By Brandy Black
I have gotten some flack lately for “throwing my wife under the bus” in my writing. Well, I should be honest, Susan has been hearing it and has reported back to me. She claims that she isn’t bothered but I feel I should set the record straight. I vowed that I would do two things when I began writing. I will always be honest and I will always read my writing to Susan before it is published. It is an unfair advantage that everything comes from my perspective and truthfully I need her perspective in pretty much every aspect of my life, or at least I want it. I also think it is important for my voice to be true to my life and not sugar coated with what I think people want to hear or what might make me or her look good. Let’s face it, relationships are hard, marriages even harder and marriages with kids, nearly impossible at times. It is not easy making the shift from a young doting couple with very little responsibility to parents, homeowners, and heads of household. We actually had a friend tell us last night that we should publicize our troubles more often because people can relate. So yes, I write from MY perspective, it may be selfish, at times could be angry, misunderstood, unloved, unheard, lost, confused but it represents all of my very honest stages of parenting with Susan. I’m sure some can relate and others probably agree with her. That’s the point. We all play very different roles in our relationships.
I have been pretty honest throughout time about going to therapy, the struggles we face, the fact that I miss the days of missing her. We have had moments in our relationship when we didn’t think we could make it, we came close to calling it quits and yet here we are still holding on. In our wedding ceremony, far before it was legal, 10 years ago, we made 80 guests vow that they too would help support our marriage. I crave hearing honesty from other parents. In the first year of parenting I got to a point when I couldn’t live in a bubble and pretend I wasn’t sad and sometimes lonely in my marriage. When I would talk to friends about their challenges I realized it wasn’t just us. Having those honest people in my life have helped me get through the tough times. I want to be that candid voice. So, sometimes I’m honest at my wife’s expense but always with her approval.
But in hearing this criticism I realized that it is far too easy to focus on what she does wrong and not what she does right. It is a life lesson really. How often do I stop and thank her for allowing me to throw a fit about the missing school ID sign only to have her find it in my car. I don’t stop to thank her for taking me out every Wednesday night without fail until midnight , and then turning around and waking up at 4am for work the next day, without complaint because she knows that I need those nights for sanity. She is the calm beneath my tornado.
She is my best friend. She makes me laugh and on some nights I remember why I fell in love as I watch her shuffle from side to side, hands in pockets, head down, kicking rocks. But if I’m being honest and not sugar coating, I hold back, I don’t tell her that I find her incredibly sexy, that she makes me laugh more than anyone, that she is and always will be my best friend. I don’t know why I stop myself, is there too much water under the bridge? Do I feel like I will lose control and become vulnerable again? Having kids, changed me, made me stronger, tougher and the very thing she loved most about me, my need to be taken care of, to lean into her, to be small in her arms, disappeared and I became a Mama Bear! With it she lost her baby, the one that needs her, shows her her value with doting eyes and an open heart. I’m working on allowing my heart to be exposed again, to say exactly what’s on my mind, to never hold back, to see her as my wife and not the other mother of my children. It’s a delicate dance, a 15-year-relationship, one that could end at any second, because let’s be honest, they all can.
By Brandy Black
Our daughter is in Kindergarten now. The immense change that has already transpired this year blows my mind, our conversations have evolved in ways I’ve always dreamed of and I’m so proud of the girl she has become. I worry, everyone knows this, about protecting my kids from the evils and misunderstandings of the world. I would do anything to ensure that none of my children feel hurt or pain even though I know this too is one of life’s little gifts.
I do know, however that life will be a bit more complicated for my children because of the parents they have. Even though the country is changing rapidly and laws are slowly embracing LGBT families, we are not safe from bullying and discrimination. My wife and I are lucky to live in a city that is rather accepting of a two mom family and we rarely face outward discrimination but there will always be an opportunity to educate those around us. I correct people daily that make the assumption that I have a husband or my children have a daddy. I don’t mind this, it is understandable that they jump to that conclusion, I often wonder if I inadvertently do the same. But what I am most grateful for is those around us that are thoughtful and understanding of families like mine.
