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Tolerance – a core strength

Tolerance – A Core Strength

Tolerance — respecting human dignity — seems like a particularly timely topic.  Is it that people are allowing religion to do more of their thinking for them?  Has our educational system failed too?  How can I continue to model tolerance for our son and do my part to help create a more inclusive society?  When confronted with intolerant behavior, how does our family remain strong?

While organizations like pflag.org, hrc.org and itgetsbetter.org are fairly well known, the following are some sites I use as resources that provide outstanding information and/or support and do not come up in discussion as often.  

finimpact.com : This article #LGBTQ: How to Support LGBTQ-Owned Small Businesses & Resources at Finimpact is a great resource for LGBTQ owners who need support, offering some of the best ways to support LGBTQ-owned businesses right now.

matthewshepard.org  :  We L O V E this organization and its outreach efforts, and we donate 1% of our sales to this non-profit so we may be a bit biased. The Matthew Shepard Foundation provides educational resources for schools to encourage greater acceptance of individuals different from ourselves and manages a website for youth to find programs and shelters that are welcoming regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation.  Judy and Dennis Shepard also speak about bullying and hate crimes at schools, college campuses and organizations.

tolerance.org  :   Though focused on educators, this creation of the Southern Poverty Law Center has well written articles and an exhaustive list of resources covering a wide variety of topics.  The one that caught my eye this past week:  “Don’t Threaten My Religion” by Sara Wicht, discussing lessons educators can use to help students deal with content that may threaten individual belief systems. 

whatmakesyourfamilystrong.org :  Way to go Michigan!  Created by the Strengthening Families Initiative, a part of the Early Childhood Investment Corporation,  this is a great resource for straightforward and “readily consumable” information to share with friends, parents-to-be, and families with young kids.  It outlines methods for promoting personal resilience and healthy family life behaviors.

When confronted with intolerant and sometimes aggressive behavior,  I want our son to have learned to recognize the insecurity behind the action and have the skills and strength to handle the situation in a healthy way.  We aren’t there yet, but we’re working hard.  Now if we could get him to do his chores without being reminded…

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Why We [still] Love June

June is for celebrating marriage, fathers & PRIDE

We originally posted June is for Celebrating in 2017 – sure feels a life time ago. Not long after the 2015 Supreme Court marriage equality ruling, David and I began to wonder if a business like ours — built on a commitment to not just marriage equality, but basic equal rights and inclusiveness — might within a few years become so commonplace as to be inconsequential. Ahem…turns out, we were wrong.

Pride month is a reminder that our actions matter, and that we have a long way to go.  And while we are grateful for the support so many brands show this one month, discrimination continues year round. And importantly, commercialization of Pride doesn’t automatically create support for the LGBTQ community.  What can you do to lend your support?

  1. Donate to organizations like The Trevor Project or HRC.
  2. Shop at gay-owned businesses like ours, or our Lilly & Taylor ETSY shop, not just in June, but all year long. 
  3. Attend your local Pride Event – celebrate with your friends & your community.    

It’s Pride month!   Happy Pride!

And it’s also David’s and my wedding anniversary month (!)

And it’s Father’s Day! Since our family has two dads, two amazing sons and now, one grandson (!!), we have plenty to celebrate.


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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David and I will continue to share stories of people and their celebrations — of all types —throughout the year.  We do this to support a sense of community, celebrate its members, and strengthen our collective bond.  Because, as Lin -Manuel Miranda said in his amazing 2016 Tony Awards acceptance speech, “Love is love”, nothing here is promised – not one day.

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We also will continue to post profiles of wedding industry professionals who support inclusivity and marriage equality.

Thank you for your support & Happy Pride! Please share with us how you are celebrating Pride, celebrating Father’s Day, celebrating your marriage, or – like us – ALL THREE!

#loveislove #NoH8 #lovewins #LGBTPride #Pride

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Go the extra mile. It’s never crowded

Featured image: Clark Tibbs | Unsplash


Going the extra mile & the awesome power of making a difference.

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Thomas AE | Unsplash

Wedding season is in full swing.  Feels like a good time to pause and take a breath.

This is a shout out to our fellow wedding pro’s everywhere and to the brides & grooms who have hired you as their wedding planner, their DJ, their videographer, venue, caterer, wedding cake baker, stylist, florist, and yes — their favors & gifts provider too!

