Ringing The Bell. Part 6

The best gift I received when I was diagnosed was from a fellow survivor and ironically the one who wisely pointed me towards a breast center. Anticancer: A New Way Of Life by David Servan Schreiber, MD, PhD gave me hope and a feeling of control.

 This is now my go-to, “welcome to the crappy cancer club” gift. I hate to give it. 

The night before my lumpectomy my husband and I stayed at a hotel in Fells Point. I had drastically altered my diet to cut out sugar and increased leafy greens. That night we ate buffalo wings and bar food. We sat, shell-shocked and talked about how overwhelmed we were with the outpouring of support we had received. How that felt like a selfish space. We were grateful, but were so overwhelmed by the people coming out of the woodwork. It was uncomfortable. We are not public people and somehow the acknowledgment of cancer made it real. No one really likes to be on the receiving end of things like this because often it means something is wrong. That you are the one in crisis. That things are not normal. Don’t get me wrong, support is necessary and important and wonderful. But it can be a little humbling as well.

On January 10th, my husband drove me to Johns Hopkins for my lumpectomy. That morning, I underwent another ultrasound of my lymph nodes to make sure they didn’t see any spread, inserted the wire guide into my breast and put me under. When I awoke my father and husband were flanking me. It is over. Dr. Euhus came to visit me and explained that the procedure went very well. They removed the mass and were able to get clean margins. We went home but the process was not over.

I have a month to heal before starting weeks of radiation. My mom would be moving into our home to take care of our kids, so I could drive up each day. The most difficult part of this whole ordeal was upon us. More so than me actually having cancer was the reality of what this meant for our kids. How would they take it? This is what cuts young mothers with cancer to the quick. Will my children be okay?

That is not to say other cancer patients don’t have the same concerns. I am specifically speaking as a mother of young children; will they know me? Will they be okay? How will this impact them? Will they feel abandoned? I remember sitting with my dear friend, Lindsay, who had kids in the same preschool program that mine attended. We were diagnosed at the same time. “I’m just so sad for them,” she said. And I knew just how she felt. 

Prior to proceeding with my treatment,  I would need to have laser tattoos and a mold of my chest created. I had a treatment planning session three weeks after surgery where they explained that the side effects would be being tired, as well as skin and breast reaction. I asked a million questions. How old was their equipment? What other treatment methodologies are available? Why is their equipment superior to others? Again, interviewing them rather than being told what to do. 

Radiation day one was on March 4, 2014. I would undergo 30 treatments of whole breast radiation including three bolus doses to the surgical site. This is all happening in Baltimore. My parents didn’t want me driving our old minivan lovingly named “Moby” who had over 100,000 miles on it. The trek, two hours each way, would be long. They insisted I drive their newer cars and I listened to books on tape while driving. Bossypants by Tina Fey was one of my very favorites. I relished listening to her in her own voice. Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg helps me with perspective. David Sedaris’s Me Talk Pretty One Day is brilliant and funny. Up and down the road, sometimes with a friend, always with a green smoothie. The days are long and as we march forward, I become increasingly tired until finally it is done. 

April 4, 2014, I get to ring the bell! My children and mom come with me to the appointment. I receive my treatment. My children come into the room where the kind staff turns on the lasers so the kids could see what mommy is doing. In the end, we place our hands on the rope and take photos and videos. We went to Build-A-Bear with the kids to celebrate. To conclude, I am done with that leg of my journey.

Checking out the lasers
The kids, my mom and I all rang the bell together
Post-cancer celebration

Looking Back, Post 5

I wrote my cancer series when I first decided to start my blog. To clarify, I am not a writer who takes an assignment and writes. My words come from my gut. They are visceral. One Sunday I pulled out my cancer binder and began flipping through pages. Reading lab results, mammogram reports and copious notes. Subsequently, this cancer series was born.

Meanwhile, going back through the pieces and looking through photos of that time, I am struck. During the whole ordeal, I just kept going. Having three small babies means I had no time for cancer. I continued to coach soccer for my youngest, co-chaired Purse Bingo for our kid’s private school. I attended Mother’s Day celebrations at pre-school, fed my family and registered for activities. Valentines were made and chore charts kept up with age-appropriate activities. Am I tooting my own horn? No. I am actually disappointed in myself.

I am sad for that version of me who didn’t get off the wheel and didn’t rest. Unfortunately, I can’t report that I am a better version of myself today. Ultimately, I still have a hard time saying no. Most recently I volunteered to be the score taker at my son’s high school soccer games. My husband just shakes his head and says, “really?”

My editor worries I will burn out. I wrestle with being a person who just cannot stop. I literally don’t know what to do with myself when I have nothing to do. Which is never. So it isn’t a problem. However, there are moments or times in our lives that it should be okay to release the wheel and let others take over. Is it a control issue? Do I feel like I am the only person who can do it “right?” I don’t know. 

But I recommit to continue writing and noticing things in my life. So here is my challenge for you: go into your saved photos, either on your phone or computer. Think of a really hard time in your life and scroll through your visual story. Ask yourself, did you take care of you? I hope your answer is different than mine.

Driving to radiation
Advertising for Purse Bingo

The Interview, Part 4

The date of my mammogram was November 5th.  The day of my biopsy was November 12th.  In short, it was an agonizing wait. We did not tell the kids because we obviously hoped it was negative. To be honest, I can’t even remember telling my parents, or when I told them. It had to have been awful. On November 20th, Dr. Khouri called my cell phone. I was standing at my bathroom sink. His soft, kind voice started. I am sorry, Ms. Moore. You have breast cancer.

So you’re asking yourself, how did we go from triathlons and left breast pain to this shit show? Likewise, I ask myself that very same question. How the heck did my life turn into this? For instance, one minute I’m running babies to Mother’s Morning Out, Pre-k and Kindergarten, getting groceries in my two-hours of freedom, the next I am sidelined with this. Head spinning, I am ordered to have an MRI, which leads to more biopsies and ultimately, I start interviewing surgeons.

Here is where I will offer some advice. You absolutely must interview surgeons. Do not just go to the person that is close to you and call it a day. I live in a rural area outside of a major metropolitan area. I went to my local person thinking that would be a good fit. After all, they drive in from the big city, so I could receive big-city care while staying close to home and continue taking care of my kids. Win-win. Minimal interruption for my kids because a mom’s job is never done and excellent care for me. This is just a stumbling block (ha).

My dear friend and cancer survivor gives me advice: go to a breast center. Do not manage your own care. Go to a center where the surgeon, radiation oncologist, oncologist are all on the same team. They are reviewing your case in concert and are all communicating. Of course, I had to chart my own path so away I went to the surgeon closest to home.

My husband and I go into his office and sit across the desk from him. A man in his late forties (I’m terrible with age) sits across the desk. He explained his approach to my situation.  He was dry and to the point then asked if we had any questions. That was it. Leaving the office my husband (also a doctor) told me that man would not be touching me. I was starting to think that perhaps my friend was right.

After that, our next stop was at Johns Hopkins Breast Center. But before we get to that, I need to take a moment to discuss privilege. We have the privilege to have the means and the access to the best healthcare options. It is my privilege to have access to a provider who listens to me and is willing to order testing early. I am empowered to seek medical care when something isn’t right. I experience positive appointments without barriers. And now, I have the means and ability to drive myself over two hours to one of the premier research hospitals in the United States. In sum, I wish we all had such access.

When I met my doctor, he impresses me. Above all, he wants to know me. He asks about my kids and how I am doing. I ask about his kids and get to know him as well. He does an exam. He talks to me and my husband about my results and about our options.

Above all, we have options. Radical mastectomy or lumpectomy with radiation. We need more testing before we made any decisions and nothing needs to happen fast. Really dude, did you hear I have CANCER? In addition, Christmas is fast approaching. He wants me to soak in my babies who were now 3, 5 and 6 years old. The plan is to finish up the testing and to make the best clinical decision based on that information. I make my decision. I hire Dr. Euhus. He passed the interview. I would not do what was easy, I would do what was in my best interest.

The Answer No One Wants. Part 3

I’m in trouble. It’s all I could say. I didn’t know how much trouble, but I knew by the way they were acting that this was not good. He was working and couldn’t leave. I really couldn’t have a conversation, so now he was just as anxious as I was. Texting my mother was out of the question because this would level her. I needed to just pull myself together and walk through this. So, into the ultrasound room I went.

The radiologist, a woman, was so kind. She explained what she saw and shared that the mammograms were going to be read by a second radiologist. The next step was for biopsies to begin and how many would be determined by the final mammography and ultrasound reading. They would be in touch soon to schedule the next appointments. 

Results: Bi-Rad 

Assessment: 4 Suspicious Abnormality. 

Down the rabbit hole I fell.

I don’t think I am going to shock you by letting you know now that I have cancer. I am definitely going to go into gory detail, but I decided to share this now because the next part of my story is definitely the most agonizing for all people who are awaiting results. Do they have cancer or not? This does not apply only for breast cancer. To those who have not fallen down the rabbit hole, it would appear that this is an emergent time and that things should happen quickly. Note these two things:

  1. Time cannot move fast enough for the patient or the family.
  1. It is not an emergency to the doctors and staff who see these things everyday. They do care, they just need to manage their processes and appointments and you need to fit into those. This means that it is unlikely that you will be seen tomorrow. And you will be mad and offended that your fear is not their emergency. It is something that one must unfortunately come to terms with.

So before BRACA testing and oncotypeDX scores, I started with a stereotactic biopsy. My Radiologist, Dr. Khouri, was incredibly kind. This is a very strange procedure and one of many I would become accustomed to. Lying on my belly, I had to stick my breast through a hole in the table. In this case, they raise me into the air and Dr. Khouri is under me. He made the incision, did what he needed to do, and all the while spoke so gently to me, like a friend or father.

His kindness put me at ease. He put me back together with steri strips and gave me an ice pack. He gave me a pamphlet explaining that the tissue was going to be analyzed by three pathologists in a blind review. It would take time to get the results, but he would be the one to give me a call as soon as he knew. With a smile and pat on the shoulder, he sent me on my way. Little did I know our next conversation would be life changing.

I’m In Trouble. Part 2

Do you know how long it takes to get a mammogram when you are worried about something? Do these people understand that they should have special spots for mothers with young children who are freaking out and positive that Mr. Google has told them they are dying? What do you mean three weeks? With nothing left to do, I waited. I sat anxiously and convinced myself that all the anxiety I had to date was actually me, once again, just spinning nothing up into something. 

Finally the day came. I am going to get some answers and although I worry, deep down I hear Ruby’s words of encouragement and felt some peace. They took me back. Time for my first mammogram. Bra off, gown on, wipe your pits, no jewelry, no perfume, smash boob, don’t breathe, smash again, let me feel you up, don’t breathe. Okay sit.

And sit I did. I wait. And wait.

They called me back in again. We need to get a few more views. I am fine with this because it seems normal. I have not had a mammogram before.  No problem. Not knowing to ask questions or even what the questions would be, I just did what she asked. Smash, smash, feel, feel, don’t breathe, sit.

Sit. Wait. Sit. Starting to feel a little funny.

They called me back again. Okay, just one more set of shots and then we are going to take you in for an Ultrasound. Um, hold the phone there, hoss. What are you talking about? Why are we taking more photos? The technician explained that they found something called microcalcifications in my right breast. She explains that microcalcifications are found in most breast tissue and that they can be caused from trauma like a car accident, or can be caused by aging. They aren’t really a concern unless they are clustered together. Of course, mine are clustered together. So that meant there was a concern? I guess so.

With adrenaline pumping, I tried not to freak out as she took those additional shots. My quick mammogram appointment had, at this point, turned into a three-hour appointment and it wasn’t even over. I head for an ultrasound next. After that, I asked if I could text my husband.

Chris: I’m in trouble.

The most precious gift I received, a handmade book of quotes from my friend. I still keep it in my bedside table.

You Can’t Run From Cancer, Part 1

I remember it like it was yesterday, although it is a time in my life I try to forget. But do I want to forget it? Afterall, my children were still babies. Who really wants to forget that precious time in their lives?

At first it was a dull pain. It was periodic and barely noticeable. It started in August and I was distracted with chasing around three small children who were just 2, 4 and 6 years old at the time. I found myself fighting for “me time” and struggling to get my pre-baby body back, so I trained for a triathlon. This was no small feat, it was a commitment. It involved biking on the weekends, running during the days, and swimming after bedtime. By the time the pain rolled around, I was combining all three of those things (called a brick in triathlon lingo) in anticipation of my October 5, 2013 event.

As the leaves turned and school began, training became intense. Unfortunately, so did the pain. It was a stabbing in my left breast that was not constant, still periodic, but insisting on its presence. The hot stab would come out of nowhere and by the end of September would wake me from slumber. I surmised that it was part of training for the triathlon because, everything hurt at this point. I was nearing the finish line of training and ready for the event and nothing could stop me now.

The Osprey Sprint Triathlon is held on the Eastern shore of the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. The open-water swim is protected in the beautiful waters of the Chincoteague Bay and is near my family home. The morning of the tri, I downed my beet juice while it was still dark, loaded my gear in my car, and headed to the race. I did not sleep much the night before, not because of nerves, but because of the return of the stabbing hot knife pain. I was going to have to stop training after this and go to the doctor if it did not subside.

So there I was on the day of the big triathlon. I didn’t die, which was actually my main goal. I was never under the misconception that I was actually a competitor. My goal was to finish, and I did. Interesting fact about me-I hate running. Why do they have to put that last? I know, they don’t want you to drown in the water so swimming is a good first. But really, we have to finish with my hardest of the three? Although I finished, I’m pretty sure the guy was collecting the orange cones as I trotted my way into the finish line. But damn it, I did it!!!

In the coming weeks, I really dialed it down. I ran in one of the night glow runs with friends, but not much more than that. At the end of October, I went to visit my OBGYN because that pain had not decreased. It was still screaming at me, a silent but painful reminder that maybe something wasn’t quite right.

My OBGYN, Ruby, and I had walked a very long journey of many miles together prior to this step. Infertility is a long road and one that I, like many others, had to walk. I did so with Ruby by my side because all three children at that time were conceived with assistance. She held my hand through emergency surgeries and told me everything was going to be okay. So, here we were again. What in the world now?

Her words, “I don’t feel anything, you are a healthy 37-year-old with no family history, you just finished your first triathlon, you do not smoke or drink to excess. I have no reason to believe this is anything other than a fantastic opportunity to get a baseline mammogram before you are 40. But Jan, get the 3D when they offer it, I want you to be sure to get the 3D mammogram not the regular.” With that I left her office and scheduled the appointment. Hormones. It was hormones to blame. Or was it?

Learning Differences, A Teacher’s Perspective

Hi readers! Today I am sharing the pen with someone who has first-hand experience working with students who have dyslexia. She has shared with me numerous times about how these students have changed the way she looks at learning differences, so I asked her to share a bit of her story with you as well. 

Hello, sweet readers! I am so honored to be invited to share a little bit of my story with you all today. 

I am a seasoned educator with over 18 years of experience both in the classroom and in school leadership. Some of my educational roles include new teacher mentor, curriculum developer, professional development specialist, and most importantly, a teacher. I have spent many years honing my craft and have been known to say that I have seen it all when it comes to education. I consider myself an expert. Well, this past year I realized that even self-proclaimed experts have something to learn-especially when it comes to how children think and process information. 

Last year, my dear friend came to me with a problem. The independent school where she works was in need of additional support in their program. Covid had reared its ugly head and like all schools, hers was desperately searching for more professionals to support the online, in person, and hybrid learners. I can’t say no to a student in need, so I agreed to teach 3 English classes to students with dyslexia. 

Today I want to spend some time talking about some things I learned during my time with these amazing students. 

  1. People with dyslexia are usually more creative and have a higher level of intelligence. These amazing kiddos are fascinating. Both of my students are talented and gifted artists that absolutely communicate big ideas through their art. They taught me to look for that, and it has made me a better communicator. 
  2. Dyslexia is way bigger than letter reversal, although sometimes writing can be a stumbling block for these learners. They taught me that writing is never a one size fits all skill and that sometimes less really is more. 
  3. Because these friends often think or process things differently, it can be hard to maintain friendships. But, my goodness are they fiercely loyal once they connect with you. They taught me how important it is to really take time to walk a mile in someone’s shoes. Their academic lives are far from easy, but they persevere with grit and determination. 
  4. Sometimes it is essential for students with dyslexia to have different ways to show understanding. They taught me that sometimes it is important to think outside the box when assessing students. 
  5. Teachers can absolutely learn from their students. I left last year a better, more empathetic, and well-rounded educator simply because I had the privilege of working with students with dyslexia. 

In summary, I learned that dyslexia is intricate and different from person to person. I learned that although learning differences can have commonalities, it is important to understand that it may challenge students in different ways. 

Thank you Jan for inviting me to share with your readers. I appreciate all of the work you do raise awareness and support for those with learning differences.

The Grief Narrative and Our Transgender Children

Nearly six years deep into our transgender journey, I still struggle to understand the grieving process many parents describe. It is a pervasive narrative for parents of newly transitioned children, no matter the age of transition. Commonly, parents describe a feeling of loss over the gender of the child, a name, or for future events. 

Today at work I comforted the father of a patient after the sudden, tragic loss of his 37-year-old wife. She was the mother of three boys, 18, 13 and just 5 years old. While the 13-year-old was being seen by my husband, I asked the father to step outside with me to talk. 

As he wept, he reiterated several concepts repeatedly.

  • He thought he had more time.
  • He would give anything to be with her for just a few more moments.
  • He does not know how he will get through this.
  • He had to go to the doctor because he felt like someone was standing on his chest. After being thoroughly examined it was determined that he is healthy, nothing wrong. His heart is simply broken.

I hugged the man as grief washed over him. Mostly listening, I gave him space to speak the words on his heart to a stranger. His wife had always been the one to cross our threshold for monthly appointments. As his son emerged from his appointment, I expressed my condolence. They got in the car and went home to walk through the unimaginable. This, my friends, is grief. 

Some parents in the transgender community will take issue with this post. Asserting their right to grieve the loss of what “should have been.” I understand that grief takes many forms, but it is the way we handle it that is important here. Many things in life do not turn out the way we plan. Be it a cancer diagnosis in our 30s, infertility, not making the team, or having a child with learning differences, to name a few. As adults, we know we need to pick ourselves up, process and reframe our expectations. When we place the burden of the changed direction upon our children, when they become our support and sounding board, we are failing as parents.

“Grief as a reaction to transition is transphobic; it reduces a person’s very being to their gender, and reveals that a loved one cares more about a phantom image than for the trans person they supposedly love, who is right in front of them.”~ Talusan, M. New York Times, Oct. 20, 2019.

Transgender adults should not have to teach parents of transgender children to model resilience. Nor should they have to listen to the grief narrative. When I enter into Facebook forums or Clubhouse rooms, I find a consistent drumbeat from parents who are sad about the name change or that their child will not have children. I challenge parents of transgender children to reframe the narrative.

You are part of a special group that 79% of families don’t have access to. How lucky are we that we are granted access to the most private, core part of their being- their identity? Let that sit for a moment. The HRC’s Youth Behavioral Risk Survey shows that only 21% of lgbtq teens have shared their identity with their family and a mere 6% disclose to grandparents. ~HRC 2018 LGBTQ Youth Report. The same survey shows that:

 Trans youth are over two times more likely to be taunted or mocked by family for their LGBTQ identity than cisgender LGBQ youth.

