Of course, as these things go, I didn’t notice what I had done. I thought I was leisurely checking out site improvements, sampling the bells and whistles, perusing what was out there to make my site faster, easier… better.
How many times did I hear this when I was little? After a while I didn’t need it whispered into my ear anymore, I embodied it. I knew there were things I was never expected to say, at home or out in public, like they never happened. Off limits for good, like a dangerous abandoned mine.
“Mom, what does a parent call their child when the kid grows up?”
“But say the kid is grown up, not a child anymore?”
“Our children grow up and become adults, and yet our children will always be our children. Forever.”
“I like that.”
In our quiet moments I grab my youngest and cuddle him like I did when he was small as he squirms and squeals for me to let him go. While I shower him with loud smacking kisses on the top of his head he half laughs/ half screams for immediate release. Where did the time go? How did my plump little tot become even more willful and remarkably strong? My baby.
For decades I’ve dabbled in yoga dipping my toe in the warm water long enough to feel the bliss (as well as the earnest desire for more) then ultimately face the decision to buy in, all-or-nothing, and take that spiritual journey of yoga or be a bystander in a way, someone who does the asanas (poses) for health or fitness, and nothing else.
Whenever I reached the full commitment phase of my practice (and it was always there impatiently tapping it’s foot staring at me like, “What’s it going to be this time?”) I’d resort to holding my breath as I turned my back on the most fulfilling part of my personal life. I wouldn’t accept real happiness back then; I felt I didn’t deserve it. And I couldn’t allow going there, so deep inside myself that I’d unearth my demons, blindfolded and gagged for years. I didn’t want to face what was trapped within my strong, resilient facade. Until now.
A few years ago a friend, also a yoga instructor, told me she wanted to be my teacher. Sheepishly I had to admit that I didn’t have the funds for such a lavish expense, a private yoga instructor. It sounded so extravagant, like a live-in nanny. I’ll never forget her response, so calm and cool. She said that she was called to do it and would come to my home for free. Who would turn that down, I thought. I set up an appointment immediately, as if this special offer deal would run out at midnight, completely unaware of how actions have a ripple effect on our lives.
The breath was my first gift. Unbeknownst to me I held my breath for the majority of my day (and my life if I want to be honest with you) and the chain reaction inside my body led to more fear, more anxiety. This was the first hurdle, breathing. Next came sinking into the discipline of the asanas, unlocking my old thought patterns about what my body can or cannot do. Living with where we are at today, right now. This, I’ve found is ongoing, and I love it. We are limitless creatures.
Soon my teacher led me to books that expanded my practice, things like Pema Chodron, Louise Hay and Don Miguel Ruiz, cracking the shell of my old patterns and retraining my inner dialogue. Effortlessly I became open to all the aspects of yoga that I feared before. Divine time. Divine order. Don’t get me wrong, embracing the 8 limbs of yoga is not an easy (or quick) task. You don’t just wake up one day and nail it. It’s an unfolding, like slowly peeling layers of an extremely large onion. Most of us spend our lives just enjoying the work, the practice of yoga. And that’s enough.
My mother chuckled when she heard I was (finally) focusing on my practice. “You were about 4 years old when you begged me to buy this little book about yoga at the grocery store. Jenny, you never wanted anything before and you never wanted anything so badly. You had to have it,” she explained, “Once you got home you spent the next five years doing these crazy poses. You’ve always done yoga.” Funny how people see things from the outside. Yoga has always been there for me – guiding me, comforting me, restoring me, energizing me, calming me.. and ultimately, waiting for me to come back home.
Yesterday my daughter slid in when I was preparing for meditation, her long locks falling into her bright eyes as she stared at me. “May I join you?” she said softly. I thought you’d never ask! And there we were, mother and daughter sitting in lotus position, hands in anjali mudra, smiling at one another in perfect silence. Bliss.
For all the times you planted humor, watered our imaginations with your words and imagery, weeded out the chaos amidst the logic and harvested the awareness that we are all human, responsible for our earth, ourselves and each other… Thank you Dr. Seuss!
As the name of my blog and my book suggest, I’m a Seussian, a devoted follower of Dr. Seuss and I strongly believe than most of life’s biggest mysteries could be solved by simply reading his books. Love. Vanity. War. Conservation. Integrity. Boredom. Courage. Government. Mischief. Freedom. Ethics. Commitment. You name it, I’ve grasped the concept first from Dr. Seuss. First as a child, then as an adult, I’ve gone back to his books when I’ve needed to take that flight of fancy into what really means anything to me in this world.
