By: Amy Wise
Flashback to Thanksgiving 1993…Jamie and I had been husband and wife for just a few months and we were going to our first “married Thanksgiving” at his sister’s house. His sister asked me to bring a dish to share with everyone and I was so excited to be contributing to the Thanksgiving dinner. I was a little nervous because it was our first holiday as a married couple with his family. I decided to bring the staple dish that I had grown up with…green bean casserole with french onions on top. You all know it, you all love it, you’ve all had it…right?
Well, we got to his sister’s house and I proudly walked in with my green bean casserole. I set it on the table, took off the foil, and waited for everyone to dig in. After we said a prayer everyone started to dish up all their food from the table…everything but my casserole that is. So I thought, hmm, why is nobody eating my green bean casserole? This is a favorite at my house…what’s up? I was starting to get a little hurt as everyone dished up and walked right by my beans. Whatever…I proudly filled my plate and ate those beans up! However, I was literally the only one! Apparently black folk don’t like green bean casserole.
The funny thing is after that holiday meal, I was given the task of bringing the rolls and the soda going forward. Yes, you heard me…rolls and soda…pretty impossible to screw up right? My green bean casserole has been the holiday funny ever since. Good thing I have a good sense of humor! At first it really did hurt my feelings, but now I can actually look back and laugh. This was one more thing to adjust to in a mixed marriage….getting used to each other’s traditions big and small. As time went on I graduated to making complete meals for Jamie’s family…um, minus the green bean casserole!
The hilarity continued this year when my sister-in-law Niki called to let me know that the green bean casserole commercials had started and she couldn’t wait to make it. I laughed! It truly is the running joke even after all these years. By the way, a little aside, Niki is white like me. The silliness continued on Thanksgiving day while talking to my mom. She said, while giggling, ”Be sure to tell Jamie that Aunt Sal is cooking green bean casserole today.” Then minutes after that phone call, Jamie’s longtime friend Calvin, otherwise known as “T”, called to wish us a happy Thanksgiving. Jamie and T were comparing menus and T listed green bean casserole as one of the dishes he and his wife were making for dinner. Jamie quickly said, “Oh hell no!” and just started laughing! He then proceeded to share the infamous green bean casserole story with T. Another little funny, T just so happens to be black and his wife is white. Do you see a pattern here? I have yet to talk to an all black family that serves the infamous casserole.
Through the years the green bean casserole jokes have become another fun tradition that we all share as we continue to embrace the differences between our two very opposite families. Who knew that each year we would literally have comedy in a casserole!? It’s a perfect analogy for us.
By: Amy Wise
Last week our family had the honor of being featured in USA Today. I was interviewed for the piece and then a photographer came out and did a photo shoot of our family. We had such a great time with the photographer; he actually ended up joining us for a little dinner after we were done taking pictures. The article came out a couple of weeks after the interview and it was such a thrill to have our family be the face of interracial marriage in USA Today. It truly touched me because so much of my writing is about this very subject.
I have been writing about interracial marriage for years now and the one thing that I have never had to deal with when it comes to writing about our family, whether on my blog or on guest sites, are racist comments. Even if there has been a difference of opinion, the comments have always been very respectful. When the article came out in USA Today I was saddened to see so many racist and hateful comments in the comment section. Thankfully there were many more positive comments than negative ones, but it saddened me nonetheless. Because USA Today reaches so many people I should not have been surprised, but I was. I’m not going to go into specifics about what was said and luckily the paper pulled the really horrible comments, but it still shocks me to see how closed-minded and ignorant people can be when it comes to race in America in 2011. I actually had to stop reading the comments because they made my stomach turn. They also made me realize how much work we still need to do when it comes to educating people about race and interracial relationships.
