I See…

Most of the things our kids do “behind our backs” are not good.  If they were good, I’d argue, they would be doing them in front of our backs and not, instead, in secret with the fear of being caught perched atop their heads.  Sometimes, however, the things that our kids do without our knowledge not only catch us off guard, but are utterly fantastic.

Last week I turned the very unspectacular age of 51.  I’m generally a terrible birthday girl and more often than not, wind up in tears for one reason or another; some are legit others I blame on hormones.  Anyway, this birthday started off with the youngest of my son-to-be stepsons having some, shall we say, fairly significant stomach issues.  Vomit, sofas and carpets were involved.  Swell.  Trying to be supportive while keeping my distance and willing away the fears of rampant contagions travelling through the house, I embraced the fact that, at least this year, my birthday tears would be warranted.

And then Harrison FaceTimed me.

I answered the call, and up popped his bearded face*, all smiles.  I felt better already.  He wished me a happy birthday, asked what I was doing (avoiding vomit) and then, with a hesitation in his voice that only a mother can sense, told me that he had something to tell me.  Again I say, swell.

“So”, he began.  “I’ve been working on something for about six months and I am finally ready to tell you about it”.  (He was talking too slowly.  I felt a wave of nausea pass over me, bracing myself) “There is something that I know you really really really want but will never ever ever do for yourself.” (Okay, I’m listening…) “While I was home last semester and you thought all I was doing was imprinting my ass into the sofa**, I was actually stalking your Facebook page, your blog, your LinkedIn so that I could get the word out to as many people that you know as possible.” (What word?  Aren’t I the one who is supposed to be stalking you? Still talking too slowly!)  He continued: “I set up a GoFundMe page to raise money to get you Lasik…and now we can do it!” (WHA???? OMG, NFW, WOOT WOOT!)

I was so touched.  I was so overwhelmed.  I was so proud that I’d raised him to be such a kind and generous soul.  And. I. Was. So. Psyched!

And then, because I am me, I pelted him with questions.  He laughed and directed me to the page so that I could see for myself.  His letter made me cry.  Like good cry.  Like not the lame ass birthday cry I always have, but a cry because his words (which, if we are being honest, he had not been using aloud for the past several months) were music to this mother’s ears.

My kids do not generally keep much from me.  We are pretty rock solid.  However, if that which they are sneaking around doing is something as fantastic as this, I’m down with it.

To those of you who so generously donated: thank you from the bottom of my heart and the pupil of my eyes.  I’m touched beyond measure.  I need to find a way to properly thank you, but consider this a start.

I really am blessed.  (And ridiculously excited!)  Here’s to being able to see my clock in the middle of the night…

p.s. If you have a Lasik horror story, I beg you to keep it to yourself.  I am anxious and neurotic enough.

 

*He’s had the beard for years, but I am still a little bit surprised every time I see him that he is, well, a man.  Here’s a picture of him with his first beard.

kingharrison

**That’s true.  But he did so while listening to lectures, studying and becoming an EMT, so it wasn’t for naught.  Oh, and here he is now:

hjrbeard

 

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Let’s Hear It For The Girls

We had logged a few hours of intense outlet shopping and already consumed a reasonably healthy lunch when we popped into the nearby McDonald’s for further sustenance and caffeine. I was beginning to fade and, for no good reason (particularly after the shopping scores I had made) was feeling a little down. When we walked in there was a table of women, mostly blonde, all notably attractive, with their Diet Cokes, McWraps and cell phones in hand, oozing of a connection to one another which was, somehow, ridiculously powerful. I made note and kept walking. Barry, my gregarious, never-shy fiancé, however, commented aloud about what a great photo it would make. All seven women laughed as one…not at him, but with him.

