30 December 2014

On Leelah Alcorn

Image source
There's a very sad story circulating this week about the death of transgender teen Leelah Alcorn.

Leelah, who was born male, was struck by a tractor-trailer on Interstate 71 in Ohio. Days later, a suicide note appeared on Leelah's Tumblr, which explained her desire to transition, the lack of support, and her desperation because of the situation, which led to her decision to commit suicide.

There has been a lot of discussion about this story already. It may be easy to place blame on Leelah's parents for their lack of support, particularly when it led to such a tragic end. And while I most certainly don't condone that kind of lack of support, neither can I judge them for doing what they thought was best at the time. That's what I do as a parent.

Besides, there is a bigger issue at work here (well, two issues that I want to discuss) than whether or not Leelah's parents should have behaved differently.

The first and most important thing is that we have to do better. There are teens and adults all over this country that die because of who they are. Some take their own lives, like Leelah, because of how others react to them. Others, like Matthew Shephard, are killed because of other people's perceptions of who they are.

There are people dying every day because of small-minded, judgmental people who won't see past their own opinions to offer the support that's needed in these situations.

And we have to do better. We can't let society continue to kill people for being who they are. For wanting to live authentically.

The other issue I want to discuss is the media coverage of Leelah's death.

I am so glad that Leelah's story is being told, and that it's starting and continuing important conversations about what it means to be queer* in today's society. But how many other teenagers and adults have similar stories that haven't been told? How many families bury their trans children using their birth gender and name instead of how they identified? How many families turn their backs when people come out, leaving family members homeless and alone? How many people just like Leelah have no voice in our society?

We have to do better.

With Puck and Tink, I frequently remind them that I just want them to be happy, and to be the people they are on the inside as well as on the outside. I want them to be comfortable in how they identify, and will always do whatever I can to help them live authentically every day.

Because, as a society, we have to do better. As individuals, we have to do better. As parents and siblings and children and friends, we have to do better.

And it has to start right this minute before we lose another precious life.

*I have chosen to use the word queer in this post as an inclusive term in regards to the LGBTQ community.

Doing what works for me

Some time ago, I committed to living a vegan lifestyle. It was a much easier transition than I thought it would be. Some time after that, I re-introduced some animal products into my diet. It was a hard decision, but one that was made with my health at the forefront.*

However, I have recommitted to a plant-based (vegan) diet, which I'm transitioning back to now.

The decisions I have made about my nutrition and exercise, and even spirituality, have been made carefully, with much research, and focusing on what I truly believe to be best for me. That is why I moved away from a vegan diet, and that's why I'm now moving back to it.

I have to do what I feel is best for me. And moving away from a vegan diet (which I thought was best for me at the time) has shown me that plant-based living really is one of the keys to a healthy life for me.

I know there are those who will see that and say, "Well, of course. Why did you ever give it up in the first place?"

I know now that I shouldn't have, but again, I was doing what I thought was best for me at the time, and that's all I can do.

Here's the thing. For lots of people, the choice to go vegan is an ethical or environmental one. They see the travesties that occur in the industry, even among "ethical" and "organic" and "free range" companies, and they can't support that. I am on board with that.

For others, the choice to eliminate animal products and by-products from their diets comes from a place of improving health, and knowing that cutting meat and dairy and other processed foods is better for health. And I am on board with that, too.

For me, it's a combination of ethical/environmental and health reasons, but the health reasons are slightly different. I have found that my body does not handle animal products well. I would equate it to a similar reaction that people get when they are lactose intolerant.** It's not an allergy, but my body doesn't react well, and lets me know that it prefers it when I don't eat those kinds of things.

So I'm transitioning away from them and back to a vegan lifestyle.

Since I've done this before, the transition is easier this time around. I don't find myself craving non-vegan foods the way I did previously. And because I'm trying to focus on how those foods make me feel when I do eat them, it's been easier to avoid them.

One of my goals for 2015 is to make sure that the decisions I make are best for my family and for myself. And that's why I will be proudly vegan beginning January 1st.

All I can do is what works for me, and vegan works best for me.

*I know there are people who say there is no health reason to eat animal products. I am aware of the arguments. Keep reading.

