The end of the year is always a time that we round up the year with a top ten list of some kind. We tabulate the things that rocked our world or biggest villains of the last twelve months and then shake our heads in wonder that so much stuff happened in one year. Well this year I am deeply resisting doing another simple list of events. First, because you can't swing a stick on the internet without hitting one...and second, because the years events as they have effected our family were far more than just blurbs on the news. Lots of things happened to our kids and to us, new friends were made and old ones returned, we took Portland by storm, I turned 40, and then took a bite out of the big apple....and that's what you missed on
OK...I need to start January off with a confession. As the year rolled over into 2012 I couldn't help but have the Mayan apocalypse stuff in the back of my head. Even though I didn't believe in it now and in fact understood it as just a calendar that had to end somewhere, there was a part of me that remembered being 12 and scared stiff of the end of the world. As I told my husband Jay, I had just watched some episode of "In Search Of" with Leonard Nimoy all about the calendar with Nimoys Spock like voice hinting that the Mayans just might know something we don't and I was actually kinda mad. I was scared out of my little mind and angry that of all the ages of the earth that I had to be born in, I got the one when the world ends....Just great! It didn't help that the preachers and pastors that I listened to then were also playing up the Book of Revelations and the end of the world. Tack on to that the nuclear angst of the 80's and I am surprised I emerged from that time with any sanity left at all. But here...no longer that scared kid with the countdown clock in his head...but he was still somewhere down in there wondering just what would happen this year. I have lived through more doomsday prophecies now than I ever expected to survive....it just goes to show that no man knows when that day is...could be tomorrow ..could be a billion years from now....and anyone who thinks they know plainly doesn't. But I can send a letter to the Bryan of 1983 and tell him we're all still here and doing ok. In fact, amazing things await you. Put away the fear and open your eyes in wonder.
Many will remember my little guy Niko who was with us as a foster placement not once, but twice. The beginning of 2012 saw Niko return to our home after having been placed with another family member who horribly abused him. It was the very day after Christmas that a CPS worker rolled up in front of our house with little Niko in the backseat, still slightly under sedation from his hospital stay in Oakland. It was bad enough hearing the horrible things that the CPS worker said that his family was saying about him...those things were just not the Niko we knew....it was so much worse seeing him so small and hurt. with a big cast on one arm. No one so small should ever have to go through that. But that fact that Niko was in our home a second time made me feel that maybe this time he was coming to stay. Sadly...that turned out to not be the case. As Niko got regular food again and lots of love, he again blossomed and it became clear to CPS that the reports they were getting about Niko from the family members caring for him were not only untrue....but fabrications to cover their abuse of him. The end result was that his mom was given another chance and that meant more visits....this time with the certain knowledge that I had to let him go again. I won't lie....that hurt. Sometimes it still aches a little. But the fact of the matter is that his mom has been doing stellar and has made Niko the center of her world. I could not be more proud of her and how she is taking care of him and herself. I know it is not easy. And so the time came this spring to pack up his belongings again and give him into her arms for good. It was sad...but it was also right. I still get to hang out with him every Thursday to give his mom a break and it always makes me happy to see him. We don't do much but play with toys and watch the Disney Channel...but it means the world to me.
The Big Gay Vacation Goes To...Portland!:
Every year we like to take a big vacation and wherever possible we like to meet the people who watch us on YouTube. The last two BGV's had been a stupendous amount of fun and brought people into our lives that will remain friends forever...and this years was no different. We met a lot of great people, ate Voodoo Donuts, took in Portland Pride, and hiked to pristine waterfalls. I got to hang out with my star wars buddy Rick and wonderful husband and Stuart who hosted an awesome BBQ for all of us at their home. We also attended a showing of our movie "The Right To Love: An American Family" that was hosted by our friend Chris at his church and had a great time talking to people afterward. We saw the sights and sounds of Oregon and brought a little of the California sunshine with us it seemed as we had great weather all the way.
The Kids Keep Getting Bigger!...Make It Stop!:
As much stuff as 2012 held for adults, it held even more for Daniel and Selena. Daniel left 6th grade and Selena 1rst grade to enjoy a summer that included tons of bike riding, swim lessons, and trips to Portland as well as a special trip to Disney Land to Thank them for being such troopers at all the Right To Love movie events they had to attend. But as the summer started to come to a close and the early Autumn winds began to blow the leaves from the trees...we all knew that school was approaching again in the blink of an eye. One day as I took the kids to ride bikes at their school I sat down on the lunch tables and watched them ride when a heavy feeling washed over me. Daniel was turning twelve....he was going into 7th grade.....7th!!! That adorable little boy who barely came up to my waist not so long ago was now a middleschooler!! I had heard the phrase about the march of time but right at that moment it felt that time was marching right over me with soccer cleats on. In another blink of an eye he would be 13...an actual teenager and in his last year at the charter school he had been in since third grade. It was a bitter sweet moment of that was a mixture of pride and utter sadness...made all the more intense by knowing that Selena is right behind him.