The one thing that I want people who don’t seem to understand or approve of our family to know, is that we are truly no different than any other family out there today. I don’t wake up in the morning and look at my husband and think, “I’m so in love with my black husband“; he’s just my husband. I don’t look at my daughter and think, “My biracial daughter is my heart and soul”; she’s just my daughter. Yes my husband is black, yes I’m white, and yes our daughter is biracial…those are the facts, but the truth of the matter is, we are three people who make up a family filled with love. It really is that simple. I didn’t steal a black man from the hood, Jamie didn’t set out to meet a white woman, and we didn’t say let’s have a mixed child. We married each other because we fell in love and we had a child because we wanted a family. Color has never had anything to do with our choices when it comes to our relationship and family. Color only comes into play when society continues to make an issue of it. We are about love and love only. Isn’t that why anyone gets married and starts a family?
I’ve said it before and I will say it again. Tatiana gets the best of both worlds. We embrace my culture and we embrace Jamie’s culture. She gets double the fun, double the food, double the history, double everything! Talk about an open mind. America is all about people who originally came from some place else. Our country is really just one big melting pot of the world, so trying to be around one race and one race only is quite unrealistic. I feel sorry for people who aren’t open to other races, cultures, and backgrounds. They are truly missing out on so many wonderful experiences. It’s quite sad.
So in the end, to those who had such negative things to say about our family: all I can say is, my heart breaks for the hate that you carry. I hope that you can one day realize we are just a family that happens to have multiple shades of skin colors and lots and LOTS of LOVE!
Thank you USA Today for such a wonderful experience!
By: Amy Wise
Life, it’s pretty much a rollercoaster ride for all of us at some point. My particular roller-coaster needs to be named, and I think I will call it infinity, because truly, it never seems to end. As you all know we are STILL dealing with the lawsuit against the Otay Water Department, Eastlake Development, et al. Yes, still. I know…four and a half years later and it continues to go on! Even though we won in a jury trial over seven months ago, here we are today dealing with appeals, cross complaints, cross lawsuits and a big fat MESS, otherwise known as our “justice” system.
Not only are we still being bullied by the big guys, I mean, Otay Water and Eastlake Development, but now more bullies want to join in on the fun. Wells Fargo Bank, who carries the loan on our long ago closed store, decided that they weren’t making enough money off the rest of the world, so not only did they sue us a couple of years ago for a loan on our store that was destroyed by Otay Water’s negligence, but now they have put liens against my home and my business partner’s home because the lawsuit continues to take too long. Yes, you heard me. First they sued us for the loan and then they said to themselves, “Hmm, since we haven’t gotten the money from these people yet and even though we know they are still in the middle of a lawsuit, let’s put liens on their homes and crush the victims even more.” Okay, they might not have said those exact words, but it sure feels like it! I even wrote to the CEO of Wells Fargo back when they first sued us and explained the entire lawsuit. I told him we had every intention of paying our loan when this was over and by no means were we trying to get out of our responsibilities. They just needed to wait in line with everyone else until the suit was over. The well is dry and the turnip has no blood left. I guess the CEO needed some fast cash, because he didn’t want to hear it. The response back was from his attorney to my attorney. Instead of having the human decency to contact me, he had his attorney do his dirty work. How sad, how typical, how expected. I was hoping for more. I was hoping for change. Alas, the banks continue on with their greed even when the victim is being victimized. Pitiful and just plain wrong!
There is no job title, position, or amount of money that makes it okay to destroy people’s lives. I hope one day that companies find compassion, and people stop doing what they are told, and instead start doing what is right. Shame on you- Otay Water, Eastlake Development, and Wells Fargo- for losing your souls to the system. Will it be worth it in the end? I wonder?
In the meantime, while we continue to fight the good fight, I refuse to let any of them get in the way of my dreams. My husband told me that he married me because I’m one of the strongest women he knows. So, that being said, I’m going to continue to grow stronger every day no matter how many hurdles continue to get thrown my way.
I am proud to say, not only am I writing my book, This is Me….Coming Out of the Darkness, while also working on a movie based on the same book, (thank you my dear friend Amy Ferris for the director introduction), I’m also writing for the Shame Prom anthology AND I just signed a book contract to write the book; Divorce, Dance, or Dare. It doesn’t end there. Recently I was asked to be a partner….yes, a partner, in an amazing new company called Decision Point. This is going to be a company that helps people during the biggest decision points of their lives. It’s what I live and breathe for. It’s going to be incredible and life changing for so many, and I’m honored to be a part of it!
