Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Year In Review

Here is the short version of what went on this last year. Enjoy!

January: Hallie became a co-chair for Families Supporting Adoption (FSA). We returned home from California. Landon learned to sleep all night (yay!).

February: Mike shaved his goatee, and Landon didn’t recognize him, so he decided to grow the beard back. However, Hallie encouraged him to get rid of the moustache (she doesn’t like prickly kisses).

March: After what locals characterized as a snowy winter, the first faint signs of spring began to emerge. While winters in Utah are cold, we now understand the meaning of “dead of winter.” Must . . . Conserve . . . Energy.

April: Landon got circumcised. He also started Storytime at the local library. Spring flowers began making their appearance in our backyard, and we tried to plant a garden.

May: We traveled to Utah to finalize our adoption. We were sealed together as an eternal family, and we finally gave Landon his name and blessing. Landon began to smile for the camera, he learned to roll over, and he began to crawl for real.

June: Landon was a hit at Girls BOOT Camp. Mike created a trend among the bishops at a boot-themed fashion show by “camping” (vamping?) it up. Go Prez O!

July: We went to Kirtland, Palmyra, and Niagara Falls when Hallie’s parents came. We also went to Greenfield Village and the Henry Ford, and Landon saw his first Tigers game!

August: We traveled down to Indianapolis for the annual regional FSA adoption conference. We went to Chrysler’s Arts, Beats, and Eats to sample goodies and music. We started our monthly tradition of attending Macy’s 2nd Mondays at Greenfield Village and the Henry Ford.

September: Hallie’s Grandma Maygren died. Hallie went to the funeral, while Mike played “single” dad at home. We attended a Great Big Sea concert at the Michigan Theater. We got rid of our cable TV. Hallie and Landon went to the Detroit Zoo. We went to an apple farm and petting zoo. Landon started walking.

October: Landon really took off walking at church during General Conference. We went on several autumn outings: pumpkin patches, apple cider, cake donuts. We took a road trip up north to see the changing leaves. Hallie hosted a soup party for enrichment. We attended our friend Josh’s football games. Landon’s finally got his first haircut and celebrated his first birthday. He dressed as a bull calf (NOT a cow!) for Halloween.

November: Mike attended the UCEA Conference in Orlando, and Hallie played “single” mom. Hallie helped prepare an adoption fireside. We were on local TV for all of 30 seconds telling about our “boo-rific” time at Hallowe’en Nights at Greenfield Village. We had our first homemade Thanksgiving.

December: Landon had a visit with Santa. We set a branch goal to become a ward. Hallie helped conduct an adoption banquet.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Welcome, Welcome Sabbath Morning

This morning we woke up to the sound of strong wind gusting outside our bedroom window and strange blue lights in the sky. Clouds had blown in, and the temperature had dropped from a comfortable mid-50s to the 40s and falling. We turned on the radio and heard the report that the winds during the night had knocked out power to about a quarter million Metro Detroiters (We found out later that while we weren’t affected, a chunk of the branch was, including our building). After listening to the morning news and hearing about the power situation, Hallie, Landon, and I piled into the Buick and drove down to church to find out whether the building was without power and to drop me off for morning meetings if we determined that everything was fine. Once we got to the church, we had our answer. The security gate was without power. I climbed under the gate to check out the building and found that the security system was on battery power. A low whiny from a warning alarm on the security panel indicated that the furnace/AC unit was off. I called members of the branch presidency and PEC to let them know we wouldn’t have our morning meetings, and then we drove back home. Upon hearing that DTE would not be fixing power lines until the wind died down, I made a few calls to the stake and then drove back to the church. About an hour before sacrament meeting would have started, I went ahead and cancelled church. Hallie and I reflected on the decision a little later today. She made an observation that bears repeating. If we had been pioneers, we probably would have gone ahead and had church. We probably could have made at least sacrament meeting work. Granted, everyone would have had to park on the street and climb over or under the security fence (powered gate—have to rethink that one), but we could have forced the issue (not the gate—we’ve tried that before). I managed to turn off the interior alarm, so we wouldn’t have had that sound in our ears as we sang to the music played on the piano that we would have brought from the primary room. The rooms would have been quite dark. Our building is built like a fortress (or prison?), and our windows are few and far between. In each classroom, the space for the window has a bullet-proof panel of glass at the top and the bottom of the window frame with a large filled-in wall space in between. Kids have to crane their necks to see out the narrow windows to daydream. We do have emergency fluorescent lights in the hallways, bathrooms, and cultural hall on battery power which is nice (and which was waning by 10:15 this morning when I left). Still, we could have soldiered through and at least had sacrament meeting (of course, once you’re there, you may as well stay for the whole block), but we didn’t. It’s a strange feeling making the decision to cancel church. One member suggested families get together for cottage-style devotionals, which I think could be coordinated in the future. Anyway, happy Sunday to you, and Happy New Year on this now sunny, if brisk, Sabbath day!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Homey Christmas

We hope you had a Merry Christmas with your family and friends. We enjoyed a bountiful brunch with friends, including our missionaries (all six burly boys with appetites to match). Hallie prepared a spread that included egg soufflé, a ham, salad, sweet rolls, funeral potatoes, and a homemade peppermint cheesecake. The day was crisp and sunny, with the remnants of this week's snow all around. Santa must have had a wild ride on Christmas Eve, because the wind blew and blew all night! Fortunately that meant we had dry sidewalks (the one peeve Mike has about winter is slippery, icy, sludgy, and otherwise hard-to-navigate sidewalks and roads). We chatted with family members in the afternoon and evening, and Landon showed off a few of his new tricks. He received a train he can ride on, and he decided it works much better as a diving platform. Fortunately, we have foam rubber floor tiles in the back room (TV room? den? play room?). The kid narrowly avoided face plants all day. As we reflect on the birth of our Savior, we feel grateful to realize something that at first will sound a little weird: this year's Christmas felt like an ordinary day in a lot of respects. Perhaps this is why: since living in the branch and having some of the experiences we have had, we see a lot of the Christmas spirit year-round. This is not to say that every day has felt like Christmas (far from it). Mike grew up with the idea that you shouldn't act one way on Sunday and another way the other six days, and that idea has found extension with the Christmas season. Christmas felt ordinary (and this is a good thing) because it was a lot like a lot of days we’ve had this year with family and friends. We had a nice gift exchange, we reflected and laughed together, we shared in Landon’s enthusiasm, we enjoyed having people over, and we caught up with our family. What could be better? We are grateful to you (yes, you) who read our blog and share our journey with us. We see the example of the Savior’s life in yours as we all try to learn how to become like Him together. Thank you, and Merry Christmas! 

Monday, December 22, 2008

Reality Check

We did not come to Detroit completely naive to her problems, but the following AP News story speaks to some of the stark realities of living here during this period in the city's history (see below). We sometimes experience a peculiar feeling knowing that we need to be in a place we might not normally choose for home (although we find Michigan to be a beautiful place, even in this cold weather), and knowing Detroit's woes enhances the feeling we have that we're here for a purpose.

Motor City's woes extend beyond auto industry
By David Crary And Corey Williams, Associated Press Writers

