Thursday, December 20, 2007

On Feminism - and Being Male

Being Male is something that I've had issues with since I was a boy. Feeling "different" being bullied by three boys two years older then me, being a loner and various other things isolated me from the worlds of: "country club cool boy", "stud", "star athlete", and other images I remember faintly from my distant youth.

Several days ago I read another rant of a long-time seeming activist to me saying that - many, many famous men and women have come from households without a father, and that "needing" a father is well over-rated. The tone and words that he wrote of strongly pushed a feeling that: "men are bad" and that "I don't identify with being a (real) man". (He's written similarly over the past 20 years.)

I agree that "needing a father" is not critical in being a healthy person. As children we need nurturing and love from adults - who may be of either gender and not necessarily simply our parents. I also recognize that the failures that I've had as both a son - feeling sad and angry thoughts related to my own father who died when I was 13 and more importantly as a father and now step-father are important to me. I believe that most men have issues related to their fathers, if they have them, as well as related to their children when we are fathers.

In the feminist male blogging community there are differing perspectives from one who works with young men and women both through teaching and his Christian youth groups (and generally says mostly quite insightful things), a young caring father, a blogger who speaks insightfully of being of Color and Male, and others who often write a lot about both what is bad about "maleness" and in some cases how they see us needing to do better as men to be the allies of women and more whole people.

Where there is a lack of what I think most important, it feels to me like it is a connection to other men in more than token numbers. Activists such as Steven Botkin, a most wonderful man, build community with men in important ways. They find male allies and talk through their issues and deal with their issues as men over many years, not relying primarily upon women for their emotional support and growth. They also build programs which work with men and deal with our issues relating to dominance and control in areas such as domestic violence and rape as well as working in areas where men are - such as being athletes. Such men confront men where they are at as both allies and men challenging their beliefs.

It is far, far easier to talk at men and talk with women. Seeking and getting the praise of many women is relatively easy when one can show that one is "different" from "those men". It is much, much harder to realize that while we as individuals may feel "different" - we are still men (primarily). For most women we are still different being male. For most men we are still one of them in important ways.

Men who work with men and connect with men can really be true allies and friends of women in ways that can be much harder absent such connections.

I was in my first men's group in about 1981, when I was 30 years old. Now I'm trying another time to connect and re-connect with men in my life. Several evenings ago after much effort four of us met in our first meeting as a men's support and consciousness raising group. I'm also working on an effort to have regular meetings with other men to do outreach work related to domestic violence and "our maleness" as part of a men's group that deals with domestic violence.

I've made my share of mistakes as a man in my life as many of us have. I'm ashamed of things that I've done and wish I had done better. I wish that more of my life as a single male and before I became a parent had had more of a focus towards helping others. Often it's easy to simply try to "have fun" and "fit in" and similar. One of the things I admire in many women is how they help others - their children, others' children, their parents, their closest friends and many more in their lives - reaching well beyond what is necessary.

As a man - I think it most important that we Do More rather than Say More! There are of course many other paths where we as Men can do good and help others. In speaking of working with men I don't want to sound like it's not equally important to work with children, the elderly, disabled people, in racism related areas and in many other important areas.

Thank you!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Moving Ahead - Trying to Leave the Ark

Today was an encouraging, though tiring day.

This morning I completed the paperwork for our claim with the City, besides the issue of how much money we feel that they should owe us. That we won't be able to figure out until at least this weekend, if then. In the early afternoon I filed the claim at City Hall.

The mechanical contractor and worker arrived putting in our new furnace. It is much calmer to have a furnace when it's 30-40 degrees, rather than a few space heaters. To be able to go to the bathroom and not freeze is no longer a luxury.

M - a most helpful and wonderful city employee - came through as promised with our dumpster -and all except a large carpet piece and about 10-15 bags of drywall and wood paneling made it into it before it was filled up. M told me the dumpster will be replaced with an empty one tomorrow morning and it can stay or be moved until all get their debris loaded. He also mentioned how he was working with others to try to ensure that now and in the future calamities will have coordinated, more efficient responses that will reach those who need assistance and where relevant get them to whatever city services can best help them.

I'm totally exhausted, but at least today got important things done. Thanks!

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Noah's Ark - Almost the time when the Storm Began - a Week Ago

Yesterday I took off a few hours and played duplicate bridge. When my partner said: "that was stupid" or "why did you do that?" or similar - I was lost in feelings as to how playing a card or bidding something could matter - in the midst of what we've lost and what we're facing now.

