Going All Momma Bear

Kate’s National History Day Project has become the catalyst behind a “strongly written letter” that I sent to her teacher to pass along to those who need to be corrected. Her teacher rocks. All of her teachers do. But the competition on the district level was completely unfair and biased for Kate.mommabear2

Should she have won? Maybe. The other board she was competing against was good, so I don’t want to take anything away from the winner. The fact that she didn’t win isn’t the issue. It was the blatant bias that was used to judge her board that caused Devon and I to stand up for our wonderful middle child.

Kate’s topic was how AIDS affected the Human Rights Movement. She interviewed three people. One was a gay man who was around during the pandemic in the early ’80s. He actually helped start ACT UP! as an advocacy group. The other gentleman was one of the original videographers of the actual Dallas Buyer’s Club that was recently made into a movie. The third person was my friend Kelly Frizzell, who saw first hand the death and discrimination as it unfolded. She helped those dying from AIDS through home hospice care. Kate sought after the Big Guns of the time. Very few students did that.

She also had a plethora of primary sources, besides her interviews. She addressed the theme of the competition and exceeded standards set forth for the project.


This was her project before it was totally finished. The stuff she added on top of what she already had was incredible!

And then the judging occurred last week at Mendive. I will not reveal the names of the two judges who scored her project. But I know them. So does Devon. They are what I would label as “fundamentalist Christians.” Also, as a related side note, their daughter was in the competition. I have NO problem with any of these things.

But I do now.

After finding out the questions they asked during the judging of the project with Kate, I knew she was not judged fairly, and this momma bear isn’t going to let it slide.

The first question one of the judges asked was: “Doesn’t this have more to do with a lifestyle than a human rights issue?”

Go ahead and guess my thoughts on this. “Lifestyle?” ONLY Christians use this term, which insinuates that being gay is a choice and a sin. They were unable to make the connection between AIDS and Human Rights because of their beliefs. Kate didn’t stand a chance.

The other two issues with the judging were simply icing on the cake. “Too many interviews… not enough variety of primary sources.” (Not true. Obviously they didn’t read her annotated bibliography nor looked at the board.) I’m sorry? First hand accounts through interviews are THE top primary source a person can use. She had others, but getting DOCKED for this? B.S. The last and final straw was when they asked: “What does this have to do with today?” Well, they didn’t read the board. (See the picture below.) She got docked on her evaluation because they DIDN’T read the board. Here’s what they wrote on the eval: “She could answer the questions – but information was not included on the board.”

She ended up getting a 24 out of 40. B. Friggin’. S.

Kate knew exactly where they were coming from. She is smart. And sensitive. She took a few of her anonymous peer evaluations in stride, knowing that their comments were coming from immature students who were likely spouting what their parents say at home (example: “Homos deserve to get AIDS!”). What is reprehensible is that two ADULTS showed Kate very clearly that her life, her family, her project, her caring about how AIDS affected the Human Rights Movement… was dismissed and unfairly judged. Kate knew that these two adults were biased from the git go, and that this topic affects her on a personal level.

These judges KNOW that Kate has two gay dads and me, her staunchest ally.

She gets to enter the state competition anyway. We have to pay an entry fee. No big deal. But I will NOT allow to have someone with such an obvious bias be a judge of her board. They can have their beliefs. But they need to check them at the door and be FAIR when judging. Period.

I want those two adults to apologize for marginalizing Kate’s topic. Kate is a great kid with a huge heart and knows injustice when she sees it. She KNEW why they gave her low marks.

I let things slide all the time. I pick my battles. This is one that I am willing to fight.

Love, Momma BearwhyitmatterstodayApril 6, 2014… Update regarding Kate’s project and how it was judged:

We finally received a reply to the email that we sent to the judges regarding their poor and biased judging.

I was wrong on ONE thing. The woman that judged the board. It was not the woman I remember. For that I humbly apologize. But the man who judged the board… I was correct about. However, the woman who DID judge the board was also a teacher and should have judged Kate’s board better… therefore, all of my core objections still stand.

The response was exactly what I thought they would say: “I judged fairly, non-biased and according to the rubric.” He puffed himself up with his professional qualifications and made it seem as though he was a gift to the community for volunteering his time.


As in, his question to Kate, the judges inability to read her friggin’ board and their inability to understand what a primary source is still stands.

I don’t know if we’re even going to respond back. I need to think about if it is worth it. Someone like that male judge will never think he was wrong. But the fact still stands that there is no way his bias didn’t come into play when the first question out of his mouth was: “Isn’t this more of a lifestyle issue than Human Rights issue?”

He shouldn’t have asked that question. Period.

