Monthly Archives: June 2011

A few of my thoughts on gay marriage

The issue of legalizing gay marriage has made me realise a few things about myself. I assumed that it was a simple equality issue, and so it was right to legalize gay marriage. But, I have realized that it is not a black-and-white right-and-wrong issue to me. To me there is no clear cut right answer, and only opinions on what is best / fair / the right thing to do.

So, NY has legalized gay marriage. Hoorah! I am very happy for this news. Here are some of my thoughts as to why I personally would like Alabama to follow suit and legalize gay marriage.

To me, it is not clear about whether the Bible is against homosexuality or not.

One of the main oppositions I encounter in AL to legalizing gay marriage is that the Bible is anti-gay relations. Well, my problem here is that I don’t know the Bible well enough (and would welcome any thoughts on this). I used to think the ‘Sodom and Gomorrah’ story was where the Bible explicitly stated the Christian stance against homosexuality. Until I actually read it (now there is an idea). When I read it, my own personal interpretation (which is shared by others) that it was the general debauchery that was problematic, and the main criticism levied against the inhabitants of Sodom was their unwillingness to welcome an outsider. Let us not forget that they wanted to rape the visitor – and that this presumably was a great sin. It’s just not clear to me that the homosexuality was a sin. It is also not clear to me why, if it was, this part of the old testament is still relevant, when we abandon so many other parts under the new covenant.

I am similarly unclear on other parts of the Bible and the stance on homosexuality. The Bible is hugely complex and I don’t think gives us lift off the page answers on many things.

I honestly don’t know what God asks of us on this front. But let us assume, for a minute, that the Bible is anti homosexual relationships. That it is an affront to God. I still think Alabama should legalize gay marriage.

My personal belief is that the value of marriage is less about gender relations, and more about respecting individuals who commit to another, in a loving and faithful fashion.

Even if there are things in a relationship we don’t personally agree are good life choices, I think you can still respect and honour two individuals who commit to a loving relationship, and recognize this as something you promote and support, in its own right. I respect family bonds, and people who work hard to maintain a family. I believe this is a tough thing to do, and I could only commit to marrying someone, and in my heart believe it was a lifelong commitment, if I knew God would help me maintain that commitment. I personally don’t think that I am strong enough to do it without His love and support. I happily respect any union that is aimed at the same goal: of making a stable and lifelong family, which I believe is a Godly endeavor (although you can execute it without God and I still support that), and accepting and negotiating all the personal sacrifices one has to make in that quest.

Thus, I don’t believe that legalizing gay marriage is the start of some slippery slope, and we ‘just don’t know where it will end’.

I understand some people feel this: legalizing gay marriage is just another step in the decline of the sanctity of marriage. And a journey of a 1,000 miles starts with a single step. However, I believe that legalizing gay marriage is the exact opposite: it is to me, respecting the sanctity of marriage for what it is supposed to be, and what so many heterosexual couples fail to make it: a lifelong loving commitment. Heterosexuals have made a mess of the institution of marriage – it is always a union between a man and a woman, but only 50% of the time is it a lifelong commitment as promised (a lot of the time it isn’t even loving). I honestly think this a way of redeeming it.

Maybe these views reflect another view of mine: I don’t believe marriage is for everybody. And it makes me cross that some sectors of society still hold it up as a goal to be strived for at all costs. My personal opinion is that if it is not for you – for whatever reason – then you should never, ever feel pressured into doing it for legal / societal norm reasons. I think a lot of heartache could be saved if people didn’t assume that marriage was inevitable, and if people didn’t treat news of engagements / weddings as the attainment of some lofty goal (I famously was PISSED that I got more congratulations for getting married than I did for passing my PhD).To me, it is not a goal, or an achievement, but a reflection of a commitment and lifestyle choice that is made with good loving intentions, and hard to maintain. I respect people who are brave enough not make that commitment, just I respect ALL who are brave enough to make it.

I am a practicing Christian, and I am not 100% sure on where God stands on homosexuality. However, I do know I sin every day – sometimes accidentally, sometimes as an active decision. I don’t think it is my right or my place to grade sins, and decide some are better or worse than others, but I do think it is my Christian duty to be as graceful as possible, as loving as possible, and to support Christian values, such as loving faithful relationships wherever they occur.

