Bad Ass Happy Birthday To Me

With her tattoos, piercings and short crop haircut, she didn’t look like the other moms at the JCC pool.  Over the course of that first summer, we repeatedly found ourselves standing together, water up to our waists, as my two- and her three boys circled around us in the water; each one of them, at any given moment, needing to be reminded to stop splashing or stop jumping or stop staying under the water too long or stop swimming toward the deep end or leave your brother alone.  At first we just exchanged glances of empathy at just how exhausting (these particular) kids were, but soon we were pinch hitting for one another in watching, disciplining and allowing the other to have a quick break, even if only to use the ladies’ room.  It wasn’t long before we were actual friends.

As our friendship developed I was 100% certain that Beth was the coolest person I had ever known.  A self described “big ol’ lesbo” she was unflappable in the face of kids being kids.  Her story gaga-ed me:  three sons, all of whom she had birthed, being raised by her and two coupled gay men, all living together in one (totally cool) house.  There was not a single question I posed to her that she wasn’t willing to answer…and I asked plenty.  (Shut up, like you don’t want to know the mechanics of her getting pregnant!)

That was the summer that my 5 year old son had fashioned a mermaid tail out of shirts or towels or Lord knows what, and was elated to be traversing the pool, tail attached, enjoying a happiness that often eluded him.  He freakin’ loved that tail.  The lifeguards and other parents, however, felt differently.  Before I knew it, this benign mermaid tale was an official issue which, as I am sure you can imagine, I was not going to cave to.  Despite it not being her battle, Beth was right there alongside me voicing her ardent displeasure that a (supposedly) family friendly place was trying like hell to thwart a kid being  a kid because it made them uncomfortable.  It was then that I determined that, not only was Beth the coolest person I know, but she was now my idol.  I credit her with teaching me how to vehemently advocate for my kid without appearing all together rabid or unglued.  And, not for nothing; we won that battle.

When she isn’t in the pool with the kids (or cooking, or Soul Cycling or mentoring or getting a new tattoo or saving someone from themselves or being a kick ass mom or cracking me up) Beth is a therapist.  She works for this organization protecting, embracing and celebrating people who are, by big world definition, “on the fringe”, yet, by compassionate human being standards,  no less worthy of love, support, joy and acceptance than anyone else.  Right?!

Last year, as her birthday was approaching, Beth was acutely aware of the many blessing in her life and knew that she neither wanted nor needed any gifts.  So, in her never-ending marvelousness, she went on social media and requested that anyone who was able or inclined to, please purchase gift cards to be distributed to her client base, most of who find every day a struggle.  In keeping with it being her 51st birthday, she set a goal of receiving and then distributing 51 cards. Because she is so badass, she was sent, wait for it… 120 cards!  Seriously, how much of da bomb can one person be?!?

beth

Fast forward to this week when our (what’s the opposite of esteemed?) POTUS flexed his “muscles” and proves, beyond a reasonable doubt, that he is decidedly not everybody’s President by rescinding President Obama’s rule to protect transgender students’ bathroom use.  Aside from the strong and reasonable arguments that no one checks for penises or vaginas in the stalls of bathrooms, that this is no more about bathrooms than it was about water fountains and, really, who cares who is peeing next to you, his placing his signature (more on that here, just the first of 21,000,000 results when Googled) on the executive orders changed everything.

Under the best of circumstances, transgender kids do not have it easy.  They face ridicule and prejudice and hate and danger every single day.  They have an inordinately high rate of suicide. Many have parents and families who find the transition so intolerable that they throw their child, part of them, out of their homes.  It ain’t good, folks.

As I way lying in bed the other night, having chatted a bit with Jess about how this will change her world – she is fortunate to live in a state and town that is very accepting of her – I noted that she felt angry but not afraid.  With a healthy embrace of the arrogance of youth, any true fears she has about going to the bathroom in public are minor and, given where we live,  easily remedied, but not so for many others around the country.  And that really pisses me off.

What does this all have to do with Beth you ask?  Fair question.

My birthday is about a month away.  I need nothing.  I want nothing.  I am fortunate that I’ve got the people, love and things that I need and I have them every hour of every day.  Too damn many trans kids do not.  So, I texted Beth and asked her, “if I were to collect gift cards for transgender kids who are on the street or in trouble or struggling…could you get them in the right hands?”  Her immediate response:

Yes.

Totally.

I love you.

gift-cards

So now I ask you, dear reader: Can you help me reach my goal of collecting 104 cards (that’s 52×2) for these kids who only want to live authentically, freely and, most important, safely?

Getting the cards to me:  Please send me a note in the comments section and I will give you my address.

Note: I still need to ensure that my child and my family are safe because, as crushing as it is to admit, there are so many assholes out there who have nothing better to do than to worry about what is between someone else’s legs and what they are doing with it.  (Ewwww).  That being said, if there are more than a few people that I do not know who want to participate, I will look into securing a PO box somewhere which, I realize, would be a good problem to have.

Stay strong mamas and papas.  Love your kids, no matter if they sit or stand, love the same or opposite sex or scare you with their bravery.  We’ve got this.

Oh, and Beth; I love you, too!

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Not So Sweet Valentine’s Day

It started with pillows – lots and lots of pillows – configured much more precisely than I would have guessed, aimed to support your body in such a way as to allow your mind to open up.  As the newbies in the room, we observed how the others had situated their pillows but despite our best attempts to clone their structures, we were unsuccessful. In the spirit of the event, assistance was graciously offered and gratefully, albeit a bit ashamedly, accepted. We now had our well-built little havens and were absorbing the indisputable Zen of and in the room, yet I felt a little anxious already: if I couldn’t manage to set up a stupid pile of pillows and felt too self conscious to ask for help, perhaps I had bigger issues than would be addressed in the next hour and a half.  Gee.

Colorful Meditation Pillow

That exercise, I now realize, was actually the beginning of the “letting go” phase of our morning.

Once we had achieved the appropriate positioning, the fact remained that neither Barry nor I had a clue as to what to expect. We were equal parts excited, anxious and hopeful…although Barry less so on all counts.  Yet here we were about to experience my Valentine’s Day gift to Barry: getting hypnotized to get off of sugar.  Romantic, huh?  (I know, I know…leave it to me to give a gift of getting off sugar…particularly in recognition of a holiday based on, um, sugar?)

The first 45 minutes were spent discussing just how much sugar sucks (duh)(but a buzz kill nonetheless) followed by what was going to happen to and for us, what hypnosis is and is not and, finally, what it seeks to accomplish.  It was during this portion of the introduction that my vision of a swinging watch and a, “you’re getting sleepy” intoning were dashed, yet my anxiety over “losing control” were quelled.  Barry and I exchanged a few glances of shared skepticism, but now that we had our killer pillow set-up there was no turning back.

So there I laid upon a pile of cozy blankets, ensconced in pillows, my great sport of a husband within arms-reach, ready to succumb to a power bigger than I who, if I am lucky, was going to get me to forgo the sweets and, as a result, lose the paunch I’ve managed to acquire.

Let’s do this!

The instructor, um, hypnotist, explained that the outcome of our session would be less a fireworks “aha moment”, rather it will be more like you flipped a switch (in your subconscious) and would notice at some point over the next several days and weeks that, hey, look at that: I don’t have any desire to gorge on ice cream, Snickers Bars, coffee drinks that are more mocha than java, cookies, pie…you know, all the good stuff.   As someone who is famous for taking a long time to flip a switch[1], this quick version was very appealing.  Just lying there, in anticipation of having the recesses of my subconscious poked and prodded, I already felt thinner, less bloated and empowered.  C’mon, sub conscious, show me what ya got!

on-off_switch

During the actual hypnosis part of the program – it lasted 32 minutes, but felt more like 10 – I was aware of my arms and legs feeling so weighted down that they were rendered immobile.  I squirmed some as I tried to adjust my back to the floor[2]  and was thisclose to falling asleep (which actually made me a little anxious as I did not want to lose out on being hypnotized because I was snoozing), but all in all I would describe the experience as peaceful, gentle,  liberating.  However, as we all “came to” I felt simultaneously enervated and energized, disbelieving and unhesitatingly assured of the power of hypnosis and somehow “different.”  I know how ridiculous this sounds, but I did put hand to belly to see if the pounds I’d gained from sugar had melted away whilst I was under and, I swear, was actually more surprised than disappointed that they hadn’t.  Weird, right?

As we collected ourselves and began the process of rising, deconstructing our pillow sanctuary and re-entering the world, I turned to Barry and, because I know him so well, gathered from his expression and body language that he’d not experienced things quite the same way I had.  Of note, and germane to the conversation, Barry has two states of being: 1. running around accomplishing and, 2. sleeping.  He is a living breathing Energizer Bunny who has never done yoga[3] or meditated or really even relaxed (it is truly part of his charm) so add that to the discomfort in his just two month post-op back[4], and I’d argue that his hypnotizability is harder to accomplish, but time will tell.[5]

energizer

We are now 48 hours PH[6] and I’ve not eaten, or perhaps more to the point, wanted to eat anything sweet.  As in anything.  No ice cream, no sugar (or mocha) in my coffee, no cinnamon sugar on toast, no hard candies, no Diet Coke (fake sugar…just as bad).  I am feeling, in the words of my friend Kim who, not for nothing, turned me onto this whole hypnosis thing, BADASS.

we-can-do-it-poster-1393770492mjo

I spent most of yesterday in the house as we entertained yet another snowstorm/school snow day.   In my PH[7] days, I’d have baked something, made mocha-y coffees, enjoyed ice cream (but right from the carton and standing up in front of the freezer, so it didn’t count) and probably have popped a few M&Ms (perhaps more than a few and perhaps several times throughout the day).  Instead, and with not as much as a consideration of any of the above, I enjoyed (no, really, I enjoyed them) fresh snap peas and carrots, several bowls of berries and unsweetened tea and actually surpassed the recommended eight glasses of water per day we are all supposed to drink.  What the even?!!?  Most notable: these things tasted better, I felt better and I did not feel deprived or, perhaps most wonderful, pissed off!

I woke up this morning feeling pretty pleased with myself, more specifically my subconscious, for doing its damn job and beginning to get me off sugar.  And, because I am an idiot who wants instant gratification, I thought it would be a good idea to weigh myself.  Here is some video of how that went:

Me and the scale

If you were to ask me today if I would do it again: Hell to the yes.

Got something you want to get hypnotized for?  Let me know…I’m kinda dying to do it again.

[1] Yes, I do take an embarrassingly long time to flip (mostly emotional) switches; however, once I do…I never look back.

[2] Note to self: next time, and there will definitely be a next time…no more holding onto shit way longer than necessary, anyone?…I will add one more pillow under the small of my back.

[3] I’d actually pay good money to see that. I love you, Barry.

[4] Poor guy hurt his back – opening a drawer of his dresser – on Memorial Day weekend and suffered with it until it was surgically repaired just before Christmas. 

[5] Not throwing him under the bus, but he did kinda eat a cookie when we got home.  No judgment.

[6] Post hypnosis

[7] Pre hypnosis

Eddie

It was toward the end of one of our infamous date nights.  We’d enjoyed a ton of food for very little money at one of the few Chinatown restaurants we had not yet tried.  Barry was particularly jubilant at having found a $20 bill on the floor with no one around to claim it.  He stuck it in his pocket with a solid plan for after dinner to completely  overindulge ourselves with goodies from the bakeries lining the street.

twenty

We dodged the snow and slush, darting in and out of the various bake shops, trying to remember which had the best red bean paste buns and who killed it with their sesame balls, Barry sampling everything with his signature excitement over all things edible.

As we headed to the subway to make the trip home (we’d met at Barry’s office to which I had taken the train…so not my thing) we stayed in step with the foot traffic through downtown, holding hands both as a show of affection and protection from wiping out.  As we scooted past a doorman escorting a guest into an upscale hotel, a man on the street joked with Barry, “Hey, man, whatchya doing with my girl?”  Always affable Barry, stealing a page from my playbook responded, “Want her?”  Laughter ensued.

As we engaged in friendly banter, the stranger shooed us past the hotel doors, mumbling something about “the rich folks at the hotel getting mad if he loiters around.”  We stopped a few feet away and got to know Eddie.  His first remark, “Please don’t judge me.”

He sleeps under a bridge.  He has a son in college.  His wife overdosed, although he did not specify on what.  On at least a half-dozen occasions he looked to the sky and thanked Jesus for what he still had left.

“We are no different” he said and we agreed.

I asked him what happened.

Eddie, it turns out, lost his temper and hit someone with a shovel.  We didn’t pry, but gathered that his victim did not fair well from the attack. Upon telling us, he dropped his gaze, waiting for us to judge. We felt empathy rather than judgement.

He had an easy smile, and, if we are being honest, the not so faint smell of alcohol on his breath.  I asked him if he was hungry.  He responded silently but clearly and Barry, without fanfare or discussion, slid him the $20 bill he’d found earlier in the evening. So, too, did he give him a warm hat that he had in his pocket. Eddie’s eyes shifted, dropped and glistened as he graciously accepted the offer.

Much to my pleasure and amusement, he’d been good-naturedly ribbing Barry about my fantasticness and his (Barry’s) incredible good fortune in landing me.  Silently noting my arrogance at the banter, he did the dude thing and tossed Barry a (well deserved) bone: “You know something, Julie, if I were to put on a dress, I would look better than you.”  (Well that stung, but I have to give him props for having impeccable timing.)  Again, we all burst out laughing, strangers in the street.

As I always do, I asked if we could take a picture.  He happily obliged, thanking us for treating him like a human and for bringing joy to his life.  As I was about to snap the photo he joyfully announced, “Just remember, Julie, once you go black you never go back.”

eddie1

He said we made his day.  He actually made ours.