The #1 Question Asked

ImageThe third installment of our column Same Sides just came out digitally in the Reno Tahoe Tonight magazine.  It’s called “The Announcement” and in it I answer the question that we get asked the most:  How did your kids handle everything?

Click on the link below and turn to page 82.  Read it, but don’t weep.  We’re not.  We’re smiling and so are the kids.  Like, all the time.

http://issuu.com/renotahoetonight/docs/rtt_jan_2013_issuuv

Also, tune in this Saturday, January 5, 2013, to KJFK 1230AM radio for the House of Savoy Show.  Devon, myself and Kathy Baldock (founder of Canyon Walker Connections) are interviewed about our story and LGBT issues in the Christian world.  You can also listen to the live streaming of it via internet at the same time at www.1230kjfk.com.  It was a beautiful interview and Sean Savoy is an amazing man.  Find him at www.seansavoy.com.

Blessings and Transparency,

Emily and Devon

Christmas Ghosts

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All day long I had a huge plan to write this super fabulous “Ghost of Christmas Past” blog regarding the first Christmas Eve I spent alone without the kids (six years ago).  It was going to be a tear-jerker, ’cuz that was a memory that I’ll never forget.  I figured that even though a bunch of it would be a bummer to read, it would hold some truth for those parents who are going it alone this Christmas because of a divorce decree and custody arrangement.   The memory included getting drunk by myself, crying for hours, and feeling self-pity; I was going to conclude the piece with a serious reflection on how I’m glad I went through that crap because the Ghost of Christmas Future showed me a much better way.  Blah, blah, blah…

That’s what I was going to do.

But then, I stepped outside to view the beautiful calm snow covering the trees tonight at 10:45 p.m. on Christmas.

And now, I’m just like:  WOW.

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I spent today by myself while the kids were at their dad’s.  I was a slug.  My day included a marathon viewing of The Walking Dead and Breaking Bad on my new 50” T.V. that the kids bought for me.  I ate nearly an entire pumpkin pie and drank several mimosas.  I napped about 5 times, took a hot bubble bath and licked up the remainder of the pumpkin pie scraps.  I continued to formulate in my mind the brilliant Ebenezer Scrooge-themed writing piece.

But this wintery Ansel Adams view just knocked all of that out of the water.  I’m speechless.

Well, not speechless, because that can never happen in my lifetime.  I like to talk and write too much.  I have a flip-top head and words are my idol.

So let’s just say the following:

After several years of working on this whole amicable-divorce-and-getting-along-with-your-ex-thing, I’ve finally arrived.

Last night on Christmas Eve, I spent an enjoyable and entertaining evening with Devon’s family, including my kids, Felipe, Devon’s mom and dad, his brother and sister and their kids.  In the past, I would have put on a good show and at times would have suffered a bit through it.

But not this year.  This year seemed a bit different.  More sincere.  I can’t quite pin-point the reasons, but I suppose that beating cancer, dealing with a breakup of a long-term relationship and generally being happy with where my life is going probably helps.  I have a job that I love, a great house in a cool neighborhood, and I get to write all the time.  My cat is awesome, my kids are cool, and the bacon shortage they were predicting earlier in the fall was a farce.

Last night was amazing getting to hang out and laugh, gorge, swap 15 years worth of familial stories and listen to Devon sing cheesy karaoke songs, all the while being comfortable with my now non-traditional rainbow family.  I never would have thought it possible that first Christmas Eve alone, but here I am.

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Devon sang “Wind Beneath My Wings” after dedicating the song to Delilah, in the cheesiest way possible. We were laughing so hard that we were crying.

And here I am right now, sitting on my front porch, nearly freezing my butt off, writing this and looking at the most peaceful and beautiful holiday scene.  If I had stayed in my bitterness, fought Devon tooth and nail, maybe even tried to move back to Iowa with the kids, I wouldn’t be typing this.  My life is wonderful.  My relationship with Devon is special, my respect for Felipe immense, and my children are blessed to be able to spend Christmas with all of us together.

The kids would say that they love having two Christmases, I’m sure.

This morning at 9 a.m., Devon and Felipe came over for breakfast.  The plan was to eat and then take the kids to their house right after we finished.  Instead, they showed up with the huge T.V.  Felipe and Devon set it up (Devon even organized my videos, mess of cords and book shelf), we ate and reminisced a bit, opened presents and we all loved on each other.  Not only did I get a new tele out of the deal and an organized entertainment area, I got to have our whole family under one roof for a few hours two days in a row.  That wasn’t just meaningful for me, it really meant something to the kids.  The security they have in the fact that we have come this far is amazing to me.

