Tag Archives: family

Why We Love June (and you should, too!)

It’s our wedding anniversary month (!),

It’s Father’s Day & I have two amazing sons (!!),  and…


…it’s Pride month!   Happy Pride!


 

Plenty to celebrate, and since Taylor Street is all about celebrating, we love June!

There is a common thread to these celebrations, and to all celebrations — and that is the sense of community each promotes.   There is a sense of belonging and acceptance — and love — that is created when you and I take time to honor tradition, our families, our respect for one-another.  And while modern families are increasingly diverse, at their core they remain much the same…

 

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So we are going to share stories of people and their celebrations — of all types — this next year.  Why?  We will support the sense of community, celebrate its members, and strengthen our collective bond.  Because, as Lin -Manuel Miranda said in his amazing acceptance speech, “Love is love”, nothing here is promised – not one day.

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#loveislove #NoH8 #lovewins #LGBTPride #Pride

 

 

“A heart is not judged by how much you love, but by how much you are loved by others.” -The Wizard of Oz –

Awwwh – always have loved that quote!  To celebrate Father’s Day, we have pulled together a few gift ideas for you.  Some are DIY, some are more affordable than others, and a few are available personalized.  We carry a number of these, and I’ve provided links to those we don’t.  Gift, card, or hug (or all three!) – go spread some love this Father’s Day.

FATHER’S DAY PICNIC

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$ – up to you  Pack a picnic lunch using whatever you have at home, include a frisbee or a football, and head out to one of Dad’s favorite locations — or maybe it’s just into the back yard!

SUPER HERO SOCKSMV-CAS-GRY-SC__24822.1474580927

$21.60   Do you know Dad’s favorite super hero?  We’ve got an awesome selection so dad can be even more super than he already is…

DARTH VADER & SON 

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$9-hardcover, $2 – Kindle   My favorite part of this re-imagining of the Dark Lord as involved parent – Take your child to work day…on the Death Star.  Available on Amazon here.  Books that are fun for both kids and adults are hard to find…Jeffrey Brown did it with this.

PERSONALIZED PHOTO KEEPSAKE BOX

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$27.00   This keepsake box lid holds a 3 X 5 photo and purchase includes engraving. Keeps treasures safe & sound.

WALL MOUNT BOTTLE OPENER 

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$29.95   Useful, well-made, and a great addition to basement pub.

FAMILY PORTRAIT

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$ – varies  I found this project by Alexandra Hedin on Design Sponge.  It is amazing.  We are going to try this at our home, following the directions she has provided here.  I will take some pictures as we go and show you the end product.

Wishing all the dads a Happy Father’s Day!

 

Holidays! It will be fun and you’ll love it!

We spent the last weekend getting ourselves ready for Christmas. Putting up the tree, decorating and putting lights outside the house. We moved to the new house a little over a month ago so we are a less about the outside this year. Watch out 2017! We can already see our neighbors like a little competition. This year, for us, simple was best – a string of fun multi-colored lights. Big bulbs! Old school.

I love the holidays. I love Christmas, the decorating, the baking – all of it. I LOVE IT! It takes me back to two distinct memories. My visual merchandising days at Saks in my twenties many, many moons ago because HELLO it’s all about decorating!  The other is holidays with my parents. When I was a little kid my mother decorated for every holiday or season. That’s probably where I got the decorating bug. And, I loved decorating the tree with them. The whole ritual of getting the tree, lighting the tree and decorating the tree. Being together.

Can you hear the holiday music in the background “It’s the most wonderful time of the year…” Lights are twinkling, people are happy, everything is festive.

This year it’s all about red. I drive my husband and our son crazy because  I do a theme every year. Every year our son, whose now 11, says “Do I have to help? You’ll just redecorate the tree after!” and every year I fain shock and say “Yes!  It will be fun and you’ll love it!” Ah, the joyful memories he will have of dad repositioning all the bulbs. My husband just rolls his eyes.

Times are tough; still I treat you to a lovely evening, and I get smart-alek BACKTALK“.
Faye Dunaway as Joan Crawford | ‘Mommie Dearest’

 

It really is all about the memories. I remember as a kid going with my dad to cut our tree down in upstate New York. He’d pull me on the sled and then pull me and the tree back on the sled. I wonder how much fun that really was for him? I am sure I complained just as much as my son does. What do I remember; the tree, the sled, my dad and love. We always had huge trees decorated with colored lights, lots of tinsel and gold or silver garland that looked like feather boas. Well, to a young gay boy they looked like feather boas!

