Sunday, January 5, 2014

LOVE IS LEGAL!!!

We are legal! Bub and I are legally married. Holy shit! How does this happen?

Where do I even start? But, I’ve got to write it all down before I forget any details!

On Friday, December 20, 2013, I was sitting at my desk – you know – working my fingers to the bone as I always do on a Friday afternoon, when I received an e-mail from Equality Utah. The subject line of the e-mail caught my attention: Utah judge rules same-sex marriage law unconstitutional. What the eff?!?!?

SALT LAKE CITY — A federal judge struck down Utah's Amendment 3 — which defines traditional marriage as the union of one man and one woman— Friday, finding that it violates rights to due process and equal protection as set forth in the 14th Amendment.
U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby acknowledged in the ruling that "few questions are as politically charged in the current climate," but he said the plaintiffs in the case were asking a question that depended on the U.S. Constitution.
"The state's current laws deny its gay and lesbian citizens their fundamental right to marry and, in so doing, demean the dignity of these same-sex couples for no rational reason," Shelby wrote. "Accordingly, the court finds that these laws are unconstitutional."
Shelby acknowledged that Utah had gone so far as to put the issue to Utah voters, with 66 percent of Utahns approving the amendment in 2004.
Gay couple Derek Kitchen and Moudi Sbeity and lesbian couple Laurie Wood and Kody Partridge filed a lawsuit challenging the amendment in March after Salt Lake County denied them marriage licenses. Karen Archer and Kate Call, who were legally married in Iowa, joined the suit because Utah does not recognize their marriage as valid.
In her argument, their attorney Peggy Tomsic called Utah's Amendment 3 the "most draconian deprivation of rights in the United States." She cited landmark U.S. Supreme Court civil rights cases Brown v. Board of Education, which desegregated schools in the South, and Loving v. Virginia, which invalidated laws banning interracial marriage.
State attorneys defending Utah's definition of marriage have countered that the case doesn't turn on who is right and who is wrong about what marriage should be, but on who should decide. The Constitution does not prevent Utahns from defining marriage as between a man and a woman with children's interests at the forefront, they contended.
They asked Shelby to throw out the lawsuit. The judge denied their motion for summary judgment Friday.
"The court agrees with Utah that regulation of marriage has traditionally been the province of the states, and remains so today. But any regulation adopted by a state, whether related to marriage or any other interest, must comply with the Constitution of the United States," Shelby wrote of his rationale.
At a hearing earlier this month, Shelby said he had his "hands full" with the case as his ruling is believed to not only have ramifications in Utah, but would be used in marriage law cases across the country.


WHAT?!?!? Like, WHAT??!!!?!?!

I asked my coworker, Darin, if he had received the e-mail. But, he wasn’t at his desk, so basically, I was talking to myself. (That happens on occasion on a Friday afternoon, anyway.) So, I took a walk to find some of my gays. None of them were at their desks nor were they on break in the cafeteria. So, I was wandering around for nothing.

In disbelief, I walked back up to my cube and sat down. I read and re-read the e-mail. Finally Darin came back and read his e-mail. Wha? What does this mean? What in the hell? Did you ever think? What? Wha? Then, I started IM-ing Allison. Same questions. Same non-answers. Then, she said that Christy heard that people were already getting married, but she didn’t know where.

NO!
IN UTAH?
NO WAY!
WHERE?

As a joke, I walked downstairs again to see if there was a rush on the county building across the street. Nope. Not that I could see but, I did see a KSL news van turning into the parking area. (Turns out that there WAS a rush, but I couldn’t see everyone from my vantage point.)

So, work was over. The day was done. Time to go home. Whew! Time to watch the news and absorb everything. Try to make sense of everything. On the way home, Bub called me.
“Did you hear the news?”
“Oh, yeah. It’s two hours old, now.”
“What in the hell?”
“I have no idea.”
“People are getting married RIGHT NOW on TV.”
“WHAT?!?!?”

Then, I started looking up the information on obtaining a marriage license. Turns out its different in each county. The price, the form, etc.
Already, counties were refusing to issue the licenses. Utah county the most visible and asshole worthy.
How can you refuse to issue the licenses? It’s the law! Of course, they live in their own little world down there in Provo. (People act surprised when they find out that we live in Utah. Gay Utahns act surprised when they learn that our brothers and sisters live in Provo or the surrounding area. It’s just not a gay friendly area. At all.)
Tooele county? Who knew? They didn’t have a statement to issue since they are closed on Fridays. (Thank you very much to the last three years of financial mis-management!)
Well, I wasn’t surprised that some counties were refusing. We live in Utah, after all. Sanpete county – where I grew up – was one of the counties. With the exception of Utah county, those others refusing are very rural and all are very, very conservative. Still, I thought that it wouldn’t last more than a couple of hours. THEN, I was kicking myself for not calling Bub immediately and telling her to pack up the boys and rush into the city. I just knew that we were going to miss our chance. Not that it would matter. The state of Utah would find a way to screw us over anyway.

