Thursday, August 27, 2015

George: A Call to Be Who You Are #bookschangelives

I'm super excited to tell you about a book that came out this week, George. Written by Alex Gino and published by Scholastic Books, George is the story of a 10 year old transgender girl who wants everyone to know and understand that she is, actually, a girl named Melissa. With a beautiful and bold tagline of "BE WHO YOU ARE", the book is the first middle grades fiction book with a transgender main character.

We were fortunate enough to receive an early copy of George, through a friend who is an author (check her out, she even has some great short stories that currently free for kindle!). Rebekah was so excited to receive such a special thing, a copy of a book about someone like her, before it was released, and signed to her by the author. How cool!


So Rebekah took the book to read before I had a chance, and she loved it! It was really affirming to read about a character with whom she strongly identified. In her words, these were her thoughts on the book...


George is a good book to explain what it can be like to be transgender. The story was enjoyable. I liked all the details. It was cool to read about someone like me. My favorite part of the book is the play, Charlotte's Web, because George surprised everyone and did what she really wanted to... she got to be herself in the play. Usually in a play you're acting, but it was on stage that she finally got to be herself. I liked that. The trip to the zoo was my other favorite part, because Kelly's uncle didn't even know George was transgender. She could just be herself at the zoo without anyone noticing she was different. She didn't have to worry about anything else. I think it's a good book for other kids to read because most kids don't know about being transgender and it's a fun thing to learn about.
 
 
I loved hearing Rebekah's thoughts on the book, and I was excited to read it myself. The book was honest and funny with likeable characters. As a parent of a transgender kid, I admit I wince at some of the plot surrounding being bullied or not accepted. I want to pretend that's not out there, but of course, it is. In the end, I felt good that Rebekah was able to read about it, hurt with George, empathize with her story, and then rejoice with Melissa. Rebekah's life won't always be easy. There will be bumps.There will be mean kids and mean adults. George was a great story of being who you are in the face of that and surrounding yourself with friends and family who have your back! Like Rebekah, I'm excited there is a book for others to read that gives them a window into the experience of being transgender. And, the power of seeing yourself represented in literature can not be overstated.

Here are some additional resources about George:

 



 

Friday, July 3, 2015

Raspberries, Coffee & Self Care


Our raspberries are exploding right now. Each morning, there's a good sized bowl to pick. With a toddler who loves to eat sticks, grass, and pretty much anything that grows, raspberries are a pretty exciting discovery... a food that he can eat without anyone arguing, plus they taste way better than most sticks. It's become our morning ritual. Coffee and raspberry picking, barefoot and bleary eyed. It grounds me. It helps wake up my tired body and soul.

When the nights are not anywhere near as restful as I need them to be and the mornings much earlier and much louder than I want them to be, the entire waking up process is jarring. Often all I can do is grumble (to myself or sometimes not so much to myself) about needing more sleep and dread the long list of everyday life stuff before me while complaining that the kids won't let drink a single cup of coffee. It's not a good start to the day. I'd love to wake up before my kids, have some quiet moments with a cup of coffee, and take a deep breath before I start the day. But the baby wakes when I do, regardless of the time, so that will have to wait a bit longer. In the meantime, stumbling outside into the garden is the next best thing.

Outside, I can breathe. There's space. Everything isn't so loud. Everyone isn't so close. The grass tickles my feet, the baby picks berries, and the big kids march off to check the wild black raspberry bushes in the woods nearby. I wake up gentler and without the suffocating to do list that lives inside the house, the messes to be cleaned, the food to be prepped, the laundry, the projects, the bills.

Picking those raspberries has become a quiet meditation. It's a simple task. One that has to get done or we will lose the fruit. It doesn't take too long, but long enough. Pick, squat, reach, nibble a few. And, it feels like I've accomplished something when it's done. Something checked off my list before breakfast. Food provided for my family. A few set aside for snack, although mostly the kids pick for themselves what they want to eat fresh. The rest get frozen for snacks and smoothies through the year.

It's choices like this and moments like these that I'm focusing on this month. It's a continuation of #operationthrive. It's a month of me. It's ongoing self care. It's little shifts in perspective to let the light in, to make it easier to breathe. Happy July.