I chimed in that I, too, had noticed the beauty of the moment and we began to banter back and forth for a few moments, my need for caffeine still firmly in place. We said a tentative goodbye and headed for the counter to order with a promise (threat?) to return. I requested an iced coffee and hot fudge sundae and Barry (strongly, unrelentingly, vigorously) encouraged me to go back and chat. I resisted. I sometimes do that. I wondered if the moment had passed, if they had actually just given us a courtesy laugh and were now chatting about the crazy couple that just intruded on their otherwise lovely lunch of Mc-things. My confidence faltered. Reluctantly I returned to the table and was greeted by lovely, warm, funny women. Women I could sense had a story….and everyone knows how much I love a story.

Ramona, with the bright smile and quick wit commented that Barry and I were such a cute couple and asked what our status was. I told her we are engaged and she, like I would have, grabbed (in the best way possible) my left hand to inspect the goods. She held my hand, in a way that did not make me feel the least bit uncomfortable and kvelled about the design of the ring. Noticing the two young women (later to be known as Paige and Brynn) as well as the early teen (Amelia), I implored them to “marry a man who cherishes you” and Ramona, with a subtle sadness said, “I did”. I knew she had a story.

They enthusiastically inquired as to the when and where of our wedding plans. We don’t have any yet, but told them of the kids’ suggestion that we do it at Water Country . “That would be awesome!” they gushed but went on to joyously encourage us to do it right then and there, on the beach at nearby Kennebunkport and they would be our witnesses, bridesmaids and flower girls. We would then, they implored, post a picture on Facebook to tell the world. And, I might note, they were only half joking.

The conversation became funnier and even more animated every moment. At this point, I was seated next to Paige, a beautiful young lady with gorgeous thick hair in a (fantastic) mess on top of her head. At the table were her mother, her grandmother, her sister, her cousin, her aunt and a dear friend who, while not a part of the blood line, was clearly one of the girls. Earlier in the day, I had (lovingly) (and repeatedly) called Barry an asshat, an expression I see all over Facebook but wasn’t entirely sure what it meant, but just saying asshat is funny, so I did. Paige, being of a certain demographic, seemed like someone who might actually know what it meant, so I asked her and she did not know, which, in a way, made me happy. We asked Siri (who did know) and she told me it is “a dumb person”. “Ohhhh” we said collectively. “Better than calling someone a ball sack”, said Ramona. A nanosecond pause and we all busted out laughing: from Grandma down to 12 year old Amelia. And it felt great.

A good half an hour passed as Barry and I melted into the family, side bar conversations between us. We learned about one another, if only a little. Ramona, who is someone I would most definitely want to call my friend, touched my heart with her quick wit, irreverence (she said ball sack in from of the kids…and her mother!) and honesty when she elaborated on having been cherished by her husband. The same husband (and father, and uncle, and son- and brother-in-law) who had, just in June, lost what I am sure was a hard fought and vicious fight with brain cancer. We instinctively and tightly hugged at her saying the words. She’s a strong, beautiful woman who is wise, lucky and blessed to be surrounded by the same.

It was fun. It felt natural. I wanted to know these women. These women I had not wanted to bother while they were “dining”. The ones that Barry forced me to go back to, coffee and sundae in hand, and integrate myself into their conclave. I used to be better at that. Before I felt broken and worried for my children. Before I felt challenged beyond what I thought I could handle. Before I began to lose confidence in my ability to connect. Barry made me do it (he makes me do a lot of things I never thought I would do…and I love him for it.)

I’ve always been all about the sisterhood. I love women who support, love, laugh and encourage one another. This table of women define how women should interact and simpy be with the women in their lives. I detest bitches that make everything a competition, who are not willing to protect, support and share and, perhaps most egregiously, who reject the strangers who approach them at McDonalds.

ramona
Brynn, Paige and Amelia: While you are most definitely blessed with strong, fabulous women in your lives, allow me to chime in: Marry a (Jewish)* man who cherishes you, who encourages you to be the best version of you and who jostles you out of your comfort zone enough that you plop yourself down at a table of strangers and walk away with a new set of friends.

