Monday, April 30, 2012

Ants in her pants

Disc Jockey found the coolest "tool" to help DJ let us know how she's doing when she's having a hard day.

We've gone round and round on this issue because Miss Stiff Upper Lip refuses to let us know if she's ok when she's clearly acting not ok.  We understand that everybody has "bad" or "off" days and all we ask is that she let us know if it's a regular "off" day, or if something has her so upset she feels the urge to purge (I do not like the fact that the phrase rhymes because that makes purging sound like a light hearted activity, and it's not) or if she feels like she can't guarantee her safety.

We've discussed using a chart with facial expressions drawn on it, encouraging her to paint scenes that can illustrate her feelings and she typically agrees to the plan and does not follow through.

Today, however, on our visit to see Disc Jockey, she tossed a bunch of what appeared to be various sized beanbags in DJ's lap.  They were tiny stuffed pillows with a facial expression stitched on one side and a description stitched on the other.  They were goofy, they were silly, they tickled DJ pink.

"So, which of these would describe how you're feeling today?"  Disc Jockey asked.

DJ chose two:

Excited and Sleepy.

"I'm excited that the surgery is coming up in "x" days and I don't know why, but I'm sleepy," and she kind of giggled.

Way to hit the ball out of the park Disc Jockey!!

If you live near, or can access, a Fresh Foods Supermarket, Disc Jockey found the feelings pillows there.  I think they would be universally appealing to small children, big kids and adults.  I want to get Bulldog his own feelings pillows, in fact!

Otherwise, DJ is getting antsy.  She actually started packing a little bit today.  And she wrote half of her research paper. But right now, she's taking a bath, which is her other form of therapy.  She just wants to get this show on the road!!  She needs a warm cup of tea and a decent night's sleep to get her another day closer.  

EEOC protects TGs

Transgender Forum-an online informational link posted this today:

There’s big news from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has ruled that transgendered people are covered under Title VII which means employers can’t discriminate against TGs when they’re hiring.

This is HUGE!!  If we look back at other groups that have been discriminated against in the USA (land of  the free?-there are all kinds of ways to define "free" or "not free"; we as a country can afford to grow a bit in this area.)  we see that "acceptance" often started with "forcing" employers to be fair in hiring practices.  When more women, and African Americans, and Transgender people, and anyone else who does not encompass the "white christian male" qualities that seem to be preferred, are incorporated into the workforce, greater exposure to "different" kinds of people occurs.  Then, when we work side by side with those people we used to think of as "different", we realize that they really aren't different when it comes to what really matters because good people all value the same qualities regardless of their background, identity, orientation, culture, religion, gender, or skin color:  character, loyalty, tenacity,  intelligence, morality, commitment to high ideals, to family and to loved ones.

I can only imagine that it must feel like progress moves at a snail's pace-I know that is true for me being a woman in a "traditional" man's workplace.  But it is a small step forward which is hugely important.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Feeling a teensy bit overwhelmed

By eleven o'clock this morning, I had my suitcase 95% packed for next week.  I have roughly 75% of my chores taken care of related to my absence from work during DJ's recuperation out of state.  Bulldog is managing our finances.  We are planning for DJ's birthday this week-two days before we leave for DJ's gender confirmation surgery.

Meanwhile, Romeo needs us to cosign for his student loan and apartment lease which complicates the refinance of our mortgage that Bulldog is trying to finish up.  DJ is supposed to be working on her research paper so that she can stay somewhat current with her English class.  Goodwrench is plugging along taking care of himself entirely-which is a huge relief.

We are also supposed to be logging every meal that DJ eats.  That has completely fallen by the wayside.  We all pay close attention to what she eats and how often she eats. We are all very familiar with portions of each food group that must be represented, but we simply cannot seem to remember to keep the log.  I also have a little over an hour to complete forms that the school system requires to allow DJ to continue with being tutored at home for the remainder of the school year.  Of course, the school system wants to pull the plug on the funds to allow that to happen-that freaking figures.  They were supportive of DJ's hospitalization for her eating disorder, but do not seem to consider her upcoming surgery a true "medical" issue that warrants her missing school.  I'm sure someone, in his/her ignorance, considers this "elective" not curative surgery.

I would love to battle the school system right now and point out that we have followed, to the letter, the guidelines of the WPATH organization, which the American Medical Association endorses.  How the local school system can decide that this is not a medical issue is beyond my understanding.  But, I currently feel too compromised to fight that battle right this moment. And I know Bulldog is too.  We will likely pay the teacher out of our pocket to keep DJ current with her studies.  All we can do is manage what is most important right now.

For instance, Bean was stating yesterday, pretty emphatically I might add, how frightened she is about DJ returning to her public school next year.  In fact, she flat out told me I should "be the parent" and refuse to let her.  I completely agree, but that will mean scoping out other possibilities for schooling, and having the conversation with DJ to let her know why we do not want to allow her to return to her public school-both of which are beyond our current abilities.  We can only focus on what next week holds for us.

I've never experienced something like this before that seems so involved that many of my other faculties are unavailable for other pursuits.  Bulldog feels the same way.  I mentioned this conversation to him and he replied, "I can't even think about that right now. That's next school year.  We'll worry about that after the surgery."

No wonder we have to keep nagging DJ to work on that research paper.  She MUST be feeling like this multiplied by, oh, I don't know-a zillion maybe?

Friday, April 27, 2012

Keep calm and carry on

This final countdown is so difficult.  I try to remember if it's difficult for me, how HARD it must be for DJ.  But, in true self-centered fashion, I come right back to how stressed I feel.  I'm such a lech!

DJ seems to be, for all intents and purposes, "nesting."  This is a word that I'm not sure translates to other cultures;  however, in light of the fact that it is likely a universal feminine trait, I am certain women of other countries can relate.  We usually see this quality in pregnant mothers right before birth of the baby is due.  We clean, we tidy, we arrange, all in preparation for the life changing event that is about to occur.