This learning experience is a bunch of stuff. Here are the main things that I think are most important: 1) Don’t be afraid to call someone out when there is injustice and 2) Just because we call someone out does not mean they will change… and most of the time we simply have to accept it. 3) People can be mean and stupid and ignorant and so prideful that they can’t admit they are wrong or their whole world will crumble… which is just too difficult for them to face. We did what we needed to do and we’re letting it go. And it’s okay to do that sometimes.
Hopefully at the state level her NHD project will be judged fairly and thoroughly. If she is meant to win, she will. If not, Kate is going to look back on this time in her life and know that it played an important part in who she becomes… both professionally and personally.
Our lives do NOT suck.
Love, Momma Bear
Further UPDATE:  Read the latest post after this one titled Going All Papa Bear to see our response.  It needed to be done and now the Big Gun, Devon, confronts the judge because his reply was so insulting to Kate and all people who are affected by HIV/AIDS.  Go Papa Bear, go!

Fred Phelps and The Sorry Buts

I have said some pretty harsh things about Fred Phelps in the last several years.

Some of those words may have been deserved.Westboro Baptist Church Case to be Heard by Supreme CourtWhile I can’t take them back, and I don’t really want to, because he represented to me the opposite of my own experience with Devon coming out of the closet and the injustice done in God’s name toward lovely LGBT people, I find myself thinking a little differently this morning.

My initial reaction to all of the reports about his impending death and possibly unconfirmed details spoken by one of the many estranged offspring he had, was understandably:  “Good Riddance!”  However a good night’s sleep before commenting on it has led me to feel that this is not what I know I should be thinking.  I have to choose to think differently… and maybe my heart will follow.

I used to think somewhat like him myself, though not quite as harsh.  But the slippery slope of his thinking was real.  I could have been just like him.  Seriously.

What I want to say is that my hope for him during this time is that he can find some peace.  Everyone deserves the chance to change hate to love.  I was given that chance in the most awkward of circumstances that changed my life forever, and I am profoundly grateful for it.beAtPeaceWithEveryoneWill he change?  I don’t know.  I have my doubts, but I know that God works through a humble and contrite heart.  Even if this change happens with his last breath, I will take it.  I will forgive.  And you know what?  I need to work at forgiving anyway, even if he does not change.  That is REALLY tough.  I know he cannot undo all that he has done, but none of us can.  We cannot change our mistakes.  We cannot make amends for everything.  We can try, but asking someone to forgive us puts our lives at the mercy of others.  It takes our choice of asking for forgiveness and places our very lives into the hands of another.  But we must do it anyway, even if they don’t forgive.  I am reminded of one of my favorite verses often when I find myself having to ask for someone’s forgiveness: If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone (Romans 12:18).

It’s a beautiful verse.  I have shared this with others in conversation, but never in writing.  When Devon and I first had babies, I remember us deciding that we would use the words “Will you forgive me for _____” instead of the words “I’m sorry.”  The reason for this is because “sorry” is used so flippantly by many, and it really doesn’t help us to own the very thing that we did to wrong another person. I'mSorryWillYouForgiveMeSo, when my own kids were little, they learned quickly that saying “sorry” was not in our vocabulary.  We trained them early on to say:  “Will you forgive me for [being disrespectful, being deceitful, being… whatever the specific behavior was]?”  This helped us to not have the “I’m sorry, but…” which really doesn’t make us own our hurt toward another, but shows that we have some sort of excuse.  That’s not being sorry.  That’s not having a contrite and humble heart.

Every once in awhile, our kids would say the right words, but we knew their hearts weren’t humble.  It’s pretty easy to tell when your kids are sincere or not.  So, we would say, “I know you want to ask for forgiveness, but I can tell your heart isn’t in it.  Go ahead and come and find me when your heart is truly humble.”

It worked every time.

I chose to also do this with my students.  Let me tell you, the first few times they have me explain to them this concept, each of them felt VERY uncomfortable.  But as they bought into it, you could really see a change in their future behaviors.  I’m telling you, saying “Will you forgive me for ____” causes a person to own their stuff for REALS.

So, I’m hoping that my own heart will change toward Fred Phelps.  I was given the chance at being forgiven 70 times 7 times.  Even if he doesn’t say:  “Will you forgive me for all of the hurt and devastation I caused the LGBT community for the last several decades?” I still need to do my best at being at peace with everyone.  Fred must face his own demons.  I hope that he, with his last breath, will say the words that I had my children say.  I hope that he hears the verse “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

It’s a great verse to live by.  I am thankful that I had the opportunity to change.  I must afford Fred the same, even if my feelings don’t match my actions and desires.broken-heartI must forgive.  If I do not, I am simply carrying around bitterness that does me no good.  And it will spill onto others, like my own children and my students.

