Tuesday, January 24, 2012

An Apple a day keeps the crankies away

Check out this webpage:


We love Apple, she is truly one of a kind.  She forwarded this to me today.  Apparently, the UK is significantly more open minded about the subject. Apple was telling me the other day there are television programs in the UK that feature transgender teens and it's not big deal.  Can you imagine such a thing in the USA where we think we're so freedom minded?  We've got some growing to do.

Thanks Apple-you always find the most thoughtful gift ideas.  DJ, Bulldog, Goodwrench, Romeo and I all love you and miss you.  XOXO

The calm instead of the storm

Do you ever struggle with taking the high road?  You know which one that is, the one that is rarely traveled because it's such a damn uphill, zig-zaggy path, full of brambles, annoying pebbles that cause you to slip, medium sized rocks that repeatedly dig into your shins and giant boulders that threaten to flatten you if you're not watchful.  And of course, the other option is the slippery slope-aptly named because it is so easy to follow-you merely let go, and you're on it, coasting downhill, all the way to....I guess our lesser selves, although some would say it's actually a sure path to hell.  But if I get started on the religious zealots I'll never shut up and I'll get all angry and then I'll be sliding for certain.....I digress.

Our beloved DJ is doing much better.  She's managing to eat as directed although she finds it stressful.  That, apparently, is par for the course for a person battling anorexia. But she's a tough girl and she willingly accepted being part of this program.  And really, she could have refused.  She could have insisted on going home and short of a court order, or our refusing to take her home, we could not have forced her to stay.  I don't know if she knows that, but I certainly won't tell her.  Nonetheless, she is following the care plan religiously.  She's so strong and we're so proud of her.  Bulldog is especially happy because she is now returning his "I love you's" once again.  For the first week or so, she either said nothing or "you too" in return to either of us.

My girl takes the high road all the blessed time.  I think she's just naturally nicer than most people, and slower to anger, as well.  Me, I'm a nice person, but I have to fight the urge to try to make people feel ashamed of themselves.  It's my way of fighting back I guess.  I don't defend it as a healthy means of fighting back, and I don't often give in to it, but I spend enough time fantasizing about it that I think I actually fan the flames of anger that someone else ignited.  So, really, I'm part of my own problem.

Now, this blog is remarkably cathartic for me.  I work through my thoughts and feelings about a number of issues.  Many of you will - nicely- call me on my waywardness but usually it is to say I'm being too hard on myself.  Some of you, however, will share your perspectives about the mean people in the world and I actually hear your words in my head, particularly lately when I've been really fighting the urge to give some acquaintances a piece of my mind. I don't want to tell them off....ok that's not true.  I DO want to tell them off, but I have a sneaking suspicion they'll walk out in the middle of it. So instead, I've been fantasizing about the passive-aggressive sneak attack.  You know, you bait them with some innocent remark and when they walk into your trap with the comment you knew they would make, you let them have it with your one liner, preferably in front of other people, so that their shame is multiplied because it took place publicly.  It's a seductive little fantasy, isn't it?

So, I was contemplating doing this on....(ok, I'm an idiot-I SAID it was a fantasy) Facebook.  I hope you can still hear me because I'm shouting to you from the pit near the end of the slippery slope.  Anyway, I was going to put a little one liner on there that would speak to some of my so-called "friends" and distant "family" so that they would know it was for them and no one else would be the wiser.  Of course it's stupid.  No one sagaciously picks the slippery slope....sheesh.

But you know who stopped me (and she's going to chuckle when she reads this) this cute little Australian woman.  Now, this woman is young enough to be my daughter so I have to be frank when I admit that I feel a little embarrassed that this young lady has her s - - - together better than a woman who has 20 years on her. Nonetheless, I will accept wisdom from any source-"out of the mouths of babes" right?  And believe me, I've been blessed with many sources of wisdom because many of you fine blog readers have offered your words - and thank goodness.  Lately, however, I've been hearing her voice-I say voice, but I mean cyber voice because I've never heard her speak- when I start to get all revved up and angry.  And it's not really the words but her pragmatism that is whispering in my ear.  It's the idea that I shouldn't waste my energies on such things, not because it's small or petty to do so, but because I have bigger fish to fry.  And more importantly, I can't change anyone for DJ, or for me and when I try to change them, I'm giving them too much power by giving them my power.  I've never cyber- heard this aussie woman use the words,"It's just not worth it" but that is the feeling.  And while I've heard the words before, something about how she's imparting this feeling of "They just aren't worth it" is resounding in me-repeatedly in fact.  I've caught myself a number of times starting to think in a negative "I'll get back at them" manner, only to have this feeling and thought of, "It's just not worth it" stop me dead in my slippery slope fantasy tracks.  It feels so blessed.....calm.

Some folks come by this trait naturally and more power to 'em.  And while there is a place in this world for people of passion, we have to know when to play the passion card, and when not to.  Information is indeed power.  Sharing is power-if what you share is meaningful.  If not, you're just giving your power away to someone who just isn't worth it.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Musta been PMS

I am not one to normally blame PMS for my mood irregularities.  And yes, you do not have to be a menstruating woman to experience them since they are often the result of hormonal influences.  Women of all walks of life likely have some kind of experience with our hormones getting the best of us.

I woke up with wicked cramps this morning, so I am going to chalk my ire and mania and hysteria to the aforementioned hormones.  It's my crutch and I'll lean on it if I want to!!  Poor, poor Bulldog was the recipient of my moodiness last night.  I had rearranged the furniture in the den after cleaning up and Bulldog comes up from downstairs stating, in a solemn tone, "You'd better call the police. Someone broke into our basement.  pause...And they rearranged the furniture."

I don't know why, because I seldom panic, but during the" police, broke in", etc., and before the furniture remark, I got scared.  When I realized his (albeit lame) joke, I had a mini-meltdown.

"What the hell were you thinking? You scared the crap out of me?!"

