136/365 The Canary Breaks Free

“I need to tell you something while we are alone,” she said.

We were headed to meet some friends for dinner.

Naturally, I thought she was dying.

So, it was actually a relief when she told me she was just moving to the other side of the country.

Well played, Lynette.


I always want people to follow their bliss, their dreams, wherever their gut tells them to go. I run a small business, and anytime someone leaves to pursue other interests (although the majority of the time the “other interest” is having a baby) I never get upset.

If someone feels called to be somewhere else…then that’s where they should go.

Onward!

I feel the same way about Lynette moving to California.

Except, I also want to wrap my arms around her ankles and force her to drag me as she goes.

If you’ve ever felt a real loss in your life, you know the void a person can leave in their absence.  When I gather with my family, I feel the void left by my father all the time.

So now, we will also have a Lynette-sized void in New England.

It’s a big one. I mean – disproportionately big, seeing as she is all of 5 foot 2.

Lynette, my love for you is cavernous.

You are one of the most beautiful people I have ever met. Truly.

I hope that you find all that you seek in California.

But first, please seek an apartment with room for guests.

See you next weekend.

(Kidding, I’m actually hiding in your trunk right now. When are we leaving?  It’s hot in here, and I’ve already eaten all the organic muesli and kombucha. These snacks are bullshit, by the way).

 

 

 

 

Day 135/365 An Invitation

I was listening to Glennon Doyle speak the other day. Glennon is a New York Times best-selling author, and a general lover of…humanity. She inspires me often. She spoke about what we can do when things are happening in the world that we know are wrong. She was inspired to speak about this after the recent ban on transgender people in the armed forces.

I am paraphrasing here, but essentially she said when we recognize that something is wrong in the world, when something really riles us and makes us upset, we can do one of three things. We can rail against it (fight), we can run and hide (flight) or we can “offer another invitation.”

I love that – Offer another invitation.

The invitation she spoke of was to be leaders ourselves.  She called it the Kitchen Table Resistance. We can lead by example – by speaking up against discrimination when we hear it, whether it be at our own kitchen table, in church, or out in our communities. Our children are listening. They want to know what we think, and silence is as powerful as agreement.

We must lend our voice.

To be fair, I have been. I have been supportive of gay and transgender rights – of human rights, but I have the opportunity to add my voice to this conversation in a different and more meaningful way.

I can bring my own personal experience to the table.

You see, my ex-husband, the father of my children, is transgender.

While he is biologically a man – in his heart, mind and soul, he is a woman.

He revealed this to me over a year ago. We had spent the day together, celebrating the seventh birthday of our youngest daughter.  Later that night, he sent me a text that shocked me. It was 10:30pm on a Saturday night, and I happened to be cozy on my couch…with a date.

When I saw a text from my ex come through, I explained to my date that I had to look at it in case it was an emergency with my kids. He watched as I exchanged a flurry of texts with my ex.

I then placed the phone down on the coffee table, and sat in silence.

“Are your kids okay?” he asked.

“Yes.”

“Are YOU okay? You look like you’re in shock.”

“That’s probably accurate.”

“Do you want to talk about it?”

“Nope.”

(What a truly unforgettable date that was, let me tell you!)


Since then I have been marched through a parade of complicated emotions.

However, my initial impulse, and the default setting to which I keep returning, is that of love, compassion, and to an extent – fixing. Not fixing in the sense that I am trying to change him, but fixing in the sense that I want everything to be okay.

“It is going to be okay,” I texted to him that first night. “We will be okay.”

We have since had some good talks (I’d say, perhaps some of our best), during which I ask lots of questions. He answers them all. Sometimes I say the wrong thing and he corrects me. I learn.

So far he has continued to use his birth name, and will continue to use male pronouns. Over time his clothing has become more and more feminine, though he has held off on making any drastic changes. He has been easing us into it. We’ve seen a therapist to learn how and when to talk to our children about his gender identity (which we have done, and which we will continue to offer as an open conversation).

