Friday, September 1, 2017

You never know who you're going to help

Earlier this week, I ran into an acquaintance from PTA.  We aren't really friends; we see each other about once a month at meetings.  Well, last month, I apparently shared a little bit about my experiences with parenting a transgender child and going through LAUSD.  As I am fairly open about our journey, I honestly don't remember what I said or what the context of the conversation was about.  As you all may know already, I am not shy about stating that I'm a parent of a transgender child - I am open and honest and proud of our family.

Well, earlier this week, at another PTA meeting, this acquaintance came up to me and said she needed to tell me something.  She grabbed my hands, which wasn't something I was expecting.  Nor were the tears that started to well up in her eyes.  I had no idea what she was going to say!  She said that she had to thank me for being open and sharing about Damian.  She said she could tell that I was proud of him and that I had nothing but love and support and acceptance for him.  Then she told me - her daughter is part of the LGBTQ community and until hearing me talk about my son, she had not shared that information with others within the PTA Board except for just a couple of people.  But after hearing me speak, she started to share this information with more people in her life!  I was so thrilled to hear this - I congratulated her on living authentically.  Her daughter is out and has been for a while, but she never shared this personal information about her daughter with her friends, some of who have known her and her daughter for many many years (her daughter is in her late 20s now I believe).

It's not easy being true to yourself in this world of keeping up with the Kardashians.  But I could tell that a weight was lifted off this person after she had shared about her daughter.  After a while of consciously keeping a secret, the emotional baggage will start to weigh you down.  I'm hopeful that one day there will be no reason to fear talking about who we love or who we truly are - a world where everyone can live out loud and we can live and let live.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Two weeks left in Summer 2017

Nadia and Damian at LA Pride
Graduation memories!
I end each school year with the idea that I'm going to get so much done around the house in the summer months.  But my house is as crazy as ever.  June went by in a blur - Nadia graduated from middle school.  I remember that the Girl Scout troop met a couple of times (tour of NPR West and a Patrol Challenge day) and Nadia spent a lot of time with friends she's leaving from middle school and we went to the LA Pride parade and we had a bunch of doctor check ups (just your regular yearly exams)...

But July!  July was a busy but pretty great month.  We started off with a fabulous family vacation.  It's the one week of the summer that Chris has off from work so we took advantage.  First, we went to Arrowhead on our annual 4th of July trip with The Five Families aka the Playgroup Families.  These are four other families who we've know for over 17 years now - kids were a part of our MOMS Club playgroup with Damian.  Anyway, every 4th of July we go to a house in Arrowhead that is owned by one of the families and they generously invite us all.  We always have a grand time on the lake. 
Summer fun on the lake.
It's a summer tradition - one that hopefully will continue for a long time.  We were there from June 30th (Friday night) until July 4th (Tuesday).  Then we drove from Arrowhead to Pine Mountain Lake just outside of Yosemite for the rest of the week.  My in-laws' friends have a lake house up there which, again, they generously invited us (and a bunch of other families) to come and relax.  Driving from Arrowhead to PML took us about 9 hours in total but I'm so glad we did it.  The rest of the week was of good food, lots of wine, swimming, and playing cards.  We taught Damian and Nadia how to play poker and they both actually came away with some cash winnings!  We left PML to come back home on Saturday July 8th.  That was quite the ride back!  It was 104 degrees or something insane like that and our AC in the car didn't work for half the ride back!  We had to stop more than we wanted to so that we could go inside an air conditioned restaurant to cool down.  It was early evening when the temp dropped to 93 degrees when the AC decided to kick in!  Oh how we cheered!

July 7th was also important because it was the one year anniversary of Damian coming out to the world.  A full year of Living Authentically.  It was also the anniversary of my full acceptance of him - calling him Damian, using male pronouns all the time.  So much has happened in the past year.  We informed his school of his transition.  He went on T shots.  He cut his hair to fully represent who he is.  We had a big family gathering during the week of Thanksgiving for a wedding and he was fully and completely accepted by my extended family.  He seems so much more at ease with who he is and living that way out loud.  He continues to awe me with his strength.