There is nothing more soothing than Oh! The Places You’ll Go! when you crave enlightenment. Yes, we WILL move mountains. 100% guaranteed.
They huddle together brimming with surprise. She, in her forties, impeccably dressed, sporting the latest It Handbag. He, a cashmere coat and perfectly shined shoes. They look like an ad for Barney’s, and yet their pure excitement makes them irresistibly human.
His hand rests on her flat stomach. His face glowing as he whispers words only she will ever hear. Words of joy that only two people who have a child together ever know. I can’t take my eyes off of them, their light shining into the waiting room where I sit waiting for my test, and my mind relaxes back in time.
“It’s a boy!” The words sounded like a symphony. Even though my money was on a girl, Ava or perhaps Bella, my heart leapt with the excitement of knowing. This first introduction.
“What is it?” was the first thing people said when we called after the appointment and I happily supplied the information. It’s true. I was one of those people who needed to know, and even gently berating friends who didn’t find out the sex of their baby. “I’m a planner!” I’d explain, so confidently. So quick. I was so young in so many ways. What did I know?
These days gender plays a much less relevant role in our lives, but because we opt to see both sides of the coin or so I thought until my son came home from a birthday party hell-bent that the pink horse birthday cake could only be a girl.
“How would we know that Sweetie?” I already saw the answer clear as day from the way he looked at me, so sly. Still, the exercise is so worth the time.
“She was pink Mom!” he replied without hesitation. Really??!!? My child still adhering to traditional gender stereotyping? All the discussions, education, summer camps and conferences? Really??!!? His sister is gender diverse for heaven’s sake! And he still believes that pink makes a girl? Tells us how strong our culture reinforces these “norms” or the fact that Will found a way to mess with me, really get my goat.
“Pink is just a color Darling,” I suggest calmly to my son’s definitive statement, “Anyone could wear pink or be pink for that matter. It doesn’t make you a boy or a girl.” By this time Hope strolls in and nods in agreement just like an older sister would. Will looks at both of us for a moment, shrugs his shoulders, a classic “Okay” move on his part, and moves on to the next fun thing.
I guess it took me this long to release the trap of the strict binary code on my brain, I could at last give him a bit more time. Still, I wonder if that couple will find out at twenty weeks or remain blissfully unaware.
Click here to read the latest review of my new children’s book Be Who You Are. Many thanks to Ami Kaplan at TGMentalHealth.com for her insightful and supportive feedback. If you know anyone who could benefit from our message, reach out and send a link.
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For years Hope coveted other friend’s princess shoes, but when present time came around she opted for a doll each time. Even when we asked if she wanted the shoes, she would trade up for something that was bigger. Still, I would see her prance at play dates, absolutely entranced in the shoes. Each time she’d run to me, clicking away, as she modeled the “high heels”, excitement flying around the room.
Each time my mind slipped backwards, years ago, when she pleaded for pink sandals. I can still picture my son, then a sweet four year old, who was hell bent on buying pink sandals when we picked out our spring shoes at a local boutique. It came as a surprise. The shoes were awful actually, the kind that has awkward straps and glued on flowers and to my disgust, glitter in all the wrong places. It wasn’t the color I protested, it was that they were so ugly. She, then he, begged for them. The two sales people and I showed my child at least twelve other pink sandals that ranged from fancy to sporty, but nothing worked. Only those hideously garish sandals filled some void that I couldn’t comprehend. It was such a little thing to be so upset about. Yes, I bought the shoes, but as we settled in the car afterward I turned backwards in my seat to ask why the pink sandals were so important. After a considerable amount of time my child told me that he knew something he couldn’t tell me. Fear raced through my entire body – abuse? What happened? I calmly told him that he could tell me anything, that he could trust me to understand and to love him, no matter what. I hung on waiting for his answer.
“I’m a girl inside Mommy,” were the words that I didn’t expect. Those few little words began our journey and ultimately brought us where we are today, all these years and conversations later.
