Monthly Archives: December 2014

Kindness Before Judgment: A Lesson in Charity and Prejudice in My Hometown

My parents, my sister and I all grew up in a small town in upstate NY. I graduated from the local high school and inspired in part by community service work that I did back then, I have devoted my career to social justice work. I am married now and have two wonderful, little girls. Oh, and I am gay. I came out almost 20 years ago and was pleasantly surprised how everyone I spoke with in our hometown was supportive. I have kept in touch with many friends and we have celebrated each other’s weddings and births. I was proud of Massena for going against the stereotype of small town America being a place of ignorance and narrow mindedness.

That’s why I was disappointed to hear that the local neighborhood center recently refused donations to help families in need because the funds were being raised by a group of performers who happen to be gay. The claim was that a drag show would include “sexually explicit” material, but the bottom line is discomfort with gay people.

One of the organizers stated,”We didn’t feel it was appropriate. We deal with a lot of families.”  I had to check the calendar to confirm it was 2014 with this tired, old idea of gays being the antithesis to families being trotted out.  There are more risque images in prime time commercials for beer and body spray than you will usually find at a drag show.  It is too bad that the charity staff could not put supporting the people they serve before their own biases.

More than ever, the holidays are a time we should be able to come together to help people in our community who are struggling to make ends meet and provide for their families.  It is sad to see antiquated ideas result in less funds for a group working to help those living in poverty.

After the funds were rejected, the local St. Vincent DePaul stepped up to partner with the group. If you are looking for a charity to give to and an opportunity to show support for LGBT people and families, think about making a donation: St. Vincent DePaul, c/o Amber Skyy & Friends, 128 Main St, Massena, NY, 13662.

Some have said,”It is their right to refuse donations or to not work with a group.”  That is true.  But just because we can do something does not mean we should.  During the holiday season more than ever we should put kindness before judgment and philanthropy before personal agendas!

Advertisements

Sex and the Modern Mom: Logistics, Schedules and Intimacy

Check out my latest piece on Medium looking at the challenges to and the importance of talking about and cultivating intimacy in a marriage. This piece is in part a response to critiques of Amy Poehler’s memoir, which talks candidly about the importance of making time for sex.  Some people are saying she is pressuring women, but I think it is really a conversation about the struggle to juggle parenting, life and intimacy.  This is something we should be able to talk about!

EXCERPT

We all know the stories about finding ‘the one’. There’s candy and roses. You are perfectly in sync and each night is ecstasy complete with mood music and soft lighting. You fall in love and walk down the aisle to spend your lives together. But what about after the wedding night? What does that look like…..People talk about date nights to give couples time to have real conversations. There are countless books about communication and understanding so we don’t yell if we roll the toothpaste tube the wrong way — or the right way depending on your point of view on this topic. So why can’t we admit that it takes work to cultivate and maintain your sex life?

READ the full piece HERE.

Giving Tuesday: Give Money, Give Donations, Give Back

Today is “Giving Tuesday”, the answer to the rampant consumerism of Black Friday and Cyber Monday and a call to really honor the spirit of the season and give back. There are many ways that one can give. I made donations to causes I believe in like the Maryland Food Bank and the Baltimore Abortion Fund.

It is important to provide cash to organizations so that they can direct it to where it is needed most. But what is most important is to find some way to support the groups that are working hard to help people in our communities, to teach our kids to appreciate what they have and to do what we can to make things just a bit better for those who are struggling.

In addition to providing funding, there are other ways to give back:

Book Donation: I used to travel a lot for work and ended up buying the latest NY Times bestseller to keep me busy on the plane. They are taking up space and could be put to better use. There are a lot of places that take book donations either to provide at shelters or to sell and fund local service programs. For fellow Marylanders, you can donate books to the Maryland Book Bank at the Baltimore Sun Complex (501 North Calvert Street, Baltimore, MD).

Unused Toiletries/Hotel Samples: My travels also yielded a huge number of shampoo and conditioner bottles. The Ronal McDonald House is a place where families stay when their children are in a local hospital. They accept unopened, unused hotel toiletries. Baltimore folks can drop donations 7 days a week at the local RMH anytime 9am-9pm at 635 W. Lexington Street, Baltimore, MD 21201.