Then, the next morning, I got on my rant about the anti-woman sentiments that exist in this world.  I'll spare you the details, as the look on Bulldog's face is etched into my brain and serves to remind me that my howling at the moon is not only annoying as s---, but serves no purpose whatsoever.  And really, it's a smokescreen for what's really bothering me-the worry that DJ will not be ok.

I cannot cry easily- I wish I could but I've got 30 years of holding it back out of necessity for any number of reasons that I will not recount right now.  It's been a great tool for me for a very a long time, but now, I can't get to my sadness except through my anger.  This is unfortunate for me because I can't easily access my feelings.  And poor Bulldog usually receives the brunt of my anger as I'm trying to access my sadness, feelings of loss, fears, anxieties, etc.

So until I find a way to access those feelings, I've decided that when I start crying over spilled milk, that I will recognize that urge to whine as a sign that something else is going on;  before I get on my pulpit, that I should instead take a step backward before I give in to the urge to verbally purge, unless I can be more constructive.  Sometimes I have to put my issues in boxes to be able to deal with them one at a time.  A new spin on one day at a time perhaps....one issue at a time and break it down into small bites.

DJ update

DJ is doing much better.  She has been transferred to an eating disorders unit where she is content to be.  She made a couple of jokes yesterday and asked for staff paper so she can compose some music while she is there.

What a blessing to see her act more like herself.  It's a tonic for my nerves, to quote some old movie or book that I can't recall at the moment.  The work she is doing is pretty intensive.  She is completely immersed in an environment that encourages looking inside yourself and finding ways to come to terms with your feelings and your reality.  Not only will they help her become physically healthy again, but also emotionally more healthy.

Get this:  our insurance company has sent DJ a letter encouraging her to complete the program and promised a $20 gift card to Target if she does.  WHAT?!!  Since when did insurance companies become kind and supportive?  The opera ain't over till the fat lady sings and she hasn't sung yet, so they could still act like butt-heads later, but for now, it was a pretty pleasant surprise.

Bulldog and I are hoping to come up with social support system for when she comes home.  It's hard to find support groups.  And we also are letting go of the idea of DJ having the typical high school experience-and we're entertaining the possibility of creating one for her and others who face similar struggles.

Wouldn't it be awesome to have a PFLAG prom? LGBTQ folks and any LGBTQ or straight folks who love them would be welcome.  It's something I'm thinking about and am not sure how to get it off the ground since there is no group closer than 50 miles from my home.  Any ideas?

The comments and support that you have offered have been like this invisible safety net so that even when I fall, my butt doesn't even touch the ground. Thank you :)

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Seein' red today

I'm angry today. I'm puttin' that out there so if you're not in the mood for reading about someone else's anger, you can switch pages now.  Fair warning....

I came home to an empty house because DJ is still in the hospital.  She is doing better and I think the programs she is taking part in are helping her tremendously.  I'm only guessing here with what I'm about to propose because she is still somewhat stiff upper lip with Bulldog and me, but I think she is getting to the core of her pain that she shoved inside to remain in the closet for 15 years, and pretended wasn't there when she finally came out.  It's a process that will take time and we will stand by whatever path helps her.

But when I came home to the empty house, I was already on a quiet simmer.  Maybe it's because I miss her-a lot.  Maybe it's because I knew I'd have to scoop the litter box since she isn't here to do it.  Maybe it's because my life is topsy turvy and I crave some regular routine...or maybe I'm wanting to blame the ignorant hate mongers in the world who helped put her where she is right now.

So, I headed down to the den in the basement-the room that we spent time and money on so DJ would have a place to entertain her friends, and a place to play music, compose music and perhaps get away from her parents.  I decided to finally put away some Christmas stuff that I had left there when I saw her guitar propped up next to the piano-looking unused and forgotten.  And then I started thinking about how much Bulldog and I both miss hearing her play the piano, and the guitar and how much I miss hearing the music she composes.  That's when I started to really boil...not in a way that makes me yell, because like I said, the house is empty and I get no satisfaction whatsoever from knowing that my goofball German Shepherd Calley and my ancient, 20 year old cat, Courtney, would feel the brunt of my verbal volcanics.

So, I grabbed my laptop and here I am.

Aside from our immediate family's concerns, I have a relative who was just released from the hospital.  Her serious, life threatening illness forced her to quite smoking cigarettes and pot.  She admittedly has been in various stages of a drug induced haze since her childhood when her father beat the crap out of her on a daily basis.  This cousin is also a lesbian, so when she wasn't getting beat at home, she was sometimes facing verbal abuse, or worse, in her hometown.  Our talk turned to the subject of Facebook where she shared that other, distant, family members were verbally bashing "freaks" like transgender folks.  I'm not sure if they verbally bashed gays and lesbians during this time, but they've been known to do it in the recent and not so recent past.  One of my family members spoke up wondering how I would feel if I were to see the posts.  The post was apparently deleted after her comment.  To my cousins' credit, and to the credit of Mimi, Bean and Flying Pig, none of them breathed a word to me.  And this happened nearly a year ago.  Since that time, the person who uttered the most hateful words of all has corresponded with me on occasion, on FB and through the old fashioned mail.  So, not only is she ignorant, but she is a coward as she pretends to befriend me while she mocks my child.  Yes, my child, not just transgender people, because I told her myself about DJ.  She knew about DJ when she made those comments.  I can and will consider it a direct insult to my child and anyone who shares a similar struggle.

So, my anger at this "relative" (a person who is older than I am and cannot be excused because her immaturity is in spite of her chronological age) easily blossomed into blaming her and everyone like her for much of DJ's suffering.  Yes, DJ would be struggling with the fact that some of her parts don't match who she feels she is anyway, but I think her struggles are magnified at least tenfold because of the bitter hatred and willful misunderstanding and maligning at the hands of much of society.  Why can't people just keep their hateful opinions to themselves?  My opinions are mine and you may not agree, but I don't spew poisons that incite hatred in others, publicly no less.