I went to our first parent/teacher conference for grammar school. Our 5-year-old has two teachers. Both teachers referenced me as Mama and Susan as Mom, they had taken the time to get it right, to know that those words have significant meaning. Susan could not be with me (thank god for the voice memo app on my iphone so that I could record it) and my daughter’s teacher seamlessly referenced her in conversation as my wife. I volunteer at school once a week and one day in class the teacher was talking to the children about their parents and she said “Mommies and Daddies or Moms and Mamas” and I actually laughed, which I realize wasn’t the best reaction especially considering how happy it made me but I was genuinely surprised. All of these simple choices in wording can make a family feel like they have made the right choice in schools, friends, colleagues etc. It is the simple use of parent/parents in place of Mommy or Daddy that are inclusive rather than exclusive.
Our school has a dance coming up called the Daughters’ Dance. This is inclusive rather than the exclusive title it had in previous years “Father Daughter Dance.” I was told that a child with heterosexual parents had a best friend that had two moms and she felt that Father Daughter Dance did not fairly represent her BFF’s family, she petitioned to the school to have the name changed. And so they did. From what I understand it wasn’t that they were trying to be exclusive it simply hadn’t occurred to them. These things are simple, and sometimes take a little thought that perhaps not all parents are the same, perhaps there is only one parent in the family. It has been a work in progress but awareness and understanding makes all the difference in the world.
I realize living in a big city like Los Angeles can make life much easier for two moms than raising a family in a rural part of the United States, I know that there are families that struggle to be understood by those around them. I spent quite a bit of time with the Executive Director of Family Equality talking about the laws that need to change, the support that is lacking for the LGBT community and the challenges that we face but I don’t want to forget to celebrate the wins that happen every day. The teachers, friends, doctors, colleagues, and even strangers that make my day by bending down to my daughter and saying “You’re a pretty lucky kid to have two moms.” It’s not that my kids are any luckier than anyone else, it’s that they are just as lucky.
TNF: Tell me about your family.
Sara: We are married. June 21st 2002 we were married in a solstice service at a Methodist church here in Montpelier. Our pastor was able to perform the service because, on paper, we were husband and wife. In fact, since we live in VT, we actually had to go through the humiliation of being denied a civil union license because my partner, Danielle, is transgender and her birth certificate still reads “male” though her driver’s license etc… does not. Quirky PA law (she is from Beaver County, PA – hahaha! – totally true) Anyway, she signed on the groom line and we have been legally married for 11 years.
TNF: How did you meet your wife?
Sara: Danielle worked with my Mom as part of a care team for the mentally ill. This was prior to Danielle’s transition, so I knew my present partner as “Dan” first. We spent holidays together for years as my mother would have Dan carry the pager for the clients and she would provide the feast for us (her four kids and families) and Dan would get to come. We became friends and eventually, when Dan transitioned to Danielle, our family was there to support her.
TNF: Do you feel different from other families? If so, how so?
Sara: Let me count the ways… two women heading the household, one of us transgender, four kids from a previous marriage so there is all the step stuff that goes along with that (though I do get along well with my ex and his wife and her kids). Also, Grace, our youngest was adopted at the age of five (with my ex husband) but my husband left before she had been home a year, so Danielle is truly her other parent, though she does have a good relationship with her Dad too.
The thing I miss the most though, if I am to be truly honest, is the social currency I had as a heterosexual. It is all about the little things. My husband and I would go to a restaurant with our children and older couples would smile and nod at us and tell us how well our children behaved. At parent conferences, we were assumed “normal” because we were heterosexual and when Danielle and I attend, it is clear that we need to demonstrate our normalcy – I don’t know how it is communicated, but it really is palpable. As a special educator, I don’t have a picture of Danielle on the wall in my office – just the kids. Not because I was told that it wasn’t OK by anyone and really everyone would say “of course it is fine” – but I know that for some parents, it would only cause uncertainty and fear and sometimes, I just don’t feel like being the poster child for this whole gay, transgender thing.