So Christmas morning as she scanned the presents left for her, Hope’s eyes fixated on the one little thing she’s never quite asked for, but has wanted her whole life. She got the princess shoes that day and she never took them off.
acceptance, activism, balance, community, coping, education, family, fear, friends, future, gender fluid, gender identity, gender variance, healing, hiding, inspiration, joy, kids, love, self awareness, stealth, strength, transgender, transition
I’m thrilled to announce that Be Who You Are is finally available for purchase!
Such a long lesson in patience my friends, but isn’t that the way life leads us where we need to go? Recently I met with a lovely reporter who interviewed me months ago about the book and commented that I seemed much more at ease now. I had to admit to her that I didn’t know how I’d feel when the book was released. Would I summon the courage necessary to charge forward and spread this powerful message? Would I feel exposed on some basic level and feel paralyzed to move forward? I didn’t know. I was still thinking.
On one hand I feel like a warrior, ready to talk, discuss and educate, even with those people who do not agree with our perspective. On the other hand I feel like it is a giant leap, especially when I try to keep our real names and identities unknown. I think most families with gender non-conforming kids, especially those that have transitioned may feel this way. Visibility vs. Invisibility. Ever since Hope’s transition and I started writing this blog I have stepped back in many aspects of my life. I needed to. I abandoned my former career, a certain level of notoriety and even some friends that made my social circle as wide open as I wanted. I went from being in the center to walking away. Gladly.
During this time I’ve done some serious soul-searching, seeking awareness, even enlightenment, as I open myself to every single thing that scares me. While keeping my children safe was my primary focus during the hiatus, I think I took the chance to get away myself, just to think. I look back at all those mornings on the beach this summer when I watched those two carefree souls frolicking and splashing. I know now that I was gearing up. I was charging the battery. Getting strong. All that together time made us closer than ever and we needed it, probably more than we’ll ever know. I needed to be quiet in my thoughts for some time to really feel through what it was that I was after. Define what I was called to do.
Now I sit on my living room couch gazing at wood in the hearth just begging for fire. I feel like that wood, ready for the spark. Ready to begin. I know what I’m after – to tell our story, to raise awareness, to make this world a better place for my children and all children. I’ve had my time to think and rest, and now I’m ready to get to work.
Preparing for Halloween last month was unlike any other. For the first time in years, my daughter’s dress up opportunity wasn’t about the wig. Years prior it was her obsession - choosing the right one, getting it to fit and then sweating for hours underneath. Clearly the wig was not my favorite thing. Not because of any controversy, but because it was a pain in Mommy’s behind. (Have you tried brushing out a tangled, cheap wig lately? Oy!)
Years ago she chose a big, brown, straggly wig for her Hermione Grainger costume and adored it. (She wore it constantly afterwards. I’ve never seen a child with such a sweaty head or a bigger smile!) Back then Halloween was her ticket out. A way, not to hide, but to be 100% real among her friends and neighbors. Although she was presenting as a girl at home, she hadn’t made her social transition outside the house yet. Halloween became the first testing ground and she blossomed each time she put on the outfit.
Hindsight is 20/20, right? Read my blog excerpt from 2009 and you’ll see a different mom, a different writer. If you told me then that my child would socially transition to living as herself, a girl, months later I guess I would be pretty confused. I just wasn’t there yet and neither was she.
I’ll be honest, as I read the 2009 post I cringed a little, particularly because of the pronoun “he” now that we don’t refer to my daughter that way. I don’t even use “he” when I speak about my daughter in the past because she doesn’t. A couple of months ago I tried to use “he” for the pre-transition period and “she” for the post-transition for a public speaking gig and it didn’t work out. I flip-flopped and no one knew who the hell I was speaking about. Neither did I. By her definition, my daughter is who she is and I am inclined to take that lead. Until she asks for her history or pronoun be to be described otherwise, I am sticking with what she says.
It’s difficult to explain, these moments when the past collides with the present.I try to be gentle with myself when good intentions somehow resemble betrayal. How was I to know what the future would bring unless it all unfolded the way it did? I often remind myself that I can’t mind-read. My crystal ball seems to be on perpetual back order and I’m happy with that.
Thankfully, this Halloween was calm and peaceful. Hope chose a simple Princess costume and she didn’t give any thought to a wig. Her own ever-growing long locks looked more authentic to the costume than any wig ever could. This year felt like the first time she wasn’t preoccupied about putting on a disguise and was happy just being 100% real with everyone she knows.