I’m pinching myself at how even during the darkest of times- with faith, family, friends, support and LOTS of hard work- dreams not only come true again, but they can be even more fantastic the second time around!
By: Amy Wise
It’s funny, when my husband and I are together, whether in a restaurant, standing in line somewhere, even at a hospital, people aren’t quite sure if we are a couple. A while back I was in the emergency room (that’s another crazy story for another day) and we were waiting for the doctor. When he finally came in and introduced himself, he shook my hand and then looked at Jamie, shook his hand and said, “You are?”…….long pause…….I finally finished his sentence and said, “Husband.” He said, “Oh, well, you just never know these days.” Yeah right! We all know that if Jamie had been white the doctor would have automatically assumed he was my husband, but since he was black he just didn’t go there. Funny don’t you think? I’m so used to it at this point it hardly even gets to me… well, maybe just a little. The same thing happens to us in restaurants when we are waiting for a table. Unless we are holding hands or wrapped around each other, which we try not to do in public, it’s always, “Oh, you’re together?” Really? Are “we” such a shock? This is southern California for goodness sake and last I checked it is 2011. Isn’t it?
One of the more comical “Oh, you’re together moments?” was when I was having surgery years ago. I woke up post-surgery and asked for my husband. I wanted him by my side, AND he also had my glasses so I couldn’t see a darn thing! No contact lenses allowed during surgery. I was blind as a bat! The nurse said she checked the family waiting room and he wasn’t there. I knew he was, because he would make sure he was there when I woke up. That is just the kind of guy he is. I asked her to check again. She did, and she then went on to describe who was in the room and once again she was determined that he was not there. Well, guess what Nurse Ratchet (I only say that because she got irritated with me), the black man you just described in the waiting room is my husband! She didn’t even ask him if he was with me. Imagine? I kindly told her the big black man was my husband and after turning a few shades of red, she went back to the waiting room one last time, but this time she brought my hubby back with her. I finally had him back by my side AND I could see again! Hopefully, the nurse’s vision became just a little clearer that day too.
By: Amy Wise
It’s all about college tours at the Wise house right now. We just returned from San Francisco State University, which is Tatiana’s first choice for college. She chose SFSU for many reasons, the first being their dance program which is her major, the second because she loves the city, and the third because of the culture and diversity that SFSU offers.
Prior to going to San Fran we visited a couple of other campuses. One of the recent campus tours we went on was a total bust, and originally it was her second choice! From the very first moment we drove into the parking lot Tatiana said, “I’m not feeling this campus at all.” The entire day went that way. It was just a vibe that she had, or actually lack thereof. Then we went to SFSU and her reaction was the polar opposite! Tatiana stepped onto campus and instantaneously smiled from ear to ear. She was home. Jamie even said, “I can totally see you going to school and living here. This is you.” At this point we had only been there for, oh, about five minutes! It was like the campus had a heartbeat of its own. It was full of life, color, music, laughter, beautiful architecture, people from all over and so much more! Jamie and I were ready to go back in time and attend school with her. She would be horrified and would quickly veto us, but it sure sounded like a good idea, at least to us!
One of the things that is not only important to Tatiana but important to us as parents of a mixed race child, is that she goes to a university that is filled with diversity. To say that SFSU is diverse would be an understatement. It lives and breathes diversity! The students that attend SFSU are from every race and religion you can imagine. We got a very clear picture of that when we walked to the heart of the campus which is called Malcom X Plaza. The plaza is filled with music and festivities and also houses the Cesar Chavez Student Center. The more we walked and the more we saw, the more we fell in love with the campus and all it had to offer. Notice I keep saying we. We truly fell in love with SFSU right along with her and for her. It is such an exciting time in her life! The diversity clincher was when we were on the tour and the guide told us about the College of Ethnic Studies. This is the only program of its kind in the nation and SFSU offers it. Hello diversity!