TNF: Where do you live? Is it tough being a gay couple where you live? Do you feel accepted?
Sara: We live in Vermont and it is the best place in the US to live – it is where the whole movement started and Danielle and I have been truly blessed to have a front seat to the politics of change. We were here when civil unions passed – the first legislation of its kind. No, not marriage, but a start. We literally sat in the well of the House of Representatives when Marriage passed by one vote! And so, in a sense, I do feel accepted. But again, it is the little things. For example, we wanted to celebrate our ten year wedding anniversary at our Episcopal church (a very welcoming community) but we’re not going to be allowed to use the Book of Common Prayer to do so because of anti-gay rules with the higher ups. There is a separate but equal service for the gays. Yeah. I feel like the little things are sometimes worse because outright bigotry is easier to deal with because it is right there on the surface and you can reject it, but this other stuff – the institutional lip service of acceptance when deep down there is still a lurking homophobia and you end up knowing clearly that your place at the table is provisional. Don’t get uppity or back out on the street you will go.
TNF: What has having a family meant to you?
Sara: In a word, everything. They are our legacy. I leave the world a better place for having journeyed alongside these four souls. Now that they are all officially adults (last one just left for college) I can really see the great people they have become. I would choose to hang out with them I think. They are really diverse – I have a country music loving daugher (Annalise) who is engaged to a sweet guy in the military, a son (Alexander) who is a writer/bartender who is headed for adventures in San Francisco but spent his college years racing cars, another son (Christopher) is a talented singer/songwriter who is raising a son on his own and maintaining his sanity and sense of humor, and a daughter (Grace) who is currently taking Boston by storm but whose heart is in Nicaragua with a non profit groups she works with… they are compassionate, funny, wise people with plenty of quirks and charm. Not perfect, mind you, but we definitely support each other and move forward together on the journey.
Thank you Sara and Danielle for sharing your family story.
TNF: How did you meet Jeanine?
Steph: We met on Match.com in May of 2003. I was on Match and Jeanine had just moved to the Bay Area (CA) from Colorado and was encouraged by a friend she was staying with to “just try it (Match)”. That friend kept pushing, another friend helped to write her profile, and that evening she was on Match.com.
The way the Jeanine tells it….
“I posted my profile but I wasn’t going to pay to sign up – I wanted to see what this was all about. As I went looking around I realized
that there was only one person on the whole site that I would actually like to talk to or meet. I told my friend this and signed off.
The next day I got a notification that I had an email from a Match.com member. It was that person, the only person that I would actually like
to talk to or meet. Oh geez, now I have to “pay” to be able to reply to her.”
Well, it’s a good thing Jeanine did – I am “that person”.
After about 18 months of ups and downs and trying to figure out if each were “the one”, we moved in together (September 2005), into Jeanine’s house – merging our cats, my bird, and all of our “stuff”. Another adjustment period…
Then, in December of 2005 we spent Christmas in Colorado – my 2nd trip back to CO to meet/be with Jeanine’s family – and we flew back on New Year’s Day. Sitting at the Denver Airport on that day I said – we need to move to Denver… long story short.. we sold our house, I quit my job (Jeanine’s company let her stay on from Colorado), and we moved.
TNF: Where do you live?
Steph: Currently we live in Littleton, Colorado. We moved from the Bay Area where I was from and Jeanine had been living for about 4 years. Jeanine is a native of Colorado and my large, close-knit family was moving/spreading out so we moved to Littleton where Jeanine’s family is. We built a house not far from where Jeanine grew up and recently sold it. Next month we will move into our new house which should be completed the last week of November. Currently we are living with Jeanine’s mom and dad until our build is done.
TNF: Are you married?
Steph: Although we are not married right now (the state of Colorado does not allow same-sex marriages), we have been “officially” together since April 2005. In March of 2012 we had the Schmalz Family Commitment Ceremony where our pastor from California flew in to join us as a couple in front of about 100 friends and family from 7 different states. Our kids call it the “Big Party” where we all got our family necklaces.
