By Rob Watson
Recently, author Jennifer Finney Boylan commented about her transgender experience, “After all these years, my own identity has wound up less altered than I had expected. It should not have been a surprise, perhaps, but the most shocking revelation after 10 years in the female sex is that mostly I am the same person I always was, gender notwithstanding.”
Even without being trans gender, I relate greatly to Boylan’s comment, especially when it comes to being in a male body during the holiday season of Mothers and Fathers Days. While I identify with the physical description of being a “gay Dad”, the truth is, I am actually a Parent who mothers and fathers. I do not make an automatic assumption on characteristics or abilities based on the gender of the parent. I know there are others, even in the LGBT community, who see things differently. They see two holidays, one that honors physically female gendered parents and one that honors physically male gendered parents. This viewpoint was dramatized in a Normal Family episode when one of the fictional gay dads has a hissy fit over being perceived as “the mommy”.
In the book An Anthropology of Mothering editors Michelle Walks and Naomi McPherson state, “Through the consideration of the experiences of grandmothers, au pairs, biological and adoptive mothers, mothers of soldiers, mothers of children with autism, mothers in the corrections system, among others, it becomes clear that human mothering is neither practiced nor experienced the same the world over – indeed, even a single definition of what “mothering” is cannot be formed by the contributors of this anthology. Instead, while ideas of ‘good’ mothering exist in every culture, the effects of colonialism and migration, as well as different understandings of and relationships to food, religion, and government play prominent among many other factors, including age, relationship status, and sexuality of mothers themselves, to affect what is understood as ‘good’ versus ‘bad’ mothering.”
I would add gender to that list. As a parent, I am as Boylan describes “the person I am” and my parenting qualities are really not genderfied. I seek to be the full range parent to the best of my ability on all fronts.
As an LGBT parent, I felt disenfranchised this morning when I got a cheery email from an LGBT advocacy group I support. I want to make one point clear—the disenfranchisement does not bother me for myself. I am confident in who I am, and my kids are phenomenal with the love they express towards me. I am a lucky guy, amongst the luckiest on earth.
My concern here is for my kids and others like them in gay dad only, or lesbian only, led families. They are the ones left out in the planning, conversations and excitement over one of these two holidays. They are perceived as the “oh you don’t have one, and never had one…” crowd. They get the message that their family lacks something. It is not true. Most are mothered and fathered, nurtured and as adored as any other kids. They need to be appropriately included in the celebration of all that is motherhood, and in the subsequent celebration of all that is fatherhood, and the people that do each.
The email I received stated “In preparation and celebration, we and the makers of (Corporate Sponsor) are excited to announce the release of Mothers’ Day e-cards that are inclusive of lesbian, bisexual, and transgender moms.” This campaign struck me as odd on two levels, the first being the exclusion of male mom figures in the gay community, and the marginalization of a set of moms who are likely to be recognized anyway, by calling them out by their orientations. I wrote a quick note pointing out my concerns and received a pleasant but confusing note in return, “Thanks for your feedback. We have a similar e-card campaign coming up for father’s Day as well, since these are two widely acknowledged holidays where LGBT families sometimes don’t feel included. You are welcome to use cards from either’s campaign (Mother’s day or father’s day) and to share them with customized messages to reflect your own family.”
I wrote back: “I think you have some good-hearted intentions, but are missing the mark significantly. You are correct that these are widely acknowledged holidays where LGBT families don’t feel included, however, in my opinion, your campaign intensifies the exclusion. I do not believe my bisexual and lesbian mom friends feel excluded on Mothers Day… they are moms who rightly get the same recognitions that heterosexual Moms do. The families that feel excluded are the ones like mine where there is no female parent, and my kids are guided in school to make a gift for some more distant female relative instead of the person they actually come to for nurturing, love and warmth. We have a community where the concepts of mothering and fathering are larger than physical gender characteristics — your campaign, unfortunately, doesn’t diversify the status quo, it magnifies it, and seems to further marginalize women who already qualify for recognition on the holiday. Speaking from this gay dad perspective, on Father’s Day, I really do not want a “Gay Dad” card. I am not ashamed of being a gay dad, but I am proud on Fathers Day just to be a father among all fathers, even ones who are biologically female. I would be thrilled to see you come out, for that day, with cards celebrating my lesbian sisters who bring strength, power and fatherhood into their families, and recognize them on that day as well.”