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You should have seen this spot before Devon got to it. I do believe he found some animals living in the nest of cords there. He’s so dang organized and couldn’t wait to throw up his OCD somewhere in my house. I just sat there while drinking a mimosa and watched the whole scene.

And yeah, I got to spend some time relaxing by myself.  Instead of tears in my wine like six years ago, I reflected on this amazing ride I’ve had.  I don’t want to be so trite as to say things happen for a reason, but things can work out if you concentrate on the good in life instead of staying stuck in Christmas Past.  I’ve never been accused of being a Scrooge, but I think we all have choices we can make about how to handle the situations we find ourselves in.  Remember the Past, but be in the Present, and expect a positive Future.  You’ll find it.

Happy Holidays to all of our readers and families out there.  May you be blessed in the Present and have hope for your Future.  Oh, and try to enjoy the beautiful scenery along the way.

Emily and Devon Reese

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Happy Holidays from us. This image was too freaky to pass up.

The Pyro Bird

Confidence, strength and beauty are born from ashes.  I’m officially convinced.

I’ve had this sick fantasy, of fire and burning things, running through my mind the last few weeks.  Seems like even my lesson planning for my classes has taken this theme recently.  I had a student of mine make a coffin out of a shoebox for a special activity during Halloween last week to place written (grammatically correct) negative memories in it, intending to burn that thing to the ground.

Of course, I couldn’t burn it on school property due to pesky rules and stuff, but I still fantasized about it.  My students would have rallied around me like the Man at the Burn and thrown some huge rave, wearing weird costumes while I lit the thing on fire.  “Burn, burn, burn!” they would chant.  I would maniacally dance around the flame, feeling the power of old things changing to ashes.

The activity was a hit, sans the fire.  If you’re a high school teacher, you should do it.

Come to think of it, I actually burned something in effigy to my marriage once: my leg garter that I wore on my wedding day.

Why the hell I even kept that thing is beyond me.  It’s not like I would ever wear it again.  I think the gaudy lacy thing only cost me $5.00.  It was still in my drawer even after I had decided to get a divorce, was about to move out of our beautiful home, and had pawned my $2500 wedding ring for $400 (I am ashamed to say my kids were with me at the pawn shop.  This was definitely one of my finer Mom-of-the-Year moments).  The twisted thing is that I used that money to buy a ticket to Burning Man, on purpose.  I suppose it reflects my rebellious priorities at the time in some way.

As it turned out, going to Burning Man in the middle of the Black Rock Desert was one of the best decisions of my life.

Burning the Man

For those of you who don’t know what Burning Man is, I encourage you to Google it.  Anytime I try to describe it, my attempts fall pathetically short of the experience and setting.  You have to go at least once in your life to understand.

At the end of the week-long event, most things (including awesome art pieces) are burned.  People gather around dressed in strange and scantily clad clothing, celebrating refining fire through burning a giant structure of a man.  Music blares, people party, and a unique community is experienced.  The next night, an enormous temple (and I mean huge) is also burned.  During the days and nights leading up to this inferno, people are welcome to meditate and reflect within the temple, and many Burners place objects, messages and energies inside of it to be offered up for a renewed life the night it is arsoned.

When I learned of this ritual before I journeyed there, that leg garter was the first thing that popped into my mind.  It symbolized my attempt at trying to cling to my old life that would never exist again. I guess I had kept it for reasons unknown to me until that moment.

I burned that sucker, along with a note releasing my anger and hurt, right to the ground.  It was honestly one of the best spiritual experiences of my life.

The Temple before it’s burned to the ground.

That night, I felt forgiveness and acceptance teem over me.  While it wasn’t a permanent feeling (because forgiveness often has to happen time and time again), it was an amazing step in the right direction.  Out of those ashes (which I still have some in a small box), rose a new Emily.  A stronger one.  A less judgmental and accepting one.

And now, I have accepted my new life and beautiful things have come from it.  The fact that I’m sitting here writing about the hope that I’ve found because of the things that have happened to me is amazing.

What are you holding on to that’s causing you to reflect too negatively about your life and your circumstance?  I’m guessing you can think of something that symbolizes what you wish you could return to but can’t in this lifetime.  Maybe it’s just a memory.  Maybe it’s a picture or a gift given to you in the past by the One Who Has Broken Your Heart.  Little things can trigger hurt: a song on the radio, a love letter from your early days of dating, an angry and spiteful email.

Release it.  I say: “Burn that shit to the ground.” (Thank you, Patty, for this insightful quote.)

We are guaranteed one thing in this life: troubles.  Jesus even said something to that effect.  He didn’t say “if” you have troubles, he said “when” you have troubles.  Crap happens.  It just will.