TNF: Is it tough being a gay couple where you live? Do you feel accepted?
Steph: Coming from the San Francisco area to Littleton, I was not sure how we would be accepted. We were building a house in a new neighborhood and no one knew anyone – I was nervous. Luckily, I had no need to be. We were accepted and made many good friends where we lived. In fact, just 6 doors down from us was another lesbian couple with twin boys.
Now that our kids are in school I find myself checking in with teachers/administration, etc… just to make sure that everyone is okay with the whole “2 mom” thing. The most common response is something along the lines of – huh? OH, 2 moms, 2 dad, 1 mom, 1 aunt – makes no difference to us… family is family.
Of course there is an exception to every rule and you might have heard about this story – a bakery in Lakewood, Colorado that refused to make a cake for a gay couple for their wedding. Most of the articles mention that the January prior to this couples’ request, the bakery refused another couple – that couple was us. Here are a few links (there are a ton if you Google my name – Stephanie Schmalz – and Masterpiece Cake):
This TV piece went nationwide; there was a bigger piece that ran locally. We got calls from all over the country and found it in multiple countries too. We were on the front page of the Huffington Post and in this blog.
TNF: What has having a family meant to you?
Steph: To me having a family means the world – they (Jeanine AND my kids) are my world! I was one of those people that grew up never really thinking about that fairy tale wedding, or that “knight in shining armor” that my Nana always told me would come my way. I knew at an early age that I was “different” and I didn’t really know why until I was a little older. As a way to protect myself, in case I never fell in love or never let myself fall in love, I always said that I don’t see myself married or having kids. Everyone always told me that I was the “Pied Piper of Children” and I would say that I was sure I’d always have children in my life but didn’t really think I’d have any of my own.
After meeting Jeanine and being a couple in a way that I never thought I would be able to experience, openly, I couldn’t imagine us not having kids – a family of our own. While motherhood is definitely my most challenging “job” thus far, it is rewarding beyond words and makes my heart full of joy!
For Jeanine, who is adopted, having a family meant creating a blood line of her own. She always knew she was adopted and her parents and brother ARE her family. However, for her, once we starting thinking about who would carry our children she expressed the importance of creating something of herself that would carry on the way of heritage and genealogy.
Along those same lines, since we are a same-sex couple, in order for me to be on the birth certificate of the children I had to go through the process of adopting them. Luckily Colorado offers 2nd parent adoptions and we were able to complete that process for all three kids shortly after each of their births. I am proud of their birth certificates that say “mother” and “mother”.
Thank you Stephanie and Jeanine for sharing your story and your beautiful family pictures with The Next Family.
By Brandy Black
TNF: Tell me about your family.
Kristin: We live in Middletown Pa, Bucks County. We met a mile away from our home now. Diane owned the house across the street from my parents’ house. As neighbors we became friends and feelings began to form. We dated for about 9 months before we became official and moved in together. Ten months later we were engaged; yes the cliché of proposing in Magic Kingdom at Disney World under the fireworks. We took our time and planned and paid for our wedding by ourselves since neither of our parents had the financial means. Our official wedding day was August 28th of 2010, which took place on the beach of Asbury Park, NJ. Then we traveled back to PA to fulfill the reception that would be close to home.
TNF: Do you have any kids?
Kristin: At this time, we have one child, he is 6 years old. We found him on an adoption website within our state, almost like a catalog of foster children that need permanent homes. We fell in love immediately and just knew this was meant to be…and it was. He is a biracial, low functioning, autistic little boy that we love more than words can express. We were told he may never be able to talk, plus many other things that people take for granted, it was not promised would ever happen for him. He is now talking quite often and has already overcome the challenges we were told would continue through out his life. Now, we are opening our home to foster/adopt up to 4 more children. We feel that after seeing our boy live through 3 foster homes in 2 years and face neglect and abuse, we need to save as many children as possible.
TNF: Do you feel different from other families?