Once home, I was glued to the TV as much as possible since Peanut was determined to tell me everything possible about Minecraft – most of which I had heard before. But, I saw them. Gays and lesbians getting married. I saw a couple of acquaintances tie the knot finally (they’ve been together as long as we have). I saw Senator Jim Debakis and his partner of 27 years. GETTING MARRIED!!! State constitution and its built in discrimination be damned!

Disbelief. Complete and utter disbelief. Someone was going to stop it, right? Someone was going to drop the hammer, the axe, bring the clouds to rain on our huge gay parade. Right?

On Saturday morning, we woke up to more of the same except now there were rumors that Davis, Salt Lake, and Weber counties would open on Saturday to process licenses. About 300 couples lined up in Salt Lake, but that was truly just a rumor as was Davis. But then everyone went to Weber because that county clerk had issued a statement on the news. So, a huge group of people showed up and waited for hours in line in a parking garage. (We didn’t go because there was supposed to be a snow storm, and our tires aren’t great even though they are new.) In the end, the Weber county clerk decided not to issue licenses for a couple of reasons. First, they didn’t expect the number of people who showed up, and they weren’t staffed for it. Second, they were worried about security. Not that the “mob” was doing anything except standing around and smiling and hugging and freezing their bums off. I think that they were actually worried about the opposition causing a problem. Finally, it occurred to someone that the office doesn’t open on weekends to issue licenses to straight couples. This made it look like special treatment, and that’s not OK. Even I agree with this.

So, these couples were turned away after waiting for most of the day. It was heartbreaking. It seemed that they all left in tears. The news interviewed several of them, but the two that I remember the best went like this. One woman was crying and said something like “For those who think that gays aren’t discriminated against in Utah, I’ll bet none of them ever had to stand in line in the bitter cold in a parking garage like a herd of cattle to get their marriage license.” The other was a teenaged girl – about 13 or 14 – who was sobbing. “I just want my moms to be able to get married.” She broke my heart.

The news, of course, was all about the request for a stay that the state had filed with the courts. It would be heard on Monday morning at 9am. We heard about this all weekend long. It just made everyone anxious. It reminded us – all of us – that we are second class citizens and that our state is determined to keep us in that position. That is so demoralizing, depressing, and just sad. And, we’ve all learned to live with it. That’s the really depressing part: we’ve all learned to accept it and believe that it will not change.

So, the question for us remained: Tooele or Salt Lake? We had decided that we would try because of California. Those couples who married when they had the chance were good through all of the legal wrangling, all of the appeals, all of the court battles, all of the four years of bullshit. They were legal the entire time. So, we knew that we would do it – or try to do it. But where? Still, we hadn’t heard anything about Tooele county throughout the entire weekend, but we KNEW that Salt Lake county would proceed.

The request for a stay would be heard at 9am. If we stayed home, would we get to the clerk’s office and stand around while they hemmed and hawed and wasted time until after the stay was granted? Then, we would be screwed. We couldn’t risk it. We had to give it a try where we knew that it would be most likely. So, Bub called her folks and asked if we could stay over. We grabbed a change of clothes – nothing fancy, of course, we didn’t have time for fancy because nobody expected this! – and headed to the store.

Why the store? Because of this exchange:
Meatball: Mom, I want a black shirt with a black tie and black pants. You know, what men wear to get married in!
Bub: A tuxedo?
Well, we didn’t have time to rent tuxedos. After all, it was Sunday and places were closed. And, we didn’t have any money for it. Most couples who are getting married plan ahead. They budget for the big event. They save up for it. They taste cakes. They try on many different dresses and tuxedos. They choose wedding colors. They send invitations. They rent halls. When we had our commitment ceremony 16 ½ years ago, we had four days to plan the event. (I’ll tell that story later.) This time, we had about four hours to plan the event.
What we had time to do was go to Walmart and buy two white shirts and two clip-on ties. Bub grabbed a newer shirt and a pair of jeans. I also got a pair of jeans and a sweater that I wear to the office. I was lucky that I remembered to bring black shoes to match my black jeans.

I kept my eyes on the news and on Facebook feed all evening long. Facebook was going nuts. The local gay rights organization, Equality Utah, did a great job of keeping everyone informed. I texted some close friends of ours trying to convince them to get into line early. They insisted on waiting until after work. I thought they were crazy.

It was nerve wracking. The waiting, the chance that it could be overturned, the excitement, the unknown.

We went to bed early knowing that we were going to get up and be in line by 6 or 6:30ish. The offices opened at 8am, so 6am seemed reasonable, right? Especially with two 6-year olds…

As always, I got up in the middle of the night. (I swear, I haven’t slept through the night since I was about five months pregnant! That’s almost seven years now…) Anyway, I thought to myself “I should check my phone to see if there have been any updates or breaking news.” Not seeing any true headlines, I checked FB because Equality Utah had been very good about keeping their page updated. But, the first thing I saw was a message from a friend, Bobby, who had posted to my wall: Folks are lining up already, get here early girls! cONGRATULATIONS!!!