We stress ourselves out at holidays over this and that and in the end it’s about the moments in-between. The ones that stick. The ones that light up at the smell of baking cookies and fireplace crackles.

Who knows how my son will remember these moments of his dads and the holidays. I’ll bet he won’t forget the love that surrounded them.

How do you decorate for the holidays?

 

The In-Laws

I am an Uncle. It didn’t really hit me until I was married. Derek and I have been a family for 10 years now and I have always been considered a part of my (now) husband’s family right from the start. Not once did I ever feel like an outsider. But, when we got married I noticed a change. Not in them. They have all stayed the same. It was me. I changed. I didn’t realize until after we were married what I was holding back. I had a wall up that kept me from fully jumping on the “we are all one big family” bandwagon. It all became so clear to me once we were visiting my husband’s brother and family over the fourth of July.

Just before that, right after the wedding, Derek’s sister and I were kidding around by text calling each other sister-in-law and brother-in-law but, to be honest I was so giddy from just being married that I did not realize how significant that moment really was.

On the 4th of July we traveled down the coast to visit Derek’s brother Ryan, his wife and daughters. They have a huge Fourth of July party every year and we had never been. They invited us to come down when they came to our wedding. We had never really spent any time with them at all since we have been a couple and I admit I was a little nervous about it.

They, along with their neighbors, throw this big July 4th celebration. Water ballon fights, BBQ, music, the whole nine yards. It was a fantastic time. But, the moment that stood out for me was the moment his daughters, Megan and Melissa, doused me with water balloons and called me Uncle David. I can’t for the life of me remember the exact way it was used but I remember hearing those two words “Uncle David”. I still get goose bumps every time I think of it. It was probably no big deal to them. They were having a blast and in the moment I was happy to engage and get them back with a few water balloons I had in my hands. The moment was significant. I was an uncle.

Now, who knows. They may have always thought of me that way. I did not ask and I am OK if they did or didn’t, but I felt different in that moment. Going forward, I am an uncle — their uncle — and not just to 2, but to 5 kids. [Well, kinda, 2 are still kids; the rest are adults.]

I started to think about what that has meant to me. Derek and I were together for 10 years before we were married. We pretty much kept to ourselves, as a family, with occasional visits until his mother passed away two years ago and we moved in next door to his sister. Why did I keep my distance from family emersion until I was actually married to Derek? Partly ,I believe, it’s a mechanism of safety. Could have something to do with being an only child. A hold over from a past where relationships came and went for whatever reason.

What struck me the most about this revelation was what I had been missing. I had raised my shields and kept my distance from family politics and engagements. I allowed myself to think that his family did not see me as a member of the family but, as “Derek’s gay lover with a kid”. I did that — not them. I placed my own internal homophobia on them and now I’ve decided to let that go.

So here I am on the other side. A husband, father, brother in-law and uncle.

Two Dad’s? No Problem

School Registration

 

Sometimes it’s the small stuff.

This past week our son brought home yet another school form for us to complete with the same information we’ve provided too many times before.  [Why not request this information digitally,  password protect it, and then update on an as-needed basis… different discussion for another time].  I have lined out “mother” every time before with varying degrees of frustration.

This time I got angry.  This time was different.  After all, we do live in California, we expect better.  But it’s also because despite recent strides in marriage equality, we are witnessing just how quickly progress can be rolled-back and countered.

This time IT was not “just a little thing”, or a “meaningless detail”.  IT is part of the same continuum on which both North Carolina’s and Mississippi’s recent discriminatory and bigoted legislative maneuvers sit.  While a very great distance separates this form’s lazy and parochial typeset from these new state laws, a gateway to learned hate and discriminatory behavior is right there on the page, and I could not ignore it this time.

Not long after I snapped a picture of the form, our son noticed the image sitting on my screen and asked me why it was there.  I was both glad for the opportunity and bothered by the need to have something to explain.  When I had finished, he seemed satisfied, and said, “hmmm, why doesn’t it just say parent or guardian”?  That is a good question.  Or why does it assume there are two parents?  Why doesn’t it just simply ask for emergency contacts and let me define their relationship via another blank?

This form has no doubt been pulled out and photocopied many many times, and given the perpetually overworked public school staff, I continue to feel a need to limit my concerns and objections.  But learning does not happen only inside the classroom.  Waiting silently to be treated differently is unacceptable.