Kristin: Living in the area that we do, there are many prejudices that we see quite often. It went from having an issue being in a straight bar/restaurant looking “obviously gay” to now being 2 mommies with a biracial child. Our area is very judging if you are not the typical Caucasian straight family. We deal with things as we go, trying best to protect our child and future children in every possible way. We do have a few very close friends here that are family to us, that are, of course, the exception to the rule. We have made the decision to not adopt a child that is dark skin African American only because being adopted is hard enough, let alone adopted as an African American that will stand out with 2 white mommies. We could never let a child deal with all that ridicule that would come living where we do.
We feel very different from a lot of families that we know. We don’t know what it is like to go through child birth, feel the growth, and witness his birth. We don’t even have baby pictures of our son. But on the other hand we know what is it like to fight for something and we battle every day to make him feel that we will love him for the rest of our lives, unconditionally. Not only is it tough bringing an adopted child into the mix of friends and family, but being an autistic child raises that bar to a whole new level. We have to weigh the surroundings and how it may affect him. Simply going to a birthday party means thinking it through first, if not the right setting it can throw him completely off. He can’t ask for things or have conversations with other children; he doesn’t have the capability. Those that judge us or him have found their way out of our life, those who haven’t are considered family or showed the meaning of family and are the world to us.
TNF: What does having a family mean to you?
Kristin: Having a family has meant the world to both of us. We are extremely proud of how far we have come and all that we have accomplished. Now we are not just the lesbian couple that show up to kiddie parties with no kids, we are a part of the group for once. We fought hard to have what we have and remember that fight everyday, we can’t take a thing for granted.
Thank you Kristin and Diane for allowing us to interview you. You are a true inspiration and we hope you keep in touch as your family grows.
By Brandy Black
From morning till night I’m taken by someone else. My iphone alarm goes off dictating my morning stumble to the shower, my quiet time, in which I prepare myself for the day ahead. The squeak of the hot water valve and the creek of the shower door cue the twins to begin their morning chatter. “Mama” Maaaaaammmmma”. My pace quickens as I dry, lotion and prepare milk for their morning routine. They jump up and down in their cribs when I enter the room. My son throws his pacifier on the ground with delight and reaches for his “ba ba.” Bella, collects her blankie, pacifier and bottle, holding on with all her might. The day has begun. Shortly after, my 5-year-old wakes up, sometimes happy and cheerful with good mornings to all and others with a shout and a slam of the door. I brace myself each day, not knowing which direction it will turn.
I struggle to get ready while also ensuring the twins are changed, Sophia is dressed, teeth and hair brushed and all is in order for “Breakfast time.” This is when I open the door of our hallway and we make our way to the kitchen, our au pair waits, usually half awake and prepares breakfast for the kids. I don’t know what I’d do without her on the other side of the door. She gives me an additional 15-minutes to make myself presentable for whatever meetings are coming my way.
I choke down my priobiotics at the table as the children all laugh at me knowing I really don’t like the sour tang in my little yogurt container. And off we go, bye bye to the twins. Sophia and I head to school. The day moves on, in and out of meetings, conference calls, checking on the twins when I have a spare moment, usually followed by angry tears when I escape again. I am grateful that I have the ability to work from home but we are at the stage where they always want to be with Mama and that can be hard on everyone.
5:00 comes and it’s time for me to put down my phone, computer and work and focus on the kids. This is witching hour, they are clingy, they both fight to be held and don’t want to sit, they want me standing and walking around the house with one of them on my hip. My oldest wants my attention too. I brace myself for this. I love having kids in my arms, I’m going to miss it when it goes away but I won’t miss the fight for attention that happens every afternoon when I walk in the room. I wonder if that will ever end? I feel like I’m letting everyone down and sometimes want to retreat under the covers and cry. I have learned to compartmentalize, I have to close each chapter, each moment in order to open a new one. I cannot linger or wallow, there is no time and my children simply won’t allow it. I imagine putting all the children to sleep and sitting in the back with my wife to detox and release the happenings of the day, but even that rarely happens. The time is ticking and we race to finish before exhaustion sets in. Dinner. Check. Books. Check. Pajamas. Check. Twins asleep. Check. Now homework with our oldest daughter. Lately this seems to be my job. I’m learning Japanese with her, she is in a dual immersion school and so we sit for 30 minutes a night and practice both English and Japanese. Once we’re both tired of flashcards and characters we move on to reading. I have always loved this time with my daughter, we’ve been doing it since she was three weeks old. Two to three books every night. But these days, I find myself thinking of other things while I read, calculating my night, what needs to get done before the day begins again tomorrow. Wait, stop, don’t drift, back to the book. Live in the present.
