Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Putting my money where my mouth is ...

Thirty-five dials.  Five conversations.  Three refusals.  One yes.  One person "moved."

I spent this evening on a phone bank for the Rochester arm of Minnesotans United for All Families, talking to people about the constitutional amendment that's on the ballot in November.  The language of this ballot would be to define marriage in the Minnesota constitution as strictly between one man and one woman.

I have pretty strong opinions about this amendment and am emphatic in my efforts to encourage people to vote "NO" for this amendment.

However, there comes a time when words aren't enough.  I have the wonderful problem of surrounding myself with like-minded people.  And since I work from home, my sphere of influence is limited. 

That's why I found myself on a phone bank tonight.  That's why I found myself reading off of a script and trying to start conversations with people across southeastern Minnesota about marriage and why it's important to me as a straight, married, pregnant lady that my son will grow up in a state that will be the first of 30 states to defeat this amendment. 

For someone who hates talking on the phone - this night was tough.  There was the very sweet lady who is a member of the ELCA and has been torn by the conversations in the church.  She'll vote for the amendment, but recognizes that times will change regardless.  She wished me well on the remainder of my pregnancy.

There was the sarcastic man who talked about how gross and wrong it was for two men or two women to be married.  I thanked him for his time and hung up.

There was one woman who will vote "no" on the marriage amendment, but she really didn't have strong feelings about gay marriage.  (But hey - "no" is AWESOME in this election.)

And then there was the guy who kinda broke my heart.  The conversation started out as the man being 100% for this amendment, 100% against gay marriage.  Gay marriage is a travesty and it goes against God and the Bible.

I was ready to wrap up the call politely and hang up, but I tried another tact that we had discussed in training.

"We're not voting on the Bible," I said.  I explained that I'm secular and that at the end of the day, I cannot debate about morals, God, Bible, whatever. 

"Do you know anyone who is gay?"

"Yes," he said.  "My nephew.  And it breaks my sister's heart.  It breaks the father's heart."  But then he starts telling me about his nephew.  His nephew's partner that's "a great guy."

I told this man about my nephews - I told him about one in particular.  The 16-year-old nephew who was technically my "first" nephew from my brother's first marriage.  And although this boy is taller than me, although he's driving and although he's a star on the basketball court, I still look at him and I can see him as a three-year-old.  And how that drives my nephew absolutely nuts.  But the love that I feel for this kid who is more like a brother to me than anything else. 

My nephew is not gay, but my point was made:  "If someone told me that there was some law that stood between my nephew and his happiness, I can't fathom that," I said. 

Here's how the script ends on these phone conversations ... "now that we've had this conversation, if you had to vote tomorrow, would you vote yes for the marriage amendment or would you vote no."

This man did not know.  It was something he had to think more about. 


There are no clear, decisive victories in phone banks.  I'm not going to call up someone who is morally opposed to gay marriage and expect them to be won over by my dulcet tones and my stunning logic.  It does not work that way.  And as I've struggled with the perception of gay marriage and how it keeps playing out in the political arena, I've made peace with the fact that there are some people that will never see my point of view.  It sucks.  It's frustrating.  I can curse, I can gnash my teeth and rave at my husband (yes, all of these things have happened), but at the end of the day - I have to pick myself up, brush myself off, and move on. 

But there are little victories.  There are people who might change their mind because of something that is said.  The ability to take gay marriage out of the abstract and make it real. 

Sometimes we are the uncles of gay men.  Sometimes there are people that we work with, that we worship with, that we went to school with ...


So - considering that I'm 34 weeks pregnant, extremely uncomfortable, and that I truly hate making phone calls - why in the name of hell would I volunteer for this?  And why would I do it again?

Thirty states around the country have had similar marriage amendments go on their ballots.  Thirty states have passed these amendments.  Minnesota has the opportunity to be the first state to defeat the marriage amendment and all signs show that this is going to be a close and emotional election. 

I want to wake up on November 7th and find out that the marriage amendment failed miserably.  But in the event that it does pass (and I give serious thought about emigrating to Canada), I want to know in my heart that I did everything I could to help defeat this amendment. 

Working a phone bank took me way out of my comfort zone.  I found myself getting strength by listening to this older gentleman named Bob make phone calls across the room from me.  There was something about his raspy voice that made me feel like I wasn't alone and encouraged me to keep dialing. 

This evening was a challenge, but it was a privilege. 

So - my Rochester area friends who read my blog.  Working a phone bank?  Yeah - it's a time commitment and yeah, it's kind of terrifying.  But the Rochester group does a GREAT job training you to work the phones.  We spent an hour talking about the marriage amendment, some of the opposing viewpoints that are encountered, the importance of being kind to yourself when it came to tough phone calls ... the importance of having conversations with people regarding this issue.  While I wasn't 100% prepared for my first phone call and while I have yet to hit my stride, I felt reasonably confident as I made my way down the list of calls I needed to make.

Whether it's phone calling, door knocking, donating money, or just having the conversation with friends - I implore people to get involved.  This is going to be a close election.  See my numbers above - the majority of the people I talked to were for the marriage amendment.  A couple people hadn't really heard about it.  Out of 35 dials, I might have changed the mind of one voter - or at least got him on the road to thinking about the issue on a personal level beyond the abstract. 

