Bucket list item achieved! In early May, this piece appeared on the wonderful and inspiring Cognoscenti website. Here's how it opens. Click on the link at the end to continue reading.
A few months ago I cut back the rose bush we planted two years ago. It was bleak midwinter and the spiky branches were dark brown and menacing, twisting high against the porch uprights where I’d wired them in place, hoping to create an arbor of red once summer comes. But prospective buyers wouldn’t understand the potential beauty of the prickly beast reaching toward the front door, and we won’t be here to see summer. We are moving from New England to Missouri, where our four grandchildren live. Life can be hard and grandmothers can help, so we are...
When my wife Diane turned 50 in 2012, we celebrated by going to a baseball park. In the eyes of the world it would have been a historic game. The park was Fenway. The teams were the Red Sox and the Yankees. The game would have been their first match in Fenway’s 100th year.
I’ve never been a sports fan, so normally this wouldn’t mean much to me. But there I was, living in Massachusetts where the Sox logo shows up on everything from license plates to ice cream boxes. A place where the Sox are not a team so much as they are a...
My last HuffPost piece, Refrocked and Ready: Franklyn Schaefer, LGBTQ Faith Hero, provoked debate on a Facebook Christian Blogger group, which isn’t much of a surprise. A goodly number of Christians refuse to include the handful of scriptures which mention same sex behaviors in the huge batch of Bible verses they discard when making decisions about their own affairs. Some of the debaters were respectful, others disparaging and nasty, proclaiming that my marriage is an abomination, that my soul has been twisted by Satan, and that I use Christ as a puppet.
I love a good debate, particularly on issues related to theology and sexuality. It’s been a passion for some years. But people rarely want to...
In 2013 Methodist Pastor Frank Schaeffer was removed from ministry for performing his gay son’s wedding six years prior. His book Defrocked was published in 2014. The story is also told in the film An Act of Love, which began screening this month. Frank’s story has particular significance for me as my wife and I celebrated our first anniversary in October. Without ministers who dare to make a difference as he did, Rumplepimple‘s two moms couldn’t be married....
A while back I was called “a special kind of stupid” for sharing the screenshot above in response to a conservative evangelical Christian’s post about the Caitlyn Jenner hype.
In the same thread, another person said I was preaching “the Gospel according to Suzanne” because I suggested that when the Bible doesn’t speak of an issue (in this case, transgender individuals), we must always approach it with love.
Over the same time frame, my children’s picture book, Rumplepimple was launched. This tore open the wound that my relationship with my wife Diane has created with her beloved sister. Rumplepimple is a dog who’s family structure mirrors ours; he has a sister cat and two moms. Diane’s heart has been sick over...
Yesterday I witnessed a five minute diatribe about why ‘Merica needs Donald Trump as president, from a soft-spoken elderly southern gent. I tried to listen with as open a mind as possible, but that didn’t last long.
The poor dude was essentially in mourning, saying that Trump can’t win the election because women (“wimmin”) control the vote. According to him, the only thing wimmin are concerned about is...
Meet Juno the Facebook sensation, and her inspiring mom Deborah Young. The duo’s online and real-world work supports Kane’s Krusade, Pet Rock Festival, the Cold Noses Foundation, Sweetpea Animal Shelter, Massachusetts Vest-A-Dog, Paws for a Cause, ending Breed-Specific Legislation (BSL) and many other causes.
Tell us about Juno and the work you do together.
As far as Juno knows, she’s a little person, not a dog. During a visit to grandma in the hospital, I quickly realized that...
I live in Massachusetts, and I sometimes wonder what it is about the region that makes it such a fertile place for writers. The first year I lived here I went to dinner in my small town and was seated next to Andre Dubus III for crying out loud. I’ve been blessed to become friends with a number of local authors, such as the generous and wickedly funny Holly Robinson. Being a dog lover herself, she sweetly agreed to write a blurb for Rumplepimple‘s back cover. Holly’s latest book came out October 6, and she was kind enough to take a few minutes to talk with me about it.
Given all the Kim Davis hoopla, I’ve been thinking about the phrase “traditional marriage,” and wondering how the concept of “traditional” is being applied. Normally the term is related to time and frequency of a practice. If something has been around a long time and repeated over and over again, it becomes a tradition.