We are done, I kiss her good night, I grab her mom when she’s not working for the rest of the bedtime routine and suddenly the house is quiet. It is just me and sometimes Susan. Now we clean. We put away the day, books on shelves, blocks in boxes, dishes in cabinets, food in fridge. We make Sophia’s lunch and my time becomes my own. On some nights I work, catching up with my busy day, others I work for Sophia’s school, sending out emails, signing off on papers, ordering supplies, clothes for the kids, and on the fun nights I sit with Susan and talk or watch TV, once a week we even sneak out for a date. By 11, I’m tired, I need to sleep.
I get in bed and wonder, what would life be like…suddenly I’m asleep.
TNF: How did you two meet?
Annie: We met in The Stonewall Chorale, the first LGBT choral group in the country. Emily is an alto and I am a soprano. We were both with other people at the time, but we knew right away that we were meant to be together. After an agonizing year of figuring things out, we were legally married in NYC (though we live in NJ, where it may happen soon!) We both work in New York City, and really feel like New Yorkers even though we live across the river. A couple of weeks later we had a small family wedding in our close friends’ yard two doors down from our home.
TNF: Do you have children?
Annie: We have twin boys who were born on August 13, 2013. I have filed to adopt them as Emily carried them, we don’t want any legal issues later. I’m adopted myself so it seems normal to me (even though a straight couple who did IUI using an anonymous donor wouldn’t have to do that! But don’t get me started…)
TNF: Do you feel any different from other families?
Annie: We feel different from other families in a good way. We are both in education, have a very strong relationship, and are equal partners in raising our sons. Everyone we know says how lucky our boys are to have two mamas.
We are lucky that we live here in the Northeast. We do not feel different from other families at all. We have lots of friends with and without children, from all different family make ups. The other day we went to a meet and greet for the families in the Montessori school I am the Director of in Brooklyn, and all the families congratulated us on the new babies. No one even blinked that we are married and have a family. They were all just happy for us. Emily is from Texas, and when we go there we are just as open about being together, but do not always feel the love back. Her family is wonderful and more than accepting, but we can always see how much more awareness needs to be grown in that part of the country than here. Both our families are very accepting, and they are thrilled about our new additions!
TNF: What has having a family meant to you?
Annie: Having a family means the world to us. We know how lucky we are to have two healthy, sweet boys. Many people who struggle with their sexuality or coming out also struggle with whether or not they will have a so-called “traditional family”. As soon as we fell in love, we knew we wanted a family, and feel so much gratitude each day for finding each other and having our boys.
TNF: How have your lives changed now that you have twins?
Annie: Besides being exhausted, we feel complete now that the boys are here. Our lives have changed but so much for the better. It has made us evaluate our priorities, and have gratitude for the little things, like naps or time together as a couple. We cannot imagine our lives without both of them, and we feel that they were just waiting for us to find each other so that they could come be with us.
Thank you Annie and Emily for sharing your beautiful family with The Next Family!
I came out to myself. Then to my sister. Then to my best friend. Then to some very close friends. Then to my parents and children. . . lastly, to other friends and then a blast on Facebook and my Surrogacy blog.
I was silly to think that blasting it on Facebook would do the job. No one ever told me that the process of coming out would be a daily occurrence, but for me, it usually is.
. . . when someone asks me what I did last weekend.
. . . when my children are inviting someone to spend the night.