I love the legend of The Phoenix.  This mythological bird (in numerous cultures and religions) is said to live hundreds of years.  It takes its own life eventually, burning itself with the power of the sun and rising into a new being, born from its own ashes.  It takes its experiences and makes something brand new and beautiful out of it.

A rendition of The Phoenix, born from its own ashes.

I am The Phoenix.  So are you.  Take your old crap and burn it (literally or figuratively) and see what the Universe can do with your ashes.  If you expect something beautiful to come out of it, it simply will.

But fire’s painful, people.  It’s bright, it’s hot, and it can leave some scars.  I mean, it’s fire.  Duh.  But it’s also comforting, warming and primal.  There’s just something about fire that attracts people.  Remember, too, that fire refines gold.  It gets rid of the impurities and makes the metal more precious.  It can do this for you if you let it happen.  You are gold.  You are precious.  Let the Refining Fire do its job.

You are The Phoenix. You are precious.

So take up the banner of The Phoenix.  Be renewed.  Have hope.  Believe that your circumstances will cause you to rise from the ashes as a new and more complete person.

You are The Phoenix.  Burn that shit to the ground.

Blessings from the Pyro Bird,

Emily

Way Cool

Hot off the presses!

It’s here! The November Issue of Reno Tahoe Tonight, including the new column that Devon and I are writing. Click below, turn to page 79, enjoy, and share with your friends! Check out the great pics of Devon and me as Ward and June Cleaver. Thanks, Oliver Ex. Woo-hoo!

Same Sides Column Reno Tahoe Tonight

Blessings,

Devon and Emily

The Future’s So Bright…

I gotta wear shades.

I’ve been looking for just the right topic to write about recently for the blog.  It’s gotten tough for me to think about anything other than the kids’ school and sports activities, Devon’s incessant calendaring, Hamlet lesson planning for the at-risk high schoolers that I teach, and getting up at 4:30 a.m. to get ready for my long days.  I am so thankful for this busy life that I have, especially in light of the fact that last year at this time I was laying around on my futon in the living room, attempting to recover from my latest chemo treatment and feeling sorry for myself.  I couldn’t even get out of bed to see my kids or poop properly on the loo.

And then I read the latest feature article in our local Reno News and Review this evening.  I was totally wowed.

Here’s the article link by Brad Bynum.  Don’t forget to come back and read what I have to say.  You will get sucked in, so be warned.

http://www.newsreview.com/reno/life-in-transition/content?oid=7870290

I’m so glad you’re back.  Let me preface this little novella by stating that I am in favor of people being who they are meant to be at their core, not who others say they should be based on religion, tradition or norms, just so that we can feel comfortable.  I am writing from a place of bias and I don’t care if people agree with me or not.  I didn’t used to think this “liberal” way, and so I totally understand the other side of things.

But that other side is simply wrong.  I won’t even argue about it.

Devon always knew he was gay, but he wasn’t willing to admit it or be at peace about it.  I will not speak for him, however.  It is his story and I played a small part in it, ultimately.  Thank the Maker that I did.  Otherwise I wouldn’t be who I am today.

Kris stated it eloquently:  “But I will say that, as a person, I’d say that we’re all always growing, always becoming more of who we are. In that sense, I think that everyone is in transition.”

Transitioning

Devon did this.  He transitioned.  Not anatomically, because that’s not his beef and most people would never think he was a gay man if they met him for the first time.  I definitely didn’t accept that he is gay at first and it took me nearly a year and a half to get there.  Just like Kris’ parents, I felt that there must be some explanation—some way to fix things.  I tried everything I could.  I quoted scripture.  I got others involved who I thought could help change our situation.  I used the kids against Devon.  I tried to love him so much that he wouldn’t have any other choice but to desire to be with me in spite of his true core.

Essentially, I was in denial.

The day I accepted him and the inevitable death of our marriage and subsequent divorce, was the day that I accepted his “You’re the only woman I’ve ever truly loved” as a compliment.  He used to say this phrase after his Big Reveal to me.  I would get all butt hurt and take it as a slap in the face.  The day I accepted this as truth was the very day that I decided that it was okay to let go.  It just clicked and no amount of scriptural prodding or Christian guilt trip could deter me from my place of peace.

So, what is your hang-up?  Did your spouse cheat on you or lie to you in some major way?  Yeah.  That friggin’ sucks.  It may be the most painful type of betrayal one can go through.  But does denying your situation by being bitter, angry and spiteful help you transition into happiness and fulfillment in life?  Nope.  Not a chance.  It will only make you a bitter, angry and spiteful person in the future about almost anything.

I was going down that road.  I can relate.