These folks want their world to be exactly as they see it, as far as their eyes can see.  It's not enough that they can live freely in their homes, or at work, on vacation, in church.  But they want public areas to be theirs too.  They want no censorship of their thoughts because they think the whole world is theirs and that they shouldn't have to share:  they shouldn't have to shut their traps if they don't want to, even if they hurt someone in the process; they don't want to have to take down religious icons from public places even though they can display them proudly in their homes, cars, their churches, on their person, because they want to see what they want no matter who they may offend or exclude.  And they act like Facebook belongs to them too. Yeah, right, the airwaves belong to each of us.  We can say what we want and "screw you if you don't like what I post, you don't have to read it".  Except yes I do when it pops up on my screen. By the time I realize what trash it is, I've already read it.  But I don't have to read it again.

Then, they get pissed off.  "It's a free country" they reply.  No, idiot-freedom of speech means you won't be thrown in jail for saying publicly that the president is a muslim or something equally stupid and irrelevant.  It does not mean you are protected from people taking issue with your position and perhaps deleting you from FB or their lives.  Ask the Dixie Chicks- they took a gamble, exercised their right to free speech and now their career is in the toilet.  That's the chance you take.

You know what's wrong with these folks?  They need to repeat kindergarten.  They need to learn how to share (the earth, the airwaves, public places, the government, the resources, but NOT their opinions please), to take turns, to not say anything at all if you can't say something nice, to be kind to your neighbor, to say "please" and "thank you" and to be courteous.  It's not like our kindergarten teachers said, "These are the rules, except for when you meet someone different than you. Then, you may disregard the aforementioned."

If only people could just shut the hell up in public arenas.  This is America;  bitch all you want in the comfort of your home and your car.  You must share the other spaces in the world with EVERYBODY.  We all have a F - - - - - - right to be here and to be who we are, as long as we are not hurting anyone.  And don't even start that crap about homosexuals "hurting" the institution of marriage.  If a cop can't put you in jail for it, or if your employer can't fire you for it, or if the ACLU can't successfully sue you for it, you're probably not actually "hurting" anyone.  Generally-and here's where I get to throw out the religion card-if it ain't in the Ten Commandments, you're probably ok.  Nothing in there about homosexuality, or transgenderism, hell, marriage isn't even defined there.  Follow those 10 rules pretty closely and you're not likely to hurt anyone.  I challenge the hate mongers, who usually use the Bible as their defense, to top that one.  The only "law" that tops that in the Bible is Jesus' commandment "to love each other as I have loved you."  Go ahead, try to tell me that your messages of hate and nonacceptance and exclusion don't violate that.

In the meantime, can I interest any of those verbose hate mongers in helping to pay for a hospital bill?  The way I figure it, you earned it more than DJ or we did.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Quoting the geniuses at AA

None of us ever move forward in a straight path, I don't guess.  We zig, we zag, we step backwards, we stall right where we are and then maybe we inch forward again.  I need to remind myself of that today.  Bulldog does too.  Today was just an ok day when we saw DJ.

Talking about how she feels is such a struggle for DJ.  The ways she expressed how she felt were becoming harmful to her.  However, the last few days have shown marked improvement until she deliberately knocked over her can of Ensure yesterday.  Still not ok to act on your feelings, but a whole lot better than the actions she was previously taking.  But still, talking is best.  We all know that.  But talking is not what she is able to do easily.  She avoids, she shrugs or (my personal favorite) acts like she didn't hear when I ask a question.  Today, we left asking ourselves, "Is it time for some tough love?"  Not the kind where you punish or beat your kid; the kind where you kind of say, "OK already-we're standing here.  You must find a way to speak up and not squander the resources that are here for you."

She's in the right place and as I said to Bulldog today, we have to trust that the folks that work there know what they're doing.  They have eons more experience with this.  Bulldog had expressed dismay that the therapist was quick to end the session when Jackie hit a frustrated brick wall.  Really, our time was up anyway, and perhaps it was appropriate.  "You can't get blood from a stone," I said.  I'm painting myself to be incredibly wise here, but that was just momentary, because then I brought up my Tough Love theory where we go into the next session with verbal guns blazing.....yeah, we swing back and forth, Bulldog and I, trying to figure out what the best path is.

Then, when Bulldog expressed that he had to attend some training-the last opportunity before some of his certifications expire-and might miss seeing DJ as a result, I quoted AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) when I said, "We have to just take it one day at a time."

Those words seem so trite sometimes, but if you've ever been in a truly desperate situation, you KNOW the veracity in them.

When I was a newly single mother following my first husband's suicide, the kids and I were at an all time low, of course.  I had separated from my first husband less than 2 months prior to his death. They were grieving losing him;  I was grieving for my kids' loss and for the possibility of never having a spouse ever again.  The days with the kids were   L  O  N  G.  It was summer break and we were together 24/7.  I relied HEAVILY on a girlfriend of mine to talk me through the depression, the panic, the boredom, the frustration-you name it.  This one afternoon, I had already leaned heavily on her and knew she needed time to be with her family.  I made myself promise that I would not call her for at least an hour-which seemed dreadfully, and unreachably long.  I literally started washing dishes and cleaning the kitchen telling myself, "You can get through the next few minutes and then worry about the next few minutes after that."  I was living minute to minute-how pathetic is that?  But I managed to not call her for over an hour.

Living a day at a time is a learned skill.  Most of us have never had to learn how to do it.  I've had some training so now I just need to remember how it's done.  Looking too far ahead is as frightening as Ebenezer Scrooge's walk with the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, so we just shouldn't do it unless absolutely necessary.

And if we're still feeling like crapola?  I will quote another AA byline:  We will "Fake it until we make it." Sometimes going about your day as if everything is ok, even when you feel like death warmed over, can distract you just enough to make you feel sorta.....ok, actually.  So, I did some laundry when we came home, I poured a glass of wine, I stripped the sheets from the guestroom bed and returned a couple of phone calls.  Maybe I'll end the night with a couple of smart @$$ remarks to Bulldog and maybe get a smirk out of him before we go to bed.  If not, an hour of "Friends" on DVD usually works.  If the hits keep coming, we'll keep ducking.  We won't look too far ahead and worry that we'll tire from ducking and not be able to duck anymore.  We'll just try to duck in time for the next hit.  We'll worry about the one after that, IF it comes.

