What Was I Scared Of?

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Well…

I was walking in the night

And I saw nothing scary.

For I have never been afraid

Of anything. Not very.

Then I was deep within the woods

When, suddenly, I spied them.

I saw a pair of pale green pants

With nobody inside them!

I wasn’t scared. But, yet, I stopped

What could those pants be there for?

What could a pair of pants at night

Be standing in the air for?

And then they moved? Those empty pants!

They kind of started jumping.

And then my heart, I must admit,

It kind of started thumping.

So I got out. I got out fast

As fast as I could go, sir.

I wasn’t scared. But pants like that

I did not care for. No, sir.

After that a week went by.

Then one dark night in Grin-itch

(I had to do an errand there

And fetch some Grin-itch spinach)……

Well, I had fetched the spinach.

I was starting back through town

When those pants raced around a corner

And they almost knocked me down!

I lost my Grin-itch spinach

But I didn’t even care.

I ran for home! Believe me,

I had really had a scare!

Now, bicycles were never made

For pale green pants to ride ‘em,

Especially spooky pale green pants

With nobody inside ‘em!

And the NEXT night, I was fishing

For Doubt-trout on Roover River

When those pants came rowing toward me!

Well, I started in to shiver.

And by now I was SO frightened

That, I’ll tell you, but I hate to….

I screamed and rowed away and lost

my hook and line and bait, too!

I ran and found a Brickle bush

I hid myself away.

I got brickles in my britches

But I stayed there anyway.

I stayed all night. The next night, too

I’d be there still, no doubt,

But I had to do an errand

So, the next night, I went out.

I had to do an errand,

Had to pick a peck of Snide

In a dark and gloomy Snide-field

That was almost nine miles wide.

I said, “I do not fear those pants

With nobody inside them.”

I said, and said, and said those words.

I said them. But I lied them.

Then I reached inside a Snide bush

And the next thing that I knew,

I felt my hand touch someone!

And I’ll bet that you know who.

And there I was! Caught in the Snide!

And in that dreadful place

Those spooky, empty pants and I

were standing face to face!

I yelled for help. I screamed. I shrieked.

I howled. I yowled. I cried,

“OH, SAVE ME FROM THESE PALE

GREEN PANTS WITH NOBODY INSIDE!”

But then a strange thing happened.

Why, those pants began to cry!

Those pants began to tremble.

They were just as scared as I!

I never heard such whimpering

And I began to see

That I was just as strange to them

As they were strange to me!

So…

I put my arm around their waist

And sat right down beside them.

I calmed them down.

Poor empty pants

With nobody inside them.

And now, we meet quite often,

Those empty pants and I,

And we never shake or tremble,

We both smile and we say…”Hi!”

So goes my very favorite (and seemingly little known since anytime I quote it I am met with blank stares) Dr. Seuss story, “What Was I Scared Of”.  I used to read it to my kids when they were little, particularly enjoying the singsong verse and fantastic message that I wanted to teach them, despite my inability to necessarily abide by it.  The opening line frequently pops into my head as I, admittedly, am a person who has struggled with what I know (intellectually, anyway) are silly fears.

I have just returned from ten days in Chile – a gloriously beautiful country with breathtaking views, delicious food, incredible wine and wonderfully warm people.  But perhaps more important than the scenery, food and companionship was the number of fears that I faced and, damn!,  conquered.

Admittedly, many of said fears will seem ridiculous, silly and even slightly pathetic but, as I often remind you, I am nothing if not honest.  So, in no particular order, here goes:

  1. The plane ride. The thought of being on a plane for any amount of time, let alone nearly ten hours used to bring me to my knees and, truthfully, kept me home.  My plane would never crash…it is the knowledge that I cannot get off if I find myself in a situation in which I want/need/absolutely have to or I will die in a flame of hysteria.  While I long ago learned that taking a Xanax would ease those fears, over the past decade I have moved from taking a Xanax, to just having it in my handbag (only occasionally clutching it) to not even filling the prescription. Check.
  2. Illness or Malady. Every single time I ever go anywhere I spend an inordinate amount of time prior to departure worrying about getting sick while there.  (Of note: I hardly ever get sick when I am home, so why I would worry about it when I am away is a sign of bat-shit craziness. That being said, I did get quite a nasty upper respiratory infection last year while in Las Vegas…but I also lived to talk about it.)  Interestingly enough, during my trip to Chile not one, not two, but three of my travel companions came down with an antibiotic-requiring ailment.  I did not.  Check.
  3. Climbing a mountain. Okay, I have never had a fear of climbing a mountain, per say, but the symbolism of finding myself somewhere inconvenient to medical (or emotional) intervention should the need arise not only left me on the sidelines but made me a prime candidate for a shrink’s field day.  The “what ifs” were bigger than me: “what if I trip and break my ankle?” “what if I have to go to the bathroom?”, “what if I freak out for some ridiculous reason?”.  Nope, nope and nope. Check.chilemountain
  4. Sticking my head in a sink to cool off. While I never put any thought to the pros and cons of submerging my head in a sink, it was nothing I have ever nor thought I would ever have even contemplated, let alone done.  My hair, the origins of the water, all that wetness…yeah, no.  Well, I learned that once you are halfway to the top of the mountain and it is 90 degrees and you are offended by your own smell, dunking your head in a sink is awesome.  Obvious Freudian explanation notwithstanding: Check.sink
  5. Eating empanadas on the side of the road, a steak and avocado sandwich from the bottom of a backpack or strange looking soup with filled with stranger looking fish. I firmly believe that milk should be taken from the fridge, poured into the glass and then promptly returned to the cold, lest bacteria begin to grow and cause a violent case of vomiting, cramps and/or the trots.  Lesson learned: if you work hard and climb a mountain you become infinitely less insanely neurotic about food borne illnesses.  Metaphors abounding and: CheckIMG_0163
  6. Sharing a bathroom with your boyfriend’s parents. Well, this one did not come to fruition and the discovery of a second full bathroom in the cabin (which happened to be situated in perhaps the most beautiful spot in the world) was an emotional deal changer, but I am confident I would have lived through it had it actually happened.[1] Pre-worried (extensively) over that one for nothin’. Check.

This trip was a big deal for me.  Despite being wrapped up in a beautiful package with incredible scenery, food and companionship it challenged me.  It forced me, in a very four star environment, to step out of my comfort zone, kick some ass and allow myself to just relax…because really, what was I scared of?

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And a special shout out and thanks to this guy…for holding my hand literally and figuratively…

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[1] I love his parents, but certain things need to remain sacred.  Love to FS who, sensing my apprehension lovingly told me, “Mi bano es tu bano”…

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Daniels, Elisabeth R.

As a kid, I remember my parents scanning (okay, they were reading) the obituaries listed in the newspaper. I didn’t think it odd as it was something they always did and was, in my child’s mind, “normal”. When I inquired as to why they did it, they responded with a jocular, “just making sure we’re still alive” and that was that.  I, too, am a scanner/reader of death notices.  Have been for as long as I can recall.  I’ve even been known to check them online.  Sounds creepy when I see it written, but I assure you, it is not.

That being said, I am immersed in this habit deeply enough to have a system. First I check the town in which I live, then my hometown and, finally, I scan for Jewish names. More often than not, I happen upon a familiar one: usually a parent or grandparent of a friend. Sometimes I have heard of the passing and seek out the announcement for the pertinent information, but more often than not, I just peruse without purpose. I’m not sure what I am looking for but assume it is my love of a good story that keeps me coming back for more.  Many (most, actually) stick to the basics and tell very little by way of a story but do serve to confirm that the name I am reading does indeed relate to someone in my world. I’ve seen them depressingly brief  and overwhelmingly detailed. None, however, has captured my interest as did this one:

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Interestingly, Elisabeth R. Daniels did not hail from either of “my” towns, nor was she Jewish. I’ve no recollection as to what made me read her obituary, but I did and, as you can see, went so far as to tear it out and save it (admission: it was on my fridge for a few days).   It is, without competition, the Best.Obituary.Ever.