Plus of course, marriage can be an entirely legal, and non Christian endeavour.

I found it was, more often than not, in AL  than the UK. Many people have an a-religious ceremony. So if a man and woman can do that, and make a commitment without God, why can’t two men or two women? So: go NY, I think you did an awesome thing.

I don’t know when my blog got so political. I entirely blame my new officemate and intend to return to writing about cats and dieting shortly 🙂

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Writing with cultural sensitivity

It has been said that obesity is the last form of acceptable social prejudice. I disagree; it is indeed a largely tolerated form of prejudice but there are others, and I would like to write today about prejudice against the Southern States of the US. In large parts of the developed and Western world (and outside) prejudice has come to mean more than hating on a group because of the characteristics of that group (be it blacks, women, gays or whomever). Sure, hate and negative assumptions are indeed a serious form of prejudice that many, if not most, people are united in eradicating. But to me, living in London in the last decade prejudice or racism has also come to mean something else – it has come to mean making generalizations about a group of people, that even if they can be backed up by hard data and statistics, are made in a crude, offensive to that group, or culturally insensitive manner. Some people think this attitude has gone too far, but I am glad it was drummed into me that this attitude and manner of speaking about others is the right thing to do.

To be honest, my opinion is that I don’t think this extra layer to prejudice / racism is as prevalent in the South as it was in London. I have experienced many people for whom the concept of racism is still largely only tied to hate or erroneous / unfair generalizations and is not so concerned with speaking in a way that doesn’t offend a group of people, or be disrespectful to aspects of their culture we may not immediately consider: such as food choices. Not ubiquitously, but more prevalently than some of more urban / cosmopolitan / racially integrated areas. However, I find non Southerners writing about ‘Southern attitudes’ in a frankly equally unacceptable manner. Because people know I live in Alabama, I find sweeping statements about the ‘inbred racist backwards Southerners’ bandied about in public arenas with little regard for the sensibilities and sensitivities of Southerners. And I find it upsetting and offensive. If you want to write about Southern attitudes to race or homosexuality or religion I would ask that you do not do so without careful thought, as carefully that you might write about other groups of individuals, and do not act in a manner you may well accuse Southerners of acting in. Instead, please:

-Remember the history of the Southern states

-Respect the more prevalent Christian views – whether you share their views on Christianity or not

-Not make statements about racism or attitudes as if what you are saying reflects the attitudes of all Southern people, when in reality there is a huge mix of opinions

-Consider whether your own opinions and expectations of Southerners / the South have coloured how you interpret things

-Remember that racism / prejudice *in all forms* exists in every society (The BNP got a seat in parliament recently, right?)

-Consider whether even though a view or an attitude has been shown to be more prevalent in the Southern states, it could still offend a lot of people if it was written about in a crude and insensitive manner

-Remember that every culture and every society has something we can learn from. There are an awful lot of great things I have learned from living in Alabama, and being exposed to Southern attitudes, about treating fellow humans better.

Of course, acknowledging differences in opinion, or differences in attitude prevalence is OK.  Noting that some views, that you may not agree with are more common, or more likely to be accepted here is OK to me. Sharing first hand observations and opinions, thoughts and interpretations can be enlightening. If it is done nicely and sensitively and respectfully. Please think about how you would feel if somewhat wrote what you are saying about your culture, or highlighted the perceived shortcomings of your culture in such a manner. Otherwise, if you are talking about prejudice / racism – well, in my humble opinion, its just hypocritical.

We did it!

I stole that title from my friend Allison Kirk’s blog, because it is so beautifully apt for how we feel: after months (OK, just 3, but still) of planning, buying, crafting, searching, managing, travelling, laughing (crying) and general mayhem, we pulled off our perfect day (definition: ‘we’ = me, Wes and assorted friends and family). So, the Brits want to know about the day, warts ‘n’ all. And while I do have a post about the craziness that got us to the perfect day (including forgetting the catering, abandoning the groom with no buddies with him the night before and having no way to get the bride to the actual wedding – yes, all those fun and games), but it took away from a description of what was, as I keep writing, our perfect day (yes, I have the Lou Reed song going round and around in my head too, and no, it is not an apt soundtrack).