In the meantime, we sleep pretty well because our girl is safe and is getting the help she needs.  We won't worry about if it's working yet, or if it will ever work-we'll take each day as it comes.  I wonder if we can get a pin for that...  

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Blog supporters are the new Dr. Phil

Dear Blog Readers,

Your thoughts, even the tough ones, are helping me more than you know.  You all are like a bunch of therapists who don't charge a fee!!  But seriously, your compasses are helping to point Bulldog and me in the right direction and maybe DJ will gain some insight from your input as well.  Your cyber support is inspiring.  You all have become a regular part of my day now. Thank you.

With Affection,
The Author

Will the owner of this issue please stand up?

DJ is doing better, thank goodness. She talked about not being able to be herself in front of us, especially when she is in the company of her friends.  And in listening to her, I think I'm really getting that much of this is about her feelings about her.  I think she may have painted herself into a corner, in a manner of speaking.

Bulldog and I, well, mostly "I", could be accused of being "helicopter" parents.  We, again, mostly I, hover.  But we also are pretty darn good at hearing and respecting the "back off" message.  If DJ will not speak up about what she wants, needs, what irritates her, what we can do to help, etc., etc., how the heck can we know what to do, or what not to do?  Bulldog and I are pretty skilled about a lot of things, but ESP ain't one of our skills.  We have trouble reading our own individual minds, forget reading someone else's mind.  Hell, we can't even read each other's mind, which I personally think is a blessing.  I do not want anyone to know about the inner workings of my brain; the tour requires a guide who is fluent in the language of my brain and the languages of whoever is trying to understand me, poor soul.

DJ keeps talking about wanting a fresh start.  Flying Pig calls that "Geographic therapy."  No one is mocking DJ here, but don't we all entertain that thought?  And isn't that more a form of fantasy rather than something we can actually employ unless we want to go the path of Olivia Newton-John's former lover?  Google it-the dude just disappeared AND tried to make it look like he may have been a victim of foul play, but he was found out.  Even if he weren't found out, wouldn't his next life necessitate that he live a life of lies?

I don't think DJ gets that yet.  Her former life as JD was a life based on untruths and half truths.  It was necessary and it worked well for years, unless you consider that JD would spend quite a bit of time alone in his room so that DJ could disengage from acting like JD for awhile.  So, if DJ goes somewhere new, starts afresh, if she keeps the circumstances of what led her to this new life to herself, isn't she exactly where she started two years ago?  Isn't that sort of jumping from the frying pan into another frying pan?

My perspective is becoming pretty clear. She's got to learn to live in the skin she's in. Furthermore, while Bulldog and I may have a piece in this process, the lion's share of the puzzle pieces are hers.  FINALLY, I get it, Bulldog has gotten it all along; now we just have to wait for little miss can't be wrong to figure it out.  And I refer to DJ that way tongue in cheek because that very quality of hers, that she cannot be wrong, could get in her way.  I don't know where she gets that from (sheepish smirk), but she's been that way her entire life.

When she was about 6 years old, before we knew how poor her eyesight was, we passed a horse farm with the shrubbery trimmed in the shape of.....horses, of course.  She swore up and down they were lions.  All of us in the car explained what we saw, the irrationality of trimming bushes into the shape of lions at a horse farm, the logic of horse farm bushes resembling horses.  It didn't matter-she knew she was right.  Just like how she swore she saw Santa from  the upstairs hallway that looked into the family room when she was on her way to the bathroom. YEARS later, she acquiesed.  Hopefully, it won't take as long for her to realize her perspective just might have to shift a bit in this instance.  That maybe, just maybe, the reason she feels like she can't be herself is in her head, partly because she's a teenager and partly because she's still learning to feel comfortable in her own skin.

Bulldog and I are worn out, but it still feels so good to see a positive shift in her demeanor and outlook.  This past week has seemed excruciatingly long and we, luckily, were able to put our work-lives and personal lives on hold. This coming week, we will return to our lives and still support DJ where she's at, both personally and geographically.  And hopefully, she'll come to an understanding- on at least this one issue-that "being herself" is largely about her and has very little to do with us.  It's a lesson many of us will spend our lives learning and relearning. 

Thursday, January 12, 2012

I'm me, you're you

Learning about boundaries has been my cross to bear recently and DJ's recent hospitalization has further highlighted the importance of my really getting where I end and she begins.  I know, many of you are probably very clear on that and I won't get into why I'm not clear on it, but suffice it to say that for years my being enmeshed with my loved ones worked  incredibly well at maintaining familial ties.

That caused, and causes, problems for me and the family member.  I feel responsible when I shouldn't, and I have difficulty letting my kids, in particular, spread their wings.  Let me rephrase, I let them spread their wings and encourage them to do so, but when they invariably crash, as all of us are wont to do, instead of letting them pick themselves up, and brush themselves off and try again, I attempt to do that for them.  Yeah, for those of you lovely people who have been wonderfully supportive by telling me I'm too hard on myself, I can practically hear you thinking, "You're doing it again!"but hear me out because really, I'm understanding the importance of cutting myself a break.

DJ came out the other day with a remark, or remarks, about how she can't be herself around us, etc., etc.  Here's where I have a part in that, and here's where I don't: it's my epiphany, if you will.  Maybe my piece is that my underlying anxiety about my kids' happiness has propelled to jump in when I shouldn't. Maybe I've inadvertently denied them the opportunity to figure out that they can stand up after they've been driven into the ground.  Maybe, even, my underlying aforementioned anxiety is something they sense and feel bad or responsible about and therefore want to avoid the situation by "putting on a front", at least in DJ's case.  Romeo and Goodwrench never put on fronts-they always came right out with what was on their minds.  Maybe my anxiety about their happiness feels like indirect pressure for them.