Resilience. When my children were very young, I went on a book binge reading how to instill this mythical concept in my kids. This was the before. Before cancer, before transgender, before learning differences. Resilience is simply being able to get back up after life beats you down. Knowing that it can be difficult, but it will get better. Our children, being able to express their identity and absorb all that life throws at them- that’s some wicked resilience. We should be modeling the same by being that soft place to land, to lean into the headwinds, we are leading by example. Grieve privately, away from your child and become their cheerleader.

But wait, you say. I should be able to grieve the loss of the wedding, the name I spent so much time picking out, or the fact that I will not have grandchildren. I hear you. Talk to your spouse or best friend about this, but never your child. Put the pictures away, pack up the Christmas bulbs and go all-in affirming your precious gift, your child. The person you brought into this world is the same person sitting before you, only better. Because they feel comfortable in their own skin. I know it is a scary world and people are transphobic. Do not put your child in the position of living in a transphobic, unaffirming home. It is a recipe for unending grief. 

42% of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, including more than half of transgender and nonbinary youth.~ The Trevor Project, National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health 2021.

Being the parent of a transgender child is special. The authenticity that my daughter has shown me, from the very youngest years, is admirable. She is quietly, unapologetically, steadfast in her identity. I want to be her when I grow up.

Equality and Non discrimination Statements

Most companies and organizations have one important thing in common. If you visit their websites or look at a job posting, you will likely find the equality and nondiscrimination statement. Most of us just gloss over it. After all, it is just legal jargon and really doesn’t mean anything, right? 

Today, we are digging a little deeper and looking at what that means. Let’s look specifically at educators. The gist of a non-discrimination statement is that it is a guarantee that human rights are given no matter the sexual orientation, race, color, language, disability, etc. Can we chat for a minute about what that “should” mean for transgender children in schools?

  1. Educational institutions adhere to Title IV. If you reach out to your school about your child’s gender identity they might give you a copy of this document. It is good to review this document prior to meeting with or approaching the school.
  2. Educators will respect and use the preferred pronoun for transgender children. In fact, welcoming schools will lead with pronouns on emails, badges, and in the classroom to normalize respecting pronouns and model affirming behavior. In my son’s high school English class, his teacher gave out a questionnaire on the first day of class asking several questions. Specifically, they asked for preferred pronouns. My son came home so excited to see an affirming teacher.
  3. There will be alternate ways to line up students for games, activities, field trips, or concerts. Meaning: no more exclusive girl or boy lines. 
  4. Speaking of concerts: educators should do away with “girls in skirts and boys in slacks” for band and chorus. It is fine to have clothing choices as long as children get to dress in the clothing they feel comfortable in.
  5. Gender diverse children will be able to use the bathroom of their affirmed gender. Even better: single stall, gender neutral bathrooms. This means that the person has a private bathroom so people cannot peek under to out a person. Above all, bathrooms are frequently a source of fear and harm for transgender people. Privacy and protection should be on the minds of educators who are in charge.
  6. Transgender children should be able to play on the sports team of their affirmed gender. 
  7. Health education: dividing students according to the binary stigmatizes sex, puberty, and relationships. In addition, children who are not hetero, cis-normative can feel uncomfortable or even fearful of being outed in traditional health education. An incredible resource for inclusive health and puberty education was created by Gender Spectrum. Find their Principles of Gender-Inclusive Puberty and Health Education here.
  8. Children will be able to access literature, history and information that reflects their lived experience. 
  9. Historically, virtual classrooms have been incredibly problematic for transgender children. Ensuring that children are not dead-named or misgendered by electronic systems is imperative for metal health and safety.
  10. The Human Rights Campaign has created a Welcoming School program. To sign up for their newsletter or read more about how your child’s school can be welcoming please visit their website. 

In conclusion, look closely at your employer’s non-discrimination statement. Moreover, think about what that really means for you as an employee of that company. Do your everyday actions align with those statements? Are there areas where you could improve? For, what to you might be some legal jargon at the end of a website, is actually a life-saving statement for a transgender child.

Dear Jan

Hi friends! Today I am going to introduce a new feature on the blog called “Dear Jan.” This blog was born out of the need to build a positive space for marginalized communities and to educate those who support these precious people. In order to best support and educate, I am going to be taking time each month to answer some reader questions. 

Dear Jan,

Like many parents, the new school year is a time I look forward to. A time for fresh starts and new adventures. On the other hand, as a parent of a transgender child, this is also a time of heightened anxiety and worry. The protective bubble of summertime is about to burst and I am simply overcome with concern. Any advice on how to handle the back-to-school blues?

Dear Reader,

I sat in a parent meeting about this very subject two weeks ago. It was a small group of five parents. Kids entering different grades but all with the same concern. How are we going to do this?

The most important suggestion I can make is to identify a safe adult at your child’s school. In my experience it is vital. When my newly transitioned first grade daughter was in the first grade, the school administration brought me in for a 504 meeting. They slid Title IV across the wooden table and asked if I had questions (note: this was before DeVos destroyed Title IV). In any case, I asked that her teachers use appropriate pronouns and think about how students are divided up. That dividing by girls/boys is problematic at best, harmful to non-binary kids in reality. I gave many suggestions, counting off, favorite color or pet. They agreed and moved on to bathroom usage. They deemed it best that my child use the nurses’ bathroom so as not to “cause any issues.” 

To make a very long story short, neither the gym teacher nor the school nurse were affirming. She was lined up in the boys line, misgendered throughout the school year, including when my mother was called to the school when we were out of town. It was April and the nurse left the handicapped seat on the toilet. My daughter was drenched in pee from her pants and underwear down to her shoes. When my mom (also a school nurse) arrived at the school the nurse told her that “he” peed his pants. My mom, God bless her, lost her mind. 

She was never misgendered in her classroom nor by the art or music teacher. I do believe that the administration had her best interest at heart, even with the ignorant step of having her use the nurse’s bathroom. But my daughter needed someone she could go to who was safe. She did not want to disclose to everyone in the school that she was trans. She needed an affirming adult that she could go to should another adult or student hurt her. 

All these years later she is in a private school that I believe is really affirming. She still does not want to be out to everyone but she has a very affirming, trusted adult who she can go to anytime without question, if she needs it. Out of this need for safe spaces was born our window cling. We have created small vinyl window clings to denote Safe Spaces. They can be placed in any window or on plexiglass and are a silent symbol that we are affirming. 

If you need help in approaching your child’s school, or would prefer not to out your family please reach out to me through www.narwhalmagickindness.com We can send Safe Spaces program literature to your school so you can remain anonymous. 

Remember: deep breaths and put your oxygen mask on first. Letting our children go back to school is especially difficult this year for many reasons. Layering a change in identity or facing bullying of the past is extra hard for our kids and hearts. You can do this!

Big Announcement

The team here at All Are Welcome has big news to share! We are in the process of writing not one, but two books! Eight months ago, I decided to take the leap and expand our current site, Narwhal Magic Kindness. I felt pulled to share more personal accounts and stories alongside the nonprofit work that we do over at Narwal. Because of this, All Are Welcome was born. Sharing these stories with you has opened something inside of me that I never really knew existed. It is my greatest work. 

Not long ago, an educator shared with me how important it is for children to see themselves in books. That stories from marginalized communities are often untold and when they are, the stories rarely skim the surface. This led me to various local bookstores to really look at the book selection that features transgender children. Friends, it was heartbreaking. Tucked back in an obscure corner were a handful of books all lumped together. There wasn’t even a proper section for them.  

Children who see themselves in books feel empowered. Stories help us to feel brave, seen, and important.  That feeling I had when I launched All Are Welcome was back. I knew that I needed to write a story to include some of the delicate moments transgender children must face and we are so excited to share this special story with you in the months to come.

In addition to the children’s book, I feel led to write a companion book for parents. We are working hard over here at All Are Welcome to map out the specifics, but know that a resource is coming soon. Because of this work, we will be dropping our posts down to one per week. We want to spend as much time as we can researching, writing, and gathering resources for our community. We are just so excited. 

I am so blessed to have an incredible team as I move forward with this project. My editor, Dawn, has been the cornerstone of my blog and helps organize my thought process. An I am incredibly grateful that Maryellen Kim has agreed to work by my side to bring to life the words of my daughter and myself.

So thank you, my readers, for following alongside me on this journey. Big things are on the horizon and we are so happy that you have a front-row seat for the show. All are welcome.

5 Strategies For Parenting Return to School

I woke up this morning the same way I always do. I have a 6:30 am start so I can lay in bed and look at the news for the day. It is not surprising to see the same thing that we have been watching for 18 months. The country is desensitized to the raging Covid pandemic and though the headlines speak to the recent climate report, people are done. It is heart-wrenching to watch what is unfolding in Afghanistan, my heart goes out to all of those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice as well as to their partners and children. On top of it all is the political maneuvering, division, and fighting over politics and policies, it is overwhelming.

At home with my four children, anxiety is also running high. It’s almost palpable. Because as much as we would like to think our kids are insulated from “adult problems,” sadly, they are not. The two middle kids are fighting more, the baby is locking himself in the bathroom. And my oldest, who has worked so hard and for so long to be a good soccer player, accepted a spot on the high school team, with trepidation. 

While we adults wrestle with what the “new normal” looks like, we need to ensure we are still able to be present, have fun, and support our children. Below are a few strategies and suggestions for handling these tumultuous times.

First and foremost, make sure you’re taking care of your own mental health first. As the airline attendants say before takeoff, put the oxygen mask on yourself first. When we are stressed, anxious, fearful, or angry, our children feel it. My second child is an empath and his behavior correlates with the mood in the house. Be mindful.

Make sure you are providing yourself time for self-care, be it going for a walk, stretching, or taking a hot bath. Put down the screen and read a short story or book with your children. Take a family walk or look through old pictures to reminisce about good times. Bottom line: make sure to be mindful about filling your bucket. Your children are watching.

Recognize that acting squirrely or downright defiant (or worse) is a signal to parents. Instead of focusing on the behavior that’s irritating, make sure you take a deep breath before reacting. Remind yourself that we are in a prolonged state of situational anxiety. All of us. Some of our children have not been back in person, in school, since March 2019. They have been sequestered behind our safe walls, their world turned upside down. Before you reprimand them for bad behavior, make sure you take a deep breath before you react. Think: is my kid acting out of anxiety? Are they tired, hungry, or lonely? Are they neurodivergent and need extra support or redirection right now? Have I given them my undivided, positive attention lately? 

Talk to them with the intention of really hearing them. I have a tendency to talk too much. As parents we are fixers. Oftentimes saying things like, “you don’t need to worry about that.” The deep conversations that I have with my kids often happen when we are alone together in a car, or in the most unexpected moment. Usually when I’m super busy. My immediate reaction in my brain is that I don’t have time for this. My intentional reaction is I am so lucky that my kids trust me with their inner thoughts. It is a blessing that they seek out my ears to share their most precious truths, worries, and accomplishments.

Finally, now here’s a biggie. Does it really matter? Recognizing that we are struggling and could be reacting out of fear, anxiety, or stress is important. When the baby locks himself in the bathroom, is that really the end of the world? We have a key. We can unlock the door. Let’s get him out and redirect or talk about what is going on. When kids color their hair, have a messy room or paint their hands or body, does it really matter? When they cover themselves in mud or use all of your dish soap to make a slip and slide, is it the end of the world? Annoying? Maddening since it is the 10th time this has happened, yes. But right now we all need a little grace.

When I look at the landscape around us, I feel like the whole world is on fire. It can be incredibly overwhelming. To create the spaces that our children need to thrive and to learn to navigate, in the new normal, we must lead with intention. The intention to hear them, the intention to be available, and ensuring that we are in the best place to receive, process, and harness those feelings for good. Now go get it!

Signaling Safe Spaces for Trans Youth

As my babies prepare to go back to school, they are nervous and excited. I don’t know about you, but if I have to put them in a hazmat suit to attend, so be it. Seriously though, school should be a safe and affirming place for all kids, LGBTQ+ included. When I see the news headlines about gym teachers refusing to respect pronouns and teachers leaving because of diversity policies, I worry.

According to the Human Rights Campaign’s 2018 LGBTQ Youth Survey:

  • 67% of LGBTQ students hear their families make negative comments about LGBTQ people.
  • While some students are open about their LGBTQ identity at school, only 21% are out at home.
  • Privacy and confidentiality are critically important for LGBTQ youth, especially for those who do not have supportive families. Extreme rejecting behaviors can have dire consequences: Approximately 40% of the homeless youth population in the United States identify as LGBTQ, most as a result of rejection by immediate family members.
  • Additionally, LGBTQ youth of color often face additional stress and adverse impacts on their health and well-being as a result of bias around their intersecting identities.

So what can you do to signal safe spaces for trans youth be they patients, clients, students, and family members? We have developed a window cling that can be placed in a window to signal that it is an affirming space. My daughter named our website: www.narwhalmagickindness.com. We use this platform to provide resources to parents and educators in affirming trans and non-binary youth. 

Doctors and teachers are one of the cornerstones of affirmation in a child’s life. These are secondary only to home. For those kids who do not have a safe space at home, it is essential for them to be able to turn to a trusting adult. In our small business, we see thousands of children each year. We show affirmation through pronouns on our name badges, symbols in our consultation room and, of course, rainbows galore. 

You too can place a small symbol of affirmation in your work or home space. Our 2.6”x3” narwhal includes the inclusive rainbow as well as a transgender flag horn. We encourage everyone to show overt signs of affirmation and welcome to all who cross their threshold. Join me in showing that truly, all are welcome. The voices of discrimination and homophobia/transphobia and racism will not win. Community is essential and safe spaces are lifesaving. Purchase your affirmation cling by visiting: https://www.narwhalmagickindness.com/shop

Healthy Coping Strategies as We Return to School

I want to talk for a moment about the concept of change. Transition. Time. It happens to all of us. We age, kids grow up, people divorce, die, stop being friends. Change can be a lot. 

Since our children are going back to school, some for the first time since March 2020, we are in a time of great change. Today I spent the whole day, every minute, working on our family schedule and preparing for the impending change. It feels massive. Overwhelming.

So what do we do when there are SO MANY changes that come at us at once. How do we cope? For me, I tend to go straight to anxiety. Anyone else out there? I start to fear the future, mourn the past, and sometimes dig my heels and resist. 

The funny thing is that even good change can be hard. Promotions, moves, kids going to college, people sharing their truths with us. Despite the fact that change can be good, it is still a change and it can be really hard to process. Accordingly, I did a little research and found some healthy coping strategies that we can use when we are faced with change. Try a few and let me know what you think.

  1. Consider the 5-4-3-2-1 Coping Technique for Anxiety. According to Sara Smith, BSW and the Behavioral Health Partners at the University of Rochester it goes something like this:
    1. 5: Acknowledge FIVE things you see around you. It could be a pen, a spot on the ceiling, anything in your surroundings.
    2. 4: Acknowledge FOUR things you can touch around you. It could be your hair, a pillow, or the ground under your feet. 
    3. 3: Acknowledge THREE things you hear. This could be any external sound. If you can hear your belly rumbling that counts! Focus on things you can hear outside of your body.
    4. 2: Acknowledge TWO things you can smell. Maybe you are in your office and smell pencil, or maybe you are in your bedroom and smell a pillow. If you need to take a brief walk to find a scent you could smell soap in your bathroom, or nature outside.
    5. 1: Acknowledge ONE thing you can taste. What does the inside of your mouth taste like—gum, coffee, or the sandwich from lunch?
  2. Try Hand on Heart Anxiety Reduction. To explore this grounding technique please visit Melissa Nunes-Harwitt, LMSW here. It is like giving yourself a hug. I highly recommend this technique.
  3. One of my very favorite resources is Therapistaid.com. You can filter by age group: children, adolescent or adult. The site offers an extensive list of worksheets, therapy tools, interactive aids and more. 
  4. Talk it out. Sometimes just verbalizing your feelings can make you feel better. It helps your brain rationalize what is going on. Moreover, If you’re like me, writing it out can also be helpful. 
  5. Interestingly, in a parent group meeting today someone suggested holding a piece of ice or an ice pack. While I know this is a popular notion from TicTok and Dr. Oz, I haven’t found any scholarly articles on it’s effectiveness. Buy hey, if it works for you then go for it!!
  6. Finally, in my post Peaceful Drops of Rain, I discussed the prolonged effects of the slow, subtle drip of water. Stress and anxiety left unchecked can eventually etch a hole in a canyon. Be sure you are acknowledging your mental health to keep the river at bay.

Therefore, as we turn an eye towards real life, albeit, with Covid, let’s be sure to model healthy coping strategies for our kids. 

Teens and the Use of “Gay” As a Slur Word

“Mommy, I’m almost embarrassed to tell you.” 

My ears turn on and I am ready for a tough conversation. We’ve been here before and I know it will be heavy.

I had just picked him up from a highly anticipated sleepover. We had travelled an hour south back to our old neighborhood for a sleepover with his friends. Having moved away not too long and right before the pandemic hit, my son, who is entering high school, longs for his friends from younger years.

“That’s so gay.” Honestly, not what I expected to come out of his mouth. But there it was.

“Those are my people” he went on to say, “they are my friends, but I just don’t understand. How can’t they see that it is hurtful?” I thought he was talking about vaccinations and all of the pandemic hoopla that I drone on about day-in and day-out. 

“You see” he said, “ that’s so gay is a put down that people use all the time. I promise, I never say it.” At that moment, he almost didn’t need to say another word. He doesn’t say it, but others do. 

With that, his chin started to quiver and I could see the tears welling up in his eyes. He told the story of the evening. “I brought my Xbox and set it up so we can play. I’m really proud of all my stickers. I have stickers from our time in Florida swimming with the turtles. Stickers from Moab and the amazing food truck we visited. And, of course, all of my Colorado stickers, some of them with rainbows. And then I have my equality stickers.” Holding back tears he said “they asked me why all the gay stickers?” 

With fire inside my belly, but cool as a cucumber on the outside, I ask, “are they using the word gay as a metaphor for stupid?” Not that that would be OK, just trying to determine the angle. He replies with a frustrated and defeated “no.” We sit in silence as I decide how I am going to respond. I tell him that I am sorry. And that it is not OK. I ask how he reacted? He said he didn’t say anything. He just couldn’t. 

Among the other four kids at the sleepover was my son‘s very best friend. I have pictures of him and my child in a toy truck when they were just two years old. His friend with his fist up in the air and gleeful joy and innocence plastered all over their faces. Most days his photos show up on my iPhone highlights. Another boy in the room is a child we have known since kindergarten and the kids are now entering their freshman year of high school. Daily, he would ride his bike to our house. I still remember coming home and watching him ride down the street knowing exactly where he was headed. 

These two children have been steadfast figures in my son’s life and have been welcomed into our family. They are acutely aware of the beautiful complexity of our family and knew my daughter before she transitioned. I cannot imagine the betrayal my son felt in that room. 

I talked with my son about how proud I am of him and that I understand feeling shocked or even not knowing what to say in the face of such unkindness. We talk about what his standard response will to be to these types of homophobic slurs.

