A Pleasure To Meet You

Yesterday I got a text from an old (and wonderful) friend that said “can I give someone your number?”  My relationship with the sender is such that I was not concerned, rather curious.  I responded by saying “of course…but why?”  People are often offering my contact information (and implied knowledge I might have) for any number of reasons: a breast cancer diagnosis, an issue with a child’s learning disability, a recommendation for a kick-ass hair stylist or, wait for it…a transgender kid.  I am more than willing to speak with anyone about any of the aforementioned, but I do like to have an inkling as to which hat I am expected to be wearing before the conversation begins.  In this case, it was putting another mom trying to traverse the unchartered transgender parenting waters in touch with me – if only because I am a few (baby) steps ahead of her.

Not long after the original text, my phone rang.  On the other end was my friend who, having received my blessing for initiating contact, decided to skip over the email or text introductions and put us in touch immediately.  Turns out she had just met this other mom while they were “chaperoning” a field trip (while on the phone with me, that is) and talk had turned to transgender parenting.  (Note: when you are the parent of the child who arrives at school presenting as the opposite sex from their prior school years, everyone knows who you are.  As such, when these two met, my old friend already knew who the new friend was…transgender announcements have a way of facilitating the process of identifying oneself.  Go figure.)  I answered the call and, with nary an introduction, was speaking to Joanne who I am quite sure will be a friend in short order.

We are a unique sort, us trans-parents and, as such, need to seek one another out and grasp on – sometimes for dear life.  Our parenting challenges are just like everyone else’s; if you were to put those challenges on steroids, that is.  Sure, some of the crap, er, issues, are ones no one ever thinks of (remember the bathing suit quandary of just a few months ago?) but, they are additional and not replacement worries.  In the few short moments that we were chatting we covered about ten of them…and we were just getting started.  (Aside: we each used the “f” word twice.  Just sayin’.)  With a promise to meet for coffee or wine (doh, wine is definitely preferable) we hung up so that she could resume her chaperoning and I my errands.

Here’s the thing: as much as she was happy and relieved to have been put in touch with me, I was equally, if not more, ecstatic to be put in touch with her.  Yes, I have tremendous support and love.  I have become friendly with several other moms from the PFLAG support group who have provided invaluable empathy and “yep, us, too” moments.  But who doesn’t want more support and more empathy??  I know I do.  So, Joanne, if you are reading this – great to speak with you and let’s keep reminding one another that we’ve got this.  And Jen, love you.

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The Blahs

Some days are decidedly (and sometimes inexplicably) tougher than others.  In my world, there is often a strong correlation between the success of the day and the success of the prior night’s sleep.  Sometimes the weather, or even just the forecast, will place my emotions in an anticipatory spot: hot and sticky –> bad, cool and dry –> good.  The mood(s) and side of the bed upon which any of the other three people with whom I live awaken can similarly effect how the day ahead will play out.  But sometimes, no matter how well I might have slept, how good the weather may be or how content each of my housemates currently are, the day just isn’t easy.

There are times that a dramatic event of some sort will stack the deck against me.  Other times the most minute comment, interaction or exchange can send me reeling.  And other times, none of the above can be blamed.  It is just that kind of day.

This morning, for example, I awoke after an unfitful nine hours of sleep (without, I might add, the aid of either a Valium or a glass of wine) and the rhythm of the house was as smooth as I would ever be bold enough to hope for on a school day.  The weather report told me that the rain was heading out and that a bright, sunny, crisp Fall day lay ahead.  Everything was leaning in my favor, yet I felt out of sorts from the moment I log-rolled out of bed. (Log-rolling, for the uninformed, is a manner of getting out of bed that “promises” – and I use the term loosely – to cause the least amount of pain for people like me with lousy, cranky, evil, angry backs.  I learned the technique from a nurse at the hospital after the first of my three surgeries who, when I asked how long I would need to get up that way responded: “forever”.  Ouch.)  Physical pain aside, I had no other external factors to support a blah day ahead, yet it was evident from the time the alarm screeched in my ear that it was today’s destiny.

As the day progressed I lifted a bit from the fog, but still felt (um, feel?) the weight of the world resting squarely on my shoulders.  Perhaps most annoying is that there is no apparent reason why today should feel any different from any other day.  Anddddd, having been born with a particular psyche, I cannot help but wonder if the cosmos know something I don’t.  Hate that.

