Änderungen

Yesterday my eldest child had their first shot of testosterone, administered by a long needle with a physician’s expertise. In two weeks we’ll return and I will watch my child learn to do this by themselves.

I am not nearly as nervous about testosterone as I was even a year ago, when I had just started educating myself more seriously about being a parent to a trans child. In some ways those early days were a little dream-like; I have a very close friend who is trans and had cheerfully thought that would be my most intimate experience – and I was grateful to be included in her life, and in her journey. When Beeps came out about thirteen months ago I am sad to say I did not realize just how much this would change our lives. It hasn’t all gone as expected, at all. We’ve had disappointments (unsupportive family with poor behaviors), elation (supportive family with awesome behaviors), a lot of great support (thank Jeebus for the internetz), and a huge learning curve. To this day, as much as I’ve read and studied, I haven’t seen anyone as eloquent, well-educated, and kind as my own child on the topic of gender issues. There’s a career in it for them if they so choose.

This child has been noticeably happier since the week dawned when they’d get their first shot; time will tell, but of course as has been my experience these sixteen years of parenting, it really is okay to trust our children. Watching my child bloom into joy, (more) affection, and a great deal more playfulness, has been both wonderful and a bit sobering. It is so easy, when a child is “well-behaved” intelligent, and (seems to be) doing so well, to ignore things rather than pay them heed. Important things.

I forgot to tell you but I am determined, by the way, on a new New Year resolution: to stop criticizing myself. It might seem entirely silly or perhaps even a vague or even unattainable goal but I absolutely know it’s important, and it’s possible. I have been practicing simply moving away from those thoughts that are repetitive criticism (or even obsessive criticism), simply stopping them. This is, I am surprised to find, entirely possible to do. Not that many years ago, I couldn’t have succeeded, and sadly I doubt I would have had an awareness of how self-critical I was. I am finding compassion to be as much a daily, nuanced, complex and fruitful practice as my daily yoga. This gives me a tremendous sense of optimism and gladness – joy, even.

Ralph and Beeps are in their last quarter of German together; “Du hast Hausaufgaben?” my husband asks our child, from the hallway through bathroom door. For their part, Phoenix has been tutoring me a bit. Today while they swept the kitchen floor they sat me down and lectured me on numbers, and how to count according to the German language. I laughed and repeated the word for “fifty-five” several times and Phoenix praised my pronunciation and my handle on their numeric system, although I felt I barely had a grasp on it all.

Also: happy vegan anniversary to me (yesterday)! 

A wonderful, rich life, if the rain still pisses down and all that. Hell, it’s January. We got a ways to go.

Phoenix

stained-glass

Phoenix's 1st Dance
I had my nostril pierced yesterday. I hadn’t had a stud in my nose since age nineteen – almost twenty years.

My intense fear of needles kept me away. And yet, last night – while shopping for my daughter’s ear-piercing – I knew it was time. And while the rest of my family went to find a shop that would accommodate our thirteen year old child, I stepped into the back of another shop, sat on a clinical-looking table, and waited, my mind and body going into that fear-space. Resting as calmly as I could.

The needle drives in and I breathe out slowly. When the shock and adrenaline pass I say: “I put this off a long time.”

“Everything happens for a reason,” the piercer tells me now, in a mild tone, as she’s setting the jewelry – a stud so small that my husband and mother fail to notice it when they see me next. She is a small, gnome like woman with sleepy eyes and full cheeks – beautiful, placid, and to my way of thinking – incredible. I know I would have a very hard time driving a needle into someone else’s body.

And now, her simple words – “everything happens for a reason” – maybe said offhand even, somehow strike me as profound.

Our family has had so many changes these last few weeks. Life is not happening too fast, precisely, but life is definitely carrying me along the current. I am not steering – I am guiding our little vessel as best I can. The wind chaps my cheeks and I am not always sure what’s around the bend. I’m finding a beauty in every little thing. A fierce, out-of-breath wave of feeling in my breast.