Needless to say by the time we were done with the tour and our day spent on campus, Tatiana was ready to move in. Instead she did the next best thing. She applied. The applications for Fall 2012 opened up the following day, so she jumped online, filled out the application, went over it with a fine tooth comb and hit submit! While she was filling out her info, I had a smile from ear to ear, not only because I was so excited for her, but also because I saw that she was able to choose two or more races/ethnicities as her race on the application. I was thrilled! Back in the day when Tat was entering kindergarten I had to choose one race and one race only. I will never forget how that made me feel. Now, not only was there an option for two or more races, the options for the gender section are male, female, transgender, or non-gender specific. How frickin’ cool is that!? I had never seen that on any application before…it tripped me out at first. My how times have changed. I love it! Equality all the way around.
That, my friends, is progress.
Just as it should be.
By: Amy Wise
When Jamie and I got married in 1993, we knew that we wanted to have children right away. We both love our families and we wanted to start our own soon after our wedding, so we did! Tatiana Chantal Wise came into this world 17 years ago, on September 20th, 1994. From day one Tatiana had a mind of her own, a huge heart, a giant smile and a laugh that just never quit. She screamed a lot too! Just for fun. Fun for her, not so much for us! The neighbors still laugh about how loud she was. Oh ya, one more thing, she had lots and lots of hair! She was literally born with an afro. I’m not kidding, she really was. Oh the hair!
I’m still amazed that she has gone from diapers, to dancing, to girl scouts, to teen (help us please!) to a high school graduate at 16, and now here she is today…SEVENTEEN years old! How did it happen so fast? It’s been an amazing, wild, 17-year rollercoaster. Tatiana has come into her own and we are so proud of the young woman she is today. She has excelled, she has made mistakes, and she continues to learn and grow. That’s what life’s all about and she is certainly living it! Her free spirit is inspiring!
So on Tatiana’s 17th, we say happy, happy birthday to a kind, amazing, unique, talented, beautiful, loving, incredible, smart, rock star of a daughter! We are so blessed that she is our child and now we look forward to her almost adult future and all the amazingness she is going to create in the years to come! Happy birthday Tatiana! We LOVE you!
By: Amy Wise
“Hello, this is the Oprah Winfrey network calling.” Yes, that was the message that was playing on my answering machine last week as I walked toward my phone in disbelief. The caller went on to say that he was looking to speak with Amy Wise about an article she wrote about tough times don’t have to mean no fun. Let me just say when I first heard the words “This is the Oprah Winfrey Network calling,” I thought it was a joke. However, when the caller started talking about a specific article I wrote, I picked up the phone and he introduced himself. He was an associate producer from the OWN Network at the new primetime Suze Orman show. He asked if I would be willing to give him a phone interview so he could get some more information about my article and situation for a possible appearance on the show. At this point I was between thinking, “I just know I’m being punk’d”, to, “You have got to be kidding me!” I truly wasn’t sure what to think! So I didn’t think, and instead, I talked. As I started giving him details of how we lost everything due to the crazy water issue, how we fell apart, started over, and created an even more amazing dream and stronger family, I was still thinking, “I’m soooo being punk’d!” When he asked if I was willing to go into detail about just how financially devastated we were, because of course Suze Orman’s entire show is based on finances, I was still thinking, “This can’t be real!” I told him I wasn’t comfortable sharing financial information and asked him if he would send me some credentials via email. You just never know. He promptly sent the credentials and then we proceeded to talk some more. As we talked about my situation he also shared with me that he had read quite a bit of my writing online and really loved what he had read on my blog. He told me that he was in an interracial relationship as well. He said this was the first interracial relationship he had ever been in and it was wonderful to read my blog and see how happy we were after all these years. I said, “No way, of all the producers, they chose you to call me!?” I just thought that was hilarious! By the time we were done talking it felt like we were old friends. In fact we plan to keep in touch and I’m so looking forward to seeing his relationship progress.