And so I decided to look at the Christian “one man, one woman” argument, commonly known as “traditional marriage,” from this perspective. And oops! I immediately found that...
Sarah Bennett, Waffle’s mom, has grown used to the dog’s preternatural skill at finding abandoned balls, but last year a friend had a great idea. Fellow terrier mom Sally Grist suggested asking Waffle fans to donate £1 to Terrier SOS for every ball Waffle found in a single week. The contest resulted in an amazing worldwide response and the duo (plus canine companions) raised £4,575. This year Grist and Bennett put their heads together to come up with another way to help abused, abandoned, or neglected terriers, and Waffle and Barley’s Sponsored Treshur Hunt was born.
For several years, I’ve been collecting materials for a book which offers a Biblical defense of same sex relationships. As part of that process, my wife and I have met many interesting people, including Kathy Baldock, founder of Canyonwalker Connections and author of Walking the Bridgeless Canyon: Repairing the Breach between the Church and the LGBT Community.
We connected with Kathy recently in hope that she would review my children’s illustrated story book Rumplepimple, because it features two moms. I listened to Kathy on a radio interview, and found myself mesmerized by...
My wife and I have been thinking a lot about gender lately.
An article my daughter posted pointed out the layers of complexity of the issue which Caitlyn Jenner brought to America’s door step. Women have been working for generations to not be labeled as simply soft, vulnerable, lipstick-slathered corset wearers. For over a century we’ve been trying to get society to accept that having the equipment necessary to grow babies doesn’t mean women should be prevented from voting, or get paid less, or be kept out of scientific circles because of our emotional mushiness and our distracting sexiness.
Meanwhile, here comes Caitlyn, posing in undergarments and talking about...
Writers write to be read, and hearing about people who enjoy their work makes all the days of questioning and doubt absolutely worth it.
Most of us don't get to see a warthog listening to a reading. But I'm special.
We've been following the antics of Wallace the Warthog, Toby the Wire Fox Terrier, and their animal friends on Facebook for a few months, and today this post showed up. (You can follow them too by clicking here.)
Advent is the season of Mary, when we wait with her as the child forming in her womb readies for his unveiling. And each year a number of questions come up, such as: Is Mary the mother of God? Is she without sin?
These are enigmas shrouded in mystery, and lead to confusion on multiple fronts.
There is the chicken and egg problem: how could someone be the mother of the person who created her? There is the time and space problem: how could the infinite be “born” of the finite? There are multiple theological problems: how could the holiness of God be present within the confines of a sinful nature? How could a mere human presume to claim such an important role over God Himself? Excerpted from the Huffington Post. Click here to read more.
Over the past spring and summer, Charlie made friends with a tribe of neighborhood youngsters.
I gave the eldest girl a copy of Rumplepimple a month or so ago when she and a friend came by on their bikes and stopped in the yard to say hello and receive his enthusiastic kisses. When I saw her a few weeks later and asked
if she liked it, she beamed and nodded, and the friend accompanying
her announced "She read it SEVEN times!"
Yesterday Charlie and I went for a walk. Three neighborhood kids ran toward us as they often do when we near their corner. The crew included two second graders and the fourth grader who'd received the book. When the trio arrived at where we stood waiting, bending down to greet the jiggling and jumping Rumplepimple, the younger girl piped up "I want a copy of Rumplepimple!". Not to be left out, the young lad cried "Me too!"
Charlie went through his usual wiggle, wag, jump, and kiss routine. The kids described the movie they were planning to make, featuring Halloween costumes and zombies. They detailed their plans while petting Charlie, and asking me questions.
"Did he really pee on that kid's shoe?"
"Did he really take that blanket?"
As we talked about the book, the fourth grader said "Oh, yeah, and my teacher loved it!" She continued on to say that he'd read it to the class.
That was a first for me. To have a child be so excited about a book I wrote that she wanted to take it to school was exciting enough. But to have a teacher read it to a group of kids?
I was profoundly moved by a young man I met on Facebook a few weeks ago. He'd posted in a group of LGBT people of varying faiths, pouring out his sorrow about what he witnessed at the Jerusalem Pride parade.