My little silver stud installed, I step into the night street and travel a few doors down and wait for my daughter. This tattoo parlor is a little dirtier; a large television plays a reality television show. I wait for my daughter, only feeling a slight pang of envy that my husband gets to attend her as her earrings are set.

And my daughter – well.

She is ethereal, amazing. She is my very heart.

Tonight she attended her first dance. I spent all the time and all the money I could. I wanted to do it right. She will never not-remember her evening.

Phoenix's 1st Dance

gun powder shakes

My new part-time work involves clerical duties and data validation for a local official concern. It is important work, which makes it rather meaningful. It is also skilled labor, although the pay scale is low, which keeps me humble. And grateful. It’s very much “civic/citizen” work, and very soothing. Working it fulltime would absolutely wreck me, but that’s not what I’m doing, so I’m okay.

It is nice to have time on that is not really my own, bits of my life I have slotted away for someone else – no more nor less than a certain precise amount. Today, for lunch, I walked down a sunlit hill to find a good cup of coffee at the quaint little shop on the corner of our county seat’s modest thoroughfare. I’m so used to my little patch of the world I sometimes forget how lovely it really is – and how remote it would seem to those who live in urban areas. Lifting my eyes off the modest street, I see green, forested hills snugging us in. A blue sky booming with cumulus clouds almost too majestic to seem real. The air has an autumn chill but the sun is still cheerfully hot, and warms my cheap work-casual wardrobe.

The coffee shop fellow is friendly and asks, “What’s on the agenda for today?” I am so unused to being asked this by strangers, it takes me a moment to grind into the routine of friendly chit-chat. I tell him: “After work, I’m taking care of the family. Then yoga and a date with friends.” He tells me he’s off to work on the brakes of his car. Truth is, most times, I’d rather hear about someone else’s plans than talk about my own. But even so I’m thinking – I’m terrible at this, at asking people about their day. Maybe I’ve got some learning to do, about connecting to people in a real way.

At the end of workday I file the last bit of bureaucratic ephemera, check the desk for tidiness, log off the computer – then swing my bag across my shoulder and bid adieu to my new officemates. Home and my car has a “CHECK ENGINE” light on. Radiator, still cracked. Brake linings need to be seen to. At week’s end I will owe a phenomenal amount of tuition for my daughter’s new educational ventures.

It’s a damn good thing I know better than to worry – about anything.

Because right now, I have to get home. Feed my family. Ask my kids about the first part of their day. Try to rest.

It’s been a busy few weeks.

put your hands on the wheel / let the golden age begin

Our lifestyle has changed, and abruptly. Shuddered and jerked into a grinding openness – a carnival ride taking us – where? It is easy to feel unmoored – but writing, and caring for the children, and sewing, has anchored me through larger upheavals and, I trust, will carry me through this.

It’s not just that the new home is a lot nicer than the old. Although this change itself is a little odd as it wasn’t entirely planned. In fact it is dawning on my husband and I each day how much an improvement this home is over our previous rentals. The kids, I think, somehow saw this right away – no one is more thrilled than our eleven year old son, who has given many tours and is so very proud of his new homestead.

I am still getting used to: having a large workspace for my sewing room, that includes a utility sink, its own bathroom, and a washer and dryer. I am still getting used to: having a dishwasher, a garage door with automatic opener, air conditioning, and a sink disposal unit. (I was terrified of two of those – I’ll let you guess which ones!). I am still getting used to: having a separate dining area that isn’t doubling for something else.  I am still getting used to: rooms with a lot of natural light. Even as we put together our situation – our living room is not yet finished, curtains need to be hung throughout the main level, and my kitchen lacks a table – it is clear this home will suit very well.