DJ, to a certain degree, has been nesting. The girl is, otherwise, a perpetual mess maker.  Her room is constantly in a state of disaster.  It truly looks as if a tornado came through it.  And her bathroom is ridiculous.  Yesterday, however, for some strange reason, she started cleaning.  Usually we have to make her do it.  For her to take the initiative is a bit unusual. Let me state it more accurately:  for her to take the initiative is highly irregular!!

On other fronts, she had her first sleepover with her best friend, Sister Chromatid recently and it was like "old times."  This is the first time in 4 months that she has been in the company of someone other than Bulldog or me for more than an hour or two, not including staff at the hospital.  She was giddy and silly and laughed so hard she spit, according to Barbie, Sister Chromatid's mom.

The next morning, I took both girls with me to a fundraiser with a "pirate" theme.  DJ looked adorable in her subtly alluring pirate get up but I could see her retreat into her shell as she came in contact with more and more strangers, especially when it was time to eat her breakfast.  She just wasn't up to the task that morning and felt embarrassed and disappointed in herself at not being up to the task.  We told her that all of us bite off more than we can chew some days and oftentimes, it's best to just back off and try again another day.  Bulldog picked her up, brought her home, she took her therapeutic bath and hung out with Mimi the rest of the day.

She's been off her hormones for five days and the mood changes have been minimal.  But DJ has never been one to have wild alterations in her mood anyway.  She's just varying degrees of stoic no matter what.  If I didn't know better, I would swear she is British.  And to any of you in the UK who are reading this, I mean that as a compliment in a "steady heads will prevail" kind of way.

On the surgery front, the surgeon is in receipt of the letters from the therapist and psychologist, so I can breathe a sigh of relief.  The surgeon's office has had to reassure me a number of times that everything is moving along properly. What do you do for people who soothe your neediness?  Are flowers appropriate?  Or does the fact that you've written a very large check suffice?  I don't know....

Bulldog touched base with the psychologist yesterday by phone.

He said to me, "There is one thing she wants us to do as soon as the surgery is over."  My heart sank, because I am constantly expecting SOMETHING to derail our plans somehow (I'm such a "negative nancy" lately).

"What's that?"  I replied.

"As soon as DJ comes out of surgery, she wants us to call her and let her know how DJ is."

I almost cried.

Once the surgery is done then, maybe, and only with their permission, can we share the names of all these incredible professionals who have made it their mission in life to help transgender folks achieve the lives they want and need. But until then, I just want to keep everything on the down low.  Fly under the radar, so to speak.  Which makes me regret that I shared some of my blog entries on Facebook last year....sigh.  The more I learn, the more I learn how much I have to learn.

Many thanks to some of my blog readers (friends) who have contacted me by my gmail email address.  I sincerely hope we can meet someday.

That's all for now. Be back in the next few days if I have not experienced some sort of meltdown while DJ keeps that stiff upper lip.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Shopping for enemas

We are in the phase of preparing for the actual surgery.  There is a shopping list that must be obtained and so DJ and I addressed this yesterday in Target and Walmart.

Here are some of the more exciting items on the list:

Magnesium citrate (a laxative)
Fleet enema (same purpose, but more fast acting)
Sanitary napkins
Anti-biotic ointment
Vitamin K

Damn it-nary a fun thing on the list!!!  OK, not entirely true since we will be picking up some of DJ's favorite movies for her to view, as well, and did find a cute "Tinkerbell" PJ set, which we had to get two of so we could bring one to Sister Chromatid, who is a big Tinkerbell fan.  We certainly will consider books but the first few days post-op, it is doubtful that she will be able to focus on words through her drug-induced haze.

We passed by the bathing suit section and I suggested we window shop, since she wants to wait till after the surgery to actually buy a bikini.  She was visibly excited at the thought of not having to drape her midsection.  I am so excited for her.

She was making all kinds of cute, smart @$$ remarks all day and was obviously in fine form eventhough all we purchased was about $200 worth of medical supplies and the aforementioned PJs.  We got home and packed the medical supplies in their own suitcase and even that was interesting to her.

Well, of course it is. This is all preparation for the final step in her physical transition.

However, today also marks the first day without her hormones, so she may experience what her doctors are referring to as a "menopause" complete with hot flashes and mood swings.  That's ok, she and I can experience that ride together, as I am in the beginning stages of the same process.  Poor Bulldog....

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Aw crap, I gotta apologize

OMG-I think I may be suffering from schizophrenia.  One minute, I feel just fine, the next I'm super sensitive and blowing something out of proportion.  Or I'm confused because I feel like I have a right to be upset or put out when Bulldog does something insensitive, and then I get all discombobulated when I remember that he's feeling uber stressed right now too.  Then, I feel bad for getting upset and instead think about how terrible he must be feeling for having upset me.

Except that I can't be really sure of that because, in typical man fashion, he has retreated to his office and is saying nothing.  I hear his computer keys clicking away. I would love to entertain the fantasy that he is writing me a note of apology but that would just be getting my hopes up for  nothing.  I have been married to this man for over ten years and have loved him for nearing 13.  I know what he is likely, or in this case, not likely to do.

I woke up this morning feeling very sensitive.  Over coffee, when he made some joke, I informed him of this in, truly, the nicest way.  Not in a "stay out of my way" or a "you've been warned" manner, but in a "please understand I'm feeling a bit fragile" manner.  Could he not remember this before he criticized me, especially after I had gotten all dressed up for a date night that we've had only once previously in the last three months?  I was in no mood to have dinner with him after that and told him to take me home.  He lost even more points, poor man, when he made no other attempt to make up, other than a quick face-saving "I'm sorry" as he pulled up to the front of the restaurant to let me out while he parked, right before I insisted he take me home.

Yes, this is what I'm doing on a Saturday night when I could have been having dinner with my husband-I am writing to you fine folks.  No offense, but I'd rather be sipping a pinot grigio and waiting for my salmon.