But the school year began and as it tends to do...filled up with homework, report cards, school events, and extra curricular activities. Daniel joined fencing and showed a spark of joy and dedication I had never seen in him before. Jay takes Daniel running with him as often as he can....and with his weekly guitar lessons after school it was becoming clear to me that Daniel was becoming a very well rounded young man. This year also marked the time when we began planning for more serious surgeries for Daniel. In the past this had been paid for largely in part by the fact that Daniel had been in the foster system and they continue to take care of kids with special needs until they are adults. That was medical coverage we were very....very grateful for and U.S. San Francisco always took really good care of Daniel. He had a team of doctors there and a treatment plan in place until.......insurance issues stepped in. We have been in the process of reestablishing a new team of doctors and a good treatment plan under our insurance plan and that means that we are starting all over again with new people. Not so fun...but we hope to get Daniel back on track by summertime.
Selena began the year by joining the girl scouts and Jay and I keep waiting patiently for cookie time....lol. She also has joined karate and seemed to find a niche in which she can express her strength and energy in a safe environment in which she can channel them constructively. She also got a big dose of internet attention when she was the star of the GayFamilyValues/Sean Chapin remake of the song, "I Have Two Fathers". She patiently recorded the song line by line with Sean after spending weeks learning it whole and the end result was fantastic and I know that she was as proud of herself as we were of her.
A big moment for both kids began this year when Selena asked us if we could find her a picture of her mom. It was a slightly scary thing for us dad's to consider because....A) we didn't know if we could make it happen. And.....B) We didn't know what her response would be when she saw her mom as a real person instead of how she may have been imagining her all along. Well...we managed to finally make contact with a post-adoptions social worker and she agreed to look into it. Unfortunately the only pictures she was able to produce were mug shots from the times that the mom had originally had the kids removed. Not ideal...but it was really all we had so we asked her to send them anyway. None of us knew what was going to arrive or how we would feel when it did. The day the letter arrived, I opened it with shaking hands and...yes, cried just a little. It was hard to acknowledge there was another parent in my kids life...even though I knew it was important and necessary that they got those pictures of her. So, Jay and I sat the kids down and braced ourselves for Selena's tears.But....as Selena opened the photos of her mom and took her first long look her response was, "Huh, She doesn't look how I thought she would.".....and that was that. I did not expect Daniel to be so moved by the pictures because he had memories of him mom, but he was the one that quietly folded his picture back up and then melted into tears. We hugged and held onto him for a good long while and had a good talk about what his mom means to him.
Right To Love and The Big Apple:
For a very long time, we and many of our viewers waited for our movie "The Right To Love: An American Family" to be finished. Now it was finally done and 2012 saw us going to A LOT of showings for the movie both close to home and across the country. It even showed in England for Manchester Pride. R2L had legs and it was finally getting out there into the world. Among the places we traveled to see the movie was New York City...a lifelong dream for Daniel that finally got to come true. We met our good friends Jim and Dave and took in the sights and sounds of Manhattan right before Isaac and all it's destruction. We saw the Statue of Liberty, Times Square, and the 911 Memorial at the sight of the Twin Towers. All of it was just like we imagined it would be and we all had an incredible time. We also got to meet John and Michael Galluccio and their son Adam. They are very special to us because they helped blaze the trail for LGBT families to adopt and because they put their family out there to be seen long before Jay and I even considered becoming dads....and because they have very awesome kids that they should be(and are) very proud of. And another important highlight of the time was getting to meet the mother and brother to Tyler Clementi. The fact that they were there when it was clearly such a painful topic for them to discuss made the showing incredibly meaningfull for us all.
One of the main complaints we heard from others was that they missed a movie showing in their area or they were simply too far away to get to. We did our best to let it be seen by anyone who wanted to host a showing...including on our trip to Portland. But that still left a lot of people who wanted to see it that didn't get the chance to. Finally, at the close of this year the movie has been released on DVD and we hope that those who may have wanted to see it but couldn't will get the chance to see the beautiful work that Cassie Jaye has made of our story.
In The News:
This year in gay rights was nothing short of incredible and had it's highs and lows...it's heroes and villains No one will forget the Chick-Fil-A dust up that still gets people up in arms. It seemed that the fact that CFA was giving money to groups that actively lobbied against the rights of LGBT people got lost in a false argument about free speech and freedom of religion...two things that were never in question. In the end, CFA lost a few customers and gained some who might not otherwise have gave a dam. They ended up making more money than ever...though, I for one, will never EVER go there.