Conversely, perhaps DJ has also figured out, because she's a teenager, and that species of humanoids love to manipulate their parents, that by blaming us, she can hide behind a mechanism that I may have started, but she is content to use when it allows her to hide from herself.  So, what if I realized that my kids' happiness is not something I have to wallow in or be responsible for, but can simply observe from the sidelines, and assist with when asked?  What if, for my sake, and theirs, I didn't make my happiness contingent on theirs?  Wouldn't that relieve me, and them, of a burden that I never intended to carry or have them carry?  And wouldn't that, then, allow them to figure out what they're made of?

So then, when DJ tries to lay full responsibility of not feeling like she can be herself at home, I can say, "I'm listening, tell me what you mean" while not buying into the idea that if she feels this way, it is all my fault!  I'm willing to accept that I may have been a part of the problem, but this newfound realization makes me know that because she and I are not joined at the hip, and because Bulldog and I have made huge efforts at helping, that this issue might be something she needs to explore within herself; some of which we can help her with by shifting our methods of communication, and much of which she will have to be responsible for by altering her methods of communicating her needs and wants to us, or to anyone, for that matter.

I am not one of those people who think that God creates problems and gives them to people so that they may learn a specific lesson.  If that's your god, you're welcome to keep him.  BUT, I do believe that when tough and painful situations arise, God's love, or the energy in the universe that connects us to each other, (I'm open to any possibility because I don't have the answers, nor do I believe any one group has the answers), works as a tool, or a means of helping us to wrought good from a bad situation.  

Bulldog and I are beat @$$ tired, and wrung out, frustrated and wish we could help DJ, but we're also at a place of acceptance, in a manner of speaking.  And when you're ready to let go, you're ready to grab onto the next hope of possibility.  Now, we'll see how I feel after we see her tonight;  I have to hold tightly to this new perspective.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Lean on me...I am, I am

I am so thankful to have started this blog.  I thought I was passing on some of what we've learned;  little did I conceive of how much wisdom others would be kind enough to share, as well.

Bulldog and I can swing quite easily from feeling like we've dropped the ball to wondering, seriously what the hell else could we have done to help DJ avoid the pit she feels like she's in right now.  It's a tough place to be in, as any parent can attest.  There's a fine line between doing for your kid so that they can and will help themselves, and doing so much for your kid that they won't accept responsibility for their portion of the work required.  Your reminders and support help keep us grounded, otherwise we'd be catapulting our way down that slippery slope of codependence.

DJ shared with us, for the few moments we could see her yesterday, that she felt she couldn't be herself around us. She went on to say that she didn't feel like she was part of the family.  That revelation blew me away and I, immediately and simultaneously, felt responsible and like she was out of her cotton pickin' mind.  How did we ever make her feel that way?  Each person in our family gets along better with her than each other, in most instances.  Now, maybe that's a double edged sword-a blessing and a burden to be the person that other family members gravitate to.  But it's seldom in a way that we burden her, more that she's more easy going and fun to be around.  She's the most low-maintenance person in our family.  I don't believe in assigning labels to family members particularly if they are negative or assume that no one else in the family can be the "easy going one", but sometimes the labels are a result or outgrowth of a person's natural tendencies toward certain personality traits.  So which came first, the chicken or the egg?

Maybe DJ feels we assigned her certain roles that she is resisting, or maybe she is just being a teenager who is resisting her parents and wants to believe we are conducting ourselves as parents a certain way, because she's TG.  She's not giving us much info at the moment, but we'll be patient and wait until she shares her feelings with us.

In the meantime, I will continue to touch base with you fine folks because you're helping me.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Six Feet Under

Bulldog and I are reeling.  DJ has been attempting to hide how depressed she feels for a number of months now, and we finally got to the bottom of it.  She checked into a facility that can support her and help her get back on her feet.  Thank GOD for professional people who care, genuinely care, about our girl.

Bulldog and I take turns falling apart.  It's hard to see our daughter reach this point where the pain is so unbearable that she just can't bear it anymore.  The tiredness we saw in her face was simultaneously disheartening and encouraging.  When a person is tired of fighting something in the only way she knew how, and is ready to give up, then she's also ready to deal with the pain instead of avoiding it.  Then, maybe, just maybe, she can control the pain somewhat instead of the pain controlling her.

Bulldog at one point mirrored back to me exactly what I had been thinking:  what happens to the kids who don't have resources?  Our kid has a good support system in the form of her parents and family, her therapist and her doctors and she still folded to the overwhelming pressures of society's non-acceptance and shunning.  Granted, I would have folded a long time ago, so I am not negatively judging DJ for finally succumbing to the rejection.  But what the hell happens to the kids who don't have any support or resources?

We know what happens to many of them, don't we?  There seems to be no way out because in their world, there truly is no way out.  I do not advocate suicide-ever- but try to explain to a 15 year old who has no acceptance at home or out in the world that if he/she can just hang in there until she's an adult, that everything will suddenly be ok.  Seriously?  No wonder suicide seems like a viable alternative.  Again, I do not advocate suicide-EVER- but we are fooling ourselves if we don't recognize how attractive an alternative it must seem to be to people who spend nearly every waking second of their day on the outside looking in.  OH.  MY.  GOD.  When the implications of that truly sink in, it's overwhelming to contemplate.

So, parents, if you're struggling with accepting your kid, let me remind you again of what you may face if you can't find a way to overcome your struggles:  you can lose your child to a desperate act of violence that your child takes against him or herself.  Instead of spending, or borrowing, thousands of dollars for college tuition, or a car, or the deposit on an apartment, you could be spending that same money on a funeral and a headstone that will sit in a cemetery getting rained on, and snowed on, and neglected when you're not there.  THAT will be your future with your child.

We have done nearly everything parents can do to love and accept our child and STILL the pressures of non-acceptance out in the world invaded the safe place we attempted to create for our beloved daughter.  We're lucky because we are pain in the ass people who are compulsive about our kids so not much gets by us.  Our jobs out in the world have prepared us to look at our kids under a microscope, thank goodness, so we recognized what we saw almost as soon as we saw it. That, and the fact that DJ has a best friend, Sister Chromatid, who alerted us as soon as she knew DJ was in trouble. (We love, love, love Sister Chromatid.  She's a tiny package full to the brim with love and exuberance.) And even with all that in place, the world still got to DJ.  We're here to catch her and she will be ok.  But what about the kids and the adults who don't have the safety net?  Where do they end up, oftentimes?  Six feet under....