For LGBTQ families, being treated with fairness and simple dignity are issues that show-up in big and small ways every day.  It was our experience planning our wedding that prompted David and me to open Taylor Street Favors.  Much like our son’s form, signing up for wedding sites or shopping online usually required one of us to be listed as “the bride”.  Same-sex couple selections were buried in drop-drowns — if at all — and were limited in selection or accented with rainbows.

We are so not about rainbows for our wedding.

We knew we could do better – and we are.  Taylor Street is a site where no one is excluded.  We welcome and support those who treat others with respect, regardless of gender, race, sexual-orientation, or religious affiliation.  Discriminating on the basis of who we love is wrong.  Excluding a family because there are two moms or two dads is wrong.

I’m sending a note along with a copy of the form to the school’s principal and asking her to look into what can be done to have the district revise its forms.  As Ellen Degeneres said earlier this week, this is not politics, this is human rights.

We deserve better.


 

Holiday Traditions: 3 Rules of the Road

Christmas Lights 2

That loud whooshing sound racing up from behind you is the holiday season arriving once again.  While always a magical time, full of anticipation and good cheer, it can also be a time full of must-do’s and orchestrated appearances at traditional family rituals.  Now multiply all of that by 2 as you and your spouse are expected to be a part of two extended families in addition to work obligations and friends’ events.  Add some travel time for out-of-town destinations and the “spirit of the season” may turn dark indeed.  

This is not my first relationship rodeo.  I have had — “the good fortune” — to have a variety of experiences from which to create my top three holiday tradition setting & attendance recommendations.

  1. Agree on ground rules — make all decisions jointly and never put the other person on-the-spot by asking him/her to decide in “real-time” in front of family members whether or not to do something or go somewhere.  Never.  Pull no punches and recognize that compromise is required, even though “you’ve always made cookies on the same weekend with your dad’s side of the family”.
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  3. Take control or risk being controlled  —  announce early-on (target end of summer, but it is never too early) to all family members that you two want to be able to spend time with loved ones from both families as well as have the opportunity to begin new traditions of your own.  Adding Thanksgiving to any negotiated settlement is a great option when families live in different states and visiting with everyone during one holiday is not practical.  Often the agreement is as simple as alternating families each year – last year’s Thanksgiving location is this year’s Christmas/Chanukkah destination.

    If you already have a pattern established, don’t assume that what worked before will work for everyone forever.  By checking in with everyone periodically you open up the possibility of a new arrangement that might be fun — like a destination holiday event that combines both families.

    Also, do not allow the strength of the objection to influence your decision.  As we say to our 10 year old [actually we mostly say it to ourselves…] “we do not reward bad behavior!”    Don’t give in to the family member who thinks that relentlessly revisiting the issue will change your answer.

     

  4. Incorporate a tradition or two of your own — each of you adding something special from your childhood and explaining its significance can be a way to begin your own family’s traditions.  For me, it is watching the original Peanuts Charlie Brown Christmas followed by Dr. Suess’  The Grinch as voiced by Boris Karloff.  The holiday’s have not arrived for me until I’ve seen The Grinch’s dog, Max leap through the air thinking he’s going to get to go for a ride on that sleigh, or listened to Vince Guaraldi Trio’s Charlie Brown soundtrack – over and over and over and over.  These re-connect me to my childhood.  I smile at the memories and feel grateful for the life I have.  

Learning about each other’s traditions is a great way of getting to know your spouse’s family.  Traditions can be big and involved or silly and simple. They help define who we are, and can influence what we become.  Building these new foundations for your new family can be difficult and challenging, but they are so worth it.

Modern Families = Adjusted Expectations. Our Kid Friendly Wedding

CollectiveTrainLots of opinions and rules, rules, rules out there regarding this topic. Leave it to some of the mainline wedding sites [are you listening Martha Stewart Weddings editors?] to be a real buzz-kill on this topic. As a result, my first rule: Regardless of your decision, please -oh please- don’t refer to them as “wee ones”. Really? How ‘bout “children,” or “kids”?

Decide early and make no exceptions to the rule you create. Guests with kids will need to know your preference so they can contemplate the complexities and expense associated with a “yes” to your invitation.    You want your guests to be able to relax and enjoy the day too, so if you invite kids, you’ve got to plan for them, not just “tolerate” their attending. Tolerating sets the bar rather low, and with a 10-year old we can well appreciate the challenge of monitoring behavior in a kid-unfriendly setting. We want to encourage all of our invited family & friends to have fun, not just certain members, and believe that children of all ages can be a part of and contribute to the celebration. If the venue or the venue’s coordinator did not seem kid-welcoming, we eliminated it as an option.