Before we can settle on anything he shares that his only good friend in our new area constantly uses gay as an insult. In fact, he says it in front of his parents and they say nothing. He says that his friend complains that he cusses. My son said “when we’re playing games sometimes I cuss. I know I probably shouldn’t, but I do. But using gay in a derogatory manner is much worse, in my opinion, then cussing.” He reports that the homophobic slur continues dispite his remider that continuously slandering a group, even after talking about how harmful and hurtful it is to him personally is far worse than cursing

In the end we settle upon a response that is measured, not angry, just deadpan flat. Something like this:

Using the word “gay” to make fun of someone is hurtful. I have friends and family members who are gay.

As his mother, I am torn. First, nobody says this around me, so clearly they know what they are doing. These kids have been in my house and in my office. My momma bear wants to reach out to their parents and have dialogue about the situation. But my reality check is that doing so will likely make it worse for my kid. 

Here is where you can help. If you are an educator please be on the lookout for this type of banter. Welcoming Schools has a terrific handout to help teachers, or really anyone working with children, to appropriately and swiftly respond to homophobic slurs. Parents will benefit from reviewing this information as well.

Parents, please talk to your kids about toxic masculinity before something comes up. Jackson Katz made an incredible Ted Talk called Violence Against Women- it’s a man’s issue. I watched it with my son and my husband and we had fantastic dialogue. If you have other resources you would like to share, I am very interested. Please share with a comment on the post.

Space Camp & United Airlines

If yo’ mama jokes were still socially appropriate, you can bet I would take the cake. Last February I got a wild idea to send my kids to Space Camp. Just the two older ones because my daughter attends Camp Aranu’tiq. Just like you, we are going crazy in the house with way too many video games and too little activity, so I signed them up. 

Getting to space camp is not easy. Your choices are to drive or fly. Driving is about 17 hours one way from where we live. Flying into Huntsville Airport is not like flying into Miami or Washington, D.C. Just a few carriers service the tiny airport, so I booked two unaccompanied minors tickets with United Airlines. In anticipation of the flight, we pack our bags and I put the kids on notice that we are leaving at 8am to catch the plane.

The next morning I go downstairs to leave and find the contents of one child’s bag strewn all over the dining room. The day prior, he was angry because I took his phone away and refused any help when packing. I knew this wasn’t going to be good. 

We arrived at 9:22 for a 10:40 flight. Eight families deep in Lane 25 we took our place and waited. The families in front of us were complaining that the line had not moved in 30 minutes. Time marched onto 9:45, less than an hour from departure. The person directly in front of me had a little boy, a fifth grader, who was going home to his mother. He was also flying out at 10:40 and for a moment, we thought all of them would be on the same plane together. The dad comforted me saying they do this all the time and it will be okay. They will make their flight.

Clearly making the flight is not not how the story ends. United Airlines refused to seat the kids. They called the gate asking if they could check anyone else in. The gate said no. Linda told me they could send the kids tomorrow. I explained that the kids still had time to make the flight, with 35 minutes to go. The man next to me had the same departure time, he was checking in and was being seated on their flight. She dug in her heels.

Linda explained that there was another flight at 5:01 but there was only one seat on the flight. I begged can you please put my bags on the later flight and put my children on the flight we booked? No. During the negotiation the man mentioned earlier took his child to board the plane. He said he was sorry, he couldn’t believe that this is how it was happening. To be clear, I acknowledge that getting there late was definitely our fault. 

Here’s where yo’ momma comes in. Frustration mixed with a little insanity took over. My kids had missed a year and a quarter of school. They were not missing the first day of six at Space Camp. So with fire in my belly I got in my car and pointed it south. We drove for about 30 minutes and the phone rang. It was the gate. They were holding the plane. It was 20 minutes past departure time. Where were the kids? You mean they aren’t in the airport? I burst into tears.

15 hours and 740 miles later, I checked my children into Space Camp. 

There are so many lessons to be learned here. Trust me, I had 740 miles of driving back home to reflect on them. One glaring lesson comes from my child’s response to missing the flight.  

“Maybe we should just try again next year.” 

This infuriated me. My concern is that I’m not sure we’ve done a good job helping him understand the value of a dollar or what things cost during his 14 years on this earth. Later, his comment about 12 hours into the drive was  “Well I hope this is worth it.” To be clear, this was phrased with an inflection that it better be worth it. At least that is how I heard it. Admittedly, it hurt my feelings. I was trying to do a good thing and I’m not sure that there’s an appreciation for how hard we, as parents, work to make things happen for our kids.

And then I go back to Love and Logic. They say when your kids are older they are not going to have the benefit of you in the car pressing on the break before they hit the person in front of them. Teach them young to push on the break for themselves. Hello natural consequences. Have I completely missed that?

I knew that this summer was going to be hard. My kids have been squirreled away in my house for a year and a half, as have yours. To add insult to injury, everyone gets a bonus vacation for 12 weeks. That is 12 more weeks of isolation. It’s 12 more weeks of parents scrambling to try to find childcare and entertainment. It’s 12 more weeks of parents feeling guilty and children being entertained by video games.

If these 12 weeks are vacation for you I do not begrudge you this time. As healthcare workers, we have hard now 17 months of intense, stressful, relentless, work. The work not only for our patients and employees but the work that we have to do to balance the lives of our family members because we cannot work from home. We are burned out, tired of being argued with over masks and appointments. We put on multiple masks, extra clothing and face shields. I don’t really want to hear about your being inconvenienced by a cloth mask.

So the next time you hear someone say a yo’ mama joke. Just remember that this mamas more crazy than your mama.

Iritis & Anxiety

It is funny the things we take for granted. As a writer, I am incredibly dependent on my ability to see words on paper. While I often dictate into my Notes app while I am thinking, there is nothing like looking at pen on paper. The editing process is cumbersome. Finding the right word and moving thoughts around to make the piece more coherent takes great effort.

What would you do if you lost your sight? Two and one-half weeks ago, I was diagnosed with Iritis. Defined in its simplest form, it is inflammation of the iris of the eye. More specifically it is a form of Uveitis or inflammation of the middle layer of the eye (uvea).

The most common type is an inflammation of the iris called iritis (anterior uveitis). Symptoms include redness, pain, light sensitivity, blurred vision, and dark floating spots in the field of vision.

Today, just 17 days later, I was told that there’s nothing wrong with me. It’s “all in my head.” I have high anxiety. And to quote the doctor I saw today,  “you need to dial it down and notch.”

So how do we get from here to there? I’m asking myself the very same question.

You see, 19 days ago I woke up at 5:30 in the morning with severely dry and painful eyes. I brushed it off because it was the wee hours of dawn, but I woke up again two hours later in extreme pain. I had eye drops leftover from a corneal abrasion six months ago, so I immediately started to treat my eyes.

It was Father’s Day and I was determined to make it special. So, with beet red, weeping eyes, I drove my car to pick up groceries for a feast. Immediately after leaving my neighborhood, I realized just how impaired my vision was. I barely made it to our farmers market to pick up the ingredients I needed.

Upon returning home I realized that the drops weren’t helping. But I continued to try. The next day I picked up a prescription for pinkeye drops. Self-diagnosis, of course. Drop by drop willing this to go away. Sunglasses on constantly, crying, weeping eyes, pain, grit. It was unlike anything I had experienced before. Clearly an anxiety attack (insert eye roll).

Two days later, I presented at the local ophthalmology office. Having described my symptoms that now included pressure behind the eyes and a headache in addition to those already described, they got me in immediately.

The kind, female doctor diagnosed me with Iritis. She saw abnormal cells, inflammation and prescribed steroids four times per day. Filling out a lab sheet, she instructed me to have my primary care draw labs because this condition is usually a symptom of an inflammatory process going on in your body. Being a cancer survivor, I was slightly freaked out. I called, got in with my primary care, and labs were drawn. This led me to the rheumatologist.

There is no end to this story. The rheumatologist instructed me that I needed to see the ophthalmologist again as soon as possible. My female, very pregnant ophthalmologist had gone out on maternity leave a week earlier than expected. The appointment that I was supposed to go to just two days prior was canceled. 

Each of the doctors before this appointment were kind, listened, and asked questions. Each of the doctors before this presented as female. Before I go there, I want to say that my breast surgeon, a man, is incredibly kind and compassionate. I don’t hate men. In fact, my husband is a male doctor and I believe he does an excellent job of listening to his patients.

Buckle up. 

This guy walks in and says, “How can I fix you today?” He doesn’t even look at me. Immediately put off, I ask if he has read my chart? He says no and begins his examination while barking orders at his assistant, who is reading the other doctor’s findings. He disagrees with everything. There is nothing here. Your eyes are perfectly normal. 

And then shares, “What I see here is a highly anxious patient. You need to dial it down a notch. Your clinical presentation is disparate from your clinical findings. There is nothing wrong with your eyes. Has anyone done an MRI to look for demyelination?”

Mic drop.

This, my friends, is right up there with my 42-year-old friend’s endocrinologist who wanted to know more about her pregnancy plans than her thyroid symptoms. What in the WORLD is going on? Later in the conversation, he quipped that nobody listens to him and just calls him the “mean doctor.”

Well my friend, if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck… 

I don’t know what is going on with my eyes, but I will tell you this. This is scaring me to death. For the first time in my life, I am struggling to see. I have pain in my eyes and something is definitely not right. I can also tell you that prescribing me to “dial it down a notch” is not an effective remedy to my issue. 

It will likely be a surprise to say I think this doctor is likely an excellent diagnostician. He actually performed a very thorough examination and ordered many tests. He provided sound medical care. However, in the words of the late, phenomenal Maya Angelou, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

So friends, remember, it is not okay for a person in a position of power to make you feel like you are crazy. I left questioning my sanity and I am not crazy. I did not make up my symptoms and am not seeking attention or looking to get out of anything. This person needs to get the heck out of my way and take a good hard look at who really needs to “dial it down a notch.”

The Potential Danger of Academic Expectations

As the summer days start to grow shorter, my mind is beginning to think about back to school and what that means for my children. As you are aware, I am the mother of a transgender child. Obviously, this fact in and of itself is cause for back-to-school angst. But today I want to focus on children in general. I want to look at one unintentional way educators and school leaders promote an environment that marginalizes groups of children. I want to have a conversation about ways we can make that better. So, my question is: 

Why are we setting the same academic expectations for all students? 

Let’s let this marinate for a moment. 

Each one of us is uniquely special in our own way. We have talents and strengths that when nurtured and developed, help us become our best selves. Sometimes, the focus is so grade and test score heavy, we forget that not every child shows what they know in that way. 

Do I think all children should work to the best of their ability? Of course. 

Do I value education? Undoubtedly. 

I just think that by having the same end goal, we unintentionally teach students that their personal best will never be enough and that they will never meet “the target.” By doing this, we are missing the best part of who they are because we are so hyperfocused on what they are not. 

Some of my children have a learning difference called dyslexia. My 12 year-old is considered Twice-Exceptional or 2e for simplicity. This highly intelligent child, with a working memory in the 1st percentile, is a marvel. When traditional academic standards were in place he vomited before school every night. He is a perfectionist and seeks approval from teachers. When his working memory fails him, it causes debilitating anxiety. He cannot remember the sequence of verbal instructions and believes he should be able to. He worries the teacher is going to say he is not paying attention when, in fact, he is likely the most focused child in the room.

Getting my dyslexic children the support and environment that they need was so challenging that we are now in a specialized school. They are thriving and have friends. My kids love to learn. They read interesting books and are becoming writers. They think critically and analyze information before taking a stand. My babies get the opportunity to grow and learn because someone decided to meet them where they are instead of pushing them to where some data algorithm thinks they should be. 

My kids have this privilege and I believe that it will help them be the best, most confident, assured version of themselves so they can go out into the world as adults who make a difference. 

But friends, what about those who do not have this privilege? Those who we give an end goal that they may never get to. What does this teach them about who they are as a person. Of their value and the importance of what they have to offer? I would like to open this up to dialogue. Please email me and share some of your thoughts on this type of experience. Together, we are better. 

Dyslexia and Memory Recall

We did a thing this week. Something tremendous. Perhaps not so tremendous by other’s standards, but huge and wonderful for us. 

This is the summer of returning to travel. In our home that means loading our gaggle on an airplane and heading to my heart’s home. We traveled out west for eleven glorious days. We returned for just fifteen days when we realized our marvelous accomplishment. No, his accomplishment. For you see, my singular focus in life is this: to help shepherd humans through the world who are capable of kindness, compassion, and the ability to fly on their own. 

While on our family trip, my 12-year-old referred to himself a Dori from Finding Nemo. The words tumble out of his lips and onto my heart. I am dumbfound. The gravity of his grasp of the intricacies of his beautiful brain articulated in one sentence. He knows. You see, for some the understanding of dyslexia rests with reversed letters and thinking of b’s mistaken for d’s. To boil it down so simply does not accurately articulate the complexity of this special brain.

I’m speaking to the parents of children who cope with working memory process deficits, dyslexia, or other learning differences. You see all of these culminate in a bundle of anxiety; crippling anxiety that might cause a small child to hide under tables or circle a trusted teacher on the playground.

Dyslexia, you see, is an alternative wiring of the neurons in the brain. Note, I did not stay it is an incorrect or miswiring. It is, in fact, a complex and important diversion from the “normal” style of learning. People with dyslexia are often cast aside as non-compliant or not trying. When, in fact, their neural pathways are just different. They are not wrong or miswired. They just take a different route. Dyslexia impacts my child in many ways. B’s are d’s are p’s are q’s. His executive functioning is difficult and often it appears he is wading through water. This is primarily due to his working memory deficit which is in the 1st percentile. Which is where we arrive at my child, who has an incredible IQ, finding Dori in the mirror when he looks at his reflection.

Working memory is defined as, “the part of short-term memory that is concerned with immediate conscious perceptual and linguistic processing” according to the Oxford English Dictionary. I really like this definition by Peg Rosen, “Working memory is like a temporary sticky note in the brain. It’s a skill that lets us work with information without losing track of what we’re doing.” In my child’s case, his high intellect tells him he should know the information, he understands that he has been shown the information, but he cannot retrieve it. Kind of like putting your keys down but you can’t remember where. You tear through the house and know you put them in a special place so you can find them, but can’t remember where. It is that but with everything in your life. 

This is just one of the ways dyslexia impacts my child. And it causes crippling anxiety. Worry that he will not remember how to get somewhere. Anxiety and pacing for his safety and familiar people. Fear of being reprimanded for “not paying attention.” So when I tell you that my child bravely, as if taking a step off a cliff and believing he would not fall, walked onto an airplane, by himself, it is no small feat. 

Four years ago he was hiding under tables when placed in new situations. He was crippled with fear that he would be shamed in front of other students and made to feel like he wasn’t enough. Yesterday, my child took a leap of faith and believed in himself. He got on the airplane, by himself, trusting that his grandparents would be on the other end of the flight. 

As he stood in line, spot A47, to board the nearly four-hour flight, I pulled down my mask and kissed his beautiful brain. When he boarded I sobbed from a place of pride and accomplishment. I waited until the airplane was in the air before leaving. And when he touched down on the other end, my parents welcomed him with open arms and celebrated his independence. 

Is Being Transgender A Mental Illness?

Before I met my daughter, I did not know a transgender person. Growing up in the 80s and 90s, Sally Jessy Raphael would flaunt her red glasses and Maury Povich would sensationalize people under the guise of an interview. In these seemingly polite, congenial conversations, transgender people who transitioned later in life, discussed their transition. In addition, family members, usually their children, would march on stage to answer questions about how the person’s “choices” harmed them.

Now seeing through the eyes of a parent, I witness the shame and harm levied against the transgender community. In fact, on a recent Super Soul Podcast Oprah described feelings of remorse for her contribution to tabloid television and committed to never “demean, diminish embarass or dehumanize others.” I appreciate Oprah’s willingness to acknowledge the past and commitment to uplift my daughter and her peers. I too want to uplift our transgender community by highlighting three truths:

1) Transgender people are not a circus act. The majority of transgender people just want to feel comfortable in their own skin. Just like their cis counterparts, some transgender people choose to perform in the arts, on stage and in public. To stereotype transgender people as flamboyant or attention seeking is a generalized, oversimplified idea of a particular type of person. Simply put, it is irresponsible to further a narrative that dehumanizes any group of people and calls into question their value to society. Further, promoting this farce strips transgender people of their uniqueness and humanity and encourages violence.

2) Transgender people do not have a mental illness. It is a learned misconception that transgender people “choose” to be trans. It is a degradful, deleterious narrative to label transgender people as crazy or mentally ill. Labeling others in this manner cements the idea that a person’s very existence is criminal and should have access to fewer rights and privileges. We see this harmful rhetoric play out time and again against marginalized communities.

3) Identifying as transgender is not rare: According to the Williams Institute, in 2016, approximately 0.6 percent of adults in the United States identified as transgender. This translates to just over 1.3 million adults. Centers for Disease Control data from 2019 reveal that 2% of students surveyed identify as transgender. These numbers are believed to be underreported for fear of reprisal due to transphobia and discrimination.

4) Shaming is harmful to everyone. Each of us has the power to listen instead of casting shame or judgment. To seek to understand those who are different from ourselves and relish in the beauty of diversity. It is time to acknowledge the enormous burden of manipulative and intentional shaming, even when it is subversive. To speak louder than those in power who use humiliation and the criminalization of the transgender community as a rally cry to their constituents.

As Oprah stated in her podcast, “what we dwell on is what we become.” It would be difficult not to dwell on the overt discrimination, segregation, and criminalization being placed on transgender youth. Elected officials have the audacity to debate their right to play sports, use an affirming bathroom, right to medical access. It is killing our transgender community. Literally.

If you are looking for resources or book suggestions, please visit our website at Narwhal Magic Kindness or the Human Rights Campaign‘s guide to Supporting Your Gender Nonconforming Child. Please also feel free to reach out to me directly at contact@allarewelcome.blog.

Teachable Moments

I realize just how clueless I was about parenting when I was a young mother. What seems obvious and easy was nothing close to either. Fortunately, I am blessed to have many mom-friends who have been just a step or two ahead of me. They continue to bestow nuggets of wisdom that stick with me even though I am 14 years into this parenting gig.

Teachable moments is one phrase I have hung onto. A teachable moment is one where I do not immediately call out the act or microaggression. Rather, I wait until we are in a safe, calm space to reflect with my kids.

Recently, a teachable moment presented itself to our family on our recent vacation to Moab, Utah.

My husband scheduled a jeep tour of Moab’s Wind Caves and we all piled in the safari-like jeep and headed out through the dirt and desert. Bumping and jumping through the rocky off-road trails we come upon an ancient rock with petroglyphs. We disembark and walk to the mammoth rock while gingerly traversing the terrain.

Our guide explains that this is called Birthing Rock. He talks about the Anasazi Native Americans. For reference, the people who first inhabited these lands. As he mocks the Birthing Petroglyph and points out where, “Harry Potter forgot his wand and instead borrows Indiana Jones’ whip,” I cringe. After which, he explains that the word Anasazi is actually not the way that people refer to the ancient society any longer but he thinks the word is “cool” so that is what he calls them.

To say I am in shock is an understatement.

But wait, it gets worse.

As he takes us around the far side of the rock, we see more petroglyphs with the words “White Power” etched in white over them. He explains that this is national news. As I make notes of his actions and watch my children, I realize we have another three hours with this person and I have to wait to discuss my teachable moment. 

