Grasping the threads of my life…

We were getting ready to go camping. I went through the motions of getting ready, basically following past patterns. I wrote out vague meal plans, set out clothes for every day, and made sure I had bug spray and sun screen. Then I found myself in the library feeling vaguely puzzled why I was there. It was part of my usual camping routine but it felt odd somehow. That was when I realized I hadn’t picked up a book in about four months.

For some people this might be fairly average. For me it closer to unbelievable. I have rarely gone more than a day without a book. If I didn’t have a new book, I was rereading an older one. The librarians at our previous library knew me by name. I’ve been known to need two bags to carry home my books. When I was younger I used to read while I walked because I couldn’t bear to wait 15 extra minutes to find out what happened next. I felt twitchy when I didn’t read.

Four whole months.

I quickly found several books to read and settled down during out camping trip to do just that, soaking those books up like parched soil in a gentle rainstorm. When we got home, I went right back to the library to get several more books. It was a short time after that when I realized another itch. I wanted to scrapbook.

Digital scrapbooking is my big hobby (verging on an obsession). It calms me down. Even when I have no pictures to work on, I’ll go through my digital stash, mentally (and sometimes physically) categorizing it all. I’ve been known to scrapbook a layout on the day of an event simply because I couldn’t wait to create. The last page I’d worked on was Hallowe’en 2014… and I hadn’t finished it. I’ve been scrapbooking for almost 20 years and had never gone longer than a week or two without making a layout that whole time.

My last obsession is writing. I keep notepads with me to jot down ideas… or at least I used to. I haven’t written anything but blog posts and Facebook messages since before Christmas, probably closer to October. Nothing. I’ve been writing since elementary school.

I’ve been focused on pulling myself out of depression. Making sure I make it through work each day without crying. Making sure we have food and clean clothes and that the chores are done enough to keep our home habitable. I’ve even managed to get outside for walks and, thankfully, kept up with taking photos. My last obsession. I don’t know who I’d be if I’d given up that too.

There have been two days this week where I’ve done almost nothing except read. I didn’t leave our apartment. I didn’t even get out of my pyjamas. But I finished a novel each day. I’d call them wasted days but I know they weren’t. I needed them almost as much as I need breathing.

Jeremy upgraded my netbook to Windows 10 on Friday and transferred my scrapbooking kits over from the desktop. Since then I’ve made two new pages and am working on the third. Each page got a little easier and my heart lightened a tiny bit.

Hopefully soon I’ll start writing again.

Meanwhile I’m dealing with anxiety the best I can; feeling like I’m facing a dragon with a cardboard sword. I cried myself into an asthma attack on Friday, which was all kinds of suckage. An asthma attack on top of an anxiety attack while having a stuffed nose. I’m reasonably sure I’ll have a nightmare about that experience at some point. It will probably involve drowning.

And I made another appointment with our doctor for almost a month from today.

I want the tapestry of my life back.

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Engage tact before opening mouth…

I was sitting in the break room with a new coworker a few days ago, doing the whole awkward introduction thing, when I realized it was time to call Jeremy.

I usually call zir at lunchtime so I can make sure zie’s awake and functioning. Plus the call allows me to remind zir to eat, something I’ve never forgotten to do but zie manages to forget regularly.

“I was talking to my teen,” I explained as I got off the phone a couple of minutes later.

“Oh, you have kids?” she replied curiously.

It seemed like an obvious answer to me but I nodded anyway. “I’ve got a 20 year old daughter and 18 year old teen. I was talking to the 18 year old.”

Most people change the conversation there. She didn’t.

“So, your 18 year old… is it a boy or a girl?”

It? Great.

“Zie’s bi-gender,” I replied. “Zie’s trans , identifies as both male and female, and uses the pronouns zie and zir.”

Her eyes grew wider. “Oh! Both genders! Does your doctor know?”

The doctor part made me suspicious about the direction her thoughts were going but I played innocent. “Yes, we talked to him already.”

“So, umm, your child is, umm, medically male and female?”

Yep, her thoughts wandered exactly where I suspected and right where I didn’t want to go.

“No, you’re thinking of intersex. My teen is transgender,” I replied as I glanced at my phone. Damn, I still had some break left.

“Oh.” She fidgeted for a moment. “So is he, umm, a boy or a girl.”