I don’t have to explain any of this to my kids. They already get it. Recently, my son Jason was running from his brother and into my arms cheerfully screaming “Mommmmmmmmmy!”. I looked at him quizzically and asked, “who are you calling for there, Boo?” He looked at me in a matter-of-fact way, “No one. That is not what that means.”
“Oh?” I asked curiously. “What does it mean”
“It means that I need help right away, “ he explained.
“Got it, “ I replied. “And who do you go to when you need that?”
“You,” he said. And then planted a big kiss on my cheek before running off.
On Mothers Day mornings, my other son, Jesse leads the way in bringing me breakfast in bed with flowers. He got the idea on his own three years ago at the age of 7. “You do everything their mothers do,” he explained at the time. This is your day too.”
So with that, I would like to offer you an open Mothers Day Card for ALL LGBT parents, including gay/bisexual/transgender dads. I offer this up also as a Fathers Day Card for all lesbian/bisexual/transgender moms as well.
Dear Parent of the Heart and Soul
“Love is the only freedom in the world because it so elevates the spirit that the laws of humanity and the phenomena of nature do not alter its course.” Kahlil Gibran
You personify a Love that overcomes all obstacles, biases and inequities.
We enter the season that honors the two aspects of your parenting and the love that you bestow to the world. That love becomes realized when you give yourself to your children.
You are mothering when you nourish, nurture, and shower affection. You sow the seeds of confidence, vision and creativity.
You are fathering when you protect, guide with principle, instill values and inspire. You sow the seeds of morality, leadership and personal power.
During two days in the current months, we honor you, not as the perfect parent, since that entity is truly a myth, but as one who still wants to attain that status no matter how unrealistic it is. We honor you for the days when doing your best, with all good intentions, has to be the way it is.
You are magnificent. You are doing the most important work of which Humanity can ask. You hold in your hands our future, and you deserve nothing less than dignity and respect at your back.
To quote the song, you are “the wind beneath the wings” of life. We thank you. Happy Mothers Day. Happy Fathers Day. Happy You Day.
By Kellen Kaiser
It starts with white face, the kind clowns use, smeared on with a sponge and then powdered to matte. Then eyebrows drawn on with greasepaint, cheeks made razor sharp using the side of a piece of cardboard as a guide, and false lashes applied. Glitter is sprinkled everywhere, liberally. Jewels are affixed at certain points for emphasis. This is the process by which I manifest as my alter-ego. I am a girl who doesn’t wear make-up on a daily basis, I couldn’t draw a straight line to save my life, and in a rush the process takes me at least forty-five minutes. The gay boys who have become my second family always inevitably look better than me no matter what I do. Being a living incarnation of the Goddess/Servant of the Holy Spirit is hard work.
Let me explain. I am one of a few female-born members of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. We are an international non-profit organization devoted to social activism, charity work, and spiritual ministry. Started in 1979 in San Francisco by gay men who had raided their high school costume closet for nun garb, the group recently made news as the provocation for Chuck Hagel’s homophobic vitriol. Our motto is “ruining it for everyone.” By dressing in and appropriating religious iconography we court controversy with everything we do. We also raise lots of money, spread joy and self-acceptance, and generally look amazing.
My first memories of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence were from when I was four. It was 1985 and my lesbian mothers took me to their Easter celebration held in a San Francisco alley called Lily Street. I remember them as towering Glamazons with otherworldly outfits and endless attitudes. They wore Easter baskets as hats. Their eyes looked as complicated as Faberge eggs. Their command of femininity astounded me even at that age. I told my mom that when I grew up I wanted to be a Drag Queen. She approved. There were a lot of years in there I didn’t think it was a possibility.
Then little by little I started to hear about female-born women doing drag and being called “faux-queens.” “High Drag,” it was sometimes called. I read about a girl winning the prestigious Trannyshack title. If they could do it, not even having grown up within the community, then why couldn’t I? Granted at the time I was in a long term hetero relationship that had made me progressively more normal in a terrifying manner. I would spend the next few years ambivalent about my condition and would ultimately find myself single and moving back to my home state of California. Finally, I was introduced to the Abbess of the San Diego house, who was a woman. Even when she told me the process of becoming a member was intensive and usually took a year and a half, all I could think was, out of my way, I got this.