In fact, and perhaps ironically, Jessie arrived home from school having completed her homework (thank you teachers who stay after hours for such activities), requested a (almost healthy) snack and then literally curled up with a book.  (Anyone who has a dyslexic child knows that this scenario simply doesn’t happen.  Ever.)  Which begs the question: Who is she and what has she done with Jessie?!?  This simply doesn’t add up – she  left this morning on time and without bother, arrived home calm and self-entertaining and has remained so ever since.  What may be a normal day for most is strikingly abnormal for me but instead of just going with it, I, of course (thank you neurotic self) wonder what it means.  One could (and likely will) argue that I should be in a grand mood, just like she is.  But, alas, I am not.  What up with that?

All in all things are actually “okay” right now (she said as she throws salt over her shoulder, sidesteps cracks in the sidewalk, steers clear of black cats and avoid ladders at all costs) which makes my malaise all the more irritating.  Perhaps it speaks to the calm between storms?  Or maybe my delicious slumber of last night was to be the last for a while?  Or, and this I would dread, the weather is going to turn hot and sticky in a freak October weather pattern and my gut somehow knows that, as if the general blahs weren’t enough, bad hair is looming.  Or, maybe I am just having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad* day for no real reason at all.  Just lucky, I guess.

*Actually, it wasn’t terrible, horrible, no good or very bad…just blah.

I’m An Onion. What Are You?

In our house we are thisclose to being done with the college application process.  Harrison has taken all the standardized tests, written all of his essays (of which there were many), submitted a portion of his applications and is days (hours?) away from hitting the send button on the rest.  We have had remarkably few quarrels and I have only uttered, “I’ve already done my college applications!” once.  Okay, maybe more than once.  Regardless, all that remains to be done is the entry of my credit card and a strike to the “submit” button.  The heavy thinking is over (for now, for him) and the waiting game begins.

Many of the essay questions were as you would imagine: “What makes you a unique candidate”, “Explain any grade below a B”, “Why do you want to go to (fill in school name here)?” Most did not trip him up (he is my son, after all, and, thankfully, doesn’t equate essay writing with torture) but one in particular did take him some time to come up with an answer that did not sound trite, canned or unoriginal.  That question was, “Pick one word to describe you” (oh, and write 250 words about why).

Together we batted around several words which you might expect: resilient, resourceful, compassionate, clever, awesome (that was one of my suggestions), but none of them seemed quite right.  We finally came up with a fantastic, simple, multidimensional word which we all decided was brilliant.  (I am not going to say what the word is because it is so unique and unexpected that we are sure that it will catch the eye of the admissions folks charged with plowing through all of the applications and would hate for anyone to sneak in and lift it…inadvertently, of course.)

You are probably wondering why, if I am not going to share, would I even bring it up.  Fair question.  Well, all that thinking about words got me thinking about words and how multidimensional even the seemingly banal of them can be.  And then I started trying to put myself in Harrison’s shoes and consider what word I would choose if charged with finding one that described me.  I considered many: tired, honest, tolerant, funny, compassionate, really tired (oh, that is two words)…but somehow landed on onion.  Yes, onion.

Let me explain.  An onion is pretty straightforward…but is it really?  Methinks not.  Onions can be rounded or long and thin. They can be mild, sweet, or pungent.  Some people are unaffected while in their company while others can be reduced to tears.  They can be presented in cooked, raw, sliced, diced or reduced forms.  And many have lots (and lots and lots) of layers.  Is it just me or do you see the similarities here?  Assuming you do not, let me explain:

  • There have been times in my life that I have been more round than I would like.  Of course during pregnancy, but my youngest is nearly eleven and the “blaming it on baby weight” ship might have sailed.  Other times, I am long (enough) and thin (enough).
  • I can be mild-mannered and easy-going.  (Shut up, I can!), I like to think I have a sweet side, too.  And, yes, I can be a bit intense (which is, in my mind, a better word than pungent).
  • There are times I can slice an onion (or deal with a complicated child, let’s say) without issue, while other times, that same act leaves me with streaks (of my beloved) mascara running down my cheeks.
  • You may find me in any state: cooked (done!), raw (an open wound), sliced (in control, but falling piece by piece), diced (chopped up to within an inch of my life) and reduced (in a puddle on the floor, sucking my thumb and rocking).
  • And those (friggin’) layers.  You keep on pulling them back thinking that you have reached the end, or found the sweet spot, or are done with the process, yet somehow you never are.