“I’m not discussing my child’s genitals with you,” I said bluntly. I’d already given her pronouns to use and a label so she wasn’t asking for those reasons. That left only one tabloidish interest… what was in zir pants.

She looked startled for a second then the realization of what she was asking kicked in.

“I’m cool with stuff like that,” she babbled. “I knew a transgender in high school.” Cue me wincing. “He was really shy at the beginning but after a while he started wearing make up and dresses and stuff.”

“I think you mean she,” I interjected, glancing at my phone again. Usually my break finishes way too quickly. Today wasn’t one of those days. Had my timer broken?

“Oh yeah,” she said sheepishly as my timer chimed cheerfully. Finally. I couldn’t leave quickly enough.

I told Jeremy about the conversation later and zie grinned when I got to the part about refusing to disclose zir birth gender.

“Way to go!” zie exclaimed before changing the conversation to Cool Dude. I’m not entirely sure who he is, other than someone on YouTube, but Jeremy’s very impressed with him.

“Cool Dude’s gay,” zie informed me for about the twentieth time. Jeremy paused then laughed. “I don’t know why he bothered to come out. Some people you just know are gay. I’m sure you’ve met people like that before,” zie said as zie gestured flamboyantly.

I looked at zir and laughed. “Really Captain Obvious?”

“Are you calling me gay?” zie asked.

“No, I’m calling the other Jeremy gay,” I retorted.

Zie smiled. Some days zie insists zie’s straight. Sometimes zie simply insists zie’s not gay. The rest of the time zie refers to the gay community as zir community. I just take a few metaphorical Gravol and go along for the ride.

Jeremy’s smile faded. “You know what I disliked about school,” zie said abruptly. Talk about a loaded question. Especially since zie could (and does) go on for hours about the subject.

“What?” I asked cautiously.

“Every Hallowe’en all the teachers dressed up in Duck Dynasty costumes, even after they came out as homophobic. It made me so uncomfortable.”

“All of the teachers?” It was a fairly big school.

“Well not all of them but Mrs. ________ and Mrs. ________ both did.” Jeremy named both of zir educational assistants. The same ones who told Jeremy that zir gender was a choice.

I’d had no idea about the costumes. Zie’d never said anything. Of course even if zie had said something there wasn’t anything I could do about it. It wasn’t illegal to dress up as a television character. But you’d think at least one of the teachers would look at what those people were saying and think about how their students would feel about their choice. You’d think they’d think. That’s what school’s for, isn’t it?

I’ve got a kid who’s struggling with anxiety daily. It’s not even 9pm and zie’s already in bed, saying zie’s upset and doesn’t know why. We live in a complex with two pools (complete with life guards), a park with paved trails just perfect for zir to drive zir remote control cars, and a gym. Jeremy spends every day indoors waiting for me to come home. Zie could go out on zir own but would rather wait for me. Zie doesn’t feel comfortable going out alone.

Jeremy’s teacher and EAs were loudly insistent they were allies, even while misgendering Jeremy, and I know my coworker felt like she was being quite supportive too. It would be nice however if they spent a bit less time patting themselves on the back and a bit more time listening to what they’re saying. It would be even nicer if tact came in a spray bottle, like air freshener, and could be applied liberally to people when needed. I’d buy it in bulk.

 

There’s no place like home…

Update I moved the chipmunk video over to YouTube and it’s working now 🙂

We got home on Sunday afternoon and I’m still happily appreciating all the comforts of home. I love camping but truly enjoy spider free indoor plumbing… especially at 3am.

This trip involved a fair bit of uncertainty for me. We’ve camped on the same site at the same campground for years and I knew exactly what to expect there. I’d have camped there again except for one thing. The price. Fifty dollars a night is a bit steep for a vacation that involves heating my dish water over a kerosene stove and peeing with spiders.

Jeremy promised that Unicamp was really nice and that the swimming pond was huge. As big as one football field or two… or maybe even three. Got to love how specific zie is when it comes to measurements. Zie even took a picture of a small stretch of woods with a dirt path. Which let me know there were at least a few trees but otherwise I was flying blind. The website itself has no pictures except for an aerial view of the campground via Google and Jeremy was even less descriptive. What convinced me to register for a site there was the fact it’s half the price of our usual place so we could camp for twice as long.

campsite 40

I was unimpressed with the site when we arrived. Not only was it fairly open (and right beside the basketball court, hence the basketball in the photo) but it also had an outhouse right in the middle of the site. And, thanks to the location of the firepit, we’d need to position the trailer so the indoor kitchen table had a lovely view of the outhouse.