I arrived and stood in the house, with the ring bearer, bridesmaids, maid of honour. I looked out of the window, and the garden where the ceremony would be held just looked stunning. Wes’ Mum’s chairs were perfect, the arch was simple but eye catching and the lake added a serene feel. I could see Wes standing patiently at the front, the minister grinning happily, and Aaron dutifully handing out rose petals, also with a big smile on his face. It was a beautiful, and somewhat sobering scene but the happiness and joy was palpable, even from inside the house. My Dad asked me how I felt, and I simply felt very excited. So we went downstairs and I got to hear Nate’s gorgeous playing, a simple, delicate sweet song that was perfect for the occasion. After a brief dilemma about where the ring bearer went in the procession, which was solved by 10-year old Sasha, bridesmaid extrodinare (the answer if the at the front, but the way) – off we all trundled down the aisle. And trundle we did, until I suddenly giggled and suggested we all slowed down. My quiet giggle turned into a ranging ear-to-ear-grin when I saw my best buddy Kim, who had made it all the way from Boston. I suddenly realized how many dear friends and loved ones had come out and it made me ecstatic (hence the grin) and this was how I made it to my fiancé at the front:

Given the million degree heat (well, spot on 100 as I exited the car), we decided not to be American, but to be all British, and let people the wedding party sit for the duration of the ceremony. Scott was a wonderful, wonderful minister. He wrote beautiful, Godly words, and involved us so that they felt very personal and meaningful. He talked about the marriage, and what we were to each other, and what we would be, as man and wife in a partnership together. Kirk read an extract from C.S. Lewis’ ‘The Four Loves’ with feeling and heartfelt passion. Wes and I wrote our own vows (coming soon to a blog post near you – see there were some very-American-and-alien-to-Brits touches), and we said these to each other, before also saying the more more common ones (coming soon as well).

Before I knew it, it was time to ‘kiss the bride’. Which Wesley did. And did again. And tried to do again, until I whispered ‘Oi’ and pulled away 🙂

After being presented as man and wife, we receded down the aisle to Nate’s acoustic version of ‘Here Comes The Sun’ and people threw rose petals.

Then a brief photo session, during which Josh Vasa played beautiful music and all we had to do was party. And party we did! It was very nice not to be sitting at a table separate from our guests – it allowed us the freedom to go about chatting to everyone (which Wes was 100% better at than me, who missed a good few of her friends, although I think I did manage to speak to / introduce myself to all of Wes’ side). I changed into a simple dress, and did what I do best: ate, drank, danced and paddled in the lake. It reminded me of a big house party, and I am very grateful to so many people for chipping in and helping out.

Time flew, and soon it was time to cut the cake, listen to Papa’s speech

and have the first dance. We left at 11.15, but the party carried on until 5 am. In fact, I am not sure it had even stopped to restart when we returned at 12 the next day.

At the end of it all, people often ask us: did you have fun? And here, a few pictures really are worth more than a 1,000 words.

My favourite pics from the wedding can be found here: https://picasaweb.google.com/103552216493168738329/OurWedding?authkey=Gv1sRgCKubuveUiNGT3wE

Normal operation resumed, spontaneity returns

Ah, and breathe a sigh of relief. After the perfect wedding – well, the perfect wedding to us, the necessity to fill days with crafts, budgeting, alcohol tasting and web surfing is over. I’m not saying the desire is gone, nor that those actions have entirely ground to a halt (the third one especially), but we have other options now. And, I can go back to exploring America, and satisfying my ADHD-related novelty seeking urges. With the benefit of a loving husband at home. In the words of Charlie Sheen: “Winning”. First up: my first ever baseball game.

So, my friend and fellow blogger and America-explorer Dom is in my office on Friday, mentioning that he was planning a trip to see the Braves, and trying to get people on board. ‘Err… well… if there’s space, you know.. and tickets… and er….’ I stutter. Dom looks in disbelief ‘you’re up for it?’ of which I believe the direct translation is “so, the girl who needs 3 months notice to go for an after work drink is dropping everything at 36 hours notice to jaunt to Georgia at 36 hours notice at grant time?” Like I said, I’m back.

