The civil rights issue of the 21st century

I don’t usually weigh in on political stuff that is hugely controversial, but sometimes I don’t see any way around it.

New York legalized gay marriage in June. I was back in Iowa, which also legalized gay marriage a few years ago. As a former resident of one state, and a current resident of the other I must say I am doubly proud. You may not agree with this decision by the states legislatures, but I say, “It’s about time.”

See, here’s the thing: I just don’t think it’s right to tell someone who is a good person that they can’t have the same rights as me. Civil unions (the preferred option for some anti-gay marriage people) remind me of the whole “separate but equal” thing. It makes me very uncomfortable (Jim Crow, anyone?). As a matter of fact, it makes me angry.

People must have forgotten that old phrase, “Put yourself in the other person’s shoes.”

I don’t know about you, but I like the legal right to see my husband in the hospital when he is sick, to make choices about his care when needed, and to have the same federal and state tax privileges as other married people. Lucky for me I guess that I’m heterosexual.

People argue marriage is religious. Well, that is true some of the time. But I didn’t get married in church and the state still calls me “married.” They still issued me a “marriage license.” There was no check box that verified it was a religious ceremony. Religion was not even a question. So obviously the word “marriage” doesn’t just apply to church-goers where the state is concerned. A church can refuse to marry gay people, just as the Catholic church would refuse to marry me to my non-Catholic husband (if I had wanted the religious blessing, that is). It’s their right as a religious body. And those rights were given extra-protection when the New York legislature passed the law. So what’s the fuss?

The way I see it, New York and Iowa were doing the right thing in the eye of the law: equal civil rights for all. And since the word “marriage” is tied so inextricably with our law system maybe we could rely on that nifty American notion “separation of church and state” and let these wonderful gay people have their wedding days sanctioned by state (and someday federal) law. Shoot, it would boost the economy. It would make many, many people much happier – including myself. And simply put, it is the right thing to do.

And now, one of my favorite videos in favor of the fight to legalize gay marriage–

Oh, and P.S. Thank you to the four New York Republican legislators who did the right thing in the face of their party’s objections: Senator Jim Alesi, Senator Roy McDonald, Senator Stephen Saland, and Senator Mark Grisanti. Personal opinion: you are on the right side of history, gentlemen.

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45,000 bucks

I was thinking around a few topics for this week’s post, when I read a story that is nothing short of amazing. I just had to share it with you! This is the sort of thing that makes you feel good all day!

Josh Ferrin from Utah was tinkering in his garage shortly after taking possession of his new house when he stumbled on something odd. He noticed an access panel in his garage ceiling with a piece of carpet hanging from it. Thinking it could be a neat play area for his two kids, he climbed up a ladder and peered into the space. There Ferrin found eight boxes filled with rolls of dollar bills. After a minor moment of shock, Ferrin swiftly took the loot to his family to begin the three-hour process of counting the money.

Of course Ferrin thought of the number of ways he could use such a chunk of money – this is the kind of discovery that could change lives! But he and his wife opted for the purest of possible options: they would return the money to the right hands. And they did, giving the bags of money that former owner Arnold Bangerter had been saving for a decade to his surviving children, who had all been raised in that house.

Though Ferrin has yet to be formally thanked by Bangerter’s kids, he seems unphased according to the ABC News article by Michael Murray.

“I’m an artist and an author, so I know what it’s like to work on something for a long time and to want to see it come to fruition,” Ferrin explained. “I felt like I got to peek into this guy’s life and to write a chapter in his life that he didn’t get to see completed in his own time. I get to be a part of this man’s life, and that’s cool.”

(You can read the article from which I drew the information here.)

What did I tell you? Pretty great!

🙂

So happy for YOU

Eeyore is a Trademarked/Copywritten character of Disney. This image source: http://www.fanpop.com/spots/disney/images/1348371/title/eeyore-fanart

My three-year old nephew is in the stage where he’s learning to monitor his own behavior – namely self-control. After not getting his way at Grandma’s house the other afternoon, Cruz launched into an adorable, yet fairly familiar, “Eeyore” phase. He moped, he sighed, he pouted. Head down, lip out… there was no way this three-year old was going to budge from his gloomy disposition. My mother saw it as an opportunity. She knelt to the ground, looked at Cruz and said, “Now Cruz I know you’re upset, and that’s okay. But let me ask you something. Do you want to be a sad little boy or do you want to be a happy little boy?” He looked up at his Grandma and said, “Happy.” Mom replied, “Well then all you have to do is put a smile on your face and go be happy.” It was that simple. Instantly his frown changed to a grin, and he trotted away to go have fun again – a real life Christopher Robin.