It is also completely odd to be thrown into a dwelling we can immediately make improvements to – without asking a landlord, or worrying if they’ll say Yes or No, or wondering if they’ll care for the home we live in. We get to care for our home! It is completely strange to live in rooms without a bunch of chipped cheap paint and wonky floor. It is strange to watch my husband – who has always been such a hard worker – complete projects one right after the other, the only limitation being the funds I allocate and whether or not I will cook dinner and care for children while he works.

If this weren’t change enough, I am discovering the pace of unschooling life, now that both kids are eschewing the school life. Today we traveled out of town for furnishings and lunch. We sang aloud, tried new foods together, and shopped for a few extras for the kids. We are sleeping better, eating well, and enjoying our rhythm together. It is a vast improvement over the schedule of last year.

And – I start a job on Monday. A job! This job was phoned TO me, delivered on my doorstep as it were. It has been over a dozen years since I’ve worked for someone besides the family, or myself.

A lot of changes. I don’t at all feel over-excited. But – it is a lot. I have to take it one day, one bit of work, at a time.

changes

Tonight, to ground myself, I head to a Recovery meeting. A break from packing: dismantling my home, my workspace – my refuge. Cleaning out cabinets. Finding new homes for posessions that need to move on. Potting.

The meeting has only a handful of people: about seven in all. Incredibly, I am the “old timer” in the group – with almost five years’ clean and sober, I have seen everyone here come. Some have gone back out, then returned.

And then there are those that left, that I will never see again. There are these little patches of paint, little wall tributes in the hall I’m sitting in. As I rest, my eyes wander over names… five names. Four of them, friends who died in this last year. This sinks in – again. Just sitting there for a bit and not being needed – phone off, family on errands, as the words of the meeting chair wash over me – my heart hurts. It’s incredible I can lose so many dear friends and still be okay. I miss them so. I’m not the same without them.

The sun is washing the newly-painted walls in a beatific light. The woman chairing the meeting seems down, disgruntled. I feel at peace. Moving isn’t easy, and even with my practice of patience, my Buddhism, I am weary of this latest journey. I want a substantial meal. I want a hot bath. I want a day to myself.

It’s enough, today, to know I need these things. They will come. A little longer, meanwhile feeling a great deal of gratitude for the change we’re able to make.

Night Walk

waiting for a gift from the sea

My son tells me, upon waking, he thinks he may have developed a case of mycelia. “It’s a state, often observed in ants or other insects, where a fungus uproots the function of the brain.” He is very serious, very sedate as he shares this horrific thought with me – before breakfast, even. Then, he adds thoughtfully: “It’s either that or a highly emotional fever.”

(JEEBUS!)

I am amazed I can get up to a body of work – both professionally, artistically – with the kids in the house. Yesterday while I tried to sew I couldn’t get five minutes without an interruption; on days their friends visit it can be even worse. Feeding extra kids is Extra. I don’t mind, but I also have to give myself credit for how much I do get done.

“Do you work from home?” a child asked me today. I got to tell her. Maybe she will stay less ignorant than so many Grown-Ups.

But today, “working from home” took us on the road, as it often does. We spent the better part of the sunshine on a little highway and back again: delivering a child to a counseling session. It was hot out, and my car – clocking over 200,000 miles – has a busted A/C long since fallow. The windows down, and the air roaring through, it’s good enough. Tying my hair up into a couple buns and wrapping with a headscarf and still by the end of the day I feel wilted. Hot shower and into pajamas a little early, methinks.

The children and I enjoy a late-night walk with the dog, most nights. And every time we do at least one of our cats – and sometimes up to four of them! – follow us. Our little tuxedo Herbert Pocket races alongside, flashes of her white grabbers at the end of sleek black legs. She waits in a dusty lane for us, and I know coyotes or even a mountain lion could meet her there – it’s remote enough. Life is scary!

We’ve always had the highest quality air here, but this summer has had some wonderful, beachy breezes. I’m aware as we walk that we are approaching the end of our turn in this neighborhood: off to a new house, a new adventure soon. I make my preparations: sewing a quilt, selling bits of furniture, putting together a wishlist, going through our clothing:

Working From Home.

