Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Controversy ahead! Read at your own risk!

I'm going there again. You know, that place that I go when I say controversial things and hope no one puts a hit out on me?
Yeah, that place. I'm going there.

So I saw this news story come across my Facebook feed through the Human Rights Campaign. HRC picked up the story and held this event as a response. Overall, the evaluator in me says that the response event was a success, just as HRC calls it. But neither the news story nor HRC's response is really the subject of this post, but rather what pushed me over the edge and is making me go there. Let's break this into two parts to cut off any potential confusion at the pass. Here's the first thing I'm mulling:

I. All you need is love
Why is it ok for people to experience physical violence because of who they love? What I want to know specifically from the news story is what motivated those people to attack. Who gave them the power to decide what love is ok and what love isn't (and let me just say, love is love. Get over it. Love, me). Last I checked, we had not legislated love. But if some people get their way next November, it could happen. Scary. Love is an abstract concept that we try to express as best we can with words and deeds. That's it. No one can really explain it in any other way. I'm not intending to discuss the religious element of love here, either. What I'm saying is that as humans we are incapable of expressing ourselves in an infinite number of ways, and so we do the best we can with what we've got. We love who we love, and sometimes we can't explain why. What's the point, then, in wasting time and resources in the government realm on attempting to legislate love?
Whoa, I got away from the topic fast.
Back to first point: motivation. Those prejudicial thoughts those men had prior to the attack have to come from somewhere. Even if you subscribe to the notion that people are inherently flawed there's still some explaining to do. I know that I don't do everything right all the time, but I also know that some prejudices come from the homefront. I just want to know what parent is sleeping well at night knowing their kid (because these people are in their 20s) beat up a gay couple simply because they're gay. Really? Who is going to be proud of that? Not even the most stand-up Christians I know would embrace such actions.

II. And to you, Gay Community
Recently I encountered (of course via Facebook) the sentiment that supporting the gay community and wanting equal rights for them is a type of "bandwagon" that people are jumping on because it's some kind of trend. The issue at hand: Old Navy and its pride t-shirts. When I first read about them, I was thrilled. Look at Old Navy taking both a stand and huge risk. I know people who would boycott this company simply because they said the word "gay", let alone did anything to support the gay community. Way to go, Old Navy! Let me get one of those shirts! Except, there has been some disagreement. A friend of a friend (whose comment I noticed on facebook) suggested that Old Navy is just trying to make a buck and how dare they...which insinuated to me that people who buy these shirts aren't genuinely supportive of the gay community but are getting involved in a way that is disingenuous. What I got out of the entire conversation, which I ultimately participated in, was "if you aren't gay, you don't count when it comes to support".

Now that I've outlined, here's my rant:
It is unfair to suggest that people who are not gay cannot advocate for equal rights. Let's take a historical trip down memory lane. Crack your history books, folks. Anyone remember the Freedom Riders during the Civil Rights movement? (Which by the way implies that everyone has their civil rights now, because it's the Civil Rights Movement. Not true. Just sayin'.) Everyone who protested to earn African Americans their rights was not an African American. The NAACP (which I generally disagree with on principle) is about advancement, and I seriously doubt that every member of that organization is African American. So what's to say, then, that there isn't a similarity here? Prior to the 1960s (and yes, I know it still happens today) there were severe incidences of violence toward African Americans. Tell me, how does the Matthew Shepard story compare to this? In short, the similarities are there; trust me.
As someone who regularly supports the movement for gay rights as much as possible given my position as a teacher and a resident in rural North Carolina I'm offended at the notion that my support isn't good enough. Just like the African American Civil Rights movement, it takes more than the minority group itself to enact change. Why wouldn't you welcome support from all sides? I just don't get it. Bottom line: it takes all of us, gay straight and otherwise, or it won't get done. Aren't allies a part of the gay community by virtue of their love and support? I'm a little angry but more so hurt that this may be the sentiment of more than just this friend of a friend.

We as a society have to break this idea that we just beat up who we don't like for any arbitrary reason we choose. Is that the people we want to be for our children? Our grandchildren? My husband and I intend to raise our family in a home of love, respect and equality. We don't care if we're in the minority, but we sure hope we aren't. Our children deserve that much from us, don't they?