Next, we load back into our misery chamber and clamor up the rocky, red, stone and then back down again, ultimately arriving at Wind Caves. They are spectacular. Along the way, I learn that our guide is a rising sophomore in college, married, and this is his summer job. Later, he explains that he is a psychology major and then tells a story of a lady who was recently lost in the area for a month. “Nobody could believe she made it out. One day she just showed up in town. People were really surprised because she wasn’t right in the head.” Once more, I make note and wait.

At last, as I am eating Quesadilla Mobilla after returning from our misinformation trip, I sit with the kids. Chowing down I note:

  1. Our guide notes that the word Anasazi is outdated and harmful, yet he continues to use it. That is disrespectful. Not that long ago African Americans were referred to as “negros” and gay people as “fags”. In sum, these are derogatory terms that are harmful.
  2. Moreover, if you know better you do better. And damn it our precious Indigenous Americans are our history. Our REAL history. This is a prime example that shows that history is written by those who win. This marginalized community has been decimated during COVID. They are not privy to the resources, health systems and education that has been afforded to the privileged in America. Do not allow this to continue.
  3. One of my very favorite spiritual leaders. No, my absolute FAVORITE, is the Reverend Steven Charlson of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. Father Steven Charleston is an Alaskan and Native American Anglican priest who offers regular postings of thought, insight, introspection. I follow his words on Facebook, his words move me. Here is his prayer for June 27, 2021: Like me, some of you may be spiritually fond of mantras, those little short sayings that we can call to mind to inspire us in trying to live a more intentional life. Please feel welcome to share one that speaks to you here; it may be just the focus someone else needs. As for my own contribution, here is one I have been meditating on recently: my love makes a difference. That may seem deceptively simple, but I have found it to be a powerful reminder that my life has an impact. I am not just a witness, but a participant. In the midst of the great events around me there is something I can do to help. And each time I share my love, in ways great and small, I alter the reality around me. I partner with the Spirit. I create change. My love makes a difference.

Firstly, Reverend Charlson, thank you for leading me. In addition, thank you for recognizing that my love makes a difference. Each of the teachable moments listed above highlight the importance of respecting our interconnectedness and how my impact absolutely impacts those around me. It is my intention to raise humans who are self-aware enough to recognize that when we know better we do better. I am raising critical thinkers who search for knowledge.

Readers, join me. Rise up. Do better. Teach critical thinking and acknowledge marginalized communities.

Birthing Rock Petroglyphs
Birthing Rock Information
Wind Caves, Moab
Jeep Tour
Quesadilla Moab
Rainbow Bridge Main Street, Moab

An Educators Role In Affirming Transgender Youth

A national survey by GLSEN has found that 75% of transgender youth feel unsafe at school.

The survey concludes that those who persevere have significantly lower GPAs.

These students are more likely to miss school out of concern for their safety,

They are less likely to continue furthering their education after high school. 

So, what do these statements mean for educators? 

Educators have a unique and prominent role in the lives of these children. For some, teachers are the only safe adults in their lives because their parents and siblings are non-affirming. Moreover, teachers are the first adults to see bullying and hostile treatment from other students. And they are the first people who can respond in a way that makes a transgender child feel validated and safe. Below are 5 simples ways to affirm transgender children in your classroom.

  1. Use preferred pronouns and names. This is a simple, yet impactful way to validate these children for who they are. When in doubt, have courageous conversations with the child about which pronouns they prefer. 
  2. Acknowledge and react to mistreatment from other children. It is no secret that mental health is a serious concern in the transgender community. One cause of depression and suicidal thoughts in transgender children is bullying. Do everything you can to prevent it. 
  3. Focus on the whole child. Transgender children are so much more than a pronoun. Find out what gives them joy. Talk with them about books, hobbies, or other activities they enjoy. Praise them for the beautiful person they are. 
  4. Educate your colleagues. Sometimes, people’s bias is unintended and comes from a place of misunderstanding or the consumption of disinformation. So, do what you can to educate your peers. Share resources and information that supports the affirmation of transgender children.
  5. Think of creative ways to divide your classroom activities. Even after she transitioned, my daughter was instructed to line up in the boys line in gym class. Her reaction was embarrassment and hurt feelings. The gym teacher publicly shamed my daughter in front of her peers. Despite a 504 instructing the teacher to come up with creative ways to divide the class, it persisted. Ideas can be anything from your favorite color or guess the number. Have fun with it. Dividing into the binary is so 2000.
  6. Don’t overthink everything. Above all, transgender children want to be loved and accepted just like every other child in the class. Therefore, sticking to this basic principle will yield dividends in terms of a trusting, reciprocal, healthy relationship with your student. 

For more incredible suggestions subscribe to one of my favorite newsletters targeted towards educators. Time To Thrive is an annual conference held by the Human Rights Campaign. Their monthly newsletter is a bright spot in my day. Most important, in your classroom, make sure all are welcome.

3 Ways To Instill Work Ethic

Funny the moments that make me think about how to instill work ethic in my small business and family. Having dropped my kids at school, my taste buds become alive. I am preparing for the rich, creamy cappuccino I have grown to love. I park my car and approach the door. Rise Up! is the name of my favorite little coffee shop. Two professionally planted, palatial flower boxes greet me at the entry. To my dismay, the hydrangeas are withering and the pansies are wilting almost right in front of my eyes! My gardener instinct kicks in. These flowers need water.

I notice a sign posted on top of the refrigerator next to me as I wait in line to order my cappuccino. When I get to the front of the line to place my order, the first thing out of my mouth is that the plants out front need water. I explain to the barista taking my order that the flowers are stunningly beautiful, but they are dying. The doe-eyed, twenty-something across the counter looks at me, as does the fellow employee. They say, “It’s a closing job.” Stunned, I plead “Yes but they are dying.”

Exasperated, my order is taken, the conversation is over, I leave. As I pass the dying flower boxes on the way to my car, I consume myself with the interaction. I immediately reflect back on how I improve work ethic in those around me. How can I do the same to ensure my own children do not fall into pointing the finger the other direction? As a small business owner for nearly twenty years I have developed three ways to instill work ethic in my employees and family.

  1. All of the good intentions and effort an owner puts into an organization mean nothing if employees do not embrace the values of the organization. According to Amanda Ginzburg, “Company culture isn’t the values on the wall. Rather, it’s the set of actions that you put into practice and live everyday within your community.” In short, instilling work ethic in employees is essential. Walking the talk not just lip service is the path to success.
  2. Successful managers continuously work on team building and manage group dynamics. According to The Center for Personal & Professional Development at Kent State University, “People who no longer identify as part of the team or instead as a member of a faction within the team, no longer care about the shared responsibilities of the team and go into survival mode.” Consequences of this behavior include turnover, decreased profitability, and decreased customer and employee satisfaction.
  3. Your forward-facing employees can make or break your company. While this is a coffee shop and my business is in healthcare, a customer is a customer. Whether they seek coffee or treatment. If they can’t get past the cashier, or in my case, the front desk, they cannot get to the doctor. The relationship is damaged, trust is broken and the case is lost before it begins. I have learned that assuming the face of your practice is on point is a recipe for disaster. Consistently, appropriately, and on-brand is essential to a business’ reputation and referrals. Employees who are “off-brand” are contrary to running a profitable practice where customers seek your services and leave you as fans.

So what do we do? As parents, we need to instill work ethic but also the importance of being a team player. We can start when they are small. Praising our kids when they do something that benefits the family or team reinforces the behavior. I have daily chores and Work For Hire in my home. My children are responsible for dividing up the daily chores. Work For Hire are tasks that fall outside of their daily chores. I review the task upon completion and a reward is provided. Chores as well as Work For Hire are accompanied by positive reinforcement.

Similarly, I recognize the need to give a shout-out to those we manage in business, recognizing contributions they make that go above and beyond. But be careful. According to the Harvard Business Review rewards typically undermine the very processes they intend to enhance.

Instead of offering monetary rewards, giving consistent praise and reinforcement is more likely to garner buy-in and behavior adaptation. In my case, I hold Friday huddles. At the end of the day, I hold a short meeting recognize positive contributions for the week. The team gathers and we publicly recognize team work. Sometimes we give certificates, sometimes we have ice cream. Always have an opportunity for dialogue and reflect on what went right.

So friends, what are you doing to encourage teamwork and going above and beyond in your life? Let’s discuss over a cappuccino.

Our Command Center
Work For Hire
Daily Chores- note, these are part of family responsibilities and are not paid

Pencils Have Erasers For A Reason

He was a tall, slender boy with a soft mop of chestnut hair and grey-blue eyes. His father, a local school bus driver, would bring him to me for his regular appointments. We tend to build relationships with our clients, some for a few fleeting moments and others for many years. This was one of the latter. As he grew he continued to visit us. And then when he was old enough, he took his leave. Though he would not be absent from our lives for long.

As time passed, I would see him on my frequent (too frequent) stops at the local coffee shop. He would take my order and we would banter about. How was he? His mother? Was he doing what he was supposed to be doing? I would notice things, he would smile. All was well and he would give his best to his parents. Then one day, I received a call from the local high school asking if we would consider bringing him in as part of the technical education program? Of course!

Our sweet cherub had grown into a young man. No longer was he the carefree boy who bounded into our office. Now an older, more serious presence entered. He was lanky and when I greeted him with a hug his long arms enveloped me as he laughed nervously. I sat him down and had him sign off on the appropriate paperwork, creating a file for our once little guy who was now dipping his toe into what we actually do.

His resume listed career focus as: “Empathetic student completing a program at a technical high school and planning to pursue a career in the field. Excellent communication skills, loyal, and reliable.” He spent the semester learning our policies and processes and eventually shadowing others in our office. Then, the semester ended and he graduated.

A short while later, I saw an article in the local newspaper with his photo looking drawn and sad. It was a police photo. The article went into great detail about him having stolen women’s cosmetics from the local big-box store. He had been arrested. Nausea washed over as I processed what was before me. My sweet baby was nothing but 18 years old. People who have done far worse do not have photos on FaceBook news feeds. The comments to follow were vile, questioned his masculinity, and mocked his potential sentencing. And then it happened again, only this time it was far worse. He was running from the police after having gotten in an accident. It was then that I knew he was in real trouble.

I spoke to my husband about the defamation of his character regarding the first incident, and now fleeing from authorities. Although he was making poor choices he was being publicly shamed and I was worried we were going to lose him. One of the other prior interns suggested drugs were in play. My heart was heavy, so I did as we mothers do. I picked out the perfect card and sat down to pen him a note.

Dear Sweet Boy,

No mistake is beyond grace. Pencils have erasers for a reason. We all make mistakes and should not be held to live life permanently in their shadow. You have people around you, including me, who love you dearly. If you are in over your head, please reach outside of you and allow us to get you the help you need. I cannot imagine a world without you in it.

At his funeral just four months later, his mother and father recognized me and sobbed, “pencils have erasers.” I too sobbed, having had no idea the impact of that note. As the line waited and wound around the funeral home, they detailed his struggles. He had been in rehab. He was their only son. They tried everything. And then they explained in anguish that each night they would lie my note on his pillow in the hopes that it would sink in. My heart broke into a million pieces. For none of us bears children thinking that this is how it will end. 

Today as I look at his signature on the paperwork he signed so many years ago my heart aches. I look at the words on his resume “empathetic” and think yes, he was very much so. His vaccine record dates are gut-wrenching to think of as a mother who has visited doctors with my own children countless times for vaccines and well checks. And then his name, in his own writing and his signature in black ink, as though he was just here. Tears. Shredding this paperwork is one more step in the process of him not being here, though it has been three years. Shredding the papers means nobody can accidentally trip across his name and think of the light and laughter he brought into the world.

For me, for now, this paperwork will stay in a special place in my drawer. May his memory be a blessing.

Bees & Speed Bumps

This year for my birthday I bought myself a beehive. After painstakingly scouring the internet I settled on a vendor on Etsy who handmakes beautiful hives. These raw-wood masterpieces have windows so that my children would see the bees and we could learn about their interconnectedness with our world. I had dreams of teaching them how the bees work together as a colony to create honey. That they pollinate our plants and crops, and about their vitality to our environment.

My husband surprises me by painstakingly painting our beehive. He places our children’s fingerprints on the hive with their names making them little bees. At the unveiling, I find that he has placed “Queen Bee” on the hive and has me dip my thumb in white paint to finish the home. Being a Type A person, I sign up for a beekeeping course at our local community college. Our pretty hive sits uninhabited but perfectly majestic in our backyard on our acre of land.

Not much time passes and I receive a note from our homeowners’ association. The note informs me that the “insect” house is in violation of homeowners association (HOA) rules. In my attempt to mitigate the situation, I reach out to the farmer who lives behind us and ask if it would be possible for us to place the house on his property. I plead, stating that my children and I would care for the bees. The farmer declines, so seeing no other alternative, I donate the bee house to the local Boy Scouts.

Not too long after, I start receiving notifications from our HOA requiring application or reapplication for permits for improvements that have been completed on our property. Reapplication is needed for a patio that was poured a year earlier and for pillars placed by a stonemason at the end of our driveway. I want to boast for a moment. We keep a really beautiful home. Our glorious rose bushes radiate beauty. Lilacs, hydrangea, and lilies bloom in chorus. My children know that Saturday is fish emulsion day in our home. All of our flowers get the elixir so that they shine the brightest blooms. We weed the garden. Painstakingly move plans from here to there to get them just the right sunlight and let them show off their beautiful majesty.

But we also live on the main drive. In fact, our home was formerly the model home for the neighborhood, so we are on display for all to see and to speed past. Two weeks ago a near-miss event with a small child took my breath away. After another neighbor emailed our HOA, I took to our private neighborhood Facebook group to discuss the situation. My point was simple. This is scary. We are a young neighborhood with a lot of children and someone is going to get hit. The reaction that ensued was a spectacular combination of blaming parents, blaming children, discussion of the merits and drawbacks of speedbumps, and ultimately attributing all speeding to FedEx, UPS & Amazon. What the conversation lacked was ownership by the community for the care and concern of the children.

Within hours the HOA sent out a survey to ask if the neighborhood thinks a speed study is warranted. In the instructions, it notes that responses would not (their underlined, not mine) be anonymous. The questions were simple. Do you think we need to have a speed study done in our neighborhood and do you support having speed bumps?

Having already seen the neighbors who live on cul-de-sacs tucked safely away respond that they’ve not seen any type of speeding and that children need to be taught “the rules of the road”, I put pen to paper and wrote a letter to the HOA. I believe this to be an attempt at gaslighting. They put the survey out and the majority of people don’t think that there’s a problem…that was indicative of what we saw on the post and they addressed the problem. They addressed it, problem solved. 

Consequently, I submit a letter to the HOA. The response is that they need data to submit to the police to see if it warrants a survey. That 75% of homeowners on the street would have to agree. That the HOA is composed of volunteers who are just doing their best. And unkindness is not necessary. I feel kicked in the gut. Sat with it for a while and took down the post.

You see my closing words in my letter were that I believe in community. I believe that we are stronger together and that coming up with creative solutions and finding a path forward is the way to go rather than using percentages and language to suppress a voice.

I know that behind the scenes neighbors are talking about buying their own radar guns and looking into the cost of purchasing speed bumps. It was pretty clear to me that the HOA was not planning to have dialogue nor send a simple letter to residents asking to obey the speed limit to watch out for children. They went from zero to police survey within a couple of hours. 

The next day, I receive a call from someone I have not spoken to before. They explain that one of the board members keeps chickens in their backyard (against HOA rules), several have deer feeders and large piles of stacked wood, also violations. This is shocking. But perhaps not for the reason you think.

This is the definition of privilege. I am living in a microcosm of the systems that transgender and other marginalized communities including black and brown, have to navigate on a daily basis, for their entire lives. When the people who are in power and making the rules give themselves an advantage and make the rules harder for other people THAT is privilege. When they are allowed to “monitor themselves” while they monitor others, it welcomes abuse of power. It’s really mind-bending. Those in power tell you that you’re “being aggressive,” “loud” and  they use words like “they’re just volunteers just doing their job.” In reality, they have created a hierarchy that benefits themselves and makes it harder for those deemed “other.”

Maybe I just need to reapply for my patio. But I have four children and two businesses that I run. Believe you me, filling out another set of forms, taking pictures, and submitting them to the HOA is a huge drain on my already limited time. The incessant emails that follow reminding me that I am missing my deadline for submitting and that I would be in violation if I did not receive approval again cause stress. Privilege is being in a position of power that can make it just a little bit harder for other people and a little easier for yourself. By using systems and structures in order to give yourself an advantage. But the worst part is when they gaslight you and say you are just a mean person. You are nasty. Because, my friends, that cuts to your character. And it hurts. Really bad.

I still believe in the bees and the colony that works together for the greater good. I believe that it takes determination and hard work to make honey. You leave your safe colony to help pollinate and proliferate the world, for the greater good. The bees are the quintessential personification of interconnectedness. 

But I most certainly recognize the people and systems who are trying to hold down others. I believe and understand the mistrust and skepticism of the transgender, black and brown communities. This walk is not easy. I encourage my readers to listen when marginalized communities say something is wrong. Because just like I know people are flying up and down my road, they know. It’s time to listen.

Pollinator on my Lambs Ear
Antique greenhouse filled with sunflowers
Limelight Hydrangea
Side pollinator garden
A view to the street

Star Trek & Sleep Time

Do you ever stop to think about the odd things in life that give us comfort? An old t-shirt, a favorite meal, or maybe a certain smell. For me, it is a TV show. 

Admittedly, I’m a bit of a Trekee. For most of my life, Star Trek has been part of my bedtime routine. I watch it for its familiarity and somewhat cheesy plots that require very little thinking. 

When I was a child, my parents slept in an antique bed. The makeup of this beautiful farmhouse bed is sturdy maple. It has been passed down for nearly 200 years in our family. The bed rises majestically about 4 feet off of the floor and is handmade. 

When I was younger, my parents would send my brother and me to bed with a warning not to step one foot out of bed. Since the rooms were adjacent, this made for hours of making up silly games played by shouting to one another across the hall. Whether it be twenty questions or would you rather, we toiled away the time by playing in our beds. As much as we fought during the day or raced up the stairs to see who was the fastest, we always came together in defiance of bedtime.

Growing up, my neighbor was my best friend. She was the sun and moon and stars to me. We spent hours roller skating in our unfinished basement and on our front porch. We coordinated school outfits wearing matching knickers and shirts and loved the movie Annie (the original, kids). Her father that December prior had made homemade eggnog and we had drinking contests. Riding bikes and playing spies using our water meter as a base came to a screeching halt due to an eighteen-wheeler and some black ice in Iowa. Tragically, in March of my 8th year, my best friend was killed in a car accident.

So, as sadness and anxiety crept in, those games played with my brother became a much-needed distraction that would help me fall asleep. What were once games of defiance became a solace for me. They were a way of continuing dialogue in order to distract my eight-year-old mind from processing the enormity that life can end in the blink of an eye. Soon, the games no longer were sufficient in taking away the waves of anxiety and grief. My parent’s room was a safe space and that cavern of a bed became my hideaway from the safety of the world. It was my respite from fear and anxiety.

Now that I am a parent of four, my children sleep on my floor. Though they are twelve, ten, and six, I welcome them into the safety of their parents’ proximity. I don’t view their closeness as an intrusion but as a gift. I know my children will not always want or even need my presence. My now fourteen-year-old cherishes his own room. I know the days with my younger ones are numbered. 