It was 1:30am. Geezus. What if we get there at 6am and the line is enormous and the stay is issued before we get into the office? What if we miss our chance? Geezus!
So, I curled my hair and brushed my teeth and put on my clothes and woke Bub. “I’m going to the county building. Be there by 6am. Bring your mom’s car. Don’t be late. Please, don’t be late.” And, I was gone. I didn’t have anything to sit on or anything to keep me warm except for my coat and mittens. I didn’t have anything to do. I had forgotten my book. I didn’t even have my pepper spray in the event of some sort of problems.

By the way, do straight people need to be worried about their safety when getting their marriage licenses? Or is it just us gays who have been in relationships for almost two decades?

As I arrived, I noticed that there were two lines because there were two entrances. Oh, great. It’s already a mess. I got in the shorter of the two lines. The boys in front of me have been together for 12 years. The boys behind me have been together for 5 years. It’s cold. I’m not complaining. Two weeks earlier, it was 9* at night, so these 30* are practically balmy. Spirits were high – not quite jubilant with the threat of it all falling apart on the horizon – but cheerful and hopeful. Yes. Hopeful. The boys in front of me bought about 20 hot chocolates and coffees for those in the immediate vicinity. At about 3am, a number system was created so that the two lines would be merged into one in an orderly fashion when the doors opened. Waiting. Waiting. Making friends. Waiting. Still, I could not help but wonder what this process must be like for my straight friends. I posted: “I find it doubtful that any straight couple in the state of Utah has ever had to stand outside in the middle of winter in the middle of the night in order to possibly get a marriage license.”

More waiting. My feet were SO COLD. I just had a pair of thin soled black shoes on. No warm winter boots for me. I didn’t have time. I was just worried about having shoes that matched my pants! I didn’t have time to think about warm shoes especially since I thought that I would only be waiting outside for 15-ish minutes. Get this: I wasn’t even wearing clean socks! In my rush to pack something, I forgot socks! So, I was wearing day-old Eagles NFL argyle socks!

Sheriff’s deputies patrolled the lines throughout the night. (Again, how many straight couples need a police presence?) I’m not sure what they thought they were going to have to do. Arrest us for being too excited? Break up a few spontaneous hugs? Wake someone up that had been up all night long? Cuff us for shivering in the cold? Their presence was unnecessary, but they were very nice. (Funny to add: The head deputy continually patrolled the area with no coat and a short-sleeved shirt. Was he trying to impress the guys? The girls? Haha!)

At 5:45am, Bub and the boys showed up. Bless those little boys! They must have gotten up at 5:15am. What 6-year olds do that? They were so sweet as they met my line-mates. And, they brought hot chocolate! I needed some more. Luckily, they only had to stand outside for 15 minutes. After talking to Bub at about 4am, I told her to bring their snow boots instead of their nice shoes. I’m glad that we did this, but they didn’t look quite as spiffy… Oh well. No time to plan well – it is what it is.

At 6am, the doors opened as we were allowed to enter the building. Thank you, Salt Lake County! The two lines were successfully merged. I posted: “Doors are open. We are #57!” We now had new friends to meet – people who were in the other line. Some of our new friends have been together for 23 years. Nice, nice guys. We had two more hours to wait before the clerk’s office opened. So, we ate bagels and cream cheese. We drank hot chocolate. We sat around and looked cute.

We slept.

We shared happiness. We shared anxieties. Nobody knew what would happen, but we all stood around in an orderly line on one side of the hallway so that others could walk by. There were road barricades and caution tape.
(The guys on the left side of this picture have been together for 23 years. The guys on the right side of this picture have been together for 12 years.)
(These guys have been together for 5 years.)

The line stretched through the ENTIRE second floor of the building, down the stairs, and through part of the first floor. Then, it got hot. There were hundreds of people stuck in the hallways, and really no ventilation for that kind of crowd.
(I'm uploading all of the pictures because I don't want to forget a thing. Yes. This is the back of his head. He had more energy at 6am than most of the grown-ups!)

I was interviewed by the local ABC affiliate. I don’t know if it was aired or not. It was an easy interview, but I didn’t realize that they were trying to get me to say something specific. The guy asked me to tell him about our family. I think that he was trying to get me to say that we are the same as everyone else (which we are). I didn’t come right out and say that. I told him that Bub is a stay-at-home parent. I work. The boys attend a local charter school. We have support from our families, friends, and neighbors. Then, I think in order to get me to answer specifically, he asked me what I would say to people who would oppose our potential marriage saying that it threatens their marriage. To that, I responded “We have been together for more than 17 years. In that time, we have never harmed anyone’s marriage. We have never harmed any other couples. We have been parents for more than six years. We have never threatened any parents or children. We have been a family for a very long time, and we haven’t done anything but mow our grass, work, and camp in the backyard.” Or, something like that.
(The lady behind me was there with the 23-year couple. They have all been friends for forever.)

A bit later, the boys were interviewed by the local FOX affiliate. I can’t find the interview, but it was so cute. The interviewer asked them if they knew what was happening, and Meatball responded that lots of families were there to finally get married. The interviewer then asked how they would feel if their moms could get married, and Peanut responded “very, very happy.”