Get it now?  Yep, it is pretty clear to me that I am, in actuality, an onion; the good, the bad and the ugly of an onion, but still an onion.

Got you thinking, have I?  What one word would you use to describe yourself?  Hmmmm.

Note: for what it is worth…I don’t happen to be an especially big fan of onions.  Go figure.

Yep, Another “CVS” Moment

Remember back when Jessie began her transition and I lamented the “CVS” moments that would, on a nearly daily basis, stop me in my (emotional) tracks?  You know, the awkward moment when people who knew me to have two boys would spot me in the toothpaste aisle alongside a child who looked remarkably like George but/and/yet was wearing earrings and something pink?  Yeah, well, I had not had such an encounter in so long that I had plum forgotten what they were like.  Well, I was reminded just now in, for real, CVS.  (Note: these moments are not unique to CVS, but they seem to happen there with remarkable frequency.  Perhaps that is because I am there everyday, but whatever, don’t judge.)

At Jessie’school it is not until 5th grade that the kids procure lockers, and it is a time-honored tradition in that year for the girls to surprise their birthday-celebrating classmates with a decorated locker – usually wrapping paper, bows, and other girly crap, er, stuff. Being the awesome mom that I try to be, I drove Jessie, in the spitting rain, to “our” CVS to load up on the supplies necessary to adorn Sally’s* locker in honor of tomorrow’s birthday.  As we walked in, I gently reminded her that if I should bump into anyone I know (which never doesn’t happen) she had best not start pulling or otherwise irritating me, or else I will pull the plug on our impending purchase.  She quickly agreed and in we went, through the automatic doors and directly into my friend Riva and her daughter Sofie (aka Jessie’s idol).  Jessie could hardly contain her excitement, although I believe she was torn as to which was revving her up more: the reason for our shopping or knowing that Sofie, having graduated the 5th grade five years ago, would guide her in precisely how to make Sally’s locker da bomb.  I saw it as a win/win; I got to see Riva and Jessie had a better partner in crime than I would have been.

Riva and I caught up for the next several minutes while the girls gathered the necessary materials and collectively we headed to the register to pay. (Aside: we were total rebels and actually had a person ring up…no self checkout for these divas.)  Okay, so all is fine so far, right?  I started this story by telling you that there was a CVS moment in store…and by this time you are probably wondering if I have forgotten.  Fear not.  I never forget the CVS moments.  So here it is…

For as many years as I can recall there has been a woman who works at CVS who is also a nanny for a family in the neighborhood (although, truth be told, I am not sure which family, but that is neither here nor there, just one of my many asides)  and knows my kids.  We often exchange pleasantries, her with her cool Jamaican accent which is so melodic and tropical that it makes me want to pop a Red Stripe and, on the rare occasion that I manage to go there unencumbered with offspring, she always asks how they are doing.  Apparently it has been some time since we have been there on the same shift because today she stopped me, looked at Jessie (who looks suspiciously like George) and said, “Didn’t you have two boys?”  Um, gulp, er, deep swallow, is it hot in here, awkward, ummmmm.

She is a lovely woman, although (and remember, I do everything I can to keep this blog real) I don’t think she is necessarily the brightest bulb on the shelf.  (Case in point: blurting out in the middle of CVS – and not in an inside voice – that the little girl standing next to me is not what she may seem.)  It took me a beat and a few curious glances in her direction, before I was able to form a response.  I then told her, with a smile and in the quickest, most straightforward, most matter-of-fact way possible that we’d had some changes and that, yes, she used to be George but is now Jessie.  It was, to me, anyway, patently clear that she did not quite get what I was trying to tell her but (and for this alone I am assured that there is a G-d) she let well enough alone and moved on to ask about Harrison.

