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.