And, we waited some more. The county staff was very nice. The deputies made sure that the halls were passable. The maintenance folks made sure that the restrooms were stocked with toilet paper. Calls of congratulations were heard by employees coming to work in other offices.

About ten minutes before the doors opened, I found a post on FB from the Tooele County Democrats group that our county would, in fact, issue licenses at 8am. Oh, man! We could have slept in! We could have slept in our own beds!

Finally, the doors to the clerk’s office opened at 8am, and a cheer went through the building. There was only ONE HOUR until the arguments for the stay were to be heard. We were so nervous in hopes of getting in before that time!

And, we were getting bored and hot and whiney. So, I stood in line (again) while Bub took the boys out for a breath of fresh air and a mini snowball fight. Then, they waited with me while the line slowly moved so that Bub could take bags and coats to the car because we had a lot to drag through the hallway with us. As she was walking out, someone called her a faggot. Her response: “That’s MARRIED faggot to you, asshole!” Ah, gotta love her!

The line moved slowly, but spirits would not be dampened. The excitement grew and grew as we all inched our way to the clerk’s door. FINALLY, we were just outside the door, and it was getting SO CLOSE to 9am! The deputy at the door engaged the boys in conversation; she was so very nice. Then, it was our turn. I was practically jumping up and down. The clock ticked PAST 9am, and my stomach was in knots. We paid our $40. We approved the spelling and information on the certificate that would later be printed. We celebrated with our new friends in line. I actually did jump up and down a few times when we GOT THE LICENSE. Geezus. It was crazy!
(That girl back there is the one that actually issued our license!)

We left the clerk’s office with license in hand. As we emerged, there was a cheer for us just like there had been for every couple emerging with a license. We were rushed downstairs to a sea of people in the lobby just married, getting married, and waiting to be married. There were probably 20 ministers there to provide services as quickly as possible.

We had intended to be married by an acquaintance, Christopher, but he had a line and we just couldn’t wait longer. The boys were tired and hot and anxious, and we were tempting fate the longer that we waited. So, we found a nice looking lady named Jen, and asked her to wed us. We hollered for Sarah and Kandy – a couple just ahead of us in line and married two minutes earlier – to be our witnesses since they had just finished their ceremony. They were happy to do so.
(The date is wrong on the picture. I guess I need to fix the camera. I didn't crop the picture at all becuase I think that it's fun to see everything happening all around!)

We held hands with each other and the boys. Minister Jen asked if we had rings to exchange. “No,” I said. “We exchanged them 16 and a half years ago.” Did we have vows to recite? “No. We did that 16 and a half years ago, too.” So, she just got on with it.
(This is just me telling the minister "Oh, we've already done all of that."

I’m sad to admit it, but I can’t remember exactly what she said. When I admitted this to Bub later that night, she said the same thing. It was loud. It was crazy. It was rushed. It was wonderful. The minister said something about sickness and health, success and failure, love being the thing that would support us as a couple. After 17+ years together, we already knew all of this.

She announced us wed. Legally wed! Seriously, what a HOLY CATS moment! It was crazy. We kissed, and the crowd cheered. The boys cheered. Our friends, Leda and Michelle watching from the 2nd floor as they waited in line, cheered. We hugged the minister. We hugged Sarah and Kandy. We hugged each other. We hugged the boys. I asked Minister Jen how much we owed her, and she replied “Nothing. It’s my wedding gift to you.” I got all teary eyed.

(I wish you could see his face in this picture. He was cheering with everyone else. A big "Woo-Hoo!"
(I think that this picture shows the craziness and excitement of the day, but it also shows the happiness and love that grounded the entire day.)

Then, as we all signed the marriage certificates and as if on cue, a man ran to the balcony above us and yelled “THE STAY HAS BEEN DENIED!!! THE STAY HAS BEEN DENIED!!!” The place erupted in jubilant cheers. Those behind us in line were going to have time to be legally wed, too. It was amazing! It was 9:10am.

Sarah and Kandy signed the certificate that would be filed with the clerk’s office – the official certificate – but Bub asked the minister if the boys could be our witnesses on the ceremonial certificate. With great pride and happiness, they signed their names to the document (that has since been framed and placed on our “mantle”).