DETROIT – One measure of how tough times are in the Motor City: Some of the offenders in jail don't want to be released; some who do get out promptly re-offend to head back where there's heat, health care and three meals a day. "For the first time, I'm seeing guys make a conscious decision they'll be better off in prison than in the community, homeless and hungry," said Joseph Williams of New Creations Community Outreach, which assists ex-offenders. "In prison they've got three hots and a cot, so they commit a crime to go back in and come out when times are better." For now, better times seem distant. Even with no hurricane or other natural disaster to blame, Detroit has — by many measures — replaced New Orleans as America's most beleaguered city. The jobless rate has climbed past 21 percent, the embattled school district just fired its superintendent, tens of thousands of homes and stores are derelict and abandoned, the ex-mayor is in jail for a text-messaging sex scandal. Even the pro football team is a pathetic joke — the Lions are within two losses of an unprecedented 0-16 season. And overarching these and many other woes is the near-collapse of the U.S. auto industry, Detroit's vital source of jobs and status for more than a century. "We're the Motor City," said Scott Alan Davis, who oversees community development projects in one of the worst-hit neighborhoods. "When the basis for that name collapses, that's started to scare people." Among the worried is 81-year-old Warlena McDuell, a retired surgical technician who shares a home with her cancer-stricken daughter. On a recent weekday, she was among hundreds of Detroiters, most of them elderly, filling orange-plastic grocery carts at a food bank run by Focus:HOPE, a local nonprofit. "It's a depression — not a recession," McDuell said, with the authority of someone who has lived through both. "It will get worse before it gets better." Behind her in line, stocking up on canned apple juice and fruit cocktail, was Benjamin Smith, 77, who once held jobs with Uniroyal and Chrysler. Maneuvering his cart slowly, one hand gripping a cane, he was unable to muster much cheer when someone extended holiday good wishes. "How are we going to do well?" he replied. "Everything's busted up." Focus:HOPE's food program serves 41,000 people a month; manager Frank Kubik estimates that's only half the number of Detroiters in need of the assistance. "It's not going to be a nice Christmas for a lot of folks," he said. DeWayne Wells, president of Gleaners Community Food Bank of Southeastern Michigan, said demand is up by 25 percent from a year ago in the region's food banks as auto-industry layoffs multiply. "Many people are first-timers — they have no idea how to navigate the system, how to qualify for food stamps," Wells said. "Last year, some were donors — now they're clients." ___ The roots of Detroit's current plight go back decades. Court-ordered school busing and the 12th Street riots of 1967 accelerated an exodus of whites to the suburbs, and many middle-class blacks followed, shrinking the city's population from a peak of 1.8 million in the 1950s to half that now. About 83 percent of the current population is African-American; of cities with more than 100,000 people, only Gary, Ind., had a higher percentage in the latest census. Detroit's crime, poverty, unemployment and school dropout rates are among the worst of any major U.S. city. The bus system is widely panned; car and home insurance rates are high. Chain grocery stores are absent, forcing many Detroiters to rely on high-priced corner stores. "There's always been a real can-do spirit among our people," said the Rev. Edgar Vann, pastor of Second Ebenezer Church. "That's being beaten down right now. ... These times, unlike others, have sapped a lot of that spirit from them." Vann, in addition to overseeing a 5,000-member megachurch, founded the Vanguard Community Development Corp., which under Scott Alan Davis's leadership is building scores of new homes and offering education programs in the blighted North End. One apartment complex, for the elderly, is rising barely a block from two grade schools recently abandoned by the city, and now sitting empty and ransacked. "It's death to the neighborhood," said Vann, some anger in his voice, as he gestured to homes that had been abandoned and vandalized since the schools closed. He worries that despair and frustration may take a toll as Detroiters see more manufacturing jobs vanish and get no short-term answer when they ask, "What next?" "Somebody needs to hear us before we begin to see a rise of social upheaval," Vann said. "I hate to say that. It's a God-forbid reality." ___ For Mark Covington, as for many of his neighbors, there are two Detroits. One features swanky casinos, opulent hotels and two new sports stadiums, beckoning high rollers and deep-pocketed out-of-towners to a relatively vibrant downtown. Luxury condo developments are opening; an ambitious RiverWalk project is mostly completed. Then there's the vast Detroit of decaying neighborhoods, with weedy, trash-strewn lots and vacant, burned-out houses. Some areas, even close to downtown, have a rural look because so many lots are now empty. "It makes me want to leave," said Covington, 36. "But I figure, if I leave, who else is going to help? Who else is going to do it? People like me are what's going to turn Detroit around." With no job and plenty of time on his hands, Covington has spent the past year working on what he calls the Georgia Street Garden — three empty lots he and his friends have converted into an inner city farm east of downtown. It's one of hundreds of urban vegetable gardens citywide that have taken root on land cleared after the razing of abandoned homes. Covington and his friends did what the city hadn't done: moved trash from the lots to the curbs. They planted tomatoes, collard greens, kale, cabbage, herbs, broccoli and other vegetables, as well as a few fruit trees. "During the time I was out here cleaning up, I thought it would be a good idea for a garden," he said. "Everybody uses this path to go up to the closest grocery store and the closest corner store. I figured if they gotta walk past here. ... maybe they'll pick some food instead of having to go up to the grocery store all of the time." A makeshift, wooden movie screen was erected last summer for outdoor film nights. "I'm seeing camaraderie around here I haven't seen since I was a little kid," Covington said. "It's actually starting to feel like a village again." He just wishes they had more help from city leaders. "I'm proud our downtown is coming back," Covington said. "They've put money into the downtown. We need a downtown. .... Everybody understands that. But what about the people that pay for it? I mean, we pay our taxes. We need city services. It's the crime and cleaning up." "I just don't understand how they, anybody in the city ... the mayor's administration, can ride through the neighborhoods and see the way it is and not want to do anything about it." ___ For all its woes, Detroit has no shortage of residents offering to tackle them. There are 15 candidates for the Feb. 24 special mayoral election necessitated by the conviction of Kwame Kilpatrick for trying to cover up an affair with a former top aide. The winner of the special election only serves out Kilpatrick's unfinished term, and a regular mayoral election will be held in November, burdening the city with a year of political uncertainty and division as it grapples with staggering problems. "There are some good candidates — I've never seen a field as broad and deep," said Steve Tobocman, who represents a Detroit district in the state legislature. "That being said, I don't think there's a concrete vision on how to deal with the real challenges." Solely in terms of municipal government, the challenges are daunting. Mayor Ken Cockrel Jr. said Friday the city's deficit is approaching $300 million, and he ordered all departments to cut their budgets by 10 percent. The Detroit Public School District faces a deficit of more than $400 million, prompting the state to declare a financial emergency. The district's superintendent, Connie Calloway, was fired on Monday. Several dozen schools have been closed in the past three years, and civic leaders worry the system will be incapable of helping young Detroiters prepare for whatever new types of jobs might emerge down the road. "Most of the middle-class parents have disengaged, taken their kids out," said Vann. "We don't have the parent advocacy that's necessary to drive reform." The FBI's latest statistics, for 2007, show Detroit with the highest violent crime rate of any major city. Yet Jeriel Heard, chief of jails and court for Detroit's Wayne County, said jail conditions may deteriorate because of budget-related pressure to eliminate a quarter of the roughly 800 jail deputy positions. Heard confirmed that some offenders, notably those without homes of their own, were now expressing reluctance to leave jail when their sentences were done. He also reported that property crime in some Detroit neighborhoods had stabilized or declined because targets of opportunity were fewer now that most remaining residents are poor and many of the homes have been abandoned and cannibalized. Trying to combat the blight, the city has applied for $47 million in federal neighborhood stabilization money, with half earmarked to tear down more than 2,300 vacant homes. About $8 million would be spent to rehabilitate vacant houses and $4 million to construct new houses. But this effort would make only a small dent. About 44,000 of the 67,000 homes that have gone into foreclosure since 2005 remain empty, and it costs about $10,000 to demolish each vacant house, according to Planning and Development Department director Doug Diggs. Overall, the residential real estate market is catastrophic, with the Detroit Board of Realtors now pegging the average price of a home in the city at $18,513. Some owners can't find buyers at any price. "If you no longer can sell your property, how can you move elsewhere?' said Robin Boyle a professor of urban planning at Wayne State University. "Some people just switch out the lights and leave — property values have gone so low, walking away is no longer such a difficult option." ___ Looking ahead, Detroit civic leaders express long-term optimism but acknowledge the shift away from a heavy-manufacturing economy will be painful. "Up until the '70s, you could come to the city without education, without speaking English, and get a job in the auto industry and instantly be in the middle class, economically speaking," said Mike Stewart, director of Wayne State's Walter P. Reuther Library and an expert on the auto industry. "A lot of folks in the city depended on these jobs for generations — they don't exist anymore," he said. "A lot of Detroiters are unprepared, educationally and technologically, to cope." Another fundamental problem is the gap between the city's circumstances and those in the surrounding region, which includes many relatively affluent, predominantly white suburbs. "The lack of support, the disparities with the rest of the region are greater than folks realize," said Tobocman, a Democrat who served as House majority floor leader. "I'm not sure the system can sustain itself." But he said the conversation on one option — greater regional sharing of local tax revenue — "is not a real active one." Mark Douglas, 41, is among the metro area's most successful African-American car dealers — he succeeded his father in 2005 as president of Avis Ford in Southfield, one of the suburbs bordering Detroit to the north. "Detroit has got to figure out a way to make people feel it's safe — if people don't want to live there, it's tough to develop any kind of tax base," Douglas said. "Whites have to move back in. You've got to have the integration factor. Everyone has to come together." Though Avis Ford is faring better than some local competitors, the recession has taken a toll. It sold only 112 new vehicles in October, down from about 200 in October 2007. Douglas said the dealership is recouping some of the loss in new car sales by performing service work on older cars no longer covered by warranties. His father, Walter, 76, remains chairman of Avis Ford and serves as a trustee of many organizations, including the Detroit Symphony. "This has been the most difficult and challenging time in my recollection," he said. For some community leaders, the drumbeat of bad news seems like overkill. "All of Detroit is not going to hell — we've been hit unfairly," said the Rev. Wendell Anthony, president of Detroit branch of the NAACP. "Our best days are in front of us." Short-term, he said two crucially needed steps would be a moratorium on further home foreclosures and pressure on banks to make loans more available. Another civic leader, William F. Jones Jr., expressed concern that the inevitable auto industry retrenchment might force cutbacks in corporate support of local nonprofits. "Detroit is a very giving community, but it's hard to reach out beyond your capacity," said Jones, who recently retired as chief operating officer of Chrysler Financial and will become head of Focus:HOPE on Jan. 1 "I hope the region is prepared to band together, because we're all in this together," he said. "We won't get through the tough times if we don't have a dream of what's ahead." ___ Detroit's downtown abounds with symbols of past dreams — the still-gleaming round towers of the Renaissance Center of the '70s, Super Bowl XL venue Ford Field, the three hotel-casino resorts with their gaudy exterior lights and cavernous gaming rooms. Yet less than two miles from downtown stands the decaying, 18-story Michigan Central railroad station, built in 1913 and unoccupied for 20 years while developers shied way from the cost of restoring its Beaux-Arts grandeur. Along Grand River Avenue, a six-lane thoroughfare leading from downtown to the northwest, liquor stores and check-cashing outlets alternate with scores of abandoned commercial buildings, some boarded up, others just gutted shells. To the west, in the modest residential neighborhood of Brightmoor, there were five burnt-out houses on a single short block. The facade of one was daubed in red and blue graffiti — some obscene, some gang-related; the charred rubble inside included a battered toy truck. The scene brought to mind the city's motto, crafted by a Roman Catholic priest after a devastating fire in 1805: "We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes".

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Set Your TiVo

Tune into CBS on Tuesday, December 23 at 8 p.m. EST/PST or 7 p.m. CST/MST
for the 10th Annual A Home for the Holidays Special Celebrating Foster Care Adoption!
Don't miss this heartwarming one-hour television show!
Celebrity performers will share the stage with extraordinary American families who share their joy and their stories of foster care adoption. This year's show features Faith Hill and includes Tim McGraw, Jamie Foxx, Melissa Etheridge, Gavin Rossdale, Keyshia Cole, Martin Short, Kristen Chenoweth and a host of others. There are currently half a million children in foster care in the United States; 129,000 of these children are available for adoption. Each year, A Home for the Holidays raises national awareness about this important social issue and connects waiting children with potential adoptive families. The show is a joint project of CBS, the Children's Action Network, Wendy's International, Triage Productions, Goldsmith Entertainment and the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption. Please help us promote A Home for the Holidays in your community. Forward this email to your friends and family or visit http://www.davethomasfoundation.org/ to download a ready-made flyer for bulletin boards, offices, places of worship and other public areas.