We all hope to leave some sort of mark on the world, some kind of legacy which will serve to define us years after we are gone. I cannot speak for the masses, but would venture a guess that most (all) people hope that theirs is a positive, honest (assuming the two are not mutually exclusive) and, if we are really lucky, meaningful one. We were kind, or philanthropic, or funny or a trailblazer of some sort. Or perhaps we flew under the radar and made little impact other than to live quietly and not bother anyone. Most (all) of us would prefer not to be remembered for the time we behaved like an asshole or forgot to filter our words. Elisabeth was true to herself (and, so too, apparently, were her mother Sally and sister Dinah). I cannot help thinking that she sanctioned (and maybe even penned )the delightfully honest memorializing of herself. Talk about going out on your own terms. Have at it, Ms. Daniels!

Being honest with ourselves and knowing who we are can be totally awesome or can suck big time: sometimes all in the same day. Digging deep and owning the good, the bad and the ugly ain’t easy, but is it freeing, for sure.

I’ve always admired (envied maybe) the honesty with which Jess has lived her life. Like Elisabeth, she is a “unique creation” and I hope that (many, many, many) years down the road, when her legacy is being written it will be done so with the same love that Elisabeth’s has been.

I hope the same for Harrison. And, frankly, for me.

Shall We Dance?

Hey!  Remember me?  I used to blog fairly regularly, but then came Christmas vacation, and a trip to Vegas during which I managed to get sick (with, thankfully the cold thing and not the stomach thing) (and I can pinpoint exactly the not cute enough child who managed to cough and wheeze all over me for five hours) and then had work and life and, well…my apologies for the long absence.

The town we live in has a fantastic program called R.A.F. T.: Recreational Activities For Teens.  It is a brilliant idea: hold events for kids in grades 6-8 who live in town (no guests) as a way to develop new friendships and relationships as they near the time that the nine K-8 schools in town merge together into the single high school.   Among the most popular events are, not surprisingly, the dances.  Held at the high school (how cool is that when you are a 6th, 7th or 8th grader?) they are highly anticipated and attended.  Friday night was the first one for 6th graders and Jess was all over it.

This was a weekend that she was with her dad, and I will admit to being (not so) secretly relieved that I was off the hook when it came to getting her dressed, ready and to the ball.  The whole thing made me nervous, anxious, and a little bit more than slightly queasy.  I plied her with what I considered an appropriate number of queries leading up to the big day (Are you excited? Are other friends going? Did you want to go with a group of kids?) But no, she was cool and also as blasé as a kid vegging in front of the tv.  She amazes me.

I dropped her at Rich’s late in the afternoon and went home to make cookies: I was, apparently, desperately seeking comfort.  Around the time she was getting dropped off (alone, without a group of girls, or boys or, for that matter, anyone) I texted Rich to see how she seemed.  He responded that she was as cool as a cucumber, looked pretty with her light application of lip gloss and blush and was her trademark ballsy self.  He had asked her if she was feeling at all nervous to which she replied, “No…why would I be nervous” (as though it was the stupidest question ever asked) and proceeded to get out of the car, walk into the high school gym all by herself and, much like she did that first day of her transition at school, never look back.  He and I joked of the many reasons we thought she could/should/would be nervous.  None of them, it seems, occurred to her.  G-d bless that kid.

An hour or so into the dance, I texted Rich again: “Was everything okay? Had he heard anything from her?  Think she is okay?”  His response: Not a call, a text, a tweet, nothing.  Wow.  Impressive. (Aside: I remember how anxiety-producing those dances were for me back in the day…oh how I wish I had her confidence.)  And then, around the time I figured the dance would be letting out, I texted yet again.  She, I learned, had a great time, walked out with a gaggle of girls and cannot wait for high school.  Phew. Big sigh.  Huge relief.

I feel a little bit guilty for not being an active participant in her dance preparation.  I feel a little bit badly that I was relieved to have been “off the hook”.  I also feel, however, more than a little bit proud of her for having such confidence and strength and courage while I was wimping out in the corner.  Drinking wine.

So here, well into our third year of Jess being Jess I continue to marvel at what she is willing and capable of doing.  I still do not know how things are going to flush out, where she will land and how we will get there…but I do know that if anyone can handle this, it is Jess who is, perhaps, the ballsiest girl ever.

Happiest of New Years!

Over the past decade or so, I have spent my fair share of time putting out fires; some big, some freaking huge.  Through it all I have learned just how valuable a friend, or even an acquaintance, can be.  I try to reciprocate and  hope that I am succeeding.  If I am not, let me know…nicely, please.

That said, if you are reading this you have, at some point, somewhere, sometime, somehow in the past um, nearly fifty (but NOT fifty) years been a part of my life, even if just on the pages of this blog.  Perhaps it was in elementary school or junior high or, and there is a great likelihood here: BCDS.  It could have been in ‘Toga for four years in the mid-eighties.  It may have been at JCC Preschool, or TENS or Soule or Baker or BHS.  Then again, it might have been at Pine Manor, or BC, or Brandeis, or Thomson or Streamline or Hill’s, PRU, Millennium or TCS.  Or, maybe it was at Temple Emeth or Healthworks or the J…who the hell knows or, for that matter, cares.  What matters is that you are a part of my life and, to a person, I am grateful for all the support, love and laughter we have shared.

As we enter the new year (aside: how can we be possibly be at 2014 already?) I resolve to stay calm as I await whatever surprises, challenges and opportunities lay ahead, what bumps there will be in the road (you will note I did not question if there would be bumps in the road)  and where (and, some days, how) I will make my way in the world.  And this is where you come in.

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I am smart, articulate and great at getting things done.  I am the person you want around in an emergency (provided, of course, there is no vomit involved). I am a seasoned and successful salesperson, can write a bit and know how to work a room. I am (by some miracle) both high energy and surprisingly optimistic (well, most of the time.  No, really, I am. Shut up, I am.)  I want to make a difference, but I also want to make a buck (or several).

My professional life has been eclectic.  I have worked in academia, finance (at least I think it was finance), start-ups, high techs and (lots of) food-related stuff.  I have been one of two employees and one of thousands.  I have been the youngest team member and, gulp, I have (okay, often) been the oldest.  I have worked in suburbia and in the city.  I have had jobs that required I wear grown-up clothes and others where jeans are the name of the game.  (Anyone who knows me well knows which I prefer).  If that doesn’t demonstrate my adaptability, than I don’t know what does.

Why am I telling you all of this?  Because I think one of you might just know of a good opportunity that is waiting for someone like me to make it happen.  One of you has a role to fill, or knows someone who has a role to fill (and chances are excellent I will know that person, too) and I just might be the perfect fit.  One of you is as interested in pairing people together to get things done as I am.  One of you knows the feeling when you want (and, frankly, need) to do more but are not quite sure of the details.

So, file this blog under: Creative? Unusual?  Gauche? Rude? Brilliant?  Obnoxious?  Clever? Smart? Embarrassing? Shrewd? Shameless? Ridiculous? Honest?

You know how to reach me.  Oh, but if you don’t:  julielross65@gmail always works.

Wishing you, yours (and the people who might not even have met yet) a joyous, happy, healthy, fun, creative, clever, and honest 2014.  Remind yourself, no matter what you are facing, that you can do it.  Remember the lessons learned and use them to make tomorrow (even) better than yesterday or today.  Be true to yourself, have the courage of your convictions and let me know if you have a brilliant job opportunity for me.

xo

Sew Proud

On Wednesday, Jess decided that she wanted a new dress.  To be clear, she wanted to make said dress…not buy it.  When I pushed back (ever so slightly)(because I knew I couldn’t help her)(I have no domestic skills)(but I do make a hell of a chicken soup)(that counts for something, right?) she called Grace to ask her the name of the fabric store where nothing costs more than $2.99 a yard which, even to my uneducated-in-the-language-of-sewing mind, seemed cheap, er, inexpensive enough to take the ride to parts unknown.  Remember, Jess has been out of camp since July 28th and is not starting school until September 9th, so it is safe to say I would have driven just about anywhere and laid out cash for just about anything that would keep her busy for a few hours.*

We went to the store and chose the pattern,  fabric, thread and notions necessary and headed home to start the project which I was going to be able to help her with exactly, well, not at all.  In anticipation of a frustrating afternoon ahead, I asked my nav where the closest Dairy Queen was and, in hopes of capturing a pre-emptive soothing, drove the twenty-seven minutes and enjoyed a small, chocolate dipped cone.  (Jess opted for a peanut butter cup Blizzard.)

