National Ceramics Conference Lands in Providence

The Cate Charles Gallery on South Main Street — the combo efforts of mother-daughter duo Kim Charles and Catherine Schrage — offers up something unique this week in its “Porcelain in Three” ceramics exhibition. The gallery usually features paintings or sculptures, but opted for a porcelain ceramics display including works from Susan Schulz, Seth Rainville and John Oles. This no doubt makes the gallery a prominent stop in this week’s The National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts (NCECA) conference hitting Providence from March 25 – 28.

cate charles

NCECA (pronounced en-see-kuh) works to cultivate new generations of ceramics artists by inspiring people at all levels of the artistic process, whether in working with the artists themselves or by fostering the greater art collecting community. Providence plays host to the NCECA’s 49th annual conference with the theme “Lively Experiments.” In addition to conference programming at the RI Convention Center, dozens of galleries across the state — just like the Cate Charles Gallery — will be included on guided bus and shuttle tours.

“Artists that we’ve talked to said to expect people in the thousands coming in for the conference,” said Catherine Schrage, the Cate Charles Gallery Press & Marketing Manager. “It’s a big deal on the national level. We’re very excited!” According to Schrage, NCECA draws massive crowds not only of enthusiasts, but collectors as well. At Cate Charles and many other galleries, all the work will be on sale at a 50/50 split between artist and gallery.

The Cate Charles Gallery’s exhibition “Porcelain in Three” featured three artists with distinct styles. Susan Schulz recreates objects both natural and manmade down to the intricate detail to produce assortments of objects so lifelike in some cases that you think you’re looking at shells or coral covered in dust.

One woman’s trash is another woman’s artistic inspiration.

Seth Rainville’s pieces are intricately detailed yet 100% usable bowls and teapots, one of which included a few tiny porcelain chairs he encourages exhibition attendees to move around.

A perfect landing place for your keys, wallet, and spare change? Or a work of art? How about both?

John Oles’ work included a whole section of porcelain meets stone, featuring small structures of contrast and balance in assorted positions. Among the most compelling was a piece aptly titled “Balance.”

The aptly titled “Balance”.

The NCECA conference runs through March 28. Take a look at the following links for more information:

Lunar Notes

lunarnotesSLIDEAries: It’s party time for Aries this month as the Ram takes the time to enjoy life. Romance, entertainment, gambling and speculative ventures appeal; time to let the inner child out to play. Be wary of joint finances; make sure one knows what the other is doing. As August draws to a close, Aries switches to the work mode with ease.

Taurus: The focus is on family members and home life. The challenge is maintaining the balance between home/career, your needs and the needs of others in your life. A change in the domestic scene could be as simple as rearranging the furniture or things could get complicated. Don’t let anger drive the discussions. Be cool.

Gemini: Gemini is in for a busy time this month. Family contacts, brothers, sisters, neighbors and relatives from afar, you make contact with them all. This is a time for exchanging ideas, news, letters and documents.  Try not to scatter your energy and stay focused. Deal with co-workers no matter how troublesome the issue.

Cancer: Personal income, belongings, gifts, bonuses and purchases — the spotlight is on money. It’s not a good time to speculate or gamble. Be conservative with your money. Leisure time activities may cost more than expected. Don’t loan money to your kids or your friends. Stay clear of folks who are into power and control.

Leo: Leo is looking for change, could be a new hairdo, new outfit or new curtains. Your popularity peaks. A parent or authority figure may be cause for concern. Discussions with family or a significant other bring up some deep rooted issues. It’s that old balancing act, me/you, public/private, what’s mine, what’s yours.

Virgo: This is a good time for dealing with confidential matters or things that need to be kept hidden. Quiet contemplation and meditation can be of great benefit now. As you confront your limitations or problems, hidden talents emerge. Read the fine print before you sign anything. Someone may not have your best interests at heart.

Libra: Social ties, group activities and friends keep you occupied this month. This is a good time to network and expand that network. Be careful with money; don’t let your social life ruin the budget. Beware of financial dealings with friends. If it sounds to good to be true, it probably is.  Reevaluate your goals.

Scorpio: Dealing with government officials, authority figures or the boss tests your patience. Be cool and deal with it. You may reach a goal this month, come to the attention of the public or be honored for a job well done. A compromise may be required on the job. Set your boundaries, take care of your responsibilities, and don’t take on the tasks of others.

Sagittarius: Opening your mind to new possibilities and opportunities, you make long-range plans for the future. There may be some legal activity involved. A possibility of long distance travel or news from afar, either or both, gets you thinking. Hold off on any final decisions until late August. Your judgment is off and there are hidden matters you are not aware of.  Patience; all will be revealed.

Capricorn: Amidst financial dealings with others, you are aware of a subtle energy floating around — not your usual modus operandi. You’re opening up to your feelings and emotions and taking a look at your inner self. You have encounters with people who bring out your emotional side.  Dig in, Capricorn; it’s all good.

Aquarius: Partners, teammates and allies of all sorts are in your life now as you work with others to improve understanding. Not so easy to do during this period as you face aggravating situations and difficult people. On-the-job romance or with someone in authority is not a good idea now.  Reputations suffer.

Pisces: The emphasis is on health and well-being, physical, mental and emotional. Start off with proper nutrition. Job and employment matters having to do with your daily routine and work space come up — perhaps a move or reorganizing is on the agenda. Don’t overwork or overdo. Be sure to get proper rest.