So, to repeat information on resources:  please check out the links on the blog.  PFLAG has support groups that meet monthly in many places.  That once a month meeting could be your kid's lifeline.  If you or your child are at the end of your rope, or will be soon, try the TREVOR HOTLINE at 1-866-488-7386.  They are wonderful.  Can't get to a meeting?  Go online to Laura's Playground for online chat rooms.  Don't have a computer, consider going to the public library.  If not, call the TREVOR HOTLINE as a minimum.  Anyone interested in becoming part of an online support group that maybe we can establish?  I can try to learn everything I can to get this thing up and running-we need to be part of the solution folks.  We have to find a way to add to the pot of resources for those who have limited access to resources....Please help.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Achieving Balance

The blog is generating (I initially typed genderating-pretty funny, huh?) more and more comments that are inspiring to me because I think they'll spark conversation in families who are trying to come to terms with this issue.

In my previous blog I had mentioned DJ's taking issue with my keeping photos out in our home that depicted her when she was living her life as JD, our "son."  This has been a tough issue that I'm sure other families are grappling with.  On the one hand, if your family members have transitioned and no longer present as the gender they were born and initially raised as, they certainly may take issue with having reminders around the house, and who can blame them.

But conversely, how do we as parents, grandparents, and siblings, not to mention aunts and uncles, and cousins, erase our memories of that "other" beloved family member.  It's a real conundrum because in spite of the fact that we know JD was struggling to keep DJ under wraps, and we understand as much as we're able that this must have been excruciating for her, we also interacted with that person, and he, who is really she, with us.  The pictures at the beach of DJ, living as JD, building sandcastles with her brothers, dressing up as a waiter to bring Bulldog his breakfast in bed on Father's Day, exhibiting the giant gap that two lost teeth created one summer day, wearing bathing trunks after accompanying Romeo and I down the slip and slide in our front yard....these are ironclad memories-what do we do with them?

I've seriously considered taking a number of photos and having them photoshopped with a girl's hairdo superimposed over JD's "boy" haircuts so that we can display them without making DJ uncomfortable.  It requires "erasing" some aspects of the memory which is.....strange, but necessary?  I added the question mark to that sentence because is it necessary?  Well, apparently it is for DJ, and that's reason enough.

And that brings up the idea of remembering to use the proper pronoun when referring to the past when the person you remembered looked and to a certain degree, acted, differently than she does now.  When DJ was living as JD, we completely took her as JD;  well, of course we did!!!  So now, when we tell a family story, and we're always regaling each other with those because one of our family hobbies is throwing each other under the bus for a good laugh, we have to remember to remember JD as DJ.  Even though we are recalling mental images of a little boy, we have to transpose those memories when speaking of them by saying "she" instead of "he".  Mind, we are glad to do it, but it can be challenging

Bulldog and I have been doing it for nearly two years and on a very frequent basis, so it's not difficult.  But this Christmas we spent more time, contiguously, with our sons than we have since DJ came out and they weren't as well rehearsed in this.  Subsequently, they would recall a story and accidentally say "he" in referring to DJ in the past tense.  Bulldog and I had to privately chat with them, asking them to try to be a bit more aware of this dynamic so that they could mentally censor themselves and then come up with the appropriate pronoun that reflects who DJ actually  is today (and was then, in spite of presenting as JD.)  OMG-this is complicated!!!

Goodwrench and Romeo adore DJ and will do anything for her, so naturally, they made very successful transitions to using the correct pronoun, even when speaking in past tense.  Sheesh-DJ is SO worth the efforts, but it's some mental juggling that can be a challenge.

One of my blog readers, who keeps a great blog herself, "Traveling Transgendered" -check it out- in responding to my post yesterday, shared this:

Honestly I'm kind of torn here. Of course any decent parent will try and put their childrens welfare ahead of their own, but I can't help thinking that young DJ is not the only person in your family and her feelings are not the only ones that matter. Those photos are also your memories and your husbands memories and you have a right to them. I wouldn't feel bad about not having taken them down if I were you.

The author, Kim, makes an excellent point about balance, without actually using the word.  Good relationships are defined by all members making a great effort at achieving a balance between their needs and wants juxtaposed against the needs and wants of other family members, and the needs and wants of the family as a whole.  Most of us will have multiple entities involved that we are all trying to balance.  So, how do we manage it?  

There is no pat answer, save this:  constant conversation.  Oops, here's another pat answer:  vigilant consideration of each other's feelings and comfort levels.  And another one:  willingness to compromise.  If the transgendered person is our child, we want to sacrifice for our children, but if we do that too much, we raise a self-centered child.  The fact that the self-centered child is transgender is irrelevant.  Self-centered people won't do well in relationships, regardless of gender or orientation, or anything else for that matter.  If the transgendered persons are the parents and they sacrifice too much for their children,  they risk having  unhappy and unfulfilling lives.  We all want to make concessions for the person in our family who faces the most challenges, and that is noble and righteous.  But if we make too many, we upset the balance of the family.  Somehow, we have to find a way to "Walk placidly amid the noise and haste" * of our lives and the lives of our transgender family members and balance all of our needs. 

So, maybe Bulldog and I will keep pictures of JD in a more private place, or maybe we'll have some photos altered to reflect JD as DJ so that we can display them more publicly for her sake and ours.  Maybe we'll do both and maybe we'll talk to her and explain our conundrum and she can accept our feelings and tolerate a picture or two of her when she lived as JD.  It will be an ongoing process. That's all I have to offer-sorry-I wish I had something more concrete for people who are on the same path.  Anyone have any other suggestions, 'cause I'm listening.
* The Desiderita

Friday, January 6, 2012

Bulldog's right again

Interestingly, DJ the trail blazer for transgender issues, has decided to lay low and not carry the banner for awhile.  Bulldog and I try to support any path she chooses to live her life happily, so naturally, this is perfectly acceptable and understandable to us.  But I always want to try to understand the "why" of things, so I've been pondering it quite a bit lately, especially in light of the fact that her change in perspective came on so suddenly.