**I was lactose intolerant as a kid. It got better when I was an adult, then came back after my pregnancies.

29 December 2014

The year in review

2014 has been a good year for me and my family. And while I'm excited about looking ahead to what's coming in 2015, I think it's also valuable to look at how this year has gone because it has been instrumental in making me who I am and putting me where I am.

This was the year I met Bo, and that has made all the difference in my life. I could say nothing else about my year, and that would be enough.

Bo and I have been (officially) dating for about nine months. And as cheesy as it sounds, the longer we're together, the happier I am. She makes me happy, the munchkins adore her, and she makes me feel like I'm finally living my happily ever after. I can't wait to see what 2015 brings for our relationship.

But that's not all I've had to celebrate this year.

I've expanded my client base, and made some decisions about how my work is going to change in the near future that will help me achieve significant short- and long-term career goals. (I can't really discuss those changes yet because I'm still in the earliest planning stages, but I will give more information at each phase of the plan.)

The munchkins are doing great this year!

Puck is enjoying kindergarten. It's been amazing to see him progress throughout the fall semester. When I had a conference with his teacher, she showed me his journal, and I could see the improvement week by week. He's smart and engaged and is learning something new every day. If we can keep this mentality through the next several years, at least, Puck will do great all the way through.

Tink is pretty ready for pre-K next year. She knows a lot of sight words, can write all her letters and her first and last name, and is doing well at sounding out words when she reads on her own. I know some of it is her desire to keep up with Brother, but not all of it. Tink is smart, and she's going to do well when she starts school next year. She has a solid foundation to be successful, just like Puck.

The munchkins are both happy and healthy and full of spunk, just the way we like them.

And we got a puppy this year! Clara has been a wonderful addition to our family. She's cute and fun and sweet. She loves us and we love her. There have been moments that have been a challenge, to be sure, but the good memories far outweigh the challenges.

We're still working on her jealousy issues a bit. She doesn't like it when someone else is getting attention from me that she thinks she needs. But that's getting better, too.

She and the munchkins are besties, which is just the way I hoped it would be. I wanted a dog in our family not only as a companion for me when the munchkins are with Monty, but she truly is a family dog.

It's been a good year. Busy, somewhat chaotic (especially as we got to the end of the year), but it's been good. And I'm looking forward to whatever comes next.

How has 2014 been for you? What are you most looking forward to in 2015?

28 December 2014

Renew your spirit with a fresh start

We're getting to the end of the year now, and that means lots of people--myself included--are thinking about how to do things differently to make 2015 better than 2014.

I've been thinking about things I want to add to my life to make improvements, and things I want to remove from my life to eliminate distractions and unhealthy habits. I's also been thinking about my relationships with other people, and how they might need to be changed to make my life more peaceful and happy. And I've come up with some goals* for 2015 that I'm going to be working toward.

One of big things I plan to add to my life is healthier habits. This includes getting back into healthier eating habits (mindful, plant-based diet), exercising more regularly, and focusing on maintaining a mind-body-spirit balance in my life. I'm not as healthy as I would like to be, and I have specific health goals I need to achieve, so I'm trying to make a more concentrated effort at working toward those specific goals.

I'm also working on eliminating distractions and time-wasters this year. For example, I spent way too much time on Facebook in 2014. That's going to stop. I'm not going to say that I'm going to stop using Facebook completely since it is my primary communication with some family members, but the less I use it, the happier I'll be. My initial goal is to check it once a day for personal use. (I have been trying to use it for work, but I think I'm going to step away from that in the midst of the upcoming career changes, then jump back into it after the shift.)

I have big ambitions for 2015, but I'm excited about what's coming in both my personal and professional lives.

I think it's going to be a good year.

*I set goals instead of resolutions each year. It's less intimidating to me, and I feel like it gives me flexibility to adapt my goals in case things come up throughout the year, as they tend to do.

23 December 2014

Character sketches

Image source
Real image source
One of the things I like to do sometimes is go somewhere and watch people. In fact, that's how I developed the characters in the coffee house book.

One of my favorite things to do is to people-watch and then write a scene or story or character sketch based on someone I saw. That's how I wrote a character sketch about the father playing the flute as he walked his son home from school.

Because of the chaos of work lately, I haven't been able to spend nearly as much time people-watching as I would like.

Since work is going to be a bit slower now that we're reaching the end of the calendar year (things will likely pick up again around the second or third week of January), I'm going to take some time to people-watch and get back into writing character sketches.