Local Beach Reads — Read ‘Em With Us!

Exeter Girls

 Books to get you through the summer

I’m not sure if I’m more amazed that time seems to pass so quickly or if everyone else says the same thing. Maybe the internet takeover has sped up the Earth’s rotation around the sun, but we’re too busy Googling images of otters doing adorable things to notice. It would be nice if this summer would be spent a little less plugged in, but I know that isn’t going to happen. I’m even predicting a plethora of iPads and other tablets at the beach, used more for video games and creepily taking pictures of coeds showing off their beach bodies. For those of you who want to use your tablets at the beach to read an actual story (or dare I say read the physical book), I created a little idea guide of local authors.

I decided to do something a little different for this article, and write about books I plan to read this summer. Included in each brief description is my prediction of how I’ll feel about the book. I’ll review these books for future Motif articles so you can compare my predictions to my actual opinion after I read the book.

Jason Carpenter — Exeter Girls: Letters From a Feeble Minded School

Synopsis: Personal letters from three female inmates portray their lives while in Rhode Island’s Institution for the Feeble-Minded (Ladd School). Exeter Girls exposes what social services were like in those days.

Prediction: This will be an eye-opening look at how women were viewed and treated during the early 20th century, with more than a few stories that will make me cringe. I expect to read this and be happy to be living in these times.

Bruce DeSilva — Providence Rag

Synopsis: This is a work of fiction loosely based on the Craig Price murders, which terrified Rhode Islanders many years ago. Investigative reporter Liam Mulligan tries to learn about gruesome murders that would be straight out of a horror movie. Caught and soon to be released because he was a juvenile when the crime was committed, people are in fear that he will kill again. Mason, another reporter, feels he should be released.

Prediction: Even though this isn’t completely based on the Craig Price case, I will think of it when reading this. That story was fascinating, and I can’t see this dramatized version being any different.

Richard Galli — Rescuing Jeffrey

Synopsis: While diving at a July 4 party, Jeffrey hits his head and suffers a spinal cord injury that leaves him paralyzed from the neck down. This becomes the story of how the family adjusts to a new lifestyle.

Prediction: I expect to read this book and be inspired. No family has it easy, but suffering such a drastic lifestyle change can be crippling, and it takes a strong family to get through these hurdles. I see myself thinking about how quickly life can change, and will probably pay more attention to my surroundings for a bit.

Hard Luck

Synopsis: This is a collection of 10 stories that deal with people going through hard times and they define Murphy’s Law. This anthology was put out by Burnt Offerings Books, headed by Scott LeFebvre (writer of Condemned).

Prediction: There will be at least one story I fall in love with and one I can barely get through. I can’t wait to read about the predicaments the characters get themselves into. I am hoping for real life situations that are relatable, but I’m expecting a few stories that just get weird.

Stephen Porter — Confessions of the Meek and the Valiant

Synopsis: A 17-year-old man from Southie gets accepted to a prestigious college, only to learn dark secrets about his post-mob family. He now has to put all this in perspective and save his family.

Prediction: While I like mob movies, I’ve never read a book based on the mob. This seems to have a family aspect to it as well, though I’m thinking it won’t be as wholesome as it is in my mind.

Sviokla III — From Harvard to Hell — and Back

Synopsis: This is a typical “Behind the Music” boy makes it big, boy finds drugs, boy loves drugs, drugs consume boy, boy recovers and makes something of himself story. The only difference is that Mr. Sviokla is a doctor to the stars.

Prediction: I’m a big fan of stories like this. Addiction is a fascinating thing, and I enjoy reading redemption stories. Add in the “doctor to the stars,” and this book should have me reading eagerly.

While there were many other books I had on my list, I laboriously narrowed it down to these six. If you want a bonus book that is a perfect beach read distraction, I suggest Searching for Rhode Island by Dawn Porter, which features over 20 puzzles that teach about Rhode Island.

Summer Music Festival Therapy


davidIt’s that time again — as the sun spends more time in the sky and the grass comes back to life, so does the world of music festivals. Magic happens in these places, which is apparent when you witness people congregating to celebrate the music they love and creating a bond through the appreciation they share. Life’s about having new experiences and a festival is a pretty easy one to check off the bucket list. Are you feeling a little lost lately? Maybe a festival is just what you need. There’s an opportunity almost every weekend in the summer, so embrace this amazing chance for music, light and love. You might elevate yourself to a new mindset.

Strangecreek in Greenfield, Mass., is the unofficial start of the festivals in New England. Thousands of people have caught on to this phenomenon over the past 12 years and their connection to this place is a strong one. People come from all around with smiles on their faces and proudly call it their home for four days. They set up camping villages in the woods with like-minded music lovers. Also known as Wormtown, the property has multiple stages with over 80 performers throughout the weekend and late night cabins with performances until the sun rises. An array of vendors sell unique clothing, artwork and jewelry. An eternal bonfire burns the duration of the weekend, keeping the music souls attending the festival warm and together. These are just a few elements that make this event special. Many parts of a festival are amazingly indescribable; you must pursue it yourself to learn more.