When people see me out “in-face,” as we Drag Queens call it, they tend to pride themselves on sussing out my gender. “You’re a real girl,” is the most common exclamation. “Everything but the tits…” I say back. They delight to tell me how they figured out that under my make-up I am not a man. “I could tell by the hairs near your ears,” someone once informed me, “they weren’t sideburns.” People regularly admit they didn’t know what I am doing is allowed. At which point I tell them that part of our mission, as an organization, is to defy people’s expectations and I am challenging their perceptions of what Drag means. I like it even better when people aren’t sure what gender I am. To think that a woman dressed as a woman could help destabilize gender makes me gleeful.
In French the word for make-up, maquillage, comes from “mask”, and it has been impressed upon me many times that people treat me with a sort of reverence when I am in-face. I have counseled men who that day discovered they were HIV positive, men who regularly wouldn’t give me a second glance but who tell me their darkest secrets because of how I’m dressed. Until the church is willing to accept all of their followers, I will feel justified in ministering to them. While we are controversial even within the gay community and our parody of Catholic religion makes many people upset, in my mind we put it to good use.
When I first started attending meetings and events with the LA chapter, the almost entirely male membership paid me little attention, despite the well-crafted letter of recommendation I’d brought with me from a much loved member of the SF order. The Sisters don’t recruit. This means that they will let you hang out but they won’t be all that friendly or explain things. It took me seven months to figure out that they were never going to invite me to join but that I instead had to declare my intention unheeded. Like in the church, you start the process as an aspirant, and then become a postulant and a novice before finally becoming a fully professed member. You can do it in eighteen months but it took me two years.
The interim period is filled with make-up tutorials, grunt work, and meetings run with parliamentary levels of efficacy and protocol. It took me a couple of months to match the men I met at the monthly out-of-face meetings to the stunning sirens who arrived at events. They started at some point to be nice to me and now I feel like the spoiled younger sibling to thirty or so older brothers who like to dress up in Mom’s clothing. Slowly, they let me in on secrets like using hair spray to fix make-up in place and told me stories about how they came to be Sisters themselves. A surprising number of them come from very religious backgrounds. I know at least two who went to seminary. They are now nuns who wear glitter in their beards.
I took my vows more than two years after I began, on a hill under the Hollywood sign, wearing a vintage wedding gown and a white veil. The ritual, done under the discombobulated gaze of tourists poured fresh from mini-buses, involved my being wrapped in a long red cloth and lifted by a bevy of my Sisters into the air. Once aloft I was turned in a circle, high in the sky, supported and yet alone. It was, as it was meant to be, transformative. I am not one of those single women who contemplate just throwing herself a big party in lieu of the wedding yet to materialize, but I felt like this was an awesome alternative, no matter what happens with my love life.
Being in the Sisters has also given me a chance to continue my involvement in the Gay community. One of the weird things about being the straight daughter of lesbians is negotiating where you fit in the world you were raised in. I consider myself Queer but it takes a good five minutes to explain why I fit under that umbrella as a heterosexual. I don’t have much to justify it, outside of my predilection for checking out butch women. Usually when people meet me as “Sister Edna St. Vincent Getlaid,” they don’t question my street cred.
My mom once told me to pursue things in life that were both selfish and altruistic, and the Sisters for me are a great example of this principle. I get to say that I volunteer on a regular basis and yet it usually involves vodka tonics. I have learned service is one of the cheapest and safest highs. Every year as we walk in Pride parades and wave at the adoring and photo-snapping crowds, and I see amongst them children who look toward me like I once did the Sisters, star-struck and wide eyed, I know I am fulfilling a dream. I may never make it in Hollywood, but I have made it in real life.
Note from the Editor-
Many of our readers are starting families of their own and have asked for more information about infertility and IVF. Having gone through this myself I understand how scary the process is -not knowing what’s ahead of you, the procedures, the drugs, the expenses, the pain you might endure both physically and mentally. I went on a search for an expert and thought, “who better than one of my fertility doctors?” After all, I did a lot of research myself and I now have three kids! Dr. Tourgeman will be doing a video series in which he will answer your questions in detail before you even step into a clinic. He will address single parents and couples, whether same sex or heterosexual. Please get involved; ask questions or, if you have been through the process yourself, give feedback. Tell us your story in our comments section.