Okay, back to the OWN Network call. First let me say that I’m not the type of person that gets star struck by anyone. I have lived a very blessed life that has exposed me to everything from embassy parties filled with dignitaries, princes, and military elite, to media, literary, and sports figures. We have always taught Tatiana that no matter what type of job you have, it’s just a job. When someone is in the spotlight it has nothing to do with who they are as a person; it’s simply their career. We have made sure to teach her that nobody is better than anybody else no matter what they do or how much money they make. So, that being said, I have to say when The Oprah Winfrey Network called, I will admit, I was blown away! Yes, I admit it. Not because it was her network, but because she has been through it all and is the queen of inspiration! You could have knocked me over with a feather when I got that call. It meant the world to me because my mission and my passion is to always pay it forward. I mean every single day! Whether it’s opening a door, donating, volunteering, lending a hand, whatever the help might be…that’s what I’m all about! Over the last four years we have had support and help from so many and I’m determined to forever pay that forward. Forever. That is what the call represented to me. It’s about inspiring others and being there for each other and OWN and everyone involved in that network are all about inspiration and helping! I literally cried when I got off the phone because I knew the call meant that I was on the right path and doing the right things after all the madness and mayhem we have lived these last four-plus years.
I have talked to the network a couple of times since the initial call and regardless of what happens down the road I will always treasure the fact that our story was, and is, inspirational to others dealing with difficult life issues.
Mind you, we are still in the middle of dealing with our case, appeals, and the insanity of the “justice” system, but we have created a new life and we no longer let the old life control our future. We control it. After all, who says we can only have one dream? We have created new dreams and my heart literally sings when I sit back and look at how far we have come. We have been through so much and have worked so hard as a family to not only keep it together after losing everything and having to totally start over, but to make sure that we are stronger than ever before. Jamie has been our steady rock and will be starting his own business; Tatiana graduated high school one year early and is starting her new future; and I have an amazing career as a writer. We fell hard, but we slowly and methodically got back up because we were surrounded by support, love, and faith. It’s really quite amazing!
In the end, the calls from the OWN Network will always hold a special place in my heart, but more importantly the calls reiterated that dreams CAN come true, not once, but as many times as you want them to. So for everyone out there, go for it…your dreams are waiting. Now it’s your turn!
By: Amy Wise
Who knew on a fateful day 19 years ago while driving up the 805 freeway in San Diego, my life would change forever?! That was the day I “met” my hubby, and our future was set in motion. The story still blows my mind!
Now, flash forward to…August 21st, 2011…our 18th wedding anniversary. It’s hard to believe that so much time has gone by since that first day we saw each other on the freeway. We have been through so much together and have come so far, and neither one of us would have ever imagined that we would be where we are today. We are best friends, shoulders for each other, lovers, parents, partners, soul mates, and so much more. There are days when we laugh, there are days when we cry, and there are days when we want to “strangle” each other, but there is never, ever a day that goes by that we don’t love each other completely. We don’t take each other for granted and we realize how lucky and blessed we are to have each other.
Time has changed circumstances, but time has not changed us. We are more in love today than the day we got married. There is a deepness to that love that only time, heartache, life, happiness, and challenges can bring. It’s the “getting through” and the “making it out” of the dark times that has truly allowed us to embrace the “bright times” with joy.
I love my husband not just with all my heart, but deep down to my soul. We just fit so very perfectly, while also being so very different. It’s hard to even explain.
As we celebrate another anniversary, I want to say thank you, for the most amazing, life altering, wonderful, 18 years! I love you Jamie J…happy, happy anniversary! Here’s to many, many more! We rock!
By: Amy Wise
Lately I’ve seen question after question on various interracial websites about what couples should do when family members don’t accept their interracial relationship. My answer to this is: don’t be afraid to build a life together because you’re worried about what other people think of your relationship. Jamie and I never would have made it past dating had we listened to everyone else’s opinions about us. Here we are, 19 years later, with a beautiful daughter and an amazing life!