Monday, December 15, 2008

I Love To Laugh

The bottom line is I love to laugh! Adam Sandler makes me laugh. Well usually until I saw that Zohan movie and I didn't laugh so hard. But tonight as I was convalesing from being sick yet again, I was reading back posts from Bishop Higgins 3rd Ward: News for Mormons. I laughed so hard I almost peed my pants. I know that was probably too graphic for some of you but I just had to really let you know how funny this was. Here is what it said,

This Week's Seventh Most Popular Sin

Lighting baby mice on fire, twirling them around and shouting, "Look, I've got a sparkler."

Oh boy this has got to make the cold go away!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

I Love A Good Deal!

I love it when I get a great deal! This last week I had three great deals, one thanks to Mike's long time friend Stephanie. I was so excited about them I have to share my excitement with you. 
  1. This great deal came several days ago when I read Stephanie's newest entry at Savvy Savings Tucson. It was true! I really ordered a case of The Christmas Box for only $15. Mike and I are so excited to give them away to the folks we Home and Visit Teach and to our neighbors. Hopefully this will be a great way to get to know the folks we never see on the block.
  2. While checking my e-mail this week I received an email from the Melting Pot. I get lots of junk mail from lots of different places, but every now and then it pays off. When I opened the e-mail this week, it said that as long as you made a reservation for Saturday or Sunday between 11 and 3, your food was 50% off. I decided to e-mail Mike with this offer with no intention that we would be able to go--this week was crazy busy. But wouldn't you know it? He made it work, and on Saturday afternoon we went without our bambino. It was a great time for just the two of us, and Landon stayed with a babysitter. Wah hoo!
  3. My final great deal of the week came on Friday. Diamond and I stopped by Aldi to pick up some cream cheese. Near the check out line there were some roses: half a dozen for $3.99. I thought that I deserved some nice flowers for myself, and so I bought them. When we went through the checkout line, my bill only came to $2.48, and that included the 2 - 8oz containers of cream cheese. Then I realized the roses were only 50 cents! Holy Cow! "Diamond," I said, "go get in the car. I have to get back in line and get some more!" A few other people in the meantime had picked up on the deal, which was fine because I still was able to walk away with five more bunches.                                                                              
What a great week this was for deals. Thanks, Stephanie, for your savings blog. I even got the Amazing Grace DVD!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Our Little Character

What is this thing? Should I really wear it? My crazy Papi does.
Better not keep it on too long. May be bad for my reputation.
Well if I am going to keep it on I should adjust it a bit. Or maybe on the side is good.
I will for sure get a great gift from Santa with this smile and wearing a hat just like him.
Alfred Hitchcock has not left the building.


Landon has definitely become more cuddly and shows a fun clown like side most days. It is a riot to let him run around upstairs while he yells with delight. Hallie had to run a few errands today. While she was gone Mike took some fun pictures of Landon so we decided to post them today.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Santa Claus


It was another Macy's Second Monday at The Henry Ford, and of course we went. Today we invited Amberly, Sam, and Eric to come with us. We spent the whole time waiting in line to see Santa. Thank goodness there were lots of things for the boys to see while Hallie and Amberly waited in line for well over an hour! Mike was great at chasing Landon around the museum until it was our turn. They took a picture of us with a Polaroid and Landon received a White Horse Beanie Baby that had a Christmas wreath around its neck. The new toy saved us as we drove to Cabela's in DeWitt, MI. What a long day we had. 

Mike is now off to join (I guess) the Board of Directors at the Colin Powell Academy. Should he involve himself in one more thing? The answer is no. Does he need to find things to research which would help him keep his job? The answer is yes. So he is off and running on a new adventure. Tomorrow he will be going to some interfaith thing in Hamtramck that the Stake thinks he should go to. Most people think he doesn't have much of a job, so as the good guy he is, Mike is going. Funny story: our next door neighbor told Mike how she thought it must be nice to just have to go up and teach one or two days a week. Then he told her about how he spends most of his time reading and writing (and going to museums with Hallie and Landon--he didn't say that part). Our neighbor became quite surprised when he told her that if he doesn't get papers published, he doesn't get to kepp his stay-at-home job with the incredibly flexible schedule. On a related note, Hallie's grandma always thinks we need money (we do) because he only teaches one day a week (which he does, plus a few other things).

Christmas Break is coming soon, and I can't wait!

Mom, Landon and I prayed for you and your surgery tomorrow. We know will all will go well. All our love!

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Hallie's the Awesome-est!!

(Like awesome-est is a word. But she is!)

Christmas time is here
Happiness and cheer
Fun for all that children call
Their favorite time of the year

Snowflakes in the air
Carols everywhere
Olden times and ancient rhymes
Of love and dreams to share

Sleigh bells in the air
Beauty everywhere
Yuletide by the fireside
And joyful memories there

Christmas time is here
We'll be drawing near
Oh, that we could always see
Such spirit through the year
Oh, that we could always see
Such spirit through the year...

So we've broken out the Charlie Brown Christmas DVD, and we've got the Vince Guaraldi Trio soundtrack playing on the iPod rotation. How much Charlie Brown-ier could we get? Hallie, the ever observant and loving woman she is, saw me spying replicas of the pathetic little tree from the show for sale on line and found a way.

We saw a smaller version of the tree in one of those Running Press books-in-a-box, and I vaguely thought that it would be fun to buy. So today Hallie goes to the bookstore, and what does she bring home? That's right! Books for our niece and nephews. Oh, yeah. And the mini book and tree!

There are people I know who aren't big Charlie Brown fans, which is fine. He agonizes too much (one of our med student friends calls him "clinically depressed"), but we're on a journey with him as he tries to make sense of Christmas, and we all can relate to his angst, at least once in a while. I love the part of the show where Linus explains to Charlie and the other kids what Christmas is all about:

"And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men."

That's it. Somehow, hearing the Christmas story inspires Charlie to find a way to make his little tree work. A little magic handwaving by the kids, and sure enough! Things turn out just fine.

It is ironic that I think my wife is awesome for going to a store and buying me a gift intended to remind me that Christmas is not about commercialism and instead about the birth of our Savior and the worth of souls, but such is life in a postmodern age. I juggle incompatible realities like these all the time in my career, so why not in my personal life?

OK, this blog post is trailing off. I don't have anything more profound to give you. Just wanted to say that Hallie's the best. In fact, now I'm going to ruin the mood. Here's a final related bit of something funny we found on YouTube last year. Enjoy! Hey Ya! Charlie Brown Style

Saturday, November 29, 2008

A Little Bit of This and a Little Bit of That


  • 2,328. Why does that number seems so huge lately? It's the number of miles from here to there. It's 34 hours straight by car or about 8 hours door to door by plane. Maybe if flying there wasn't so many hours, I would not want to have a panic attack thinking about trying to go with Landon by myself. But I do, and so it holds me back.
  • If my mom could come here to have her knee surgery that would be great! Landon would help out so much to take care of her (I wish)! He always loves to share his food, especially after it has already been in his mouth.
  • My dear brother has decided to join the Army. Boy, have my emotions swung all directions when I think about this. I will do whatever I can to support him and his sweet family. He is trying to do what is best for them. Here is a nice link from Elder Robert D. Hales talking to military personnel regarding their service to our country. We can't wait to go to his graduation from Boot Camp at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. I am always up for a road trip.
  • I am happy our turkey turned out on Thanksgiving. It was nice having the missionaries over. Our elders were so cute. They each made their own pie to contribute. We each had firsts (ours at cooking a turkey and theirs at baking pies), and it was a ton of fun. Our little 12 lb bird has fed us every day for a week. The pies didn't last quite as long.
  • With the help of our friend Jayne, we have taught Landon this week how to stick out his tongue. I know it sounds weird. Why would we teach him how to do that? Well, he isn't making any noises toward talking, and Jayne (who is a speech pathologist) said if he is not using his tongue, he won't be talking. As of yesterday our little peanut now can stick his tongue out all by himself. We think it is a riot and love his little tongue. Now if he would just stick it out long enough so we can take a picture.
  • We put the tree up right after Thanksgiving. Mike was smart and put the ornaments that Landon could play with near the bottom to avoid anything being broken. Boy, oh boy! He loves to touch the tree.
  • I would love to have Landon and Cru play together. I realize Cru is only a month old, but how cute would those two be?! Landon loves babies, and it would be so fun to hang out with Carly and babysit her new little one.
  • How I miss Salt Lake in the Winter. FM100 Christmas concerts at the mall were one of my favorite things to attend. Waiting on the Internet to get First Presidency Christmas Devotional tickets and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir tickets are days filled with excitement. Lights at Temple Square and buying all of the different flavors of Stephens (ripping) Hot Cocoa is awesome!

I am sure there is more rambling around in this brain of mine that I can't figure out how to get out. Maybe it is the season when you wish to be with family or the fact that I can't remember when I saw the sun last. I do know that my heart is filled with love for my boys and most of all for my extended family who I long to be with this holiday season.

Monday, November 24, 2008

These Are a Few of My Favorite [Canadian] Things


This morning the three of us embarked on a trip south of the border (heh heh) to Windsor, Ontario, to stock up on our favorite Canadian goodies. One of the reasons we chose to move to Detroit (besides the perks Mike got for picking Wayne State) was its proximity to Canada (Hallie served her mission in the Maritime Provinces and Newfoundland). If only Argentina were so close! We have taken two long trips to Hallie's old mission stomping grounds and made a few other border crossings, mostly to stock up on our stores of Canadian-only treats. Today we went to Superstore and Costco, and here is what we got: maple cream cookies, Nanaimo Bar mix, Shreddies, peach juice mix, dulce de leche (that one's Argentine, not Canadian), Sun Rype fruit bars, Kinder Surprise eggs, a Montreal smoked meat sandwich, and some poutine. Good thing we only stock up once or twice a year!