We got home and I immediately changed out of my black dress and heels, put on a tank top and sweat  pants (yeah, right, that will punish him) and ate a dinner of two boiled eggs during which time I told him how he had now dropped the ball repeatedly in my eyes because:

1)  he criticized me

2)  he didn't offer an appropriate apology

3)  he didn't try to convince me to stay

4)  he forgot that I needed him to handle me gently today

and finally, (yes, there is an end to my bitching)

5)  he spoiled the night entirely

OMG-can DJ's surgery possibly get here any faster so I can dispense with my theatrics?

I proceed to walk to our room where I find some chore or other to occupy my time and I'm trying to hold onto my self-righteous indignation, when an annoyingly mature thought pops into my head:

You know, Bulldog is feeling pretty stressed himself.  You could consider that....

Damn it all to hell.  Now I can't even be properly mad at him anymore because I have realized my part in this little drama.  And I can't possibly go put on that little black dress again because I would feel like a complete ass.  The night is what it is.  I have to let it go.  This evening is definitely collateral damage in what is clearly a bigger battle ahead. 

Why share my ridiculousness with you all?  In spite of our combined stupidity tonight, I think overall Bulldog and I are doing a fairly decent job. So, if you, as parents, are supporting your child as he or she is transitioning, and sometimes drop the ball in how you handle the stress,consider that there are some fairly normal folks residing somewhere in the USA who are acting a little bit like overgrown toddlers from time to time because they, too, are not perfect;  transition of any kind is not easy for anyone involved, whether it's the transition that happens when you give birth to a baby girl, or  the transition where the person you knew previously as your son figuratively gives birth to herself, as a grown up girl.  In fact, in both cases it can be downright painful.  But just when you start to think it's all about you.....remember, others are in this boat too.  You're not the only one struggling.  OK-lesson learned.  Excuse me now while I go apologize to Bulldog.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Thanks for sharing

I have just heard from the most incredible woman who is a DJ supporter.  She contacted my email account to share some of her experiences post-surgery and to send love and encouragement to DJ.

This is incredibly good stuff.

I am reminded again and again how information is power.  And not the negative power that one wields to control others, but rather the positive kind that allows one to have more control over her own life and her own destiny.  Both DJ's and my own.

Ostensibly, I started this blog, I thought, for DJ, or for others in her shoes, or for other mothers in my shoes. But really, I think I did it for me because writing it nourishes me and then hearing from others  nourishes me even more.

"E" from somewhere in the USA shared this:

The first week will be the toughest but what most people have no clue about is how much courage it takes for kids like DJ to come forward and then with the help of a great family take this nightmare to its final cure because quite simply after this DJ will just be another young girl and then a woman and nothing else. She already has immense courage so facing the recovery down should be something she can handle.

Then she ended with:

When you get her home do not let her mope around after the first week or so home. Get her friends over. Get her doing something that makes her feel like just a normal teenage girl. To us that is very important.

Give DJ my love and tell her this is actually the easy part. The hard part was getting here and she has done that.

We are also fortunate enough to be in contact with "A" from the other side of the world who offered this:

I know we've never met and I don't want to sound like a creep but I honestly wish I could be there to help. To look after DJ if you needed to be at work, to take some of the pressure off in any way I could. Sadly all I can do is send my thoughts and best wishes your way.

Please know that anything I CAN do I will. 

Years ago, I had this incredible experience in a post office, which I have, obviously, not forgotten. I was standing at a counter with a woman in her 50's and a gentlemen likely in his 60's.  The woman was wearing this lovely perfume that smelled like actual roses.  I commented on how wonderful her perfume smelled and she delightfully thanked me and left the counter to continue her business with the post office employees.  At this point, I heard this deep resonant voice say, "Do you have any idea how you may have just affected the course of her day?"  I looked up and the older gentleman appeared as if he had come from Eastern Europe 50 years prior because of his manner of dressing and his beard.  I don't remember my response to him but I do remember thinking, "Do you have any idea how you have just affected the course of my day?"

This is what sharing information does-it can change the course of our days and our lives for the better.  I'm going to keep sharing and I hope you will too-if not with me, then with others whose lives will be better for it.  Thanks for the sharing thus far.  

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Not being superwoman is ok

It's nearing nine o'clock in the morning and I've cried twice already today.  WTF?!

I slept in till a bit after seven thirty this morning and attempted to call a girlfriend to meet for coffee and when that didn't work out, I decided it was just as well, and sat down to do some work from home.  I grabbed a pad of paper and flashed to a memory of my father's mother helping me with homework nearly 40 years ago and it made me cry.

Do you ever start crying and have no idea why?  Maybe I'm just neurotic, but I have to know WHY.  I began to search my thoughts and feelings to figure it out.  It was like a recipe:  there was a few parts regret-

"Why didn't I spend more time with her when she was alive?"

A few more parts of seeing how she must have loved me (which I hadn't really thought about and is probably fodder for another blog, another day) because she left the fun of the family gathering downstairs to come find me, alone, at Christmastime, doing my homework, upstairs.

And many parts gratitude at having this memory of her, and of a moment that she and I shared, that was still so vivid and important to me so many decades later.  Some part of me was certain that she was thinking of me while I remembered her and that made me feel loved....which made me boo-hoo.

Then Bulldog phoned me from work and I began to tell him about how a conversation he and I had had the evening before got me upset.  But I felt so unreasonably upset that I didn't pursue it because I knew I was being unreasonable and I didn't want to subject him to it at ten in the evening.  And in telling him about it, I started to cry again-not because of WHAT I had found upsetting the night before but because of the fact that I actually was upset by it.  In my mind, it felt like I had taken a huge step backward.  Like I had regressed.