For the first time in many (many) months, I left CVS feeling unnerved and shaken, mostly because I was caught off guard and not at all because I was uncomfortable with the story.  That represents a new kind of CVS moment; one which is preferable for sure.  Jessie, to her credit, was unfazed.  She stood by my side (role reversal?) throughout the conversation with nothing but a sweet smile.  She knew to just let me handle it.  Thanks, I guess.

I am quite certain that as we departed the store this woman was left with more questions than answers, but if I have learned nothing else over these past few months, I have learned that it ain’t my problem.    I will also admit that, was it not for the $14 in Extra Bucks burning a hole in my wallet, I might think twice about going back any time soon just out of association of an uncomfortable moment.  But, in a delicious turn of events, I have already moved past the uncomfortable exchange and am confident that the likelihood of returning to the store within the next 48 hours is all but assured.

*Not her real name.  I only use real names when I know that it is okay and this particular schoolmate has an unusual name and the last thing I need is to piss off a parent.  Can you blame me?

25 Things You Don’t (or Might Not) Know About Me

  1. I have a very small family: two brothers and three male cousins.  When I was born, on April Fool’s Day, no one believed my parents that I was a girl.  (Oh, the irony.)
  2. Although I hate talking on the phone, I would literally shrivel up and die should anyone take away my cell phone. (Note: Texting, how I love thee…)
  3. I had a lypoma on my back that, once I finally had surgically removed, was the size of a grapefruit.  Gross, right?
  4. I am (by far and without competition) the least technically or mechanically savvy person in my house.  Proof: when Harrison was eight he put together a stroller for Jessie…and it never occurred to me to be concerned that it was done correctly.
  5. If it were up to me, I would go to the movies a minimum of three nights a week.  However, I will never see a sci-fi, horror or Adam Sandler flick.  Ever.
  6. I have to carefully schedule any crying jags as I am left with red, painful, puffy and generally disgusting eyes for a minimum of twelve hours after the fact.
  7. I waver (sometimes hourly) between being totally cool and totally hysterical about what lays ahead for Jessie.
  8. I sometimes feel so much pressure to write something meaningful, inspiring or thought-provoking that I am, instead, rendered unable to finish a thought let alone write a word.  (So, I do things like tell you 25 things you might not know about me…mostly so you know I am still hanging in and haven’t forgotten about my blog.)
  9. I am nothing if not honest.  (See #7)
  10. When there was nothing particularly nerve-racking happening in my life I suffered from terrible panic attacks.  Now that I have something legit to freak out about, not so much.  (Note: Hope I didn’t just set myself up.)
  11. My hair, which is arguably my best asset, is the bane of my existence.  It is too thick, heavy, curly and voluminous for its own good. (Shallow, I know, but see #9.)
  12. Harrison’s best friend, Alex, has me in his cell phone as “mom2”.  I kinda love that.
  13. There are times that I look at Jessie and am overcome with admiration for her bravery.  There are other times I look at her and kinda wish she was George*.  True.
  14. I look just like my father.  I always wished I looked like my mother.  Nice looking man, better looking woman.
  15. I text with my left pointer finger and not my thumbs.  It drives Harrison a little crazy.  That makes it more fun.
  16. I loathe, detest, abhor and shudder at photographs of myself.  On the rare occasion that there is one I deem halfway decent, I can assure you, it will be publicized.
  17. For a good time, call my brother, RRL.  It is nearly impossible to not have a better time doing whatever you are doing when he (and DEP) are/is around.
  18. There are many things I should, but have not yet exposed my children to.  Fortunately, I have nurtured and supported their love of “Gilligan’s Island”.  And, yes, there is some dissension in the Ginger/Mary Anne vote.
  19. The only thing that I know for sure is that I have no idea where my children, one in particular, are going to land.  There, I said it.
  20. I have considered removing all of the “Real Housewives” shows from my DVR, but then thought better of it.  In comparison to them, I am livin’ the dream.
  21. Reward charts never worked for my children.  I never understood why.  Then I remembered that they are my children and that whole instant gratification thing.
  22. I pat myself on the back and applaud my self-restraint when I get through the checkout line at the market (or CVS) without a magazine.  Any magazine.  Small victories.
  23. I am famously a pre-worrier, but never about big things…only stupid, ridiculous things that are never going to happen.
  24. I am a vomit-phobe. (I know, I know….everyone knows that!)
  25. In my heart of hearts I know that everything is going to be okay.  (If you know otherwise, please keep it to yourself.  Thanks.)