I came home and began moving mostly sandbags from the back to near the curb. It was messy and exhausting. It also felt good to be accomplishing something and to be doing something that was necessary.

This morning after exercising I moved a few more things and then reached a point where I could only do more with the help of others. Fortunately the couple on the next block who had offered to help called me back responding to my message and came over immediately to help us.

After close to two hours of their help we'd taken most everything out of the back yard that needed to be moved to curbside as well as emptying our house and garage of that which we needed to let go of. Most heartbreaking perhaps was the trunk of '78s - from B's mother - soaked and soiled along with the trunk itself.

I feel a little cleansed - having gotten this done. We got a lot of work done this weekend. B and L - our friend who's visit with us - ended up being a rescue mission organized our upstairs so that it's livable and as good as we can make it. I bought a third new heater - in addition to the first two that they'd bought - so that all our bedrooms are warm - with no furnace. Hopefully Tuesday we'll have a functioning furnace. Hopefully late this week or thereabouts the work may begin to rebuild our downstairs' walls and tile the areas that previously had carpet.

The hard parts are the feelings and (financial and emotional) fears that we have individually and as partners. Walking in stores and in public - we are "different". We're lucky its what it is. I can't imagine the feeling of walking in public with non-visible terminal cancer or similar - feeling isolated from those around one.

It is hard to be a partnership now - to support each other - when we're each so raw and hurting inside and struggling to take care of our own feelings. B - asks me to - "fall apart in front of me" - instead of - keeping the rawness often invisible. That's hard for me - sometimes I have anger - that might be directed at her or the kids. I want to support her - but I fail at that often. I want to wake up - and have clear hope and just normalcy.

It will happen. It will take time. I don't want "sympathy cards" and similar. I appreciate the humor and love - from our new neighbors - K and D - who have been wonderfully supportive and loving through this - having just finished their remodeling of their new house - and suddenly struck with significant loss themselves (not as "bad" as ours, but significant).

Around the corner - was an elderly man - who's wife just died - and needs oxygen due to his poor health. His child has taken him in and his house - is empty and not cleaned up. V - two doors away - is 85 or 86 - in poor health and in shock at his loss. His children are trying to help him as best they can.

The sad part of all this is that the storm didn't cause the damage. Most of our City - had the same storm and little or no damage. A culvert - that was clogged with various materials - helped create a sort of dam - which made our creek a Lake. Other "failures" - related to maintenance of protective means being stripped away due to poor (or no) - work being done where it should have been done. It didn't have to be this way!! Hopefully the City will make necessary changes so it can't happen again.

Hopefully the dumpster we've been promised by a city employee - (he gave us all his card) will arrive (and shortly) and allow us to have our lost physical parts - taken away. Hopefully the city will pick up the sandbags - we have at least 75-100 of them - that have polluted creek water making them unhealthy to keep. Hopefully the huge, huge financial losses we've sustained will be mostly reimbursed - if they aren't (which could happen) - we will face incredible difficulties.

I hope that within a few months - our house will return to the clear image - shown from May, 2007 here - rather than how it looks now- in the other pictures here.

Most importantly - hopefully our hearts and souls will heal and grow - from this. Thank You!

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Noah's Ark + 5

Rawness - seems the most apt word now.

Feeling like we're "sucker punched" in a moment, unalterably changed, wanting to move to what I'd call a: "simple normalcy". Our daily temperatures go up to around 43 degrees (F), with nights down around 32 - with no furnace until 95% certain sometime Tuesday (it's Saturday now) we'll have our new furnace and heat. The boys' rooms have space heaters and we have our living room fireplace evenings for warmth. Our bed heats us also.

We're not the "Poor People of the Lower Ninth Ward" - or similar. The main floor of our house wasn't damaged at all.

IF we are able to get the City to pay for most of the damage we will be solvent. IF not, we will have horrific debt for many years into the future.

Sunday late night and into Monday we got 5 inches of rainfall. Our house is on a creek. A culvert downstream - got completely jammed with trees and debris (it took 3 large truckloads of material to take it away during the late parts of our storm). It created a dam - which moved steadily upstream as water continued to poor down the stream. The city reacted very slowly at dealing with what was going on.

When the culvert was cleared, the floodwaters receded within an hour. We went from having 2 1/2 feet or a little more water throughout the lower level of our house and garage to seeing the water within its banks easily in that time.