OMG-this is why I love writing this blog.  When I write, it forces my brain to be a bit more orderly and then I make more sense to me.  Of course I'm regressing-this is normal human behavior when one is stressed. I literally just taught this concept in the last few weeks.  This is a case of "Teacher, teach thyself," to paraphrase a phrase.

DJ is 3 weeks from her surgery.  This weighs heavily on all of our minds.  DJ has professed to not wanting to address anything in the next few weeks because she feels so consumed by it.  Bulldog and I are acting in the exact opposite manner:  we are trying to address everything in the next few weeks so that we will be prepared for....well....anything that could conceivably become a problem:  work, the pets, transportation, caring for DJ, getting there, getting home.

As Bulldog and I chatted on the phone this morning, he was trying to reassure me that my weepiness was to be expected because we are all so stressed.  This surgery is a big deal.  I have never before put my life on hold for an entire two weeks for anything.  I have never had a child go through a major surgery before.  I have never before made such a huge decision on behalf of someone else in the face of potential, if not actual, disapproval, before.  And that's just the tip of the iceberg because I will not even allow myself to think of what it's going to be like seeing DJ in those first few hours or days after her surgery when she will be bruised, swollen and in pain.  I will deal with that when it happens.

But before then, as I experience this stress and worry, (and if anyone tries to tell me not to worry, please don't.  I'm DJ's mother.  She is having a type of major surgery that is practically unheard of for someone her age. Plus, I'm just hard-wired to worry, in spite of my best efforts.) I feel as if I have very few people with whom I can share this.  My family is supportive but two members have expressed concern about this being the right time for DJ to have this surgery.  Bean, I think, is just plain scared about something going wrong, but I don't think she has an opinion about whether it's the "right" time or not.

And to many other folks, a "sex change operation" is too freaky to really talk about.  Maybe it's just me, but I get that feeling so I don't broach the particulars with anyone really, except Sister Chromatid's mom, whom I'll call Barbie because she has a face and figure similar to that renowned doll.  I think many people are ok with a person who has made an outward transition, but in the end, cutting off a you-know-what seems a little strange to them.

And DJ is very young.  I know of one person younger than she is to have gone through this surgery. Perhaps there are more, but we haven't heard of them.  The surgeon and other members of Team DJ are supportive, but I'm picking up a vibe that they are a teensy bit edgy about this because DJ is young compared to most people who have gender confirmation surgery. And in the end, who is making the decision on her behalf?  Bulldog and I.

It's one thing for me to elect to go under the knife to have my body be consistent with how I feel inside.  I have actually done that once.  If something were to go wrong, I made the decision and I would have had to live with it.  But in this case, Bulldog and I are making the decision legally, morally and ethically, and if something goes wrong, DJ will have to live with it.  That is a monkey on my back of mammoth proportions.

What could go wrong?  OK-anything can go wrong when you're having major surgery.  But add to that,  my worry of the stress of recovering from surgery making her depressed.  What if she starts cutting again or stops eating again?  Bulldog and I are speaking for DJ when we press forward because we think the good will outweigh the bad.  We believe that making her wait will make her issues worse and that by having the surgery sooner, even in light of her recent issues with anorexia, cutting, etc., that she will fare better in the end.  But what if we're wrong?

Not only will we have the sorrow of knowing our misjudgement is causing our daughter more issues, we will likely have to deal with the (albeit unspoken) censure of many of our loved ones. Maybe many of you can make decisions and not care about what others think.  I admire you for it and wish for that quality in myself.  I work diligently to that end all the time in my life, but I am still not there despite my best efforts.  I care too much about what people think of me.

So, I'm regressing.  That's me in a nutshell today.  Well, it's true for DJ too.  It's not as if she is throwing tantrums or wetting her bed regressing, just that she is not wanting to address the responsibilities of a 17 year old right now.  I can accept her regressing.  I just need to accept my regressing.  Yeah, because last time I looked I didn't see a giant  red "S" on my shirt.

Monday, April 16, 2012

No Stepford people

DJ was moping around today.  When I asked if she was ok, she responded by saying:

"You and Dad are so annoying when you do that all the time."

I started remembering a time when this same child was much easier to deal with.  A time when she was happy go lucky, rolled with any and all punches, rarely got annoyed and didn't seem to have a care in the world.  That's when I caught myself.

That person, those people, weren't real.  JD embodied all of those qualities, as did DJ when she first came out.  Neither JD or the newly introduced DJ were the real deal. Not completely, anyhow.

Before I offend anyone, please let me explain.

When DJ was living as JD, she was acting like a boy, and not just any boy, but a nearly perfect boy.  One who would not raise suspicion and would blend in.  From what she has shared, nearly every minute of every day was comprised of maintaining this facade.  I can only imagine the absolute control that was required.  JD rarely got angry, rarely angered anyone else, and was universally charming.  Did he feel like he had to be?  Was that part of the facade so that no one would guess JD's secret?

Then DJ shared with us who she really was and then the honeymoon began.  Perhaps she was so relieved to be able to share who she was that anything displeasing in her present life just didn't matter compared to how she had been living.  She was so relieved that her parents accepted her that she wasn't going to get annoyed when they were.....well, typically annoying parents.  Maybe she didn't want to rock the boat.  I don't know because she is a considerably more private person than she was two years ago when she let us know that she was not our son.

Back then, she was initially frightened that we might reject her; that was followed by immense relief when we didn't reject her.  Even when we cautioned restraint in her transition she did not get angry or annoyed.  Maybe she felt that our acceptance was still tentative and that she had better not rock the boat. Whatever was driving her, I don't think being authentically DJ was her driving force.  Yes, being authentically female was driving her, but I don't know that she knew herself well enough as DJ; she certainly didn't know us as DJ's parents well, either.

This young lady is not as easy to get along with.  She can be difficult and headstrong (always in the most ladylike manner, however.)  She has likely always been somewhat moody (aren't we all?) but until recently, maybe she has masked her less desirable qualities until she knew, no matter her reality, that we wouldn't desert her.