How to signal kids are [or are not] welcome. Signal clearly. We plan to include the names of all invited guests on the invitation. The only exception to this rule would be for our single guests who will get the “& guest” variation. And were we to have decided to not invite kids, I like to think we would have treated those situations as we ourselves would like to be treated – with a personal phone call to explain and discuss. Do not make any assumptions. We all know the rule: never assume, because it makes… . Also, give parents a rough outline of the day’s events so that they can anticipate and plan for any rough spots.

Where to seat the kids. We have not yet decided this one. On the one hand, we hope that a number of families with kids our son’s age will be able to attend. Given these are part of his Portland posse, they certainly would enjoy sitting together — too much. This is asking for trouble unless the table location is remote and the place settings are disposable. So, we are leaning [heavily] toward having families sit together and instead having activities that kids, their parents – and those who are still kids at heart – can do together.

Meal Matters. Inquire about food allergies. Long involved dinners are not a good fit for younger kids. Kid’s eating habits will be best addressed with buffet style dining. If that is not your preference, most caterers are more than happy to offer a kid’s meal option so long as they have a head count to work from and prepare in advance. More importantly, kids will not handle the seemingly endless gap between ceremony and meal very well. Plan on having snacks available that will keep moods elevated and melt-downs to a minimum, which brings me to our favorite Taylor Street topic, favors…   

Fun favors and games for one and all. In addition to our venue having space for activities like badminton, tag, and croquet, Santa Margarita Ranch has a steam engine train so guests can go on train rides! I know! We were hooked on this option the moment we saw it, and though it is a pricey add-on, it will be worth it to us. In addition, and in keeping with our casual and welcoming design emphasis, we are pulling together activity packages and favors for the reception tables. You can find prepared kits on-line, but this is not tough stuff to do on your own. Doing this on our own will allow us to customize “the supplies” for the kids attending, and I will use this as an opportunity to involve our son in their preparation! As for favors, what adult wouldn’t enjoy some jelly beans or gummy bears inside their favor box? Better yet, have a table at the reception filled with a selection of sweet and savory treats that guests can browse and visit as needed. Lastly, we may cover table tops with white or kraft paper for crayon/chalk drawing – more for kids of various ages. 

As Bob Ross, from the PBS series The Joy of Planning, says, “Any way you want it to be, that’s just right.” This is meant to be fun. Now get busy.

Equality Changes Everything

America

Image: The Gay Guide Network-American Pride

The final weekend of of this years Gay Pride Month in America has come to a close. Our family entered that last weekend with excitement over acceptance from the home we live in. And, let me tell you – equality changes everything. That day, June 26th, 2015, may not mean much to those who don’t understand the need to belong, to be accepted, or how it is to live in fear & rejection and yet, it seemed as if all of America took in one breath together and opened their eyes to another piece of themselves.

Not all of America was happy with this decision to fully recognize us as equals. But even so, it actually did get better. We can not be brushed to the side and beaten down and bible thumped back into the closet. We are all the way out. We are now a visible part of the fabric that binds this great nation together. We are equal in the eyes of the government. Somewhere a young LGBTQ person was just released from feeling like they did not matter. They were told that there is hope for the life you want to live and love is waiting for you out there. Equality matters.

America has not always been my friend. When I was young I was lost in the shadows of Americas morals. I felt wrong, misplaced, odd and alone. But, I held on. I hoped for more. I watched from the outside at a life I felt no relationship to. A life I thought I had no right to have. Can I get married? Can I have children? Can I find love? Can I find friends? I thought had to give up these four simple questions and accept that I may always be alone.

And here we are. Just (a little) over 30 years later. By making that choice to be my authentic self back then I was, over time, able to answer just three of those questions until last Friday, June 26th, 2015. Now don’t misunderstand, I knew Derek and I could get married here in California. That battle had been won. We were in the beginning stages of planning our “Big Gay Wedding”. But, that marriage would not have been recognized equally in every state of the republic like my heterosexual counterparts. We would not have really been equal.

That one thing, equality, does change everything. That pride I feel every June for who I am is no longer only stripes of a rainbow but of a combination of stars and rainbows. We have been woven together. Derek and I are no longer planning that “Big Gay Wedding” we are planning our wedding.