Our children, by the way, are just fine. They have nothing but pure love for their dad (yes, we still call him that, for now anyway). They see him as nothing short of amazing, and my biggest fear to date is the crushing effect it may have on them to find out that not everyone is as accepting of him as we are.

So do we wait for the world to dim their rose-colored glasses?

Or do we take on the formidable task of challenging the world to be better?

The latter – oh, yes please, the latter.

A Course in Miracles teaches – The obstacle to love is not hate, the obstacle to love is fear. In Glennon’s talk, she said, “Fear can’t handle proximity.”

We must draw each other closer.

The more we really see one another and listen to one another’s stories, the less we fear what is “different” and the more easily we can recognize our common humanity.

I realized I can quietly watch as fear continues to control the minds and hearts of many, or I can use my voice here to be a part of a conversation that may begin to shift things. I talked with my ex about using this blog platform to do just that –  to open up a conversation…or as Glennon would say,

Offer another invitation.

Perhaps we can help someone.

I have so much compassion for family members who may be struggling with what can feel like a death, as they watch the person they know and love seemingly disappear before their eyes.

A few weeks after my ex revealed his true self to me, I had to attend a memorial service for my father’s cousin. We weren’t close but he was a lovely man and it was important to me to go.  The service was at the same church where I had been married, twelve years prior (it honestly never entered my mind that this would be a problem).  It is about an hour’s drive from my house, and as I got within a mile of the church, the grief hit me like a brick wall. I had this overwhelming feeling that the man I married had died….because in some ways, to me he had. I pulled the car over and sobbed uncontrollably. I never made it to the service. I just couldn’t do it.

So I am telling you – If you are going through this – I know it’s hard. I understand.

Over a year has passed now, and I have had time to process things. So perhaps you will trust me when I tell you that your loved one hasn’t died.

The person who they fundamentally are insidethat person is the same as they always were. My ex still makes me laugh like no one else, and he also has the ability to frustrate the hell out of me – regardless of whether he’s wearing men’s loafers or women’s strappy heels. Same laughter, same frustration. Same person.

Draw them closer.

If you look your loved one in the eyes, I promise you will see them there, plain as day – same as before. 

I know your fear comes from a place of love. You are afraid of how your loved one will be received by the world. You’re afraid they will be teased, discriminated against, or even physically harmed. Maybe you feel embarrassed, and confused.

It’s okay to feel all of those things. 

You deserve the same compassion that your loved one does.

This is hard. I understand.

Please listen –

Your loved one wants you to ask questions (as long as they are born of a desire to truly understand). 

Everyone wants to be understood.

Everyone.

Draw them closer.

If I can help, let me know.

There is always room at my kitchen table.

Day 127/365 The Reason

Out of the blue one of my girls asked me the other day if I went to my prom.

“Yes, I did,” I replied.

“Who did you go with? Did you go with your boyfriend?” she asked.

“Well, my junior prom I went to with a boy named Brian. He wasn’t my boyfriend then, but I wanted him to be. Senior prom I went to with a boy named Ryan. He was my friend.”

“Did you ever get that boy to be your boyfriend?” she asked.

“Yes, I did. He broke my heart, though, in the end,” I replied, perhaps a bit wistfully.

“Oh,” she said. “That’s sad.”

I was quick with my response, because I meant it with all of my heart…

“It isn’t sad, actually. Not one bit.”

“It isn’t?”

“Nope. If he hadn’t broken my heart, I never would have married Daddy, and you, my dear, would not even exist!”

“Whoa,” she said. Mind clearly blown.

I said, “That’s the amazing thing about life. Sometimes you think what is happening to you is the worst possible thing, but good things often follow. There usually is a reason something didn’t go the way you wanted it to go. You just can’t see the whole picture until later.”

She thought for a minute and said, “Kind of like Papa dying?”

I felt a lump catch in my throat.

“Well, sometimes it’s harder to understand a reason why someone has to die,” I said.

“I think I know,” she said.

“Really? Tell me,” I said, more than a little curious.

She sighed and said, “When someone really important like Papa dies, it makes everyone around him appreciate everyone else who is still here a lot more.  Before, I loved the people I loved…but now, I really, really love them so much more.”