Thursday, June 18, 2015

A Letter From Home: Thoughts on Sleepaway Camp

I don't know how it happened, but on Sunday I'm sending my oldest child off to sleepaway camp for the first time. Sleepaway camp! How is that possible? 
 
A little background. I went to camp from the time I was 6. I loved camp with every ounce of my being. It remains one of the most sacred places on the planet for me, a place where I found my confidence, my passion, my spirituality, and my closest friends. I met my husband working at camp. We got married at camp. I've worked at many types of camps in different parts of the country. I have a Masters degree in, you guessed it, CAMP. My kids have been at camp with me consistently since before they were born as I volunteered, served on the Board of Directors, attended family camps, and even spent a year starting up a new satellite Day Camp program.
 
But now... my child is going to camp. As a camper. I won't be there. Heck, she's going to a brand new program although at least at a camp where I worked 10 years ago and directed by someone with whom I worked. But still... suddenly this professional camp mama is on the other end of the registration table. To be honest, I'm so darn excited for her, it hasn't really sunk in that she's going to be gone for an entire week.

As I do laundry, make checklists, write letters to mail each day making sure the first gets there on Monday (yep, I'm being *that* mom), and help pack her things... I wrote her this letter.
 
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Dear Daughter,

I don't know where the time has gone, but you're an amazing human. I get to see just how amazing more and more every day. I'm so proud of you... who you are... how you love... the way you engage the world. I'm going to miss you like crazy this week, but I'm so proud of you for going to camp. I'm so proud of the ways you've grown, matured, and found yourself in the past year. Last year, you weren't ready. You told me. We listened. This year, you knew you were ready. We can all see you're ready.

I know you're equal parts excited and nervous. I know it's hard to do new things, but we can do hard things. I know you know that. Some of the hardest things are the best things. 

Camp is one of my most favorite places on the planet, and I know you're going to love it, too. You already do. How could you not? You've been a "camp kid" since you were in my belly. Camp is so many of the things you already love. Awesome people. Nature. Singing, games, swimming, art, hiking and all kinds of goofy fun. Thinking outside the box. Coloring outside the lines. Not being afraid to be yourself.

This week is for you. It's all yours, and you deserve it. For all the times you watch the baby or convince E to help you clean up. For the times you cook everyone's eggs for breakfast and for the times you wait for what seems like forever for your turn. This week is completely yours. There's no little brothers. There's no to-do lists. There's no schoolwork calling your name.  It's all you, kid. Live it up.

Be you. Be brave. Laugh hard. Speak up. Be seen. Don't hesitate to do something just because you might not do it at home. Don't do anything just because everyone else is doing it. Ask questions. Tell people what you want and need. Share your brilliant ideas. There are no limits. Make your voice heard. 

There are amazing people at camp who cannot wait to get to know you, and their entire job is to keep you safe and make this the best week possible. Let them help you. Forget where to put your dishes in the dining hall? Ask them. Need help putting your hair into a pony tail? Ask them. Want to know if you can hike/swim/build a rocketship? Ask them. Even if it's the middle of the night and you're scared because you had a bad dream or you have to go the bathroom. Ask. Whatever it is, just ask. They want you to ask, and they want to help. That's why they work at camp. Don't go it alone when you don't have to. You're never alone at camp.

You can be a helper, too. This is your community for the week. You work together. Look for the kids who need a friend, a hug, or a laugh. Listen to your gut. It knows what to do. Your huge heart will lead the way. Make the best decisions you can, know you're going to make mistakes, and remember always that it all comes back to love and grace. 

It's okay to miss home. It's even okay to not miss home. It's all part of the experience. All the feelings are okay, and all the feelings will pass. Just know that we are here, loving you just as much as ever, missing you, and counting the days until we can hear what an amazing week you had.
 
Love you more than words can say,
Mama XOXO

Thursday, June 4, 2015

God Doesn't Make Mistakes

 

Many nights, I join my daughter in her top bunk bed for a chat. It's her time to unwind from the day and prep for tomorrow. Ask her questions, share her fears, tell her stories. When her anxiety was at its most intense, it was our nightly ritual of talking her off the proverbial ledge so she could sleep. Now, it's much less desperate, but it is our time to connect, her time to air her concerns and let go of her worries.