*These lovelies are not Jewish, but Ramona and I agree: they make the best husbands.  I trace it back to a (healthy, not at all creepy) fear, er, adoration of their mothers.

Love/Hate

Earlier this week, PBS’s Frontline aired  a program entitled, “Growing Up Trans”.  You can see it here:

http://video.pbs.org/video/2365520005/

A part of me loved it.  And, a part of me hated it.  Here’s why:

I loved the title.  The fact that in the title they used “trans” which is so casual and matter of fact reiterated a heightened national awareness and, arguably, acceptance.  To my mind, “trans” is way more cool and way less clinical than transgender.  As someone living in this world, the absence of the word gender can go a long way.

I loved the honesty of the parents.  This is not easy stuff and any parent who tells you that each day is anything other than overwhelming, scary and uncertain is a liar.  I don’t care how effeminate or butch your son or daughter may be, there is nothing, not one damn thing, that prepares a parent for this transition.  Your little boy loves dolls and dresses and mermaids?  Your daughter is only interested in trucks, contact sports and super heroes?  Big deal…who cares?  In fact, when my entirely cis-gender son was little he loved to go with me to the Chanel counter at Bloomingdale’s and paint each of his fingernails a different vibrant color.  Weekly.  Never ever once did I wonder if he would come to me one day and tell me he felt that as though he was a girl.  For that matter, I didn’t even really expect it from George who so resolutely favored dolls, wigs, dresses and mermaid costumes but also acted, in many ways, “all boy”.  Yet one day he told me just that.  And, like the parents profiled on the program, I was totally, completely and utterly knocked off my axis.  Apparently I put on a brave face and had everyone convinced that it was an easy adjustment but, newsflash, it wasn’t. Still isn’t, actually.  It is, however, a whole hell of a lot easier. I love those parents for admitting their fears, anxieties, and trepidations with no apology. Bravo.

I loved the kids, each one of them, with all their individual quirkiness, for having the courage of their convictions and for sharing with the world what this feels like.  I loved how each one of them owned their behavior: the good, the bad and the ugly.  No matter your age, environment or gender…that takes balls.

I loved the lack of discussion about bathrooms.  Seriously, loved that.

I hated a few things, too.  A friend messaged me about the program:

“…Wanted to punch a few of the Dads. I am sure their reactions are pretty typical but still…”

Now, what I hated about this is not what you might think.  My friend is right.  Some of the dads’ reactions were painful to watch.  The perfect parent in me wants to chide them for their selfish candor.  And, that said, I can fully understand wanting to punch them…I mean, really, who talks smack like that about their kids, in front of their kids and, oh, yeah, on national television?  The honest parents do.  I entirely understand how they felt/feel and applaud their putting it out there.  To be clear, these parents, despite verbalizing their misgivings and concerns, are not to be confused with the parents who kick their kids out of the house, disown, humiliate and, essentially torture their children for doing nothing other than being honest.  But I hate that the perception, from folks who have not walked in these shoes, that these parents were behaving badly.  They were being human.

I hated that it forced me to have many (many, many, many) conversations that, frankly, I didn’t really feel like having.  And I hate that I have to admit that.  The subject is rife with opinions, facts, speculations and, well, scary stuff.  Every well-intentioned and well-meaning exchange left me feeling equal parts soaring with confidence and paralyzed by insecurity.  Confession: It is way easier to coast than to make this part of the daily discussion.  While I know that I always have Jess’s back, there are differing opinions of what that means.  File under: scary crap parents have to deal with while pretty much punting.

I love that PBS produced this program.  I love that discussion and acknowledgment of the realities of the transgender community has become so, well, mainstream.  I love that I have so many people in my life who love me and feel comfortable enough with me to offer their always, always, always well-meaning, well-composed opinions.  And I hate that it has to be so complicated, so emotionally charged and so overwhelmingly overwhelming.

special shout out and lots of love to PS, BTS, and GS ❤

Decidedly Undecided

Transgender everything is everywhere and I am decidedly undecided about how I feel about it.