On occasion, my husband and I will put on Star Trek to fall asleep. I recognize how sexist and misogynistic the show really is, but I still find comfort in the familiarity of it. These days we often fall asleep watching The Office. Years from now, I’m sure my kids will look back and remember sleeping on the floor with a pillow and a favorite blanket. I am certain they will be able to quote Pam & Jim. My hope is that they look back and think that society has come so far from the satire they are watching today.  That they will occasionally flip it on for nostalgia and comfort and allow their own babies to bask in the love and assurance of their floor.

In The Blink of An Eye

In the blink of an eye.

A tiny steel ball that is just half an inch in diameter.

A five-year-old. A moment.

That was all it took for a nearly fatal disaster to occur.

In the blink of an eye, things can change. 

I strongly believe that this tiny steel ball was meant to be a wake up call.

The memory of the event haunts me even now, weeks later.

Gasping, choking, screaming, crying.

Sticking his fingers down his throat.

Most importantly, his tiny body instinctively knows to try to expel the foreign object.

I hear the commotion, but I am entrenched in a school-girl conversation with my daughter. Someone on the playground has stolen an imaginary egg and “it’s not fair.” All at once, my son bursts through the door and says, “We need your help.”

Consequently, this is the moment I grasp the gravity of that tiny steel ball. 

Is he breathing? Yes. He continues to scream. Therefore, I know his airway is not blocked. 

We give him water and he passes three goldfish. Down they go.

The x-ray reveals the glistening, glossy globe in my child’s abdomen. That is to say, he will be fine. This too shall. Literally, it actually WILL pass. 

As I pull into my garage, I reflect. To clarify, I allow myself a moment to process what just happened. This could have ended so much differently.

Life can change in the blink of an eye. When he swallowed that steel ball, all of the sudden NOTHING else mattered. Not work, obligations, emails, politics. As a result, this really got me thinking. It’s time to slow down. It’s time to snuggle, to listen, to breathe, and savor. Friends, there are many things that tug at our time. Things that demand to take our attention away from our children and family. So, I walked away having learned an important lesson. Those obligations and stressors are not the things that matter in the blink of an eye. To clarify, they are NOT the good stuff. The good stuff is the soul-filling, joyful, beautiful parts of life that fill us and give us purpose. 

What gives you life? A friendly reminder, lean towards that. 

The Essay

I brush the soft wisps of her long hair away from her face. Meanwhile, she crosses her feet on the bench at the foot of my bed as she lies next to our family dog. I caress her and assure her that things will be okay. All the while knots form in my stomach and my throat tightens. How could I not see it through her eyes?

In short, she was given a school assignment that was seemingly harmless. In fact, I knew nothing about it until it was anything but harmless. The veiled eyes of the unoppressed and embraced blinds my ability to anticipate this deleterious event. 

The assignment: Write an essay about changing identities’ with another person for 24 hours. What would you do? What would you see? 

This seems harmless enough, right? For my cis, seemingly heterosexual child, this was a piece of cake when presented two years back. He writes his essay without a hitch. Presented to my transgender daughter, just ten, it became her undoing. 

The teacher reports that she is being non-compliant, refusing to finish class, turning off her computer, and abruptly leaving. First red flag. While I would certainly say my daughter is spirited, it is unlike her to be blatantly disrespectful. Things progress to her total disregard for the assignment. She is choosing to write about trading places with the family dog. Consequently, her teacher does not approve of this and pushes her to complete the essay like the rest of her classmates.

My daughter has a fiery soul. To clarify, I know that we have to keep things in check or she will take the rope and run. With both feet, I come down and force her to start her outline. Seriously, what is the big deal about this assignment?  

As we lay in bed and talk, I know she is struggling and the enormity of my mistake weighs on me. “Why can’t I just be the dog? It isn’t fair.” She doesn’t want to be anyone else. Oh dear Lord, just choose Lady Gaga or one of your Roblox people and let’s get it over with. Cooperate and graduate. You need to learn that!

And then it came.  The soul-crushing reminder that my daughter grapples with things that never even cross my mind. Dear readers and friends, I invite you to think about the situation I just shared with you. Think about it from the perspective of my daughter. As a result, does anything stick out to you? 

“Mommy, if we trade places they will know I am trans. They might tell people. They might do bad things. I could get hurt.”

Just like that, I realized what an incredibly, enormously, awful mistake had been made and I could not get out of it fast enough.

My heart breaks into a million pieces retelling this story. It is, unfortunately, very much non-fiction. Diversity in our communities means that we meet all people where they are. Above all, we leave room for everyone. It does not mean you have to understand me or my daughter, but it does mean that our truth and reality are valid. Her teachers made a mistake. Her mother made a mistake. And thinking on this in more depth, perhaps the education system as a whole is making a mistake. In this case, the appropriate approach would have been to allow for an alternative essay, but until you see it through the eyes of someone else, it is hard to understand why a harmless assignment has caused my daughter’s undoing.

Approaching education from a hetero, cis-normative standpoint alienates people just as much as the whitewashing that has impacted the black, brown, and indigenous members of our America. We need to do better. We cannot keep making the same mistakes and never learn from them. I know my daughter was supposed to be the one learning from that essay but I think I am the one who learned the most here. Baby girl, your momma is watching. Your momma is listening. In sum, your momma learned from her mistakes. Who out there is willing to join me?

What Does It Mean To Have A Good Life?

I remember taking a philosophy class as a freshman at the University of Maryland. We would read, debate, and write about the following question: “What does it mean to have a good life?” Sit with this question for a moment and consider your frame of reference for a good life. Think about how your good life might not be the same as that of another person’s. That’s ok, right? Of course, it is. We all have this one beautiful life to live after all. 

No matter what your “good life” looks like, I believe one thing remains the same. We want acceptance for who we are. Be that Catholic, Jewish, Asian, African American, Transgender, Gay, Female or pink elephant. I’m serious. Affirming a person as they see themselves does not detract from your good life. Because again, we all have just one shot at this, so imagine how tragic it would feel if someone told you that you do not have the right to who you are.

Your identity and how you present to the world are of enormous importance to you. If you are constantly bombarded with the message that your identity (insert whatever category you put yourself in) is incorrect or worse, wrong, and that you are not valid, imagine the long-term stress, anxiety, and depression that would bring. 

Perhaps your categories are societal norms. You have never been part of a marginalized or oppressed category. I can relate. Because until 5 years and many months ago I was not either. Now, here I am. So, for me, the question about what it means to have a good life means something a little different now. Now it means that I will fight until my last breath to be a voice, and as you all might agree, a loud one. I will speak my truths and for those who are being silenced. All are welcome.

An Educator’s Role in Affirming Transgender Children

A national survey by GLSEN has found that 75% of transgender youth feel unsafe at school.

The survey concludes that those who persevere have significantly lower GPAs.

These students are more likely to miss school out of concern for their safety,

They are less likely to continue furthering their education after high school. 

So, what do these statements mean for educators? 

Educators have a unique and prominent role in the lives of these children. For some, teachers are the only safe adults in their lives because their parents and siblings are non-affirming. Additionally, teachers are the first adults to see bullying and hostile treatment from other students. And as a result, they are the first people who can respond in a way that makes a transgender child feel validated and safe. Below are 5 simples ways to affirm transgender children in your classroom.

  1. Use preferred pronouns and names. This is a simple, yet impactful way to validate these children for who they are. When in doubt, have courageous conversations with the child about which pronouns they prefer.
  2. Acknowledge and react to mistreatment from other children. In short, it is no secret that mental health is a serious concern in the transgender community. One cause of depression and suicidal thoughts in transgender children is bullying. Do everything you can to prevent it. 
  3. Focus on the whole child. Ultimately, transgender children are so much more than a pronoun. Find out what gives them joy. Talk with them about books, hobbies, or other activities they enjoy. Praise them for the beautiful person they are. 
  4. Educate your colleagues. Sometimes, people’s bias is unintended and comes from a place of misunderstanding or the consumption of disinformation. Do what you can to educate your peers. For example, share resources and information that supports the affirmation of transgender children.
  5. Think of creative ways to divide your classroom activities. Even after she transitioned, my daughter was instructed to line up in the boys’ line in gym class. Her reaction was embarrassment and hurt feelings. The gym teacher publicly shamed my daughter in front of her peers. Despite a 504 instructing the teacher to come up with creative ways to divide the class, it persisted. Ideas can be anything from your favorite color or guess the number. Have fun with it. Dividing into the binary is so 2000.
  6. Don’t overthink everything. To conclude, transgender children want to be loved and accepted just like every other child in the class. Sticking to this basic principle will yield dividends in terms of a trusting, reciprocal, healthy relationship with your student. 

For more incredible suggestions subscribe to one of my favorite newsletters targeted towards educators. Time To Thrive is an annual conference held by the Human Rights Campaign. Their monthly newsletter is a bright spot in my day. In your classroom, make sure all are welcome.

A Letter to My Cis, White Sons

It is the year 2021. My hope is that you are reading this and have grown to be strong, happy, healthy men. That you are respectful of all people. I hope that you model this respect not only with words but also with your actions and choices. I hope you are agents of change and pressing for progress in our lost world.

It is 2021 and we have been ravaged by a pandemic for over a year. Many lives have been lost and many more are living with the long-term effects of a virus that is continuously morphing. We are coming out of a presidential administration that has coveted power over people and vitriol over empathy.

As a result, the prolonged oppression of marginalized people has led to an outcry and spotlight on the disparity between the haves and the have nots.

My hope for you is that you have recognized your inherent privilege and worked to educate yourself and those around you about people who look different, believe differently, love differently, and live differently than you. I pray that you have friends that are not just from a myriad of different colors and backgrounds, but also from a spectrum of genders, abilities, and walks of life.

You have grown up in a crazy busy household with four children and at least one dog at all times. Each of us enjoys different activities, we each have different needs, and struggle with different issues. It is my hope that you all see your uniqueness and individual value and don’t compare that to the uniqueness and value of your siblings. 

Most importantly, I hope you have gone into the world and recognized that everyone brings something important and special to the table. In the ultra-competitive, win-at-all costs culture that has taken hold, the world seems to believe that it is okay to step on the backs of others to get what you want or need. I am here to tell you that this is wrong. We are stronger when we work together. We are stronger when we bring together communities and when we value what each person brings to the table.

Throughout your life, your father and I have always been willing to pivot. We have homeschooled all of you at some point for different reasons and have found a path forward in all of life’s difficulties. We value education. Alongside that, we look to be reeducated. Learning lasts a lifetime. Continue reading, researching, listening, and be willing to pivot. Continue to seek people who will challenge your understanding and frame of reference. Remember, the winners write the history that is taught. Always question what you are learning and challenge the status quo.

Finally, your sister is a strong, seemingly fierce, and resilient person. She is tenacious and puts up a good fight. Being transgender in our society is dispiriting. Each of you has a challenge in life however, none of you have legislators proposing laws that will decide your access to medical care. There is no question if you want to play on a sports team, pee in a bathroom, or be who you are.

Your sister is a fighter, but she needs you. She will always need you. Your father and I never knew the enormity of our privilege until our perfectly made, kind, happy, beautiful baby girl shared her true identity one week after turning five. She is who she has always been. Never question her. Never let the people around you influence your opinion of her.

When people bully or ostracize you for standing steadfast with her and other marginalized communities, please remember my words. We are stronger together. Empathy is not weakness. You are unique and special and we can make a change. I love you.

Holidays Of Exclusion

I recently spent some time talking with a friend on Mother’s Day. She shared the hurt that she feels being a childless woman on Mother’s Day. Every single day she aches for a baby, but Mother’s Day just feels worse. In short, I can see why. Ads leading up to the day are geared towards loving and appreciating your mother. Stores are decorated with flowers, cards, and balloons. Conversations with friends center on whether your children are making brunch, or taking you out to dinner. 

As a result of my friend’s sadness, I really got to thinking about holidays of exclusion. Father’s Day. Valentine’s Day. Grandparent’s Day. We fill our calendars with them. It is unfortunate that a single date on a calendar carries such emotion.

Don’t get me wrong, I am in no way shaming those who celebrate these special holidays. I guess I am just taking a moment to save space for those who may not feel like they can celebrate like everyone else. For those who are reminded of loss and sadness

So, by now you might be wondering how this connects to the transgender community. It all boils down to exclusion. For some, this occurs day in and day out. Many transgender people are not only dealing with public shaming and exclusion, but also the cold disregard from non-affirming parents. Siblings that won’t speak to them. Doctors who will not treat them. Friends who disown them.  

Exclusion just hurts. So, how do we change this? My best guess is that it starts with us. Listening. Learning. And showing up in advocacy each and every day. As always, all are welcome.

Finding Our Way Through Dyslexia

January 26, 2012: 

“I love these chick eggs. I just need to take off the skeleton before I eat them.” This is what my four-year-old son said while eating chickpeas. From where I’m sitting, my life is like a chick egg. It all makes perfect sense to us. We don’t think about our kids being different. For example, two of our children are dyslexic. This learning difference is significant enough that they are enrolled in a school that specializes in supporting the unique ways that they learn. To the world, they appear as though they merely struggle with reading and spelling. But sometimes you just know when there is something more. Something deeper.

The early learning years were a challenge. Trying to get them to read was like wading through mud. Recognizing letters and remembering which sound each letter makes was so difficult for both of them. Hours of them not getting it and me not getting them. In the end, that is what it boiled down to. I didn’t get them. I didn’t understand why all of this was so hard. Things were particularly difficult with my third child. It felt like she wasn’t paying attention or was just being defiant. We floundered in the public school system with teachers and administrators pushing them along, explaining they would “get it eventually.”  

It was in my son’s second-grade year that they explained that he has anxiety. High anxiety. Debilitating anxiety. He was never a challenge in class, always wanted to answer questions and had many of his own. Then, each night before bed he would puke his brains out. Not missing a beat Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. Wait? Why wasn’t he vomiting on Friday or Saturday? Vacations and breaks were the same. We took a trip to Disney no puke in sight…until he figured out we were going back. 

Teachers blamed the anxiety on my cancer diagnosis. My family is stressing and so we must get into counseling. Sounded reasonable and damn, I am stressing, so we work the problem. Counseling started and soon December rolled around and so commenced medical workups. Bloodwork for PANDAS, PANS, Lyme Disease, and rainbow panels performed. Everything came back normal. More counseling and questions. More good behavior but failing and falling grades. June rolls around and we are prescribed a brain MRI. Perhaps a closed head injury or something wrong with his brain. Why is he vomiting every night? Nope, normal. 

Do you have a family history of dyslexia? “No,” I replied. “You’re sure?” she asks. After leaving her office, I lit up the phone with text messages. My husband, my mom, and my dad. Anything? “Yes, ” my Dad answered.  I scolded him. This was serious and I needed an honest answer. Something was wrong with my baby. His reply, “I have the paperwork from Georgetown University from the early 1960s.” My mother, “What do you mean you’re dyslexic? We’ve been married 40+ years, when were you going to…” It went like that for quite some time. We finally found our reason. 

Cognitive testing, homeschooling, and ultimately finding a school that specializes in learning difference has been such a blessing in our family. It is interesting to hear the stories of other families because we have all walked a similar distorted path to ultimately figuring out that our children are just wired differently. Personally, I have come to understand why school was such a struggle for me. I have reconciled why I was never able to pass spelling tests and struggled so much with things like math and chemistry and am more of a chef than a baker. I need latitude and the ability to improvise because precision and detail are difficult for me. Seeing the big picture and looking for ways to make the smaller parts fit into the puzzle is my strong suit. 

If you looked at my grades from undergraduate or even graduate school, you might think I didn’t measure up. I now understand that tests and grades are only one way to measure intelligence and success. I don’t want to be measured in standardized tests (SAT oh Lord), or math tests. Please measure my intelligence in terms of leadership, collaboration, kindness, project management, and outcomes. The way I get there, or even my children get there might not fit into “standard protocol.” The point is we get there and should not be destroyed in the process. Because from the outside what is a chick egg to one person is just a chickpea to someone else. 

Pride Is More Than Corporate Parades & Floats

It has been five Pride’s since my daughter shared her truth with us. Pride means a lot to my daughter. She understands it to be a special time for people to come together to celebrate their differences. To relish in our individuality and support others like her. 

During her first Pride, she wore her very first dress. It was a long, cotton, teal, maxi dress with rainbow animals printed on the fabric. Her hair, still so short and soft, was pulled back on one side with a mesh bow with brightly colored pom pom balls inside.

It was just the two of us testing the water, as her news was very new. We had not yet shared outside of our bubble and she was not ready to socially transition.

We spent the day roaming around Washington, DC, weaving in and out of streets and parks. Skirting the outside of the parade as I was a neophyte and not sure about the appropriateness for children. We walked, shopped, played Pokemon Go and dined at Annie’s Paramount Steakhouse. We stayed in an Air B&B and went to the National Zoo the next morning.

As she has grown so have our Pride calendars. We come together for community with our fellow area parents of transgender kids and have pool parties, picnics, and games. We wave flags, have been back to Capital Pride twice more and then the pandemic hit.

My daughter is sad that we will miss the big Pride event this year. 

Nearly three months ago she started asking again, what is the plan? Although our Pride will not be coming together in large crowds, we most definitely have plans for a private gathering with our close friends. We have ordered our Pride lawn art from the Human Rights Campaign and already have signs and flags adorning our yard. 

No matter if Pride is a corporate-sponsored event, a local community gathering, or a small group of parents dedicated to affirming and uplifting their beautiful children. For the marginalized LGBTQIA+ umbrella, Pride should be about time. The time we set aside to come together with intention. The time we show up for our kids, friends, siblings, parents, and grandparents. Pride doesn’t have to mean floats and closed streets. It needs to be an intentional act to make those who feel “less than” and “other”, valued and special. 

So baby girl, get your flag out, your best Pride outfit and let’s go! I can’t wait!!

Three Things We Can Learn From Nature

You know from my reflection about the bird nest, that I firmly believe we can learn everything we need to know from nature. As Spring begins to unveil its gloriousness, I am reminded once again how true that is. This past weekend, my family discovered a very large turtle on our property. As I watched this magnificent creature make its way through my yard, I reflected on some things that I would like to share with you. 

Do the next thing

Admittedly, I am in a season of overwhelm right now. Consequently, it feels like the ping pong scene from Forrest Gump. I am constantly getting whacked and bounced from one issue to the next. That is such a “human” thing. As I admire that turtle, I realize that although I am not sure what his mission is, he is focused and determined to complete it. Laser. Sharp. Focus. So friends, when your mind starts to feel like a ping pong match on steroids, just do the next thing. Don’t think of the million other things. Do the next thing

Wear your battle scars with pride

At every turn, it feels like there is a new cream, procedure, supplement, or routine to help us look flawless, ageless, like new. Why do we do that? My turtle friend carries her scars with pride. Dirt crusted on her shell, wrinkled skin from time spent basking in the sun, and cracks and bruises from the natural struggle of being a turtle. But, we marvel at her. She is beautiful, scars and all. And so are you. 

Retreat when necessary

It was beyond exciting for my family to see our turtle friend. With excitement, there is noise and laughter and jumping up and down. At first, the turtle moved forward, unbothered by our presence. And then, as turtles do, retreated into her shell to take a moment to regroup from the excitement my family brought to her journey. She paused to breathe. Friends, how many of you are forgetting to retreat? Refusing to breathe?