Stuffed Animals: Our girls have been lucky to receive a lot of stuffed animals over the years as gifts or as a prize in a game. There are a number of favorites that our girls adore, but many that just sit there. They could provide joy to another child. There are organizations that will accept new and gently used stuffed toys to provide to kids in traumatic situations, children in conflict areas or kids in shelters.

We are donating toys from our house to Project Smile. They provide toys and books to police and fire departments to give to children involved in traumatic situations. Project Smile has recently launched the Operation Elder Care program which provides stuffed animals to elderly people who are making the difficult and frequently traumatic transition to life in a nursing home. Donations can be mailed to PO Box 336, Hopedale, MA 01747. They also accept unused coloring books and crayons. They do not accept anything battery operated.

Baby food and Baby items: As soon as our littlest was able to start mashing up food she rejected the pureed baby food we had been giving her. We still have a bunch of the packets and boxes of Mum Mums, her favorite when we first started giving her anything other than milk. Food Link provides baby food and other items that families need. They don’t require paperwork. They provide immediate help directly to families and individuals or by assisting caseworkers, clergy and community activists. They are located at 2666 Riva Road
3rd Floor MS 8302, Annapolis, MD 21401.

Toy Donations: I can’t imagine how difficult it must be for a parent to not have the means to provide a toy or gift for their children to open. While food and a roof over your head has to be the top priority, every child who celebrates Christmas should have the chance to walk up to the tree and find a box with their name on it. It is a simple way to bring joy to a child. You can donate to Toys-R-Us towards a fund to provide toys or if you have a new toy to provide, it can be dropped off as part of Toys 4 Tots in numerous locations including local Self Storage facilities.

Coats: It is getting chilly.  Too many people do not have the winter wear they need to stay warm.  There are a number of groups and charities that collect new or gently used coats this time of year.  Look through your closet and chances are there is a coat or two that you are not using that could keep someone else warm.  We are participating in a local drive by Mother’s Day Out in Oella.  You can drop off new or gently used items for adults or kids at their facility now through December 16th.

There are so many ways to give. For those of us who are able, it is important that we do what we can to make life just a little bit better for people in our communities.

The Cost of Violence and the Ray Rice Case

I posted back in September around the Ray Rice suspension on the cost of violence when it comes to the toll domestic violence takes on women and families.  I keep thinking about the fact that the court case seems to be all about contracts and what Judge Barbara Jones called the “abuse of discretion” instead of the abuse of Janay Palmer and whether or not the NFL should have the ability to suspend a contract based on immoral and criminal acts.  It seems to me like just another example of the devaluing and disrespecting of women’s lives.

The Cost of Violence

As a Ravens fan, a woman and a parent to two daughters, I have been following the beating of Janay Palmer and the response.  I can’t help but notice that in the end Ray Rice’s firing was more about public relations than it was about justice.  And the conversation surrounding this saga made it clear that the life and dignity of Janay was on too few people’s list of things to consider.

I saw the usual victim blaming of people asking how she could marry him.  I was pleased to see a powerful and haunting response on Twitter with #whyistayed and #whyileft schooling folks about domestic violence.  But the other thing that really stood out for me was a calculation that seemed to be happening – one that left women falling short.

As the horrific video came to light yesterday more and more people called for accountability and punishment beyond a pathetic two game suspension.  There was discussion about whether the Ravens could afford the salary loss and what was enough punishment.

Right, so the message here is that women should be willing to forget so the Ravens can improve their current record. I realize that football is a business, but it is bad business to tell women – who make up 50% of sports attendance – that our safety is not as important as winning games.  I guess having more choices in fan apparel than just pink and sparkly was supposed to be enough.

How are women supposed to feel when our safety and respect for our lives is calculated in dollars and cents and often deemed to not be worth the cost?

We can feign surprise at what happened here in Baltimore or we can open our eyes and see it as part of a pervasive problem with violence – in professional sports and beyond.  If we don’t take the opportunity to talk about what real change looks like – social, policy and cultural change – it will continue to cost many women and their families their health, their safety and for far too many their lives.

So if we want to talk cost – let’s talk about the cost to the life of each woman who survives violence and then has to figure out how to move forward in a society where justice is scarce and judgment is plentiful.