And maybe taking those rose colored glasses off helped too.  We all would love to be our best, sweetest selves and trust that no one would ever stomp on us like a wine glass at a Jewish wedding, (without the Mazeltov, of course).  But most of the time, if we don't toughen up in some way, this world will eat such delicate creatures alive.

Maybe I'm just full of crap.  Quite possibly.

But today, I knew that seeing my daughter for the imperfect daughter she is is actually a greater gift than seeing her as the perfect daughter.  I won't be disappointed when she acts like a typical teenage girl.  I won't be exasperated (ok, not as much) that this sweet girl is now savvy to the faults of her parents and calls the shots like she sees them.  She doesn't need any more fake living.  Oftentimes, being real is much more difficult than being fake, but it's worth it.

But what if we, as parents, remember that other compliant child and wish for him/her? What if we actually share with our child that we miss that other person?  This has happened to a friend of mine and I want to shake her parents and frankly, slap them around a little bit.  And here's why:  they are fooling themselves if they think that other kid was ever real.  Sure, that kid was likeable and loveable as hell, but so is Joey Tribianni from the American TV show, "Friends" but guess what?!!! He's not real!!!

On the one hand, I understand a parent's sense of loss because that other kid seemed so awesome, but that kid was just a supreme actor and the kid in front of you is even more wonderful than that phantom kid.  The flesh and blood child is a fighter and a survivor.  I'll take that any day over easy going and charming.  You can fake the latter, but there's no faking the former.  What makes the real kid "tick" is something more meaningful and cannot be replaced simply by being the "joker" in the family.  Maybe I'm stereotyping and I'm certainly NOT finding fault with an excellent and healthy coping mechanism that some transgender people employ in order to be accepted in their families, but we all want to be seen and loved unconditionally for being our authentic selves, warts and all.

So, I slid backward for a minute remembering a time when DJ was compliant and complacent and feeling momentarily wistful; but I got my footing again. Like my sister-in-law (who we'll call "Malone" after the Irish song because she is indeed sweet) pointed out when I was feeling guilty about not being a "perfect" mother, "I wouldn't want to see you as a "Stepford Wife" (or daughter), it would scare me a little bit."

Sunday, April 15, 2012


I am freaking out right now.  In true Daley girl fashion, I've poured myself a glass of wine in an effort to take the edge off. Yes, I know this is unhealthy behavior, but technically so is having a bowl of ice cream when one feels stressed, but no one points fingers at ice cream addicts, so please do not judge me.

Bulldog and I were going over our calendar of what the next month and a half hold for us.  I am new in my job and have to find someone who has the right certifications to cover for me while I'm gone.  Then, on our collective return home two weeks after DJ's surgery, Bulldog will be going on a work related trip to Europe, the lucky bastard, leaving me to deal with juggling work and caring for DJ.  To be fair to Bulldog, he has postponed this trip three times and has a deadline of June, so there is really no way around this dilemma.

I would have my mom come stay with DJ, but I'm not certain how sure footed DJ will be two weeks post-op and my mother is not in the best physical shape herself.  Plus, DJ will be required to dilate multiple times a day and I'm not sure my mom is the person she would want to call on for assistance if she has a problem.  I wish I could be there every single day, but the reality is I have next to no leave accrued and I have students who are already freaking out about passing my courses. I feel like I have a moral obligation to be there for them, too.  Hence, my aforementioned freaking out.

Plus, a cousin on my father's side of the family is getting married the day before DJ leaves to come home. I think I can fly up that morning and fly back to the hotel where DJ and Bulldog will be before we hit the road to come home.  I would just opt out of going, but I've missed every single event that side of the family has hosted for the last decade.  This is my last cousin on that side of the family to get married and I do not want to miss it, especially in light of how much they have been there for us when my dad was sick.  How the heck I'll pull this off, I have no idea. I still want to believe it's possible, but it will mean asking for help from other family members or friends.

I hate asking for help. Why?  I am not sure.  Well, that's kind of fibbing-I do have a pretty good idea why, but I could fill up pages with my explanations and it would just bore you, the reader, to tears.

Take a deep breath woman-it will all work out-right?  DJ is the one with the really tough row to hoe-this other stuff can be worked out.  Right?  Right? Somebody tell me I'm right....

Paintin' the town

DJ is off on her first official outing without a parent in tow.  Kudos young woman!!

She has been slowly but surely climbing back onto the saddle of the horse that threw her.  The horse in question would be named----bastard is what I want to say, and frankly nothing more clever or creative comes to mind, so Bastard it is.  Bastard encompasses non-acceptance, rejection, disappointment in the reality of her life as a transgender teen in a small town, and the feelings of inadequacy that resulted from the aforementioned.  But Bastard can't keep a good girl down, and so she bravely climbed into a VW Bug with Sister Chromatid about 30 minutes ago in another effort to get on with her life.

What's the big deal about her going out with her best friend?  Well, I don't truly understand it myself, but I accept that it is her reality.  Anorexia, as stated before, is not just about eating. It's also about social anxiety in many cases.  DJ, like many of her peers who struggle with this disorder, often feel socially isolated.  From what I've observed, many of these folks are overachievers and when they face something they can't overcome, they try to find another way around the obstacle.  DJ, for example, tried to "fix" herself by controlling how she ate so that maybe, by being thinner and prettier, to quote her, her supposed "friends" would like her again like they used to like JD. Of course, it didn't work but she didn't see it was because she couldn't control their mistakes, only that she didn't do SOMETHING well enough.  This seemed to compound in her brain and translated to her feeling like she couldn't do anything well and that there was something really wrong with her as a person.  It's a tricky downward spiral.