Can we pause for a moment to think about what these three things look like for our transgender community? They have to do “all the things” just like the rest of us. Meanwhile, they also must fight for freedoms, advocate for health care, and seek community and friendships that are allies. So consequently, it is beyond exhausting. 

They are bombarded with a culture that promotes youthfulness and beauty PLUS the constant worry that they will not receive gender-affirming medical care. 

They need rest and respite, yet cannot let down their guard for a second, because the enemy is always ready with a new law or mandate that dictates who they are. 

We are worthy just by being, not by the amount we accomplish. We are all beautiful without creams or tinctures to make us look younger. Everyone deserves rest and reprieve from a loud and sometimes overwhelming world. 
Just like the turtle, you are enough.

Socks Don’t Have Penises

Recently, I had a candid conversation with a very close friend. She shared that my transgender child is lucky to have us as parents. She says that she would have challenged her child if they had spoken their truth. This comment completely flips my perspective on its head. It has never occurred to me to challenge her identity. I do not take offense to my friend’s comment. I strongly believe that we learn and grow from one another, so I am grateful for her candidness. 

Yet, the comment sticks with me. It leads me to think about my four-year-old, who strongly identifies as male.  Specifically, listening to him tell me that he will not shop for dinosaur socks in the “girls” section affirms the fact that children ABSOLUTELY have a gender identity from the youngest of ages. Of course, I respond that I didn’t realize socks have vaginas or penises (sorry kid, you got me as your mom). We leave the girls section and find “man socks” in the dollar section. Soon after, he proudly draws up the socks to his thighs and dons them for preschool. To summarize, I don’t question this behavior because it is WHO HE IS. 

Just as I will never force my four-year-old to be someone he is not, I will never imprison my daughter in this way either. The candid conversation with my friend and reflection of my son’s behavior strengthens my confidence, belief, and resolve in supporting trans people and their right to identify as they choose. Furthermore, I simply can not fathom what it feels like to have someone question your identity. 

To summarize, each of us is made up of a complex, beautiful, mosaic of feminine, masculine, and somewhere in between and friends, it is time to honor that. 

Look around you. Take notice. How can you affirm someone’s uniqueness today? 

Peaceful Drops of Rain

Water is a magnificent force of nature. It is still and gentle like a snowflake.  Calming, like a drop of rain. Peaceful. 

On the other hand, that same drop of water, while appearing to be dainty and harmless can, over time, etch a hole into stone. I believe Lucretius said it best, “the drops of rain make a hole in the stone, not by violence, but by the oft of falling.” 

The pandemic came and felt more like a tsunami than a drop of water. Powerful. Deadly. Washing away everything in its path. And now, we are all changed. I know I am not alone when I say that fighting this pandemic and the aftermath has left me undone. 

The long battle has been a burdensome fight in my home, as I work tirelessly to protect my children and parents. It has been a battle to support my staff, patients, and community. And friends, I am tired. Really tired. In some ways, it seems like the tsunami has subsided. Unfortunately, what is left behind is steady dripping water. Like a faucet that hasn’t been securely turned off. 

It has been a year and two months since Covid disrupted our world. Since that time we have shut down, masked up, and tucked our children behind closed doors. In this new trip around the sun, we are reopening. But the harmful rhetoric, scarcity mindset, and divisiveness are still entrenched. It is disheartening, really. 

I do not know about your personal choices or liberties and I am not here to judge or preach. What I am seeing is far more concerning and goes back to that steady drip, drip, drip…

It is the continued attack on those that are other, those who have the underhand, and it is without cease. The local school board and town council politics that are playing out like a presidential election. It has to stop. 

I sit in ClubHouse rooms and hear multiple marginalized communities dishonor each other, claiming their community has it worse and the other is not valid or worse, bigoted or racist. I take part in diversity and inclusion discussions at my kids’ school. For months, we have focused on racism, prejudice, bias, and other topics with a focus on unlearning and understanding the harm and atrocities inflicted on our African American fellow community members. For months, a cohort of roughly eleven (plus or minus) families shows up to these monthly Zoom calls. The capstone for the year included a call on Becoming Nicole by Amy Nutt and over 20 families were in attendance. While transgender issues are my primary advocacy focus, I wonder why all of these people weren’t on the many other calls with us throughout the year? 

Meanwhile, from a legislative standpoint, anti-transgender legislation is being passed in many states. This could cause an increase in suicide. An increase in DEATH. To clarify, lack of gender-affirming medical care scientifically correlates with an increase in death. It is a fact.

Nonetheless, we have people who are more focused on winning…something. This is the win they are bringing home. Legislating for their constituents and now my kid can’t get the help she needs from her doctor. Wow. In the end, this really comes back to a fundamental issue. Empathy.

Previously, I discussed the scarcity mindset versus the growth mindset. In an article from Stanford Medicine, Holly McCormic states that “people who believed empathy is flexible — not fixed — spent more time listening to the suffering of a person of another race and put more energy into trying to understand the opinions of a person with different political beliefs.” 

In short, I believe the water will continue to fall and wear us down. Will it be that steady drip or another tsunami? That, I can not say. In the end, the division in our communities is the storm’s greatest strength. The hatred for marginalized communities whether they be black, trans, Asian, gay, lesbian, indigenous, you name it is what strengthens the storm. When we tear each other apart we strengthen them.

So friends, it has been a hard year and we are all worn down from both the surge of the storm and the steady rain that has followed in its wake. It is time to find the path forward TOGETHER. Who’s with me? All are welcome. 


“Let’s conjure up, from the depth of our souls:

The truest, most beautiful lives we can imagine.

The truest, most beautiful families we can fathom.

The truest, most beautiful world we can hope for.”

~Glennon Doyle, Untamed, 2020

I feel lost. Succumbing to the undertow and being swept out to sea. The overt oppression, police violence, unkindness, greed, and yes, the virus. The damn virus. I have stepped away from my passion, my calling, because I am under siege by the virus. Finding the path through the storm, foraging forward, and putting on a brave face as a provider in a health system that people are undermining for political gain. 

When I read the above quote by Glennon Doyle, it called to me. In reality, her book should call to all of us to rise above the social constructs and niceties that chain us down. To imagine in terms of love and light, not mired down in the despair of the known, but to reach down into our soul to find the path forward. The beauty in what can be, rather than what is. For a million reasons, I have been buried in what is. From this point forward, I am taking back my power. I am making the conscious choice to walk into the vision of what our world, our nation, my community can be. 

Ironically, much of the recent rhetoric is focused on dismantling social constructs that are chaining down those who are marginalized. Those benefiting from such ideals, beliefs, and institutions are reluctant to relinquish their privilege even if they are granted such privilege by stepping on the backs of those in their wake. So, when I imagine and work towards my truest, most beautiful….I find myself struggling with what is.  What is, quite frankly, is really scary, sad, and hard for the trans community. 

My truest, most beautiful life and family does not include neighbors discussing whether my daughter can compete in sports against their kids. They are not discussing whether my child should have access to hormones. We don’t have to leave the public school system because of, discrimination, and lack of services for her learning difference.

Moreover, in my truly beautiful world, authors with the power of the literary pen and leaders of countries do not use their power to legislate, discriminate, marginalize, and oppress in the name of their racist agenda. The naysayers use words like socialism, communism, and liberal. Which are all, ironically, social constructs that people use to manipulate. To pigeon-hole the believers into a winner-takes-all, us and them syndrome. That somehow by allowing in the beauty and light will somehow diminish theirs. When in fact, the synergy of positivity, inclusivity, and togetherness will bring prosperity for us all. 

It is through connection, affirmation, and respecting our individual uniqueness that we appreciate the complexity of our human experience. In summary, without each piece of the puzzle, the whole is solitary and void of the abundant richness of our humanity. 

The Family You Choose

“Shawls … made for centuries universal and embracing,

symbolic of an inclusive, unconditionally loving, God.

They wrap, enfold, comfort, cover, give solace,

mother, hug, shelter and beautify.

Those who have received these shawls have been 

uplifted and affirmed, as if given wings to 

fly above their troubles…”

  Written in 1998 by: Janet Severi Bristow 

Do you have that person in your life that just always seems to know when you need them? Earlier this month I received the text, “What are her favorite colors?” completely out of the blue. “Definitely teal, pink, blue, white,” I reply, perplexed. “Okay, I’m knitting and should be done this weekend.” 

The text comes from my friend and former neighbor. She is a motherly figure to my family and always seems to know when the time is just right to bless us with her kindness. As I read her text, I transport to another time. It is seven years ago, I have three babies under my wing, and a fresh cancer diagnosis on my mind.  Out of nowhere, a beautiful shawl appears. It is royal purple and deep magenta intermingled with aqua, yellow, orange. It is a masterpiece. The delicate texture of the yarn, tied with tiny jewels on the ends wraps me in reassurance, even all of these years later.

Fast forward to today. When the magnificent cloak arrived for my child, we had just endured a hateful attack by people who are supposed to love us unconditionally. In short, the days were hard and our child, just ten years old, was dealing with situations beyond their years. An empath, they knew the vile attacks levied by our own blood, even if they were not the direct recipient. When I wrap my child in the loving embrace of that shawl, I am reminded that our chosen family is powerful, kind, loving, and accepts us for who we are, unconditionally.

For information on knitting prayer shawls visit: https://www.shawlministry.com/

5 Things You Can Do to Calm an Anxious Heart

It seems that there is some sort of scary or depressing news at every corner. As a result, you would be hard-pressed to find someone who is not suffering from some sort of anxiety these days. Just last night I marveled at the incredibly long lines at the gas station while inwardly hoping that we won’t run out. 

Therefore, I want to share five quick ways you can calm an anxious heart.

  1. Take a beat to breathe. I have an Apple watch and it has this semi-obnoxious feature where it buzzes every hour to remind me to breathe. Typically, I push the notification away and keep on with my busy day. I got to thinking about this the other day. I am literally being reminded to breathe and I am too busy to do it. Sure I breathe-we all do to live. But to take a moment. Release my shoulders from my ears. Inhale deeply and then exhale it all out. I don’t make time for that and my guess is that you don’t either. Try it once every hour. Report back and tell me if it helps. 
  2. Brain dump. Sometimes I go to bed exhausted and quite positive that I am going to be asleep before my head hits the pillow. You know that type of tired, right? Your eyes are heavy, your body is weary. And then ping. I remember that it is teacher appreciation day. That I forgot (again) to fold the laundry in the washer. As a result, I don’t think the soccer uniform is dry. Did I respond to my friend’s text? The kids packed their lunches, right? Friends, let me introduce you to my new favorite app-Notes. Open that baby up and type allllllll these things on your phone. Dump them out and then drift off to sleep knowing you can handle it all tomorrow. Consequently, your brain will be able to shut off, and hopefully you will find rest. 
  3. Walk. Just do it. Right now. I actually slipped a disc this year and the physical therapist told me it is directly related to a lack of movement. Consequently, I spent 6 weeks in pain. Walk now. Trust me on this one. The benefits are immense.  
  4. Cry it out. Did you know that crying is actually extremely therapeutic? We continually stuff our emotions down because we do not have time to acknowledge that we are tired, overworked, scared, sad, angry. As a result, a good old-fashioned, ugly cry can cleanse the soul sometimes. 
  5. Talk to someone. Friends, do not think for a moment that you are alone. We are all limping through life. Celebrating the highs and holding on tight through the lows. Above all, if you are struggling, find someone who will listen to you. If you can’t, the team here at All are Welcome are ready with open arms. We will be your person. We will listen.

Lastly, if you find yourself coping with struggles in an unhealthy way, we are linking an organization called The Recovery Village. Here you will find a team of experts who specialize in drug and alcohol recovery, mental illness, and other addiction treatment. In summary, do everything you can to take care of yourself. You are loved and needed. As always, all are welcome. 

3 Things My Trans Daughter Taught Me Through a Game of Capture the Flag

After a full day of work, I come home to pick up my older two children to take them to soccer practice. My daughter is patiently waiting for me by the door. Typically, this is not a good sign. “Mommy,” she said, “we need to talk. School was not good. I’m coming to ride in the car with you.”

As we drive in silence, she takes out her computer and starts putting her words to paper. When we arrive at soccer practice, she tells me that it is too hard to talk and that she needs me to read her book. I am thankful because her school recently gave her access to book writing software and it is a great tool to help her get her feelings on paper. She is just like her mother in that regard.

In her story, she describes PE class that day. The children engage in playing capture the flag when suddenly there are whispers and commentary. Someone has directed that they should “go easy on the girls” and my daughter becomes visibly upset. In the story, her best friend is off to the side participating in the chatter. This is the moment where I hold my breath. Authentic friendships are really important in life, aren’t they?

Lesson Number One: Children are so powerful.

My daughter is incredibly astute when it comes to gender stereotyping and sexist remarks. In her 10 years on this planet, she has grown into a force fighting sexism and gender roles and stereotypes. Yes, you read that correctly. She is merely 10 years old. 

Lesson number two: We need to STOP categorizing people by gender.

My daughter recognizes that when we’re taking it easy on the girls or playing like a boy, we do not leave room for people who identify outside of the binary. She has friends who identify as non-binary and she embraces their truth just as she does her own. My daughter is not alone. In their study of gender stereotypes in socially-transitioned transgender children, Olson and Enright found that “transgender children and siblings of transgender children show less gender stereotyping and greater tolerance of gender nonconformity than other children.”

Lesson number three: Although she is brave, my daughter feels these microaggressions deeply, and so do her peers.

My daughter is extremely upset about what happened. She laments about how hard it is to be transgender. People innocently throw gender stereotypes in her face all of the time. She explains to me that these kids do not understand how hard her life is. She is constantly reminded of her “otherness” when people impose rules, regulations, laws, and norms on her and her trans and non-binary friends. Even when these rules are simply enforced in a capture the flag game. In their presentation titled Transgender Youth: Needs, Risks, Outcomes and the Role of the System, Dr. Johanna Olson discusses the impact of systems, sexism, and heteronormative behavior on transgender people and the harms and adverse outcomes such societal structures inflict.

Friends, it amazes me what a simple capture the flag game has taught me. What it can teach a group of 10-year-olds. In short, my daughter gives me hope for the future. As I witness her and her friends navigate the ins and outs of something as simple as capture the flag, I realize that her school friends are always listening and watching. Above all, they love her and want the best for her. Though her path is not easy she will-Be The Change.

Love is possible. Change is possible. Now go grab that flag like the badass human being that you are.

Note: Thank you for taking the time to read my blog and open my email messages. The International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia was created in 2004 to draw the attention to the violence and discrimination experienced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex people and all other people with diverse sexual orientations, gender identities or expressions, and sex characteristics.

The date of May 17th is specifically chosen to commemorate the World Health Organization’s decision in 1990 to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder.

On this day, I remember the 23 known transgender people who have been murdered in 2021 already. According to Everytown for Gun Safety 72% of recorded trans murders have happened with guns and 78% of those murdered were black. With 44 known murders, the year 2020 is the deadliest on record for transgender. The year 2021 poises itself to break that record. My reader, by becoming educated and articulate about what it means to be transgender or non-binary, you are making a difference. When you come back each week to read my quick blog post reflecting on my life, on my privileged life, your veil is lifted. The plight of transgender women, particularly those of color, cannot be underestimated.

Today, I am asking you to donate $5.00 to The Human Rights Campaign. HRC has been at the forefront of combatting the caustic legislation that is further marginalizing our transgender children, sisters, brothers, aunties, and uncles. Above all, we thank you for your support.

When a Simple Call Changes Everything

“Do you have time to talk?” My stomach hits the floor as I read these words from my children’s school. All of my readers out there who are parents know that feeling, don’t you? The heart quickens, the sweat starts to bead up on your forehead. I feel like this feeling intensifies when it pertains to my trans child. It has been a difficult couple of weeks with multiple doctor appointments and the start of counseling. In short, they are entering the stage where their body begins to change and defy their identity. This is an emotionally difficult time in the life of a transgender person. They are in the thick of it and everything is hard. To clarify, we are in the process of starting trans puberty classes, talking about hormones, and having conversations about mental health and in hindsight, I see that it was a lot to digest. 

Friends, fight or flight is no joke. Of course, when it comes to your children, flight is never an option, so I steady myself as I respond to the text. “Please,” I plead to myself. “Please let them be in trouble for rolling around on the floor, sleeping in music, or refusing to participate in PE.” 

“Yes,” I shakily respond.  “What did they do?” Meanwhile, I patiently wait for hours for a response. Who am I kidding…it was 5 minutes and I am anything but patient, so I call. 

Thankfully, the gentle, calm, familiar voice of our beloved psychologist greets me on the other end of the line. “They have disclosed to some other children.” It is worth noting that as I navigate this life and the hills and valleys that come with it, I am constantly reminded of the importance of having a steady support group. Whether it be a psychologist that just “gets” your child and will help guide and soothe them when you can’t be there or a trans parent support group that has walked your walk and can guide you along the way, the importance of a steady support group is essential.

So back to the call. It was one of those calls that made me sob in my car as I stuffed copious amounts of french fries into my body. A call that sent me directly to my trans support group for guidance. It was the first of what I know will be many calls, but it just didn’t make it any easier. We all knew this day would come and I know we are ready to help them navigate this process, but it still felt very scary. 

It’s funny how fight or flight works. As I was reunited with my child, the fight instinct took over. I gently reminded my baby that they are the sun and the moon and the stars. That they are light and love and that the world without them would be dark. Above all, I reminded them that their father and I support them every step of the way and that we will help them write their story and that together we can move mountains. 

Friends, are you walking through a dark time right now? Perhaps your dark time doesn’t include conversations about hormones, disclosure, or body changes that don’t feel right. Maybe it is grief, or fear, or hopelessness. A reminder to you. All are welcome. We all need that steady support group. Moreover, if you find yourself in need of such a group, email me or comment below. We are all in this together.

The Cup

It was a warm March day and I was on my back deck basking in the glorious sunshine. At least that is what I wished I was doing. Instead of resting and enjoying the sunshine, I was actually feverishly transferring a monogram onto a shiny, rainbow wine glass with a tool that looked like a kitchen scraper. As I press, peel, and curse under my breath, I think to myself that this is not my calling. Getting this particular cup complete would put the end cap on what was my short-lived online retail career.

All the while, my house was abuzz with children in virtual school and my mother helping me by cleaning out the pantry. All the while, I was sweating and scolding myself. Why did I do this? 

Just then the phone rang and my neighbor’s face lit up the screen. A welcome distraction from the angst-causing cup.

I answered. 

Her mother had died. 

It was not expected. 

Time stops.

As I ordered flowers and created a meal train, I reflected on the cup. While well-intentioned, as a means to raise money for my child’s camp, it was a drain on my time and energy. It was not in my wheelhouse of expertise. I faltered with getting the lettering to stick perfectly and dammit I am a perfectionist! But this well-meaning time-suck detracts from what is really important. From my relationships. You see in creating these things for others, I am sacrificing a bit of my sanity. Everything has a cost, even the well-intended things we do for others. This cup was taking time away from reading to my child or comforting my friend during a time of need. 