The first video is an introduction to Dr. Tourgeman and the second is the first question from one of our readers.
Question: What are the initial first steps for an infertile couple?
By: Kellen Kaiser
I was raised by lesbians. Yeah, but nowadays, who wasn’t? Even if I’m a little older than most, having been born in 1981, my situation becomes more common by the day. So the more remarkable thing seems to be their sheer number. When I tell people I have four moms, the common reaction, outside of raised eyebrows, is an attempt to figure it out. Two moms who got divorced and remarried is the most often given wager. Nope. Reasonable but wrong and interesting to me in the sense that it shows how pervasive the nuclear model is. We apply it instantly even to lesbians.
When I tell them an original three chose to parent together and then a fourth married in, I still can’t be sure they understand it. There is often an assumption applied that the three were all sexually involved, a threesome of motherhood which exposes another internalized belief about family, that those who parent together sleep together. In my case my biological mother, one Nina Kaiser, chose to parent with her lover and best friend. Three ladies, one baby. While the romantic relationship between the two ladies, Nina and Margery, didn’t last, the parenting paradigm did, a lesson that could certainly be followed in straight circles better. Eventually my bio-mom married another woman, Kyree, which then made four. That’s a lot of mothers! But there were mostly advantages to having extra parents.
More hands to hold me, more bosoms to hug. More parents to read my blog.
As a child, I didn’t get away with much (too many eyes watching over me), but I did occasionally manage to pit them against each other. I developed a technique in which I’d ask all four, one at a time, for whatever I wanted. I had four possible yes’s which I’d try for in succession until I’d heard four no’s.
Even now, when I have a dilemma, I have four numbers to dial, calling each one until I get an answer, or the advice I was looking for. The phrase it takes a village applies here. I have inherited personality quirks from each of them. As I grow older there will be four aging women to care for, two extra parents to some day grieve, but all in all I feel like I make off like a bandit.
The nuclear family model is so ingrained in our culture. My parents’ multiplicity has allowed me to question that dynamic. I have given thought to who I want to parent with, whether that is my sexual partner (whoever that may be in any given moment) or my friends. I have enough gay community that if I chose co-parenting in that vein it could be a reality. It’s a huge commitment being a parent. Especially if you aren’t biologically obligated and I am eternally grateful that the three women outside of my bio-mom cared enough about me to do so, and to continue to show up as the years go by. Love makes a family but that also in some ways defines it as a voluntary position.
Do we choose our families? We do and we don’t. We certainly choose our level of attachment
to them. We can choose to embrace those we weren’t born related to in the fashion of those we were, making the word form to our own definition. In the gay community the word “family” can be fraught, laden with the intolerance and rejection people have faced in their past, but it is also the holy grail of acceptance -a sense of no longer being alone. We are family! The disco song blares, an anthem of confidence and hope both. We make our families and they make us. 99.9% of the time I feel like I won the lottery, family-wise. The Robber Baron of Moms. I have four of the best parents on earth. So many people don’t get a single good one and I got a quartet. It seems unfair, really. The .01% of the time is when I’m thinking what man in his right mind would sign on for four mothers in law?!
Doubt that really evens it out though. More mommies, more problems? Nope.
Love you Moms!
By: Tanya Dodd-Hise
Years and years ago, when I was in college (as an adult), I joined a sorority. Now, it isn’t the kind of sorority that most people think of when they hear the term. It wasn’t related to my university, but rather, an international community-based, service-based group of women of all ages. I met and made a friend in one of my night classes who was a part of this group, and she invited me to one of her meetings. I enjoyed the friendships that these women shared, and soon they invited me to join them – so I became a sister in Beta Sigma Phi. We had meetings twice a month at different sisters’ homes, service projects, and social outings. Up until that, my whole life consisted of being Mom, wife, and college student, so it gave me an outlet to just be around other moms and wives while enjoying fun and friendship.
After being in that chapter for several years, I sadly had to step back and take a leave while I was going through my divorce. I missed my friends dearly, and because of living so far away from all of them, knew that I would probably see them rarely after I left. After being out of it for a while, Holly found a chapter near my new house that we decided to go visit. From the first visit, we really enjoyed the ladies and were soon back into the swing of sorority and joining them. Sure we missed our old chapter, and Holly eventually went back to that one when she moved back to their area, but it was nice to be involved again.
