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

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Confessions: November 2016 Has Me at a Loss for Words

National Blog Post Month really didn't go well this year. In fact, it went better last year, despite our mold infestation and trying to close on a house owned by an incompetent, negligent, business un-savvy real estate speculator.

I haven't posted in about two weeks. I could try to blame hosting Thanksgiving and Sunday open dinner, but that's not the reason.

I could try to blame doing home repairs.

I could try to blame a stressful work schedule, or having to box up our antique booth, or any number of other things.

Most of you are compassionate. Most of you would give me a pass.

But I don't feel like I deserve a pass.

The truth is that I haven't been writing because I feel guilty and powerless after the results of the election.

I feel guilty that I didn't post about my concerns about a Trump administration. No, I don't have thousands of readers. No, this blog isn't a huge platform. But I do have readers. People here and there consider my perspectives.

And I didn't write because I thought that people already knew how dangerous a Trump presidency could be. I thought that my years of reading about Latin American dictatorships, of trying to understand what conditions cause revolution and political instability wouldn't matter, that people would write it off even if I explained it well, and I questioned if I could explain it well enough for people to see the parallels between Pinochet or Trujillo or the Perones or Bucaram and Trump. I didn't think he could win. I didn't want to rock the boat. I didn't want to sift through the comments on social media and moderate and defend. I didn't want to find out that more than zero of my associates support a bigoted, inept businessman for the head of state of a world power.

And if I continue in the vein of confessions, I haven't been writing because I've used up the energy it would take to write in calling representatives. I hate using the phone, but it's the best way to make elected officials listen. So it takes a lot for me to get up the gumption to do it. I haven't as much as I should. I see people who call every day, or more than once a day, and I'm in awe that they can. I'm in awe at how many voicemails they leave, that they  have a script, that they re-dial if the line is busy. It gives me hope to see their activism. But I also feel guilty that I don't match that level of advocacy.

I also feel guilty because I have so much privilege now that I might not be significantly impacted by many of the policies I anticipate being harmful. (Unless my wife or I are assaulted in a hate crime, which, you know, is now much more likely. So there's that.) We have so much privilege that we recently ordered a brand new couch for the family room at #fixerupperdetroit (our first brand new couch EVER - hooray for adulting). We don't really budget for grocery store purchases much anymore. We joke about "throwing money at problems," but we actually do, and it's great. It's so much easier than the "creative accounting" and "shrewd budgeting" and coupon clipping and waiting for sales and doing without and such that we used to do, and Rebecca's growing salary makes it okay. We're already married, and even if Obergefell v. Hodges and Windsor v. US are overturned, my marriage certificate will likely continue to be valid and recognized. We already bought a house at a reasonable interest rate, and Rebecca's salary will cover the mortgage even if we're underwater. We have the money to pay attorneys. We're White. We're Christian.

I feel guilty because we have a lot of privilege and because I've shirked what I perceive to be my responsibilities as an informed citizen.

But I also confess that despite my privilege, I feel powerless.

You see, I voted in the primaries. Carefully. Using research. Like, down to voting for former public defenders as judges instead of former prosecutors as judges because public defenders who become judges are more likely to support sentences that rehabilitate and restore.

I voted in the presidential election. Carefully. Using research. Like, down to comparing credentials for sixty-three Detroit Community School District school board representatives.

I voted, and I'm still terrified.

And now the research I'm doing is whether there's a such thing as personal political upheaval insurance. I'm trying to figure out if there's a financial advising firm that specializes in predicting the effects of political instability. I'm trying to figure out if we should try to pay of Rebecca's student loans faster or the mortgage faster if we need to mobilize or need cash on hand to pay bail for friends who are political activists. I'm trying to maximize the number of people who can stay in our house (or hide in our house) if the proposed Muslim registry happens and then turns into something more dangerous. I'm asking my wife to increase her disability insurance coverage so that we don't lose the house if she is incapacitated in a hate crime. I'm asking my family lawyer if we need to update any documents in case we end up hospitalized at a religious hospital that doesn't recognize our marriage and there's some form of "religious freedom" act passed that permits them to disregard my marriage certificate (yes, a bill like this already exists, and yes, Trump has said he would sign it).

Will all of these things happen? No, probably not. Do I know which ones will and won't? Of course not. No one really does. The outcome of this election was a surprise even to those who are far more educated on the subject than I am.