Here's my post about him and about the same violence that simmers here in the United States:
Writing Rumplepimple has connected us to amazing people that we'd otherwise never had the honor and pleasure to meet. The amazing Gizmo is just one example. (OK, so he's not a person. But you get the idea.)
Rumor has it that Rumplepimple and Gizmo may have a chance to meet snout to butt soon. Can't wait.
The interview below recently appeared on HuffPost's Good News page. It's hard to believe how much this human/dog duo is accomplishing.
Meet Gizmo, a 3.5-pound wonderdoglet on a mission to change the world one doggy hug at a time. I connected with Jen Adams (Gizmo's human) while getting the word out about my picture book Rumplepimple. We appeared on the same episode of The Pet Radio Show, and as I learned more, I began to wonder how such a wee creature could make such a huge difference.
Truthfully, I am shocked at the size and diversity of Gizmo's following. They come from all walks of life, from all over the world, and they are all there to share a sense of kindness and good will. Maybe people first respond to the same thing I did: his lil' face and his excellent ears. I think when they learn what he's about and see his message, they want to be a part of making a positive difference. You two do amazing work in all sorts of venues. Tell us how you got started.
Before Gizmo found me, I lost the love of my life suddenly. Gizmo, with his gentle, loving nature, facilitated a real transformation for me. I went from a grieving, lost soul who was full of self-pity to having this amazing little creature whom I knew could change lives other than my own. Gizmo forced me to step outside of myself and help others, and, in so doing, he channeled healing in me.
During the very early stages of our journey, Gizmo exhibited a keen sense of people's emotions. He would seek out people who were having a tough time, and climb into their laps or lie beside them, as if to say, "Listen. I see you are hurting, and I will help you, ok? Cuz we're frens."
That being said, I just... began! Wherever there were folks who needed help in our community or people who were doing kind things, I showed up with the Giz. When people would say, "Who's that dog?" I would just say, "Oh wow, you don't know Gizmo? He's here to help!" In acting like he was a public figure, and believing that he was, so he became!
Gizmo became a certified therapy dog with Paws for Friendship, Inc. when he was two years old. We started doing visits at an assisted living facility, and it just grew from there. Today we visit hospitals, schools, veterans, nursing homes, juvenile facilities, group homes, mentoring programs, and more. We even traveled to Wisconsin when a mentoring program for teen girls asked if Gizmo could come help them deliver Christmas cookies to veterans. I figured, "Why not?" So away we went!
Gizmo also visits Hartford Public Library and its branch libraries as a Paws to Read certified reading assistance dog. Being a special education teacher, I wanted to help kids gain confidence in reading.
In observing Gizmo's interactions with people in need at the facilities where we visit, I realized that, in addition to animal assisted therapy, crisis counseling is another passion I never knew I had! So last September I started my Master's in Human Service/Counseling - Crisis Response and Trauma. Gizmo became the first known Community Emergency Response Team therapy dog in Connecticut. He went through the training with me, and is now available to visit storm shelters, sit with families during search and rescue situations, etc. when CERT is activated. Most recently, Gizmo passed his field evaluation for an amazing group called K9 First Responders (K9FR), a Critical Incident Mental Health Support organization. K9FR Teams bridge the gap between a traumatic event and the connection to mental health services. The goal is to jump-start the process of restoring a person's emotional and cognitive equilibrium through the animal/human bond. Gizmo visited the state house in June! Tell us a bit about how that happened.
I donated a therapy visit with Gizmo to a charity auction. The woman who won the visit is a staffer for a legislator. She asked if Gizmo could come visit the House of Reps and Senate. We were humbled to oblige, and we were welcomed so warmly by all the Reps and Senators! As the universe would have it, our visit occurred on the day before Senate was slated to vote on a bill that had just passed through the House of Reps that would make therapy dogs more accessible to children in crisis in Connecticut. The following day the Senate voted unanimously to make the bill a law!
Why are you so committed to making a difference?
I decided life is a choice. We can live in misery and bitterness over crappy stuff, or we can focus on creating happy stuff. Throughout this journey, I have discovered an amazing relationship with God (or a Higher Power, the Universe, whatever anyone chooses to call it) - not so much in a religious sense, but in a spiritual sense. I believe it's what He wants for all of us... to help and support each other however we can, and to love. Truly, what other reason is there for being here?
The inspiration is simply what he has taught me through his encounters with people in need, including myself. All of his posts about forgiveness, hope, faith, love, kindness, living each day to the fullest, etc. came from his heart and transformed my life, and hopefully maybe the lives of others.
Do you think Gizmo knows he is a hero and a celebrity? He looks pretty humble.
Gizmo once sought out a random woman. He sat at her feet and looked up at her. She introduced herself as an animal communicator! She said Gizmo told her he knows he is important, but he does not know why. I think I will keep it that way.
If you aren't familiar with it, Mr. Mom, AKA Lyndsey Darcangelo, offers insights into parenting with heart, depth, and intelligence. Lyndsey is a freelance writer who is in the midst of finishing up a YA novel. You can read more about her work at her website:
Yesterday's post about Planned Parenthood's brokering of fetal body parts provoked several young women who are close to my daughter. One of them suggested that if I had not aborted, my living children might never have existed. The other said that even if they had existed, the entire world would have shifted based on that decision, and that neither I nor the two youngest of my children would be who we all are now.
I conceded their points. Unfortunately, they didn't understand mine, which means that I didn't do a good job of explaining it. Let me try again, here.
I'm not sorrowing after some mythical four-child family that could have been, with perhaps an older version of each sex rounding things out and cancelling my feelings of guilt. I've not imagineered that vision for many reasons.
What I am saying is that when my youngest child began to turn into a person, morphing from generic infant to baby, to inquisitive, focused toddler, I compared these two children that I adored. As the years passed their differences were amplified, two tines from a single handle arcing away and twisting into curves and arabesques and clever twinings I could never have imagined. Their difference was fascinating. Compelling. Absorbing.
Same family. Same genes. Same nature. Same nurture. Extraordinary difference.
And as I pondered this glorious differentiation, I marveled. Their magnificent particularly had nothing to do with me other than my "Yes". Every bit of who they were was due to the sheer beautiful whimsy of creation itself. A chance coalescing of ingredients into being.
And so I began to mourn. Not for some "Leave it to Beaver" 1950s version of family. I knew what my marriage was like. I recognized the brokenness that I brought into it and my flaws as a mother. I never mourned not having four children.
I mourned for the world, that two creations as amazingly unique and brilliantly colored and exquisitely, particularly, detailed had been stamped out of existence due to my "No."
Hear me now: I don't judge the women who feel like they have no other choice than to abort. I understand that feeling, all too well. I felt the panic, the despair, and the pressure.
I worked hard to believe that what was being removed from me was just a bit of tissue. A few renegade cells, not that much different from cancer in their ability to disrupt a life. So I don't judge those despairing, cornered girls.
Quite the opposite. My heart cries for them, and worries. My heart aches for my daughter's dear friend, so quick to say that she would hurry to a doctor to have an unwanted being scraped from her body, because I've seen pictures of her sisters. I've seen how much they look alike, but I can't know from mere photos the myriad ways that they both resemble each other and are unique.
I can only reflect on the stunning particularity of my own two living children, and catch my breath in awe and wonder. And I will always mourn not permitting those other two the chance to develop into their own intensely unique and beautiful selfdom.
For the past few weeks I've been debating whether to post about Planned Parenthood's trafficking of baby body parts. Calling it "fetal material" might make you feel better, but watch the video below, which shows eyeballs being pushed around in a dish with a PP technician asking about their market potential, and see if you can maintain your intellectual distance.
(If you have the stomach to watch more videos from the undercover investigation, go here.)
I know about abortion first hand. It's something I'll regret until my death and maybe even afterword. Because of that knowledge, I spent a few years with an organization called the Women's Health Collaborative which focused on collecting and distributing information about the seldom discussed risks and side effects of abortion, and the darker side of the abortion industry.
It is, in fact, an industry, making oodles of money in multiple ways, one of which is selling body parts.
In theory and by the letter of the law, compensation is supposed to be purely expense-based for organs and tissue. But this video and others that were filmed as part of this investigation show that what's being discussed is a profit center. It's not unlike the compensation offered for egg donation, with companies aggressively pursuing female college students who are prime candidates both egg-wise and financial-need wise. Do a Google search for "donate eggs" and you'll see what I mean. Young women are offered up to $10,000 for a single harvest. The term "payment" will never be used, because that would be illegal. Officially, girls are "donating" and being "compensated" for that donation.
But potential babies aren't the only profitable market. Dead babies are also money makers. As the videos show, abortion clinics can expect $200 for a single viable organ. With proper training, and perhaps modified procedures, abortionists can get bodies out more fully intact, so that the brain, heart, thymus, kidneys, and yes even the eyeballs can all be sold to companies like this one:
StemExpress' home page describes it as a multi-million dollar company which provides fetal and adult tissue and promises privacy for both its donors and its customers.
As the Planned Parenthood official discusses in one of the videos, payment would need to be based on a per specimen model. Illustrations would need to be provided so that they would know how much they were going to make on each mutilated child, and could focus on maximizing profits.
The actor in the video points out that in the case of eyeballs, customers are looking for those that are more fully developed. And of course larger organs should earn more than smaller, younger ones. So is it any wonder that there has been such a fight against restrictions of later term abortions by the National Abortion Federation and related organizations? Doesn't the diggety dang government realize the profit potential they're impacting?
These appalling videos aren't getting much air time in the mainstream news, but that doesn't mean that Planned Parenthood isn't already lining up their apologetics. They've already used the "It's only compensation for our costs" falsehood. So what will they come up with next?
The only thing I can think of is the argument used for justifying embryonic cell research: "As long as these lives are being lost, why not give them some value"?
But of course they can't use that argument, because it would mean admitting that these tiny, war-torn* bodies, are in fact lives.
*"War-torn" is the phrase used by the Planned Parenthood doctor who probed around at a dish full of body parts.
Patricia Sarles, MA, MLS has put together an extraordinary resource; a virtual library catalog of books for children related to various LGBTQ issues. When I discovered that my book, Rumplepimple, had been included in the list I was first thrilled, and then intrigued. I decided to ask her a few questions about how the whole thing came about. Here are her responses. I think you'll find her story fascinating.
How did you get started with this effort?
I am a librarian and I became interested in children's books on the topic of assisted reproductive technology when a social worker colleague, who is a fertility counselor, asked me if I could find her any books on this topic. I thought this would be very easy because of my training in how to find information on basically any subject. My colleague, Patricia Mendell, already had a small library of children's books on this topic so I started with those by searching for those titles in the Library of Congress catalog and discovered that very few, maybe two or three of her titles, were available in their catalog. In addition to that, they had very strange subject headings, like "infertility -- juvenile literature" or "test tube babies -- juvenile literature" and those subject headings were inaccurate because that's not what the books were about. They were about children conceived via assisted reproductive technologies and about donor offspring. It became apparent to me then that these books would not be easy to find after all. It was also obvious that there were no appropriate subject headings for books on these topics.
This intrigued me tremendously because I was now on a mission to find books on a topic that had no adequate subject headings. This meant they would be nearly impossible to find. But I still wanted to find them. I also knew that there were mothers and fathers out there who needed children's books like these in order to share with their children how they came into the world. There was a need for these books but no means for a librarian to find these books should a patron walk into a library and ask a librarian to help them find these types of books. That's when I started my blog.
How long ago did this take place?
My search for these books began in 2003 when I first met Patricia Mendell but I did not start my blog until the spring of 2009. I started with Patricia's small collection and then added to it as I unearthed (and by unearthed I mean I crawled under rocks to find them) more books on the topic. What started as a collection of about 15 books in English in 2003 has now turned into a collection of about 240 books in twelve languages so far in 2015! So how did I find these books that were not part of the Library of Congress collection and/or had no appropriate subject headings? I began scouring self-publishing catalogs, and began scouring the Web doing Google searches.