Do you people-watch when you're writing? Has anything come of it?

19 December 2014

Taking a little time off....

As an independent contractor, I don't get paid vacation days. If I don't work, I don't get paid. So as the holidays approach, it's important for me to balance work time with family time, especially around holidays and birthdays.

It's been difficult this month to take time off. I've had a lot of deadlines this month, so it's meant late nights and long hours. Fortunately, the big deadlines are coming to an end (at least until after the new year), so I'm looking forward to having some time off next week for the holiday.

This year is a little bit different because Puck and Tink are spending actual factual Christmas with Monty. But Bo and I will still be celebrating the holiday in our own way, and since she has two whole days off of work for the holiday, I'm planning to take the 25th and 26th off, as well.

It's going to be nice to have some time off, especially since it's been such a busy, chaotic month (or two) lately. I'll sleep in, drink my coffee out on the patio, and watch too much TV all weekend.

It will be a much-needed break before I jump back into work.

17 December 2014

"I'm not a boy:" Tink's gender expression

Tink is what many people would describe as "all girl." She likes pink and dresses and lacy and frilly and princesses, princesses, princesses. And that is perfectly fine with me.

However, the week of Thanksgiving, I gave Tink a green and silver striped shirt (with sparkly silver threads) to wear. She took it from me, made a face and said, "I'm not a boy, Mama."

Yes, because the shirt I gave her was not pink or frilly (though it did have a little sparkle to it), she assumed it was a shirt meant for boys.

I explained to her, briefly, that clothes have no gender, and that I got the shirt for her because it's sparkly. She wore it, and when someone complimented her on how cute she looked in it, she was much happier for the rest of the day.

The next day, she picked a pink shirt.

This is something that came up with Puck, as well. He went through a "but that's for girls" phase, which has been revisited during this school year. So whenever the opportunity arises, we emphasize that there's "no such thing as boy/girl..." whatever, and remind the munchkins that those who identify as boys and those who identify as girls can do or wear or be whatever they want. There is no gender requisite.

Right now it's not a big deal. And when the kids get a bit older and are involved in picking what clothes we buy for them, they'll have a more significant role in expressing themselves through clothing.

For now, I think Bo and I will be incorporating some more non-pink and non-purple clothing in her wardrobe. Just to mix things up a little bit.

14 December 2014

Renew your spirit with a magical afternoon

Magic Kingdom
December 2014
Yesterday Bo and I took Puck, Tink, Mimi, and Papa G to the Magic Kingdom for an afternoon and evening of Christmas-decorated fun.

We managed to keep the trip a surprise until shortly before we left, but even then, they had no idea that we were going to get to see Queen Elsa light up Cinderella's castle with snow and ice. (Puck got a little teary-eyed during the show because he was so excitedly overwhelmed by it.)

We rode rides and saw shows and stood in lines in between. We got to take the kids on a few things they'd never done before and, of course, there was Elsa.

We walked too much, paid too much for food, and stayed too long.

It was wonderful.

It was exactly the memories I hoped to create for this Christmas, and a wonderful way to end this week with the munchkins before they go back to Monty this evening. Especially since they'll be with him through Christmas.

It was a happy, happy day.

08 December 2014

Ending the year with mindful eating

Life has gotten busy lately, and I've fallen back into bad habits. So as this year wraps up and the new year begins, I'm focusing on getting back into my good habits of holistic living.

It was a little bit of a challenge through the Thanksgiving holiday, not only because we were traveling, but because I'm the only non-omni* in the family.

As I'm making the transition back into the healthy lifestyle that works for me, I have to focus on remembering why I'm doing it.

Yes, a big part of the reason I'm going back to a vegan lifestyle with regular exercise is for my health. (I feel better when I take better care of myself.) But it's also because I know how my body reacts to animal product.

My body doesn't like meat and dairy. I can eat it, but quite often, I feel ill afterward. When I was a kid, I couldn't handle dairy (which came up again in both my pregnancies). So it's not a shocker to me that I can't handle animal products now. Since a plant-based diet is not only healthier for me (as an individual) but healthier for me in general, it just makes sense for me to be on a plant-based diet. It's the best way for me to keep my body in balance.

The good news is that the next two holiday meals (Christmas and New Year's) will be at home, so I can make sure there are vegan options (especially since our New Year's meal will be all finger foods). It will be a good way to end this year and start 2015.