I've survived this far from a blend of privilege and preparing for the worst possible outcome I can imagine. I was lulled into  a sense of security when the economy was on an upswing and we'd mostly finished the major renovation and it looks like 80 hour weeks aren't going to kill my wife. I thought there wouldn't likely be another housing crash like the one in 2008. I thought it would get easier to be an out lesbian in a conservative state.

And I must confess: I'm at a loss. I don't know how to prepare for this many possible bad outcomes. Even with this amount of privilege.

So I haven't been writing. Maybe December will be better.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

An SAT Teacher Talks Immigration

Yesterday at a local low-income public high school where I teach SAT prep, we were discussing college class structure when a student asked me, "What's the point in preparing for college applications if Trump kicks my family out of the country?"

I asked him if he had been born here or gone through the citizenship process. He said that they became citizens a long time ago.

I told him that if he is a citizen, no one can make him leave.

That's currently true.

When I posted a condensed version of this story on facebook, one person commented that if he's a naturalized citizen, he has "nothing to fear!!!!" (emphasis added, exclamation marks original).

It isn't his job as a child to know the intricacies of immigration law, nor is it unreasonable that my student took the president-elect of an industrialized country at his word.

I'm not sure what religion this student's family follows, but he may well be Muslim. I told him that he can't be deported, but given other recent events, here are possible concerns:

It remains to be seen whether religious minorities will be forced to register or undergo extra surveillance. 

So there is much to fear for his family (just as there is for mine even though it isn't possible for my marriage to be invalidated), even though he cannot be deported. 

I have felt often lately that there isn't much I can do, but in his case, that isn't true. I can teach him to get a strong SAT score and give him the resources to get into a good university with scholarships. I can help to provide him a pathway to the education and financial stability to support his family no matter where he ends up.

I cannot pretend that going forward, life will be business as usual or that this presidency will be normal. It isn't in my job description to advise students whether they will be deported between taking the SAT and finishing a bachelor's degree*. It isn't normal. Citizens should be able to set a five year plan without considering political volatility. 

 This isn't the last I have to say about the uncertainties this election and presidency create for the youth. In fact, this is a tiny excerpt from one day full of statements that I made that are currently true that may not be true down the line that I'd like to examine. 

I will end with a quote from Autocracy: Rules for Survival

"Believe the autocrat. He means what he says. Whenever you find yourself thinking, or hear others claiming, that he is exaggerating, that is our innate tendency to reach for a rationalization. This will happen often: humans seem to have evolved to practice denial when confronted publicly with the unacceptable." ~Masha Gessen

*My comment to the student and comments in this post in general should not be construed as legal advice. I am not qualified to provide that. This blog provides observations and commentary only.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

#fixerupperdetroit: Moderately Sad News

I have some moderately sad news. First world problems news. But news that nevertheless makes my heart feel a little empty.

Some of you who have been to #fixerupperdetroit know that one of the remaining larger projects is to rehab the staircase between the ground floor and second floor.

Right now it looks like this:

I hope it's understandable why we want to get this fixed. There are still carpet staples left in some of the steps (although we were hugely blessed to have friends who came and did the grueling work of removing most of them). A lot of the steps are a bit cracked, and the stairs groan loudly under the weight of each person who climbs them. 

We had made a giant step forward. My father-in-law bought a set of antique spindles and a gorgeous post that were exactly the right architectural fit for our house. They would have looked as though they had always been in our house. It would have been an amazing statement piece that visitors saw shortly after entering, and that guided us safely up to bed each night.

He went to pick them up from the warehouse.

They had been stolen.

Who steals architectural pieces? I'm not sure. I've heard that this isn't the only time it's happened. My father-in-law bought the pieces for much less than their usual value (I'm not sure how my in-laws manage to find so many good deals, but it has definitely benefited us over the last few years). Still, that doesn't explain how they disappeared before he got there.

I don't know if we'll find another set this perfect. We almost assuredly won't for the price of this set (my father-in-law did get a refund from the warehouse, at least). 

It's not the end of the world. Compared to the news from the last week, it seems minor. But it was something we were really looking forward to.

If you see a salvaged staircase rail, let me know.

Monday, November 14, 2016

#fixerupperdetroit Presents: Table for 12+ (You're Invited)

We had our first Sunday potluck dinner at the house yesterday. About twelve people showed up - not too shabby for an event we threw together two days prior.  Guests came from so many backgrounds. So did the food (somehow all of it ended up being vegetarian, but the spread was lovely).