And it seemed to happen overnight.  It's like someone flipped a switch.  One day, DJ was ready to take on the world, the next, she was unsure of herself, constantly.  Sister Chromatid did not understand DJ's social anxiety and thought it had something to do with DJ not wanting to be around her.  Once I explained to Sister Chromatid that DJ was putting pressure on herself and that her feelings of inadequacy around peers had nothing to do with Sister Chromatid, I could see the dawning understanding on Sister Chromatid's face.

So, the two of them just went out the door to have a latte at the local coffee shop and then to see "Titanic" at the movie theatre.  They'll likely just hang out afterwords at Sister Chromatid's house because hanging out here makes DJ uncomfortable having to play "hostess".  She is going to get a taste of what it's like to take off in a car, without parents, and that bit of freedom with her best friend is going to make her want more of it, even if it means facing her stressors more often.  The good will simply outweigh the bad.  I'm so happy for her.  It's a beautiful day for two best friends to simply hang out and "be".  Paint the town red ladies :)

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Seeing your kid doesn't take so long

I recently had a revelation.  For parents who are struggling trying to see their daughter in the person they knew as their "son"- or vice versa-maybe this will help.

When DJ first came out, I constantly searched JD for signs of DJ.  At first, all I could see was JD and I couldn't see DJ.  I would look at JD and have to remind myself that he, damn it, SHE, was now DJ and then I would have to remind myself to say "she" instead of "he" and to THINK it, as well.

It's been less than two short years and for a very long time now, I haven't been able to "see" JD anymore in DJ.  It's not because her appearance has changed, although, certainly it has.  It's more that my perspective has changed.

I tell my students all the time that I am not the sharpest knife in the drawer when it comes to pre-hospital emergency medicine.  But I am a hard worker and I don't give up on wanting to understand medical concepts.  You don't have to be "gifted" to succeed, you just have to be willing to work hard and to not give up.

This is true also if you are a parent who is struggling to accept your child's uniqueness, whatever it is.  You don't have to be a gifted, superparent;  you just have to be committed to wanting to accept your child.  You have to be willing to work hard and to not give up.

It's like reading EKGs-those electrical tracings that are generated by your heart and can be seen on a screen.  The first 100 times (or more) a new medic looks at them, they don't make sense.  It doesn't matter what a person tells you about what you're looking at-it just doesn't sink in.  The "foreign-ness" of it still looks foreign.  The trick is to keep looking at the EKG strips over and over, and over, and over, and get the idea.

At first, the simple ones sink in slowly, then the ones that are a little more challenging start to make sense. You see slight progress but it still seems like you'll never get comfortable with it. Then you just decide to forget about comfort, you're in it for the long haul no matter what, so you just keep plugging away because you're so tired from trying and so discouraged at your lack of progress that you don't even want to consider the possibility of failure because it makes you feel even worse.

Then one day, you look at those previously foreign EKG tracings and you start to forget how hard it was to understand.  You're not sure when it happened exactly, but now when you look at them, you can barely remember being confused by them.  Somewhere along the line, it "clicked."

I don't know when it clicked for me, but I DO know that if I try to remember JD, it's only remembering that I can accomplish because I cannot see JD in DJ anymore.  I see a resemblance the way I see that Goodwrench and DJ are obviously related....and that's about it.  So my point is this-acceptance of your kid will not be just merely tolerance.  It will be  "seeing" your child for who she, or he, truly is.  


We are in a delicate balance of trying to just maintain the status quo.  The upcoming surgery looms large and while DJ seems nonplussed, Bulldog and I are scrambling to finish up loose ends at work so that we can take as much time off as possible.

Disc Jockey pointed out that in spite of everything moving forward as planned that we have to realize that this is a stressful time for us all.  It's easy to lose track of that because we have been so busy for months with trying to checks tasks off of our to-do lists that we forget to analyze whether or not we SHOULD be trying to accomplish everything on the lists.

For instance, DJ is overwhelmed at trying to catch up with school.  Initially, Bulldog and I figured she could catch up on all of her classes.  We've since winnowed it down to just one, for the time being.  We're letting her drop AP calculus altogether since she's already taken calculus.  French III is out of the question for this semester, but she can take it next year.  She has to take 11th grade english or she cannot progress to 12th grade english next year, so that stays.  But whether or not we insist on her finishing her AP Music Theory class is still in negotiations.

As usual, Miss Thing had to be close-mouthed about what was really driving her to want to drop it.

"I just don't want to do it."

Well now, why didn't you just say that sooner?  You simply don't want to?  OK-we'll accommodate you....NOT.

It turns out that one of the course requirements is to skype with the instructor and sight sing.  This is when you are given a piece of music you've never seen before and you are to sing it the first time you see it.  DJ's social anxiety, which is so much a part of her anorexia, plagues her in this instance.  Disc Jockey pointed out that if the instructor will give DJ an extension, perhaps we can revisit this issue after the surgery.  She maintains, and I think she's onto something, that this low-grade but ever- present stress that revolves around the upcoming surgery can make a number of tasks seem overwhelming.  She adds that perhaps it might be best to just stay in a holding pattern for the next few weeks.

She is right.  We can definitely accommodate that request.

However, since DJ is not terribly comfortable being with many people for any length of time, and cannot be left home long enough to be trusted to eat properly yet, then she will simply have to accompany me to work occasionally.  What we can NOT accommodate is her fashion panache in my workplace.

She came out of her room this morning wearing short shorts over the top of fishnet stockings and some rocker chick top.  I recall nothing else except the shorts and fishnet stockings.  She couldn't understand why I wouldn't let her wear that to my place of business.

I am currently in the business of educating paramedics and firefighters.  Yeah, right-AS IF I want any of those knuckle draggers (I can call them that because 1.  I am one of them and 2.  I married one.) checking out my daughter in spite of the fact that she's practically inviting their ogling with her attire.

I swear kids have this innate sense of parental relaxation:

"Well, I won the battle over the AP class, even if it just for now.  I'll bet I can get away with dressing like I'm considering a career in the oldest profession in the world."