Festivals hold a unique energy that can help you find meaning in life. Because music is a natural antidepressant, these getaways are equivalent to a happiness retreat. They’re a form of paradise. When people have a few days to decompress and enjoy themselves, their attitudes and perspectives change. Something changes in us when we dance like no one is looking — being at a music festival lets your soul breathe. People express themselves in the most unique of ways. Festival goers wear wild costumes and adorn themselves with body paint, and you can see your friends’ inner personalities express themselves like never before. Many people enjoy this time so much that they skip sleep to embrace the entire experience. And here’s the funny thing: When people are truly happy they tend to be more open and giving. They loosen their judgments and predispositions. If you go, you may find yourself in the middle of a glorious field bonding with new friends in a blow up pool, while listening to the best music. You might even fall in love for the weekend.

Your amazing moment is out there if you’re willing to let go of what you know as yourself and grab onto the bond that music provides. For many of us it starts with Strangecreek, but it does not end there.  Let your soul open itself to something new and come to a music festival. I’ll be right there with you.

Phenomenons in Politics — Tri-Partisan Support in RI? The Marijuana Regulation, Control and Taxation Act

Bill: H-7506 “Held For Further Study”


On May 16, a RI House Judiciary Committee recommended that the Marijuana Regulation, Control & Taxation Act (Bill: H-7506) be “held for further study” along with six other marijuana-related bills. What this means is that they will wait for those who proposed the bill to come back with more convincing research that would warrant an actual vote. What this really means is that the committee most likely will not vote on the bill during this session and it will be pushed aside, never to be spoken of again. Many people involved with the movement to end prohibition in our fine state consider this recommendation to be a defeat of the new bill. But this couldn’t be further from the truth.

There is tri-partisan support for H-7506, which is a phenomenon in itself, and this is the second year in a row that such legislation has been presented to the house. Over 53 percent of Rhode Islanders support legalization. Bob Plain, Editor/Publisher of Rhode Island’s Future, writes, “Legalizing marijuana could mean $82 million in annual revenue for RI.” The statistics from Colorado and Washington have all been encouraging in matters concerning revenue, crime and adolescent use. The same can be said for those states with decriminalization and medical marijuana laws. What more convincing research could this committee need?

You have to ask what the true motivation behind such a decision could be. With any politician, it is essentially votes, is it not? Morals and values definitely play a huge part in any politically held position, but in order to get to that position — and stay there — you ultimately need to win the popularity contest. This means listening to the constituents in your district and representing their popular views. Therefore, one can assume that those who are opposed to legalization are being more vocal about their views in all of the right places.

To counteract this type of influence, be more vocal about your personal views and make them known, not only to your local politicians but to the people in your community. Those who oppose an end to prohibition are often just misinformed or influenced by the stigma associated with marijuana use. Present those who are unaware of the facts with sources and research that prove an end to prohibition is a move toward progress. Become active in local politics, contribute to your community and present yourself in a responsible manner. Lead by example and others will follow, especially when the example is just.

Here are a few great resources for anyone interested in the legalization movement:

Contact Regulate RI and join the coalition to end prohibition in RI. regulateri.com
The Marijuana Policy Project (mpp.org) is a invaluable resource to the movement. They have a vast database of reports, studies, bills and other cannabis-related news and information.
The Drug Policy Alliance has an impressive blog, as well as a plethora of facts concerning individual rights, drug war statistics and more. drugpolicyalliance.org
Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) is an organization that has front line experience in the war on drugs and seeks to stop it. leap.cc

Unconditional Love — 401 Counterculture Talks to Gay Parents To Be

Interview With Tyffaney and Andrea Fonseca


One of the most popular attacks on the legitimacy of gay marriage is the attack on a gay couple’s right to raise a family no different from the traditional (and clergy-approved) nuclear family unit that has long been a hallmark of red blooded Americana, despite its ever dwindling members. It’s a hazy memory of nostalgia-poisoned, rose-colored lenses about who and what should constitute the American family. Zealots clamor on with archaic statistics, shouted by their fathers and grandfathers before, a litany of fear mongering and misinformation. “We must not allow it!” they shout from the hills. “It will be the destruction of us all.”

In 2014, America is a vast and diverse landscape, where every morning parents of every size, shape, color, gender identity and sexual orientation imaginable awake and love their children unconditionally. They care for them, nurture them and educate them on their passage through the human experience. At no point does who they are change the way they love and protect these children. Despite massive advancement in gay rights and legal recognition of marriages and family building within a few short years in America — a triumphant hope for greatness to come — obstacles still abound for gay couples who wish to raise children.

I sat down with Tyffaney and Andrea Fonseca, a married couple in southern New England, who recently found out that Andrea is expecting their first child. We sat in the living room of their pretty suburban house on a quiet street over wine and pizza and talked about the hopes, dreams and fears they have about being a gay couple raising a child.

Adam J Schirling: How long have you been married?

Tyffaney Fonseca: Seven years this July. We’ve been together 12 years.

AJS: I suppose the first question is the most obvious. When two married women want to have a baby, how do you decide who will carry?

TF: We went through a donor program in California, which wasn’t our first idea of getting pregnant. I have a very good friend who propositioned me, who didn’t want any strings attached. He had two kids of his own already, but he just wanted to give us the gift of life. He knew we might need it. So we wanted to make sure legally that everything was on paper. He signed over his parental rights and we went through a lawyer who was also lesbian and married to her wife. They each had children, so she was knowledgable. But it just didn’t go. I had two miscarriages and some medical issues came up and I couldn’t carry. So we took a step back and thought about it and then the decision was to go through the donor program in California.