This is not to say that I still don't struggle with this.  I do.  Facebook's feature "On This Day" is an almost constant reminder of his past and what I used to have.  But I've changed - before I would have said "what I lost".  But I've come to realize that I didn't lose anything.  I now have a child who is more and more comfortable with who he truly is.  I thought I knew my child before.  But I'm learning that I am only now getting to know his true self and he's amazing.
Facetiming with Nadia

Back to our July - the week after we got back from our family vacation was busy with getting Nadia ready to leave for the Bolshoi Ballet summer intensive.  I handled it better than last year, but was still a bit of a mess.  Last minute shopping and packing and making sure she was ready for her flights and navigating a taxi by herself in Hartford....oh, and getting ready for the Girl Scout Twilight Camp (a day camp) which I was volunteering at the following week.  AHHHHH!

So Nadia left on July 15th to Washington DC, staying overnight with my wonderful uncle and cousin, then got on another flight from DC to Hartford on July 16th.  Bit of a delay in Hartford as the taxi company was awful and didn't send a taxi for about 1 1/2 hours.  But luckily she had someone to wait with at the airport....all's well that ends well.  She got settled in (got her own room too!) and started the intensive on July 17th.

Friends from Twilight Camp
Which was the start of Twilight Camp for me.  It's a day camp run by volunteers and Girl Scout counselors.  Remember how I said I still struggle with Damian's transition?  Well, we fought about him going to Twilight Camp.  I know, he's not a girl so why did I fight about him going to Girl Scout camp?  For me, it was mostly about him being with friends he's known forever.  It's his last year - next year he'll be 18 and he would be an adult.  It was about closing out a chapter in his life.  Really, that's it.  I admit I was being selfish.  It's things like this that make me think about the past and what I thought was real.  We fought, but we compromised and he came for 2 days.  I appreciate his ability to compromise with me on things like this.

Getting Senior Portraits done
Finally the last full week of July.  Several things happened.  On Monday, Damian took his Senior portraits!  His last year of high school has begun.  Then, we filed the paperwork in the courts to make Damian's name and gender change legal.  Again...internally I struggle with this, but I do accept that this is the next step.  Should have done this earlier, but I just didn't.  But we have a court date!  September 8th.

The other big thing last week was our first doctor consultation for "top" surgery.

I paused here for a few minutes while writing this because this is emotional for me.  It's hard to process and express what I'm feeling.  After the appointment, I was surprised at what I felt.  I felt ok.  Relaxed.  It hit me again - what is happening is true and real because there is no way that someone would put themselves through all the pain and turmoil and headache of living as the gender that is opposite your assigned-at-birth one. I'll write more about this and the legal stuff later when I've had a bit more time to process it.

Today is July 31st.  The end of a eventful month.  Tomorrow starts another eventful month.  Tomorrow, August 1st, Damian and I leave for NYC and Hartford to pick up Nadia from Bolshoi.  I get the excitement of showing Damian NYC for the first time and then spending the weekend there with both of my kids.  I wish Chris was coming, but he's working as usual.  Then we get back, just in time for Nadia's high school orientation and Damian's senior orientation.  Off on another adventure!

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Counting my blessings

This topic has come up a couple of times in the last week.  I feel as though it is a thought that is being repeated to me because I need to hear it right now.

All too often, we focus on what's wrong in our lives.  How often do you respond to the question "How are you?" or "How's it going?" in a drab or even negative way?  I know I usually answer it with "I'm alright" or "oh, it's going."  But I almost never say "I'm doing great!"

