Voting on Marriage: What If I’m Not Traditional?

Minnesota is in the midst of a political battle over marriage. In less than a month we’ll vote on a constitutional amendment that would define marriage as between one man and one woman, disallowing gay marriage (which is already what Minnesota law says).

I’ve dreaded the debate this amendment would bring. And I’m reluctant to talk about it. It’s very polarizing and a good way to lose some work (I’ve been blacklisted for far less). It’s also a good way to lose some friends. I was more vocal than I should have been in the 2008 election and said some things I regret. Since then political discussions on Facebook often make me cringe (if not shudder). Sometimes I wonder who these people are that I once called friends. I don’t want to come off that way. Hopefully I don’t. If I do, I hope you’ll forgive me and we can talk about it instead of my words making you mad or scaring you away.


This is also an issue that’s hard to be quiet about. This week I came across a Google ad on my site that pointed to the pro-amendment camp. I was curious what kind of advertising they were doing, so I clicked on it and came up with this landing page:

Minnesota for Marriage Google ad landing page (click to view larger)
Minnesota for Marraige Google ad landing page (click to view larger)

What I found makes me very uncomfortable.

There’s no mention of homosexuality or gay marriage at all. Instead they’re advocating for traditional marriage (the typical “we’re not anti-gay, we’re pro-marriage” line). What makes me so uncomfortable is that argument leaves no room for, well, life. I think traditional marriage is great. But it rarely happens. I think kids should have parents—plural. But that doesn’t always happen. I think dads should be involved in their kids’ lives, but to say that marriage is what keeps a father “nearby”? That’s kind of, well, icky.

I think what I find so difficult here is that there’s no attempt made, no caveats, no nod toward life happening. Divorce happens. Death happens. Adoption happens. We’ve got single parents, divorced parents, re-married parents, step parents and adoptive parents. None of them fit very well in this view of traditional marriage as presented by this ad.

Using the word “biological” as a norm is unsettling when you have kids who aren’t biological.

Let’s face it: A lot of families out there are weird. They don’t look very traditional. I think that’s OK. But it’s important that we include these different situations. Inclusiveness is important. It’s harmful to kids to hold up this traditional model as the only way to go and not acknowledge that there are other families who look different, even weird, but that they’re still OK. They’re not defective or somehow less of a family. To do otherwise communicates to an already confused kid that their family is defective, and by extension, they are. This is the crux of diversity training and a driving force in Sesame Street for the last, I don’t know, 40 years.

Maybe what I’m dealing with here is a communication issue. Nothing more. The text is pulled from this page on the campaign site, which gives a little more context.

I hope that’s the case. I hope they’re not being intentionally exclusive. But that’s hard to believe. You don’t spend millions on advertising without being intentional. Especially when you could make the same point with inclusive language.

It’s probably not hard to guess that I’m opposed to the amendment. I guess I could just ignore the messaging of the “other side,” but I guess being a writer I’m curious about why they’re communicating this way.

Turned on the Heat 2012

We finally turned on the heat this morning. We’ve had a pretty erratic fall, going from high 70s and shorts weather to 50s fall weather and then back up to 80s and then down to the 40s. Seems like every weekend has been a different season (so far the pattern has been summer, fall, summer, winter). We went through one morning of it being only 59 degrees in the house, but when it happened again this morning it was time to cave. Plus Lexi, the impervious to the cold child, was complaining. And that’s when the whole ‘how long can we wait before turning on the heat’ game turns into guilt.

In terms of how long we waited, this year was pretty average. Though the internal temp was the lowest in seven years, so that’s something. I guess. (Assuming tracking when you turn on the heat is something.)

Here’s how this year stands up:

Last Chance for The Stephanies

Last month I launched a Kickstarter campaign to publish the book Lexi and I wrote this summer called The Stephanies. In less than three days the project was fully funded.


Over the last month the campaign has hummed along, raising more than double the original goal. That’s pretty cool, especially since extra cash goes toward Lexi’s college fund.

But the Kickstarter campaign comes to an end tonight at 9 p.m. Central. Today is your last chance to join our Kickstarter campaign and support The Stephanies.