Andrea Fonseca: We tried to get her pregnant for about 8 months. We went to a gynecologist who told us what was going wrong.

TF: It just wasn’t going to be medically possible.

AF: So that’s when we decided I would carry. Originally the plan was that she would have a child and then somewhere down the road I would. But when she wasn’t getting pregnant, I said I think you should have the sperm analyzed and it turned out that he was the issue.

TF: And I was, too. There were two issues.

AJS: That must have been heartbreaking after all that.

TF: I went through all the emotions — happy, sad, jealous. I don’t think you can plan for getting so close to being a mother and having that go away.

AF: We aren’t religious people, we are very spiritual people, and when we looked at the bigger picture, it must not have been the right time. Then we decided to go with the bank. It was overwhelming and scary.

AJS: It was like looking through a catalog?

TF: It was a menu. Everything you wanted to choose from — eye color, skin color, hair color, educational background.

AJS: Before you decided to go with a donor program, were you attempting to conceive at home rather than a doctor’s office?

AF: I’m a nurse and I would bring home a specimen cup from work, he would put it in the cup, and at home we would put it in ourselves with a syringe. We wanted to conceive at home, that was important to us.

AJS: There are many heterosexual couples going through the exact same thing, facing obstacles they may not have expected. Do you think because of your status as a gay couple that you had extra challenges or do you think you had similar experiences as those couples on a personal level?

AF: Our friends and family have been so giving of themselves, helping us clear our minds of any stresses. I guess I haven’t experienced anything that would be different than any other married couple.

TF: I always thought that our advantage is that we are both women. The fact that if one of us can’t carry the other one can. You know? Even though that wasn’t our original plan.

AF: Exactly. One woman-one man doesn’t have as good of odds as we do!

TF: It was definitely stressful making sure we chose the right sperm, though.

AJS: At the beginning, did one of you want to carry more than the other?

AF: The original plan was that she would carry first because she was older, and a few years later I would have the second with the same donor. We would each carry one with the same donor and then be done.

TF: The new plan is that we will harvest my egg and she will carry surrogate. We bought four files of donor sperm and we have two on bank, so the baby will have the same genetics and hopefully both of our genes.

AJS: You said you have very supportive friends and family. Was there every any negative feedback?

TF: No. We have been very fortunate. Everyone has been in our corner, and we have been very thankful that they are interested in our story. It’s not the norm and it’s something they’re learning. They are used to the typical heterosexual couples — mom, dad, three kids and a dog — and here we are, two hard-working, educated moms to be, who are halfway there, who have achieved so much in society as a gay couple and are still reaching. Everything we wanted has happened. That’s our story. Everything we’ve wanted to achieve, we’ve went for it and they’ve rooted for us.

AJS: Do you think you face, as two women,  different challenges than a gay male couple with the same goal?

TF: Absolutely

AF: Unfortunately, yes.

TF: Even now, lesbians seem as if it’s the ‘in thing,’ you know? It’s the cool thing. It’s like, queue Katy Perry “I Kissed a Girl,” but when you have two men, there’s still a reaction like, “Ugh. How dare they?” Switch it to the lesbians and people react like, “Okay, I could watch this all day.”

AJS:  So would say you receive much more positive feedback as two women having a child than two men may?

TF: Absolutely. When we recently told a couple of our gay friends, they were startled. They couldn’t even wrap their minds around that. It was if they thought “your lives are ruined.” Really any of the negative feedback we’ve had has been from gay men, some of them our friends.

AJS: How come? Do you think it’s because they’ve experienced a backlash?

TF: Yes.

AJS: Tell me more about picking out the donor and your apprehensions. You mentioned it was like a catalog?

AF: Yes, it was overwhelming. There were hundreds, and you could pay to see a picture.

AJS: So it’s like you get the stats, but you have to pay extra for the pictures?

AF: Exactly! You had the free access that gives you all the info you need and you look through it and it’s like, how do you begin to narrow this down? So we started thinking like what ethnicity, we wanted to be represented. We finally found someone. One day I came across this one catalog, he was half Irish-Italian, half African-American. It was close to representing our backgrounds, and we started reading his stats and some them even gave you celebrity look-a-likes! His medical background was good and they even write essays, so we read his essay and his words were perfect. He sounded like the perfect person, and we had probably read through like 20 or 30 essays for the hundreds that were on there, and this one just really stood out. Now, she didn’t like not being able to see…

TF: I’m a visual person, I wanted to know.

AF: That was big for her, so I said we would narrow it down to a couple and then we would buy the photos to look at.

TF: One night I read over his profile and his description of himself. He just seemed well mannered, well spoken, not afraid of himself, and he started talking about his mother. The way he talked about his mother, he said that when she visits, they hang out and have a couple of beers and spend time talking. Now my grandmother was very important to me, I was raised by my grandmother. She was a drinker, she liked to kick back, sit around the table, and drink beer. Right then and there I knew I needed to see this man’s pictures.

AF: As soon as we saw them, we didn’t even look at anyone else’s. He was the one.

AJS: Just to backtrack a bit, did you ever consider adopting?

AF: We had. We knew we wanted to try for natural, but we always said that if it didn’t work out we would adopt.

TF: We were just talking about this the other night. When we first met, I told her that if I ever adopted, I would adopt a child with HIV, because they are the ones that most people don’t want. I would like to experience having our own children but we are totally open to adoption.