My dad recently had to start taking insulin to control his diabetes.  He's 75 years old and has been diabetic for a while, but this is the first time he's had to take insulin shots.  I'm sure he's not happy about it, maybe even a little angry or depressed, but my mom took the attitude that he's had all this time without the need for insulin.  She was talking about how we should be thankful for the situation that we're in and not having to resort to insulin from an early age.  My mom talked about how she thinks of the children who have Type-1 diabetes.  Those parents who have to worry about insulin shots for their children as they go to school. And there are worse health problems than diabetes which, once diagnosed, can be managed.

My friend, Ari, talked about counting your blessings on her latest radio show and her latest blog post.  There is always someone who is worse off then you.  And it's true.  Whatever financial situation you're going through - someone else has to deal with worse.  Whatever health crisis you're going through - someone else has to deal with worse.  Whatever sucky job you're dealing with - someone else is a suckier job.

I think that in today's world, it is easier than ever to forget to count our blessings.  Whenever you go online, you see the amazing pictures of someone else's day or week.  I swear, since school let out two weeks ago, I've had, at the minimum, five Facebook friends who had a family vacation in Hawaii.  Was there an airline sale I missed??  Beautiful pictures of swimming in clear waters, playing on white sand beaches (and one black sand beach!!), eating the yummiest food all on the picturesque islands.  And it's so easy to compare yourself to what others present online and so easy to forget to count all that we have.

I will not forget that I have:
  • a fun and loving family.
  • a fun and loving extended family too!
  • a non-leaky roof over my head.
  • an AC that works in this insane heat wave we're having here in Southern California!
  • enough to keep our bills paid, the lights on, and food in our fridge.
  • friends who share their abundance.
  • a couple of adventures of our own to look forward to this summer.
  • a job to go back to when school starts up again.
  • my health (for the most part) and my family's health.
  • time to give back to my various communities.

I will not forget that I do have blessings to count.  I must try to remember to say "Great!" next time someone asks me how I'm doing.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

If not me, then who?

Yesterday, someone asked me if I'm stepping down from any of my volunteer positions in the coming school year.

For those of you who don't know, I volunteer with PTA and with Girl Scouts a lot.  On the PTA side, I'm on the board at Nadia's middle school and I'm on the board at the PTA Council level (Council oversees 12 school PTAs in the local area with training and support).  I've been involved with PTA for 8 years now at various schools and at the Council level for 4 years now.

On the Girl Scout side, I am a troop leader for Nadia's troop (I was involved with Damian's troop when he was in elementary and middle school, not so much now though).  I started Nadia's troop when she was in 2nd grade, so this is my 6th year as a leader.  I'm also the manager of our local Service Unit - it's similar to the PTA Council in that we oversee troops in the local area, but there are about 40 troops of all levels and sizes.  This is my 3rd year as SUM.  It's a lot of work, especially during Girl Scout Cookie season!  But I love this position a lot.

Anyway, back to the the time I answered it, I was rambling on.  My answer was so convoluted because I am stepping down from a couple of positions in PTA but taking on another one at the District level, which I'm not thrilled about.  (District oversees about 120 local PTAs in the San Fernando Valley.)  And it got me thinking - why am I doing it if it's not making me happy?  Or is it?  I'm not a weak person to just say yes to everything someone asks me to do.

I know some of you are raising your eyebrows at me.  No, really, I'm not.  I CAN say no if I really want to.  I have said no a few times - just not very often.  lol

The thing is that change needs to happen in our schools.  At so many levels, change needs to happen.  Having been involved in schools on various levels and committees, I see where some of those changes need to happen.  And if we all say "well, that won't affect me or my kid" then how will anything change?  That mentality happens all the time, and not just in the schools.  I know I've said it to myself when I'm tired or overwhelmed with everything that I have to do.  We've all said it - some more than others, but that's for another post.  But we have to band together to make things better for society as a whole.

And so...if not me, then who?

If not you, then who?

Saturday, April 1, 2017

What's really going on?