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As it turns out, I need not have taken in the calories after all.

With a little help from Jane (my next door neighbor who can do all those domestic things that I cannot) in the pinning department, this is the final result.

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*When I read this to her and she heard that sentence, she looked at me, smiling and wide-eyed and said, “Really?!?”

p.s. If you happen to see her at temple next week in said dress…let her know what you think!

p.p.s. I know the zipper is a little crooked, but that just adds charm.

p.p.s. Yes, she owns a real mannequin.  Doesn’t every not quite twelve year-old?

George

For the most part, I am (fairly) at peace with George’s transition to Jessie.  It would be dishonest to suggest that it is easy, that I fully understand it or that I do not worry about where she will land.  I have gotten used to the long hair, the girly accoutrements and the abundance of pink.  When I look at her, I generally see a girl, although admittedly, there are times that I see my little boy George.

I admit that I still struggle, however, with her name.  Anyone who has a child knows what goes into naming them.  With each potential moniker we assess everything: the initials and what acronym they may spell**, the possible nicknames –both good and bad, the cadence of the first, middle and last names together, the meaning of the name, the person for whom they are named.  You make the decision, fill it in on the birth certificate and commence a new life.

George was named for my paternal grandfather whom I adored.  (And, it is worth noting, I was, without question, his favorite).  Rich and I found it alternatively cool and a wee bit funky that we would have children George and Harrison (who, by the way, was named for his grandfather, Harry) and have (many, many times) been asked if we were big Beatles fans.  We considered other “G” names (in keeping with Jewish tradition), but none seemed to fit this bright blue-eyed child as well as George.  It was not long before George morphed into Georgie; a name that so perfectly suited him with his strong spirit, high energy and take-hold-of-the-room personality.  I loved his name.

And then he went and changed it.

When, nearly two years ago, George tearfully told me that he “had always wanted to be a girl” I vividly recall thinking to myself that “she” (early in the game, she required quote marks) could still go by Georgie…it would work, be cute even.  But he* was having none of it.  Shedding his male persona would, in his* mind, not be complete without a name change.  It was crushing.

At first, the names bantered about (much to my horror) were those I would call “ridiculously female”: Ashley, Brittany, Amber, Tiffany.  Nice enough names, but none that I would ever consider for my daughter – even if she had been born with a vagina.  I had to be careful, though.  I had to be supportive.  I had to try to sway his* thinking to something more palatable to, well, me.

I cannot honestly recall how it was that we arrived at Jessie, but I do know that there was much discussion as to how it would be spelled.  I (at the suggestion of my brother) was angling for “Jesse” – it somehow seemed more androgynous, although, in hindsight that sounds ridiculous since it is highly unusual upon meeting someone to inquire if there is an “i” in the spelling of their name.  Regardless, she* wanted the “i” and I was wise enough to know that I would have far greater battles to face thus making going to the mat on this one was a colossal waste of everybody’s time.  So, Jessie it would be.

And now, over the past two weeks, I have been (a little more than slightly) tortured by this (not quite so) new name.  First, Kate and William went and named their little heir to the throne George.  And if that wasn’t bad enough they publicly announce that he will be called Georgie.  Hey!  That was my nickname for my kid!  (When I relayed this information to Jessie, her eyes widened, her mouth dropped open slightly and she said with just an air of irritation, “hey! I started that!”…to which I responded – in my head – wtf?!?!)  And then, Jessie unearthed a blanket emblazoned with the name George – a throwback to Harrison’s bar mitzvah (nearly six years ago!) when I gave each kid a blanket with, yep, their name embroidered on it.  I’ve not seen that grey fleece throw in years…where the hell did it suddenly come from??  And what will be next?  Will George H.W. Bush die prompting 24/7 news coverage? Will Boy George be arrested (again)? Will Lake George overflow?  Will George Clooney end his lifelong bachelorhood?  Will George Washington get a facelift over on Mt. Rushmore? Will George Foreman have another child and name him George?  Will I never be able to escape the reminder of George – in all incarnations?

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I suspect I will not.  I suspect that I will always have a visceral, nearly physical reaction when I hear the name George.  It happens when I hear Mark which was my father’s name.  It happens when I hear the names of my late grandparents Bob Sadie and Betty, too, although admittedly that happens with far less regularity (really – who names a kid Bob, Sadie or Betty these days?) (Oh, wait, I wanted to name Jessie Sadie, had she been a girl.  Oh, the irony.)

It is just another of the many little things that trip me up, catch me unaware.  It is getting a little bit easier…but I do hope that all Georges lay low for a while.

*pronoun intended

** I have a dear friend whose married name make her initials JEW.  Cracks me up every time I see it.  (Love you, JEW)

Camp: Week One

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I will not be so bold as to exhale, but…I will memorialize the fact that the first week of camp was, wait for it, an unmitigated success.  It started and ended without incident.  It was five times (read: five days) better than camp experiences of the past.  A happy child left my house in the morning and returned, still happy, in the afternoon.   And, perhaps of greater note: no calls, emails, texts or smoke signals from camp.  Phew. (Not to be confused with an exhale.)

Throughout the week, however, I have been the recipient of texts, emails, and phone calls checking in on me, um…I mean Jess. (Note: those meant the world to me, friends!) As the week progressed, I’ve responded with slightly greater comfort each day and found myself a little bit surprised when I realized that it was Friday already and not a single scary phone number appeared on my cell, no emails in my inbox and no notes in the backpack.  Bestill my heart.

I am unsure to what I owe this change of events: Is it the camp? Or the additional year of “maturing” (I use the term loosely)? Or a heavenly alignment of the stars? Or G-d’s way of giving me a break after the shitstorm of last summer?  I suppose a better question is: does it even matter?

If I have learned nothing else over these past eighteen months, I have learned to (try like hell to) not over-think every experience, episode and event.  I have (almost) become Zen in my approach to transitions,  tests and tantrums.  I know when to ask questions and when to just take things at face value and run.

To my credit, I resisted the (overwhelming, nearly debilitating) urge to drop a quick email (or phone call or text or smoke signal) to the camp director as a means of confirming that all really is well and am quite confident that, were it not, I’d have heard about it.

Monday starts the second week of camp and while I will not exhale, I will assume (perhaps dangerously) that it will be as great a success as the first week.  Your collective crossed fingers, toes, and genuflection are appreciated as are your respect for my holding my breath.  We can do this.

It’s Summer and the Living’s Easy?

This was written, with the intent of posting it, last night.  Alas, that did not happen.  I am confident that you will understand the use of “today” actually means “yesterday”.  Not that is matters.  Just sayin’.

Here’s the thing about having a blog: people expect you to have something to say and to do so articulately and with some regularity.  Sometimes my ability to do so comes easily, particularly when the incidents and accidents are coming fast and furious at every turn.  Other times, when things seem to be somewhat normal (dare I even use that word?) this blogger finds herself not only at a loss for words, but actually appreciating the fact that there is not a lot to say.

Now, to be perfectly clear, I suspect that will all change as the transition from school to camp goes beyond today, the first day.  I am waiting, with (more than) somewhat bated breath, to see how things unfold in the coming week as camp becomes a routine as opposed to a novelty.  Images and agonies of last summer continue to swirl about in my head, but, until this moment, I have staunchly refused to acknowledge that fact.  My hopes are high for the next five weeks of camp.  I will go so far as to say that I have a gut feeling that it is all going to be okay, but uttering that aloud is far too arrogant quite yet.

You may recall that last summer was an epic and repeated fail.  It undid me.  It undid Jess.  It provided plenty to discuss in therapy until such time as I deemed it no longer worth the energy it took to do so.  The plan was to archive it as deep in the recesses of my brain as was possible, never to revisit ever again.  Until, that is, this week.

It would be dishonest to say that I had successfully tucked it away.  I have thought about it on (more than) several occasions and prayed to St. Somebody or Other (said the Jewish girl) that this year, with the benefit of another year under our collective belts, we would kick summer’s butt.  I went so far as to not even acknowledge that Friday was the last day of school (for Jess, that is…the rest of the kids, the ones who transition without issue that is (do you happen to know any of those kids, because I certainly do not) remain for the last five mandated days in school, sweltering from the heat and filling the day with anything that is not academic and kills six hours) and that today was the first day of camp.  (Full disclosure: transition issues aside, there was no way on G-d’s green earth that I was going to forfeit the first week of camp given the price tag. The fact that transitions are important was merely a bonus.)  If nothing else, I have learned to tone down my pre-worrying and let things happen ever so slightly more organically.  In this case, that played out as denial.  It works for me.  Don’t judge.

When she left for camp in the morning she was in great spirits.  That did not surprise me.  In fact, it would have thrown me if she had exhibited any anxiety.  That is simply not her style. What I worried about, for a fair portion of the day, was what arrival home would look like.  And here is what I got:

The scene: Jess walks in the door (having been drive home by a friend) with her head drooping down.  Having chosen swimming as her last activity of the day (thus requiring no changing out of a wet suit) her hair was still wet and is long enough to be hanging in her face.  I held my breath.

Me: “So…how was it???”

Jess: “Awful.”

Me: (Holding back the vomit that was rising in my throat), “Um, whaddya mean?  What happened?”

Jess: “Everyone was mean and I hated the classes.”

Me: (Reaching for the nearest receptacle into which I would deposit aforementioned vomit), “Seriously?”

Jess: (Bursting into a huge smile),”IT WAS AWESOME!”

Me: (Thinking of how to kill her and leave the fewest signs of force).  “You stinker.”

And then a shared smile.

Yeah, yeah, I know: it is only the first day.  But (and this is a big one): it is the best first day of anything, ever.

Tune back in for updates.  I hope (and by hope I mean pray like hell) that they will continue to be positive but I make no promises. I almost hope she gives me nothing to write about…

Pretty

“I think I am pretty.” – Jessie 6/6/13

She said it without provocation, fanfare or defense (read: there was no emphasis on the first “I”).  In fact, it was a complete non-sequitur. As we were taking the three-minute drive home from school she just kind of mentioned it, with a follow-up peek at (and smile into) the visor mirror.  She had exactly zero interest in me agreeing (or disagreeing, for that matter) in her announcement, rather it was a sentiment which she uttered as matter-of-factly as stating the time of day.

Moments before, when she spotted my car parked alongside all the other parents, she was walking with an eighth grader (she is in fifth) who was chatting with her in a manner no different from any two girls with three grades between them would interact.  Upon noticing my car, they stopped to say hello, Jess radiating joy not only in the fact that she was walking with an older girl, but having been spotted doing so.  No sooner had I noticed the glow when another eighth grade girl walked by, but not without stopping to give Jess a hug.  It was, I suppose, a not all together unusual interaction between girls, but for me, it was a little bit earth-shattering.

Despite the ease with which the transition from George to Jessie occurred, it has not been without its challenges.  For five years at school she had been known (and, to be clear, everybody knew her) as a boy named George and, as such, she would (attempt to) associate with the boys.  When Jessie emerged, both the boys and the girls were as accepting as one could ever hope for, but not quite sure what to make of her or the change.  Was she now one of the girls or was she still one of the boys?  Funky, right?

Her social maneuvering has been interesting to watch.  So, too, her struggles with appearing too masculine or, for that matter, too feminine.  Her hair, which happens to have just the right amount of wave, no frizz and a beautiful color, is now past her shoulders.  That, for a transgirl, is huge. (Oh, who am I kidding, her hair would be the envy of anyone: male, female, gay, straight, trans…) I am still adjusting to finding ponytail holders, bobby pins and headbands strewn throughout the house, but now I know that she feels pretty which makes it (just a little bit) less annoying.

As the mother of boys (for a while, anyway) I never focused much on building their self-esteem.  As males, they seemed to come about it a bit easier than the girls so I, instead, leaned hard on the building up of behaviors aimed at molding them into good husbands and fathers.  I frankly never gave much thought to them feeling attractive (they were so darned cute, though) but I knew that all that changed when Jessie moved in.  I was, if you want the truth, worried about her feeling attractive, looking the part.  (Pretty would be great, but I would have settled for attractive.)  She, however, seems to have found her pretty which, as her mom, makes me joyful.