In front of our house (the other side) a lake built up Monday morning that at its peak was about 200 feet long - the street entirely flooded and as it built up the water flowed down our driveway into our garage and then similarly across the street from us (they aren't on the creek at all) flooding their lower level and garage as well. So our floodwaters came from both directions as the storm sewers had no space due to the creek flood.

The pond upstream which was supposed to hold water and prevent flooding overflowed itself. A 96 inch emergency drain - directly to the Lake evidently wasn't opened or was clogged itself - so water couldn't drain, as it was supposed to, out to prevent the pond from overflowing.

Apparently water was held back from coming downstream as the storm built late Sunday night and then - the water "exploded" downstream - getting stopped by the culvert - creating a total mess.

The creek now is perhaps 8-10 feet wide and maybe 18 inches deep. The water level had to have come up at least 10-20 feet or more with what happened. The 10 foot width shifted behind our house to being around 100 feet wide and near us to at least 150 feet wide.

We are lucky in many ways, but it doesn't feel that way! We are middle class people who have access to resources. We don't have savings to cover our expenses, but we can access debt at least. We can speak and often others listen.

We appreciate the good feelings that others share with us! Our neighbors and beyond here have been wonderful! We have had mixed assistance and a lack thereof from the City and other authorities. FEMA has still not declared the harder hit areas a "disaster area" and we have no chance in that area until they are declared with whatever has to happen.

What we really need though is physical and emotional release - peace - normalcy - our lives back in one piece. When we have heat - that will be one step. When the work begins and then is completed to fix our house that will be another step. IF we get financial assistance eventually that will change things dramatically from having been HAMMERED and STUCK to simply having been hammered.

I'm hopeful! It's hard to support my partner when I'm hurting as I am. It's harder on her emotionally. She has other unrelated hurts on top of this - which makes it at least triply hard for her. I'm thankful. I'm hopeful. I'm crying inside and sad. Thanks!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Day 4 - After Noah's Gone

Feelings begin to flow in waves, No Longer in the - "I've got to do it phase", but despair at what we are in and have to look forward to in the coming days and weeks, joy - at how our neighbors have helped and been with us, fear of needing to pay off much new debt on top of our older obligations, hope that we can get the City to Pay for Much of our Expenses, Anger - that we have to face another difficult situation, and simply exhaustion - physically and mentally from all of this. Above are a mixture of today and Monday - it's cold in the house and it will be at least until Tuesday or more likely Wednesday - when we'll have a working furnace - It's Thursday now. I will learn and feel - what lessons I need from this. It's hard for my partner and our children. Life does and will move forward! Thanks!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Noah's Ark Revisited

Thankfully the waters are down! We had about 3 feet of water coming both from the creek in back as well as from the street in front of our house - Monday - was quite a day! Besides a new furnace, tearing out work to cut down on bacteria and similar from the creek and major repair work downstairs - many destroyed items, everything's just fine. I'm exhausted, but doing well given what we've been through. It's very, very hard on my partner!

Note: The pictures - first two are of the house and yard well before the flood. The third picture is of the downstairs after the waters receded and we'd stripped the carpet off. The fourth picture is of the toilet - after the waters went down - dirtied on the seat from the crud/water. The remaining pictures are of the front and back of the house as well as inside the garage, playroom and laundry room areas. Click on individual pictures to enlarge them to fill your page if you wish to see any images more closely. (Hopefully you won't face such a calamity in your life - ever! ) The lesson for us though is that material possessions aren't what matters most in our lives. Thanks!

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Mike Huckabee - ? - His Own Words from his Website

Mike Huckabee seems to be the "rising star" in the 2008 Presidential Elections. I find it illuminating to read the words from his website. He certainly says some "good things". I do find what follows problematic! I find Huckabee scary - as Bush is - as a potential president.

Thanks! (the words below are directly copy and pasted from the website).

I support and have always supported passage of a constitutional amendment to protect the right to life. My convictions regarding the sanctity of life have always been clear and consistent, without equivocation or wavering. I believe that Roe v. Wade should be over-turned.

We don't need universal health care mandated by federal edict or funded through ever-higher taxes.

But I am running to completely eliminate all federal income and payroll taxes. And do I mean all - personal federal, corporate federal, gift, estate, capital gains, alternative minimum, Social Security, Medicare, self-employment.