What A Character


Landon has found where all of the tupperware is stored. I don't mind him playing with it, as he is kept busy while I try to make dinner. One day last week, I saw him put a piece of tupperware in the recycle bin and told Mike to keep a lookout for it when he dumped the recycle bin come Monday. After dinner this past week I was looking for a tupperware to put leftovers in, and I had absolutely no tupperware to use. I was bewildered, but I guess not enough so to go on a real hunt for them. After emptying the recycle bin today, Mike came back in the house with a treasure trove full of tupperware and a tin of chilis that Landon had stashed away. What a character!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

A Winter Tradition, Revisited


It's that time of year again! We've had our first snow of the season, and Mike's up to his old tricks cutting snowflakes. They're a minor passion with him. At Christmastime, we have them all over the Christmas tree and hanging from the windows. We have books and pewter ornaments from Vermont Snowflakes, a company affiliated with the Jericho Historical Society that honors the memory of Wilson "Snowflake" Bentley. In addition, Mike made several special paper snowflake ornaments to hang from our tree and garlands. Ever since Mike was a little kid and learned how to cut paper snowflakes, he was hooked. He retaught himself in high school (that college prep math mattered for something), and as surely as the snow falls, Mike has his trusty scissors in hand. In fact, a few years ago, Hallie bought him some special Cutter Bee Scissors. Other people have genuine talent at creating paper snowflakes as art. For instance, "Dr. Snowflake" (Thomas L. Clark) of Ann Arbor and Les Barker both do truly remarkable work. (Speaking of incredible paper art, check out the work of Peter Callesen.) In comparison, Mike is a rank amateur.
Back in 2004, Mike found a website called Make-a-Flake. The URL has changed, and they don't let you make stamps and other fun things out of the flakes anymore, but the virtual scissors, table, and gallery are still there. Try your hand at making your own. Mike made the flake above, and here are a few more he made (click an astrix): (*), (*), (*), (*), (*), and (*). Mike's only complaint is that the files you can save come up with a blue snowflake on a white background. They're prettier in the gallery, but they're smaller. The site has all the hallmarks Internet brain candy: it's fun, a challenge to master, and a bit addicting. Betcha can't cut just one! This year he found another site called Snow Days. It's harder to "cut" the flakes, but the results are quite intricate. It would probably help to have something more precise than a mouse or a track pad. Anyway, whether your instrument of choice is a pair of scissors or a mouse, happy cutting!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Success!


Even with it snowing outside the freeways pretty dang bad looking we still had a successful fireside. Sunday Michelle and I pulled off our Annual Adoption Fireside at the Westland Stake Center. We both worked long and hard on it. For me it was the first time I had ever helped with a fireside and it was a really good experience. While we were in church earlier in the day it started snowing. So much so that by the time we had gotten home from church you could not see much of the grass. My heart sank thinking not a soul would show up. People even called Michelle asking if we were going to cancel. But once we had sent out an invitation to every stake in Michigan how do you cancel something like that? So we went about pressing forward. Mike, Landon, and I picked up the pianist from our branch who so generously played the piano for us and off we headed on to the roads. We arrived safe and sound and started to set things up. As it grew near more and more people showed up. I was so happy to see so many people on a day like this. Afterwards Michelle told me that we had more people than she had ever seen at a fireside. Wah Hoo! The talks that were given were filled with the Spirit and touched many peoples hearts. The slide show Mike so brilliantly put together brought smiles and tears to the faces of the audience members. Michelle brought a beautiful cake from Sam's Club that said, "Adoption, One Miracle At A Time" and we had a nice assortment of cookies. Michelle always out does herself and I am so blessed to have her as a co chair and now as a great friend. Well enough of me being mushy. All I have to say is, Yeah for Adoption!

Friday, November 14, 2008

National Adoption Month

November is National Adoption Month.

I thought long and hard what to write about adoption. Nothing really quite struck and I think that is partially because I have written a lot over the past year plus about our little Landon and our adoption experiences. This Sunday Michelle and I are in charge of the FSA Fireside. I am specifically in charge of a slideshow and while looking for quotes to add to the slide show I came across a link to a video on YouTube. I found this link on saltlakefsa.blgospot.com . As I watched the video I was really moved and thought I would share it with you as my message for


Included as well are some of the most recent pictures of our peanut who we love so dearly.

Landon and Mom at a Halloween event.


Popi and Landon ready for a wintery day. Finally Landon has learned to smile for the camera. No more Alfred Hitchcock poses.




The second Monday of every month at the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village they have an outing for th kids. This last one had to do with Movie and TV Costumes. It was really fun to put Landon in front of a green screen (top photo) and then to look on the Internet several days later and see what he was really standing in front of (bottom photo). We have so much fun taking him to all of things at the museum every month. Now that he is walking and has really developed a personality it is so much fun to trapse him all over Detroit doing fun things.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Historic Photos of Salt Lake

I received another book in the Historic Photos series from Turner Publishing: Historic Photos of Salt Lake City. As a resident of downtown Salt Lake for four years, I felt more familiar with what I was seeing in this book than with either the Detroit book (I’m too new as yet, so I’m still learning about what I’m seeing) or the LA book (I was a child of the suburbs, so that book was more educational than nostalgia producing). With the Salt Lake title, I could place myself in the scenery and imagine how the modern city has grown up around the black and white image in my view. We own Brigham Street, a book of historic photos of homes on South Temple. As with Brigham Street, I found out some of the history of buildings I had frequently seen and admired, and I learned (and relearned) the names of icons of the Salt Lake skyline. I was surprised that the First Security Bank (Ken Garff) building (that gem of the International Style—like it or not, it’s famous) didn’t make the cut, but it was probably just a little too newfangled. Apparently road construction on South Temple is a fact of life in any era, as the paving photos attested. I had to chuckle when I read that the “majestic, cathedral-like” City and County Building essentially was built “to rival the Temple’s magnificence during tensions between Mormon and non-Mormon residents.” Observations and anecdotes like this are scattered throughout the book and add to the interest of the photos. If you have lived in Salt Lake, especially downtown, the book is worth a look.

A Moment Etched On My Heart

Landon has never been a real cuddly kind of kid, which is okay by me because I am not a real cuddly kind of girl.
Tonight was an exception for both of us.
As I was feeding him right before bed I put him up to my shoulder, and he hugged me, and we sat in the rocker for a few moments relishing in something that doesn't happen very often from our very sweet boy.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Marriage, a unique institution

With the passage of Proposition 8 in California, the issue of same-sex marriage will be placed on the back burner again for a while. My mom sent me an interesting editorial from the LA Times from back in September relating to the debate (click here for the link). The editorial is written by David Blankenhorn, a liberal Democrat and expert on marriage who makes the case for the social institution of marriage as a uniquely heterosexual union designed as a biological, social, and legal birthright for children. I'll have to pick up his book The Future of Marriage to see what else he might have to say on the subject.

Congratulations, Mr. President

I love the political process and the strong emotions it stirs up in us as we renew and refine our individual values. This last presidential election has been historic on a number of levels. Regardless of anyone's personal feelings, we now have our first African American President. Reading over the speeches by the candidates after the dust had settled, I appreciated that both candidates gave this election its proper context.

From Senator McCain:

“In a contest as long and difficult as this campaign has been, his success alone commands my respect for his ability and perseverance. But that he managed to do so by inspiring the hopes of so many millions of Americans who had once wrongly believed that they had little at stake or little influence in the election of an American president is something I deeply admire and commend him for achieving. . . .

“Senator Obama and I have had and argued our differences, and he has prevailed. No doubt many of those differences remain.

“These are difficult times for our country. And I pledge to him tonight to do all in my power to help him lead us through the many challenges we face.

“I urge all Americans who supported me to join me in not just congratulating him, but offering our next president our good will and earnest effort to find ways to come together to find the necessary compromises to bridge our differences and help restore our prosperity, defend our security in a dangerous world, and leave our children and grandchildren a stronger, better country than we inherited.

“Whatever our differences, we are fellow Americans.”

From President-elect Obama:

“If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer. . . .

“Let us summon a new spirit of patriotism; of service and responsibility where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves, but each other. . . .

Let us resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long. Let us remember that it was a man from this state who first carried the banner of the Republican Party to the White House - a party founded on the values of self-reliance, individual liberty, and national unity. Those are values we all share, and while the Democratic Party has won a great victory tonight, we do so with a measure of humility and determination to heal the divides that have held back our progress. As Lincoln said to a nation far more divided than ours, We are not enemies, but friends...though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. And to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn - I may not have won your vote, but I hear your voices, I need your help, and I will be your President, too.”

The word “change” has as many possibilities, both for good and for ill. Having a new President means that things get shaken up, cobwebs get swept away, new rivalries and alliances get formed, and the wheels of history roll on. We will never again be a country where someone can cynically say, “Oh, yeah, anyone can be President (except if you’re Black).” That means something. Regardless of your political leanings, an old, old gate has swung on its hinges just a little bit, and the notion that “all men are created equal” has been verified again. The next time a Black man or woman runs for President, it won’t be such a big deal, and we will be more free to genuinely examine that person’s credentials in ways questions of race have impeded us before. And yet, we still live in a politically racialized country. An editorial by Shelby Steele, a conservative author who happens to be Black, highlights some of the tensions that remain and that continue to need resolution in American racial politics in the wake of Mr. Obama’s victory (click here for the link).

For one, I choose to be hopeful in the wake of an Obama presidency. I make the deliberate choice to believe that people of goodwill will choose to work together and that things will work out in the end, fully aware that things often work out in unexpected and surprising ways. Obama is neither the Messiah nor the anti-Christ. He’s the President, and we have the ability as a nation to make his being the President something positive and meaningful.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Cameo on local TV

How's this for dumb? We get rid of our TV just in time to miss our cameo on one of our favorite local shows, Discover the D, on our local PBS station. Luckily, we found out that Detroit Public TV does a video archive online, so we can still get our fix. Anyway, here's a link to their October 27th episode: Episode 298 (we show up about four minutes in). Our "boo-rific" cameo comes from our visit to Hallowe'en in Greenfield Village. Hallie saw Veronica Vance filming and wanted to tell her how much she likes the show. Next thing you know, we're on camera! One thing more to love about this town.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Nothing to Show

I VOTED!
But the poling place had no sticker or receipt to give us saying we had voted. I want to show how proud I am that I have voted, but nothing. Dang it! I can't even get my free coffee (hopefully hot chocolate) at Starbucks, not a free cone at Ben and Jerrys or a free donut at Krispy Kreme.
Maybe next time our polling place will have something fun for us to show our patriotism.
As we approached our polling place this morning there were people handing out flyers for certain candidates. One of the people was even the candidate himself. I told him it was too bad I couldn't get to know him before today. I am sure he was doing his best to get those last few votes, but he didn't get mine. Neither did the guy who sent us close to 20 flyers over the last several weeks. What a big waste of paper.
If you haven't voted yet, go do it. And if you are in Michigan, remember to take your ID with you.