AJS: When your child is growing up, if they expressed an interest in organized religion, how might you approach that? Seeing as most religions aren’t accepting of your family dynamic?

AF: She wants to baptize the child, but if we do, we want to find a church that we can be a part of, not just baptize and never go to church again. So we are still deciding what to do with that.

AJS: With bullying usually referred to as an epidemic in our country, are you apprehensive about having young children as gay women?

TF: We know bullying is a big big issue. I try not to let it worry me, but I know there is always going to be that one kid. I hope that if they do come in contact with that, that since we are open and honest with them, we will give them the tools to deal with it … but that’s kids. I know kids who are bullied just for being a little overweight.

AF: And we’ve learned how to respond. It probably doesn’t bother me as much as it would her, but that’s just our difference in personalities. I’m more of the “I don’t care what anyone thinks and I’ll tell them where to go and how to get there.” Even at work when people see I’m pregnant, they’ll ask about the dad. And I’ll say, “Well, Dad is a mom and she works in insurance.” Nine times out of 10 I get positive feedback.

AJS:  With this being your first child but not being the mother who’s carrying, Tyffaney, do you feel like you will have less of a motherly instinct? Are you naturally gravitating toward a fatherly role? Or is that just my misjudgment of the situation as a heterosexual male?

TF: No, that’s a great question. Honestly I think that I play both sides of that fence. I’m maternal because I’m a woman, I gravitate toward the baby. I want to nuture and take care. But not being the carrying mother, I also feel like I am paternal. I tell Andrea, “Don’t do that, let me get that for you.”

AJS: So you’ve adopted more of that role since she’s become pregnant?

TF: Yes, it’s come naturally.

AF: So it’s actually forced me into the more feminine role and now since I can’t do the heavy lifting or whatever, she has taken over and it has been interesting.

AJS:  Do you feel like that more paternal instinct will carry on after the baby is born?

TF: I don’t know, that’s tricky. I really can’t speak for the future.

AF: I think she will be more maternal after. I will probably be the hard ass. In some respects, she’ll be more maternal but other times she will be much more paternal. It will be an interesting blend. We don’t really know what to expect. We are the first of our lesbian friends to do it this way.

AJS: Everything feels like it’s been fluid for you two. What do you have to say to the naysayers, or the people out there who have all these disapproving ideas and presumptions? “Your child will absolutely grow up gay.” “Your child will grow up with perversions.”

TF: I say you sound like an uneducated idiot. I  mean you’ve seen kids grow up in battered homes and alcoholic homes and kids can’t grow up in gay homes? If a child grows up to be gay, they were born that way. We all were.

AF: I always say I grew up with straight parents and I’m gay. I didn’t grow up being exposed to any gay people, my parents aren’t homophobic, I just didn’t know anyone.

TF: As far as I know, I’m the only gay person in my family. I grew up raised by my traditional grandmother in the Catholic church. I go against all those odds.

AJS: What are the biggest apprehensions you have about parenthood?

TF: I’m definitely apprehensive about not carrying the baby. I’m just getting older and I know there is a plan in place for us but, where does that leave me as a women who wants to be a biological mom? I get apprehensive that my genes haven’t been passed down. At times I don’t verbalize that because I don’t want to be negative and selfish and interfere with this positive environment we have now. I’ve been reading books about other non-biological moms and what they went through, and they make it easier. It’s ok to talk about it and get it off your chest. You have to communicate it.

AJS: Do you feel like if you do get to go with your plan b and she carries your biological child for you, that will help appease those feelings?

TF: Yes. Genetically seeing a baby carrying on my genes, but as a wife, a woman, a mother, it doesn’t matter. I was the one who inseminated her, that is my baby, our baby. I think about that and that is what pulls me out of those feelings.

AJS: How do you feel about that Andrea?

AF: After I was pregnant, I was trying to get myself into a place where I knew my role, preparing myself, we didn’t know what to expect. I wanted to know my role and how was I going to feel about that. Because the roles were reversed so quickly and now she was the one preparing for what I thought I was going to be doing. When we talk about it, I tell her, as a women naturally we want to carry, it’s what we were born to do, but it’s not like we are out there in the wilderness. What we really want, when it comes down to it, is to be parents. So maybe you aren’t carrying for 9 months, but we will be parents. Whether I have it, you have it, we adopt, at the end of the day we are still parents and that’s what we wanted. So that’s where I come from when she expresses her feelings about that. We don’t just want to walk around and be pregnant forever, we want to be parents.

AJS: Do you have any ideas of the kind of role model you want to set to your children not only as gay women but as mothers? Growing up, you look to your mother for certain lessons. What do you expect to instill?

TF: I just want to be the mom I never had. I was raised by my grandmother; my mother was murdered when she was 24 and left behind three babies. I never had that one-on-one motherly relationship. I just want to be that woman in my child’s life that I didn’t have. I want to be the mom that my grandmother wished her daughter could have been to us. Be a straight shooter, say what’s on your mind, know that you’re not alone. From a paternal standpoint, I want to be the father I never had. Whatever my child needs me to be, I want to be that person and that driving force.

AJS: That was a wonderful way of putting it.

AF: I hope to instill what I learned from both of my parents. I realize that we learn male and female things from parents, but know that’s just society’s roles and you don’t need to be a male to teach certain lessons. I want to teach hard work and education. I want to teach what’s gotten us so far. I think if we can teach that to our kids, they will turn out just fine.