Mind clearly blown.

Day 124/365 Childhood, Repeated

We spent the afternoon at Miskiania today. The girls and I were there with extended family.   It was our last day having John’s daughter, Megan, here visiting from Louisiana (three weeks flew by!). Lynette returned to us from two weeks in Peru, so it was a bittersweet day.

My mother, aunts, uncle, cousins and I sat on the beach watching the kids play in the pond for hours – having so much fun.

My cousin, Ellen, said to me, “Isn’t it amazing sitting here, watching our own childhood

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My cousin Eric and I enjoying the same spot in the 70’s.

repeat in front of us?”

And it was.

There is something so incredible about maintaining family traditions – knowing my children are having the time of their lives – doing the same exact things with their cousins that I did with mine…and that my father did with his!

Times change, and sometimes the older kids need reminders about putting down their phones (which certainly wasn’t a problem for prior generations of kids, but seems inescapable these days).

Interestingly, I think the less they have with which to keep them entertained (in terms of devices and stuff) the more fun they have…and the more they enjoy one another.

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When you’re exhausted but don’t want to get out of the water.

When generation after generation of children can continue to enjoy the pond, the woods and each other – to the point of utter exhaustion…

It feels as though all is right with the world…or at least in this little heavenly slice of it.

{I don’t have a picture on hand of my dad, and his sisters and cousins, enjoying the camp as kids, but the photo below is the very first picture that my mother ever took of my father – and it was on her first trip to the camp when they were fifteen.}

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Day 118/365 John, Part II

A few months ago I shared a letter I had written about the death of my cousin, John. He passed away two years ago, and the letter was my way of processing this.  I shared my thoughts about alcohol and drug addiction; about what it had done to John, and to our family.

John’s eleven year old daughter, Megan, is here visiting us for three weeks this summer.  As I listen to her play upstairs with my girls, I can’t help but sit here and think about John, and how badly I wish he could have tackled his demons. How I wish he could be here, laughing with me over the girls’ hijinx.

So, tonight I wanted to write a little about John. Not about alcoholism, and what a vicious beast it is, but just about John and who he was before he was taken from us, bit by bit.

John loved to laugh, and to make others laugh.  Everyone loves to laugh, but John had this look of appreciation he’d get on his face when someone really amused him – especially if he wasn’t expecting it.  I loved catching him off guard with my humor. John laughed with his whole body. With his mouth wide open, he would often bend right over laughing.

John (right) laughing with his cousins, Billy (middle) and John (left). I love this one.

John was outgoing – he could talk to anyone, and he could win just about anyone over. He was charming. Many of my girlfriends fell for John.  He had so much charisma, and he loved women. This included my grandmother, with whom he lived for a stint after graduate school. I still remember their joint answering machine recording – you’d hear John say, “You have reached John (and then grandma piped in) and Lynette…” Grandma was the envy of all (mostly elderly widows) in her condo development that year!

He liked things to move at fast pace. Sometimes this was at odds with my day-dreamy nature. He’d tease me for being slow – playing cards with me (having to repeatedly nudge me when it was my turn) just about put him over the edge.  I laugh just thinking of him pretending to bang his head on the card table.

It wasn’t all roses with John – he was so passionate, and with that came fire. He had a temper.  Sometimes this was problematic, and sometimes it was just funny. He was intense. As I write this I’m smiling, because his temper did provide some comedy.  He was almost always able to laugh at himself after the…incidents.  Like the time he was so frustrated with golf during a family vacation that he chose to walk several miles home in 90 degree heat down the side of a south Florida highway rather than to suffer through another minute of golf!

He was such a smart guy, and he had a few different careers (and from what I recall, more than one Master’s degree), but the jobs he loved best were the ones in which he was in a position to help others.

John loved deeply. He was an affectionate guy and wasn’t afraid to express

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John and his dad, my Uncle Ed.

his love for his family and friends. John was so proud to be Megan’s father. He was always talking about how smart, funny, and adorable she was. If he could have stayed sober for any reason, I know he would have done it for her.  He couldn’t do it, though – not for anyone.

