Monday, May 21, 2018

Hi, I'm Priya and I'm an Obliger.



I've been listening to a podcast called Happier by Gretchen Rubin.  There are days where it is so much better for my mind to listen to this podcast than listen to the other podcast that I tend to listen to in the mornings, The Daily by the New York Times.  Sometimes the news is just too overwhelming for me and I decide that I need Happier instead.

Well, I love it.  There are so many little tips and tricks and I love the banter between Gretchen and her sister, Elizabeth.  They talk about so many things, and one of those things are Gretchen's books and her research into happiness.  One of her books is The Four Tendencies and it talks about the four personality tendencies of people: Obliger, Upholder, Questioner, and Rebel.  I'm an Obliger - I follow through on expectations of others, but rarely follow my own expectations or desires of myself. 

SO. TRUE.

Anyway, more on that later.  I'm going through a course about this and am really enjoying it so far.  But one of the quotes that I really love and really want to remember a lot in my life is the one above. 

Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good.  Apparently it was first said by Voltaire. 

I do this a lot.  I don't start new things or I don't follow through on a project because I want it to be perfect.  So I research it to death and then get so overwhelmed and end up not starting it or quitting halfway.  Here's an example:

About a month or so ago, I discovered Bullet Journaling.  I posted about it on Facebook as a way to remember it and see if anyone else does it.  It's basically a personalized way to journal...a way that is supposed to be quick and easy. 

Well, I haven't started it yet.  I finally have a format I want to follow (after checking out dozens of other people's formats and templates), and I finally have a journal that I want to use (an A5 6-ring binder so that I can print out the templates I want for a truly customized journal).  Now, I'm waiting for a 6-ring hole punch so that I can finally put those pages in.

And yet, one of my friends saw my post, ordered the most recommended journal on Amazon, got herself a great pen, and just dove right in.

*hangs head in shame*

Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

Monday, April 23, 2018

FORWARD!

As is with all families who have a 12-grader, this time of year is one of chaos, deadlines, fretting about financial aid (unless you are very lucky), and looking back and anticipating the future.  Our family is no different.

Photo credits: Linda Bradley
Damian is a high school senior.  What a wild ride the last 4 years have been! If you had told me when he was in 9th grade of how different he would be by the time he graduated, there is no way I would have believed you.  Ninth grade was so stressful, so chaotic, so unhappy at times - and we had no idea why.  He was going through his journey alone then.  All I did was worry about how he would go to college.  How would he get in?  I didn't know that at the time I should have been worrying about him as a person, as a emotional being.  When Damian came out in 10th grade, so many questions were answered!

Tenth grade was all about transitioning.  And me coming around to fully accepting what was happening.  I admit I had a hard time.  I was sad and confused and worried...always worried.  Doesn't help a damn to worry but still I do it.  I can't help it.  I don't know how to stop.  Sometimes that can be debilitating.  But still I move on - FORWARD.

Anyway, so we started going to counseling, Damian by himself and us as a family.  I probably should have gone for myself too but I didn't.  I could probably still use some counseling.  Anyway, that really helped.  Hearing someone else tell me that I just need to get on board or risk losing my child was breathtaking.  The first time I heard that, it was like a punch to the gut.  Either get out of the way or get run over by the freight train.  No, that's not right...it was either get on board or get run over.

I got on board.


Once we made the transition in name and pronouns, and he started his T shots, it was like a dam had burst.  All this personality came rushing out!  This beautiful, smart, funny, sarcastic, OUTGOING, big personality came forward.  Smiles like I hadn't seen in years were flashing - laughter that I hadn't heard in years was ringing throughout the house.

Then we made the changes at school.  Went to his principal at the beginning of 11th grade and she was really supportive.  Changed the name (not officially at the time so only in the preferred name line) and told all his teachers.  For the most part, it was smooth.  There were a couple of teachers who didn't get the preferred name part and would use the old name during roll call.  But overall, it was smooth. Better than some horror stories that I have heard, that's for sure.

A huge turning point for us was our trip to Atlanta in November 2016 for a family wedding.  My extended family fully - FULLY - embraced Damian.  Again, so much better than other family stories I've heard.  That was a blessing and a big exhale for me and for Damian too.  That trip was one giant hug from start to finish.

I remember when we got home and we were just laying in bed tired from the plane ride and Damian said "I miss everyone".  It was reminiscent of when I would go to India for the summers when I was growing up.  Coming home was depressing because it was just so quiet.