*I know that veg*n living is not a requisite for holistic living, but my body is much happier with a plant-based diet, so it is a requisite for me.

07 December 2014

Renew your spirit with winter decorations

Shortly before Thanksgiving, Bo and I put up our holiday tree and some winter* decorations.

I usually like to wait until after Thanksgiving (truthfully, I prefer to wait until December), but we wanted the munchkins to be able to help and enjoy the decorations, and since they went back to Monty right after Thanksgiving, it just worked out better this way.

I like having winter decorations out. I love this time of year. People are happier, kinder, and much more compassionate. People are taking action to make a positive impact on the world around them. People are more optimistic about life and society.

It's a good time of year.

I wish more people would carry the spirit of these holidays with them through the rest of the year. Think how wonderful our world would be if people made an effort to be compassionate and generous every day instead of just once a year?** What if people focused on bringing light to other people's lives instead of bringing "stuff" into their own lives?

Sometime in January our decorations will come down. Our winter tree will be put away until next Thanksgiving, the ornaments packed away in a bin. But this January, I will be making a conscious effort to keep the joy and excitement that comes with those decorations in my heart through the rest of the year.

You don't need lights up around your home to be a light to the people around you!

*Since our holiday celebrations are secular, I prefer to think of our decorations as for the season rather than for the holidays. Not only does that keep traditional religious decorations out of the equation, but it means I can keep them out a bit longer, which makes me happy.

**I know there are people who are kind and compassionate and generous all year round. That's one thing that I'm working on in myself in an effort to live a more holistic lifestyle. But I'm speaking in generalities for the purposes of this post.

03 December 2014

MTTSM's meme

Mom to the Screaming Masses posted a meme yesterday.

I do memes now. Memes are cool.

Signature Dish: Right now, spaghetti. It's quick, easy, and everyone eats it. So spaghetti.
Worst Thing I Ate This Week: Way too much of a pumpkin roll.
Favorite Junk Food: Kettle chips. I love them. I eat them too often.
Favorite Board Game: Scrabble. I'm much better at Scrabble than I am at Words with Friends. For some reason.
Household Chore I Enjoy: Sweeping/mopping. I find it very satisfying.
My Secret Cleaning Weapon: Multipurpose spray. I should start keeping one in every room, really.
Etiquette Pet Peeve: I hate it when people ignore common courtesies. I find it very disrespectful.
I Will Never Care About: Twerking.
The Last Thing I Bought Online Was: I can't say. Bo reads my blog and it's for Christmas.
I Drive: Bo's sister's car.
Good Habit: Listening to my body's needs.
Bad Habit: Picking at my fingernails.
Before Company Arrives I: Frantically straighten the house.
Cat/Dog/Other: I was always a cat person. Now we have a Clara dog.
Stuff I Can't Live Without: My family, coffee (especially now that I have a Keurig!), my book, pen and paper....
If I Had An Extra Hour Today, I Would: probably waste it.
My Handbag Is: in need of replacement.
On My Bucket List: Run a marathon.

Feel free to participate. It's fun!

01 December 2014

Holiday memories

Bo and I took Puck and Tink to visit Mimi and Papa G for a long Thanksgiving weekend. It was a wonderful trip full of good food, new memories, and great family conversation.

In addition to Thanksgiving, we did our family Christmas since the munchkins will be with Monty for actual factual Christmas. So we decorated Mimi and Papa G's house and did our gift exchange.* We ate lots of delicious food and were loud and laughed a lot and took all the pictures.

I loved getting to spend time with everyone and eat delicious food. I loved getting to see the munchkins get excited about decorating--including making ornaments--and opening gifts. Puck even fired Papa G from handing out everyone's gifts so he could do it.

It was our first holiday as a family--as this family--and it was a wonderful way to start making memories. This was the first holiday meal in what is sure to be many, many more, and I think we set the bar pretty high.

I was worried about being so far away from my family for this year's holidays. Last year, the munchkins and I went up north for Christmas, so I still got valuable time with my family. This year, because of how timesharing with the munchkins has worked out, along with my work schedule, it wasn't an option.

But Bo's family has claimed us as their own, just as we have claimed them. There's nothing for me to worry about because I am surrounded by family.

It's going to be an amazing holiday season!

*I got a Keurig! *happy dance*