This year I am focusing my energy on what matters and making some lasting changes. I am resolute to use my pen and voice to make this world a better place. That, unlike the cup, is in my wheelhouse. I am steadfast in my resolve to take a hard look at my priorities and ensure that my limited time is being spent where it counts. 

This past year has been a blur. Hasn’t it been for all of us? I have been treading water and quite frankly, have been trying to keep a family and a practice afloat all while succumbing to the tidal wave of personal anxiety and depression.  But I vow that this year, I am taking back my life. This year I am getting back to what really matters. A wise woman once told me, “not every cause is a calling.” We must not overcommit. We must protect our sanity. We must actually be present in our relationships. It is time to look closely at what fills our cup. I know now what fills mine. Share with us. What fills yours?

Nurse Phillip

I still remember it like it was yesterday. There he was, sitting behind the desk in the elementary school nurse’s office. Handmade art adorned his walls. Superheroes, rainbows, and typical school nurse warnings decorated his space. Wash your hands signs, Band-Aids, a cot in the adjacent room. I remember every single detail. Students clearly loved and admired him. There he sat on the other side of the desk with a smile on his face. “How can I help you?” he asked in a warm, welcoming voice. He knew why I was there because he had watched my daughter come into the school in kindergarten.  

This was before the change. This was before she came to us. It was a tough time as parents because we really couldn’t get our arms around what was going on.  As straight cis parents, we were completely clueless. We knew from her youngest time that she was different from our older two boys. She was drawn towards characters and into magical thinking. She loved dressing up and playing Frozen. But she was never Hans or Olaf. She was Elsa. This is accepted as “normal” behavior for children when they are two or three, but when they are picking out pink pony backpacks for Catholic pre-K, things start getting dicey.  

When we started public kindergarten, the disparity between our child and those in their natal assigned gender became increasingly apparent. At this point, we were not allowing our child to wear skirts and dresses. They were stuck with shirts and pants that we felt were neutral enough. Shopping was anguishing. I would go into Target and hope that nobody would catch me in the girl’s section. Why do they have a “girl’s” section? Why did I feel embarrassed? These are all questions I ask myself in retrospect.  At the time, it was all so hard.

But, there he sat.  Such a kind, gentle soul who knew he was about to change my world.  I explain other children are teasing my baby. I had heard that the nurse was part of the LGBTQ community, so I thought he might be able to help me.  You see, I thought my precious baby was gay.  That explained it.  My son wanted to be Elsa and wear dresses because he was gay.  I knew gay people. One of my very best friends was gay (cliché, yes I know). We could do this.

So I went into his office and politely asked him, with tears in my eyes, if he could help me.  I explain that my son wears a pink shirt to school and the children make fun of him. I ask if he wears pink shirts and dressed up when he was a boy. Did he know?  With the most kind and loving words, the nurse let me down. “No, Mrs. Moore. I did not dress up in my mom’s clothes or emulate girls. Your baby is not gay.”  

There it was. That was it. The words left unspoken were tremendous.  They just sat heavy and silent in the nurse’s office.

The next day the nurse showed up at school with a pink Wonder Woman shirt on and burst into the kindergarten classroom, “WHAT do you think of MY shirt?!” he proclaimed to the gleeful children!! My understanding from my daughter is that the children all loved the nurse’s pink shirt because they loved the nurse. When they saw him they didn’t see pink or blue, boy or girl, straight or gay. They saw a human who cared deeply about who they were and genuinely for their welfare.

The nurse has since moved on from the school and so have we.  However, he sends our daughter notes in the mail to randomly remind her of how special and loved she is.  He does this without prompting or because of a birthday or anniversary.  They arrive out of the blue, usually at just the right time. Last weekend we attended a PFLAG Christmas party and had the honor of sitting on Santa’s lap (his husband) and visiting the Elf (our dear nurse). We had the pleasure of love and hugs galore, affirmation, kindness, and acceptance. This special person is the embodiment of what each and every child should have in their lives as they discover and become who they are meant to be.  

We are blessed, thankful, and better because he is in our lives and so is every child whose life he has touched.

For more information on the impact of schools on transgender youth please visit Teach for America’s: Standing Up for Transgender Students.

Swimming Against the Waves

Time is a precious and sought-after commodity when parenting. It’s so easy to remind other parents to take time for themselves. In order to parent effectively, we must fill our own bucket. Put on our oxygen mask first. We say these words to our friends and hear them in return. But, does anyone out there actually act on it?

During an all-too-brief hiatus from real life, I board a small boat and head across the seas. Our captain navigates out of the marina and soars past the yachts and onlookers. The sea air is blowing in my face and my skin sparkles with freshly applied sunscreen. This air feels wonderful and refreshing. The last couple of days have been insanely windy and the air constantly wooshed past my ears when I sat outside. It wasn’t until I got back inside, that I realized how much that strong, gusty wind left me feeling spent and exhausted. In comparison, today the sea air feels cool and comforting.

As we move across the calm water, we pass crab pots, pelicans, and pintails. Effortlessly, we navigate under concrete bridges and between buoys. The waters gradually become more choppy the farther we navigate into the ocean. As the swells rise and fall, I note the beautiful variations of turquoise, aqua, and deep blues that appear and disappear in rhythmic time. Gradually increasing from swells to waves, the water periodically splashes on the bow as we approach our destination. Here, the waves are rough and the captain asks if we are ready for extreme snorkeling?  We have found the reef. 

I slip on my snorkel and fins, take a deep breath, and expectantly drop into the deep azure ocean. Beneath the surface are hundreds, if not thousands, of colorful fish. Their brilliant neon color creates a fantastic juxtaposition to the colors of the reef. Purple coral fans sway rhythmically to the movement of the ocean waves, as a giant parrotfish nibbles and flashes its striking iridescent green, pink and yellow hues. It turns and notices me before returning to its feast. 

I am calm. There is no sound but that of my own breath and the crackling of the reef. I relish being the observer rather than the observed. I lay and watch in silence. My body rises and falls with each swell. Up and down, floating and drifting with the current, I am completely enamored with the calm. So, this is what peace feels like. 

The whistle blows and as I pull my head from the sea, I am thrust back into reality. I kick and fight to return to the vessel, as waves engulf my dry valve causing me to imbibe seawater. The fight against the sea is a metaphor for my life sometimes. Why do I always feel like I am swimming against the current? After arriving at the craft, I pull off my flippers and climb the ladder back to reality.

With the bow pointing towards land, we traverse the turbulent seas. That is to say, our jaunt is nearly over. Sitting in silence, I reflect on this stolen moment with gratitude and perspective. Consequently, I recognize that I struggle with self-care. I am a mother of four, wife, small business owner, and advocate. Much of the time, I run from one emergent issue to the next. I am unable to find my darn password or the missing email that told me where to be. Heaven forbid it’s Valentine’s Day and I have to prepare a million cards for each kid’s classroom. Note: you will find nothing from Pinterest coming from this house.  It is a miracle if we remember to sign the cards. 

Everyday, I feel like I am swimming against the waves and I am gasping for air. 

My trip to the reef is likely the only self-care I have performed in recent memory. I am the last on my list of needs because something else is always screaming louder.  And the guilt when I actually take time for myself is difficult. Am I the only one who struggles with this?

Ultimately, this is an area of my life that needs to change. For, if we do not take time to reconnect, replenish, and refocus on self-care, we can lose sight of the calmness. Of that peace that lies beneath the surface because we are constantly fighting the crashing waves. Each of our lives is filled with wind and turbulent waters. Sometimes, our voyage is without respite. We forget what it sounds like when the wind is not rushing past our ears. We forget to see the colors and the beauty around us because we have our brow furrowed and head down as we forge ahead to the next thing. 

Maybe it isn’t a trip to the reef, but a moment on your front step with your eyes closed. Maybe it’s a second cup of coffee before the rush of the day begins. Perhaps, it’s simply an early bedtime and placing a phone on “do not disturb.” 

Share with me in the comments. How can you take time for yourself today, my friends?

5 Things I have Learned Being the Parent of a Transgender Child

As a parent of a transgender child, there are surprising truths that I learn every day.

  1. My life is full of quiet, yet unrelenting fear. As a white, cis, heterosexual, woman, I never realized the challenges that face the trans community. Since the moment my daughter shared her truth with us, we have feared for her safety. There is anxiety about the way people will perceive her. We worry about what her opportunities in life will be. This, my friends, is the reality for all marginalized people. 
  2. Not all people within marginalized communities accept us. The LGB of the LGBTQIA+ acronym does not always mean acceptance. This is a huge realization for me. When I started on this journey, I figured my cis, queer friends would welcome our family with open arms. This is a mistake. While many people in the LGB part of the rainbow do, in fact, embrace my daughter and her peers, there are many who do not. If you listen to Chase Strangio’s podcast about LGBTQ rights you will see how the LGB left the T in the dust when it was time to fight for marriage equality. 
  3. People who say they are allies may not always be true allies. Even though PIXAR claims to be an ally, they do not advocate for the trans community. In their casting call for a youth voice-over role for Jess, who is a 14-year-old transgender girl, PIXAR is looking for an actress aged 12-17 who… get this…doesn’t have to be trans. I’m sorry, are white people still putting on black face? Can I dress up like a Native American? Does PIXAR think that so few trans girls between 12-17 would be interested in such a role? Shame on them. Again, they cast us onto the sidelines. We can’t play the game, just watch. They consider us other
  4. Schools may say that you have parental rights, but that is not always the case. Sure, they hand you a Title IX document across a wooden table in an IEP meeting at school. However, your rights are out the window unless you are willing to fight for them. The Office for Civil Rights guidance states, “On June 15, 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court held that discrimination on the basis of an individual’s status as gay or transgender constitutes sex discrimination within the meaning of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.” I have learned that a school is only as good as the administrators who run it, the teachers who lead, and the staff who support it. When my kid showed up, we were told to use the nurses’ bathroom and she was lined up in the boy’s line during gym (Why do we line children up according to boys and girls? This is a post for another time). The adults in the room were the problem for my then 6-year-old. Not the children. The adults. 
  5. This brings me to my last lesson, for today. We do not choose this path lightly. The brave transgender humans (hero’s I should say) and their steadfast parents are not doing this on a whim or for some tactical advantage. Being trans is hard. Being the parent of a trans kid is also really hard. Fighting for basic access, kindness, and equality at all times is not easy. Being fearful of being harmed or traumatized when visiting the doctor, dentist or hospital is awful. Your rights to pee in a toilet or run on a track are debated on Fox News and CNN. This is harmful. The cumulative toll of anxiety and stress on transgender individuals and the parents of these children is immense and it is not okay. 

So my one request, if you do nothing else, is to please remember that the people whose rights are being debated are human beings with feelings, families, and lives. If you come across social media posts or debates among friends or family, please just take a moment and remember we are not debating theory or things. We are deciding the fate of people who have jobs and aspirations just like you and your children. All are welcome. 

The Mammogram

It has been seven years since my shocking diagnosis. Seven years since I faced the unimaginable. Breast cancer, or any cancer really, is a devastating and life-altering journey that changes you forever. Now, just one week before my annual mammogram, I look at the date and my pulse quickens. My breath is evasive and a surge of adrenaline burns through my chest. It is time. What will they find?

Before cancer, I was not dependent on anxiety medication or antidepressants to get me through doctors’ visits. I went to my annual appointments with confidence and a pen ready to check the box. That was the before. The time when cancer happened to other people. 

Presently, my doctor prescribes fifteen little pills per year. She instructs me to take one before even setting foot in the car to go to my appointments. The post-traumatic stress the “c” word has introduced in this “after cancer time” cannot be dismissed. I know I am not alone because according to Breastcancer.org, “about 80% of women have PTSD symptoms after breast cancer diagnosis”. 

The click, click, click of the MRI or the smashing of the mammogram brings me back to that day where, at just thirty-seven years of age, I am forever changed.

In order to prepare myself for another round of tests, I attempt to balance the day with something positive by scheduling lunch with an old friend or visiting a favorite store. Anything happy to keep my mind at ease.

Often, I listen to women lament mammograms because they hurt or are inconvenient. My lament is for the anxiety and paralyzing fear that each brings. The quivering of my fingers as I write these words because it is with visceral trepidation that I walk into the next week.

Though the journey has not been easy, I am grateful for early intervention and access. 

So I ask you my friends, have you had your mammogram?

The Danger of Laws that Govern Access to Medical Care

Should legislators have the right to enact laws governing access to medical care? According to Texas, they should. Recently, Texas legislature has taken up SB1646: Relating to the protection of children, including the definition of child abuse and the prosecution of the criminal offense of abandoning or endangering a child. Horrifically, the language of the bill makes it a felony for a parent in my position to provide care for my transgender daughter. Please, let that sink in for a moment.

Recently, we have witnessed transphobia sweep the country like wildfire. Arkansas has enacted the SAFE Act, prohibiting doctors from prescribing hormone therapy and puberty blockers to children. According to the ACLU this is just the tip of the iceberg. Twenty states are currently considering legislation that prohibits healthcare for transgender youth. I ask you, where do we go from here?

From my perspective as a parent, this is surreal. I have watched the testimony of the children in Texas and the legislators didn’t ask them questions and seemed anything but caring. The brave children and parents who put themselves out there to stop this unfounded hate from taking hold are being dismissed by those cloaked in a shroud of piety and protection. In the face of the medical community to include the American Academy of Pediatrics, The Endocrine Society and American Psychological Association these legislators believe that they know better than the experts. My biggest concern and question is, why do they even care?

In our life, my husband’s parents have taken a similar stance to the legislators. They will not acknowledge our daughter and are hateful to my husband. His mother instructs him to look between our child’s legs if we want to know their gender. Can you even imagine? However, we are lucky. We are steadfast and united in our love and passionate about the protection of our child. We do not question the validity and truth of what she shared just one week after her fifth birthday. She has not wavered from her identity for even one minute in the 65 months since that day. She is perfectly made.

Being actively involved in the transgender community, I am witness to those who are not as fortunate as my child. People who have grown up with parents who did not affirm them, those who have been bullied, ousted, and ostracized. Even harmed. Above all, this legislation is an act of war against an already battered group of people. This is celestial news that gets ratings and a rallying point for conservatives who are licking wounds and trying to find the next downtrodden person they can beat up in order to look powerful.

I’m here to tell you that attacking transgender children and stripping them of their right to healthcare is nothing more than a powerplay to earn points. Those who are proposing and enacting this legislation care no more for my child’s well-being than they do for your mortgage, your child’s education, or even their safety. In short, all these people care about is themselves and their power. They are using the trans community for reelection and brownie points.

As a result, we face cis, white, rich, powerful men who legislate against a group of people they know nothing about. Meanwhile, they have made decisions about our reproductive rights, our right to access maternity benefits, and contraception. They sit behind closed doors in committees and craft packages from their place of privilege. An actual stakeholder is not invited to the table. In summary, they have decided that affirming parents are felons and that my child is better off dead. They do not see these children as happy, healthy, whole humans who contribute something positive to this world.
Two words: Game. On.

Pivoting to the New Normal

The feel of his skin under my fingertips is cool, unbroken, and rugged. It feels so different from the soft skin of a newborn that I remember, yet all the while has a familiarity to it. His shoulders are now broad. His nose is more defined and chiseled. The most noticeable change is that the small bounding person who lights up a room with their smile is now stoic and withdrawn. Too heavy for me to pick up and spin away the sadness. 

I asked, more like begged, “Is everything ok?”

I already know the answer because I am the mom and know that nothing has been okay for over a year. Torn from the halls of school and isolated inside our protected walls for too long, all of my children are feeling the weight of the pandemic. But something has struck me about the far away look plastering my oldest’s face as of late. We try to explain that this is for their own good, our health, and for the community’s protection. That was the truth and still is, but is the cost too high? 

At the mark of the year, I find my outgoing, straight A student who has everything going for them, recluse and lost. I search their face for a clue about what was going on. 

“Are you sad?” No. 

“Are you mad?” No. 

“Are you depressed” No. 

“Are you indifferent?” Yes.

Indifference. The state of neither being nor not being. Just nowhere. That is where we are and where those around us seem to fall. As their mother, I am a ship without an ore that is waiting for the hurricane to hit. I bail out the holes, but ultimately, I don’t know how to fix the boat. As the voyage wears on, I am fearful that they will be swept away and I will be without the means to save them. The waves continue to wash over the bough. 

They text while I am at work and explain that they need their online community. That video games are their only human interaction. They are not addicted, instead, just enjoy talking with people. I thank them for talking and acknowledge our misstep. We promise to work towards a resolution. I pray that our lines of communication will lead us towards fair seas. I am grateful, scared, and so sad for all we have endured.  

The pandemic has taken so much from our lives, but it cannot take away our ability to innovate and pivot. If we continue to push to be the same people, the same society we were prior to its wake, we will not survive, nor will our children or grandparents. It is time to innovate. I cannot be the crazy anti-screen time parent I was prior to Covid. I was pretty sure I had it all figured out. Games were the downfall of our children. Well, I was wrong. I am incredibly grateful for the community that we have forged through games and online communities. It is time to pivot friends. We need to reimagine socialization and education for our children. We need to address these needs not only for privileged communities but also for those who are on the fringes. 

There are pivotal moments in history when generations turn over. When people will never remember the before. The most recent example being September 11th. We have a generation that is marked by who remembers the event occurring and those who cannot. Here we are again, at a mark in time that will be in reference books for generations. It’s time to take action in the best interest of our children. We need to stop forcing the “before” and start living in the “after.”  Tell me friends, how are you pivoting today?

Precariously Poised on the Precipice of Puberty

Precariously poised on the precipice of puberty, she awaits. She has known her authenticity since she was born. Thankfully, she is brave enough, or most importantly free enough, to share it with us, her parents. Five years and many months since that day, I no longer remember the boy I birthed. I adore this beautiful baby girl who is filled with gentle kindness, fierce determination, and steadfast assurance. In most cases, my girl runs headfirst through life with very little inhibition. 

However, there is always this paralyzing panic of the perception of what is to come. It is painful to watch her fear a body that might betray her overnight. To change without notice. That her body will morph into manhood and she will be trapped in a body that is no longer hers.  To clarify, she is petrified that one day she will wake up as something other than she. As a result, sleep does not come easily. She does not understand the timeline and that changes occur gradually. And with this fear comes the inevitable anxiety that typically accompanies worry that is all but permanently tattooed on our brain.   

I ask myself if she is really any different than my cis children or the children in my medical practice? Are her struggles and roadblocks that different? Some children manifest depression or paralyzing anxiety for other reasons, yet each is still valid. In this, they are the same. As parents, we want nothing more than children who grow up to be happy, healthy, human beings that contribute something positive to the world. In this, we are the same. Some parents are faced with the difficult decision of medicating for ADD or ADHD, others pursue IEPs for behavioral problems or ABAs for children on the spectrum. We all fight for the good of our children. Again, we are the same. 

The difference is that we don’t have public debates about the right to medicate your child. We don’t argue in front of legislators about the interventions that your child has the right to access. Those struggles may occur behind closed doors, but they are not on display for the world to see, or more importantly, weigh in on. This is where things are so very different. In fact, even though medical professionals, the American Academy of Pediatricians says these state bills will harm transgender youth, despite the experts warning against harm, the legislators claim to know better.