AJS: What do you feel are the biggest misconceptions from people who may not know any gay couples?

AF: I would love to know, what is it that we do different? Other than the way we do it, there is nothing about our lives that is any different. We are two women, but everything else we do in our day-to-day lives is the same. We get up, go to work, walk the dog, pay taxes, spend time with our families. I just honestly don’t know what they see. They just don’t understand that we are two women in love.

AJS: Does it ever bother you to turn on the TV to see the debate over gay marriages and gay families? Other people debating your fate and your future?

TF: Yes! It angers me. Who are you to condemn me? You point the finger and you should have four more pointing back at you. The same people coming at us, down the road you find out they do or have done horrible things.

AF: It goes to show you that your sexuality has nothing to do with the mistakes you make.

AJS: Is there one childhood moment that you are personally looking forward to as a mother?

AF: I think, for me, we have decided that I will be “mommy” and she will be “momma,” but I know when the baby is old enough they will decide what to call us. I can’t wait to hear what names they choose to give us.

TF: I’m looking forward to teaching my child how to ride a bike. I taught myself, I gave myself bumps and bruises. I want to be that mom to take the training wheels of the bike. But hearing who I am to them, “Ma, Mama,” however they perceive me.

AF (To TF): I like hearing that. I never knew that’s one of the things you were looking forward to, teaching them to ride bikes. It’s nice.

AJS: I always end my interviews with the same question. Even in the supportive environment you have, you still face adversities. What would you want the average person to know about you as first time mothers who just happen to be gay?

TF: I just want other gay couples to know that it’s achievable. If you really want it that bad you can make it happen. And don’t be afraid of change. If you have questions, ask them. You aren’t a mental case, we all have the same fears. I want people to know that it’s freeing to look outside yourself and ask for help. To know that I got this far and you can, too. Don’t fall under the norm of a lesbian or a gay man if that’s not what you want. Don’t fall under the norm of a typical straight person. As long as you have faith and work hard, you can be in this happy place.

AF: I  want people to know that I have all the same fears as any new mom. I look forward to the same milestones. I’m just as hard working. And regardless of what people think is different between our lives, I’m really going to give it my all to be the best parent and provider for this baby and any other babies we are blessed with.

Hummel Spotlight: The Name Is Outdated, but the Services Are Not

One of Rhode Island’s Oldest Independent Charities

On a Saturday morning in April, a committee of half a dozen people gathered to decide how more than $100,000 will be spread to three dozen agencies in the Providence area. They are today’s stewards for one of Rhode Island’s oldest independent charities: The Providence Shelter for Colored Children (yes, you read that correctly), which has withstood periodic efforts to change its name since the organization was founded in 1838.

“The name actually struck me as really odd, but I was intrigued,’’ said Linda Cline, the group’s current president. Not only did the name pique her curiosity, but so did the fact that there is no shelter building. That was closed in 1940 and the assets were converted into a foundation. The name, though, and the group’s goals remain steadfast 70 years after the doors closed: financial support for children of color.

“There are so many organizations that need financial assistance in order to thrive, in order to be viable,’’ Cline said. “We’re still servicing African-American children in the Greater Providence area and we have not strayed from that mission.”

Mary Lima has been on the board for more than three decades and knew children who lived at the shelter before it closed in 1940. “It’s quite an interesting history in terms of the role they played because there was no other facility, state or otherwise, that provided a shelter for the colored — black — children at that time. Families needed this kind of assistance, particularly because the women were single parents and worked as domestic workers or maids in homes throughout Providence, particularly on the East Side.’’

The shelter was founded by a group of middle-class white women living on the East Side in 1938 that included the granddaughter of leading anti-slavery activist Moses Brown.

It was housed at 403 North Main Street the first decade, before moving over to the lower end of Wickenden Street. For nearly a century, though, the shelter was located in a building on Olive Street, in what is now the heart of the Brown University campus.

Connie Worthington is a past shelter president and knows much of the organization’s rich history. “The shelter was a place where parents who were working at the houses on College Hill could board their children because the kids weren’t welcome.’’

Elayne Walker-Cabral’s mother, Betty Walker, at the age of 10 lived in the shelter with her siblings after Betty’s mother fled from an abusive husband. Betty Walker later served on the board and died four years ago at the age of 74.

“My mom was insistent as the oldest of six children — she was about 10 at the time — that the siblings stay together,’’ said Walker-Cabral. “So somehow the shelter was responsible for them being placed with a minster and his wife who cared for them until my mother got married.”

Changes in child welfare policies in the 20th century meant a dwindling number of children in the shelter, which ultimately closed its doors.

Since then the organization has transitioned into a charitable foundation. In the 1950s and ‘60s it gave relatively large sums to a handful of organizations, including the Urban League of Rhode Island, The Mount Hope Day Care Center on the East Side and the John Hope Settlement House.

In 1970, the focus shifted and now the shelter annually funds a variety of organizations and schools, including Community Music Works, Crossroads Rhode Island, Sophia Academy and the San Miguel School.
This year a total of $112,000 went to 36 agencies in amounts ranging from $500 to $6,500.

Mary Lima says the organization has had periodic discussions about keeping, or changing, its name. “As we bring new board members on who don’t have the full history of the board, that’s generally when those discussions will come up. A new board member may wonder why we are the shelter for colored children.”

Worthington said, “We refer to children of color in this day and age, so it’s not so impossible. But I think the main thing is that its historic. It’s 175 years old. It’s been the name that long and I think anytime an organization changes its name, it’s tough.”