On the one hand, all the exposure, explanations and acceptance are spectacular. On the other hand, that’s a whole of exposure, explanations and (not so much) acceptance. Oh, the irony.

minion

With this latest round of chatter (thank you, Caitlyn Jenner) I have found myself again asking why anyone gives a shit. I know that sounds trite and, perhaps ridiculous, but seriously…how does one person’s gender (or any other, for that matter) expression in any way impact me, you or the mailman? I get that it is (un)comfortably outside of the norm. I get that it is not what most of us grew up with. I even get that what feels natural and real to the transgender person and their families, feels extraordinarily unnatural and unreal to folks who are on the outside looking in. I. Get. It.

What I don’t get is how polarizing the whole subject matter is. Oh, I do, but I don’t. See: decidedly undecided.
I will acknowledge that the sheer volume of media attention is indeed making it virtually impossible, particularly for those folks who are uncomfortable and unable to latch onto the concept, to avoid it. Even in the three and a half years since our transition (to be clear: it is an entire family that needs to transition) the discussion has changed dramatically…and while I applaud the newfound understanding, I worry about it being too much all at once. And, boys and girls, that just gives me one more thing to worry about.

Yes, I have seen the Vanity Fair cover. Yes, I will buy the magazine and read the article. Yes, I believe this is a good thing in terms of paving over the gravel on the road that my kid is travelling. And yes, I think about it every single day. Repeatedly.
No, I don’t think that the people who are spewing hate, anger and vitriol are playing fair. No, I don’t understand why they, as I have already said, give a shit. And no, it isn’t easy to listen to.

The media is entirely schizophrenic on this subject and has caused tremendously good and fantastically horrid banter. This, in my mind, only breeds more anxiety on both sides. I love that transgender is part of the national discussion. I hate that it is, too. I just want my kid to be whomever she is…girl, boy, somewhere in between.

Yes, I am decidedly undecided.