Accepting what is and accepting what was… as real and true… is the only positive thing you can do for yourself.  I don’t know how to tell you to accomplish this seemly insurmountable task, but you’ll know it when it happens.  The only baby step you can take in getting to that place is expecting that it will one day happen.  You may have more crap to feel, more words to say, more counseling needed, but if you expect that you will come out on the other side a better and happier person, you will.  I guarantee it.

‘Cuz if you’re looking for the positive stuff to show up despite your circumstances, you’ll eventually see it, and it will be glorious.  Then you’ll know that you’re transitioning into the person you are meant to be at your core.

Just like Kris.  Just like Devon.  Just like me.  Just like we hope our children will eventually become.

Blessings to you, Kris, and to anyone who finds yourself having to face the toughest thing you’ve ever dealt with in this short life.  I am proud of you, Devon, for coming out to me, even if it was forced upon you in some way due to your choices and me trying to change you.

I wouldn’t be who I am today at my core without my past.

My future looks bright.  So does yours, even if you can’t see it yet.

Blessings for your Future,

Emily Reese

Wrapped Around His Finger

While I love my girls deeply and would kill any little chipmunk that threatens their livelihood, having a boy is quite a treasure.  When Thomas was a baby, we had two little toddlers, one of which was still in diapers, so I carried that string bean kid in a front carrier for the first two years of his life.  Thomas was nearly 9 pounds when he was born, but was as tall and lanky as an awkward 16-year-old center on the basketball team.  When he started to become mobile, my friends would gasp in horror when I called him “Gollum.”  He never really crawled, and with those long skinny legs of his he ran through the house on all fours faster than a waterbug.  So I graciously corrected myself to my prudish friends and called him “Smeagol.”

He’s so tough. We did a road trip this summer together and had a blast!

Thomas is awesome.  He’s a peacemaker and a leader, and while I would NEVER call him a mama’s boy, that quick cute athlete has me wrapped around his little finger.  Don’t let him fool you, though.  I know he stirs up trouble for his sisters.  It’s those dang puppy dog eyes that get me every time, even though he’s almost 10.

1.  What kinds of things do you like to collect?  I’m thinking about your meticulously arranged bookshelf in your room at my house.

I like to collect snow globes, cool rocks and books.  Some of the rocks came from Iowa (like the geodes I collected with Uncle Troy and Cousin Isaac) and from the back yard at our old house.  My favorite book is Harry Potter and I like to look at the Guinness Book of World Records.

Thomas and Cousin Isaac from Iowa. We love the ice cream at Isaac’s Creamery in North Liberty!

2.  You have told me before that you don’t like to have sleepovers with your friends when there is more than one friend over.  Why?

I don’t like to have sleepovers with more then one person because everyone wants to do something different and no one can agree on what to do.  It’s easier to take turns between just two people. There is too much fighting when there is more than one person.

Thomas has lots of friends, many of whom are part of his sports teams. The families we’ve met through him are awesome!

3.  Describe to me five things that you consider polite behavior when speaking or meeting other people, especially adults.

One thing is shaking someone’s hand and introducing myself.   Making eye contact is important also and you should always say please and thank you.  Using Sir, Ma’am, Mr. or Ms. shows respect.  Interrupting conversations is rude.  You and Dad always taught us to lay a hand on your shoulder and wait patiently until we could interrupt.

Thomas is a great athlete, obviously, and the coaches that he’s had have really been a great influence on him.

4.  What book are you currently reading, what part are you reading in that book and what has been your favorite part of that book so far?

I’m reading Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.  I’m on chapter 23, the one where Harry sticks his head in the magical water and sees a vision.  My favorite part is when Harry beats the first task and gets the Golden Egg.

Devon has been an awesome influence for him in so many ways and one of them has been his intelligence and love for reading.

5.  Name two athletes, two from basketball and two from football, that you admire the most.  What is it that you like about them?

Basketball:

Kobe Bryant.

            I like him because he works so hard.

Michael Jordan

            I like him because he played even when he was sick.

Football:

Andrew Luck

            I like him because he’s super smart AND athletic.

Robert Griffin III

            I just love watching him play.

6.  What are two of your favorite things about your dad?  Felipe?  Me?  YOUR SISTERS?

Dad:  He’s a clean freak and we don’t have to clean as much at his house as we do at yours.  He’s not afraid to laugh about himself.

Felipe:  He’s always there for me.  He’s not always thinking just of himself.

Sisters:  Awww.  Do I have to?  They talk too much… I really love that [he said sarcastically].  Kate likes to play with me.  Maddie helps me out on my schoolwork.