The FairTax will replace the Internal Revenue Code with a consumption tax, like the taxes on retail sales forty-five states and the District of Columbia have now. All of us will get a monthly rebate that will reimburse us for taxes on purchases up to the poverty line, so that we're not taxed on necessities. That means people below the poverty line won't be taxed at all. We'll be taxed on what we decide to buy, not what we happen to earn. We won't be taxed on what we choose to save or the interest those savings earn. The tax will apply only to new goods, so we can reduce our taxes further by buying a used car or computer.

The FairTax will instantly make American products 12 to 25% more competitive because the cost of those goods will no longer be inflated by corporate taxes, costs of tax compliance, and Social Security matching payments.

I support and have always supported passage of a federal constitutional amendment that defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman. As President, I will fight for passage of this amendment. My personal belief is that marriage is between one man and one woman, for life.

Iraq is a battle in our generational, ideological war on terror. General Petraeus and our troops are giving their all to provide a window of opportunity for the Iraq government to succeed, while the Democrats are running for the exit doors.

· The Second Amendment is primarily about tyranny and self-defense, not hunting. The Founding Fathers wanted us to be
able to defend ourselves from our own government, if need be, and from all threats to our lives and property.

· Second Amendment rights belong to individuals, not cities or states. I oppose gun control based on geography.

· I consistently opposed banning assault weapons and opposed the Brady Bill.

· As Governor, I protected gun manufacturers from frivolous law suits.

· I was the first Governor in the country to have a concealed handgun license.

Paternity - Fathers - and Sperm Donors ?

"Melville, N.Y. - A New York man who said he donated sperm to a female co-worker as a friendly gesture and sent presents and cards to the child over the years likely will owe child support for the college-bound teenager, according to a judge's ruling" - Sophia Chang, Newsday, p.A5, Seattle Times, December 1, 2007.

The article is somewhat confusing, hence some of my thoughts on this matter could be rendered "wrong" if I'm misunderstanding unstated things in the case.

A. "the man's interactions with the child over the years had a patriarchal nature" -per the legal representative of the mother,
B. Per the man - he donated sperm after learning that his co-worker and her (female) partner wanted to have a baby - and her son was born July 26, 1989
C. "The man, married at the time, agreed he would not have any rights or benefits in rearing the child, but the oral agreement never was put in writing..."
D. "But he took the unusual step of allowing his name to appear on the child's birth certificate because he thought it was in the child's "best interests that he would have an identity when he grew older..." (per the man).
E. Before the child's family moved in 1993 to Oregon the man had contact with the child.
F. The man sent the boy money, gifts and cards and letters signed "Dad" or "Daddy".
G. The man spoke to the boy approximately 7 times over the past 15 years.
H. The child has signed an affidavit stating that the man is the only father he's known.
I. Per the mother's attorney: "The fact of the matter is that he held himself out as the child's father for 18 years until he asked for DNA testing."

I have some problems with the conclusion of child support being owed based upon the accuracy (if so) of the statements above.

A. I see nothing of the allegations of the mother - related to the accuracy of the statements of the man and presume that these facts have not been contested. (IF there are discrepancies, one would need to interpret the credence of the conflicting statements).
B. It would appear to me that the man's name on the birth certificate is problematic. IF it could, for example, allow him to carry the boy on his health insurance through work, or otherwise give him rights as the man's child, responsibilities as "the father" would certainly apply. Otherwise there would appear to either be a potential issue of either fraud or the man claiming rights, but not responsibilities.
C. I do not find the issues of the contact that the man had with the boy in itself as establishing "paternity" or being "the father". Assume, for example, that the man had met the mother while she was pregnant and then lived with her for a period of time - where he was "the father" to the child and others. He would be a "step-father", not "father" in legal terms in such a situation most logically. Adoption or other legal actions might establish parental rights and obligations.
D. I find it important to distinguish between the: "deadbeat father" - who is the biological father of a child and would thereby have potential parental responsibilities and in some cases rights and a man or woman who is involved in the life of a child "as a parent". Such a situation might be problematic in the situation described above related to parental rights of the "second mother" in the event of a split between she and the birth mother. I do not see situation of the birth mother's life partner as similar to the situation of this man.
E. It is troubling to me absent other clear extenuating circumstances as to why this man should suddenly be liable for child support, when he had no seeming rights or responsibilities as the child's "father" for the first 18 years of the boy's life. IF he was the "biological father" as opposed to "sperm donor" I could see the right of the mother to demand financial support.

Perhaps I'm missing something here! Thanks!