Could it be that easy? Can we just decide to be happy? For the most part, I say yes. In the face of tremendous pain and discomfort, human beings find reasons to smile as surely as they need air to breathe. It is not that we are incapable of being happy. It’s just difficult to feel happy sometimes.

Often it is difficult for people to find joy within their lives, and it can be even harder to celebrate the happiness of others. When confronted with the good fortune of their friends and colleagues many people prefer to remain securely in their “Eeyore” phase, rather than give in to the good feelings resonating from their companions. After all, isn’t it safer to be in the dredges of their misery – a place safe and familiar? Why feel joy for someone else, when they feel none for themselves? If anything, they feel resentment, right? Won’t it just make them more acutely aware of their misfortunes by rejoicing in the goodness within others’ lives?

Not really.

In this economic climate, it is difficult for even the most seasoned professional to procure suitable professional employment. Most artists participate in a constant battle with their esteem and determination in their attempts to access better professional opportunities for themselves. It could be easy to become resentful of others’ successes. But what good would that do for any of us?

A colleague of mine just received a coveted position at an excellent educational institution in the Northeast: a two-year visiting professor position in art. Having received his MFA in 2010 at the same institution I received mine, his invitation to teach at this school was a beacon of light to those in our field. Surely there will be a few of his colleagues or acquaintances who secretly grumble with envy and resentment, but the majority of us met the news with great enthusiasm. A “win” for him is a “win” for all of us.

And for some of us (er… ahem… ME), it was like our own dreams had come true. When I heard the news, I could not stand still! I was like a child – clapping my hands, bounding through my apartment with unfettered exuberance. That night it didn’t matter that I still worked a mind-numbing data entry job. I didn’t feel an ounce of resentment or jealousy. I felt hope, because someone I knew had just received the kind of news we all dream of getting: a job in our field!

Like my little (nearly!) four-year old nephew, we have a choice. We can decide to be happy. We might not always get our way, but we always have control over our perspective.

Think of it as good karma. Think of it as good manners. Whatever works for you; be happy for others.

After all, when it’s your turn to share your good news you’ll want everyone to be happy for your good fortune too!

Brooklyn students embroider their ideas: Part 20

This is the last post with work by the Brooklyn middle schoolers who so generously allowed me to share their work with you! There aren’t any excerpts with these pieces and a few are unfinished, but they are all quite accomplished and amazing! I hope you enjoy, and thanks for reading!

Believe, by Jane

This is really interesting Jane! I love the beginning of the border. I hope you finish it!

Promptness is a... virtue!, by Briana

That is so true Briana! And this is very well done!

Be honest, by Amber

This is really interesting Amber! I like how the “e” works for both the “be” and the “honest” parts of your image.

Live life, by Lucara

This turned out great Lucara! The border is very nicely done and I enjoy the multi-colored words.

Always try Your Best, by ?

I didn’t get a name for this student, but this turned out to be a lovely image! Well done!

Never Give Up, by Jada C

This is very interesting Jada! I like how you chose to make your letters with the dashed lines.

Vino y risata, by Madison

This, I believe, is Spanish, translated to “live and laugh.” Excelente trabajo! Me gustan los colores!

Don't Hate! Congratulate! by Nathalie

This is a marvelous message Nathalie and well done! I enjoy the different ways in which you stitched the words. It makes the image all the more interesting to look at!

In Mandarin, "Wear Helmet", by Anita

And last, but not least, the piece made by the teacher of these accomplished students, Anita! Her student challenged her to sew her phrase in Mandarin and she did a stellar job!

Brooklyn students embroider their ideas: Part 19

Walk Rambo, by Miguel

Miguel wrote, “I chose my message because at first my dad would walk my dog, Rambo, but now I walk him everyday. At first I didn’t know anything about cross stitching, but now I know what to do. I make a number line to help line everything up.”

You did an excellent job Miguel! This turned out great, and I’m sure your dad is grateful you walk the dog every day!