Our table was full.

My heart was too, for the first time since I heard the election results.

This is why we bought our house. To bring people together so that they can talk about what's on their minds, in their hearts, what's up in the news. We talked about assisted living, the Detroit land bank, cage-free eggs, cooking, gay adoption, and so much more. My kitten got lots of pets. I got lots of hugs.

We're doing it again this coming Sunday, and every Sunday that we're home. We're hoping it becomes a tradition and safe haven for those whose hearts are heavy.

You're invited, this Sunday, November 20th and the following Sunday, November 27th*. Bring a dish if you can. Message me for details.

*On Sunday, November 27th, we hope to put together Care Kits for those in need (I've also heard them called Blessing Bags - they contain hand warmers, snacks, and other basic supplies for those who could use some help). We'll need people to bring supplies, and then we'll assemble them after the potluck dinner. Keep an eye out for a sign-up list.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Confessions and an Invitation

When I woke up today, the first thing Rebecca told me was that Trump had won and the Republicans had taken Congress.

And I looked at her, and I said, "Trump has promised to pass FADA [the First Amendment Defense Act - essentially a nationwide RFRA like Indiana's], and he has the Congress to actually do it."

Make no mistake. This isn't an attempt to protect the first amendment. We already have the first amendment. There's no need to pile on or protect. The very language of FADA excludes my family. Mine. Rebecca and me. As in, it does nothing to protect us or our religion or our free speech.

And now I'm sitting in my living room under a blanket writing this. I'm staring at my dining room table where, just a couple days ago, people from multiple religions, races, socioeconomic statuses, and ages sat drinking cider and eating doughnuts. I wish more people had the chance to sit with such diverse groups (and took it).

I am scared. I am grief-stricken.

But I will keep looking at my dining room table that can comfortably seat 12 (and more if they like each other). I will keep my commitment to filling its seats, covering it in homemade dishes, and bringing people together in a safe space. We've dreamed of hosting a Sunday dinner, every week, for anyone who would come and abide in acceptance and love.

I will start this Sunday. I hadn't planned to do it so soon, but we need it now. Please message me if you're interested in participating in a potluck to share the love and share the food.

When I have more than I need, I commit to building a longer table, not a higher fence.

Monday, November 7, 2016

House Update: The Day After

The housewarming was yesterday. I've missed two #NaBloPoMo days already. I'm okay with that. I've gotten so much else done!

Our ground floor is essentially finished, except for the entry (which needs the walls re-textured and the trim repaired before painting) and the stairs (which are, to be honest, a hot mess that will require professional help).

Most of our dishes are unpacked, or at least located, even the fancy serving pieces that we only use at holidays. I also currently know where most of our Christmas decorations are, which is good, because the holidays are sneaking up on me.

And we had great turnout yesterday, between Rebecca's work friends, people from two different churches we've attended, school friends, family, and lots and lots of neighbors (I flyered our entire block). People were so encouraging - especially the neighbors who have undertaken large renovation projects themselves. (They were even understanding of the hot mess staircase. They said inviting them to the housewarming was a very neighborly thing to do.)

We've decided to host Thanksgiving. And the Henry Ford family medicine residency Christmas party. (And buy a six foot bench for our dining room.) And have board game nights and crafting nights and cookie days. We're down to less than a year left of Rebecca's residency and fewer late evenings of work for me.

If you didn't make it out to the housewarming, you'll have plenty of chances to see us (and the house) soon.

If the neighbors are any indication, we'll be in Greenacres for another twenty years.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Housewarming Eve Post: Detroit Sense

It's the eve of the #fixerupperdetroit housewarming, and I'm just sitting down to write my #nablopomo post. I spent the day scrubbing dishes and washing floors, so instead of something lengthy, I'm going to share a brief exchange Rebecca and I had in reference to our Dutch Girl doughnut order:

Me: It was confusing at first, so I asked questions until it made sense.
Rebecca: Did it ever make sense?
Me: It made Detroit sense.
Rebecca: So no.
Me: Well, I mean, Detroit just works differently.

And I love it, readers. I love coming home through a tunnel of vibrant fall color, waving to neighbors, the shops that are their own Institution at this point.

I hope some of you come tomorrow and see what I see. You can have a doughnut either way.