One night in the midst of her transitioning to Rebekah, she was feeling a bit down. She's very intuitive and empathetic, and one of her biggest stresses during her transition was feeling guilty for the love and support she received. She felt bad that people, in her words, had to give her gifts or go out of her way to show love. We assured her that it was people's way of showing their support and no one had to do anything. They wanted to because they loved her and were inspired by her authenticity and courage.

I told her she was born to change the world. She laughed and said "it's still a cruel and terrible place" (which her dad was a little proud of, cynical jerk). But, I explained that just by being her, proudly and bravely, she's teaching others to be themselves and that they were made perfectly. I told her God made her perfectly. She shook her head quietly. "No... God made me a boy."

It knocked the breath right out of me. My beautiful child was carrying the weight of thinking God made her wrong on her very small shoulders. My child thought that being who she was wasn't what God intended her to be.

"Oh no, honey, but who are you inside?" 

Without hesitation, she responded, "I'm a beautiful girl named Rebekah". 

That's right she is. And God knows that. God knew that. God made her that way. God knows her inside and out and made her to be exactly who she is. God made her for great things. God knows she's going to change the world. That's what I told her. 

Wide-eyed and hopeful she looked at me, "Really? God made me this way?" Yes, God did. God made all of her and knows all of her. 

Later as I went to climb down from her bed, she reached out for one last hug. Squeezing tight, she said, "thanks mama, thanks for telling me about the God thing. That helps". 

I don't have all the answers about why and how people are born transgender, though the research about the brain and genetics is all very young and very interesting. I don't have all the answers as to what it will all mean for my daughter's future. But I do know this. God does not love her in spite of her gender identity. God did not give her this as something to trip her up or trick her into sinful behavior. God did not put her in the wrong body, or give her the the wrong heart or brain for her body. This is who she has always been, who God created her to be, and like I've heard from so many others in the past few days, "God doesn't make mistakes."

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Our Stories Matter: Meet Rebekah

I shared this on the blog’s Facebook page last week, but I wanted to share in it this space as well. LGBT Pride Month starts in just a few days so it seems fitting enough.

A few weeks ago, I shared the following message on my personal Facebook page. Since then we have been overwhelmed with messages of love and support from our family, friends, church, and community. Many have thanked us for sharing our story and asked for permission to continue to share it. If you've been following my blog for any amount of time, you know how important I think our stories are... our stories of joy, success, struggle, disappointment, and challenge. Our stories matter. So here is one of my family's stories, a story very much rooted in the love, grace, and courage that we both strive for and are saved by daily.
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We’d like to re-introduce you to our firstborn child.

As some of you have no doubt noticed over the years, Ben doesn’t follow society’s expectations when it comes to gender. Ben is gender nonconforming. We learned this term about a year ago, after years of following Ben’s lead with his interests and style. Ben has loved all things pink and sparkly since he was a toddler, and over the years, Ben’s interests and passions continued to be strongly feminine with all of his closest friends being girls. We supported him in choosing friends, activities, and clothing that felt like the best fit for him. We knew Ben didn’t fit the mold that our culture sets for boys, and we supported him in expressing himself authentically.

At the same time, our bright, sensitive, and empathetic child struggled increasingly with anxiety and, eventually, depression. We worked through various medical and therapeutic resources over the years to support him in his anxiety, trying to give him the best tools possible to thrive in the world as someone whose huge heart just feels things too much. Despite our best efforts, the anxiety and depression reached a crisis point this past year. We were all feeling pretty scared and lost.

I am so incredibly thankful to say that we are in a very different place right now. With the support of various professionals, we’ve come to understand that Ben is transgender. While he was identified as a male at birth based on his outward appearance, he feels and knows that he is a girl. Gender is a spectrum, and we know that liking pink or things attributed culturally to girls does not, in and of itself, make you a girl. But in Ben’s case, his gender identity was the missing piece to the puzzle. Despite our support in being any kind of boy he’d like to be, including one that loves all things feminine, Ben knows in his heart that he IS a girl.