Explain This

When George was two, my parents went to an afternoon movie after which they were going to come to my house to babysit. Around 6 that evening, my mother called to tell me that they were not “coming over” after all. “Um, you weren’t coming over, you were babysitting…” I said in a perhaps less charitable tone than I should have. It was then that she explained that my father had fallen asleep during the movie and she was unable to wake him. Huh? What does that even mean? Since he was a Type 2 Diabetic, she had tried, in vain, to feed him some of the Jr. Mints left over in his lap. (He must have “fallen asleep” early on…there was little that would keep my father from emptying a box of those little gems). Suddenly aware that something was quite wrong, I told her to meet me at the hospital.
When she arrived there with him he was, apparently, in such a frightening state (important visual: my father was 6’1”, my mother 5’1”…imagine her trying to “carry” him in) that they immediately bedded him and started to try to figure out what was wrong. It was a long night. By the end, we knew that he had had a stroke. That was the good news. The answer to the question following the routine chest x-ray of, “are you aware there is a large mass in your chest?” was “um, no”. That was the bad news.
At the time, I was a (mostly) happy stay at home mom. I had stopped working not too long before, in part because George was so wild and busily beating his own drum that the family day care sort of, kind of, might have thrown her hands in the air and cried uncle. So, the only help I had was for the one (okay, sometimes two) hours a day I would drop him off in the babysitting room at the JCC and (usually) work out. There was a lovely older woman named Alla there who was solidly unafraid of George. Perhaps it was the fact that she was Israeli and, as such, able to withstand more than most, but it doesn’t much matter. Not only could she handle him, she freakin’ adored him. The admiration was reciprocated and all was right, if only for one (okay, sometimes two) hours a day.
I was a no-show for several days following my father’s diagnosis. When I finally returned and told Alla what was going on she asked how she could help. She knew I had no other coverage and that the babysitting was only for when I was in the building (theoretically) working out. Without hesitation she offered to watch George at her home for as much time as I needed, for as long as I needed. At the moment, I hadn’t realized how desperate I was for help and after asking her about a hundred times if she was sure, accepted her offer.
George and Alla hung out together for the next several weeks. I would deliver George to her and know that he was safe and happy, even though it was evident that the world around me was crashing in. I still feel indebted to her and never will forget the kindness she showed me and George.
I’ve seen Alla many times over the years. I am even relatively certain that I have told her that George is now Jess. But, either I didn’t or she does not recall…because each and every time I bump into her, she asks for her “boy George”. Every. Single. Time.
Yesterday, I ran into Alla. Literally. I was coming around the corner at the market and our carts collided. We embraced. I told her, as I always do (because it is true) that she simply doesn’t age. She caught me up on her kids, two docs and one who is set to graduate next week from Harvard Law. And, as always, she asked about her “boy George”. I told her that “everyone” is great, getting older, keeping me on my toes. I mastered the ol’ sin of omission by not engaging in one single pronoun. She asked if I had any recent pictures and I, um, lied, and told her that my phone was in the car, hoping against hope that it didn’t ding, ping or ring right then and there. I was secretly relieved that Jess was not with me. Not because I am ashamed, but because it simply feels like it is too late/too exhausting/too old news/too overwhelming/too much a part of everyday life that I sometimes forget to have to explain it again.
This is not the first time I have skirted the issue of “explaining.” I have omitted the details to my elderly neighbor who moved away years ago, but with whom I still keep in touch – primarily by phone. I once skimmed over the details of the facts with two little kids who were too young and new to our family to tell. I was later accused of lying to them which stung a little, but I know I did the right thing by “explaining” only what they would understand. Things like this come up all the time. No, really: all.the.time. And, if I am being honest, I am getting tired of having to explain to every Tom, Dick and Harry that my daughter started off as my son.
Then, late yesterday afternoon, just hours after my encounter with Alla , “explanation time” came up again when I took Jess to Urgent Care for an ear infection. I checked her in, ponytail and pink-checked lounge pant-clad Jess who happens to have an insurance card that says George. I leaned in and asked the receptionist to please call her Jess and use female pronouns which, not surprisingly, caught her off guard. To her credit, she had a quick recovery, wrote it on the intake form and moments later, Jess was called. And then! Then, the doctor came back in with the prescription which was written for Jess, forcing me to tell her (kind of again) that the script had to say George. So many Ts to cross, so many Is to dot.
Jess is used to it. She heard me tell the folks at the new allergist’s office. And the blue-haired gal taking names at Super Cuts, and the on-call pediatrician, and the camp directors, and the gymnastics teacher… She’s corrected people who slip up and others who should know better than to, um, slip up. It happens.
Anyone who has ever read a word of this blog knows how I adored my father. What you might not know, however, is that I felt the same way about his father, my grandpa, who was named…yep, George. In 2001, most people were not naming little boys George. I even hesitated a little, worried that he wouldn’t be able to pull it off. But he could and did better than pull it off – he killed it. He was the man. He was Georgie, Georgieporgiepoopoo and “boy George”. On paper, she still is. Every so often, Jess will ask that we change her name legally, but never with an intense and desperate need. If and when that happens, it happens…but for now, it’s all cool.
So, I will continue to forewarn, correct, whisper, lean in and remind folks that the name George on the form is only the name on the form. I will share as necessary. I will keep my mouth shut when there is no purpose in telling our story. She is just my kid who doesn’t always need to be explained, but if she does, knows I’ve always got her back…just like my dad and Alla did.