The first option we were offered was an alternate site that used to be a laneway. It still had the tire grooves. Then they offered to move the firepit, which made all the difference. The trailer tire is over the old firepit. For most of the week there were almost no other campers because it was youth week so the outhouse was only being used by me (and the spiders). It wasn’t until our last evening that other people started using it. Which was uncomfortable enough for me to not want to camp on that particular site again but by then we had less than 24 hours left until we were gone.

Jeremy talked about swimming all week so it wasn’t a surprise that zie wanted to go swimming almost as soon as my parents left. Luckily zie was willing to wait until after dinner as we missed lunch during our drive up; my parents weren’t stopping for anything. And luckily for me I’d planned a quick and easy dinner because zie wasn’t going to wait too long.

Jeremy had only been there for a weekend last year but zie was reasonably sure zie remembered the way to the beach. First we headed out past the goats…

goats2

Doesn’t every campground have goats?

… and down the trail to the beaches.

bench on beach trail

The trail looked like most of the campground. Lots of trees and undergrowth and quite a few meandering creeks. Further along there was a marshy area with lots of cat tails and frogs. Then came the main beach.

Jeremy at the main beach

Both beaches were sandy and had a dock and a picnic table. Plus there were beach toys, life jackets, and canoes free to use. Jeremy (of course) refused to swim in any normal fashion. Instead zie took pool noodles and threaded them through zir shopping buggy and swam with that. It looked completely awkward but zie loved it.

Jeremy and zir shopping buggy

I enjoyed the beach as well. We’d swim from one diving platform to another, with me diving in from each. Plus there was a big concrete block at the end of the pond. As far as I could tell, it worked as a drain, pouring water over the edge then under the nearby road to flow into a creek. But it served a second purpose… as a jumping platform. Jeremy refused to try it but I went up several times.

Michelle jumping

The water was freezing at the bottom of the pond!

We went on several walks, mostly to the nearby Cowpye Hill (accurately named) to look at the full moon. Poor Jeremy got dragged onto a hike on the Bruce Trail despite insisting that zie’s a computer nerd and doesn’t need exercise. It was a great trail, absolutely gorgeous, but it came with a warning that it was “more advanced”. I loved it. Jeremy sat and took a break on the trail while I explored the surrounding area.

The trail pretty much consisted of scrambling over rocks and roots.

The trail pretty much consisted of scrambling over rocks and roots. Also, yes, Jeremy is a foot taller than me.

Since our hike went so well, I decided to try out splelunking. To be fair, Jeremy wanted to try it as well. I think zie didn’t realize how small the caves were. I certainly didn’t. I pictured caves we could walk into and then got faced with this…

No, it wasn't any bigger on the inside. In fact it got appreciably smaller.

No, it wasn’t any bigger on the inside. In fact it got appreciably smaller.

This is me leaving that same “cave”. Jeremy couldn’t even fit. Zie did try however and went into every other cave.

me leaving Sherbet Tunnel

Jeremy and I splelunking

There were plenty of things I liked about the campground. It was quiet, friendly, and informal. There were trails everywhere for me to explore and signs dotted throughout the grounds…

signs

I found five signs and am sure there are more.

What I loved the most about our camping trip was that no one, not a single person, stared at Jeremy. In fact the only people who gave zir even a slightly long look were the ones who followed it up with a huge smile and a “Hello Jeremy! I remember you from last year!”

Jeremy claims not to notice people staring at zir (even the hugely blatant ones) but it was obvious that zie felt the lack of negative attention. Zie never goes outside without a shirt on. Never. Not even on our own balcony. And swimming is something that requires zir swimming shirt (an almost too small mesh Spiderman shirt zie’s had for years). By the end of the week zie was going swimming without zir shirt, in front of other people.

And now we’re home. Back to our kitties, our microwave, our running water, and our consistently working internet and phone service. I can’t wait to see how much Jeremy grows when we go back to Unicamp next year.

OMG muffin wrapper

Clicking on the picture will bring you to the accompanying video.