As we left the building, I posted “LEGAL!!! LEGAL, LEGAL, LEGAL!!!!”
We got loads of well wishes on FB like: “Congrats to you and Kelley! I am so happy for you two! Give all my love to your beautiful family! What a wonderful way to start the holidays!!!” from Meatball’s teacher. “Congratulations to Jeni's Aunt Kaye who just got married to her partner of 15 years!!” obviously from my niece’s almost-husband. “I am really emotional looking at the posts for friends who are joining in civil union today here in Utah. Many happy and loving wishes to everyone who are able to pledge their love in matrimony.Annette Redmond and Carolyn Jolley Mr and MrFelipe Pacheco and Mrs and Mrs. Kaye Christensen Beeny I am very honored to call you friends and also to witness this day in history. Congratulations!!!” from an acquaintance that I met through the arts festival. “**MARRIED** Congrats Kelley & Kaye!!! A bit surreal isn't it, after all these years, to finally marry the one you love. HAPPY DAYS!!” from a friend in Washington state who was also recently legally married after 15 years together. “It tears me up! So happy for you guys.” from a running friend in Vernal. “~Finds soapbox and dusts off~ So 2 friends of mine got married today in Salt Lake County today. I have known them for years. They are great people, who are some of the best (if not the best ) parents I have ever known. Their twins are well adjusted, were reading books at 3, are shown more patience than I show my own kids, and are happy. I wish to personally thank the Utah court system for overturning the ruling that marriage is between a man and a woman only. For those who find this offensive on religion. 1. Don't let them marry in your church ( which I am sure they are all fine with), 2. Our country is founded on separation of church and state, and 3. To quote religious text: "Judgment is mine", "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone ", and "judge not least ye be judged". I can tell you that as a father, I love my kids for who they are and not who I expect them to be. Congrats Kaye Christensen Beeny!!!” from a very close friend who gave us a gift that we can never repay.

We returned the boys to grandma and grandpa’s house because they were wiped out. Bub was too. (I was the one who had been up since 1:30am, but whatever.) On the way there, I got a call from my dad. “It’s about damned time,” he said. He and his wife have been together four months longer than me and Bub. They were married after just three months, and they weren’t even living in the same country for most of that time! The straights get all of the perks! ;)

After a few minutes at the in-laws, I left to drive back and witness for Leda and Michelle as well as to fill out the insurance paperwork to put Bub on my policy at work. As I was driving back to the county building, I was listening to the Doug Wright show. He was, of course, talking only about this day and the denial of the stay and etc. He interviewed a guy who had gotten married in Farmington just an hour earlier. The guy indicated that he and his partner didn’t expect a lot, but when they got there a line of straight couples was there to greet them – not in opposition, but in support. In Farmington! One couple was giving our free cupcakes because “you’ve got to have cake on your wedding day!” The clerks that issued his license were in tears and enjoying every single minute of joy along with the couples in their office. They had time to do this because their office wasn’t very busy. Apparently, everyone had the same idea that we had. The Salt Lake clerk’s office was inundated while other counties were manageable. Here’s an article about how busy it was: "Utah. Boy scouts. Delivering pizzas. To support. Gay marriage. The. End." Joanna Brooks wrote.

I returned to the county building and found Leda and Michelle. I waited with them in line for a few minutes. I took pictures of them getting their license. Leda was teary-eyed throughout. We cheered as they emerged with their license. I followed them downstairs where they found a minister with pink streaks in her hair. It was beautiful. We all cheered as they kissed and were legally wed.
(Look how busy it still was two hours later!)

I went across the street to my work. I walked directly to the HR office and grabbed the appropriate form. I filled it out with pride. I have been working with HR for 16 years (16 YEARS!!) to add Bub to my insurance. It was so easy now that I was legal. I admit – I was a little jealous of my straight coworkers who have always been able to just fill out a piece of paper. No begging. No research of other employers who provide benefits. No informal polls of other coworkers who would take advantage of the benefit. No attempts to justify the expense. No group meetings. No tears. No trying to explain that 17 years together actually represents a serious relationship.

I hand-delivered the form (and a copy of the receipt that we received when we paid for our license) to the manager in charge of benefits. It was that easy. I have since received notice that benefits have been extended to Bub effective the date that I filled out the form. Finally.

Then, I was on a mission. It was the big holiday buffet, and all of the executives were waiting to serve the employee population and their guests. We had decided weeks before not to go because it was the first day of the boys’ holiday break. I just wanted to hang out with them and enjoy two weeks off. We had no intention of being in SLC. Too bad, actually. We would have liked a nice buffet lunch. Anyway, I needed to find our VP of HR who is also a lawyer. I had to make a couple of passes through the cafeteria where I received congratulations from several people, but I finally found her. “I need an adoption attorney,” I said. I was (and am) worried that the ass-hats in our state legislature would introduce a bille that again redefines our adoption laws. We need to get this done before they do something like that. By 4pm, I had a lawyer.

As I drove back to pick up Bub and the boys, “I Will Wait For You” by Mumford & Sons came on the radio. How appropriate! I got a huge lump in my throat and many tears rolled down my cheeks. Bub and I waited SO LONG for this to happen legally. We’ve had hard times, and there are probably more ahead, but we’ve never given up. We’ve had more great times than hard, and we’ve found more love than headache. We’ve never broken each other’s hearts. We’ve created something special with two wonderful boys. We are a family. We are legally married, but our hearts have always been joined.

We eventually made our way home – still in disbelief, still amazed, still on an emotional high. Also, still tired. Our wedding night dinner consisted of macaroni and cheese and some leftovers. Seriously. We didn’t have time to plan anything romantic or special, and we were all too beat to go out for something.

At about 8pm, I received a call from our lawyer. “Should be very easy,” the lawyer said. “Now that you’re legally married, it’s just a step-parent adoption.” I relayed this to Bub, and she had to sit down on the bed. Her tears were finally released. Between the sobs, she cried “I’m a step-parent. I’m a step-parent.” Finally, she was legally recognized as SOMETHING in their lives. I’ve never seen anyone so happy to be a step-parent. She called her mom who cried, too.

Before we fell asleep, I posted: “No straights were harmed in the making of this family.”

Monday, December 30, 2013

BIRTHDAY #6

Last year, we had a big bash at the bowling alley, but this year, we were saving up for our trip to Florida. (More on that later). We elected to do a simple party at home with grandparents and some friends from kindergarten. The weather at the end of May can be unpredictable, but we were lucky. It was perfect.

A couple of months before their birthday, they discovered Pac Man. We didn’t hear anything from their computers except the Pac Man theme music and that AWAH-AWAH-AWAH sound that Pac Man makes when he is moving around the screen. I’m not complaining. I’m glad that they found something that doesn’t involve blood and guns and gore and fists and death. It was just a LOT.

So, Meatball decided that he wanted a Pac Man cake. Since we were keeping costs low, I had decided to make their cakes instead of buying them or paying someone to decorate. I’m not a complete dunce. I can decorate a few things. Besides, how hard can Pac Man be? He’s an incomplete circle for Pete’s sake… And, the ghosts? Easy baby! He even found a cake decorating tutorial for me on the internet!


Shortly after we discovered Pac Man, we also discovered Wreck It Ralph with its exciting game: Sugar Rush. This was the BOMB, and soon they were racing their cars online as often as we would allow them to. Again, I was fine with this because nobody dies. Awesome.

Peanut decided that he wants a cake in the shape of Vanellope Von Schweetz’s car. This was a bit more difficult request, but I managed to pull it off. I just had to bake the cake in different sized pans and freeze it often as I cut it and contoured it into the correct shape for a car.


Friends came over, and games were played. We did the sit-on-the-balloon game, but they were water balloons and therefore not very big and easily popped. That means when they put the balloon on the grass, it basically popped without anyone sitting on it. We played on the swings, and one of their classmates climbed to the top and jumped off – easily 15 feet up – but his mom didn’t seem concerned about it, and he didn’t break anything, so all’s well that ends well. We had a piƱata.

There was cake and chips and cookies and snow cones and dips and crackers. We did provide a fruit and veggie platter, but the only people that ate from it was the grown-ups.

Then, the presents. Their friends were generous as were their grandparents and Aunt Sid. It was a great day, but I couldn’t help but be sad on occasion. What happened to my babies?

Sunday, December 29, 2013

SHARING THE WEALTH

Being twins has its advantages, but there are times when it would be nice if everything would happen on the same schedule. Tooth fairy visits are one of those things.

The first two bottom teeth for each of the boys fell out at almost the exact same times. This was fun and exciting and there was a bunch of energy packed into one week. How can you not be energized when the tooth fairy leaves you $2 and a big box of candy (I know – not the right message to send)?

Then, Meatball kept losing teeth, but Peanut didn’t. Poor Peanut. He was so sad. Here’s Meatball losing four more teeth on a semi-regular basis, and Peanut’s teeth weren’t budging. At all.

When Meatball lost #3, he felt so bad for Peanut that he shared. We expected him to share his candy. In fact, we probably would have insisted that he do so. But, he also shared his money. They split it 50/50. I was at work when all of this happened, but Bub called to let me know. She was so proud of him sharing. I was, too. I even cried a little bit. He also shared money and candy when he lost #4, #5, and #6. What a sweet guy, right?

Here, Meatball loses another tooth, while Peanut does not.
Well, Peanut FINALLY lost #3. Oh, there was excitement. He worked it and worked it, and it finally came out. Meatball congratulated him, and they ran through the house to let Bub know. Woo-hoo! Yippee!

And, then, it happened:

“Hey, remember when I lost my teeth and shared my candy and money with you?”
(I’m proud to report that Peanut did, indeed, share candy and money 50/50.)

Saturday, December 28, 2013

CHOOSE LOVE

For all of my complaining about this year, there have been some very good experiences. I don’t want to forget about them because they have been the things that have kept us going. Many, many, many times I’ve been next to tears only to have someone do something nice for me or to have my kids do something hysterical and make me laugh. I guess that’s just how life is.

There’s the bad; it’s all around, and it’s like a jack-hammer with constant pounding and breaking down. There’s enough bad to be demoralizing at times – enough to cause some people to become bitter and mean and spiteful. I’m that person sometimes. I hate to admit it, but I am. This year, I have been awful at times. I have been sad. I have cried and sobbed and yelled and said mean things. I have let the bad get the best of me many times in 2013.

But, there’s the good, too. There’s plenty of it to go around. Sometimes, I’ve had to look really, really hard for the good, but when I found it, it had the ability to overshadow the bad if I would let it. There are so many genuinely good people in my life, and I’m very fortunate to have them. My friends, my family, my kids – hell, even the dogs. There’s goodness everywhere.

And, there’s the love. It’s always the right thing do to choose love. I’m not saying that I have done that all the time in 2013. Sometimes I chose anger. Sometimes I chose dislike-borderline-hate. But, love was always there waiting for me to pull my head out, calm down, and do the right thing. Choose love. Always choose love. Bub and I have issues, and sometimes they get the better of us, but in the end, we have still managed to choose love. It’s occasionally love with a dose of bitchiness, but its love at the end of the day. And, the boys – they fight plenty, but they always choose love for each other. I’m happy that they will always have that for each other. I’m most lucky when they choose love for me. They are beautiful and have beautiful hearts, and I’m so lucky that Mother Nature trusted them to me.

And, right here - at the end of the year - the opportunity to choose love with a legal twist. More on that to come!

Friday, November 22, 2013

inside my head

Is it me?

Sometimes, my outside is calm. Well, there may be some unhappy vibes, but otherwise, I'm calm. I'm not freaking out. I'm not. I'm just sitting and looking out the window or whatever.

However, inside my head I am throwing a tantrum. I can picture myself. I am screaming. No words, but just a long, steady, incredibly loud scream. You know - the kind where the woman holds her fists to the side of her head in the movies?

And, I'm throwing something. Not a tub of popcorn, although that would be fine, but typically it's something hard and capable of breaking something. Or, it's something very breakable. And, I huck it. Hard. (Although, in my head, I can actually throw AND hit the thing that I'm aiming for.) OR, I'm kicking or stomping. Like sitting in my seat and kicking the windshield out of the car. Or, kicking a hole in the bathroom door. You know. Whatever.

But, I never do it. I never do any of it. I just sit. Sometimes, I yell, and that makes me suck as a person/mom/wife. But, I guess that's loads better than doing whatever think I'm thinking about doing.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

They're still funny!

Just because I'm depressed and miserable doesn't mean that everyone is a mess. The boys have been cheering me up all year long with their funny characteristics and hilarious things that they say:

Meatball: Mom, after I am Pac Man for Halloween this year, I'm going to be a kitty next year and a wrecking ball the next next year!
Me: Uh...

One of those Carl*s Jr commercials came on with the scantily clad girl eating a huge burger and making a mess. Those drive Kelley nuts because the food is so messy and sloppy.
Kelley: Ug! Oh my Gawd. Is that supposed to be sexy?
Peanut: Well, I think it's sexy!
Me: Oh, really?!?! Exactly what do you think is sexy about that?
Peanut: Well.... That does looks like a really yummy hamburger!
Totally innocent. He is truly in love with the burger and only the burger.
So cute!

Rule for the evening: no farting!
Guess how long it took for a 6 year old to let one rip? Less than 10 seconds!

After taking a bite of carrot cake ice cream (which IS really good), Peanut exclaimed "Mom! You've sent my taste buds to the North Pole!"

The boys often speak with a British accent because Nana is from London, so I was surprised to walk in last week and hear them speaking as if they had been raised in Mumbai.
Me: Oh, this sounds interesting. Where are you from if you're speaking like that?
Meatball: Indiana!
Bwah-ha-ha-ha!

Peanut has informed me that I have "ruined his life" by not allowing him on a particular website. Congratulations, me. I must be doing some part of this parenting thing correctly.

Twins: double the fun; double the laughs; double the joy; double the love; double the pink eye....

Kel: I must have PMS!
Meatball: Yeah, like DNA....
(WTH?!?!)

Peanut: "Mom, where is Honk Ong?"
Me: "What?"
Peanut: "You know, Honk Ong?"
Me: "Oh, right. China."
(Hong Kong.)

Meatball: "Mom, I know a school that granny and grandpa can go to."
Me: "What school is that?"
Meatball: "It's called Old School."

Meatball: "Hey, mom. Don't ever give me the bum steer, ok?"
I have no idea where that came from.

Dear Parents of Poorly Dressed Kids:
I judged you. I did! Pre-kids, I thought "I would never let my child out of the house looking like that."
Then, my kids started to pick out their own outfits. I get it now. You can't re-dress them! They are so proud of the fact that they put plaid with stripes with black socks and flip flops and (an ugly) Cowboys hat.....
So, I'm sorry for all of that judging back then.

Peanut: "Mom, I'm really confused about something."
Me: "What's that?"
Peanut: "When someone says a naughty word on TV, do THEY beep or does the TV beep?"

I am eating at McD's. Obviously, the birthday boys got to choose. That, or the world is coming to an end and all other eating establishments have burned to the ground.

Peanut: Mom, when I grow up, can I say naughty words?
Me: No. When you're a grown up, you will be smarter than that and use good words.
Peanut: But, mom! I was really looking forward to using them!

In grade K, my kids are doing math like 69-22=.....
And, they like it! And, it's easy/fun for them!
I LOVE their teachers and school!

Peanut to me: "Mom, I just kissed your hair. It's an incredibly romantic thing to do...."

The competition was fierce, but we had a blast in aisle 17 at the Home Depot kit car races today!

(about the key lime pie). Meatball: Mom! It's like BOOM in my mouth, and it goes to the very ends of me!

Boy 1: Mom, this great fun day lasted until the night!
Boy 2: Mom, I'm going to go home and write a word that says "poop."
Awesome......

Well, Meatball just drew a picture to send to the president and vice president. Peanut just officially "out-scienced" me by reversing the direction of his forward-only train.

For their Valentine's gifts, one of the boys got Kelley a frozen pizza and the other got her Hawaiian flavored lifesavers. Boy - she's going to be surprised!

It's Saturday night and we're watching Cinderella. Can we BRING IT, or what?!?!

"Too legit. Too legit to quit."
Thanks to the New Years Rockin' Eve show, the boys have been chanting that for 12 days now.
The song didn't get better with time, but the singers are much cuter and better dressed.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Grief

When I was at the U, I took a class that was semi-related to my major of Gender Studies. I don’t know exactly what the name of the class was, but it had everything to do with death, the psychology of death. It was a fascinating class. What I remember most from the class – apart from the incredibly warm room that it was held in – was the book by Elizabeth Kubler Ross, “On Death and Dying.”

Here we are 20 years later, and I’m sure that everyone has heard of this and the stages of grief are not new, but it’s what I’ve been thinking about of late.
Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance.

The stages don’t have to happen in that order, and other feelings can obviously be felt along the journey, but these are the common stages felt by most people facing loss.

At the time, it made perfect sense. I didn’t realize that I would be experiencing those feelings very soon when my mom died. And, I did.

I think that I went through bargaining first. I didn’t do the “oh, god, please take me instead" thing. Now, if it were one of my kids, I might do that. But, I didn’t with my mom.
For being such an active and healthy woman, she really had her share of shitty luck. She managed to get all of the weirdest diseases. Like Saint Vitas Dance. Really? And, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Seriously? Sclerosing cholangitis. Fuh…. So, when my aunt called and said malignant tumor, and the next week the doctor said squamous call carcinoma, I was not surprised.

What I did, however, was plunge myself into the internet (how young it was at the time) and phone calls to the local cancer center and phone calls to my own doctor to find out everything that I could about it. Because that’s what I do. If I can figure it out, or find a way around it, I will do it. So, I sat in the doctor’s office that day with my mom and my aunt and my notebook and asked a thousand questions.

Thinking that I could change it. But if I can learn about it, maybe I can find a way around it. That was my bargaining. Let me learn just enough to possibly change it. Whatever I can do to change it, I will give it a try.

And, then it happened so quickly. Just a few months.

And, I was camping during the last weekend of her life. Because I was in denial. I believed that she was going to be all right. And, then she died. My brother and sister-in-law came to my work to tell me. I went back to my desk and tried to call my sister. I stood in my cubicle and didn’t know what to do. I remember saying (out loud and almost crying) “What the fuck am I supposed to do now?”

Depression came next. Oh, it was a whirlwind of funeral arrangements, writing the obituary, buying a new blouse, picking her casket clothes, picking a casket, arguing about having the casket open or closed, going to my childhood church for the first time in ten years, seeing her friends and hearing their stories. But, yes. It was the depression next.

I finally really sobbed on the way home from the funeral. All the way home - 2.5 hours of crying. And that whole night. And the next day. And, then I had to go back to work, so I managed to collect myself for 8 hours. And, then I drank when I got home. Collected myself for 8 hours, and then I drank some more the next night. This happened pretty much every night for a year. I'm not proud of myself, but it's what happened. I spent hours at night in the basement playing pool by myself and drinking beer. (Is it a wonder that my game never improved? It IS actually a wonder that I didn't gain a lot of weight. I guess the fact that I wasn't eating anything to note probably helped counterbalance the excessive beer.)

During the depression phase, I also experienced the anger phase. I’m loathe to say that sometimes I still do. There was a genuinely wonderful lady, Verna, who used to work with me. She, too, had colon cancer at the same time as my mom, but she survived. As much as I adored her (she has since passed away), I was angry at her. She, of course, never did anything to deserve my anger. She was just fighting a battle for her own life, and she was fortunate enough to win. (Also known as: she had the luxury of insurance whereas my mom did not. Universal healthcare, people…) Yes - sometimes I find myself angry at those around me who do not cherish every irritating thing that their own mother does, but thankfully, it's just a flash and then it's gone.

Finally, I learned to accept it. It was a matter of time, and beer, and tears, and sadness, and withdrawal from those around me. But, I did learn to accept it.

I didn’t think that I would need to deal with this type of grief again until someone else died, but I have. I’ve been absent from this blog because I’m in the middle of the depression phase again. And, it’s just as hard this time even though nobody has died.

This time, I didn’t have months to prepare myself. This time, my daily life, a big sense of myself, my “status,” the respect that I thought that I had, it was all gone in one day. I’ve yet to bargain because I don’t have much left to bargain with. I’ve yet to experience loads of anger because I was led to believe that it was all my own fault. (And, if you know me at all, you know that I immediately blamed myself anyway.) I had myself a little bit of denial while I hid myself away. But, how lucky is my family? I’ve been mired in the depression phase since February.

I don’t know if I will move to acceptance. Mostly because I don’t want to. I can get past the depression. I will. But, the acceptance? It will be a cold day in hell. (Oh, look! A bit of anger! Growth?)