Thanks, Bruce

No, I have not seen the Bruce Jenner interview.  Yes, I have every intention of watching it…just not sure when. No, I don’t have a reason for avoiding, er, not tuning in.  Yes, I realize those are two hours of television I should most definitely have watched by now.

bruce

Okay, so in the three plus years since Jess has transitioned the public awareness of transgenderism (I think I made up that word) has exploded.  Way back in 2012 it was way weirder, way less common and certainly way less publicized than it is now.  Admittedly I am more tuned in, but I am quite certain that there was not a seemingly daily story on the subject like there is now.  My kind and well intentioned friends send me links to stories on television, the radio, online, in print and overheard at the local CVS nearly every day.  Many I have seen by the time they are forwarded to me, others I have not.  Some I read, some I do not.  Each time I skip reading the story I feel a pang of guilt; I should be well-versed on and interested in everything good, bad, thrilling, infuriating, scary, despicable and ground-breaking that happens in the transgender community, right?  I should be a loud and proud voice for my child, right?  I should know the what, where, why and how of the LGBT community so I can educate, explain and improve the world view, right? Only here’s the rub: sometimes I just want to be a regular mom with a regular kid with regular issues.  Sometimes I literally cannot bear the thought of hearing one more tale of transition or acceptance or rejection or triumph or catastrophe…so I do things like avoid, er, not find the time, to watch the Bruce Jenner interview.

To be clear: I am all for educating, explaining, protecting, supporting, and normalizing the transgender experience.  I applaud Bruce Jenner and Laverne Cox and Brad & Angelina and Cameron and Aiden and Connie and Rogina and Jill Soloway and Diane Sawyer and Jazz and Mimi Lemay and every other man, woman and child who puts themselves out there.  In fact, I have been one of those people.  With each new story I already know what the comments will be…they never change:

“A child is too young to make this decision.  If they said they wanted to be a pony would you let them?”

“G-d doesn’t make mistakes.”

“These are the most wonderful parents ever!”

“These are the worst parents ever!”

“Crazy mother didn’t get the girl she wanted, so she’s doing this!  For shame!”

“I wish I had had parents like this…it would have saved me years of pain.”

This cycle is, as I am sure you can appreciate, exhausting.  What’s more: at this point in the game, I sometimes forget that Jess was George.  I see her as my very cool, very complicated, very interesting, very unusual, very artistic, very independent thinking kid.  I think of her as my kid and not as my transgender kid.  I don’t bring it up in conversation, nor do I hide it.  It is what it is.  Maybe your kid has issues with anxiety or anger or learning or obesity or is so obnoxious that it is legendary…and you don’t need or, frankly, want every article, story and debate over your given malady because you are living it.  Yep.  It is the same thing here.

I know that each and every person who has ever sent me a text about or a link to an article or story is doing so with kind, loving and supportive intentions.  I really do.  I know that the media has latched onto the transgender story and that it is doing wonderful things for the community.  I really do.

From everything I have heard, seen and read since his interview it is clear that Bruce Jenner did a wonderful thing for himself, his family and the world by sharing his story.  I am grateful for that.  I hope it throws some tar down on the newly paved road for kids like mine.  I also hope it takes a little bit of pressure off of us parents who, despite enormous support and love, often feel like we are flying solo.  By not watching, and not weighing in with an opinion, I feel a sense of relief that someone else can talk the talk and walk the walk for me, if just for a few days.

Keep Calm, It’s Not Contagious

Recently someone expressed their concern over their children having been “exposed” to Jess.  Let that sink it.

notcontagious

I don’t know about you, but when I consider exposure and concern in the same sentence here’s what comes to my mind:

  1. The flu
  2. The chicken pox
  3. Ebola
  4. Tuberculosis
  5. Yellow Fever
  6. AIDS
  7. Stomach bugs
  8. Pertussis
  9. Syphilis
  10. Pink eye
  11. Legionnaires Disease
  12. Strep throat
  13. Meningitis
  14. A cold
  15. Rabies
  16. Hepatitis A, B, C, D and E
  17. MRSA
  18. Bubonic Plague
  19. Chlamydia
  20. Diptheria
  21. Malaria
  22. SARS
  23. Athlete’s Foot
  24. Typhoid Fever
  25. Herpes

Here’s what doesn’t:

  1. Anything, anything related to LGBTQ

Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree

There is a Christmas tree in my living room.  It is understated, with glowing white lights (which do me the favor of not blinking) and simple silver ornaments.  It is situated perfectly in the middle of the window, shining out in the darkness of night for everyone to enjoy.  I actually love that Christmas tree.  Only it is not my tree, nor is it my living room.

xmastree

I spent twenty years in that house.  I raised both of my sons, and then, three years ago, a daughter there.  During my tenure I lived through construction of a big addition,  various paint jobs,  rearranged furniture, new carpets, replacement of appliances that all decided to die at the same time, play structures being constructed and ultimately, outgrown, great times and, frankly, some pretty dark ones.  My children, in all their incarnations and phases (some more pleasant than others) spent the entirety of their lives there.  And now, there is a Christmas tree not far from where the Menorah was illuminated for all those twenty years.

The end of this year rests in stark contrast to the end of last.  Everything, it seems, feels different.  And, for the first time in longer than I feel ashamed to admit, I feel blessed.

My children are doing fine.  Better than fine, in fact.  They have their moments (oh, who am I kidding…it is never just a moment) but all in all, they are good.  Harrison, (begrudgingly) home for semester break continues to make me proud.  (Well, makes me proud when he isn’t forcing me to use words to describe him that are unbecoming of a mother.)  He, as a sophomore (warning: brag ahead) was elected president of his fraternity.  He’s always been a leader and despite the fact that I really do not quite get the whole frat thing, is (when not home) wildly happy at school having surrounded himself with a great group of friends. For that I feel blessed.

Jess continues to be work in progress, but, despite her “significant” learning disability, rocked this semester with all As and Bs.  She is finding her way and is content.  (Full disclosure: I still worry about her.  Always will, I suppose.) She is an artist to the core and I fully expect to see her one woman show at The Whitney some day.

I’ve established two wonderful relationships; one being with my former husband, Rich.  The process of the dissolution of our marriage was unpleasant, no fun, felt interminable and nearly crushed my spirit, but we’ve both moved on and twice (yes, twice) in the past week have broken bread with our children in celebration of Jess’s birthday and then Hannukah.  No tension, no anger, no animosity and a bill split down the middle.  That’s how it should be.  The other is with my guy Barry.  His support of every single one of the complications that come along with me has been unfailing.  He loves me, my children (and I, his) and, with his ringside seat to the changes of the past year, has kept me laughing.  That is a gift.

2014 is ending high.  On paper, I have always had so much to be thankful for: a wonderful family, amazing friends, a nice home and good food, but, if I am being honest (which you all know I always am): I was having a hard time feeling blessed.  I truly do now.

Other than my, gulp, 50th birthday and a trip to Chile, I haven’t a clue what 2015 will bring.  In contrast to years past, I enter it not with trepidation, but with happy anticipation.  My ducks are in a row straighter than they have been for, well, a decade or so and I intend to keep them that way.

There is a Christmas tree in my living room, shining on me.  May it shine on you and yours, too.

Nailed It

Anyone who knows me will attest to the fact that for the past twenty years, one would be hard pressed to find me without perfectly manicured nails.  Not long and never red, just clean, polished, perfectly filed and, even (especially) during the worst of times, flawless.  It has been the thing that made me feel in control and, I assumed, conveyed to the world a psychic unity that often eluded me.  I readily and frequently professed that I would give up food before I gave up my beloved bi-weekly manis.  And then last week happened.

I had put exactly zero thought to what I was about to do.  I had not, in fact, even entertained the idea.  Yet, as I sat in the familiar chair struggling with my aluminum foiled covered fingernails* to turn the pages of the most recent “People” magazine I felt not the comfort and calm that always came with manicures, rather I felt agitated and irritated by the process and a little ashamed of the time I was wasting while I should really have been packing up my house to move.

The guy who has been doing my nails for years sat silently scraping the remaining “Dizzy Feet” (which, incidentally, is the perfect shade of pink)(I know because I spent an embarrassing amount of time over these past 20 years seeking just that: the perfect shade of pink)(it’s Essie for those who are going to go looking for it) off my nails, preparing to paint them yet again.  “Wait” I nearly shouted, “No polish…just buff them and throw on a shiny clear coat.”