But wait, if the campaign is already fully funded, why should I join?
Great question. At this point the goal is met and the project is going forward with or without you. We’re at a fun stage in the life of a Kickstarter campaign where there’s no more hoping and dreaming. The project is a reality and joining up now doesn’t carry any risk that the project might fail.

But two reasons why you might still want to join the campaign:

1) Get the Book Cheap
The Kickstarter campaign will be the cheapest way to get a copy of the book. You can get the digital version for just a buck and the print version for $15 (shipping included, plus a personal thank you from Lexi and me). If you want a copy, now’s the best time to get it. The Stephanies will be on Amazon later, but you won’t be able to get it for as cheap.

2) Cool Rewards
We also have some cool rewards available now. Along with the book, you can also get some cookies, Lexi artwork, join Lexi’s book of the month club or some other fun extras. My personal favorite is the book of the month club. It’s a little pricey at $250, but considering that you get a book shipped to you every month for a year, it’s a pretty great. Today’s your last chance for any of these goodies.

You have until 9 p.m. Central tonight. Ready? Go!

Born to Run

Last week I finished the book Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Chris McDougall. It’s easily in the top five best books I’ve read this year. And that’s not just because I’ve been doing more running this year than any other year. It’s an incredibly interesting book that makes the most mundane things completely fascinating.

The writer starts off the book with a running injury and wants to know how he can run without getting hurt. His doctors tell him to stop running. It launches into an exploration of running shoes, which didn’t come into use until the late 1960s. The author ends up pursuing a lost tribe in Mexico called the Tarahumara who easily run up to a hundred miles a day in ridiculous canyons with little more than sandals for shoes.

Personally it’s engaging because I’m fighting the same battle. I’ve taken up running recently but I’m terrified I’m going to hurt myself. Something like one in three runners get injured every year. I was going to run a 5K this weekend, but I came back from a run on Thursday with my knees hurting. Pushing it didn’t seem wise. The idea of barefoot running that’s explored in Born to Run suddenly seems appealing.

The fact is that for all our fancy cushioned shoes, running injuries have only increased. Running shoes actually increase the power of your footfall, magnifying potential damage to your feet, ankles and knees. But people have run for millenia without such fancy shoes, so why not do it that way (or at least in minimal shoes—I’m too much of a wimp to go completely barefoot). This barefoot or minimalist trend has skyrocketed recently, to the point that Nike has released their own “barefoot” running shoe. Here’s a good summary from the author’s site.

I’m not sure where I’ll land. I know I need to ease into minimalist shoes if they’re going to work for me, and with my iffy knees right now I need to be especially careful. Exercise shouldn’t be this difficult.

And that’s the most compelling part of this book, that perhaps we’re doing something wrong. Virtually every disease that plagues Western nations can be blamed on poor diet and exercise. Many of our health problems could be solved if we simply went running. We need to re-learn how to run, both to get back into the practice but also to learn how to do it right so we can avoid the epidemic of running injuries.

Which brings me to what I thought was the most fascinating portion of the book. McDougall talked to some evolutionary biologists who theorize that the human body was made to run. This flies in the face of conventional wisdom, which holds that our design is for walking. But as they compared human and animal physiology, they found that we have more traits in common with runners than walkers. As they explored further they found that we’re especially designed to run—but not sprints like a jack rabbit or a cheetah, but long distances. More than any other animal, humans have a capacity to go fast over long distances.

At first this stumped the biologists. How could that be helpful? Long distance is no good if a tiger catches you in the first 10 seconds. Likewise dinner would manage to escape in the first 10 seconds as well.

Then they discovered an ancient art of hunting that involves literally running an animal to death. It’s very rare today with fenced in preserves and what not, but they managed to find a tribe in Africa that would hunt this way: Persistence hunting. They would run an animal down over 20 miles, tracking them, herding them to keep from losing the stragglers and eventually the animals would overheat and die. A deer might be able to outrun you, but if you keep after it, the deer has to slow down to rest and you don’t.

That’s incredible. I’m probably summarizing the story poorly, which is why you should go read the book, but that’s just fascinating. I’d like to see how it goes over with my hunting friends. What if instead of grabbing the rifle or bow, they headed out in shorts and a water bottle, ready to run that buck to death? Think you need a hunting license for that?

Here’s a good video that summarizes the book and includes persistence hunting: