Defending Marriage

A little over 20 years ago I called my parents, bubbling with the news that I’d just gotten engaged. My mother’s response was dismay. My father’s? “No, you’re not.”

That comment broke my heart. Here I was, happy and in love with a wonderful man – why couldn’t they be happy for me?

Of course, they had their reasons – my brother and sister had both recently broken off long engagements. The engagements had only taken place after equally long relationships. My boyfriend and I had only been going out for three months. How on earth could we possibly be ready to make a commitment to be married? We surely didn’t seem to be up to the task.

Marriage is valued in my family. It symbolizes commitment, love, honor, permanence, FAMILY. It’s nothing to be trifled with. I suppose, in their own way, my parents were trying to protect me from making the mistake of dishonoring that institution. I’m sure they were trying to protect me from getting hurt. The thing was that in trying to protect me from being hurt they were hurting me. They were telling me that I wasn’t old enough, smart enough, strong enough, committed enough to be married. They thought I was rushing into it. They didn’t want me to trifle with marriage, because it is such an important commitment.

Honestly, I don’t know exactly why they objected, because we’ve never really discussed it. What I have done is tease them about how wrong they were. My boyfriend – now my husband – and I are still together. We didn’t get married in a church – and by law – until the year after we got engaged. But we got married to each other just a few short weeks after our engagement; a move that I’m sure would’ve horrified my parents had they known. They would’ve disparaged it, so I didn’t tell them at the time. My husband and I made our commitment to each other and then jumped over his sword. To date, my mother still refers to my husband as her favorite son-in-law (never mind, Jeff – we love you too!).

To some, our first marriage ceremony might sound silly. But the commitment we made that day was as important as the one we made the following year for legal purposes. At least we had the opportunity to make it legal. So many people who are also in love, who are also committed to each other and their relationship, don’t have that opportunity. Why? They want to marry someone of the same gender instead of the opposite one. That’s the only difference.

Gay marriage opponents claim they want to “protect” marriage. Against what? Millions of heterosexual people have disrespected their marriage vows in so many ways. Because the Bible says so? The Bible says lots of other things the opponents cheerfully ignore. Why then is this part so important?

I’m sure those who oppose gay marriage think they are doing what’s necessary to ensure that the institution of marriage remains highly valued. But what they are doing is cheapening it. They’re putting a price on it – either you marry someone of the opposite gender or you’re not worth it. Love doesn’t have a price – it just is. Only those in the relationship can define that. Commitment is important, but who is to say whether that commitment is valuable enough to rate being “married”? My parents would’ve denied my marriage 20 years ago. 20 YEARS! Our commitment to each other was and is real, even though they and probably many others doubted it. So too is the commitment of so many same-sex couples to each other and their marriages. Why should they be denied the right to marry? Why should their hearts be broken by someone telling them that their love for each other isn’t important enough for them to be able to get married?

To marry someone is to promise to love, honor, and cherish them as long as you both shall live. To attach a caveat that says, in effect, that such a relationship is only possible between two people of opposite genders renders the entire institution worthless, without value.  Love knows no boundaries – or does it? Until marriage is available to anyone, it does. Love is too important for that. I should know – 20 years ago today I married my Bestest. Love won for us. I hope others can win too.

Hip 365 – Week 2

More adventures in my life, chronicled with my iPhone and the Hipstamatic app. You know, a lot of people are of the opinion that photos should be a certain kind of interesting.  They think that taking pictures of your food or of other things that aren’t interesting to them should not be done. To them I say this:  It’s my blog, my pictures, and my life. Sometimes I look at my picture of the day and wonder why my life doesn’t produce more interesting shots.  But that’s the thing – it’s my life.  Sometimes its exciting, sometimes its boring – ebb and flow. Sometimes food is exiting to me.  Lord knows, my cat often is.  The point is that these photos chronicle a year in my life, not someone else’s.  Don’t like it?  Don’t read it.


357 – A perfect day for a nap in Mom & Dad’s bed.

The older they get, the less likely they are to nap, period.  Which is a shame, really, because some days are just perfect for a nap.  When that nap takes place in a warm bed, cuddled between flannel sheets, and under a giant fluffy duvet, then how can you resist?  She certainly didn’t.  I should’ve suspected something was up at the time, but ignorance is bliss – much like a mid-day, weekend nap.

356 – Still small enough to fit in the fun shopping cart.

Nearly every time we go to the supermarket, she begs to ride in one of the car carts.  She’s getting too old for it, but apparently not too big.  If you look closely, you can see the huge bags under her eyes.  It was a rough night capped off with an early morning visit to the pediatrician.  Turns out she has strep.

355 – At the pediatrician’s office. Again.