I was reminded this week that we don't have all the answers.  We never know, completely, what is going on in someone else's life.  People post what they eat, the crafts they make, the places they visit, their accomplishments, their dreams, and sometimes....rarely...the shit they go through.  Notice how most of those things I mentioned was the good stuff.  And it makes sense - we want to show off the ways in which our lives are going well.  We love our kids and want to show off their accomplishments.  We love our spouses and want to shout out about our love and our anniversaries.  We love our families and want to share their birthdays with everyone.  We post that stuff because most of us love attention.  And that's why we post the good stuff so that we get the likes and the hearts and the "congratulations!".

But it leaves us with a very shallow view of each other's lives.  This is the era of Facebook and Instagram.  And so we see all the wonderful things that our friends and family are doing.  But where are the hardships we are all going through?  The chronic illnesses, the divorces, the job losses, the struggles with our kids?  We all suffer through these.  But we are reluctant to share with the world and even sometimes with our own families.  And if we do, we post vaguely about needing prayers or we post to only certain people who we truly trust.  Why?  Are we ashamed?  Are we afraid?  Is it a sign of failure that you had an argument with your 16 year old and you lost your cool and swore at them?

Fuck that shit!

That felt good to say.

Do you know how many people in this world live with chronic illness?  And not only the kind you can see, but illnesses like diabetes (which I have), chronic pain (have that too), high blood pressure, heart disease, mental illness, alcoholism, etc.

Do you know how many people have gone through money problems or job losses?  I'll bet you that you probably know people who have gone on government assistance at some point in their lives but have never talked about it.  We have...sometimes after a job loss, you just can't get right back up on that horse and need a little bit of help.  You gotta do what you gotta do, especially when you have a family, right?

Do you know how many good parents have lost their cool with their kids at some point or another?  I have!  In fact, I suffered from postpartum depression after having my first child and was so depressed and sleep-deprived that my husband had to take the baby away from me because I was not able to handle the crying at all.  I felt like a failure - until I joined a support group and saw just how many other first time mothers felt the same way.

The point for this post is to say that we are all going through shit.  Medical shit. Financial shit.  Relationship shit.  Life is tough, no doubt.  And I talk about some of the stuff I'm going through.  But I am going to try to put more of my real self out's scary as hell but I hope to have people get to know the real me, to be more authentic.

I think the world needs more of that.  After all, how can we have empathy for our fellow human being if we never see others struggle?

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Love what you do - do what you love - volunteer for your passion

So, I volunteer a lot.  People who know me, know this is true.  Sometimes to the chagrin of my
husband and my children, no doubt.  But yeah, I volunteer for a couple of different organizations. 

PTA - not just at my kids' schools, where I was Treasurer for two years and then President for three years, but also at the next level.  I was Council President and now am Council Treasurer - the Council I'm in oversees 12 local schools and their PTAs.  I've been nominated to move up to the District, which oversees the entire San Fernando Valley.  I have resisted that move for a while now because I feel that the further I get from the local schools, the less impact my time will have on the kids - which is the whole reason to volunteer.

I also volunteer with Girl Scouts.  I have been a leader since 2011 when Nadia was in 2nd grade.  I have loved being a leader.  Sometimes, the parents are hard to deal with and sometimes the kids have serious attitudes, but overall, I truly believe in the Girl Scout mission to cultivate girls with courage, confidence, and character, now more than ever.  And with Girl Scouts, I have moved up the ranks too - troop leader (which I still am), to Service Unit product sales support, to Service Unit Manager.  I oversee about 40-45 troops in our local area.  It can be an exhausting position, but everytime we have a troop leader meeting (once a month all the leaders get together to get info and exchange ideas), I walk away feeling really good about the support I am giving to our local leaders (along with my Service Unit Management Team).  That support flows directly to supporting the girls in those troops - leaders who are happy and feel supported translate to fun and active troops.

I volunteer because I feel passionately about these two organizations.  But I'm still waiting for the cash to start rolling in.

Say, what?

