mean to claim that having a straight wedding constitutes a stress-free experience. Nevertheless, LGBT couples face unique challenges that I hope will be highlighted in this list.

For most straight couples:

Finding a state-sponsored officiant such as a county clerk or judge doesn't involve finding someone who doesn't object to their relationship on moral grounds.

Finding a venue doesn't involve finding a place of worship or hall that doesn't object to their relationship on moral grounds.

Venues, caterers, bakers, clothing salespeople, etc, don't assume that a member of the couple to be married is actually a member of the bridal party.

Venues, caterers, bakers, etc don't refuse service based on a moral objection to the wedding.

Guests do not attend the wedding to see what "a straight wedding" is like or so that they can claim that they are tolerant/venturesome.

RSVPs do not include judgmental notes about the morality of the upcoming nuptials.

Parents, siblings, and close friends can be assumed to come.

The bride is allowed to at least occasionally be a "bride-zilla" to them without reflecting poorly on the entire sexual orientation community she belongs to.

If people choose not to come, the explanation is generally financial or reflects prior obligations.

If people choose not to come, the decision is rarely blamed on the couple's "choice" to belong to the LGBT community, fall in love, and commit to each other.

Parents may want to add additional people to the guest list, rather than trying to hide the ceremony.

The couple will not feel obligated to ask for permission to invite certain family members or family friends for fear of offending them or the parents with an invitation.

Once the wedding is completed, straight couples can assume the following:

They can tell people about their marriage/spouse without fear of reprisal in the form of employment or housing discrimination.

They can post pictures of their wedding without fear of reprisal in the form of employment or housing discrimination.

They can post pictures of public displays of affection without a backlash.

They will not have to be concerned about how future court decisions could affect the status of their marriage.

They will be able to adopt from most private agencies consistent with their religious beliefs if they have the funds to do so.

They will be able to adopt from the foster care system as long as they meet requirements.

Their family and friends will not pray for them to get divorced.

Their family and friends will invite both spouses to family gatherings and holidays.

Have another to add? Comment below!

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Huge News on the Beautiful Mess Front

Sometimes people let me use power tools.
I'm not sure they should (not because I'm a woman, just because I'm a huge klutz), but I like it.

Today, I put up this key rack thingy. It's theoretically to help us not lose our personal effects in an incredibly beautiful mess that currently feels enormous compared to the apartments we've lived in. We've historically kept our keys in a basket, but I like the symbolism of this. It's stable. Sturdy. Organized. Something we've never taken the time to do in our apartments - where we knew we'd be for a year or two, or most recently less than six months.

Our lease in Southgate is officially up, and we've vacated. We spent our first night in #fixerupperdetroit yesterday, which means it's officially
#owneroccupieDetroit will join #fixerupperdetroit - the former for our experiences living in the home and being residents of the D, and the latter for continued updates on the renovation itself.

So from a #fixerupperdetroit standpoint: the insulation was supposed to be done by move-in, but due to some logistical issues, we're waiting for that to be finished. Once it is and we paint, we'll have a couple bedrooms pretty much set, except for the flooring.

On the #owneroccupieDetroit - it's feeling awesome not to drive back and forth to Southgate, to be able to get little tasks done between other things, and to look around our beautiful neighborhood so often. The cats are mostly taking it in stride, though that may change when the renovation team comes back tomorrow.

That said, we don't have a kitchen, there's plaster dust everywhere, and most of our belongings are still in boxes. We have a long, tough road until final completion of our current projects, and then we'll have more projects to do in a few years - or at least I'm told that's how owning a historic home works.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Earth Day Highlight: Architectural Salvage Warehouse of Detroit

I mentioned a while back that Labra Design+Build and I took a field trip to find a radiator. What I didn't sufficiently emphasize is the awesome work the place we visited does!

Architectural Salvage Warehouse is a non-profit that saves pieces, large and small, of buildings that will be demolished, so that instead of being land-filled they can be re-purposed. Did you know that a huge amount of landfill use is from construction, not household waste? Have you considered that new construction also typically requires the mining and processing of a lot of resources? So efficiently and safely salvaging what we can out of properties before they are demolished is an important part of saving the planet.

Not only does Architectural Salvage Warehouse protect the environment by allowing construction companies and individual consumers to re-use items, the money from their purchase helps to finance training in salvage techniques for youth and adults looking to get specialized training in construction and recycling. This technical training is a needed boost for the building trades and an example of on-the-job training that's very needed to help students avoid crushing student debt! 

As if that isn't sufficient, the prices at Architectural Salvage Warehouse are significantly lower than buying new, which helps families stay on budget. We were able to find a radiator for our boiler system that was a fraction of the cost of a new one, or even a used one elsewhere. We also found a pocket door in great condition. While you may not always be able to find what you need, I recommend starting here first and then moving to other salvage options, and then finally end at a typical hardware store if necessary.

Another Earth Day consideration: If you're considering whether to build or buy a home, seriously think about whether you could buy a previously occupied home and renovate it instead of buying a new house. You don't have to go to the lengths that we have on #fixerupperdetroit ! There are many great homes that are move-in ready that could reduce landfill waste, blight, and consumption of new materials. If you decide that a new construction is the right choice for your family, you can still purchase salvaged materials to cut back on consumption and waste.