When we got back from the doctor’s office yesterday, I asked the older two how they felt.  Strep tends to spread like wildfire around here.  No issues – then at least.  By the next morning, the eldest was moaning in pain and discomfort.  Back to the pediatrician’s office for another positive strep test.  The Son never did get it.  I guess there’s some advantage to his preference for solitude.

354 – 15 minutes before school ends and already a long line at kiss and ride. What are we all doing here so early?

Although the younger two technically could take the bus to school, the bus stop is halfway between our house and the school.  Since the school’s less than a mile away, it seems slightly ridiculous to wait at the bus stop every day.  Instead, I wait in line at the kiss-and-ride entrance at their schools.  Not that this option is any less ridiculous.  The line to pick up your kids starts early and fills up fast.  I’ve seen people in line over 30 minutes before school ends.  Craziness.  Even on this day, the line was long when I got there 15 minutes before school ended.  Why do we all like to hang around in our cars for so long?

353 – “A snuggle is good for a Weechin’s life.”

The youngest, still not feeling well, climbed in my lap for a long snuggle.  The quote is her own.  Her father called her Weechin (wee children) after something a friend once said.  It’s a fitting nickname.  She is quite the petite child.

352 – Self portrait, shorter hair

Finally got everyone back to school and had a moment to myself.  What to do?  Get a haircut, of course.  Having my hair straight is a luxury.  Usually it’s quite wavy.  I had to take a picture to celebrate the occasion.

351 – Ready to slay the boys at her first dance.

The eldest is enrolled in Cotillion classes this year.  The National League of Junior Cotillions sponsors classes at the local country club. She, along with several friends, goes once a month to learn basic social graces, dance steps, and how to interact politely with kids and adults.  It’s a great opportunity to socialize with kids her age outside of school in a civilized environment.  As part of the  course, two balls are held.  The Winter Ball was her first opportunity in a while to dress up.  We’d gone to get her hair cut and styled.  Her hair, like mine, is very wavy, so having straight hair is a rarity.  The salon had a complimentary make-up artist that day, so the Eldest also had her first professional make-up application.  Such excitement for her, but a little scary for her father.  While we were taking pictures, he handed her one of his swords to remind her just how to handle the boys.

Tell Me Who Are You?

I am:  A Woman.  A Daughter.  A Wife.  A Mother.  Me.

There’s no way I can describe myself in one post, or even in one blog.  That’s the way a person should be – multifaceted, interesting, intriguing, ever-changing. NOT rooted in one place, one space, one idea.

When I started blogging, I posted a few miscellaneous things.  Then I moved on to blogging about being the mom of three.  One blog was scattered, the other too focused.  I wasn’t comfortable in either space.  My blogging was like the rest of my life – eager to prove myself, but no real idea of what my voice was.

I think I’ve found it, though, in the form of a nickname my Bestest calls me – Inappropriate Girl.  It amuses me.  I try to hard to fit in in so many places, but at heart I’m never quite going to do be able to do it.  Nor am I going to not try.  I’m happiest being my snarky self, which may or may not endear me to people.  That’s fine.  Like the song in Rent goes, “Take me, baby, or leave me.”

Sometimes I wonder if I was just waiting to hit 40, as if that magic birthday would somehow grant me the ability to speak my mind and do as I pleased.  This blog is my present to myself.  It’s my place to let it all out, regardless of what people think.  If I’m wrong about something, I hope someone tells me.  It’s a great way to learn.  I don’t mind criticism – it helps me grow.  I love being more comfortable in my own skin.  I LIKE being 40.

Well, I’m All Grown Up Now

Happy Thanksgiving!  For the first time ever, we’re spending it alone as a family of five.  Usually we join my Bestest’s extended family to celebrate the holiday, rotating the holiday among families so we all share in the I-95 corridor holiday driving pain fun.  This year, though, we’re spending it alone in the house of great illness.

It’s not all that bad, really.  For starters, we’re all still in our jammies at past 2 pm.  We got up when we wanted (well, except for me – the Son needed help with breakfast).  We had yummy chocolate croissants for breakfast while watching the Macy’s Parade.  When Santa finally made his appearance, the Christmas season officially started.  With that, we started blasting the Christmas music.  Our iTunes Christmas playlist has 22.5 hours of songs – we’re good to go for a while.

Still, it feels weird not to be surrounded by lots of family on Thanksgiving.  We do have our virtual family on hand, though – Facebook has been buzzing all day with well wishes.  I love that we’re so far away from our loved ones yet still so connected at the same time.

My “Grown-Up Christmas List” is far different than the one I would’ve thought of as a child, but so are many other things.  I guess the key to a happy life is flexibility.  It may not be the life I thought I wanted, but its the life I love having.  My little, happy family, all snug and warm in our small, delicious-smelling house.  In the end, it doesn’t get much better than this.