Friday, October 31, 2008

A Bit of Gratitude


Happy Halloween to all of you!

Tonight I was putting Landon to sleep and I have not yet mastered the art of reading a story and feeding him a bottle. So I decided to try and tell him a great story about how he came to us. I couldn't get through the story without crying. :( He is an amazing blessing to us. Every Halloween from now on I will remember a bit of the story below.

It was one year ago today that my 8 day old baby and I made the long journey home to Michigan. I was so grateful to see Mike at the end of the long airport hallway. I was the last one left in the hallway dragging the baby carrier in one hand and carrying my bags in another. All I wanted was to get to a home I had only lived in for 3 days.
(I didn't tell Landon the last part. :)
Today it really seemed like Landon realized that Poppi was not home. Every morning he comes to play in our bedroom and this morning he looked all around for Mike. It was cute and amazing how much they notice even at 1.
Yesterday we went shopping with our friends Arika and Jackson and I got Landon some great deals! I thought it would be no fun buying clothes for a boy. WRONG! I love it! This little kiddo has more clothes than he can ever wear. But when you are this cute who wouldn't want to buy you so many clothes.
1 day till Mike comes home yeah!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

10 Years Have Flown By

In all of the years leading up to this 10th year we have always celebrated our first date. Last year we celebrated even more as that was the day I brought Landon home. This year it was a bit lame. We (mainly Mike) was extremely busy this last week and then left today for Orlando, Florida. Yes, he is in Walt Disney World without us. I can't wait for the day when Landon really understands who Tigger and all of the other characters are.

  • It was 10 years ago on the 27th that Mike and I first met.
  • It was 10 years ago on Halloween this Friday that Mike and I had our first date. This has been the first Halloween we have spent apart. :(
  • It will be 10 years of marriage on January 23.

I would have never imagined we would have ended up in Michigan. When I met Mike he was an elementary school teacher in sunny So Cal. We lived in a little condo that did the job. We have since lived in Argentina, Mike has gone back to school twice, I have gone back to school, we lived in Utah, and have traveled lots. We even have a little tyke to tow a long on this crazy adventure we call life. The day I met Mike my mom said I did not look very nice. What a good way to start off the night at Institute. But my timing and whatever humor God gave me proved to work.

I love Mike and I am grateful that he is willing to stand by me no matter what craziness I send in his direction. Just remember be bold while you are gone and let the ideas flow. We need TENURE.

All my love. Nena

Sunday, October 26, 2008

On Living Fully in the Present Moment

I found when I was younger I would spend a lot of time imagining my future and wishing so hard that the next stage of my life would just come already. When I was in school, I was thinking about my job. When I was on my mission, I would think about "real" life at mission's end. Every so often, I would enjoy the present moment, but the moment would get lost as I began thinking again of what I wanted the future to bring. Now, don't get me wrong. Planning for and anticipating a planned-for future helps a body set goals and fuels proper ambition. I'd have never earned the scholarships or pushed on for the PhD without a healthy sense that there was something just out of sight that I was reaching for. In effect, that is the essence of faith.

However, like every positive character attribute, the faith that motivates us to push onward can become a misplaced anticipation of a bright future that outshines the present. Gradually, those periods of enjoying the present moment have grown, and (at least over the past year) I have found myself appreciating the wisdom that encourages people to live fully within the present moment, to enjoy being here, now. This idea is deeper than it sounds, because I have known a lot of people who, in their desire to take in the present take no thought at all for the future, which pattern of behavior has its own problems. I have occasionally reached an inner place that balances thoughtful plans for the future with a deep appreciation for the beauties of the here and now. When I get there, I find a simple peace that's hard to describe. It's a deep, quiet satisfaction of feeling fully present and where I belong. This last week, Hallie checked out Season 1 of Northern Exposure, and in the third episode, Chris (the DJ) has a brief conversation with Joel (the doctor) about the challenges Joel is experiencing as part of his move to Cicely, Alaska. Chris remarks:

"Well, you know the way I see it, if you're here for four more years or four more weeks, you're here right now. You know, and I think when you're somewhere you ought to be there, and because it's not about how long you stay in a place. It's about what you do while you're there, and when you go is that place any better for you having been there?"

That's the stuff. As often as I can find it within myself to do, I will be here now for however long that here and that now may be.

Tag!

I have read several blogs where people were tagged to write about their favorite things. From what I can tell we have only been tagged by one person and because I was poking around on their blog I found out we were tagged. So below is a compilation of Mike and Hallie's tagged info.

Eight Favorite TV Shows: (If we had cable they would be)
1. The Office
2. Dancing With The Stars
3. The Backyardigans
4. Discover Detroit
5. Dirty Jobs with Mike Rowe
6. Battlestar Galactica
7. Sunday Morning with Charles Osgood
8. Ace of Cakes/American Choppers

Eight Favorite Restaurants:
1. Olga's Kitchen
2. Baja Fresh
3. Chipotle
4. Pizza Papalis
5. Lamb's Grill
6. Paradise Bakery
7. California Pizza Kitchen
8. Tommy's/In-N-Out

Eight Things that Happened Yesterday:
1. Got my hair washed at Fantasic Sams due to my thumb injury.
2. Raked wonderful fall leaves in the front yard.
3. Bought cake for Halloween party for celebration of Landon's birthday.
4. Played with Landon and kept telling him to stop touching stuff.
5. Fielded calls for branch members regarding Halloween party.
6. Decorated for branch Halloween party.
7. Attended branch Halloween party.
8. Elders stopped by to coordinate rides for church

Eight Things to look forward to:
1. Thanksgiving
2. Christmas Brunch Hallie wants to have at the house
3. Carly's little Billy
4. Landon getting his one year shots (NOT!)
5. San Diego in April
6. The first snow fall
7. New couches
8. Mike returning from UCEA (lucky dog will be at Walt Disney World)

Eight things on my wish list:
1. Being Debt Free
2. Adopt #2
3. A new dining room table
4. No cold feet in bed
5. New winter mocs
6. New yummy smelling Yankee Candles for fall and winter
7. Landon to have molars so he can eat more yummy food
8. Single Story House

Eight Things I love about the Fall:
1. Apple Orchards and all that goes along with them
2. All the awesome leaves on our street
3. My front porch decorated
4. The nip in the air
5. Trick or Treating
6. Thanksgiving
7. Landon's Birthday
8. Our Anniversary of our first date

Eight people I tag:1. Michelle 2. Carly 3. Stephanie 4. Toby 5. Aimee 6. Bryce and Elise 7. Riley 8. Breanne

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Historic Photo Books


We just finished looking through a couple of interesting books of historic photos from a company called Turner Publishing out of Nashville, Tennessee. As new residents of Detroit, we found that Historic Photos of Detroit offered enlightening insights into the Motor City as it rose from an outpost on the frontier to an automobile and military manufacturing powerhouse to the first stages of racial tensions that affect the city to the present time. We showed the book to a couple of our friends, one a long-time Detroit resident, and the other a newbie like us. Our friend from Detroit remarked that while she has grown up with a lot of the landmarks pictured, she had not realized their significance to the city's history. Our newbie friend noted how the book chronicled for her a story of what might have been. The photos are all black and white, and they end in the 1960s, before things took a serious slide. You do get to feeling wistful when you realize that old photos of Detroit and Chicago look so similar, and yet today the cities have drifted apart. Our friend remarked on the contrast of the night life, for instance. We live a block and a half from Alter Road, and as you drive north on Alter and west onto Mack, you see islands of development that float in the sea of neglect that characterizes much of Detroit. The old girl is getting some TLC (in places), and hope remains in some quarters that Detroiters and those friendly to the city's growth can help bring things back. The Book Cadillac has reopened, midtown is picking up, and portions of Jefferson have healthy commercial centers. All in all, the book provided a lot of food for thought and conversation. It will occupy a visible place in our home as a potent history lesson.

To life-long Cali natives such as ourselves, Historic Photos of Los Angeles brought on a complex set of emotions. The last time we went to Southern California together, we noted that no matter what time of day you were out on the freeways, there were cars upon cars upon cars on the road. We know and have been to many of the venues pictured in the book, and it was like looking through our grandparents' old photo albums, but with a context for each photo. Boy, has LA changed, as the panorama of bathing beauties from 1917 will attest. As with the Detroit book, captions beside the photos tell some of the background and significance of the events portrayed. Of special significance was the portion relating to the beginnings of LA's aerospace industry. Our families came to California from Utah and points further east, drawn to SoCal by jobs in new industries. I (Mike) remember my grandma talking about working with the airplane companies, and seeing photos of the factory line workers gave me a feel for what her work could have been like.

We found out that there is a whole series of these picture books, and we'll have to take a look at their Salt Lake title to see what new insights the folks at Turner have to share with us about our former home. To take a look at titles that might interest you, click here.

Happy 1st Birthday Dearest Landon




Landon turned 1 year old!




I know he had no idea what all of the singing we did to him was about.

Why he had cake at 11:00 am.

He decided to use his teeth to open his presents.