He literally stopped and stared at me.  I think he jaw might have dropped open a little.  It was then that I knew that I was done with this whole ritual, habit, commitment.

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The symbolism is not lost on me.  This has been a (ten year) period of all sorts of crap coming at me from left, front and center.  It all began in November, 2004 when I was diagnosed with breast cancer and has been a steady stream of stress, change, upheaval, mishegas**, anxiety, transition and general shit-storminess.  Yes, there have been some wonderful things thrown in there, too, but, all in all…it’s been a rough patch.  Through it all, my nails were always perfect.  In fact, the day before my surgery I made sure to have my nails done so that when I woke up I would feel like at least a shadow of myself.  Same with the day before my father’s funeral, the day George told me she was a girl, when my husband and I decided to separate…

Now that we are approaching year three of Jess’s transition, my house is sold, I’ve found a place to live, I have a wonderful man in my life and the world is continuing to spin on its axis I realized I don’t need perfect nails any more.  To be clear, they are well groomed and will remain so.  I actually kinda like the way they look and found myself (almost) getting a little judgey (that’s my made up word for being judgmental) when I see a woman with nails that resemble the way mine used to look.  But, rest assured, it has been a fleeting thought as I, perhaps more than most, deeply appreciate the value of a perfect manicure.

Pathetic as it may sound, I consider this a victory, a success, a milestone.  I feel liberated on many levels.  I do, however, reserve the right to relapse and return to the perfect pink someday…

 

*Gel manicures changed my life…but in order to prepare the nails for a new coat, one has to wrap the nail in foil and acetone to melt the crap out of them.  As noted, it makes for very difficult trashy magazine page turning which, I realized, was a good 75 percent of what I actually needed when I walked into the nail salon.

** That’s “Jewish” for craziness.

Take *That*, Elephant

We were having an important conversation about an emotionally charged subject.  The banter was easy and agreeable, the tone respectful.  The subject matter had nothing whatsoever to do with me or my kid, yet when it morphed into the organic moment I had been waiting (um, praying) for, I (um) pounced.   It was that moment that I chose to share that my daughter, whom the person I was speaking with has met on more than one occasion, was born a boy.

It had been eating at me.  I had felt as though my lack of sharing was somehow duplicitous and had become the elephant in the room which only I noticed.  It was equal parts anxiety and the desire to be wholly honest which allowed the words to tumble out of my mouth with no fanfare (unless one could consider my gently resting my hand on my listener’s knee somehow fanfare-ish) direct eye contact and a kind-of-a-little-bit feigned bravado.  But the moment I said it, I felt my shoulders drop ever so slightly and my breath catch just a smidge as I awaited a response.

elephant

 

I do not know what I expected really.  I certainly did not anticipate hysteria or anger, nor did I get it. I had built up the details and played out the scene of this interaction many times in my mind. I had allowed myself to perseverate over how and when to say something, fretted over the reaction I would receive, rehearsed the monologue (which, when the time arrived for recitation, fully escaped me) to the point of sudden sweats and aborted sleep. And it was all for naught.  The response was nearly as matter-of-fact as my delivery.  Compassion for the challenges we faced were shared.  Respect was evident in both directions.  Inset huge sigh here.

Perhaps it was selfish of me to blurt it out amid discussion of another child’s issue.  This wasn’t about me.  But as we were chatting, my mind feverishly darted back and forth between “not now, Julie” and “since we are getting down and dirty into kid issues, bring it on”.  You know which option won out.

And, while I never worried about the response I would receive, I obsessed over finding the right time, the right place and the right words.  I think I did okay.

I am appreciative of the acceptance.  I am cognizant of the fact that I lobbed a fastball.  I am grateful to have been listened to so respectfully.  Note to self: the anticipation is always the hardest part.