Frankly, if a kid is feeling unstressed enough to try to get away with crap, she's feeling well enough to do her English homework without any kvetching.  Agreed?  As always, it's about finding balance.

What is asking too much of a person?  When should a person be required to at least try a little bit in certain areas?  Which areas are important enough to ask the person to try and which areas just aren't worth stressing over?  When is giving in considered compromise, and when is it just giving up?  These are tough questions that keep resurfacing.  The good news is tough times teach us to truly prioritize. If we're paying attention, we learn what really IS important.  Sometimes meeting the bare minimum is more than enough.  My father is probably rolling in his grave....

Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Final Countdown to Gender Confirmation Surgery

We are in the home stretch before DJ's gender confirmation surgery.

She's had her pre-operative physical performed, lab work taken, therapists and doctors will be penning their letters of endorsement, hopefully, within the next couple of weeks, she is nearly at the point where she discontinues her contra-hormone therapy (and will apparently experience a "menopause"-will the fun never cease?), she has completed all electrolysis/laser hair removal requirements so that scar tissue will be concealed, has been measured for her new breasts (I joked that it will be a family tradition that the women in this family get their boobs "done."), and will inform her dietician of her post-surgery nutritional requirements since she will only be allowed fluids for two-three days prior to and following surgery.  We still need to shop for a few items the surgeon recommended for her comfort post surgery but for the most part, at this point, it's a waiting game.

DJ's most recent visit with the team at her surgeon's office was informative and comprehensive in laying out what we can expect for her recuperation.  DJ will be having a tracheal shave, breast augmentation, and neovaginoplasty all of which will be done on the same day. Each procedure has its own healing requirements.

For instance, DJ will be FORBIDDEN from speaking for two entire days following her surgery.  Even whispering is a no-no since it is even harder on the vocal chords than regular speaking.  While the tracheal shave does not involve the vocal chords directly, the means of locating the exact location indirectly involves the vocal chords, so that is why they are not to be used for two days, I'm assuming to avoid damage as a result of possible swelling in the area.

While DJ is to be absolutely silent for two days, she also will be completely bed-ridden for the same amount of time.  This is a requirement for the neovaginoplasty.  Let's face it-an entire new orifice is being created.  It will, for the rest of her life, be in constant defiance of gravity.  Certainly, giving that new interior vagina a chance to "stick" for two days is not too much to ask.  During this time, DJ will experience the thrills of having a urinary catheter.  Again-a new means of urinating is being created. Perhaps saying a new urinary tract would be more apt.  They are taking the urethra, the tube through which urine passes to exit the body, and redirecting it.  Tissue that has been "messed with" tends to want to close up, so putting a catheter in place to keep it open and to allow waste products to leave the body is a requirement for a week following the surgery.  This is a good thing because remember, she will be bed ridden-how else will she relieve herself?

Speaking of relieving herself-her urinary relief will be addressed, but what about the other means of relief?  For the first couple of days, she won't likely have that necessity present itself because three days prior to the surgery, she begins a liquid diet.  The day before the surgery, she will drink something akin to milk of magnesia which will cause her to eliminate all the contents of her bowels in the day before the surgery. This is HUGELY important.  Considerable organ manipulation will be taking place during the surgery.  Keeping the area as free of contaminants as possible makes perfect sense.  Immediately following surgery, she will begin taking stool softeners so that when her colon does begin working in earnest again that she will not have to "strain" in any way to perform that necessary function and hopefully that area will be spared any unnecessary pressure, if you know what I mean.

It's a damn good thing that the surgeon and the eating disorders folks insisted on the healthy weight that DJ has been maintaining successfully (high five to DJ) for the past couple of months because she will likely lose a few pounds being on a liquid diet for 5 days.

The procedure that is likely to cause her the most discomfort, according to the surgeon's team, is the breast augmentation.  The breast prosthesis will be placed under the muscle in the chest wall for better protection against rupture.  DJ was initially reticent about the breast augmentation: she wanted to have it done but was frightened about the possible side effects as a result of the prostheses rupturing. The physician's assistant that helps her surgeon run the practice had DJ handle a prosthetic device, which put DJ's mind at ease when she saw how "resilient" these things are.   The next biggest issue is the prevention of scar tissue building up around the prostheses. This requires somewhat vigorous massage in the area which can be unpleasant, to put it mildly. But that can be done following her pain meds.

DJ will likely look like she's been in a car accident from the neck down, at least for the first couple of weeks, because she can expect considerable bruising from all three procedures.  That is not a big deal.  What we worry about is post-operative pain.  She will be "snowed" with medications for the first two days.  Before anyone gets all worried about addiction, etc., most of us in the medical profession know that treating pain aggressively AIDS in the healing process and does not lead to addiction.  Addicts can become addicts when they treat their slight pain by using a howitzer (prescribed narcotics) to manage their pain when it's time to step down to a 22 caliber pistol (over the counter tylenol) to manage their pain.  Bulldog and I are both paramedics who have a core belief system in managing pain because of its inherent advantages in being both a healing aid and MERCIFUL, so we will be watching her like a hawk and nagging the nurses, if necessary.  However, the folks at this hospital are very skilled at managing this specific group of patients.  They are used to it.  They likely will not need two overbearing parents breathing down their necks.

As a family, we've been preparing for this, mentally, emotionally and financially for nearly two years. Bulldog immediately began saving within months of DJ coming out to us, to his credit.  And DJ has been preparing for this, physically, for two years, as well.  Likely, she's been hoping for this for many years beyond that.  We'll keep you informed.  Keep DJ in your prayers, or hopeful thoughts, please.

LGBT info by state

Interested in seeing how your state fares with LGBT issues?  Flying Pig strikes again by providing us with excellent information because she is one TUNED IN Flying Pig.  Please check it out-

Sunday, April 1, 2012

What a week we're having!