Friday, October 10, 2008

Everything Will Be Alright

I ride the bus to and from work most days, and in the afternoons or evenings as I ride home, my bus passes the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit. On the outside of this graffiti clad concrete and stucco building on Woodward is posted a message in large white neon letters: “EVERYTHING IS GOING TO BE ALRIGHT.” When I first paid attention to the sign as I first started riding home from class last winter, a few months after Alison had died and as we were still struggling to get accustomed to this new place, new job, new house, new baby, new calling as branch president, and the new hole in my heart where Alison lived, I took comfort in this simple message: the overwhelming load I was bearing would pass. Someone else held out hope (even in irony) that things would be OK. That bright message floating in the air told me night by night that, in spite of the difficulties, in spite of the grit and hurt and pain, someone else held true to the hope that things would work out. And things did get better, for me at least. Landon has learned (mostly) to sleep through the night, I have begun to learn my duties at work and church, and my grief has begun to wane. Eventually, I stopped paying so much attention to the sign as the summer sun waited for me to get home before it set.
An evolving neon sign installation outside The Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD), which opened in 2006 in a formerly abandoned 22,000-sq-ft automobile dealership – a great model of adaptive reuse reflecting Detroit’s industrial past and its hoped-for rebirth. Artists: Martin Creed/ Sislej Xhafa.

Now fall is here, and it gets dark early again. About a month ago, I began seeing the sign again. At sunset on a rainy evening, it had changed. “When did it change?” I asked myself. Did it change? Nah.” But, paying attention the next night, sure enough, I saw that a few letters of the sign had changed, altering the message from “Everything is going to be alright” to “Nothing will be alright.” The change in wording, though small, haunts me. I want to ask the sign maker, “What happened? Why the change?” I want to tell the sign maker, “My friend, everything will be all right. We’ll get through this thing that prompted you to change your sign, we really will.” To the Museum of Contemporary Art: Thank you for giving me a message of hope during a dark time when I was new to a strange city. Here was art with impact. I want to return the favor and bear the message. I will pass the good word along and tell YOU, gentle reader, that everything will be all right, whatever your situation. I don’t know how or when, but things will work out. (Follow this link to a story about the change.)

On to another topic—After looking at the blogs of my friends, acquaintances, and random strangers, I think I may have discovered the utility and the risk of a blog: we reveal our hearts to each other when we share our thoughts, whatever our motivation for doing so. For many of us, a blog is a journal we use to seek public confirmation of our private worldview. For others, it’s a sounding board, a soap box, or a stage. It’s as if by writing the thoughts of our hearts and sharing them, other people might read what we say and actually agree with us (or at least not get too offended), validating our beliefs. Then the odd critical comment comes in, and our bubble bursts and we feel tempted to withdraw back to the safety of the paper journal. For those people still too new or naïve to blogging to have been hurt by having a blog post come back to haunt you or for those brave enough to keep writing in spite of (or because of) the reactions you get, I salute you.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Strange Days

We don't usually talk about political issues, but these are strange days and the issues surrounding them give me pause to think. I have said to myself, "I know where I stand. At least I think I know where I stand. Maybe I know where I stand. I'm not so sure where I stand. Hey! Where'd the floor go?" That said, I stumbled upon a most interesting diagram and quiz: The World's Smallest Political Quiz (this is not an endorsement for the Libertarian Party, by the way, although I'm sure they're just as nice as anybody. They just happened to make the quiz). I advocate no position on any candidate for federal, state, or local office. I only hope to find candidates who genuinely represent enough of my views and have the strength of character to see their way through the leadership challenges inherent in political office. Such people seem to be in very short supply. Do me a favor will you? Don't vote with your gut. Vote with the good sense the Lord gave you and your mama taught you to use! Do vote and use this franchise that so few folks have had throughout history. I won't hold it against you if we vote differently, so long as you don't sit on your duff on November 4th. Oh, yeah. And register. It's too late if you live in Michigan, but not in a lot of other states.

"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." ~Edmund Burke

So, are you good? Act like it. Love ya.

We Finally Did It :(

On Tuesday October 7 we headed to one of those kid haircut places at a local mall to go get Landon's first trim. It was a bit spur of the moment. I think in some ways it had to be. I really did not want it cut. His hair to me represented being carefree and willing to try anything. Even now just writing this I can't believe I took him to get it cut. Landon was amazing during the cut. He never cried and sat pretty still for being not quite 1 yet. The lady had him sit in a little chair that looked like a police car and the movie Monsters Inc. was on. Landon thought it was a blast holding the steering wheel. As we walked out of the shop the tears just started streaming down my face. It is not Landon, my little baby. Everyone says he looks cute and I thank them for their comment, but to me he looks more like a girl than I thought he did before. The comment, "Give him a haircut! He looks like a girl," when he had longer hair is why we cut it in the first place. Someone told me today the the difference between a bad haircut and a good one is two weeks. I really liked that, and I am counting down the days. Mike said, because Landon a natural waviness to his hair, "He could end up taking after his Uncle Shad. Cool beans!"



Tuesday, September 30, 2008

On Becoming Peculiar Together

When I was a teenager, one of my Sunday School teachers drew a graph on the chalkboard with two lines. One line ran horizontal across the board, and the other took a rounded nosedive. The teacher explained that the two lines represented the Church and the World. She explained that as a church, we needed to remain steady and steadfast as the world continued to decline into moral decay. It wasn’t enough to be just a little better than the world, because ultimately we’d be following their same exponential decline. We were advised to “live in the world but be not of the world.” Effectively, as a peculiar people of promise (nice alliteration, eh? Elder Maxwell would be proud), we needed to be different from those around us in uplifting ways.

Today I realize there are different ways to interpret what it means to be just a little different from the world. After all, how we view the world does so much to shape how we see current events and our behavioral norms within them. Is Armageddon right around the corner? Are we at the tail end/beginning of a Golden Age? Is the future bright with promise? The world definitely has changed from how it was ____ (insert your preferred number here) years ago, back in the Good Old Days for some, the Dark Ages for others, and I find myself wrestling with ambiguous feelings about the present relative to that past, particularly as a model for how my own behavior should change. Is the world really on that downhill slope my Sunday School teacher described? How do we define that decline? In moral terms? In material ones?

As a society, we have made great technological strides that have enabled us to experiment with ways of living that push beyond traditional norms with their safeguards and checks. For instance, we live in an age where innovations in contraception and disease control allow for a far wider range of sexual expression without the consequence of pregnancy and illness and with social safety nets that (try to) catch those whose behavior leads them into harm’s way. Yet at the same time, the traditional calls for moderation, abstinence, fidelity in marriage, and so on remind us that there was (is?) a time when a simpler, behavior-based mode of behavior would prevent the same maladies. In essence, innovation has created a world where many of us can broaden our set of choices and avoid repercussions. Is that a bad thing?

Good, bad, or indifferent, what my Sunday School teacher said does seem to hold true. If we behave just a little differently than the world, we will follow the same general path people of the world take right along with them. Assuming the world is tumbling into moral decline, we would have to stop behaving as our peers do in order to not fall into their pit. A person doesn’t start behaving differently from the group for very long before the others begin to notice. I began to wonder what the experience of someone who committed to holding firm would be like relative to the rest of us. When does it get uncomfortable to be a peculiar people, and how might that peculiarity manifest itself in modern times?

The people surrounding the tree in Lehi’s dream in the Book of Mormon stood separate and exposed relative to those in the great and spacious building. They were odd ducks. Shortly after slugging away, holding firm to the iron rod, wading through the mists of darkness, some of them felt ashamed about standing out so starkly relative to their high-rise neighbors. The rest, notably most of Lehi’s family, managed to hold firm to their decision.


I think that ultimately one of the important points that we have to realize as a Latter-day Saint (LDS) people is that we will stand out like sore thumbs as we give up worldly norms, standards, and behaviors. Is the set of cultural practices we do embrace the sort of stuff that elevates us from worldly influence and makes us more Christian? If it is, we will end up making odd decisions and have to explain or justify positions that seem more and more at odds with conventional wisdom. We will seem more and more like kooks. That’s the bottom line. This is nothing new, but it is a reality we may soon find a harder time embracing. For the moment, we still watch many of the same TV shows, laugh at many of the same jokes, aspire to many of the same honors. We still strive to keep up with the Joneses (the Smiths, the Hinckleys, the Monsons?). We do have some unique twists to the game, but the idea of social parity, of following others along a similar curving path I saw on that Sunday School chalkboard, holds true, at least when it comes to the outer trappings of the LDS “good life,” because at its essence, it isn’t too much different from the upper-middle class WASP norm we see on TV (save for a temple picture here and a Families are Forever plaque there). In a lot of our behavior, we’re looking to each other for reassurance: “We’re not too far off from Bishop and Sister Smith, and I’m certainly not as badly off as the Joneses, so hopefully we’re doing OK.” Possibly, that’s not a bad thing. Obviously some pride issues are involved, but if we can look on the Smiths and Joneses in our lives with compassion and not envy or disdain, shouldn’t we recognize both positive and negative examples that we do see around us?

Moving from the social to the personal, I hear lots of good ideas for how I can do small things to either change the world or improve myself, and most of the time I think, “Wow. That’s a really good idea. I really should do X, Y, or Z. . . ,” and then the thought trails off and I go on doing the same things I’ve always done, berating myself, or worse, excusing myself for not doing what I know I could be doing. The Spirit gives us those quiet, gentle nudges, and we feel vaguely good about doing them. We may even write the ideas down and make an action plan. But somewhere along the way we lose our enthusiasm, or we remember how hard it is to actually do the thing we set out to perform and we fall right back into the same old patterns of stale behavior that make us not too different from the world around us. Perhaps the way of fixing that is having exemplars and friends who make those same commitments and act as positive reinforcers in the days and weeks that follow the epiphanies.