Unfortunately, I don’t have images for the following stories, but I felt that these students deserved recognition for their work. I hope you enjoy their thoughts, as much as I have! :)

Sam W. – “Do Great”
I worked hard and I am working hard at doing my best. I think that my choice for a message was appropriate and it’s a thing I do need to work on. I made a number line. I feel that I am on my way to greatness.
Colin –  “Pronounce Pinyin Fluently”
Yeah, this was my way of learning the pinyin tones (for Mandarin). I did not use a number line on my Aida cloth because it would just have made it harder. Unfortunately, I did not finish my project.
Zoe  – “Don’t Carry The Weight Of The World”
Viewers will learn that I am trying to not be so stressed out and that I work hard.
Mila  –  “LIVE IN THE MOMENT.”
Viewers might notice that I always think about “what I could have done,” or  question “if it was right to have made a certain choice.” I like my message, it’s personal, and by stitching it, I feel like I’ve learned to actually “LIVE IN THE MOMENT.” I enjoyed making this.
Penelope  –  “No More Tacos”
I really like tacos and I need to stop eating them so much.
Luis – “Study Luis”

My message as “Study” because I don’t really like to study. So I made it to remind me to study and to learn more and pass tests.

Brooklyn students embroider their ideas: Part 18

Some of the works here are unfinished, but they look wonderful and I had to share them with you! Enjoy…

Don't be late, by Sophia B

Sophia wrote, “Viewers can learn from this piece that I am late sometimes and I really need to stop this because it is hurting my grade. They can also learn that I like the color pink and that I am trying to not let myself get a bad grade by being late. I actually do care!”

You know, Sophia, this may not be done, but it looks great! You can see the effort you put into the stitches–very clean, very consistent. Embroiderers everywhere would be proud! I hope you finish this piece for you, even if the deadline has passed.

Don't Rush, by Jessica P

Jessica P wrote, “Viewers can learn that I hurried a great deal on this project instead of taking my time. I also change my mind a lot. I started out with the message “Don’t Over Think,” but I decided that was really a problem for me, so I changed it to ‘Don’t Rush.’ I did make a number line.”

I have that problem too Jessica (over-thinking). You wouldn’t believe how long it takes me to decide on dinner! This is a very dynamic image. I know the project was focused on cross-stitching, but it is interesting how quick the word “rush” looks.  A little ironic, funny, and a nice way of getting the message across. Sometimes a balance between rushing and working slowly pays off!

Get back up, by Owen

Owen wrote, “My message choice was ‘Get Back Up’ because I really need to stop beating myself up. When I strike out in baseball I get mad at myself. If I miss a practice, even accidentally, I think that I’m stupid. I need to remember that sometimes it’s not my fault.”

One thing I am still learning, Owen, is that our “failures” or “mistakes” or “strike-outs” are sometimes the best way to learn. We wouldn’t become the people we are if we didn’t make mistakes (all of the great inventors “failed” a ton of times before they discovered their “great invention”). It is how we bounce back and learn from our mistakes that defines us. We can never be perfect. We can be better at something with practice and hard work (like baseball), but we can never be error-free. Your message is great! Excellent work!

Brooklyn students embroider their ideas: Part 17

Be a Better Person, by Abigail

Abigail wrote: “I work[ed] really hard on this project and I’m learning to ‘be a better person.’  ”

You’re not alone Abigail! I think most people want to be better people. The other good news is that most of us are already pretty superb people. 🙂 Great work!

In Mandarin, translates to "Don't be afraid." by Lucara

Lucara wrote: “Viewers can learn that I am precise and I like doing cross stitching. I followed my pattern except in a few places where what I had drawn wasn’t possible on the Aida Cloth. I made it all work out though. My number line didn’t really help me after the first few stitches. My attitude towards the project stayed the same the whole time; it was very positive and excited.”

I really enjoyed the lower border on this work–it really brings out the middle character. This is a great piece, and message!

Decide, by Merlin

“People might learn from my project that I can be indecisive. That’s why I chose DECIDE. To help me make my project I used a number line and made a pattern to follow. However, in the end I didn’t use the exclamation points that I put in the pattern because I thought they were excessive. After doing this project, I have become better at deciding.”

In my experience, too, I am awful at making decisions! My poor husband has to wait all the time while I figure out what I want (he doesn’t need to learn patience, that’s for sure)! Making decisions is a tough thing to do. I admire you, Merlin, for achieving that goal!