One of the awesome things about sorority that I always enjoyed was the Sweetheart Ball that takes place every February. When I left my original chapter, I missed it dearly. The city council that my new chapter belonged to did not have a ball, so I missed it even more knowing that it wasn’t an option. A few years ago, the new group decided that we wanted to go to the ball, and that was the first time that I would be there with Erikka. Needless to say, there was a lot of staring, and not near the friendly “sisterness” that I had known for all of those years previously. And we looked CUTE! I think we were engaged that year…
Fast forward to 2012. In the two or three years since our chapter attended the Sweetheart Ball, we have left it up to the chapter sweetheart to decide if they wanted to go or not. This year, our sweetheart decided that she wanted to go to the ball, so plans were made and tickets were purchased. This would be our second time as a group to join, and everyone seemed pretty excited about getting dressed up to go – us included! It was going to be the first time that I had seen my sisters from my former chapter in a very long time, and I hoped that there would still be that connection from so long ago. I knew that there were quite a few of the ladies who are pretty conservative, and who either don’t approve of my marriage to Erikka, or who don’t understand (or want to understand). Nevertheless, I was looking forward to seeing them and hoping that it would be good.
Last Friday night, after spending hours preparing and primping and getting into our new clothes for the ball, we were off. We dropped off Noah and Harrison at my mom’s, and drove to the country club where the event was taking place. Erikka looked beautiful in a dark, navy blue shimmery dress, and I coordinated with her in dark navy blue and black. We looked fabulous! We found Holly and Tony as soon as we arrived, who showed us to our table – everything looked so nice. We had dinner and soon all of the sweethearts were lining up in the hallway with their escorts for the traditional presentation of each chapter’s sweetheart. Our sweetheart is single and had come to the ball solo, so we had decided ahead of time that I would escort her in. Let me tell you, walking in with a chick in a formal on my arm, while a couple of hundred eyes are staring…well, it’s a bit unnerving. We laughed and giggled as we walked in and stood among all of the other boy-girl couples that were around us. After everyone was presented, they then announced that it was time for the Sweetheart Dance – what the what??? Nobody had told us that we were supposed to dance! So then we were REALLY getting stared at, but we did it! I was soon rescued from the awkward staring by another sister’s husband, who cut in and finished out the dance with our sweetheart.
Shortly after all of the sweetheart formalities, we all went out into the hallway and took pictures. When we went back in, we got out on the dancefloor with everyone else and danced and laughed. A slow song came on, and I walked over to our table to take Erikka by the hand. We went out onto the dancefloor, and spun our way slowly around it, amid all of the other couples. Soon I could feel the disapproving glances and stares coming from some of the older couples, and could even see some whispering. The most prominent was from an older lady, who was also a tiara-wearing sweetheart from her chapter. We turned while dancing and I saw her looking at us with a look of absolute disgust on her face. She then said something to her husband in his ear, and then he turned to look at us with the same look. They stared at us with that look, and talking to each other, for the remainder of the dance. Sure, I wanted to walk over and say something to them…or punch them in the face…but of course my wife would not have let me do that. I mean, really?? Come on folks. We’re SO normal. I guess that is why it still surprises me when people are so blatantly and outright ugly towards us. When we got back to the table, I told my sisters about it. One of them asked me if we ever get used to that from people, and it really made me think.
My response, when asked this question, is typically, “Yes, I’m used to it.” But I don’t want to be used to it! I get outraged every time someone looks at me with disdain or disgust whenever they see me with my wife, maybe holding her hand or with my arm around her. We are people dammit, just like anyone else! I should have walked over and told her how rude and ignorant it was of her and her husband to behave that way, and that it is 2012 so they need to get over themselves. I don’t want my kids to ever see me keep quiet and LET someone look at us, talk about us, or be ugly towards any of us and think it is acceptable behavior. All of that “do unto others” crap that we grow up hearing suddenly goes out the window when it’s something that we don’t like or accept – I am sure we are all guilty of it. So I will make a conscious decision to “do unto others” in all situations, in hopes that they will “do unto ME” in turn.
By: Tosha Woronov
Once upon a time about five years ago two friends met for dinner. They sat over plates of vegan tacos and lentil pate, the air between thick with the worries consuming one of them. Her name is Brandy, and she had been trying for over a year to get pregnant with her wife, Susan.