Wedding Professionals – It is difficult to consistently perform at 100%+!  We worked hard to win the business in the first place, and maybe we overpromised a wee-bit, and minimized the challenges of delivering the vision the wedding couple described in such vivid detail.  Well, now its time to make good on that commitment.  And we can do it – in fact, we must — our about-to-be-married couple is counting on us to go the extra mile.  What we do matters, and we know that little things make a big difference.

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Photo by John-Mark Smith on Unsplash

 

Brides & Grooms – Your wedding professional is undoubtedly good at what he or she does.  The reviews you read validate it, their prior work demonstrates it, and you wouldn’t have decided on her or him if your gut didn’t tell you that too.  They are pushing themselves to make your event – extraordinary.  And while you are paying for their expertise, we all know that putting in the blood, sweat & tears necessary is tough. Simple gestures of thanks can make an incredible difference.  Go the extra mile and let your wedding professionals know how much you appreciate having them on your team – today!

 

David and I make exceptional customer service one of  Taylor Street Favors’ cornerstones.  It is one of the ways we go the extra mile.  David and I believe strongly in making every customer feel equally important and appreciated, something we did not experience as a same sex couple planning our wedding. Unfortunately, almost everyone will tell you that providing great customer service is a core part of their business. It can be difficult for customers to separate fact from fiction, especially when comparing similar products or services.

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Photo by John-Mark Smith on Unsplash

Here are three tell tale signs of excellent customer service – delivered by passionate wedding professionals who know how to “go the extra mile”…

  1. They respond to inquiries as quickly as possible;
  2. They listen, they don’t “pitch”, and they remember what you, the customer has told them;
  3. They fix mistakes – before they happen if possible.  [David and I always proof our customer’s personalization information,  routinely correcting errors and eliminating the expense & frustration of having a non-returnable custom gift or favor produced and delivered].  

Let’s all keep going the extra mile.  It might not be lonely, but it certainly will not be crowded.    

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All American Family

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Photo by Simon Maage on Unsplash

Tired of the SEO-optimized click-bait titles and bored by breathless Black Friday pre-sale announcements?

Me too. 

Add in 24/7 race-to-the-bottom political news and it’s tempting to just give-in to the sky-is-falling-so-might-as-well-get-used-to-it voice in my head and trudge silently toward December.  Tempting, but that’s an excuse to not do this Thanksgiving post I’ve committed to.  And I absolutely believe in Yoda’s “do or do not, there is no try” attitude-is-everything philosophy.  So I write.  My topic — giving thanks this Thanksgiving.

I am giving thanks to family – my family.

This year, Thanksgiving itself will be a very small gathering.  The reasons are many.  The larger local family is adjusting to a new marriage and the restructuring this brings.  With new additions to guest lists and newlywed hosts at the helm, we could sense the anxiety and ambivalence of having a really large group for dinner and graciously excused ourselves.

Our parents are also not joining us this year. My father’s worsening dementia makes it difficult for him to enjoy gatherings.  The disease makes it increasingly hard for him to have a conversation, and that plus the noise and unfamiliar surroundings causes him to withdraw. I will instead have a Thanksgiving lunch with him at his facility.  David’s mom is unable to travel by air, is unable to drive herself here, and is too far away for us to drive her to us and back.  FaceTime will have to do.

So it will be David and me, our son and one other adult, someone who consistently and passionately works (and it can be work) to remain involved in our 12 year old’s life.  He will be with us for a few days over Thanksgiving, and we are so glad that he will be here.  He is family.

He is as family as it gets in my world.  He continues to choose by his actions to be involved, to listen, to make spending time with us a priority.  He wants to.  Not many adults show that dedication and loyalty.

What defines your family?

David’s and my family is not defined by blood, it is defined by commitment.  Our family is defined by trust and support.  We care about, care for and look out for each other.

Big picture — families, however they form, are a reflection of the effort its members put into maintaining and encouraging them.  Their spirit and relevance are a direct result of a concerted effort.  Most importantly, families are worth celebrating, especially those families that do not fit neatly into a traditional definition, are seldom acknowledged, and sometimes marginalized.  These diverse & modern families are American families too.

Who will your family include this Thanksgiving? Will there be new members, whether because of relationship or circumstance changes?  Or, are you about to “be that newbie” in someone else’s family? Either way, let’s all plan to not just try, but to do — and take one definite action step that will demonstrate the importance of your family to you and how glad you are to be a part of your family this year.  Someday, they might be all the family you’ve got — and, as it turns out, all the family you’ll need.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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“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!

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$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!

