Hey all, I’d like to introduce you to our newest columnist Hillery Shay! Hillery and I go back a bit; we used to run in the same journalism circles. Hillery, like so many of us, is in the process of reinventing and has decided she wants to contribute to our little site a couple times a month. And boy does she have an interesting story to tell. We talked a bit about what to call her column and, being the witty people we are, came up with this, Raisin in Minnesota. You’ll see why as you read on  (make sure you sense of humor cap is firmly affixed). But first, a little background from Hillery herself.


Let me preface this post with an explanation of my Twitter screen name. @crazphotochick is a wonderful description of who I am. I am woman, who is a photographer who fell in love with a man, also a photographer, who had three children and an ex-wife. This is why my girlfriends called me crazy! I love these children so much that I became a mom because of how great they are. Which leads me to the last part “chick”. Yes, I am a woman but that’s not it. My mom and I used to have an inside joke about her kids being her chickens (another post altogether). She would call on Sunday’s and say, “Just checking on my chicken!” I should also mention that I am Black; my Darling Husband (DH) and Bonus Kids (BK’s) are White, a fact you’ve no doubt, been able to deduce from the photo. My Darling Daughters (DD’s) are, as my girlfriend Yesi calls them, lattes. All together, we are an interracial family of seven. I’m blessed, but it has not always been easy!

My husband’s Ex and I have a mutual respect for each other that has grown over the years. I believe she has raised great children, she now believes I love them and that I’m in it for the long haul! So it does get better. But there’s no denying, it’s hard on both sides. I admit to occasionally poking the bee’s nest, because it is hard to be the outsider. I’m sure she felt similarly excluded when I came along. I share these stories so people can relate to what a “beautiful mess” blended families can be. So here goes….

Anyone who has had the pleasure of meeting my boisterous eight-year-old knows that she is a tad impatient, a trait she exhibited even before birth. DD1 was born four weeks early to be exact.

It was Monday, December 15 and I had an early morning OB appointment. I was on bed rest for fluctuating blood pressure, no doubt stress-induced. My DH’s ex-wife was already faced with the fact he had married a younger woman, who was Black and now she was no longer going to be the mother of his only children (a fact she threw around rather loosely while we were dating and first married). I imagine in her mind, my diabolical plan to dethrone her as the sole mother in our odd family was under way.

Anyway, during that appointment, the doctor leaned over and said,“How’d you like to have a baby today?” At this perfectly rotund moment in my life, I contemplated leaping for joy but decided not to after the brain-barrage of motherly questions like “How will this affect the baby?” and “Will her lungs be OK?” After assuring me that all was fine, we were off to the races. Of course she did not tell me I was going directly to the hospital with no food; in retrospect, a stop at the McDonald’s on the corner would have been a fabulous idea. I dialed DH then waddled on over to my waiting hospital room.

As I am a firm believer that there are no awards for enduring unnecessary pain, I asked for an induction and epidural in the same breath. Jackson Memorial is a teaching hospital. That’s code for “we-let-people-with-little-experience-poke-at-you-while-the-expert-stands-by”. I affectionately use the term ABW (Angry Black Woman) to depict my demeanor, and let’s just say the trainee giving me my epidural catheter will never forget this experience. Forcing a woman, with a basketball in front of her, to bend over until she feels faint then poking her unsuccessfully ten or so times, is not teaching. That’s torture. So, in my ABW state, I let him know his hands might never work again if he did not hand the needle over to the expert, immediately. It was rude but effective. Expert was quick and painless.

Meanwhile the wheels are turning. DH called his mom. Then MIL (Mother-In-Law) begins her plan. She calls the Ex to see if she and SFIL (Stepfather-In-Law) can bring BK’s to the hospital where their new sibling was being born. No answer. She leaves a long message. No call back. The dethroning had begun. What the Ex had not planned on was my little girl’s determination to have all of her siblings present at her time of arrival. To this day, DD1 is a big performer and in this one she wouldn’t take the stage until the audience was seated, even, if that meant 36 hours of labor for me.

Tuesday rolls around and there is still no baby at which point the doctor schedules a C-section, since I had not progressed any further. And now I’m now starving, thereby a danger to anyone putting ice chips in my mouth.

Finally the Ex called MIL Tuesday, apologizing because she thought the kids had missed the birth at which point MIL promptly informed her that baby wasn’t out of the chute yet and that she was coming to them. MIL’s “Minnesota Niceness” had given way to the ASW (Angry Swedish Woman) on a mission to unite her grandchildren.

December 16, 2003 at 5:08PM, the little diva made her debut and she has been the unifier ever since. Jenna is the one who bridged the gap and made us a true blended family. She was the lucky fourth with three admirers who needed an egg timer for fairness in holding her. It was insane to watch one baby get so much love, and she lapped it right up.

I have two children but only one bridge, only one legitimizer and peace negotiator. This first born has a hell of a resume.

So share with me, what are the funny things you wonder about interracial families or blended families? Ask me anything and I’ll be here twice a month with a funny look at interracial families, Step-Mommery, and Raisin in Minnesota!

What are the funny things you wonder about interracial families or blended families? Ask me anything!

More from our columnists:
Our Story Begins: You Say You Want A Resolution
Rachel Vidoni: My Panty Sniffing Shame

Single Mom Slice of Life: And Then There’s Zen
Ask The Good Enough Guy: Is My Marriage In Trouble?


Hillery Smith Shay, is a proven leader in Visual Communications and New Media Marketing. She holds a MBA, from Bethel University and A Bachelor of Fine Arts from Haverford College. Shay is an award-winning photographer who has worked for the Associated Press and various newspapers. Hillery resides in West Saint Paul with her husband Jeff and their daughters Jenna and Hayden. She is also the proud stepmother of Erin, Ginger and Jack. Read more about her at hilleryshay.com and follow her on Twitter too.