Within the last few months, Ben has socially transitioned so that she can live as the girl she knows she is. Together, we’ve chosen the name Rebekah Eleanor. With the transition to Rebekah, we have seen a significant shift in her energy and demeanor. She suddenly seems more comfortable in her own skin, and we are seeing that gorgeous smile of hers more than ever before.


While, Rebekah has always had and always will have our complete support, this has not been easy. Being transgender is not something anyone chooses. It is not something Rebekah has chosen. It is not something we are choosing for her. We are very aware that the road for her will not always be smooth. The suicide and depression rates for the transgender community are nothing short of terrifying, but we know that with love and support from us, our family, and our friends we are giving Rebekah the best possible chance at not being one of those statistics.

What we are asking of our friends and family is that you respect Rebekah’s gender identity as female by using her preferred name and pronouns. Though Rebekah specifically asked us to tell you that she will be gracious if you accidentally call her Ben as you get used to the change, as she knows this is quite an adjustment for everyone. We also encourage you to learn more about what it means to be transgender along with common misconceptions. We are not experts, but we are learning by necessity and are happy to talk about any of this with you. We will include some resources in the comments below. What Rebekah needs is your love and support. She is a bright, beautiful, and brave girl with a huge heart. We have no doubt she will change the world just by being who she is.

All this is posted with Rebekah's permission and with thanks to Maegan Dougherty Photography for the beautiful photos.

Some helpful resources:
http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/transgender-kids
http://www.pbs.org/.../bb/biology-gender-identity-children/
http://www.glaad.org/transgender/trans101
http://www.cnn.com/.../01/us/transgender-questions-leelah/
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/.../post_9402_b_7190458.html
https://www.genderspectrum.org/
transkidspurplerainbow.org

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Operation: Thrive

 

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You guys. These are mine. I own kickboxing gloves. And, I have a survived one kickboxing class and two boot camp classes in the past 5 days. It’s part of a 6 week challenge I’m in thanks to a friend. I wince when I walk down stairs or sit to pee (sorry, but it’s true!). My quads are screaming. Back muscles I haven’t thought about for a long time make their presence known as I pick up the baby. Aside from a few yoga classes and maybe two runs, I haven’t worked out since Oliver was born. Oliver will be 1 in two weeks.

I need this. Not to the lose the baby weight. That’s gone already. Not to fit in my clothes. The intense healing diet mentioned in the aforementioned Facebook post helped with that. I need this to feel like me again, to carve out something that is just for me, to feel live and present in my own body again. Running, too. I miss running. It makes me feel alive. So, this is self care. This is self love.

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It’s taking schedule rearranging and commitment, extra help from my support network (so thankful for them) and some added flexibility on the kids’ parts. But for me, right now, this is what it looks like to be a good mom. The more present I am in my own body, in my own self… the more present I can be with and for my kids.

The same goes with writing. I need to write. It’s part of who I am. It makes me feel alive. It helps me know what I know. So along with getting my butt into that kickboxing gym, I’m getting my butt back in this space. The other day I went to post on instagram about the kickboxing challenge when I decided I needed to make it a blog post, needed to come back to this place.

On Facebook the other day I shared that I will be finding my way back to my blog.

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I’ve been meaning to come and write, but there hasn’t been time… or maybe it’s really space. I haven’t had the space to process and share. My brain is about to explode, because it needs to process and share. I’m getting there.

One kid is at drama class. The other is enjoying some long awaited computer time. The baby is asleep. Here I am. I grabbed a cup of coffee and a few minutes to write. There are a billion other things to do, but I matter. I matter at least as much as they do. Don’t get me wrong. I’ll click post in a minute and get moving. I probably won’t even proofread this, forgive me. I’ll do laundry and dishes. I’ll practice handwriting with one kid, and check the other one’s math all while nursing the baby. I’ll do all the things I do every day that are important to my family and our life. But they can wait until I am finished here because I’m important, too.