So, we have to let it go – the pain of that, difficult as it is – and be grateful for this beautiful young woman he brought into our lives.

I see in her John’s outgoing nature, his humor, his affection.  At eleven years old, she is so outgoing and adaptable. She gets along with everyone and anyone. She plays so well with my daughters, who are eight and eleven. She has also endeared herself to everyone else in our family, from the adults all the way down to my two year old nephew, who presently has a serious crush.

She’s a wonderful kid.

I know you couldn’t stay, John, but we are so grateful for the gift of her.

 

 

Day 104/365 Alexis

She is perfect!” declared my younger brother during a cross country phone call about eleven years ago. He had met Alexis, and had declared perfection.

Game over.

Of course being older and wiser (and a tad overprotective) I replied, “No one is perfect, Ryan, but maybe she is perfect for you. That’s what counts.”

I am not one to assess perfection, but here are some things I know for sure to be true (in no particular order) about Alexis, my (now) sister in law….

She is driven.  Having a successful career is important to her and she is very good at her job as VP of operations at Big Sister Boston. She works her ass off.

She has passion and compassion.  She loves making a positive impact on her community, especially by empowering (often disadvantaged) young women.

Something I have noticed more and more over the past few years is that Alexis is hysterically funny. Bone dry humor, sharp wit…just very, very funny.

Her heart…her heart is so big.  I think she keeps some of it tucked away at first, so as to protect herself from exposing the sheer volume of it all.

She is fierce, and would gladly take a bullet for “her people”.

She is a generous and fearless parent…she (and my brother) went from being newlyweds to being the parents of three children, all within a few short years. It has been a whirlwind (and will be for a while with a teenager, a ten year old and a toddler!). Ryan and Lex are wonderful parents – the best possible parents – to these three lucky and wonderful kids.

In short, she may not be “perfect” (no one is – I still stand by that statement), but Alexis –

She is kind of a rock star.

One last thing I’ll say before I go…

Alexis, I think, perhaps, I’ve done you a disservice in not properly acknowledging how much of a father figure my dad had become to you over the past decade. I’m sorry if I ever made you feel like your grief was smaller than mine. You had become his daughter, too…and grief is grief. There is no “more than” or “less than”.  There just is.

So, I just wanted to say – I know you loved him, so much, and he loved you, too.

He always lit up when he saw you, you know.

How could he not?

Day 99/365 Karen

If there is one thing I know for certain in this life, it’s that as long as this lady is around I will never be the “fun aunt”.

To know Karen is to love her…especially if you are a kid.  No  matter what is going on, she is always looking for ways to make it more fun.  


The best way I can think of to describe Karen is…

She is a YES.

If it sounds remotely fun, she is all in,

and…

She’s also a YES to the not-so-fun things.  She’s a YES to whatever is needed. If someone needs help, she’s right there. She is full of energy and ready to jump in – even if she’s already “in her cozies” (a spare supply of which are always in her car, for one never knows when there will be an unanticipated need for leisurewear!).

During the days leading up to my dad’s death, Karen was honestly an angel to us all, even (perhaps especially) to my dad, though he wasn’t conscious to know it.

As usual she was ready to jump in and do anything to help. That was no surprise. She also took the time to get friendly with all of the nurses in the ICU.  She called them each by name and learned all she could from them.

She was often our voice when the rest of us were too shocked to speak.

She massaged my father’s feet and calves so his muscles wouldn’t atrophy. It makes me cry just to write that down. She loved him so much.  She loves us all so much.

What I loved the most about how Karen was during those awful days, was seeing my brother (her husband), Billy, watching her. His raw adoration was right there for us all to see. It was beautiful.

She is beautiful.

The image above is a favorite of mine, from the day before she married my big brother.  I couldn’t help but add the image below of the two lovebirds from twenty (?) years ago.

At their wedding, my brother, Ryan, giving the best man’s toast quipped “Until Karen came along, I didn’t even know Billy had teeth.”
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