I really want to start a conversation; who knows, it could lead to revolutionary change.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Fun Times :)

Today Johnathan and I packed up Miss Macy and set off for Greensboro for the long weekend. We are staying with our friends Matt and Erin (see blogroll) and having lots of fun! Today we went to Ed McKay, the used bookstore. Of course, I got a little crazy but hey, I have lots of books for my students to enjoy next year when school starts :) I even picked up a few that I haven't read that I need to get through before I put them in kids' hands.

We had dinner at the Piedmont-Triad Farmer's Market. What? I know, it seems like that would be kind of a strange place to get a meal; however, ingredients aren't the only things you can buy there. Our dinner was at the Moose Cafe, which is the restaurant at the Farmer's Market. On Saturday nights they have a BBQ special and that's what everyone ordered. It was DELISH!!

I am really grateful to have such good friends who seem to be in the same phase of life as we are. It's difficult to come by people who have the same values and the same goals at your same age, and we know how fortunate we are to have them in our lives. Here's a photo of the four of us at my brother's wedding shower back in April. We love you guys so much! Thanks for having us over to play!

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Monday, May 23, 2011

My (not so) little brother's wedding

*Takes deep breath, exhales*
We did it!
After some madness, lots of loading/unloading, lots of sweat and lots of fun I can now say that my little brother Wes is married! Here's a recap as best I can:

Friday night: Flower/Program Power!
We played home florist on Friday night as my mom, Steve, David and I worked on boutonnieres, corsages and programs. It was a late night but the results were so worth it. Here are some of the programs. I made them start to finish so I'm pretty proud of how they turned out:
Saturday: let's practice getting married!
We had the rehearsal at the beautiful Reynolda Gardens where the cer
emony would be held on Sunday. Here's a practice ring exchange:

Sunday: The BIG DAY!!
The girls got ready at Cameon's parents' house. We had cosmos while we had our hair styled. I took lots of photos but this one of Cameon in the limo as we left for the wedding is my favorite: Isn't she beautiful?!
Cameon, you were such beautiful bride. Congratulations! I am so honored I could be part of this special day with you!

Here's my favorite photo of my brother and me at the reception. I am so happy for him! He really turned out ok, didn't he? ;)

To my baby brother: you have grown into a man and are starting a new chapter in your life with the person you love. Take care of each other and everything else will take care of itself. I'm proud of you and love you.

Everyone had a great time at the reception once the dancing really got started. I was fortunate enough to have the two men I love most there with me, too!

My sweet husband, who went along with whatever we wanted, carried whatever we needed, and sweat with the best of them! Thank you, honey! I love you!

The best friend a girl could ever want. He played wedding director, crisis manager, and overall sounding board. Thank you, sweetie! Love you!

We had so much fun this weekend :) None of it would have worked out the way it did without everyone involved. Much love and well wishes to my brother and his new wife. I love you both so much!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Celebrate. Remember. Fight Back.

The title of this post was the theme for our Relay for Life this year. Each year, the Relay for Life in our county finishes top 5 per capita in the entire country for funds raised. My little team, Go JoBe, Go! is made up of family and friends. I'm the captain and am mostly responsible for the fundraising that goes on. Fortunately, I work in a school where people are generous and supportive when it comes to the fight against cancer. At my school alone I was able to raise over $1,100 from a student talent show and a faculty lunch. It's times like those when I'm most proud of the community where I live and work. If you work with me and you're reading this: THANK YOU!!

Johnathan walked his second survivor lap this year at Relay. I could not have been more proud of him for fighting and beating cancer. He's a real trooper, that I know for sure. We had a very relaxing time at the event, hanging out under our canopy and spending time with family and friends. I'm very grateful for such a remarkable organization that helps us celebrate more birthdays. I (shockingly) did not bring my camera along to the event, but we had a great time and know we contributed something significant to a good cause :)

Sunday, May 8, 2011

The incredibly late, picture-packed, New York post

I promised you this post, and (finally!) I have delivered!
Let me start with a link to the photos from the trip. There are so many I want to share but the album is much more convenient:

We spent 5 solid days traveling and site seeing all the way to New York City and back. Here's a breakdown of our trip.

Day 1: Home to Baltimore, Maryland
On the Monday of our Spring Break we loaded a charter bus full of bleary eyed, excited students and made our way to Baltimore, Maryland. If you're looking through the album you will see there are photos of the Capitol, Washington Monument and other sites in Washington, DC. This was a surprise detour on the part of our driver and the trip coordinator. We were able to get off the bus and quickly photograph the World War II Memorial and the Capitol. Everything else I snapped a picture of was from the bus. Not bad for my little camera, huh? Baltimore itself was just lovely, too. We stopped in the Inner Harbor area for dinner and some time to walk around and socialize. I had a Maryland crabcake, but it just wasn't as good as the ones my mom makes at home :) We stopped in Maryland for a night's rest but it didn't last long!