The other friend, Tosha, was at a loss for words. She knew not to mention adoption; others had, apparently, and although they meant well, it stung too much. Brandy wanted to carry a baby inside of her, and was in anguish that it hadn’t happened, wasn’t happening, might not happen. Tosha had a two-year-old son of her own, and understood Brandy’s need for this.
Brandy cried, and then so did Tosha, over the latest in her and her wife’s quest to be parents: Susan’s tentative suggestion that perhaps she try to get pregnant. Now the word was failure. “She thinks I’ve failed,” Brandy cried. “My body has failed and now she wants to use hers.” (Tosha wanted to say that maybe she could see some beauty in this, that for all their hurdles –two lesbians unable (unfairly) to make a baby without medical assistance of some sort- perhaps the silver lining was that there were two women who could try. Heterosexual couples didn’t have that option. But the friend didn’t want to hear about silver linings. She wanted to cry.)
That was five years ago.
Susan and Brandy gave it one more shot. I think that’s what they said. “We’ll try one more time. If it doesn’t work, then Susan will try.” But Brandy’s body didn’t fail them; in fact it succeeded beautifully. (No new mother, Tosha was convinced, had ever come out of pregnancy, labor, breast feeding, sleeplessness, and new-parent-chaos as seamlessly as Brandy did: with grace and passion and love love love. And back into her skinny jeans within moments.)
Yes it was beautful. She was beautiful. Sophia. She of the feathery hair and helium-balloon voice. Their love incarnate.
But wait there’s more.
Brandy and Susan went for it again. Even with fears –of college educations and more square footage and a mini-van –thick around them, they went for it again. They didn’t hold back. They knew success in this area was no guarantee.
What the heck, they said.
And as Tosha writes this, baby Penn AND baby Bella are in the hospital with their mommies and big sister. They are healthy and beautiful. Brandy is exhausted, and beautiful.
Once they were two, and then they were three, and now they are five. Five! Five hearts joined as a family, embraced by dozens of people to love and support them.
A modern family.
But see, there’s nothing modern about their love. Not at all. It’s as old as time.
By: Shannon Ralph
I have found myself in recent weeks—amidst feeling like I am being pulled in every direction—wondering what my life would be like if I had never had children. Amidst an outbreak of strep throat and homework hell and hectic schedules, I have found myself wondering silently if it is really worth it. How would my life had been different if I didn’t have the three little creatures who occupy my space and my mind at all times? Quieter, certainly. But better? Happier? I am not sure. In an attempt to sort out these feelings that are not unusual, but moderately disturbing, I have been pondering the “what ifs” of life. I have been trying to recall what life was like before children. Let me tell you, it’s not easy to remember a life before children. What did I do with my time? What was I interested in? What was I good at? What would I have missed had I not had children? In an attempt to remember, I’ve compiled a list. A compendium of things that I never would have done had I not had children. It goes a little something like this.
Before I had children, I never…
Touched another person’s booger. Found rocks in my coat pockets. Suffered from insomnia. Collected human teeth in a box. Wished time would literally stand still. Woke up to the warm sensation of pee on my leg. Had another human being know what my heart sounds like from the inside. Questioned every decision I made. Had a topless (the kids, not me) dance party in my living room. Made —or had the desire to make— homemade crayons. Knew the correct pronunciation of Pachycephalosaurus. Knew that I carried a gene for cystic fibrosis. Shared my chewing gum. Caught vomit in my hands. Baked cupcakes with orange icing. Loved someone enough that the thought of losing them stole the breath from my body. Memorized all of the dialogue from every Pixar movie ever made. Took a rectal temperature. Felt a strangely compelling desire for religion and answers to the meaning of life. Feared leukemia. And asthma. And Down Syndrome. And autism. And meningitis. And scarlet fever. And Lyme disease. And weird allergic reactions to mosquito bites. Allowed glitter in my house. Bought life insurance. Ordered photo Christmas cards. Ate Go-gurt. Stuck my hand in a suspiciously bulging diaper to “check”. Went to bed at 8:00. Woke up at 5:00. Shared my bed with four people and a dog. Walked in on someone trying to put a snorkel on his penis. Bought multicolored sprinkles by the pound. Was struck speechless. Paid a babysitter $40 to go out to a $20 kid-free dinner. Came home early from a date. Scooped poop out of a bathtub. Had a fridge full of Amoxicillin. Found myself humming the theme song to Phineas and Ferb in inappropriate places. Stepped foot into the bacterial cesspool that is the Mcdonalds playland. Marveled at the utter coolness of a worm. And a frog. And a spider. Carried around little Dora underwear in my purse…just in case. Sat perfectly still for hours on end so as not to wake the tiny person asleep on my chest. Chose a quiet night in over a loud night out. Wet myself when I laughed. Drank coffee by the boatload. Understood how my mother could possible love me when she screeched at me until she was hoarse. Obsessed about what another person ate or did not eat. Used, or ever thought I would use, the television as a babysitter. Possessed firsthand knowledge that sleep deprivation is eerily similar to the after-effects of drinking two bottles of wine. Kissed an angel.