This weekend we will be celebrating both my niece’s Bat Mitzvah (complete with a nighttime dance party) and Harrison’s high school graduation.  Jess has three new dresses hanging in wait in her closet: one for each  event.  She has put thought into how she will wear her hair.  She has laid out the necessary accessories and promised to at least attempt to get a good night’s sleep.  And, now I know, she will think she is pretty.

Note: this was taken a few months ago.  Her hair is longer and the burrito has been eaten.  She has her pretty going on.

Note: this was taken a few months ago. Her hair is longer and the burrito has been eaten. She has her pretty going on.

No Sleep Plenty o’ Shoes

Oh, how I wish I could sleep.  I am quite sure that doing so would work wonders against the crying, short-temper and general bitchiness which seems to define me of late.  I am equally convinced that last night’s shoe shopping experience would have been wayyyy better.

In a few short weeks, my niece Sara is having her Bat Mitzvah (heretofore known as her BM, heehee…that never gets old) and, as such, several outfits for the entire family are in order.  I have begged Harrison to try on the suit I bought him last year for his semi-formal (did I mention that he long ago surpassed the ability to fit into a kid’s suit?  Read: man’s suit, man’s price tag) and he has, not surprisingly, failed to do so.  I am going on the assumption that it will fit.* I do so knowing that there is an excellent chance that it won’t.  That, however, is among the least of my worries.

Jessie needs two dresses; one for the service in the morning and one for the dance extravaganza at night.  I flat-out refused to purchase two new dresses, mostly because of the stress of doing so.  It is not that I bristle at her wearing a dress (that ship sailed a long time ago), rather her taste borders on eighteen year-old, stacked, leggy, curvy young woman as opposed to the eleven year old that she is.  In searching her closet I chose one dress that is more than appropriate for the morning which, for the kid set, at least, is far less important (fashion-wise, that is) than the evening.  In fact, she has worn it to Temple before with a sweater, tights and patent leather boots.  All we need to do to make it work is to lose the earlier accessories and add a cute pair of flats.  And therein lays the problem.

Okay, I admit to having a shoe thing.  I admit to having purchased more than, um, let’s say two pairs of wedges this season.  I even admit to perhaps having a problem with my love of shoes which may have been passed along to my child.  I cannot, however, sanction my eleven year old (transgender) child wearing heels or wedges to a BM party.  Am I wrong?

To her credit, she insisted that in our quest we go the way of Payless Shoes for her footwear.  “They are inexpensive, but not cheaply made” she argued (incorrectly).  So after a “Shabbat” dinner of Chinese food, off we went to begin the battle, er, search.  Now I don’t mean to sound obnoxious, snooty or rude (and if I do, blame it on the lack of sleep) but the shoes at Payless are nothing short of horrible.  And, much to my horror, she spotted several (all inappropriate) that she would have been more than happy to purchase.  In a not so proud moment, I got so skeeved that I insisted, in a perhaps too loud voice, that there was nothing there and we were heading to the far superior (and I used the term loosely) DSW.  Fortunately, the two stores are close together since this expedition began at 8pm on a Friday night and, as everyone knows, I am in a constant state of exhaustion and, um, short-temperedness.

As we entered the store, I reminded her of the parameters of acceptable footwear: black (will work with both outfits), flat or very little heel, under $50 and comfortable.  Next thing I know, she is trying on pink high top Converse stating that they would be cute with the dress at night.  Yeah, they would, but having attended many a BM in my day, I was quite sure that such a choice would result in hysteria upon arrival at party and subsequent discovery that no one else was wearing Converse.  Right?

I somehow managed to convince her to cut the shit, I mean, see things through the eyes of me, her mature, more knowledgeable, loving and sleep deprived mother and try on a few different little black shoes.  At the same moment, I noticed that she shoes that I bought for me the BM just last week were now marked down 30% and, blame it again on the lack of sleep, I got pissed and started rifling through my wallet for the receipt with visions of a price adjustment dancing through my head.  Do you have a visual yet?

In a victory for me (I have to tally them whenever humanly possible) we left with the perfect shoes for Jess and a promise from Brendan, the store manager, to adjust my pricing if I come back with the receipt today.  I assumed, from the double success, that a good night’s rest lay ahead.  I was wrong.  But at least we have good shoes now.

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*Probably a mistake.  Oh, and his shoes might not fit, either.