Well, there is all this advice out there about doing what you love and feel passionate about and the success/money will come.  I'm following that - I love supporting kids and other adults who support kids (like teachers and troop leaders).  I've been doing this since 2008.  And every year it seems to get more and more time consuming.  But I have yet to see any kind of monetary payout.

Are you sure about that?

Yeah, yeah, I know that the skills I use in volunteering, like event planning, human resources, time management, and project management can translate into a career and money.  Ok, fine, I'll stop waiting for the money to start falling from the sky!

All kidding aside and getting back to of the reasons I volunteer is because I have a passion for fun.  And I volunteer with some seriously funny people!  Some of these people have become true friends and sisters in the cause.   People who I just adore and LOVE to hang out with them.  I also have a passion for kids, which is how I chose the organizations I support.  And I have a passion for making a difference.  After all, if not me, then who?

But a lot of people don't realize that when the fun stops, when the support doesn't get to the intended audience, then the reason for volunteering stops.  Who is going to give their free time to something that isn't giving them SOMETHING back (not money).  Giving them a purpose, giving them a sense of satisfaction, giving them some fun!

Volunteering can be serious work.  I always hated when someone said they would do something and then bailed.  Just because it's a volunteer thing doesn't mean that someone isn't relying on you doing what you said you were going to do!  Because if you say you're going to do something, say run a table at the carnival, and then you back out or even worse, don't show up, then someone else has to scramble to fill your position with another volunteer.  So, while it can (and should!) be fun, it's also something to consider carefully.  Don't just say yes without every intention to do your best.

Because what is just fun for you may just be a passion for someone else.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Goodbye 16, Hello 17

Tuesday night, I cuddled on the couch with Damian in the last waning hours of his 16th year.  During his middle school years, cuddling went out of style.  But in the last year, the affection between us came back and how we hug a lot more, talk a lot more, I try to just *listen* more (though it is very hard to not always give advice).

On Monday, he talked to me about having trouble lately with feeling as though he is passing for a boy.  I look at the changes he's gone through and I cannot understand anyone who looks at him for the first time now and assumes Damian is a girl.  I get it if you knew him from before, if you knew him as Maya.  That's a hard habit to break and we understand (but so appreciate it if you try your best to get it right).  But meeting him for the first time, being introduced to him as Damian - I don't get it.  But it happens still and it really hurts him when it does.  It happened in one of his classes that day - and it was a teacher who had never had him before, so there shouldn't be this issue (his name is changed in the school already).  And I didn't have any advice other than to just keep correcting people.  Yeah, it's totally lame advice.  And what a terrible burden to put on a kid.  Especially by an adult.  All of Damian's friends get it and do not have a problem.  They have switched over and, to the best of my knowledge, none of them have made glaring mistakes.

But even this past weekend, it happened AGAIN at his Saturday morning Art Conservatory classes.  The school apparently pre-prints the rosters for the entire year for each session (they change teachers every 4-6 weeks).  And since they were printed back in September, it was before we talked to them about the name change.  Still, they should have just gone in and changed the name manually after we talked to them.  But they didn't and EVERY TIME Damian gets a new teacher, he has to go to each of them to change the name again and basically come out to each of them all over again.  It's frustrating.  It's annoying.  It's emotional for him and it's infuriating for me that he has to go through this over and over again. 

Anyway, so we talked about it - well, Damian talked and I listened.  I just said that I'm sorry it keeps happening.  But the most wonderful thing happened after that - Damian said that he likes talking to me and feels better after we talk.

Best. Compliment. Ever.

What parent doesn't want to hear that?! I just walked over to him and hugged him.  Our relationship has really come a long way since when he was in 9th grade and we fought every day.  And I mean EVERY DAMN DAY. But now, I feel as though we are closer than ever.  I'm seeing the talkative, fun-loving, wickedly sarcastic and smart person he was always on the inside.

He's 17 years old now.  And this year was the first year he was a birthday BOY.  Wow, I just love this kid.

Happy birthday, Damian!!