Yea…my life is certainly different today than it was pre-children. Life is hectic. Fast. Busy. Loud. Crowded. Messy. But you know what? It’s also better. Richer. Fuller. Lovelier. Livelier. Sillier. Happier.
What can I say? I am a mom. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
By: Carol Rood
I have been in a relationship with my lovely Bluebell for 7 years. We are very open about being together, yet we do not announce it to everyone we meet at the first meeting. We feel as though being together is just a part of who we are, not the sum of who we are.
Because, in addition to being a person in a relationship with a woman, I am also a mom to 3 boys, a step mom to a boy and a girl, a college student, a worker, a retired Navy person, etc. Think about it this way, when you meet someone for the first time, they don’t say, “Hi my name is Jane and I am a heterosexual woman who is married to Tom.” With that in mind, I don’t need to say, “Hi, I am Carol and I am a lesbian in a relationship with Bluebell.” Besides the fact that I am more than just that, many people are bigoted and I like to get to know people before I tell them my personal life.
I have always believed that if I meet someone who becomes my friend (or at least has a friendly relationship with me) before knowing my relationship status, but then changes their opinion of me and no longer likes me once they find out, it tells me their character (or lack therof). Those are people I don’t want to be friends with anyway, so I move on.
Once I tell them about my relationship status I get various responses. Most people say, “Oh, that doesn’t bother me. I have a friend, hairdresser, cousin, (fill in the blank) who is gay. I am cool with that.” Sometimes I just get a “That is fine with me.” But the ones I like the best are the people who I tell, and then I can actually see the mental processing taking place.
I will be having a conversation with someone and I will nonchalantly say something like, “Yes, my partner said the same thing the other day.” You can actually see their brain whirring, and almost see the thought bubble over their head as they realize I said “partner” and what that means. Then they blink and respond. This whole process usually takes about 1-2 seconds, but it is always obvious. It makes me smile every time.
Recently I was talking to my 14-year-old son’s girlfriend’s mother. Zack and R were going to an event and I was telling R’s mom that Bluebell would be picking up the kids. I said, “I have a meeting, so my partner will be picking up the kids.” Zack and R have been dating for over a year. I have talked to R’s mother many times. I guess I had never before that time used the word “partner”. The minute I used that word, I saw the mental process taking place. As I watched that happen, time slowed down, (just like in the movies), and I held my breath. In that split second of watching her process, lots of thoughts went running through my head. What if she doesn’t like gay people? What if she won’t let R date Zack anymore because his mom is gay? What if she doesn’t want her daughter around gay people? I mean who knows really? The nicest people you meet may be prejudiced. You don’t know until they make themselves known by saying something or doing something that shows their prejudice. After a couple of seconds, R’s mother completed her processing, blinked and said, “Ok, no problem.”
And then she smiled! Whew…crisis averted. R’s mom is okay with me and now I won’t be the cause of heartbreak for my kid! My heart stopped beating staccato.
Our kids are growing up. I am sure that was just the first of many more “unveilings” in our (and their) futures. I can only hope that all the other parents will be as open minded as R’s mother.