Perhaps supportive, positive peers as role models and reinforcers may serve as the buffer we need to slowly—but genuinely—edge away from the downward slide. Hopefully we can settle on a set of small yet potent changes we can make together that will, while setting us apart from the world around us, help buffer us from feeling so starkly set off that we fall away from the Tree of Life and rather help us feel bound to those other brave standouts who cling to the source of the Good Fruit. I’m trying to get to the tree. It means I have a lot of little things that need to change. Care to join me as I work toward getting there?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Out and About

. . . and you were afraid that without the Internet we'd never write! Mama and Baby took a couple of trips this past week up to Port Huron and to the Detroit Zoo (see "Our Recent Pictures" above for pics). Landon has been getting friendly with the other kids in the branch his age, and he is taking in this big wide world around him. He's about two steps away from walking, and he has added to his "ma ma ma" and "pa pa pa" a new "ba ba ba." He has recently really began to become a lot more self-aware, and he lets you know what he wants more and more clearly (which begs the question: Is he getting better at communicating, or are we finally listening correctly to what he's been trying to tell us all along?). He's become more expressive, and yesterday as Mike was getting ready to take him on a bike ride, he reached up and made his "I want" noises as if to say, "Take me, too!" (which Mike did do). As the boys were riding along, Hallie (who had been out on an errand), came up behind them and about crashed, she was laughing so hard! So cute! Mike sets Landon on his shoulders like a trapeze artist and Landon grabs onto his hair or helmet while Mike tries to ride fast enough to shake him loose. . . just makeing sure you were paying attention. The boy rides in one of those front-facing kangaroo pouch baby carriers while Papi pedals (frankly, it's probably not a lot safer than the first scene I described, but at least he won't go flying off when we crash). We're enjoying the sunny mild late summer/early fall weather and taking advantage of getting out and about as much as we can.

We've been to the library every day except Sunday (it helps that the library is just down the block) and are limping along w/o the technology at our beck and call. Obviously it has taken some getting used to, and if we lived any further from the library, it could get really impractical really quick, but there are some positive changes that have taken place at home. Hallie asked Mike when he thought we might be ready to reintroduce the technology, to which he replied, "I don't know. I guess when we can use it as we would any other appliance." For many people, these media act similarly to a microwave or washing machine: they're there when you need them, and they are used occasionally. We were not at that point. Not to paint the picture that we were junkies, but the TV and Internet were well-used throughout the day for work and play to the occasional (frequent?) exclusion of other worthwhile and necessary activities. Part of this comes from us having the luxury of being able to spend much of our time working from home. People who spend their days in work that has them using technology in a limited/specific way, who leave for work early and return home late after commuting, or who don't just feel drawn--by change of habit or by natural inclination--to TV and the Internet (Mike is striving to become a member of that third group, frankly) may view this voluntary fast with bemusement or possible pity. We're not sure how to view it. What we do know is that unlike many people, our family has been given the unusual gift of unstructured time, and our challenge has been to learn how to structure that time meaningfully. For the last little while we have been distracted, and maybe if we can get refocused, we can try using these technological gifts again within the convenient spaces of our home.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

We Believe Strongly and Support

This was posted on lds.org in the newsroom section this last week.

SALT LAKE CITY 13 August 2008

Introduction

The California Supreme Court recently ruled that same-sex marriage was legal in California. Recognizing the importance of marriage to society, the Church accepted an invitation to participate in ProtectMarriage, a coalition of churches, organizations, and individuals sponsoring a November ballot measure, Proposition 8, that would amend the California state constitution to ensure that only a marriage between a man and a woman would be legally recognized. (Information about the coalition can be found at http://www.protectmarriage.com/).

On June 20, 2008, the First Presidency of the Church distributed a letter about “Preserving Traditional Marriage and Strengthening Families,” announcing the Church’s participation with the coalition. The letter, which was read in Latter-day Saints’ church services in California, asked that Church members “do all [they] can to support the proposed constitutional amendment.”

Members of the Church in Arizona and Florida will also be voting on constitutional amendments regarding marriage in their states, where coalitions similar to California’s are now being formed.

The focus of the Church’s involvement is specifically same-sex marriage and its consequences. The Church does not object to rights (already established in California) regarding hospitalization and medical care, fair housing and employment rights, or probate rights, so long as these do not infringe on the integrity of the family or the constitutional rights of churches and their adherents to administer and practice their religion free from government interference.

The Church has a single, undeviating standard of sexual morality: intimate relations are proper only between a husband and a wife united in the bonds of matrimony.

The Church’s opposition to same-sex marriage neither constitutes nor condones any kind of hostility towards homosexual men and women. Protecting marriage between a man and a woman does not affect Church members’ Christian obligations of love, kindness and humanity toward all people.

As Church members decide their own appropriate level of involvement in protecting marriage between a man and a woman, they should approach this issue with respect for others, understanding, honesty, and civility.

Intending to reduce misunderstanding and ill will, the Church has produced the following document, “The Divine Institution of Marriage,” and provided the accompanying links to other materials, to explain its reasons for defending marriage between a man and a woman as an issue of moral imperative.

The Divine Institution of Marriage

Marriage is sacred, ordained of God from before the foundation of the world. After creating Adam and Eve, the Lord God pronounced them husband and wife, of which Adam said, “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” [1] Jesus Christ cited Adam’s declaration when he affirmed the divine origins of the marriage covenant: “Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, and said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh.” [2]

In 1995, “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” declared the following unchanging truths regarding marriage:

We, the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, solemnly proclaim that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children . . . The family is ordained of God. Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan. Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity.

The Proclamation also teaches, “Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.” The account in Genesis of Adam and Eve being created and placed on earth emphasizes the creation of two distinct genders: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” [3]

Marriage between a man and a woman is central to the plan of salvation. The sacred nature of marriage is closely linked to the power of procreation. Only a man and a woman together have the natural biological capacity to conceive children. This power of procreation – to create life and bring God’s spirit children into the world – is sacred and precious. Misuse of this power undermines the institution of the family and thereby weakens the social fabric. [4] Strong families serve as the fundamental institution for transmitting to future generations the moral strengths, traditions, and values that sustain civilization. As the Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirms, “The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society.” [5]

Marriage is not primarily a contract between individuals to ratify their affections and provide for mutual obligations. Rather, marriage and family are vital instruments for rearing children and teaching them to become responsible adults. While governments did not invent marriage, throughout the ages governments of all types have recognized and affirmed marriage as an essential institution in preserving social stability and perpetuating life itself. Hence, regardless of whether marriages were performed as a religious rite or a civil ceremony, married couples in almost every culture have been granted special benefits aimed primarily at sustaining their relationship and promoting the environment in which children are reared. A husband and a wife do not receive these benefits to elevate them above any other two people who may share a residence or social tie, but rather in order to preserve, protect, and defend the all-important institutions of marriage and family.

It is true that some couples who marry will not have children, either by choice or because of infertility, but the special status of marriage is nonetheless closely linked to the inherent powers and responsibilities of procreation, and to the inherent differences between the genders. Co-habitation under any guise or title is not a sufficient reason for defining new forms of marriage.

High rates of divorce and out-of-wedlock births have resulted in an exceptionally large number of single parents in American society. Many of these single parents have raised exemplary children; nevertheless, extensive studies have shown that in general a husband and wife united in a loving, committed marriage provide the optimal environment for children to be protected, nurtured, and raised. [6] This is not only because of the substantial personal resources that two parents can bring to bear on raising a child, but because of the differing strengths that a father and a mother, by virtue of their gender, bring to the task. As the prominent sociologist David Popenoe has said:

The burden of social science evidence supports the idea that gender differentiated parenting is important for human development and that the contribution of fathers to childrearing is unique and irreplaceable. [7]

Popenoe explained that:

. . . The complementarity of male and female parenting styles is striking and of enormous importance to a child’s overall development. It is sometimes said that fathers express more concern for the child’s longer-term development, while mothers focus on the child’s immediate well-being (which, of course, in its own way has everything to do with a child’s long-term well-being). What is clear is that children have dual needs that must be met: one for independence and the other for relatedness, one for challenge and the other for support. [8]

Social historian David Blankenhorn makes a similar argument in his book Fatherless America. [9] In an ideal society, every child would be raised by both a father and a mother.

Challenges to Marriage and Family

Our modern era has seen traditional marriage and family – defined as a husband and wife with children in an intact marriage – come increasingly under assault. Sexual morality has declined and infidelity has increased. Since 1960, the proportion of children born out of wedlock has soared from 5.3 percent to 38.5 percent (2006). [10] Divorce has become much more common and accepted, with the United States having one of the highest divorce rates in the world. Since 1973, abortion has taken the lives of over 45 million innocents. [11] At the same time, entertainment standards continue to plummet, and pornography has become a scourge afflicting and addicting many victims. Gender differences increasingly are dismissed as trivial, irrelevant, or transient, thus undermining God’s purpose in creating both men and women.

In recent years in the United States and other countries, a movement has emerged to promote same-sex marriage as an inherent or constitutional right. This is not a small step, but a radical change: instead of society tolerating or accepting private, consensual sexual behavior between adults, advocates of same-sex marriage seek its official endorsement and recognition.

Court decisions in Massachusetts (2004) and California (2008) have allowed same-sex marriages. This trend constitutes a serious threat to marriage and family. The institution of marriage will be weakened, resulting in negative consequences for both adults and children.

In November 2008, California voters will decide whether to amend their state constitution to define marriage as only between a man and a woman. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has joined in a broad coalition of other denominations, organizations, and individuals to encourage voter approval of this amendment.

The people of the United States – acting either directly or through their elected representatives – have recognized the crucial role that traditional marriage has played and must continue to play in American society if children and families are to be protected and moral values propagated.

Forty-four states have passed legislation making clear that marriage is between a man and a woman. More than half of those states, twenty-seven in all, have done so by constitutional amendments like the ones pending in California, Arizona, and Florida. [12]

In contrast, those who would impose same-sex marriage on American society have chosen a different course. Advocates have taken their case to the state courts, asking judges to remake the institution of marriage that society has accepted and depended upon for millennia. Yet, even in this context, a broad majority of courts – six out of eight state supreme courts – have upheld traditional marriage laws. Only two, Massachusetts and now California, have gone in the other direction, and then, only by the slimmest of margins – 4 to 3 in both cases.

In sum, there is very strong agreement across America on what marriage is. As the people of California themselves recognized when they voted on this issue just eight years ago, traditional marriage is essential to society as a whole, and especially to its children. Because this question strikes at the very heart of the family, because it is one of the great moral issues of our time, and because it has the potential for great impact upon the family, the Church is speaking out on this issue, and asking members to get involved.