Walker-Cabral at one point confronted her mother about it. “I remember saying to my mom when she first went on the board, ‘I think you should make some kind of proclamation that they should change the name from colored children to African-American or black children.’ Having gone to college in the South, I was very militant. And she said, ‘They would never do that because that is who they served: colored children.’ And they didn’t make a distinction between black and African-American and Cape Verdean and other immigrant people.”

If you want to see the video version of this story go to www.hummelspotlight.org. If you know of a person or organization who you think deserves the Spotlight, send an email to info@hummelspotlight.org

Fighting Goliath for Her Daughter

Navigating the Labyrinth of Social Insurance

Becky Kelsey is in a great mood this Monday afternoon, laughing and smiling for her mother Jodi. It is a lighter moment in what can often be challenging days.

Becky, who is 33 and lives at home, has a severe form of cerebral palsy. She can’t speak or walk, and she has pulmonary issues and a seizure disorder. For the past 20 years, she has been on a feeding tube. Jodi Kelsey says for years Absolute Respiratory out of Johnston had the contract for Becky’s formula and other supplies, all paid for by taxpayer-funded Medicare and delivered directly to their door. That all changed last summer.

“I’m thinking that Medicare requested bids to save money and the company we were using did not win the Medicare bid, so we were given a list of different places,’’ Kelsey said.
She chose Lincare, a large national company with a local office in East Providence.

“They own a company called Enteral Central, which is where their enteral care comes from. I believe it is in Arkansas,’’ Kelsey said. “When we started a year ago they really didn’t know much about enteral care. I had to speak with somebody in Florida, then they switched me over to somebody in Alabama, and then the food comes out of Arkansas.’’

But the biggest problem was that the cans of formula were arriving damaged. And not just a few.

“We’ve gotten orders of 150 cans where there’s probably between 25 and 50 cans dented,” Kelsey said. “The first few months we got it, cans were crushed and dented. The other supplies were also in those boxes, and they were loose all over the place.”

Of the 150 cans she most recently received, Kelsey counted 68 that were damaged.

Even though there has been no money out of pocket for her, Kelsey has spent countless hours on the phone to get replacement cans after the manufacturer of the formula told her to throw the dented cans away because their sterility could be compromised. She has kept extensive notes of her conversations.

“It’s a waste, number one. And my first question was, ‘Are you charging Medicare twice for cans that I’m throwing away?’ They said, ‘No.’’’

Kelsey filed a complaint with Medicare in January, but heard nothing back. “And I know I’m one person. I can’t fight Medicare by myself. I can’t fight Lincare by myself.”

Now it appears she doesn’t have to. Last month, The Hummel Report contacted Senator Jack Reed’s office, which assigned a staffer to look into her case. The office contacted the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and has been in touch with Kelsey daily, sometimes several times a day. We’ve also learned a Medicare fraud and abuse unit opened an investigation into Kelsey’s complaint. We asked her if she thought she was an isolated case. “No, because when I call (Lincare) I speak to the same girl and she’s doing everything within her power. She said to me, ‘I get a lot of phone calls about this same kind of thing.'”

Kelsey called Lincare so many times that the company did its own investigation — of her.

Kelsey: There was a time when the order was being sent to the local Lincare so they could make sure I wasn’t just saying that these cans are dented.

Hummel: Like you’re going to scam them and get extra cans?

Kelsey: Exactly. Why would I bother?

Hummel: When it’s being paid for anyway.

Kelsey: Right. And they were getting dented cans.

Hummel: So they know.

Kelsey: They absolutely know. I’m not going to let this go because I want to see a resolution. I want to see them do something right. When it comes to my daughter, because I’ve been fighting for her for 33 years, I want it right. I want to make life a little easier for her. I don’t want her to get a bad formula and get sick, so I just keep going. And hope that those efforts eventually pay off.

The Hummel Report is a 501 3C non-profit organization that relies, in part, on your donations. If you have a story idea or want make a donation go to www.hummelreport.org, where you can also see the video version of this story. You can mail Jim directly at jim@hummelreport.org

Lunar Notes: Your June Horoscope

lunarSLIDEAries: Conversation, pleasant and otherwise, keeps you occupied. Some folks in your life are argumentative and contentious. Your patience is wearing thin. You want a break from all of this, but funds may not be available for that needed vacation. You soothe yourself with the purchase of a luxury item that you don’t need and can’t afford.

Taurus: Taurus is taking inventory, making lists and sorting possessions. While you are going through all this stuff you have you are also reevaluating what is and what is not important to you. Take a break and head out with your posse and do something fun and frivolous. Some relationships may be under some stress now. Money’s the issue.

Gemini: You feel like a change in appearance or routine — something new and different. You want to have some fun and enjoy some recreational activities, but are prevented from doing so due to responsibilities that keep you chained to your desk. Take the time for fun, romance and your quirky, unusual friends. It’ll make all the difference.

Cancer: Closed door meetings and confidential matters may lead to a salary increase or a boost in your prestige. A casual acquaintanceship gets lightly romantic then a little serious. Are you ready to commit?  The pace of life picks up and you may not have time for this relationship. Keep your plans and ideas to yourself for now.

Leo: Friends surprise you this month. They move away, move back, change jobs, changes spouses. You get some creative and inventive ideas from them. Having fun with your network of friends helps you to formulate plans for the future. Watch your expenditures and don’t get involved in financial dealings with friends.