Did she have a "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" revelation?  December was a tough month because of the former friend issues that I cited back then.  (Back then?  Was that really only last month?) Maybe the "rejection" just hurt so much that she wanted to sink into some relative anonymity and who can blame her?  Maybe being more mainstream and low-key was a relief.  Maybe, just maybe, she got tired from carrying the flag.

She's gone from "This is me. I am transgender; accept me for who I am" to "Let's not talk about our pasts and just accept each other at face value."  WHICH IS FINE AND UNDERSTANDABLE.  What I feel bad about is that I'm kind of slow on the uptake and didn't catch her queues.  For instance,  the family photo montage that I keep in a hallway was suddenly too public a place to display the one or two photos of her when she was quite young and presenting as a boy.  I just reread what I typed and feel dumb as a box of rocks because, ummmmm, duh.  My only defense is that her (former) "This is me, if you can't take it, screw you" posture made me think that it would be ok to keep a few of those pictures around because I didn't want to display photos of just her brothers as youngsters.

Then, until very recently, she was rather public on her Facebook page posting her songs, especially those in support of the LGBT community.  So, I didn't realize that the infrequent occasions where I posted my blog on my Facebook would be an issue to her.  A couple of her childhood friends were my Facebook friends and she didn't want them to see a reminder of how she used to present.  I know, I know, I'm coming across as incredibly stupid, but I was trying to follow her lead.  She just decided to switch paths and I didn't get the memo.

I used to think I was a fairly perceptive person.  In fact, I prided myself on it....."Pride goeth before the fall" could not be more apt in this case.  And shouldn't I know better?  I play on the same team as DJ for heaven's sake, knowing full well that it is a woman's choice (I can't seem to spell the other word that sounds like purr-o-goe-tive for some reason right now) to change her mind.  Yet, I didn't expect the complete about-face that DJ has made recently and so I continued walking in the opposite direction having no idea she and I had parted ways and were tramping around on divergent paths.  My bad.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not crying into my beer, or more aptly put, my glass of pinot grigio, it's just that I don't like being part of the problem, especially since Bulldog and I want so badly to be part of the solution because we want to help.  The feedback I've gotten from other transgender folks thus far is that laying low is a pretty good idea-let other people know you for you, rather than know you as "that transgender girl".  That's what Bulldog has always thought was best but I followed DJ's lead when she went through her trailblazer phase.  Oh crap-there's my answer....Why was I letting the teenager dictate the path? She may know herself well but she sure as hell don't know the world that well.  Damn it, Bulldog was right again.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

GREECE-how is my hometown of Athens?

I am so excited-I just saw that I had two pageviews from Greece, where I was born!  I'm an Army brat so that is how I came to be born there.

I've been getting some great feedback and comments from folks here in the USA.  Would anyone from overseas care to share their thoughts or experiences? 

openarms2lgbt@gmail.com if you want to chat.

Have a great day folks-
The Author

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

DJ's outfits

I am not mocking DJ, ok, yes I am, but in fun.  NOT because she's transgender, but because girls can be so much fun when they are choosing their outfits.  Except for metrosexual guys, and (I'm going to traffic in stereotypes for a moment) most gay men, all the other men who don't fit in either category don't really care about what they wear too much as long as its: relatively clean, chicks think they look good in it, and it's comfortable.

Girls, and women, we're a bit different.  We are so incredibly in touch with our feelings, that we often want to dress in a way that reflects how we feel.  Hmmmm, I'm feeling a little bad ass today, so I think I'll wear my motorcycle boots, skinny jeans and dark black eyeliner;  I woke up feeling like everything in the world was beautiful, so I simply must wear a pink sundress with cute little strappy sandals;  my husband is not paying any attention to me and my wardrobe path may "Y" into either wearing a housecoat all day to piss him off, or wearing something that creates fabulous cleavage and then ignoring his attentions.  Am I feeling chic today?  Hair up.  Kind of down home and down to earth? A flannel shirt and jeans.  Ladies, most of you can relate....I think.  We are multi-faceted, and fascinating people and often, we like our clothing to reflect that, particularly the teen and twenty something set.

DJ is so much fun with her combinations that I must chronicle what she is wearing.  So perhaps I will add  a regular blurb to the blog just for fun.

Today's attire:  Black lace mini-skirt, polka dot stockings, purple converse sneakers with fuschia lipstick print on them, pink and black bustier with a black zip up hoodie over it, to meet school dress code.  No sparkles in the make-up today.  She looks freaking adorable.  :)

Traffic patterns in relationships

I had a response from a reader, "What is it about pronouns you don't understand?"  She retracted her statement pretty quickly on realizing she misunderstood something, which I appreciate, but I surprised myself because her (retracted) criticism stung.  I must explore this because I think there are a number of important lessons here:

1)  In spite of working in fire and rescue for a number of years, it seems I am still not nearly as thick-skinned as one would imagine I'd be.  What the heck?  Kind of funny that a perfect stranger's remark could have momentarily made me feel so crappy even if it was only for a minute or two.  Clearly, I have much work to do on not taking anything so blessed personally.

2)  What if I did make a pronoun mistake?  A gentle correction or explanation would likely get more of the response the speaker would prefer, which is that I use the correct pronouns in the future.

DJ recently has been dealing with friends who knew her for years as JD and are subsequently still tripping up and using the wrong pronoun or name.  Now, I have kvetched extensively about DJ's peers not hitting the mark, but let me play devil's advocate for a moment not to defend the people committing the faux pas so much as to explain the goof up from another perspective so that the person who has been incorrectly identified can understand that sometimes the goof up is just that-a goof up.