Romeo turned 21 this past week, but it was not a joyful celebration.  The day I mailed his birthday packages to him, three days before his birthday, I was driving the 100 miles to go pick him up following a crisis that necessitated bringing him home from school.

DJ sailed right through it.

She had been having an "off" day herself.  She was rather down that day and was experiencing some frustration.  About what, I can't even remember because her "off" day was dwarfed by Romeo's crisis.  The poor girl was literally on the doctor's table having her pre-op physical performed, having blood drawn while I was talking Romeo through his crisis.  He had lost his temper, broken a glass and was bleeding.  All the while, I'm trying to determine, by phone, how bad he was, physically, so that I could hang up and call 911.  Then I couldn't get Bulldog on the phone because he works at remote locations oftentimes.

Simultaneously, I'm trying to not focus on the possibility that the nurse was thinking that our family was  a bunch of crackpots so that I could stay centered on getting Romeo focused on packing so he could come home, and on finding out if Goodwrench could go pick his brother up until I could get there to get him myself.

I am driving the piece of crap car to DJ's appointment just to keep it running, but am debating whether or not to take it on the 200 mile trip because DJ is insistent that she wants to accompany me to get her brother and there is no room to carry three occupants plus Romeo's belongings in my usual vehicle-the standard shift pick-up truck.  This, too, is stressing me out as I make my way back home, which is in the opposite direction of where I need to go to get Romeo because I have to bring the dog in and make DJ a meal she can eat on the road since eating out is problematic for her AND because we must keep her on her eating schedule.

I am cursing the entire way there in frustration with Romeo and the fact that I can't reach Bulldog to enlist his help.  We grab food, bring the dog in, and take the piece of crap car and head out the door.  This too is stressful because I'm uncertain if the car will make it, but then I figure that while my resources are slim at the moment, I do have room on my credit card.  I can always rent a car if the one I'm driving breaks down.  BUT, I have to teach a course the next morning that is roughly halfway between home and where Romeo is-I grab my supplies.  If I can find a substitute at this late hour, at least he will have the appropriate supplies that I can drop off at the office, after hours, on my way home.

THIS SUCKS!!!  Still no Bulldog.

In the meantime, I've got Juliet on the phone who is very upset and rightfully so because Romeo lost it during an argument with her.  Shame on him-and he knows it, thank goodness; we're bringing him home to get the appropriate help.  At that moment in the conversation, she says one of the saddest things I've ever heard before which is only second to the sound of a preterm baby I heard in the hospital who had just fallen asleep after being assaulted with medical procedures all morning, just to be woken again for another procedure.  It was the epitome of pathetic and pitiful and broke my heart-obviously I've never forgotten it because it happened 21 years ago.  Nonetheless, when Juliet said in her heartbroken way, "I don't think we can be together anymore," I felt my heart breaking and I managed to hold it together just long enough to hang up before she heard me sob.  It wasn't what she said so much as how she said it as if her heart were breaking just thinking of the reality of what she was saying.

Not many times in my life have I sobbed in this manner.  I fight crying vehemently nearly all the time, which is a blog topic for another day.  But you know when you have that deep hurt that causes the noisy sobbing that is impossible to stifle?  That is what happened to me on the side of a four lane highway.  The sound in Juliet's voice literally broke me.

DJ just laid her hand on my arm as I sobbed.  I felt terrible that she saw me this stressed, followed by this upset.  She didn't need this.  Well, apparently it was just what the doctor ordered because it shifted her mood.  She was so focused on making sure I was ok, that whatever was making her feel crummy must not have seemed that bad compared to her mother sobbing uncontrollably at the side of a busy highway during rush hour traffic.  In fact, once we got on the road again, she was upbeat, likely in an attempt to support me.

When we got to the city to pick Romeo up, DJ practically sparkled at being in the company of her oldest brother, Goodwrench.  And this past week both she and Romeo have returned to being, as Bulldog puts it, "two peas in a pod" and he couldn't be more apt.  So what have we learned from this, boys and girls:

1.  Just when it feels like you're at the bottom, look around.  Someone may be feeling worse than you which serves as a great reminder that maybe your life ain't as bad as it seems.

2.  Perhaps the best thing for a person who is absorbed with how crummy she feels is helping someone else who feels crummy.  It takes the attention off of oneself and helping others almost always acts as a way to help ourselves.

3.  Sometimes the S  - - -  hits the fan and everyone involved does not see how any good can possibly come of it;  then you notice how other opportunities present themselves and the key is to take advantage of them.  Marvel comic book movies and episodes of "Friends" can be a great bonding experience for two siblings who haven't had the chance to connect much in the last two years.  Taking a trip into town looking to satisfy geeky hobbies is always a good time too.  Young adults can find out how supportive their parents really are and parents can find out how supportive their young adult children can be, in spite of their recent crises, as well.

4.  Learning that it's ok to take a step back and that the world won't end is a huge learning experience.  Romeo has been full steam ahead in an effort to keep his anxiety about his future at bay.  Perhaps learning that full steam ahead is not a good methodology for him will make his entire future more secure.

5.  Crisis serves to winnow out the good-time friends from the real-deal friends.  The former are great at parties and suck at crisis.  The latter are great at both.  The only way you can tell which is which is to survive crisis together.  Romeo is finding out that having a few real-deal friends is way better than having a dozen good-time friends.  He didn't know the value of it before when he lamented he didn't have " a lot" of friends; I think he understands the important difference now.

6. When you take responsibility for your actions, are truly sorry for the  hurt you've inflicted, and make concrete plans to make sure those actions don't happen again, most people will give you another chance because true love usually offers true forgiveness, as long as it's a two way street.

7.  When you wake up in the morning breathing and you have a pulse, life has just offered you a"do-over."  Most of us wish for do-overs when we make mistakes but fail to recognize one when we see it.  When you make it through the dark of the night and the shadows of your fears that seem to amplify at night, you've made it to another chance to make things right and to start over.  Life is giving you a second chance at living.