I will have none of the “Sorry Buts” floating around in my heart, mind and spirit.  Life is good, people.  While I understand the feelings toward Fred that are flying around out there, I must choose to look forward and forgive, and wait for my feelings to match my actions.

A contrite heart.  May we all experience it for ourselves and forgive those who ask for forgiveness with humility.

Love, Emily


March: A Month of Awesomeness

marchmadnessMarch is quite a doozy of a month in my world.  Here’s the cool stuff that March entails:

1) It’s my birthday on March 12th and this year I turned 40.  The funny thing about birthdays is that I’m TERRIBLE at remembering other people’s birthdays.  I’ve been known to almost forget my kids’ birthdays, and have completely blown off my best friend’s birthday before.  However, when it comes to mine, I expect a month of celebrations.  Selfish?  Yep.  Shameless?  Absolutely.happybirthdaycupcakes2)  March is National Women’s History Month.  I love empowering women. WeCanDoItWonderwoman

3)  March Madness is in full swing.  Love me some basketball!basketball_hoop-9774) March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month.  Hey, I have Colon Cancer for a second time and I’m all about spreading awareness.  Get your bums checked, people!  The procedure is no big deal at all and early detection is the best way to prevent Colon Cancer.  Don’t wait ’til you’re 50.  That’s ridiculous.  Colon Cancer is on the rise and I got diagnosed at 37… With no real high risk of family history.Blue-ribbon25)  Sunday, March 23rd, is my big Wig Out! event.  It is an event that will help raise funds for my Three Little Birds and me during my time of being laid off from work due to chemo treatments.  It’s going to be a blast and I want all of my friends and family to attend.  The following website is a way for you to participate if you aren’t in the Reno area but would like to help out: Emily’s Gofundme Page.  On the site, you can catch up on my story and what our needs are.  Please spread the word.  To everyone.  Cancer does not discriminate and the disease can really cause hardship.  I am confident that my needs will be met, but I’m not afraid to ask for help.  The need is real and I intend, like I always do, to help others in the future.catinwigMarch rocks.  I love my life.  I hope you love yours, too.

Live Life, Love Life, Impact Others,

Emily and My Three Little BirdsEMILY'S FLYER-1

Thankfulness for the Attitude of Transformation

Everyday, I write in my tab called “365 Days of Thankfulness” as a unique way to document my journey with Colon Cancer.  Below is today’s, March 11, 2014… one day before my actual birthday.  Great.  Chemo during my birthday.  It’s not so bad when I have great love, amazing support and friends all around me.  For that reason and many others, I am thankful for cancer.

Okay.  Here’s what I wrote today:

TheBeginningButterflyOne of the wedding gifts that Devon and I got so many years ago were a pair of mounted exotic and colorful butterflies encased in plexiglass. A gentleman runs a conservatory for butterflies and when they die, he sells them as art. They are so cool.

In fact, they are so cool that my amazing Kate declared that she wanted them willed to her when that time comes. She doesn’t want anything else.

(As an unrelated side note, both Kate and Maddie won the National History Day Projects for their categories. They get to go on to the next round. So proud of them. Their topics were AIDS and Its Affect on Human Civil Rights (Kate) and LGBT Human Civil Rights (Maddie). Okay, bragging over.)

Anyway, back to the butterflies.

I think one of the ways that people like me and people like you, who love live, live life and impact others, can make a seemingly bad scenario in our lives into a positive one, is that we see ourselves as caterpillars awaiting our transformation. What is happening in our lives is not the end of the world. It is a new beginning.

Cancer sucks. That’s certainly an aspect of it. No doubt.

But cancer is a path to an amazing transformation. I know that people die from cancer and there aren’t words to comfort people, ultimately. But I will be bold and say that even a death of someone with cancer is a chance for transformation. A new body/soul is made perfect in their transformation to the Other Side (if that is what you believe).

I truly hope those of you who have lost loved ones to cancer don’t feel as though I’m minimizing the reality of it.

But it is also a chance for an amazing life. Cancer can change your perspective about the importance of relationships and learning to be aware of the little things that we take for granted. It causes a person to live life to the fullest and to be able to be along side someone who is experiencing a medical crisis. This can happen both for the person experiencing cancer and the people who love them.

I feel like I’ve turned into a butterfly several times over. And I’m looking forward to my next butterfly birth when this bout with cancer is finished.

Thank you, all of you, for seeing me through this transformation. I love you. And, yes, Kate… the butterfly art is all yours. Right now. Because the life you are living and preparing for is going to make you a beautiful rainbow colored specimen.

Love, Emily the Transformer