You can find information about Minnesotans United for All Families here

As I said tonight on Facebook:  "We can move towards inclusion, tolerance, and love one conversation at a time, friends ..." Until this baby shows up, I'll work the phone banks again ... I do believe that I can make a difference.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

"What is it you plan ..."

Life is nothing, if not random.

Today, I found myself in awe reading an article that was posted on one of my friends' Facebook pages.  The article mourns the manager of a adult movie theater who was murdered in Ottumwa.  The article killed me the way that good journalism does ... this article made me feel for a man I never met and will never know. 

A little while later, I read an article about a project at Harvard Business School that asks graduating MBA students this question, that is derived from a poem written by Mary Oliver:  "What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?"

And then I found the poem itself. 

What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? 

What a beautiful question ... one that I'm going to ponder for awhile.


My aunt is doing better - my cousin Leah is posting her progress on Facebook and on my aunt's Caring Bridge site.  I am thankful for progress, however small it is ... because my aunt is her own little ray of sunshine.  The world would be a little darker without her in it. 


Good thoughts and prayers are requested for my friend Laurie's daughter who was in a car accident.  It sounds like Breanna is on the mend, but uff da ... how frightening for my friend ...

Friday, June 1, 2012

A beautiful omen or a harbinger of doom?

I'm going to start this off with a pretty broad statement:  I rarely have bad days.  Yes, I get grumpy; yes, there are times where I string profanities together in a way that would make a sailor blush; yes, there are times that I cry, but overall - my life is pretty charmed and blessed.  I'm that annoying "glass half full" person. 

Today has seemed to prove itself as an exception to my perpetually and annoyingly sunny personality.  I emailed Ryan and told him that I was ready to pack it in, go back to bed and forget that this day ever started.

I have a sick aunt ... not just ill ... the kind of illness that has her struggling in the hospital after brain surgery.  I don't care if it's 2012 and the medical world is full of all sorts of technology and smarts that make them better than they were 30 years ago.  Brain surgery.  It's not like getting your tonsils out. 

And then I got an email from the kid that I mentored this year at Mayo High School.  She didn't pass her grad-required reading test, ergo - she isn't graduating.  DAMMIT - she had the second highest improved GPA in the STRIVE mentoring group we were a part of.  She had damn near perfect attendance in her school.  She's supposed to go to RCTC in the fall and she would be the first in her family to ever attend college.  DOESN'T THIS ALL MEAN SOMETHING IN THE GRAND SCHEME OF THINGS???  I am so fracking proud of this kid that I'm damn near apoplectic with rage at the high school and I'm frustrated at the system.  I want to call them and be like, you know - I know fuck-ups.  I know people who have graduated from high school who probably shouldn't.  This kid isn't a pot smoker.  She's not lazy.  She has a hard time reading.  English wasn't her first language and there are days when her diction is better than mine and I was born and raised in this country. 

I'm almost ready to admit that I've been defeated by this day.  (And it isn't even lunchtime yet.  And I still have work to do.  And a 2 PM conference call.) 

I admitted as such to my husband.

Me: "This day is lacking in good things."
Him: "It's Friday, that has to count for something." 
As I was contemplating an email back that would remind him that I have enough work this weekend to choke a horse and chain me to my laptop this weekend, another email came in.
Him: "The cat, baby and I love you."
I was about to remind him that the cat loves no one, the kid has no choice since I'm his lifeline to this planet and that he was obligated to love me through marriage when another email came in.
Him:  "The rose is finally blooming.  That has to count for something."

We have lived in this house for a little under five years.  For the first four years of our residence, we've had this weird little vine on the side of the house that has grown prolifically, looked like a rose (damn thing has thorns ...), but never bloomed.  During the first year, we chalked this up to the fact that Ryan had accidentally thwacked it off with the weed whacker.  (To be honest - that was likely good for it ...)  And then I thought about digging it up this year, but never got around to it. 

And now - nearly five years and the removal of one huge, sun-blocking pine tree later - we have the most surprisingly beautiful miniature rosebush blooming in our yard.  However, I grumpily informed my husband that I wasn't sure if the rosebush was a good omen or a harbinger of doom.  (Hey - I said I'm having a bad day ...)

But as I went outside and snapped a couple pictures of my accidentally beautiful rosebush, I found myself thinking deep thoughts that went beyond my usual pregnant mind state of "damn, my hips hurt" or "do I really have to give up my cheese addiction after the baby gets here?" 

Sometimes things need to change to let something else move forward.   The kid I mentored has dealt with her recent news with grace that astonishes me.

"Don't worry because I'm okay with everything else and sometimes life gives you challenges and this is one of them," she wrote.  

Good Lord, kid ... if you can tell me this in one of the darkest moments of your life - I guess I can suck it up a little bit longer, put on my big girl panties, and deal with this day.  

The rosebush?  It is what it is.  It started blooming because it is now bathed in sunlight.  My kid will either find a way to graduate with the rest of her class or she'll get her adult diploma ... she will make the best of whatever happens because that is who she is.  

As for my aunt? If y'all could keep my Aunt Penny in your thoughts and prayers - she is in need of them.  And she appreciates them - my cousin Leah reads the wonderful comments and prayers that people leave for her on Facebook and when she's been coherent, it has brightened her day.