Virgo: A favor from an influential person, such as an introduction or invitation, furthers your career and social standing. You’ll need to take some action in order to capitalize upon the opportunity offered. Cash from an unexpected source flows in. You’re tempted to spend it on something frivolous and fun. Think about saving it for your next trip.

Libra: You make plans, formulate ideas and take action in order to ensure that the vision of the future you have for yourself materializes. Through careful budgeting, you are now seeing results. You’re not out of the woods yet. As the Full Moon approaches, your life picks up speed. A love affair heats up and passions are aroused.

Scorpio: Under the burden of heavy responsibilities at work, home and even at play, you manage to come up with some unique and creative solutions. Relationships run smoothly now and you are able to get out and socialize and make new connections. Joint finances become a hot topic that throws a wet blanket on a hot romance.

Sagittarius: It’s you and the significant others in your life this month. Partners, teammates and competitors are all in the mix. Co-workers, business and social contacts bring special moments; when seized, they enhance your life. All is not smooth when friends and lovers become argumentative and bring emotional seas to the boiling point. Stay cool.

Capricorn: Practical Capricorn gets creative this month. You enhance your life with music, poetry and other artistic and creative pursuits. There’s heightened awareness of those things that although real, you cannot see, feel and touch. A few years ago, Capricorn would never have entertained the thought that these things exist. Evolution!

Aquarius: Special gatherings, short trips or a night on the town pop up unexpectedly during the course of your daily routine. There is no such thing as a routine for you this month. Opportunity knocks, doors open, doors close — grab the gold when you can and roll with the punches when faced with sudden obstruction. There’s electricity in the air.

Pisces: Traveling around your immediate vicinity, on foot or by car, puts you in the path of some fortuitous circumstances. You meet pleasant people and could spark a romance with the guy/gal next door.  Unexpected money issues threaten your sense of security. It’s the ups and downs of life so prepare yourself. Remember to breathe.

Angels in America Part I — Epic Theater at Epic Theatre

An Exploration of Gay Lifestyle

Staging Tony Kushner’s Angels in America, especially in an intimate space like Epic Theatre’s 82 Rolphe Square, is a daunting task that takes artistic courage and strong acting. This production has both.

Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes, is a 1993 Pulitzer Prize-winning play in two parts. The play was made into an opera by Hungarian composer Péter Eötvös in 2002 and an HBO miniseries in 2003. Set in 1985 in New York City, the play explores the intersecting lives of a gay couple facing AIDS, a young Mormon couple facing addiction and closeted homosexuality, and Roy Cohn, the real-life closeted gay attorney made famous during the McCarthy investigations during the Red Scare. The lines of fantasy and reality blur throughout the play. Boycotted in Charlotte, NC, in 1996 due to its controversial exploration of gay themes and lifestyle, Kushner’s in-your-face writing keeps the audience on its toes, never knowing what they’ll be witnessing next.

Directed by Ashley Arnold and Kevin Broccoli, the intimate space and overlapping scenes make the three-hour show easy to take. Strong acting dominates the play, first by Broccoli, as Louis, most notably in a speech about democracy and race. Michael Puppi’s Prior Walter perfectly blends strength and fear as a young gay man facing death. His scenes are touching and terrifying as his character fights to make sense of what’s happening to him.

R. Bobby, as Roy Cohn, deftly plays a despicable human being struggling with his own demons. His character brings dark humor to the story. In his opening scene, with wit and speed, he simultaneously talks on the phone to five different associates. Melanie Stone’s spacy portrayal as Harper Pitt, the valium-loving Mormon wife prone to hallucinations, is precise. Her husband, played by C.T. Larsen, easily balances fear and determination in his character. The four actors playing multiple roles each have “steal-the-show” moments, like Mary Paolino playing the Rabbi and the Angel, Theodore Clement as the ghost of Prior Walter and as Roy Cohn’s doctor, Victor Terry’s drag-queen Belize, and Joan Batting’s Hannah Pitt, yelling at homeless people in the Bronx. The dramatic closing scene, filled with all nine actors, leaves the audience eager to come back for Part II.

The set works well for the staging, except for a few mixed-era pieces that seem out of place. The attempt to heighten the element of fantasy in the play via lighting was distracting, either being too small for a scene or by actors who couldn’t find their light. Other technical elements, however, like sound, enhance the dreamlike quality of the play.

Lighting issues aside, this is a show not to be missed if just for the ’80s history alone, especially for the millennial theatergoer. And for those of us who were there when, it’s always good to be reminded of our nation’s history, particularly for gay rights. As New Englanders, it’s easy to think we have come so far, with marriage equality and all, but the fear of being out is an ever present risk for so many gay and transgender people in our country and our world. Angels in America provides a reminder. Epic Theatre Company’s mission is “to bring provocative contemporary work to Rhode Island as well as new perspectives on classical theater … striving to continue the tradition of event theater, where each production has built-in excitement both for the audiences and the artists involved.”

How fitting that a play, classified as “epic theater,” is being just that, at our own Epic Theatre.

Part I: Millennium Approaches and Part II: Perestroika are being produced, alternately, through June 29th, with back-to-back performances (with a break for dinner) for those interested in seeing the play in its entirety on June 22nd and 29th. For ticket and performance information, visit artists-exchange.org/theatre82.html