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This is me claiming time and space to be me amid the messy and hard of being a mom, wife, home educator, homemaker, personal chef, and a billion other hats we all wear. This is me getting back to my strength, joy, and passion… back in my writing, back in my workouts, back in every part of who I am. My kids need a radiant present mama. Life’s been intense and exhausting for months. We’ve managed in survival mode. I have poured out every ounce of myself for my family in this time. Life’s not changing, and we can’t stay in survival mode forever. It’s time to adjust and move on. Time to fill my bucket so I have more to give. My kids need to see what it looks like to live, to thrive not just survive. This is me and #operationthrive. I’m ready.

I’ll be posting on instagram and facebook with #operationthrive, Join me! Tag you doing things that look like thriving for YOU! Because you matter.

And, I’ll be writing here again soon. If I don’t, message me… email me… bang on my door… whatever it takes.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

If You See Us On Halloween…

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If you see us on Halloween, you might be surprised or maybe you won’t be. In the internet world, or at least my online circle, boys wearing dresses and liking pink aren’t unheard of anymore. Viral stories championing transgender kids make their way through my newsfeed, and friends regularly share posts highlighting gender nonconformity with me. In my home, we don’t think anything of my son in his pink sequined shoes and sparkly rainbow t-shirt  practicing his dance steps in his newly painted purple room. Sometimes I forget that much of the real world isn’t accustomed to this.

If you see us on Halloween, my son will be dressed as a Fairy Princess. He will be wearing a flowing, flowery dress, turquoise leggings, rainbow wings, a flower headpiece, and pink sparkly shoes. He will be flitting about with his butterfly fairy wand pretending to turn his friends into woodland animals or some other enchanted creature. He will be spinning around in circles every few steps because he likes the way the dress twirls when he does. He will be so excited to wear the costume he carefully assembled with my assistance, the costume he has put on regularly in the weeks leading up to Halloween, the costume he wears as he joyfully twirls.

If you see us on Halloween, my son will also be nervous. His stomach will be flip-flopping involuntarily as he assesses each new encounter. His anxiety will be fighting to squelch his joy. He will be bracing himself for the first comment someone makes. He will be terrified someone is going to ask, “why are you wearing a girl costume?” He will be prepared though. He will be ready to answer, “it’s just what I like.” And if someone says something more clearly disapproving, he will be prepared to say “Please don’t say that to me. It’s just what I like.”

You see, we’ve had to rehearse this, because on a daily basis my son walks a fine line between being entirely confident in saying “screw you” to everyone out there who doesn’t approve of his preferences and living in fear of comments. He chooses what he shares and with whom he shares it. We support him in deciding what risks he wants to take, because he knows that by wearing what he likes and being who he is, there is a big risk people won’t understand. He knows that not everyone understands that girls can like boy things and boys can like girl things. He knows that not everyone believes that maybe there should be a whole lot less of boy things versus girl things. He knows that some kids aren’t taught by their parents that colors are just colors for all the world to enjoy and that toys are just toys for all kids regardless of gender. He doesn’t understand why other parents don’t teach that but he knows that some don’t. He also knows that the media and companies selling things don’t teach the world this either.

He has been blessed so far by not knowing how bad bullying can be, but he has been hurt by the comments of friends, teachers, and other sometimes well-meaning adults who have said with teasing disgust, “but that’s for girls!” He knows that when people don’t understand, they can be unsupportive and sometimes mean. He also knows that he has a community of family and friends who love him, no matter what. He knows that it’s okay to like the things he likes, and he knows what he likes. He likes all things pink, purple, and sparkly. He likes to play dress-up whether as a queen riding a pink unicorn or a spooky vampire with a satiny black cape. He likes learning about nature and playing board games. He likes Taylor Swift and dance class. He likes adventuring out into the woods and helping out on the farm down the road. And he really likes his Halloween costume this year.

So if you see us on Halloween, I hope you will consider that my son is just a kid wearing a costume like any other. I hope you will tell your kids that he is just a kid wearing a costume like any other. I hope you will model what it looks like to accept a child’s creativity and interests in a positive way without snark or judgment. After all, as he will tell you, it’s just what he likes.