I’m so disturbed about some of the stories I’ve seen in the news or heard from friends lately, that sometimes I feel like we are actually moving backwards when it comes to race relations. Just the other day there was a story on the news about a man who had his daughter sign a contract that stated she would not date any black men, felons, or gangsters, and if she did he would kill them. Kill them?! Really!? First of all, the fact that he lumped black men in the same category as felons and gangsters, like ALL black men fall into these categories, is stereotyping at its worst. The contract itself was twisted enough, but when the daughter actually ended up dating a black man, her father posted dead or alive posters with the boyfriend’s information and picture on them! Well, karma is a “you know what,” and Daddy is now in prison for 7 years! Clearly this is an extreme case of racial family issues, but I hear time and time again of families that will automatically disown their children if they date outside their race. How do you disown your own child? Better yet, why would you want to? Disowning someone because of the skin color of the person they love? Seriously? Why? Does this “skin color” beat your child? Does this “skin color” treat your child horribly? Or does this “skin color” love your child with all “its” heart? Last time I checked, skin color doesn’t hurt people, people do.
Jamie and I have lived through it all when it comes to racism, and there were days when, trust me, I didn’t think the tears would stop because of some of the racial issues we had to deal with. But now here we are, happier, stronger, and more in love than ever. We love us, we love our life and we wouldn’t have it any other way. We never allowed circumstances or people to divide us or destroy our love. In fact, just the opposite: our strength comes from all we have had to deal with throughout the years and at this point we are Mr. and Mrs. Universe we are so freakin’ strong! Nothing and no one can come between us…ever!
Now, back to YOU. Whatever you do, don’t be afraid to build YOUR life! Go. Now. Start today. Here’s to your future and here’s to your love…today, tomorrow and forever!
By: Amy Wise
Where do I begin? The last few months have been such a rollercoaster, my stomach is still doing flips from the wild ride that has been my life lately. I try and take it all in stride and I try and go with the flow, while continuing to ride these constant ups and downs. Sadly, one of the downs that I will never understand and still can’t grasp or believe, is the loss of Jamie’s little brother Timmy to a hit and run driver in Las Vegas. Tim just turned 40 last month and he had treated himself to a Harley Davidson motorcycle for his birthday. Now before you go there…Tim was an EXPERIENCED rider. He was in the Ruff Ryder motorcycle club and has ridden for years. Unfortunately, a person with no conscience ran a stop sign and CHOSE to continue running, while Timmy was left behind. Our hearts are broken and the world will never be the same without him. Ever.
As I share the story of his loss, I’m going to share another story that will bring a smile to your face, just like Tim did for all of us, all the time:
Jamie and Tim were two peas in a pod. I count both of them as two of the funniest, craziest men on the planet! Truly. If you don’t laugh when you’re around them, well, you have no sense of humor at all! None! Another thing about the two of them is they would give you the shirts off their backs and would do anything for anyone –especially for their family and friends. These two, big, teddy bear men are fathers that love their kids to their core. Now when I said two peas in a pod that was no joke! One of the funniest things about them is, they BOTH married white women from Oregon. Yes that’s right. Both of them! For those of you that know Jamie and Tim you wouldn’t think either one of them would have gone down “that road” at all! But the fact that they BOTH did, and the fact that Niki and I are BOTH from Oregon…hilarious! Jamie has always said to Tim, “You just had to be like me didn’t you!?” So the running joke for all of these years has been, the two most unlikely “brothas” went and married white women from Oregon. Amy and Niki…go figure!
Now that Tim is our angel, this little bit of trivia about the two of them has gone from being funny and silly to holding a very special place in my heart. Niki and I have realized this odd connection these last couple of months as we continue to deal with the loss of Tim. It was ever more apparent when she stayed with us last week while we prepared for his Celebration of Life. It’s not just that we are from Oregon, it’s that we get each other. We get the family dynamics. We get the differences. We get the difficulties that we’ve both experienced. We get the hilarity. We get that Jamie and Tim’s “side” HATE “our” traditional green bean casserole. We get it ALL! It has gotten to the point where we speak at the same time and the EXACT same words come out of our mouths. It’s a little freaky!
I will forever have a bond to Nik that is unexplainable and so very special. When we share the story about both of us being white girls from Oregon, yes we laugh at the irony, but now we will treasure the connection. So through the laughter and through the tears, Niki and I will always be sisters AND “The Oregon Snowbunnies!” I know Timmy is smiling at this one, just as we are smiling at the memory of him. Love you Tim! Forever and always!