So off we went. We had my first experience of tailgating, which was awesome.

We also sadly had not my first ‘you can’t buy alcohol on a Sunday’ experience (WTF? Didn’t Jesus create wine from water? Shouldn’t water be banned and alcohol mandatory?). But other tailgaters were more than happy to share their Bud with the boys, while I quietly consumed my bottle of Chardonnay. Which, in 100 degree heat with no breakfast, may have been a mistake. But hey, we live and we learn.

stadium.jpg

Onto the stadium, in my newly borrow wife-beater: it was huge! And had so many shops and restaurants and lit up signs. It was like a mini city. We went in the pitching tent (I was rubbish, but want another go) and bought Braves swag (me: a cute vest top to please left-behind hubby; Matthew: a hat), bought more alcohol (of course) and sat in the blazing heat to watch the game.

pitching.jpg

It was fun, and I started to get the rules. But the alcohol didn’t help (I would definitely either eat more food and drink more water, or just drink less wine next time). And 2-hours later it was time to get back for Father’s day. A drunken sob in the back, a long sleep, a few moment of incoherent chatter and I was delivered back home, sunburned, hungry and very sleepy. Want to go again!

Thank you Matthew and Dom for an awesome day, and another American experience ticked off (Matthew was also responsible for my first ever football game – which was even more awesome).

New orchids

Phal from my office in England happily blooming for the second time that season

Phal from my office in England happily blooming for the second time that season

Back in the UK, I used to love growing orchids, but obviously I could not transport them all the way over the grand ole US of A. It took me a while to find something other than phalaenopsis’ everywhere (not that I am against these, per se… in fact, I have a definite hankering for a white one), until I stumbled upon Davis wholesale florist in Birmingham. For $16 a piece, I became the proud owner of:

A midnight Blue Bolopetalum

Bolo (yes, that is his name) waiting to bloom

Bolo (yes, that is his name) waiting to bloom

And an Alcra, Pacific Nova.

Jenny (more imaginatively, although less understandably, named than Bolo)

Pretty 🙂 If anyone else knows a good spot to get unusual plants in Birmingham, let me know 🙂

More cat tales.

I know I owe everyone a full wedding rundown, and I am 1/2 way through that, with links to the vows, recipes and thank yous (thank you thank you thank you) we owe everyone for giving us our absolutely perfect day. But, in the meantime I had to share Bobby’s latest adventure. You remember Bobby, right? He of the pee-ing on Wes, wall licking, fish terrorizing fame?

Delinquent.

He has now excelled himself. Today I got home and realised I needed to run to the closest store – it is about 1/2 a mile away. I put the dog on a leash and set off, amused that Bobby decides to tag along.. and along… and along. Walking with us, the whole way. Until I get to the shop, tie the dog up outside and go in – whereupon Bobby bolts in with me. I decide to ignore this and hope no one notices but Bobby has other ideas than discretion, and decides to yowl at my feet the whole way round. So I pick him up to shut him up (not looking like a crazy cat lady AT ALL) and proceed to make my purchase. At the checkout I say apologetically “Geez, I am so so sorry, the cat just followed me here”.

“Hmmm…” is the response “yes, he is actually a health CO violation… luckily I don’t see a cat, at all, just a stuffed animal”. I thank her profusely and scarper, collect the dog, and then decide I have to carry Bobby across the road. Again, I don’t look weird at all walking a dog and carrying an inquisitive cat. Once across, I put Bobby down and he runs ahead of us, stopping every 50 yards or so to make sure we are with him. When we go too slow (like when the dog has to poop and I have to clear it up) he yowls and yowls until we get there. He goes past home into his favourite alley, but when we don’t follow (but go in) he runs up to the door and comes home, sits at my feet and purrs contentedly.

Basically, he wants to be a dog. He has already freaked us out by experimenting with panting (yes, it is really weird) and he has clearly decided that he is going to act like a dog, regardless. Sigh.

Out. Of. Control.