Night Walk

NYE

another chance for us to get it right!

NYE

New Years Eve on the West Coast! Tonight – like last year and years before – I honored my commitment to help provide a safe place for those seeking a clean and sober environs. We had a small gathering but it was not made any less cheerful for being an intimate crowd. A counter served up a bounty of holiday fare – fruit, and party mix, and fresh pizza, and hot coffee; candles flickered companionably in a darkened room. I got home at 11:30 and now – well – we’re moments until the New Year. 

I’ve seen a lot of people online complaining about how horrid 2014 was – and “good riddance!” I think it is hard for many of us to be satisfied. We try to live in the past, or the future. Being in the moment and accepting what it brings can be difficult.

For me, 2014 happened fast! I guess according to some standards, it was a “bad” year. I had my first year without any living grandparents, I lost three beloved friends to death, an ex-beau committed suicide, I was ill several times with kidney problems, and I received a pre-cancerous report on a biopsy.

That said, it was a wonderful year and there were many blessings. My pain over family hardships loosened, and lessened. I stayed sober – and deepened my Buddhist and yoga practices.

Most importantly: I was able to walk this earth and breathe; which means I was able to learn and grow. And for this, I am very grateful.

Wishing you a wonderful New Year… may you learn to love yourself dearly and completely.

This last day of 2014 I was up for the sunrise – and got to see the last sunset alongside a dear friend, and with my children:

NYE

a greater compliment than being loved

Rats!

My daughter has decided she’d like to go to school this year. I am totally cool with this, although several home educators and home/unschoolers I know have expressed their worry, and/or their thoughts I might be worried.

I ain’t worried, because I trust my daughter. Trust meaning two things; A. We literally allow her make her own choices (this is known as the action of trust, not the mere lip-service to it), and B. we have the lived experience of knowing she makes choices that really work for her. In fact her choices are often braver, or smarter, or more interesting than the ones I think up for her. She and I have had several talks about the whole business and I am impressed with her acumen and her matter-of-fact courage. Another thing I know: any school, or classroom, is lucky to have her!

My kids are what I’ve heard referred to as “spiritually fit”. By the time I was their age, I wasn’t. They are humbling and beautiful influences in my life.

So yeah, I’ve often wondered what my kids would think of school, should they choose to enroll. I am looking forward to her thoughts. This is an adventure for me as I find myself wondering if she’ll stick to it or think of it as a huge time-suck drag and quit within a few days or weeks. I don’t have to worry about any of it, though (see: preceding paragraph). My job is not to mold her opinions or live her life, but to support her in what she chooses to do.

We are short on finances and I am considering a little fund-drive on this blog so Phoenix can have school clothes. She tells me she’s ready to have more storebought clothes (as opposed to homemade), because, and I quote: “I’m getting that age, mom.” She kills me! I love her. But, we’ll see. I am still navigating under what circumstances I should make an “official” call-out on this blog for funds… So many readers have helped us in the past. Yet, I do not want to strain what is often called “social capital”, either.

Because Yes, I have a strong desire for my daughter to have a start on the wardrobe she’d like to explore (not to mention the backpack and lunch box she wants, et cetera) and her pencils and notebooks and such – to have this lovely little experience going to school. But my mind often falls upon a fair number of things that cost money and could benefit our family, such as not eating squash three times a week, and getting my car out of the shop, stuff like that. Prioritizing these desires isn’t an exact science – I need prayer and meditation, and to take what comes on a daily basis (the good and the bad), and to give things a little thought, and see what the Universe opens up.

It is truly a blessing to minister to and care for children who are so open, loving, and grateful for their lives and for the conditions in their lives. Their graciousness about their requests makes it easier for Ralph and I to make good choices. It’s a good life and the investments we’ve put into our family have paid off.

Still. School! Who would have thought?