I’m Not Proud…Or Tired

So here it is – the day before Thanksgiving, the official start to the holiday season. Time to get in our car, drive to Grandma and Grandpa’s House in the Woods, and enjoy a delicious feast.

One out of three ain’t bad, right?

No holiday is truly complete without a sick child. The Youngest is taking the hit for the family this time. She started with a sore throat, then added a cough and runny nose, and finally a high fever. She then proceeded to erase any doubt of whether or not we’d make the trip by vomiting. If at all possible, I try not to have puking kids in my car. It’s bad enough that they sometimes puke en route; taking an actively puking child is not going to happen. All of the talk of going seemed moot regardless, since my Bestest has followed up pneumonia with an allergic reaction to his antibiotics. He’s a mess too.

So instead of going over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house, we’re going to hang out at home. It’s not the day we’d planned, but one thing will stay on schedule: the annual playing of Arlo Guthrie’s “Alice’s Restaurant.”

Won’t Let Nobody Hurt You

And so it came to pass, on the day before the day before Thanksgiving break, that some little shit decided it would be a good idea to sexually harass my baby in the middle of their sixth grade classroom. It was not the best decision he’s ever made.

This boy exhibited the kind of behavior that would get you punched in a bar. In a workplace, it would get you fired. In the classroom today, it got a look of shock and a quick avoidance from the Eldest. She felt too shy to tell the teacher and instead waited until she got home to tell first me, and then both of us. The reaction was swift – first we told her that his behavior was unacceptable and that she was right to come to us. Then my Bestest wrote a strongly worded email to the Principal and her teacher. It’s a letter I could’ve written as well, but he’s better at that sort of thing and besides – a letter from a concerned father about his baby girl being sexually harassed tends to be taken more seriously than when the mother writes the same letter.

The response from her school was just as swift – her principal emailed us back, assuring us that it would be taken care of. He added the guidance counselor to the email. Her teacher emailed and called us, reassuring us (and the Eldest) that things would be taken care of and that if the Eldest had any concerns ever, she should feel free to talk to the teacher or guidance counselor. The guidance counselor emailed us as well. We’re happy with the school’s response so far.

It just infuriates me that we have to have this conversation with the Eldest now. She just turned 12. Except this isn’t the first time we’ve talked about it. She had a similar, though less invasive, experience in third grade. What the hell is wrong with kids these days? If the Son ever did something like that, he’s be grounded forever at best. We talk to all of them about how to treat each other and others with respect. Are other parents not having these types of conversations?

We can’t protect our kids from everything. What we can do – and what we did over and over today – is reassure them that we have their backs. The Eldest and her siblings know that we’ll fight for them. Granted, we did have to tell her that calling him a “Fucking pervert” was unacceptable (just “Pervert”, thanks – she’ll get in trouble for the curse word). Any other action necessary, though – go for it. We told her to protect herself when and if she needs to, even in the classroom in the middle of a lesson. We’ll take care of the rest. We’ll always stand by them.

Now I Lay Me Down (Not?) to Sleep

My Bestest has been taking extra good care of me for the past several weeks/months, both pre- and post-plica removal surgery.  He’s done most of the grocery shopping, school pick-ups and drop-offs, a lot of the cooking, and all of the heavy lifting.  Now that my knee is almost healed at three weeks after surgery, it’s his turn to be sick.  Poor thing has pneumonia.

I’m grateful the universe has at least provided us with good timing.  I just hope the rest of us don’t get sick too.  The Youngest seems a bit sniffly already, which is significant.  She also has a tummy ache, which may or may not be.  Such is life with Eosinophilic Esophagitis – maybe she’s getting sick or maybe she’s just reacting to something she ate.  Time will tell.

It’s looking like the elder two will outlast the rest of us.  My Bestest is exhausted, I’ve been up since 3:30 am (oh, hey there early menopause!), and the Youngest is crashing.  Hopefully a few good threats will get them through the night with few disturbances.  Otherwise, I’m hearkening back to our theme song from when they were little – the Barenaked Ladies’ “Who Needs Sleep?”

My Hometown

After reading a Facebook post from a childhood friend this morning, I decided to check out our old stomping grounds. Boy, how things change. And how they don’t. A quick scan through Google maps reveals a lot of different stores that I don’t remember being there. I’m sure if I looked a little more closely, there would be a lot of new developments too. New houses, new stores, new people – this is my hometown?

But my hometown is just that – somewhere I came from. It’s under no obligation to stay the static place that exits in my memory. That’s actually a silly concept anyway. It was changing the whole time I was growing up. Why should it stop now that I’m gone?