Why does the world think that they have any right to discuss my daughter’s hormones at a committee meeting, or even worse, in the company of people who are poised to pass dangerous laws and regulations about her? This is where things are just so unfairly different. This is something that we watch my daughter struggle with and it is infuriating to me that people think they should get to have a say in it. I will never discount anyone’s struggles. Anxiety and depression among children are real and dangerous. But can’t we all agree that my family and every other family in the transgender community have the right to address these struggles with privacy and dignity?

How can you help? I encourage you to visit the Human Rights Campaign: Parents for Transgender Equality National Council for information and resources. If you have a trans child in your life I invite you to visit my website Narwhal Magic Kindness and request an affirmation package. The best gift you can give a trans youth is the gift of love and affirmation.

When a Pause Means More Than a Moment in Time

A pause is an opportunity to take a breath, a moment. We pause in times of distress or before we make big decisions. The pause gives us room to be, space to live, time to take things in and survey the landscape. The pause is a gift. It is a reprieve we are given or a gift to ourselves. Time spent pausing helps provide clarity and encourages better decision-making. 

Today, I will make the journey to our provider to determine if it is time for a pause for my beautiful daughter. For transgender children, the pause is all of the above and so very much more. The pause is just that- a pause. Though it is shrouded in extraordinary controversy and criminalization, it is simply a pause of the hormones. Hormones that will jettison them into the body that is disparate from their identity. The pause allows them the time to continue to explore their identity in a body that is not marching forward in pubescent defiance. To rest in a body that simply pauses where it is. This pause can change any time at the person’s request.

When the time is right for us, we can walk other paths, make future decisions. For today though, we ride up the road to visit the woman whose gentle kindness envelopes us when we walk into her room. Who discusses hard things with affirmation and hope. She is both the savior and tormentor, for she represents all of the things my daughter fears most- a body out of control that is changing into something she is not and the hope of help in becoming what she can be. 

Together we hold hands in silence as my stoic, resolute hero disembarks from my car. Together, we wait to hear if it is her turn to pause.

If you are a parent, grandparent, teacher, or person who loves a trans child or person please visit my resource site Narwhal Magic Kindness. There you will find education, podcasts, and research. If you are looking to affirm someone in your life please reach out to me through Instagram or my websites.,I send our stickers to affirm trans people.

When Our Kids Are Attacked- Instinct Kicks In

I have a flower box hanging outside of my dining room window and every year I fill it with beautiful plants and flowers. This past spring was like most others in that I planted some sweet seedlings with the intention of marveling as they grew. But this spring was also a little different. As a result of the pandemic, I had more time to watch these little plants. It was fascinating, really. I always say that we can learn a lot from nature. After all, it just does what it is supposed to do. Instinctively.

As time went on, I begin to notice a little bird visiting my flower box throughout the day. After inspecting the box, I am delighted to see that she is building a nest. Piece by piece, the little bird built a home for her precious eggs. I watched as she worked tirelessly for days on end. All by herself. Bit by bit and piece by piece. Motherhood is like that, isn’t it? Tireless work and unending sacrifice. Finally, that little momma lays her eggs. She does not rush. As a matter of fact, it takes her almost a week to lay 7 precious eggs. 

I continued to watch as she tended to those eggs. The motherly instinct really is a wonder, isn’t it? After many long days and lots of careful plant watering-can’t drown the little eggs-I finally saw some cracks. Those baby birds were an amazing source of entertainment with their wobbly legs and wild feathers. Such fun to watch. They were getting very curious and spending quite a bit of time exploring my window box. As a result, I knew it was almost time for them to leave the nest, as all babies do.

One afternoon, I noticed that the momma bird was fluttering around the box in panic. There were other birds attacking her babies! I quickly ran to the window and crouched down to see why these birds were attacking these precious babies. To my knowledge, birds didn’t normally do that. Shockingly, the birds were not, in fact, attacking the babies. The birds were helping the little momma because a snake had slithered into her nest and was eating her babies. And I had a front-row seat for this massacre. 

It took me a long time to get over that. Watching the momma build a home for her babies and then having them taken from her in a blink of an eye. The way her community rallied around her and fought to help protect the innocent. The way she came back to her nest to look for them for the rest of the day. I imagine their smell was still fresh in the nest. Friends, we can learn a lot from nature. The instinct to protect our babies is real. The need for community is even more real. The snakes are out there and waiting to prey. We have to look out for one another. We have to be vigilant. 

I like to think that the momma bird feels comfort that her bird community rallied around her and struck against something far more powerful than they were. There is strength in numbers and those birds knew it. After all, if it’s good for the birds, why not us?

The Weight of the Words

As I begin this post, I want to remind my readers that I use my platform to promote acceptance and love for everyone. Every single person. All Are Welcome is not for cuteness or lip service. I live and breathe the sentiment behind my writing. It is my passion to shed light on the injustice bestowed upon people from all walks of life, but particularly those who are silenced or pushed to the side. With that disclaimer, let me begin. 

I was recently part of a small group that met monthly to discuss diversity and more specifically, bias and prejudice. This topic is very personal to me, so if a group is assembling to educate and learn, consider me there. We were led by a knowledgeable guide who offered insight, education, and a perspective that I appreciated. Some of the material struck a chord deep within. I wept more times than I care to admit and am changed by what I learned. 

At each of our meetings, I listen and learn about the lies used as weapons and stated as facts to manipulate, oppress, and harm our African American communities. I identify so much with the language of racism, anti-racism, and assimilation. Above all, I finally have words for something I have not been able to describe in my own community. 

I was so passionate about the connection between what is happening to the African American community and what I see in other marginalized communities that I gently press to extend the conversation to include everyone. Neurodiverse kids, dyslexia, LGBTQ, selective mutism. I try to draw connections because as a mother of a transgender daughter, I know too well how all of this feels. This oppression and manipulation is widespread to MANY communities! I attempt to speak many times but to no avail. 

I watch in horror as a group assembled specifically to promote diversity and equity among ALL people is silencing me. People who, based on their willingness to participate in this type of group, should be listening and validating what I am saying pushed me aside.

Today, on International Transgender Day of Visibility, I am shouting from the rooftops and will be silenced no more. Today is our day. We will be seen. We will be heard.

The statistics for my marginalized community are absolutely staggering. According to The Trevor Project, 27% of transgender students report feeling unsafe going to school and 31% report being victims of sexual violence in the past 12 months alone. I invite you to visit the site and read for yourself. 

This does not take away from the horrific atrocities that have been intentionally, disgustingly, and repeatedly inflicted on the African American community. However, why are we fixated on who is higher or lower on the ladder? To be clear, I am not suggesting that the trans community is worse off than black America. What I am simply saying is that I am here and I want room. I’m not asking for all of the room or most of the room. I just want a little room. 

The facilitator of the diversity group started our session with the phrase “the weight of the words.” She was of course speaking about bias and prejudice. But that simple phrase taught me another lesson too. If asking gently over and over to share my voice doesn’t work (and it didn’t), I will have to step in and make my voice heard. The world will feel the weight of my words. Of our words. Because I AM HERE. My child is important too. And so is every single person in her marginalized cohort. Shout it with me friends. We are here! And there is nothing you can do to stop us from being heard. All are welcome. 

She Deserves To Play

I am the mother of a young girl who enjoys moving her body, is an amazing teammate and wants to play sports. In other words, she wants to do something that should be within her fundamental rights to do.

The reality is that I am a mother of a ten-year-old transgender daughter and because of that simple fact, her right to play is being threatened. Unfortunately, because of a previous administration that has made my daughter the target of dangerous laws and policies, we will forever have to fight for her right to play. Sadly, we will have to challenge laws that threaten her right to run, high-five her teammates, lose, and maybe most importantly, be a good sport.

Fortunately, we have a new leader who is ushering in a kinder, more tolerant era of inclusivity. Thankfully, we have hope. Biden signed an executive order allowing students to compete in sports according to their gender identification. However, I challenge you to think about what happens when the administration changes again. Furthermore, people are challenging his order as we speak. This could forever impact my child’s right to play sports.  Perhaps, your child will be impacted as well.

To those who question my daughter’s right to play soccer, swim, play field hockey, or any other sport, I’m all in. I am ready for the fight. Please, consider the implications of this. Do we all line up for chromosomal and hormonal testing and physical exams? You can’t test one person without testing all athletes, right? After all, that would be considered discrimination.

In short, to those who are discussing this over the water cooler or preaching it from the pulpit, think about how your vote affects these types of policies. Above all, I ask you to think about my daughter and the entire trans community. Please consider the fact that this discrimination and segregation are personally devastating to real humans. Humans with feelings, and hopes, and dreams. People who deserve the simple, basic right to play soccer, swim, or play field hockey, just like everyone else. She deserves to play.

Mental Health Minute

Everything changes.

Routines disrupted. 

School closes. 

Businesses board up. 

Surgeries are canceled. 

People start to die.

Next, the air is sucked out of the room and panic seeps into that space.

Thankfully, here we are a year later with more light at the end of the tunnel than we have seen in a while. The loss and devastation are widespread and I think it would be tough to find a single person who has come out of this unchanged. Part of the work that I want us to do together in this space is to heal from our hurt. So, from time to time, we will take a mental health minute. I want to check in on your hearts and let you know that I am listening and here for you as we all begin to heal.

So friends, how are you? Let’s talk. Please, drop a note in the comments and check-in. I have been speaking out and contributing to the conversation on Clubhouse. It is a great opportunity for community if you feel alone. You can find me @allarewelcome. You can drop me a DM on Instagram if you would like an invitation.

If you are in crisis, seek help.

All are welcome. 

If you or someone you know needs help please seek help without hesitation:


There she sat, across from me at the Bob Evans. Our daughters were in elementary school and very dear friends.  I invited her to brunch that day to discuss something heavy over coffee and pancakes. We spoke about how much the girls enjoy spending time together and that my daughter absolutely loved her many border collies that they were raising. The dogs were beautiful and so incredibly smart. Trying to find common ground, I talked about having grown up with border collies myself. Our female, Katie, was so smart that she would sit at the edge of the electric fence and let the warning sound go off until the battery died. She did this so she could leave the yard. Wicked smart that one.

When the small talk ended, I knew it was now or never. With a deep breath and tears in my eyes, I silently scolded myself. Why is it so hard to talk about? 

Before I lost my courage, I explained to her that my daughter had transitioned just that year. I said that if her daughter were to hear about this at school, that I was hoping their family would be an ally. She sat, stunned, staring at me as tears dripped down my face. Damn it. I was so mad at myself for crying. I am not weak and this is not something for which I am asking forgiveness. It just felt so vulnerable laying this out in front of her. Was I even doing the right thing by disclosing my daughter’s precious truth? 

I will never forget her next words. “Have you considered genetic testing?” 

Stunned, I composed myself and couldn’t believe that these words were coming out of this woman’s mouth. A woman, who just moments ago, spoke to me like a friend. I politely indicated that we had not. She took the opportunity to give me a quick lesson in her version of biology. She shared that chromosomal abnormalities would explain everything. Problem solved. 

I was polite. Brunch ended.

Leaving our time together, I felt a feeling that has since become all too familiar. The altogether devastating panic that sucks the breath and sounds out of your body while adrenaline pumps and the mind races. The feeling of being beheld by utter silence. That feeling you got when you were young and too scared to scream. These people have direct access to my daughter. They have proximity to her. They have her at a time when I am not with her to mitigate what they say. Chromosomal abnormalities and all.

It was no surprise that the little girl was never available to play again, although I had hoped for a better outcome. To this day, my daughter relishes the memories of her playdates and those beautiful border collies. She still asks if they can get together. I gently make up excuses, never revealing the devastating truth. I can’t imagine the feeling of ruin in the wake of being rejected for your identity. But how can I forever protect her from that? How long can we shelter her? 

Pregnancy and Pillboxes

So my good friend calls me the other day to fill me in on her recent experience at the endocrinologist. She previously shared her nervousness about the appointment because she was seeing a new practitioner.  Her beloved endo had retired last month, so I was anxious to hear how the appointment went. 

“I don’t know whether to laugh or cry,” she starts and then proceeds to tell me the appalling details of the appointment. Before I fill you in on her experience, let me share a little background. She is a 42-year-old woman who has Hashimoto’s Disease, which is a type of hypothyroidism. Although she was diagnosed a year ago, they are still working on getting her medication correct, and she still experiences serious symptoms.

Back to the appointment. Her new doctor starts the appointment by scolding her about not listing her IUD as a medication on her intake form. She wasn’t sure if that little tidbit led down a rabbit hole, but the rest of the appointment was spent discussing her birth control. The fact that thyroid medication affects certain birth control (but not the IUD so it doesn’t affect her. At all). The fact that it can be dangerous to get pregnant while taking her thyroid medication, and that if she were to get pregnant, she should call him before she even calls her parents. Her parents are no longer living by the way. This, a fact that I am acutely aware of and imagine how hurtful it must have been to hear. The depths of the insensitivity displayed at this appointment are amazing.

He inquires about when and how she takes her thyroid medication and scolds her again because she says she leaves a pill on her nightstand to remind her to take it upon waking up. “What if your blanket knocks it on the floor,” he admonishes. “You really need to get a pillbox.” 

The end. She leaves in shock. “He didn’t ask me how I was feeling. He didn’t ask me about my energy levels, headaches, and stomach issues.” Pregnancy and pillboxes. That was the entirety of her appointment. My friend pays a $40 copay and misses an afternoon of work to hear about pregnancy and pillboxes. As someone who works in the medical field, I know that it is essential to know your audience. Notice. Wonder. Ask specific questions. Be a good human and in this case, read the damn records before meeting your new patient. You can clearly see from her chart that she is not thinking about pregnancy and pillboxes. She is sick and wants help.

She started the conversation by saying she didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Later that night, I send her the picture below and let her know I was buying it for her. Let’s choose laughter today, my friend.


The silent hum on my wrist alerts me to her presence. Hurriedly, I finish up what I am doing and sprint out the back door. She bounds towards me carrying the elixir of life. Thankfully, she has coffee. Not just any coffee, but the coffee that she hand roasts for her small business. I am grateful because she blesses me with her kindness almost weekly and we steal moments together connecting over shared stories and her restorative tincture.

To clarify, I have a slight addiction. It became clear to me when Duncan Donuts and Starbucks began tasting burned on my palate. I had officially turned to the dark side. Like tasting different flavors in a wine, I can now taste the chocolate, berry, and citrus in her coffee. We talk as we sip, sharing stories of crazy encounters with employees and clients, the tightrope of schooling children during a pandemic, balancing our careers, and the constant feelings of coming up short as mothers. Sometimes we walk, circles in the parking lot frantic with worry about parents and vaccines, did you hear the latest Dr. Osterholm Update and feeling despair about Variants of Concern. Together we sip and walk and talk and breathe. 

In addition, she believes in community and in the greater good. She teaches her children and runs her business by those principles. Our friendship is not featured on the pages of Facebook or Instagram, it is not played out in combined vacations. It is a Friday evening text asking if I’m okay or me asking about her mom. Above all, my true addiction is to our friendship, for she is my community. Together we are stronger. I have many friends who cheer me on and lift me up from behind the scenes. It doesn’t need to be a public act or overt kindness. For these people, I am incredibly grateful. Foremost, for my friend with the coffee, the elixir of life, I owe you so much gratitude for walking me through kids, the pandemic, small business ownership, and for always being in my corner. Thank you.

Join Me

I couldn’t think of a better day to launch my blog than Zero Discrimination Day. According to the United Nations, this day is dedicated to “highlighting the urgent need to take action to end the inequalities surrounding income, sex, age, health status, occupation, disability, sexual orientation, drug use, gender identity, race, class, ethnicity and religion that continue to persist around the world.” Join me as I fight this fight.

In my blog space, I will create a community that challenges the systems that bind marginalized people. 

Together, we can create dialogue with candor and humor, and instead of paying lip service to inclusivity, we can talk about action and change. I challenge you to take a peek into my world. Into the world of a privileged, cis, white, heterosexual woman, who is the mother of a transgender child. A mother who has been, for five years, seeking care and safety in discriminatory education, medical, and social systems. 

Join me in my journey through breast cancer, children with learning differences, and so much more. Let’s shout from the rooftops, “WE ARE HERE” as people tell us that it isn’t our time or turn and that our safety and wellbeing is not their problem. If you haven’t already, take a moment to add yourself to my email list and get a free printable. Let’s do this together. All are welcome.

A Lesson In Surviving Family Photos

Fall is the kick-off of my favorite season. Pumpkin spice anything, leaves, and finally a break from the heat and humidity. I don’t think I’m alone in loving that the routine has settled in and, although it is insanely busy, we have a schedule and places to be. Rounding into the season of pumpkin carving, hay rides, and stressful extended family coordination, we have to plan for one of my very favorite things, holiday cards.

I know, not everyone shares the love, especially for the old fashioned physical card in the mail. But there is something that I cherish about receiving beautiful communique printed on matte card stock from friends near and far. For years, I have collected them, placed a single hole punch in one corner and conserved the collective on a metal ring. Each year I unpack and savor the metamorphosis I see in my nieces, nephews, friends and colleagues. If they share something personal, I love it even more. 

In the usual Fall fashion, I rally my troops into what I like to consider the death march (a.k.a. family picture day). Shannon, from Sweet Caroline Photography has taken our family photos for many years. My kids know and trust her. She puts them at ease with her kindness and stares in awe as they disembark from the car after seeing them for the first time in over a year. For me, she is home. She has loved and accepted us from the time before life got complicated. When it was time for our daughter to transition publicly, Shannon did not miss a beat. Always kind and gentle, her affirming presence puts everyone at ease.

Parenting in general is not for the weak hearted, but being the parent of four children, on picture day, is best served with a tiny umbrella and a fruity drink. Our home is loud and in constant motion and picture day is no exception. When I tell you I start planning family photos a minimum of three months in advance, trust I am not being dramatic. Getting ready for pictures is like pulling teeth. I mean literally, I would rather go to the dentist.

Despite best laid plans and begging for people to try on clothes weeks in advance, inevitably something falls apart. I admittedly tend to get impatient having talked about the impending fiasco, relentlessly for ages. This year, I was determined to thwart the inevitable. So when the ironing board was found laying outside of my door, Ravens game in the living room, and the clock struck thirty minutes prior to departure, the shit hit the fan. 

Thankfully, Shannon graced us with her calming presence. After hugs and briefly catching up on life, Shannon lined up all the kids to start shooting. Our dog wanted to be in every picture and one kid would not hold the other’s hand. Shannon was on point and rolled with it. From behind her lens I glared at them with a tight upper lip and flames ablaze out of my ears. Next, she arranged the six of us and, again and despite her best effort, they would not cooperate. Touching, leaning, wrapping arms around or even standing next to their sibling was out of the question and quite frankly an affront to their humanity. I snapped. I threatened. As a result, tears welled up. I realized I had done harm.

The beautiful person that I birthed sat upon the cold cement, petting the family dog with tears silently falling down their face. I look at my husband, “what do I do?” He had nothing. I apologized. Explained that I needed them to cooperate just for these precious moments. They will not respond. Photos wrap up and we go home.

Raising children is tough. It is a constant balancing act to figure out how to meet the needs of each while preserving sanity and harmony. It is not perfect, I am not perfect, we all mess up. Our perfectly messy life is poised in pretentious poses. We look at the camera, smile and pretend it is perfect. None of us is though. We all just love each other and hold tight to the marvelously messy mayhem of the moment.