Senior year was all about big changes and getting ready to go out into the world.  I'm very thankful that Damian is not trying to hide his transition.  He is out to the world.  And on September 8, 2017, he officially became Damian Blaine Bradfield.










After that, the next step was top surgery.  That happened in a whirlwind fashion as well.  We got insurance approval in mid-January 2018 and on February 11, 2018, it happened.  Damian's journey was all leading up to that moment and when he woke up from anesthesia, in a very quiet and groggy voice, he said, "I can't believe it finally happened."  Recovery was pretty smooth and quick.  And when he saw his chest the first time after unwrapping the bandages, we both shed tears.  He was just so happy.  Tears of joy.

Prom 2018
And now we're in the home stretch.  Couple of weeks ago, he went to Prom with a friend at another school.  He's going to his Prom and Grad Night soon.  He has been accepted to Woodbury University and plans to major in Animation and maybe minor in business or marketing.  He turned his grades around in 10th, 11th, and 12th grades, enough to earn a merit scholarships totalling $20,000 from Woodbury.  He's transferring enough credits from AP classes and community college to be ahead by a full semester of credits.

Photo credits: Linda Bradley
Photo credits: Linda Bradley

I am so incredibly humbled by this amazing journey that Damian has taken me on.  I've grown as a person in the last 4 years in ways I never could have imagined.  I thought our family was complete before - but we really were missing a part of it.  NOW, it is full and complete and I can't imagine not having him in our family.  

Photo credits: Linda Bradley


Wednesday, April 11, 2018

First quarter 2018

Well, so much for posting more.  In my last post on December 29th 2017, I talked about posting more.  What the heck!  It's April.  Guess the joke's on me!

A lot has happened in the first three months of 2018.

Damian:
January 18 - We received approval from Damian's health insurance for his top surgery!
January 20 - Damian and I marched in the Women's March and Damian registered to vote!
February 8 - Damian turned 18!
February 11 - Damian had his top surgery! (More on this in a different post!)
February 26 - After two weeks home recovering, Damian was cleared to go back to school.
March 6 - Damian got accepted to his top college choice, Woodbury University!
March 13 - We found out that he was awarded $20,000 in a merit scholarship for Woodbury!!

Nadia:

January 13 - Nadia auditioned for Ballet West summer intensive.
January 17 - She found out that she got in!
February 4 - Nadia competed in Round 2 of The Music Center's Spotlight Awards
February 9 - Nadia competed in YAGP semi-finals in Las Vegas
February 17 - Nadia competed in California Dance Classics (and got Honorable Mention for her solo!)
February 18 - Nadia competed with her class in California Dance Classics (and got 2nd place for their ensemble!)
Week of February 21-26 - Performed in her first musical theater show with CHAMPS.
March 10 - Nadia competed with her class in YAGP semi-finals in Los Angeles
March 11 - Nadia competed in YAGP semi-finals in Los Angeles
March 11 - We found out that her class got 3rd place for their ensemble at YAGP LA!
March 19 - We found out that her class was invited to compete in NYC in the YAGP finals!  They will be going the weekend of April 13-16.

It is now April 1st, and the tail end of spring break...all the aforementioned has been great news.  And yet, looking back, I have been a ball of stress for the first three months of this year.  I have come to realize that I should post more, if only to remind myself of all the good things in my life and be learn to be grateful more often (I AM grateful, but it seems to always be overshadowed in my mind with the things that I am worried about (more about what that is in my next post).

One more thing that happened on January 4 - since I was not happy with any of Damian's senior pictures, I asked a friend of mine through Girl Scouts to do a photo shoot for Damian.  It ended up being a session for both Damian and Nadia.  The pictures are amazing and I'm thrilled with them.  If you're looking for a family photographer, and want to meet a wonderfully kind and caring woman to boot, I highly recommend my friend Linda Bradley


Friday, December 29, 2017

Taking Stock: Fall 2017


In doing some research about Bullet Journaling, I came across this list on www.meatmeetsmike.com that many seem to use in Bullet Journaling.  I thought it would be a good way to end 2017 on my blog since I haven't posted since September.

September?!?! Honestly where has the time gone? I have thought of many topics to write about but just haven't done it.  I really want to change that but I'm not sure what the best recourse for that would be for me.  Two schools of thought: schedule it out once a week or even once a month or go all in with a sentence or two every day.