I've also learned terms in multiple languages, like Spanish, French, Italian, etc. and do regular searches in those languages as well. And now that my blog has been out there for a while, people who write these books also write to me to tell me about their books and I have discovered several this way as well. Since I have searched for these books in English and in so many other languages, I am safe to say that I am the only person in the world who maintains a collection of these books and since I share these books with Patricia Mendell, together we have the largest private library on these titles in the world. It is my hope one day to donate these books to a university or medical library, catalog them, and add them to WorldCat so that these books are findable for librarians around the world. It is also my hope to get the Library of Congress to create adequate and appropriate Library of Congress subject headings for these books so that they are appropriately cataloged.
You obviously find the LOC subjects lacking. What have you done to try to bring about improvements?
In 2009, Patricia Mendell and I started writing an article on these children's books which in 2010 was published in the journal, Children & Libraries. In it, we talked about the inadequacy of Library of Congress subject headings and the difficulty we had in finding these books. This article was picked up by Sandy Berman, a Library of Congress gadfly who has spent an entire career petitioning the Library of Congress for subject headings on a variety of topics for which there were none. He sent my article to the Library of Congress and petitioned them for a subject heading for "Donor offspring." I too had written to them asking them for new and more accurate subject headings for children's books on assisted reproductive technology but they wrote me back that they found their subject headings adequate. But in 2012, the Library of Congress added the new subject heading, "Children of sperm donors." This was a major accomplishment, which I felt I could take credit for since this was one of the subject headings I suggested they create. It is still not appropriate though because it implies that the books are about the children of people who donated their sperm and not about the resulting offspring of sperm donors. We subsequently published an article about this as well. It is my hope to write and publish more articles on this topic so that the Library of Congress can see that more appropriate terms are needed for donor offspring and other topics related to assisted reproductive technology.
So your work initially focused on assisted reproductive technology, but it branched out to include LGBT issues?
In the fall of 2009, I started my Gay-Themed Picture Books for Kids blog, when again, my social worker colleague asked me for a list of children's books for her gay clients who used third party reproduction to build their families. Third party reproduction would include the use of sperm donation for lesbian couples and egg donation, surrogacy, and IVF for gay couples. An organization she is involved with, the non-profit Path2Parenthood, formally the American Fertility Association, and an inclusive organization which helps couples, both gay and straight, build their families through third party reproduction, was looking to build a booklist for their gay clients on this topic. I wanted to help, again because I am a librarian and I just love to research things, and so I began my gay-themed picture books blog. There I set out to collect a list of gay-themed picture books for children. I started with the lists already in existence, the COLAGE list, the American Library Association GLBT Round Table list, and there are others, and I began to build my own list. In the case of Library of Congress subject headings, gay-themed books are so much easier to find. For example, the subject headings make much more sense:
Children of gay parents
As with my Books for Donor Offspring blog, I search for gay-themed books in multiple languages and I believe I have created the most comprehensive list on the Web. I have found over 500 gay-themed picture books in thirteen languages.
Tells about your work as a librarian. How long have you been at it? Where do you work? Do you specialize in books for children?
I've been a librarian since 1990 and graduated from library school in 1991 so have been at this for 25 years. I do not specialize in children's literature at all! Even though I am currently a school librarian for grades 6-12 serving three small schools in Staten Island, New York, school librarianship is not what my training was in. I am a former medical and college librarian and that's the type of librarianship I was trained in and it is the type of librarianship I hope to get back into when I retire as I would like to popularize these books to make them more accessible to librarians around the world and I cannot do that in my current position. Ironically, I have no particular interest in children's literature, have no coursework or training in children's literature, but got into this subject because I was intrigued by finding things that were impossible to find. And in this case, it just happened to be children's books on assisted reproductive technology that I stumbled upon. Outside of this topic, I have no other interest in children's books.
Your websites list your email address as "Tovahsmom". Do you mind telling us who Tovah is?
In 2003, my partner of 23 years and I went through the process of artificial insemination in order to build our family. This is how we came to visit a fertility counselor and how we met Patricia Mendell. Unfortunately, our attempt did not take and we did not become pregnant so we never had children. Tovah however is the name of one of our dogs who passed away in 2013.
Thanks for sharing this very personal part of your story, Patricia. And thank you for the work you are doing on behalf of all the families who want books for their children which reflect their personal reality. Your donation of time, thought, and efort for the sake of others is inspiring.