Mommy:  I like how you like to take my side about things.  You always listen to me, too. [Who, me?  I would never just take YOUR side, Thomas.]

See? Your sisters aren’t so bad.

7.  What is the best thing about having two homes to live in?

That I get two Christmases!  Also, I like having an old house like yours and a newer house like Daddy’s.  It adds variety to things.

Is it obvious that I’m biased?  I love this boy and it’s awesome being his mom.  Devon and Felipe love being the guys in his life.  Per my usual request, won’t you shoot him a comment?  He’ll love it!

Blessings and Little Boys,

Emily and Devon

The Stuff in the Middle

You’ve heard from our eldest daughter, Maddie.  Now, I can’t wait to see how the girl sandwiched in between our three kids responds to these questions.  Kate is much more serious than the other two, but at times unpredictably funny.  She is a brilliant and deep thinker.  She could be anything when she grows up: a contortionist in the circus, a CEO of a million dollar company, an artist, a shrink, an attorney, a professional Jeopardy guest or even a street performer who runs a hot dog cart downtown.  She’s so dang awesome.

1.  Kate, why don’t you give me a list of all of the things you could possibly do when you grow up and why.  You are an idea gal AND a detail gal.  I think you could do so many different things.

I think this is a very good question for me, so here are just a few things on my list:

  • Own a coffee shop
  • Move to Alaska
  • Own an axolotl
  • Major in Food Science at a good college and minor in Psychology
  • Coach a traveling softball team

Apparently, THIS is an axoloti. Kate? This will never enter my house. Hell no.  Take it to your dad’s.

2.  Tell me what two of your greatest strengths are and what two of your possible weaknesses are.  How are your weaknesses actually strengths of yours?

One of my greatest strengths is my ability to be sensitive toward different minorities and diversity, considering that I have a rainbow family. Another is my ability not to care too much about what people think of me.

I think the two weaknesses I have would be that occasionally I’m not daring enough so I miss out on things (like roller coasters) and I get offended too much about what people say about other people.  I don’t think any of my weaknesses could be strengths though.

[Kate, it’s Mommy.  I beg to differ.  Your perceived weaknesses really are strengths.  For one, you’re careful, which makes me trust you more that you’re not going to do anything too stupid.  For two, you have a heart of gold and you care about other people’s feelings.  That’s a good thing.  You’ll learn how to reign in over-reactions to those things as you grow.  I’m proud of those “weaknesses” in you!  I’ll bet you other people in the comments below will agree with me.]

Kate really does not give up when she determines she needs to know something or learn how to do something. Look at this! She’s like seriously, a really good hoola-hooper.

3.  Tell me three things playing softball has taught you about yourself and life, besides the obvious softball skills that you’re learning.

The three things I’ve learned from playing softball are to always believe in yourself, have a positive attitude, and to be patient with other people. And that I have MAD SKILLS (tee hee).

She is a ham in front of the camera.

3.  What are your favorite kinds of foods, since I consider you a foodie?  You have exquisite tastes.

Honestly, I don’t think I could sum that all up in words, but I mainly like healthy colon cleansers, goat cheeses, and seaweed. Seaweed is very healthy for you AND its tasty.

Kate is very adventurous when it comes to trying new foods. I didn’t have the heart to remind her of Quinn the Quail’s recent passing when she tried this quail egg shot at sushi the other day.

3.  How do you work through frustrations while trying to achieve a goal?

When I do have frustrations when trying to achieve a goal I just take a break or talk with my parents for encouragement. Oh, and I never stop trying.

Kate needs lots of encouragement if she gets frustrated. She’s learning how to deal with frustration on her own more and more. We’re so proud of her!

4.  Name three things you remember about the divorce process our family experienced.  How did you feel at different times?

One thing I remember was that when he told us he was moving out of the house, the left the next morning, which I was sad about, but I understand now that it was for the best.  The next thing is that when he told us he was gay, I don’t think I was too surprised, not because I knew, but because it didn’t make him any different to me. And the third thing I remember was that you two couldn’t officially divorce for a while.

5.  What types of things have you experienced or thought as a kid who has two daddies who are gay?  What things do you wish would change in people’s minds?

I haven’t really thought much of my dads being gay, because its not offensive to me, but I hear kids at school saying stuff that’s meant to be offensive to other kids. I wouldn’t change people’s minds about it, because they have their beliefs and opinions, but I would want them to see it from a different angle.

She is waiting anxiously by the computer, wanting comments from people.  Like I said, she loves encouragement.  Drop her a line, won’t you?

Blessings,

The Reeses and their Pieces

Kate loves to climb trees. This picture was from a couple of years ago, and she’s even prettier now. Tough to believe it, I know.