I mentioned how DJ's childhood pal came by and inadvertently called DJ "man".  Additionally, this young man doesn't openly flirt with DJ like he does with pretty much any other attractive girl at school (and yes, it would be wonderful if straight guys treated physically "unattractive" girls the way they treat the"attractive" girls, but that's a whole other topic and my brain cannot do that right now) and DJ was certain it was because he didn't accept her because she's transgender.  In her defense, I'm sure the non-acceptance happens to her a lot, but perhaps not in this case because not only did this young man drop by Christmas Day, but he came by New Year's Eve with another young man/childhood friend in tow, to visit DJ.  Isolate the "how's it goin' man?" remark and one could easily assume the young man in question just didn't get the pronoun thing (with the underlying assumption that he wasn't trying hard enough).  But taken together with his multiple attempts to seek DJ out and bring another mutual friend along, and I can't help but see it in another light.

Bulldog and DJ discussed this at length with Disc Jockey.  The point was to get DJ to see that sometimes acceptance doesn't come wrapped in the paper we expect or hope to see.  But let's face it, you wrap a beautiful Pottery Barn Carlisle sofa in newspaper, and I'm still going to adore what's inside. So maybe, since we're all in relationship together, we both try to give each other a break.  Yes, I know  the lion's share of the work will be resting on the transgender person's shoulders and that sucks.  Maybe I'm full of $- - -, but as a mother, if I thought trading places with DJ would offer her more peace, I'd do it in a heartbeat.  But there's another more important point here other than giving the "other" person who goofs up the pronouns a break, which is this:

In feeling rejected by the person who goofed, and in turn rejecting the person who goofed, you may be rejecting a person who truly loves you and is truly wanting to be your friend.

I know I'm sounding a bit high and mighty and I don't mean to but the reason I'm harping on this is because this is a lesson I've had to learn myself, so now that the murkiness is clearing and I'm seeing the full picture, I'm like a newly reformed smoker:  I'm so happy with my new "health" I want to force it on everyone else!!  But bear with me for a moment, please.  For years, I misinterpreted people's actions, particularly when it felt like I was being rejected.  More often than not, it had to do with my own esteem issues-which we all have to varying degrees.  Then, with age and pharmaceuticals and my own "Disc Jockey" came the realization that sometimes people react poorly to me or with me because of reasons that have nothing to do with me and everything to do with them.  Maybe they're a bit awkward, had an argument with their mother, failed a test, feel attracted to me and feel weird about that for any number of reasons, or are so worried about saying or doing the wrong thing that they say and do the wrong things, accidentally.  We've all seen the people who try so damn hard that they destroy the thing they are trying so hard to protect, right?  Hell, I'm one of those people!!

And in fairness to anyone who is "different", different folks have to be more on guard to look for jerks, without question.  Our radar has to be incredibly fine tuned so that we can avoid the jerks and not toss out the great folks who accidentally committed a jerk-ish error.  Something both DJ and I are learning to internalize:  Acceptance is definitely a two way street.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

For JS: Any port in a storm

I had a lovely response from a reader (JS) who has lived in the wrong body her whole life.  She has only privately honored her true identity and never publicly.  My thoughts are with her today and she has inspired today's post.  I hope that in referring to her as her, in spite of the fact that she apparently lives life as a man, she knows that it's because I support who she is in spite of her having to be closeted.

She described how music has been her haven and her curse.  She did not expound on how it has been a curse, but I can imagine it may have something to do with protecting her true identity as a woman.  Nonetheless, when she cited her love of music as a lifeline, and I'm paraphrasing her, I realized how very important those lifelines must be to people who may feel they have very little else to keep them from getting lost among the mateless gloves and forgotten scarves in the closet that they feel they must hide in.

Music has been DJ's lifeline, as well.  I have written only sparingly about her love of music and her musical abilities because I consciously never thought about the importance music has had for her until JS posted her comment.  It was almost as if in suppressing her true self,  her musical abilities became suppressed as well and in letting herself shine, so did her ability to enjoy and create music.

There are many days where DJ either can't or won't share the details of her life with us.  Yes, I know, before any of you DJ fans become incensed on her behalf, she is a teenager and this hyper-protectiveness of her privacy is part and parcel of the package.  Bulldog is much better at letting her waters level out than I am.  In my previous life, I must have been a pry bar because I just can't let anything go-I have to keep digging and forcing until I pluck something out of her and then send her, accidentally, flying across the room in my zeal to get to the bottom of the problem.  I wish Juliet were awake; I would ask her to draw a comic strip of DJ, sitting square on her bum, glitter peep toe pumps sparkling, pink feather earrings peeking from her hair, as she says to me, while I stand across the room, pry bar in hand, "There!  Are you happy now?!"

Usually, if Bulldog can convince me to leave well enough alone, DJ will disappear into her music for hours.  Sometimes she plays the piano, but usually she's composing.  If she had never come out, would we, and maybe the YouTube world, have been deprived of her talents?  Quite possibly.  But more importantly,  she would have been deprived of another aspect of herself.

So, if your kid is IMMERSING him or herself in something constructive and you're thinking that old adage, "Even too much of a good thing isn't good", put YOUR pry bar away and back off.  Not only might this interest provide for your child a path or a means of touching base and realizing your child's true identity, it may be your kids' lifeline, or your kids' therapy, or your kids' shelter in a storm as they are forced to trek through five feet of snow and hurricane force winds to find their way home;  while the rest of us who were born into the bodies that match our brains, or who are lucky enough to be "in" with the "in" world navigate our lives wearing snowshoes, these folks are often barefoot.  So, if you can help your kid find that "thing" that turns them on, do it.  Yes, you will be exhausted much of the time helping him/her achieve proficiency, success and comfort, but as you stagger to your bed for your few hours of sleep, know that maybe tonight your kid will sleep well too.  We can't always give our kids everything they need, but we can let them use the hell out of what they need once they figure out what that thing is.  What we think of as a mere "hobby" may be the difference between whether or not your kid even wants to wake up the next morning, at least on some days.

And yeah, you may not like their interest....DJ's recent foray into the world of "dubstep" music is not what I would consider easy listening, but that's what headphones are for.  For her of course, not me, because after all, it's my house too and while I support her, we don't have to share EVERYTHING, right?