I'll get back to that in a bit to decide.

For now, taking stock of Fall 2017:

Making: Small efforts here and there.
Cooking: Curry.
Drinking: Wine.
Reading: What Happened? by Hillary Clinton; I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai. Also, A World History of Photography by Naomi Rosenblum for my History of Photography class at LAVC.
Next Read: Daughters of the Night Sky by Aimie K Runyan.
Wanting: A less cluttered home.
Looking: A bit more overweight. 😔
Playing: Gummy Drop!
Deciding: To start paying attention, real attention, to my health.
Wishing: For a society that didn't allow racism out in the open.
Enjoying: My children loving each other and being each other's best friends.
Waiting: For Trump to be impeached.
Liking: My electricity bill after we got the solar panels installed.
Wondering: About Damian's future who has been applying to colleges this Fall!
Loving: That Nadia loves her new high school!
Pondering: Small ways to improve our lives.
Considering: How to pay off some bills.
Buying: Amazon's Echo and automating our house.
Watching: Finished Firefly and all 7 seasons of The West Wing with Nadia!
Next watch: The Crown!
Hoping: To be a little less angry in 2018.
Marvelling: At the persistence of people in the fight for equality.
Cringing: At the persistence of the people in the fight for inequality.
Needing: To believe that things will right themselves in the coming years.
Questioning: How the time flew by and I have two kids in high school!
Smelling: Whatever candle I'm burning from Candles By Ari. 💟 I'm getting into the habit of burning a candle everyday if I'm home for an extended period of time.  I find that the gentle (and sometimes not-so-gentle) smells relax me.
Wearing: Comfy clothes.
Following: A bunch of new people on Instagram.  This past week, I've started looking into Bullet Journaling (as I said at the top).  It's supposed to be easy and simple - but too many people make it all fancy and pretty and Pinterest-y and that overwhelmed me earlier this year.  
Noticing: My hair needs to be colored again.  Sometimes I wonder if I should just accept it and let it go all gray naturally.  This in-between stage sucks though.
Knowing: That I need to make an effort to take care of myself.  I let myself go this Fall and my recent check up showed that.  
Thinking: About how much we did over the past 3 months.  September, we got Damian's name and gender legally changed.  October, Chris and I celebrated 23 years of marriage.  Also, my car died on the freeway during rush hour traffic, but the part that died was still under warranty!  So, STRESS and then not so much stress.  November, Damian got his first college acceptance letter! And he finished a couple of his other college applications.  And Nadia had a couple of shows/recitals.  She is thriving.
Admiring: Countries that have their health care systems in order.  Sure it may be a long wait to get surgery or something like that, but if I feel the need to not take my medication as often as I should because I need to make it last because of the damn health insurance, then me needing something more invasive will become inevitable.  Preventative care is the way to go - and that should be accessible to everyone.
Sorting: Through old clothes and things in the house.  We have too much stuff and I don't want it anymore.
Getting: To the point where I might just have to accept that we will never retire and travel the world.
Bookmarking: My doctor's patient portal so that it is staring me in the face so I check in with her often.
Coveting: Peace.  Really, that's all I want.  I don't need to be rich - just want the stress of things like credit cards, healthcare bills, and expensive surprises to go away.  And if those things went away, the income both Chris and I have now would be enough.  On top of it all, stress of looming college bills.
Disliking: That I have to gall to complain about all that when we have a roof over our head, food on the table, and our (relatively good) health.
Opening: All the mail every day.  I am making the decision to open all the mail every day so that I stop letting it pile up and get overwhelmed by the unopened mail.
Giggling: At the antics of Andy on Parks & Rec.  Damian and Chris quoted him to me earlier today when I was talking about going to the doctor and getting all the tests done.  There was an episode where Andy had to go to the doctor and had so much wrong with him.  But it was hilarious and I was giggling way past the time when they quoted him to me.  
Feeling: Good about the fact that I went to the doctor yesterday and have a plan to get myself back under control.
Snacking: NO!  I need to stop snacking - this is why I'm in the situation I'm in right now!  But last night I was snacking on Gorgonzola crackers from Trader's Joe.  Yum.
Hearing: Don and Paulette's dog barking.  But I like that right now because that means that it is warm enough outside to have our door open.  I know that the rest of the country is having some severe cold weather right now, so I'm thankful for what we have here in Southern California.

This was harder than I thought it would be to fill in all of these items.  

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.