I’m very grateful for New Jersey’s Farmland Preservation Program. It’s guaranteed that some of my hometown will always look the same. Long Valley has always had a large farming community. I grew up with cornfields in my back yard. It’s a little bit of heaven in a state that’s not known for being pretty, despite having the nickname of “The Garden State.” Look at this picture – isn’t it gorgeous?


The farms, the hills, the small town atmosphere made me feel safe, but at the same time they made me long for the city. I’ve always enjoyed spending time in The City, and any other busy, bustling place. The City (aka NYC) was about an hour away; just close enough to escape to. I loved to go there as a kid – to feel like I could be lost in a crowd instead of known practically everywhere.

A few years after we married, my Bestest and I headed up to LV for a visit. We had to get a tire fixed (darned I-95 potholes), so we dropped the car off at the tire place before heading to the dentist’s office where my mother worked. This being the time before cell phones were commonplace, we just gave the dentist’s phone number to the tire dealership so they could call us when it was done. The dealer looked at the number and said “hey, Dr. Gaudio’s office!” Freaked my Bestest out completely – he’s never lived in a small town like that. To me, it was just home. That’s how things worked.

It’s easy to make LV sound so idealistic now that I’m gone. It is, and it isn’t. But in the end, it was a really fantastic place to grow up. I hope my kids remember their hometown as fondly as I do mine.

** Photo courtesy of NJN Public Television and Radio.

When I’m Stuck With a Day

I think I’m finally approaching Zen Parenting. I doubt I’ll ever be fully zen – I’m way to much of a stress puppy for that – but I am finally learning to occasionally just roll my eyes and keep going after I get bad news instead freaking out and freezing. Yesterday’s episode was yet another of the Youngest’s efforts to keep her health status as “interesting.”

We’ve long since given up trying to list all of her illnesses, except on medical history forms. Even then, it’s a challenge to keep them all straight. While she was in the doctor’s office yesterday, I commented to the nurse that the best part of their computer system is that there’s finally space to list all of the conditions she has. They ran out of room at the top of her paper chart a few years back; she’s 8 now. I guess most kids have only a few, if any, items of concern or note. She’s certainly picking up the slack.

So yesterday, when I got a call from her teacher detailing an episode of what we all think were two seizures, I just took notes, called the doctor, made an appointment, and kept going. No freaking. Just a call to my Bestest to keep him in the loop. Lesser things would wait ’til the end of the workday, but this one was important. Besides, he was able to leave work early so I could take the youngest to the doctor on her own. Oh, and I thanked her teacher for being observant. I love her teacher.

In the past, I would’ve freaked out a lot more. Not that it would’ve helped any, but it’s a natural reaction. I can’t decide if I’m becoming numb to all of this or if I’m just treating this like a business transaction. It’s just one of the things that we’ve dealt with early and often since the Youngest was born. She shows no signs of slowing down. Thank goodness nothing has been very serious. Concerning, yes. Oh, heck yes. But nothing life-threatening and that’s what’s important.

The Youngest is a remarkably resiliant child. After all of the IVs, injections, and blood tests she’s had, she’s no longer afraid of needles. Last year, while they were getting their flu shots, the Son was nervous. The Youngest just looked at him and said, “Let me show you how it’s done!” She walked past him, rolled up her sleeve, presented her arm to the nurse, and took the shot without a wince. After that performance, there was nothing left for the other two than to emulate her. I don’t know if she really wasn’t scared or was just acting like she’s not, and I don’t care. She’s dealing with it. I’m very proud of her.

The Reigning Queen of Pink is her nickname, and I can’t think of a song that represents her better than “Tomorrow” from Annie. No matter how bad things are, nor how bad her mood, you can always count on her to bounce back with a smile. Sometimes (ok, often) I feel badly that she’s dealing with all of this. Then I think that maybe she’s the one best suited to deal with it. She’s spunky, just like Annie. Here’s hoping she finds her own ‘happily ever after’ someday.

It Won’t be Long

When I woke up this morning, the first song that came to mind was “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head.” It had been raining all night. Snuggling in my nice warm bed while cold rain is falling outside is normally a divine experience. Waking up feeling like I was outside in the rain was a buzzkill. It’s been like that the past few mornings – I’ve woken up drenched and concerned. There’s no way I can be going through menopause yet, right?

I finally realized that this should be a short-lived experience. I had knee surgery a few weeks ago to remove my Plica. Post-surgery night sweats are common; I’ve just managed to forget about them. You’d think that with as many surgeries as I’ve had, I’d remember how all this works. I told my bestest that if this keeps up I may better off sleeping in a kiddie pool. If menopause is anything like this, I’ll probably just go buy one, even though that’s not the kind of water bed I was envisioned having when I was a kid. Oh, well.