 

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Inspiration is not a four letter word

This word inspiration just keeps beating at my brain. There are days when those eleven letters feel like they add up to nothing but a four letter word. I’ve been spending the week looking for it everywhere. Yesterday, I was hoping a drive through the rolling blooming hills of California Highway 58 would propel me to that moment of inspirational clarity. It did not. It was a beautiful drive though, but I am biased towards the California landscape. There’s nothing like it and this year the “Cal-scape” is green and full of color. I wanted something to just pop out at me, make me stop and feel inspired. Something to bring on moment of WOW.

The thing is, inspiration comes when it comes. It can’t be pushed to just shout out “Hey dude, I’m over here!”. Actually, since I am fantasizing about it, I’d like to have seen Julie Andrews running through the mustard yellow hills in her light blue dress singing out “The hills are alive with the sound of music…”. Now that would be inspirational! Nice color combination too. Hmmmm…

Though at this moment I’d even take Ewan Mcgregor’s version from Moulin Rouge. That would have set all my Gay inspirational bells ringing. Inspiration check box: Checked.

Anyway, here it is Friday and I’m still working out my inspirational dilemma for the week. I’m searching and searching for that idea, that color, that texture that says create me, shape me, mold me into something grand. My mind explodes “Oh wow that is the coolest thing ever…”.

So far, I’ve got nothing. It didn’t come this week so I’m telling you about the idea of wanting it to come instead. I suppose the hunt in itself is based on inspiration so…

What am I hoping will happen here? Here’s the thing. I don’t want to write another 10 best list, or the top 5 something, or the cutest moments of this or that event. I’m kinda over those lists. It’s all regurgitation of something or someone and frankly we’ve all heard it before. So let’s be real here. Inspiration is going to have to come when it comes and I’ll make it as original as I can. It just won’t be in some repurposed top 100 something or another. It may just be me writing to tell you “Today, I’ve got nothing.”.

Inspiration is not a four letter word. It’s more like an eleven letter nuisance that I drive myself crazy with, and similar to other self imposed afflictions that cause a moment of insecurity now and then. Inspiration is my eleven letters of hell this week. It will pass. There is always another Monday that points toward Friday.

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A Little Inspiration Goes A Long Way

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I haven’t written a post in awhile  — since November 8 I haven’t felt inspired, honestly — not an okay space to set up shop and wallow in for long.  So, just in case you too find yourself motivation-challenged, I’ve linked to three recent posts from a few of my favorite sources that are helping me to get up and go — to work.

Parisian Walkways:  Passage du Grand-Cerf, by Jeffrey T Iverson

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I love reading this online magazine.  I mean – it’s Paris!  But more than the city itself, this article’s inspiration comes from the small shop owners, who have taken a chance, focused on their trade, and believe in the value of a well-made item.  These artisans take pride in their work and the master-craft traditions they preserve. Many of them also set up shop originally when this passage was a neglected eye-sore and stuck with it.  These stories helped to reenergize my passion for Taylor Street Favors, our wedding favors and gift business, whose inclusive message may become less accepted, making it ever more important for us to stick with it and promote.  

 

 What I’ve Learned In 38 Years Of Surrounding Myself With Confident People

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This inspiring article, from Fast Company contributor, Michael Thompson, ticks off 7 qualities he’s picked up from the confident people who have been a part of his life.  I was nodding in agreement as I read.

Finding joy in others success, and celebrating it with friends and family, is so important – both to your friend [duh!], and to your well-being as well.  The act of celebrating is empowering – doing so makes you, your friends, and family happier and stronger.  

As Michael quoted in his piece from Kareem Abdul Jabbar, truly confident people just want “to play the game well and go home”.  In the wedding industry, trend spotting and trend-following are omnipresent, so Kareem’s notion of not requiring other people’s approval really resonates with me, which connects me to my third inspirational piece, on…

 The 17 Hottest Wedding Trends for 2017

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Articles pertaining to trends in this industry are  e v e r y w h e r e, and not surprisingly  often repeat the same tedious do’s and dont’s of the season. David and I believe strongly in helping you create a ceremony, a reception, or a party that feels authentic to you. We believe that just because some look, color or theme is trending does not mean it is worthy of following or repeating. However, we don’t live under a rock. We do like, and need to have, an awareness of what is going on in this industry to be able to keep our store fresh and relevant.  I think this article does a good job of providing an overview without gushing or selling you on any particular view.  Most importantly for me – these trends are not a surprise, and I am realizing David and I are getting quite adept at hand-selecting items that are well made, a good value, and will be interesting to our customers.  Woo hoo!

Here’s to confidence in all you — and we — do. 

Let’s aim high and do this.

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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?

 

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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.

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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.