By: Shannon Ralph
I love my dog. I love that animal more than I thought I’d ever be capable of loving a critter. Despite having only lived in my house for a few months, I have already come to the conclusion that she is canine perfection incarnate. Yea, she has repeatedly chewed the eyeballs off of my daughter’s favorite stuffed animal. And yes, she (accidentally, I am convinced) chased down and killed a cute, fuzzy little bunny in my back yard. And, despite numerous pleas to stop FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, she can’t seem to stay away from the garbage can. But these actions are just a dog being a dog. They simply endear her to me more (with the exception of the dead bunny I had to dispose of…that was just plain morbid). I thought I would take a few moments on this fine morning to expound on the reasons why I love my dog.
I love that she is a wiggle-butt boxer. I love that she, without any provocation, assumes the pillow position every morning for our son, Nicky, to lay on her and watch cartoons. I love that she follows me from room to room with utter devotion. I love that she scratches on the bathroom door when I am trying to pee in peace. Because she misses me, of course. I love that she positions herself in front of me as my protector and growls at strangers she envisions as threats…even when it is only my brother-in-law who is about as scary as a chocolate-covered marshmallow. I love when we play fetch in the house and she gets so excited by the chase that she forgets the kitchen floor is slick linoleum and slides head-first into the dishwasher. Repeatedly. I love that she has accepted our decision, for our own peace and sanity, to buy her a doggy bed and kick her out of our bed. I also love that she patiently waits until we both fall asleep and THEN quietly and stealthily sneaks into our bed and snuggles up to my butt. I love those chilly weekend afternoons when I am exhausted and climb the stairs with Stella in tow. I love when she jumps in bed with me for a little nap. And we spoon. Is that too much? Is it weird to spoon with your dog? We don’t think so. I love her boxer grunts and snorts. I love that she snores louder than Ruanita…okay, in all honestly, that’s not so much an “I love” as an “I tolerate”. I love that my sister Jennifer can’t stand my dog, but Stella is convinced to win her over. I love that Stella jumps up on the couch and snuggles Jennifer every time she comes over to visit. And I secretly love that Jennifer goes home smelling like a dog. I love the way she patiently allows my kids to bathe and dry her in our bath tub. I love that she is a morning person…er…dog. I love that she wakes up all happy and wiggly-butted. I love that she feels everyone in the family needs to get up together in the morning and, therefore, jumps up on my mother’s bedroom door at 6:00am and flings it open to wish her a happy day. Every. Single. Morning. I love that she is happy. And I love that she makes everyone in my family happy with her sweet, gentle, silly ways.
Man, I love my dog.
By: Brandy Black
I’m sitting in the living room of our new home next to the window that overlooks our tree-lined street and even among the boxes I feel a sense of calm. It’s different than that of my last blog –a safe, quiet, simple suburbia kind of calm.
I have fought “the burbs” since we began the discussions of marriage and children. I love the city, I love the buzz, I love being “hip” even though I don’t know that I ever have been. I always imagined suburbia to be stifling and boring and so totally not me. But now here I am, happy to know that the neighbors to the right of us are having a baby, the people across from us have children that play in the yard daily, and that I will see pumpkins cheering up the neighborhood each morning. I’m only 8 minutes from my old home yet we are in a completely different world.
Fall has always been my favorite season –the colors, the leaves, holidays around the corner, pumpkin-spiced lattes…but this fall is full of change. New streets to roam, parks to discover, people to meet. We ventured to our nearest grocery store and were delighted by the mini carts for kids. I melted when our daughter roamed the aisles tossing things in her cart, feeling such a part of our weekly routine.
I’ll admit, when I raced us out of our 2-bedroom house, made us sell fast and furious and literally turned our lives upside down, I was nervous. Susan fought me, friends advised against it, and for good reason but I knew it was time. Or did I? I second-guessed myself, I cried a lot, worried even more that I was steering us in the wrong direction. But I couldn’t really admit it because I was the captain of the decision; I had to own it and make the family feel safe. I lacked confidence. I was terrified. But now I couldn’t be happier with the life that we are creating. Sophia begs to go back to our new home when she gets out of school. She is proud to help unload the dishwasher (yes! we finally have a dishwasher), she has her own playroom (that she is aware she will soon be sharing) and we all have space to breathe. I can’t hear my family at the other end of the house and I can’t tell you how badly I needed that –the feeling of getting away without having to race out to a coffee shop to have a moment alone.
Time is certainly moving quickly, and we still have so much to do and I’m exhausted at 29 weeks pregnant, but my family is happy and that is what’s most important.