Day 2: Baltimore, Maryland to New Jersey via a day in Philadelphia
We spent the bulk of our second day in Philadelphia doing some site seeing and tourist-y things. What was the feature highlight of the day? Philly cheese steaks!! We had authentic sandwiches at Jim's Philly Cheese Steak. On the historical side, we visited Independence Hall, Christ Church, and the Liberty Bell. My favorite place, however, was the National Constitution Center. There was so much to see there, including 3-d representations (read: statues) of the signers of the Constitution. I initially thought the students wouldn't be interested but once they got their cameras out to take photos with famous historical folks the fun began! There were other exhibits in the Center that we didn't get to access which makes we want to go back and take my step-dad; he's a history buff and would have LOVED that place. Maybe that's why I liked it, too. From Philadelphia we got back on the bus and headed to New Jersey to spend the night before hitting the big city!

Day 3: New York City and a Broadway play
Up again (early) and rolling out! We started with a ferry ride (after an experience in "airport style" security) out to Liberty Island to see the Lady herself. Standing on that island and looking up at a statue I had only ever seen in the movies was an incredible moment. I am easily overwhelmed when I consider all the opportunities I have had solely because I live in the United States, and that moment was no exception. We then visited Ellis Island before going over to Battery Park for some shopping and dining. That evening we saw Times Square for the first time. The only word I can think of: HUGE!! Everything is vertical, literally! There are giant screens on the sides of the buildings and it looks like the middle of the afternoon there all the time because of all the lights. The students and I were amazed! We had dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe and then took in a marvelous production of Mary Poppins. I have seen Wicked in Charlotte before and the quality of these performances always goes above and beyond any of my expectations.

Day 4: New York City and the Step On Tour
After setting out again early in the morning from New Jersey, we took a tour of the city on the bus with a Step On tour guide. We saw what seems like everything you could want to see. We stopped and walked around in Central Park for a while and took some beautiful photos. The weather was a little chilly for late April (in the South I mean) but it was a gorgeous day.

The most moving part of the entire trip for me was when we walked over to Ground Zero. Let me go back and say that I was 17 years old on 9/11/2001 and can remember coming around the corner in the hallway where my chemistry class was and seeing that our teacher had the television on. The first plane had hit between classes and we gathered around the television watching the coverage. Someone said "A plane just hit the World Trade Center." And I remember thinking that it must have been a terrible accident. The second plane hit right before our eyes, and that's when we knew this was no accident at all. An announcement came over the intercom at the school instructing all the teachers to turn off their televisions and not to discuss the events. A handful of seniors, including myself, spent the rest of the day sneaking from room to room watching it on television and trying to make sense of what was happening...

So there I was, almost 10 years after that vivid moment in my life. I stood and watched the construction go on, looking at the gaps where buildings had been, where lives had been lost. I cried. No, I sobbed. I called my mom and told her I love her, because I realized in that moment I would not ever really understand the kind of loss those victims' families must feel. In fact, there was a memorial group having a service of remembrance for a victim of 9/11 while we were at Ground Zero, reminding me although it has been almost 10 years, those losses are still very real to those who experienced them firsthand.

Day 5: Homeward Bound!
Friday, we loaded up all of students, all of our souvenirs and all of our memories to head back to North Carolina. We thought we had seen it all, experienced it all and had nothing left to see. But our bus driver and trip coordinator had one more surprise stop for us: Hershey, Pennsylvania.
Yeah, Hershey. Like the chocolate.
We stopped at Hershey Chocolate World for lunch and shopping. I was really afraid the students wouldn't enjoy this, but they did, and so did the adults! I have to admit: chocolate from Hershey, PA is amazing. There's something fresh about it that you don't get when you buy candy at Wal-Mart or Target or the grocery store. What a great way to end our trip :)

We came home to rain, happy parents and I had one happy husband :) It was a jam-packed trip and I could have slept for days afterward, but I would have done it again in a heartbeat. I never thought I would actually see New York City in my lifetime, but now it's something I can cherish the memory of forever. Enjoy the photo album!

Next post: My brother's wedding weekend!