Tolerance, Same-Sex Marriage and Religious Freedom

Those who favor homosexual marriage contend that “tolerance” demands that they be given the same right to marry as heterosexual couples. But this appeal for “tolerance” advocates a very different meaning and outcome than that word has meant throughout most of American history and a different meaning than is found in the gospel of Jesus Christ. The Savior taught a much higher concept, that of love. “Love thy neighbor,” He admonished. [13] Jesus loved the sinner even while decrying the sin, as evidenced in the case of the woman taken in adultery: treating her kindly, but exhorting her to “sin no more.” [14] Tolerance as a gospel principle means love and forgiveness of one another, not “tolerating” transgression.

In today’s secular world, the idea of tolerance has come to mean something entirely different. Instead of love, it has come to mean condone – acceptance of wrongful behavior as the price of friendship. Jesus taught that we love and care for one another without condoning transgression. But today’s politically palatable definition insists that unless one accepts the sin he does not tolerate the sinner.

As Elder Dallin H. Oaks has explained,

Tolerance obviously requires a non-contentious manner of relating toward one another’s differences. But tolerance does not require abandoning one’s standards or one’s opinions on political or public policy choices. Tolerance is a way of reacting to diversity, not a command to insulate it from examination. [15]

The Church does not condone abusive treatment of others and encourages its members to treat all people with respect. However, speaking out against practices with which the Church disagrees on moral grounds – including same-sex marriage – does not constitute abuse or the frequently misused term “hate speech.” We can express genuine love and friendship for the homosexual family member or friend without accepting the practice of homosexuality or any re-definition of marriage.

Legalizing same-sex marriage will affect a wide spectrum of government activities and policies. Once a state government declares that same-sex unions are a civil right, those governments almost certainly will enforce a wide variety of other policies intended to ensure that there is no discrimination against same-sex couples. This may well place “church and state on a collision course.” [16]

The prospect of same-sex marriage has already spawned legal collisions with the rights of free speech and of action based on religious beliefs. For example, advocates and government officials in certain states already are challenging the long-held right of religious adoption agencies to follow their religious beliefs and only place children in homes with both a mother and a father. As a result, Catholic Charities in Boston has stopped offering adoption services.

Other advocates of same-sex marriage are suggesting that tax exemptions and benefits be withdrawn from any religious organization that does not embrace same-sex unions. [17] Public accommodation laws are already being used as leverage in an attempt to force religious organizations to allow marriage celebrations or receptions in religious facilities that are otherwise open to the public. Accrediting organizations in some instances are asserting pressure on religious schools and universities to provide married housing for same-sex couples. Student religious organizations are being told by some universities that they may lose their campus recognition and benefits if they exclude same-sex couples from club membership. [18]

Many of these examples have already become the legal reality in several nations of the European Union, and the European Parliament has recommended that laws guaranteeing and protecting the rights of same-sex couples be made uniform across the EU. [19] Thus, if same-sex marriage becomes a recognized civil right, there will be substantial conflicts with religious freedom. And in some important areas, religious freedom may be diminished.

How Would Same-Sex Marriage Affect Society?

Possible restrictions on religious freedom are not the only societal implications of legalizing same-sex marriage. Perhaps the most common argument that proponents of same-sex marriage make is that it is essentially harmless and will not affect the institution of traditional heterosexual marriage in any way. “It won’t affect you, so why should you care?’ is the common refrain. While it may be true that allowing single-sex unions will not immediately and directly affect all existing marriages, the real question is how it will affect society as a whole over time, including the rising generation and future generations. The experience of the few European countries that already have legalized same-sex marriage suggests that any dilution of the traditional definition of marriage will further erode the already weakened stability of marriages and family generally. Adopting same-sex marriage compromises the traditional concept of marriage, with harmful consequences for society.

Aside from the very serious consequence of undermining and diluting the sacred nature of marriage between a man and a woman, there are many practical implications in the sphere of public policy that will be of deep concern to parents and society as a whole. These are critical to understanding the seriousness of the overall issue of same-sex marriage.

When a man and a woman marry with the intention of forming a new family, their success in that endeavor depends on their willingness to renounce the single-minded pursuit of self-fulfillment and to sacrifice their time and means to the nurturing and rearing of their children. Marriage is fundamentally an unselfish act: legally protected because only a male and female together can create new life, and because the rearing of children requires a life-long commitment, which marriage is intended to provide. Societal recognition of same-sex marriage cannot be justified simply on the grounds that it provides self-fulfillment to its partners, for it is not the purpose of government to provide legal protection to every possible way in which individuals may pursue fulfillment. By definition, all same-sex unions are infertile, and two individuals of the same gender, whatever their affections, can never form a marriage devoted to raising their own mutual offspring.

It is true that some same-sex couples will obtain guardianship over children –through prior heterosexual relationships, through adoption in the states where this is permitted, or by artificial insemination. Despite that, the all-important question of public policy must be: what environment is best for the child and for the rising generation? Traditional marriage provides a solid and well-established social identity to children. It increases the likelihood that they will be able to form a clear gender identity, with sexuality closely linked to both love and procreation. By contrast, the legalization of same-sex marriage likely will erode the social identity, gender development, and moral character of children. Is it really wise for society to pursue such a radical experiment without taking into account its long-term consequences for children?

As just one example of how children will be adversely affected, the establishment of same-sex marriage as a civil right will inevitably require mandatory changes in school curricula. When the state says that same-sex unions are equivalent to heterosexual marriages, the curriculum of public schools will have to support this claim. Beginning with elementary school, children will be taught that marriage can be defined as a relation between any two adults and that consensual sexual relations are morally neutral. Classroom instruction on sex education in secondary schools can be expected to equate homosexual intimacy with heterosexual relations. These developments will create serious clashes between the agenda of the secular school system and the right of parents to teach their children traditional standards of morality.

Finally, throughout history the family has served as an essential bulwark of individual liberty. The walls of a home provide a defense against detrimental social influences and the sometimes overreaching powers of government. In the absence of abuse or neglect, government does not have the right to intervene in the rearing and moral education of children in the home. Strong families are thus vital for political freedom. But when governments presume to redefine the nature of marriage, issuing regulations to ensure public acceptance of non-traditional unions, they have moved a step closer to intervening in the sacred sphere of domestic life. The consequences of crossing this line are many and unpredictable, but likely would include an increase in the power and reach of the state toward whatever ends it seeks to pursue.

The Sanctity of Marriage

Strong, stable families, headed by a father and mother, are the anchor of civilized society. When marriage is undermined by gender confusion and by distortions of its God-given meaning, the rising generation of children and youth will find it increasingly difficult to develop their natural identity as a man or a woman. Some will find it more difficult to engage in wholesome courtships, form stable marriages, and raise yet another generation imbued with moral strength and purpose.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has chosen to become involved, along with many other churches, organizations, and individuals, in defending the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman because it is a compelling moral issue of profound importance to our religion and to the future of our society.

The final line in the Proclamation on the Family is an admonition to the world from the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve: “We call upon responsible citizens and officers of government everywhere to promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society.” This is the course charted by Church leaders, and it is the only course of safety for the Church and for the nation.
________________________________________________
[1] Genesis 2:24.
[2] Matthew 19:4-6.
[3] Genesis 1:27.
[4] M. Russell Ballard, “What Matters Most is What Lasts Longest,” Ensign, November 2005, p. 41.
[5] United Nations, “Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” General Assembly Resolution 217 A (III), 10 December 1948.
[6] David Blankenhorn, Fatherless America: Confronting Our Most Urgent Social Problem (New York: Basic Books, 1995); Barbara Schneider, Allison Atteberry, and Ann Owens, Family Matters: Family Structure and Child Outcomes (Birmingham AL: Alabama Policy Institute: June 2005); David Popenoe, Life Without Father (New York: Martin Kessler Books, 1996); David Popenoe and Barbara Defoe Whitehead, The State of Our Unions 2007: The Social Health of Marriage in America (Piscataway, NJ (Rutgers University): The National Marriage Project, July 2007 ) pp. 21-25; and Maggie Gallagher and Joshua K. Baker, “Do Moms and Dads Matter? Evidence from the Social Sciences on Family Structure and the Best Interests of the Child,” Margins Law Journal 4:161 (2004).
[7] David Popenoe, Life Without Father (New York: The Free Press, 1996) p. 146.
[8] Ibid., p. 145. See also Spencer W. Kimball, “The Role of Righteous Women,” Ensign, November 1979, pp. 102-104.
[9] David Blankenhorn, Fatherless America, pp. 219-220.
[10] Stephanie J. Ventura and Christine A. Bachrach, “Nonmarital Childbearing in the United States, 1940-99,” National Vital Statistics Reports 48:16 (18 October 2000); and Brady E. Hamilton, Joyce A. Martin, and Stephanie J. Ventura, “Births: Preliminary Data for 2006,” National Vital Statistics Reports 56:7 (5 December 2007).
[11] Alan Guttmacher Institute, “Facts on Induced Abortion in the United States,” In Brief, July 2008.
[12] Christine Vestal, “California Gay Marriage Ruling Sparks New Debate,” stateline.org, 16 May 2008, updated 12 June 2008. Stateline.org is funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts.
[13] Matt. 19:19.
[14] John 8:11.
[15] Elder Dallin H. Oaks, “Weightier Matters,” BYU Devotional speech, 9 February 1999.
[16] Maggie Gallagher, “Banned in Boston: The Coming Conflict Between Same-Sex Marriage and Religious Liberty,” The Weekly Standard, 15 May 2006.
[17] Jonathan Turley, “An Unholy Union: Same-Sex Marriage and the Use of Governmental Programs to Penalize Religious Groups with Unpopular Practices,” in Douglas Laycock, Jr., et al., eds., Same-Sex Marriage and Religious Liberty: Emerging Conflicts (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2008, forthcoming).
[18] Marc D. Stern, “Gay Marriage and the Churches, paper delivered at the Scholar’s Conference on Same-Sex Marriage and Religious Liberty, sponsored by the The Beckett Fund, 4 May 2006.
[19] “European Parliament Resolution on homophobia in Europe,” adopted 18 January 2006.