This year saw Barack Obama become the first sitting president to endorse gay rights and it began a watershed of events that included a tremendous shift in LGBT politics away from being too hot to handle to a human and civil rights issue. We saw the election of several out LGBT people to office, including now Senator Tammy Baldwin and our good friend Brian Sims. We saw Secretary of State Hillary Clinton give a historic speach on Human Rights Day in which she affirmed that "Gay rights are human rights", and urged the nations of the world to protect their LGBT citizens.
Marriage equality saw a huge win after Barack Obama's endorsement resulting in wins at the ballot box in four states...granting marriage equality in Maine, Maryland, and Washington State as well as shooting down a ban on marriage equality in Minnesota. It was the first time we had won at the ballot box and boy was it a big win! The wedding bells are still ringing as many couples are only now getting their marriage licenses. Additionally, we finally heard from U.S. Supreme court on which marriage equality cases they will begin to hear in the coming year. This has prompted some to celebrate and others to take a more cautious stance as we are all unsure just what this collection of justices is likely to do. We are all staying tuned!
Newtown Connecticut and Sandyhook Elementary School became names every American now knows for the very worst of reasons. Adam Lanza, shot and killed his mother with an assault rifle she had purchased and then went to a nearby school and shot six staff members and twenty children in a single day that broke the heart of a nation. Every parent....and this parent...still grieves for those lost and their families. The only ray of hope is that Americans will take a long hard look at both gun laws AND mental illness.
Awesome people we got to meet:Among the very many great people we met and made friendships with this year are some that I need to make a special place for because they were not connected with any movie events or vacation stops...they were just good people that impacted our lives, became a part of our family, and leave us waiting for the days when we get to hang out again.
First was our friend Thiago who came from Brazil to visit us in our home. Whenever I meet someone completely out of the blue I am always a little(a lot) nervous and being on my own home turf doesn't do much to mitigate that. Thiago was no exception. But lucky for me he was a genuine sweet, and outgoing guy who didn't take my shy nature as an insult. All of us had a wonderful time hanging out and getting to know that Brazilians love to tease Americans about our inward looking cluelessness of the larger world....and that they really get kinda crazy when you tease them back....lol. It was hard to let him go back home to Brazil but he will be studying medicine in St. Louis and we look forward to seeing him again this summer on our cross county road trip. I just hope he can stand us when we are all packed into one tiny vehicle.
Finally on our list are two guys who not only touched our hearts but thousands around the nation and the world. 2012 began in the wake of the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell. Finally LGBT soldiers were able to stand up and be counted for who they are and the images of soldiers coming home to embrace their loved ones made us all cheer and sometimes shed a tear. But none so much as that of USMC Sgt. Brandon Morgan and his boyfriend Dalan Wells
We just got to meet and spend almost half a day with these two and it didn't feel nearly long enough. Not only were they video game conversant(a plus for me!) but they were genuinely nice guys who's love for each other really shines for all to see. It's crazy to think that the "kiss heard round the world" was their very first. I know Brandon got some flak for it, but for Jay, myself, and so many of us...we are sincerely glad it happened. They showed a nation that LGBT soldiers have loves and lives that they sacrifice the same as any other soldier. It was a face many of us had not seen and it made all our hearts grow three sizes this year.
The Wrap up:
Whew!....did I forget anything? Probably a lot and I am sorry if I did. You can see why we get to the end of the year and think about the beginning as if it was another lifetime ago. So much happens even thought it feels like it all goes by in an eye blink. Sometimes I just look around and think, "Holy smokes. When did all this happen?" But for all the fear mongering that took place....and all the nasty comments by NOM, The Pope, or.....oh yes....Rupert Everett, a whole lot of wonderful things happened this year that I hope makes 2013 one to look forward to. We still have many hurts to heal and some scary times ahead but I hope that this year really was what everyone touted it as...a game changer. Have we come over the hill on gay rights and will that reality be recognized by the Supreme Court as it makes it's deliberations? Just like predictions of the Mayan apocalypse, it is impossible to tell what may happen. But as long as we keep hope and faith we never know what amazing things we will see if we have the courage and patience to get there.
I hope this is the year that I give my OCD and fear in general it's eviction notice. I hope to keep seeing Daniel and Selena do things that amaze me even though I sometimes miss them being small. My dream in life was to become a father and have a family and now it is clear to me that I can't stop there...I need to keep growing and improving myself....physically and mentally. I hope to get past my shy and solitary nature to meet more people I wont want to let go of. I feel lucky and very blessed...as well as occasionally stunned by life and the places it takes us. No one knows were the road leads or what 2013 will bring. It will likely have it's victories and it's own dark shadows....it's own heroes and villians....but at the end of this next year, I hope we are all standing again with our eyes ahead, dazed and amazed at all that happened, and still looking forward to the journey. See you in 2013!
(P.S...I forgot to write about turning 40! Oh well....its all a blur anyway.)
Until next time dear readers.....