*Please do not interpret this as anything other than what it is: fear, honesty and a little more fear. 

Out With (Some of) The Old

When my children made the transition from crib to bed I did not fool around.  Each went directly to a full  (as opposed to either a toddler or twin-size mattress) thanks to my foresight that as little ones they would appreciate the space available for me to dole out cuddles and read books as I lay beside them and/but they would eventually grow to be large enough human beings to be insulted by a twin.  I have logged many hours over the years laying alongside my kids and, as pathetic as it may sound,  nearly every time I have mentally patted myself on the back (because it would be weird for me to actually pat myself on the back) for having made the “full mattress” choice – one which I consider among the best I have made as a parent.  Given the myriad decisions I have been forced to make in my, gulp, 18 years of parenting, it should be telling to you that I determine this to be one of my best.  Yes, it is a little thing (particularly when you compare it to some of the, um, bigger stuff) but man, has it served me well.  I only hope all the other choices bode as well in the long run.

This weekend, Jessie (with some assistance*) rearranged and fumigated, er, cleaned up her room.  As a result, she has developed a new adoration for just hanging out in there.  The removal of the seven bags of crap (okay, there were closer to ten, but that sounds so outrageous, so pathological) which went on to be delivered to either the trash or Goodwill created the illusion of more space but the reality of a new serenity.  Yes, Jessie, it seems, has become a bit of a hoarder**… not in the creepy, reality show sense (yet, anyway) but what was unearthed (and discarded) from the many shelves, drawers, crevices and, perhaps the most frightening: under the bed, did give me pause.  I knew that it was cluttered with a few too many dolls (and wigs, and costumes) but perhaps my familiarity with it trumped my ability to acknowledge that it was in need of a mini makeover. Once it was all done, and for the first time in longer than I care to admit, it was a pleasure to go into her room.   It has been just four days, but the difference is noteworthy…if only for now.

Late yesterday afternoon I was aggressively searching for a new book to download when I realized it had been some time since I had either seen or heard from Jessie.  (I know, why not leave well enough alone, right?)  I wandered upstairs to see what she was up to and found her happily splayed across her lavender-quilted, pink-pillowed bed engrossed in something or other on her Kindle Fire.  (I would like to be able to assume that it was a book, but I suspect it was a game of some sort.  No matter.)  The room can certainly pass for a girl’s (despite the light blue carpet and complementary walls from male days gone by) and her hair, once again in need of a trim, was hanging in her face as it would any ten-year old girl.  I patted her on the butt and with a slight rising of my chin silently requested that she make room for me.  This time, unlike others in the past, she happily obliged.  I nudged her over a bit to ensure my own comfort and lay my head on her newly washed pillowcases.  I had every intention of engaging her in conversation, but instead I closed my eyes and reveled in the (newfound) serenity of the room.  The irony of discovering calm in, of all places, Jessie’s domain, was not lost on me.  Thoughts of her (on-going, never-ending, perpetual ) transition(s) from baby to toddler to kid to tween, not to mention the whole male to female thing, hindered my ability to form a thought or utter a word.  I was literally overcome with a surge of contentment…and exhaustion.

I am not sure that I fell completely asleep as I recall hearing noises around me and a dull commotion downstairs, but I definitely drifted in that space between consciousness and unconsciousness where one’s head and eyes are heavy and whatever might be happening nearby is of no interest or consequence.  I only lay there for about twenty minutes or so, but when I did drag my unapologetic ass off the bed, I was refreshed.

It, like many other things these past several years, snuck up and caught me unawares.  I was just glad to have been awoken by a gentle shake from Jessie asking me if I wanted to have dinner.  Sweet, right?

(Oh, but I would be remiss if I didn’t usher us all back to reality and point out that she wasn’t inviting me to dinner, rather she was requesting that I make it.   Oh, snap.)

*Hugs, kisses and thanks to DP for taking the charge on this one.  I wonder if he realizes that Jessie is still awaiting a paint job…preferably lavender.

**Let me assure you (and protect whatever may remain of my dignity) that there was nothing utterly, or even close to utterly, disgusting found.  It was just your average, run of the mill, everyday crap to which my kid has a (serious) affinity.