. . . when the woman at the donut shop makes a comment about my handbag and how I must have a very nice husband.
. . . when I fill out my forms regarding my emergency contact
The list is endless.
I don’t usually mind coming out. I try to use it as a teachable moment, which is easy because unlike some lesbians, most people think I’m straight and I really seem to “throw” people at times.
However, on National Coming Out day, I will still remain closeted to one person . . . my waxer. If I ever see her when I have my clothes on and I’m not laying there exposed, maybe I’ll tell her . . . until then, it’s the pronoun game.
By: Shannon Ralph
Something happened this weekend—a lifetime first. (Well, actually, not a real first, but the first time this particular thing happened in 37 or 38 years.)
I pooped my pants.
Yep, you read that correctly. I realize this is probably entirely too much information, but I think it is life-altering enough to include it on my blog. In itself, the poopy pants were a completely explainable event—and I will explain it in a minute. I think the big picture, however, is symptomatic of a larger issue—the demise of my forty-year-old body.
So I took my daughter to Carter’s on Saturday afternoon. She needed some fall clothes because she outgrew every single article of clothing she owned this summer and, frankly, I can’t pass up a good sale. Carter’s has everything on sale right now. (Seriously, check out their website.) So we headed to the Carter’s store in Bloomington.
As soon as I got on Highway 494, I remembered that Ruanita had casually mentioned that they were doing construction on 494 this weekend. There were signs, but I saw no construction. As a matter of fact, there was very little traffic and we flew down the highway with ease.
While shopping at Carter’s, my stomach began to cramp. Then it cramped some more. Then it cramped rather painfully. Then it hurt like hell—a telltale sign of an impending bowel event of magnificent proportions. I tried to think of what I had eaten that would upset my stomach. For breakfast, I had eaten some cheese crackers and a Diet Pepsi. Then my sister had brought me an iced white mocha from Starbucks. I had skipped lunch.
Nothing screamed of dietary stupidity. Though cheese crackers and a Diet Pepsi wasn’t exactly a breakfast of champions, it was unlikely to cause the type of gastrointestinal issues I was experiencing.
I quickly paid for Sophie’s new clothes and shuffled her out the door.
(On a side note, this is why I typically do all of my shopping at Target and/or Kohl’s—the close proximity of bathroom facilities wherever you happen to be in the store. When you are forty years old, these are the kinds of things one must consider.)
We hurried out of Carter’s and I hopped (or rather, slid like a palsied Mermaid with my legs tightly pressed together) into the car. I should have stopped at the McDonalds that was right there. But that particular McDonalds is kind of, sort of difficult to get in and out of since it sits in the middle of a shopping center parking lot. So I decided to get out the rather congested Penn Avenue area and stop at a nearby restaurant with a restroom. Arby’s…Wendy’s…I wasn’t picky.
As soon as we pulled out of the parking lot, I realized that I was in trouble. The onramp to Highway 494 was closed. As were all the onramps to 494 in the Bloomington corridor. I tried to take a different route, but apparently every single driver in Bloomington that day had the exact same plan. I ended up on a frontage road with about one hundred other cars.
Not moving at all.
The cramps intensified. I broke out in goosebumps all over my entire body. I prayed the Our Father. I prayed the Glory Be. I tried to remember the words to the Act of Contrition, but eventually said screw it. I even threw in a few Hail Marys for good measure. Mary was a forty year old woman once—she had to understand.
I repeatedly told Sophie, “Mommy’s got to go to the bathroom.” “Mommy’s going to die.” “Oh God…mommy’s in trouble.”
Sophie was—and this is why I love that little girl with every fiber of my being—entirely supportive. “You can do it mommy.” “It’ll be okay, mommy.” “We’re almost there, mommy.”
Then it happened. Just a little bit, but entirely enough.
I couldn’t help it. I couldn’t stop it. I was ill.
Sophie responded with a simple “Gross.”
I eventually made it home, cleaned myself, finished my business, changed my clothes and made it to pick up Lucas from his choir rehearsal with three minutes to spare. My stomach was a mess the rest of the day, though I never figured out why.
To say that it was a disturbing turn of events would be a gross understatement. It is, however, not entirely shocking. It is endemic of a problem with which I am having difficulty coming to terms.
I am getting old.
Not granny old. Not rocking chair old. Not afghan and fuzzy socks old (though I am a big fan of both). But I am aging.
Since turning forty last October, I feel like I have fallen apart.
Suddenly, I pee on myself when I cough. Or laugh. Or do not run to the bathroom the instant the urge hits. I have plantar fasciitis and walk like a cripple. I have arthritis in my big toes. My knees creak. I fart when I bend over. Fried food does me in. I am on medication for high blood pressure. I sweat all the time. Adult diapers are rights around the corner.
I know a lot of it has to do with the fact that I need to lose some weight. But I find it odd that it all began when I turned forty years old.
I am not forty years old like 1960s-era forty year old women. They’re children were grown. They could sit home and bake pies and have Tupperware parties and watch their “stories” on daytime television. They could spend the day in their “housecoats” if they wanted to.
I have a full-time job. I have a partner who occasionally wants to see me. I have little kids. I have 5th grade homework to deal with. And zoo trips. And visits to the park.
I can’t be old. I can’t drive around the metro area shitting my pants. Ain’t nobody got time for that!
Something is going to have to change. It’s time to dust off the treadmill. Pull out the vegetables. Table the beer and wine. If my body is going to fall apart, it’s going to have to work a little harder to do so. I’m not going to make it so damn easy.
This is not going to be fun.
By: Brandy Black
I find myself crying a lot lately. Mostly tears of oh-my-god-life-is-moving-too-quickly-and-I-can’t-keep-up combined with my-daughter-is-becoming-a-little-girl-before-my-eyes. Since she started kindergarten a month ago it is as if she’s hit a million milestones. A couple weeks into school she had two teeth pulled at the dentist. Without me. I set a dentist appointment for Sophia to get a check-up and prepped Susan before she took her that they may suggest pulling a tooth.
I never dreamt that Susan would have them pull it on the same day, with no mental preparation for me or Sophia when it was 97 degrees, with a broken AC at the dental office. I was hanging at home with the twins when I got this text from my wife
I freaked out, panicked, called a dozen times, Susan would confirm this. I drive her crazy. She drives me crazy. No answer. No answer? This was happening. Next came a video from a bloody mouthed, happy Sophia with a tooth necklace dangling from her neck. Two teeth, gone. Check. First visit from the tooth fairy. Check. It happened too fast. I wasn’t ready, I wasn’t there to hold her hand.
A couple weeks later, the homework began. Sophia called me from Susan’s car on the way home from school to tell me that she had homework, her voice was high and excited. She came running into my room/office a few minutes later, plopped on the bed and said “I’ll do homework while you work, isn’t this great?” Homework. Check.
Last Monday we started with Bob books, you know the scholastic books that are good starters for little readers. She’s never read a sentence in her life, she knows cow, and all of our family names but that’s about it. I haven’t pushed her, I’m more of a it-will-happen-organically kind of parent. Sophia’s never really shown interest. We sat down together and I struggled through 15-minutes of torture, wanting to help her while she SLOWLY sounded out each word. She finally made it through that damn book. The next night, she asked to read again, this time, something clicked, I saw it happen, in the same way she learned to swim this summer. Oh let’s check swimming off my list too. But in that moment,I knew that she would be reading. Sure enough, one week later, she’s reading all of her Bob books. I can hear a little voice in bed at night sounding the words out quietly. Reading. Check.
Every night we do homework in two languages. I’m watching this little girl grow up quickly before my eyes. I can’t believe I’m the mother of a kid that is doing flashcards and writing in Japanese. Our three kids sit on the playroom couch together flipping through books, they collect leaves in the backyard and then crunch them with their feet, they gather them again, fighting over the rake and then throw them in the air. It all happens so fast.